Edward Irving
  • For Edward Irving, the Canadian geologist, see Edward A. Irving
    Edward A. Irving
    Edward A. "Ted" Irving, CM, FRSC, FRS is a geologist and emeritus scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada. His studies of paleomagnetism provided the first physical evidence of the theory of continental drift...


Edward Irving (August 4, 1792 – December 7, 1834) was a Scottish
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 clergyman, generally regarded as the main figure behind the foundation of the Catholic Apostolic Church
Catholic Apostolic Church
The Catholic Apostolic Church was a religious movement which originated in England around 1831 and later spread to Germany and the United States. While often referred to as Irvingism, it was neither actually founded nor anticipated by Edward Irving. The Catholic Apostolic Church was organised in...



Edward Irving was born at Annan
Annan, Dumfries and Galloway
The royal burgh of Annan is a well-built town, red sandstone being the material mainly used. Each year in July, Annan celebrates the Royal Charter and the boundaries of the Royal Burgh are confirmed when a mounted cavalcade undertakes the Riding of the Marches. Entertainment includes a...

, Annandale. On his father's side, who followed the occupation of a tanner
Tanning is the making of leather from the skins of animals which does not easily decompose. Traditionally, tanning used tannin, an acidic chemical compound from which the tanning process draws its name . Coloring may occur during tanning...

, he was descended from a family long known in the district which had ties to French
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

The Huguenots were members of the Protestant Reformed Church of France during the 16th and 17th centuries. Since the 17th century, people who formerly would have been called Huguenots have instead simply been called French Protestants, a title suggested by their German co-religionists, the...

A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

s. His mother's side, the Lowther
The name Lowther can mean:*CFS Lowther, military installation on Highway 11 near Opasatika, Ontario, Canada*Lowther baronets, which see for a list*Lowther Hall Anglican Grammar School*Lowther Stakes, a horse race*Pat Lowther Award-Places:...

s, were farmers or small proprietors in Annandale. The first stage of his education was passed at a school kept by Peggy Paine, a relation of Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine
Thomas "Tom" Paine was an English author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States...

 of the Age of Reason
Age of reason
Age of reason may refer to:* 17th-century philosophy, as a successor of the Renaissance and a predecessor to the Age of Enlightenment* Age of Enlightenment in its long form of 1600-1800* The Age of Reason, a book by Thomas Paine...

, after which he entered the Annan Academy
Annan Academy
Annan Academy is a secondary school in Annan, in Dumfries and Galloway, formerly Dumfriesshire, Scotland. The present school is the result of an amalgamation in 1921 of the original Annan Academy and Greenknowe Public School, although its history goes back to the 17th century.Behind the buildings...

 taught by Adam Hope, of whom there is a graphic sketch in the Reminiscences of Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle (Scottish lawyer)
Thomas Carlyle was born in King's Grange near Dumfries in Scotland.He studied and finished law at University of Edinburgh. In 1824 he was registered as lawyer at the Scottish bar...



At the age of thirteen he entered the University of Edinburgh
University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1583, is a public research university located in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The university is deeply embedded in the fabric of the city, with many of the buildings in the historic Old Town belonging to the university...

. In 1809 he graduated M.A.; and in 1810, on the recommendation of Sir John Leslie
John Leslie (physicist)
Sir John Leslie was a Scottish mathematician and physicist best remembered for his research into heat.Leslie gave the first modern account of capillary action in 1802 and froze water using an air-pump in 1810, the first artificial production of ice.In 1804, he experimented with radiant heat using...

, he was chosen master of an academy newly established at Haddington
Haddington, East Lothian
The Royal Burgh of Haddington is a town in East Lothian, Scotland. It is the main administrative, cultural and geographical centre for East Lothian, which was known officially as Haddingtonshire before 1921. It lies about east of Edinburgh. The name Haddington is Anglo-Saxon, dating from the 6th...

, East Lothian
East Lothian
East Lothian is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, and a lieutenancy Area. It borders the City of Edinburgh, Scottish Borders and Midlothian. Its administrative centre is Haddington, although its largest town is Musselburgh....

