March/April 1993

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by Jim Flanigan

by George Muller

by A. D. Thropay

by J. Burnett

by B. Currie

by W. W. Fereday

by John A. Short

by B. E. Newcombe

by O. L. MacLeod



(Meditations in Luke’s Gospel)

by JIM FLANIGAN, (Belfast)


The beautiful second chapter of Luke’s Gospel is exquisite for its delightful blending of simplicity and profundity. This lovely narrative brings angels and shepherds together in the story of the incarnation. Angels! Heaven’s glorious populace. Shepherds! Humble pastors of sheep at Bethlehem. It is as if the representatives of high heaven and the lowly of earth are joined in unison as Messiah makes His advent. There is today, at the shepherd’s caves outside Bethlehem, a plaque which reads—

"The Revelation of God’s great condescension
was first given to shepherds, poorest of sinners;
Still, today, God’s word is true, that He will behold
those that are of a contrite heart, and will dwell with them".

There are four specific references to the shepherds, and numerous other general references. They were simple, untutored men, of humble occupation. They were not theologians. Heaven passed by Israel’s learned ones, the false shepherds of the nation, and on that memorable night brought the revelation to shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock. Here was true shepherd ministry, staying where the sheep were, watching, guarding the flock by night in a dark world. The shepherd of Israel was coming, incarnate, to Bethlehem, and it seemed so fitting that Judean shepherds should be the first to hear.

It was a scene unparalleled. An angel to shepherds announcing the glad tidings. "Fear not" … "A Saviour" … "Christ the Lord". Glad tidings indeed, and great joy. Suddenly, an angelic host, a great multitude with a mighty paean of praise. "Glory to God". . . "Peace on earth." He had come! David’s Son had come to David’s Bethlehem. No wonder that the song should be of glory and peace and joy.

The shepherds obey the angelic directive and make their way at once to Bethlehem. They find it even as the angel had said. The Babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, is lying in a manger. The Shepherd of Israel is tender and meek, as a little lamb, in holy infancy. "Behold your God"!

Artists have often attempted to depict the scene for us. Mary and Joseph; the Holy Child in His manger-cradle; shepherds standing around with bowed heads, wondering, worshipping. Of the details we cannot be sure, but it is easy to envisage these men of the Judean hills surrounding the manger. With the memory of the glory still fresh in their minds, and with the words of the angel still ringing in their ears, they recounted what they had seen and heard. And as they stood, subdued, around that manger-bed of the Christ Child, yet did their hearts exult and adore. "Christ the Lord", the angel had said, and though "all meanly wrapped in swaddling bands", this Babe was indeed that Christ, long promised, and now come. They glorified God. They praised God. They spake to others concerning the Child. Others wondered and Mary pondered.

How does God delight to bring glory into the daily routine of men’s lives. Jehovah, who met Moses in the wilderness; who called Gideon from the threshing floor and the winepress; who took David from the sheep-cote; who took Nehemiah from Palace servitude; who called Amos from the herd; and who, later called disciples from their fishing boats and nets; tis He who breaks into the mundane world of shepherds guarding their flock in the night watches and allows them to see the glory. And so He does today. To the sincere and humble heart, desiring to see that glory now, God will direct attention to His Son. To "Behold the Man", is to behold God’s glory, for that Man is the effulgence of that glory.

Luke does not record the visit of the Magi, the wise men from the East. That was adoration too, but is suits the theme of Matthew’s Gospel rather than Luke’s. Those men were kings of the Orient But wise men indeed they were, following Heaven’s direction to the King of Kings who had now made His advent, though at a distance from them, for they were Gentiles. They teach us how to worship, opening their treasures and presenting their gifts. But Luke does not record that scene. It is kingly. It is regal and royal. The beloved physician, Luke, is telling the story of a Man; a dependent Man; a lowly, a lovely Man. The story of the kings belongs to another context. Luke has responded so beautifully to the sweet request of our hymn –

Tell me the story of Jesus,
Write on my heart every word;
Tell me the story most precious,
Sweetest that ever was heard.
Tell how the angels in chorus
Sang as they welcomed His birth,
Glory to God in the highest,
Peace and good tidings to earth.

Well too, do we sing, "0 come let us adore Him". May we learn well the song which, though sweet in heaven, nevertheless begins for us on earth. It is the song that exalts the Man whom earth despised. It sings the worth of Him whom the world rejected. Gladly do we "Behold the Man" and bring our homage to Him, as did those men of old.

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Messages from Muller

These are notes of addresses given by the late George Muller

"Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it"  Psalm 81.10

An address delivered at a Prayer-meeting on Monday evening, August 14th, 1871.

This word should be continually present to our hearts. We all have our necessities of one kind or another, and every child of God has many things about which he has need to speak to God. And our gracious God speaks here to each one of His children: "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it,"—now ask much at my hands, look for much from me, bring great requests before me, I am God and not man; it is the very joy and delight of my heart to give abundantly. If we were privileged to go to a great person for anything, we should not ask for twopence-halfpenny, nor two shillings only, but much more; it would be an insult to ask for so little. And if we were allowed freely to make our requests before the sovereign, we should be ashamed, or ought to be, to make only trifling requests.

But the mighty ones of the earth are as nothing compared with Jehovah; and if we would give joy to the heart of God, we must ask great things at His hands, and expect great things from Him. This is taught us in the figurative expression, "Open thy mouth wide," and the promise is, "I will fill it." Let any one act according to the exhortation, and most assuredly God will fulfil the promise. Let us look about, and see when in any measure we have been able to act according to this word, whether God was not as good as His word; and let us remember that if He has not yet gratified our requests, it does not follow that He will not. Let us only wait still on Him expectingly, perseveringly, for the glory of God, in the name of Jesus, and we shall see how He will fulfil this word, "I will fill it." How touching are those words in the same psalm, where God says,

"Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries. The haters of the Lord should have submitted themselves unto Him: but their time should have endured for ever. He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee."

It is the very joy and delight of the heart of God to do us good; and we are here taught that God is willing to give us everything really good for us.

