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Eighteen Twelve was a Very Good Year
by Rev. David T. Myers

It was clear that something had to be done.  Princeton College was not being the source any longer for Presbyterian ministers, and for that matter, any ministers.  The school had turned into a secular school for careers, like law, politics, and education.


The reason for this was varied,  Some saw the problem in the new president, Samuel Stanhope Smith.  It wasn’t that he had no qualifications for the presidency.  He himself was a graduate of the college.  He had started what later became Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia.  He had tutored under his father-in-law John Witherspoon as the Vice-President of Princeton, when the latter was unable physically to do it.  So he had all the academic qualifications.

Of more troublesome however were questions about his lack of Calvinistic distinctives.  It seemed that they were in word only as there were suggestions of an emphasis on free will in man plus scientific suggestions in place of supernatural miracles.  Add to that a student rebellion, the trustees were beginning to have questions on his ability to solve these challenges in the right way.

Pictured at left, Rev. Dr. Archibald Alexander, first professor at the Princeton Theological Seminary.

With 400 vacant pulpits in the Presbyterian Church, the sentiment began to build for a separate theological seminary separate from Princeton College as early as 1800.  By 1805 and 1808, each General Assembly was being besieged with calls for more ministers, on the mission field and in the congregations of the land.  An overture to decide what kind of school was sent to the presbyteries.  While hardly overwhelming for any one choice, by 1811, over $14,000 had been raised for the prospective seminary.  Any professor would have to subscribe to the Westminster Standards, and the Form of Government of Presbyterianism.

Pictured at right, Rev. Dr. Samuel Miller, second professor at the Seminary (with apologies on the poor quality of that image).

On August 12, 1812, while the nation was already at war against Great Britain, people packed the town’s Presbyterian Church for the inauguration of Dr. Archibald Alexander as the first professor of Princeton Theological Seminary.   He had been chosen by the General Assembly.  He preached his inaugural sermon for the worshipers, including taking his vows regarding the confessional standards and the Presbyterian form of Government.  The seminary had begun, with three students.  It would soon pick up and begin to send out laborers into the fields, which were white unto harvest.

Words to live by:  Every reader of this historical blog should read the fine summary of Dr. David Calhoun’s two-volume work on Princeton Seminary, published by the Banner of Truth Trust in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  Filled with persons, places, and events from the founding of the school in 1812 to 1929, when it ceased to be a Reformed biblical seminary, this school was the pillar of orthodoxy for the Presbyterian Church.  When we forget the past, we lose hope for the present and the future.  When we study the past, we learn how to live in the present and the future.  You will not be able to put down the two books.  The contributor promises you that!

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith

The Westminster Shorter Catechism – Question 36.

Q. 36
What are the benefits which, in this life, do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification?

A. The benefits which , in this life, do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.

EXPLICATION.

Benefits. –Advantages, privileges, blessings.

Assurance of God’s love. –A sure or certain knowledge, that God delights, or takes pleasure in us, and that it is his will to do us good.

Conscience. –That faculty in the soul of man, which approves or disapproves of any action, according as it is good or bad.

Peace of conscience. –A holy tranquility, or calmness of mind, arising from an assurance of God’s love.

Joy in the Holy Ghost. –A holy gladness, wrought in us by the Spirit of God, arising from the assurance that God is our God, and will be our everlasting portion.

Increase of Grace. –Growing in holiness, or becoming strong in the habit, and abounding in the exercise, of grace.

Perseverance therein. –A constant continuance in the practice of all the duties of a holy life.

ANALYSIS.

The benefits here mentioned, as, even in this life, accompanying, or flowing from, justification, adoption, and sanctification, are five in number :

  1. The assurance of God’s love. –Isa. xxxii. 17. The effect of righteousness, (shall be) assurance for ever.
  2. Peace of conscience. –Rom. v. 1. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. Joy in the Holy Ghost. -Rom xiv. 17 For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
  4. Increase of grace. –Prov. iv. 18. The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.
  5. Perseverance in grace to the end. –1 Pet. i. 5. Who are kept, by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.

In 1804, Great Britain and her colonies were under threat of attack by French forces. As a call went out for a season of prayer and fasting, the Rev. Archibald Gray delivered the following sermon on this day, August 10th, in 1804. To read the full sermon, click here. The last paragraph shown below in bold print, speaks of the nature of a solemn fast and provides a particularly good and useful definition.

“Shall we despond in the present state of our country? Shall we rashly distrust the care of an overruling Providence, which has upheld her in many a perilous contest? . . . ‘It is good to hope, and quietly wait, for the salvation of the Lord.’ In His mercy the means of our safety will be found.”

A Sermon, preached on 10th August, 1809, the day appointed, by Government, for a General Fast, by Archibald Gray, minister of the Church of Scotland, and pastor of the Protestant Dissenting Congregation, Halifax, Nova-Scotia. Halifax: Printed by John Howe, 1804.

A SERMON.

Psalm CXLVII—12.

“Praise thy God, O Zion, for He hath strengthened the bars of thy gates.”

Among the nations of the East, a disposition has always prevailed to express the sentiments of piety and devotion by some correspondent external act. Thus a sacrifice was offered by the sinner, not as an atonement for his offences, but, as an acknowledgment of his unworthiness and guilt; a tacit confession that he deserved, himself, to suffer that death, which was inflicted on the victim thus substituted in his room. From the altar, reared by the hand of the grateful worshipper, the smoke of incense ascended to heaven, along with the praise of his Creator, for some recent, and signal, instance of divine goodness. And, on occasion of great calamities, or where such appeared to threaten them, nations, as well as individuals, have set apart, in token of their humiliation before God, certain seasons for solemn fasting.

