The Life & Ministry of William Irvine
1900 - 1906
Revised March 23, 2013
The Restoration Ideal
The Restoration Ideal
The Founder, Leader & Overseer, Wm Irvine
Their Outlook, Preaching & Teaching
Their Dress - No Wedding Rings
How Well Did Irvine's Method Work?
Arthur McCoy in Australia
THE RESTORATION IDEAL: Even though the newspapers well documented the details surrounding the early Go-Preacher movement, some of Irvine's workers claimed that their 2x2 ministry and methods were NOT a new method or church, but the revival of an old way; of the teachings and practices of the New Testament church. They believed God was using William Irvine to restore the New Testament church and the Apostles' ministry. A reporter for The Impartial Reporter (August 12, 1909) stated: "The majority of the 'Pilgrims' would find fault with me for describing them as belonging to a 'new church,' whereas they claim fellowship with the oldest."
The correspondent identified as "Within" wrote "We are not starting a new religion. We are earnestly contending for the faith once delivered to the saints and trying to separate it from the traditions of men, because there is not a doctrine in the word of God that has not been corrupted by the professing church." (October 7, 1909 Impartial Reporter)
Eddie Cooney told more than 2,000 people at Crocknacrieve convention: "We did not start this 'Jesus Way'...It was started and planned by God before we were ever thought of, and if you go any other way YOU WILL GO TO HELL...If I started the Cooneyite sect, I would go to hell myself, and all my followers. IT'S NOT COONEY'S or another body's way, it is God's plan and way. What right has Cooney or any one else to say what's right or wrong?" (Impartial Reporter, August 5, 1909).
William Cleland, a cousin of Irvine, stated: "It might be a good question to ask those who say they are from the beginning: Who was ahead of William Irvine? William Irvine was entirely responsible for the creation of this movement. He gathered a few converts around him in Ireland, and he had the idea that he could facilitate the spreading of the gospel by having a few men and women join themselves to him. His ideas of preaching were entirely on his ideas of Matthew 10. And yet, they have the hide to tell one that it went back to time immemorial. It went back to exactly 1899 when the first workers gathered around Bill Irvine." (The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, page 96, Footnote 32)
Irvine's experiment to "restore" or "revive" or "jumpstart" God's true way to earth wasn't a novel or unique approach. During in the early 19th century, many other religious leaders embraced the same ideal and goal to restore the primitive New Testament church and return to the faith and practices of the Apostolic Age. This time period in religious history is even known as "The Restoration Age" because of the great number of movements to commence in the 19th century which emphasized the common goal of restoring New Testament Christianity! Religious history books recording events in this time period reveal that, far from being unique, Irvine's restoration ideals were actually quite commonplace at that time.
Various Christian men yearned to restore the church to its original state, and to return to the simple teaching of the Bible alone for the Christians' guide and rule. They believed the church needed more than reform or repair. Various men began working independently of each other toward their goal for the church to return to the essential marks of the primitive New Testament church of the Apostolic Age. They abandoned all man-made creeds, traditions, confessions, teachings and doctrines. They called themselves "Christians" only, but did not believe they were the only Christians. They took no name for their teachings, and considered this return to primitive Christianity a movement, not a new denomination or sect. They were committed to the restoration principle and the maintenance of New Testament Christianity. They were committed to the inspiration and authority of Scripture and their ambition was "to do Bible things in Bible ways." One of their more familiar mottoes was: "Where the Scripture speaks, we speak; where the scripture is silent, we are silent." The names of some of these men were Alexander Campbell, Thomas Campbell, Walter Scott, Barton Warren Stone. Their restoration work was the beginning of the three churches known today as The Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, and The Church of Christ. For some pioneers, and others who have been prominent in the Restoration Movement, see the Britannica Encyclopedia.
The movement started by Wm Irvine included many of these same principles--his ideas were not original. Many others began moves back to the basics of Christianity which evolved into churches. The churches differ in their perspective of what particulars in the New Testament church and ministry they chose to emphasize. Like the 2x2 fellowship, several other religious movements also hold the belief that no one on earth for eighteen centuries has understood the Bible until their particular self-proclaimed leader was "raised up to restore" the correct or true interpretation of God's truth, will and way to mankind through his personal "revelations:"
Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, claimed the Bible had been so badly distorted by human error and mortal mind that she alone had been inspired by God to "restore" its correct interpretation to mankind.
Charles T. Russell, founder of Jehovah's Witnesses, launched an attack against the teachings of Christianity, proclaiming all evangelists, pastors and teachers to be dead wrong; that he alone correctly understood God's will, the long-lost truths of the Bible, and he "restored" God's real intent in the Bible to mankind.
Mohammed, founder of the Muslim religion, taught that Christianity and Judaism were utterly corrupt, and that the true message from God was "restored" through him alone.
Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God claimed to have received one-man "revelations" in which God "restored" through him the true gospel of Christ which was not taught for nineteen and a half centuries, making the Worldwide Church of God the one and only true church of God.
Victor Paul Wierwille, founder of The Way International in the early 1950's claimed God spoke directly to him and gave him the first accurate knowledge of the Bible since the first century; that true Christianity was lost early in church history, and God gave him the job of "restoring" the gospel message today.