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by A. D. THROPAY (California)

Paper 11

F. The Promise of God for the church 3.1-13

2. The minister of the mystery 3.7-13
Verse 7

— Whereof: (ou) or, of which, referring to the mystery just stated in verse 6.

— I was made a minister: (diakonos) One who serves others. A servant who has a specific work to do. Sometimes this word is translated "deacon". This service may be physical and material service (Acts 6.1-7), or it may be spiritual service such as teaching.

— according to: (kata) in accord with; being measured and characterized by.

— the gift: (dorea) denotes a free gift, stressing its gratuitous character. (W. E. Vine)

— of the grace: (charis) The unlimited (Romans 11.6), unmerited (Ephesians 2.8), unselfish (II Corinthians 8.9), uncompromised, unrecompensable, loving favour of God to the sinner which produces "leaping for joy" and "thankfulness."

— of God given unto me: Paul considered the priviledge that he had of serving Christ, was an underserved gift, flowing from the free grace of God.

— by: (kata) according to.

— the effectual working: (energeian) (In the N.T. it is only used of super human power. It is either used of power that is Divine here, 1.19, 4.6, or Satanic, II Thessalonians 2.9) = "efficiency; operative, energizing power." (Exp.)

— of His power: (dunamis) inherent ability; power residing within a person by virtue of his nature. (Thayer). Paul’s service (ministry) was granted to him by the power residing within God becoming operative within Paul and energizing him.

Verse 8

— Unto me, who am less than the least: (elaxistoteros) A compound composed from a superlative and a comparative word. It means "less than the least," as the A.V. translates it, or "lower than the lowest."

— of all saints: There is no saint lower than Paul in his own estimation. He truly obeyed his exhortation to "let each esteem other better than themselves." Philippians 2.3. The thought of God’s greatness and power (v.7) elicits from Paul a sense of his own smallness. He is overwhelmed by God’s grace in allowing him to serve God for the benefit of his fellow man, and his own unworthiness. True humility is seeing God in His true perspective.

— is: (aorist tense) "was"

—  this grace (as in verse 7) given, that I should preach: (euangelisasthai) "to announce the glad tidings."

 among the Gentiles: (ethnos) As v.6 — This word is sometimes translated "Gentiles," sometimes "nations," and sometimes "heathen." In scripture it particularly refers to non Jews throughout the world. The word is a general term, however, and can be translated, "people." It means a "mass," "host" or "multitude" joined together by the same manners, customs or other distinctive features. It includes people within the bounds of a nation that may speak a different dialect or language and practice a different culture. (English word is "ethnic") The word, although a general term, does not exclude the individual interest that God has in every possible group united on this earth. Paul’s mission was to announce the glad tidings among all these small groups within the various nations on the earth.

—  the unsearchable: (anexichniaston) "that which can not be traced out." (Wuest) "not to be tracked by footprints." (H. G. C. Moule) "past finding out" (Romans 11.33. Cp. Job 5.9, 9.10, 34.24.lxx.

— riches: (ploutos) wealth, abundance of possessions.

— of Christ: That is, (1) belonging to Christ or (2) flowing from Christ. Paul’s Gospel not only pointed the sinner to what he was being saved from, but also to what he was saved to.

Verse 9

— And to make see: (photizo) to enlighten, bring to light, illuminate.

—  what is the fellowship: (koinonia) a sharing in common. {Some manuscripts use other Greek word here (oikonomia) meaning (1) the administration or management of a house or property (2) a dispensing, management, or stewardship (as 1.10)}

—  of the mystery: (musterion) As V. 3 — This word means primarily, "That which is known by the initiated (mutes)." (W. E. Vine) In the New Testament, it is a truth which was once hidden and unknown, but is now revealed. This is taught in verse 5 as well as this present verse. Such truth can only be understood by us through the Holy Spirit.

—  Which from the beginning of the world: (aionon) ages.  These ages may go back further than the creation of this world.

—  hath been hid: (apokrupto) to conceal, keep secret (Luke 10.21; 1 Cor. 2.7; Colossians 1.26)

 in God: God was the place where everything was concealed.  He knows how to keep a secret, no matter how fabulous or wonderful the news is! He kept this secret from all the past ages, and waited until now to reveal it. We can trust a God like this. Our life is hid with Christ in God. Colossians 3.3.

— Who created all things: (panta) all that exists. This mystery is part of God’s creation too, and just as great!

— by Jesus Christ:

Verse 10

— To the intent that: (hina) To the end that. This is the final reason that the humble Paul was given this grace. (Verses 8, 9)

— now: (nun) That is, during this present age.

—  unto the principalities: (arche) Literally, "a first one, a leader," government, rule. In this context, this would be an angelic being given leadership over other angelic beings, or over human leaders. This word is also used in 1.21.

— and powers: (exousia) delegated authority; those with permission and liberty to exercise power. This would be a group of spirit beings with delegated authority under the head leaders (the principality). These are great leaders and powers of the invisible angelic and spirit realm.

— in heavenly places: Literally, "in the upper heavenlies." Both good and evil powers are in the heavenlies. (See 6.12) Most commentators take this phrase to be referring to angelic beings only.

 might be known: (gnorizo) to come to know, to discover.

— by: (dia) through, by means of

— the church: (ekklesia) An assembly that has been called out and called together. In this case, this is the great assembly of all believers who have been called out of sin, darkness, and the world and called unto the fellowship of the Lord Jesus Christ.

— the manifold: (polupoikilos) Having a great variety of forms and colour; variegated. (Used here only in N.T.)

— wisdom: (sophia) Wisdom, skill, understanding. It includes the ideas of producing the best end result by using the best means: Having insight into the true nature of a thing: Doing what is fitting.

— of God: This genitive tense may mean: (a) which comes from God (b) which belongs to God.

Verse 11

— according to: (kata) making known to holy angels the manifold wisdom of God is "in accord with"

— the eternal: (aionon) ages

— purpose: (prothesis) The word means to set something in front of a person. To set forth or before. The word is translated "shewbread" in Hebrews 9.2. The word shewbread is literally translated, "the bread of setting before." Like a chart, God has already set before Him on display His eternal plans. We are on His chart. We are part of His plan. (Same word used in 1.11)

NOTE: The words "eternal purpose" may also be translated, "the purpose of the ages."

 which He purposed: (poieo) To carry into effect, fulfil, make, do.

