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How Jesus, by his Testament, bequeathed himself to his disciples for ever;by@edwinabbott

How Jesus, by his Testament, bequeathed himself to his disciples for ever;

by Edwin A. AbbottNovember 7th, 2023
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When the morrow came (which was the fifth day of the week) Jesus abode still in Bethany, and went not forth to Jerusalem. Now so it was that the Passover that year fell on the Sabbath day; and because of the multitude of the sacrifices that were to be slain between the two evenings in the temple, it was a custom that certain of the pilgrims should keep the Passover on a day before the Sabbath. For it was said (though I can scarce believe it) that there were nigh upon three hundred myriads of souls in Jerusalem during the Passover week; and even though the women partook not of the feast, yet the number of lambs to be slaughtered must needs be very great. Therefore we expected that he should have gone down to Jerusalem that day, for so it had been determined with Joseph of Arimathea; and we marvelled that he did not go. But he continued speaking unto Mary and Martha and other of the women. And by this time it was noon, and yet nothing had been done. But at the last Peter went to him and reminded him that after two days would be the feast of the Passover; and he asked Jesus where he desired that we should prepare for the feast. Then Jesus bade Peter [pg 365]and John go to a certain street in Jerusalem and to stand there during the ninth hour of the day; and they should meet there a certain slave of Joseph of Arimathea bearing a pitcher of water upon his head; and they were to say, as a sign to the man, “The Master saith, my time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with my disciples;” and the slave would shew them an upper room prepared; and there they were to make ready. For the space of an hour after Peter and John were departed, Jesus continued still speaking unto the women: then he arose and bade them farewell, and set his face to go down to Jerusalem. When it was now late, the sun having set two hours or more, we sat down to keep the feast; and Judas also was with us. While we sat at meat, we spake, according to the custom, concerning the ancient deliverance of Israel in the days of Moses: but our hearts were very heavy, for we said within ourselves, “We need not a past, but a present deliverance; and, behold, it is not to be.” Jesus alone was of good cheer, and rejoiced with a marvellous joy; and he spake very cheerfully and tenderly to us, and said that his heart had yearned to eat this Passover with us, for he should not eat with us again till the Kingdom of God should be established. Now at this we marvelled, but we rejoiced not; for we had learned by much experience not to rejoice at the promises of Jesus as if they were the promises of common men. Moreover we were sore disturbed by a certain saying of Jesus. For in the midst of his comfortable discourse to us, he suddenly brake off, saying that one of us, that sat there at meat with him, should betray him. And he said, “The Son of man goeth as [pg 366]it is written of him; but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born.” And hereat we sat a while dumb and looking each at other, wondering whom Jesus might mean, and afterwards we brake out into many and passionate questionings, each asking whether he himself was to be the traitor: but Jesus made no certain answer, none at least that I heard. At the last, before rising from the table, Jesus looked earnestly upon us all, as if his heart went out to us: and he pitied us, and said that he would now give us his last gift; for this feast was as a funeral feast, and he was to die and leave us alone; therefore, before he died, he desired to bequeath to us somewhat by his last will and testament.
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Philochristus: Memoirs of a Disciple of the Lord by Edwin Abbott Abbott is part of the HackerNoon Books Series. You can jump to any chapter in this book here. How Jesus, by his Testament, bequeathed himself to his disciples for ever; and how he bare the sins of men in Gethsemane.

How Jesus, by his Testament, bequeathed himself to his disciples for ever; and how he bare the sins of men in Gethsemane.

When the morrow came (which was the fifth day of the week) Jesus abode still in Bethany, and went not forth to Jerusalem. Now so it was that the Passover that year fell on the Sabbath day; and because of the multitude of the sacrifices that were to be slain between the two evenings in the temple, it was a custom that certain of the pilgrims should keep the Passover on a day before the Sabbath. For it was said (though I can scarce believe it) that there were nigh upon three hundred myriads of souls in Jerusalem during the Passover week; and even though the women partook not of the feast, yet the number of lambs to be slaughtered must needs be very great. Therefore we expected that he should have gone down to Jerusalem that day, for so it had been determined with Joseph of Arimathea; and we marvelled that he did not go. But he continued speaking unto Mary and Martha and other of the women. And by this time it was noon, and yet nothing had been done.


