Edward Irving

4 August 1792 – 7 December 1834


Why consider Irving? I believe he sowed seed that would be a forerunner to the Pentecostal movement. When we look at the time in which he lived, Unitarianism was on the rise as was the age of reason, and it was against these strongholds, Irving would seek to attack. His audience was the movers and shakers of the time, and those who would easily succumb to the popular thinking of the time. So, it is understandable why he made such a stance.

Many branded him a heretic in his day and we will discuss this. However, Irving saw himself as a reformer of old standing against a tidal wave of antichristian thinking, that he sought to bring down. He would become fully convinced that they were living in the days prior to the Lord’s return and as a result he had a strong sense of urgency. Had Irving perhaps gone about things differently, he may have won greater support.

It is interesting a man called Alexander Dowie, who was clearly influenced by Irving would arise after him and like Irving, used controversary to get public mindshare.

It would be hard to imagine that from his humble begins this man would challenge his generation on the ministry and gifts of the Holy Spirit and would ultimately be declared a heretic. Today, in the Old Parish Church in Annan there is a statue to this man, who had a major impact on the church. Today, as people re-examine this man, he is considered a forerunner to the Pentecostal Movement.

Was he a heretic? David Malcolm Bennett who wrote a lot about Irving stated…

“Edward Irving the pre-Victorian Scottish preacher was accused of heresy concerning the humanity of Jesus Christ, and eventually was found guilty of that charge and dismissed from his denomination.  It is my opinion that Irving was not a heretic. His view of Christ’s humanity may have been right or it may have been wrong., but it was not heretical. Irving’s main point was that the flesh of Jesus of Nazareth was the same as our flesh. There was no difference between the two. Our Lord’s flesh was thus theoretically corruptible. Irving was saying that Jesus’ flesh was the same as Adam’s after the Fall, not before it. 

However, Irving made it very clear that he believed that Jesus had never sinned. He said it many times.  Jesus was pure, He was holy and He was sinless. In fact, Jesus was kept from sin by the power of the Holy Spirit in Him. Irving also said that Jesus was not subject to original sin.

Unfortunately, some of Irving’s language used to describe our Lord’s humanity was controversial and open to being misunderstood. It sometimes sounded as though he was saying Jesus was sinful. But a fair reading of what Irving said, makes it clear that he repeatedly claimed that Jesus was sinless.”1

 It is said of Irving, that in his genealogy were Huguenots and Lutherans. Samuel Taylor Coleridge said if Irving…

“Edward Irving possess more of the spirit and purposes of the first Reformers…than any man now alive; yes, than any man of this and the last century. I see in Edward Irving, a minister of Christ, after the order of Paul.”2

Irving was greatly influenced by the famous martyrs who had gone on before him and claimed to have visited all of their grave sites.3, 4 The tales of this bold heroes of old clearly had an impact on Edward, who just like them sought to a bold witness for Jesus. During his time, Irving would be rejected for his beliefs, but as Gordon Strachan wrote in the 1970’s “Because of the Pentecostal analogy and comparison that now exists and which must be the basis of any future assessment of his person and work, almost everything he wrote and everything already written about him must be reconsidered.”5

While many people claim Irving would start or found the Apostolic Catholic Church, that is not correct. He was not a leader in the church and died a few years after it formed and before it took on some of its distinctive characteristics. As we look at Irving, many in his day and even today hail him a hero, while others are more cautious about him due to certain beliefs he held, which we will consider. What must be understood was Irving belonged to a different flow, the Pentecostal one, and he was clearly a front runner for Pentecostalism. Because, of his impact on other heroes of faith, directly or indirectly, I believe we need to look at Irving’s life and ministry.

Early Years

Edward Irving was born in a small town called Annan in Scotland on August 4th, 1792. During the same year, 1792, Charles G. Finney was born. His father, Gavin Irving was a tanner and like Edward, he also was very tall. His mother was Mary Irving. Gavin and Mary had nine children. Mary was “a tall black-eyed handsome woman…thrifty, assiduous, wise, if somewhat fussy.” 6 Both Mary and Gavin came from dedicated Christian families and would rise early to pray over the children. 7

Edward had two brothers, John and George, who although both reached adulthood, died young and unmarried. John died on Edward’s birthday, which from that point onwards became a fast day for Edward. His four sisters went on to marry.8

As the local minister had a drinking problem, many of the locals walked six miles to the neighboring parish. When Edward became ten, they joined the Seceders, or the dissenting group. Which required long hikes. 9

Though, there are no records of a single conversion experience for Irving coming to know the Lord, it is clear that he had an intense love for Him and was a dedicated follower.

Irving’s father sought to ensure his children all had a great education, so from an early age Irving had a tutor. It is interesting to note that Irving went on to teach as did his son after him. A love of education would run in the family.

Like so many heroes of the faith, Irving, was a nobody and he nor anyone else never expected he would amount to anything. 10 At the same time, this young man, had a great heart towards people and was easily touched by their needs and as a result he was a very generous individual.11

The School Years

Irving was clearly a bright individual and by the age of thirteen went to the University of Edinburgh to study for an Arts Degree. His mother had just received an inheritance which helped pay for his education. Irving proved to be gifted at mathematics, as well as Latin, Greek, and philoshpy.12 He graduated in April 1809 at the age of sixteen. From here he decided to study theology so he could become a Presbyterian minister.

Irving would become a teacher in Haddington at the age of eighteen, a place where John Wesley had preached. Irving spoke of the local’s saying that they were a happy people but they were “apt to throw of(f) all allegiance to God as the giver of every good, and to believe that their present comfortable circumstances arise solely from their prudence and carefulness.”13

In August of 1812, after spending three years in Haddington, Irving moved to Kirkcaldy, where he worked at the Kirkcaldy Academy. He would stay here for seven years. During this time, he met his wife Isabella. She was the daughter of a minister, the Rev. John Martin.

 He also met and became close friends with Thomas Carlyle, a man from Annan like Irving, and who taught at a rival school. Carlyle described Irving as “had a sunnier type of character, or so little hatred towards any man or thing…The excellent Irving delights in making all about him happy.” 14 Oliphant said of Irving, that he “could not live without having people around him to love.”15


In 1815, Irving went through his trials for his ministry license which he passed giving him the right to preach and he was now eligible to be ordained. However, ordination, required that he be appointed to a church. Irving would preach at Rev. Martin’s church as well as in Annan, where it was claimed the whole town turned out for his first time preaching there. 16

Despite all the preaching opportunities, Irving failed to receive an appointment to a church. It was during this time that Irving entered the wilderness period. When we look at the life of Jesus, we see that His ministry began with Jesus first having gone through the wilderness. The wilderness is a place of death. It is here we discover the flaws and issues we must surrender to the Lord. It is a place of killing the flesh, and yielding the throne of your affection and imagination to the Lord. It is here we are either made by surrendering to the Lord, or that unyielded area becomes the opening for the enemy later in our ministry and life.

Irving recognized that the preaching of most of his fellow Scottish clergy was “dry theological arguing and disputing, lifeless, pulseless.” 17 Sitting on the bench is very difficult when you have a burden to preach from the Lord. Some of these wilderness seasons are necessary for us to go through so we become grounded and rooted in love and not in building our agenda. Sometimes, they are the result of the spirit of religion seeking to get us grounded in bitterness so we abort the call. The spirit of religion always seeks to produce a long list of areas you need to address. They offer no real help, and will use that list against you if you make any type of stand. The Lord was seeking in Irving’s life to develop within him holy desperation and dependence on Him. Irving was also clearly fighting the spirit of religion and the ministry fraternity. Acceptance and membership of this fraternity is all about who you know and not what you know. Irving was clearly a gifted preacher, but it did not have the right connections to make things happen. It is a time where Irving clearly got frustrated. These seasons are not easy, but developing holy desperation as you surrender to the Word and to prayer, will sharpen you and make you a vessel of honor He can use. Bottom line we are not dependent on men, but Him. We must get our eyes off men and situations and on to Him, the Author and Perfector of our faith.

The Scottish church at the time of Irving could be broken down into two groups. First there were the “moderates” who placed emphasis on learning, morality and avoiding extremes.  Then the second group was the “evangelicals.” This group stressed orthodox beliefs and objected to patronage. 18 The Presbyterian Church believed in compliance with their Westminster Confession, which provided its doctrinal standards. A minister who came against one of these could be brought to court and dismissed.

