New Year's Day, 1893--an occasion for celebrating! The handsome, broad-shouldered, brown curly-haired Scotsman, William Irvine, had entertained a number of his young friends at the Pantomimes that day. What should have been an enjoyable occasion had left him feeling, in his words, "very tired and sick of all the world had given" him. He left the theater depressed and disillusioned with his life. That night he was in such a state of despair that he seriously considered "ending it all by death alone in my own home" (Dec. 4, 1921, to Kerrs, TTT).
With no other realistic career prospects in his small hometown of Kilsyth, Scotland, located near Glasgow, he had followed in the footsteps of many of his male relatives, including his father, grandfather, uncles, brothers, and cousins who were coal miners. Mining was a dangerous industry and daily, miners faced possible injury or death.
At age 10 in 1873, Irvine went underground to work in the coal mines. By age 20, through grueling, hazardous, dirty work, he was making a good salary of about £300 a year as a contractor. By age 30, he had risen to the position of General Manager of Baird's Collieries at Bothwell, overseeing two of their pits in Lanarkshire where he supervised many men.
Now, his 30th birthday loomed a week away, on January 7. While envied by many for the outward trappings of his apparently successful mining career, Irvine was "far from feeling satisfied inwardly" (Jan. 6, 1933, to Buck, TTT). He had many regrets. He still missed his sister Margaret who died at age 24, the sibling to whom he was the closest and who was also his housekeeper. His illegitimate son, Archibald (by a first cousin), was six years old. Regardless of the outward state of his affairs, his life "seemed so hollow and disappointing, both in pleasure, place and power" that he "thought on finishing my course, so much disgusted was I with what the world looked upon as a successful life" (Oct. 13, 1920, to Dunbars, TTT).
Within a week, he would make a choice that was "quite unexpected and in a way that was quite foreign to any of my plans or calculations." This decision would radically alter the course of his life during the following decades.
On a whim, on the day following his 30th birthday, Irvine attended a gospel mission in the nearby town of Motherwell conducted by Rev. John McNeill, a well-known Presbyterian traveling evangelist associated with Dwight L. Moody's campaign. During the service, Irvine was deeply moved and surprised himself by making his decision to "serve the Lord, no matter what it meant or cost."
His choice soon caused him to abandon his career, give up his home, move in with his parents (where his son may have been residing), and attend the Glasgow Bible Training Institute for the next two years.
Those to whom he was closest considered him to be foolishly throwing away his prospects. Many religious people "were glad to see me professing, but who...made me feel a sinner for having given up a good position in life." Nevertheless, he resolutely continued with his plans. Little did anyone realize when he embarked on his journey, how far reaching the effects would be.
This book follows Irvine's life and ministry and the founding and development of the new religious movement that emerged from Irvine's spiritual odyssey. As his revolutionary new Sect caught on and spread rapidly, it received considerable attention from both the press and public at the turn of the 20th century throughout Great Britain and Ireland. This unique Sect has continued for over 120 years to directly influence and shape the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals worldwide right up to the present, although few outside the group have ever heard of it.
This low-profile Sect avoids publicity and members keep largely to themselves. Notably different from most Christian churches, they have never published any books or literature (except for a hymnal), nor do they have a creed, mission/belief statement, written list of rules or internet presence. They have no acknowledged name or headquarters and do not advertise on radio, television or by mail.
Four Years Later (1897)
Revival is in the Air!
Some view the beginning of William Irvine's new Sect to be his first independent Mission held in August 1897, in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Certainly, it was the genesis of a full-scale revival. While only five people attended his opening Meeting, one hundred were present at his closing meeting. More than 30 members of the community were converted. Next, Irvine held a Mission in the schoolhouse in Rathmolyon, Co. Meath, Ireland, where 40 persons were converted. Soon after, most converts became full-time missionaries.
Irvine returned to Nenagh and held a second Mission in the Presbyterian Church. As a result, more individuals decided to follow Christ, some old believers were stirred up, and converts from the former Mission were strengthened. The whole town of Nenagh was in a ferment of revival. The fruits and signs many were expecting from a work of God were seen, felt and manifested. Contemporary accounts record there was a revival of the salvation of souls; of the restoration of backsliders; and a resurgence of prayer, praise and preaching, attended with good works, self-denial and hospitality. Revival was in the air!
A New Religious Sect Creates No Small Stir (1902)
The revival in Ireland by this peculiar new religious Sect began drawing attention. First appearing in rural villages and towns, it soon gained a large following. Most converts became itinerant missionaries who preached in same sex pairs ("two by two," from Mark 6:7, Luke 10:7). As early as 1904, reporters recognized William Irvine as the founder and leader of the Sect.
Newspapers avidly reported details to fascinated readers. Everything about this unusual new Sect came under scrutiny, from its lack of a name, its founder, preachers, missions, conventions, practices and doctrine to their distinctive mode of dress. Viewing the churches of the day as having gone astray and digressed from the "straight and narrow" pathway, the Preachers believed and openly announced that God had called them to awaken people to escape the danger of hellfire.
The converts considered their method of a two by two ministry and home churches to be a revival of the primitive teachings and practices of the New Testament. They believed God was using William Irvine to restore the New Testament church and to return to the faith and practices of the Apostolic Age. One essential tenet that emerged was that God only recognized Preachers who followed Jesus' instructions to his 12 disciples in Matthew 10, and that this commandment was to be universal for all time.
In practice, this entailed leaving their homes and jobs, giving away their possessions, becoming itinerant and proceeding in faith that God would provide for their needs while they evangelized without a salary, but accepting freewill, unsolicited support. Another tenet that soon took hold was that the Holy Spirit was only found in churches that assembled in members' homes; that God does not dwell in church buildings ( Acts 7:48 KJV ). All churches that assembled in a church building were considered "false" churches. They believed their group followed the New Testament methods more closely than any other church.
Their Preachers showed very little respect for clergymen, and many sermons were filled with anti-clericalism. They challenged established religious authorities, engaged in irreverent, wholesale condemnation of other well-known Christian ministers, denominations and their founders. John Wesley was a liar, and the Pope a devil at heart. They openly degraded the founders of Episcopalianism (the national Anglican church aka Church of Ireland), Lutheranism (Martin Luther), Methodism (John Wesley), Plymouth Brethrenism (John Darby), Presbyterianism (John Knox), and Roman Catholicism (the Pope). The word "hell" figured prominently in their sermons, and most were headed in that direction.
Bible scholars and well-known theologians, such as Charles Spurgeon, John Calvin (Calvinism), Dwight L. Moody (Holiness Movement) were all lumped together in the bottomless pit. General Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, would soon join them. No one could possibly be right with God unless they were saved through the instrumentality of one of the 2x2 Preachers, and no "true" preacher existed outside of their Sect.
They openly called other preachers liars, hypocritical blasphemers, fanatics and false prophets. Naturally, their unabashed ridicule and scorn infuriated many. A description of Irvine's right-hand man, Edward Cooney, in the 1905 Irish Presbyterian Journal stated:
"These 'Pilgrims,' or 'Tramp Preachers,' as they are commonly called...developed what may best be described as a new sect, distinguished for its bitter hostility to all existing Churches, and to a regular paid ministry of any kind...It is believed that the originator of this somewhat erratic development was a Scotchman called Irwin, [Irvine]."