— in: (en) denoting the element or sphere in which His purpose is being carried into effect.

— Christ Jesus our Lord.

Verse 12

— In whom: referring to the Lord Jesus Christ.

 We have boldness: (parresia) Literally, "Freedom of speech."  We have boldness to speak to God freely at all times.

— and access: (prosogoge) Freedom to enter into God’s presence at all times, knowing that we are acceptable to Him and that He is favourable towards us. We are accepted in the Beloved.

—  With confidence: (pepoitesis) This word is used as an adjective. "Full of trust or confidence."

— through our faith in Him: Our faith is the means by which we have obtained the above mentioned blessings in Christ Jesus.

Verse 13

— Wherefore: (dio) referring to verses 1-12.

— I desire: (aitoumai) To ask or beseech for one’s self.

— that ye faint: (enkakein) to lose courage, becoming faint of heart.

—  not at: (en) "in," "pointing to the circumstances, sphere, or relation IN which the faint-heartedness ought not to show itself."

— my tribulations: (thlipseis) "sufferings due to the pressure of circumstances or antagonism or persons." (W. E. Vine)

— for: (huper) on behalf of

— you, which is your glory: (doxa) the outshining; brightness or splendour; The outward manifestation of God’s attributes. Paul’s afflictions for them would result in result in their honour, their benefit, their glory. They should be encouraged.

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Lessons from the Life of David

By J. Burnett, (Dunfermline, Scotland)


Scripture References: JOB 22.29: 2 SAM. 21.1; 23.13-17. Having already considered David being tested of God in his FAMILY circle we shall now observe him in a time of FAMINE

In 2 Sam. 21. 1. we have the EMPTINESS OF THREE YEARS
In 2 Sam. 23.13-17 we have the EXERCISE OF THREE MEN

The former shall be before us in this paper and the latter, David in a day of FULLNESS, in the next issue (DV).

The Spirit of God would highlight for us three years in the life of David when famine prevailed. He looked out on a scene of barrenness, upon fields that should have been full of waving grain, but alas nothing but emptiness! Such desolation would bring its own sorrow to the heart of this dear man.

In 2 Sam. 23 the circumstances have changed. No longer famine but harvest. No, longer emptiness but fullness. If the emptiness of those three years would bring untold sorrow then the exercise of these three mighty men would fill David’s heart with unbounded joy.

All this, of course, is true to life and beautifully illustrates for us the truth of Job 22.29 "When men are cast down then thou shalt say, there is lifting up." The winter precedes the summer. The North wind and then the South wind. The casting down is followed by the lifting up.

We are reminded of a dear Scottish preacher, George Math-ieson, who was engaged to be married. Before the wedding the cold wind of affliction blew upon him, leaving him in a world of darkness — totally blind. In his hour of need his fiancee left him, unable to bear such a burden. George Mathieson was cast down but went into the sanctuary and found that with God there is lifting up. The fruit that such sorrow yielded is found in the words of the hymn he wrote:

"Oh! Joy that seekest me through pain
I cannot close my heart to thee.
I trace the rainbow through the rain
And feel the promise is not vain
That morn shall endless be."

Thus did he find when all created streams run dry His fullness is the same.

We shall see in this study that God was proving David in the Famine conditions of life.

In 2 Sam. 21.1 there are three thoughts worth noting:

i) The Emptiness of the Years,
ii) The Exercise of David,
iii) The Explanation of the Lord.
i) The Emptiness of the Years

How suggestive and full of teaching is this for our day. A famine that lasted three years, "year after year". After the first year, another then another with sombre repetition.

Is this not true of many assemblies today? Never a soul saved; never a believer baptised; never a backslider restored. There can be much activity. The ground cultivated, the seed sown but no increase from God. There is such a thing as the barrenness of a busy life. Is is said of some in the Old Testament that they ran but were never sent, they prophesied but had no word from the Lord. May the Lord preserve us from such and cause us to be fruitful unto every good work and increase in the full knowledge of God.

ii) The Exercise of David

How was David to react to such adverse circumstances? Was he going to shrug his shoulders and simply put it down to one of those things thus treating the whole business with indifference?

How delightful to see that David enquired of the Lord. He spread the matter before the Lord in priestly exercise of heart. Here we learn a great lesson. David did not accept as normal the abnormal. David knew these empty fields should have been full of rich harvest and so concerned was he that he took it to the Lord in prayer.

Tell me, dear reader, are you deeply burdened to see the gold becoming dim? It is all too easy just to say it is a day of small things and we cannot really expect too much. Would it not be more honest to say that we live in a day of small men, with small faith, small ideas and small vision? May the Lord help all of us to leave behind the muddy flat lands and rise to higher ground with God. To leave forever the shallow waters of apathy and launch into the deep with God and His word. iii) The Explanation From the Lord

"And the Lord answered, it is for Saul and his house of blood." How solemn and searching is all this! To be the cause of famine among the people of God must surely fill our hearts with fear and trembling.

Just a brief word about Saul the carnal man. The history of this man would teach that the carnal man has no time for the things of God. Note the following.


Six times we read that he took from the people of God — for the man of the flesh has nothing to give. The number six in scripture is man’s number and speaks of human weakness and failure. In John chapter four the woman by the well met the Lord about the sixth hour; she had six men in her life; she spoke to the Lord six times. The Lord spoke to her seven times and had the first and last word since He is Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.

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Aspects of The Holy Spirit and The Believer

by B. Currie, (Belfast)


In relation to the nation of Israel in Old Testament times, God was dealing directly and personally. Those days could be described as being characterised by Jehovah. After the rapture of the church and the ensuing tribulation period the Lord Jesus shall personally establish His Kingdom on earth and subsequently rule the earth with His bride. Such days could be described as being characterised by Christ, the Messiah. Following the kingdom there will be the eternal state which is described by Peter as "the day of God," 2 Peter 3.12. However during this present age the Lord Jesus is at the right hand of His Father and has sent forth the Holy Spirit who is now the Divine Person personally and directly on earth. Thus these days are often described as being characterised by the Holy Spirit. This is the dispensation of the Spirit who like Eliezer in Gen. 24, is the Servant winning a bride for the Son of the Father. While it is true that this is the day of the Spirit, He is not really the prominent Person. His ministry has been summarised by the Lord Jesus as "He shall testify of Me," John 15. 26 and "He shall not speak of Himself;……..He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you." John 16.13,14.

