Sunday, January 31, 2010

Anointing with oil, reprise

Back in 2006, I posted a brief essay on anointing with oil. I entered into a brief discussion of it recently on Adrian Neal’s blog. A preacher brother there set forth some views against symbolic oil and favoring medicinal oil. Rather than making extended posts there, I have brought most of my rebuttal here to my own blog. The following italicized quotes are from two different posts on Brother Neal’s blog (which can be viewed at the above link).

History seems to show that families did not have every-day pediatricians or family doctors. Instead, their pastors acted in a medicinal sense. Historical references show early church bishops as the family "doctor". Not that he was trained in the arts of medicine (if you can call what they did back in that day medicine). But rather that physicians were not common for people that were not rich. The bishop did often assume this roll, since he was called for when someone was sick.

If you have found some references that show early bishops acting as the family doctor, I have no argument with that. Probably some of them were doctors (consider Luke of NT times, and John Clarke of Rhode Island). Perhaps some were not. Such historical occurrences do not govern the interpretation of James 5:14-15. Ultimately it is the Bible, not history, which is inspired, accurate and authoritative. Were doctors common and affordable? Were doctors reliable? Job’s expression in the reply to his friends (13:4 physicians of no value) implies there were also physicians of some value. Statements such as in Jeremiah 8:22 and Matthew 9:12 also imply that the sick finding a physician – and being healed – was not that unusual. And Jesus surely wouldn’t recommend that the sick need physicians if all physicians in that day were quacks. Surely Luke wasn’t, but was rather a beloved one (Colossians 4:14).

Back then, oils were some of, if not the only, medicines they had that actually helped. Similar to a Vicks Vapor rub, different kinds of oils had different effects. Different herbs were crushed and mixed into the different oils. Thus, when someone was sick, they would call for the pastor. He would pray for them, but also anoint them with the oils for healing.

There were different kinds of oils and oil mixtures used for different purposes. Some soothing of skin, some soothing of muscles, some keeping pests out, some for constant inhalation (like Vicks Vapor Rub today).

If the medicinal interpretation of James 5:14-15 is correct, then surely oil is the universal medicine. But again, both history and the Bible show that oil was not the universal medicine, however good it may be. Quacks or no, doctors living in the early New Testament period not only used oils, but even performed surgeries. In an entirely makeshift situation, the Good Samaritan did not use oil alone, but poured oil and wine into the wounds of the man beaten by thieves. As to different kinds of oils, historically I don’t question that different oils and different herbs were used medicinally. That is still true today. But, where, oh where, do we find the different oils and herbs in James 5:14-15? There are no herbs there, and the oil is probably only olive oil, since the Greek word ἐλαίῳ (olive oil) is used.

The pastors carried the oils with them when called. Indeed the sick were healed by the LORD, but it shows that God doesn't disagree with church members relying on Him, and at the same time using soothing medicines. Thus, take a little wine for thy stomach sake, right? If God just wanted people to be anointed with some symbolic oil and wait for healing, then why would He command this of Timothy?

There was and is no argument from me against using medicines. I just don’t believe that medicine is what is in view in James 5:14-15. I do believe the medicinal value of the wine is in view in I Timothy 5:23.

We have no other place in the Bible oil was used for magical healing, or for pastoral prayers.

We find other places where oil was used for anointing; more than where it was used for medicine. One specifically connected to healing is Mark 6:13. And no one has suggested any “magical” healing here – unless you suppose God healing in answer to prayer is “magic”. Does God heal people we pray for, whether or not they use medicine? If not, why do we pray for the sick? Just go to the doctor and be done with it.

This type of interpretation that the oil was NOT medicinal would seem to ALSO take away from the idea that God is the one who heals. As a matter of fact, it would seem to suggest one must have the oil for God to do the healing.