But at the last Peter went to him and reminded him that after two days would be the feast of the Passover; and he asked Jesus where he desired that we should prepare for the feast. Then Jesus bade Peter and John go to a certain street in Jerusalem and to stand there during the ninth hour of the day; and they should meet there a certain slave of Joseph of Arimathea bearing a pitcher of water upon his head; and they were to say, as a sign to the man, “The Master saith, my time is at hand; I will keep the Passover at thy house with my disciples;” and the slave would shew them an upper room prepared; and there they were to make ready. For the space of an hour after Peter and John were departed, Jesus continued still speaking unto the women: then he arose and bade them farewell, and set his face to go down to Jerusalem.


When it was now late, the sun having set two hours or more, we sat down to keep the feast; and Judas also was with us. While we sat at meat, we spake, according to the custom, concerning the ancient deliverance of Israel in the days of Moses: but our hearts were very heavy, for we said within ourselves, “We need not a past, but a present deliverance; and, behold, it is not to be.” Jesus alone was of good cheer, and rejoiced with a marvellous joy; and he spake very cheerfully and tenderly to us, and said that his heart had yearned to eat this Passover with us, for he should not eat with us again till the Kingdom of God should be established. Now at this we marvelled, but we rejoiced not; for we had learned by much experience not to rejoice at the promises of Jesus as if they were the promises of common men. Moreover we were sore disturbed by a certain saying of Jesus. For in the midst of his comfortable discourse to us, he suddenly brake off, saying that one of us, that sat there at meat with him, should betray him. And he said, “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him; but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had not been born.” And hereat we sat a while dumb and looking each at other, wondering whom Jesus might mean, and afterwards we brake out into many and passionate questionings, each asking whether he himself was to be the traitor: but Jesus made no certain answer, none at least that I heard. At the last, before rising from the table, Jesus looked earnestly upon us all, as if his heart went out to us: and he pitied us, and said that he would now give us his last gift; for this feast was as a funeral feast, and he was to die and leave us alone; therefore, before he died, he desired to bequeath to us somewhat by his last will and testament.


While we marvelled what this gift or legacy might be, behold, Jesus took bread and blessed God, and brake it and gave it to each of us, saying, “Take, eat, this is my body.” After this he took wine and blessed that likewise, and bade us drink of it, saying, “This is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many.” So we ate and drank as we were bidden, even like children that have no understanding; nor did we then discern the meaning of his words. Howbeit, even at that time we understood somewhat of his purpose; for we perceived that Jesus was pouring his love, yea, and his life, into our hearts; and our souls stretched out as it were toward the truth, namely, that Jesus, in this testament of his, was bequeathing himself to us his disciples, to be our possession for ever.


Now all the other disciples were strangely moved, insomuch that their hearts were melted with the fervency of their love; but Judas alone was unmoved. Yea, rather he was moved indeed, but in a manner quite contrary to the rest. For when Jesus reached unto him the bread, all eyes were upon him, for we could not now refrain from suspecting him: but he ate it against his will, and as though he ate it with difficulty; and when he had eaten it, he looked angrily at us that gazed still upon him, and then he rose up in haste from the table, like unto one possessed with Satan. Now while he was eating, Jesus beheld him with a marvellous love and pity, yea, and, as it seemed to me, with a great struggle and conflict of soul, as if he were wrestling for the last time against Satan for the soul of Judas. But, when he perceived that Judas had hardened his heart against him, he sighed, and said some word unto him, but what it was I heard not: and hereupon Judas went hastily forth, and left Jesus still sitting with us. Then did our hearts misgive us yet more. For none could any longer doubt that Judas was indeed a traitor; and we bethought ourselves for what cause he had gone forth, and when he would return.