, where he became the tutor
A tutor is a person employed in the education of others, either individually or in groups. To tutor is to perform the functions of a tutor.-Teaching assistance:...

 of Jane Welsh
Jane Welsh Carlyle
Jane Welsh Carlyle was the wife of essayist Thomas Carlyle and has been cited as the reason for his fame and fortune. She was most notable as a letter-writer. In 1973, G.B...

, afterwards famous as Mrs Carlyle, one of the great letter-writers of the nineteenth century.

He became engaged in 1812 to Isabella Martin, whom, in 1823, he married; but it may be at once stated here that meanwhile he gradually fell in love with Jane Welsh, and she with him. He tried to get out of his engagement with Miss Martin, but was prevented by her family. It was Irving, ironically, who in 1821 had introduced Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

, the essayist, to her.

(Confusingly, Irving was also influential in the life of another Scottish Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle (Scottish lawyer)
Thomas Carlyle was born in King's Grange near Dumfries in Scotland.He studied and finished law at University of Edinburgh. In 1824 he was registered as lawyer at the Scottish bar...

, born a few years later, whom he eventually gave a position of some responsibility within his new church.)

His appointment at Haddington he exchanged for a similar one at Kirkcaldy
Kirkcaldy is a town and former royal burgh in Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. The town lies on a shallow bay on the northern shore of the Firth of Forth; SSE of Glenrothes, ENE of Dunfermline, WSW of Dundee and NNE of Edinburgh...

, Fife
Fife is a council area and former county of Scotland. It is situated between the Firth of Tay and the Firth of Forth, with inland boundaries to Perth and Kinross and Clackmannanshire...

, in 1812. Completing his divinity studies by a series of partial sessions, he was licensed to preach in June 1815, but continued to discharge his scholastic duties for three years. He devoted his leisure, not only to mathematical and physical science
Physical science
Physical science is an encompassing term for the branches of natural science and science that study non-living systems, in contrast to the life sciences...

, but to a course of reading in English literature
English literature
English literature is the literature written in the English language, including literature composed in English by writers not necessarily from England; for example, Robert Burns was Scottish, James Joyce was Irish, Joseph Conrad was Polish, Dylan Thomas was Welsh, Edgar Allan Poe was American, J....

, his bias towards the antique in sentiment and style being strengthened by a perusal of the older classics, among whom Richard Hooker was his favorite author. At the same time his love of the marvellous found gratification in the wonders of the Arabian Nights, and it is further characteristically related of him that he used to carry continually in his waistcoat pocket a miniature copy of Ossian
Ossian is the narrator and supposed author of a cycle of poems which the Scottish poet James Macpherson claimed to have translated from ancient sources in the Scots Gaelic. He is based on Oisín, son of Finn or Fionn mac Cumhaill, anglicised to Finn McCool, a character from Irish mythology...

, passages from which he frequently recited with sonorous elocution and vehement gesticulation.

In the summer of 1818, he resigned his mastership and, in order to increase the probability of obtaining a permanent appointment in the Church of Scotland
Church of Scotland
The Church of Scotland, known informally by its Scots language name, the Kirk, is a Presbyterian church, decisively shaped by the Scottish Reformation....

, took up his residence in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council governs one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The council area includes urban Edinburgh and a rural area...

. Although his exceptional method of address seems to have gained him the qualified approval of certain dignitaries of the church, the prospect of his obtaining a settled charge seemed as remote as ever. He was meditating a missionary tour in Persia when his departure was arrested by steps taken by Thomas Chalmers
Thomas Chalmers
Thomas Chalmers , Scottish mathematician, political economist, divine and a leader of the Free Church of Scotland, was born at Anstruther in Fife.-Overview:...

 which, after considerable delay, resulted in October 1819 in Irving being appointed his assistant and missionary in St John's parish, Glasgow
Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. The city is situated on the River Clyde in the country's west central lowlands...


