EDWARD IRVING (1792-1834):

A BRIEF INTRODUCTION

By

David Malcolm Bennett

 

 

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge said that Edward Irving “possesses 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”[1]

 

Who was this Edward Irving?

 

Irving was a sensation. He was a Scottish Presbyterian minister who was called to the Caledonian Chapel in London in 1822. Almost immediately he caused a stir. He was heard by a future Prime Minister of Britain, who mentioned him in the House of Commons, and from then everybody who was anybody went to hear Irving. Politicians, writers, artists, judges, philosophers, Lords and their Ladies, and members of the Royal family all went to hear him.

 

He was called “the greatest orator” of his age. But he preached uncompromisingly, with depth, power and at great length, so it wasn’t long before some of the hangers-on deserted him. But crowds still filled his church.

 

Towards the end of his ministry charismatic gifts began to emerge in his church, such as tongues, prophecy and healing. This caused a great storm. Today he is often regarded as a forerunner of the Pentecostal Movement.

 

He was also accused of heresy, regarding his views on the humanity of Christ, which led to him being dismissed from the Church of Scotland ministry. However, this charge is regarded by many as unfair.

 

His story is exciting, yet sad, very sad.

 

Thomas Carlyle, the author, called him, “the freest, brotherliest, bravest human soul mine ever came in contact with. I call him, on the whole, the best man I have ever … found in this world, or now hope to find.”[2]

 

© David Malcolm Bennett (2014)

 

David Malcolm Bennett has written a biography of this remarkable man. It is called, Edward Irving Reconsidered: The Man, His Controversies and the Pentecostal Movement. It is now available from Wipf and Stock (the publishers), amazon.com and other bookshops and online sites.

 

 

 

[1] Samuel Taylor Coleridge, On the Constitution of the Church and State (London: Hurst, Chance & Co, 1830), 168.

 

[2] Thomas Carlyle, A Carlyle Reader: Selections from the Writings of Thomas Carlyle (ed. G. B. Tennyson, Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1984), 116.