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And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty rushing wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.—Acts ii. 1-4.

ONE of the chief designs of the dispensation of God towards the Jews, and of the giving of the law to them by Moses, was, to be a type of the Christian church, and of the dispensation of the gospel by the Son of God; and therefore no wonder, if there be a great correspondence between them, and that the Divine Providence should so order the event of things, that the seasons of dispensing the great evangelical blessings should happen at the same times, when the great blessings of the law, which were the types of them, were dispensed and commemorated. Thus our Saviour, who was the Lamb of God, was slain and offered up at the same time that the passover was kept, and the paschal lamb was slain and offered up among the Jews; and the redemption of the world from the slavery of sin and Satan, is celebrated by Christians at the very same 378season of the year, when the deliverance of the Israelites from the Egyptian slavery was commemorated by them: and as at the time of Pentecost (which was fifty days after) the Jews were appointed to rejoice before the Lord, and to offer their first-fruits by way of grateful acknowledgment to God for the fruits of the earth, then newly gathered in; so did God likewise at the same time impart the first-fruits of the Holy Spirit to the apostles, who were to be the first and chief labourers in that spiritual harvest, to which they were appointed by the Lord of the harvest: and, which is yet more remark able, at the same season that the law was delivered to the Jews from Mount Sinai, and the first covenant established, namely, at the time of Pentecost, as is commonly supposed by the Jewish doctors, and as may probably be collected from the text; (Exod. xix. 1.) I say, at that very time the gospel, which contains the terms of the new covenant, began to be published from Mount Sion, in as wonderful, though not so terrible a manner, as the law was given from Mount Sinai. And thus it was fore told by the ancient prophets, (Isa. ii. 3. and Micah iv. 2.) that “out of Sion should go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

I shall briefly explain the words, and as I pass along make some short observations upon them, and then fix upon that which is mainly intended in them; viz. This first and most miraculous gift of the Holy Ghost, which was conferred upon the apostles when they were assembled together at Jerusalem upon the day of Pentecost.55   Preached on Whit-Sunday.

“When the day of Pentecost was fully come,” 379that is, when the fifty days after Easter were fulfilled, upon the fiftieth day, which was called the day of Pentecost, “they were all with one accord in one place.” “They were all;” that is, all the twelve apostles; for upon them it was that the gift of tongues was bestowed; because they were appointed to be the chief publishers of the gospel, having been eye-witnesses of our Saviour’s miracles, and particularly of his resurrection from the dead. There is no mention of any other in this chapter, but only of the twelve apostles: (ver. 14.) we find Peter and the eleven spoken of; and (ver. 37.) it is said, that “the multitude,” who were astonished at this miracle, “spake to Peter and the rest of the apostles.”

“They were all with one accord in one place.” Unity is an excellent qualification and disposition for the Holy Spirit of God and his gifts; for which reason, the peace and good agreement of Christians is called by St. Paul, “the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace.” When the apostles were “of one heart, and one mind,” then the Holy Spirit of God came down upon them in this wonderful manner.

(Ver. 2.) “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind.” As they were together “waiting for the promise of the Father,” all on the sudden there came a sound as of a strong gust of wind. This was a fit emblem of the Divine Spirit; for to this our Saviour had compared it, in his discourse to Nicodemus: (John iii. 8.) “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou nearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”


“As of a rushing mighty wind.” To signify to us, that the publication of the gospel was attended with the same Divine presence and power, that the giving of the law was; but not with the same circumstances of terror, which the apostle to the Hebrews describes, when he sets forth to us the difference between Mount Sinai and Mount Sion, that is, between the two dispensations of the law and the gospel. (Heb. xii. 18, 19.) Speaking of Mount Sinai, from which the law was given, “Ye are not come (says he) unto the mount, that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words;” that is, that terrible voice of God, wherein the ten words of the law were delivered; which voice then shook the earth, as the apostle tells us: (ver. 26.) “A voice so terrible, that they who heard it, earnestly begged that they might hear it no more.” These were all circumstances of great horror: but at the coming down of the Holy Ghost, here was no trumpet nor terrifying voice; no thunder, nor darkness, nor tempest; only the sound, as it were, of a strong gust of wind, as a sensible signification of a Divine presence and power.

“And it filled all the house where they were sit ting.” The whole house, to represent the world, which was to be filled with the sound of the gospel; according to that of the Psalmist, cited by St. Paul, (Rom. x. 18.) where, speaking of the general publication of the gospel, “their sound (says he) went out into all the earth, and their words unto the end of the world.”

“It filled all the house.” This is that which (ver. 5. of the former chapter,) our Saviour calls baptizing 381the apostles with the Holy Ghost, so that they who sat in the house were, as it were, immersed in the Holy Ghost, as they who were baptized with water were overwhelmed and covered all over with water, which is the proper notion of baptism.

(Ver. 3.) “And there appeared unto them cloven tongues, as it were of fire, and sat upon each of them.” “Cloven tongues,” to signify the diversity and distribution of them; this gift being imparted to every one of the apostles: for it is said, that these tongues “sat upon each of them.”

