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By Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D. D. LECTURE XL. (part iv.) JEREMIAH AND THE FALL OF JERUSALEM. Later traditions fondly identified him with his Mesopotamian home. In them he was represented as foretelling the flood of the river by which they were encamped; and as judging the tribes of Gad and Dan. he was buried in state near Babylon, in a sepulchre which has for centuries been visited by Jewish pilgrims, who believe that it was erected by Jehoiachin, and that the lamp which still burns upon it was lighted by Ezekiel himself. But, according to the Prophet's own record of his life, his heart was not in the land of his exile, but "in the land of his "nativity." His own home, where he dwelt with his wife, and guided the counsels of the small community of the Chebar, faded from his eyes. Across the rich garden of that fertile region, across the vast Euphrates, across the intervening desert, his spirit still yearned towards Jerusalem, still lived in the Temple courts, where once he had ministered. Though an exile he was still one with his countrymen; and in the sense of that union, and in the strength of a mightier power than his own, the bounds of space and time were over- leaped, and during the seven years that elapsed before the city was overthrown, he lived absorbed in the Prophetic sight of the things that were to be, and in the Prophetic hearing of the words that were to be spoken, in this last crisis of his country's fate. In the presence of the impending catastrophe, he was amidst his fellow-exiles, exactly as Jere- miah amidst his fellow-citizens. An unshak- able courage and confidence was needed to bear up against the words and looks of fury with which each was assailed. Each of the two prophets, without com- municating with the other, is the echo of the other's sorrow. Deep answers to deep across the Assyrian desert; the depth of woe in him who, from the walls of Zion, saw the storm approaching, is equalled, if not surpassed, by the depth of woe in him who lived, as it were, in the skirts of the storm itself——"the "whirlwind, the great cloud, the fire unfolding itself "from the north;" gathering round the whole horizon before it reached the frontiers of Palestine. Not only in his words, but in his acts, he was to be a perpetual witness of the coming desolation. Now he might be seen portraying on a tile all the details of the siege of the city; then again he would lie stretched out motionless, for more than a year, like one crushed to the ground under the burden of his people's sins. At other times, he was to be seen stamping with his feet, and clasping his hands, in the agony of grief, or stirring a huge caldron, as if of the scum of his coun- try's misery. Then again he would fix their attention by acts most abhorrent to his nature and his priestly calling. He cut off, lock by lock, the long tresses of his hair and beard, the peculiar marks of his sacerdotal office, and one by one threw them into the fire. He ate the filthy food, which belonged only to the worst extremity of famine. And last of all, when the fatal day arrived, when the armies of Nebuchadnezzar had gathered round the walls of Jerusalem, the last and most awful sign was given to show how great and how irresistible was the calamity. On the evening of that day his wife died. The desire of his eyes was taken from him by a sudden stroke. And yet when the sun rose, and as the hours of the day passed on, he appeared in public with none of the frantic token of Oriental grief. He raised no piercing cry for the dead; he shed not a tear; the turban, which should have been dashed in anguish on the ground, was on his head; the feet that should have been bare were sandalled as usual. He did in all things as he would have done had no calamity overtaken him—— himself the living sign and personification of a grief too deep for tears, too terrible for any funereal dirge either to arrest or to express. Well might the roll which was placed in the hand seem to be "written "within and without with lamentations, and mourn- "ing, and woe." But as in the case of Jeremiah, so in the case of Ezekiel, there was the sweetness as of honey mingled with the bitterness of his grief. What had appeared in germ in the writings of Jeremiah was repeated in fuller shape by Ezekiel. He is the disciple, such as has often been seen both in philosophy and theology carrying out into their most startling consequences the principles barely disclosed by the teacher. He as well as Jeremiah is a Prophet especially of the Second Law——of the law written in the heart. He too reviews the history of the Chosen People, and has the courage to treat them like any other people; to point out the natural and ethnological origin of the Holy City,——Amorite and Hittite by birth,——the failure even of the ancient rite of circumcision as a safeguard for the nations which had adopted it. He too is the witness of the dispensation of the Spirit; he sets forth, in language which belongs rather to the coming than the depart- ing epoch, the magic transformation of himself, of his country, of its dead institutions, by the "Spirit" which breathes