But Jesus neither stayed him, nor lamented when he had departed; but he seemed like unto one in whom all tears and sorrow had been swallowed up in a certain unfathomable depth of joy. For he looked up to heaven and offered up praise unto the Lord, the Deliverer of Israel, and he bade us join him in singing a portion of the great Hallel; for the singing of these psalms was according to the custom of the Passover. Now so it was that, in the singing, Jesus must needs utter certain words that tell how the Lord giveth life out of death: “The snares of death compassed me round about, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me. I shall find trouble and heaviness, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, O Lord I beseech thee, deliver my soul:” and then, “Turn again then unto thy rest, O my soul, for the Lord hath rewarded thee. And why? Thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.” While he sang these words, it was a wonder to see the face of Jesus, with what a brightness he looked up to heaven, and how great a trust shone from his countenance; insomuch that, as we gazed upon him, our hearts also seemed lifted up with his. But Jesus went on, until he came to those following words of the Hallel which say how “The right hand of the Lord hath the pre-eminence: the right hand of the Lord bringeth mighty things to pass. I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord. The Lord hath chastened and corrected me, but he hath not given me over unto death. Open me the gates of righteousness, that I may go into them and give thanks unto the Lord.”


At the last, when we sang of the stone refused of the builders but become the head stone of the corner, he sang with an exceeding clear voice, not loud, but very piercing, so that it seemed to cleave us to the very heart; and behold, our voices became lower, even as his became clearer; and we feared to sing the same words as he sang; but we were rapt with wonder as we looked upon his countenance; for it was as the countenance of an angel seeing the very glory of the Most High and gazing upon Him face to face. And when he sang the last words of all, “God is the Lord who hath shewed us light, bind the sacrifice with cords, yea even unto the horns of the altar. Thou art my God, and I will thank thee; thou art my God, and I will praise thee”; then indeed it came to pass that all we that listened to him were lifted up in spirit with him in an ecstasy, being delivered from all our doubts and cares and fears, looking down on them as petty things; and it was even as if Jesus were holding us by the hand and carrying us up with himself above the firmament, to the seventh heaven and beyond, yea even to the Throne of the Blessed.


That instant, a knocking was heard at the door, and one entered in haste and as if in terror; and he went up to Jesus and whispered in his ear. Then the glory faded from the face of Jesus, and he became sad, and straightway gave commandment to depart. But as we went forth from the chamber to the roof (for the guest-chamber was an upper chamber and upon the roof, as was the custom in my country), we heard from the slave that a guard had been sent forth by Annas to seek Jesus, and that Judas of Kerioth was thought to be with them, to guide them to the place where Jesus was. So we went down immediately from the upper chamber where we had been at meat; and behold, as we passed from the brightness of the moonlight, which shone upon the roof, down into the darkness of the shadow of the street, we seemed to have passed out of life into death, and to have been cast down from Paradise to the depths beneath the earth.


Now when we were all come down from the house into the street, Jesus stood for a while in the midst of his disciples looking up to the sky; and he seemed for an instant like unto one doubting whither he should go. For first he made two or three steps toward the temple and the tower of Antonia, as if to go thither (but this would have been certain death, for the guard was coming thence, and we should have met them); but then he looked at us and seemed to change his purpose. For he turned towards the gate that leadeth to the vale of Kidron. Now why he did this we knew not at that time; but afterwards we judged that he was moved at first to go to meet the guard that he might give himself up at once unto death; but when he had thought thereon, it seemed better for our sakes that he should still remain with us a few hours longer. Perchance also he wished to commune with God alone upon the mountain of Olivet; for he ever loved the loneliness of mountainous places and nightly prayers. Moreover Quartus writeth to this effect, that “though Jesus knew that he was to die, yet the manner of his dying, and how he should be taken, was not known to him: therefore he would not prevent the hand of the Lord, but would avoid the peril by all honourable means even till the last, leaving the decision with the Lord.”


