Noted biblical writers on dispensational lines - mostly of the persuasion known to the world as "Plymouth Brethren"


The Early Years of the Tongues Movement
India and London

The Movement commenced in Los Angeles in 1906. By the next year it was spreading rapidly in India. Bartleman wrote of Wales as the cradle of the Movement, India as the Nazareth where it was brought up, and Asuza Street as the place of its full display. Early in 1907 Mr. and Mrs. A. G. Garr, of Los Angeles, reached Calcutta. Their meetings were marked by characteristic features already considered. That well-known servant of Christ, Lord Radstock, was at that time in Calcutta and strongly disapproved of the meetings. Sundry missionary brethren and sisters became entangled, yet some for only a short time. In India its principal advocate was Max Wood Moorhead, editor of the periodical mentioned, Cloud of Witnesses to Pentecost in India. The third number was dated October 12th, 1907.
The Movement promptly ventured on an audacious prophecy. There lies before me a copy of the handbill that first announced this. It reads: given September 23rd, 1907 (The) Spirit saith — JUDGMENT IS COMING (In) ten months COLOMBO EARTHQUAKE FIRST CEYLON SUNK (IN) SEA This reached Mr. Moorhead in Ceylon, who repeated the whole handbill, of which the above was the beginning, in the issue of his magazine mentioned. He stated that the message was given through a Swedish missionary, and that her fellow lady workers had received confirmation of it. He gave a lengthy account of how by tongues and interpretations the prophecy was continued to him on four occasions. The destruction was fixed for October 16 and 17. Many fled from the City. Mr. Garr and his party departed for Hong Kong.

It is obvious that from the first a lying spirit was deluding members of the Movement in India, including its principal leader. It is instructive to learn how leaders endeavoured to parry the blow at the prestige of the Movement. Six months later T B Barratt was in India. On the 16th May, 1908 he wrote from Coonoor Nilgirt Hills to A A Boddy as follows, which Mr Boddy published in a Supplement to "Confidence" dated June 1908, headed "Important Letters from Pastor Barratt and Others". Mr Barratt said: Of course mistakes have been made here in India as elsewhere. The Apostles even made mistakes after Pentecost But the Lord is taking us on and teaching us in His wonderful school daily. The prophecy concerning Colombo was a mistake. Mr Moorhouse (head) also very emphatically acknowledged it. But our adversaries are constantly trying to find fault and make a tremendous noise at every mistake thus made, as if the whole Revival were to blame for it. They ought to mind their own P s and Q’s."
On the other hand it ought to teach our friends NOT TO LISTEN OR FOLLOW EVERY VOICE THEY HEAR. The Devil’s voice was also heard among the "sons of God" (Job 1:6–9) and you find that he was there for no good purpose. He never is. That’s where the gift of discernment is to be applied, and 1 John 4:1–4. Where voices or a VOICE is heard or some intense impression received to do this or that, let us put the PASSWORD to the power influencing us before allowing it to enter. Every evil spirit or demon is AFRAID OF THE BLOOD OF JESUS. IT ACTS LIKE POISON TO THEM. Spiritualists hate it,which is a very good proof. And no evil power will recognise Christ as having come in the flesh or acknowledge Him as King and Lord (1 Cor. 12:3) Then we are PERFECTLY SAFE having been sprinkled with the Blood and are kept by HIS POWER.
But his acknowledgement was by no means so immediate or spontaneous as could have been expected. One who was at that time intimate with him informs me that it was only after long and severe pressure by himself that Moorhead at last acknowledged his false position. Ought Mr. Barratt to have been indignant that lookers-on took notice of this prophecy? The Movement had suddenly thrust itself forward as blessed with a revival of supernatural gifts of tongues, interpretations, and prophecies. Was it of no significance for the public that so early a palpably false prophecy was spread over the land? Very plainly it was everybody’s business not to be misled. And was the matter a mere "mistake" and if so, whose mistake was it? Mr. Moorhead affirmed categorically that the prophecy was given in tongues to a Christian woman, was confirmed by at least two others, and was reaffirmed supernaturally to himself on four occasions. It were extraordinary that so many persons, on so many occasions, made exactly the same "mistake." It were wonderful, if it were only a mistake, that the Lord did not enlighten them, or the very many that read the prophecy, during the weeks that intervened before the date predicted, but left them all to be undeceived by the failure.

