Pretensions by any class of men to the possession and use of miraculous powers as a permanent endowment are, within the limits of the Christian church, a specialty of Roman Catholicism. Denial of these pretensions is part of the protest by virtue of which we bear the name of Protestants. "In point of interpretation, the history of Protestantism," as an Edinburgh reviewer, writing in trying conditions in 1831, justly puts it,1 "is a uniform disclaimer of any promise in the Scriptures that miraculous powers should be continued in the Church." In point of fact (we may slightly modify his next sentence to declare), the claim to the possession and exercise of powers of this description by individuals has always been received in Protestant circles with a suspicion which experience has only too completely justified.
Protestantism, to be sure, has happily been no stranger to enthusiasm; and enthusiasm with a lower-case "e" unfortunately easily runs into that Enthusiasm with a capital "E" which is the fertile seed-bed of fanaticism. Individuals have constantly arisen so filled with the sense of God in their own souls, and so overwhelmed by the wonders of grace which they have witnessed, that they see the immediate hand of God in every occurrence which strikes them as remarkable, and walk through the world clothed in a nimbus of miracle. To them it seems a small thing that the God who has so marvellously healed their sick souls should equally marvellously heal their sick bodies; that the God who speaks so unmistakably in their spirits should speak equally unmistakably through their lips. Especially in times of wide-spread oppression, when whole communities have, in their hopeless agony, been thrown back upon their God as their only refuge, and have found in Him solace and strength, it has over and over again happened that out of their distresses words and deeds have come to them which to their apprehension seemed manifestly divine.
We may find an illustration of the former phenomenon in John Wesley, who, though he would have repelled the accusation of superstition, yet, as one of his biographers finely expresses it,2 "was always far more afraid of being ungodly than of being credulous." He would not admit that there was any scriptural ground for supposing that miracles had ceased. "I do not know," he declares,3 "that God hath any way precluded Himself from thus exerting His sovereign power, from working miracles in any kind or degree, in any age, to the end of the world. I do not recollect any Scripture where we are taught that miracles are to be confined within the limits either of the Apostolic or the Cyprianic age; or to any period of time, longer or shorter, even to the restoration of all things. I have not observed, either in the Old Testament or the New, any intimation at all of this kind." Feeling thus no preconceived chariness with reference to miracles, he recognized their occurrence with great facility in the past and in the present.4 He twits Middleton with his readiness to believe, on the testimony of scientific observers, that it is possible to speak without a tongue, rather than to credit the miracle testified to as having been wrought in favor of the African confessors who had had their tongues cut out. "After avowing this belief," he cries,5 "do you gravely talk of other men's credulity? I wonder that such a volunteer in faith should stagger at anything. Doubtless, were it related as natural only, not miraculous, you could believe that a man could see without eyes." After himself recording a sheerly incredible instance of mirror-gazing, he solemnly affirms his belief in it, and stoutly declares that those who can believe it all fiction "may believe a man's getting into a bottle."6 William Warburton, who devotes the second book of his Doctrine of Grace almost entirely to criticisms of a series of extracts from Wesley's Journal, sums up his findings in the remark7 that "this extraordinary man hath, in fact, laid claim to almost every Apostolic gift and grace; and in as full and ample a measure as they were possessed of old"; that, in fact, "of all the Apostolic gifts and graces there is but one with which we find him not adorned—namely, the gift of tongues." To such apparent lengths is it possible to be carried by the mere enthusiasm of faith.
A very good example of the wide-spread prevalence of apparently supernatural experiences in conditions of deep religious excitement is afforded by the history of the Camisards during the long period of their brutal persecution; and, indeed, beyond—for the same class of manifestations continued among their English friends, apparently by a kind of spiritual infection, long after some of them had taken refuge from persecution in England. These manifestations included prophesying and predictions, miracleworking and speaking with tongues, and they were by no means done in a corner. A Mr. Dalton, "who did not know one Hebrew letter from another," nevertheless uttered "with great readiness and freedom complete discourses in Hebrew, for near a quarter of an hour together and sometimes much longer." Mr. Lacy spoke in Latin and Greek and French, although himself unable to construe his Latin and Greek, "of which," the historian slyly remarks, "the syntax is certainly inexplicable." Unfortunately for themselves, these "French Prophets" believed sufficiently in themselves to venture upon the luxury of specific predictions. They foretold that a certain Doctor Ernes, who died December 22, 1707, would rise again on March 25, 1708. He did not do so; and the prophets were reduced to publishing a paper giving "Squire Lacy's reasons why Doctor Ernes was not raised." They predicted that certain dreadful judgments would fall on London in three weeks, explained explicitly to mean three literal weeks. When the fulfilment did not take place, they re-explained that, after all, it was three prophetic weeks that were intended—which corrected dating also was, of course, stultified in the process of time. Above all, of course, they predicted the speedy coming of the Lord, and the setting up of His personal reign on earth, of which, they explained, the present diffusion of the spiritual gifts among them was the preparation and the sign. "Christians," cries John Lacy, "now only look upon Christ as dead and ascended into heaven. But where—where's the expectation taught of His coming again? A doctrine that has annexed to it the powers, the mighty gifts of the Holy Ghost engaged by promises. Is the state of Christianity now so perfect that the powers and gifts of the Holy Ghost extraordinary are not worthy expecting or regarding? . . . Therefore the extraordinary dispensation to prepare so extraordinary a revolution . . . sure there needs something extraordinary to prepare for so tremendous, useful, so joyous and blissful a state of the Church on earth. Nay, the wisest do need an extraordinary call for it."8