It may not be improper, considering the purpose for which we are assembled, this day, to premise a few words on the nature of a fast. The greatest, and warmest, disputes have ever arisen from the merest trifles. Mankind have often been divided about external ceremonies; yet external ceremonies are of very little consequence. Whether a man should sit, or stand, or bend the knee, in the presence of his Maker, when he addresses Him in the language of praise and adoration; whether or not he should appoint, for periodical and solemn approaches to the throne of grace, some particular day, the twelfth or fourteenth of the moon; whether he should repeat certain prayers, in white garments or black, with his head covered or bare, appear, at first view and while the passions are yet uninflamed by the heat of controversy and the strife of words, matters of the greatest indifference. That the heart should be sincere, and the affections truly devout, see, to a man of plain sense, the only circumstances which, in such cases, demand our serious attention, as what the Almighty will, undoubtedly, require.

In like manner, in fasting, the external observance can be of little consequence, if considered separately from the affections of the mind. An abstinence from our usual indulgences may be a proper expression of humiliation, but it can be nothing more. In itself it has no claim to merit; it can prove of no avail; it can only be acceptable to heaven as it is connected with the sentiments of sorrow for sin, and sincere resolutions of penitence. “To break the bands of wickedness, not to bow down the head like a bullrush,” saith the Spirit of God, by the voice of the prophet, “is the fast that the LORD hath chosen.”

We are called upon as individuals, and as members of society who hold the welfare of their country dear, to confess, with deep and unfeigned contrition, our private and our national sins, which might, long before now, have justly drawn upon us the judgments of heaven. We should be sensible, indeed we cannot but be sensible, that in many respects we have frequently and heinously offended. While we form, therefore, the virtuous resolutions of penitence and amendment for the time to come, let us humbly implore, through the merits of our powerful Mediator, the pardon and remission of the past. Let us pray that the Father of mercies would deal with us rather “according to the multitude of His tender mercies,” than after our own demerits; that He would “still pity us as a father pities his children,” but forbear to “chasten us in His wrath,” or “visit us in His hot displeasure.” What created being, alas! is able to stand before Omnipotence incensed? When the measure of the sinner’s iniquities is full, and he endeavours not, by penitence and reformation, to cancel his transgressions, or to appease the Judge of the world, if that God whom he appears to brave, but raise His voice in indignation, for a moment, certain destruction overtakes him—sudden and fearful as falls the thunderbolt from heaven. Not on us, O Lord, not on us, sinners, we confess, but repentant sinners, let the weight of Thine indignation fall. We confess, with sorrow, our sins and humbly deprecate thy wrath. O Thou First and Last, Thou greatest and best of beings, what are we? Blind, feeble, and erring mortals, creatures of yesterday, who tomorrow shall mingle with the dust from which we sprung; what are we that Thou shouldest chasten us in Thine anger? Is not man but as an atom in Thy universe; and the son of man but as a worm before Thee? Or if our own insignificance be insufficient to shield us from Thy wrath, hear, we beseech Thee, the voice of intercession from Him whom Thou hearest always; and look on the blood that flowed from the cross to wash away the sins of men and of nations.

Abstinence from food is nothing; nor are any outward marks of humiliation of the least importance, but so far as they are undissembled and faithful tokens of the affections which prevail within. We have, this day, assembled to make confession of our sins, and to implore, for ourselves and for our country, the pardon of heaven, and the continuance of that protection and favour, by which, above every other land, ours has been long and eminently distinguished. To the prayer of unfeigned piety the God, whom we serve, refuseth not to listen. But let us beware of deceiving ourselves; of “approaching Him with our lips, while our hearts are far from Him.” No secrets can be hid from His all-searching eye. And though He rejecteth not the sighing of a contrite heart, neither desireth the death of a sinner, though He is ready to aid, by His good Spirit, the struggles of returning virtue, and to receive, like a tender father, with favour and indulgence, His repentant, though prodigal son. He cannot view, without indignation, the presumptuous boldness of those weak mortals who substitute a show of devotion in the room of sincere virtue, of good and holy resolutions, who bow down before Him as it were in mockery, and approach Him “with a lie in their right hand.”

The folly of such an attempt can be surpassed only by its danger. Sensible of guilt and of frailty, we should seek, in all humbleness of mind, some means of expiating our past offences, some prop to sustain our weakness, in time to come, against the temptations which surround and will infallibly assail us. For the faithful disciple of the Saviour, this atonement and support are abundantly provided. Let us come unto God, through Him, and every stain shall be wiped away, with which sin hath polluted our souls. TO all who earnestly solicit it, divine assistance shall be given. To the weak, who are conscious of their weakness yet desirous of persevering in virtue, wisdom and strength shall be imparted from on high. By hypocrisy all our former offences shall be dyed in indelible crimson. Instead of securing an interest in the merits of our Lord, or winning the Spirit of truth to take up His abode in our hearts, by a semblance of piety, while we are strangers to its power and benign influence on our temper and conduct, we shall quench the Spirit of God, crucify our Redeemer afresh, and put Him to open shame. Encumbered with a load of guilt voluntarily incurred, we may “strive to enter,” according to the expression of our Lord, “the strait gate of life, but shall find to our confusion, that we are finally and for ever excluded.

The nature of a solemn fast, then, appears to be the humbling of ourselves in the presence of our Creator, attended with the confession of our sins, an earnest solicitation of pardon, and a faithful and steady determination to amend our lives. As an individual learns, in the hard school of affliction, to reflect on those blemishes in his character, which the dazzling sunshine of prosperity had wholly prevented him from discerning; so societies and nations, who, blessed with a long train of fortunate events, are almost ready to forget God, when calamity overtakes or appears to menace them, call to mind with profound regret, their national iniquities; and the nation, like the individual, conscious of guilt and humbled by chastisement, sinks in the dust before her Judge and seeks by humble supplication to avert or to mitigate the sentence of avenging justice. 

Great blessings in small packages. Some years ago, the PCA Historical Center received the donation of a complete set of a small periodical issued by Dr. William Stanford Reid. The little periodical titled REFORMATION TODAY only ran for about three years. One sample from those rare pages:

“Needed: Historical Perspective”
by William Stanford Reid
[excerpted from Reformation Today —Volume 2, Number 4 (February, 1953), pp. 11, 17.]