Joseph Smith, founder of Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints (Mormons), claimed that every church was corrupt, their creeds an abomination to God, and that he alone had been chosen to "restore" Christ's kingdom on earth. Smith claimed God and Jesus both appeared to him, gave him divine revelation, continued to give him progressive revelation, and appointed him as His "prophet." Some of his "revelations" were preserved in books to which the Mormons religiously adhere, along with the Bible.
All these religious leaders claimed that God broke through hundreds of years of silence to speak through each of them and them only at long last. Could it not be appropriately added to the above list:
William Irvine, founder of the church without a name (or Christian Conventions), came to believe he alone had been divinely anointed to "restore" God's true way to earth, claiming every other way, church, ministry and preacher would lead to a lost eternity, and that the church he founded was God's ONLY true way on earth.
Why is Irvine's self-proclaimed "revelation," or experiment more reliable or superior than those of the other men? Why is Irvine's "revelation" true and the others supposedly "false?" All these men claimed that they too received a "revelation." Whether or not William Irvine or these other men were "raised up by God" or received a "revelation" cannot be substantiated.
Dialogue from a play titled Outline of the History of a Peculiar People From 1900-1931 by Alfred Magowan:
First Visitor: "They speak of him as a man raised up.
Second Visitor: "They trace their spiritual genealogy to him.
First Visitor: "I hear they are doing it now, and many have already given up what they call their old profession, and refer to him as the beginning of a new order, as Adam was the beginning of human descent.
Second Visitor: "What fools these mortals be!"
THE FOUNDER, LEADER & OVERSEER, WM IRVINE: The workers saw Irvine's role as: "Undoubtedly God called us and separated us to be His people in the beginning; and most prominent and most used in this calling out a people for God's name was William Irvine..." (Ed Cooney letter May, 1930; The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, page 71).
"This is the person (William Irvine) who claims to be a follower of the friend of the Magdalen. Yet he thrives on the excitement and his burning zeal impresses itself on any who listen. He is not at all of the ‘Beloved Apostle’ type; he is rather of the fiery Peter nature, and however amiable in private life, as a speaker is a rather repugnant type of Christian, with a hard and harsh voice; rugged, denunciatory, argumentative, Pharisaic, self-sacrificing, full of earnestness, consumed by the idea that he is God-sent, and that he has a great mission to fulfil. Mr. Irwin is absolutely adamantine in his manner. No sweetness or graciousness. Nothing winning or attractive. And yet because of the zeal and power of his speech, and his threats of hell, he obtains adherents, and fathers and mothers will deplore the day their children were upset by this last phase of religious fanaticism. In fact, take away ‘hell’ from the addresses of these people and there is nothing left. They have no teaching power." (The Impartial Reporter January 29, 1903)
Ed Cooney also wrote, "All that God begins is right. And over and over again in considering the truth of God, it is a great help to know that things began with God. So how did God begin to manifest his church in these latter days? I think of how God gave Adam a wife (Adam is a type of Christ). God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam. Out of Adam's side he took a rib, and out of that rib he builded a woman. What was the deep sleep? It was typical of surrender. How did God always get his church? Surrender of the Christ to God. God got a rib out of Christ. William Irvine was part of that rib, and others were part of that rib too. I believe I was part of it and Tom Betty and others also. And out of that rib God builded his church, and so we became (part of) the Bride of Christ in the early days." (The Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney by Patricia Roberts, page 23)
Irvine was far more than just a figurehead; he ruled over the other workers in every sense of the word "rule." He was recognized as being more than "just a worker" by his friends.
"To tell you the truth, I feel a bit relieved. His rule was provoking rebellion in me. It was sort of one man show, and we were like Punch and Judy in his hands. Everybody seemed to know that we were only puppets to speak and act at his command. And they were more nearly right than we cared to admit...I used to take myself to task for being more conscious of his presence, and more concerned about his approval than the Lord's. People even gave their testimonies for the sake of his amen. They studied him to know what pleased him. And he did not see through them...because they played to his vanity." (Play titled Outline of the History of a Peculiar People From 1900-1931 by Alfred Magowan)
"In our conventions at Rathmolyon and other places, Bill was always the leader of the meetings, and chose all the speakers. I remember in one of the meetings at Rathmolyon, Bill gave us a list of his preferred workers, and here's how he put it: I would rather have Willie Gill, George Walker, Joe Kerr and Eddie Cooney than all the others of you put together. Now who was boss when he gave the list out? There was only one boss in the tramp preachers in those days, and they all knew who he was." ("Bill" referred to William Irvine, The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, pages 34-35, Footnote 6, November 8, 1954 personal communication W. Cleland, cousin to Wm Irvine, by Doug Parker)
Various articles in the Impartial Reporter describe some of their beliefs and practices at that time:
"One feature in connection with these people is one of the saddest.
Their idea is that a ‘saint’ cannot remain in the ‘wor-ruld’ but must go
out to preach the—(i.e., their)—Gospel, and hunt for ‘saints.’ To
this end they give up their situations. Mr. Irwin, himself, gave
up a comfortable business. He had £300 a year when 20 years
of age. A few others have given up a lucrative business connections.
Some have sold their farms to join the craze, and most likely other farms
will be in the local market from the same cause.
