In Search Of The Origins Of The Pretrib Doctrine:
Part 7: The Pretrib Doctrine Came From A "Revival" Similar To Today's
Have you read Macdonald's vision slowly and thoroughly, following her train of thought? I have read a variety of opinions that vary from her vision being labeled pretrib, Pretrib Partial Rapturism, Midtrib, and Posttrib, depending on what site you are on. I have read it through carefully and thoroughly many times, carefully following her train of thought, and I have to admit that if one has to favor one view over another, it would lean toward a Pretrib Partial Rapture or Posttrib flavor. The confusion as to what scenario it does depict is because it is unscriptural gibberish mixed with thoughts related in various scriptures. Yet, there was no rebuke from Irving towards Macdonald, but the vision was entertained and its ideas readjusted and used by Irving. He apparently didn't understand the occult involvement of Macdonald and Campbell:
"Margaret was also particularly open to the occult. Robert Norton wrote of her and a friend, ‘I have seen both her and Miss Margaret Macdonald stand like statues scarcely touching the ground, evidently supernaturally’. Andrew Drummond tells us that Margaret’s close friend Mary Campbell practiced automatic writing and had intense psychical power and was a medium. Margaret also predicted that socialist Robert Owen was the Antichrist at the time she had her pretribulation vision.(1) Margaret herself began to speak in tongues about four months after her vision in August 1830."
What we are missing when reading the vision, I think, is that about 80% of the vision emphasizes the preparation for the unscriptural secret coming. Norton's book, in which the vision was found, was called THE RESTORATION OF THE APOSTLES AND PROPHETS and there was a "fresh outpouring" of the "Spirit" at that time in various places. This is what accompanied Macdonald's vision and hit Irving's church shortly after this time. In fact, it was through the manifestation and prophecy of a spirit not of God that the "secret coming" message was presented.
I believe it is very possible that what Irving was emphasizing in his letter to Chalmers about reproof and conviction may have impacted him more was an emphasis on this outpouring and preparation for Christ's coming. Which scenario Macdonald's vision portrayed will probably be debated till Jesus comes, but this is for sure: the spirit of tongues and prophecy that was released in Irving's congregation prophesied an unbiblical secret coming and of that there is no debate. But it wasn't just the content of her prophesy that intrigued him. It was also that the gifts he said were lacking in the church were suddenly manifesting in people, namely Margaret and her sister. Thus, Macdonald's vision would have easily been received by Irving as an incentive to open his church up to the supposed Holy Spirit restoring the gifts such as tongues and prophecy to the church as well the restoration of the offices of Apostles and Prophets:
"In July of 1831, Irving mentioned in a letter to a friend, 'Two of my flock have received the gift on tongues and prophesy.'(2) Two years earlier, in his 'Homilies on Baptism,' Irving had taken the established position of the Church of Scotland at that time, that the supernatural gifts of the Spirit had disappeared in the Church, and that one must distinguish between the outwardly manifested gifts of power and the inwardly manifested gift of sanctification."(3)
Irving wold change his mind about the loss of the gifts. Macdonald manifested everything that laid on Irving's heart: a sudden manifestation of tongues and prophesy, visions, a new revelation and insight on the second coming. He must have been extremely intrigued by it all.
The reason I make this important point - pointing out what she said about the "Holy Spirit" preparing the Church for tribulation in her vision (and under the inspiration of that spirit) - is because of a letter Irving wrote to Mr. Chalmers, under whom Irving served. That this most probable is seen in the following quote from a Tim Warner article ("History of Pre-Trib Development - Based partly on the research of Dave MacPherson as found in THE RAPTURE PLOT By Tim Warner"):
"Irving had been preaching that God would restore Apostles and prophets to the Church, and a great Pentecostal outpouring would come just before the soon return of Jesus Christ. Right on schedule, rumors of healings, tongues, visions, and other manifestations began circulating in Port Glasgow, Scotland, from the home of James and George MacDonald, and their sister Margaret. People came from England, Ireland, and parts of Scotland to observe the supernatural manifestations in the "prayer meetings" held by the MacDonalds.