Except in the case of a select few, Irving's preaching awakened little interest among the congregation of St John's. Chalmers himself, with no partiality for its bravuras and flourishes, compared it to Italian music
Music of Italy
The music of Italy ranges across a broad spectrum of opera and instrumental classical music and a body of popular music drawn from both native and imported sources. Music has traditionally been one of the cultural markers of Italian national and ethnic identity and holds an important position in...

, appreciated only by connoisseur
A connoisseur is a person who has a great deal of knowledge about the fine arts, cuisines, or an expert judge in matters of taste.Modern connoisseurship must be seen along with museums, art galleries and "the cult of originality"...

s; but as a missionary among the poorer classes he wielded an influence that was altogether unique. The benediction "Peace be to this house", with which, in accordance with apostolic
Apostle (Christian)
The term apostle is derived from Classical Greek ἀπόστολος , meaning one who is sent away, from στέλλω + από . The literal meaning in English is therefore an "emissary", from the Latin mitto + ex...

 usage, he greeted every dwelling he entered, was not inappropriate to his figure and aspect, and it is said he took the people's attention wonderfully, the more especially after the magic of his personality found opportunity to reveal itself in close and homely intercourse.


This half-success in a subordinate sphere was, however, so far from coinciding with his aspirations that he had again, in the winter of 1821, begun to turn his attention towards missionary labour in the East, when the possibility of fulfilling the dream of his life was suddenly revealed to him by an invitation from the Caledonian Church, Hatton Garden
Hatton Garden
Hatton Garden is a street and area near Holborn in London, England. It is most famous for being London’s jewellery quarter and centre of the UK diamond trade, but the area is also now home to a diverse range of media and creative businesses....

, London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, to make trial and proof of his gifts before the remnant of the congregation that held together.

Over that charge, he was ordained in July 1822. Some years previously, he had expressed his conviction that one of the chief needs of the age was to make inroad after the alien, to bring in the votaries of fashion, of literature, of sentiment, of policy and of rank, who are content in their several idolatries to do without piety to God and love to Him whom He hath sent; and, with an abruptness which must have produced on him at first an effect almost astounding, he now had the satisfaction of beholding these various votaries thronging to hear from his lips the words of wisdom which would deliver them from their several idolatries and remodel their lives according to the fashion of apostolic times.

This sudden leap into popularity seems to have been occasioned in connection with a veiled allusion to Irving's striking eloquence made in the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

 by Calming, who had been induced to attend his church from admiration of an expression in one of his prayers, quoted to him by Sir James Mackintosh. His commanding stature, the symmetry of his form, the dark and melancholy beauty of his countenance, rather rendered piquant than impaired by an obliquity of vision, produced an imposing impression even before his deep and powerful voice had given utterance to its melodious thunders; and harsh and superficial half-truths enunciated with surpassing ease and grace of gesture, and not only with an air of absolute conviction but also with the authority of a prophetic messenger, in tones whose magical fascination was inspired by an earnestness beyond all imitation of art, acquired a plausibility and importance which, at least while the orator spoke, made his audience entirely forgetful of their preconceived objections against them. The subject-matter of his orations, and his peculiar treatment of his themes, no doubt also, at least at first, constituted a considerable part of his attractive influence.

He had specially prepared himself, as he thought, for teaching imaginative men, and political men, and legal men, and scientific men who bear the world in hand; and he did not attempt to win their attention to abstract and worn-out theological arguments, but discussed the opinions, the poetry, the politics, the manners and customs of the time, and this not with philosophical comprehensiveness, not in terms of warm eulogy or measured blame, but of severe satire varied by fierce denunciation, and with a specific minuteness which was concerned primarily with individuals.

A fire of criticism from pamphlets, newspapers and reviews opened on his volume of Orations, published in 1823; but the excitement produced was merely superficial and essentially evanescent. Though cherishing a strong antipathy to the received ecclesiastical formulas, Irving's great aim was to revive the antique style of thought and sentiment which had hardened into these formulas, and by this means to supplant the new influences, the accidental and temporary moral shortcomings of which he detected with instinctive certainty, but whose profound and real tendencies were utterly beyond the reach of his conjecture.

