I used 6 commentaries on James for my study and teaching. This one was easily the best one.

This is the best English commentary on James I’ve read. (I only read English commentaries). I preached 20 expository sermons on James to my local church in 2012. I used commentaries by Doug Moo (Pillar and TNTC), Alec Moyter (BST), Blomberg/Kammel (ZECNT), and Varner’s smaller discourse analysis volume. This Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC) is the best of all I used. Some of those commentaries listed above were good at exegesis and historical background. Varner’s EEC volume was better and more thorough. Others listed were good on theological discussion. Varner’s was better here as well. He doesn’t avoid hard questions and yet manages to not get so bogged down in secondary discussions that you lose sight of the text your considering. Moyter’s was the best in application, but Varner’s was almost as good and better than all the others. If you can only have one English commentary to aid your study of God’s Word to preach or teach it, use Varner’s EEC volume. If you will use more than one, make sure this one is one of those you use or you’ll certainly miss key insights to the book.

I can’t speak highly enough about the commentary. I’ve been challenged and fed by the book of James. Varner helped me appreciate James’ place in the church and the place of his letter in the canon in a way no other commentary has.

PJ Tibayan
Pastor, First Southern Baptist Church
Bellflower, Los Angeles County, CA
pj@fsbcbellflower.org

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The SBJT Forum: Profiles of Expository Preaching

Is it genuinely important to use the biblical languages in preaching, espe- cially since there are many excellent commentaries and pastors will never attain the expertise of scholars? (Scott Hafemann answers)

Does the knowledge of church history aid the pastor in his weekly task of sermon preparation? (Timothy George answers)

What role, if any, should systematic theology play in preaching? (Carl Henry answers)

Is it important for preachers to be acquainted with the culture in which they live, or is it sufficient to preach the message of the biblical text?

What do you consider to be the essential elements of an expository sermon? (D. A. Carson answers)

Read the journal article here.

Posted in Biblical Languages, church history, Current Events, D. A. Carson, preaching, Systematic Theology | Leave a comment

Enriching Your Preaching through Theological Reflection – Don Carson

Enriching Your Preaching through Theological Reflection: It’s kind of broken up and there seems to be missing sections. He did 4 full lectures on it at Gordon Conwell Seminary and I bought them, but can’t post them publicly since they are for sale there. I posted the notes of his lectures here as well.

  1. Preaching and Biblical Theology (notes)
  2. Preaching and Systematic Theology (part 1 | part 2 | part 3) (notes)
  3. Preaching and Historical Theology (part 1 | part 2) (notes)
  4. Preaching and Pastoral Theology (notes)
Posted in Audio/Video Recommendations, Biblical Theology, D. A. Carson, Historical Theology, Pastoral ministry, preaching, Systematic Theology | Leave a comment

Preaching and Pastoral Theology – Don Carson

Preaching and Pastoral Theology. See whole series of “Enriching your Preaching through Theological Reflection“)

Pastoral theology – a perspective on all theological reflection that towers constantly over the entire discussion, it focuses constantly on the applicability of the word of God to the people of God. (It should not be thought of as a separate discipline)

How should pastoral theology shape our preaching? 10 exhortations.

  1. Cultivate compassion. The sermon is never to be an end in itself.
  2. Cultivate an understanding people and their needs in biblical categories.
  3. Cultivate a knowledge of the diversity of people in your church – e.g. William Perkins in The Art of Prophesying; don’t make all your illustrations from your family and stage of life.
  4. Cultivate a prepared mind and heart for the turning point in people’s lives. Marriages, births, dating and singleness, diseases, crises, deaths.
  5. Cultivate a rapid, automatic, and reflexive turn to Jesus. This will keep you from secularism and psychological analysis that never gets to Jesus Christ and the cross. Secularism doesn’t eliminate biblical truth, it just seeks to put it to the periphery.
  6. Cultivate connections between lofty thoughts of God and profound understanding of doctrine and people. Think and care for people.
  7. Cultivate the ability to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those rejoice.
  8. Cultivate prudential wisdom that refuses to give too much time to bottomless pit parishioners. They are a badge of honor in the church of the living God. But you are not to empty your life into them. Don’t do it. You are called to feed the flock of God. That means study, reflection, meditation, disciplined prayer. You can give them so much time but no more. Pit the members with the gift of handholding with bottomless pit members.
  9. Cultivate a healthy independence from your congregation. As a preacher, you must fear God and fear no other. This enables you to say what Go wants you to say.
  10. Cultivate your own maturation. Your progress should be demonstrable.

