Dear Martin (Hnizdill)
I understand that you do not agree that Wm Irvine began the group in which you are a minister. Perhaps you believe a group of men started it (rather than one man being Wm Irvine) as George Walker wrote the USA Selective Service in 1942. In any event, it was NOT started on the shores of Galilee as we were taught by workers everywhere in the USA. It was started a mere 110 years ago, regardless of whether it was by one man or several.
I was born and raised in this group and grew up on the Jackson, MS convention ground. I professed from an adolescent until I was 42. I left meetings in 1990. I was shocked when I first heard someone say that a man started the way about a century ago. I was greatly disturbed and I decided to prove or disprove it. This goal took me several years to complete, and I am still adding to it. I am considered a historian and researcher of the friends and workers group. I have a large archive of material by and about the friends and workers group.
My very thorough investigation proved that it was definitely Wm Irvine who started the group you preach for in 1897 in Nenagh, N. Ireland. I’ve visited Ireland and Scotland confirming this fact, and have verified nearly every known detail about his life and that of other early workers also. I collect information about the workers on the Earliest Workers List, which is dated 1905. I will be writing the rest of this letter from the perspective of my belief that Wm Irvine started it. After coming to accept that it WAS started a little over 100 years ago, this question usually follows on its heels:
How can “this way” (the one in which you are preaching) be God’s only way on earth?
Is there good scriptural reason to believe so? Or is it merely man’s reasoning?
Where do you find that God had only one way in the Bible, (that didn’t mean Jesus Christ)?? I was shocked when no worker was able to show me a single place in the scripture. I had thought that these people who give their very lives for this very hard method surely have several scriptures that back up that it’s God’s only way. Surely, I must have missed the scripture somehow–but I was wrong. They could not produce any. Can you? How could the workers give up normal lives including homes, spouses, children, family time, etc. and be celibate, when they had NO scripture that the way they are in is God’s ONLY true way? Apparently, the basis for giving up their lies was merely their opinion. I found this beyond amazing. They could surely give their lives in God’s evangelistic service in far more pleasant methods.
Did you know the workers didn’t always believe their method was God’s only right way on earth? It changed 7-10 years after their method began of workers going out 2×2 under Wm. Irvine on faith lines. Only THEN, did they decide their way was “God’s only right/true way,” and they became “God’s only true servants and saints;” and came to view all other religious bodies, Christians and ministers as “false,” and therefore, not among God’s chosen people. THIS WAS NOT ALWAYS THEIR VIEWPOINT! Their beliefs and methods changed drastically!
When they first began preaching—there were no meetings in the home. Their converts stayed in their own local churches or associated with the church of their choice. They didn’t believe they were the only Christians, and they didn’t separate themselves from other Christians. Their current baptisms were accepted. Their converts didn’t meet in homes, except for the occasional meetings in a mission. There were several married worker couples. The Carrolls and Gills continued to hold their appointed/elected offices in the Church of Ireland in Rathmolyon. AFTER they were converted by Wm Irvine. (I have the church records in my files; I’ve been inside their church)
Looking back over the decade between 1897 and 1907, it’s obvious the outlook of the Tramp Preachers as they were called in the newspapers then changed considerably. They went:
• FROM assembling and worshipping with other Christians in various denominations…
• TO separating themselves and forming their own church meetings in homes.
• FROM believing there were many Christians everywhere…
• TO believing that ONLY those who professed through William Irvine or one of his workers had a chance of getting through Heaven’s gates.
• FROM aspiring to restore the Apostles’ ministry and methods to the world…
• TO believing that salvation could be obtained ONLY through the sacrificial ministry of Irvine and/or one of his workers.
• FROM viewing their group as God’s children in the midst of all His other children…
• TO believing they were God’s ONLY true children on earth.
• FROM believing they were saved PRIOR to meeting Wm Irvine…
• TO disregarding and renouncing their prior salvation experience.