"No matter how uneducated—and some of them cannot write or speak correctly—they believe they are called on to preach, and ‘they must go out.’ For this reason they are prepared to suffer. And just as some Roman Catholic monks take vows of poverty, and others take vows of silence, and others shave their heads, so these people go out in a spirit of self-sacrifice, and they do sacrifice; home comforts, and enjoy the thought that they are denying themselves for Christ’s sake. Knowing themselves to be uneducated and ‘poor instruments,’ they rely on God to teach them what to say, and they quote the Apostles, who were poor men, but ‘these folk’ are much below the level of Matthew, Luke, or John. They, at least, though Hebrews, could write their Greek, and good Greek. Many Pilgrims cannot even write plain English. And as for Paul, he was a scholar, capable debater, and ‘miles ahead’ of the ordinary ‘Tramp.’
"The ‘Tramps,’ to show that they are thoroughly and entirely saved, must forsake ‘the world,’ and go about from place to place, preaching, because the Lord did. They put themselves in His place, and consider that the state of things existing now justify them copying the Master’s methods 1900 years ago. Why not copy His dress also? And walk from place to place? Bicycles, which are largely used by the ‘Pilgrims,’ were not used by the Master. Guns are put aside now and rowboats because the Master did not use them, and newspapers are not read because He did not read them, but neither did He use a bicycle. He rode on an ass, but the modern ‘Pilgrim’ bestrides a Humber or Rover; and instead of reading the Prophet in the original Hebrew, or the sermons of the Master in the original Greek manuscripts, reads them from a well-bound Bible, which is in every case very well read; though it is doubtful if the Sermon on the Mount—the great charter of Christianity—be much heeded."One effect of the Pilgrims’ missions is to weaken family ties. The love and duty which binds parent to child is disregarded. They teach that if the child be led by ‘God’—(that is, by them)—he must leave his parents, and even in case of a funeral in the home, the ‘saved’ one must ‘let the dead bury their dead’ if they could do anything for an immortal soul during that same time. Only too many instances have occurred of children leaving their homes and setting aside the duty they owe to their parents and to the home, denounce their own relatives as ‘going to hell.’ " (Impartial Reporter, January 29, 1903)
"Another instance of his perversion of the general teaching of the Word of God presents itself in connection with the views he inculcates respecting the young ruler of whom we read in the Gospels. Christ saw that that young man was trusting in his riches, and that he must therefore part with them before he could follow Him. That, however, is a totally different thing from the idea that under ordinary circumstances every man whom God has blessed with an abundant store of this world’s goods must sell all that he has in order to obtain eternal life. ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ This is emphatic enough, but according to Mr. Cooney it ought to read, ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever ‘selleth all that he hath’ should not perish but have everlasting life.' Such a message might satisfy Mr. Cooney, but for ourselves we certainly prefer that upon which so many of our fellow-men all down the ages have been led to rest their souls for eternity." (Impartial Reporter, June 2, 1904)
"...the sacred name is bandied about in the public street as if it were Jack or Tom, and while without intentional irreverence, yet with hurtful familiarity...In the same manner the Almighty God, who is generally spoken of as a God of Terror, not as a Heavenly FATHER, full of goodness and love—is made a personality. They speak of Him as being with them, revealing Himself unto them, showing what to do, filling their hearts, &c., all of which shows a remarkable power of imagination, or credulity;" (Impartial Reporter, January 22, 1903)
"One feature in connection with these people is one of the saddest. Their idea is that a ‘saint’ cannot remain in the ‘wor-ruld’ but must go out to preach the—(i.e., their)—Gospel, and hunt for ‘saints.’ To this end they give up their situations. Mr. Irwin, himself, gave up a comfortable business. He had £300 a year when 20 years of age." (Impartial Reporter January 22, 1903)
"The Pilgrims imagine that each of them has the gifts of preaching and teaching. They do not concede that you serve God where you are placed; you must leave your place and family and go out with them...They think God will give them the power to speak and teach, but for so far the Almighty has not done much in this direction." (Impartial Reporter January 29, 1903)
"...if we may introduce the Saviour’s sacred name in this connection without being suspected of irreverence, for the sacred name is bandied about in the public street as if it were Jack or Tom, and while without intentional irreverence, yet with hurtful familiarity." (Impartial Reporter January 15, 1903)
The Tramps' practice of baptism by immersion was an uncommon ceremony, and resulted in many curious spectators. "Ballinamallard has become the Jerusalem of Pilgrim Tramps, and the Ballycassidy River their Jordan. Last Sunday witnessed the baptism of about 27 Tramps, male and female, and the unusual scene was witnessed by a crowd of interested spectators." (Impartial Reporter September 29, 1904)
"The tone of the addresses was largely that of the old revival times in which neither the love nor the mercy, the goodness or the beneficence of Almighty God was pointed out, but Heaven was made a sort of insurance office against the terrors of Hell." (Impartial Reporter Sept. 29, 1904)
THEIR MISSION: "They think the churches have lapsed or back-slidden, and that they are called by God to rouse people to a sense of their danger from hell-fire. They hold things in common; they live morally; they, in common with most people, do not hoard gold, for most people have no gold to hoard; and they live honestly in sight of all men." (Impartial Reporter January 15, 1903)
THEIR NAME: "‘We have no name,’ he replied, ‘but the ribald multitude give us many. Some call us Cooneyites, some call us Tramps, Faith Missionaries, No Secters, Women-Thieves, and so on. Well, we are Cooneyites. We are also McClungites, for Cooney is no greater than I. We have no established leader in this world." (Wilson McClung in Impartial Reporter, June 21, 1906)
"These words "As ye go preach" gave rise to the name "Go-Preacher." [Matthew 10:7 "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand."] (John Long's Journal July, 1898)
"The ‘Cooneyites’ call themselves the ‘Go Preachers,’ and they have taken that name from the injunction in the Gospels to ‘Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’ They literally obey the injunction to ‘take neither purse nor scrip,’ but leave their homes, and trust to working or begging to maintain themselves during their evangelistic journeys." (Impartial Reporter, June 19, 1917)
"I spent last Sunday with the Saints, or ‘Christians’ as they
call themselves. Other people call them ‘Pilgrims’ or ‘Dippers.’