This case of the "French Prophets" has not been adduced because it is better fitted in itself than a number of similar movements to illustrate the general subject. It has commended itself to our notice because of its long history and its pathetic significance during its connection with the persecutions in the Cevennes; and particularly because of certain peculiarities of its English development which recall the Irvingite movement to which we wish to devote this lecture. Among these may be numbered its close connection with chiliastic vagaries and the expectation of the speedy coming of the Lord, and also the circumstance that it left behind it a new sect in Christendom, to preserve in some sort its memory. Out of the activities of some of the followers of the "French Prophets" originated the people called Shakers, who, like the Catholic Apostolic Church, sprung from the Irvingite movement, have protracted some sort of existence to our day. * The religious atmosphere of the earlier decades of the nineteenth century was exceedingly unsettled and filled with a restless desire for change. In particular premillenarian extravagances were rife, and men were heatedly looking for the early coming of the Lord. It was out of this soil that Irvingism grew, predicting the immediate advent of Christ, and proclaiming the restoration of the extraordinary offices and gifts of the Apostolic age, along with an elaborate church organization, in preparation for His coming. Never have pretensions to gifts and powers of a supernatural order suffered more speedily and definitely the condemnation of facts. The predicted coming of the Lord did not take place: the "Apostles" appointed to receive Him at His coming were gradually called to their eternal home, and still He came not; the pretenders to supernatural gifts one after another awoke to the true state of the case and acknowledged themselves deluded. But the sect of Irvingites, broken in spirit, torn with dissension, altered in its pretensions, still lives on and adjusts itself to its blasted hopes as best it may.9
The views of Edward Irving, the founder of the sect, on the special matter now before us, the persistence or revival of the Apostolic charismata in the modern church, may be read at large in two papers, entitled respectively "The Church with her endowment of holiness and power" and "The Gifts of the Holy Ghost commonly called supernatural," which are printed at the end of his Collected Writings, edited by his nephew, Gavin Carlyle. One or two extracts will bring before us the essential elements of his teaching.
"I have shown," he writes, "the great purpose and end of this endowment of Spiritual gifts: that purpose and end is not temporary but perpetual, till Christ's coming again; when that which is perfect shall come, and that which is in part shall be done away. If they ask for an explanation of the fact that these powers have ceased in the Church, I answer, that they have decayed just as faith and holiness have decayed; but that they have ceased is not a matter so clear. Till the time of the Reformation, this opinion was never mooted in the Church; and to this day, the Roman Catholics and every other portion of the Church but ourselves, maintain the very contrary. . . . And I would say, that this gift hath ceased to be visible in the Church because of her great ignorance concerning the work of Christ at His second coming, of which it is the continual sign; because of her most culpable ignorance of Christ's crowned glory, of which it is the continual demonstration; because of her indifference to the world without, for preaching to which the gift of the Holy Ghost is the continual furnishing and outfit of the Church. . . . But things are taking a turn. Let the Church know that things are taking on a mighty turn. There is a sliining forth of truth in these subjects beyond former days. The power and glory of a risen Lord, as well as the holiness of a Lord in flesh, is beginning to be understood and discussed of; and the enemy would spread a curtain of their sophistry between the Church and the bright dawn; he might as well hide the morning by drawing before our eyes the spider's web or the frostwork of the night, which the rising sun quickly dissipates. . . . The Church . . . will have her full dignity restored to her of testifying ... of a risen Lord in power and glory, crowned for His Church and in His Church putting forth unto the world a first-fruit of that power and government over all creation which in her He will ever exercise over all creation. These gifts have ceased, I would say, just as the verdure, and leaves, and flowers, and fruits of the spring and summer and autumn cease in winter, because, by the chill and wintry blasts which have blown over the Church, her power to put forth her glorious beauty hath been prevented. But because the winter is without a green leaf or beautiful flower, do men therefore argue that there shall be flowers and fruits no more? ... If the Church be still in existence, and that no one denies; and if it be the law and end of her being to embody a first-fruit and earnest of the power which Christ is to put forth in the redemption of all nature; then what though she hath been brought so low, her life is still in her, and that life will, under a more fervent day, put forth its native forces." "Unless men, therefore, be left so far to themselves as to say that God hath ceased to testify to the work which Christ performed in the flesh—of casting Satan out; of redeeming all flesh from death, and disease its precursor; of restoring the animal and vegetable world, and all creation, to their original sinlessness, innocency, and subserviency to mankind—unless men be disposed to say, that they know God hath ceased to be at any pains or charges in giving testimony to this work of His Son, they have no ground for believing that the age of miracles is past. ... As to the fact which they allege, that there have not of a long time been any such seals; granting their allegation to be a truth, which I do not believe, the answer to it is, that there hath been no testimony to the great work of Christ's redemption such as to be worthy of being so sealed unto ... in Christendom, since the first three centuries. . . . The subject of the gifts, commonly called extraordinary, and rashly conceived of as given for a local and temporary end, is one of far greater importance than the advocates of either opinion have dared to conceive, or, at least, have ventured to express: being as I judge, connected in the closest manner with the edification of the Church in love and holiness; with her witness among the nations for their conversion unto Christ; with the glory of God as the creator of the human soul for His shrine, agent, and interpreter; with the glory of Christ, as the head of the Church, subordinating all the members unto Himself for the use of the Creator; with the glory of the Holy Ghost, as the very life and mind and substance of Godhead, inhabiting, informing and manifesting forth the being of God, in such wise that the Church should be God's manifested fullness, the fullness of God, who filleth all in all."10
