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Postscript to The Death of Victory

By Ovid Need, Jr.
April, 1996 Issue of "The Biblical Examiner"

     The Heretical Teachings of J.N. Darby

Though we mentioned some of the following in our recent review of The Plot, we will mention some more. This writer has been working on a lengthy manuscript, The Death of Victory, for several years, tracing the roots, influence and implications of some new, unique distinctive school of Christian thought formulated from about 1825 to 1875.1. Up to that time, the general Christian consensus was the worldís conversion through Christians obeying Mat 28:19, 20, preaching the gospel world-wide, and teaching all nations to observe all things commanded of man in Godís total Word. There were some extremely influential men who set about to change the consensus of a victorious gospel, the world could be won to Christ: They considered any such idea a terrible sin, a sin that must be warred against world-wide, e.g., George Muller:

     Muller noted in his journal for 21 February, 1834, that he had that morning formed ĎA plan for establishing upon scriptural principles an Institution for the spread of the gospel at home and abroadí. [Mullerís Narrative, I. 107.] Later he set down the reasons why he felt that existing societies were not conducted on Scriptural lines. [Ibid., I. 107-109. Cf. the strictures by J. L. Harris on ĎReligious Societiesí, Christian Witness, IV. 86-100.] They had as their object the conversion of the world, an object which Muller had not been able to find in Scripture...2.

     It is interesting to notice that the [Mullerís, ed] Scriptural Knowledge Institution was a mainstay of Hudson Taylorís China Inland Mission in its earliest days.3.

     Thus Muller considered the idea of converting the World to Christ as sin, and his ideas formed the basis of China Inland Mission: Chinaís subsequent fall to Communism can, hence, be directly attributed to China Inland Mission, for it taught that it was sin for Christians to influence society for Christ and try to win the world to Christ.

     A key figure in The Death of Victory was John Nelson Darby. Among a great many other things, Darby presented a new view of Matthew 24 and of Daniel, permitting him to say that the Stone of Daniel 2 has not yet struck the image, for it, said he,

     "...shall break in pieces and consume those kingdoms" in their last form, viz., under the ten kings who give their power to the beast. (Daniel ii. 40-44; Rev. xvii. 11-14.) And here I must stop to remark upon a great error which prevails, viz., that the little stone was the setting up of Christís kingdom at the day of Pentecost, and that it has been growing into a great mountain every since; or, in other words, that the preaching of the gospel, in the present dispensation, is that which is to convert the world.4.

     Thus he saw Christís appearing is not at the end (as is supposed), but at the beginning of the kingdom. In other words, Christ has not yet taken His kingdom.5. Up to Darbyís time, the common belief was that Christ had already ascended to His throne, Ehp 1 & 2, and was now ruling over all things. His ideas concerning Daniel 2 would only work, however, with radical dispensationalims, which he developed and defended through a new Bible study method, Bible Readings.

     His view that the stone has not yet struck the image led to his next logical point: "The scripture does not speak of the universal prevalence of Christianity while the image subsists..." Hence, going against the common, orthodox Christian doctrine of his day, he taught that until Christ literally rules from Jerusalem on Davidís throne, there is no hope for the gospel changing anything for God and Godliness.6. What a sad situation when people become convinced that the preaching of the gospel cannot change society; robbed of faith in the power of God (as defined in 1 Cor 1:23ff.) to convert sinners to Himself, Christians are left with only a political hope. If they are taught that political involvement is wrong, they have no hope except escape.

     Darby taught strongly against both political and social involvement, e.g., if your neighbour is being beaten and robbed, pass over on the other side of the street:

     I write a line in haste, having at heart the course of the brethren with regard to these elections which are about to take place. I found that the brothers at V. had scarcely reflected at all on the bearing of an act which was making them take part in the course of the world. ... It seems to me so simple that the Christian, not being at all of this world, but united to Him who died and rose again, has no business to mix himself up with the most declared activity of the world, but an act which affirms his existence as belonging to the world, and his identification with the entire system which the Lord is about to judge.
... But is it not true that this voting, as an act of identification with the world (in the very forms which it assumes in the last days), ought to be avoided as a snare by all Christians who understood the will of God and their position in Christ?7.