There is no explanation but that a spirit deceived them and kept them deceived. This Mr. Barratt virtually admitted by adding his strong warning against being misled by evil spirits. In the spring and summer of that year, 1908, that Mr. Barratt was there the centre of the Movement was at Coonoor, the lovely district on the Nilgiri Hills where English officials and others resided, or gathered for the hot season. Christian workers from all parts of India resorted thither, and it was a spiritually strategic centre. From April of the next year again, 1909, I was there for many months. The failure of the prophecy had called a halt in the Movement, but from several godly persons who had been at the meetings the previous year I received separate and accordant descriptions. Each told of the terrific noise, by sounds like those of birds and beasts, tame and wild, human and non-human, roared forth by many at once. And they spoke of men and women grovelling on the ground, and of ladies going around arranging the skirts of women rolling and kicking on the floor, or covering them with shawls. These facts have been lately confirmed to me in writing by one who was present. Such indecent doings were not limited to India. In November 1913 a report reached me of young women similarly rolling on the floor at meetings in Bedford connected with Mr Cecil Polhill. Leaders of the Movement have expressed surprise at the opposition it encountered in those early days, but such regrettable conduct could not but provoke hostility from right-minded people not blinded and warped by the power provoking these improprieties.

There were resident at Coonoor a godly man and his wife of social standing and refinement. They were universally esteemed as Christians. I had happy spiritual fellowship with them, which was not hindered by the fact that they were leaders in this Movement. "At his "baptism" he spoke in tongues "only a few syllables and this was quite sufficient to bring forth Hallelujahs and shoutings, etc., at about midnight. which we heard in ‘Ochtertyre’, a mile or more away."
Thus writes to me an actor in the events of that early time. I told them what had been told me of the doings at the meetings the year before of which there could be no doubt seeing that so many had given separately the identical details. Their reply startled me. It was that they had been, at the meetings but had never seen such doings. Their sincerity could not be doubted, but how could their ignorance be explained? We will pursue this interesting inquiry in England.

A notable early convert to the Movement was Mr. Cecil Polhill mentioned. He owned Howbury Hall, Bedford, and was wealthy. He was deservedly in high repute in evangelical circles. He was one of the "Cambridge Seven" University men whose united going forth to China as evangelists was the sensation of its time and he had a long record of devoted labour in that land. He received his "baptism" at Los Angeles and forthwith devoted time and wealth to forwarding the Movement in England. To this end in 1908 he took No 9 Gloucester Place in the West End of London, which house was for a time the London centre. Mrs. Boddy and other chief leaders helped in these meetings. Mr. Boddy wrote in "Confidence" (Nov. l908. p.10: Dec. 1908. p.7) that "visitors to the meetings…write and speak very thankfully of these gatherings. They have been a help to many." But there lies before me a very different account by a member of the household. Mrs. Polhill had died and her sister was keeping house for Mr. Polhill and caring for his two children of nine and five years. This was Miss Annie W. Marston, a lady well known and esteemed among evangelical people. She wrote an account of matters at 9 Gloucester Place, addressed to Miss E. Ada Camp, Principal of Carfax Missionary College, Bristol, who showed the letter to me. It read: "We have shut up Howbury and have all, that is Mr. PoIhill and I, the governess, the two little girls of five and nine, and half the servants - come here into the filthiest, dingiest hole I ever stepped into, to stay till just before Christmas, simply and only that Mr. P. may push this tongues movement in London, where all its adherents flock round him and flatter him, for no other reason I am convinced, and on very good grounds, than because they want his money."