Back to Edinburgh

In the summer of 1818, Irving decided to return to Edinburgh. He was eager to get into ministry and based on his education, training and theological understanding it is surprising no one had appointed him a church. During this season Irving sought to fine tune his messages and replaced all his old sermons. Oliphant wrote…

“That his long time spent sitting in the pews, rather than standing in the pulpit, gave Irving a deep understanding of how to preach, or, often how not to preach, and this no doubt stood him in good stead in the years ahead.”19

Too often we are trained and programmed how to preach and we lose the importance of being led by the Holy Spirit. Our messages come out of a head filled full of knowledge and not a yielded vessel that the Lord can pour life in and through. Dr. Grierson, described Irving’s preaching during this time as “very fearless, original, striking, and solemn.”20

During this time, Irving had become engaged to Isabella but soon found himself falling in love with another lady, whom he had tutored back in Haddington. According to Carlyle, Irving went to the Martins and sought release from the engagement to Isabella but appears he was denied and being a man of his word moved forward with the engagement. 21 In fact, Jane, went on to marry Thomas Carlyle. What was clear with Irving, that despite all of his faults he was not a hypocrite but a straight shooter.

Wanting to be a Missionary

Irving found himself stuck, without a call to a church and having made a mess of his love life. He decided that maybe he was called to be a missionary, and described this time as his “Patmos.” 22 Many of us go through periods of feeling alone. Too often people around us don’t understand the call and so we must learn that “although none go with us, still I will follow.” Irving, sought to be ready for whatever the Lord had for him.

“And for myself, here I am to remain for further orders- if from the east I am ready, if from the west I am ready, and if from the folk at Fife I am not the less ready.” 23 It is easy during the alone periods to get self-focused and discouraged. These are meant to be times of getting ready. It is hard to imagine that soon Irving’s life would become hectic and he would have no alone time. Time to seek the Lord and develop an intimate relationship with the Lord. We must all go through winter seasons, when all seems to die and the hope of spring seems far off. But seasons change. Learning to take advantage of the current season can prepare to go further and be stronger in the next season. I personally hate winter, but I have found that those mild winters which I love, fail to deliver the hard frost that kills the bugs that overwhelm us once spring comes. For many heroes of faith, it was these winter seasons that made them. The holy desperation and desire for fellowship forced them to press deeper in the Lord and know Him more. This would open the door for their divine purpose, but too often, once they moved into it, they got consumed with it rather than the Lord and lost their very reason they were doing what they did. In other words, we get caught up in “our” ministry and start to build our kingdom. Instead, we are to be consumed with and for Him. The winter season may be a difficult season, but if we surrender to Him, He will kill in us the old man and old dreams, so that in the new season we can run unhindered and with perseverance the race He has for us.

During the winter season we start knocking on every door we can find. What we must learn is to allow Him to open the door and shut all other doors. Irving, like many of us, started developing plans of what he could do. He would do a tour of Europe, tutoring where possible. However, this was not the door the Lord was opening for Irving, and Irving never did go forward with it.

In the summer of 1819, Irving was invited to preach at St. George’s, where, Dr. Thomas Chalmers was visiting. The Lord has ways of placing the right people in the right place at the right time, if we will follow Him. That is what He did for Irving. However, God’s timing is not always ours and we don’t always see what He is doing behind the scenes. Irving made an impression on Chalmers and expected a letter, which did not look like it was coming. Irving would find himself disappointed and frustrated once again. After a long wait, Irving decided to leave Edinburgh and return home. On the way, he decided to stop over in Ireland and so took the ferry to Belfast. Irving would spend two weeks “among the ragged sons of St. Patrick.”24

While visiting the Coleraine Post Office, he discovered a letter from Dr. Chalmers, inviting him to come meet with him on August 30th. In a desperate bid to make the deadline, Irving returned to Glasgow, to discover Chalmers had been delayed.  The enemy seemed to do everything to discover Irving and hinder him.

The devil seeks to kills something before it starts. We are called to be grounded and rooted in love and not bitterness or discouragement.  The enemy seeks to dethrone Jesus from the throne of your affection and imagination by consuming you with discouragement and ideally bitterness. When, we lose sight of His love and we are no longer controlled by that love, we open the door to strife and with it every evil thing.

Dr. Chalmers

Glasgow was a fast-growing city that was consuming all the villages around it. In September of 1819, Irving had finally received his call and his ministry had begun. During this time there was much unrest in Scotland which lead to protests and fights. St. John’s Parish where Irving worked for Dr. Chalmers had a population of around 10,000. Irving wrote of Dr. Chalmers…

“I never saw or heard of a parish (,) much less a town parish, organized and attended to in such a way before. He visits from house to house, and by acts of duty purely religious has contrived to establish himself in the affections of many of the very outcasts of human society whom I have visited along with him.”25

Chalmers had a heart for the poor but said of helping them…

“If you wish to extinguish poverty, combat with it in its first elements. If you confine your beneficence to the relief of actual poverty, you do nothing.”26

Chalmers believed in education and helping the poor to be independent rather than simply giving charity. Chalmers believed it was important to get out and work among the people and not assume preaching the Gospel was simply done in the pulpit. This obviously had an impact on Irving.

Irving declared he learned a lot from Chalmers which aided in in his ministry. 27 Irving grew in popularity and Carlyle added that it concerned Chalmers.28 In the first few months, Irving visited around three hundred families including, “Churchman, Dissenters, Catholics and Protestants.”29 and after five months he told Carlyle that he had been, ‘wrought almost to death, by labour and kindness.”30

During this time, Irving inherited a considerable amount of money which he gave to poor people during his visitations.

Irving “was always sympathetic with those who suffered and had an innocence that would rather choose to believe than disbelieve what h was told, even by a man in prison.”31 Chalmers described Irving’s preaching as “like Italian music. It is only appreciated by connoisseurs.” Dr. Chalmers it appears sought to put down Irving, but Irving seemed to remain “full of appreciation and admiration for Chalmers.”32

Burden of Your Heart

We started to mention how we must be controlled by the love of God. Remember the driving force of heaven is love. God so loved and because He so loved He acted. Love should drive us to do. Too many are simply fulfilling religious obligations in ministry and not love. They have been trained how to act and what to do and they simply do as they were told. But it is not a respond to the stirrings of His compassion inside of us. We read how Jesus was moved by compassion. We too, must follow the master and be moved by compassion.

Your love walk will be tested. It is essential that we see people through the eyes of the Father. He despite all our failings and rebellion still loves us. He keeps trying to reach us and show us His love. We must see people through that love and mercy. Refuse to respond on the flesh level, but according to the law of love.

Love means laying down your life. We must surrender our agenda and ministries to Him. It is easy to fall into the trap of building your kingdom and your ministry. We can become so blind that we don’t even see it. But we must seek daily that our eyes and ears are open so we can hear and be quickly touched by the Holy Spirit.

How many ministries today, do the pastors and leaders visit the sheep? We have reserved and demand that they must come to us. Yet, Jesus, our role model, sought out the lost and left the ninety-nine for the one. He made it clear that if we are to be a leader then in the upside kingdom of heaven, we must become the servant.

So, there are seasons where we must learn to love. Where the Father seeks to expose and kill the old man in us and reduce us to love.

Christ The Physician

In the spring in 1821, Irving’s sister, Elizabeth, took ill and Irving quickly returned to Annan to see her. Irving ministered the Gospel to his sister who was restored spiritually and physically. Irving realized, ‘that Christ is the physician of the body and soul.”33 This was perhaps the beginning of Irving’s acceptance of what we call today, “Pentecostalism.”

At the age of thirty after spending two years at St. Johns, it was time for Irving to move on. Irving sought for his own church and a place where he could fully use his gifts. During this time, he received a call to Jamaica, but after much prayer turned it down. Then early in November 1821, he received a call to Caledonian Church in Hatton Garden in London. The church now had dwindled to around 50 people and in December of 1821, Irving began preaching at the church. By the third Sunday, the Duke of York was in attendance.

Irving said, “The pulpit I am now beginning to study as a means of power.”35

The people received Irving and responded well to his messages. There is something powerful when you are received. It makes a powerful difference. The people pull on the gift and you can tell life went forth. When you are in the wrong place you are not and will not be truly received. When you are received people recognize and value the gift in you. They pull on that gift and respect that gift. Religion seeks to make people receive the gift by exalting the minister up. But they are not truly being received which creates an insecurity leading to the need to control the people. So religious politics increase.