     Darby defines Godís grace in the above letter, and elsewhere, as Godís power enabeling one to be unconcerned about what is going on around him- enabeling him to be uninterested and uninvolved in wicked, worldly activities, e.g.,voting. This writer knows men today who refuse to vote not because they hold Darbyís radical dispensationalism, but because they say it makes them part of the wicked system that is destroying the Constitution. However, they fail to see that the system is still in place that permits throwing the rascals out who are destroying the Constitution. The power is still at the local level, but it requires hard work to use it for Godly purposes.

     We have now only time left to consider the promise: "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God," &c. Here we see how definitely all the promises are connected with the time of glory - the new Jerusalem, here the heart is lifted up into its own proper dwelling-place. Are we taking the position of heavenly dwellers while walking this earth... [He then warns against Satanís seduction to become involved in the affairs around us, defining aithfulness to Christ as standing against Satanís seduction.] 8.

     " And can I be said to be a stranger where I have power and influence? Certainly not; and if the Lord turns the current against them, then they must pass through the furnace. The Church must give up a heavenly Christ and a crucified Christ, if it take the world up in any sense as its portion. The Church of God cannot associate the world and religion without losing its true character."9.

     Darby held that Satan, using the world as his instrument, put Christ to death, and thus Godís plan failed: The cross proved there are no good men on earth. Therefore, Christian must be a stranger in this world with no concern for the events going on around him. Obviously, he understood Scripture in a manner to justify what he desires to believe and teach, viz., NO responsibility on this earth.

"I am, as few think [I have arrived to a place where few are; therefore, I am more spiritual is the thought, ed], a pilgrim and a stranger upon earth... I wait for heaven and for Jesus..." 10.

     However, the Word of God clearly states that the wicked who killed Christ simply carried out Godís predetermined counsel, Acts 2:23; 3:18 ; 4:28, &c. But when one, e.g., Darby, believes the Old Testament is only given for nice illustrations, he can teach any view of the New Testament he desires, particularly a view that releases one from responsibility to oneís neighbour.

     Darbyís belief, with the help of Darbyists, was spread to the four corners of the world, teaching Christians that they were simply strangers passing through a strange community. Accordingly, if they see someone being beaten and robbed, they MUST cross over the road and pass by on the other side. The Bible Reading method developed by Darby and popularized in America by D.L. Moody permits one to completely avoid passages that might require something he does not want to do, like protect his neighbour from thieves and robbers. Bible Reading:

"The method of study was quite new to all, even to the leader [Moody, ed]. A theme was taken, or a single word, such as grace, hope, adoption, assurance, love, etc. The Bible was searched by means of concordance and topical text-book for all passages bearing on the theme. These were emphasized and illustrated. None were more impressed with the wonderful interpretation of the Scripture by the Scriptures than Mr. Moody. This plan gave a new direction to his study and his preaching." 11.

     The Bible Reading method of the study of Scripture with no regard to their context can be attributed directly to the Brethren movement, particularly Darby. This method permitted Darby to support his non-orthodox, unique ideas from the Word of God. However the horrendous implications of this kind of exegesis are obvious: Anything can be taught and supported from Scripture, and many times is.

     Is it any wonder Irvingism/Darbyism is so tenaciously clung to? After all, Darbyism permits one to be indifferent about the plight of his neighbour, justify his indifference from Godís Word through Bible Reading and be deluded into a good conscience before God.