Howbury Hall was a stately country mansion, in lovely surroundings. How came it that its owner took his family to stay in a house that could be described as a filthy, dingy hole? He had abundant means and surely could have secured another type of house. The step suggests some abnormal influence at work upon a gentleman of his type and standing. The letter continued "If you could live in this house for a month and see the effect of going into this thing, you would never wonder again whether it is of God or not. Mr. C. 6. Moore [a notable evangelical clergyman of that time] wasn’t one bit too strong when he said to me some months ago, "It comes straight from the pit." This house is swarming with them, between fifty and sixty in a day sometimes rolling and kicking, bellowing, rattling. cackling, singing, shouting, in tongues and without tongues, with words and without words; shaking the whole house and making such noises that you cannot get away from the sound of them. All the servants and the governess are in a state of terror I told Mr. P. that I really believed that it would kill the elder of the two little girls… but he only laughed… The governess says she would not stay in the house half an hour if I left, and I believe the servants would go too, and what would happen to these poor mites ? Their father seldom sees them more than a quarter of an hour a day, sometimes not that. They had Mr. Boddy at Howbury for a week. He is dreadful."

Mr. A. A. Boddy was the son of a clergyman, himself for some years a solicitor, and later a clergyman. What influence was at work upon this cultivated Christian gentleman that he should leave this painful impression upon his hostess, a cultured Christian lady? Personally, and apart from these special doings, he was quite otherwise, an attractive, much-liked gentleman. I have talked with some who knew him well, one of whom was one of his spiritual children. And what influence was at work upon another gentleman such as Mr. Polhill that he should be inattentive to his little children? The letter continued: "Mr. P. spends thousands of pounds on it, and they would like to get thousands more. A gentleman who was up in such matters said to me yesterday, "This will end, you will see, either in immorality or insanity." It has ended in both ways aleady in many, many cases.

Of this last assertion I received written confirmation from a member of the China Inland Mission in Shansi, north China, dated in 1913, from personal knowledge of the Movement there. The Pentecostal Missionary Union was formed in January 1909, the chief promoters being Messrs. Boddy and Polhill. The first worker sent out was one of a family known to me as early as December 1911; her death was announced in "Confidence." It stated only that "she has not been strong of late," and added, "Thou shalt know hereafter." It was not made known that this friend died in deep nervous prostration though in only early womanhood. One of the family circle described it to me as "tragic." An older sister, also a missionary though not of this Mission, plunged heart and soul into these exhausting experiences and died in similar mental collapse. Thus were two truly devoted women worn out prematurely. There is no need to wait till "hereafter" to understand these sad events. An excess of current burns the wire.

Miss Marston’s sombre account of those meetings was confirmed to me by her sister Miss Selina Marston. She endorsed it in detail. She had attended the meetings and spoke of the abnormal noises, the confusion. the terror of the servants, and added that passers by would stop to listen, and that even the police loitered about as if thinking they would be needed within. It was pandemonium Here, then, is the same contradiction as at Coonoor; meetings marked by dire confusion and disorder, but godly persons not discerning this. It is evident that two Christian sisters would not invent such a story concerning the house of their relative; the facts are not to be disputed. It must be taken as equally certain that Mrs. Boddy and others would not deliberately fabricate a totally false account of the gatherings. It seems clear that while in the meetings they lived in a subjective world of their own, which concealed from them the unpleasant doings around. But has the human mind a native power that it can live so isolated and concentrated, cut off from pressing realities around, and in an unreal world?

