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Edward Irving: Preacher, Prophet and Charismatic Theologian


Also during 1827, Irving preached a series of messages on baptism. In the second sermon, he focused on the second part of Acts 2:39, “and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The common understanding of this gift during Irving’s time was that it was “the inward gift of sanctification and fruitfulness,” and not “the outward gift of power” displayed at Pentecost and in the New Testament.16 This gift of power was given only during the apostolic age. Irving disagreed. He preached that this gift of power and the spiritual gifts recording in I Corinthians 12 where indeed for the contemporary Church. It did not pass away with the apostles, but disappeared from the life of the Church because of unbelief. Irving preached, “I cannot find by what writ of God any part of the spiritual gift was irrevocably removed from the Church. I see, indeed, that she hath lost the power which heretofore made her terrible as an army with banners.…”17 Irving had made a link from the role of the Spirit in preserving Christ from sin within his fallen flesh, to the role of the Spirit in the operation of the Church. During these sermons, Irving became convinced that supernatural gifts and the power of the Spirit where indeed for today.

Meanwhile back in Scotland…

In 1826, John McLeod Campbell pastored the local parish in Rhu on the Garloch in West Scotland. There he preached on the love of God and the humanity of Christ.18 Thousands came to Christ. Campbell’s assistant was A.J. Scott who served in Rhu from 1826–1828. Scott persistently challenged the cessationist claim that the miraculous gifts of the Spirit had ceased. Irving preached for Campbell during the summers of 1828 and 1829 and his influence was felt upon the congregation.19 Scott returned with Irving to serve as his assistant at the Regent Square Church. In March 1830, Mary Campbell, a young woman living on the Garloch, spoke in an unknown language, which she believed was the biblical gift of speaking in tongues. The very next month, Margaret MacDonald who lived in Port Glasgow across the Clyde River from Rhu received a word of prophecy. She prophesied that “there will be a mighty baptism of the Spirit this day.”20 Margaret attended John McLeod’s church in Rhu with her brothers George and James. They had come to discover that the gift of the Holy Spirit in power was available today.21 At dinner in their home one night, Margaret spoke with her brothers concerning the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Afterwards she prayed for James that “he might at that time be endowed with the Holy Ghost.”22 James stood in silence for a few moments and replied, “I have got it.” He then returned to Margaret where she laid in her bed severely ill. He commanded her to “Arise and stand upright.”23 She was healed. Soon after, James wrote a letter to Mary Campbell to testify of his sister’s healing and command Mary to be healed in a like manner.

By this time, Mary was convinced that the experience of miracles that were all together absent from the Church, where indeed intended to be apart of the post-apostolic Church. While she lay sick in her bed, she believed that God wanted to heal her. At the time Margaret MacDonald was healed, Mary had been challenged by two visitors to accept her sickness and not expect any miracle of healing. Mary quickly replied that they would hear of miracles very soon.24 When her visitors left, Mary felt led by the Spirit to seek God for her healing. While Mary read James’ letter, she was immediately healed and began to speak in tongues.25 The MacDonald’s and Mary Campbell opened up their homes and people from Scotland and England came to investigate, seek and experience what Irving had preached would come—the restoration of the gifts of the Spirit. Reports of the outbreak of tongues and other miracles quickly got back to Irving. Mary herself wrote Irving a letter documenting the manifestations of the Spirit. By the end of the summer 1830, Irving endorsed the revival as a work of the Holy Spirit.

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Category: Church History, Spring 2002

About the Author: Derek Vreeland, MDiv (Oral Roberts University), DMin (Asbury Theological Seminary), is the Discipleship Pastor at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, Missouri. He is the author of Shape Shifters: How God Changes the Human Heart: A Trinitarian Vision of Spiritual Transformation (Word & Spirit Press, 2008), Primal Credo: Your Entrance into the Apostles' Creed (Doctrina Press, 2011), and Through the Eyes of N.T. Wright: A Reader's Guide to Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Doctrina Press, 2015). Twitter: @DerekVreeland

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