• TO nullifying their former baptisms and being RE-Baptized by workers.
• FROM viewing others outside their group as brothers and sisters in Christ…
• TO “unchristianizing” all other Christians outside their fellowship.
• TO refusing to worship with outsiders.
• FROM viewing evangelists and preachers of other denominations as fellow laborers in Christ…
• TO viewing them as false preachers or prophets.
• FROM placing a bag at the door of workers’ missions to receive donations
• TO the current methods of receiving monies (handshakes, envelopes, signing over estates, etc.)
HOW DID THEIR METHOD GET TO BE GOD’S ONLY RIGHT WAY?
In this way that erroneously claims to be the same yesterday, today and forever, how was this decision reached to change their beliefs? Who reasoned to the above conclusions??
Martin, you may have heard of the term THE LIVING WITNESS DOCTRINE (LWD). It is speculated, with good reason, that the workers came to view their method of 2×2 preaching as “God’s Only Right Way,” BECAUSE they were influenced by a popular religious theory in circulation at that time. This theory, commonly known as “The Living Witness Doctrine,” was originated by Henry Drummond and published in 1890 in a book titled: “Natural Law in the Spiritual World.”
Drummond drew a comparison between a Christian’s natural life and spiritual life. He pointed out that there has existed in the world of science for hundreds of years, two opposing views regarding the Origin of Natural Life; one that matter can spontaneously generate life, and the other that life can only come from pre-existing life. According to Henry Drummond, these two viewpoints have also existed for years regarding the Origin of Spiritual Life in the Christian world.
Drummond reduced these concepts to an EITHER-OR proposition: EITHER (1) spiritual life could be generated spontaneously, without the help of man, (i.e. just by reading the Bible, through the Holy Spirit’s dealing, praying/speaking directly to God, etc.) OR (2) spiritual life could only come from another spiritual life (one must hear and profess through another born again Christian.) Viewpoint No. 2 is referred to as the “Living Witness Doctrine.” The two concepts are mutually exclusive. One cannot believe in spontaneous generation AND accept “that life can only come from pre-existing spiritual life.”
Drummond’s theory of the “Living Witness Doctrine” was derived from an analogy–not from a Biblical passage. Drummond believed that what occurs in natural life also occurs in spiritual life; that what was true in natural life was also true in spiritual life. Since life can only come from something or someone who is alive in natural life, so also in spiritual life, there can be no spiritual life without a previous spiritual life. Drummond concisely stated this: “without life, there can be no life.” For example, in nature, animals and plants reproduce like kind; therefore, spiritual sheep could only be reproduced from spiritual sheep. In the chapter “Biogenesis,” of his book Natural Law in the Spiritual World, Drummond theorized that:
“Life can only come from the touch of life.”
“Life begets life.”
“There is no life without antecedent life”
“That life can only come from pre-existing life.”
When Irvine and his workers, who viewed themselves as the only ones who truly had spiritual life, applied Drummond’s theory to their group, they reached the conclusion that ONLY those who were touched by (or professed through) Wm. Irvine and/or his workers could possibly be saved and receive eternal life. This restricted salvation to those who entered through “the door” held open by Irvine, his workers and their successors
As Drummond pointed out, the two beliefs are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE; i.e. spontaneous spiritual generation and the Living Witness Doctrine. Obviously, if people could be saved without the workers, then it would not be true that God required preachers to forsake all and go preach according to Matthew 10, as they were doing. Conversely, if it were true that God required preachers to forsake all and go preach according to Matthew 10, then people could only be saved through the workers. Since the workers had elected to believe they were essential to salvation, then it follows they did not, and they still do not believe anyone can be saved unless they hear and accept Christ through one of them.
