Letter No. 1 by Joseph “Joe” Kerr (Ex-worker)

Living Witness Doctrine ~

Dear _:

Many thanks for the newspaper* that you sent.  How did that man get hold of all that information?  He is not altogether accurate in some things but has a lot that is. It is almost criminal all that they are doing & then denying that their origin is deceitful. He has nothing right about South Africa.  If you ever write to him, tell him that William Irvine was never working in South Africa–he only passed through, so I did not share in any divisions, — and that I cut my association with them 40 years ago. He states that I was the instigator of “The Living Witness” doctrine, and that I scooped up what was of William Irvine’s kingdom in South Africa.

What they preach today about the “Living Witness” was not what I preached.  I then taught the importance of preaching as follows:

1. That Christ said go ye therefore, and teach all nations — Matthew 28:19.

2. That it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them — 1 Cor. 1:21.

3. That God hath in due times manifested His Word through preaching — Titus 1:3.

4. That people could not hear without a preacher — Romans 10:14.

5. That it is woe unto me if I preach not the Gospel. — 1 Corinthians 9:16.

6. That they went everywhere preaching the Word — Acts 8:4.

7. That Philip went down to Samaria and preached Christ –Acts 8-5. I gave instances such as that found in Acts 8-35, how the Lord sent Philip to preach to the eunuch but while I emphasized the need of a preacher, it did not mean that the preacher had to be one of us.  The idea that the preacher had to be William Irvine or one of his disciples was added to their doctrine after I had delivered my part.

The mistake I made in my ignorance was that I failed to take into account the sovereignty of God, — God who could speak from heaven and save one, as He saved Paul, Acts 9.  He could save Timothy through reading of the Scriptures,  2 Timothy 3:15.  I forgot that the greatest preacher that the Lord had was the firmament of heaven, and that there was no place in the universe where the voice of that preacher cannot be heard, Psalms 19:1 to 4.  That is the preacher to whom Paul was referring in Romans 10:14 when he asked, “How could they hear without a preacher?”  For he immediately quotes from that Psalm; Romans 10:18. When I saw the mistake I made, I tried to correct it, but it was too late! It was something new for people who had not been in the habit of thinking for themselves, and so off they set with it to the ends of the earth!  Then it grew until they had it that the preacher had to be one testimony, and one who had either professed through William Irvine, or one of his direct descent.

I could not have preached that, for I believe I was saved before I met the “Testimony” and I know that William Irvine had professed through the Rev. John McNeil.  So that theory could no more hold water than the one that says the Pope was a direct descendent of Peter.

In the book, Broadbent’s “Pilgrim Church,” a book that is well worth reading, we learn that there have been people all down through the ages who have sought to walk as near to the truth of Scripture as they could.  They were given different names and were badly persecuted.  I just had another letter from one of the deceived the A.M., asking for information regarding the truth.  I met this man 7 years ago and told him a few things, which are just now beginning to filter into his mind. Now lots of love in Christ to you and your wife,

Your brother in Christ,

Joseph Kerr
c/o Norman Kerr
26 Raleigh Road
Mobray, Cape South Africa
January 28, 1956

NOTE:  The “newspaper” is likely the 4-page newspaper titled A Spiritual Fraud by Douglas Parker.

See also:   Living Witness Doctrine

NOTE: Henry Drummond, Professor of Natural Science at the Glasgow College of the Free Church of Scotland wrote a book titled Natural Law in the Spiritual World. Drummond believed that the laws of nature provided authority for Christian belief and practice. In the chapter titled “Biogenesis,” he theorized that: “Life can only come from the touch of life.”

Irvine and the workers took Drummond’s theory and applied it to their fellowship. By 1904, the doctrine was held that only those who professed through Irvine or his “sent” workers could be saved. Since these workers hadn’t experienced fulfillment outside of Irvine’s way, they reasoned that Irvine’s “way” must be God’s true way and felt they owed their salvation to Irvine’s revelation of “the way”. It was binding on all the workers to accept this theory as fact, which was known as “The Living Witness Doctrine.” However, some workers considered it heresy and left the work.

Go to: Joe Kerr’s Letter No. 2