Irvine refused to brand his new belief system with an official name based on Acts 4:12 (KJV) : "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." For identification purposes, the press and public provided a variety of monikers, including "Irvinites," "Cooneyites," "Reidites," "Tramp Preachers," "Pilgrims," "Dippers," "Two by Twos," "The Jesus Way," and "Go-Preachers," the last derived from Matthew 10:7 , "And as ye go, preach." Early Preacher Wilson McClung commented:
"And who are we? We have no name...but the ribald multitude give us many. Some call us Cooneyites, some call us Tramps, Faith Missionaries, No-Secters, Women-Thieves, and so on...Our Mission was started by William Irvine, a Scotchman, seven or eight years ago. Others followed him. I myself was a Civil Servant in Dublin. I resigned my post, sold all that I had and gave to the poor, and went out to preach." ( Impartial Reporter June 21, 1906 , TTT )
Early and current 2x2 Sect members have commonly referred to their ministers as "Workers," "Preachers," "Servants," "Brother or Sister Workers." The followers are called "Friends" or "Saints." In later years, among themselves, members have commonly referred to the Sect as "the Truth," "the Way," "the Fellowship," "God's Kingdom," "God's Family," "God's People" and "the Fold."
THE TWO BY TWO SECT. The Author predominately refers to the movement as the "Two by Two Sect," abbreviated "2x2 Sect." The definition of the term "sect" is a nonconformist church; a religious faction united by common interests or beliefs; or a religious group that has separated from an established church. These descriptions accurately portray the 2x2 Sect. Newspapers at the turn of the 20th century often referred to the movement as a New Sect.
Their unusual method of baptizing converts by full immersion in natural waters drew large, curious crowds. Followers were easily recognizable: the women by their dark dresses or skirts, plain, sober blouses, simple sailor hats, natural faces and lack of jewelry (including wedding rings), and the men by their unshaven beards, brown undershirts and rubber collars. They abstained from dancing, liquor and tobacco.
The Preachers claimed their belief system was not an organization. The Sect owned no property, church buildings or parsonage. Their Preachers had no sponsors, did not take a salary or collections and were supported by voluntary member donations. They generally stayed with those who invited them into their homes or rented rooms. In their early days, each Preacher typically possessed only one set of clothing. Only a few were married.
At times, the itinerant Preachers were victims of violence and persecution in Ireland and England resulting in property damage and other relatively minor acts of vandalism. Some riots also occurred in the Sect's early days. In Trim, Ireland, John Long wrote, "It took seven policemen to keep back a howling mob of upwards of two hundred men of Belial who pressed upon us throwing stones, missiles and ugly language" ( Jan. 1899, TTT ). The Impartial Reporter and Farmers Journal newspaper reported similar incidents in Newtownards and Swords, Ireland, and in rural Suffolk and Sudbury, England. Even further afield, the September 17, 1908, Washington Post reported that tents were burned, and shots fired at the Baltimore, Maryland, U.S. Convention.
In 1903, Irvine and two of his Workers, George Walker and Irvine Weir, sailed to America hoping to expand the new Sect. Over the next few years, several more Workers volunteered to preach in colonies where English was spoken, such as Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.
The new Sect created amazement in 1904 when its first large-scale annual Convention commenced in the tiny village of Ballinamallard, Co. Fermanagh, Ireland, near Enniskillen, on a property called Crocknacrieve owned by John and Sara West. From the July 5, 1910, Irish Independent describing a later gathering there:
"The Cooneyite 'Dippers' or 'Tramp Preachers' have just opened a Convention at Crocknacrieve, the residence of Mr. John West, near Enniskillen. This is a record assembly, as delegates come from all parts of the world, and elaborate preparations have been made for housing them and providing food supplies. The proceedings are to last six weeks, and during that time, it is calculated 10,000 adherents will participate. Mr. William Irvin, [Irvine] the founder of the Sect, is in attendance and Mr. Edmund [Edward] Cooney, his chief Lieutenant, is returning from Canada to take part in the deliberations."
Fast forward to 1914, seventeen years after the Sect began, Irvine's Senior Workers refused to submit to his leadership and forced Irvine to step down. In 1928, Irvine's right-hand man, Edward Cooney, suffered the same fate. When these men were expelled, some loyal followers left also. Subsequently, three separate groups emerged, all from the same founder, William Irvine.
THE IMPARTIAL REPORTER AND FARMERS JOURNAL. Based in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, this local newspaper is the third oldest newspaper in Ireland. For 181 years it was owned and operated by the Trimble family (1825-2006), after which it was purchased by the Ulster News Group, a subsidiary of Dunfermine Press Ltd., purchased in 2007.
When the 2x2 Sect began, the Proprietor of the Impartial Reporter and Farmers Journal was William Copeland Trimble (1851-1941, aka W.C.T.) In Dublin on October 3, 1881, he married Letitia Jane Weir (1854-1892). They had five children.
Letitia was the daughter of John Weir, a relative of the William Weir family who owned the retail store Weirs of Baggot Street in Dublin, which remains in business. For years, a 2x2 Sunday morning Meeting was held above the store in William Weir's home. By some accounts, this was where the very first 2x2 Sect Fellowship Meeting assembled. (See Facebook and their web site: Weirs of Baggot St.)
To date, the earliest newspaper article found explicitly covering the new Sect was dated January 15, 1903 , published by the Impartial Reporter . Reporters from that venerable newspaper attended and wrote numerous first-hand, detailed articles about the early Conventions, Missions, Workers, and Friends, from which the Author traced the early development of the movement from the turn of the 20th century, but no earlier.
Interested parties, including the Author in 2004 and 2014, have made pilgrimages to what some fondly call the "Old Country," and have visited various sites in the UK and Ireland connected with the Sect's early days, including the Impartial Reporter newspaper office. While the they no longer allow the public access to their fragile archives, most articles cited in this book are available at the British Library in London, and are reprinted on the Author's associated website Telling The Truth at tellingthetruth.info.
Are these old newspaper accounts reliable? Was the media coverage biased or skewed? British law was and is quite strict in punishing defamatory statements. By the 17th century, statements in writing (libelous) were dealt with more harshly than spoken statements (slanderous). British law increasingly expanded the definition of "defamation" beyond that of other nations to include not only physical and financial damages, but also statements that damaged reputations. Because of legal ramifications, newspapers in the early 20th century scrupulously verified facts, connotations, implications and sources used in their publications. When they erred, they typically printed a hasty retraction.
Some 2x2 Sect members have asserted that some newspapers printed false statements and limited viewpoints. They scoff at the very name of the newspaper, The Impartial Reporter , and claim it was actually the opposite; i.e. partial and biased against the 2x2 Sect. However, some of their articles were quite complimentary. Furthermore, early 2x2 members were not shy about writing letters to the editor to debate, expressing differing opinions or providing explanations. Press criticisms were often based upon the group's claims and proclamations, which included direct quotations from the 2x2 Preachers and followers.
PRIMARY SOURCES OF 2X2 HISTORICAL INFORMATION. Today, over 120 years later, there are no surviving witnesses to testify in person about the Sect's beginnings. However, there are many primary written sources that provide first-hand testimony or direct evidence by witnesses, reporters or recorders who were present at and experienced the events being documented. These provide revealing insights into the genesis of the group's unique practices, as well as how they were regarded by the wider community.