 

 

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Preaching and Systematic Theology – Don Carson

Preaching and Systematic Theology (part 1 | part 2 | part 3). See whole series of “Enriching your Preaching through Theological Reflection“)

First he recommends some books.

  1. A. Carson on Graeme Goldsworthy: [For those beginning in the Biblical theology discipline Carson recommended the Goldsworthy Trilogy] “In my view, he pushes biblical theology sometimes in heavy handed ways that don’t quite work. So I have some question marks over it. But for those who have never done any biblical theology at all then he opens your eyes to seeing things that you might not see. For people who have done quite a lot of biblical theology give Goldsworthy a miss. For people who are just starting out then he’s a good resource to start priming the pump.”

ST tends to ask and answer atemporal questions as opposed to BT.

Two major headings –

I. Characteristics of ST to bear in mind in preaching

  1. At its best ST synthesizes the whole. It authorizes comprehensive, integrative thinking. It does such because it recognizes there is finally one mind behind the whole bible. The assumption is unity behind all the different diversities in Scripture. There must be some coherence. This is why ST in liberal seminaries is some form of historical theology. That’s why for the preacher he must ask how does my understanding of this text cohere with the wholeness of the revelation of God in all of Scripture. You have to do some kind of integration in your mind. Your hearers should begin to ask these questions when hearing preaching if they are theologically shaped
  2. ST is less sensitive than BT to corpus distinctions but it is more passionate about constructing the whole and it must never be despised by BT specialists (10:50). Some may say, “Paul says this and Luke says this…” but at some point you have to ask, “What does God say?”
  3. Ironically, ST is more likely to be culturally located, culturally dependent, than BT. This needs unpacking. No theology of any sort is culturally independent. You cannot speak independently of culture and language because it is part of finitude. BT is more immediately inductive with the text than ST since it asks what the text contributes to the corpus and canon. ST focuses on the big picture and thus tends to be one step further removed from the kinds of BT questions an interpreter asks. This is especially so because ST pulls strands together from across the biblical data and seeks to frame things in a fashion that addresses this generation. Precisely because it is addressing this generation, it is shaped in part by the agendas of this generation. ST in Africa may address more exorcism and demonic activity while we may address idolatry and consumerism. ST in the first 5 centuries did not address postmodernism. We address the issues of our generation with the whole of what the bible says first on the Bible’s own terms (BT). The implications of this for the preacher is that we do need to know something of our own setting, our own context.
  4. The best ST is constructive ST. That is, it’s not just a record of past syntheses which is closer to HT, but it’s actually trying to put things together for yourself. It should be in light of HT, but at the end of the day, in the light of exegesis, BT, and HT, you are putting together an ST. Everyone is a systematic theologian, whether they like it or not. We are all systematicians. We may not be good ones. Recognize that ST is an integrative discipline under one mind of God from the whole Bible to apply it to the whole people of God and we are faithful to address our generation. This means we have a mindset in our preaching that thinks beyond the section, paragraph, or chapter we are expounding. This is what enables it to stand behind the best of apologetics (Keller on idolatry, for example).
  5. The best ST forces us to think hierarchically about theology. The Bible doesn’t say all truths are equally important (i.e. 1 Cor 15). Your people learn what you are most passionate about and what is functionally central to your teaching. They don’t learn everything you teach.
  6. ST should be grounded in and integrated with BT.
  7. ST lends itself to worldview formation. There is bitty Christian thinking. Thinking atomistically and not how a cohesive system should structure our values and how we look at the world, art, marriage, culture, how we spend our time and money. It ties together everything shaping how we interact with everything in this world. It’s worldview formation. If we think merely eclectically we will remain immature. It’s a way of thinking systemically about the revelation of God as we interact with the world.

