Edward Irving, a Scottish preacher, born at Annan, Dumfriesshire, Aug. 4, 1792, died in Glasgow, Dec. 8, 1834. He graduated at the university of Edinburgh in 1809, in his 19th year was appointed mathematical teacher in an academy at Haddington, and in 1812 rector of an academy at Kirkcaldy, where he remained seven years, pursuing at the same time the studies required of a candidate for the ministry of the church of Scotland. He was licensed to preach by the presbytery of Annan in 1815, but received no invitation to settle as a pastor, and continued to teach till 1818, when he went to Edinburgh. In 1819 he became Dr. Chalmers's assistant in Glasgow, where he continued three years, when he resigned, having been called to the charge of the Caledonian church, Hatton Garden, London, a small remnant of a congregation in connection with the church of Scotland. He was ordained by the presbytery of Annan, and entered upon his ministry in 1822. Within a few months of his settlement there crowds pressed to his weekly services. The nobility, members of parliament, judges and barristers, physicians, clergymen, dissenters, and noted beauties besieged the doors, attracted no less by the eloquence and power than by the plain-spoken originality of the preacher.
With a view to break up the routine habit of mind, which he conceived destroyed the effect of preaching generally, he adopted a style of discourse different from the usual form of sermon, which he called " orations." A series of these, entitled "Orations for the Oracles of God," which were preached in 1823, he published in the same year in a volume with another series entitled " An Argument for Judgment to Come, in Nine Parts." This was the first of his published writings. In 1824 the foundations of a new church in Regent square were laid, which was intended to more fully accommodate his thronging audiences. In this year he was called upon to deliver a missionary discourse, the sentiments of which were so contrary to the views of the London missionary society for which he preached, as to occasion much dissatisfaction. This discourse was published about a year after its delivery, much enlarged, under the title "For Missionaries after the Apostolic School, a Series of Orations, in Four Parts: Part I., the Doctrine." The other three parts never appeared.
In 1825 he delivered a course of lectures, afterward published, entitled "Babylon and Infidelity Foredoomed." On Christinas day of the same year he first began to make known his convictions in relation to the second and personal advent of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the nearness of that great event.
In 1826 he fell in with a Spanish work entitled " The Coming of Messiah in Majesty and Glory, by Juan Josafat ben Ezra," which purported to be written by a Christian Jew, but was in reality the work of Lacunza, a South American Jesuit. He undertook the translation of this work, which confirmed his attention to the subject of Messianic prophecy, and from this time it became a leading thought with him. He wrote an introduction, which occupies half of an octavo volume, and which is regarded as one of his best works. The book appeared in 1827. About the same time his attention was called by the death of one of his children to the subject of infant baptism, which resulted in a series of " Homilies on the Sacraments," of which only the first volume, on baptism, was published (12mo, 1828). From this he was led to enter more fully into the great doctrine of the incarnation, to the exposition of which he devoted much labor, both in preaching and in controversial writings; affirming 'the perfect oneness of Christ with us in all the attributes of manhood, including its infirmities and liability to temptation. On this account he was charged with asserting the sinfulness of Christ's human nature.
What he really taught was, that Jesus Christ took from his mother human nature, such as it was in Adam after the fall, though in him without actual sin. It is asserted that his teaching on this subject was the origin of a revival of a similar strain of teaching in a portion of the English church. In 1828 he visited Scotland, and preached to thronging congregations in the principal places. At Kirkcaldy, his old home, the crowded galleries of the old church fell, and about 35 persons were killed. At this time he opposed the abolition of the test act, advocated by Chalmers, and in 1829 published a book entitled "Church and State," arguing for an organic connection between the two. In 1830 he was tried by the London presbytery for heretical views of the incarnation. He resisted the authority of the presbytery, on the ground of irregularity in the trial, and left them, appealing to the church of Scotland. In this he was sustained by his own church with great unanimity. All this time the interest in the study of prophecy was kept alive by Irving and his friends, and took practical form in a series of conferences of those interested which were held at Albury park, Surrey, under the patronage of Henry Drummond, Esq., and by the publication of a quarterly periodical entitled " The Morning Watch," to which Irving was a copious contributor.