History is God’s possession. This is the repeated assertion of the Scriptures. Whether dealing with individuals such as Pharaoh, Cyrus and Judas, or with nations such as the Jews or with kingdoms such as Babylon, Egypt or Rome, this is always the point of view. Every item, every event of history is worked out according to the purpose and plan of God, “who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” Moreover, this plan and purpose finds its culmination in redemption, accomplished by Christ and to be made complete at history’s final day.

The implications of this point of view for the history of the Church since apostolic days are numerous. The most important is, however, that Christ, who is “head over all things to the Church” is guiding and ruling His people. ,He is bringing His elect into the Church and punishing those professing Christians who prove unfaithful. In this way the history of the Church has for the Church a twofold objective. It is a warning of what befalls those who are not obedient. This is mentioned repeatedly in the New Testament. (2 Tim. 3:8; Heb. 3:17-19; Rev. 2,3). At the same time the history of the Church is a means of instruction, whereby it is warned, encouraged and strengthened. (Rom. 4, 9-11; Heb. 11; 1 Cor. 10:11).

For this reason the Christian has a very real obligation to the Church’s history. He, and the Church as a whole, must take it seriously, regarding it as part of God’s means of guiding and directing the Church by the Spirit into all truth. (John 14:26; 16:13). For this reason history is not to be discarded, nor disregarded. It is the revelation of how God deals with His people, which is also the fundamental message of the Bible. The only difference is that the Church does not have since Apostolic days, an inspired record, nor an inspired interpretation,. Therefore, it is the Church’s obligation, not only to understand its own history, but also to evaluate and interpret it in the light of God’s Word.

There are, however, dangers at this point. If one adopts a proper point of view, they may not be great, but there
is always a tendency towards traditionalism and conservativism. Because this, that or the other doctrine has been believed, or because this, that or the other practice has been followed, such must still be the case. This can only lead to aridity and pharasaism which will bring the Church to the grave.

The greatest danger, however, amongst present day Christians, is in the other direction. They tend to disregard the Church’s history. They adopt the attitude that it is unimportant “Let’s not have Calvin or Wesley or Machen,” they say, “But let us get back to the Scriptures. Only then shall we know the truth.” In this way they are adopting the position, that before this age no one has ever really wrestled with problems of the faith, and what is even more important, no one has ever found a solution. They imply that their problems, their needs and their ideas are absolutely new. Therefore history cannot help.

To an historian such a point of view is utterly ridiculous, for in history “there is nothing new under the sun.” The new problems are the old. What Augustine, Calvin, Kuyper and others had to face, we also have to deal with today. We cannot escape from the world in which we live, a world made up of past history.

This anti-historical attitude, however, is very dangerous. Its proponents feel that in a year or two they can achieve the results which the Church has achieved only over 2,000 years. Consequently they often fall into old errors and heresies which could have been easily avoided if they had known some his Moreover, they would be much humbler than they usually are, for they would see how utterly fallible are all Christians.

Today the Church suffers from a rejection of history. This is one of the evangelical’s greatest weaknesses. Therefore, let us study the Church’s history, the history of God’s people,, in order that we may the better know Him who is the Church’s only Lord and King.

William Stanford Reid, 
Reformation Today —Volume 2, Number 4 (February, 1953), pp. 11, 17.

A most timely reminder comes today from the Rev. Harold S. Laird, widely recognized in his day as a stalwart Christian and Presbyterian. There is no better way to introduce the author of the following short devotional than to reproduce this memorial which was spread upon the Minutes of Susquehanna Valley Presbytery (PCA). In my work here at the PCA Historical Center, every once in a long while I hear certain men spoken of with the greatest of respect. Harold S. Laird was one such man:—

MEMORIAL MINUTE FOR HAROLD SAMUEL LAIRD [8 August 1891 – 25 August 1987]

Harold Samuel Laird was born on August 8, 1891, in New Castle, Pa. His father was a faithful Presbyterian pastor who raised him in the nurture of the Lord. Harold Laird was converted at a young age and walked closely with his Lord ever afterward. Upon graduation from Lafayette College and Princeton Theological Seminary he was ordained to the Gospel Ministry and held six successful pastorates.
Harold Laird was an outstanding preacher of the Gospel, a caring pastor, a contender for the faith, and one who was vitally interested in world missions. He had a leading role in the events which led to the formation of one source of the PCA. He was a founding member of the Board of Directors of Westminster Theological Seminary, the Independent Board for Presbyterian Foreign Missions, and Faith Theological Seminary. He was willing to suffer for his convictions even to the point of being suspended from the ministry of the PCUSA and being removed as pastor of one of the most prestigious churches of Wilmington, Delaware. Wheaton College honored him with a Doctor of Divinity degree and he was elected as Moderator of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod. He also served on the Board of the Quarryville Presbyterian Home.
Dr. Laird was a man who walked with God. All who heard him pray came into the presence of God. His life verse was Matthew 6:33 and his godly spirit evidenced that he practiced it. He was completely content in the providence of God in his life. Harold Laird ran his race well and entered into glory on August 25, 1987.

THE CURE FOR ANXIETY

Rev. Harold S. Laird, D.D.

[The Independent Board Bulletin 7.4 (April 1941): 3-4.]

In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”(Philippians 4:6, 7 American Standard Version.)

There is one thing that is abundantly clear from the above verses and that is that God wills that His children should never be anxious. In fact so plainly is His will expressed here in this matter that for one to be anxious is to commit sin. That anxiety is sin is evident not alone from this statement which so definitely forbids it, but also from an understanding of what causes it, or, better still, what anxiety really is.

The simplest definition one can give in the light of the teaching of the Word of God regarding it is that anxiety is a failure to take God at His word. This is nothing but unbelief, and unbelief is sin. The Word of God indicates that unbelief is a very great sin.

Because anxiety is sin, God, through the Apostle, forbids it in the words, “Be anxious for nothing.” But the mercy of God is revealed in the fact that while He forbids anxiety, He at the same time suggests a cure for it in the words which follow: “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” That the prescribed cure will be effective is clear from the words that follow in the next verse: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.”