There is another possible explanation. In 1875 Colonel H. F. Olcott collaborated with Mme. H. P. Blavatsky in New York to found the Theosophical Society. The object was to extinguish the light of Christianity by diffusing in the West the darkness of Eastern Theosophy. The history of this Movement is given in Olcott’s Old Diary Leaves, the True History of the Theosophical Society. Speaking of Mme. Blavatsky’s doings as a powerful medium Olcott narrates (pp. 46, 47) that he saw her go into a room and watched and waited for her to come out, which she did not do. After some time he entered the room and looked round for her, but she was not there. Yet there was only one door in the apartment. He adds: After a while she calmly came out of her room into the passage and returned to the sitting room with me…I was the subject of a neat experiment in mental suggestion…H.P.B. had simply inhibited my organs of sight from perceiving her presence, perhaps within two paces of me in the room…the superior neatness of Oriental over Western hypnotic suggestion is that in such cases as this, the inhibitory effect upon the subject’s perceptive organs results from mental, not spoken, command or suggestion. The subject is not put on his guard to resist the illusion, and it is done before he has the least suspicion of any experiment that is being made at his expense. Olcott declares that Mme. Blavatsky did the same on other occasions. This avowed enemy of Christ was confessedly the conscious agent of various powerful spirits who acted through her. Scripture gives definite instances of the exercise by heavenly beings of this power of inhibiting the faculties of men. A gang of Sodomites were determined to break into Lot’s house, but the two angels who had come to him "smote the men that were at the door of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they wearied themselves to find the door" (Gen. 19:11). Had this been absolute physical blindness they would scarcely have persevered in their attempt; but with the inner vision blurred they could not find a door though all around it. Similarly in II Kings 6:17–20. A detachment of Syrian soldiers had been sent to Dothan to seize Elisha the prophet. His servant was greatly alarmed, but in answer to Elisha’s request, "God opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw, and behold the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha." Gehazi’s physical sight was not affected, for he saw the Syrians; but an inner sight was granted to him to see things ordinarily invisible.
Conversely, in answer to the prayer of the prophet, the Syrians were smitten with blindness (v. 18 twice; the same word as in Gen. 19:11, its only occurrences). Yet this was not physical blindness, for they followed the prophet some fifteen miles from Dothan to Samaria; yet, without knowing it, they passed through the gates of a walled city and saw not their perilous situation until, in answer to a further prayer of Elisha their "eyes were opened, and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria" that is, the inhibition was removed and natural perception was restored.

I thought of this incident when passing through the massive bastions that now flank the entrance to the ruins of that ancient capital. A vivid recent example of this suspension of faculties in modern heathendom is given by George Patterson in God’s Fool (Faber, London. 1956, p.137). On entering the low door of the room the sight that met our eyes was like some hellish exaggeration of the Macbeth witches’ scene. Around the walls of the room were squatting ten old women and one old man chanting some incantation in high pitched monotone, and then dropping to a droning repetition of Om Mani Padme Hum, their magic prayer-formula. Although their eyes were open they gazed unseeingly in front of them and paid no attention to us as we entered hesitantly and sat down on the floor beside them. They had put themselves into a trance by their incantations, and although their bodies moved rhythmically sideways, like pendulums, to the rhythm of their chant, they were not conscious of anything happening in that room at all. It would appear that in Coonoor and in London powerful spirits of darkness inhibited the perceptive faculty, and good people did not see or hear the realities under their eyes, but were caused to see unrealities as real.

Their bona fides need not be questioned; but their own unconsciousness of the dire confusion in which they participated, with their contrary supposition that the gatherings were heavenly in character, had, it is to be feared, the same dread origin. In the early records there are glowing, and I am sure sincere, accounts of the start of the Movement in a certain seaside resort in England. In the course of years I made inquiries of Christian residents who remembered those days. The report was, as usual; of the common distracting noises at the meetings. The leading evangelist of the Movement went around with his tent and established some centres. A resident in one area passing at night the house where the group met, heard the usual alarming sounds and peered through a window. The noises proceeded from a number of men whose condition was such that decency forbids description. One known to me had gone to live in that district specially to share in the meetings. It is small wonder that the end was mental collapse. Two coincident features are thus met:- rapturous accounts by participants in the gatherings, with very opposite features when the details can be tested. After forty-five years further reflection I have found no other explanation than the foregoing of the contradiction involved, gladly as I would do so. It is evident that the testimony of persons under this influence, as to what went on with and around them, is eminently unreliable. This may apply to a vast mass of narrative found in the literature of the Movement.

