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fallen, there were other prophets standing close around him, who renewed and held up to the continued hope of the Church those predictions which they believed Baxter to have too rashly interpreted, too suddenly desired fruition of—and the sky before the separated community was still bright with glorious hopes.
This momentary calm was, however, once more broken, in October, by warnings of renewed trouble. The Church of Scotland was in no manner called upon to interfere. The scene of his labours was beyond her jurisdiction, and he seems to have had no immediate intention of visiting Scotland, or bringing himself within the reach of her anathema. But, perhaps, it was impossible that any merely human corporation of men, actuated by no greater self-control than their fellows, could have passed over the solemn and indignant Judgment pronounced upon their proceedings by Irving, in the Morning Watch, without using such means of reprisal as were in their power. The General Assembly of 1831 had issued orders to any Presbytery which might find him ministering within their bounds, to “take action ” against him for his heretical views; but, stimulated by assault, it had quickened its movements, and by means of its Commission, a kind of representative committee, had given orders to the Presbytery which ordained Irving to proceed at once to his trial. The Presbytery of Annan, accordingly, bestirred themselves. They wrote to him, demanding whether he was the author of three tracts which they specified. Under the circumstances, his answer was purely voluntary; but, with his usual candour, he replied at once, with full avowal of the fact, and vehement condemnation of the General
Assembly, with which he declared himself able henceforth “ to make no relationship but that of open and avowed enmity.” The expressions he used on this occasion were almost violent, his vexed spirit, to which no rest was permitted, bursting forth in words more suitable to an Ezekiel than to a man unjustified by inspiration. In his view, the highest court of the Church of Scotland had rejected God in all the threefold character of his revelation-in the love of the Father, the humanity of the Son, and the operations of the Holy Ghost ; and his heart burned with a solemn and lofty indignation, all the more intense for the love and reverence with which he had formerly regarded the Church of his fathers.
With this renewed thunderbolt hanging over him, he went through the remainder of the year. all well, and the Lord forbeareth greatly with such unworthy creatures, and aboundeth in love to us for Christ's sake," are the words with which he concludes a letter in December. A certain exhaustion, yet calm of heart, breathes out of the words. Scarcely a man of all those with whom he had been used to take counsel but had fallen aloof, and stood afar off, disapproving, perhaps condemning — and, what was a still harder trial to Irving, calling that which to him was the work of the Holy Ghost, a delusion. But his heart was worn out with much suffering ; and, in the interval of conflict, a certain tranquillity, half of weariness, enveloped his troubled life.
66 We are
The course of events went on in natural development after the separation of Irving and his little community. To a large extent secluded within themselves, they carried out their newly established principles and “waited upon the Lord,” as perhaps no other community of modern days has ever dreamed of doing, guiding themselves and their ordinances implicitly by the teaching of the oracles in the midst of them. In this career of daily increasing isolation, Irving had not only lost the support of his immediate personal friends in London, but also of those much-loved brethren in faith, in whose defence he had lifted his mighty voice, and for whom he had denounced the Church of Scotland. Mr. Scott, though entertaining the full conviction that miraculous gifts were part of the inheritance of Christians, and after doing much to perfect that belief in Irving's own mind, as well as in those of the first ecstatic speakers, had totally refused his sanction to the present utterances; and the two friends were now separated to drift further and further apart through all imaginable degrees of unlikeness. Mr. Campbell, for whose distinctive views Irving had
INQUIRIES OF MR. CAMPBELL.
stood forth so warmly, and whom he had embraced with all the overflowing sympathy and love of his heart, was equally unable to perceive any evidences of Divine inspiration. An impression seems to have prevailed, if not in Irving's mind, at least among several members of his community, that both these gentlemen would naturally fall into their ranks, and add strength and stability to the new Church. I have in my possession notes of a correspondence carried on some time later between Mr. Campbell and some members of the Newman Street Church, in which the Scotch minister had to hold his ground against two most acute and powerful opponents — one of whom was Henry Drummond, brilliant and incisive in controversy, as in most other things -- and to defend and justify himself for not joining them. To lose the sympathy of these special brethren was very grievous to Irving; and he scized the opportunity of explaining the ground of his faith and that of his people in answer to some questions which Mr. Campbell very early in this year
addressed to Mr. David Ker, one of the deacons in Newman Street, and a member of a well-known family in Greenock, in the immediate neighbourhood of which the “gifts” had first displayed themselves. This letter, which I quote, shows that Irving's own faith had needed very
absolute props to support it, and that he had not proceeded so far upon his martyr-path without such trial of doubts and misgivings as could only be quenched by a confidence in his own sincerity and utter trust in God's promise possible to very few men under any circumstances. Once more he reiterated with sorrowful constancy his
certain conviction that to His children, when they asked for bread, God would not give a stone.
“14, Newman Street, February 22, 1833. “MY DEAR BROTHER,–When our dear David Ker asked me counsel concerning the answering of the questions in your letter, touching the ground of faith in spiritual utterance, I deemed it best to take the matter in hand for him altogether, and do now hope to deliver the mind of God to you in this matter. The view of the dear brethren in PortGlasgow,* to wit, the answer of the spirit in the hearer, is the ground of belief in any word spoken by any man or by any spirit; but it is only the basis or ground thereof, and by no means resolves the question in hand. There is a confidence in God which goes far beyond the answer of the spirit, and enables us to walk in the darkness as well as in the light; for His footsteps are not known. This confidence pertaineth to him that is of a pure heart and single eye, and conscious of integrity, and clearness in His sight. I believe that this sustained our Lord in the crooked paths wherein God led him, and that it was, and is, and ever will be, the main, yea, the only evidence by which the prophet, having the word of God coming to him, shall know it is the word of God, and as such speak it; by which also the hearer shall know it is the word of God, and as such hear it. It is true that God leadeth men into temptation, as he did Abraham, and then it is their part to obey implicitly the word of the Lord, and the Lord will bring them out of the temptation to His own glory and to their own good. I declare, for myself and for my Church, that this is almost our entire safety, to wit, confidence that our God will take care of us; for we are not a reasoning people, but we seek to be, and I believe are, the servants of God. Moreover we bave great faith in the stability of an ordinance. We look up to the deacons, and the elders, and the angel of the Church, as standing in the Lord Jesus, and we expect and desire to see and hear Him in their ministry, and we believe that it will be to us according to our faith, and we have found it to be so in times past. But forasmuch as the voice of the
* Where the “manifestations " first took place : see ante, p. 132.