Someone has suggested that the whole of verse six may be expressed in three simple phrases: “Be anxious about nothing”; “Be prayerful about everything”; and “Be thankful for anything.” Many, no doubt, will find it easier to “be prayerful about everything,” than to “be thankful for anything.” Surely it is not easy to be thankful for anything unless one learns the secret of this. It is simply childlike faith in the sovereign power of God whose children we are by faith in Christ. Believe that He, who has proven His love for you in the gift of His Son, controls every detail of your life, and thanksgiving for anything will be gloriously possible.

At last, He Had Arrived
by Rev. David T. Myers

You would have thought that he was a king making a royal entrance into his kingdom, so great was the rejoicing among God’s people to his arrival on the shores of the American colonies.  And indeed, John Witherspoon was certainly the man whom God has chosen to lead the infant College of New Jersey in its next steps of Christian education.

The College had some dark providences associated with its leadership.  In the twenty years of its existence, the five leaders who served as its president, had served a few years and then died.  In fact, it was this mortality rate which cause Mrs. Elizabeth Witherspoon, John’s wife  in Scotland, to want nothing to do with the College.  And so there had been four appeals to come over and help them, but all four of them failed to move the Scotchman, but more particularly the Scotch woman to wish to cross over the Atlantic.  Finally, with the aid of Benjamin Rush, who at that time was studying for a medical degree in Edinburgh, Mrs. Witherspoon was convinced that they should go. Despite the three-month crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a sailing ship named the Peggy, with five children, and three hundred books for the College library might make anyone rethink the invitation, they did not. On August 7, 1768, the family arrived in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Dr. David Calhoun, in his book “Princeton Seminary: Faith and Learning, 1812 – 1868,” describes John Witherspoon who stepped off the ship as being “a heavy-set man of forty-six, with brown hair, a strong face with large nose and ears, and blue eyes which looked out beneath bushy brows.”

Resting for five days in the city of Philadelphia, and who can blame them for that after such an ocean voyage, they traveled on to the town of Princeton, New Jersey in a horse and carriage.  About a mile from the town, the entire student body of one hundred and twenty students, with the staff,  met them and ushered them into the town and onto the campus.  His family had use of a house, a garden, land for pasture, and firewood.  There was an annual salary equal to 206 pounds sterling.  That night, in every window of Nassau Hall, there was a candle which illuminated the building.  The future Princeton University and Seminary were rejoicing over his safe arrival.

John Witherspoon was installed as the sixth president of the College of New Jersey on August 17, 1768.  And, he was stand the test of time for decade, as well as through some of the most difficult days in the history of America.  John Witherspoon would make his mark for God’s glory during all this time.

Also this day:
The Advisory Convention was held August 7-9, 1973, to set down final preparations for the First General Assembly of what was to become the Presbyterian Church in America, when that Assembly met December 4-7, 1973.

Words to live by:  The Scots-Irish Presbyterians of the colonies knew what they had to have when they invited John Witherspoon.  A strong advocate of the doctrines of the Westminster Standards, he had stood for the faith once delivered unto the saints in Scotland.  He was an accomplished preacher,  church leader, and an author.  When a church leader has been bestowed  Spirit-given abilities for service, or spiritual gifts, then much good for the saints is expected.  When God’s glory is aimed at by that same leader, then much good for the kingdom of God is attained.  Pray that God will sovereignly bestow His gifts upon the church at large, and your church in particular.

Witherspoon’s works have been largely overlooked and forgotten for some time now, or so it seems. Thankfully, however, his works have been reprinted in recent years. Or you could go over to the Log College Press website to view some of his works in digital format.

Today we would like to take notice of recent discussions on the doctrine of the Trinity and offer the following short article by the Rev. Dr. William Childs Robinson, a conservative stalwart who mentored many of the founding fathers of the PCA. This article originally appeared in THE PRESBYTERIAN JOURNAL on August 6, 1975. “Dr. Robbie, as he was affectionately known, was professor emeritus of Church history, Columbia Theological Seminary, and living in retirement in Claremont, California at the time that this was written.

The Trinity: God in Action
by William Childs Robinson

The Church’s interpretation of the Trinity, wrote Bethune-Baker of Cambridge in Early History of Christian Doctrine, is that of one God existing permanently and eternally in three spheres of consciousness and activity, three modes, three forms, three persons: in the inner relations of the divine life as well as in the outer relations of the God-head to the world and to men.”

In his current book, The Triune God, E. J. Fortman concludes that God is not dead. “God is, was and always will be the Triune God who has revealed Himself by His inhabitational presence.”

These words emphasize that we must look to God Himself and His acts to keep our beloved Church in the Trinitarian faith; we must not permit the Church to be devoured by a unitarianism such as that which captured so many English Presbyterian and New England Congregational churches. Trinitarian experiences led Horace Bushnell to answer Unitarianism thus: “But my heart needs the Father, my heart needs the Son, and my heart needs the Holy Spirit, and the one as much as the other.”

God is the living God, and as such He may be expected to reveal Him-self primarily in action, not formula. This He has done in the incarnation of God the Son and in the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit.

The Old Testament is the preparation for this revelation, the New Testament the product of the revelation—spoken and lived by the Son and brought to believers by the Holy Spirit.

The climax of this record is found in many places: the farewell discourses in the book of John; the high priestly prayer of the Lord Jesus; the Gethsemane prayer; the Gospel of the forty days before the ascension, with the Christian name of God given by the resurrected Lord in His Great Commission; the account of Pentecost and the acts of the Holy Spirit in the book of Acts and in the epistles.

Mindful that much of God’s self-revelation has come through divine- human encounters—Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah, Paul—we agree with Frederick Gogarten that “faith is the concrete meeting with the triune God.” We also agree with Rahner that “the immanent Trinity as such confronts us in the experience of faith, a constitutive component of which is the word of Scripture itself.”

Through revelation man perceives revelation. “In His light we see light.” By being in God the Holy Spirit, we behold the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

God’s self-revelation as the Trinity is no impersonal system of hypostases in an essence. As Hodgson wrote, “It is the living, loving communion of Father, Son and Spirit into which we have been adopted in Christ.” That is, we have been adopted to share in the “family life of God.”