When you attend a local church and they receive you they welcome you in as family and treat you with respect. We must first receive the Holy Spirit. Religious people never receive the Holy Spirit because they would have to recognize and bow to the authority and Lordship of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not fit into their flow or agenda. It is the same with you, if you are in the wrong church and wrong flow they will not truly receive you. You make a difference and mean something. Religious churches demand that you prove your loyalty to enter the inner circle and you must make your way up starting by cleaning toilets. Now I believe if we seek to be a leader we must humble ourselves and become the servant. We should seek to do these menial tasks not to earn status, but out of love. We are there to serve and not to exalt ourselves.

Caledonian Church

Irving had initially gone to the Caledonian church on a trial basis. The salary they offered was low and concerned Irving. After the trial period the church determined they wanted Irving. However, two things stood in his way. First, there was a requirement that the preacher could speak in Gaelic, Irving, who spoke many languages could not speak Gaelic. He offered to learn it but would need more time than was granted. However, they found a way around this issue.36

The second rule involved the Church of Scotland requiring that the local church had to be able to pay the minister an adequate salary. Many churches expect ministers to leave totally by faith. They give minimal in offerings and pay below the average pay for other jobs. It always surprising me how little they will pay a minister, yet demand personally a higher salary. While, we see some mega pastors earning extreme salaries, most ministers make little money. It is sad, that people don’t appreciate the ministry and pay them an appropriate salary. If we expect them to live by faith, then so should the congregation. This would change the minds of people if they had to live under the same and believe the Lord for the next meal.

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, ‘YOU  SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING,’ and “The laborer is worthy of his wages.”

1 Timothy 5: 17, 18

Irving was willing to come even if this condition was not meet which would mean he could not get ordained. The enemy who comes to kill, steal, and destroy, will do everything to stand in your way. He can somehow see in the spiritual realm and recognizes the call and that scares him. So, the enemy seeks to hinder and ideally stop you. We must pray through this and stand firmly that the battle is the Lord’s and He is able.

In the end they were able to work out a solution. Looking at the promise made by this small and broken congregation, it was for them a leap of faith. Somehow, they saw that Irving was key to their breakthrough. They recognized and honored the gift. While, Irving was waiting for the Caledonian church to resolve the issues, he did receive other offers, but his heart was at the Caledonian church. Another strategy of the enemy is to steal your attention and get you busy doing something else. He does not want you to step into your divine appointment. It is essential to be sharp of discernment and to know the purpose of the Lord. Irving, could never have imagined the road the Lord would take Him down to get him to this place. Now was not the time to get derailed and sidetracked. We must never get to the point where we are about to birth the vision of the Lord only to abort it by being derailed by a plan of the enemy. Be bold and keep pressing forward with the purpose of heaven.

At this time, Reverend Thomas Fleming wrote of Irving…

“mind is…gigantic. There is scarcely a branch of human science which he does not grasp, and in some degree, make his own. As a scholar, and as a man of science, he is eminently distinguished. His great talents he applied to the acquisition of professional knowledge, and both his talents and acquisitions he is, I believe, sincerely resolved to consecrate to the services of his great Master. His views of Scriptural truth, while they are comprehensive, are, in my judgment, sound.”

Fleming further explained that Irving’s preaching had changed going from being, “too refined and abstract for ordinary hearers (to) plain, sound preaching.”37 So, the time of waiting and being pruned turned out to be a time of true preparation. It is so important during the winter and spring seasons, to allow the Lord to plough pen are hard hearts. We must be willing to listen and obey. Allow Him to expose all darkness in us and challenge even well-established doctrinal thoughts. Just because we have been taught something as absolute truth, if it does not line up with the Word and the heart of the Word, it must fall. Traditions of men must be second to the Word.

Listen to these words of Irving that he said to ministers…

“stand aloof from the unholy influences under which the Church hath fallen; from the seats of power and patronage let them stand aloof; from the boards of ecclesiastical intrigue on both sides of the Church let them stand aloof; from glozing the public ear, and pampering the popular taste…let them stand aloof; and while thus dissevered from fawning intriguing and pandering, let them draw near to God, and draw inspiration from the milk of the Word.”38

Irving, was not a man pleaser and was willing to take on the tough and politically incorrect issues. He did not seek to pamper men and as a result his preaching either made you glad or mad. May we be true to the Word and in all we do make sure that the approval of heaven is the only thing we seek, even if it means the disapproval of men. Listen to how Irving worded it…

“Which some ride on prosperously, which others work against and weather amain. Those who take fair at the outset, and will have the patience to observe its veerings, and to shift and hold their course accordingly, shall fetch their port with prosperous and easy sail; those again, who are careless of ease, and court danger in a noble cause, confiding also in their patient endurance, and the protection of Heave, shall chance to have hard encounters and reach safely through the perils and dangers. But while they risk much, they discover much; they come to know the extremities of fate, and grow familiar with the gracious interpositions of heaven. So it is with preachers of the Gospel. Some are traders from port to port, following the customary and approved course, others adventure over the whole oceans of human concern… of the alter class of preachers was Paul the apostle…Luther”39

History makers, are made by surrendering to the process of the Lord. They must learn obedience comes first.

When we look at the apostle Paul, Leonard Ravenhill stated this…

“Paul was committed to a complete and costly consecration, ‘Henceforth let no man trouble me’ (Gal 6: 17). Paul was sold out to God. Every beat of his heart, every thought of his mind, every step of his feet, and every longing of his soul—all were for Christ and the salvation of men.” 40

Are we sold out to God or man? Listen again to Ravenhill…

“The man behind the pulpit must have a prayer life. ‘A holy man,’ Robert Murrauy McCheyne used to say, ‘is a fearful weapon in the hands of a holy God.’ With prayer behind him, he can carry all before him. Prayer links the man’s impotence to God’s omnipotence. Prayer swings us out of the natural into the supernatural. Prayer turns our stony words into bread because He who turned water into wine still longs through the preaching of the Word to impart nourishment to heaven’s pilgrims. In our immediate setup, the minister is often the one through whom spiritual wealth is given to the church or withheld from it. Again, this denotes a fearful responsibility to the preacher. No office on earth carries more peril with it than of the ministry of the Word. To preach just because the Sabbath comes around is wrong; to preach just to fulfill an hour, or less, is wrong; to preach of the sake of preaching is evil. Preaching does have perils…The preacher who is elated over human praise for his preaching will sink under human criticism. This proves he is walking in the flesh. A pastor cane be inexpressibly happy after preaching a word from heaven even if his congregation storms at him. The man who has gotten God’s word in the prayer closet neither seeks nor expects encouragement from me for the delivery of that word. He is (or should be) the servant of the Lord and not the tool of men. The Spirit Himself bears witness of that approval. God says, ‘Not with eyeservice, as men pleasers; but…doing the will of God from the heart.”41

Are we willing to go into the deep waters risking all that we may discover the smile on His face?

As Chalmers became ill, Irving remained in Glasgow for a while. I believe this shows a lot about the character of Irving. He was willing to put his call on hold to help his brother in a difficult season. For many, they care little about the plight of others and focus only on themselves and their ministry. We must be broken by the Lord and have a heart for people. Finally, in July, 1822 he arrived in London.

If we are to see revival in this generation then as must appreciate these words fo Ravenhill…

“Revival can be brought to this generation by prayer, by faith, by cleansing, and by obedience to the will of God.”42

We can fake prayer and a walk of faith. We can fake living a holy life, but obedience comes at cost. If you chose to walk a life of obedience, you will be tested. Obedience will cost you everything. Are you willing to pay that?

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be member of his household.”

Matthew 10: 34-37

 Still willing to step up to the plate and fulfill your divine purpose?