It is not my purpose to enter on a formal examination and criticism of Irving's views; they have already been judged by the course of history. But having thus presented them to you in his own highly ornate language, we may turn our attention to some account of the rise of the movement called (but not by its adherents) "Irvingism," as to a theme far more interesting and certainly as instructive for the general object which we have in view. We have spoken of Edward Irving as its founder, and so he was, without whose susceptibility, enthusiasm, force, and eloquence it could never have come into existence. But in another sense he may be thought of rather as its chief victim. It presents a curious subject for speculation, to consider how little often the chief movers in events like this are the real originators of them or the true forces which produce them. Just as J. H. Newman was in every high sense the leader of the Oxford movement while yet he himself was rather pushed on by the activity of others, so that it is literally true that it was Hurrell Froude who was at the bottom of his Anglo-Catholicism and W. G. Ward who nagged him, against his will, into Romanism; so Edward Irving was in every high sense the founder and leader of "Irvingism," which justly bears his name, while yet it is equally true that he was driven into it step by step by the influence and force of other minds. With all his sensitiveness of heart, enthusiastic earnestness of purpose, soaring views of religious truth, and grandeur of style in its presentation; in a word, with all those qualities which in their combination gave him a certain measure of greatness; his simplicity, perhaps we must also say, within due limits, his vanity, and certainly we must say his intellectual weakness and deficiency in judgment and common sense, made him the easy prey of other and more energetic orders of mind. Henry Drummond was his Hurrell Froude; Alexander J. Scott was his W. G. Ward.
Irving had none too brilliant a career as the young assistant of Chalmers in Glasgow, and the summons to London in July, 1822, to take charge of the dying Caledonian Chapel there, came no less as a surprise than as an opportunity.11 From the first, however, he achieved in London a popularity which began by being astonishing, and ended by being immense. He became the talk of the town. Statesmen and men of letters hung on his words. Society took him under its patronage. The little church in Hatton Garden was soon outgrown. This sudden and unexampled popular applause perhaps did not completely turn his head, but it distinctly injured him. It left him an enthusiastic, simple-minded man; but it gave him overweening confidence in himself; and it infected him with the illusion that some high and world-wide mission had been committed to him.
At the very beginning of his London career, he adopted the crass premillennial views which later colored his whole thought. This was the work in him of James Hatley Frere,12 a man of incisive mind and strong individuality, who seems to have deliberately selected Irving to be the popular mouthpiece of his Apocalyptic speculations. These he succeeded in impressing on him with amazing completeness of detail. Then came "the little prophetic conferences" at Albury, Henry Drummond's beautiful Surrey residence, where "the students of prophecy," as they called themselves, began in 1826 to meet for annual conferences on the meaning of the prophetic Scriptures.13 These conferees were men of high social position and easy financial circumstances—Gerard Noel, Hugh McNeile, Lewis Way, Joseph Wolf, with Henry Drummond, the richest and most eccentric of them all, at their head—"a singular mixture of all things," Carlyle describes him; "of the saint, the wit, the philosopher, swimming, if I mistake not, in an element of dandyism."14 Irving's imaginative disposition took fire, and he soon became the chief figure of the coterie, and began to proclaim everywhere that the Lord was shortly , to come, and that the chief duty of believers was to press the signs of the times on the attention of men.
In this excited state of mind Irving was called upon to endure great personal trials. His opinions on the person of Christ were very properly called in question; and he was compelled to meet ecclesiastical process in consequence. In the midst of these distracting occurrences, he undertook a journey to Scotland that he might proclaim there, as in London, the approaching coming of his Master.15 On this journey he met at Row (McLeod Campbell's parish) a man whose influence on his subsequent life cannot be overestimated—Alexander J. Scott, an impracticable probationer of the church of Scotland, whose strong and acute but indocile and wilful mind imposed upon every one whom he met an overestimate of his intellectual ability. This was in the summer of 1828. Irving was at once taken captive and engaged Scott to come up to London with him and share his work, on the only terms on which Scott could either then or at any subsequent time have been engaged— "entirely unfettered by any pledge as to doctrine."16 This "powerful and singular spirit," so sceptical of whatever others believed—his driftage carried him ultimately beyond the limits of Christianity—so confident of whatever his mind fixed itself upon at the moment, had already reached the conclusion that the charismata of the early church might and should be enjoyed by the church of all ages. He succeeded in imposing this belief upon Irving, who himself dates his conviction that the spiritual gifts of the Apostolic age were not exceptional or temporary from 1828—the year in which he became associated with Scott.17
Irving was inclined to be content with holding his view as a theory. This, however, did not content "the restless soul" by his side. As Irving himself relates: "And as we went out and in together, he used often to signify to me his conviction that the Spiritual Gifts ought to be exercised in the Church; that we are at liberty, and indeed bound, to pray for them as being baptized into the assurance of the 'gift of the Holy Ghost,' as well as of 'repentance and remission of sins. . . .' Though I could make no answer to this," he adds, "and it is altogether unanswerable, I continued still to be very little moved to seek myself or to stir up my people to seek these spiritual treasures. Yet I went forward to contend and to instruct whenever the subject came before me in my public ministrations of reading and preaching the Word, that the Holy Ghost ought to be manifested among us all, the same as ever He was in any one of the primitive Churches."18 Scott, his assistant, doubtless did likewise. Here we see, at least, Scott's preparation of Irving himself and of his church for what was to come.