As we drew nigh to the gate of Kidron I was near him, and I heard him repeating some saying of Scripture to himself; and at the last, he spake aloud and said, “All ye shall be offended because of me this night, for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.” But when he marked us, how exceedingly we sorrowed at these words of his, then he began to encourage us again; and he spake some words how that he would return to us, or guide us hereafter. Now what he said exactly I know not, for I was a little behind the rest. But he looked around him in the narrow street, as though that were no place for him to abide in: and then he added some words concerning Galilee, which I did not clearly hear. Howbeit, it seemed to me that he said he should manifest himself to us hereafter, not in Jerusalem but in Galilee.11 And so also most of the disciples interpreted his words. But we all with one consent cried out that we would never desert him nor go from his side; and he listened to us gently, even as a mother listeneth to the prattle of a little child which prattleth concerning the things which he will do when he cometh to man’s estate. Even so listened Jesus to our speech; but when Peter was vehement, even above the rest, in protestations, Jesus interrupted him, and said that before the morrow’s sun had risen, yea, before cockcrow, Simon Peter should have denied him.


By this time we were come to the gate of the Kidron valley; and methought certain of the servants of the chief priests, which stood together at the gate, were advised of the intent to arrest Jesus, and were fain to lay hands on him. Howbeit, many were coming in and going out, and we that were going with Jesus joined ourselves together around him, insomuch that the guards suffered us to pass; for they could not then have taken him quietly, nor without a tumult; which thing they purposed to avoid. And so it was that, as we closed ourselves together for to encompass Jesus and to guard him, my place was very nigh unto Jesus, even next upon his left hand; and as we went down the steep path which leadeth across the brook Kidron, I chanced to stumble; and Jesus took me by the right hand to stay me from falling. And the touch thereof remaineth with me unto this day; for his hand was not again to touch my hand upon earth.


When we were now going up the hill on the other side of the brook (being by this time quite out of the shadow of the city walls, so that we could see all things in the moonlight very clearly), we perceived that Jesus was still meditating on prophecies; and ever and anon he looked upon us, as though his care for us were a burden on his soul. And perchance he desired to prepare us to live without him in the world; and not to depend upon the exact words of his precepts, nor to make therefrom a rule nor a law unto ourselves, but to obey the Spirit only; making new rules and laws for ourselves if need were, even as the times might suggest and the Spirit might bid us. For he said unto us, “When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything?” And we said “Nothing.” Then said he unto us, “But now he that hath a purse let him take it, and likewise his scrip.” Here he paused awhile, and then he added these words: “And he that hath no sword let him sell his garment and buy one. For I say unto you that this that is written, must yet be accomplished in me: ‘And he was reckoned among the transgressors.’ For the things concerning me have an end.” Hereat we wondered, that Jesus (who had ever spoken against smiting with the sword) should bid us buy swords. Howbeit, we answered that we had two swords with us. Straightway Jesus ceased from walking, and stood quite still for an instant; and it seemed as if he marvelled at our want of understanding, but yet perceived that he must needs be content, for he could do no more to help us. Therefore he said nothing, but presently continued to walk on as before. But, as I now suppose, his meaning was to prepare us for much tribulation, and that we should, in the days to come, use all means and all faculties in his service. Howbeit, even to this day, I understand not altogether that saying about the buying of a sword. But as I judge, Jesus had invisible things in his mind, and he spake of the stores and treasures, and of the weapons also, that were like to be needed in the great and terrible war which we were to wage against Satan in the days to come.


Against this, Xanthias urgeth (and methinks not without shew of reason) that the scrip and purse whereof Jesus made mention in Galilee were not invisible things, but visible: but, if they were visible, so also must the sword needs be, whereof Jesus made mention in the same saying. But Quartus replieth that when Jesus, being still with us in the flesh, sent the disciples forth in Galilee without purse and scrip, he would have them to go forth not only without visible purse and scrip (which indeed they did), but also without the spirit of the purse and the spirit of the scrip, that is to say without forethought and provision, the better to awaken them to whom they were to preach the Good News: and this, saith Quartus, was the main part of the precept of Jesus. But now that he was to be no longer with us in the flesh, he changed his precept, bidding us use the spirit of the purse and the spirit of the scrip: and “after those words,” saith Quartus, “that ye might the better understand them, Jesus paused” (which indeed he did, for I took note of it) “in the midst of his saying, and bade you buy a sword, supposing that ye would know assuredly that he (who ever hated the sword) could not mean a visible sword, but an invisible: even that two-edged sword which Jesus brought into the world to do battle against evil withal. And belike,” saith Quartus, “Jesus meant that, after he should be taken away, we were never to be content to defend ourselves against evil, nor to lead harmless lives in peace and quiet (as the Essenes are wont to do); but that we were evermore to do battle against evil, and to assail it, and to give up all things sooner than cease to make war against it.”