Testing the Spirits
Occasionally leaders uttered such a warning and exhortation as that of T. B. Barratt quoted in the preceding chapter but I recall no instance in the litera-ture of such a test being made nor did I ever hear of a case. No one seems to have thought of testing the source of Mr. Barratt’s behaviour at the time of his "baptism." It appears to have just been taken for granted that it was of God, which assumption has been too general. I had an early and somewhat painful experience. An intimate personal friends went heart and soul into the Movement. Against the wisdom of her godly husband she went to live near one of the first and most violent centres. Presuming on our friendship I asked her to read a manuscript of mine discussing some aspects of the matter. It was returned unread with the scarcely polite remark, "The Lord will not let me read a thing like that!" What "Lord" moved her to pen such a reply, or thus to shun investigation? Of herself she would have been too courteous to have so written. Some were afraid to test the spirit because it affirmed itself to be the Holy Spirit of God, and to test it would amount to the unpardonable sin. But the Spirit of God has said expressly: "Beloved believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). Therefore a spirit that declines to be tested does thereby reveal itself to be an evil spirit, and one can but see its deceiving power in that any believer does not recognize this.

Many have beguiled themselves, or been beguiled, by reasoning that they had asked the heavenly Father for bread, and would He give them a stone? Most certainly He would not but a deceiving spirit if untested, would gladly do this, and would delude its victim with the notion that a stone is a loaf! There is no limit to the folly of a spirit-blinded Christian. Moreover, a beguiling spirit may exert a subtle power to induce its victim to reject even conclusive testimony against itself, of which the following is an instance. In the very first days of the Movement in another clergyman was an enthusiastic supporter. He was the Rev. J. M. Pollock, brother to Mrs. A. A. Boddy. He told me the following facts and confirmed them in writing. The small son of a neighbour was sick. Mrs. Boddy received in "tongues" intimation that the child would recover and be well. She requested her brother to take this comforting news to the father. On the way the "power" fell on Mr. Pollock and by "tongues" and interpretation he received confirmation of the message: but on reaching the house he learned that the boy was already dead! He pressed upon his sister that it was evidently a deceiving spirit that was operating; but she, upon recovering from the first shock, said that she had received the explanation. They had misunderstood the message, the true import of which was that the boy was to be well in the other world, not in this world! As if it needed a special revelation to tell them this about a little child! By accepting this obvious evasion this leading actor in the Movement at its British centre was more deeply blinded and firmly fettered. Mr. Pollock abandoned the Movement, but was long fiercely harassed by the evil agents he had repudiated it was some years before they ceased to torment his spirit.

Naturally it is in the light of this fact, early made known to me, that I have been compelled to consider with much care later experiences of this estimable sister in Christ, lest she should have been further beguiled from time to time. And the same caution has been constantly required seeing that testing the spirits has been so generally neglected.

False Doctrine
There was also a doctrinal element that made me at first hesitant as to the Movement and presently decided me against it. It was laid down very definitely that to speak with a "tongue" was the indispensable sign that a person had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. This was the general view in the English-speaking world. On the Continent leaders mostly allowed that other signs might prove the anointing. Perhaps no other factor contributed so powerfully to urge earnest souls to seek passionately this one sign. It mattered nothing that most of God’s mightiest servants through the centuries had not received it, though their work was manifestly done through the fullness of the power of the Spirit and could not have been done without it. It did not count that the New Testament does not show that the vast majority of the apostolic believers ever spoke in a tongue. Three instances in Acts, spread over twenty five years (Pentecost, ch. 2, Caesarea, ch. 10, and Ephesus, ch. 19), were assumed to be proof that the many thousands of other believers did so speak in a tongue. I could not feel that the Spirit of truth was the author of such dubious exegesis. It could be urged to the contrary that in 1 Cor. 12:29–30 the apostle asked a series of questions each of which demands a negative answer: "Are all apostles? (No !); are all prophets? (No!); are all teachers? (No!); are all workers of miracles (No!); have all gifts of healings? (No!); do all speak with tongues? (No !) ; do all interpret? (No!)." To meet this objection it was asserted that in this passage, and in Chapter 14, Paul was speaking of the permanent use of tongues, not of the initial baptism. This, however, would involve an impossible contradiction. As to the regular continuous gift, the Lord laid down peremptorily that its use must be marked by self-control, decency, and order; but, according to the manifestations in the Movement, the initial gift was all too often marked by absence of self-control, indecency, and disorder.