through all his visions; the Breath of Life which was in the utmost complexity of that Divine mechanism, in the utmost variety of those strange shapes, through which he was called to his mission. But the form in which this doctrine acquires in his hands the newest development is that of the responsibility of the individual soul separate from the collective nation, separate from the good or ill deserts of ancestry. The note which is struck for a moment by Jeremiah is taken up by Ezekiel with a force and energy which makes his announcement of it ring again from end to end of his writings. It is to be found in those familiar words which the Church of England has placed at the head of its ritual: "When the wicked man turneth away from "his wickedness, and doeth that which is lawful and "right, he shall save his soul alive." Other Prophets have more of poetical beauty, a deeper sense of divine things, a tenderer feeling of the mercies of God for His people; none teach so simply, and with a sim- plicity the more remarkable from the elaborate im- agery out of which it emerges, this great moral les- son, to us the first of all lessons. In the midst of this national revolution, when the day of mercy is past, when no image is too loathsome to describe the iniquities of Israel, the Prophet is not tempted to demand the destruction of the righteous with the wicked, nor the salvation of the wicked for the sake of the righteous. He contemplates the extremest case of the venerable patriarchs of former ages, or perhaps his own,——Noah, Daniel, and Job,——and yet feels that even they could save neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness. He blames equally those false teachers who make the heart of the wicked glad whom the Lord hath not made glad, and those who make the heart of the righteous sad whom the Lord hath not made sad. "The doctrine of substitution," in any form, is unknown in the teaching of Ezekiel. The old Mosaic precept of the visitation of the sins of the fathers upon the children, had become popular- ized into the proverb afloat both in Jerusalem and in Chaldæa, that "the fathers have eaten our sour grapes, "and the children's teeth are set on edge." But in spite of his own authority and its acceptance by his countrymen, and although containing a partial truth, it is put to flight before Ezekiel's announcement of the still loftier principle, "All souls are God's; as the "soul of the father, so is the soul of the son. The "soul that sinneth, it shall die. He that hath with- "drawn his hand from iniquity . . . he is just; he "shall surely live." In words like these, both before and after the fall of his country, the mighty soul of the Priestly Prophet poured itself out. How startling a doctrine to his own generation is evident from the iron firmness which was needed to proclaim it; a forehead of ada- mant, harder than flint, a heart never dismayed. How startling to the Jewish Church of after times we learn from the narrow escape which this wonderful book sus- tained, on this very account, of exclusion from the sacred canon altogether. The Masters of the Syna- gogue hesitated long before they could receive into the sacred writings a Prophet who seemed boldly to contradict the very Pentateuch itself; and even when they received it, attempted, it is said, to rewrite his burning words, in order to bring them into accordance with the popular theology of their day. It is hardly possible to overrate the vast importance of this, the last expiring cry of the Jewish monarchy, which, both from its indispensable connection with the very founda- tion of Christian doctrine, and from the supernatural energy of its inspiration, may be truly called the Gospel according to Ezekiel. Nor is its universal significance impaired, because it is, we may say, wrung out of him by the cruel necessities of the age, at once their con- solation and their justification. In ordinary times, the mutual dependence of man on man, the control of cir- cumstances, the hereditary contagion of sin and misery, fall in with the older view which Ezekiel combats. But it is the special use of such critical calamities as that of the fall of Jerusalem, that they reveal to us a higher and still more important sense the absolute indepen- dence of man from man; the truth that we are not merely parts of a long chain of circumstances which cannot be broken, but that we must each one live for himself and die for himself. It is, in fact, the doctrine bound up in the very idea of Ezekiel's mission. As of his own person he had exhibited the necessity of the judgment that was to fall on the nation at large, so he set forth in his own person the inalienable free- dom of each individual conscience and will. In the pressure of famine and captivity without, and of cor- ruption and idolatry within, the mere fact of such a Prophet existing at all was a proof that the human mind and spirit was not entirely crushed. "Liberavi animam meam" is but the modern version of the still sublimer words,——"Thou shalt speak my words unto "them, whether they will hear or whether they will "forbear; and they shall know that there hath been "a prophet among them." On this narrow but solid plank