"But," says Mrs. Oliphant,19 "Mr. Scott's influence did not end there. About the same period at which he was engaged in quickening this germ of expectation in the breast of Irving, circumstances brought him in the way of sowing a still more effectual seed." There was a district in Scotland suffering at this time under great religious excitement —roused partly by the preaching of John McLeod Campbell, and partly by the influence of the kindly life of Isabella Campbell of Fernicarry, a young saint whose death had just profoundly moved the community. There, just at this juncture, Scott appeared, a "master of statement and argument," as Irving describes him, and in Mrs. Oliphant's words, "bent all his powers to laying this train of splendid mischief."20 "When Isabella Campbell died, a portion of her fame—her pilgrim visitors—her position as one of the most remarkable persons in the countryside, a pious and tender oracle—descended to her sister Mary,"S1 who seems to have been a young woman "possessed of gifts of mind and temperament scarcely inferior to genius," "with all the personal fascination of beauty," and endowed with a "young, fervid and impressionable imagination." M On her the subtlest arguments of one of the acutest men of the day were poured. Irving himself describes the result thus: "Being called down to Scotland upon some occasion, and residing for a while at his father's house, which is in the heart of that district of Scotland upon which the light of Mr. Campbell's ministry had arisen, he (Scott) was led to open his mind to some of the godly people of those parts, and among others to a young woman who was at that time lying ill of a consumption, from which afterwards, when brought to the very door of death, she was raised up instantaneously by the mighty hand of God. Being a woman of very fixed and constant spirit he was not able with all his power of statement and argument, which is unequalled by that of any man I have ever met with, to convince her of the distinction of regeneration and baptism with the Holy Ghost; and when he could not prevail, he left her with a solemn charge to read over the Acts of the Apostles with that distinction in mind, and to beware how she hastily rejected what was, as he believed, the truth of God. By this young woman it was that God, not many months after, did restore the gift of speaking with tongues and prophesying to the Church." 28
How it came about, Irving describes as follows: "The handmaiden of the Lord, of whom he made choice on that night" (a Sunday evening in the end of March—i. e., March 28, 1830) "to manifest forth in her His glory, had been long afflicted with a disease which the medical men pronounced to be a decline, and that it would soon bring her to her grave, whither her sister had been hurried by the same malady a few months before. Yet while all around her were anticipating her dissolution, she was in the strength of faith meditating missionary labours among the heathen; and this night she was to receive the preparation of the Spirit; the preparation of the body she received not until some days after. 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. They had come up in the evening to the sick-chamber of their sister, who was laid on a sofa, and, along with one or two others of the household, 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; '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." 24
Meanwhile the "power" passed across the Clyde to the opposite town of Port Glasgow into another pious household. When James Macdonald returned from his work to his midday dinner one day "he found his invalid sister in the agonies of this new inspiration. The awed family concluded . . . that she was dying." But she addressed her brothers at great length and solemnly prayed that James might at that time be endowed with the Holy Ghost. "Almost instantly James calmly said, 'I have got it.'" With a changed countenance in a few moments, "with a step and manner of the most indescribable majesty—he walked up to his sister's bedside and addressed her in these words of the 20th Psalm: 'Arise and stand upright.' He repeated the words, took her by the hand, and she arose."25 After this wonderful cure James Macdonald wrote to Mary Campbell, "then apparently approaching death, conveying to her the same command that had been so effectual in the case of his sister." She rose up at once and declared herself healed. And here we have the restored gifts prepared for the church.