A Literal Analogy goes from the known to the unknown; from an actual case to a prediction or inference. The basic format of an analogy is: “this is like that;” “X is like Z.” From things which resemble each other in some respect, it MAY be inferred that they will also resemble each other in some other respect. Valid inferences can be made when two items or cases are compared which are (1) in the SAME CLASS (2) SIMILAR in ESSENTIAL aspects; and (3) are EQUAL in value. However, the very BEST a Literal Analogy can do is to point to a high degree of PROBABILITY–it cannot PROVE anything. SOMETIMES–but NOT ALWAYS–it may be assumed that what is true in one case will also be true in another SIMILAR case.
What these young men (preachers) did not realize was that a comparison or analogy is NEVER PROOF. Drummond’s comparison of natural life with spiritual life was not proof by a long shot. To infer something from one item being compared to another item, it is ESSENTIAL that the items being compared MUST be in the SAME CLASS. Since Natural Life and Spiritual Life are not in the same class, nothing can be inferred from the one life to the other with any degree of reliability. One may ILLUSTRATE the other, but it offers no value as to CERTAINTY or proof.
In the case of Drummond’s analogy of Biogenesis, natural life and spiritual life are not in the same class. Therefore, nothing can be concluded from the Biogenesis analogy. In reality, religion has nothing to do with the natural life; i.e. what is true in natural life cannot be said to always hold true in spiritual life. Scientific evidence has shown that natural life can be produced only from prior life—and tells us nothing about spiritual life.
In 1907, THE LIVING WITNESS DOCTRINE BECAME MANDATORY. Let us review the ages of the workers at the time they made this momentous decision. Except for Wm Irvine, Willie Gill, and Eddie Cooney, who were in their early forties, the rest were young men and women in their early twenties. The American Family Immigration History Center at Ellis Island passenger records show that William Irvine, George Walker and Irvine Weir arrived in the United States on September 14, 1903, with Irvine being 40 years of age; Geo. Walker, 26 years of age, and Weir was 25 years of age. Arriving on May 16, 1904, were John Carroll, age 25, Mary (May) Carroll, age 24 and Charles Glenn, age 27.
These youth, from a variety of religious backgrounds, were full of zeal and zest, and lacking in life experience, training and education. They were NOT born and raised in “the truth,” since it was not existing when they grew up. In the first 10 years of the group’s infancy, the conclusions arrived at by these youth evolved to the point that they believed the method they preached in was “God’s Only Right Way.” Seriously, think about this. How do you view the conclusions and reasoning of young people the age of these young men today?
These very YOUNG volunteer workers used their fallible, human reasoning and decided the ministry and method they invented through experimentation, was “God’s Only Right Way.” Actually, it is irrelevant whether or not their decision was due to the influence of Drummond’s analogy which had impressed the minds of these young men. The fact is that by the year 1907, ten years after it was started, BY MEN’s CHOICE, the Living Witness Doctrine became an integral and inseparable part of their doctrine, and remains so to this day. In 1907, it became mandatory for ALL the workers to believe, preach and teach this concept.
The workers and converts (1) began to deny their earlier conversions to Christ before they met Wm Irvine or one of his workers; and (2) they began to “unChristianize” those who had NOT been converted to Christ through Wm. Irvine or one of his workers. In other words, some workers began to renounce their earlier experiences when they accepted Jesus into their lives and also to reject the “born again” experiences of other Christians. They introduced “RE-baptism into their fellowship; which was the beginning of refusing fellowship with Christians of all other denominations; and raising a sectarian barrier which made their fellowship exclusive and sectarian.” (John Long’s Journal, July 1906)
This new doctrine made it impossible for any of them to have been born again BEFORE Wm Irvine began his 2×2 preaching method, or in other churches, or through personal experiences. It rendered their former salvation experiences when they felt the Lord dealing with them as null and void. Jesus said: “No man cometh to the Father but by me.” Now the workers were saying: “No one can be saved but by us.”