of the doctrine of human responsibility, Ezekiel crossed the chasm which divided the two parts of his eventful life. It is almost the last doctrine which we hear announced before his country fell. It is the first that meets us as he recovers from the shock after all is over. In his prophecies of his own country, a long silence succeeds to his eager remonstrances and piercing lamen- tations. The interval is filled by strains of sor- row and exultation over the fall of the nations. The overthrow of the Jewish monarchy coincides with the overthrow of those primeval states which had hitherto occupied the attention of mankind. During the preceding century, the Jewish Prophets had pre- pared the way for the final catastrophe of the oldest historic world, much as the Christian Fathers had heralded the downfall of the second fabric of civilization in the Greco-Roman world. "The seers of Judah "watched the progress of he invader, and uttered their sublime funereal anthems over the greatness of each "independent tribe or monarchy, as it was swallowed "up first in the empire of Assyria and then of Chaldæa. "They were like the tragic chorus of the awful drama "which was unfolding itself to the Eastern world." This dirge, it may be said, reached its highest pitch in the Prophecies of Ezekiel. In the twilight interval dividing the hopeless gloom of the Captivity from the first dawn of the Restoration, is pronounced the doom of the several tribes of Western Asia by the armies of Nebuchadnezzar——of Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Damascus. It may be truly said that they then passed away and were no more seen amongst the nations of he earth. Edom lingers the longest, but even Edom leaves his original seat and becomes a colony rather than a kingdom. The others disappear forever. Tyre also, the most imperial city of Syria stretching back into times before the first Israelite set foot west of the Jordan, now vanishes from the scene of history. The mere city, indeed, lasted not only through the classical times, but far into the middle ages, and as a small town exists even at the present day; but as a state and as an empire it fell under the pressure of the Babylonian conquest. For the last time, through the piercing eyes of Ezekiel, we see the Queen of ancient commerce, in all her glory, under the figure of her own stately vessels, sailing proudly over her subject seas, with the fine linen of Egypt for her white sails, with the purple of the isles of Greece for the drapery of her seats, with merchant princes for her pilots and her mariners. We see her suddenly overtaken by the storm from the East, and foundering in her final shipwreck, amidst a wail of de- spair and anguish from all the coasts of he Mediter- ranian. In that bitter wail over the fall of so much splendor even in a rival heathen state, the Prophet joins, with a grief second only to that which he and Jeremiah had poured forth on the overthrow of their own country. But his view extended farther still as the grave of the nations yawned and widened before his eyes. Into that deep abyss the gigantic form of the Assyrian Empire had fallen with a sudden crash, like that of an aged cedar of Lebanon, the sound of which made the nations to shake. Into that grave many a wild horde of Northern Asia had descended or was descending under the sword of successive con- querors. And now into that same dark pol- luted place was to descend a power loftier and more venerable than any of them. Egypt, the most civilized of the kingdoms, so long marked off by her ancient ceremonial from the surrounding tribes, sharing like Tyre and Israel in the once proud distinction of circumcision, so careful in her punctilious cleanliness and her august burials, was to be dragged forth like the dying crocodile, the huge monster of her own sacred river; to be cast out with the unclean bloodstained corpses of the battle-field; to be hurled, not into her own deep repose in painted sepulchre or massive pyra- mid, but into the unhallowed promiscuous pit, side by side with the uncircumcised and uncivilized races of the decaying and dishonored past. Egypt, as a country, as a kingdom, as a church, has never failed; but as the oracular empire of the hoary ages of the ancestors of the human race, it died then to revive no more. Over against this sepulchre of the nations sate the Prophet uttering his wild lamentations; a strain, if at times mingled with "the old hatred" of the neighbor tribes, yet for those older, statelier empires, rather of sorrow than of vengeance. One final catastrophe was yet to come, before the funereal procession of kingdoms was closed. But the fall of Babylon was not for Eze- kiel to see, or even to predict. It belongs to the open- ing scenes of that new epoch, to which, across the gulf that parts the old from the new, we pass with him as our only guide. So marked is the separation, so completely had he lived a life in those few years and weeks of suspense and grief, that, in the Jewish traditions, his Prophet- ical writings were regarded as two separate works. It was on a day much to be remem- bered by the exiles on the Chebar, "in the twelfth "year of their captivity, in the