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ryan386
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Joined: 2004/10/23
Posts: 11


 Christian mysticism

I am stuck with this question I can't figure out.

Is Christian mysticism Christian or occult. I'm thinking about people like st. John of the cross, madame Guyon, and Fenelon.

I used to be involved in the New age and the occult and I must say there seems to be a fine line between the occult and Christian mysticism if any at all. I have not read much of their stuff though for a few reasons:
1. They are more connected with general mysticism than Christianity
2. Jesus is mentioned very little along with salvation
3. The bible seems very unimportant to them
4. To me they seem to chase experience more than truth
5. They seem to look more to their own soul and calling that God.

Most importantly after reading writings of St. John of the Cross I went into his version of contamplative prayer. I ended up in a mostly unconcious state jumping up quickly in fear after a voice said something to the point of "call on the name of who you want".

However, Leonard Ravenhill, who I greatly admire, speaks of these people with very high regard.

Any help appreciated

 2004/11/19 23:14Profile
crsschk
Member



Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA

 Re: Christian mysticism

Hi Ryan,

Great question and glad you are asking it, especially in this day and age we live in. Personally I err on the side of caution which is likely borne out of just what I have experienced since this grand journey began.

There are others here that would have equal concerns on this and also a lot more versed on those and others you mentioned.

A.W. Tozer seemed to be particularly fond of many of these Christian 'mystics' and for a man with his head firmly attached to his shoulders he may well be one to perhaps glean from in this whole area... Look for some links from the
'tozerphiles' amongst us shortly.

Seems that as in a lot of things in this walk a lot may depend on "where your head is at". Meaning, there may be a time and place for this just as well as a wrong time. It took me awhile to realize a truism that we are not always ready for certain things yet. The Lord may well have us concentrating on one area while though all well and good to us we go off and away to something more 'appealing'. And if we are really attentive to that prompting of the Holy Spirit, we usually know it.

A lot of the faith is 'mystic' in the sense of we are still natural beings with inherent damage. Like the way Oswald Chambers put it;

[i]"First Corinthians 15:46 ("However, the spiritual is not first but the natural; and afterward the spiritual") lays down the fundamental basis of the way God deals with man all through - first the natural, then the spiritual. The whole purpose of a human personality is to turn the natural life into a spiritual life by sacrifice. The Bible never speaks of the natural life as sinful; it contrasts it with the spiritual, for example, "the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God ... nor can he know them because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spirtual judges all things" (1 Corinthians 2:14-15)[/i]

That to me is truly mystical.
God is mystical as in mysterious...

Probably a good time for some definitions now that I think about it and I need them.

[b]Mystery
MYS'TERY[/b], n. [L. mysterium; Gr. a secret. This word in Greek is rendered also murium latibulum; but probably both senses are from that of hiding or shutting; Gr. to shut, to conceal.

1. A profound secret; something wholly unknown or something kept cautiously concealed, and therefore exciting curiosity or wonder; such as the mystery of the man with the iron mask in France.

2. In religion, any thing in the character or attributes of

God, or in the economy of divine providence, which is not revealed to man.

3. That which is beyond human comprehension until explained. In this sense, mystery often conveys the idea of something awfully sublime or important; something that excites wonder.

Great is the mystery of godliness. 1 Tim 3.

Having made known to us the mystery of his will. Eph 1.

We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery. 1 Cor 2.

4. An enigma; any thing artfully made difficult.

5. A kind of ancient dramatic representation.

6. A trade; a calling; any mechanical occupation which supposes skill or knowledge peculiar to those who carry it on, and therefore a secret to others.

[The word in the latter sense has been supposed to have a different origin from the foregoing, viz.]

[b]Mystic
MYS'TIC

MYS'TICAL[/b], a. [L.mysticus.] Obscure; hid; secret.

1. Sacredly obscure or secret; remote from human comprehension.

God hath revealed a way mystical and supernatural.