“Cloven tongues, as it were of fire,” to signify the penetrating virtue and efficacy of their preaching. And this is that which John the Baptist calls “baptizing with the Holy Ghost, and with fire,” meaning the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the apostles, in the form of fiery tongues; “divided,” to signify the diversity of them. At first, men were all of one language; and the confusion and division of tongues, was a curse and punishment upon them, and the cause of their dispersion through the world; but now, God by the gift of several tongues designed to gather mankind together, and to unite them in one religion.

“And it sat upon each of them.” These cloven fiery tongues sat upon each of the apostles, that is, remained visibly upon them for some time; to signify the permanency of this gift of tongues. It was not like several of the other miraculous gifts, which did not constantly reside upon them; for they had them not at all times, nor when they pleased, but as God was pleased to dispense and communicate them: but this gift of tongues was constant, because they had continual use of it; and it was common to all the apostles, because they were to be 382the publishers of the gospel, and the witnesses of our Lord’s resurrection, which was the greatest miracle whereby the gospel was to be confirmed.

(Ver. 4.) “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” “And began to speak with other tongues:” the Vulgar translation renders it, variis linguis, with divers tongues; that is, they spake several languages besides their own mother tongue; or, as it is expressed in our Saviour’s promise to the apostles, (Mark xvi. 17.) “with new tongues.” “These signs,” says our Lord before his ascension, “shall follow them that believe; they shall speak with new tongues;” that is, they should all on the sudden speak languages which they had never learned, nor had any knowledge of before.

I know not who was the first author of that conceit, that the miracle was not in the speakers, but in the hearers; that is, the apostles spake in their own mother tongue (the Syriac), and the hearers of several nations heard them every one in their own language; which indeed must be acknowledged to be as great a miracle, or greater, than if the apostles had spoken so many different languages: but this seems to be a very groundless and unreasonable conceit, and very contrary to this relation of this miraculous gift, and to all the circumstances of it. For the text expressly says, that they spake “with other tongues;” that is, in languages different from their mother tongue, in which they spake before, otherwise they could not be called other, or new tongues. And (1 Cor. xii. 28.) the apostle, among the several gifts which God hath bestowed upon the church, mentions diversity of tongues; which had not been true, if the apostles 383had all spoken in one language. And (ver. 30.) he makes a difference between the gift of speaking several languages, and interpreting things spoken in divers tongues. “Do all (says he) speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” But if what the apostles had spoken in one language, had been heard of those of several nations in their own language, there had been no need of interpretation. And, (chap. xiv. 2.) “He that speaketh in an unknown tongue, speaketh not unto men, but unto God; for n man heareth him;” that is, no man understandeth what he saith, God only knows it; whereas if they heard every one in their own language, they all under stood what was said. And, (ver. 13.) “Wherefore let him that speaketh in an unknown tongue, pray that he may interpret.” But what need of that, if every one heard what was spoken in his own tongue? and (ver. 16.) the apostle says, that “he that was unlearned, could not say Amen at giving of thanks in an unknown tongue;” because a he understood not what was said.” And, (ver. 27.) “If any man speak in an unknown tongue, let it be by two, or at most by three, and that by course, and let one interpret.” All which plainly contradicts that foolish conceit, that the miracle of the gift of tongues was not in the speakers, but the hearers.

That which seems to have given occasion to this error, was, that they could not understand how any man should at the same time speak divers languages: but there is no ground at all to suppose so; because it is not said, that any of the apostles did at the same time speak several languages, (which is impossible) but that the apostles spake several languages, so that the several nations then present heard some or other of the apostles speaking 384in their own language. So that, to trouble ourselves no farther about this idle conceit, the miracle was not, that every one of the apostles did speak several languages at the same time; but they all spake, on a sudden, languages which they had never learned before; so that the people of several nations, that were then present, did then hear some or other of the apostles speaking to them in their own language.

Having thus explained the several expressions and passages in the text,

I come now to speak to the main argument contained in them; viz. This miraculous gift which was conferred on the apostles, of speaking, all on the sudden, the languages of all nations, with whom they had occasion to converse, though they had never learned them before.

And in the handling of this argument, these following particulars will be fit to be considered, and inquired into by us:

First, The strangeness of this gift or miracle.

Secondly, The clear evidence of this miracle, that it was real, and that there was no manner of imposture or deceit in it, nor could there be any suspicion of it.

Thirdly, The wonderful effect of it immediately, and upon the spot, upon the very day, and in the place where it was first wrought.

Fourthly, The great necessity and usefulness of it.

Fifthly, The reason why it was the first of all the miraculous gifts, and so visibly conferred upon the apostles, before any of the rest.

Sixthly, and lastly, I shall inquire, whether there be any necessity now, and consequently any possibility, 385of the renewing this miracle, in order to the conversion of the infidel world, and those many and great nations in the remoter parts of the world, which do still continue strangers and enemies to the Christian religion.