Some primary materials include diaries, journals, speeches, interviews, letters, memoirs, manuscripts, photographs, autobiographies, published materials (books, magazines, newspaper articles), official records, court cases, ship manifests, etc. These enable researchers to determine as closely as possible what actually took place during a historical period.
Additional primary documents unearthed in more recent times include articles in the Impartial Reporter and other newspapers, the monthly periodical Bright Words published by the Faith Mission, writings by early Worker Alfred Magowan, thousands of letters by William Irvine to his followers from 1911 to 1947, and four books about Edward Cooney by his official biographer, Dr. Patricia Roberts.
In the past 20 years, several excellent primary sources have surfaced providing additional details about this Sect. One is a document written in 1935 titled "Account of the Early Days" by Goodhand Pattison of Cloughjordan, Co. Tipperary, Ireland. Pattison was an early convert and is recognized by many 2x2 members as a reliable first-hand historian of the 2x2 Sect.
Perhaps the most important discovery to date has been the comprehensive Journal of John Long, an early Worker who assisted William Irvine at his first independent revival Mission in 1897. A former Methodist, Long was a Worker until 1907, when Irvine publicly excommunicated him for refusing to declare that all Christian ministers, except for Irvine's Preachers, including John Wesley, were false preachers. John Long's career as a minister did not end with his excommunication. He went on to become a successful independent evangelist.
It is a universally acknowledged truth that all things on earth have a beginning, and the 2x2 Sect is no exception. Over the years, unsuccessful attempts have been made to conceal, erase and expunge evidence of Irvine's founding role and the name of Edward Cooney. Also, the well-attested historical facts surrounding their beginnings have been buried through active denial, passive obfuscation and the deliberate manufacture of a range of theories about the church's origins circulated among members. These include claims of a continuing 2x2 ministry of "apostolic succession," either directly or passed down person-to-person through a chain of like-minded individuals back to the apostles. Another involves variations on the theme of the Sect having sprung up from "the same seed" (that lay dormant for 1900 years) or "the stump" of the original church (a "remnant" theory).
Regardless of the voluminous and broadly consistent amount of information available from their early period, some 2x2 Sect leaders have claimed the history of the Sect is not traceable. Yet they have not presented any documentary evidence contradicting the numerous, first-hand descriptions and claims made in the newspapers of the era and those written by other eye-witnesses, early Workers, and members.
The sheer magnitude of available, reliable data from this period, drawn from a variety of public and private sources, provides a comprehensive picture of the birth of this fledgling movement. The new Sect was big news and was covered by reporters from many media organizations, resulting in articles printed in literally hundreds of newspapers worldwide during the first twenty years of the 2x2 Sect's growth.
The Sect does not publish any membership statistics, either regionally or on a worldwide basis. Any figures they possess are closely guarded and kept private. All figures, including those cited on Wikipedia, must be regarded as best estimates only. Researchers and reporters have provided a wide range of estimates for the Sect's numbers. Some are calculated from the number of ministers listed on Workers Lists, annual Conventions, and a few legal documents. The last known worldwide list of ministers dated 1991, showed 2,505 total Workers, provided all were able physically to preach.
This book will be a veritable fount of information for members, former members and preachers who are interested in learning about this nameless Sect's beginning, founder, history and development. Curious relatives of members, prospective converts and outsiders will find helpful criteria to enable a balanced evaluation of the Sect's claims.
Although the 2x2 Sect in no small way owes its existence and origin to the early Missions held by William Irvine in Ireland at the turn of the 20th century, today few 2x2 followers have ever heard the name of the man who founded their Church. They deserve to know.
Some believe Irvine was influenced by the Holiness Movement which began in the mid-1800s, and that he borrowed or adapted from its practices and principles. While, there are many similarities in their terminology and perspectives, there are also significant differences. For example, the 2x2 Sect introduced a strong emphasis on the necessity of hearing a saving gospel only through its ministry and following its Meeting format that are totally foreign to Holiness doctrines.
The Holiness Movement doctrine transcends denominational lines. The Keswick Conventions, Faith Mission, Salvation Army, and Methodists all taught traditional Holiness concept, which should not be confused with the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.
The2x2 Sect also shared several characteristics found in other 19th century movements during that era's resurgence in religious interest and vigor, sometimes known as the "Second Great Awakening." These were typically characterized by large revivals, emergence of new denominations, and active mission work. Various influences at that time included the Brunstad Church, the Stone-Campbell Restoration movement, Methodism, Madame Guyon, Quakers, the Holiness Movement, etc.
The 2x2s adopted the core tenet of the Holiness Movement doctrine of sanctification, defined as being "set apart" for the Lord's use and the possibility of achieving personal perfection and spiritual maturity. Both movements promote a life of obedience, self-denial, abstaining from the appearance of evil, separating from and not conforming to the world, walking in the light, etc. (See chapter 30.)
Confirming their high regard for sanctification, early Worker Jack Carroll declared to a 2x2 audience, " If you don't believe in sanctification, you are not in the Kingdom, are not yet a child in the Kingdom, and if you don't believe in being wholly sanctified, it is doubtful whether you have entered at all" (Carroll n.d., Matthew 13, TTT).
Irvine arrogated elements from a variety of preexisting movements and sources in shaping his new Sect. Obviously, he carried forward a significant amount of Faith Mission terminology and practices, while altering and jettisoning others. Many Faith Mission practices for daily living were themselves applications of the Holiness Movement doctrine. As the 2x2 Sect is not a member of the Holiness movement, Holiness doctrines are beyond the scope of this book.
The following quotations provide insight into Irvine, his methods, doctrine and principles from first-hand witnesses.
John Long's description of Meetings:
"Concerning conducting Meetings and Missions, something could be learned from Irvine's methods; he had no fixed forms or stereotyped methods of prayer, praise, and preaching; yet he did it with order and reverence. He seldom prepared his sermons beforehand ... He occasionally threw his Meetings open for prayer but encouraged shortness and definiteness. He had plenty of singing and was careful in selecting hymns suitable for the occasion He always valued God's gifts in others and utilised any person who could sing solos effectually to the glory of God. He seldom had After-Meetings but tested his Meetings immediately after his sermon, without dismissing his audience and nearly always was successful. He often had Testimony Meetings; and encouraged shortness and up-to-date testimonies; and always tried to get young converts to speak, sing and pray. Sometimes he closed the Meetings by singing the doxology; and at times made them grasp each other's hands and sing 'Keep me true Lord to Thee.'" ( April 1898 , TTT )
Goodhand Pattison's description of Meetings:
"He [William Irvine] came along to Nenagh and had Meetings in the Methodist Chapel and inside about a fortnight ... had succeeded in causing such a stir ... as had been entirely unknown there. Reports reached us at Cloughjordan about this strange man and his strange methods, etc. Nearly everything was highly unconventional-forms, rules and usages were either discarded or flung ruthlessly aside; instead of the beaten path.