tenth month, on the fifth "day of the month," that an unusual movement stole over the Prophet's soul. For a whole year, ever since the commencement of the investment of the city, coin- ciding with the fatal blow which blasted his own domes- tic life, he had, as far as his countrymen were con- cerned, remained speechless. On the sunset whch, according to the Jewish reckoning, began that day, he suddenly found words again; "his mouth was open and "he was no more dumb;" the presentiment grew stronger; and at last, at dawn, a fugitive from Jerusalem broke into his presence with the tidings: "The city is "smitten." The worst was now realized; the Holy City was captured; the kingdom of David was no more. It might, perhaps, have been thought that, if possible, a deeper note of misery would have been awakened in Ezekiel's heart. But it was not so. From that moment Ezekiel's prospect brightens. It was not merely, as in the instance of David's mourning for his child, that the natural course of grief had spent itself, and that cer- tainty was better than suspense. It was that the view itself changed. Once again the hand of the Lord was upon him and set him down in the midst of the wide open plain of Mesopotamia. In that desert tract was the sight so familiar to passers through the wilderness, ——bones and skeletons of man and beast, dry and bleaching on the yellow sands, the remnants of some vast caravan leaving behind it its fifties and its hundreds to perish of hunger and weariness; or the burial-place of some wild tribe or some mighty host of ancient days, whose remains, long covered by dust, some passing whirlwind had revealed to view. Round these dry and lifeless relics, the Prophet was in his vision bid to walk to and fro, and to utter the loud chant of his Prophetic utterances. He prophesied, and as his voice sounded through the stillness of the desert air, there was an answering peal as of thunder, and the hard dry earth shook under his feet, and the bones came together, and the sinews and the flesh once mere crept over them, and they lay still dead and lifeless, but like the corpses of a vast multitude from whom breath has just departed. Again he raised his wild chant, and the wind on which he himself had been borne was swelled as by a rushing blast from the four corners of the wilderness, and the corpses lived and stood on their feet, and the lonely desert was peopled with an exceeding great army. Even without the Divine interpretation which followed, the meaning of the vision was clear. Those bones in the desert were, indeed, an apt emblem of the race of Israel, scattered, divided each from each, their "bones "dried," "their hope lost." That revival——the pledge and likeness of all revivals for all future ages——was a fit likeness of that to which they were now to look for- ward, when the grave of their captivity would be opened, when the skeleton of Judaism would come out from its tomb, and be inspired with the invigorating blast of the Divine Spirit, and be clothed with fresh sand living beauty. Yet more encouraging is the closing vision of the Prophet's life. Again, as in his earlier days, but now with a wholly different purpose, the same Divine hand seizes him, and transports him to his native country. In the visions of God he stands on the sum- mit of a high mountain, and there is revealed to him the mysterious plan of a city and Temple, exactly cor- responding to that which he had known in his youth, even down to the minute details, but on a gigantic scale. And from under the Temple porch he sees the peren- nial spring which lay hid within the rocky vault burst forth into a full and overflowing stream, which pours down the terrace towards the Eastern gate. The dry bed of the Kedron is filled with a mighty torrent, which rises higher and higher till it becomes a vast river, and the rugged and sterile rocks which line its course break out into verdure, and through the two deep defiles the stream divides and forces its way into the desert plain of the Jordan, and into the lifeless waters of the Salt Sea, and the Sea of Death begins to teem with living creatures and with innumerable fish, Like the sea of Tiberias or the Mediterranean, and the fishermen stand along its banks to watch the trans- formation, and, according to the sight so common in Eastern countries, the life-giving water is everywhere followed by the growth of luxuriant vegetation,——"trees "for food, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed." How the outward form of that vision was left to pass away, how its inward spirit was fulfilled beyond all that Ezekiel could have dreamed, is the story reserved for the next epoch of the Jewish history, but is yet, not dimly, foreshadowed even in Ezekiel's own lifetime. One other voice begins to make itself heard as Eze- iel's words die away—— a "voice" rather than a living man——the last swanlike song of the Prophets of the monarchy——a voice sounding in the barren wilderness between the Captivity and the Return, between Baby- lon and Jerusalem. It is that wonderful strain which, by likeness of thought and language seems a continua- tion of the great Isaiah, by its connection with the sufferings and the fall