John Cumming (clergyman)

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Carte de visite depicting John Cumming, 1860s

John Cumming FRSE (10 November 1807[1] – 5 July 1881) was a Scottish clergyman.


He was born in Fintray in Aberdeenshire and attended Aberdeen Grammar School and then stiudied Divinity at Aberdeen University.[2]

In 1832, Cumming was appointed to the Crown Court Church in Covent Garden, London, a Church of Scotland congregation that catered for Scots living in London. At the time, the congregation had approximately 80 members, but Cumming was able to grow his congregation to around 900, and he regularly preached to congregations of 500-600 on Sundays.

Cumming was a controversial figure in his day, George Eliot being the most prominent figure to criticize him for his anti-Catholicism, obsession with the End Times, and perceived intellectual dishonesty.[citation needed]

In 1853 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. His proposer was Sir John Archibald Murray.

Cumming retired in 1879. In total, he published approximately 180 books during his lifetime.

He died on 5 July 1881 in Chiswick near London and was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery.[3]


He married Elizabeth Nicholson in 1833. She died in 1879.


"The End of the World", as depicted by Adriano Cecioni in Vanity Fair, 13 April 1872

Cumming was one of the most virulently anti-Catholic preachers of his day. Several of his books attacked Catholicism, including The Romish Church a Dumb Church (Arthur Hall, 1853) and Ritualism, the Highway to Rome (James Nisbet & Co., 1867). He gave public lectures denouncing Cardinals Nicholas Wiseman and John Henry Newman. The Times also frequently printed letters from Cumming in which he pointed to perceived misdeeds on the part of the Roman Catholic Church.

Cumming also took a deep interest in Christian eschatology, adhering to the Historicist school of Christian eschatology. He believed that historical events such as the French Revolution and the Irish Potato Famine had fulfilled prophecies contained in the biblical Books of Daniel and Revelation. He preached that the sixth vial of judgment (discussed in Revelation 16) had been poured out in 1820. Cumming therefore taught that Judgment Day would occur some time between 1848 and 1867.



  • Robert H. Ellison, "Prophecy and Anti-Popery in Victorian London: John Cumming Reconsidered," Victorian Literature and Culture 31.1 (2003): 373-389.

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