For the past week the annual convention of those of the Fermanagh confraternity
was being held at Greenhill, near Brookeborough, where Mr. Albert Pogue placed
his house, out-offices and lands at the disposal of those attending."
(Impartial Reporter, July
"These words "As ye go preach" gave rise to the name "Go-Preacher." [Matthew 10:7 "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand."] (John Long's Journal July, 1898
"The Testimony of Jesus" was the name registered in the U.K. by Willie Gill during World War I.
Irvine refers to the sect as "the Testimony" in his letters after he was expelled.
The Irish reporters called them the Tramp preachers, or Tramps.
Letters by Willie & Elisabeth Jamieson from Scotland, dated 1910 forward, refer to it often as the: Way of God, Way of Jesus, Jesus' Way, God's Way, God's Truth & Way, and The Testimony.
THEIR OUTLOOK, PREACHING & TEACHING: "Indeed, they profess little respect for clergy. Although most of these people have come from the Methodist ranks, they are severe in private conversation and public statement upon ‘ministers and preachers.’ Hell is a word in frequent use with them. Everyone—almost everyone—is going to hell, according to their ideas." (Impartial Reporter, January 15, 1903)
"However, here we have a small sect, full of religious zeal, burning with enthusiasm, strong in faith, confident in their aggressiveness, and fully satisfied that God is with them. But they are not more certain of this idea than every church on the face of the earth. There is nothing new or odd in this. And while he would be a bold critic who would say God is not with them, since, He likely is with them or any one else in all that is done right in His name, they must remember that they have no monopoly of the Almighty, and that He is not to be used, constrained or pocketed to suit their exigencies; neither by Pope nor Tramp, not by Archbishop or preacher; but that over the whole earth, He is with ‘whosoever’ doeth right." (October 13, 1904 Impartial Reporter), Mrs. Betty speaks of her party, is speaking of the necessity of ‘confession,’ and the danger of going to hell. Almost every one, according to them, churches and people, are going to hell; and they cannot understand why, with such a terrible fate in store, Enniskillen folk will not listen to them and accept God’s message from His ministers—namely, themselves, who do not affect ‘fine linen’ or clean-shaven faces. Enniskillen has its Bibles and places of worship, and its people can read, but the people are not right unless they be ‘saved’ after the manner of these people, and ‘testify!’" (Impartial Reporter, January 15, 1903)
"Various speakers at the meetings say the townspeople are going to hell. They are all very cocksure about it. No Pope ever claimed the power of loosing and binding in hell and heaven stronger than these Pilgrims or Tramps claim to know those who will go to the hot place. They do not know of such a passage evidently as ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged,’ nor of God’s great mercy or patience, nor of the repentance of the dying thief in his last moments; for they are always judging their neighbours severely, and scarcely ever in charity; their preaching is invariably of hell; and as to God’s mercy and His infinite compassion it is so seldom dwelt on that it is not remembered. Every other sentence almost of Mr. Irwin’s oration one night had hell mentioned in it." (Impartial Reporter, January 22, 1903, p. 8)
"The Devil is to them a great personality. In their ‘burning’ desire to abase themselves and humble themselves when they ‘confess’, they tell of how the Devil tempted them to do This, led them to do That, drove them one way, would not let them go another. Their power of imagination is marvelous! In the same manner the Almighty God, who is generally spoken of as a God of Terror, not as a Heavenly FATHER, full of goodness and love—is made a personality. They speak of Him as being with them, revealing Himself unto them, showing what to do, filling their hearts, &c., all of which shows a remarkable power of imagination, or credulity; for if the Lord really DID all they say, His holy influence would be manifested in the language of His people and in their walk in life! The kernel of the Christian religion is LOVE. The Pilgrims may possess it, but they do not show much of it in their talk about their neighbours. On the contrary the greatest want of charity is displayed, for almost everyone is going to hell, and they assume with the most sublime audacity to take upon themselves to say who is and who is not going to hell, as if the Almighty Creator of Heaven and Earth sent them confidential messages as to their fellow human creatures." (Impartial Reporter, January 22, 1903, p. 8)
