I have been an admirer of Pastor Edward Irving (August 4, 1792 December 7, 1834) since my studies in Edinburgh and St. Andrews in Scotland from 1998 through 2002. Irving has been called the father of Modern Pentecostalism because he preached what was then called the "two step" plan of God for his people; personal salvation by faith in Jesus Christ and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In 1829 the "Irvingite" revival broke loose and many received the baptism of the Spirit in the West coast of Scotland and in Irving's Scottish church in London. Many young adults were healed; most of them of "consumption" which was most likely tuberculosis. But it was not the miraculous that got Irving in trouble with the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian.) It was his widely preached and published belief in the humanity of Jesus Christ. This in no way diminished his belief in Christ's divinity. But this is difficult for many to understand. Another man, a layman, named Thomas Erskine was a friend of Irving. I also studied his writings of the period. I was looking for similarities between the Irvingite movement and the charismatic movement of the last 45 years. I found that there were many more similarities than there were differences.
A. The Revival Begins
The West Coast Revival in Scotland and the accompanying manifestations in London were of considerable interest to Thomas Erskine even though he first endorsed these manifestations and later repudiated them.
An important preview to the outbreak of manifestations in the West Country and in London was the life and witness of a young woman named Isabella Campbell. Isabella had tuberculosis and was confined most of the time to her bed. She was very devout and during her confinement she had many extraordinary experiences of God. "In these experiences her countenance became radiant and her speech flowed forth at length in a spontaneous ecstasy of communion with God." 1 She died in 1827 at the age of twenty. Isabella's minister was Robert Story and he wrote a tract about her life and devotion which soon became widely spread in the West country. This small book caused many people to seek ecstatic experiences of God. It also caused many people to visit the Campbell home, a small farm at Fernicarry, which was inhabited by the widow Campbell and her two sons and remaining two daughters. The many visitors had the attitude of pilgrims visiting a shrine. One of Isabella's sisters was named Mary and she was in her late teens when Isabella died.2 Mrs. Oliphant, the popular biographer of the nineteenth century, says of Mary,
When Isabella died, a portion of her fameher pilgrim visitorsher position as one of the most remarkable persons in the countryside, a pious and tender oracledescended to her sister Mary. This was the young woman "of a very fixed and constant spirit," as Irving describes, whom Mr. Scott, a few months before, had vainly attempted to convince that the baptism with the Holy Ghost was distinct from the work of regeneration, but was as much to be looked and prayed for as the ordinary influences of the Spirit. Mary Campbell seems to have been possessed of gifts of mind and temperament scarcely inferior to genius, and, with all the personal fascination of beauty added to the singular position in which her sister's fame had left hervisited on terms of admiring friendship by people much superior to her in external rank, and doubtless influenced by the subtle arguments of one of the ablest men of the day, it is impossible to imagine a situation more dangerous to a young, fervid, and impressionable imagination. 3
Mary's fiancé died and she had grieved very heavily. Subsequently, Mary developed a form of tuberculosis which was worse than the strain that had killed her sister, Isabella. Her disease would form abscesses in her lungs which would burst and cause her much misery. Her brother, Samuel, was also very ill and not expected to live. Among the many visitors at the Campbell home was a group of aspiring missionaries. Irving's teachings about the afflictions of Satan which could be overcome by intensive prayer were known to them and when A .J. Scott, Irving's assistant, visited the area he spoke on the restoration of the gifts from Apostolic times. Scott preached in the pulpits of Row and Rosneath. Scott introduced Mary Campbell to the "Irvingite two-step concept of the Christian life," regeneration followed by the baptism with the Holy Spirit. She received this concept willingly. 4 Before long the manifestations began.
Edward Irving reports these manifestations which he believed were the outcome of his two-step teaching.
There was no manifestation of the Holy Ghost until the end of March , that is . . . but how surely the sound doctrines stated above had struck their roots into the heart of this young woman is made manifest from another letter, bearing date the 23d of March, of which the original is still preserved, and lies now before me. Along with some others, she had conceived the purpose of a mission to the heathen, and so was brought into the very condition in which the apostles were anterior to the day of Pentecost, when they had received their commission to go forth into all nations and preach the Gospel, but were commanded to tarry in Jerusalem until they should receive power from on high. 5
Mrs. Oliphant comments on Irving's first contacts regarding the beginning of these manifestations when she says, "when these extraordinary events became known, they reached the ear of Irving by many means. One of his deacons belonged to a family in the district, who sent full and frequent accounts. Others of his closest friends, . . . looked on with wistful scrutiny, eagerly hopeful, yet not fully convinced of the reality of what they saw." 6 Oliphant also includes the early participation of Thomas Erskine and Chalmers. "Mr. Erskine of Linlathen went upon a mission of personal inquiry, which persuaded his tender Christian soul of the unspeakable comforts of a new revelation. Almost every notable Christian man of the time took the matter into devout and anxious consideration. Even Chalmers, always cautious, inquired eagerly, and would not condemn. 7 However, according to Oliphant, Chalmers was strangely silent on the subject.