God the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits that God the Father has accepted us as His children and bids us call upon Him as “Abba,” our dear Father, because of the merits of God the Son. The Trinity represents the concept of God involved in the Christian life, and the Christian shares by adoption in the sonship of Christ. Thus the Christian looks out upon the world from within the divine social life of the Trinity.

God is the living God, and as such He may be expected to reveal Himself primarily in action, not formula. This He has done in the incarnation of God the Son and in the outpouring of God the Holy Spirit.

We are brought into this life by the threefold actions of God in the riches of His grace. God is before all and above all that He has created, and He has given to and for us His only begotten Son, the unspeakable gift of His love, for love came to earth in the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

This Son, of His own will, came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many. His kind lips rang with the gracious invitation, “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden,” with the reassuring promise that “him who comes to me I will in nowise cast out.”

We accept the Father’s gift and the Son’s invitation. We come to Christ and we cast ourselves upon Him; we entrust ourselves to Him. Yet we do this only as we are drawn by the Father, persuaded and enabled by the effectual calling of the Spirit. It is in the tripersonal experience of the presence of the Father, and of the presence of the Son, and of the presence of the Holy Spirit that God reveals the glory of His grace in saving us sinners.

The Anglican scholar, Bishop K. E. Kirk of Oxford, has said this: “The doctrine of the divine personality of the Spirit emphasizes what has been called the prevenience of God in the aspirations of the human heart, just as that of the divinity of the Son emphasizes that same prevenience in the work of human redemption, and that of the divinity of the Father—which is the doctrine of the existence of God— His prevenience over all the forces and powers in the creation and sustenance of the universe.”

Professor Claude Welch put the truth this way in his book, In This Name: “God is present to us in a threefold self-differentiation. He makes Himself known as the one who stands above and apart, the one to whom Jesus points as His Father and therefore our Father. At the same time, He is the one who confronts man in Jesus Christ as the objective content of revelation, i.e. the Son. And He is the one who seizes and possesses man so that he is able to receive and participate in revelation, new life, salvation, viz, the Holy Spirit.”

It may be that the religious experiences of some denominations or congregations focus more upon one person of the Trinity than another. Certainly it is true that a person will find peculiar satisfaction in the contemplation of one person on one occasion and another in a different situation. But in the course of a normal life span, each Christian avails himself of the complete revelation of the holy Trinity.

As our propitious heavenly Father, the creator, who has life in Himself and gives life to all His creatures, has graciously revealed Himself in the gift and mediation of His only begotten Son. He bids us call upon Him as the Jewish toddler cried out to his parent, “Abba,” dear father. In hours of stress, uncertainty, anxiety and loneliness, we draw close to the everlasting arms and nestle nearer to the heart of Him who makes all things work together for good to those who love Him, those whom He has called into His family.

The guilty soul finds the answer to the most poignant question life ever poses in Him, who is the eternal reason, the light of the under-standing, and the source of all knowledge. “The work of Christ in relation to sin,” wrote J. Denney, “is the culminating point in revelation; not the insoluble problem, but the solution of all problems.” We do have an advocate with the Father; He is Jesus Christ, the righteous, the propitiation for our sins.

When the meanness, the wickedness, the littleness—the sin that does so easily beset us—threaten to engulf the soul in the lusts of the flesh, the pride of life, and the machinations of Satan, we then cling to the Holy Spirit, the author of all goodness, wisdom, love, mercy and purity that bless this sin-cursed world. In the words of Jonathan Edwards, “Holiness is entirely the work of God’s Spirit.”

The living God dispenses the riches of His grace in this threefold way not just in our daily living; He also has “dying grace” for His people, for the triune God is sufficient for Himself and for His people. In their last hours God is present with those who are His, so that each is enabled to say with confidence, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me.” Our gracious God refreshes our memory with the promises of the many mansions in our Father’s house, echoing back the final words of the Saviour Himself: “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” 

Our heavenly Father in three persons stays with His people in life and in death

A Highly Religious Man with Strong Presbyterian Beliefs.
by Rev. David T. Myers

We might more readily suggest any number of men and ministers of whom this title might describe.  But when it is known that this description was given to a man, indeed a minister, by the name of Richard Denton in the early sixteen  hundreds residing in Long Island, New York, most, if not all of our readers might reply with at statement like “I never  heard of  him.”  And yet, he established the first Presbyterian church in the colonies.

Richard Denton was born in 1603 in Yorkshire, England.  Educated at Cambridge in 1623, he ministered in Halifax, England for some years in the parish of Owran.  Emigrating to Connecticut, he worked first with the famous preacher Cotton Mather.  The latter said of him that “Rev. Denton was a highly religious man with strong Presbyterian views.  He was a small man with only one eye, but in the pulpit he could sway a congregation like he was nine feet tall.”

When religious controversies, like which church government the  congregations should follow, threatened to disrupt the Connecticut group, Denton and a group of families moved to what is now Hempstead, Long Island, New York.  He settled there in a large Dutch colony.  Because there were some English settlers also there, that was enough for a congregation to be organized.

Back in those early days, his salary came from every inhabitant of the area.  In fact, you could be fined for not attending worship, and that fine was aggravated each week to a higher level for succeeding absences.  The church he began, today called Christ Presbyterian Church, was so successful with Rev. Denton in its pulpit, that Dutch people began to attend it as well.

On August 5, 1657, a letter was written by two Dutch settlers to the Classis of Amsterdam, saying: “At Hempstead, about seven leagues from here, there lives some Independents.  There are also many of our church, and some Presbyterians.  They have a Presbyterian preacher, Richard Denton, a pious, godly and learned man, who is in agreement with our church in everything.  The Independents of this place listen attentively to  his sermons; but when he began to baptize the children of (Dutch) parents who were not members of the church, they rushed out of the church.”

