IRVING, EDWARD: Scotch Presbyterian, usually regarded as the founder of the Catholic Apostolic Church (q.v.), whose members are 1 popularly known as Irvingites; b. at Annan (15 m. e.s.e. of Dumfries), Dumfriesshire, Aug. 4, 1792; d. in Glasgow Dec. 7, 1834. At thirteen he was sent to the University of Edinburgh, and at seventeen he became a teacher of mathematics in the school at Haddington. A year later he took charge of a new academy at Kirkcaldy, but still kept up his theological studies and a more or less regular attendance on the university lectures. It was at this period that he made the acquaintance of Thomas Carlyle (the author, to be distinguished from a later apostle of the same name), who has left the most vivid picture of his development. In 1815 he passed his theological examinations and received a license to preach from the presbytery of Kirkcaldy. After three years, not very successful as a preacher, and weary of teaching, he went back to Edinburgh and occupied himself with linguistic and scientific studies. He was seriously thinking of going as a missionary to Persia when, in Oct., 1819, the position was offered him of assistant to Dr. Chalmers at St. John's, Glasgow. Overshadowed by Chalmers, and unpopular with the majority of the congregation, he was glad to exchange this position in 1822 for that of minister of the small congregation in London connected with a Scotch asylum in. Hatton Garden. He received ordination at the hands of the presbytery of Annan, and took his leave of Glasgow in a remarkable sermon which called for a complete revision of the methods of Christian preaching.

In London he at once made an impression, which was partly due to his striking appearance; he was over six feet tall, his pale face framed 2 in dark locks which fell almost to his shoulders. No one could hear him without being conscious of a powerful and dominating personality. His flowery, rhetorical style soon attracted a large circle of hearers, for which the little church was too small. A new one was built in Regent Square, and for a time he was the fashionable preacher of London. He appealed especially to the educated classes; and it was to them that he spoke in his first published work, For the Oracles of God, Four Orations. For Judgment to Come, an Argument in Nine Parts (London, 1823). The attention attracted by his writings increased his popularity, and at the same time heightened his self-consciousness; he felt himself called to be the prophet of his people, and scornfully rejected the well-meant warnings of many members of the Evangelical party.

The upheaval of the French Revolution had aroused in England a strong tendency to apocalyptic and millenarian thought, which 3 found expression in numerous writings. Among those most strongly impressed by this thought was Henry Drummond (q.v.), a rich banker who had gathered around him a circle of like-minded friends, devoted to gaining general recognition for their apocalyptic views. Irving adopted the singular exegesis and the whole train of thought of Drummond's circle, which opened to him an entirely new field as a preacher of repentance. In a long discourse, later printed with enlargements (Babylon and Infidelity Foredoomed of God, Glasgow, 1826), preached at the anniversary of the Continental Society in 1825, he developed these thoughts and foretold the second coming of the Lord for the year 1864. Next he published, with an introduction of 200 pages, a recasting of a work published pseudonymously in 1818 by Lacunza, a Spanish ex-Jesuit, under the title The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty (London, 1827). Meantime a regular "school of the prophets" had gathered around him, who, from the end of 1826, met annually at Drummond's country-seat of Albury, near Guildford. From 1829 to 1833 they published a periodical, The Morning Watch, a Journal of Prophecy.

A sectarian tendency soon developed. Irving had been saying from 1824 on that since the fivefold office of apostles, prophets, evangelists, 4 pastors, and teachers had disappeared from the Church, the Holy Ghost had deserted it. Irving thus showed an increasing tendency to depart from the principles of Scotch Presbyterianism. He now denied predestination; following the High-church teaching of Hooker, he felt himself a priest and required his people so to regard him; and toward the end of 1827 he gave utterance to Christological views which were regarded as the grossest heresy, speaking of the "sinful substance" of the body of Christ. In defense of his view, he wrote a long rhetorical treatise on the Incarnation which forms the third and fourth parts of his Sermons, Lectures, and Occasional Discourses (3 vols., London, 1828). This attitude, combined with his apocalyptic vagaries, damaged his position in London. About this time a union of prayer was formed to beseech a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and Irving's assistant, Alexander Scott, expressed the hope that the special charismata of the primitive Church might once more be bestowed in answer to these supplications. Fresh excitement was aroused by two preaching-tours of Irving's through Scotland in 1828 and 1829, and in Mar., 1830, occurred the phenomena elsewhere detailed (see CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC CURCH), which were taken as a fulfilment of these hopes.


At least a commission from London, of which the lawyer Cardale was the most prominent member, accepted them as the expected renewal of the primitive gifts, and a confirmation of the whole trend of apocalyptic preaching. Similar phenomena now occurred at gatherings in Cardale's house; prophecy and speaking with tongues became more and more frequent. Irvine attempted for a time to keep these manifestations separate from the church services proper, while he welcomed them and made use of the messages thus delivered, and looked to the revival of the offices already recognized as essential. But revelation succeeded revelation, and presently Irving could no longer hold back the growing enthusiasm. In Oct., 1831, it took possession of his church, amid scenes of great excitement. When Irving was summoned, in 1830, before the general presbytery of the Scotch churches in London to answer for his Christological views, and denied their jurisdiction, appealing to the general synod in Scotland, his own presbytery had stood by him. But now it accused him of violation of the liturgical ordinances in allowing women, and men who were not properly ordained ministers, to speak in his church. Sentence of deposition was pronounced on May 2, 1832. Four days later Irving began independent services in a hall with about 800 communicants, and in October he removed to a remodeled studio in Newman Street, leaving behind him the last remnants of the old Presbyterian order.

Though Irving was the "angel" of the Church, the voices of the prophets left him little hearing. Cardale, Drummond, and the prophet 5 Taplin took the lead of the movement, and the new organization proceeded rapidly. New functionaries were created as the Spirit bade, on the analogy of New Testament indications, and presently there were six other congregations in London, forming, with Irving's, the counterpart of the seven churches of the Apocalypse. Irving accepted the whole development in faith, although he had conceived the apostolic office as something different, which should not interfere with the independence of himself as the "angel." But he had lost control of the movement, and those who now led it lost no opportunity of humiliating the man to whose personality they had owed so much. When the sentence of deposition was confirmed by the presbytery of Annan, and then by the Scottish general synod, and he returned to London strong in the consciousness of his call by God to the office of angel and pastor of the church, he was not allowed to baptize a child, but was told to wait until, on the bidding of the prophets, he should be again ordained by an apostle. His health was now failing, and his physician ordered him, in the autumn of 1834, to winter in the south. He went, however, to Scotland, where the prophets had promised him great success in the power of the Spirit, and died in Glasgow, where he is buried in the crypt of the cathedral.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Irving's Collected Writings were edited by his nephew, G. Carlyle, 5 vols., London, 1864-65. Besides the. literature under CATHOLIC APOSTOLIC CHURCH, especially the biography by Mrs. Oliphant, and Carlyle's Reminiscences, consult D. Brown, Personal Reminiscences of Edward Irving, in Expositor, 1887; C. K. Paul, in Biographical Sketches London, 1883; W. A. Smith, "Shepherd" Smith, the Universalist, London, 1892.

1 Life in Scotland.

2 Success in London.

3 Joins Drummond's Circle.

4 Rise of Irvingites.

5 Irving Superseded.


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