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A Sketch of the Theological Development of Harvard University, 1636–1805

  • Charles Lyttle (a1)

Extract

By the witness of history, the indebtedness of higher learning to religious fervor is very great. This aspect of education deserves at least as much attention as the retardation and perversion of learning by religious bigotry. The latter is, as we all know, most frequently and loudly stressed today. Again, we hear little of the fact that periods when learning has been gradually secularized have been periods when scholarship grew lax and knowledge halted; until a new impulse of religious conviction re-vivified both the souls and the minds of scholars, with the restilt that academies and universities pulsed with fresh enthusiasm and notable advancement in learning took place. But of many instances of this phenomenon the mention of Abailard and the University of Paris, Wyclif and Oxford, Luther and Wittenberg, Cartwright and Emmanuel, Wolff and Halle, Fichte and Berlin, must suffice. Yet none is more illustrative of our conclusions than Harvard, the creation of the Congregational Puritanism of William Ames.

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1 For Amesius, see Herzog-Hauck, , Prot. Real-Encyclopedie, I, p. 447 (1896); D. N. B. article by Chailes Firth; C. B. Clapp, “Christo et Ecslesiae”; G. L. Kitty edge notes on DrAmes, William, Col. Soc. Mass. XIII, p. 60; Miller, P. G., Orthodoxy in Massachusetts, 1933, chaps. 1–4.

2 Nichol, T., Abridgment of the Whole Body of Divinity … from the works … of Mr. William Perkins. London, 1654, p. 7.

3 On these points see chaps. 31 and 32 of Ames, ' Marrow of Sacred Divinity drawn out of the Holy Scriptures and the interpreters thereof, published by order of the House of Commons, 1642.

4 See Ames' On Conscience Book 4, chap. 4, par. 12.

5 Marrow, chap. 39: “Yea the Church doth never wholly cease to be visible, for although some times there scare may anear a church anywhere so pure that one may fly to it for communion, … yet the church doth in some sort abide v sible in that very impurity of worship and profession.”

6 See Conscience, Bk. IV, chap. 24, 25.

7 See Puritanismus Anglicanus. as well as relevant passages in On Conscience.

8 These views were developed and published after Ames had been driven from England in 1609, served as chaplain of the British troops at the Hague, counselled President Bogermann of the Dordrecht Synod, 1618, acted as official inspector of Amsterdam's theological students in Leyden (for whose use he prepared his Medulla Theologiae, the official textbook in Harvard and Yale for almost a century); held a theolozical professorship at the University of Franeker, 1622–1633, and then intending eventually to go to help his co-religionists in New England died in the arms of his colleague in the ministry of the English Puritan Church in Rotterdam, Hugh Peters. The Leven en Werken Guil. Amesii, by Visscher, Hugo, Leyden, 1894, is definitive.

9 The spelling is virtually optional. ProfessorMorison, chooses “Peter” (Founding of Harvard College, 1935, pp. 394–5.) DrRaymond, P. Stearns (Proceedings of the Bostonian Society, 1935) is authority for Peters' own adoption of “Peters” after 1642. (p. 29.)

10 Besides the notice in Morison, Founding of Harvard College, cited, and the Harvard doctoral disertation (in MS) of Raymond P. Stearns, the following monographs are valuable: Felt, J. B., Memoir of Hugh Peters, 1854; Annals of Salem 1827; Peters, E. B., Hugh Peters, Preacher, Patriot, Philanthropist, 1902; Crippen, T. G., Life of Hugh Peters, 1912; Firth, C. H., Cromwell's Army, 1902. The same in D. N. B. Peter's publications after 1641, in England, dealing with his views on legal, economic and educational reform were: A Sermon, God's Doings, and Man's Duty (1646), Good Work for a Good Magistrate (1651). There are numerous references in Wirthrop's, John History of New England, 1876 e. g. p. 194, 249, etc. Morison's Founding, chaps. 13–16 is of course rich in data.

11 See Adams, J. T., The Founding of New England, 1921, chaps. 6, 7.

12 “In all my undertakings on this design I dreve, first, that Goodness, which is really so, and Religion, ought to be highly advanced; that good Learning ought to have all countenance; thus, that there might not be a beggar in England. For all these I have projected and labored and I have no other.” (Case of Mr. Hugh Peters Impartially Considered, 1660.)