Being thus radically at variance with the main current of the thought of his time, the failure of the commission he had undertaken was sooner or later inevitable; and shortly after the opening of his new church in Regent Square in 1827, he found that fashion had taken its departure, and the church, though always well filled, was no longer crowded. By this desertion his self-esteem, one of his strongest passions, though curiously united with singular sincerity and humility, was doubtless hurt to the quick; but the wound inflicted was of a deeper and deadlier kind, for it confirmed him finally in his despair of the world's gradual amelioration, and established his tendency towards supernaturalism.

Forerunner of the Catholic Apostolic Church

For years the subject of prophecy had occupied much of his thoughts, and his belief in the near approach of the second advent had received such wonderful corroboration by the perusal of the work of a Jesuit priest, Manuel Lacunza
Manuel Lacunza
Manuel Diaz Lacunza S.J. was a Jesuit priest who used the pen-name Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra for his main work on the interpretation of the prophecies of the Bible.- Biography :...

, writing under the assumed Jewish name of Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra, that in 1827 he published a translation of it, accompanied with an eloquent preface. Probably the religious opinions of Irving, originally in some respects more catholic and truer to human nature than generally prevailed in ecclesiastical circles, had gained breadth and comprehensiveness from his intercourse with Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, Romantic, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla...

 but gradually his chief interest in Coleridge's philosophy centred round what was mystical and obscure, and to it in all likelihood may be traced his initiation into the doctrine of millenarianism
Millenarianism is the belief by a religious, social, or political group or movement in a coming major transformation of society, after which all things will be changed, based on a one-thousand-year cycle. The term is more generically used to refer to any belief centered around 1000 year intervals...


It was through Irving that Lacunza's theory was introduced to the early leaders of the Plymouth Brethren
Plymouth Brethren
The Plymouth Brethren is a conservative, Evangelical Christian movement, whose history can be traced to Dublin, Ireland, in the late 1820s. Although the group is notable for not taking any official "church name" to itself, and not having an official clergy or liturgy, the title "The Brethren," is...

 such as John Nelson Darby
John Nelson Darby
John Nelson Darby was an Anglo-Irish evangelist, and an influential figure among the original Plymouth Brethren. He is considered to be the father of modern Dispensationalism. He produced a translation of the Bible based on the Hebrew and Greek texts called The Holy Scriptures: A New Translation...

, who had attended one of the conferences on biblical prophecy at Powerscourt House (the home of Lady Powerscourt
Viscount Powerscourt
Viscount Powerscourt is a title that has been created three times in the Peerage of Ireland, each time for members of the Wingfield family. It was created first in 1618 for the Chief Governor of Ireland, Richard Wingfield. However, this creation became extinct on his death in 1634. It was created a...

) and various other localities in County Wicklow from 1830 to 1840. The Letters and Papers of Lady Powerscourt has been published.http://www.chaptertwobooks.org.uk

The first stage of his later development which resulted in the establishment of the Irvingite or Holy Catholic Apostolic Church in 1832 was associated with the Albury Conferences at his friend Henry Drummond
Henry Drummond (1786-1860)
Henry Drummond , English banker, politician and writer, best known as one of the founders of the Catholic Apostolic or Irvingite Church, was born at The Grange, near Northington, Hampshire....

's seat, Albury Park
Albury Park
Albury Park is a country park and Grade II* listed historic country house in Surrey, England. It covers over ; within this area is the old village of Albury, which consists of three or four houses and a church. The River Tillingbourne runs through the grounds.-Pre-1890:The Saxon Old St Peter and...

 at Albury, Surrey
Albury, Surrey
Albury is a village and civil parish in the borough of Guildford in Surrey, England, about south-east of Guildford town centre. The village is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Site of Special Scientific Interest....

 concerning unfulfilled prophecy, followed by an almost exclusive study of the prophetical books and especially of the Apocalypse
An Apocalypse is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted. The Apocalypse of John is the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament...

