Workers, Friends, Home Church, The Truth, The Way, Meetings, Gospel, Cooneyites, Christian Conventions, Hymns Old & New
Preserving the Truth
The Church without a Name and its Founder, William Irvine

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O Bio Truth?

Chapter 21
Revised January 23, 2018

1900 - 1906

The Restoration Ideal
What were the early days like???
How Well Did William Irvine's Method Work?

The Restoration Ideal
Wm. Irvine's Role
Their Mission, Beliefs & Practices
Their Lack of a Name
Their Outlook, Preaching and Teaching
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 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.  The correspondent "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" (IR, Oct. 7, 1909). A reporter 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" (IR, Aug. 12, 1909).

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" (IR, Aug. 5, 1909).  He also wrote:

"All that God begins is right...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" (Life & Ministry of Edward Cooney by Roberts, p. 23).

William Clelland was the brother of two of Wm. Irvine's brothers-in-law who entered the work in 1900. He 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" (Secret Sect by Parker, p. 96, Fn. 32).

Irvine's experiment to restore the primitive New Testament church and to return to the faith and practices of the Apostolic Age was not a novel or unique approach. There were other religious leaders with the same ideals and goals. "The Restoration Movement" was begun in the 19th century when some Christian men attempted to return the church to its original New Testament state and to the simple teaching of the Bible alone. They abandoned 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. They did not consider their return to primitive Christianity as a new denomination or sect. They were committed to the restoration principle, to the inspiration and authority of Scripture.  For more information, see Restoration Movement in Wikipedia.

Like the 2x2 fellowship, several other religious movements also held the belief that no one on earth for eighteen centuries had 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 earth through their personal revelations. Some of these were Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science; Charles T. Russell, founder of Jehovah's Witnesses; Herbert W. Armstrong, founder of the Worldwide Church of God; Victor Paul Wierwille, founder of The Way International; and Joseph Smith, founder of Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Mormons). Each of these religious leaders claimed that God broke through hundreds of years of silence to speak solely through each of them individually.

William Irvine, Founder of a the Two by Two Sect, also believed he alone had been divinely appointed to restore God's true way to earth. He also claimed that all other churches and ministers led to hell, and that the Church he founded was God's only True Way on earth. What makes Irvine's self-proclaimed revelation, or experiment more reliable or superior than other Founders' self-proclaimed revelations?

WM. IRVINE'S ROLE: Ed Cooney viewed 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; Secret Sect by Parker, p. 71).

[Wm Irvine]"...thrives on the excitement and his burning zeal impresses itself on any who listen...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 [Irvine] 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...take away ‘hell’ from the addresses of these people and there is nothing left. They have no teaching power" (IR, Jan. 29, 1903).

Wm. Clelland wrote: "In our conventions at Rathmolyon and other places, Bill [William Irvine] was always the leader of the meetings, and chose all the 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" (Secret Sect by Parker, pp. 34–35, Fn. 6, personal communication, Nov. 8, 1954).

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. 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."

HOW WELL DID WM. IRVINE'S METHOD WORK?  In the early days, some Workers pioneering in countries where there were no Friends to help support them suffered terrible hardships. According to various accounts, it was not at all uncommon for workers to lack the bare necessities. They were often wet and cold, and slept outdoors in all kinds of weather. The Go-Preacher's Hymn Book mentions workers being hungry three times. Some were frostbitten, suffered malnutrition, experienced mental breakdowns, illness and early deaths, and some 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. 

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..." A sister worker in Canada lost her fingers as a result of severe frostbite after she removed her gloves to untangle her horse's harness when the temperature was well below freezing. Annie Cook's foot froze while she was looking for a place to hold Gospel Meetings in Eastman, Quebec. 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."

"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...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...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...proceeded to eat the whole pie"  (The First Two Workers to go to Australia).

In Elisabeth Jamieson's Reminisces, she mentions once receiving a letter from her brother in the work. Willie 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..."

"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"  (Magowan, Secret Sect by Parker, p. 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...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).

In Australia, speaking of Sam Jones:  "After landing in Fremantle...his companion left him, being discouraged. Sam letting him have what little money he could give, but getting worn out with the journey, took shelter in an empty house. Next day he found himself to weak he couldn't walk and was there for 18 days til some Gypsies found him half dead, but giving him some food, restored him to life again" (Review of Hymns).

ARTHUR MCCOY, from South Australia entered the work in 1914 and from 1922 to 1927, he labored in New South Wales (NSW) under John Hardie. In 1939, he left both the work and the 2x2 church.

Arthur McCoy did much to make the Australian Friends and Workers aware of the pitiful, deplorable conditions the Workers laboured under in Australia. After some terrible experiences, Arthur didn’t believe the Matthew 10 concept “worked” due to his personal experiences, and came to believe that Jesus never intended for future preachers to follow the Matthew 10 method forever. The Matthew 10 concept had not “worked” for him or many other junior workers.

Arthur explained that the commands of Matthew 10 were given against the background of Jewish social customs at the time of Christ. 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. There was no such assurance to the preachers who followed Wm. Irvine's idea that Matthew 10 should be copied literally in the centuries that followed in foreign lands.

It was Arthur’s opinion that the overseers were not competent to interpret the scriptures. Arthur wrote: “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...”

At several conventions, Arthur urged 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.”

"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...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). Arthur wrote,“John [Hardie'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. 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.

Arthur wound up in a hospital, starving with an infected leg. "...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" (Secret Sect by Parker, pp. 38-45).

After his hip injury, Arthur was unable to ride a bicycle. He and his companion travelled on a Harley Davidson motorcycle with a sidecar furnished by Arthur's brother Keith (See photograph). Arthur believed he was crippled largely due to the unnecessary hardships and poverty he suffered while in the work in northern NSW under John Hardie’s oversight. He was unable to ignore the indifference shown by his Overseers to the shocking living conditions and medical needs of junior Workers who had and were still suffering needless poverty and health challenges.

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.'' His mother, brother and sister also left the church when Arthur did. From that time until his death in the 1970s, he openly criticized the method used by the church in handling funds and the workers’ method of following Matthew 10. After he left the work, Arthur eventually married.

It is not known whether Arthur’s pleas to Overseers on behalf of junior Workers fell on deaf ears. Hopefully, his outcry to this great injustice made a difference and changes were modified to alleviate the needless suffering. God respects those who take up for the oppressed. Regardless of 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 and he bore much reproach as he valiantly attempted to, "make his paths straight” (Matt. 3:3).

Some Workers 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. It can be seen that in the early days when the Workers went entirely on faith, it did not work out very well for some.

Some Workers and Friends have expressed the reasoning that IF the 2x2 method was NOT according to God's will, then, it would not "work;" i.e. would come to nothing; i.e. that God would hinder its progress, no one would convert and the Workers' needs would not be met, etc. The early Workers used this line of reasoning when they went on Faith Lines on their experimental 1899 bicycle trip to Scotland. They viewed their converts as "proof" that their 2x2 method "worked,"  and, concluded, as some also do today, that God intended for the two by two method on faith lines in Matthew 10 to be followed universally for all time in preaching the Gospel message.

Man's acceptance or rejection is not and never has been a true gauge of what is approved of God. Whether or not something appears to "work," or "feels right" is not a measure of God's favor. Communism, slavery and Satanism all "work." If the Workers' needs being met and their acquiring converts was "proof" that God endorsed a particular Ministry, then the same would also be true for other denominational Christian ministers with the same experience. 

Telling the Truth has a hard copy of the documents, books, newspaper articles, references, etc. used in this book. Any exceptions are noted with an asterisk (*).

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