2. Involving some secret meaning; allegorical; emblematical; as mystic dance; mystic Babylon.

Few more thoughts...


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Mike Balog

 2004/11/20 0:36Profile
crsschk
Member



Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA

 Re:

This may be seemingly alluding your original question, but just trying to get some stability, hopefully, first.

Think that we all have the difficulty in always discerning our 'experience' of what the Lord may be working in and out of us. For instance the whole area of prophecy...who are we to believe?
And what exactly is 'prophecy' as it relates to us now in this time compared to the Old Testament prophets and even the New Testament prophets at the time Jesus was walking this earth and shortly there after?

It is all a bit mysterious, no?

What about our own walk with the Lord, the things we believe He is 'telling' us through the Holy Spirit. We can't have no experience and just academics or head knowledge and yet we can't rely on our feelings and make them gospel either.

We have to have a standard that we can draw from that is absolute and unchanging and that is why we are so adamant about Gods Word being authoritative and the final word that we judge all our experience against; [i]if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.[/i] 1Ti 1:10,11

If what these past saints have written doesn't contradict scripture we haven't gone to far, but their particular experience's don't necessarily mean they are all from God either, it could be their own mind, wishful thinking, emotionalism and even the devils minions, any number of things. I have had some very peculiar things happen and come through my experience that I don't know what to make of, some of them quite bizarre. "Always" is a difficult word to apply to the Christian faith all the time, some things are just left in abeyance until another time or perhaps the right time. It does seem that all lot of the other oddities just fall to the wayside over time, you would think that if they were important enough you would know it, recognize it.

Motives, the issues of the heart, what kind of believers are we talking about? Is their lives reflective of what is true? Think it really is a matter of discernment and there is much that can be gleaned form these 'mystics', I wonder how comfortable they might have been with that tag attached to their names. But still, we have to be Berean minded in all things.

Rambling again, hope this makes some kind of sense.

1Co 13:12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.


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Mike Balog

 2004/11/20 1:30Profile
lwpray
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Joined: 2003/6/22
Posts: 3318
Sweden

 Re: The plain man’s mystery

The plain man’s mystery

Servants, in the same way, must be reverent, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for money; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience.
1Tim 3:8-9

Faith, the walk with the Lord in the Spirit, is indeed a mysterious realm. Man is created for it, but abhors it or corrupts it.
This mystery develops in the inner man and causes reverberations in the outer realm, holy living, caring for the poor, benevolence, truth seeking, veracity.
It is a ministry of the interior, a serving of the Lord on His own terms – God is Spirit, the one worshipping must do it in spirit and in thruth.

The mystery is the intense longing for Him, and him alone.
The mystery is the intense longing to serve Him, a longing which cannot be satisfied.
The mystery is the intense longing to give all and everything to Him.
The mystery is the intense longing for togetherness, fellowship and interaction. Who may ascend to the Lord’s hill?

Learning to listen to Him, learning to walk with Him, learning to obey Him, learning to wait before Him - that is the mystery.
It is done in a mysterious ministry in the interior. It is done as service unto men in the outer realm. It is to be done solely as a result of the work of the Cross applied by the Holy Spirit unto the glory of the Lord.

There are no mysterious techniques. Stillness and fellowship is the way.
There are no extras – nothing outside what is once and for all written in the Book.
There are no bonuses or blessings but the fellowship before the Throne – God rules.
There are no advanced, mysterious orders and measurements – the plain man is invited to a steady walk unto maturity in Christ.

Lars W.