"The "revival" soon spread to Irving's church, with "tongues" and other "manifestations" breaking out, especially among the women. Due to the strange goings on in Irving's church, and his heretical views on the person of Christ, Irving was eventually defrocked by the Church of Scotland, and moved his congregation to a rented hall, forming the Catholic Apostolic Church. (Irving taught that Jesus had a fallen sinful nature and only kept from sinning by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is similar to the teachings of some modern Charismatics, who see Jesus as the "proto-type Christian.") Not only were prophetic revelations and other alleged miracles occurring in Irving's congregation, but such "revelations" seemed to focus on end-time prophecy concerning the coming of the Lord.
"February - June, 1830
"Out of the spectacle of alleged latter-day Holy Spirit outpouring in Scotland and England, and the eschatological influence of de Lacunza's futurist/dispensationalism, emerged the very first documented evidence of a pre-tribulation rapture. This was first articulated in the form of a letter written by Margaret MacDonald, sister of James and George MacDonald of Port Glasgow. In March or April of 1830, after being ill and bed-ridden for about 18 months, Margaret claimed to have seen a series of visions of the coming of the Lord. She wrote down these visions and sent a copy to Edward Irving. A month later (June), Irving claimed in a private letter, that Margaret's visions had a huge impact on him."
Here are excerpts from Irving's letter to Mr. Chalmers, written June 2, 1830. Macdonald's vision was in the spring of this year, probably March or April:
"The second thing which grieves and oppresses my heart with respect to poor Scotland, is the hardness of heart manifest in the levity and cruelty with which they speak of others; . . . the scorn with which they regard the signs of the Holy Ghost beginning to be again vouchsafed to the Church; and, if not scorn, the mere juryman way of considering them, as the House of Commons might, without any respect to any existing promise, or probability, or doctrine of any kind upon the subject, - also without any regard to the discernment of the Holy Ghost in us, and even as if the Holy Ghost were merely a sharpener of our natural faculties to detect imposture or to know sincere persons. The substance of Mary Campbell's and Margaret Macdonald's visions or revelations, given in their papers, carry to me a spiritual conviction and a spiritual reproof which I cannot express. Mr. Cunningham, of Lainshaw, said to me the other day, that he had seen nothing since the Apostles' days worthy to be compared with a letter of Mary Dunlop's which is written to the person of this city. Thomas Erskine and other persons express themselves more overpowered by the love, and assurance, and unity seen in their prayers and conversations than by the works. Oh, my friend! oh, my dear master! there are works of the Spirit and communications of the Spirit which few of us ever dream of! Let us not resist them when we see them in another. Mind my words when I say, 'The Evangelical party in the Church of Scotland will lay all flat if they be not prevented.' I desire my true love to Mrs Chalmers and Miss Anne. May God give you a prosperous journey!"(4)
Irving's emphasis in writing the second half of this letter was that the Holy Spirit's manifestations not be resisted!:
". . . the scorn with which they regard the signs of the Holy Ghost beginning to be again vouchsafed to the Church; . . . The substance of Mary Campbell's and Margaret Macdonald's visions or revelations, given in their papers, carry to me a spiritual conviction and a spiritual reproof which I cannot express. . . . there are works of the Spirit and communications of the Spirit which few of us ever dream of! Let us not resist them when we see them in another. Mind my words when I say, 'The Evangelical party in the Church of Scotland will lay all flat if they be not prevented.'"(5)
Here is the important point that shows Macdonald's vision of a "Secret Coming" is definitely connected to Irving:
It is apparent that Irving tied together a restoration of "the spirit of prophecy" and an expected coming of Christ, which by now was becoming pretribulational. If he so readily accepted this "outpouring," it is logical that he accepted the secret coming part of the vision as well, splitting the coming of Christ. He offered no rebuke towards Macdonald for prophesying by this spirit. This SAME SPIRIT PROPHESIED THROUGH MACDONALD AND ALSO GAVE AN UTTERANCE IN IRVING'S CHURCH. How do we know? Because of Tregelles:
"By 1829 he (Irving) was convinced that the supernatural powers present in the first century should be possessed by the Church 'as surely and richly now as in the days of the Apostles.' The absence of miraculous gifts was the fruit of the Church's long unbelief."(6)
What were these manifestations that hit Irving's church at this time? Here is a description by John MacArthur:
"Then in the early nineteenth century, Scottish Presbyterian pastor Edward Irving and members of his congregation practiced speaking in tongues and prophesying. Irvingite prophets often contradicted each other, their prophecies failed to come to pass, and their meetings were characterized by wild excesses. The movement was further discredited when some of their prophets admitted to falsifying prophesies and others even attributed their "giftedness" to evil spirits. This group eventually became the Catholic Apostolic Church, which taught many false doctrines, embracing several Roman Catholic doctrines and creating twelve apostolic offices."(7)
Church historian Philip Schaff (1819-1893) reported speaking in tongues in an unconscious state in New York:
"Several years ago I witnessed this phenomenon in an Irvingite congregation in New York; the words were broken, ejaculatory, and unintelligible, but uttered in abnormal, startling, impressive sounds, in a state of apparent unconsciousness and rapture, and without any control over the tongue, which was seized as it were by a foreign power. A friend and colleague (Dr. Briggs), who witnessed it in 1879 in the principal Irvingite church in London, received the same impression."