     Of course, in order to ignore the plight of his neighbour, one must depart from the Christian faith as defined in the prophecies which have gone before, the Old Testament,

1 Tim 1:18-21 This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

     Blasphemy

1) to speak reproachfully, rail at, revile, calumniate, blaspheme, 2) to be evil spoken of, reviled, railed at.
Hymenaeus and Alexander erred in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, and in doing so, caused nominal believers to be overthrown in the faith,

2 Ti 2:17, 18 And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; Who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some.
So the Apostle Paul turned them over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme, or speak evil of the doctrine of the resurrection: They not only contradicted the resurrection, supposing there was no truth in the doctrine, but they led others into their evil opinion of Godís Word. The context of the words for blaspheme are interesting. We will not look at them all but just enough to establish our thought:

Ac 26:11 And I punished them oft in every synagogue, and compelled them to blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad; Ro 3:8 And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported [lied about, ed], and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just. Ro 14:16 Let not then your good be evil spoken of: 1 Co 4:13 Being defamed, we intreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day. 2 Pe 2:2 And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 2 Pe 2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; Re 13:6 And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven.

     Hence, we see that the general meaning of blaspheme is to speak evil of the truth of Godís Word. 1 Tim 1:18-21, points out that involved in Paulís deliverance of Hymenaeus and Alexander unto Satan was their evil speaking concerning the prophecies which went before, the Old Testament Scriptures. But the church did not learn from Paulís words against Hymenaeus and Alexander, and many have risen up since to speak reproachfully against the Old Testament.

Blasphemers

     One of the first to blaspheme, i.e., speak reproachfully against the truth of Godís Word, was Marcion [died c. 160]. Marcion,

"...put Christianity into radical conflict with all previous revelations of God; as if God had neglected the world for thousands of years until he suddenly appeared in Christ. ... [He taught that, ed] The God of the Old Testament is harsh, severe and unmerciful as his law; he commands, "Love thy neighbor, but hate thine enemy," and returns "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth;" but the God of the New Testament commands, "Love thine enemy." The one is only just, the other is good. Marcion rejected all the books of the Old Testament, and wrested Christís words in Matt. 5:17 into very opposite declaration: "I am come not to fulfil the law and the prophets, but to destroy them." In his view, Christianity has no connection whatever with the past, whether of the Jewish or the heathen world, but has fallen abruptly and magically, as it were, from heaven.
... Marcion formed a canon of his own, which consisted of only eleven books, an abridged and mutilated Gospel of Luke, and ten of Paulís epistles.
... Notwithstanding his violent antinomianism, Marcion taught and practiced the strictest ascetic self- discipline, which revolted not only from all pagan festivities, but even from marriage, flesh, and wine. (He allowed fish).
... He had a very gloomy, pessimistic view of the world and the church, and addressed a disciple as his partner in tribulation, and fellow-sufferer from hatred.
... Constantine forbade the Marcionites freedom of worship public and private, and ordered their meeting-houses to be handed over to the Catholic Church. The Theodosian code mentions them only once. But they existed in the fifth century when Theodoret boasted to have converted more than a thousand of these heretics, and the Trullan council of 692 thought it worth while to make provision for the reconciliation of the Marcionites.12.

     Marcion reproachful, blasphemous speech against the Word of God as presented in the prophecies which went before was considered and dealt with as heresy: "Justin Martyr regarded him as the most insidious and dangerous heretic of the day. Polycarp called him the Ďfirst borní of Satan.íĎ13.

     Taking on an appearance as an angel of light, Marcionism surfaced again in the 1800s, and swept multitudes into its fold. The Irvingites/Darbyites, followed by the Scofieldites, intentionally separated themselves from the Old Testament prophecies which went before: Their dispensationalism separated themselves from the weapons of a good warfare.

     Irving/Darby Marcionised or dispensationalized the Word of God into a book more conducive to their way of thinking, mutilating it down to just basically the writings of Paul. However, though they followed Marcionís 1700 year old path, the reintroduction of Marcionís heresy met with huge success, for it permitted people to be free from the law of God and responsibility in the days of social chaos. Darby led in reintroducing and developing Marcionís heresy:

"...The absolutely perfect and living rule is the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him all written rules are united in one solitary living example; but the written rule which ought to govern our whole life is the New Testament. The Old Testament gives the most precious light, and illuminates the path of Christians by the light of divine faith working in hearts; still, before the rending of the veil, it could be said, "The true light now shineth," save in the life of Jesus Christ: He was the light of the world. For this reason when the Holy Ghost gives as examples of walking in the path of faith, the faithful of the Old Testament, He adds, "Looking unto Jesus..."
... We must know the Lord in order to walk thou "worthy of God who hath called you to his kingdom and glory." This absolutely clear and perfect light is found in the New Testament alone; but the Old, if we have learned to distinguish between the dispensation under which the saints lived in those times, furnishes very fine examples of faith, of obedience, of subjection to the will of God, of constancy in His paths...14.

