The year is 1826. A movement begins, as did the Jehovah’s Witness movement, as a Bible study. Actually this was an annual conference to study prophetic Scriptures. Many have gone astray using this route.
Soon they were talking about the immediate return of Jesus. The next implication they arrived at was, then surely there must be a revival of the gifts of the Spirit, to herald His coming.
Note that the Protestant church of that day totally disagreed with that.
The Catholic Church had and has no problem with miraculous manifestations. According to them, miracles have been happening all along. The Protestant denial of Catholic miracles was a part of the Protest, and the break from Rome.
To be Protestant meant to be anti-miraculous in the sense that the apostles were miracle workers. We have always believed in the providential working of God in answer to our prayers…
As we said, in these 1820’s there came a specific new doctrine that separated the Spirit’s work in regeneration from the “baptism of the Holy Ghost” and subsequent seeking after it.
Edward Irving was a Presbyterian minister in London, being influenced by Alexander Scott and others. They had come to the conclusion that there must be miracles today and they began to fast and pray about it.
Strangely, Irving, a very dynamic speaker, and a generally good man, was influenced greatly by Samuel Coleridge, a poet but not a Christian, with many false views. Later an Opium addict.
Irving was also convicted of heresy, teaching that Jesus’ human nature was sinful. That only by the Holy Ghost quickening Him daily was He kept from actual sin.
Do you have an answer for this issue? For there seems to be a little of it in the movements of today. The nature of Jesus is critical. We cannot preach another Jesus. But Irving did.
We believe that Jesus was the second Adam. First Adam was without sin at first. So was Jesus. He was born of a human mother, but made sinless in her womb. The Immaculate Conception was made up by Rome to help us believe this a little more. Why, Jesus could not be born of a human because humans are sinful. So let’s do away with Mary’s sinfulness by saying she was made perfect in the womb.
There’s a better way. The Immaculate conception of Jesus. Fully human, in the original sense. Nothing of corrupt fallen human nature in that Body. A Perfect Man. His very genetic structure had the seed of God’s Spirit mixed in with the seed of man.
Hebrews 4:15. He was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Human flesh is susceptible to temptation but can be sinless. Such was Jesus. To call His flesh sinful is to speak heresy.
Hebrews 1:6. Would all the angels of God worship a man with a sinful nature?
Hebrews 1:5. Would God claim as His own peculiar son, one who had a sinful nature?
He suffered being tempted, but never once succumbed to temptation. His flesh nature remains perfect, a state we shall not have until we pass to glory.
But he would not recant of this. Meanwhile, it seemed prayers were answered when a young woman in Scotland, Maty Campbell, was not only healed of a fatal disease, but also erupted one day in tongues. The gifts had been restored!
Many others claimed a similar visitation, but many tongues were known to be false, for example, saying Jesus was coming now.
Irving believed it all , preached it all, and was asked to leave the hall he was renting, on the basis of the Presbyterian belief in cessationism.
He went elsewhere and founded the first “Irvingite” congregation, known after his death as the Catholic Apostolic church.
(Later I will tell you of the relationship between the present Catholic Church and the New Apostolic reformation! And I will show you the legitimate heirs of the apostolic movement.)
Next comes one Robert Baxter, 1831-2. He purportedly received a gift of prophecy that he used to direct Irving. Irving was totally controlled by this man until Baxter admitted he (Baxter) was under delusion, and further he believed the entire movement was a result of a lying spirit.
Irving was too far entrenched to accept that verdict and took Baxter’s confession as an attack from the enemy. Baxter might have a lying spirit, but not Irving.
Later, Mary Campbell, who started it all was forced to “… confess my sin and error for calling my own impressions the Voice of God” Oh that millions around the world today could do the same.
An eyewitness at one of Irving’s meetings, from a local newspaper, the British Weekly, Jan 18, 1889: “The tongues are loud and strong. No earthly counterpart. Sometimes just la la la la la. Hysterical. Shrieking. Sends a strange thrill. Starts with a yell, then separate sounds, not words, like sounds uttered by a deaf and dumb child modulating tones, but innocent of speech.”
Irving himself never received any gifts. Many “gifted” folks later confessed they were false.
Remember that all of this was before Azusa street. But it sounds much like it, and much like what we see today, but not like what the Scriptures talk about. Nothing weird there, just wonderful.
By the way, it was one of these “prophetesses” in Irving’s church who gave rise to the modern acceptance of a pre-tribulation rapture.
From my book, Caught Up But When?:
“1830 is a more substantial date for the beginning of this pre-tribulation rapture doctrine in modern times. It was during this year that 15-year-old Margaret Macdonald, a prophetess of the newly arising Pentecostal (Irvingite) movement in Scotland, described a vision she had seen that stated that Christians were to be raptured just prior to the Great Tribulation.
“This event, which has been documented by many, surely causes a whole host of folks, especially the Pentecostals of our own day, to give pause. Surely if something was spoken by a word from the Lord, we cannot take it lightly, they reason.
“Yet these same people would have to take the words of Jesus and Paul very lightly, to believe Margaret. One sadly lacking gift in the explosion of charisma over the years has been the gift of discernment, whereby utterances can and must be challenged and compared to what God has already said.
“And when it is discerned that deception is at hand, a further discernment is needed, namely the identification of the spirit coming forth into the meeting and the subsequent repudiation of it along with the teaching it promotes. One doesn’t see this too often. It seems Margaret was not challenged at the time of her utterance and is not now.
“ Edward Irving. Within a year or two after her utterance, Edward Irving… heard about Margaret's dream, developed it theologically, and began teaching it to his congregation.
“ John Darby. At about this same time, the one called the “father of modern Dispensationalism” also got wind of Macdonald’s dream, paid her a visit, also made some changes, and incorporated it into his theories. John Darby was also the ‘father’ of the Plymouth Brethren movement, a church which was openly proud of what they called this ‘new doctrine.’
“Brian M. Schwertley, in Is the Pretribulation Rapture Biblical? says, ‘The Plymouth Brethren openly admitted and were even proud of the fact that among their teachings were totally new ones which had never been taught by the church fathers, medieval scholars, Protestant Reformers, or the many commentaries.’
“It is not clear to me about whom prince of preachers Charles Spurgeon was speaking in the following quote, but one wonders if it was not the ‘Brethren’ themselves. Spurgeon lived in the day when the pre-tribulation rapture was freshly hatched. It is obvious what he thought of the idea. Hear him well:
“ ‘...there is a certain troublesome sect abroad nowadays,’ said he, ‘to whom the one thing needful is a perpetual speculation upon prophecy...They plume themselves upon an expected secret rapture, and I know not what vain imaginings beside…’ (The Great Mystery of Godliness, preached December 22, 1867).
“C.I. Scofield. The creator of the Scofield Reference Bible (1917) included Darby’s teachings in his notes. Seeing such things ‘in the Bible’ emboldened many other saints to trust this doctrine as though God had said it Himself.
“There followed the inclusion of pre-tribulationism in the curriculums of well-known and greatly loved institutions such as Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary, and in the 1970’s, a book and movie by young people’s theologian Hal Lindsay. There seemed to be no stopping it after that. Today it has permeated much of the western evangelical world. It is far from universal in the church today, and far from historical, as I have shown, but there is, as we say, a very “vocal minority” of believers, mostly Western/American, who swear by this doctrine.”
So much for the Irvingites. They were not the only ones though who came up with strange doctrines and stranger manifestations.