 II. Some practical points for the preacher

  1. Take time to read systematic theology regularly. Set time aside. Read Grudem. Read Horton. Have them in your regular diet of reading.
  2. Recognize that the old principle of appeal to the analogy of faith is essentially a systematic principle, and then cherish it. The reason is that although anything in ST should be challengeable by Scripture, because somebody might have gotten the analogy of faith wrong, yet when you’re talking about massive structures of truth that Christians through the generations have held and you think you can turn it over on one proof text, is not very likely.
  3. Remember to preach the Bible, not ST. Yet, often commit yourself to tying your preaching of the Bible to ST.
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Preaching and Biblical Theology – Don Carson

Preaching and Biblical Theology (mp3). See whole series of “Enriching your Preaching through Theological Reflection“)

Define Biblical Theology

  1. Preaching with biblical theology helps address biblical illiteracy. No family devotions.
  2. It draws attention to the turning points in redemptive history
  3. It enriches systematic bible reading and is enriched by it (and this prepares the way for mature preaching)
  4. It encourages various kinds of integration and diversities (priorities) in preaching.
    1. Genesis 39 – temptation, interpreting dreams, chapter begins and ends the same way, the ultimate good is not freedom from slavery but knowing and trusting God, because Joseph saved his fam the Messiah came.
  5. BT fosters inductive rigor in preaching biblical books and corpora.
    1. One of our problems in preaching is that we sometimes read our ST categories back into our bible reading (e.g. “call of God,” “sanctification”)
    2. Build up on sequential grounds certain themes (e.g. “rest,” “land,” “people,”
  6. BT not only keeps in mind the turning point but keeps an eye for the inner-canonical tendons/trajectories that tie all of Scripture together.

Notes from the Via Emmaus blog post on a similar lecture at a different venue:

1. Biblical Theology directly addresses massive biblical illiteracy now prevalent in many of our hearers.  Preachers who only preach small portions of Scripture, who take “six years to preach through Matthew,” do a disservice to their congregations and deprive them of large swathes of Scripture. BT preaching contends against biblical illiteracy.

2. Biblical Theology considers the major turning points in the Bible, not just the raw chronological story. Preaching that highlights the covenants, the exodus, the exile, the incarnation, the resurrection, and the cross help disciples of Christ understand his story and theirs.  This is not the same thing as mere bible story telling, like in Telling God’s Story (Vang and Carter, 2006), which simply retells the bible in survey fashion.  It is rather a forward-moving, eschatological narrative that has twists, turns, all pointing to Christ.

3. Biblical Theology enriches and encourages systematic Bible reading and is in turn enriched by those who faithfully read their Bible’s. More than just reading the Bible for an emotional pick-me-up, congregants who see redemptive storyline in Scripture will delight in reading the OT narratives, the minor prophets, and Levitical codes with greater anticipation and understanding.  They become more accessible when they are put in biblical-theological context.  To illustrate this point, Carson expounded Genesis 39 and the biblical theological ramifications of the Joseph narrative with Potiphar’s wife.  More than just an admonition to avoid sexual immorality, lust, and tempting situations (though it does affirm all of those); it shows how Joseph’s sexual purity preserved the people of Israel and advanced the kingdom of God.  Consider this quote: Humanly speaking, you and I are Christians today, saved by the blood of the lamb, because Joseph kept his zipper up!!!  This perspective is reinforced and elucidated by BT.