13 From the wording of the minutes of the Court it is obvious that (1) someone urged the Court to appropriate money and it “agreed to give”; (2) the proposal was somewhat unexpected; (3) a place (Salem!) was discussed, but the Court was unwilling to commit itself.

14 For the Antinomian episode, see Winthrop, John. A Short History of the Rise and Ruin of the Antinomians, Familists and Litertines that infested the Churches of New England, London, 1664. Also Shepard, Thomas, New England's Errors, 1644. “The Analbaptists and rigid separatists are the usual despisers of God's ministers and prefer tradesmen before those whom God hath gifted and set apart for his work in the schools of the propoets.” … “we have magistrates that are gracious and sealous; we have ministers that are aged and experienced, holy and wise; no man was ever banished from us but they had the zeal and care of the one, the holiness learning and best abilities of the other.” In these two sentences is revealed the motive for the college.

15 The text of this pamphlet is printed in the appendix of Morison's, Founding, p. 419. The only other contemporary statement concerning the purposes of the founders is that of Thomas Shepard in his Autobiography (Col. Soc. Mass. XXVII.) “The Lord was pleased to direct the hearts of the magistrates, then keeping court in our town because of the stirs at Boston, to think of erecting a schoole or colledge and that speedily, to be a nursery of knowledge in these deserts and supply for posterity⃜” By these two testimonies it is clear that the supply of knowledge for posterity depended chiefly, in the minds of the founders, upon a provision for a literate ministry.

16 Winthrop, J., Conclusions For The Plantation in New England, (New South. Leaf lets, No. 50, vol. II), Conel. 6: “The fountains of religion and learning are so corrupted (as beside the insupportable charge of the education) most children, even the best wits and fairest hopes, are perverted, corrupted and utterly overthrown by the multitude of evil examples, and the licentious government of those seminaries where men … use all severity for the maintenance of cappes and other accomplishments but suffer all ruffian-li' e fashions and disorder in manners to pass uncontrolled.” Harvard's “collegiate way” of student life and the rigid regimen imposed upon the students were the direct outcome of convictions such as Winthrop's among the founding fathers.

17 See J. W. Adamson, Pioneers of Modern Education, (chap. 7). Also Morison, S. E., The Puritan Pronaos, 1936, chps. 2, 3.

18 Besides the monumental works of ProfessorMorison, Samuel Eliot, The Founding of Harvard College, 1935, which tells the story genetically to 1650; Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century. 1936, 2 vols., which covers the period from 1650 to 1708; Three Centuries of Harvard, 1936, which reaches from 1636 to the present, there are two other histories that are in the main reliale and significant. That by Quincy, Josiah, History of Harvard University, 2 vols., 1840, was written to trace and defend as implicit in the original ‘urneses and spirit of the institution, the likeral religious development to the Unitarianism then dominant. The History of Harvard University by Benjamin Peirce, 1833, stops at 1775, but is briefer and in general accurate. It alone is devoid of “tendency,” for Professor Morison evinces, though inadvertently, a strong sympathy for the trend toward complete secularisation in scholarship and tone which at present has the upper hand, but which of course, would have turned the founding fathers away from the Tercentenary celebrations in grief and dasmay. Professor Morison has in preparation a work on the period from 1708 to 1869, when his The Development of Harvard University takes up the story of the Charles W. Eliot régime. But in his Three Centuries of Harvard, 1936, the 1708–1769 period is briefly sketched.

19 Morison, , Founding of Harvard College, p. 333–4. Succeeding articls enjoin strict reverence in the house of God, abstinence from frivolity, wanton jests and oaths, avoidance of “men who live an ungirt and dissolute life.”

20 This subject Ames, in the Marrow fuses, like metaphysics, with divinity, possibly in opposition to the growing interest after Lipsius' revival of Stoicism, in pagan moral philosophy. But Harvard followed Keckermann largely.

21 Morson, , Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century, p. 261 on.

22 But even by 1662, such was the demand for sucessors to the old Cambridge and Oxford trained ministers, and the scarcity of scholarships, that the “country” pastors and teachers “prefer cheap knowledge, easily come by, to wholesome wisdom (and) slip into a lower condition.” (Ibid p. 275). Occasionally the theological reading was done with a settled minister.