     But even after separating the Old Testament from the New, Darbyists do not have a dependable word from God, for, they contend, not all the New Testament is acceptable for faith and practice. They, following Marcionís earlier path, separate Paulís teachings from the rest of Scripture, leaving the child of God with only a few words of instruction in faith and practice:

"...The twelve were sent to baptise, but as to ecclesiastical matters, we are under Paul. ... Further remark, the commission to the twelve was not from heaven, nor consequently immediately connecting with heaven, but from Galilee, and a commission to bring the nations into connection with an accepted remnant of Jews on earth- not bring Jews and Gentile into the body in an ascended Christ, which was Paulís commission especially, preaching withal reconciliation from heaven to every creature under it...15.

     In another letter that same year, Darby mentions the Roman church that bases its system upon Peterís writings instead of Paulís: "This system presses stronger on me than even infidelity, dreadful as it is individually."16. In a 1874 letter from Belfast, Darby reduced the gospels to little more than the story of Christ: "Luke introduces the new order of things in which we find ourselves, rather than the kingdom to come.... For my part I often go back to the gospels in order to study the precious Saviour Himself. They are full of the richest instruction."17. Many times over and in many different letters, Darby labors to separate the Christian from all Scripture except Paulís. One last quote: "As to baptising, Christ did not send me to baptise, and we are under Paulís dispensation.18.

     Having effectively cut off not only the Old Testament, but also all non- Pauline writings, Darbyism leaves the Christians who will follow it with no standard of right and wrong, and with no responsibility, we must add:

"As to a convenient and comfortable means of knowing the will of God, as one might have a receipt for anything, no such thing exists - of knowing it, I would say, without reference to the state of our own soul.19.

     Thus Christians are called to look inward for his guidance. This extremely active and perceptive man convinced multitudes that they had no guide except the conscience of the spiritual man who is near enough to God to know His will. He develops, "If thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light," to say that if one is a Christian with a genuine desire to "walk in a way worthy of Him," he will, therefore, "grow in the knowledge of Godís will" for his life. He will, hence, know Godís will. In other words, if one is a Christian and has the proper motive, God will guide him through his conscience. He makes no mention of Godís Word.20.

     Darby continues to make the point in another 1875 letter: ĎHe that is spiritual discerneth all things,í i.e., If one is sincere in his motives, Godís grace watches over him to lead in the proper path.21. In fact, when confrontations arose between Darby and others, he knew he was in the right because, in his words, "My conscience does not reproach me..."22. Referring to the Holy Spirit speaking in the heart, this Marcionite said,

"I do not receive the Bible, that is, a revelation of God from the hands of men. I receive paper and ink. The revelation I receive from God directly- "They shall be all taught of God." The revelation is a divinely- wrought conviction, and, I repeat, in the conscience...23.

"As to a convenient and comfortable means of knowing the will of God, as one might have a receipt for anything, no such thing exists - of knowing it, I would say, without reference to the state of our own soul.24."

"But all these things are given us in the word by inspiration, in order that we may know man and the ways of God. At the same time, Godís own thoughts are also communicated to us, in order to enable us to judge all this according to His judgment... For my own part, I do not doubt that a powerful effect of the Spirit of God is often produced, where the moral form with which that which produces it is clothed participates, to a very great degree, in all the thoughts of the class of persons who are the vessels and channels of it.25.

     Throughout the letters, it is obvious that Darby considers himself part of the class of persons who are the vessels and channels of communicating Godís own thoughts to mankind. This writer is suspicious: Might not this be a reason Darby failed to emphasize the individual must go to Godís Word for instruction, viz. It would strip him of his power? Was this not the great conflict between Christ and the Pharisees: They stood against the revealed Word of God because He was striping them of their influence and power over the people of God.