As time went on, the salary of Rev. Denton began to be collected sporadically by the citizens.  As a result, he planned to go back to England.  After all, he did have a large family of seven children. And it was said that his wife was sickly in constitution.  Another letter was written two months later on October 22 in which the same two writers stated, “Mr. Richard Denton, who is sound in faith, of a friendly disposition, and beloved by all, cannot be induced to remain, although we have earnestly tried to do this in various ways.”  They were not successful, and he returned to England.  He died in 1662.

Words to live by: The date of the presence of Presbyterians boggles our minds and hearts.  Since that time, countless servants of the gospel have labored in difficult fields where money has been tight.  The New Testament more than once urges the members in the pews to share all good things, including remuneration, with those who teach them the Word.

A particularly timely question in our day.

THE SCHOOL & FAMILY CATECHIST
by Rev. William Smith

Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 35

Q.35. What is sanctification?

A. Sanctification is the work of God’s Spirit, whereby we are renewed in the whole man, after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

EXPLICATION.

Work of God’s Spirit. –Sanctification is called the work of God’s Spirit, because it is done gradually, or is a work of time, in which respect it differs from justification, which is called an act, because it is made perfect at the very first.

Renewed. –Made anew, or changed from the love and the practice of sin, to the love and the practice of holiness.

Whole man. –That is, our thoughts, memory, will, affections, and all our faculties.

After the image of God. –This means that, by the work of sanctification, we are made, by degrees, in some measure to resemble God himself, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness.

To die unto sin. –To forsake, or to cease from sin, both in heart and life.

To live unto righteousness. –To love and to practice holiness, in our thoughts, in our words, and in all our actions.

ANALYSIS.

The information here given respecting sanctification, may be divided into six parts :

  1. That it is a work of God’s Spirit. –2 Thess . ii. 13. God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation, through sanctification of the Spirit.
  2. That by this work we are renewed in the whole man. –Eph. iv. 23. Be renewed in the spirit of your mind. –1 Thess. v. 23. The God of peace sanctify you wholly.
  3. That we are renewed after the image of God. –Eph. iv. 24. And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
  4. That by this work of the Spirit, we are enabled to die unto sin. –Rom. vi. 2. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
  5. That by it we are also enabled to live unto righteousness. –1 Pet ii. 24. Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness.
  6. That this dying to sin, and living to righteousness, is accomplished gradually, “more and more.” –Rom. vi. 6. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed. –2 Cor. iv. 16. Though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.

Throughout the 1960’s and early 1970’s, the Presbyterian Journal used to sponsor an annual event called Journal Day. In the summer of 1972, the lead speaker that year at Journal Day was the Rev. Dr. Edmund Clowney, who brought a message titled “Hear Him!”  That message is reproduced here for your edification this Saturday morning. It is a longer post than most, so pour a second cup of coffee and settle in for a most enjoyable read. 

Behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ! —

Hear Him!

clowneyEPThe author is president of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia, Pa. This is the substance of his message on Journal Day.

Smog has become a national hazard in industrial America. The evening news report includes a pollution index, made graphic by a gray veil drawn halfway across the city pictured on the television screen. Smog is the more dangerous, of course, because we take for granted the smoke of the city along with its noise and dirt. In the grayness we have forgotten the glory of sparkling sunlight.

A more deadly smog pollutes the atmosphere in America’s Churches, a noxious miasma that is the more lethal when we take it for granted. It is the smog that obscures the difference between truth and error, between the faithfulness of God and the wiles of the devil. The light of glory has departed from contemporary theology, and the experts warn against its return. Doctors of theology tell us that final answers spell disaster, because they close our minds to the changing shapes of truth for today.

Half a century ago controversy raged in the major American denominations as those dubbed “fundamentalists” contended for the faith against the ecclesiastical power of theological liberalism. Today we are assured that this struggle was not only hopeless but meaningless. Imagine the naivete of arguing about whether the virgin birth of Jesus is essential to Christian faith!

Did Jesus have a human father, or was He conceived by the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary? Both the old-fashioned liberal and his contemporary successor seek to avoid that question. An unequivocal answer would make all too clear who confesses the historic Christian faith and who denies it. Liberalism old and new has therefore sought to make the question irrelevant. Religious truth, we are told, does not communicate objective matters of fact. It is a structure of symbolism, “a human expression in propositional language of some deeper pre-positional or not-yet-thematized level of experience . .

The older liberalism rather baldly found the meaning of the symbols in religious consciousness. The newer liberalism seeks a more ambiguous point of reference in the existential encounter of the individual (or, perhaps, of society) with the “ground of being.”

Modern Ambiguity

Inhaling this new formula of truth, the contemporary liberal both affirms and denies the virgin birth. As religious symbolism it is “true.” In the Hellenistic age it was understood literally, for such things could happen in the ancient world. In the modern age it is a myth which must be translated if its religious meaning is to be interpreted. There is no need to deny that it could have occurred; after all, anything can happen in an open universe. But there is also no need at all to affirm that it did happen, since its meaning is religious, not scientific.

In the darkening twilight of our age it is easy to be persuaded that the old antitheses are gone, that truth changes with the times, and that we should be grateful to those who offer a believable version of the Gospel to modern man.

Then we turn to Scripture and our dimmed eyes are dazzled by the glory. Neither poets nor philosophers, the apostles were eyewitnesses to glorious events. On the mount of transfiguration Jesus was praying while Peter, James and John kept watch. The scene was monotonously familiar to the disciples, and mystic ecstacy was far from the experience of these fishermen. No existential angst troubled their hearts. In fact, they were almost asleep.