It has to be sadly acknowledged that this ministry of the Holy Spirit is very much misunderstood in this day of charismatic confusion. The Holy Spirit is exalted and extolled, often to the detriment of the Lord Jesus. It has been reported to the author that certain "Charismatics" have blasphemously declared, "now that we have the Holy Spirit we can dispense with Jesus." With such a background it has been deemed timely to seek to outline the teaching of the New Testament in relation to the Holy Spirit and the believer.

An influence or a Person?

It is necessary to establish that the Holy Spirit is a Person and not a mere influence as many appear to accept. For those who accept the simple reading of the Word of God it is not difficult to establish that He is a Person. Frequently and invariably throughout the Lord’s ministry in John 14-16 He refers to the Holy Spirit as "He", not "it". However those who dig a little deeper may assert that the word "pneuma" translated "spirit", is of neuter gender and is not necessarily descriptive of a person. However the masculine pronoun " ekeinos" is emphatically used by the Lord Jesus to describe the Holy Spirit in John 14.26; 15.26; 16.8,13,14. This must refer to a Person.

Thankfully we are not required to be proficient in N.T. Greek to establish the personality of the Holy Spirit. If we note some of the activities of the Holy Spirit it becomes very clear that these can only be attributed to a Person.

He speaks                  Mark 13.11; Acts 8.29, 10.19, 13.2, 21.11; 1 Tim. 4.1; Heb. 3.7; Rev. 2.7 etc.
He teaches                  Luke 12.12; John 14.26; 1 Cor. 2.13.
He comforts                John 14.16,26; 15.26; Acts 9.31.
He convicts                John 16.8.
He guides                  John 16.13.
He can be lied to Acts 5.3.
He can be tempted (Challenged)            Acts 5.9.
He can be resisted Acts 7.51.
He commands            Acts 11.12, 16.6, 21.4; Gal. 5.18.
He fits                        Acts 20.28.
He leads                    Matt. 4.1; Luke 4.1; Rom. 8.14;
He bears witness John 15.26; Acts 5.32, 20.23; Rom.8.16, 9.1; Heb. 10.15.
He makes intercession Rom. 8.27.
He reveals                  1 Cor. 2.10.
He dwells                  1 Cor. 3.16.
He exercises His will 1 Cor. 12.11.
He can be grieved Eph.4.30.
He can be quenched 1 Thess. 5.19.
He renews                  1 Titus 3,5.
He signifies                Heb. 9.8.
He testifies                  1 Peter 1.11.
He moves men            2 Peter 1.21.
He invites                  Rev. 22.17.

Any unbiased reader of the above list of Scriptural references must conclude that while the Holy Spirit has an influence, He is a Person and not an influence.

His Deity

While accepting the Personality of the Holy Spirit we must also be assured of His Deity. The Deity of the Father is never questioned, but that of the Son and the Spirit is constantly under attack. Those who are genuinely born of God heartily accept the divine Trinity.

In the Scriptures the Holy Spirit is clearly called God and we must bow to the Inspired Volume. Note the words of Acts 5.3,4. In v3 Peter says, "why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost……?" Note he had lied to the Holy Ghost.  Now v4, "… thou hast not lied unto men but unto God." He had lied unto God. The clear and unmistakable deduction is that the Holy Ghost is God. The same inference can be drawn from 1 Cor. 3.16 where the assembly is called the temple of God because the Spirit of God dwells there. Again the Lord Jesus says, "…. I came forth from (para) God", John 16.27. The meaning being that He came forth from being alongside God and the expression underscores His deity. He likewise speaks of the Holy Spirit in 15.26,"___the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from (para) the Father…"

Among the many features displayed by Deity, the following three have become prominent in our thinking — Omnipresence, Omniscience and Omnipotence. If the Holy Spirit displays these He must be God.

i) Omnipresence

In 1 Cor. 6.19 the apostle states that the body of each individual believer is a temple of the Holy Ghost. That this is not a transient or temporary condition is clear from Rom. 8.9,11 and 2 Tim. 1.14 where we are taught the Holy Spirit "dwells" (takes up residence and is at home) in us. Also 1 Cor. 3.16 declares that each assembly is the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Since each believer and each assembly of saints, at every moment and every place all over the world, are all simultaneously indwelt by the Holy Spirit, He must be Omnipresent.

ii) Omniscience

The ability to be all knowing is accredited to the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor. 2.10, 11. There He is said to search "the deep things of God" and to "know the things of God". The argument is that since only man can know man, only God can know God. Thus He is a Divine Person with Omniscience.

iii) Omnipotence

The mighty power of the Spirit of God is illustrated in the miracles which the Lord Jesus performed. These were not only accomplished by His own Divine Power but He did state, "… I cast out devils by the Spirit of God…" Matt. 12.28. The parallel passage in Luke 11.20 records, "… I with the finger of God cast out devils …" This seems to equate to the thoughts of John who, as he encourages the saints to prove the spirits, writes "… greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world," 1 John 4.4.

These references, together with His mysterious involvement in the conception of the Saviour, allow us to confidently conclude that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, who together with the Father and the Son form the Holy Trinity as seen in Matt. 28.19 and 2 Cor. 13.14.

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by The Late W. W. Fereday (written in 1897/98)


Paper 1(a)—The Church’s Heavenly Hope

Every Christian looks to spend a glad eternity in heaven with the Lord Jesus. It is unquestionable that it is His desire and intention to have us there. In His wonderful prayer to the Father just before He suffered He thus expressed Himself, "Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory, which Thou hast given Me; for Thou lovedst Me before the foundation of the world" (John 17. 24). Having said this, He went into death for us. The dread consequences of our sins fell on Him. He took up the cup of Divine wrath on our behalf that our souls might be delivered. All the work being done, every question having been settled, the Father raised Him up from among the dead, and glorified Him at His own right hand in heaven. He has gone up as Man into the glory; and thus, having previously accomplished redemption, has made out a title for all who believe in His Name to be there also. Glorious thought! All who trust in Him are "to live together with Him" in the Father’s house for ever (1 Thess. 5. 9, 10).