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/11/20 2:48Profile
philologos
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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re: Christian mysticism

hi ryan386
I am probably the most suspicious of the mystics on this site and have raised my anxieties from time to time. (not that I am a suspicious mystic ;-) but am suspicious [i][b]of[/b][/i] the mystics)

We need to differentiate between mysterious and mystical. The word mystic comes from the root from which we get words like 'mum' and 'mime' meaning something which was without words and hence 'secret'. The word mystery when used in scripture does not mean either mysterious or mystical it means an uncovered secret. Something that was there all the time but was then revealed (unveiled). [b]Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the [u]mystery[/u] of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now [u]revealed[/u] unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; [/b] (Eph 3:4-5 KJV)


Mysticism is a phenomena which is found in all religions (and I am choosing my words carefully). It is the basis of the transcendental meditation which undergirds Buddhism and Hinduism. It is found in the Jewish Kabbalah (it is an integral part of Chasidic Judaism) and among the Muslim Sufis. And it is found in mediaeval Catholicism. Latterly, of course, it has reared its head in New Age. Some theologians have concluded that it is the basic element of religion and hence the common core for all experience of God.

Its worrying aspects are many but my main concerns are that it teaches that sin can be cleansed and the human nature refined by self induced suffering. Suffering cleanses, or so the mystics teach. In order to speed the cleansing increase the suffering. Consequently some beautiful hymn writers, in particular F W Faber (who was Tozer’s favourite) wore horse-hair shirts to be uncomfortable and practised self-flagellation (beating himself with a leather whip). Faber had strange visions of seeing the blood flow in certain artists’ pictures of Christ. He was part of the Oxford movement which in the 19th century tried to lead the Anglican church back to Roman Catholicism with people like Newham and Pusey. Here is a little quotation from Faber that will give you an idea of his theology relating to the continual priesthood of Mary; [i] “Mary was the minister of the Incarnation: that explains everything. She had as little the right to come down from Calvary as a priest would have to leave the altar while the sacrifice of Mass is going on. It was an unfortunate coincidence of dates. On one March the 25th, she had given Christ his precious blood; on another March 25th she had to perform her ministry while his blood was being poured out. She had to lay him down in the tomb after having laid him down in the manger. She had to preside over the completion, as she had presided over its beginning . . . . Her priesthood consisted in her continuous ministry to him.”[/i] (The Foot of the Cross, London 1857, p. 399.)

I will illustrate the problem from Faber’s best known hymn; “I worship thee sweet will of God”. There are some wonderful sentiments in this hymn, but one verse gives the game away…

He always wins who sides with God,
To him no chance is lost;
God’s Will is sweetest to him when
It triumphs at his cost.

You will see that this stanza ends with the concept of cost. Who is paying the price? Faber is. The stanza tells us that God’s will is sweetest when it hurts the most; this is classic mysticism. My pain is pleasant because it is my contribution to God’s work of salvation in me. The asceticism of the mystic is just moderated pain. To enjoy pain is not spiritual it is masochism.

My second concern is that mystics do not believe in regeneration they believe in the merging of God’s Spirit with man’s spirit through transcendental meditation; trance states which leave the soul wide open in passive states to every wandering spirit. This is deadly. As I blank out all other things my mind becomes open to divine influences. God’s Spirit percolates into mine and we become One. This is not union with Christ by Spirit Baptism but achieved divinity by passivity. There is no need for repentance or regeneration in mysticism, all that is needed is ‘union’ facilitated by meditation.

Mysticism also maps out ‘dark nights of the soul’ in which the saint loses all conscious fellowship with God as a prelude to greater blessing and revelations. Of course, they would point to many who have experiences such things; Oswald Chambers is the evangelical’s main example. But the incident of such an experience is very different to the expectation of a definite step in the mystic’s pilgrimage.

Some who are less suspicious than me will no doubt be saying ‘but doesn’t Paul say..?’ Of course, every counterfeit has its genuine. The enemy of men’s souls knows that the closer to the truth he gets the more likely he is to convince men of his lies. There are aspects of mysticism that could be fitted into Christianity; my concern is that they fit so neatly into Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism, Kabbalah, Catholicism and New Age as well.

Tozer, and many others, have judged that the benefits of mystic insights outweigh its dangers. My own view is the exact opposite.