The only remaining step was to convey the gifts to Irving's church. Of course, he was at once informed of the extraordinary events which had taken place in Scotland. He seems to have caught the contagion of excitement at once. John Bate Cardale, a lawyer of Irving's circle, who afterward became the first Irvingite "Apostle," went to Scotland at the head of a delegation to investigate and report. Meanwhile the church at London was kept in an attitude of strained expectancy. But the "gifts" did not come at once. An isolated case of healing occurred in October, 1830—a Miss Fancourt—but this instance seems to have stood somewhat apart from direct relation whether to the Scotch manifestations or to the coming events in Irving's church.26 Irving's baby son took sick and died, and though they sought it anxiously with tears there was no interposition to save him. During the next spring daily prayer-meetings were held in the early mornings to ask directly for the "gifts of the Spirit," news of the unbroken exercise of which was now coming continually from Scotland. "Irving," says Mrs. Oliphant, "had no eyes to see the overpowering force of suggestion with which such prayers" "might have operated upon sensitive and excitable hearts." 27 At last we hear incidentally in July, 1831, that two of the flock in London had received the gifts of tongues and prophecy.28 They had been in exercise, however, for some months before that, first in the form of speaking with tongues at private devotions, then in the presence of others, and at length both in speaking with tongues and in prophesying at small prayer-meetings.29 The formal date of the beginning of the "power" is usually given as April 30, 1831, when Mrs. Cardale spoke solemnly with the tongues and prophesied. David Brown, however, seems to imply30 that the first to exercise the power in the presence of others was Emily Cardale at a date apparently very near this. He is speaking of the early-morning prayer-meetings in the church, which, he says, began to be held two weeks before the General Assembly of 1831.31 It was the custom of a party from the prayer-meeting to go home with the Irvings to breakfast. "At one of these breakfasts," he writes, "a sweet, modest, young lady, Miss Emily Cardale, began to breathe heavily, and increasingly so, until at length she burst out into loud but abrupt short sentences of English which after a few minutes ceased. The voice was certainly beyond her native strength, and the subject matter of it was the expected power of the Spirit, not to be resisted by any one who would hear. Mr. Irving asked us to unite in thanksgiving for this answer to our prayers." "Other such instances," adds Brown, "followed, but as yet all in private, first by the same voice, but afterwards by a Miss Hall, and then by a man who rather repelled me (a teacher by the name of Taplin) who professed to speak in an unknown tongue." It was through this Miss Hall that the voices were introduced into the public services of the church, on Communion Sunday, October 16, 1831. We have several accounts of the scene by eye-witnesses.32 What they chiefly dwell upon is the startling effect of the outcry, and the rush of the young woman, either unable to restrain herself, or alarmed at what she had done, into the vestry, whence proceeded a succession of doleful and unintelligible cries, while the audience of fifteen hundred or two thousand people, standing up and straining to hear and see what was toward, fell into utter confusion.
It is not necessary to give an account here of the natural excitement which was raised in London; of the increasing confusion which the exercise of the "gifts" brought into the public service of the church; of the suit instituted by the trustees against Irving for breach of trust deeds, and his exclusion from the church; of the founding of the first Irvingite Congregation in Newman Street in a deserted studio which had been erected for the use of the painter West. The new "prophets" as a matter of course soon began to exercise the authority which they found in their hands as inspired servants of God. They drove Irving along from step to step, until at last a new spirit appeared on the scene in the person of Robert Baxter (first in August, 1831, but not as a force until early in i832).3S Instead of unintelligible "tongues" and weak repetitions of pious platitudes, Baxter, when the "power" was on him, delivered himself authoritatively in specific commands to Irving,1 arrangements for church order, and the like, and even definite predictions of the future. Here was something new and dangerous. Irving was startled and filled with doubt. But the "power" in Baxter argued him down, and all the "prophets" bore witness to the genuineness of Baxter's inspiration, so that the whole movement was committed to this new development. The dangers inherent in it were not slow in showing themselves. The first shock came when the "power" in Baxter commanded him to go to the Court of Chancery and deliver a message which would be there given him, whereupon he should be cast into prison. He went, and no message came to him, and he was not cast into prison. Other predictions that had been made failed of fulfilment. Contradictions began to emerge between the several deliverances by the same organ, or between the several organs. Spirit was arrayed against spirit. The spirit that had spoken acceptably in one, was pronounced by another, speaking in the Spirit, nothing other than an evil spirit. Some who had been very forward in speaking, and had received the indorsement of others speaking in the Spirit, were convicted of having framed their own messages. Baxter's eyes were opened, and the very doctrinal basis of Irving's teaching having become—as well it might—suspect to him, he found himself at last no longer able to believe that the manifestations in which he had himself taken so prominent a part were of God.34
The climax of this particular development is very dramatic. Having reached his conclusion, Baxter (who lived at Doncaster) naturally travelled at once up to London to communicate it to Irving. He arrived at the moment of a crisis in living's own affairs. It was the very morning when Irving was to appear in the suit brought against him by the trustees of the church for permitting in it practices contrary to the trust deed. Irving was at breakfast with a party of friends. "Calling him and Mr. J. C[ardale] apart," says Baxter,35 "I told them my conviction that we had all been speaking by a lying spirit and not by the Spirit of the Lord." But we will let David Brown describe the scene from within. • He had himself reached the conclusion that there was nothing supernatural in the "manifestations"—this was not exactly Baxter's conclusion—and had determined to separate himself from Irving. He had broken this to Mrs. Irving but had postponed announcing it to Irving himself until after the trial, which was to take place that day. "The select few of us," he writes,36 "came home with him"—from the early-morning prayer-meeting —"to breakfast, in the midst of which Miss Cardale uttered, in the usual unnatural voice, some words of cheer in prospect of the day's proceedings. But scarcely had she ceased when a ring came to the door, and Mr. Irving was requested to speak with the stranger. After five minutes' absence, he returned, saying, 'Let us pray,' and kneeling down, all followed while he spoke in this strain: 'Have mercy, Lord, on Thy dear servant, who has come up to tell us that he has been deceived, that his word has never been from above but from beneath, and that it is all a lie. Have mercy on him, Lord, the enemy hath prevailed against him, and hither hath he come in this time of trouble and rebuke and blasphemy, to break the power of the testimony we have to bear this day to this work of Thine. But let Thy work and power appear unto Thy poor servant. . . .'"