Here is a description of a message being delivered in tongues from Irving's church:
Irving, Dr. Norton, Mr. Baxter, and indeed all who witnessed the phenomena, agree that these utterances, whether in English or in the "tongue," were given in a very loud voice, at first slowly, but gradually attaining to a very rapid yet clear articulation, often also with a singular musical rhythm. Mr. Pilkington having all his wits about him, gives a very minute description of one of the speakers, which has the stamp of truth on it. "Her whole frame," he says, "was in violent agitation, but principally the body, from the hips to the shoulders, which worked with a lateral motion — the chest heaved and swelled, the head was occasionally raised from the right hand, which was placed under the forehead, while the left hand and arm seemed to press and rub the stomach. . . . Then the body stayed, the neck became stiff, and the head erect; the hands fell on the lap, the mouth assumed a circular form, the lips projected, and the 'tongue' . . . came from her in an awful form. During the utterance I observed a violent exertion of the muscles of the jaw-bone, and that the stiffened lips never touched to aid the articulation of the 'tongue,' but they closed apparently enough to express the labials of the English part of the delivery, and instantly resumed the circular form." In general, also, he says that the utterance was preceded by a preparatory sound, which he represents by the syllables "cras-cran-cra-crash," spoken with a sudden and rapid vociferation. He then gives examples of the "tongue," along with his interpretation, which last the reader will take for what it is worth. . . . Irving verily believed these sounds to be the Pentecostal tongues; but as he gives little or no reason for his faith, we may be permitted to doubt whether the sister, with her circular mouth, and stiff neck, and odd words, was a bit more of a Pythoness than Mr. Pilkington of a Daniel."(8)
Not only were tongues and the unconscious state manifested, interrupting the preaching of the word of God was interrupted as well, just as has happened in today's meetings:
"Glossolaly began in Irving's congregation; and before long, to the scandal of many, but to his own delight, his sermons were interrupted by prophets who rose and uttered their message, sometimes, intelligibly, sometimes by the use of tongues."(9)
There is so much of this "move of the Spirit" among those Irving knew that characterizes the "revival" of today. One man cried out, "I have got it" when prayed to receive the Holy Spirit and immediately commanded his sister, near death, to rise and be healed. She did and was and the news spread far and wide.(10) We are familiar with the Holy Spirit being called "It" in today's "revival," but the Holy Spirit is not an "it."
On page 41, Christenson writes of another phenomena found in today's "revival":
"In 1830, at a prayer meeting in the Macdonald household in Port Glasgow, the word was spoken, 'Send us apostles, apostles to prepare the Bride!'(11) In Bavaria, two years earlier, in a Roman Catholic cottage meeting came the word: 'Thus saith the lord, I will again send you apostles and prophets, as at the beginning, and I will pour out my Spirit as in former times.'(12) The promise that God would restore the ancient ordinances of the Church continued to be voiced in words of prophecy, though it seems that no clear idea of what this meant or would involve was prevalent in the movement."
On pages 16 and 17, he writes,
"On October 31, 1832, at a prayer meeting in Irving's home, Henry Drummond, a wealthy businessman and sometime member of Parliament, who was deeply committed to the movement, approached John Bate Cardale, a prominent London lawyer who was kneeling, and had just finished praying for the Church, that she might be clothed with power from on high. Drummond spoke with what was later remembered as 'indescribable power and dignity,' naming Cardale to the office of apostle.(13) A week later, on November 7, the call was repeated, this time through Edward Taplin, later to be named the chief prophet of the movement." Thus emerged into view that which was to become the signal characteristic and claim of the Catholic Apostolic Church, the restoration of the charismatic offices in the Church.