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Ron Bailey

 2004/11/20 3:14Profile
lwpray
Member



Joined: 2003/6/22
Posts: 3318
Sweden

 Re: Doesn’t it cost. . .


Doesn’t it cost us something to walk with the Lord?
Who will ascend to the Holy hill of the Lord?

What doe the overcomers do but preparing way for the Lord to establish a testimony in the individual as well as in the collective setting.
What does obedience mean, if not a price to be paid in turning away from what is of the world to the things of Heaven.

What is the Cross of Christ all about? A completion of a marvellous work of salvation, yet a dramatic operation daily in each and every saint. Is it not painful to be put under discipline?
What about the putting off. . . for the sake of putting on?

What does it cost not being led to compromise or being moulded by the world?
What does the apostle speak about, saying “I count it all a loss to be able to lay hold of? I forsake what lies in the days gone to be able to grasp and lay hold of in the future”. What about his beatings and flagellations? I must pay whatever I can to lay hold of that for which I have been laid hold of.
Grace is not cheap.

We have put this mystery aside in our modern Christianity and has become spiritual dwarfs, driven by a desire for affluence.
Grace is not cheap.

The mystery of the Cross of Christ must be recovered and displayed and explained to Christians and non-christians.
This mystery of being made a saint and a faithful must be recovered and lived in the face of the many, who use every faith technique to secure blessing and the ones who look at faith as another mind-game.
Such grace is not cheap.

Lars W.


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/11/20 3:47Profile
philologos
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Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re:

Hi Lars
I believe you are misunderstanding the true nature of mysticism.

Quote:
Doesn’t it cost us something to walk with the Lord?
Who will ascend to the Holy hill of the Lord?

Anyone who is conscious of the cost is not experiencing the walk.

Quote:
What doe the overcomers do but preparing way for the Lord to establish a testimony in the individual as well as in the collective setting.
What does obedience mean, if not a price to be paid in turning away from what is of the world to the things of Heaven.

This is not the kind of cost that is in incurred in mysticism. This is simple obedience. The mystic makes his suffering the route to God; this is unbiblical. [b] confirming the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and that through many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God. [/b](Act 14:22 ASV) Tribulation is the inevitable route but not the means. Mysticism makes tribulation, and self-induced tribulation, the means of deeper entrance.

Quote:
What is the Cross of Christ all about? A completion of a marvellous work of salvation, yet a dramatic operation daily in each and every saint. Is it not painful to be put under discipline?
What about the putting off. . . for the sake of putting on?

Do you make no distinction between discipline and masochism?

Quote:
What does it cost not being led to compromise or being moulded by the world?
What does the apostle speak about, saying “I count it all a loss to be able to lay hold of? I forsake what lies in the days gone to be able to grasp and lay hold of in the future”. What about his beatings and flagellations? I must pay whatever I can to lay hold of that for which I have been laid hold of.
Grace is not cheap.

If I make anything the means of my salvation and progress in grace I have introduced LAW. Paul’s beatings and flagellations were not self-imposed. I am shocked that you can’t see the difference.

Quote:
We have put this mystery aside in our modern Christianity and has become spiritual dwarfs, driven by a desire for affluence.
Grace is not cheap.

What mystery? Mysticism was never part of revealed Christianity; it is pagan.

Quote:
The mystery of the Cross of Christ must be recovered and displayed and explained to Christians and non-christians.
This mystery of being made a saint and a faithful must be recovered and lived in the face of the many, who use every faith technique to secure blessing and the ones who look at faith as another mind-game.
Such grace is not cheap.

The mystery of the cross has nothing to do with mysticism which is a ‘faith technique to secure blessing’.