So strong was the delusion to which Irving was now delivered—that Irving who had been hitherto plastic wax in the hands of everybody. He was soon established in his new church in Newman Street. In that church an elaborate order was set up, and an ornate ritual instituted according to the pattern of which Baxter himself had drawn the outlines, and which was ever more fully developed by deliverances from Baxter's followers.37 "Before the opening of this church, the prophet himself had published the wonderful narrative in which he repeated the predictions which came from his own lips, and, appealing to the whole world whether they had been fulfilled, proclaimed them a delusion."38 Nothing, however, could now stay the development of the "Catholic Apostolic Church," not even Irving himself, had he wished to do so. More and more overruled and set aside by the powers he had evoked and could not control, he sank into an ever more subordinate position in the edifice he had raised.39
Meanwhile it was not going much better with the "gifts" in Scotland, where they had originated, than in London, whither they had been transplanted. The report of their outbreak on the Clyde had found a ready response in the heart of Thomas Erskine of Linlathen. His whole religious life was intensely individualistic, and he too had become imbued with the same chiliastic hopes which in London were fostered by the prophetic studies of Albury. Predisposed to recognize the phenomena as endowments of the Holy Ghost, he repaired at once to Port Glasgow and became an inmate of the Macdonalds' house, living with them for six weeks and attending the daily prayer-meetings, where he witnessed the manifestations. His immediate conclusions he published to the world in a tract, On the Gifts of the Spirit, issued at the close of 1830, and in a more considerable volume which appeared the same year under the title The Brazen Serpent or Life Coming through Death. "The world," said he,40 "does not like the recurrence of miracles. And yet it is true that miracles have recurred. I cannot but tell what I have seen and heard. I have heard persons, both men and women, speak with tongues and prophesy, that is, speak in the Spirit to edification, exhortation, and comfort." A closer acquaintance with the phenomena, however, first shook and then shattered this favorable judgment. The developments in London were a great trial to his faith, as indeed they were also to that of the originators of the "gifts" at Port Glasgow, who did not hesitate to denounce them as delusions. "James Macdonald writes,"41 Erskine tells one of his correspondents, "that the spirit among them declared the London people to be 'deceitful workers transforming themselves into the Apostles of Christ.' Strange things—spirit against spirit." He discovered that some at least of the deliverances of the Macdonalds rested on no profounder inspiration than paragraphs in the current newspapers.42 Before the end of 1833 he required to write:43 "My mind has undergone a considerable change. ... I have seen reason
to disbelieve that it is the Spirit of God which is in M ,
and I do not feel that I have stronger reason to believe that it is in others." His conviction grew ever stronger that all the manifestations he had himself witnessed at Port Glasgow were delusive,44 and that the whole development had originated and been maintained through a dreadful mistake.45
Why he should have ever given himself to such a delusion is the real puzzle. There is an article in the Edinburgh Review for June, 1831, reviewing the new charismatic literature, considering which the reviewer impatiently but not unjustly exclaims that "theologians look for truth, as children on excursions seek for pleasure, by leaving the plain path and the light of day to penetrate into caverns and scramble in the dark." 46 In this article occurs a pungent paragraph which ought itself to have awakened Erskine to the true nature of his procedure. The subject in hand is the criterion employed to discriminate between true and false manifestations of the Spirit. True to his spiritual individualism, his "enthusiasm," to give it an old name, Erskine had contended that the only possible criterion in such cases is our own spiritual discernment. "The only security," he wrote, "lies in having ourselves the seal of God—that gift of the Holy Ghost by which we may detect the lying wonders of Satan." "According to his account, therefore," the reviewer comes down with his sledge-hammer blow,47 "the very fact of their being prepared to pass judgment between God and Satan in the affairs of Port Glasgow amounts to a direct pretence to inspiration." "The gift pretended," he continues, "is that 'discerning of spirits' so celebrated by the Apostles, as the divine endowment by means of which Simon the magician was detected by Peter and Elymas the sorcerer confounded by Paul. It is not the first time, doubtless, that men have indemnified themselves for the absence of visible gifts by setting up a title to invisible ones. Their argument, if it entitles them to either, entitles them to both. Their claim is unfortunately confined to the case which admits no other proof than their mere personal assertion that they are inspired."
