IRVING, EDWARD (1792–1834), was a controversial Scottish minister associated with the founding of the Catholic Apostolic church. Born in Annan, Dumfriesshire, Irving was educated at the University of Edinburgh. After serving as a schoolmaster at Haddington in 1810 and Kirkcaldy in 1812, he was licensed to preach in the Church of Scotland in 1815. He became Thomas Chalmers's assistant at Saint John's, Glasgow, in 1819 but left Scotland in 1822 to become pastor of Caledonian Chapel, a small, struggling congregation in Hatton Garden, London. His dynamic preaching drew such large crowds that a new church had to be built at Regent Square in 1827.
Avowal of controversial doctrines soon undercut Irving's popularity. In the mid-1820s, Irving became a millenarian through the influence of James Hatley Frere, Henry Drummond, and Drummond's Albury Circle. He published Babylon and Infidelity Foredoomed of God (1826), in which he predicted the second coming of Christ in 1864; translated The Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty (1827), a millenarian work by the Spanish Jesuit Manuel Lacunza; lectured on the Book of Revelation at the University of Edinburgh (1828); and was a regular contributor to Drummond's prophetic journal The Morning Watch (1829–1833).
Citing his The Doctrine of the Incarnation Opened (1828) and The Orthodox and Catholic Doctrine of Our Lord's Human Nature (1830), the London Presbytery in 1830 charged Irving with teaching the sinfulness of Christ's human nature. He vigorously denied the charge, arguing that though Christ shared humanity's weak and infirm nature, his reliance on the Holy Spirit kept him without sin. Further, Irving refused to recognize the presbytery's authority.
Irving also believed in the continuation of the charismata of apostolic times and urged his congregation to pray for their outpouring. In the fall of 1831, glossolalia, faith healing, and prophetic visions broke out at Regent Square. As a result, Irving was deposed from the church in 1832 and excommunicated by his Scottish presbytery in 1833. He then became a wandering preacher, while several hundred of his London parishioners established the sacramental, millenarian, and charismatic Catholic Apostolic church. Eventually Irving was ordained a deacon in the new church, but he never assumed any significant leadership role. He died at Glasgow and was buried in the cathedral there.
Always the controversialist, Irving attacked the cold and somewhat complacent spirit of orthodoxy in the Church of Scotland. Through his adoption of millenarian and charismatic views, he became an early shaper of those movements in British and American evangelicalism.
Irving's works are found in The Collected Writings of Edward Irving, 5 vols. (London, 1864–1865), edited by Gavin Carlyle. For studies of Irving's life, one may consult H. C. Whitley's Blinded Eagle (London, 1955), the work of an unabashed admirer, and Margaret Oliphant's The Life of Edward Irving, 2 vols. (London, 1862), a fine example of Victorian biography. A helpful examination of Irving's associations is Andrew L. Drummond's Edward Irving and His Circle (London, 1938). Irving's theology is analyzed in C. Gordon Strachan's The Pentecostal Theology of Edward Irving (London, 1973).
Timothy P. Weber (1987)
Founder of the catholic apostolic church; b. Annan, Scotland, Aug. 4, 1792; d. Glasgow, Dec. 7,1834. After receiving his M.A. in 1809 from Edinburgh University, he taught school at Haddington while studying Presbyterian theology part time. In 1819 he became assistant at St. John's parish, Glasgow, and in 1822 he accepted a call to London's Caledonian Chapel. His dramatic sermons filled the chapel, and later a new church was built for him in Regent Square. Several sources molded Irving's theology: the views of Samuel Taylor coleridge on the Holy Spirit and the restoration of "apostolic gifts," as well as the writings of Lacunza, a Spanish ex-Jesuit, directed him toward millenarianism, and Irving joined the Albury Circle, which stressed the signs of Christ's Second Coming. When the Presbyterian General Assembly censured his writings on Christ's human nature, Irving and his followers prayed for the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which they claimed soon appeared. In 1832 Irving was dismissed by the London presbytery, but he established another congregation. The following year he was unfrocked by the Annan presbytery, but his congregation readmitted him as a deacon, lowest order in the emerging Catholic Apostolic Church. He died disillusioned with that group's hierarchy. Five volumes of his Collected Writings appeared from 1864 to 1865.
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Revd Dr William M. Marshall