But, in fact, it is only in a medical interpretation that the oil has any effect on healing. In a symbolic interpretation it is only symbolic. It produces no effect. It only answers to simple obedience to a literal reading of the Scripture. This idea which you foist upon my interpretation, I suspect you are not willing to apply to your own. That is, that one must have the oil for God to do the healing. If this logic “must” applies to the text, then you are pierced by the horns of your own dilemma. One must use medicine for God to do the healing. If not, why not?

Why not? Because either way is an anemic look at only one incident in the whole of Scripture. The whole Scripture gives the full look at the subject of God healing. I would sum it up roughly by saying God does not object to the use of medicine (cf. Luke 5:31), but that it is sinful to rely on doctors to the exclusion of faith in God (cf. II Chronicles 16:12).

An interesting observation of the medicinal interpretation of James 5:14-15 is this: Of all those who assert this interpretation, I have not yet seen even one obey it. I do not know of a single Baptist who has asked pastors and come rub oil and herbs on them while they pray for them. Oh, you say, I don’t really believe it means that. Do tell.

[Note: some uses of oil that I find in the Bible – offering, fuel for light, anointing, food/cooking, ointment, gift or payment/barter, product to sell, purification, perfume, moisturizer, medicine. The most references seem to be anointing; there is a lot concerning light, offerings and food – and the symbolic representation of wealth, God’s pleasure on His people – but not that much about medicinal use, it would seem to me.]

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Acts 19:21--20:1

Ephesus was an important city in Asia Minor, a center of the goddess Diana. Paul spent nearly three years there (cf. 19:8,10; Acts 20:31). The church in Ephesus was prominent among those seven to whom the apostle John wrote. According to John Gill, the temple of Diana at Ephesus "was about seven furlongs distant from the city, and was 425 feet long, and 220 feet broad, and had in it 127 pillars, 60 feet high." It is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

"Other sheep have I" Acts 19:21-22
19:21 After these things were ended, Paul purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome...

Follow the Lord. Paul was following the Lord in Ephesus, but he was determined to follow wherever he led. Too often the conservative Christian falls into the ease of believing all of the work God is doing right where he is. There is an old bromide that caricatures the sectarian Christian's prayer: "God bless me, my wife, my son, his wife, us four no more. Amen." Even if God has established us in the place where we are, let us never sing the refrain of Elijah, “I, even only I, remain a prophet of the Lord.” Hear God thunder, “Other sheep have I. I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal.

"For the love of money" 19:23-27
19:25 Sirs, ye know that by this craft we have our wealth.

“Follow the money” is an oft-stated expression. By following the money we often find the root cause of the thing that befuddles us. Demetrius had a keen mind. Though Paul had not directly taken on Diana (cf. v. 37), but rather preached Jesus. But Demetrius understood that a people who did not believe in gods made with hands would not need craftsmen who made gods with their hands. There was a sure economic downsizing coming to the silversmiths if this new religion caught a foothold in Asia Minor. Though Demetrius also appealed to their religion and their pride (cf. v. 27), the foundation of the objection was money. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.

"Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil" 19:28-34
19:29 And the whole city was filled with confusion...32 and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.

Follow the crowd. Get on the bandwagon. From religion to politics to mobs to fads, folks get caught up in what the crowd is doing. The shout “Great is Diana of the Ephesians” became a horrendous din in which most participated but few understood. For two hours this went on, though “the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.”

"He by his wisdom delivered the city" 19:35-41
19:35 And when the townclerk had appeased the people...41 And when he had thus spoken, he dismissed the assembly.

Follow good sense. Nothing in the text indicates that the townclerk was a Christian. But he was a man of prudence and common sense. He got an audience and reasoned with them. He championed the stability of Diana in Ephesus; he questioned the wisdom of rash action; he the deportment of the Christians; he recommended legal if there was a legitimate cause; and he warned the people of the trouble they could be bringing on themselves. Through his actions the mob was dispersed.

"The Lord knoweth how to deliver" 20:1
20:1 And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia.

