Daughter of John & Sara West, owners of Crocknacrieve, Ireland Convention
An interested person has asked me to tell my story with regard to my faith and the fellowship I have kept.
My parents, John and Sara West, were brought up in the Church of Ireland (Anglican). My father, for a time previous to his marriage, moved and worked among the Methodists. Soon after his marriage in 1901, he, Edward Cooney, Tom Betty and others, all of whom used to evangelize together, moved out of the sects to which they belonged, Church of Ireland, Methodist, Presbyterian, and so on, into fellowship with William Irvine, a Scottish Presbyterian evangelist in the Faith Mission, who was with others moving out of Faith Mission toward clearer light on New Testament teaching and practices.
They took the view that Christendom was confusion of which God was not the author. So they decided to go to Christendom and the world the way Jesus sent his apostles to Israel (Matthew 10) and to the world (Matthew 28). This is what the preachers did. My father, who did not go to preach, opened his heart and home to these preachers who sold their possessions, scattered their money to the poor and went out to preach by faith. Their message was repent, believe the gospel, follow the teaching and example of New Testament founders–Christ and the apostles. This move raised the opposition of clergy and leaders among the denominations, e.g. Church of Ireland, Methodists, Presbyterians, Salvation Army, Plymouth Brethren, and others.
The young movement held the course to take was ‘Come out of Babylon’ which is confusion. By this they meant to refuse fellowship with the world, false teachers and systems because they contradicted the teaching and example of Christ and his apostles. Their opponents held that it was better to stay in and clean up inside; but they ignored the fact that principalities and powers need exposure and triumphing over (Col. 2:15). This could only be done by a fuller manifestation of Christ through willing witnesses which this people proved by bearing their cross representing Christ as He in bearing his cross represented or declared the Father.
The movement grew and spread rapidly. Some mistakes were made, the chief of which came to light in 1914.
1. They became a registered sect to avoid military service during World War I. They were registered in London as ‘Testimony of Jesus’.
2. The ‘living witness’ doctrine introduced circa 1905 held William Irvine to be a prophet raised up to protest against the evils of Christendom. This could have been in order; only that to it was added that none could be ‘born again’ except through hearing the gospel from Irvine or the preachers in fellowship with him. This dangerous doctrine was based on Romans 10, imperfectly understood. For a careful study of the text shows God speaking through the heavens (nature), through the law (Scripture), and then through the preacher, the words of whose mouth and the meditations of whose heart are acceptable in God’s sight.
In 1914 Edward Cooney and Tom Elliott rejected this doctrine as a heresy that savoured not of God, but of man.
Matthew 16:13-18 shows Christ’s church built on the rock of revelation of the Christ from the Father, through the Spirit to Peter’s heart. The keys of the kingdom only used when Peter was in the Spirit (Acts 2). He was out of this condition, Matthew 16:22-23 also John 21:3, after which in John 21:15-17 Christ’s commission was given him. One must judge between the human element and the godly continually, as the best of humans are fallible.
With this background and in fellowship with these people I surrendered to Christ. As a child each evening, with my brothers and sisters, I had heard the Bible story simply told by my mother. She would point out outstanding, faithful characters and their struggle against sin in themselves, in the world, and in God’s people of the time. As often as possible, my father would join us to question us on what we had heard. On surrendering to Christ, an intense hunger for knowledge of God and Christ replaced former selfish, temporal interests.
I was young and at school. It was here that first opposition came, and my chief battle was to keep right up to the light I had. Sometime later I felt I could not go on. I felt too weak and unfit to keep up this high standard, and so decided quite definitely to stop. That night I had a dream. I thought I was in a large gathering of people, more than could be numbered, where hymn 115 was given out to be sung. When I awoke I got the hymnbook then in use, and I looked up 115, which reads:
“Patiently continue in the way with Jesus
Joyfully obeying the Father’s blessed will;
Mid sin’s angry billows, hearken to him calling
Over the waters saying, ‘Peace be still’
“I will never leave thee, sweetest words of comfort
From the lips of Jesus who walked life’s troubled sea;
Thou art not forsaken, I am with thee always,
Darkness or sunshine, ever follow me.