4. Biblical Theology demands inductive rigor in preaching Biblical books and corpora.  DAC argues that preachers must do more than systematically analyze biblical data.  In doing so, God’s progressive revelation is minimized, time and space are blurred.  Rather BT preachers must ask in every passage:  What time is it?   How does this passage fit in the biblical narrative?  On what antecedent revelation/theology is the author grounding?  And concerning biblical language, how does this particular author use his language?  Different authors at different times mean different things by their words, and so it is vital to understand the language in context.

5. Biblical Theology not only keeps historical-canonical-covenantal turning points in mind, but it also keeps inner-canonical tendons/connections tied together in Scripture, and these ineluctably point to Jesus Christ. Carson alluded to about twenty explicit themes that run through Scripture and move the storyline framework along.  Some of these he listed were: covenant, temple, sonship, marriage, to name a few.  He cited a profitable exercise of going to Revelation 21-22, listing all of the themes and images in the two chapters and then tracing them out throughout the rest of the Bible.  This is an assignment he gives incoming students at TEDS, and it is surely something that would be beneficial to any reader of the Scriptures, for Revelation 21-22 sum up all things in the Scriptures.  William Dumbrell’s book The End of the Beginning does this very well, as does GK Beale’s The Temple and the Church’s Mission.

6. Finally, Biblical Theology helps avoid anachronism in your preaching by developing biblically warranted inter-connections. 

7. There was a seventh point in there somewhere, but I missed it.  I encourage you to listen for yourself, pick out the seventh point, and see how God would have you apply biblical theology to your preaching.

A few other resources that DA Carson names to better grasp these issues are The Unfolding Mystery by Edmund Clowney, (I would add Preaching and Biblical Theology by Clowney), Graeme Goldworthy’s Trilogy, and Bryan Chapell’s Christ-Centered Preaching (cf. Him We Proclaim by Dennis Johnson and Preaching Christ from the Old Testament by Sidney Greidanus).

May we who preach the Bible, preach the whole counsel of God, and point all of our hearers to Jesus Christ through the inspired language of Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles.

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Six Sample Church Covenants

I just read of a consultation videos that is being advertised to help churches renew membership processes to revitalize their churches. I saw that most of the content being sold or advertised is online for free. So I wanted to post some of them here. One was sample church covenants. Here are 6 good ones you can use or modify.

Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington DC (Pastored by Mark Dever and others):

CHBC has worshiped together under a covenant, or statement on how we agree to live as a church, since our earliest days in 1878. The church covenant is equal parts promise, summary of expectations, ethical statement, and biblical standard. We summarize how we promise to live together in the covenant. It forms the ethics, or the moral principles, of our worldview and holds out a biblical standard by which we live. Our acceptance of this multifaceted document follows the practice of believers throughout the centuries who have pledged to God and one another to live out the gospel in community.

We use our covenant in two key ways today. We require all new members to sign it before joining the church. We also reaffirm our commitment to the covenant at all members meetings and before taking communion, when we stand as a body and recommit ourselves to it. By featuring the covenant in our life together, we strive to protect ourselves from individual and corporate sin. Of equal importance, we spur one another on to live in light of a greater covenant, one initiated by love, sealed by sacrifice, and kept for eternity by our Savior, Jesus Christ.

COVENANT

Having, as we trust, been brought by divine grace to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to give up ourselves to him, and having been baptized upon our profession of faith, in the name of the Father and of the Son and the Holy Spirit, we do now, relying on His gracious aid, solemnly and joyfully renew our covenant with each other.

We will work and pray for the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

We will walk together in brotherly love, as becomes the members of a Christian Church, exercise an affectionate care and watchfulness over each other and faithfully admonish and entreat one another as occasion may require.

We will not forsake the assembling of ourselves together, nor neglect to pray for ourselves and others.

We will endeavor to bring up such as may at any time be under our care, in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and by a pure and loving example to seek the salvation of our family and friends.

We will rejoice at each others’ happiness and endeavor with tenderness and sympathy to bear each other’s burdens and sorrows.