At this time came down one from Bethany to tell us that the servants of the chief priests had beset the house of Mary and Martha, and others were watching on the road for to take Jesus if he should come up the hill. Therefore Jesus turned aside from the road and went unto a place whither he had also beforetime gone with us: it was a small vale, wherein grew many olive-trees, insomuch that it was hence called the Press of Olive Oil, or Gethsemane. When Jesus came to this place, we would fain have still accompanied him; but he suffered us not, but bade us stay where we were, and there to watch and pray, lest we entered into temptation: for these were his very words to us. But taking John and Peter and James, he himself went forward about a stone’s cast; and we noted that, after a short while, he parted from them, though they were fain to stay him (for we could hear all things as well as see, because the night was very calm, and no less still than bright); and he went on yet another stone’s cast or somewhat less, and the three disciples sat down where they were. Then Jesus stretched out his hands unto the Lord and prayed with exceeding earnestness; and to us, where we stood, he seemed as one in a sore agony; for at one time we could discern him standing erect, but at another time kneeling or prostrate upon the ground; and though he spake not loud, yet could I hear words that made my very flesh to shiver and creep; for he cried unto the Lord and said, “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” These words he said more than once, so that I could not but hear them; and a sickness of heart and an horror fell on me that such an one as Jesus of Nazareth should come to such a pass, and should ever need to say, “if it be possible.”


Now so it was, that in spite of our sorrow and anguish of heart, all we that watched with Jesus at this time were so pressed down with a strange slumber that it was not possible for us to resist the burden thereof upon our eyelids; and oftentimes we would walk up and down and speak each to other for to shake off the leaden weight from our eyes; but we could not, no, though we were angered, and reproached ourselves aloud. For we had not slept much during three nights past or more, because of the need of watching for Jesus; and besides, the very unexpectedness of all that sorrow which had of late encompassed us round on every side, caused us to feel like unto them which wander in the wilderness of a dream or vision of the night, insomuch that we scarce knew whether we were asleep or awake: and the anguish of Jesus itself was unto us as it were but a part of a bad dream. For we could not attain to understand his sorrow, nor to share in his burden. Only we knew that he sorrowed not for fear of death. But we knew not at that time the secret of his agony, how he was at that instant wrestling with Satan for the salvation of all the children of men. Yet so indeed it was. And though the suffering of Jesus was seen of men when his body hung upon the cross, yet meseemeth it was seen of God when he was prostrate upon the ground in Gethsemane, and his soul was crying unto the Lord and saying, “if it be possible.”


Loth am I to write many words concerning that which is above all reach of words, yea, and above all reach of the thoughts of men; yet will I here set down that which was said unto me concerning this matter by a certain Alexandrine, a friend of Quartus, who was a man of an understanding spirit and of discernment above the common. This man, when I once marvelled aloud, in his presence, as to the cause of the agony of Jesus, made answer to me and said, “What was it, thinkest thou, that caused Jesus more pain and sorrow than aught else?” So I replied, “Without doubt, the sins of men: for he often spake as if it were a pain to him, even to forgive the sins of men.” But the Alexandrine replied, “As it seemeth to me, Jesus did not merely forgive sins twice or thrice in a week, nor in a day, no, nor even in an hour: but his whole life was a state of forgiving, and a state of bearing sins and of carrying iniquities, and of making himself one with sinners. For this end it was needful that Jesus should have strength to trust in men and to hope for men: for without trust and hope thou knowest it is impossible for thee to lift up a sinful man in forgiveness, howsoever great may be thy love for the sinful.