Such a manner of avoiding a difficulty confirmed me that the Spirit of God was not the Teacher of these teachers, as regards this dogma, which they held as vital. To support the distinction between the initial and the permanent gifts it has been urged that in 1 Cor. 14:27 it is ordered that in the church speaking in tongues was to be "in turn," not two or more together; but that at Pentecost (Acts 2) they all spoke simultaneously. But where does the narrative say this? The saints then gathered were the church of that time and the rule as to order should apply. Moreover, had 120 men and women been all talking at the same time it would have been difficult for the hearers each to pick out his own language.

For long the Movement in general insisted on these doctrines, though some have now wisely abandoned them. In this connection it ever seemed to me remarkable how very few really capable teachers grew up in the Movement, judging from its extensive literature. Testifiers and exhorters abounded: few showed even natural aptitude for teaching. not to say a spiritual gift for it. In a Movement claiming quite special enduement of the Spirit it should have been the reverse of this, seeing that teachers are one of the distinct gifts of the ascended Lord (Eph. 4:11), this gift being of far more general value than the use of tongues. But far more serious doctrinal error developed. On January 24th, 1918, J. Holland, an earnest Christian. who went to prison for his conscientious objection to military service, told me that he had been a member at a Mission at Caeran, Glamorganshire. In 1910 or 1911, and thus quite early in the Movement, a group of members of the Movement who belonged to that district, but who had, he believed, been to Sunderland, came to the Mission, and one of them, speaking at the gospel service declared that Christ surrendered His deity on becoming man and only resumed it after His resurrection. The others of his party supported their speaker. The outcome was division in the Mission.

But there was a doctrinal lapse more serious and distressing because it occurred at the chief centre of the Movement in England and was uttered by one of its chief persons. In 1909 there was an International Congress at Sunderland, the proceedings at which were reported in Mr. Boddy’s magazine "Confidence" (June 1909, 132, 133). One of the speakers was Mrs. Boddy. It may be remarked that she spoke as a teacher, her address being the expounding of a doctrinal theme. From 1 Cor. 11:4, 5, it is clear that women as well as men were used by the Spirit in praying and prophesying in the church: but from 1 Timothy 2:12, it is equally clear that women were not to teach in the church; the reason being that the office of teacher carries authority. and the woman is not to rule over the man. This direction should have prevented the present feature in the Assemblies of God branch of the Movement that they now have women "pastors." In those very early days there were several very prominent women teachers who, with the concurrence of the brethren, simply ignored the injunction in 1 Tim. 2:12. At the Congress mentioned Mrs. Boddy offered instruction upon the topic "Everything Yielded to Death," and she said: We must remember that our Lord was the God-man. He was human though without sin, but so controlled by the Divine Spirit of God that of Himself "He could no nothing." Everything He did was to fulfil the Scriptures. He was the living Word carrying out the Written Word, and giving the world the pattern of a God-possessed man. Step by step He brought everything human under the power of God. The last thing He did was to commend His own Spirit unto the Father, having proclaimed to Heaven and Hell in "It is Finished" the stupendous fact that on the Cross everything carnal had been brought to an end and there remained only a body born of incorruptible seed, "begotten out of God," soon to be "raised by the glory of the Father" to be "the firstborn of many brethren.