"The Pilgrims know they are not liked, and for that reason they say they are ‘persecuted.’ One of their dogmas—for they have no doctrines—is that if you are ‘really saved’ you must be persecuted; and argue if you are not persecuted, you cannot be saved. They roll the word ‘persecution’ like a sweet morsel under their tongue. One lady frequently dwells upon it. She says that because they are ‘partakers of the Divine nature (!!) that therefore they are marked out as the Lord was, and must suffer persecution as He suffered; and if they are not persecuted it is a sign that they are unfaithful. She referred to the sneer of spectators at them or the withering smile of the by-stander, and said—‘There is a real joy in being despised.’ When this ‘wor-ruld’ blames her, she knows she is right; when the world says she is right she is inclined to think she is wrong. She welcomes opposition. They appear to dwell on the idea of a persecution that does not exist. No one persecutes them, as they are generally credited with being soft-headed—perhaps an unkind thing, but nevertheless this is the attitude of the public, and this is the kindest way of viewing their extravagances." (Impartial Reporter, January 22, 1903, p. 8)
"In his addresses at the early conventions, Mr. Cooney used fiery language and was often violently critical and abusive in his attacks on the clergy and churches. He attacked both Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy and said that anyone who followed them was sure of going to hell. In later life he mellowed considerably and his addresses were more tolerant of other denominations." (Impartial Reporter, June 23, 1960)
NO SUNDAY SCHOOL: Apparently, a Sunday School was set up for children, but this was shut down by Wm Irvine when he heard about it. "The same absurd reasoning of the Tramps that nothing could be adopted unless it were mentioned in the Bible was urged against a Sunday school in Enniskillen for children. When it (the Sunday School) was started, the recognized leader of the schism, Mr. W. Irwin, sent word that it must be stopped, that there was no scriptural authority for it. No: no more than for his yapped-edged Bible; no more than for his use of a railway, or a bicycle. None of these things are mentioned in the Bible. Our Lord read the Law and the Prophets from scrolls. Why does not Mr. Irwin, on the same reasoning, read his Bible from scrolls and parchments? One reason is that he could not read Hebrew or Greek, even if he had the scrolls. Our Lord observed the seventh day of the week as the Sabbath. Mr. Irwin does not follow ‘the Jesus way’ in this respect either. Nor does he go barefoot or wear sandals." (Impartial Reporter, Third Article September 16, 1909, p. 5)
SEPARATION OF SEXES in public assemblies. It seems that it was an early tradition for women to remove their wedding rings and to separate men from women and for them to sit on opposites sides when they assembled. "I would like to know the ‘Jesus way’ or authority for separating the sexes in public assembly? Is it to show, after the Eastern fashion, the inferiority of women? Or is it, in imitation, of the division of the sexes in the ‘clergy-house’ of our Lord’s day? I frankly confess my ignorance. (Impartial Reporter, Third Article September 16, 1909, p. 5)
THEIR DRESS: "The ladies affect severity of attire. How far that may go has scarcely yet been defined; but it has gone so far that feathers are discarded and a straw sailor hat is the regulation head covering." (Impartial Reporter, January 29, 1903).
"But, like most religious enthusiasts, they have their peculiarities. The use of the razor is eschewed; and those in the highest state of grace, like Mr. Irwin himself, did not use linen collars or shirts; but latterly the white collar has come into use again, but the razor is still avoided." (Impartial Reporter, January 15, 1903)
"His (Edward Cooney's) general deportment is equally arrogant. It is no doubt true that he and his assistant preachers have donned the plainest tweeds, discarding, in some instances, the collar and tie, and in every case cuffs. But everyone knows that peculiarity in dress, even if that dress were a sackcloth, does not necessarily betoken a regeneration of the inner life. One man may be quite as proud of his assumed humility of habit as another would be of the costliest broadcloth, topped by the ‘much condemned,’ as Mr. Cooney would say ‘two-storeyed.’ Spite, therefore, of tweed outfit, there is much to indicate that Mr. Cooney’s opinion of himself is greatly over-estimated. As is usual with men of his mental calibre, the ‘I’ and the ‘me’ of a very important self, bulk in the most extraordinary degree." (Impartial Reporter June 2, 1904)
NO WEDDING RINGS FOR WOMEN: It seems from an early date in the group's existence that wives were required to remove their wedding bands. The August 27, 1908 Impartial Reporter deplored "casting aside the symbol of marriage."