“Therefore, even as the Gentiles fable that Atlas doth bear up the pillars of the earth, even so, methinks, Jesus of Nazareth knew in himself that he bare up the pillars of the invisible Jerusalem, the city of the souls of men; and so long as he had strength to trust and hope, so long he knew that the invisible city stood and was to stand; but, if he should fail in trust and hope so that he should fall (even for a single instant), then behold, in that same fall of the Son of man fell all the world, yea, all the souls of men, and all the Temple of the Congregation of the children of God; and so the universe became the hunting-ground of Satan, and the children of men his prey, and God was not. Peradventure, therefore, the burden of Jesus was this bearing of the sins of men, and especially of the sin of Judas and the infirmities of you his disciples, and the thought of the impotence of good to conquer evil. Moreover perchance there rose up before him the image of the morrow, when he should hang upon the cross, and when the strength and force of life should leave him, and there should be no one to succour, no one to comfort; and a vision from Satan stood before him, and he heard a voice that whispered evil things: ‘If now thou shouldest lose thy trust for an instant? and the pillar should be snapped? and the invisible city should fall? and the gates of hell should prevail over the gates of heaven?’ ”


This then is what the Alexandrine said unto me concerning the suffering of Jesus: but it needeth not to say that at this time we understood naught of these things: only we perceived that some terrible thing was at hand. But about the space of an hour or more, as I judge, had passed since we first heard Jesus say, “if it be possible”; and now methought Jesus was less disturbed in praying. And presently we saw him standing upright, very clearly to be seen in the light of the moon, which streamed upon him through the olive branches; and these words were borne to our ears through the stillness of the night, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” But some of the disciples told me afterwards that at this time they saw a shape, as of an angel clothed in white, ministering unto him. But I saw it not, for it may be that I was at that time slumbering: for soon after I had heard Jesus speak these last words, there fell a deep sleep upon me and upon the rest of the disciples that were nearest to me. Afterwards they all slumbered and slept, even the sons of Zebedee and Peter also; and perchance this thing was from the Lord, to the intent that Jesus might bear all his burden alone.


After this, I remember no more, save that I had a vision of the night in my slumber, wherein I saw Jesus of Nazareth clothed in bright raiment, glorious to behold. He stood and prayed upon the summit of a mountain. Howbeit in my dream it seemed to be not Mount Olivet, but the Mount of the Law in Galilee. And as I looked upon him, his stature grew larger and his raiment brighter, till the brightness thereof filled the sky, and set it all in a flame. With that I awoke on a sudden, and opening mine eyes, I perceived that there were flames indeed around me; then, leaping up, I found myself in the midst of torches, and armed men compassing me round. Yet could I discern, through the midst of them all, Jesus, with a calm countenance, stooping over John and Peter and James, and arousing them from sleep.


Now all that came to pass thereafter was finished in a few moments, though it take long to tell. For Judas, who was the guide of the armed men, ran swiftly before the rest up to Jesus and said, “Hail, Master,” and saluted him. And, as I was told by them that were nigh to see, Judas seemed as if he knew not, even at the last, what would come to pass, nor scarce what he himself was doing. For he embraced Jesus and pointed to the soldiers that followed behind him, as if half expecting that Jesus would call down fire upon them. But Jesus looked upon him as if looking upon a stranger, and made him such answer as to shew that he perceived his treachery; whereat Judas drew back, they said, as one distraught. Then Simon Peter drew a sword and struck a blow at one of the soldiers; and the rest of us ran up to have joined in the fray. But Jesus straightway rebuked us, and bidding Peter put up his sword, he yielded himself up to the soldiers. Yet even to the last he was as a son obeying the will of the Father, and not like unto one acting from constraint; for I myself heard him say unto Simon Peter, “Thinkest thou that I cannot pray to my Father and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?”


Now up to this moment we had not yet fled; for we could not even then believe that our Redeemer, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, would be led captive; yea, even though he resisted not, yet were we assured that the Lord God of Israel would stretch out His hand to deliver His Holy One. So we still waited and were in expectation. But when at last the servants of the high priests laid their hands on him and the soldiers bound him and dragged him roughly away, and yet no fire from heaven came down upon them, neither did the earth open her mouth to swallow them up; then we all forsook him and fled.



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This book is part of the public domain. Edwin Abbott Abbott (2015). Philochristus: Memoirs of a Disciple of the Lord. Urbana, Illinois: Project Gutenberg. Retrieved https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/48843/pg48843-images.html


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