Saturday, February 03, 2007

Ministers Behaving Badly: Edward Irving

Edward Irving, pastor of the National Scotch Church, Regent Square, London, liked long services. Long prayers, long Bible-readings and such like were meat and drink to him. When he invited Dr. Thomas Chalmers to preach at the opening of the new church Irving offered to read a chapter from the Bible for him. We give the rest as reported by Chalmers' biographer:
"He chose the very longest chapter in the Bible and went on with his exposition for an hour and a half. When my turn came, of what use could I be in an exhausted receiver? On another similar occasion he kindly proffered me the same aid, adding, 'I can be short.' I said, How long will it take you? He answered, 'ONLY ONE HOUR AND FORTY MINUTES.' Then, replied I, I must decline the favour."
Another minister, Mr. Craig, who was present at the table, added his experience of Irving:
"My friend, Mr. P., invited a party to supper. Some of his guests had three miles to walk home after the meal. But before its commencement, Mr. P. requested Irving, who was one of the party, to read the Bible and expound. He began and continued a discourse, which manifested not even a tendency towards termination until midnight. The supper was of course either burnt up or grown cold. When the clock struck twelve, Mr. P. tremblingly and gently suggested to him that it might be desirable to draw to a close. 'Who art thou,' he replied, with prophetic energy, 'who darest to interrupt the man of God in the midst of his administrations?' He pursued his commentary for some time longer, then closed the book, and waving his long arm over the head of his host, uttered an audible and deliberate prayer that his offence might be forgiven."

It may be safely assumed that Mr. P. never invited Edward Irving to supper again.



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