23 Forty percent of the total number of students—about nine out of ten of the Masters. In 1663, Jonathan Mitchell, Senior Fellow, drew up a “Modell … to advance Learning amongst us, and supply the publicke with fit instruments, principally for the work of the ministry.” But “it sufficeth not to have supplyes for the ministry, for time will show that unlesse we have the helps of Learning and education to accomplish persons for the magistracy and other civill offices (e. g. grammar schoolmasters) things will languish and goe to decay amongst us.” Morison, , Founding of Harvard College, (p. 249).

24 B. Peirce History of Harvard University, Ch. 2. He had been appointed to bo h the Hebrew and Greek professerships in Cambridge.

25 The liensing measure passed by the Gerneral Court in 1662 may have looked to the prevention of the printing of some mock theses of 1663. in which the ministers are referred to as “an el,” Governor Endecott as a ‘mighty sa rap,” “virtue as the progenitor of the greatest vi es,” etc. See Morison, , History of Harvard in the Seventeenth Century’, II, appendix B. In 1669 the General Court forbade the printing of “the Imitation of Christ” by Thomas à Kempis, “a poplsh minister whe en are contained some things not useful to the people of the place.” (I, 351.)

26 Morison, op. cit., I, 337. This sympathy must have been for Chauney's orthodox pety and practical preaching, since by 1677 the commencement address of president pro term., Urian Oa'es, Cambridge minister again bewails the despite of the plebs for a learned clergy, and refers disdainfully to the Anabaptists: “so many professors as there are men—all professors and no students!”

27 See Adams, J. T., The Founding of New England, pp. 370 on. Cf. the discussion and documents of the Halfway Covenant and the Reforming Synod in W. Walker, Creeds and Hatforms of Congregationalism, chap. II and chap. XIII, with Morison, S. E., Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century, I, p. 329 on, also II, chaps. 19, 20, 21.

28 The recommendations made by the Reformine Synod to the General Court in 1679 devote much space to the argument that these calamities prove God's displeasure with his people because of their apostasy. The old theodicy of Israel's prophets! Walker, , Creeds, p. 476: “These churches had been in a state most deploratle if the Lord had not lessed the College, so as from thence to supply most of the churches, as at this day. When New England was poor and we were but few in number, there was a spirit to encourage learning and the College was full of students; but it is deeply to be regreated that now, when we are become many and more able than at the beginnings, that society and other Schools are in such a low and languishing state. Wherefore, as we desire that both Reformation and Religion should flourish, it concerns us to endeavor that both the College and all other Schools of Learning be duly inspected and encouraged.”

29 Walker, Ibid, p. 431: “There hath been in many professors an insatiable desire after lard and worldly accommodations, yea, so as to forsake churches and ordinances and live like heathen… Farms and merchandising have been preferred above the things of God … now Religion is made subservient to worldly interests …”

30 Morison, op. cit., I, 271.

31 Ibid., p. 261.

32 Ibid., II, 455.

33 Murdock, K. B., Increase Mather, 1925. pp. 178, 179. See also Gov. Cranfield's letter to the Crown, Morison, op. cit., II, 475.

34 Morison. op. cit., pp. 505 on. The letter was written by Henry Newman, (A. B. 1687), who became an Anglican shortly after graduation. It is one of the most significant documents in Harvard's history.

35 Morison, , Three Centuries of Harvard, 1936, p. 45.

36 Cf. the statistics given by Morison, , Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century, II. pp. 556 on.

37 Thomas Brattle, the wealthiest man living in New England and chief supporter of the Brattle Street Church, became treasurer of Harvard in 1693 and remained in office till 1713.

38 Morison, op. cit., II, pp. 485 on.

39 Ibid., II, p. 526.

40 Masers', Quaestiones for the period from 1692 to 1702 contend that Arminianism is neo-Pelagianism, that Jesuits cannot be good citisens, that the Poenisanti-Christ that predestination should be publicly taught, that the satisfaction of Christ is consistent with the mercy of God, that the mystery of the Trinity is a fundamental article of faith, and deny that the human intellect is the measure of truth, that there ever was a universal covenant, that natural theology succes for salvation, that Noah's flood occurred from natural causes, etc. The whole series printed by Morison, op. cit., II, p. 606 is extremely interesting.