_________________
Ron Bailey

 2004/11/20 4:46Profile
lwpray
Member



Joined: 2003/6/22
Posts: 3318
Sweden

 Re:

I do not misunderstand the true nature of the ministry of the interior.
We do not accept your definitions, and many theologian’s definitions of mysticism as being equal to proper definitions of experiencing the fellowship of the Lord.
You are trying to bind us to your definitions and are eager locking us into a system which is far too narrow, a mind game which excludes much of the walk with the Lord as something which one should shun.
We do not accept being associated with something which holds no value simply because of the fact that some words are used to express a desire to reach out for reality when our ways and their ways of reaching out are incompatible.

My line: Doesn’t it cost us something to walk with the Lord?
Who will ascend to the Holy hill of the Lord?
Mr. Baily answers: Anyone who is conscious of the cost is not experiencing the walk.
My response: A ridiculous conclusion. The burden of the Lord in prayer and intercession – something which should be considered to be an experience not in line with Christian maturity.


Mr. Baily’s line: This is not the kind of cost that is in incurred in mysticism. This is simple obedience.
My comment: Precisely. Then, accept our definition of mysticism as something other than, something very different from the harsh theologian rejection of Catholic mysticism.

My statement first and then Mr. Baily’s response:
What is the Cross of Christ all about? A completion of a marvellous work of salvation, yet a dramatic operation daily in each and every saint. Is it not painful to be put under discipline?
What about the putting off. . . for the sake of putting on?

Do you make no distinction between discipline and masochism?

To this one can only respond quite exhausted: Can’t you see the difference between what we should do as being born again in cooperation with the Holy Spirit and the frantic efforts of the deluded mind trying to save himself.
Can’t you see that the plain man’s mysticism, the fellowship and walk with the Lord in obedience is something which a heart won for the Lord is eagerly pursuing.
This is not to introduce anything of the Law, it is a joyous response to grace allowing Him to bring the saint to maturity, a Pauline partaking of the sufferings of Christ – not chosen and exercised by man but brought in by the Lord to bring us through by grace.

We are by this talking about the Mystery of Christ which Paul saw fit to give up all to attain to, not mysticism introduced by the sinner to try to survive before the Throne.
A word study would reveal the dichotomy between the two – mystery and mysticism, and, positively speaking you are good at such. The difference would become obvious at once.
The problem is quite often that the theologian rather enjoys systematising life than living it. The bright mind is its own enemy in the ways of the Lord.

At the end of it all, we seem to agree:
The mystery of the cross has nothing to do with mysticism which is a ‘faith technique to secure blessing’.

Lars


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Lars Widerberg

 2004/11/20 5:54Profile
philologos
Member



Joined: 2003/7/18
Posts: 6566
Reading, UK

 Re:

mys•ti•cism (m s t -s z m)
(Literature, Philosophy, Religion)
n.
1.
a. Immediate consciousness of the transcendent or ultimate reality or God.
b. The experience of such communion as described by mystics.
2. A belief in the existence of realities beyond perceptual or intellectual apprehension that are central to being and directly accessible by subjective experience.
3. Vague, groundless speculation.

this definition has no points of contact with 'the ministry of the interior'.

Perhaps you are wondering why I have taken such a strong stance in this thread. We recently had a thread which touched on astrology and which all agreed was foolish or dangerous according to its pretended or real practice. Mysticism is the doorway into the occult; this is why I am taking a stand.

Quote:
We do not accept your definitions, and many theologian’s definitions of mysticism as being equal to proper definitions of experiencing the fellowship of the Lord.
You are trying to bind us to your definitions and are eager locking us into a system which is far too narrow, a mind game which excludes much of the walk with the Lord as something which one should shun.
We do not accept being associated with something which holds no value simply because of the fact that some words are used to express a desire to reach out for reality when our ways and their ways of reaching out are incompatible.

What is the point of using theological terms if you are going to redefine them. This is the theology of Humpty Dumpty..
[i]`When _I_ use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'

`The question is,' said Alice, `whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'[/i]
We cannot redefine theological terminology in this way. These are not [b]my[/b] definitions of mysticism, they are what mysticism. If you are not supporting mysticism but something else please call it something else otherwise language serves no purpose. If you tell me you are a practising mystic in the normal theological use of that term, then I tell you that you are dabbling with the occult and our fellowship is at an end.