In the spring of 1830 reports came to London of some remarkable phenomena in the neighborhood of Port Glasgow in Scotland, consisting of what appeared to be supernatural utterances, i. e., words spoken under the impulse of a supernatural power, partly in the vernacular and partly in forms of language that were not known, and in connection with them the healing of the sick. When this report was received, some of the persons associated with Mr. Irving in the study of prophecy, and in the hope of the second coming of Christ, deemed it proper to investigate the matter. Accordingly, several gentlemen residing in London made a journey to Glasgow to inquire into the nature of these phenomena. After a careful scrutiny these persons were satisfied that it was in reality a revival of the " spiritual gifts" common in the first ages of the church, and specially referred to in St. Paul's epistle to the Corinthians. Soon after the same phenomena appeared in London, at first in private meetings of members of the established church, and afterward in Irving's congregation. A full account of these " spiritual gifts" was given by Irving himself in "Eraser's Magazine" in 1830. The consequence of his course in this matter was the loss of his great popularity, and an opposition in his own congregation.
His writings were censured by the general assembly of 1831, and in 1832 this opposition resulted in his expulsion by- the trustees from the building which had been erected for his use, after a hearing before the London presbytery. His adherents, numbering about 800 communicants, met at first in a hall in Gray's Inn road. They resolved to build, and money was collected for the purpose, but were forbidden by utterances which they regarded as divine; and after some months they hired a house in Newman street, with a hall which had been used by West the artist as a picture gallery, the house being taken for a parsonage. Irving was now (March, 1833) arraigned before the presbytery of Annan in Scotland upon a charge of heresy and irregularity, and deposed. His defences are among his best oratorical efforts. The portion of the congregation that adhered to him retained at first the Presbyterian order of worship and constitution of membership; but this was early modified through the agency of the prophetical utterances which abounded among them.
Attention had been directed to the restoration of apostles and prophets as the most fundamental constituent of the church; and some time in 1832, at a meeting for prayer held in a private house, it is asserted, one of those present was declared in the word of prophecy to be an apostle, and exhorted to the exercise of his office, in conveying "the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands." When Mr. Irving had been deposed in Scotland he ceased, in obedience to what he believed to be a spiritual utterance, from fulfilling priestly functions, confining himself to the work of a preacher or deacon until he should receive a new ordination from the spirit. On April 5, 1833, he believed that this supernatural ordination was conferred, when by the hands of the apostle he was constituted " angel," or chief pastor or bishop of the church. Wilks says ("Life of Edward Irving," London, 1854): " It seems to be generally supposed that Irving appointed the apostles, not that he was appointed by them." The facts are the reverse of this. The movement did not begin in his church, nor as the result of his teaching, although he at an early period gave his adhesion to it.
That he held a prominent position in the movement is manifest, but the form which it took was not the result of any plan or theory of his, nor was it fully and finally developed until some years after his death. Not long after these events his health failed. In the autumn of 1834 he set out, in obedience as he supposed to the word of the Holy Spirit, on a journey to Scotland, where he died. His personal characteristics were striking. He was at least six feet high; his limbs were well proportioned; black hair clustered in profusion over his lofty forehead, and descended in curls upon his massive shoulders; his eyes were dark and piercing, though affected by a squint; on his lips sat the firmness of a ruler and trembled the sensibility of a poet. He associated and lived in the world without restraint, joining in the forms and fashions of a mixed society, and was remarkable at the same time for blamelessness of life. His morals were untainted, his conscientiousness exact. A collection of his " Sermons, Lectures, and Occasional Discourses" was published in 1828 (3 vols. 8vo, London). Since his decease two series of his works have been published under the editorship of his nephew, the Rev. G. Carlyle; the one entitled "The Collected Writings of Edward Irving" (5 vols., London, 1864-'5); the other, " The Prophetical Works of Edward Irving" (2 vols., London, 1867-'70). Mrs. Oli-phant's memoir of him (1862) is very complete, and in the main accurate; and a review of it in the "New Englander" for July and October, 1863, supplements it in a very satisfactory manner. - The church in Newman street became the centre of a widely extended community, which began very rapidly to spread throughout the British isles.