"Over the next two years, eleven other men were called, by prophetic utterance, to complete the college of apostles. Men were called to numerous other offices as well: prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers; 'Angels' (their term for local bishop, or chief pastor of a congregation), elders, deacons; and miscellaneous assisting ministries. On July 14, 1835, the twelve apostles were formally set apart for their calling. Thus, within the relatively short space of five years, a spontaneous movement of considerable diversity had crystallized into one of the most highly formalized ecclesiastical structures in all of Church history. Yet the spontaneity and flexibility of the movement, its sense of purpose and mission, its spiritual sensitivity and quest, and the involvement of its members in a variety of experiences and tasks, was maintained and developed in remarkable degree, as the history of the next several decades amply demonstrates."
Here is an example of the carryings on by the apostle of what was to be a new dispensation:
"Among these gifted persons, one Robert Baxter deserves special mention. He was evidently a weak, excitable, enthusiastic man. Visions of a higher order of inspiration than even the prophetic, to be bestowed upon him, haunted his imagination. He was to be the "apostle" of the new dispensation. The "ministry of the Spirit," not merely "the ministry of the word," was to be laid upom him. He gave himself up to fasting and prayer; tried to exorcise evil spirits; rebuked Irving for slowness of faith. Once a command came to him that he must go to the Lord Chancellor's court, where a message would be put into his mouth that would make the nation tremble; that he would be cast into prison; that then the abomination of desolation would be set up in the land, and Satan would sit in the high places of the land. He proceeded to the court, but no message came to him, though he stood there for three hours waiting for it. He thought he had been deceived. Then he was told, "in the power," that he had misconceived the message; that the imprisonment which he was to suffer was that bondage of the spirit which had prevented him from saying a word. Again a message came to him that he must leave wife and children, and wander over the earth without home or habitation. Then the Scripture,. "If any man provideth not for his own, he hath denied the faith," was brought to mind, and he thought the former revelation came from Satan. Again, he was "in the power" told to declare that the 1,260 years of witnessing had begun; that in three and a half years the saints would be taken up; that ordination by the Church was cut short in judgment, and a new spiritual ministry was to be established; that church and state were accursed; that many of the people, some of the nobles, and the king would be given to the prayers of the people; that the nation and the Church would be destroyed; that pestilence and the sword would overflow the land; but that the people of the Lord would be preserved.
"The full narrative of these wild procedures in the Caledonian Chapel makes a strange chapter in the history of human error. This state of things could not last. Irving, never doubting that these prophetic utterances were from the Divine Spirit, could not check them. The staid members of his flock remonstrated in vain. They had followed him so far with loving zeal. Here they must part. . . . Robert Baxter came to London, and told Irving that he had become convinced that his own claims to Divine inspiration were groundless ; that he had been deceived, and was now sure that he and all the other prophets had been speaking by a lying spirit, and not by the Spirit of God."(14)
Sound familiar? These are the manifestations and practices of today's "revival," and now as then, it wasn't always clear what the Lord meant when He spoke, just like today. They would have to wait and see what the Lord would manifest at a later time to understand.
Irving would have to send people out of the room until they could control themselves as the manifestations would get out of hand. In fact, in writing the book, Christenson said in a chapter titled, "Forgotten Forerunner of the Charismatic Movement,"
"The Catholic Apostolic Church appears to have had no direct influence upon the present-day charismatic or neo-pentecostal movement. Yet its history its teachings, its theological stance, its concerns - in a word, its message, seen as an organic whole - bears striking resemblances to the charismatic movement."
In other words, "this is that." Irving's church today is a discernment tool for today's "revival" and the drive for unity and governance through restored apostles and prophets. Remember, Norton's book with Macdonald's vision was called Restoration Of Apostles And Prophets.
A 59 page article in the October 1863 New Englander and Yale review (Volume 22, Issue 85) in the online Cornell University Library that describes the manifestations and mood of the times during Irving's last years on earth. What is described is exactly what is happening in today's "revival." The link for this article is Edward Irving. While you're there do some more searches for Edward Irving, Robert Baxter, Mary Campbell, Margaret Macdonald and you will find articles from the 1800s describing the events leading up to the "outpouring" and the controversy it caused. What is important is that this "outpouring" was directly tied to the secret rapture and the split second coming of Christ, which was believed to be imminent at that time. The denominations were considered dried up and there was no hope for their restoration, thus the Holy Spirit was said to be outpoured to prepare the Church for imminent coming of Christ. What was to be the Latter Rain outpouring of the Spirit announcing the imminent coming of the Lord was all but dead in 10-12 years, though the church itself did not itself totally fold. Irving died in 1934. "Words of prophecy had spoken concerning him which seemed to promise a great work which he would do in his native land, and he was slow to believe he must die without his seeing their fulfillment."(15) Out of this came not the Millennial kingdom, but Darby taking the invention of a Pretribulation doctrine to the world.