of the nation links itself to the fortunes of Jeremiah or of Baruch, and by its mysteri- ous origin and independent character well claims the title of the "Great Unnamed." Those six and twenty chapters of the Book of Isaiah, ——the most deeply inspired, the most truly Evangelical of any portion of the Prophetical writings, whatever be their date, and whoever their author——take their stand on the times of the Captivity, and from thence look forward from the sum- mit of the last ridge of the Jewish history into the re- motest future, unbroken now by any intervening barrier. Both worlds at once they view, Who stand upon the threshold of the new. The "warfare of Jerusalem is already accomplished." "She has received of he Lord's hand double for all her "sins." "The princes of the sanctuary are profaned." "The holy land is waste and desolate." "Zion is for- "saken and forgotten." "The holy cities are a wilder- "ness, Zion is a desolation, Jerusalem is a desolation." "The holy and the beautiful house wherein their fathers "had worshipped is burned up with fire, and all their "pleasant things are laid waste." This is the retro- spect to which the Prophet looks back. The times not only of Manasseh but of Jehoiachin and Zedekiah are far behind him. The exiles to whom he appeals are already planted in Babylon; to them, and not to any former generation of Israelites, is the consolation ad- dressed, which streams in one continuous flow, uninter- rupted by the multiplied incidents which, on the right hand and the left, had broken the course of the earlier Prophetic appeals. From this bondage of the Captivity a new Exodus is to begin for the Chosen People——a new return through the wilderness. But this revival of Isaiah's spirit, this new epoch for Israel, is to coincide with a new epoch in the history of the world. The primeval period of mankind is drawing to its close; the ancient gigantic monarchies and religions, known to us only through their mighty conquerors, or their vast monuments, are, as we have seen, passing away; the great catastrophe which is to wind up their long career, the fall of Babylon, is already imminent. And in the place of this giant age is to begin that second period of history, which we term classical. Its commencement may be fixed almost to a year. It is with the clearest right that the first date of the "Fasti Hellenici," the Grecian annals of our English chronologer, is fixed in the year 560. It is the date of the accession of the two famous potentates in Greece and amongst the Grecian colonists, from whose reigns commences our distinct knowledge of Grecian life and literature,——Pisistratus at Athens, Crœsus at Sardis. It is the date which coincides with the appearance of the first authentic characters of Roman history in the reign of the Tarquins. From this time forward that Western world of Greece and Rome rises more and more steadily above the horizon, till it occupies the whole view. It was a true insight into the inmost heart of this vast movement, which caused the Prophet to see in it not merely the blessing of his own people, but the union of the distant isles of the Western Sea with the region hitherto confined to the uplands of Asia. And, further, in the East itself, the time was come, when from beyond the northern mountains the power was to descend which should accomplish this vast catastrophe. To that power——not merely to the quarter of the world, or the nation, or the hour, but to the man ——did the Prophetic indications of this period point, with a significance worthy of the grandeur of the occasion. One such had arisen,——in that same great year, the year 560, just twenty years after the Jewish exile had begun,——Koresh or Cyrus, the Persian. On him the expectation of the nations was fixed. Concern- ing him the question rose whether he would, like the chies and princes of former times, be a mere transient conqueror? or would he indeed be he deliverer who should inaugurate the fall of the old and the rise of the new world? Out of the darkness of suspense came the welcome answer which marked him out as the One Anointed Hero——alike of the Chosen People and of all the nations of the then known world. Amply was that Prophetic intimation justified. To us, looking back at the crisis from a distance which enables us to see the whole extent of the new era which he was to open, the fitness of Cyrus for the place which the Prophet assigns to him is full of meaning. The history of the civilized world was entering on an epoch, when the Semitic races were to make way for the Indo-Germanic or Aryan nations, which were thenceforth to sway the fortunes of mankind. With these nations Cyus, first of Asiatic potentates, was to be brought into close relation. With Greece henceforward the destinies of the Persian mon- archy would be inseparably united. Nay, of all the nations of Central Asia, Persia alone was of the same stock as the Greco-Roman and Germanic world. Cyrus, first of the great men whom Scripture records, spoke the tongue not of Palestine or Syria, but of those races of the West. First, too, of the ancient conquerors, Cyrus is known to us as other than a mere despot and destroyer. It can hardly be without