We will seek, by Divine aid, to live carefully in the world, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, and remembering that, as we have been voluntarily buried by baptism and raised again from the symbolic grave, so there is on us a special obligation now to lead a new and holy life.

We will work together for the continuance of a faithful evangelical ministry in this church, as we sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines. We will contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the Gospel through all nations.

We will, when we move from this place, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.

First Baptist Church, Durham NC (Pastored by Andy Davis and others):

Having been led as we believe by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and on the profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,

We do now in the presence of God and this assembly most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.

We engage, therefore, by the aid of the Holy Spirit to walk together in Christian love;

To strive for the advancement of this church in knowledge, holiness, and comfort;

To promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, doctrines, and discipline;

To give it sacred preeminence over all institutions of human origin;

To contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.

We also engage to maintain family and personal devotions; to religiously educate our  children; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances;

To walk circumspectly in the world; to be just in our dealings, faithful in our engagements, and exemplary in our deportment;

To avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger;

To use our influence to combat the abuse of drugs and alcohol and the spread of pornography and other practices which lead to moral and spiritual decay;

And to be zealous in our efforts to advance the kingdom of our Savior.

We further engage to watch over one another in brotherly love;

To remember one another in prayer; to aid one another in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and Christian courtesy in speech;

To be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior to secure it without delay.

We moreover engage that when we remove from this place we will as soon as possible unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.

The Church at Brook Hills, Birmingham, AL (Formerly pastored by David Platt and others):

As members of the Church at Brook Hills, we affirm this covenant with one another by God’s grace for our good and ultimately for God’s glory.

Having been brought by divine grace to repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and to surrender our lives to Him, and having been baptized as Christians in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we covenant together to glorify God by discipling all nations.

Together, we will draw near to God in worship. We will delight in the glory of God, depend on the presence of God, grow in the knowledge of God, and submit to the Word of God as the all‐sufficient authority in our lives and in His church.

Together we will hold fast to the hope we profess. We will regularly participate in communion as we solemnly and joyfully remember the past work of Christ on the cross, celebrate the present work of Christ at the Father’s right hand, and anticipate the future work of Christ in his return for his bride.

Together, we will stir one another up to love and good works.  We will meet with one another consistently, pray for one another regularly, and serve one another selflessly. We will share each other’s joys and bear each other’s burdens. We will listen carefully to one another, build one another up with our speech, and encourage one another with our example. We will humbly and gently confront one another and receive correction from one another in accordance with a New Testament understanding of church discipline and restoration. We will give cheerfully and generously to the the support of the church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel to all nations.

We will submit to the leadership of elders  who  have  been  entrusted  by  God to serve and care for this body by teaching the Word of Christ to us and modeling the character of Christ before us, and we will affirm deacons as leading servants in the church. If we move from this local body, we will as soon as possible unite with another local church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the principles of God’s Word.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all.

Amen.

Sovereign Grace Church of Lousiville (Pastored by CJ Mahaney and others):

Having been brought by God’s sovereign grace to repent and believe in the good news of Jesus Christ and his saving work, and having been baptized upon our profession of faith, we do now, relying on His grace, solemnly and joyfully affirm our covenant with each other.

We will pray and labor to be faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, devoted to the glory of God, resting in the gospel of his Son, and dependent upon the work of the Holy Spirit.
To that end,

We will not forsake assembling together, but will faithfully attend our corporate worship, treasuring our church’s weekly opportunity to sing, pray, and receive the whole counsel of God’s Word. We will defend and maintain a gospel-centered ministry by upholding and attending to biblical preaching, the administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline.

We will walk together in brotherly love, as becomes the members of a local church: we will pray for and serve one another, exercise an affectionate care and watchfulness over each other, and reject all opportunities to speak or hear gossip or slander. We will instead seek to encourage one another and build each other up in the faith.