This was not a problem for those who became Christians in the meetings of Wm Irvine’s workers, but it was a problem of GIGANTIC proportions for some of those who believed they were saved BEFORE they met Wm Irvine. Some left the work for this reason; others were forced out for not embracing it. The Living Witness Doctrine also led to the “unchristianizing” of all others outside their fellowship and also to refusing to worship with them. This meant relegating family members and friends to the category of “unsaved,” and some found this difficult, if not impossible to do in good conscience. It is one thing to discern those who do not follow Jesus, and another thing to criticize those who imperfectly follow Jesus.
Further, since they reasoned that Irvine’s method of ministers going out to preach by the Matthew 10 pattern was “God’s only true way,” consequently, they felt they owed their salvation to Irvine’s
“REVELATION FROM GOD.” This, in turn, made Wm Irvine the Father or “Spiritual Adam,” through whom all successive workers received their spiritual life. Many then, as well as in the present generation, held the viewpoint that Wm Irvine received THE GREAT REVELATION of the true essence of Christianity. And so THE GREAT EXPERIMENT turned into “The Great Revelation.”
Curiously, the Living Witness Doctrine was not “revealed” identically to all the workers. In other words, not every worker viewed the concept as a “REVELATION FROM GOD.” While the Living Witness Doctrine was accepted by most of the workers, some resisted. Some did not agree with the uneducated, untrained evaluation of their co-workers of Drummond’s popular religious theory.
Some saw a problem with this theory because the Living Witness analogy broke down when applied to the source of Wm. Irvine’s spiritual regeneration. “Who was before Wm Irvine?” If Drummond’s theory was true, and spiritual life begets life, then how did Irvine get HIS spiritual life? How could Wm. Irvine profess through Rev. John McNeill in 1893, and truly be saved since Rev. McNeill was either Presbyterian and/or associated with D. L. Moody’s revival campaigns and was also the pastor of Christ Church Westminster Bridge Road, London. Rev. McNeill was NEVER a 2×2 worker or follower of the 2×2 sect.
Wm Irvine wrote: “72 years ago I was born into a Presbyterian family; 42 years ago I was born into the family of which Jesus is the head, as Adam is of the human family. A Presbyterian preacher was the means. He told me the right thing–to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved. But I began to live by what God revealed through Jesus.” (January 8, 1934 Letter to Mr. Billett)
For some, things just didn’t add up or compute, and the addition of the Living Witness Doctrine left far too many unanswered questions for their comfort. Before Wm Irvine received his alleged “REVELATION,” how did God work with people in countries where there had been no workers to ever preach there? Where in eternity are all the generations who died before Wm Irvine received his “REVELATION” to start his ministry?
Others had trouble reconciling various scripture passages with all the ramifications of the Living Witness Doctrine. Jesus said: “I am The Way, The Truth, and The Life.” Yet, the Living Witness Doctrine made the Workers out to be “the Way.” Paul wrote Timothy that “the Holy Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim. 3:15) Yet, the Living Witness Doctrine said the Scripture alone could NOT give spiritual life without the help of a worker. Remember Paul’s conversion? He said, “For I certify you brethren that the gospel which was preached by me is not after man, for I neither received it of man neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:11-12) There was NO professing worker or saint involved in Paul’s conversion. Yet, the Living Witness Doctrine claims there MUST be a worker involved.
In the Seed and Sower Parable, the sower doesn’t give the seed life–the seed has life in itself. The sower (worker) only sows the seed (Word)–he doesn’t give it life. It wasn’t the sower, but the seed that was important. Yet, the Living Witness Doctrine claims the seed could only generate life when sowed by a worker. Paul said: “There is ONE God and ONE Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus …” (I Tim. 2:5) Yet, the Living Witness Doctrine made the workers mediators of salvation from God to man.