Washington Wilks said of Irving…

“(Edward Irving) proclaimed himself the peer of (London’s) intellectual aristocracy and avowed a mission to the irreligious great, talented, and influential.”43

Irving said of the people at Caledonian…

“You cannot conceive how happy I am here in the possession of my own thoughts, in the liberty of my own conduct, and in the favor of the Lord. The people have received me with open arms; the church is already regularly filled; my preaching, though of average of an hour and a quarter, listened to with most serious attention.”44

Numbers grew quickly until the church began to overflow. During this time, a holy desperation continued to grow in Irving as he sought to be a voice for the Lord. Irving said…

“Oh that God would keep me, refine me and make me an example to this generation of what His grace can produce upon one of the worst of His children.” 45

By November, the church was truly overflowing because of word-of-mouth. Many famous people attended his services including, Sir James Macintosh, Foreign Minister and later Prime Minister, George Canning, Allan Cunningham (Scottish Poet), Zachary Macaulay (slavery abolitionist), Sir Basil Montague, Lord Liverpool, the Duke Sussex, the Earl of Aberdeen, and other member of the royal family. George Gilfillian, wrote of attending a service there…

“You go a full hour before eleven, and find that you are not too early. Having forced your way with difficulty into the interior, you find yourself in a nest of celebrities. The chapel is small, but almost every person of not or notoriety in London has squeezed him or herself into one part or another of it.”46

Irving would denounce wickedness in high places. As Bennett explained, “Criticisms of the cultural and ruling elite were bound to have repercussions and they eventually did.”47

Another person said regarding his preaching…

“He read the Scripture as one reading a direct message from God. He prayed as one who speaks with God. When he began to preach one forgot everything but the message he was listening to. Absolute silence reigned and one was unconscious of the flight of time.”48

By the summer of 1823, a portrait of Irving done by Rudolph Ackermann was reproduced and sold for two shillings. 50

Also by May the building was no longer big enough to hold the crowds so it was decided to build a bigger church building. The Times reported on Jun 7th

It was unanimously resolved, 1. The Caledonian church, being wholly inadequate to accommodate the congregation, means be immediately taken for building a national Scottish church.”51

The church would be paid for by subscriptions. At the same time, Irving was busy writing books and had two sell out in 1823. The books were even published and sold in the U.S, demonstrating that by this time his fame had spread. Irving challenged the religious elite claiming ninety-percent of the population did not fully understand the Word. The reason for such ignorance…

“was not because the people were uninterested, but mainly because of lack of a ‘sedulous and skillful ministry on the part of those to whom’ those truths were ‘entrusted.” In other words, the clergy were largely to blame for Christian Britain’s ignorance of the Bible and the God of the Bible.”52

He further stated…

“The logical and metaphysical aspect with which religion looks out from the temples of this land playing about the head, but starving the wellsprings of the heart, and drying up the fertile streams of a holy and charitable life!…It is high intolerance of the far greater number, whose heart and whose affections may be their master faculty, to present nothing but intellectual food, or that chiefly: and moreover, it is a religious spoliation of the heavenly wisdom, with which hath a strain fitted to every mood; and it is an unfeeling, unfaithful, dealing between God and the creature whom he hath been such charges to save.”53

Irving felt Christianity was a religion of the heart and that the doctrines of faith should “carry health and vitality to the whole soul and surface of Christian Life.”54

Irving wrote, “When my Maker speaks, I am called to listen by a higher authority…Out of duty, out of love, out of adoration, out of joy, out of fear, out of my whole consenting soul, I must obey my Maker’s call.”55 Not surprising his books stirred up a hornet’s nest and criticism and persecution began. Edward Irving even began to anger those he needed support from. Many argued he could have made his point in less critical words.


On October 4th, 1823. Edward Irving and Isabella Martin were finally married. Carlyle wrote of Isabella… ”Irving’s wife you will hardly like, but neither can you well dislike her. She is unbeautiful; has no enthusiasm, and few ideas that are not prosaic or conceited; but she possesses I believe many household virtues; she loves her husband and will love his friends.”56 This was the closest Carlyle ever came to giving Isabella compliment.

Irving took a rest from preaching and wondered the Scottish countryside with his new wife. From there they headed back to London and had a house in Myddelton Terrace, Pentonville (now Islington). This would be a whole new world for Isabella and most have been very challenging at the time. Isabella took care of the finances which may have been in part because of Edward’s generosity and ease at giving money away.

Isabella wrote to her mother stating that within a couple of months there had been numerous conversions though Irving’s ministry which she claimed appealed not just to the intellect but also the heart.57

On July 22nd, 1824, they had a son that Edward had desires to call John, but Isabella refused and so he was called Edward. Irving was very attentive to his oson, more so than most fathers in his day. 58

Irving remained extremely generous and cared for the people in need. Like the Booth’s he did not separate out whether a beggar was truly deserving or not, he sought to meet the need. 659 Irving was asked to help a local school get poor children to get to school, so Irving went door to door seeking to encourage the children to attend school. 60

The London Missionary Society

In 1824, Irving was invited to address the London Missionary Society. Irving, much like Dowie who appeared on the seen many years later, never avoided controversy and always sought to give their best. The Dowie-Irving connect we will discuss later.

The invitation by the directors of the board was to help raise money for the missionaries. Irving’s speech which was published was called, “”For Missionaries after the Apostolic School.” In his speech he called for missionaries to be free from the dictates of an organization so they could fulfill the purpose of the Lord. He felt such freedom would require that the missionaries trust God for their financial needs. He felt that the man made machinery of religion had replaced the Apostolic power with God confirming His Word with signs and wonders. Irving believed missionaries were successors to the Apostles and he further stated, “when there is no heathen, the apostolic office will cease.” He insisted that missionaries return to the “Apostolic Office” and preach to unbelievers rather than simply tending to believers. The missionary should be supported by their mission filed. 61

The result according to Oliphant was “the wildest hubbub rose” and “the vexation and wrath of the ‘religious world’ fell upon Irving.”62 Irving was charged with living off the fat of the land, which considering his generosity simply was not true. So, while most attacked strongly Irving, others would accept a lot of his thoughts on missionaries.

It is interesting that in 1912, Roland Allen wrote on the subject and shared how Paul would raise churches up, made sure they were established and moved on, trusting the Holy Spirit to keep them. In contrast missionary works at the time would spend lengthy periods with the new converts, even generations, before allowing them to be left to stand alone. In many ways, the spirit of religion which justifies itself with seeking to protect people from sin, prevents the ministry of the Holy Spirit from doing what only He can do. As we explained earlier the spirit of religion never lets you stand on your own but wants a dependence on them. They send you out, they support you and they detect what and when you can do something. Paul saw the church as belonging to the Lord and his job was to yield to the Holy Spirit. Working with the Holy Spirit, He would raise up leaders and if people were taught how to walk in and by the Holy Spirit they would be able to stand on their own.

As they built their new building, Irving lost many of the aristocrats that had followed him earlier but Irving understood he could not please everyone and it was not his job to do so. Meanwhile, his preaching gained much more criticism in the press.

Family Life

In 1825, Isabella was pregnant again and returned to Scotland. On October 2nd, Margaret was born. However, shortly after her birth, their son, Edward, who had been ill, deteriorated and died nine days after Margaret’s birth. Irving’s son, Edward, was his “greatest earthly hope and joy.”63 Irving after the death said, “the stroke of death (was) subdued by faith, and strength of the grave (was) overcome.” 64 However, Irving, was never the same after his son’s death. The death stirred Irving to learn what the Word said about death, and resurrection. This would lead him to study, eschatology, the study of end time events. This would then impact all his theology. Most of the heroes of faith, were motivated by a belief in the imminent return of Jesus.

Irving returned to London while Isabella stayed for a while in Scotland. Irving would write to her and we can learn from his letters he believed in pray and fixing his eyes on Jesus before he even opened his eyelids. He cried out to the Lord early in the morning. 65

At the Caledonian Church he began preaching on the humanity of Jesus. Bennett stated of Irving’s preaching… ”his words did not please those who came seeking entertainment. They did not encourage the fashion-chasers. He was biblical, confrontational, and pulled no punches. Nor were his sermons brief or trivial; indeed they were profound and often over-long.”66 Bennett further added, ‘They heard the challenge of Jesus Christ, and that has always been a stumbling block to many.”67

End Times

During the early nineteenth century, the American and especially the French Revolution had a major impact on the study o eschatology. People, believed they were living in the end times. It has been argued that the French Revolution and the wars associated with it, ‘provided the greatest single stimulus for the growth of eschatological speculation.”68

This also had a great influence on Irving and those he associated with. During this time Irvings end time believes were greatly influenced by Henry Drummond, Lewis Way, Hatley Free and Immanuel Lacunza’ book on Revelation. Way, strongly promoted reaching the Jews for Christ.