"One never knew ... what was going to come next with him, sometimes hardly any sermon, at other times nearly all sermons; sometime give out a hymn, and ... [other times] never sing a hymn at all ... sometimes nearly all racy anecdotes with plenty smiles and laughter; at other times soul-stirring exhortation, backed by sad and tragic experiences, etc. All this added freshness and life to the words of one whose intense earnestness and wholehearted zeal and devotion none of us had seen before." (1935, Various, TTT)
John Long's description of Irvine:
"In either secular or religious matters, he was a born leader of men; he was a holy man and practical. In personal dealing, he was preeminently the best conversationalist I ever met and skilful in soul winning. He had a marvellous insight into the deep things of God's word, and like his Master, was an apt teacher of all who received the truth with pleasure. He always set forth the cross, and was a swift witness against all pride, vainglory and hypocrisy; he was severe on Christians, but merciful to sinners. In prayer, praise, and preaching he excelled in joy, liberty, and power. He was very much opposed and misunderstood by religious people; nevertheless, the common people liked him and heard him gladly." ( March 1897 , TTT )
Goodhand Pattison's description of Irvine:
"But here comes a man, a complete stranger, without pedigree, prestige or credentials worth the meaning, only on fire with loyalty and love for God and souls; unfettered and unhindered by traditions and opinions of men, and with an untiring energy and consuming zeal. He dared to be, do, or suffer in obeying God (as he then understood it) whatever it meant or cost ' in labors more abundant,' 'through evil report and good report,' he just went on, in face of much within and without to thwart and hinder; becoming in a comparatively short time the wonder and admiration of many, and the object of envy and opposition of many others. Even some who never followed in his footsteps much farther than as ordinary hearers in his earlier mission were wont to admit they had never seen anyone who came nearer to what Jesus must have been like--while others of the more distinctly religious type, not relishing his plainness of speech in exposing what most would have to admit was only too true, were wont to say of him 'his words are galling.'" ( 1935, Practice, TTT )
Alfred Magowan's description of Irvine:
"I will cherish grateful recollections of his striking lightning, his crashing thunder, and the gentle winds and refreshing showers which followed. His storms of wrath against humbug and hypocrisy were dreadful to see and to hear; and his sympathetic understanding of weak and troubled souls made him the most loved man I have ever met. He was the only preacher I ever heard who made clear distinctions between weakness and wickedness; weakness was of the flesh and the will; wickedness was of the heart and showed itself mainly in religious and respectable iniquity--in the ordinary ways of strong men taking advantage of the weak; rich men exploiting the poor; religious rulers tyrannizing over the fearful...in the name of Christ and His Church...
"And where the common run of preachers murdered the Scriptures by elocutionary reading of them, or by dull and flat interpretations and applications of them, he brought them to life by the abundance of his own life from his childhood among hard-working people. And he was well acquainted with hard work himself in the 'bowels of the earth.' He had also a grand sense of humour and of the fitness of things...
"He was the most sensitive-spirited preacher I ever met ... And of course, he never used notes: that would have been like going to a dinner and taking his own food with him ... He could not endure religious ostentation of any kind...And distinctive religious garb filled him with a deep disgust." ( Magowan 1948, 4-5*)
IRVINE'S DOCTRINE AND PRINCIPLES. As viewed by John Long:
"Concerning the principals of the Doctrine of Christ, he [William Irvine] was sound. He believed in the fall of man, in the Atonement, in the Trinity, in the Divinity of our Lord, in the immortality of the soul, in the resurrection of the body, the inspiration of the Bible, in Heaven for the saved and in Hell for the lost. He believed in a personal Devil, the enemy of God and man. He believed and taught Repentance and that every person can be saved and know it, and that the conditions of Salvation were 'If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved,' Romans 10:9 ... He taught that every saved soul is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ ... and that the life of Jesus is the pattern for everyone to imitate and follow; and that the life of forsaking all for Christ's sake was the best to live. The fruits of that teaching resulted in farmers, shopkeepers, domestic servants, schoolteachers, police, soldiers, and persons of every occupation forsaking all that they had to follow Jesus, and to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God." ( March 1898 , TTT )
SPEAKING AGAINST CHURCHES AND CLERGY. Irvine took Isaiah 41:15 (KJV) as his "Call to Service": " Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff." He saw himself as God's personally appointed "Thresher," who was given the task of exposing the unscriptural aspects of clericalism. He often railed against the clergy, which caused many in his audience to react with outrage and some with vengefulness and even rioting. He challenged religious authorities, insulted and mocked various preachers and claimed they would be or were in hell, including such highly revered men as John Wesley, Charles Spurgeon and the Popes. A reporter wrote, "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 hellfire" ( Impartial Reporter Jan. 15, 1903 , TTT ).
According to John Long, "A good deal of opposition arose at that time because William Irvine spoke with great authority against the unfaithfulness of the clergy; many threw on the brake, but he refused to be corrected by them, believing that God had raised him up to thresh the mountains" ( March 1898 , TTT).
William Irvine's unkind, finger-pointing accusations were frequently reported in newspapers and caused some to deny him access to their churches, buildings, or facilities for his Missions. Irvine solved this dilemma by building portable wooden halls Workers used for both Missions and living quarters.
In 1900 in Co. Wexford, Ireland, an enraged mob destroyed Robert Todd and Andrew Robb's wooden hall, three bicycles, a stove and utensils. Irvine Weir's wooden hall and organ were demolished in Co. Tipperary. In 1904, John Hardie's tent was set on fire in Co. Kilkenny.
In 1906, W. D. Wilson of Co. Suffolk, England, wrecked Wilson McClung's wooden hall and smashed his portable organ. Thomas Elliott's gospel hall was overturned, and in 1907 his hall and furniture were burned in Co. Londonderry. Edward Cooney's wooden hall at Makeny, Co. Fermanagh, was burned in 1912. Newspapers reported that monetary compensation was sought and granted for most, but not all, of these losses.
In the Sect's early days, the Impartial Reporter documented the Workers' outspoken declarations that many church members were going to hell. "Indeed, they profess little respect for clergy ... they are severe ... upon ministers and preachers. Hell is a word in frequent use with them. Everyone--almost everyone--is going to hell , according to their ideas" (Jan. 15, 1903, TTT).
"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 are always judging their neighbours severely, and scarcely ever in charity; their preaching is invariably of hell ... Every other sentence almost of Mr. Irwin's [Irvine's] oration one night had hell mentioned in it ... and they assume with the most sublime audacity to take upon themselves to say who is and who is not going to hell...
"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... 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." (Jan. 22, 1903, 8, TTT)
SIMILARITIES TO OTHER CHRISTIAN CHURCHES. The Christian terminology or jargon used by William Irvine's Workers was not unique--it was much the same as the Christian nomenclature commonly used by the Faith Mission, as well as many other churches that also commenced in the 19th and 20th centuries. Religious publications of those eras confirm this.
The definition of the word " nomenclature " is: "the system or set of names [used] in a specific branch of learning or activity, as in biology for plants and animals, or for parts of a particular mechanism" ( Collins English Dictionary ). People who subscribe to a particular way of thinking usually develop a special language or jargon. Newcomers soon begin to use the group jargon, which may introduce novel, esoteric meanings that differ, often widely, from their common definitions.
In their formative period, sects frequently adopt and use the doctrines, traditions, terminology, and organization used by Christian churches of that period. For example, the Quakers use the words : "thee," "thou," and "wouldst," which were common usages when the Quakers were founded in mid-17th century England. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Reformation, Mormon and other religions have also retained and continue to use distinctive nomenclature representative of the time period in which they were founded.
