Article on Edward Irvine as Chalmers' Assistant

No figure in the early part of the nineteenth century illustrates the exuberant excitement and interest in prophecy more than Edward Irving. In his meteoric career both the attractions and weaknesses of the millennial movement are magnified. Irving's first recommendation to the public came when he was accorded the opportunity to minister as an assistant to the great Thomas Chalmers, the most celebrated preacher in the whole of Scotland.

In his fascinating biography of Irving, Arnold Dallimore gives this striking comparison of the two men: Chalmers was the Christian statesman. Though his heart was ever evangelically warm, his mind was often absorbed with the problems of applying Christianity on a nationwide scale, and he could appear occupied and reserved. Irving, however, was uninhibited and open, and his nature had in it much that was childlike and uncomplicated. Chalmers' natural bent was for the solid, steady, well-proved things of life, whereas Irving had a flair for the spectacular, the sensational, and that which provoked excitement. The older man was calm and cautious and came to decisions only after careful consideration. But Irving was often moved by impulse and soaring imagination and high idealism that could overrule for him the dictates of logic and reason.

Chalmers was also highly perceptive in his assessments of men. In that regard Irving was markedly different, for in the openness and generosity of his nature he could readily give ear to those who seemed likely to satisfy his penchant for things spectacular and exciting. It is not difficult to understand, then, why this relationship did not continue long. Chalmers was frequently concerned that Irving might do or say something erratic, and Irving did not like standing in Chalmers' shadow. His mind was teeming with ideas, his brilliance as an orator demanded a broader scope for its expression, and his free spirit yearned for an opportunity to give vent to itself. This opportunity came when the Chalcedonian Chapel in London extended him a call to become their minister. After his arrival in London in 1822, his eloquence made him an overnight sensation; and his chapel was crowded every Sunday with the highborn and influential.

The Life of Edward Irvine by Arnild Dallimore. Banner of Truth 1983

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