, and by several series of sermons on prophecy both in London and the provinces. His apocalyptic lectures in 1828 crowding the largest churches of Edinburgh on summer mornings.http://www.albury.org.uk/aboutalbury/history.htm

In 1830, however, there was opened up to his ardent imagination a new vista of things spiritual, a new hope for the age in which he lived, by the revival in a remote corner of Scotland of those apostolic gifts of prophecy and healing which he had already in 1828 persuaded himself had only been kept in abeyance by the absence of faith.

At once, he welcomed the new powers with an unquestioning evidence that could be shaken by neither the remonstrances nor the desertions of his dearest friends, the recantation of some of the principal agents of the gifts, his own decent into a subordinate position, the meagre and barren results of the manifestations, nor their general rejection both by the church and the world. His excommunication by the presbytery of London in 1830 for publishing his doctrines of the humanity of Jesus Christ, and the condemnation of these opinions by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland is the sovereign and highest court of the Church of Scotland, and is thus the Church's governing body[1] An Introduction to Practice and Procedure in the Church of Scotland, A Gordon McGillivray, 2nd Edition .-Church courts:As a Presbyterian church,...

 in the following year, were secondary episodes that only affected the main issue of his career insofar as they further isolated him from the sympathy of the church; but the irregularities connected with the manifestation of the gifts gradually estranged the majority of his own congregation, and on the complaint of the trustees to the presbytery of London, whose authority they had formerly rejected, he was declared unfit to remain the minister of the National Scotch Church of Regent Square.

After he and those who adhered to him (describing themselves as of the Holy Catholic Apostolic Church) had in 1832 removed to a new building in Newman Street, he was, in March 1833, deposed from the ministry of the Church of Scotland by the Presbytery of Annan on the original charge of heresy
Heresy is a controversial or novel change to a system of beliefs, especially a religion, that conflicts with established dogma. It is distinct from apostasy, which is the formal denunciation of one's religion, principles or cause, and blasphemy, which is irreverence toward religion...

. With the sanction of the power, he was now, after some delay, reordained chief pastor of the church assembled in Newman Street, but unremitting labours and ceaseless spiritual excitement soon completely exhausted the springs of his vital energy. He died, worn out and wasted with labour and absorbing care while still in the prime of life, 7 December 1834. He is buried in the crypt of Glasgow Cathedral
Glasgow Cathedral
The church commonly known as Glasgow Cathedral is the Church of Scotland High Kirk of Glasgow otherwise known as St. Mungo's Cathedral.The other cathedrals in Glasgow are:* The Catholic Metropolitan Cathedral Church of Saint Andrew...

 near to the tomb of St. Mungo.


There is a statue of Edward Irving in the grounds of Annan Old Parish Church in Dumfriesshire.

Further reading

  • Andrew Landale Drummond, Edward Irving and His Circle: Including Some Consideration of the 'Tongues' Movement in the Light of Modern Psychology. 1937. Reprinted, Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2009. ISBN 978-1-60608-766-4. (305pp).
  • Gordon Strachan, The Pentecostal Theology of Edward Irving; London, 1973.
  • Dallimore, Arnold, The Life of Edward Irving, the Fore-runner of the Charismatic Movement, Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust
    Banner of Truth Trust
    The Banner of Truth Trust is an evangelical and Reformed Christian non-profit publishing house, structured as a charitable trust and founded in London in 1957 by Iain Murray and Jack Cullum. Its offices are now in Edinburgh, Scotland with a key branch office and distribution point in Carlisle,...

    , 1983. ISBN 0-85151-369-7, (188pp).
  • Stunt, Timothy C.F., From Awakening to Secession, Radical Evangelicals in Switzerland and Britain 1815-35, Edinburgh, T & T Clark, 2000. ISBN 0-567-08719-0, (402pp).
  • Warfield, B. B., Counterfeit Miracles, Banner of Truth, 1996. ISBN 0-85151-166-X. Note: this book is not exclusively about Edward Irving, but discusses him and his ministry critically.
  • Warfield, B.B., Irvingite Gifts

External links

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