When a group has distinctive practices and language that can be traced to the nomenclature commonly used in a particular time period, it is highly probable the group initially came into existence around that time. Likewise, when a group's practices and language are the same or similar to that used by another group, it is highly probable that the more recently formed group came out of or splintered off from the older group.
A Christian church and ministry claiming it directly descended from the Apostles and is a direct continuation of the New Testament church should contain much of the first century methods and terminology. But that is not the case with the 2x2 belief system. Their jargon remains very similar to that of the Faith Mission.
The Faith Mission books and publications contain the typical language and nomenclature prevailing among English Protestanism in the 19th century, such as the terms: "profess, decided, made their choice, took their stand, testimony, take part, fields, friends, saints and servants, elders, laborers, workers, companions, two by two, the Work, entered and offered for the Work, great harvest field, missions, conventions, meetings, lead and test the Meeting, Special Meetings, Gospel Meetings, Testimony Meetings," etc. Irvine also used these terms in his new Sect, and it continues to use them today.
WHAT WAS UNUSUAL? What generated such large turnouts and large number of converts in Irvine's Missions? The best answers are provided by first-hand witnesses, one of which was Goodhand Pattison:
"Particularly noticeable were his [Wm. Irvine's] constant and oft repeated references to his own experiences, or as we might call it, 'the work of his testimony' ... Preaching had developed into a 'fine art' in Methodism, but lacked the living touch of real personal experience, and he would persistently keep telling the people in every address that so many years ago ... he attended meetings and while doing so made up his mind to serve the Lord; that Christ came into his life, and was now living in his body, in a minor measure, as he had lived in the body of Jesus ... so realistic did he make this truth of 'Christ in You' and 'Christ in Me' that it seemed like a new revelation, although we had been familiar enough with the words 'Christ in you the hope of glory' and also 'For me to live is Christ' and others like them." (1935, Various, TTT)
"Another expression he was fond of using in the first days was: 'Jesus was a common man.' And although at first to our Pharisaic ears, it sounded very irreverent and repulsive (so much so that some ... took great offense and ... walked no more with us), yet none of us could contradict or deny the simple fact; and admitting and thinking it over and making it real had a very healthy and corrective effect on me ... changing completely my conception of who and what Jesus was and is, from the fictitious 'Gentleman Jesus' to the Jesus of the New Testament, whom the 'common people heard him gladly' and who had always been, both at home and abroad, from cradle to grave, the poorest and lowliest." (1935, Christ in You, TTT)
The Impartial Reporter observed: "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" (Oct. 6, 1904 , TTT). "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" (Jan. 15, 1903).
DIFFERENCES FROM OTHER CHRISTIAN CHURCHES.
HOME CHURCH MEETINGS. At first, new converts continued to attend the churches of their choice. After Sunday Meetings with communion were installed in Elders' private homes in 1902, the 2x2 members separated themselves from the denominational churches they had been attending, leaving behind much disruption and bad feelings. While the Workers held Gospel Meetings in most any available facility, including churches, they only met for Fellowship Meetings in private homes of members--never in a church building.
BAPTISM BY IMMERSION. In 1902, the Workers started baptizing new converts and re-baptizing Christians who joined them. At the time, public outdoor baptism by immersion was an uncommon ceremony, drawing many curious observers: "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 Sept. 29, 1904 , TTT).
"Their views on baptism are perhaps better known than any of their other beliefs. All infant baptism is, in their opinion, 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, TTT).
REFUSING TO TAKE A NAME. From their beginning, the new Sect refused to provide their belief system with a name, stating that Jesus never gave His teachings a name ( Acts 4:12). For a brief time, the Workers referred to themselves as "Go Preachers," from the injunction in Matt. 10:7, "As ye go, preach." The title of their first hymnbook was the Go-Preacher Hymn Book (1901, TTT ), but this moniker was soon discarded. Consequently, many nicknames were applied to them, as early Worker Wilson McClung pointed out, "We have no name...but the ribald multitude give us many. Some call us Cooneyites, some call us Tramps, Faith Missionaries, No Secters, Women-Thieves, and so on" (Impartial Reporter June 21, 1906, TTT).
By 1904, three years after Ed Cooney joined the Sect, they were well known as "Cooneyites." Early newspapers dubbed them "The Tramps" and "Dippers," from their practice of baptism by submersion. Cooney commonly referred to the Sect as "God's Saints and Servants." Letters dating from 1910 onward by Scottish Workers Willie and Elisabeth Jamieson referred to the Sect as the nonspecific: "Way of God," "Way of Jesus," "Jesus Way," "God's Way," and "God's Truth and Way."
In their view, everyone fell into one of three categories: "sinners, saints and servants"; "lost sheep, saved sheep and shepherds"; and when speaking of the Kingdom of God, as "aliens, citizens and ambassadors."
During the first 15 years and beyond, the Sect members, among themselves, also referred to their new Sect as the "Testimony of Jesus." Willie Gill registered this name with the UK government during WWI. In his letters, Irvine referred to the 2x2 Sect as "the Testimony," which he often abbreviated as "the Testy."
ITINERANT PREACHERS PAIRED IN SAME SEX TEAMS (aka TWO BY TWO). In the early days, the majority of new converts began preaching shortly after their conversion. A requirement for Irvine's Preachers was that they must give away their possessions, abandon their employment and become itinerant. According to the Impartial Reporter:
"They literally obey the injunction to 'take neither purse nor scrip,' but leave their homes...during their evangelistic journeys" (July 19, 1917, TTT).
"One feature in connection with these people is one of the saddest. Their idea is that a 'saint' cannot remain in the world 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 [Irvine] himself gave up a comfortable business. He had £300 a year when 20 years of age" (Jan. 22, 1903, TTT).
"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 ... The 'Tramps' ... 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." (Jan. 29, 1903, TTT)
WOMEN PREACHERS ACCEPTED. Irvine was accustomed to working with female preachers in the Faith Mission, and he accepted women preachers in his band of Workers. At the turn of the 20th century, female preachers and missionaries were rare, so the 2x2 female Workers were among the relatively few women preachers.
It was considered a scriptural mandate until the late 1800s for women to "keep silence in the churches" (1 Cor. 14:34). Phoebe Palmer played a major role in changing this. In 1859, she published a book titled The Promise of the Father, in which she defended women's right to preach. Her argument was primarily based upon the prophecy in Joel 2:28-29, quoted by the Apostle Peter in his Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:18), which declared that in the New Covenant both men and women would prophesy (preach). This became the principal scriptural justification for women preachers throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The Salvation Army, founded in 1854 by William and Catherine Booth, made notable inroads for allowing women evangelists. Mrs. Booth was a powerful and popular preacher. Also, from its beginning around 1840, the Holiness movement allowed women the right to preach. The Faith Mission, a holiness ministry, accepted two female pilgrims in 1887 and became well known for their bonneted sisters dressed in navy.
NO COLLECTIONS OR INSTITUTIONAL SUPPORT. To this day, the Faith Lines concept is an integral, inseparable, uncompromisable 2x2 core doctrine. It consists of preaching solely on faith with no prearranged support and relying totally on God for natural provisions. The source of this model is Matthew 10:8-10, "freely ye have received, freely give. Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor brass in your purses, nor scrip for your journey, neither two coats, neither shoes, nor yet staves: for the workman is worthy of his meat." However, after their early days, these commandments have seldom been strictly followed.