Obviously this is utterly subversive of the truth as to the human nature and body of the Lord Jesus. It was not His "Spirit" that He gave up to the Father at death, but it was His "spirit," that human spirit with which He had been endowed at birth as is every child of a woman. From His Divine Spirit He was, of course, inseparable in the unity of Deity. Then again, if it was only step by step that He brought everything human under the power of God, then most of His life there was that in Him which was not subordinate to God. If it was not till the cross that everything carnal was brought to an end, then all His days there was the carnal in Him; and, by consequence, not earlier than the cross was He fit to atone for our sins, nor could have been wholly well-pleasing to the Father. Had the speaker understood and meant what she said, then the painful fact would have been that a person prominent in the Movement uttered fundamental heresy as to the Person of Christ, and taught the error publicly at an international gathering of the Movement. But other utterances of Mrs. Boddy show that this was not so. Indeed, she began here by stating the truth that our Lord was without sin, which, however, she at once contradicted. It is not likely that she was a trained theologian. The alternative is that another spirit than her own used her unconsciously to teach falsehood as to the humanity of the Son of God. This, however, confirms that at the start of the Movement, and at its very heart in England, a lying spirit was operating. Many statements by Mr. Boddy show that he was wholly true as to the person of our Lord; he appears to have been a sound evangelical clergyman. Now as a clergyman he had been trained in theology: how was it, then, that he did not at once detect this fundamental falsehood, but went on to publish it in his magazine?Again, Los Angeles, the place of origin of the Movement, had a magazine, The Upper Room. In the issue for August that year, 1909, the Editor spoke highly of "Confidence" and of the Congress and quoted Mrs. Boddy’s utterance. Thus this destructive heresy was spread world-wide by chief leaders in chief magazines of the Movement.

Seventy-five years earlier than this Congress a movement claiming supernatural gifts had arisen in the Clyde area of Scotland. Delegates from Edward Irving’s church in London went north to investigate and carried back to London the power of this movement. Prophets and prophetesses arose in Irving’s church. He did not himself receive any "gift" but he fully accredited the "gifted" persons in his congregation, declaring publicly that God spoke through them. The features of the modern Movement developed there: loud speaking, ecstatic emotion, with great emphasis on the speedy return of Christ to the earth, an emphasis not warranted, as events have shown. Patently false prophecies were also made. [Lang is referring here to Margaret MacDonald who, in February 1830, prophesied that the "Sign of the Son of Man" (Matt 24:30) was the invisible coming of the Lord "in the air" for prepared believers only.]

It is solemn and striking that in the midst of this spiritual confusion Irving announced publicly precisely the same false doctrine that Mrs. Boddy declared. To one of the chief prophets in his circle, Robert Baxter, he put this in writing, under date April 21st, 1832, as follows: Concerning the flesh of Christ... I believe it to have been no better than other flesh, as to its passive qualities or properties, as a created thing. But that the power of the Son of God, as son of man, in it, believing in the Father, did for His obedience to become son of man, receive such a measure of the Holy Ghost as sufficed to resist its own proclivity to the world and to Satan and to make it obedient unto God in all things ...I say not that Christ has the motions of the flesh, but the law of the flesh was there all present ; but that whereas in us it is set on fire by an evil life, in Him it was, by a holy life, put down, and His flesh brought to be a holy altar, whereon the sacrifice and offerings for the sin of the world, and the whole burnt-offerings of sorrow and confession and penitence for might ever be offered up. (Baxter’s Narrative of Facts, 41).

Upon this Baxter commented justly that there was in Christ’s flesh "a proclivity to the world and to Satan," and that Christ received "such a measure of the Holy Ghost as sufficed to resist" this proclivity, is a doctrine so fearfully erroneous that I cannot conceive anyone who has at all learned Christ, unless he be blinded by delusion, can allow himself for a moment to entertain. The words "blinded by a delusion" are the true explanation of how godly persons like Edward Irving and others here mentioned allowed and spread this fatal doctrine. For, according to these utterances, the human nature of the Lord had in it the law of the flesh, as in the rest of mankind; but by a holy life this flesh was "brought to be a holy altar" (note "brought to be," that is, progressively; even as Mr. Boddy later said, "Step by step He brought everything human under the power of God"), and so become at last a suitable vehicle to bear the sins of the world. This doctrine was declared by Irving’s "gifted" associates to be assuredly true. In his book, In the Days of the Latter Rain, pp. 59–60, T.B. Barratt left himself open to the charge that, if he did not actually hold this teaching of Irving, of which he showed he had heard, he regarded it as no more serious than sundry controversial questions that divide Denominations, and which therefore could be tolerated. Now no one speaking by the Spirit of Christ would in the least tolerate it but would instantly and earnestly repudiate it.
Go to Next Section

Home | Links | Writings | Biography