Ed Cooney was NOT happy about the Living Witness Doctrine development. At first, he opposed it; but then reconsidered and preached it for four years (1907 to 1914). In 1914, he renounced it and bitterly regretted ever going along with it at all. “Edward Cooney said he proselytised his conscience for 4 years by accepting this, so as to avoid offending his brethren. But afterward he denounced it as a heresy.” (Transcript of taped conversation with Fred Wood speaking of the Living Witness Doctrine) Others who did not believe it were John West, owner of Crocknacrieve convention grounds, and worker Tom Elliott.
In 1907 they began putting out workers who didn’t go along with the only way myth! One prominent worker was JOHN LONG, who actually was the first worker with Wm Irvine who started the 2×2 ministry on faith lines!! Fortunately, John Long left a detailed record in a Journal about the early history of the group (which I held in my hands in 2004 at the home of his son in Ireland. I have a photo copy of every page up from 1897 to 1917. See link below). In it, he tells how Wm Irvine put him out publicly from a convention platform while he was speaking because he refused to accept that all clergymen outside the fellowship were unsaved. (This Journal is now public record) Obviously, Wm. Irvine was the recognized leader of the Go-Preacher movement, or he would not have had the authority to put out his first companion. The newspaper reporter at the convention also reported on the occasion. (Impartial Reporter, Enniskillen)
The belief became firmly established that people could ONLY come to Christ through a worker, not through the laymen, saints or friends. “At first this doctrine claimed that one could be born again only through Irvine or one in fellowship with him [the saints and laity included]. But by 1907, this had been reduced to Irvine and his fellow preachers only. Although it was not always so, the Living Witness Doctrine became an integral part of the group’s essential teachings, and it remains so to this day.
It would only be seven (7) years later, in 1914, when Wm Irvine would be told by Jack and Bill Carroll that the workers would no longer submit to his leadership, and he would be ousted from the fellowship which he helped to start, and of which he was the undisputed leader from its inception. Like John Long, he would suffer the pain of rejection by his peers, and feel the pain of betrayal. Just fourteen (14) years later, Ed Cooney, who helped tremendously in the group’s start, would also feel the pain of rejection, as his fellow workers cast him out. Interesting that the group would rid itself of the very ones who gave birth to it and gave their lives to its cause.
Today, the workers teach that ‘without the true ministry, there can be no true church.’ Salvation is only available through those who take the gospel in the manner of the Matthew 10 commission, to those who receive their gospel and are faithful to the ’way’ or the ‘truth’ or the ‘life’ they preach. Rather than teaching that JESUS is The Way, The Truth, and The Life, the workers teach that He lived the life of the example preacher and established the TRUE Ministry that shows us the WAY to ACHIEVE salvation. What the workers preach is NOT the GOOD NEWS. Salvation is not a method—it’s a MAN, THE man Christ Jesus. It’s His Message—not a Method of 2×2 format.
Did Wm Irvine really have a revelation? Take a look at the letters he wrote and see what kind of man he was. Do you really want to continue preaching in a method a man of this character started??? Letters written by Wm Irvine: http://www.tellingthetruth.info/founder_letters/
If he had a revelation and was a prophet (by his own words he claimed to be), then he must be judged by the standards for a true/false prophet in Deut. How does he stack up in your opinion?
Having reviewed all this, Martin, are you absolutely certain that you’re not preaching a “fable”? How could other Christian believers be lost and going to hell, when there is no scripture that says your method or any other method is “God’s only right way?”
If you have any questions or comments concerning any point(s) in this letter, I am willing to communicate with you further. I can back up the historical data in this letter with documents.
Cherie (Berry) Kropp
To American brother worker Martin Hnizdill
Impartial Reporter Newspaper in Enniskillen:
Goodhand Pattison’s Account of the Early Days
George Walker’s 1942 Letter to US Government
Natural Law in the Spiritual World By Henry Drummond, Published by: Hodder & Stoughton, London, GB, UK, 1890 A. L. Burt Company, NY (Out of Print) This book can usually be obtained through inter-library loan.
Also read The Chapter “Biogenesis” by Henry Drummond on Telling The Truth website.