The Impartial Reporter called attention to their emphasis on Matthew 10 : "The references to 'Matthew Ten' in the rhymes of the so-called hymns of the Go-Preachers Hymn Book , and the quotations from the chapter, show that the Tramp Preachers regard it as the bedrock of their movement. On ... [which] they base their dress, mode of living, itinerancy, methods, &c." (Oct. 14, 1909 , Art. 7, TTT). "The tramps say they have no collections. In strict parlance, this may be correct, but it is not the whole truth. They may not 'collect', but they receive donations. At the houses in which they hold Meetings, a bag is placed for the receipt of the gifts. " (Aug. 27, 1908, TTT). This practice was later discontinued in favor of more covert methods of giving and support.
According to Jack Carroll, the first Overseer of Western North America (1878-1957) , the Workers were (and still are) supported solely by voluntary donations from Sect members. "It is the Friends' pleasure to minister [to the Workers] food, clothing, shelter, and ... money in His name ... Money ... comes from the spontaneous unsolicited free-will offering of God's children ... When the workers go forth, they get rid of everything they possess ... Occasionally God's children who set their affairs in order and whom the Lord takes home, leave to them a piece of property, or remembers individual workers with gifts of money ... that money is scattered in the furtherance of the gospel ... so that no gift can ever enrich any individual worker ... If we knew of any of us ever lifting a collection or asking for money, we would immediately see to it that he would be excluded from our fellowship as a Preacher of the gospel." (1934, TTT)
CLAIM OF NO PUBLISHED LITERATURE. From their beginning, the 2x2 Sect has published no literature for or about their group for distribution outside the Sect, except for a hymnal. The first Go-Preacher's Hymn Book was printed in 1909 and was used until 1913, it was replaced by Hymns Old and New. Currently, they use the 1987 Edition of this hymnal. The Sect has long circulated copies of sermons, lists, letters, convention summaries, sermon notes and similar literature strictly for internal use.
CLAIM OF NO TRAINING FOR WORKERS. After offering for the Work, 2x2 ministers do not attend seminary, a religious school or receive formal theological training. Unlike the Faith Mission, whose trainees completed a training program, the 2x2 Sect maintains no schools. New Workers receive apprenticeship training by being assigned to an older experienced Worker, preaching and living together throughout the year. They have no written principles, doctrinal statement or rulebook to guide them.
REJECTION OF SUNDAY SCHOOL. A Sunday School arranged for 2x2 children was short lived . The Impartial Reporter commented: "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 [Irvine], sent word that it must be stopped, that there was no scriptural authority for it" (Sept. 16, 1909, Art. 3, TTT).
CLAIM OF NO ORGANIZATION. While William Irvine was the acknowledged Sect leader up until 1914, no worldwide head, president, chairman, secretary or treasurer has existed since he stepped down. No central worldwide fund is known. According to Overseer Jack Carroll, "We have no organization-that is the mystery of this thing ... The world says, 'You have to organize.' That it is impossible for us to reproduce the fellowship that existed in New Testament days without there being any head or tail to it ... We have no organization or regular system--we are a strange and peculiar people." ( n.d. Minister Statement )
However, it has come to light in recent years that some trust funds, investments and properties are controlled by regional Overseers, and some individual Workers have personal bank accounts and credit cards. Since Irvine's time, the Sect has developed a highly organized hierarchy, with a group of Senior Overseers having oversight of Regional Overseers on state, province, and country levels. Under them by rank are: the older male Workers, the junior male Workers, the older female Workers, the younger female Workers, and lastly, the lay members. Distinctions exist among the laity as well.
1901, JUNE: EDWARD COONEY CAME ABOARD. One of the two most prominent early leaders of the 2x2 Sect was Edward "Eddie" Cooney from Enniskillen, N. Ireland. Cooney met William Irvine in January 1898, and joined his movement four years later in June 1901.
Ed Cooney was frequently discussed and quoted in newspapers which provided compelling evidence of his role as Irvine's right-hand man, and as an outstanding, well-respected early leader in the 2x2 Sect: " Mr. Cooney was one of the pioneers or founders of the [Go-Preacher] community" ( Impartial Reporter Dec. 18, 1913, 3, TTT ). "At last Sunday evening's service there were five men and two women on the platform, and of the former were two of the chief pioneers of the movement—Mr. William Irwin [Irvine] and Mr. Edward Cooney " ( Impartial Reporter July 18, 1907, 8, TTT ). "Mr. William Irvin [Irvine] , the founder of the sect, is in attendance, and Mr. Edmund [Edward] Cooney, his chief lieutenant, is returning from Canada to take part in the deliberations" ( Irish Independent July 5, 1910, 5, TTT ).
By 1904, the public and press commonly called the movement the "Cooneyites," an eponym derived from Edward's surname. The moniker "Cooneyites" is recognized today in various publications.
EDWARD COONEY'S FAMILY. The third of eight children, Edward was born on February 11, 1867, in Enniskillen, N. Ireland to William Rutherford and Emily (Carson) Cooney. His middle name is unknown. His five brothers were William McEffer, Henry "Harry," Frederick George, Alfred Carson and James Ernest; his two sisters were Edith Emily and Mary Elizabeth (see Cooney Family Tree in appendix C). According to a local historian:
"On August 31, 1863, Dr. Magee conducted the marriage ceremony of William Rutherford Cooney to Emily Carson. W. R. Cooney (1836–1924) had come to Enniskillen from Cootehill, Co. Cavan and...he served his time with a local businessman, married his daughter and eventually succeeded him. W. R. Cooney's wife Emily was the only child of...William Carson (1816–1900), a native of the Letterbreen district...and in July 1850 he moved across High Street to No. 4, the Hibernian House...a great clothes emporium and it remained a highly successful business under W. R. Cooney. The site is now Graham's Menswear, but the original...building was destroyed by a bomb which devastated the town centre in the 1970s." ( Mac Annaidh 2008, 45-6; the store was rebuilt in 2014).
Edward's father, W. R. Cooney, was a prominent citizen and a successful, if not wealthy, owner of an extensive drapery business headquartered on High Street in Enniskillen . His business card read: "W. R. Cooney, Woollen & Linen Draper, Silk Mercer Haberdasher &c., Military & Merchant Tailor and General Outfitter."
The Cooney family resided at Lakeview House in Enniskillen. Members of the Church of Ireland (Episcopal) Edward and his siblings were christened there. They attended Sunday school at the Enniskillen Parish Church, now St. Macartin's Cathedral. However, after joining Irvine's movement, Cooney forsook his previous church, saying, "since he had been sprinkled in the Episcopal Church, he had been a child of the devil. Sprinkling was no good, 'You must be born again'" ( Impartial Reporter June 9, 1904, TTT ).
Edward and his brothers received their primary education at the Enniskillen Model School under Catholic Headmaster Charles Morris, and their higher education at Enniskillen Portora Royal School under Rev. William Steele. Since the Portora records are sketchy from their opening to 1936, they could only verify that H. Cooney and F. Cooney attended the school. Edward was sent to Armagh as an apprentice when he was 14 to learn the family business.