Follow the Lord. We know all things work together for good to them that love the Lord. Many and varied are the ways the Lord delivers his people. Some through the fire, some through the flood. When God delivered Paul in Philippi (16:25-26), it was the earthquake He wielded. When God delivered Paul in Ephesus, it was an official of the city of Ephesus who did God’s bidding. When God finally delivered Paul in Rome (II Tim 4:6,18), it was the hand of death by which he became absent from the body and present with the Lord. Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us. Amen.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Paul's voyage

Paul's voyage. Acts 27

If Paul in Caesar's court must stand,
He need not fear the sea;
Secured from harm, on every hand,
By the divine decree.

Although the ship, in which he sailed,
By dreadful storms was tossed;
The promise over all prevailed,
And not a life was lost.

Jesus! the GOD whom Paul adored,
Who saves in time of need;
Was then confessed, by all on board,
A present help indeed!

Though neither sun nor stars were seen
Paul knew the Lord was near;
And faith preserved his soul serene,
When others shook for fear.

Believers thus are tossed about
On life's tempestuous main;
But grace assures, beyond a doubt,
They shall their port attain.

They must, they shall, appear one day,
Before their Savior's throne;
The storms they meet with by the way,
But make his power known.

Their passage lies across the brink
Of many a threat'ning wave;
The world expects to see them sink,
But JESUS lives to save.

Lord, though we are but feeble worms,
Yet since thy word is past;
We'll venture through a thousand storms,
To see thy face at last.

John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Consistency thou art a jewel

I don't know anything about figure skater Johnny Weir, but I find his answer to "Friends of Animals" interesting. FOA recently posted an open letter to Weir. They criticized his having fox fur on one of his costumes that he skated in, and asked him to stop wearing fur.

According to AP News Writer Nancy Armour, "Weir said he understands the groups’ objections, but he doesn’t share their point of view."

I particularly liked this comment: "Every skater is wearing skates made out of cow," Weir said. "Maybe I’m wearing a cute little fox while everyone else is wearing cow, but we’re all still wearing animals."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Will you comb gray hair?

From In Memory Of Major Robert Gregory by William Butler Yeats

Some burn damp faggots, others may consume
The entire combustible world in one small room
As though dried straw, and if we turn about
The bare chimney is gone black out
Because the work had finished in that flare.
Soldier, scholar, horseman, he,
As 'twere all life's epitome.
What made us dream that he could comb grey hair?

Probably most live as if we expect to "comb gray hair", but we know not what shall be tomorrow.

The secret chord

Not a lot of rhyme or reason for the following. I am just intrigued by some of Cohen's expressions in this stanza of "Hallelujah".

Now I've heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don't really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

From "Hallelujah" by Leonard Norman Cohen

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Constitution town hall

Hillsdale College is involved in educating Americans about the Constitution. Their Hillsdale College Constitution Town Hall looks like an interesting possibility for those who would like to learn more. It will be held Saturday, January 30, 2010, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm EST. Though the in-person event is full, you can register to see it free online.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The "god" of the 20th century

"The 'god' of this twentieth century no more resembles the Supreme Sovereign of Holy Writ than does the dim flickering of a candle the glory of the midday sun . The 'god' who is now talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday School, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible Conferences is the figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside the pale of Christendom form 'gods' out of wood and stone, while millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a 'god' out of their own carnal mind . In reality, they are but atheists, for there is no other possible alternative between an absolutely supreme God, and no God at all . A 'god' whose will is resisted, whose designs are frustrated, whose purpose is checkmated, possesses no title to Deity, and so far from being a fit object of worship, merits nought but contempt ." -- (Arthur W. Pink)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Jimmy crack corn and I don't care

...what New Zealand and Australia does. But surely this is one the most ridiculous distractions I've heard. Trijicon Inc., a manufacturer of optical sighting devices for firearms, quietly and without a flap chooses to include an encoded biblical reference in their serial numbers. How sinister!!!!!(possibly thinks ABC) And certainly it is a violation of the Constitution (so says Michael Weinstein of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation)!!!!! At best it could only violate a military rule against proselytizing of any religion in Iraq or Afghanistan. But even that is ridiculous. If so, better ban the sand and the stars. If one is prone to proselyte, he could use those too.