Certainly the claims made to "gifts" which admitted of external tests, failed to justify themselves in the application of these tests. Even poor Mary Campbell was, in the end, led to confess that she had not behaved quite honestly in the matter of her "gifts." "I had, before receiving your letter," she writes to Robert Story, "come to the resolution to write to you and to confess my sin and error for calling my own impressions the voice of God. Oh," she exclaims, "it is no light thing to use the holy name irreverently, as I have been made to feel." 48 "'She was not at all careful in her statements,' wrote an impartial spectator of the doings at Fernicarry, who knew the attractive prophetess well," R. H. Story tells us,49 and then goes on to remark on what he calls her Celtic temperament, "impressive rather on the spiritual than on the moral side." It is rather a sordid story, all in all, and we leave it with only two remarks, both of which appear to us very relevant. The one concerns the pathetic circumstance that Robert Story sent Mary Campbell's confession to Irving, accompanied with a note exposing her "want of simplicity"— and remarking on how "disappointing a career hers had turned out, especially as she was considered the most remarkable and conclusive evidence of the Holy Ghost being again with power in the midst of the church"—just in time to be delivered after Irving's death.50 The other concerns the completeness with which the criterion desiderated by the Edinburgh reviewer of the reality of the gift of spiritual discernment alleged to be laid claim to by Erskine, is supplied by the issue in these Scotch instances of claims to spiritual gifts, so confidently accepted by Erskine. This issue for a time profoundly and salutarily shook Erskine's confidence in his judgment in such cases. "The shake which I have received in the matter is, I find, very deep," he writes.51 But he can only add: "I hope I shall not be led to shut my ear against the true voice because I have been deceived by a false one."52 He does not seem able to find the right way.53
You will doubtless be glad to have some account of the nature of the "prophetic" deliverances, and other manifestations of this movement. You will find such an account with specimens of the Scotch "tongues" in the eighth appendix to Hanna's edition of Erskine's Letters, written during this period. Mrs. Oliphant, in the course of her biography of Irving, records quite a number of the utterances. In particular she gives the interjected "manifestations" of the first service at the Newman Street Church.54 We cannot quote them at large; here are some examples. In the course of his exposition of the first chapter of I Samuel, Irving mentions the church as barren ... on which the ecstatic voice interposes: "Oh but she shall be fruitful: oh! oh! oh! she shall replenish the earth and subdue it—and subdue it!" A little further on, another breaks in with less appositeness to the subject: "Oh, you do grieve the Spirit—you do grieve the Spirit! Oh! the body of Jesus is to be sorrowful in spirit! You are to cry to your Father—to cry, to cry, in the bitterness of your souls! Oh it is a mourning, a mourning, before the Lord—a sighing, and crying unto the Lord because of the desolations of Zion—because of the desolations of Zion— because of the desolations of Zion!" There were seven of these voices heard during the course of the service. They were all pious, but repetitious, and, one would think (with Mrs. Oliphant), quite unnecessary, interruptions of the service.
It is more difficult to convey a notion of what the "speaking with tongues" was like. The "tongues" were thought at first to be real languages. Observers of the Scotch instances are very clear that, although unintelligible to their hearers, they were languages with recognizable structure as such.55 Cardale easily separated in J. Macdonald's utterances two distinguishable tongues.56 Mary Campbell declared that the tongue which she spoke was ordinarily that of the Pelew Islanders.57 The opinion soon became settled, however, that the " tongues" were an ecstatic heavenly and no earthly speech. The piercing loudness and strength of the utterance was its most marked characteristic. One witness speaks of it as "bursting forth" from the lips of a woman, "with an astonishing and terrible crash." 58 Baxter says that it fell on him at his private devotions so loudly that he stuffed his handkerchief into his mouth to keep from alarming the house.59 living's own description of it is as follows: "The whole utterance from the beginning to the ending of it, is with a power, and strength, and fullness and sometimes rapidity of voice, altogether different from that of the person's ordinary utterance in any mood; and I would say, both in its form and in its effects upon a simple mind, 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." 60 Carlyle once heard it, and he gives a characteristic description of it.61 "It was in a neighboring room. . . . There burst forth a shrieky hysterical 'Lah lall lall!' (little or nothing else but l's and a's) continued for several minutes. . . . 'Why was there not a bucket of water to fling on that lah-lalling hysterical madwoman?' thought we or said to one another." Doubtless both accounts are somewhat colored by the personal equation.
We may imagine what a public service would be like liable to interruptions by such manifestations. Henry Vizetelly, in his Glances Back Through the Years (1893), gives us a vignette picture of Irving in his new chapel in Newman Street. "What chiefly attracted me to the chapel in Newman-street was the expectation, generally realised, of the spirit moving some hysterical shrieking sister or frantic Boanerges brother (posted in the raised recess behind living's pulpit), to burst forth suddenly with one of those wild rapid utterances which, spite of their unintelligibility, sent a strange thrill through all who heard them for the first time. . . . He had grown gray and haggardlooking, and this, with his long, straggling hair and restless look, emphasized by the cast in his eye, gave him a singularly wild and picturesque appearance. His voice, too, was piercingly loud, and his gestures were as vehement as those of any street ranter of the day."