“None so true and tender as the man of sorrows,
From this world’s illusions, oh let him keep thee free;
He will lead thee onward to inherit glory;
Riches unfading he will give to thee.
“Patiently continue with him in the conflict,
Patiently enduring with him unto the end;
Numbered with his chosen, found among the faithful
One on whom Jesus always can depend.”
I had never previously seen or heard this hymn, and I am glad I took it as my guide to go on again.
Shortly after I had decided to follow Jesus, a Division took place in the fellowship to which I belonged. This was in 1928 and was a great shock to all concerned. It caused considerable anxiety and heartbreak, especially to the elders, and indeed, to all of us in this part of the world. My sympathies were with Edward Cooney and Tom Elliott, who were cut off as heretics.
My father and any who continued to receive them as God’s servants were also cut off from fellowship by Wilson Reid (the then overseer in Ireland), Jack Carroll, Willie Gill, Andy Robb, James Jardin, Ben Boles and some others including George Walker.
The most serious statement made to me was that I was doing the devil’s work in standing by Edward Cooney. But God by His Holy Spirit and through Scripture revealed otherwise. We outcasts learned that man cutting us off was no proof that God had. We drew near in humility and weakness, and God drew near to us revealing much we had not yet learned.
Much has happened during the past 26 years. We outcasts soon found Satan on our track to wipe us out.
Our newly-found liberty caused a responsibility to fall on us we had not anticipated. But it brought light to those who individually sought the guidance of God. Thus, fellowship was sweet and edifying. Some tried to abuse this liberty, using it to please themselves in different ways. Some turned to the world. Some tried to undermine Edward’s testimony, and also the testimonies of Tom and Mrs. Elliott. However, experience taught us how to try the spirits and to distinguish between heresy and prophecy. Heresy means choice, i.e. choosing anything which differs from the teaching and example of Christ and his apostles. If we are guilty of heresy, then we deserve to be cut off, but only after just trial on scriptural lines.
Prophecy means ‘speaking for Deity’, showing revealed truth from God flowing through one led by the Holy Spirit. We thus learned to judge between a heretic and a prophet. This called for knowledge of ‘controls in the church,’ so that the right methods could be used in dealing with the erring. Edward Cooney’s testimony proved very helpful in this respect. He pointed out four ‘controls in the church’, and since then, we observe another, making five.
1. Foundation control, i.e. Christ and the apostles and prophets (1 Cor. 3: 11-12) and (Eph. 2:20).
2. Overseer control i.e. bishops and deacons and others (1 Tim. 3:1) (Titus 1:7) and (1 Peter 2:25).
3. Parental control i.e. Paul’s and John’s children in the gospel (3 John 4) (1 Cor. 4:15).
4. Angelic control i.e. message to the churches (Rev 2 and 3).
5. People’s control (Matt. 18:17).
With these controls being exercised, fellowship became orderly and discipline good with love of God and neighbour prevailing.
For a time I was discouraged with the pressure of life’s demands in general, my own weakness, and sin and confusion all around. But God had mercy on me, and the spirit’s groans prevailed, restoring to me the early joy of salvation. Thus, first love and works returned with increased strength and faith to witness to what was revealed to me. With this also came the great joy of seeing some heartbroken, bewildered souls brought out of confusion and darkness into clearer light and the liberty to walk in it. I see in the younger people the same fight, growth, development with God winning as they yield.
Together we all resist principalities and powers in heavenly places, the chief sin of which is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. This means attributing to Satan what belongs to God, a sin not to be forgiven in this age or in the one to come (Matt. 12:23-31).
My prayer is that all leaders would humble themselves, confess their sins and forsake them now before they meet the harder knock of judgment. Suffering in rejection now with Christ brings wisdom, love and power essential to fit us for judging angels when we through Christ become a new creation (Heb. 2) higher than angels and at first resurrection return to reign with Christ over humans on earth for the glorious work of the restitution of all things bringing peace, righteousness and order to this sad, chaotic world of confusion and woe. So we see the vital importance of being born of and led by the Spirit, which gives progressive revelation of the Christ from the Father to the individual human heart.
By Ida West
Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland
Reprinted with permission from Patricia Roberts from: The Go Preacher Movement – An Anthology