"Markings included 'JN8:12', a reference to John 8:12: 'Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life,' according to the King James version of the Bible.

"The Trijicon Reflex sight is stamped with 2COR4:6, a reference to part of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians: 'For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ,' the King James version reads...

"Trijicon said it has been long-standing company practice to put the Scripture citations on the equipment. Tom Munson, Trijicon's director of sales and marketing, said the company had never received complaints until now.

"'We don't publicize this,' Munson said in a recent interview. 'It's not something we make a big deal out of. But when asked, we say, 'Yes, it's there.'

"Trijicon said biblical references were first put on the sites nearly 30 years ago by the company founder, Glyn Bindon, who was killed in a plane crash in 2003. His son Stephen, Trijicon's president, continued the practice.

"The references have stoked concerns by critics in the U.S. about whether they break a government rule that bars proselytizing by American troops. But U.S. military officials said the citations don't violate the ban and they won't stop using the tens of thousands of telescoping sights that have already been bought."
-- Above quotations from NZ army to remove Bible citations from armaments

This is not something this company started in order to slip the Bible into Muslim countries. It is something they've been doing 30 years. I don't care what New Zealand and Australia does. But Daily News says that the Marine Corps is reconsidering its contract with Trijicon. If Kristian Dunne is correct in saying Trijicon sights are the best of their kind, then it would be unthinkable for the Marine Corps to send their men out into combat with anything less. If Trijicon decides to remove the inscriptions from future military orders of the gun sights, that's their business. If the U.S. military, executive and legislative branches, etc. want to send the troops out with less than the best because of this lunacy, they all ought to be removed from office!

[Note: this article does not delve into the question of whether we ought to be shooting people, but simply comments on political correctness run amok in reference to something we are already doing.]

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Where you can't scratch

Acnestis - noun: The part of the body where one cannot reach to scratch.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Massachusetts race

In a race to fill the U.S. Senate seat of deceased Democrat Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, the Republican contender Scott Brown has pulled off an upset victory over Martha Coakley. Is this a matter of a well-run campaign succeeding over a poorly-run campaign? Is Brown a charismatic individual whose excitement captured the imaginations of Massachusites? Is this a "referendum" on national health care, of which Kennedy was a chief proponent and Brown passionately opposes? All of the above? None of the above?

Democrats seek back footing after epic loss in Massachusetts election


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Monday, January 18, 2010

Thoughts on MLK Day

These thoughts are not actually about the day itself, but thoughts I have that happen to be taking place on this day.

A few days ago our local paper carried an article about the United States Census Bureau -- particularly how one attempt to be inclusive backfired on them. To give inclusive choices to black Americans to identify themselves, the 2010 Census offers "Black", "African-American" and "Negro".

Some politicians, activists and community leaders have objected to the use of the word "Negro" on the 2010 census and want the bureau to scrap the forms and issue new ones -- in spite of its approval by the African-American Advisory Committee and the fact that over 55,000 persons wrote in "Negro" on the 2000 census. Though Quanell X, a Houston TX activist, says, "We have evolved beyond the word 'Negro'," it is clear we have not -- neither the census bureau nor thousands of black Americans.

I think it is a good thing to identify people by a term that is not offensive to them. But the problem is that quite a few black Americans self-identify as "Negro" and apparently prefer the term. What about their opinions? A retired highly-respected local educator whom I have known for many years recently wrote, "I am an American Negro and not an African-American." I think his view should be respected as well as Quanell X's.

While on the general subject, Russell Moore's Why King’s Dream Overcame “Christian” White Supremacy is quite interesting.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Seeing out -- books and windows

A house without books is like a room without windows. -- Copied, author unknown

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The law and gospel

HYMN 120
S. M.

The law and gospel joined in Scripture.