ground that he who, by the Hebrew Prophet, was hailed not merely as a liberator and benefactor of Israel, but as an inaugu- rator of a reign of Righteousness and Truth, should, in Grecian literature, alone of the barbarian kings, have been represented as the type of a just and gentle Prince. In contact also with Cyrus the Israelite found, for the first time in the heathen world, not a temptation to idolatry, but a protection of that belief in the Unity of God, which now as never before began to take hold of the national mind. Of all the Gentile forms of faith the religion of the Persians was the most simple and the most spiritual. Their abhorrence of idols was pushed almost to fanaticism. In Egypt, the scattered statues and broken temples still bear witness to the furious zeal of Cambyses. In Greece, the approach of Xerxes to Delphi was the invasion not merely of a hostile army, but of a band of terrible iconoclasts. And so the advent of Cyrus was now hailed by the Prophet as the doom of the gigantic idols of Babylon which should totter and fall before his approach: the bitter scorn with which the old Polytheism was assailed by the Israelite captives was strengthened by the cor- responding scoffs which it awakened in the Persian conquerors. Such was the outward framework of the prospect which opened before the Prophet's mind. The prospect itself was vaster and wider still. It is the same as that of Ezekiel, but cleared almost entirely from that ma- terial imagery of priestly ritual and stately sanctuary, of fierce war and sweeping conquest, with which Eze- kiel's visions were so deeply tinged. It expands into the pure and bright anticipations of a reign of Love and Justice, which needs hardly any outward figure to represent it. In the past, not the regal magnificence of David and Solomon, but the patriarchal simplicity of Abraham, and the grand Prophetic march of Moses, furnished the grounds of hope. In the foreground of the future stands not a Ruler, or Conqueror, but the "Servant" of God, gentle, purified, suffering——whether it be Cyrus whom He anointed; or Jacob whom He had chosen, His people with whom after all their affliction He was well pleased; or Jeremiah and the Prophetic order, the victim of the country's sins, led as a lamb to the slaughter; or One, more sorrowful, more triumphant, more human, more divine, than any of these, the last and true fulfilment of the most spiritual hopes and the highest aspirations of the Chosen People. In the remoter horizon is the vision of a gradual amelioration of the whole human race, to be accomplished not solely or chiefly by the seed of Israel, but by those outlying nations which were but just beginning to take their place in the world's history. In the strains of triumph which welcome the influx of these Gentle strangers, we recognize the prelude of the part which in the coming fortunes of the Jewish Church is to be played not only by Cyrus, and, if so be, Zoroas- ter, but by Socrates and Plato, by Alexander and by Cæsar. It has been truly observed that the new ele- ments which Christendom received from the Greek, the Roman, and the Teutonic world were almost as impor- tant as those which it received from the Jewish race. Its European, as distinguished from its Asiatic features, form one of the main characteristics which raise it both above Judaism and Mahometanism. To have recog- nized and anticipated this truth is the rare privilege of the Evangelical Prophet. This is the dawn of the new epoch of Jewish and of universal history; full of misgivings in human opinions and institutions. But in the chill of that new dawn, amidst the perplexities of that untried situation, amidst the ruins of those ancient empires, in the eager ex- pectation of those unknown changes——the first words which break the silence, and of which the strains echo through the whole of the next period of history, and through its endless consequences, are those of the mighty and mysterious Teacher, Prophet and Psalmist both in one; the key-note not only of the revived and transformed Israel, but of the rising world of Asia and Europe, and of the Christendom of a still remoter future:—— Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people. The comfort is of that enduring kind, which is solid now as when it was first uttered. It is the expectation of constant, though unequal, progress towards perfection; the disappearance of present difficulties before the in- creasing light and energy of the fresh generations of mankind; the confidence that this continued advance is the cause of God Himself. The voice of one that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. . . . Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain shall be made low; And the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain; . . . They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings as eagles; They shall run and not be weary; They shall walk and not faint. 
from The History of the Jewish Church, Vol. II: From Samuel to the Captivity, by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D. D., Dean of Westminster Charles Scribner's Sons, 1879; pp. 624 - 643
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