When Edward's oldest brother William was about 19, he contracted tuberculosis. Impressed with his brother's Christian life, Edward made his choice to be a Christian at age 17, through prayer, without the assistance of a clergyman or church, and long before he met William Irvine. He often proclaimed, "I was born anew in the city of Armagh, Ireland, some time during 1884."
For his health, William went to stay with an uncle in Australia. Edward was also diagnosed with tuberculosis and followed his brother to Australia in 1887. William died a week after he returned to Ireland on May 29, 1887, aged 22 ( Roberts 1990, 6 ). After Edward recovered, he returned home in 1890 and worked as a commercial traveler in his father's business. Edward's younger brother, James Ernest Cooney, went to Colorado for his health and died in 1898 on his way home aboard the SS City of Rome , aged 24. His brother Fred immigrated to New Zealand in 1924 with his wife and four children. His brother Alfred , a successful solicitor with one of the largest law firms in Co. Fermanagh, committed suicide or was murdered on August 29, 1909, aged 38. No suicide note was reported. From the September 4, 1909 Anglo-Celt:
"On Sunday afternoon, Mr. Alfred Carson Cooney, a well-known Enniskillen solicitor was found dead in his room at Lakeview, the residence of his parents, under tragic circumstances. A member of the family on entering his room found the unfortunate gentlemen lying in a large pool of blood with a deep gash in his throat and a razor beside the body...blood flowed freely from a wound in the throat...He was then dead...No reason can be assigned for the tragic occurrence...The deceased gentlemen, who was a brother of Mr. Edward Cooney, one of the leaders of the religious sect known as the Tramp Pilgrims...appeared in the best of health and spirits and no cause whatever can be assigned for the dreadful occurrence...W. R. Cooney, the deceased's father, said his son was 38 and unmarried."
Mr. and Mrs. W. R. Cooney moved from Lakeview House (since demolished) to 15 Willoughby Place, Enniskillen, where the Carsons (Mrs. Cooney's parents) had spent their last years. Mrs. Cooney died on December 18, 1917, aged 75. W. R. Cooney died September 12, 1924, aged 88; his estate was probated on November 10, 1925.
SPIRITUAL MEETINGS. Eddie Cooney, John West, Tom Betty and other like-minded Christians occasionally met together. Cooney commented, " a number of us who had been through the same experience, met in a room from time to time , to encourage one another to follow Jesus, still attending the same denominations we belonged to … In Enniskillen, my native town, we met in a Presbyterian man's home Sunday afternoons, and preached in the slums in a schoolhouse granted the use of by the Methodists" (To Alice Flett, 1930, appendix C ).
Sara West, wife of John West wrote: "I grew up in the same town [Enniskillen] as Edward Cooney and knew that he with Tom Betty and my husband John West (deceased) held evangelical meetings together in connection with the different churches" ( S. West 1954, TTT ). John West was a leader and local lay-preacher for the Ballinamallard Methodist Church.
Cooney explained: "I travelled for my father's business and preached inside and outside, as occasion offered, with some persecution. Whilst doing so, I met William Irvine through whom George Walker, Jack Carroll, William Carroll, Willie Gill and a number of the present leaders professed...William Irvine and I were drawn together as brothers in Christ, each of us claiming liberty to follow Jesus as we received progressive light from God by the Spirit...He was at that time Pilgrim Irvine, a preacher in the Faith Mission...At that time we believed that all who were born anew, including ourselves, in the denominations were children of God, needing to become continuing disciples." (To Alice Flett, 1930, TTT )
According to John Long, "A Christian commercial traveller named Edward Cooney, during his business tours, met some of the young converts and being impressed with the genuineness of their testimony was resolved to meet the Evangelist [William Irvine] and have an interview with him. That meeting was a loving one and meant much for the Kingdom of God" ( Jan. 1898, TTT ).
G. Pattison recalled, "I believe it was while conducting the Borrisokane Mission that William Irvine first met Ed Cooney, who prior to that event had done a pretty considerable amount of preaching up and down through Ireland as he went about as a commercial traveller for his father's tailoring business. In private conversations with his customers also, E. Cooney made a habit of speaking about eternal things and in his own way was very successful" ( 1935, Practice, TTT ).
1901: COONEY PARTNERS WITH WILLIAM IRVINE. John Long recalled, "It was a very remarkable coincidence that Edward Cooney turned up next day, for he very soon after gave up a very good situation, and distributed £1,300 pounds to the poor, and went fully on the Lord's work, and became a great advocate of preachers going without a stated salary" ( July 1898, TTT ).
Regarding the momentous night Irvine convinced Cooney to join him:
G. Pattison recounted: "Then one night while on his travels he [Cooney] and William [Irvine] arranged to meet at our house and … the two men discussed so fully the subject of preachers and preaching of Matthew 10. William pointing out the need, etc. in the face of the greatness of the harvest and fewness of laborers; Eddie seeking to escape the issue in one way or another, even to the extent of offering all he could make out of his job as traveller, to be used by William as he thought fit, for evangelistic purposes. William would meet such an offer with, 'It isn't your money the Lord wants, but yourself.' So about 2:00 A.M. he had won, and Eddie had decided to give up his job and go forth...after this discussion on Matthew 10 they came to the decision to live and go as Jesus taught in that chapter." ( 1935, Wrestlers , TTT )
John Coles, father of Sister Worker Lizzie Coles, repeated: "Here...are Irwin's [William Irvine's] own words spoken, with Cooney, in this very room. 'When I came across Cooney first he was a professed Christian man, and said he would work in business with all the zeal that he could command, and give the money that he could earn to help to carry on the work.'" Irwin [Irvine] replied, 'I don't want your money. I want you.' And from that time, Cooney felt, 'Well, here's a man of God.' In that conviction...Cooney gave up his business, fell out with his family and began preaching." ( Morning Leader, June 15, 1906, TTT )
Dr. Patricia Roberts, Cooney's official biographer, wrote: "Edward, however, having found the pearl of great price, gladly gave up both his inheritance and fine business prospects. His own personal wealth, which was considerable, he gave to the poor. And so, in 1901, at the age of 34, in fellowship with Irvine and his associates, Edward too forsook all and went forth to preach depending on God to move the hearts of others to minister to his needs" (Roberts 1990, 19).
ESTRANGEMENT OF COONEY'S FAMILY. When Edward Cooney entered the Work in June 1901, it "left a gulf fixed between my father and mother, sisters, and brother, whom I love dearly" ( Impartial Reporter August 12, 1909, 8, TTT ). Later, his sister, Mary Elizabeth (Cooney) Boyton-Smith, began following Cooney's beliefs after her husband, an Episcopalian rector, died in 1922–23. His brother Fred, living in New Zealand, also espoused Cooney's beliefs for a time.
Edward's father left a provisional bequest in his will for him. An article in a Dublin newspaper stated: "$500 a Year to Stop Preaching . A novel bequest and ban on preaching appears in the will of Mr. William Rutherford Cooney...who left £8,915. He directs that in the event his son Edward stating in writing that he has ceased to preach and has returned to allegiance to the Church of Ireland, thereby abandoning his means of living, £100 per annum shall be paid to him so long as he adheres faithfully to his decision" ( December 12, 1925, TTT ). Edward was not enticed.