Peter’s Confession

Suddenly their heavy eyes were wide with amazement. Jesus stood before them as they had never seen Him before, His robe white with unearthly brilliance and His face shining with the glory of God. They saw His glory, and the light of that cloud of glory still dispels the smoke of our doubts. In this day when the glory has departed from the Church of Christ, the command comes again: “Arise, shine, for thy light is come and the glory of the Lord is upon thee” (Isa. 60:1). To see the glory now we must behold the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

The mount of transfiguration stands in the midpoint of Christ’s ministry. Jesus had refused to lead Israel’s revolution and the crowds were leaving Him. Peter confessed the distinctive faith of the Christian Church in sharp contrast to the flattering unbelief of the crowds. The people called our Lord a prophet, Peter called Him the Christ; the people hailed Him as the greatest of God’s servants, Peter worshiped Him as the Son of the living God. When the Church says of Jesus what all men will say of Jesus, it denies Him. When it says what flesh and blood cannot conceive, then it confesses Him whom only the Father in heaven can reveal.

The disciples who confessed the divine Sonship of Jesus Christ were thereby prepared to hear the heavy tidings of His sufferings and death. Here was the acid test of the obedience of their faith. Jesus was not to be the political messiah of worldly hope. Instead, He was the suffering servant of Old Testament prophecy. Whoever would follow Him must take the path to the cross. Peter promptly failed the test. He dared to rebuke Christ for taking the cross. Peter, who had been taught by the Father in heaven, became the mouthpiece of the devil. Called to be an apostolic rock of foundation, he became a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.

But what the Father had revealed in illumining Peter’s mind had to be manifested before the apostle’s eyes. The glory of heaven shone from the Saviour as He turned to the cross. A week after Peter confessed Christ by revelation of the Father, the Father himself confessed His Son before the three apostles. The glory of the mount calls us to worshiping faith, to receive the Lord on His terms, not ours, to confess Jesus Christ as the divine Son fulfilling in His life the will of the Father, displaying in His person the nature of the Father. From the cloud of glory came the voice of God, “This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye Him.”

Hear Him! This command must pierce our ears and our hearts and shape our obedience to Jesus Christ. We must hear Him who is the prophet of glory, the priest of glory, the king of glory.

The Prophet of Glory

The scene on this mount of revelation attests the glory of the prophetic authority of Jesus Christ. True faith in Christ cannot reject the revelation on the mount. One of the confusions of contemporary theology is to set Jesus Christ as the living Word against the Bible as the written Word. However, no such contrast is possible when the real Jesus of the Bible is taken seriously. He is not an enigmatic Christ-event to which various witnesses point with fallible and conflicting utter-ances.

No, He is the living Son of God and He speaks the words given Him by the Father. No man receives Christ the living Word who does not receive His spoken words. Hear ye

Him! God who spoke of old by the prophets has now spoken by His Son, and that which was spoken by the Lord was confirmed to us by them that heard, God bearing witness with them (Heb. 1:1-2; 2:3-4).

The mount of transfiguration revealed Christ as the final prophet. Moses and Elijah, the two pivotal prophets of the Old Testament history of redemption, appeared with Him in glory. The great model of God’s revelation was the giving of His covenant on Mount Sinai. The living God kept His promise to Abraham when He redeemed Israel from Egypt and assembled the people before Him to hear all the words of His gracious covenant.

When the people could not bear to hear the voice of God, the Lord called Moses alone up into the mountain to receive the words of God’s covenant, spoken in His ears and written on tablets of stone by the finger of God (Exo. 24:18; 31: 18).

Moses, the mediator, receiving the words spoken and written by God, provided the pattern for the office of the prophet. When the prophets said, “Thus saith the Lord . . . they were doing what Moses had done: receiving the words of God and giving them to the people. Moses, with whom God spoke “mouth to mouth” (Num. 12:8), towered above all the prophets who were like him — until the promised prophet came.

Warning, Loving

With Moses was Elijah. He, too, had heard God speaking on Mount Horeb. Jealous for God’s holy name, Elijah was bitter because the fire that fell at Carmel did not consume all the idolaters. But God revealed Himself to the prophet, not in the fire or the storm, but in the whispered word of His counsel. God’s Word appointed Jehu, Hazael and Elisha as instruments to destroy the worship of Baal.

Moses and Elijah on the mount with Jesus again heard the word from the cloud, but God did not speak ten words nor promise the coming of other prophets. Rather, He said: “This is my Son, my chosen: hear ye Him.”

Hear Him, for the Word of the Father is spoken by the beloved Son in glory and in grace.

Hear Him as He declares the holy will of His Father: “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you; that ye may be sons of your Father who is in heaven . . Hear Him, too, as He warns, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him; the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

Hear Him, for “how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? Which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard . . . See that ye refuse not him that speaketh” (Heb. 2:3, 12:25).

Hear Him as He calls “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Hear Him, for the words that He has spoken are spirit and are life (John 6:63).

The wind and the sea hear Him: “Peace be still!” The deaf hear him: “Ephphatha” “Be opened!” (Mark 7:34). The dead hear Him: “Lazarus, come forth!” Whoever has ears to hear must hear Him, for He who speaks is the Word of God alive.

Do not divide between Christ and the Bible. He who turns from the words of Christ turns from Christ the Word. See Him in His glory, standing between the prophets and the apostles, and you see the speaking Lord who unites the apostles and the prophets in the Amen of His mighty word. The Bible is one because Christ is one, and He fulfills all things that are written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms concerning Him (Luke 24:44). Whoever does not believe Moses’ writings will not believe Christ’s words (John 5:47).

No Choice

The Bible is not primarily a human witness to God’s redemptive acts. It is God’s own witness, God who spoke from the cloud, from the lips of prophets and apostles through the Spirit of His Son, and from the lips of the Lord of glory. It is true that prophets and apostles bear witness to what they have seen and heard, but they do so as they are borne along by the Holy Ghost. Even the prayers and praises given by the Spirit are part of God’s testimonies, given as His witness to His people (Deut. 31:19; II Sam. 23: 1-2).