They taught the restoration of Israel before the return of Jesus. Irving believed that things would get worse instead of better and that judgment was coming. He believed that Roman Catholicism was Babylon and Infidels were atheists and those who ‘worship of reason.”69

Regarding Roman Catholics, Bennett wrote… “though Irving was strongly opposed to Catholicism, he was not a bigot. True he regarded most Catholics as ‘gross idolaters,’ but he also acknowledged that some Catholic priests were ‘singular’ saints and that God ‘perserveth a seed” within the Catholic Church.”70

He would later begin teaching Revelation as foretelling future events and that the 1260 days of Daniel were days and not years, though initial like many he taught the days were years.

Part of the group that Irving studied end times with included, T. W. Chevalier, who in 1830 published an article in the Morning Watch which presented what today we would consider the “Left Behind” teaching. They believed in a rapture before the tribulation period.

The Humanity of Christ

During 1828 and 29 Irving began preaching and writing on the humanity of Christ. It is important to appreciate that at the time Unitarianism was growing, and Irving sought to address this with his teachings. Clearly a lot of the people he reached believed in Unitarianism, so it is understandable why he began to preach on the humanity of Christ. However, this became an area that many would brand him a heretic. However, if you read his writings, what he was accused of he never really said. He perhaps went too far, but what he was trying to say was good. Irving wrote…

“With all I hold the human will of Christ to have been perfectly holy, and to have acted, spoken, or wished nothing but in perfect harmony with the will of the Godhead… All Divinity, all Divine operation, all God’s purpose, from beginning to the ending of time, and throughout eternal ages, resteth upon this truth, that every acting of the human nature of Christ was responsive to and harmonious with, the actings of the Divine will of the Godhead. What a calamity it is then, what a hideous lie, to represent us as making Christ unholy and sinful, because we maintain that He took His humanity completely and wholly from the substance, from the sinful substance, of the fallen creatures which He came to redeem! He was passive to every sinful suggestion which the world through the flesh can hand up to the will; He was liable to every sinful suggestion which Satan through the mind can hand up to the will; and with all such suggestions and temptations, I believe Him beyond all others to have been assailed, but further went they not. He gave them no inlet, He went not to seek them, He gave them no quarter, but with power Divine rejected and repulsed them all; and so, from His conception unto His resurrection, His whole life; and was a series of active triumphings over sin in the flesh, Satan in the world, and spiritual wickedness in high places.”71

Irving saw Unitarianism as persecution of the church and an attack on Christ’s divinity. Irving’s response was to preach in the humanity of Christ. What people struggled with was his teaching that Christ took upon Himself our sinful human flesh and thus Christ had the potential to sin. Romans eight says, “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. (Romans 8:3).” Irving made it clear that although Christ took upon Himself sinful flesh He never sinned. He taught, “the Son of God Himself was empowered by the Holy Spirit in order to fulfill the Father’s will.” 72 Irving taught that Jesus was “very God and very man in one indivisible Person.”73 Irving believed that in order for Jesus to be a true Savior and Meditator for sinful man, He had to come and be tempted in all ways like us and have the capacity to sin like man, but never doing so.

However, Rev. Henry Cole, would come on the scene and accused Irving of blasphemy. Cole challenged Irving. Irving quoted from the “Scots Confession of Faith” of 1560, in which it states, “the flesh of Christ Jesus, which by nature was corruptible and mortal, life and immortality.”74 He further argued the “Westminster Confession,” stated that “upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin.” Dallimore75 summarized Irving’s statements on Christ’s humanity:

  1. Christ’s flesh was the same as Adam’s after the fall, not like Adam’s before it
  2. Christ was subject to the same temptations and tendencies as we are
  3. There was nothing in his nature that gave Him an advantage over us in fighting sin
  4. Tet Christ did not sin. This was because of the power of the Holy Spirit in Him
  5. Therefore Christ is “the Supreme Example” of how to live
  6. The Holy Spirit is “equally Available” to each Christian
  7. That at the end of His life Jesus ‘was able to present to God a perfect human nature.”

Irving’s teachings stirred a lot of people and he was soon accused of heresy. The suggestion of heresy shocked Irving who truly believed he was preaching orthodox doctrine. Today, some agree with Irving while others still disagree. While many disagreed with his teaching on the humanity of Christ at the time, many did not see him as a heretic. However, many did not fully hear what Irving was saying and thought he implied Christ actually sinned despite Irving’s statements that Christ never sinned. Bennett writes that if you study Knox on the subject of Christ’s humanity, that ‘if not as clear as Irving, Knox sounds as though he was teaching the same doctrine. In other words, Irving was in line with a major Presbyterian confession and, it seems, with John Knox, a Presbyterian of Presbyterians. Likewise, the Westminster Confession also seems to be open to this interpretation.”76 Dorries noted many similarities to Irving’s teachings on the subject of the Eastern Church Fathers. 77

The Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Initially, Irving held the traditional Protestant belief of the cessation of the gifts. However, his views would change somewhere in the 1820’s. In his book “Orations,” which was published in 1823, he clearly believed in the cessation of the gifts. However, in his 1824 address to the London Missionary Society he spoke of missionaries and the “gifts of tongues and…interpretation of tongues.”

In 1825, Irving wrote to his wife saying he had found “a new style creeping upon” him, to which he added, “I seek more and more earnestly to be a tongue unto the Holy Spirit.”78  Irving started to focus less on logic and reason and more on a deeper relationship and fellowship with the Holy Spirit.

In Irving’s book, “Preliminary Discourse,’ published in 1826 and influenced by Lacunza’s book on Revelation, he argued that before the great and terrible day of the Lord there would be an outpouring of the “latter rain.” During this outpouring there would be seen miraculous signs. 79

In May of 1827, Irving preached on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and said, “I cannot find by what writ of God any part of the spiritual gift was irrevocably removed from the church.” He further stated that tongues were “the visible sign of the invisible grace.” In other words, tongues were the proof on the inner working of the Holy Spirit. 80

In 1828, the Reagent Square Church employed as Irving’s assistant, Sandy Scott. Scott believed that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit were still available, something Irving seems to have also concluded in 1827. Scott told Irving they needed to pray for the Baptism in the Holy Spirit. At the same time Irving’s eschatology belief’s were also impacted his views on the Holy Spirit and the gifts. By 1831, Irving had clearly defined his beliefs in end times and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. 

In 1828, Irving preached on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and he stated that the gifts were available and the only reason they were not manifesting was the church’s ‘evil heart of unbelief, and the ‘hiding of the light of the world’ under ‘the bushel’ of human systems and ordinances.” 81

At the end of 1829, Sandy Scott would meet a Scottish lady, Mary Campbell, who was ill and close to death. She began to pray “in faith” and was healed.82 Mary desired to be a missionary but felt she did not have time to learn new languages in preparation, but believed God would enable her to speak in other languages. On March 30th, 1830, Mary began speaking in other tongues. Irving ran a report on what happened…

“One of the sisters, along with a female friend had been spending the whole day in humiliation, and fasting, and prayer before God, with a special respect to the restoration of the gifts (of the Spirit). They had come up in the evening to the sick-chamber of their sister…and along with one or two others of the household, they were engaged in prayer together. When in the midst of their devotion, the Holy Ghost came with mighty power upon the sick woman, as she lay in her weakness, and constrained her to speak at great length, and with superhuman strength, in an unknown tongue, to the astonishment of all who heard, and to her own great edification and enjoyment in God.”83

The lady also began to prophecy which during that time period was very rare.

Around the same time a family who heard Scott preach on the baptism of the Holy Spirit had a daughter seriously ill. One day, the daughter experienced an ecstatic spiritual state in which she prayed and worshipped for several hours. When her brothers came home she spoke to them at length and then she prayed her brother James, “would be endowed with the power of the Holy Ghost. He received the baptism and then began to pray for his sister and she arose out of bed perfectly well. The daughter Margaret, began speaking in tongues frequently after that.84

Story who recorded these events was initially enthusiastic about them while in Scotland but would later doubt them. Many visited the MacDonald house to investigate for themselves. Irving, however, felt the church was “recovering from a long sleep.” 85

In June 1830, Irving went to a three-day conference in Albury on the gifts of the Spirit. During this time his son, Samuel was very ill. Irving felt resigned that the Lord’s will be done regarding his son Samuel. On the first night, Irving experienced dreams and visions. The outcome of the conference was “That it is our duty to pray for the revival of the gifts manifested in the primitive church; which are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, kinds of tongues, and interpretation of tongues; and the responsibility lies on us to enquire into the state of those gifts said to be now present in the west of Scotland.”86

Unfortunately, his son Samuel passed away which was another blow to Irving. Irving along with his wife and only remaining child, Maggie, retired to Albury to mourn and rest.