Nothing New Under The Sun: A Restoration Of The Spirit Of Prophecy
The book that contained Macdonald's vision was "The Restoration of
Apostles and Prophets; In the Catholic And Apostolic Church," written by Rev. Robert Norton, M.D. in 1861.(16) It was at this time that the gifts of Spirit and the offices of Apostles and Prophets were, it was claimed, being revived and restored to the Church. Such was the atmosphere in Irving's church at this time, with Macdonald being a member of Irving's Catholic Apostolic Church. Norton, in his introduction to the vision, says it was a result of "the revived spirit of prophecy." What we see in these words is the same thing we are seeing today in the current "revival": the restoration of the apostles and prophets along with the revived spirit of prophecy which is bringing forth "new" revelations and dividing and confusing the Church. Today, this revived spirit has brought forth many "new" revelations that have lead some in the Church into apostasy. The pattern was the same concerning Macdonald and her vision: it is a "new" revelation, as testified to by Tregelles and others, from the revived prophetic spirit and the fruit was the same as it is today: departure from the word of God, confusion and division. Then, as now, the "new" revelation came from a spirit not of God, falsely presenting itself as the Holy Spirit.
Isaiah warned of such false prophets and teachers, prophesying:
Isaiah 8:19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?
20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
The point of all this? THE PRETRIBULATION RAPTURE WAS STARTED OUT OF A MOVEMENT LIKENED TO THAT OF TODAY. Yet, many today expose the current "revival" as apostate while hoping for the return of Christ in the Pretribulation rapture started by Irving! It's no wonder that Darby didn't want The Brethren seen as being associated with the Catholic Apostolic Church.
(1) Paul Fahy, Understanding Ministries citing Dave MacPherson, The Rapture Plot, Millennium III Pub. (1994) pp. 52-53.
(2) Larry Christenson, "A Message to the Charismatic Movement," 1972, p. 34 citing Drummond A. L. "Edward Irving and His Circle," pp. 153, 214, James Clarke and Co., Ltd., London, 1934.
(3) Christenson, p. 34 citing Shaw, P.E., "The Catholic Apostolic Church, Sometimes Called Irvingite, A Historical Study, pp. 30, 36, 237, 1946.
(4) Edward Irving's Letter, From The Life of Edward Irving By Mrs. Oliphant, Hurst and Blackett, 1865, pp 292,293.
(6) Iain Murray, The Puritan Hope (Edinburgh, Banner of Truth, 1971), p.191.
(7) Charismatic Chaos, John F. MacArthur, 1991, p. 234.
(8) The Living age ... / Volume 74, Issue 955
Publisher: The Living age co. inc. etc. Publication Date: September 20, 1862 City: New York etc., PAGE 571.
(9) Ronald A. Knox, Enthusiasm,(Oxford University Press-New York & Oxford) pp. 552.
(10) Christenson, pp. 11-12.
(11) Christenson citing Rossteuscher, Dr. Earnest Adolph. Der Aubau der Kirche Chrisit auf den urspruenglichen Grundlagen. Eine geschichtliche Darstellung seiner Anfaenge, p. 211. Verlag Hermann Meler Nachf., Siegen (first printed in 1871; reprinted 1969).
(12) Ibid, p. 211).
(13) Christenson citing Harper, Michael, "As At The Beginning," p. 13, 1965.
(14) Edward Irving The North American review. / Volume 95, Issue 197
Publisher: University of Northern Iowa Publication Date: October 1862
City: Cedar Falls, Iowa, pp.309-310.
(15) Page 828
(16) Robert Norton's Memoirs of James & George Macdonald of Port-Glasgow (1840), pp. 171-176. The italicized portions represent her account as it appears in shorter form in Norton's The Restoration of Apostles and Prophets; In the Catholic Apostolic Church (1861), pp 15-18.]