"In the same way I confess my ignorance of the reason why married women of the Tramps should be asked to lay aside their wedding ring? All nations, savage or civilized, have some method of indicating the married state. With some it is an arrangement of the hair on the head; with others a garment of dress; with others the ring. Civilised womanhood adopted the ring as the emblem of the married state. It is at once a protection against advances which might be quite proper if it were not worn, and gives a dignity to matronhood. I am fully satisfied that the mother of Jesus wore her dress—(somewhat like a man’s)—after the manner of the married women of Gallilee; quite different from the time when, according to tradition, she had served the Lord in the temple as a virgin. But the Tramps tell their women to put aside the honourable circle of marriage, and if that lead to happiness in the home I will be surprised to learn it. One case was pointed out to me lately of a ‘saint’ of this kind who had ceased speaking to her husband, so great is her sanctity." (Impartial Reporter, Third Article September 16, 1909, p. 5)
ABSTINENCE: "The pilgrims are total abstainers both from intoxicating drink and tobacco. A Mr. Donaldson, of Derrygonnelly, who professes to be ‘saved’ since he joined the body, has also as a matter of conscience, given up the sale of tobacco, in which he had had a turnover of £700 a year. He believes it to be a sin to smoke, or to sell the tobacco, and would, doubtless, feel amazed to learn that some of the best and hardest-working clergy of the day smoke, and that Spurgeon said he could thank God for a cigar." (Impartial Reporter, January 15, 1903)
MARRIAGE & BAPTISM: "In conclusion, Mr. Cooney made reference to baptism. They got baptized by total immersion in water as a public confession that they belonged to Jesus. To illustrate that the speaker said that when a girl wished to get married she first of all told the man of her choice, and afterwards made a public confession of her choice, by being publicly married at a registry office. A registry office was the proper place to get married. Clergymen could not marry. The Apostles never married any one and never would. Giving in marriage was the civil right of a representative of King Edward VII —a magistrate." (Impartial Reporter, July 25, 1907)
BAPTISM: "Their views on baptism are perhaps better known than any of their other beliefs. All infant baptism is, in their opinion, useless, and worse than useless, and adult baptism—by immersion, of course—is insisted on, as well as complete separation from the Churches, before full membership can be granted, and the fullness of Gospel blessing, of which they apparently claim a monopoly, can be enjoyed." (Impartial Reporter, March 23, 1905)
BAPTISM: "The ‘dipping’ was to take place at the White Pillar, about one mile and a half from Newtownards. Sure enough Mr. Cooney and his disciples left Mr. Kelly’s hall in Francis Street, about 3-15 o’clock p.m., and proceeded in procession, sisters first and brothers last. No doubt the procession was a large one being greatly augmented by strangers. The processionists wended their way to the White Pillar singing hymns, while under some of their arms, parcels were carried, which contained their bathing apparel. A large crowd followed them.
"Arriving at the White Pillar a ring was formed, and proceedings began, with the singing of a hymn, after which Mr. Cooney began and told little stories in a disconnected way, although at times he had a good flow of language. He continued in his usual strain, stating that although Newtownards was almost against him, but they knew that when Jesus came upon this earth that He was despised. He advised them to pull down their barns, sell all they had, and insinuated that they should follow him. He also said that a woman was a fraud who married twice, which created laughter, but he was glad to say he had been married to Jesus Christ twenty years ago, and had not been divorced yet. Having continued for some time, he called upon some around him to give their testimony, which calling was obeyed. More songs of victory were then sung. By this time the tide was well in, and a large number left him and proceeded to an oblong tent that was erected on the grass not far from the water, in which they were to undress. Excitement now ran high, and eager faces scanned the opening of the tent. Cooney in the meantime still conducted his meeting. From the bank to the water’s edge the sea stones were covered by the more venturesome males. At last ten males emerged from the tent, and forced their way through the crowd clad in their semmets, and an old pair of trousers…Their leader waded up till nearly waist deep, and stopped, facing the shore. After a few preliminaries, and some words of comfort from their leader, they were thrown on their back and completely immersed, one by one…After this they formed in procession and proceeded up the road, followed by the police and a large crowd, and so ended Sunday’s performance." (Impartial Reporter, June 2, 1904)See PHOTO GALLERY for Baptism Photos
HOW WELL DID WM. IRVINE'S METHOD WORK? In the early days, some workers pioneering countries where there were no friends to help support them suffered terrible hardships. According to various accounts, it was not uncommon at all for the workers to lack the bare necessities. They were often hungry, wet, cold and often slept outdoors in all kinds of weather. Hymns written by Edward Cooney in the Go-Preacher's Hymn Book mention workers being hungry three times. Some were frostbit, suffered malnutrition, had mental breakdowns, illness, early deaths or retained lasting handicaps from being unable to afford urgently needed medical or dental help. Harry Cross died in 1908 from a spider bite received when sleeping overnight in a barn in Washington. Eldon Tenniswood wrote in his account titled "Early Days in Michigan:"
"Charlie and Jack weren't home when Dad arrived, but he found their little bach. He looked around the place and there was nothing to eat...Mother and Dad often told us about the reproach that the workers suffered, and often with very little to eat and the only transportation they had was to walk. Usually, when they reached our home, they were dead tired from long walks."They often went hungry. Fannie Carroll went into the work in 1904 and wrote of her pioneering experiences: "...we were tested sore. We had nothing to eat. We went out one afternoon to visit, though we weren't able for it. We were weak but it didn't bother us..."