Irving concluded that faithful praying was not enough and that they needed the gift of healing and it was time to see this restored in the church. He felt had this been the4 case his son would not have died. Irving became determined to see the restoration of the gifts to the laity. 87

Irving wrote…

“Those gifts of the Holy Ghost which we formerly treated of under the head of the Endowment of the Church, are by some thought to have been given only for a season, while Christianity was making way in the world: by others they are believed to have been given, like the other gifts and callings of God without repentance and revocation; and that the Church hath them now in as full right as ever, and ought to be exercising them with as great diligence, and for the very same ends, as did the apostles and primitive Christians.”

He went on the argue the case for the gifts explaining their purpose…”In some way or other, therefore, this is the great end for which the gifts of the Holy Ghost, received by Christ upon His ascension, were given,- to construct for God a place to dwell in…the Father gave Him certain gifts, for the purpose of constructing a habitation for Him…Fellow citizens of the saints, and inmates of God’s house,… builded, as a house upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the head of the corner; on whom the whole house structure, fitly framed together, increaseth into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom even you are built into the house, for a habitation of God in the Spirit.”88

Regarding tongues, “the crowning act of all,” 89 Irving said it was the church’s duty to seek “this long-lost endowment.”90

A delegation was sent to the MacDonalds to determine if it was real of not. John B. Cardale, who was a lawyer fluent in several languages headed up the investigation. Their conclusion was “that their organs of speech are made use of by the Spirit of God, and that they utter what is given to them, and not an expression of their own conceptions or their own intention.”91

The Battle Erupts

More and more felt Irving was going unchecked at the Reagent Square church. Scott his assistant was called to a church in Scotland and Irving was called to be a part of the team testing him for ordination. During this time a team sought to address Irving’s teaching on Christ’s humanity and show him he was in their opinion Scripturally incorrect.

Slowly more and more were growing concerned at Irving and taking that concern to the Presbytery. The Presbytery ultimately, appointed two committees. One to examine his book on the human nature of Christ, and a second to “receive Irving’s protest reasons.” The committee on the book reported back that it contained, ‘errors subversive of the great doctrines of Christianity.”92 On December 14th, 1830, the Presbytery excommunicated him from their body. Then the presbytery if the Reagent Square Church a declaration against Irving’s teaching. The declaration was published in the major newspapers.


On April 30th, 1831 the wife of leader of the delegation to Scotland for the Reagent Square church, Emma Cardale, became the first to speak in tongues. Then Mary Hall, the governess and Member of Parliament, spoke in tongues. At this time Irving, only allowed speaking in tongues in small meetings and not in the main service. Irving believed the gifts were to be first tested…

“First, by the walk and conversation of the persons; secondly, by trying it according to the form of Scripture, seeing whether it had the sign of the tongue, and whether the prophesying was for edification, and exhortation, and comfort; thirdly, by the consciousness of the Spirit within myself, bringing conviction to my own heart; fourthly by submitting it to all people.” 93

However, on Sunday, October 16th, he changed his mind concerned that he was hindering the Holy Spirit. A lady began speaking in tongues and prophesying. This caused great confusion in the church who were new to all this. Irving, then preached on the gifts and following his sermon, several began speaking in tongues.

By November the church was packed to overflow. While Irving was preaching a lady broke forth in tongues. This caused a lot of people to get agitated. Not all accepted what was happening to be from God and trouble began brewing. Those who were challenged by it admitted that those who spoke in tongues were “very holy and exemplary” and so were not making them up. 94

Irving’s father-in-law became one of Irving’s critics, to which Irving argued that he was being criticized without adequate information.95

Irving wrote of the tongues as coming…

“by the Holy Ghost…with a power and strength and fulness, and sometimes rapidity o voice, altogether different from that of the person’s ordinary utterance in any mood; and I would say…quite supernatural. There is a power in the voice to thrill the heart and overawe the spirit after a manner which I have never felt. There is a march, and a majesty, and a sustained grandeur in the voice…which I have never heard even a resemblance to (except on rare occasions). It is a mere abandonment of all truth to call it screaming or crying: it is the most majestic and divine utterance which I have heard…so far from being unmeaning gibberish, as the thoughtless and heedless sons of Belial have said, it is regularly formed, well pronounced, deeply felt discourse…”96

Speaking in tongues continued for several months in the Reagent Square church. However, Irving, himself never spoke in tongues. However, the Presbytery soon got tired of it and saw concern with the interruptions and the fact that Irving allowed women to speak in the church.

The London Trial

The Presbyterian Assembly of 1831 decided to dismiss both Rev. John McLeod and Rev. Alexander Scott from the church of Scotland. McLeod and Scott believed, like Irving that salvation and the atonement was not just the elect, but for all. This was in contradiction to the Westminster Confession which stated Christ died only for the elect. Only.

Irving who was disturbed by this wrote of the Church of Scotland that it was ‘dead, heretical, and all but apostate” He further added the church needed “repentance and humiliation.” 97 Irving’s father-in-law disagreed not with the Assembly’s conclusion but with the very harsh and uncharitable spirit…exhibited by some of the speakers.” He further felt Irving deserved more consideration. 98 Irving published a book  comparing the older Scots Confession with the newer Westminster Confession, favoring the former, which agreed more with his teachings.

Chalmers remained quiet during this time, and it would appear he did agree in part with Irving

In 1832, Irving began preaching on divine healing and believed Christians got sick if they sinned or God allowed a testing of their faith. The next day, Irving became ill with cholera which he felt was due to his unbelief. He prayed, “Surely Thou, O Jesus, art stronger in my spirit, than Satan is in my flesh.”

Also, around this time, Irving stopped preparing his sermons, but instead spoke as the Spirit lead him. Irving despite being very ill decided to preach anyway. As he struggled, someone began speaking in tongues and prophesying. When they had finished, Irving was able to continue with fresh strength and that night preached with even more power. 99

In the days a head his health continued to improve but many felt he never returned to his old self. He was exhausted by the continual persecution and opposition.

Reagent Square Trustees Take Action

Irving had claimed that he had the authority to run the services as he felt lead. The trustees, hired an attorney to determine whether Irving was right or wrong. Irving stood up against this warning that they were not coming against him, but the Holy Spirit.

On March 17th, 1832, the trustees went to the London Presbytery in order to have Irving dismissed. Their charges:

  1. (That he) suffered and permitted, and still allows, the public services of the church in the worship of God, on the Sabbath and other days, to be interrupted by persons not being either ministers or licentiates of the Church of Scotland
  2. (that he) suffered and permitted, and still allows, the public services of the said church in the worship of God, to be interrupted by persons not being either members of seat holders of the said church
  3. (that he) suffered and permitted, and also publicly encourages, females to speak in the same church, and to interrupt and disturb the public worship of God in the church on Sabbath and other days
  4. (that he) suffered and permitted, and also publicly encourages, other individuals, members of the said church, to interrupt and disturb the public worship of God in the church on Sabbath and other days
  5. (that he), for the purpose of encouraging and exciting the said interruptions, has appointed times when a suspension of the usual worship in the said church takes places, for said person to exercise the supposed gifts with which they profess to be endowed 100

It is worth noting Irving had set aside times so that there would not be interruptions. In addition, as we follow revivals, revivals are messy. Secondly, we see that God began more and more particularly in the 19th and 20th century to use laity rather than ministers. Further, in the 19th century God would raise up many women in ministry such as Phoebe Palmer and Marie Woodworth Etter. Christian historians tend to avoid the women God used, but He was clearly making it known He will use whoever and whenever He wants. Having said that, one issue we see in revivals was interruptions that got out of hand and it is important for the leaders to have discernment to separate what is of God and what is not.

Irving went on trial on April 26th, 1832. Baxter, a man whom had given prophecies that greatly impact Irving, stated that he believed he had done so by a lying spirit and not the Spirit of God. Irving remained resolute that he was not wrong and prayed for mercy for Baxter.