As to all this no believer has any real doubt. But it is undeniable that serious uncertainty prevails in many minds as to how we shall be introduced into all this glory. Not a few think by death, fully expecting that all will close their earthly pilgrimage in this way, and thus pass one by one into the enjoyment of our everlasting portion. But however ancient the idea, it is a profound mistake. Scripture states most emphatically "we shall not all sleep" (1 Cor. 15.51). Indeed, nowhere in the New Testament is the believer told to look for death as the due end of his pathway here. If the cases of Peter and Paul be adduced as seeming to teach the contrary, the answer is that they were exceptional, and had Divine revelations that their labours would close by a violent death for Christ’s sake (2 Peter 1.14; 2 Tim. 4.6-8). They do not touch the general principle.

For what, then, should the Christian prepare himself? For the return of the Son of God from heaven.

No unbiased reader can read through the Acts and the Epistles and deny that all the early converts to Christianity looked for the coming of the Lord Jesus. It animated their hearts, separated them from the world, enabled them to patiently suffer, and quickened them to marvellous zeal in the Lord’s service. The Thessalonians are happy instances of this (1 Thess. 1).

But let it be distinctly understood what we mean by the coming of the Lord. Scripture speaks of two events, quite distinct in time and character, which it is of the utmost importance never to mix together. It is a wise word that the Apostle wrote to Timothy. "Rightly divide the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2.15). While this is always necessary, in no department of Scripture study is the neglect of it more serious than in the matter now before us. The Word of God speaks of two quite distinct things: (1) The return of the Lord Jesus for His heavenly saints: and (2) His appearing in public glory for the deliverance of His earthly people, and to reign in righteousness, subjugating all foes. If these are confounded very little headway will be made in the study of the prophetic word. The one is a descent into the air only for the removal of His own; the other is a descent to the earth, as we read, "His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east" (Zech. 14.4). The one is characterised by deepest affection for the objects of His Divine favour; the other by terrible desolating judgments upon His enemies (Rev. 1.7).

Perhaps the reader will compare the last chapter of the New Testament with the last chapter of the Old. In Revelation 22.16 we read, "I am the root and the offspring of David, and the Bright and Morning Star." But in Malachi 4.2 we have, "Unto you that fear My Name shall the Son of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. And ye shall tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith Jehovah of Hosts." Such are the different characters of hope set before the heavenly and the earthly people respectively. Who can fail to see that these Scriptures speak of two entirely different events? The morning star is visible (to those who watch) before the sun, as every one knows.

The public appearing of the Lord to judge and to reign had been the subject of prophecy almost since the world began. It has been used by the Holy Spirit for the comfort of the godly, and for the warning of the ungodly. Enoch, the seventh from Adam, told of it, as Jude shows: "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, to execute judgment upon all," etc. (Jude 14). But the heavenly hope of the Church of God, the coming of the Lord Jesus into the air to receive His own, was not revealed, as many other truths, till New Testament times.

The reason is not far to seek. The Old Testament is occupied with God’s government of the earth, with Israel as His centre. Consequently the earthly aspect of the matter alone is brought out. But we find something very different when we come to the New Testament. There we see Israel tested, not be the Law, but by the presentation of the Messiah, and rejecting Him with scorn and hatred. He Whom they have abhorred and refused the heavens have received. They are now fugitives and vagabonds in the earth" on account of their sins (though yet to be restored); and God is giving effect to another purpose — a purpose of a heavenly character. Souls are now being called out of the world by grace, both Jews and Gentiles, to be the heavenly joint heirs with Jesus. Such have no portion in the earth, but are united to the risen Head by the Holy Ghost (1 Cor. 12.13). Our calling and portion being above, the heavenly hope of which we speak is set before us by the Holy Spirit. He has come out from the glory into which Christ has entered, and one of His gracious offices is to show us "things to come" (John 16.13).

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by JOHN A. SHORT (Hong Kong)

Pray for the Prayer Meeting, and go to it, go in time, and if possible go to stay till the end in a prayerful spirit. Go to pray, and then you will not begin when it is time to close the meeting!

Take a definite stand against all languor and lassitude; it is a state of mind! Remember the Prophet Isaiah lamented this state in the people of his day also!" "And there is none that… stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee …" (Isaiah 64:7). The present priestly grace of Christ can lift us above every weakness of mind and heart.

If you lead in prayer PRAY ALOUD. If you can only "peep and mutter" in a whisper or mumble and pray with your hand over your mouth and face buried in your hands you will send the meeting to sleep. Such praying is unrighteous because it may "raise the flesh" in another straining to hear. If it does not give the saints a bad conscience it may give a headache! "Follow righteousness" even when praying, "and let all your things be done with love," and decently and in order!

Pray briefly. Consider other, especially the sisters, who must find it difficult to add "Amen" to lifeless, repetitive prayers; and the young, and the weak . Think too how cruel it is to weary people already wearied from a hard day’s work, by rambling from "Dan to Beersheba" and back again! The whole length of the land! Mr. G. V. Wigram said to a brother, "You prayed me into a holy frame of mind, and then prayed me out of it again!" Remember that the longest audible prayer in the New Testament is that sublime and holy address of the Son to the Father in John’s Gospel chapter seventeen— it probably occupied about five minutes!!

However imperfect a younger or untaught brother’s words may express his desire, try and understand what the brother means-the Lord always does! (Romans 8:26, 27) "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: … and He that searcheth the hearts knoweth what

is the mind of the Spirit." Self-rebuke all criticism! If I have a critical spirit while another is praying, my spirit is out of touch with God!.

Shun, avoid at all cost, all "Theological prayers." Mr. J. N. Darby rightly spoke of them as "real iniquity." If we pray to show off our knowledge, we do not pray to God. How can I pray thus if I feel I am speaking to God!.