41 Murdock, op. cit., pp. 342 on.

42 When he prefaced Cotton Mather's Life of Jonathan Mitchell, a former Harvard tutor of the geniune Amesian type by an “Epistle Dedicatory,” in which he took occasion to address “a few words” to William Brattle and John Leverett, then tutors: “There are at present not above two or three of our churches but are supplied” (with ministers from the college …) “nor are the churches like to continue pure golden candlesticks if the College which should supply them prove apostate⃜ You that are Tutors there have a great advanta e put into our hands (and I pray God to give you wisdom to know and to prevent it) … It was my recommendation that brought you into that station⃜ Say, each of you. Mitchell shall be the example whom I will imitate! You will see in the story of his life that he did not only instruet his pupils in the knowledge of the tongues and the arts but that he would sometimes discourse to them about the spiritual estate of their immortal souls.” Shortly thereafter Brattle resigned to become minister of the next-door Cambridge church, John Leverett to study law. In the election of successors, Ebemezer Pemberton, a “Catholic” of the Brattle type, was so warmly opposed by President Mather that he and the minister of old South Church, Samuel Willard, Mather's successor in the presidency had a violent quarrel!

43 Morson, . Three Centuries of Harvard, p. 47, condensing the data in his Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century, II, pp. 509 on. The policy was in accord with Mather's sympathy with the “Consociation” method of quelling heterodoxy that took form in the Proposals of 1705 and the Saybrook Platform of 1708, by which Connecticut was saved from Unitarianism. Walker, , Creeds, pp. 465 on.

44 Lothron, S. K., History of the Brattle Street Church, 1851, p. 20 for text of the Manifesto; Walker, , Creeds, p. 472; Brooks Adams, op. cit., p. 407. The Westminster Confession was endorsed in the first paragraph. The Scriptures are to be read without comment. Sanctity of life is to be accepted as sufficient evidence of regeneration.

45 See Murdock, op. cit., p. 359.

46 Mather's motives for his course from 1693 to 1701 are construed cynically and disaragingly by Morison, , Harvard College in he Seventeenth Century, II, pp. 498 on, pp. 528 on; Murdock defends him gallantly, p. 355 on. His expostulation to Sewall, , Diary, I, p. 493: “Should I leave off preaehing to 1500 souls only to expsound to 40 or 50 children, few of them capable of edification by such exercises” is not so incriminating as Morison believes (p. 522) when we consider Matter's “passion for souls,” and insistence upon regeneration as a prerequisite for apprehending Scripture truth. Surely Murdock is mistaken in condoning Mather's recreancy by stating that “all he had worked for persisted.” (p. 374). It certainly did not!

47 Morison, op. cit., II, p. 546. In Dexter's, F. B. Documentary History of Yale University, 1916, are to be found advices from Boston, (Increase Mather) recomrnending that degrees, dormitories and commencements be dispensed with, only orthodox church pastors to be the governors of the institution. Chief Justice Sewall in a letter suggested that “the president read and expound the Scriptures in Hall every morning, then all should recite the Westminster confession of faith and Dr. Ames' Medulla⃜ The entire course should be maintained and exacted with all imaginable strictness and severity, without dispensation to any.”

48 The Corporation was five-sixths Brattle allies by this time! Joseph Dudley, the Governor, was a Harvard Anglican. Cotton Mather was the defeated candidate of the orthodox House of Deputies. Mather retaliated by finding for the collegiate institute at New Haven a John Harvard in the person of wealthy Elihu Yale.

49 Peirce, History of Harvard University, p. 123. Leverett was an F. R. S.

50 Morison, op. cit., II, p. 547.

51 Morison, , Three Centuries, p. 60.

52 Ibid., p. 62.

53 Morison, , Harvard College in the Seventeenth Century, II, 559—of the classes 1642–89, forty-six percent became clergymen.