We will rejoice with those who rejoice and endeavor with tenderness and sympathy to bear each other’s burdens and sorrows.

We will seek to proclaim and adorn the gospel of Christ before our family, friends, and neighbors and faithfully transfer the gospel to future generations.

We will contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of our local church, to the care of our members, and to the spread of the gospel locally and to all nations.

We will, if we move from this place, as soon as possible, unite with some other church where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant and the teaching of God’s Word.

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.

This was  taken from the Kaleo Church website (an older version and I can’t find the page anymore):

We promise to honor one another, be members of one another, live in harmony with one another, build one another up, be like-minded towards one another, accept one another, care for one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, be kind to one another, forgive one another, abound in love towards one another, comfort one another, encourage one another, stir one another up to love and good deeds, confess our sins to one another, be hospitable to one another, greet one another, fellowship with one another, submit to one another while not passing judgment on one another, not provoking one another, not envying one another, not hating one another, not slandering one another, and not bearing grudges against one another. 

We do all this because Christ has loved us in each of these ways and this frees our hearts to love one another as He has loved us (John 13:34).

I’d add others like:

  • Admonish one another (Col 3.16; Rom 15.14)
  • Pray for one another (James 5.16)
  • hold one another accountable(Matt 18.15-17; 1 Cor 5)
  • maintain unity with one another (Eph 4.3)
  • as we strive side by side (or, “together”) with one another for the faith of the gospel (Phil 1.27)
  • Speak the truth in love (Eph 4.15) – this implies upholding orthodoxy though certainly not limited to this
  • not neglecting to meet together (Heb 10.25)

So in the end it might go something like this:

We renew afresh our covenant together before our Lord Jesus Christ to be members of one another, honor one another, live in harmony with one another, maintain unity with one another, build one another up, be like-minded towards one another, accept one another, care for one another, serve one another, bear one another’s burdens, be kind to one another, forgive one another, abound in love towards one another, comfort one another, encourage one another, stir one another up to love and good works not neglecting to meet together, confess our sins to one another, pray for one another, admonish one another, hold one another accountable as a church, be hospitable to one another, greet one another, fellowship with one another, listen to one another, speak the truth to one another, submit to one another while not passing judgment on one another, not provoking one another, not envying one another, not hating one another, not slandering one another, and not bearing grudges against one another as we strive side by side with one another for the faith of the gospel. 

We do all this because Christ has loved and continues to love us in each of these ways and this frees our hearts to love one another as he has loved us.  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.

Hinson Church, Portland OR (Pastored by Michael Lawrence and others):

Having been led, as we believe, by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, and on profession of our faith, having been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and having accepted the Bible as our sole authority of faith and practice, we do now, in the presence of God, angels, and this assembly, most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ.

We promise by the aid of the Holy Spirit to forsake the paths of sin, and to walk in the ways of holiness all the days of our lives. With this view, we engaged to strive together for the advancement of this Church in knowledge, holiness, and comfort; to promote its prosperity and spirituality; to sustain its worship, ordinances, discipline, and doctrines; to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry, the expenses of the Church, the relief of the poor, and the spread of the gospel through all nations.

We also endeavor to maintain family and secret devotions; to educate our children in the Christian faith; to seek the salvation of our kindred and acquaintances; to walk circumspectly in the world, to be just in our dealings, to be faithful in our engagements, and to be exemplary in our deportment; to avoid all things having the appearance of evil and to abstain from those practices that may cause another person to stumble.

We further engage to walk together in Christian love and watchfulness, giving and receiving admonition with meekness and affection; to remember each other in prayer; and to aid each other in sickness and distress; to cultivate Christian sympathy in feeling and courtesy in speech; to be slow to take offense, but always ready for reconciliation and mindful of the rules of our Savior, and to secure it without delay. We moreover engage that when we remove from this place, we will as soon as possible unite with some other church, where we can carry out the spirit of this covenant, and the principles of God’s Word.

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