Keep your eyes closed when another is praying, but keep awake. The time to open wide the eyes is after the prayer meeting. We are exhorted to get on the watch-tower, "I will stand upon my watch. . . and will watch to see what He will say unto me. "(Habakkuk 2:1). Let us, "Watch unto prayer," lest we miss God’s answer. He always answers in some way or other!

Be careful with the hymn-book! A hymn must be chosen well and spiritually. A hymn may help, but has often hindered the flow of prayer. If to you, a wrong hymn has been given out, do not be restless or the flesh may become more active in you than the brother who missed the leading of the Spirit of God. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." The Lord can always come in and set things right again.

When praying avoid airing grievances, or saying that which may grieve someone or give an uncomfortable feeling that you are praying at them. To pray at people is very wicked. It is not only cowardly but rank hypocrisy, for we pretend we are praying to God, whereas we are preaching at man.

Remember the prayer meeting is the place for collective exercises. Be very careful about bringing your own individual matters to the assembly unless it affects all! Let the collective exercises and joys, sorrows and needs, of the Church arid Gospel fill our public prayers and let us, except under exceptional circumstances leave personal, family and business cares for the family and personal devotions!

When the prayer meeting is over, assiduously avoid as you would poison, all gossip, scandal and empty talk. All such conversation robs us of all the blessing enjoyed in praying together. Let us talk about what we have been praying about that we may encourage each other to further believing prayer.

Remember that the prayer meeting is the pulse of the local assembly and therefore be concerned about its state and fluctuations!

Public prayer, in the assembly, is to be carried out by "the men", 1 Tim. 2:8 (cp. R. V. & J. N. D.) with the women’s heads covered (1 Cor. 11:13). Public prayer is not more elevated or more surely answered because it is long-winded and repeated! If one brother has led the assembly in praying for a certain matter and all have added their "Amen", there is no need to repeat the matter again and again, but rather move on to pray for the vast scope of other pressing needs that abound in the gospel and the Testimony of the Lord.

Intercession, for those who cannot or do not pray (Luke 23:34); petition for our own, and fellow-believers needs (1 Thess. 5:25); Adoration concerning what He is, Confession of known failure and sin and thanksgiving for His blessings, all have part in the local prayer meeting. (1 John 1:9; 1 Cor. 15:57; & 2 Cor. 8:16).

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A Parable by B. E. Newcombe

On the hill-sides in the Kucheng District of China the most valuable trees are often marked with the owner’s name. A common way of conveying water from the mountain springs down to the villages is in channels made of lengths of bamboo fitted one to the other.

A BEAUTIFUL tree stood among scores of others on a lovely hillside, its stem dark and glossy, its beautiful feathery branches gently quivering in the evening breeze.

As we admired it we became conscious of a gentle rustling of the leaves, and a low murmur was distinctly heard: "You think me beautiful, you admire my tall stem and graceful branches, but I have nothing to boast of. All I have I owe to the loving care of my Master. It was He Who planted me here in this very fruitful hill, where my roots, reaching down to and dwelling in hidden springs, and continually drinking of their life-giving water, receive nourishment, refreshment, beauty and strength for my whole being."

"Do you see those trees to one side, how miserable and parched they are? Their roots have not yet reached the living springs. Since I found the hidden waters I have lacked nothing."

"You observe those characters on my stem? Look closely— they are cut into my very being. The cutting process was painful—I wondered at the time why I had to suffer—but it was my Master’s own Hand that used the knife, and when the work was finished, with a throb of unutterable joy I recognised it was His own Name He had cut on my stem. Then I knew beyond doubt that He loved and prized me, and wanted all the world to know I belonged to Him. I may well make it my boast that I have such a Master."

Even as the tree was telling us of its Master, we looked round, and lo! the Master Himself stood there. He was looking with love and longing on the tree, and in His hand He held a sharp axe.

"I have need of thee," He said. "Art thou willing to give thyself to Me?"

"Master," replied the tree, "I am all Thine own—but what use can such as I be to Thee?"

"I need thee," said the Master, "to take My Living Water to some dry, parched places where there is none."

"But, Master, how can I do this?  I can dwell in Thy Living Springs and imbibe their waters for my own nourishment. I can stretch up my arms to heaven, and drink in Thy refreshing showers, and grow strong and beautiful, and rejoice that strength and beauty alike are all from Thee, and proclaim to all what a good Master Thou art. But how can I give water to others? I but drink what suffices for my own food. What have I to give to others?"

The Master’s voice grew wondrously tender as he answered. "I can use thee if thou art willing. I would fain cut thee down and lop off all thy branches, leaving thee naked and bare, then I would take thee right away from this thy happy home among the other trees, and carry thee out alone on the far hill-side where there will be none to whisper lovingly to thee— only grass and a tangled growth of briers and weeds. Yes, and I would still use the painful knife, for all those barriers within thy heart should be cut away one by one, till there was a free passage for My Living Water through thee."

"Thou wilt die," thou sayest; "yes, My own tree, thou wilt die, but My Water of life will flow freely and ceaselessly through thee. Thy beauty will be gone indeed. Hence forth, no one will look on thee and admire thy freshness and grace, but many, many will stoop and drink of the life-giving stream which will reach them freely through thee. They may give no thought to thee, it is true, but will they not bless thy Master Who has given them His Water through thee? Art thou willing for this, My tree?

I held my breath to hear what the answer would be. "My Master, all I have and am is from Thee. If Thou indeed hast need of me, then I gladly and willingly give my life to Thee. If only through my dying Thou canst bring Thy Living Water to others, I consent to die. I am Thine own. Take and use me as thou wilt, my Master."

And the Master’s Face grew still more tender, but He took the sharp axe and with repeated blows brought the beautiful tree to the ground. It rebelled not, but yielded to each stroke, saying softly, "My Master, as Thou wilt," And still the Master held the axe, and still he continued to strike till the stem was severed again, and the glory of the tree, its wondrous crown of feathery branches, was lost to it forever.

Now indeed it was naked and bare—but the love-light in the Master’s face deepened as He took what remained of the tree on His shoulders, and amid, the sobbing of all its companions, bore it away, far over the mountains.