To describe Scripture as the product of the reflection of the “faith-community” evolving from its experience and approved in its use is to substitute reflection for revelation, the word of man for the word of God, the faith of the community for the authority of the Son of God. Between the apostles and the prophets stands Jesus Christ, and God says, “Hear HimI”

To suggest that after God’s final word in Christ we are to hear as God’s word the sentences of Chairman Mao or the ancient darkness of the Bhagavad Gita is to reject the voice of the living God. God is jealous for His name. He will not give His glory to another, and there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

No doubt much more than we imagine is at stake when men refuse to believe that God can speak words to men. We begin to see the corrosion in our literature when words are cut off from ultimate meaning. Fabricated truth, formed for the day, cannot undergird the mind of man or establish his heart. But we are not adrift in empty galaxies babbling verbal signs without meaning. We are God’s creatures, lost in our rebellion, vain in our thoughts, but to us God says, “This is my Son, hear Him!”

Priest of Glory

Yes, hear Him, for the Son of God is the priest of glory. Moses on the mountain was the great mediator between God and the people. When Israel sinned, Moses stood before God to intercede for a rebellious nation. Elijah built an altar on Carmel, and after the fire fell kept vigil in prayer until the promised rain came. These great servants of God fulfilled priestly roles as they stood between God and the people.

When Jesus was transfigured He was praying. He who is a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek poured out the agony of His soul as He looked from the mount of transfiguration to the mount of Calvary. Made like His brethren, Jesus prayed then as He prays now, the representative priest. What Moses and Elijah prefigured, Christ fulfilled.

The glory was given not only for the disciples’ sake, but as part of Christ’s strengthening for the conflict. As angels ministered to Him after the temptation in the wilderness and later in Gethsemane, so the heavenly glory came to refresh His human nature on the way to the cross.

Hear Him as He talked with Moses and Elijah. They spoke of His death and resurrection, for toward this their ministries had pointed. They could not join in His priesthood. Theirs was a passing ministry and it was over. Christ is the abiding priest who ever lives to make intercession for them who come unto God by Him. Priest and sacrifice, He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. There is one God and one mediator between God and man, Christ Jesus.

King of Glory

When He had made purification of sins, He sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high (Heb. 13). Hear Him, for He is the king of glory.

The radiance of the Saviour’s face was not like the luster of Moses’ countenance when he came down from Mount Sinai. That glory had so dazzled the people that Moses had put a veil over his face. Yet for all of its brilliance it was reflected glory, the afterglow of encounter with the glory of the Lord. The glory of Christ on the mount was His own glory, a bursting forth of the glory that He had with the Father before the world was. The glory of God did not first appear in the cloud, as on Sinai, and then by reflection on the Saviour’s face. Instead, it shone forth like the sun from Christ himself, the true light who came into the world.

God’s glory came down in the cloud to rest upon the tabernacle in the wilderness. Glory dwelt among the people, but Israel rebelled in the land of the promise, and Ezekiel saw the glory of the Lord departing from the temple. Yet the glory dawned again with the coming of the Lord, and the disciples were witnesses of the presence of the Lord of glory. Who is the king of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the king of glory.

Moses had prayed on Mount Sinai “Show me, I pray thee, thy glory.” He knew that when God’s glory was manifested all the blessings of the covenant were secure. On Sinai God passed by Moses, covering him in the cleft of the rock, but Moses who once saw the glory of God’s back in the theophany later saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus

Christ. The glory of the true tabernacle streamed forth from the light of the world.

Reflecting on Christ’s kingship, we better understand the tabernacles Peter proposed to build. The feast of booths or of tabernacles was the last great feast of the sacred year, the harvest-home of God’s salvation. Peter may have concluded that the time for the feast of the kingdom of God had come.

The king had come in His glory, but it was not time for the feast of glory. From the mount of transfiguration Jesus went to the cross. Have you reflected on the testing of Christ on this mountain? It was completely different from the temptation, when Satan had taken Christ into a high mountain to show Him the glory of the kingdoms of this world. Yet in another way, Christ’s dedication to the path of His kingship was searched out more deeply. Christ was tasting the glory of heaven. How He must have yearned to return with Moses and Elijah to the glory of the Father! Chariots of fire had carried Elijah to heaven.

Could not the Son of God have ascended from the mount of transfiguration rather than from the Mount of Olives? We catch something of Christ’s yearning when He came down from the mount to confront His disciples who could not perform a healing because of their little faith. “O faithless and perverse generation,” said Christ, echoing the words of Moses, “how long shall I be with you, and bear with you?”

Peter Knew

Jesus might have returned to heaven from the mount, but not with Moses and Elijah. Christ is the way to heaven for Moses and Elijah, as well as Peter, James and John. Only because the king of glory went willingly to the cross is there salvation for any man. Moses and Elijah departed, but the king remained. He descended the mount of transfiguration and climbed the mount of Calvary where the superscription on the cross read, “This is the king of the Jews.”

Only after Calvary’s conquest did the cloud again appear. Christ was lifted up on the cross before He was lifted up to the throne of heaven. Yet the glory of His transfiguration is a pledge of the glory that will be revealed when Christ comes again as He promised.

Listen to the witness of Peter as he knows his death is near: “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming (that word is “presence” — parousia) of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory, when there was borne such a voice to Him by the majestic glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: and this voice we ourselves heard borne out of heaven, when we were with Him in the holy mount” (II Pet. 1:16-18).

No, these are not fables. God speaks to us and we have the word of prophecy made more sure. He says concerning His Son: “Hear ye Him!”

Have you heard and heeded the Word of Christ? Have you heard Him as He speaks of His death and the glory to follow? Will you hear Jesus, Jesus only, forever? For your life, for your Church there is one Lord who rules by His revealed Word in the power of His present Spirit.

His Word is not gray, not a yes and no. His Word is truth and glory, the light of heaven to our path. “For how many soever be the promises of God, in Him is the yea: wherefore also through Him is the Amen, unto the glory of God through us” (II Cor. 1:20).

Presbyterians may have been too restrained to say, “Amen” in the past. But the time has come when we must confess Christ by saying, “Amen” to His revealed Word. In our lives and in our Church, we must hear and obey Him who is the Lord of the Word and who speaks to us the Word of the Lord. Not counting the cost, we must obey God rather than men, and hear Him, the final prophet, the eternal priest, the returning king of glory!

[excerpted from The Presbyterian Journal, 31.19 (6 September 1972): 7-10.]

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