Book review: The Secret Sect


Around the year 1897, William Irvine, a preacher of the Faith Mission in Scotland and Ireland, received a revelation as he was reading the Gospel of Matthew, chapter ten:

[F]reely 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. And into whatsoever city or town ye shall enter, enquire who in it is worthy; and there abide till ye go thence.

Following these teachings as best he could, Irvine struck out on his own, founding a new movement based upon his vision of a penniless, traveling ministry, as he imagined Jesus himself to have taught in the first century. Within a few years, a number of house churches had been established, and the movement began to spread to other lands. Observing that the first apostles carried no name other than that of Jesus, ministers insisted on remaining a nameless sect outside the public eye (hence the book’s title, The Secret Sect). The movement nevertheless collected several nicknames, including Cooneyites (named after one of the of the first preachers to join the movement), Dippers (from Irvine’s public baptismal rituals), and 2x2s (based upon the practice of ministers traveling two and two together, as was often the habit of first-century Christian evangelists).

Whether by deliberate misdirection or by accidental development, members of the sect quickly came to believe they could trace their origins back to the shores of Galilee, and that they were the only people on earth who were saved. All other groups, Christian or not, were apparently deceived by Satan. Irvine, himself, was excommunicated after a number of years, and his role in the foundation of the movement was suppressed. Members of the 2x2s, convinced of God’s approval and their absolute discovery of God’s true way, coined their own name for the movement: “the Truth.” The name stuck, and continues to be the most commonly used name by insiders.

Today, more than 100 years later, membership estimates run between 200,000 and 600,000 worldwide, and the movement could hardly be called penniless anymore. A number of books have been written about this group, some more friendly than others (a few openly call the sect a cult). But this is the book that started the ball rolling, written way back in 1982. It’s a fair, carefully researched historical account of how this Christian sect came into existence.

My interest in the book? It’s my heritage. Yes, I grew up in “the Truth,” though I’m no longer a member. The 2×2 movement is, in my opinion, wholesome and fulfilling … as much as any fundamentalist, exclusivist religion ever can be. Members meet reverently for fellowship in small groups in homes, and continue to take turns housing a homeless, travelling ministry.

I doubt this book would be of interest to anyone not in some way connected to “the Truth.” But for those of us who are or were, this is one of the most important books we’ll ever read. For that reason alone I award it five stars.

It’s unfortunately out of print. As of this writing, used copies on Amazon sell for between $70 and $213.


NOTE: I’ve been notified that the book is NOT out of print, and can be purchased here for $16.95.

RIS Website:×206.html

1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Thanks, I just bought the book from the provided link. I’d been wanting to read it but amazon had it for $75.!!!! Nice review on the book, I can’t wait to read it. I am still in the group at this time.


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