But the tree consented to all for the love the Master, murmuring faintly, "My Master, where Thou wilt."

Arrived at a lonely and desolate place, the Master paused, and again His Hand took a cruel-looking weapon with sharp pointed blade, and this time thrust it right into the very heart of the tree—for He would make a channel for His Living Waters, and only through the broken heart of the tree could they flow unhindered to thirsty land.

Yet the tree repined not, but still whispered with breaking heart, "My Master, Thy Will be done."

So the Master with the heart of love and the face of tender-est pity dealt the painful blows and spared not, and the keen-edged steel did its work unfalteringly, till every barrier had been cut away, and the heart of the tree lay open from end to end, and the Master’s heart was satisfied.

Then again He raised it and gently bore it, wounded and suffering, to where, unnoticed till now, a spring of Living Water, clear as a crystal, was bubbling up. There He laid it down—one end just within the healing waters. And the stream of Life flowed in, right down the heart of the tree from end to end, along all the road made by the cruel wounds—a gentle current to go on flowing noiselessly, flowing in, flowing through, flowing out, ever flowing, never ceasing, and the master smiled and was satisfied.

Again the Master went and sought for more trees. Some shrank back and feared the pain, but others gave themselves to Him with full consent, saying, "Our Master, we trust Thee. Do with us what Thou wilt." Then He brought them one by one by the same painful road and laid them down end to end; and, as each fresh tree was placed in position, the Living Stream poured in fresh and clear from the Fountain through its wounded heart, the line growing longer and longer, till at last it reached to the parched land, and weary men and women and little children who had long thirsted came and drank and hastened to carry the tidings to others: "The Living Water has come at last—the long, long famine is over; come and drink." And they came and drank and revived, and the Master saw, and His heart was gladdened.

Then the Master returned to His tree, and lovingly asked "My tree, dost thou now regret the loneliness and suffering? Was the price too dear—the price for giving the Living Water to the world?" And the tree replied, "My Master, no, a thousand, thousand times, no! Had I ten thousand lives, how willingly would I give them all to Thee for the bliss of knowing, as to-day I know, that I have helped to make Thee glad."

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by O. L. MacLEOD (U.S.A.)

Esteeming it an honour to be asked be the Publishers of "Assembly Testimony" to write as to my conversion and later call to the work of God, I shall gladly comply as simply and clearly as my ability will allow, although there is nothing unusual or outstanding in either.

I first saw the light of day on August 16, 1902 in a farmhouse at Pugwash Junction, (earlier know as Doherty Creek) Nova Scotia, Canada, In contrast to many it was my privilege to be raised in a Christian home, both my parents being saved 41/2 months before my first birthday. I am sure they were exposed to the gospel some years before, as my father would have still been in his teen years and my mother a few years younger when in the mid 1880’s or earlier, Mr. John Knox McEwen came and laboured in that area, at which time the mother of each was saved.

My parents both were saved when in the late winter and early spring of 1903 when Mr. David Scott held fruitful meetings in the area and quite a number were saved. During previous months in nearby communities as well, he saw much blessing and many saved. From his own testimony more than sixty in all, during those months.

My first recollection of soul concern goes back to quite an early age, when at dinner on a Lord’s Day, my father and a visiting brother were discussing the coming of the Lord for His own. The awful thought of being left behind when He came was a very disturbing reality to my young mind. During the following years on many occasions I was troubled about my soul and longed to be saved. One event that shook me greatly was when my brother, five years my senior got saved in July of 1913.

During the spring of 1915, I was led to deeper concern as to my condition, partly because of the coming of the annual conference held over the first of July weekend. By the way it was quite small in those days, as most visitors from a distance traveled by train, others closer came by horse and buggy. Automobiles were few and far between in those days. Through the years it has grown until now 600 or more is common. That year the late Mr. John Ferguson, not long out from the Old Country and living in the Boston area, came to the conference for the first time, intending to return home promptly for tent meetings, but God had other plans for him. God was moving. A young girl got saved shortly before the conference, some were saved during the conference. I was awakened and in soul trouble. I was deeply impressed with Mr. Ferguson’s oratory and solemn preaching of the gospel which stirred me to the depth of my soul. So it was with relief that I heard it announced he would be remaining for a few meetings, for I was convinced that this was God’s time for me to get saved, that it was now or never. On Wednesday an eighteen year old girl got saved and the meetings went on. Friday night found this boy five and a half weeks short of 13 years of age deeply troubled about his soul. Following the gospel meeting, in the home after the usual family reading, when my name was mentioned in prayer, all the pent up feelings of guilt before God and soul trouble burst forth in a flood of tears.

The preacher sat down beside me and turning his bible to Isaiah 53:5-6 sought to point me to the Saviour. But I saw nothing that I did not already know. My problem was believing, how to believe, how would I know when I had believed enough or in the right way and expecting some feeling to give me assurance when I had believed. Finally told it was not feelings that gave the assurance, my darkness deepened almost into despair. I arose from the couch and ascending the stairway to my bedroom, I tried once again to believe, but nothing happened. It then dawned upon me that I was lost and all hope of ever being saved was gone and as Mr. David Rea, I believe it was who said, "I was resolved to go to hell."

As I walked across the room my thoughts were turned to Calvary. I always knew that Christ had died for sinners, but at that moment it broke in upon my soul for the first time that Christ had died for me. I never thought of believing or of feelings, it was enough that Jesus died and that He died for me. The burden of sin was lifted, peace with God was mine, love to Christ filled my soul and thanksgiving went up to God. That July 9, 1915.

The meetings went on for six weeks during which time more than twenty professed to be saved. Alas some proved unreal. Of them all, to my knowledge, I am the only one still living.

A few weeks later on a warm Sunday afternoon along with a number of others I was baptized in a creek on my grandfather’s farm. A little later I was received into assembly fellowship, where by the grace of God I continue to this day.

From the beginning of my Christian life there was always a measure of exercise and desire to give my life to the work of the Lord. Bet alas at times there was not the zeal and love for souls there might have been. In the summer of 1924 it was my privilege to spend a few weeks in tent work with the late brethren Robert Milnes, and James McCullough just out from Ireland. It was not so easy in those days, our mode of transportation was our two feet, we lived, cooked, ate and slept in the tent, visited and preached, but I was happy in the work even though results were limited.