     "But you have confounded, as is very common, law and gospel. The Gentiles have no law..." Nor can the law be made a measure for Chrisitans: "You are all wrong as to making law the measure. It was the measure of human righteousness in a child of Adam... Nor is the blessing of Christianity... to be found in the Old Testament... Nor is the law the measure of human sin..."26. Darby thus confuses Christís applied righteousness by faith to the sinner with the believerís right living according to the law. He contended that the Christianís promised blessings were claimed by obedience to Godís will as written in the heart, i.e., the conscience, not as written in His Law-Word.27.

     This pastor has continually encountered this antinomian spirit over the span of 30 years since he entered Christian work. In fact, he was part of the spirit until the Lord dealt with him. Since the Lord dealt with him, he has tried to correct the antinomian spirit from the hearts of his people.

     In a 1856 letter, Darby continues to drive people away from the will of God as revealed in His Word:

"As regards circumstances, I believe that a person may be guided by them; scripture has decided that. It is what it speaks of as being "held in with bit and bridle." "I will instruct thee, and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye" - such is the promise and privilege of him who has faith, is near enough to God to understand by a single glance from Him. God who is faithful, has given the promise to guide him thus. ... and such it is to be guided by circumstances.28.

     Do not dismiss the above as so far from truth that thinking Christians will reject it. This pastor questioned a young man concerning the young manís determination to become a pastor of a particular church upon graduation from one of the largest, best known fundamental Bible colleges in the world, located only about 2 hours north of us. The young man defended, and would not change, his determination when asked to defend his decision from the Word of God: The door is open, i.e., circumstances, and I have peace about it. He had no revealed written word from God for his decision.

     Obviously, the sin promoted by Darby of "Let your conscience be your guide" has been around since Eve. The primary difference is that he gave it a cloak of Christian respectability by saying,"This requires spirituality, and abiding in communion with God. It is not to be guided by the circumstances, but to be guided by God in them, being near enough to God as to be able to judge immediately what one ought to do, as soon as the circumstances are there."21. His communion with God, though, was a mystical communion, not communion with God in His Word: It was not, Study to show thyself approved, a workman that needeth not be ashamed.

     His words sound Godly, all the right ones are there, but the message is clearly demonic, i.e., You are saved and desire to serve God; therefore, let your inner spirit guide you; if you are a Christian dedicated to serving the Lord, your conscience will not misguide you. In fact, Darby subjects even circumstances to feelings: C.I. Scofield sums up Darbyís entire teaching on the matter of Godís will, saying that, "Under the new covenant of grace the principle of obedience to the divine will is inwrought (Heb. 10.16)." 29. Darby continues in his letter:

"...If I do something with the full certainty that I am doing the will of God, then it is clear that an obstacle is no more than a test of my faith, and it ought not to stop me. It stops us perhaps through our lack of faith; because, if we do not walk sufficiently near to God in the sense of our nothingness, we shall always lack faith to accomplish what we have faith enough to discern.30.

     In other words, circumstances might be contrary to what a Christian is determined to do, but that is only Satan trying to hinder one from obeying "the divine will inwrought." Darby really opens the Christian up to demonic activity in the spirit by saying, "God never allows Satan to act otherwise than on the flesh."31.

     However, he does not leave the Christian with no standard: "...do what Jesus would have done in such and such a circumstance." Good advice. Certainly, the gospels "are full of the richest instruction," but one needs sound, written, black and white instructions as found only in Godís revealed will, His total Word.

     There are a great many more quotes which would reveal Darbyís basic supposition concerning the Word of God, sin, Godís will, &c. But we will draw this to a close:

" To a spiritually intelligent mind, the word of God carries an authority beyond all cavils; and a poor, unintelligent man would pass over what is contrary to the mind generated by it, as evidently false, or as unable to understand it, so that he escapes what is false inserted by men in it. They shall be all taught of God; and when the conscience is reached, and the will subject, and therefore the mind silent, we have the peace which certainty gives (and uncertainty as to what is all important is misery), and blessed growth in what God Himself has revealed for divine blessing and joy."32.