Nothing can be more remarkable than the contrast between Irving's repeated appeals to his friend's standing as professor of theology, and the conduct of Dr Chalmers during the eventful and momentous period which had just commenced. During the following year several men, of the highest character and standing, were ejected from the Church of Scotland on theological groundsgrounds which Dr Chalmers, occupying the position of Doctor, par excellence, in the Scottish Church of the time, should have been the foremost; to examine, and the most influential in pronouncing upon. Dr Chalmers quietly withdrew from the requirements of his position in this respect. . . . Dr Chalmers preserved unbroken silence. 8
Furthermore, in Oliphant's opinion, Chalmers should not have been so silent.
It seems exactly the course of procedure which Dr Chalmers ought not to have adopted; and this becomes all the more apparent; in the light of Irving's frank appeals to the professor of theologyhe whose business it was to discriminate most closely, and set forth most authoritatively, the difference between truth and error. . . . the chief representative of what is called in Scotland the theological faculty, sat apart and preserved unbroken silence, leaving the ship at a crisis of its fate, the army at the most critical point of the battle, to the guidance of accident or the crowd. It is impossible not to feel that this abandonment of his position, at so important a moment, was such an act of cowardice as must leave a lasting stain upon the reputation of one of the greatest of modern Scotsmen. 9
Even as these manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the West Country were being reported, the Scots Presbytery at London was charging Edward Irving with heresy. Irving was being charged on allegations that he taught that Jesus Christ was a sinner because of his teaching that Christ assumed fallen humanity in order to redeem it. 10
Gordon Strachan says, "On Sunday, 28th March, 1830, Miss Mary Campbell spoke in tongues and some days later was miraculously healed of consumption at her home at Fernicarry on the Gareloch in the parish of Roseneath, Dunbartonshire." 11
In Irving's own words in a veiled reference to Mary Campbell he says,
Sometime between the 23d of March 1830 . . . and the end of that month, on the evening of the Lord's day, the gift of speaking with tongues was restored to the Church. . . . It was on the Lord's day; and one of her sisters, along with a female friend, who had come to the house for that end, had been spending the whole day in humiliation, and fasting, and prayer before God, with a special respect to the restoration of the gifts. . . 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; "for he that speaketh in a tongue edifieth himself." She has told me that this first seizure of the Spirit was the strongest she ever had; and that it was in some degree necessary it should have been so, otherwise she would not have dared to give way to it. 12
In just over a year these manifestations would also be occurring at Irving's church in London. "On 30th April, 1831 Mrs. Cardale spoke in tongues and prophesied at her home in London.13 Mrs. Cardale uttered three separate phrases which were interpreted by her as, 'The Lord will speak to His people the Lord hasteneth His coming the Lord cometh.' " 14 On the morning of Sunday, 30th October, 1831, Miss Hall spoke in tongues in the vestry of Regent Square Church. Outbursts of tongues and prophecy interrupted the worship services on the following Sundays." 15
1. Dallimore, The Life Of Edward Irving: The Fore-runner Of The Charismatic
Movement, Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1983, 99.
2.Dallimore, The Life Of Edward Irving, 99-100.
3.Oliphant, M. O. W., The Life Of Edward Irving, London: Hurst And Blackett,
4.Dallimore, The Life Of Edward Irving, 100-102.
5.Irving, Edward, "Facts Connected With Recent Manifestations Of Spiritual Gifts,"
Extracted from Fraser's Magazine for January, March, and April, 1832, London:
Privately printed for James Fraser, 215 Regent Street, 1832, 4.
6.Oliphant, The Life Of Edward Irving, 290.
7.Oliphant, The Life Of Edward Irving, 290.
8.Oliphant, The Life Of Edward Irving, 282-283.
9.Oliphant, The Life Of Edward Irving, 283.
10. Strachan, C. Gordon, The Pentecostal Theology Of Edward Irving, Peabody,
Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1973, 13.
11.Strachan, The Pentecostal Theology Of Edward Irving, 13.
12.Irving, Facts, 6-7.
13.Strachan, The Pentecostal Theology Of Edward Irving, 13.
14.Drummond, Andrew Landale, Edward Irving And His Circle, London: James
Clarke And Co., Ltd., n.d., 153.
15. Strachan, The Pentecostal Theology Of Edward Irving, 13.
Dr. David J Keyser has served as an international theology teacher and college adjunct faculty. His earned degrees include a B.S. , an M.Div, an M.S., a Th.M., and a Ph.D. in Theology. He is the author of over a dozen fiction and non-fiction books. www.davidjkeyserphd.info www.booksoffaith.info