The Lord declares his will,
And keeps the world in awe;
Amidst the smoke on Sinai's hill
Breaks out his fiery law.

The Lord reveals his face,
And smiling from above,
Sends down the gospel of his grace,
Th' epistles of his love.

These sacred words impart
Our Maker's just commands;
The pity of his melting heart,
And vengeance of his hands.

Isaac Watts (1674-1748)
Hymns and Spiritual Songs, Book II, 1707

Friday, January 15, 2010

County Line Singing

Tomorrow (d.v.), we will hold a County Line Sacred Harp Singing at County Line Primitive Baptist Church on the County Line Road (FM 3081) near Cut and Shoot, Texas. Click on the link above for more information and directions.

Come one, come all.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Wesley at Warrington

"Friday 6, [1781] I went to Alpringham, and preached the funeral sermon of good old sister Cawley. She has been indeed a mother in Israel; a pattern of all good works. Saturday 7, at noon, I preached at Preston-on-the-Hill, and in the evening at Warrington. Sunday 8, the service was at the usual hours. I came just in time to put a stop to a bad custom, which was creeping in here. A few men who had fine voices sang a psalm which no one knew, in a tune fit for an Opera, wherein three, four, or five persons sung different words at the same time! What an insult upon common sense! What a burlesque upon public worship! No custom can excuse such a mixture of profaneness and absurdity." -- The Works of the Rev. John Wesley, Volume 5, By John Wesley, London: Conference Office, 1810, pp. 330-331

I guess Wesley didn't like fuging tunes!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Various hymns

I don't have the original sources of the following:

No. 1

Have you heard the trumpet sounding?
Have you heard the angel’s call?
Flee from sin and sect confusion,
Come to Zion, one and all.

Hear that voice from heaven, brother,
Heed the warning, come today;
Leave the names and creeds of Bab'lon,
Take the holy Bible way.

No. 2

Though great our sins and sore our woes,
His grace much more aboundeth;
His helping love no limit knows,
Our utmost need it soundeth.
Our Shepherd good and true is He,
Who will at last His Israel free.
From all their sin and sorrow.

Hark! a voice divides the sky,
Happy are the faithful dead!
In the Lord who sweetly die,
They from all their toils are freed;
Them the Spirit hath declared
Blest, unutterably blest;
Jesus is their great reward,
Jesus is their endless rest.

God is our refuge in distress,
A present help when dangers press:
In him undaunted we'll confide:
Though earth were from her center tossed,
And mountains in the ocean lost,
Torn piecemeal by the roaring tide.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Haller Nutt

"Longwood is frozen in time, its future unrealized, unknown."

Last week while in Mississippi, we visited the Longwood Plantation at Natchez. The house was conceived by wealthy cotton planter Dr. Haller Nutt and designed by Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan. It is unique for several reasons. It is the largest octagonal house in the United States (and maybe they said North America). Unlike most plantations, it is styled after an "oriental villa" and possibly looked out of place in the antebellum South. When the war began in 1861, the northern artisans laid down their tools and went home. Even to this day, only the basement of the home is finished.

The home tells a somewhat sad story of its owners, but also tells some of the complicated story of the war between the Northern Union and Southern Confederacy. To many it is a simple story of slavery versus freedom. But consider Haller Nutt who, like many planters who thrived in the slave-based economy, opposed Mississippi's secession from the United States. Not only that, he also refused to support the Confederacy when the state seceded. Even as the Union army invaded Mississippi, he welcomed their presence.

"During the war between the states [Haller Nutt] was known to be unmistakenly not only an opponent of secession and of the Southern Confederacy, but absolutely devoted to the Union and the cause of the federal government. He was so devoted, and to such an extent, that he welcomed the invasion of the Union armies." The property of Nutt was placed under "safeguard" by the Union commanders. But their subordinates, partly due to the reality of war and partly due to its excesses, did not maintain the safeguard and much supplies and property were used, destroyed or vandalized. -- The Southern Report, Volume 36, March 26--July 23, 1904 St. Paul: West Publishing Co. 1904, p. 248

The northern invasion and ultimate victory proved the financial ruin of Nutt, who is said to have pined away in his unfinished home until he died on June 16, 1864. His wife Julia blamed her husband's death on "Union indifference and treachery", and actually won a small claim against them and recovered a small amount of money.