"Around 1904-05, John Hardy and another worker went to Australia. They lived in a tent where they used one half of the tent for their living quarters and the other half for meetings. One day a big storm came and totally ripped their tent to shreds. They then spread newspapers on the ground and slept on them. One day the elder worker woke to find his companion gone with all their money. He never knew where his companion went. Alone in a strange place, he decided to keep spreading the gospel. A man from another city came to listen...The man paid his train fare and asked him to come on the following Friday. So on Friday, the worker arrived. They had quite a gathering waiting, and they had a meal prepared for his arrival. Sitting down to eat, the first time in a long time, John was ravenous. He was able to maintain good manners, and take appropriate portions of food even though he was starving--until dessert. When he was passed the apple pie, he couldn't keep composed anymore and proceeded to eat the whole pie. The children around the table watched in awe and in despair as they saw him devour the whole pie!" (The First Two Workers to go to Australia)
In Elizabeth Jamieson's Reminisces, she mentions once receiving a letter from Willie, her brother in the work. He and Walter Slater were at Pismo Beach, "a grand training ground for preachers," he wrote..."we're living on bread and water." Elizabeth said, "We paid 25 cents a night for a room, and lived on bread and canned milk. I was young and always hungry! Once...we found an apple a child had bitten into. We cut out the bitten part and divided it, and that was our supper....If we'd had seen ahead, it would have been easier to tramp through snow and over muddy roads."
Alfred Magowan wrote: "I recall one occasion when our audience went home and left us to shift for ourselves with empty bellies under the stars. John remarks, 'I think they take us for angels.' When I seemed puzzled, he explained, 'They give us credit for having wings, but no stomachs.' There was always the sky, if others roofs failed." (Alfred Magowan, The Secret Sect by Doug & Helen Parker, page 33)
"Tramp preachers did everything but sweat blood in the days of their going forth in strange lands, and without visible means of support. They knew what it was to live on raw turnips in Scotland, and on oranges in California. They also knew what it was to go for days without anything to eat; and I can speak with authority about it, seeing that I was one of them. We slept under the stars, in schools and churches and halls and empty store buildings--with neither bed nor bed covering. We tramped through snow from morning to night in more than 40 degrees of frost. And, speaking for myself, I know what it is to have my tramp-preaching companion rub the frost out of a frost-bitten ear with snow." (Testimony of a Witness for the Defence by Alfred Magowan)
The Secret Sect reports that a sister worker in Canada lost her fingers as a result of a severe frostbite suffered because she removed her gloves to untangle her horse's harness when the temperature was well below freezing.
In Australia: "Sam (Jones), not a strong person, often suffered from ill health, and at this time, after spending several nights sleeping in the open in a dry river bed with no comforts, fell ill and may well have perished had he not been found by some gypsies who nursed him back to health." (The Bethel Mission)
ARTHUR MCCOY was described as well educated and intelligent. He was from South Australia and he went in the work in1914. From 1914 to 1921, he labored in Tasmania under Adam Hutchison. In 1922, he went to New South Wales (NSW) and was under John Hardie. In1927, he returned to labor in his home state of South Australia (S.A.) and was under Willie Hughes until 1939, when he left both the work and the church.
Arthur McCoy did much to make the Australian friends and workers aware of the pitiful, deplorable conditions the workers were labouring under in Australia. After some terrible experiences, Arthur didn’t believe the Matthew 10 concept “worked,” and didn’t believe that Jesus ever intended for future preachers to follow the Matthew 10 method forever. His conclusion was based on his personal experiences when the Matthew 10 concept had not “worked” for him or many other junior workers. He wound up in the hospital starving and with serious health issues which afflicted him for the rest of his life.
Arthur believed that it was largely due to the unnecessary hardships and poverty he suffered while in the work in northern New South Wales under John Hardie’s oversight, that his health had broken down which resulted in his hip being crippled permanently. After his hip injury, he was unable to ride a bicycle, and he and his companion travelled on a Harley Davidsonmotorcycle with a sidecar furnished by his brother Keith (See photograph).
Arthur explained that the commands of Matthew 10 were given against the background of Jewish social customs at the time of Christ. He said that the law, customs and traditions of Israel provided for the needs of messengers and prophets who were to go empty handed and were to be treated as guests of the people...no such assurance was the lot of modern preachers who followed Wm Irvine's idea that Matthew 10 should be followed literally in the centuries that followed. It was Arthur’s opinion that the overseers were not competent to interpret the scriptures.
Arthur wrote that “No properly organized and effective attempt was made to stop short, overhaul and examine fully the whole matter and the reason for the views held and laid down by the one who started this ‘way’ in 1900 and by the group of early leaders following him, including John Hardie, J. and W. Carroll, G. Walker, Sam Lang, W. Gill, E. Cooney...”
"Preachers were forbidden to carry a change of clothes so Adam Hutchison got round the difficulty of having only one pair of trousers by his ingenious method of having a double seat; he sewed on an extra piece of cloth so that when it wore through from the continuous cycling he was able to take it off and sew on another patch. So strict was he that during a cycling trip of 160 miles in northwestern Tasmania, we did not spend a penny for refreshments, then to be had for sixpence--we got water from creeks and roadside tanks". For three years in Tasmania, he and his "companions lived in poorest rough huts and were often wet with no possibility of changing clothes."
"I would go about a whole year without buying a cup of tea or a meal by the roadside and by managing frugally avoided that expense which seemed somewhat indulgent. Others and I felt impelled by the current teaching and admonition not to accept more than 'a couple of pounds' as the total amount when we set off once more about the year's work. We were so short for two years that most of the time we lived on about three shillings and sixpence a week for both of us for food. In an old bucket we found we made thin apple jam from windfall apples and a little sugar, and we were so thin that our clothes hung on us. Weeks behind with rent for our empty cottage we cut twenty-two tons of boiler wood at three shillings and sixpence a ton, and packed loads of blue-gum leaves into containers for a friendly old Congregational church man who ran a eucalyptus distillery.