     The above excerpt from Darbyís 1874 letter from London sounds like something every Christian could agree with, but, again, notice his next statement in the same letter:

"I do not receive the Bible, that is, a revelation of God from the hands of men. I receive paper and ink. The revelation I receive from God directly - "They shall be all taught of God." The revelation is the divinely-wrought conviction, and, I repeat, in the conscience...

     Read what this man said who laid the foundation for C.I. Scofieldís, "Under the new covenant of grace the principle of obedience to the divine will is inwrought (Heb. 10.16)." He said that God does not speak to His people through paper and ink; rather, He speaks through the conscience and through circumstances.

     Is it any wonder Irvingism/Darbyism is so tenaciously clung to? Darbyism/Scofieldism permits one to:

1) let his conscience be his guide, free from the restraints of Godís Law.
2) follow after appealing circumstances with no regard to the written instructions (paper and ink) that was given him by the Lord God.
3) avoid any social responsibility- if one sees his neighbour being robbed and beaten, particularly by the civil authority, he should cross over on the other side of the road: If he becomes involved, he departs from the faith as defined by Darby.

1 Tim 1:18-21 This charge I commit unto thee, son Timothy, according to the prophecies which went before on thee, that thou by them mightest war a good warfare; Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.

     Paul inseparably connects the Old Testament with the New. When the Old is separated from the New, faith is put away, and the believers in that separation are made shipwreck, and delivered unto Satan. Has modern Irvingite/Darbyite/Scofieldite Christianity been delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme?

Foot Notes

1. H.A. Ironside, A Historical Sketch of the Brethren Movement, Loizeaux Brothers, 1942, 1988 reprint, 7. "Because of the farreaching influence of this distinctive school of Christian thought it may not be unprofitable to inquire into the cause of the movement...," H.A. Ironside.
2. Harold H. Rowdon, The Origins of the Brethren, 1825-1850, Pickering & Inglis LTD, 1967, 129.
3.
Roy Coad, A History of the Brethren Movement, The Attic Press, Inc., 1976, 52.
4. J.N. Darby, The Collected Writings of J. N. Darby, Edited by William KellyóProphetic, London: G. Morrish, 24, Warwick Lane, Paternoster Row, E.C., II: 185.
5. Ibid, II: 172, 1843.
6. Ibid, II.185.
7. Letters of J.N. Darby, Bible Truth Publishers, 1971 reprint, I: 129, 130, 1848.
8. Writings, II: 552, 553, 1852.
9. Ibid, 452.
10. Letters, I: 229, 1853.
11. William R. Moody, The Life of D.L. Moody by His Son, 1900, Sword of the Lord reprint, ND, 438, 439. Moody clearly stated, "I study more by subjects than I do by texts." 441. Moody "discovered" the Bible Reading method of preaching from the very popular Brethren Evangelist, Henry Moorehouse, who preached for a full week in Moodyís pulpit on John 3:16, 137-143.
12. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, II: 483-487.
13. Elgin S. Moyer, Who was Who in Church History, Keats Publishing, Inc, 270, 1974.
14. Letters, II: 108, 109. Darby was very adamant that the Old Testament "judgements and destructions were on earth, and that they had nothing to say" about modern social matters, ibid,I: 402.
15. Ibid, 47, 1869.
16. Ibid, 58.
17. Ibid, 25.
18. Ibid, 196.
19. Ibid, 314.
20. Ibid, 314, 315, 1856.
21. Ibid, 323.
22. Ibid, I: 74.
23. Ibid,II: 297, 298.
24. Ibid, 314.
25. Ibid, 206, 207.
26. Ibid, III: 21, 22.
27. Writings, II: 592.
28. Letters, II: 316. Emp. his.
29. Scofieldís notes for Gal 2:24, p 1245.
30. Letters, II: 317. Emp. his.
31. Ibid, 317.
32. Ibid, 297, 298.

Pastor Need.

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