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South CAROLINA CONVENTION in December, 1860, to the capture of New. Orleans, inclusive.
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The Life of Edward Irving, Minister of the National Scotch
Church, London. Illustrated by his Journals and Correspondence. By Mrs. OLIPIANT. New York: Harper & Brothers, Franklin Square. 1862.
Mrs. OLIPhant has done a good work for the Christian public in writing the Life of Edward Irving. The history of any man whose religious and spiritual influence has been widespread, cannot but be interesting to all who take pleasure in tracing the movements of the Spirit of Christ in His Church. For nearly forty years the name of Edward Irving has been familiar in religious circles almost as a household word ; although few, comparatively, have known anything more of him than that he was a preacher of extraordinary eloquence, who believed in " Tongues and Prophesyings," and was cast out of the Church of Scotland for an alleged heresy touching
the Human Nature' of Christ, but was still clung to by a party commonly called after his name. It is now almost thirty years since he died, and the publication of Mrs. Oliphant's book at this time, when much of the dust and smoke of the conflicts in which he was so strenuous a combatant have passed away, affords a good opportunity for bringing into review the character of this remarkable man, and ascertaining what he really believed and taught, and what his influence has been both upon the Theology and Spiritual Religion of our time.
As we aim at giving as full and accurate an account of his life and labors as our limits will allow, we shall draw freely on Mrs. Oliphant, (whose work we would recommend to our readers as a most delightful biography, not altogether free from exaggerations, and the spirit of hero-worship, but in the main a faithful and vivid portraiture); preferring, however, as far as possible, to let Mr. Irving, almost all whose writings lie before us, be his own historian and advocate. Many beautiful passages are scattered through them all, bearing the stamp of his intense individuality, and shedding light upon his outward and inward life, some of which, we are sure, our readers will thank us for extracting.
He was born in the "peaceful little Scotch town of Annan," which is separated from England only by the Solway Firth, on the fourth of August, 1792. Of all Protestant lands, Scotland was that in which the authority of the Word of God had been most insisted on, and the dignity of the preacher's office best maintained; and where, also, the manifestations of the Spirit had taken on most of the prophetic form, as the lives of Knos, and Wishart, and Welch, and of the Covenanters show. It was a suitable birth-place for one who was to be the great Preacher of his time, and by whom the purposes of God as to the Future were to be discoursed of with unwonted fullness and power. He was of the sturdy Presbyterian stock, and Annandale was full of the graves of its martyrs, and of stirring traditions of their sufferings and heroism. When a child, “it was his occasional habit on Sundays to walk five or six miles to the little village of Ecclefechan, in company with a pilgrim band of the religious patriarchs of Annan, to attend a little church established there by one of the earlier bodies of seceders from the Church of Scotland.” These scenes and associations of his early life made a very deep impression upon his mind. Long afterwards, when in the inidst of his labors and conflicts, he thus spoke of them: “Oh! to me, believing the wisdom of God which spake all these heavy woes, it is a fearful thing to see how common and cheap the name and the story and the memory of men are become, whom I have been wont to hold dear; whose graves with solitary foot I have visited in my youth, and wept over, when I thought of the barbarous cruelty which had laid them there."
Ilis parents were Gavin Irving, a tanner, descended from a family of French refugees* who had long lived in Scotland,
* We extract from our note book the following account of a visit once made by Mr. Irving to some descendants of this family, as it was given to us by Mrs. Irving in 1843:—“Many hundred years ago, three brothers of the Albigenses of the name of Howie, fled to Scotland from the persecutions they suffered in their own land, and planted themselves in a secluded, desolate place by a moor, which is in the possession of the family to this day. From them Mr. Irving was descended by his mother's side; and having great reverence for antiquity, and strong family attachments, he determined to seek out this branch of his kindred of whom little had been known for a hundred years. When he approached the house, he heard a voice, and on entering he found the two brothers (descendants of that Howie who wrote the Scottish Worthies ') with their servant-constituting the whole family-assembled for prayer. He knelt down with them, and when the prayer was ended, he told them who he was, and why he had come. They received him kindly, and invited him to stay with them all night. He so won upon their affections, that in the morning one of them took him into an inner room, and showed him many interesting relics—amongst them a banner borne by one of their ancestors at the battle of Bothwell Bridge, with this inscription: For Fellock,*
and God.' The middle space was left blank be. cause they would not insert the name of an uncovenanted king. There was also a drum, beat by one of the family at the same battle. The brother showed him, also, thirty broad pieces, (Prussian coin), concerning which he told the following interesting story: During the bloody persecution in the time of Claverhouse, this family, though living in so secluded a spot, were often invaded by the ‘troopers.' As a means of security, a turf wall was built some distance from the house, on which some one was usually stationed night and day to give warning when the soldiers were coming. It was a common thing to take refuge in the bog, standing for hours and
* The name of the parish. The spelling may be wrong.
and Mary Lowther, the “ handsome and high-spirited daughter of a small landed proprietor in the adjacent parish of Dornock;" and he was one of “eight stalwart sons and daughters." The father seems to have been a silent and somewhat austere man, with rigid notions of discipline, shown in always upholding the authority of the village schoolmaster, however sternly exercised; but the mother was of a gentle type, “great,” says Mrs. Oliphant, “in all that sweet personal health, force, and energy, which distinguished her generation of Scottish women." In such a household, the children must have been trained to habits of obedience, and to a reverential spirit, without the loss of childlike freedom and joyousness. “It was wont to be the rule amongst our fathers," Mr. Irving once said, when preaching on Relationships, “Do my bidding, and ask no reasons. "Obey!' 'And why should I obey?' 'Because your father or your mother hath commanded you. I have seen a mother stand by while a father quelled with sore correction the obstinacy of a child, and turn away her face and weep, but never interfere with word or sign, because she knew it was wholesome discipline.”
Religion was at a low.ebb in Annan, but many of the forms of better days survived, which the Spirit, who breatheth where he listeth, could use as the vehicles of life and grace. “Household psalms still echoed of nights through the closed windows, and children, brought up among few other signs of piety, were
sometimes days up to the neck in water, where the horses of the dragoons could not follow them. One day, the child set as sentinel on the wall, cried out, "Father, the troopers are coming.' He instantly prepared to flee to the bog, but as he was leaving, his wife put into his hands a purse containing thirty broad pieces, that if he should be compelled to flee elsewhere, he might have something for his support. He ran towards the moor, but finding the soldiers gaining on him, he threw away the money, marking with his eye the spot where it fell. He succeeded in making his escape, but on returning home could never find the broad pieces. The tradition was handed down in the family that a purse had been lost near the bog, and search was made from time to time, but in vain. At last, as one of these brothers was driving the cows to pasture one Sabbath morning, he saw something shine as one of them lifted up her foot. It instantly flashed on his mind that these were the thirty broad pieces his great-grandfather had lost, and on returning to the place Monday morning (for he would not violate the Sabbath by searching for them) he found them all.'”