Quote:
My line: Doesn’t it cost us something to walk with the Lord?
Who will ascend to the Holy hill of the Lord?
Mr. Baily answers: Anyone who is conscious of the cost is not experiencing the walk.
My response: A ridiculous conclusion. The burden of the Lord in prayer and intercession – something which should be considered to be an experience not in line with Christian maturity.

I maintain that anyone whose consciousness of the cost of fellowship with God is not enjoying the walk. The consciousness of such a walk is sheer privilege. [b] For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal. [/b](2Co 4:17-18 KJV)

Quote:
Mr. Baily’s line: This is not the kind of cost that is in incurred in mysticism. This is simple obedience.
My comment: Precisely. Then, accept our definition of mysticism as something other than, something very different from the harsh theologian rejection of Catholic mysticism.

You can’t use the word mysticism without including its manifestations in Buddhism, Hinduism, etc If you mean conscious fellowship with God in waiting upon Him in the fellowship of His word, please say so, but don’t say that this is mysticism.

Quote:
My statement first and then Mr. Baily’s response:
What is the Cross of Christ all about? A completion of a marvellous work of salvation, yet a dramatic operation daily in each and every saint. Is it not painful to be put under discipline?
What about the putting off. . . for the sake of putting on?

I don’t deny there is pain in the Christian pilgrimage, but I deny that it is to be sought. [b] Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. [/b] (Heb 12:11 KJV) This is not true for the mystic; he seeks the pain as a means to purification.

Quote:
To this one can only respond quite exhausted: Can’t you see the difference between what we should do as being born again in cooperation with the Holy Spirit and the frantic efforts of the deluded mind trying to save himself.
Can’t you see that the plain man’s mysticism, the fellowship and walk with the Lord in obedience is something which a heart won for the Lord is eagerly pursuing.

I can see the difference only too well. The first is Christianity the second is mysticism; they are mutually exclusive.

Quote:
We are by this talking about the Mystery of Christ which Paul saw fit to give up all to attain to, not mysticism introduced by the sinner to try to survive before the Throne.
A word study would reveal the dichotomy between the two – mystery and mysticism, and, positively speaking you are good at such. The difference would become obvious at once.
The problem is quite often that the theologian rather enjoys systematising life than living it. The bright mind is its own enemy in the ways of the Lord.

The difference is obvious at once to anyone who has known anything about mysticism. I will leave your judgment of ‘theologians’ and ‘bright minds’ and your conclusion that living truth and understanding it are alternatives; I don’t think it deserves an answer.

Quote:
At the end of it all, we seem to agree:
The mystery of the cross has nothing to do with mysticism which is a ‘faith technique to secure blessing’.

which is why the mystery of the cross and mysticism are mutually exclusive.


_________________
Ron Bailey

 2004/11/20 7:31Profile
Gideons
Member



Joined: 2003/9/16
Posts: 474
Virginia

 Re: Please consider your attitude

I deeply respect what Brother Ron and Brother Lars have to say and their insights I often find are very helpful. I have to say in this thread that I'm rather disappointed in the attitudes presented here.

"Humpty Dumpty" theology? Is this really Christ-like? Is this what the Holy Spirit gave to you in your prayer closet?

I ask that both of you as moderators reconsider how you converse with one another. In addition, I ask that consider the spirit in which your arguments are being made. Is it really to help Brother Ryan or to an attempt to convince us that you're right and the other person is wrong?

I'm not suggesting that we always agree on everything but once we go beyond articulating our particular position and attack one another, it surely must grieve the Holy Spirit.

1Co 13:2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.


_________________
Ed Pugh

 2004/11/20 8:58Profile





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