54 Peirce, op. cit., p. 113.

55 Morison, , Three Centuries, p. 73.

56 Quincy, , History of Harvard University, I, p. 225.

57 See Quincy, op. cit., I, p. 226 and Chap. 12; Peirce, op. cit., Chap. II; Morison, , Three Centuries, p. 66 on.

58 These words are a part of the minutes of this meeting of the Corporation.

59 Morison uses the term “skulduggery” in narrating this “breach of faith” with Mr. Hollis. But Leverett and Colman were above that! Their action is wholly reconcilable with honorable dealing. It was their policy (1) to infuse the undergraduates, most of whom would enter secular callings (politics and law esecially) with their own and Hollis' liberal and tolerant views; (2) to have the graduate students, largely ministerial, trained in the doctrines of orthodox Congregationalism, as their congregations required. Hence their action fitted Hollis' desires, conceded the dogmatic inssence of the Overseers and the new professor's personal convictions as well; nor did they do violence to their own liberalism.

60 Wollebius, Johannes, Abridgment of Christian Divinity, made by Ross, Alexander, London, 1656. Wollebius was a professor in the liberal university of Basel.

61 Op. cit., p. 210.

62 Op. cit., p. 331.

63 Op. cit., p. 384.

64 Wigglesworth, E., Sober Remarks, etc., 1724. See Slafter, E. F., John Checkley, 1897, for this controversy.

65 Two lectures on “The Sovereignty of God in the Exercise of his Mercy and how he is said to harden the hearts of men.” (1741): “The light of nature is enough to teach us that we and all men are sinners.” “God never creates nor infuses hardness in the sinner's heart—He only permits it to develop.”

66 Lectures on the Imputation of Adams' first Sin to his Posterity, 1738: “against the current of English writers of the last century who are almost all against it.” “The very weighty considerations which are offered on both sides should be a strong argument for mutual charity.”

67 Op. cit., p. 89: “Let no one prejudice himself or others against this (i. e. Arminian) doctrine by being too positive in matters of which there is no certainty”.

68 Sprague, W. B., Annals of the American Pulpit, (Trinitarian Congregationalist), I, p. 277. In 1723 he was offered the rectorship of Yale! His father, Michael Wigglesworth, had been a Harvard tutor and wrote the poem, Day of Doom.

69 This was not the opinion of the largely orthodox Board of Overseers, however, who later elected Colman (an advocate of consociation!) chairman. Peirce, op. cit., p. 131. At the installat on of Wigglesworth, Colman prayed that Harvard be protected from the (Anglican) apostacy of Yale.

70 “The Corporation of that miserable College do again heap me with their accustomed indignity! Cotton's disloyal, intriguing policies against Harvard during these years are manifold and shocking.” Quincy, op. cit., I, p. 330.

71 Pierce op. cit., p. 162.

72 Spaulding, op. cit., p. 277. The Overseers in 1740 recommended that he be more brief and thereafter he used trief discourses on the Thirty-nine Articles. He refused to join Jonathan Edwards in a crusade against Arminianism at this time.

73 Flynt, H., A Caution to Sinners against abusing The Patience of Cod by a progress in Sin, published at the desire of many of the scholars, 1736: “When the sinner hears his astonishing sentence to eternal perdition⃜”

74 “They have all the Reason in the world to helieve that the day of Judgment will come at last⃜”

75 See Peirce, op. cit., ch. XIX; Quincy, op. cit., II, ch. XX. Natural philosophy was given greater emphasis; Locke was introduced, Horace was earlier studied.

76 By the lay majority of the Board—23 against 17 clergymen. Quincy, op. cit., II, p. 27.

77 From Tutor Henry Flynt's Diary, Ibid., p. 42.

78 President Holyoke's Ministerial Convention Sermon of May 1741 warned against the leaven of the Pharisees, i. e., a mistaken and superficial return to the emotional traditions of Puritan regeneration, leading to pretensions of superior holiness, and the leaven of the Pharisees which, denying all tradition, stimulated deism and freethinking. Quincy, op. cit., II, p. 47.