(Much information from Natchez, Mississippi: Past, Present, Perfect by Martin Northway)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Short Baptist history

In the lower right hand corner of The Reapers Christian Literature & Evangelistic Tracts home page, there are 6 links to mini-infos of seven American Baptist preachers -- Elias Keach, David Jones, Isaac Backus, Daniel Marshall, Luther Rice, John Clarke & Obadiah Holmes.

Thursday, January 07, 2010


I suppose all of us have our little annoyances, pet peeves that get us going. Here are a few of mine. What are some of yours?

Without music. On the NBC a cappella singing competition "The Sing-Off"
, one of the judges described one group's performance as "totally without music" (or something like that). Wrong. You don't need instruments to have music. Unaccompanied singing voices is music too.
Tradition smadition. Sometimes it is annoying to hear folks parroting the traditional tradition line of one Sacred Harp book over another, or one area's practices over another. Tradition is good; I approve of it. But, in fact, all have changed some.
Get your decades right. Just as many didn't figure out that the new millennium began on January 1, 2001 rather than January 1, 2000, it seems some think we just concluding the first decade of this new millennium -- for example, 50 most popular names of the decade
. Wrong. There was no "O" year, so decade combinations run from 1 to 10, not 0 to 9.
Hot water heater? If the water were hot, you wouldn't need a heater!!
I forgot. AND my number one pet peeve -- the fact that increasingly I can't remember names, things, places.


EPHESUS. Rev 2:1-7

Thus saith the LORD to Ephesus,
And thus he speaks to some of us;
"Amidst my churches, lo, I stand,
And hold the pastors in my hand.

Thy works, to me, are fully known,
Thy patience, and thy toil, I own;
Thy views of gospel truth are clear,
Nor canst thou other doctrine bear.

Yet I must blame while I approve,
Where is thy first, thy fervent love?
Dost thou forget my love to thee,
That thine is grown so faint to me?

Recall to mind the happy days
When thou wast filled with joy and praise;
Repent, thy former works renew,
Then I'll restore thy comforts too.

Return at once, when I reprove,
Lest I thy candlestick remove;
And thou, too late, thy loss lament;
I warn before I strike, Repent."

Hearken to what the Spirit saith,
To him that overcomes by faith;
"The fruit of life's unfading tree,
In paradise his food shall be."

John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Honour of the world

"The eagle-eye of faith can look through all the pageantry of the world, and the mists and clouds of time, to the future state, the judgement that shall be made of things. To a believer's eye all the honour of the world is but a fancy and vain appearance, a scene in which a base fellow acteth the part of a prince." -- Thomas Manton

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Getting it right

One of my chief disappointments in the past ten or so years has been seeing the Republican party candidates parrot the grass roots agendas of smaller government and so forth, only to get in office and vote some other way (and for Republicans to support them no matter what). Maybe some of the leaders now see that is a problem, too?

"We must support Republican officials who assert these principles," he writes. "When elected Republicans vote against Republican principles, the voters must withhold their support — withhold it vigorously and consistently." -- Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele in his book Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda

Monday, January 04, 2010

I say, no, I shout

epanorthosis noun: The immediate rephrasing of something said in order to correct it or to make it stronger. Usually indicated by: no, nay, rather, I mean, etc.
Example: I've warned you a thousand, no, a million times.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Time how swift

While with ceaseless course the sun
Hasted through the former year,
Many souls their race have run,
Never more to meet us here
Fixed in an eternal fate,
They have done with all below;
We a little longer wait,
But how little--none can know.

John Newton (1725-1807)
Olney Hymns, 1779