We need to walk in a fear of the Lord. So many true revivals were shut down by men and their religious thinking. We seek to put the Holy Spirit into a box and control Him, and he refuses to bow to men. Many revivals were shut down because of this and it would be a generation before we saw another move of God.

It was clear that in this case a major issue was the gifts or the “Pentecostal” nature of the services which the Presbytery did not approve of. They also went after Irving’s teaching on the humanity of Christ. One person declared that Irving taught “our Lord’s flesh was fallen and corrupt.” To which Irving immediately responded that he never declared Christ flesh as corrupt. 101

Irving would argue he had not violated the customers of the church but more importantly he had walked in obedience to the Lord, Who was the Head.

“And if any person or court, or the Pope of Rome, or any court in Christendom, come between a man, or a minister, and his Master, and say, ‘Before obeying Jesus, you must consult us,’ be they called by what name they please, they are Antichrist.”102

Irving further argued…

“it is the command of your ordination vow that you serve Jesus. You are ministers of Jesus, and not ministers of any Assembly. You are ministers of the Word of God, and not the ministers of the standards of any Church. I abominate the doctrine. It is antichrist- it is the very essence of Antichrist. It is Popery in all its horrors…When were statutes of the Church made the mete and measure of preaching? The liberty of preaching, or prophesying, is the basis of all liberty; when was it ever bound up within six and twenty, or nine and thirty, articles? Never, never since the world began; and never, never shall it be endured.”103

Clearly you can see that Irving felt like a reformer of old standing against the spirit of religion in their day. He understood that the real issues were tongues and prophesy and he argued on these issues the canons of the church were silent. Bennett wrote, “It is also noticeable that in this trial the dispute over Irving’s Christology lurked in the background. The case was clearly about Irving allowing the charismatic manifestations, but his Christology, which was seen by many as an earlier departure from sound doctrine, was always going to rear its head again in such controversial circumstances. There is no point in beating a man with a stick if you can just as easily beat him with two.”104

The presbytery declaring Irving unfit to remain as a minister. Oliphant declared the decision as “perfectly illogical and indefensible” and that it was made by ‘reckless Presbyters.”105

The Reagent Square church which did regain numbers saw its glory days end. Irving, along with leaders who remained loyal to him, hired a hall in north London’s Gray Inn Road. He also began preaching outdoors and saw crowds of two to four thousand in attendance.

Trial in Annan

Irving’s in laws strongly disagreed with Irving’s charismatic gifts. In August, Irving with his wife sought reconciliation with her parents. However, the Martins did not come.

Irving thought about building a new church, but he felt the Holy Spirit did not allow him to do so at that time. He began renting a building and began holding services there. This church would become known as the Catholic Apostolic Church.

Irving was then called to appear in late 1832 before the Annan Presbytery. His trial began on March 13th, 1833. Needless to say, Irving would be kicked out of the church of Scotland. However, Irving still had the hearts of the people.

While, as Bennett explained officially Irving was removed because of his “heresy” on the humanity of Christ but at his trial the focus was on his “charismata.”106 R.H. Story argued that the “manifestations” that were occurring at the Reagent Square church were enough to remove Irving.107. Patterson stated that “Had tongues not occurred at Reagent Square it is doubtful Irving would ever have been put on trial, at least in London.”108

It should be noted that not all the Presbytery agreed and six members remained quiet.


The members of the Catholic Apostolic Church were referred to as Irvingites and the teaching as Irvingism. While Irving did not start the CAC, he was critical in its formation. He was the leader of the church which formed the CAC. They believed the gifts were for today, as was tongues. Henry Drummond, was also key in the formation of the CAC.

The church had no pulpit, but rather a large platform. At the front of this platform were placed seven seats with the middle one for the angel or pastor and the other six for the elders. Below these chairs were seven chairs for the prophets and below these were seven more chairs for the deacons.

Irving believed that modern missionaries were apostles. However, the CAC soon developed a different interpretation and established twelve apostles. Irving had taught that the apostle was over the pastor. Irving, who had not appeared to receive any gift was not seen as among the spiritually gifted. He was not under a group of leaders who greatly restricted what he could do. Irving was not ordained any longer and could only be ordained if a specific word came from the Holy Spirit. The very thing Irving had stood up against had taken over. Instead of being free to obey the Lord he was subject to the so-called apostles and prophets of the CAC. He was no longer in charge. He had been forced to sit on the bench

Later Days

In February 1834, Irving visited the CAC church in Edinburgh. The people came to hear him preach but sadly only saw him sitting on “the bench.” Irving was clearly not well. The Word declares that hope deferred makes the heart sick. 1834, was a difficult year for Irving. Isabella had become very ill, but after prayer received. He was demoted to sitting and doing little or nothing. The gift was no longer being used. Anyone called to ministry will know how difficult this is. It breaks the heart to be sitting on the bench and no being used. Your whole being seeks to be used and for the gift to flow. When you minister it is the greatest thing and brings the greatest joy. But, for Irving it appeared to be over. Everything he had stood up against now seemed to have won. I can only imagine the heartbreak and discouragement he felt.

On December 8th, 1834, Irving went home to be with the Lord. He was forty-two years old. He died of TB.

While the Church of Scotland had rejected Irving, his funeral service was held at a crowded Glasgow Cathedral on December 12th, and he was buried in its crypts, an honor given only to those worthy of Scottish saints.

Nuggets from Edward Irving- The Wonder of Tongues

Edward Irving wrote that the Body of Christ is to “express His mind, and word, and action, for ever and ever, and now, in this present age, intended to serve that Almighty  effect in the sight of this dark and erroneous age. “109 Further, that the Father worked through Jesus, the man, surrendered to the Holy Spirit “a sacrifice upon the accursed tree, done away with enmity, and brought reconciliation to pass, doth, when He ascendeth into heaven, receive the Holy Spirit from the Father, that with it He may take as many as the Father will give Him, and make them so to cohere together in the bands of mutual charity, work together the will of God, and manifest His glory.”110

In understanding the Gifts, Irving explained “the only way of determining every question of Divine truth is by appeal to the Word of God.”111 Irving sought to defend the Gifts as being for today through the Word.

The Gift of tongues which he became famous for happening in his church services, he sought to explain the beauty, power and purpose of this gift. He wrote in regards to tongues by quoting Paul, “For with stammering lips and another tongue will He speak to His people; to whom He said, ‘This is the rest wherewith ye may cause the weary to rest, and this is the refreshing; yet they would not hear. ‘ And the manner of His doing so is this: ‘In the law it is written, with men of other tongues and other lips will I speak unto this people; and yet for all that they will not hear me, saith the Lord.” Irving called believers to study the 28th chapter of Isaiah and First Corinthians chapter fourteen together. 112 Irving believed that tongues was  in part a judgment upon the pride of intellect and the glory of learning.113

Those speaking in tongues “are the voice of the Spirit seeking access into our hearts by our ears, for the indwelling God to abide in us, and act and speak forth of us for ever.”114

Tongues was the voice of our spirit man speaking out to God. Further, that when there is no interpretation that tongues were “a direct communication and correspondence with God.” He then added that tongues “was an ordinance for personal edification.”115 Further, tongues was a tool or a “token of God’s dealing with us as children.”