In the next two years after Irving's death additional persons were called to be apostles, until the number of twelve had been completed, when they were as a whole set apart, or separated to the work to which they had been called, and gradually the organization of the church was perfected. The constitution of this body claims to be the perfect development of that which was established in the beginning of the Christian church. Its characteristic feature is the fourfold ministry of " apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors and teachers," referred to by St. Paul in chapter iv. of his Epistle to the Ephesians. Within this fourfold classification are comprehended the three orders of the church catholic, bishops, priests, and deacons. The collective apostolate is the head of the episcopate, and holds the relation of centre of unity to the whole church. The body declines any name but that of the " Catholic Apostolic Church," holding this not exclusively of all other churches, but as the only name by which the church should consent to be known. The church disclaims all sectarian aims. It assumes this movement to be the work of the Holy Spirit for the blessing of the entire Christian church throughout the world.
It does not seek to proselyte, but is content with bearing a witness to the truth and strengthening all who desire to maintain the truth. It recognizes all the baptized as members of the one church, and each several Christian community according to the measure of the truth it holds. The whole system of teaching, worship, and discipline is founded upon the doctrine of the incarnation, or the true and real manhood of , the Lord Jesus Christ, and its application to man by means of sacraments and ordinances. Jesus is the Lord, and all ministries on earth are but forms by which his presence is made effective in the church. The worship is conducted by means of a ritual which embodies portions of the rituals in use in all different sections of the church, Greek, Roman, and Protestant. It makes use of material emblems and signs as far as they are significant of spiritual truths. Architecture, music, and painting, vestments of divers colors, incense, lights, all are employed as symbols of spiritual truths. When the numbers and means admit, the worship is conducted with all the magnificence that its importance justifies, while it is also capable of adaptation to very narrow circumstances. The eucharist is celebrated every Lord's day. Daily morning and evening worship is maintained.
All the members pay tithes of their increase, which are applied to the support of the priesthood, besides offerings for other purposes. The great object of interest to all the believers is the hope of the speedy coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, when the dead in Christ shall be raised, and they who are looking for him shall undergo the change of their bodies which is spoken of by St. Paul in 1 Cor. xv. About the year 1846 the movement began to spread into other parts of Europe, especially Germany. There are in London seven churches, which collectively represent the unity of the whole church. The number of churches and congregations in the British isles (1874), including these, is between 80 and 90. In north Germany there are nearly as many, in Switzerland six or eight; and there are scattering congregations in other countries of Europe. There are no published statistics from which the number of ministers or people can be obtained; they amount to several thousands. In the United States there is only one fully organized church; this is in New York, and there are four smaller congregations connected with it in Connecticut and Boston. In Canada there are four churches. - Mr. Irving's works throw but little light on the principles of the church as such.
Some of the works relating to it are: "The Liturgy and other Divine Offices of the Church;" "Readings on the Liturgy " (1 vol. and 2 parts of another, London, 1851); "Chronicle of Certain Events which have taken place in the Church of Christ, principally in England, between the Years 1826 and 1852" (London, 1852); "Defence of John Canfield Sterling, Presbyter," etc. (New York, 1852); "A Letter from David Morris Fackler to the Right Rev. G. W. Doane, Bishop of New Jersey" (New York, 1852); " The Permanency of the Apostolic Office as distinct from that of Bishops, with Reasons for believing that it is now revived in the Church, by a Presbyter of the Protestant Episcopal Church" (New York, 1852); " The True Constitution of the Church and its Restoration," by the Rev. "William Watson Andrews (New York, 1854); "The True Apostolic Succession, a Letter to Rev. Francis Vinton," by John S. Davenport (New York, 1858); "Edward Irving and the Catholic Apostolic Church," by the same (1863); " The Purpose of God in Creation and Redemption," the most complete exposition of the principles of the movement (Edinburgh, 1865); and "Christian Unity and its Recovery," by John S. Davenport (1866).