I think you will not be sorry, however, to place by the side of this a full-length portrait of one of those earlymorning prayer-meetings held in the Regent Street Church, which were the scene of the first public displays of the "power." You will bear in mind that the hour is six in the morning, which in the winter was before dawn. "The church appeared to me," writes our observer,82 "to be pitch dark; only the lights from the gas lamps shining into the windows enabled us to grope our way forward. It seemed to be entirely full, but my friend accosted a verger, who led us to an excellent seat, nearly opposite the reading desk. After the people were seated the most solemn stillness prevailed. The sleet beating upon the windows was the only sound that could be heard. The clouded sky and the driving snow increased the obscurity, and it was not for some time that we could perceive our nearest neighbors, and assure ourselves that the place was full from one end to the other. I quite believe in the exquisite simplicity and entire sincerity of Mr. living's whole character. I believe him to have been incapable of deliberately planning the scene which followed. Had he, however, been the most consummate actor that ever lived, had he studied the art of scenic portraiture and display from his youth up, he could not have produced a finer effect than on this occasion. Just as the clocks outside struck six, the vestry door opened and he entered the church with a small but very bright reading lamp in his hand. He walked with solemn step to the reading desk, and placing the lamp upon it, immediately before him, he stood up facing the audience. Remember, this was the only light in the place. It shone upon his face and figure as if to ihuminate him alone. He had on a voluminous dark blue cloak, with a large cape, with a gilt clasp at the throat, which he loosened at once, so that the cloak formed a kind of a background to his figure. Tall, erect, and graceful, he stood for a few moments in silence, his pale face in the white light, his long dark locks falling down upon his collar, his eyes solemn and earnest, peering into the darkness of the building. . . . After a few musical, earnest words of prayer he opened the Bible before him, and began to read the twenty-second chapter of Revelation. If I were to live a hundred years I should never forget the reading of that chapter. I believe it exceeded in effect the finest speech and most eloquent sermon ever uttered. The exquisite musical intonation and modulation of voice, the deep and intense pathos of delivery, as if the speaker felt every word entering into his own soul, and that he was pouring it out to create a sympathy with his own feelings in others—all this was very wonderful, and totally absorbing every thought of the audience. But when he came to that verse, 'I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and Morning Star,' the effect of the last five words was electrical. The people could not cheer nor applaud, nor in any way relieve their feelings. There was a kind of hard breathing, a sound of suppressed emotion, more striking than the loudest plaudits could have been. The reader himself stopped for a moment as if to allow his unwonted emotion to subside. Before he could resume there came from a woman who was two or three seats behind me, a sound so loud that I am sure it might have been heard on the opposite side of the square. I have been trying to find a word by which to describe it, and the only word I can think of is the word 'yell.' It was not a scream nor a shriek; it was a yell so loud and so prolonged that it filled the church entirely, and as I have said, must have been heard far beyond it. It was at first one single sound, but it seemed in a short time to resolve itself into many separate sounds—not into articulate words by any means. They were far more like the sounds uttered by a deaf and dumb child modulating its tones, but wholly innocent of speech. This was the beginning and the ending of the so-called 'unknown tongues' in Regent Square, by which I mean they never varied from nor improved upon this type. How any one could be so deluded as to fancy in them any words or syllables, to say nothing of any language, I could never understand. There was no articulation, and no attempt at it. Had there been now and then something like a word, it was mixed up in such a jargon of sound, it was uttered with such rapidity, and in such a long continued and prolonged yell that, led up to it as I had been by the adjuncts of the scene, by the weirdness and obscurity of the building, I was never deceived by it for one moment. After a few minutes' utterance of these 'unknown tongues,' the excited woman began to speak in articulate English words. It was still in the same loud yell, slightly subdued by the necessity of speech. The utterances were chiefly texts of Scripture of an exhortative kind—the first word being uttered three times over, each one louder than the last, the last calling forth the woman's powers to the utmost, her breast heaving and straining with the exertion. On this occasion the English began oddly enough, with the word, 'Kiss! Kiss!! Kiss!!! the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way.' This morning there was only one manifestation. Generally there were two; on several occasions I heard three, and once four. They proceeded, however, from the same women, for while the second was speaking the first recovered her strength, and as her companion's voice died away in subdued murmurs, she burst out anew, as if a dozen spirits were contending in her. When I look back on that first morning, I feel moved with the deepest pity and regret for poor Edward Irving. He was greatly excited and overcome. In his honest heart, he believed that God had honored him and favored him above all the ministers in London. I can see him now before me, as I saw him then, meekly and humbly saying, 'I will now finish reading the chapter in which I was interrupted by the Holy Spirit, speaking by this young woman.' Yes I heard him say this with my own ears. Already the charm of the service was gone. He seemed glad to conclude it, as if he were afraid his own gentle words could detract from and injure the holy impression that had been produced. . . ."
Edward Irving himself "never received the power, nor attained to any supernatural utterance, though no one more earnestly sought after it." 63 As Erskine in Scotland, so Irving in London, had to be content with the rdle of observer of others' endowments. Nor was the actual number of those who enjoyed the gifts at any time very large. "Of the many hundred individuals who for the first twelve months attended in London upon these utterances, and who were, one and all, praying for the same gifts, not so many as twelve attained to the utterances." "The leading persons who, for many months gave forth the utterances, and wrought the strong conviction of the work being of God were two ladies" 64—and one of them (Miss Hall) was not only declared by her sister prophetess (Miss Cardale) to be a false prophetess,65 but was constrained to confess that on some occasions at least she was herself the author of her utterances.66
Of course we are in the presence here of hysteria.67 There are those who take occasion from this fact to exonerate Irving, in whole or at least in large part, for his vagarious course. "Oh," cries an appreciative biographer, "that the whole sad tribe of prophetic pedants and hysterical pietists had gone their own way, leaving him to go his!"68 Did they not go their own way? And was it their fault that Irving never had a way of his own? Why burden "the Albury sages" or the crowd of hysterical women which surrounded him, and to whom he gave all too willing an ear, with "the shipwreck of Irving's genius and usefulness"? Is not their own shipwreck burden enough for them to bear? Were it not juster to say simply that this was the particular kind of fire Irving chose to play with, and that, therefore, this is the particular way in which he burned his fingers? It is altogether probable, being the man he was, that if it had not been in these, he would have burned them in some other flames.69