Tongues and all the Gifts are “seals of truths of the things which had  been spoken and believed.”116 He explained that the apostles preached  “not in laborious deductions, arguments, disquisitions, and controversies,” but by preaching line upon line and precept upon precept the believers were to go into the Word and get by simple faith a personal revelation and then live it out. 117

The working on power and gifts required believers to come in a childlike faith and like a child to simply believe and receive. As Irving wrote  “the signs and wonders, and divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost- were seen to attend upon men, who adopted the childhood way of teaching and required the childhood way of learning, which is by faith.”118

Irving went on to explain that tongues were a sign to the unbeliever. 119 It “is a sign of the Holy Ghost dwelling in the person.”120

“When the Holy Ghost was given on the day of Pentecost, the sign of His Presence in the persons on whom He had fallen was their speaking with tongues the wonderful works of God.” Irving then showed this was the consistent pattern of the Book of Act, that is, when the Holy Spirit fell the proof of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit was speaking in tongues. 121

“but when Christ was glorified and the Holy Ghost given, there remained yet another mode, that more unequivocal, of manifesting the finger of God, which is ‘their speaking with new tongues.’” Tongues was an additional argument of the Presence of God.122 The tongues that were spoken were “precious mysteries of God.”123

Tongues were

  1. A means of God communicating with men the word and the power of that glorious rest and refreshing, which the Gospel proclaims.”
  2. To show that God edifies the spirit man by direct  communication of the Holy Spirit
  3. They are to convey the delight, love, the humiliation, the righteous indignation, the pity, the entreaty, or other affection with which God has poured into the spirit of a man and through tongues He manifests these and proof of His indwelling Presence. Tongues were to be the production of God working in the inner man.
  4. He shows that God feeds us by the Holy Spirit.
  5. That when the Holy Spirit speaks in a known tongue it is in the form of prophecy, word of wisdom or word of knowledge or interpretation of tongues
  6. That men are to “try the thing by the Word of God abiding in their’ spirt and written in the Word. That the Holy Spirit “taketh nothing but Christ’s things to shew them to our souls. He added, “the church dare not blindly receive anything from any man or spirit, be he or do he what he may; but must weigh it in the balance of the sanctuary, which is the Word of God, opened to us by the Holy Ghost.’”
  7. Tongues is constant demonstration of God dwelling in a man. “It is needful, therefore, that all scribes and learned men, philosophers and statesmen, and men of worldly gifts, and all men whatsoever, should become as little children… to be fed and nourished of God in this spiritual way.”
  8. Tongues should be a sign and a comfort to the believer assuring Him of His salvation
  9. That we must put forth with everything within us and all our energy to gain understanding by the Holy Spirit
  10. He believed the reason tongues ceased in the church was we exalted natural methods of teaching and placed them above simply by childlike faith receiving what the Father freely gave us

Irving argued that the gifts, including tongues, were without repentance. 125


  1. https://www.edwardirving.org/was-edward-irving-a-heretic
  2. Coleridge. “On the Constitution.” Page 168
  3. Irving, “Preliminary Discourse,’ in Be-Ezra, Coming, 1; cxciii
  4. Pentecostal Pioneers. http://pentecostalpioneers.org/EdwardIrving.html
  5. Strachan. “Pentecostal.” Page 21
  6. Carlyle. “Reminiscences.” (Norton). 2: 2-6
  7. Irving, CW, 3:4848; Oliphant, Life 1:1
  8. Oliphant, Life. 1:405; Grass, Edward Irving, 304
  9. Bennett, David Malcom. “Edward Irving Reconsidered: The Man, His Controversies, and the Pentecostal Movement.” Loc 168
  10. Ibid 201
  11. Ibid
  12. Ibid loc 289
  13. Ibid 308
  14. Carlyle. “Reminiscences.” (Norton). 2: 24-25
  15. Oliphant, Life. 1: 162
  16. Bennett, David Malcom. “Edward Irving Reconsidered: The Man, His Controversies, and the Pentecostal Movement.” Loc 462
  17. Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Edward Coleridge, December 8th 1825, in Coleridge CLSTC, 5; 522
  18. Bennett, loc 676
  19. Ibid loc 758
  20. Grierson, quoted in Oliphant, Life, 1:83
  21. Carlyle, Reminiscences (Norton), 2: 86
  22. Oliphant, Life, 1:87-88, 90
  23. Quoted in Oliphant, Life, 1: 91
  24. Irving to the Martin family, September 1, 1819, quoted in Drummond, Edward Irving, 32
  25. Irving to Thomas Carlyle, September 25th, 1819, in Irving, DL, 76
  26. Newble, “Thomas Chalmers: Poverty.”
  27. Irving, “Farewell Discourse,’ in Irving, CW, 3: 353
  28. Bennett, loc 1127
  29. Irving, “Farewell Discourse,’ in Irving, CW, 3: 355-56
  30. Irving to Thomas Carlyle, March 14, 1820, in Irving, DL, 81
  31. Bennett, loc 1185
  32. Oliphant, Life, 1: 115-16
  33. Bennett, loc 1201
  34. Irving to Thomas Chalmers, April 6, 1821, in Irving DL, 105-106
  35. Irving to Thomas Carlyle, January 22, 1822
  36. Irving, Last Days, xxxvi; Hair, Reagent, 20-21
  37. Oliphant, Life, 1: 132-33
  38. Irving, CW, 3: 347-48
  39. Ibid 3: 350
  40. Ravenhill, Leonard. “Why Revival Tarries.” Bethany House, 1987. Page 120
  41. Ibid  loc 531
  42. Ibid  loc 1814
  43. Wilks, Edward Irving, 62
  44. Bennett loc 1607
  45. Irving to William Graham, August 5th, 1822
  46. Bennett loc 1713
  47. Ibid loc 1754
  48. Root, Edwards Irving, 26
  49. Bennett, loc 1829
  50. The Times. “A Meeting…” June 7th, Saturday, 1823
  51. Bennett, loc 1896
  52. Irving, Oracles; 33-34
  53. Ibid 44-45
  54. Ibid 41-42
  55. Ibid., 33-34
  56. Thomas Carlyle to Jane Baillie  Welsh, October 22, 1823, CLO
  57. Isabella Irving to Mrs. Martin, December 24th, 1823
  58. Bennett, loc 2432
  59. Ibid loc 2447
  60. Ibid loc 2457
  61. Irving, Missionaries, xiii-xiv, xx-xxii, xxiv
  62. Oliphant, Life, 1: 198-200
  63. Irving to Isabella Irving, November 30th, 1824
  64. Irving to William Hamilton, October 11, 1825
  65. Irving’s Journal, October 30th, 1825
  66. Bennett loc 2836
  67. Ibid loc 2848
  68. Bloch, Visionary Republic, 152
  69. Dedication to Frere in Irving, Babylon, 1:132-37; 2: 23-24
  70. Bennett loc 3544
  71. Irving, Edward. Edward Irving’s Writings, Volume V. Alexander Strahan Publisher, London, 1865, preface
  72. McFarlane. Edward Irving, 11
  73. Dorries. Edward Irving’s, 79
  74. Presbyterian Church, ‘Scots Confession,’
  75. Dallimore. Irving 79-80
  76. Bennett loc 2812
  77. Patterson, “Designing,” 16 n 3: Dorries, Edward Irving’s, 143-144
  78. Irving’s Journal, October 27, 1825
  79. Irving. Preliminary Discourse.” In Ben-Ezra, Coming, 1: v
  80. Irving. Homilies of Baptism. CW 2: 276-77
  81. Irving. Facts Connected. 4: 754
  82. Mary Campbell in A. Robertson. A Vindication of Religion of the Land. Quoted in Drummond, Edward Irving, 141
  83. Story, Memoir, 194-205
  84. Oliphant, Life, 2: 127-35
  85. Ibid 2: 139
  86. Miller, History, 1: 45-46; Henry Drummond. A Narrative of Circumstances, 4
  87. Elliott. Edward Irving, 173
  88. Irving, Edward. On The Gifts of the Holy Ghost, commonly called Supernatural.
  89. Irving, Edward. Church, with Her Endowment.” 663
  90. Ibid 6576-61
  91. Drummond. Edward Irving, 152
  92. Brief Statement, 9-12, 14-15
  93. Oliphant, Life. 2: 187-89
  94. William Hamilton to Mr. Martin. November 1831
  95. Irving to Rev. Martin, March 7, 1832
  96. Irving. Facts Connected. 5: 198-200
  97. Irving to Jon Martin, March 7, 1832
  98. John Martin to William Hamilton, June 1831
  99. Irving. “Visions-Miraculous Cures- Cholera.” Letter to the editors in TMW (June 1832)
  100. Oliphant, Life, 2: 261
  101. Ibid 2: 270-72
  102. Ibid 2: 276
  103. Wilks. Edward Irving, 225-226
  104. Bennett. Loc 7837
  105. Oliphant. Life, 2: 299
  106. Bennett, loc 8404
  107. Story. Memoir, 226
  108. Patterson. Designing. 203-204
  109. Irving, Edward. The Collected Writings of Edward Irving. Vol 5. Alexander Strahan, Publisher. London. 1865. The Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Page 516
  110. Collected page 517
  111. Collected 509
  112. Collected page 534
  113. Collected page 538
  114. Collected page 539
  115. Collected page 540
  116. Collected page 543
  117. Collected page 543
  118. Collected page 543
  119. Collected page 544
  120. Collected page 544
  121. Collected page 544-545
  122. Collected page 545
  123. Collected page 548
  124. Collected page 557
  125. Collected pages 556-561