At the end of that year I migrated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and the following year to the suburban area of Bryn Mawr. For the next few years I was engaged in secular employment which limited my movements but gave opportunity to preach the gospel in the various halls in the area on Lord’s Day evenings.

My exercise deepened, but to make the choice between remaining where I was in comparative ease and launching out in faith on God was not easy, for I had learned enough from some of those in full time work to know that at times faith was very severely tested. In the summer of 1927 I spent two weeks of my vacation with the late Mr. James Marshall in tent work in Connecticut. This further deepened my exercise. The following early summer, encouraged by a number of my brethren, I gave in my notice and together with the late Mr. Sam Rea, at that time still in secular work, bought a tent which we erected in early July in Hatboro, a northern suburb of Philadelphia where a few Christians lived but there was no assembly. We saw some fruit from our labour there which begun a work which resulted in an assembly being planted late in 1929, which continues to this day with good growth and considerable blessing from the Lord.

During that summer I met Dr. Wm. J. Matthews of N. Ireland who was visiting in this country and asked me to accompany him on his purposed trip to the West Coast of Canada and the U.S.

This appealed to me and with approval of some of my brethren I joined him. The following five months with him proved inestimable in value both in experience and learning from him.

In the years since then I have spent time with quite a number of good men in various parts of the U.S. and Canada seeing a few souls saved here and there, but the greater part of my life has been lived here in North Carolina where we have seen somewhat of the blessing of the Lord through the years. Finally in 1991 a visit to the beautiful land of Northern Ireland which has been so greatly enriched by the grace of God and also by the love, kindness and hospitality of his beloved people.

Now all the older men with whom I have laboured and some younger are in heaven, and I am left for some purpose. In mid August, 1992, 95 people, (including my son, his wife and family who with others planned it) met here, some travelling hundreds of miles to honour me on my 90th birthday. I most deeply appreciate this expression of the love, care and appreciation of His people. Widowed now after 58 years of being married to a most beloved sister, who was born and raised in Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, and saved near Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, life is very different for me. But as I look back over these many years of proving the faithfulness and goodness of God and the loving care of His beloved people, I am very humbly grateful to Him for all the way that he has led me.

There has been much failure, there have been disappointments, trials, heartaches, illness, pain and also sorrow, but He abideth faithful. On the other hand there has been much joy and happiness, much that has brought us pleasure and satisfaction, when we have seen somewhat of the approval of God in what we have undertaken for Him. Our chief regret is, that there has not been much more for Him, Who alone is worthy of far more then we could ever give to Him. For love so amazing, so divine, demands my heart, my life, my all.

In closing, the words of Rutherford come to mind.

I’ve wrestled on toward heaven, ‘gainst storm and wind and tide,
Now like a weary traveller that leaneth on his guide.
Amid the shades of evening, while sinks you lingering sun.
I’ll hail the glory dawning in Immanuel’s land.
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A debtor Lord I came to Thee
Many long years ago
A life of sin and wicked works
Was all that I could shew.
Helpless, hopeless, foul, unclean
The essence of all dross
I found myself Lord Jesus led
Beneath Thy wondrous Cross.
I gazed upon Thy dying form
he blood that from Thee flowed
That look of love, Thou looked on me
Told the great debt I owed.
My sin; Lord Jesus Thou didst bear
On that accursed Tree
Thy words of love; I hear them yet
"Believing, thou art free."
At Calvary upon the Cross
My Saviour died for me,
e paid my debt; I couldn’t pay
And now, through grace, I’m free.

-by S. W. Oliver


"In the Scriptures we have the great principle of believing – receiving. This is axiomatic. This principle underlies all the eight words that every Gospel preacher must use over and over again.

  1. "Look" receiving with the eyes.
  2. "Come" receiving with the feet.
  3. "Take" receiving with the hands.
  4. "Taste" receiving with the lips.
  5. "Hear" receiving with the ears.
  6. "Choose" receiving with the heart.
  7. "Know" receiving with the mind.

Remember, the Gospel does not present "a thing", but "a Person": not a church, however Scriptural its order; not a creed, however orthodox its doctrines; not a religion, however Biblical its ordinances; but a Person—the Son of God in His Saviour character. To receive the Gospel is to receive Him; to neglect or reject the Gospel is to reject Him.

A. J. Pierson


Philippians 4.6,7.
In nothing must we careful be,
But free from all anxiety:
In everything by thanks and prayer
(True antidote for needless care)
Let our requests the Throne implore,
The giving God Whom we adore.
Experimental peace acquire,
Praises mounting higher and higher
For basic peace can know no loss,
The only ground—blood of His Cross.
With hearts and minds kept day by day,
Enjoying peace which nought can sway.
Thus garrisoned and fortified
Pray on, dear saints, ere glorified.

—John Glenville

LUKE 18 v. 1

Men all should pray and never faint,
Do you not think it rather quaint;
When world, and flesh, and devil three
Stern foes, are busy as can be.
At Christmas time, and New Year gay,
There’s surely greater need to pray;
Prayer meetings closed, shut is the door,
While Scriptures call to pray the more.
Yet Father, Son and Spirit true,
For Christians old, for converts new;
Ne’er sleep, and constant care provide,
Should not the church in care abide.
Begin again to heed and say,
Men ne’er should faint, but always pray.

(J. D. Hodgetts, Wales)

March ! March ! March ! Earth groans as they tread;
Each carries a skull, go’ng down to the dead.
Every stride, every stamp, every footfall is bolder:
Tis a skeleton’s tramp with a skull on its shoulder.
But oh ! how he steps, with high tossing head,
That clay-covered bone, going down to the dead.
March ! March ! March ! How lightly they tread,
Looking up to that One who rose from the dead.
Every stride, every step, every footfall is bolder:
Tis a sinner draws nigh, with a load off his shoulder.
And oh ! how he steps, looking up to his Head,
Who triumphantly rose from the midst of the dead.

—J. Williams


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