1901: COONEY BECAME A WORKER. In 1901, at age 34, Cooney gave up his business interests, donated his funds (reportedly £1,300, a small fortune in those days) and became a Worker in Irvine's movement. Reports vary as to the disposition of Cooney's money. The poor, the cause and William Irvine have all been named as recipients .
The Impartial Reporter quoted Cooney as saying: "Three years ago the Lord said to me, 'Go, Edward Cooney, without scrip, and go into all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.' Then he gave me His promise, 'Lo, I am with you until the end of the world,' and he has kept it'" ( June 9, 1904, TTT ; "three years ago" was 1901).
Cooney's first test of faith after entering the Work came when he was to attend the wedding of Bill Carroll and Margaret Hastings on June 6, 1901, in Borrisokane, Co. Tipperary. He had a train ticket as far as Dublin, but no money to purchase a fare to the wedding site. Fortunately, a fellow commercial traveler offered him a ride from Dublin to the home of a friend's mother who gave him a hearty welcome. He spent the night with her having no idea how he would get to the wedding. The next morning on the breakfast table he found an envelope addressed to him with a note. The writer had heard of Cooney's life plans and was moved in the night to get up and deliver money sufficient to pay his fare to the wedding. When Cooney went to purchase his ticket, the stationmaster refused his money and handed him a ticket with the words: "In the name of the Lord" (Roberts 1990, 20).
Co-Workers Irvine Weir and William Gill visited Cooney during his first Mission in 1901, held in Edenderry, Co. Offaly, Ireland ( Parker 1982, 86 ).
Edward Cooney's bold, sincere, earnest style of preaching attracted large crowds and won many converts. He was a tremendous asset to the nascent movement and the early days of his ministry were extraordinarily successful. He was described in the Irish Presbyterian periodical in an article titled "A New Sect:"
"As to the evangelist himself, [Edward Cooney] it is admitted on all hands by those who know him best that he is an exceedingly earnest and devoted man who has relinquished fine business prospects to occupy his whole time and energies with Christian work. He is an attractable and forcible speaker, well educated, and gentlemanly in his manners, overflowing with zeal and enthusiasm. Indeed, one is tempted to fear that his zeal and ardour in a good cause are at times greater than his prudence and discretion. Being naturally a man of strong will and considerable mental gifts, he exercises a great influence over those whose minds are weaker than his own, and over those who have not hitherto had any very definite or settled religious convictions." ( Scrutator 1905, TTT )
Cooney was frequently discussed and quoted in his hometown newspaper, the Impartial Reporter: " However, the chief motive power was latent until Edward Cooney heard William Irvine, and offered him money and even a salary yearly, which was refused by Irvine. At all events £1,300 from Mr. Cooney alone was applied to the cause, and has been preached as having been 'given to the poor, ' on the authority of, 'Sell all that ye have, etc.'" ( Aug. 25, 1910, 8, TTT ).
"The speakers at this service were the two leaders of the movement, Mr. William Irwin [Irvine] and Edward Cooney . Both speakers denounced the various churches and the clergy in no unmeasured words" ( July 23, 1908 , 8, TTT ). " Cooney can talk: by dint of practice he can pitch his voice without shouting: he can reason: he can enforce his argument with chapter and verse; and therefore, he is listened to, and his reasoning has power and force " ( Oct. 20, 1904, TTT ).
1902, JULY. Cooney began arranging Sunday Fellowship Meetings in member's private homes, and commenced baptizing new converts and re-baptizing earlier converts. Long wrote: "About that time, Edward Cooney began to baptize his converts and form assemblies according to the model in the Acts, namely meeting together on the first day of the week for fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers" ( July 1902, TTT ).
Some view Cooney as one of the prime founders of the 2x2 Church practices , and view Irvine as the prime founder of the 2x2 ministry , which coalesced into the 2x2 Church. Although Irvine was four years into his movement when Cooney joined him, Cooney was sometimes mistakenly labeled the founder of the Sect, especially in his hometown, where the Sect was commonly called the "Cooneyites." But as Cooney stated, "the man who finally moved me to go to preach was William Irvine" (Roberts 1990, 18 ). Alfred Magowan wrote:
"My memory takes me back to the time when we appeared to be at a crossroads or at a junction of roads, when William Irvine and E. Cooney, under a variety of influences pulled in different directions, and finally came to agreement about the lines our witness should take. William spoke of it as 'giving the testimony of Jesus'; and Edward put emphasis on getting people baptized and following Paul's example in 'forming churches.' William appeared to think that we were called and sent to be a savour or influence of Christ in a Christendom that had gone badly wrong under the evil influences of clericalism and mammonism. Edward was strong on separation, and his view prevailed apparently, unto this day." (Magowan, 1956*)
Edward Cooney is shown on the 1905 Workers' List, and is pictured as No. 69 on the 1921 Workers Convention photograph taken at Dimsdale, Staffordshire, England.
1909, AUGUST 14: COONEY BEGAN TRAVELLING ABROAD. In 1909, 1910 and 1911, Cooney sailed from Great Britain to Canada on evangelistic tours, usually alone. The ship passenger lists showed his occupation as "evangelist." Like Irvine, Cooney departed each year shortly after the summer Crocknacrieve Convention ended. In 1910, Co-Worker David Christie, age 26, travelled with Cooney.
COONEY, THE UNACKNOWLEDGED HYMN AUTHOR. Four very well-known hymns written by Cooney are printed in the last (1987) Edition of Hymns Old and New, the hymnal published by the 2x2 Sect. They are: "As We Gather" (No. 179); "Lord, We Are Met Together" (No. 182); "Our God, Our Father" (No. 183), and "Here We Come" (No. 184).
The first 2x2 hymnal titled the Go-Preacher's Hymn Book, printed in 1909, contained 130 hymns (words only) and provided no date, publisher or authors' names. Cooney's initials were provided as the author of 12 hymns: Nos. 14, 16, 57, 91, 92, 95, 98, 99, 100, 110, 115 and 130. Four of Cooney's hymns mention Matthew Ten (Nos. 91, 95, 99, 100), illustrating the importance the 2x2 Sect gave in its early days to literally following Jesus's instructions in that passage.
On the 1951 and 1987 Editions of Hymns Old and New, four of Cooney's hymns were included, but the author's name was left blank (expunged) on the accompanying " List of Hymn Authors." After attention was called to this omission on the Internet, a 2004 revised author list gave Edward Cooney as the author, yet showed his name in lowercase type. This indicates the author was not a 2x2 Sect member; 2x2 Sect member authors are shown in all capital letters. The brief notation gives no recognition for Cooney's 27-year association with the 2x2 Sect: "The author was an independent evangelist."
Cooney was often quoted by reporters who were unsure of his title and position in the Sect. For example, the Impartial Reporter speculated "so far as the outside world can judge, Mr. Edward Cooney (after whom they are generally called 'Cooneyites') seems to be the accepted high priest or leader " (Sept. 29, 1904, TTT ). He was sometimes called its co-leader, co-founder, chief lieutenant or a chief pioneer, and occasionally, erroneously the founder, especially around his hometown of Enniskillen.
Although the 2x2 Sect gained considerable impetus from Edward Cooney's evangelism, and regardless of the significant role he played in its beginning, he would be excommunicated from the Sect in 1928 (see chapter 26 and appendix C).