A few years ago I read a huge study of Irvine's gospel traced back several generations prior to Irvine's birth. And from memory of it, one of the sources of McNiel's 'gosspel' was said by his Sunday School teacher something like 'he is the most unlikely candidate' The churches during those times were generally very lax at teaching their congregations any Biblical theology, relying rather on congregational reciting of a creed, which tends to become habitual more than thoughtful with most human beings - just words that if not said aloud in church services would mark one off as heathen with the rest of the congregation. And to a greater extent the churches all saw regularly attending their particular church as necessary to salvation.
When Bibles were hand produced and few the Scriptures had to be read regularly to congregations, many of whom could not read even if they could have obtained a Bible.
The printing press made a huge change as did basic education right to society's bottom classes, which as many of us remember did not occur until the turn and first half on the twentieth century. I can still remember people my folks visited with on occasion who could not read or write.
And William Irvine had only something like six years of general education, some of the latter years very likely buried in sleep - at nine, he was employed in a coal mine working a 14 hour day - when did his schooling have any chance during that time in his life. Some have handed him up to two years in a Bible College in spite of the fact that he himself wrote that he was turned down by the Bible College and only heard Bible courses vocally from outside the classroom - probably one of the causes for his bitterness towards and rejection of schools and colleges, especially Bible colleges - one can see his bitterness in the wordings of his letters regarding having been rejected for student status by that Bible College.
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