At that time, John Hardie was the Elder or Overseer of New South Wales (NSW). “John's practice was, just after each convention, to ask each worker in turn, ‘How much have you got?’ and hold out his hand for it, acting as controller (i.e. John Hardie). We saw and had part in his doing this after the 1923 convention, handing each worker back two pounds and in some cases also a train or coach fare to go to his or her new field.”
“Because we were reduced to severe straits there, we repaired and erected an old windmill to help pay our way, mended cartwheels, and dried our one set of wet clothes as best we might…When our rent was six shillings a week we worked as builders' labourers, but when they heard that McMurray, Helms and I worked to earn a little during missions, Edward Cooney and Adam Hutchison found fault. Edward Cooney said it was a 'travesty of Matthew 10', and Adam asked me not to go to work again. I replied that Paul worked in necessity, and wrote of it, but Adam made no reply to this."
"At the end of 1922...I cycled 109 miles up to Glen Innes and took the opportunity of finding Jim Gordon, whom I met briefly. He noticed my boots, worn into holes, and even wanted to buy me a new pair. I declined this kind offer, not seeing the fairness of it.
"We went on to Bellingen, Repton and Uranga on the Bellinger River. We found an old empty cottage near the river; our water supply was from part of an iron tank which contained a foot of water, and there were mosquitoes in swarms so we bought a quarter yard of mosquito netting to make two face covers; otherwise rest was impossible. Fleas were on the floor by our two rugs like Caesar's legions so Harry and I poured hot water on them but more came up out of the cracks. A dentist in Bellingen told me he would charge ten shillings to fix up a damaged tooth which cost was beyond us-so I filed it off with a small file and had to leave it. An abscess came later.
The journey to Dumaresq on the tablelands where we were due to prepare for the convention was about 210 miles, so we cycled off again northwards…I felt pain in the right leg, and after a little work decided to visit the Armidale doctor, Dr. Austin who examined me. He required me to go into hospital at once and that evening he opened the leg from hip to knee to the bone. Other operations followed, eight in all, which finally made the hip rigid.
Arthur was unable to put out of his mind the indifference shown by his Overseers to the shocking living conditions and medical needs of junior workers who had and still were suffering needless poverty and health challenges. At several conventions, Arthur urged the Overseers John Hardie and Willie Hughes to review the policy of sending men and women out to preach under conditions that seemed to him to be contrary to the mind of Christ.
Arthur wrote: “In any case the set of commandments given to the apostles at first should not have been taken out of its proper time and situation…This 'way', as it was popularly called, can be seen to be in effect a parody, a travesty, a clumsy and poor imitation of the work into which Christ Jesus called the twelve apostles. It should be admitted honestly that many suffered needlessly for not discerning the true time, situation, circumstances and reasons for the set of instructions Christ gave to the apostles.”
In 1939 when he was about 50 years old, Arthur said, "After I protested to the overseer face to face, I left the fellowship and preached no more. I regret at least some of my own venture and have the crippled hip as a result of it.'' Arthur's mother, brother and sister also left the church when Arthur did. From that time on until his death in the 1970’s, he openly criticized the method used by the church in handling funds and the workers’ method of following Matthew 10. Some time after he left the work, Arthur married.
It is not known whether or not Arthur’s pleas to Overseers on behalf of other young workers fell on deaf ears...hopefully, his outcry to this great injustice made a difference and the workers reviewed their methods and made changes to alleviate the needless suffering. God respects those who take up for the oppressed. Regardless his good intentions to alleviate suffering on behalf of others, Arthur was considered by many of his fellow friends and co-workers to be bitter, obsessed, eccentric and fanatical. His reputation was maligned, he bore much reproach, as he valiantly attempted to, “make his paths straight.” (Matt. 3:3)
Some also suffered great mental anguish when they were physically unable to endure the standards of Matthew 10. Rarely was financial assistance provided for those who suffered hardship in the work, nor when sickness and urgent personal needs arose. Yes, their 2x2 method "worked" but how WELL did it work? When they went entirely on faith at first, it did not work very well, it would seem.
Some reason that IF their experimental method was NOT according to God's will, then, it would not "work;" i.e. would either come to nothing; God would hinder its progress; no one would profess; their needs would not be met, etc. If the early workers were using this line of faulty reasoning, willing converts would have been viewed as "proof" to them that their 2x2 method "worked." Therefore, some likely concluded then, as some do today. that their 2x2 method must be God's Only True Way.
Man's acceptance or rejection isn't and never has been a true gauge of what is right in God's eyes. Whether or not something appears to "work" or feels right is not a measure of God's favor or truth. Communism, slavery and satanism all "work." Also, if the workers needs being met or gaining converts proved that God endorsed Irvine's 2x2 method of ministry, then the converse would also be true: when their needs weren't met, and only a few accepted their message, it would prove that God wasn't necessarily behind Irvine's 2x2 method. It would also prove that preachers of other denominations found favor with God when their needs were met and people converted to Christianity through their invitation.
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