79 Flynt's Diary, Ibid., pp. 45 on.

80 Chauncy, , State of Rehgion in New England, p. 295.

81 The Testimony of the President, Professors and Instructors of Harvard College in Cambridge, 1744.

82 Letter to George Whitefield, 1745. President Holyoke added a very severe epilogue.

83 For evidence, see Morison, , Three Centuries, pp. 114135.

84 Quincy, op. cit., II, pp. 52 on. Edwards had said “It seems to me a reproach that our colleges, instead of being places of the greatest advantages of true piety, one cannot send a child thither without great danger of his being infected as to his morals, as it has certainly been sometimes with these societies … it is perfectlv intolerable and anything should be done rather than it should be so.” (p. 63). In 1753 the president and fellows of Yale passed votes declaring that the students should he established in the principles of religion, according to the Assembly's Catechism, Ames' Medulla and Cases of Conscience, and should not be suffered to be instructed in any different principles and doetrines “and that every President, Fellow, Professor of Divinity or Tutor in said college shall, before he enter upon the execution of his office, pulblily consent thereto, as containing a just summary of the Christian religion, and renounce all principles and doctrines contrary there'o and shall pas through such examination (as thought proper) in order that (they may be satisfied) he should do it truly and without evasion or equivocation.” (Quincy. op. cit., II, p. 71) Yale forbade any student to attend an Episcopal church, though his own father should preach there. (p. 75.) In 1747 there was an attempt in tho Massachusetts General Court to impose similar orthodox tests upon Harvard, but it was given up.

85 Quincy, op. cit., II. pp. 66 on. Mayhew published in 1749 Seven Sermons in which Arminianism is plainly hinted: “to speak in reproachful language of the moral virtues, which consist summarily in the love of God and man and an imitation of the divine perfections comparing them to filthy rags, is ahsurd and approaches near to blasphemy.” (p. 69.)

86 Quincy, op. cit., II, p. 131. The son's sermon, The Hope of Immortality, at the death of Harvard's great Hollision prefessor of Natural Philosophy, Winthrop, John (1779), is a learned review not only of Scriptural texts on immortality, but of “scientific” views (matter is incabable of thought); and the opinions of Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Seneca, Cicero—but Cieeo had doubts—” quid melius quam in mediis vitae laboritus obdomiscere”—which required the Christian revelation to answer with finality. Winthrop is referred to as a “Christian philosopher” and his deathbed word is quoted: “I view religion as a matter of very great importance.” Evidently, the preacher had some Deists in mind in the congregation. The inventory of students' effects burned in 1764 lists but one Bible!

87 Ibid., II 259. The second Wigglesworth's views merge toward rational Christianity—i. e., early Unitarianism.

88 Ibid., pp. 258 on. Lectures on Pneumatology, Ethics and Divinity, first published in 1763. This book was stale in the dissenting academies of England and is vestly removed from the scholastic Wollebius. A “psychological” basis for religion is first laid; then the moral attributes of God and our resultant moral duties are dealt with. Natural eligion is appraised and the need, evidence, and doctrines of Christian revelation are set forth. An elaborate apparatus of reading authorities brings in the classics the Latitudinarians, liberal dissen ers and the Scotch school. The book is a huge symposium of all ethical pagan and lil eral Christian doctrine. Copious attention is paid to the chief Deistic writers—Blount, Tindal, Chubb, etc. Frequent references to Locke, Tillotson, Butler, Paley, Dr. Price, Watts, Hutcheson, etc. reveal the catholicity of thc author, and those to Grotius, Puffendorf, etc., his sage juxtaposition of law and politics with religion and ethics.

89 Quincy, op. cit., II, p. 502.

90 Quincy, op. cit., II, p. 139.

91 Morison, , Three Centuries, pp. 145 on, p. 162.

92 See his Scrmons on Important Subjects, 1807, and especially his sermon to the senior class in 1798 in which he argues against pleasure as the chief good, and selfishness as man's chief motive, the possibility of a virtuous life without belief in the moral government and laws of God, the future existence and retribution, the obligations of piety, justice, temperance, and chastity. Nevertheless, “we earnestly contend that every man is both entitled and bound to examine and judge for himself on every important question.” Dr. Tappan had Timothy Dwight's hostility to infidelity without Dwight's acerbity and unfairness.

93 See Tappan's Fast Day sermon at the Brattle Street Church, 1793: “Let us show the world by our example that the progress of true knowledge and freedom has no natural connection with the growth of Deism or Atheism but that a reverential belief and practice of both natural and revealed religion are at once the main prop of a free and happy commonwealth and are best befriended and promoted by thorough inquiry and enlightened republican liberty.”

94 William Ellery Channing studied divinity under Tappan. Memoir, (1899 ed.), p. 68.

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