First, The strangeness of this gift or miracle. It was of that nature, that the like was never known in the world, neither before nor since the first ages of Christianity, upon any occasion whatsoever; nor can we well imagine any other sort of miracle that could probably affect men more, and strike them with greater wonder and admiration, and have been a more sensible demonstration of a Divine power and presence accompanying the apostles, than to see and hear them all on the sudden perfectly to speak so many languages, which they had never learned before.

Especially, if all the circumstances of the thing be duly weighed and considered; that they who pretended to be endowed with this gift, were not strangers newly arrived and come to Jerusalem, who before they came thither might possibly, by great study and pains, have attained to the knowledge and skill of several languages (each of them, suppose, two languages apiece), and have craftily combined together to impose upon the world, by the pretence and ostentation of such a miracle: but these persons were known to all that dwelt in Jerusalem, and had for a long time been taken notice of, as the disciples and followers of Jesus, who was lately crucified among them; their education was known, and the meanness of their condition, that they were simple and illiterate persons, who never had the advantage or opportunity of attaining to this skill in an ordinary way; and, therefore, 386it must be concluded to have been an extraordinary and supernatural gift.

Besides that, this miracle was very publicly wrought, and the noise of it in a few hours drew together the strangers of several nations, who, being become proselytes of the Jewish religion, dwelt at Jerusalem; these all coming together, upon the noise and fame of this miracle, found it to be true; and, as appears from the history, were so well satisfied of the reality of it, that a very great number, upon the occasion of it, and upon that very day, became proselytes to the Christian religion, and joined themselves to the apostles and their followers (who were then but few in number), and were presently admitted into the Christian church by baptism, the usual ceremony of admitting proselytes among the Jews. This was a present and great effect, and is a great evidence and confirmation of the truth and reality of the thing: but this I shall have occasion to speak more fully to, when I come to the fifth particular which I proposed.

I add farther, that our Saviour seems to have reckoned this as one of the greatest of miracles, and therefore to have reserved it, for an instance and demonstration of the glorious power which he was invested withal, after his ascension into heaven, as may very probably be collected from that declaration and promise which he made to his apostles, a little before his departure from them: (John xiv. 12.) “Verily, verily, I say unto yon, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father;” that is, in order to the sending of the Holy Ghost, “to endow them with power from on high,” to qualify them for the publishing 387of the gospel, which they were forbidden to enter upon till this promise was made good to them. But what were these greater works, which he here promiseth to enable them to do, after he was gone to his Father? For he expressly promiseth, that they shall not only do the works which he had done, but greater works than those: and what could these be? Our Saviour had wrought many and great miracles almost in all kinds imaginable; he had cast out devils, and healed all sorts of infirmities and diseases; he had changed nature, by turning water into wine, and had stopped the course of it, by stilling the winds and the sea by his word; and he had raised the dead: and now what work could that be which was greater than any of these? Even that which I am speaking of, the miraculous power of speaking all languages, without learning them; a thing never heard of in the world before. And this was the first sensible effect of the coming of the Holy Ghost upon them, the first miraculous power with which he endowed his apostles, after he was ascended into heaven, and gone to his Father; an evident testimony of the glory and power which he was in vested withal, after he was taken up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God, to signify both the honour and power which was conferred upon him, in that he enabled his apostles, when he was absent from them, to do that which, whilst he was present with them, he had never enabled them to do, nor ever did himself; all which tends to advance this miracle, and to shew the greatness and strangeness of it above any other. And unless we fix it upon this miracle, it will be hard, if not impossible, to give a good account of the accomplishing 388of that solemn promise of our Saviour to his disciples, after he should be gone to his Father; that is, after his ascension into heaven; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also, and greater works than these shall he do, because I go unto my Father.” Now what miraculous work can be instanced in, that was done by the apostles, and was greater than any our Saviour did, when he was upon earth; but this only of speaking all languages on the sudden, without ever having learned them? Which consideration alone does confirm me past all doubt, that our Saviour in this promise meant the miraculous gift of tongues, which was the first gift that was conferred upon them, after he was ascended into heaven, and gone to his Father. I proceed,

Secondly, To consider the clear evidence of this miracle, that it was real, and that there could be no suspicion of any manner of imposture and deceit in it.

It was publicly wrought before many witnesses, and those the most competent of all other, because they were highly prejudiced against the apostles, and great enemies to them, as being the disciples of him whom they had so lately crucified as an impostor. They gave clear proof of this miraculous power in the presence of great multitudes of several nations, who heard them every one speaking to them in their own language: and besides the present demonstration of this miraculous gift, to those of several nations that dwelt at Jerusalem, they gave evidence of it in all places and nations whither they went preaching the gospel; so that this miracle accompanied and continued with them, till the gospel was made known to a great part of the then 389known world, and lasted for a whole age, and till there was no farther need and use of it.

But it may be said, that though this was sufficiently evident to them that dwelt at Jerusalem, who knew the apostles, and the circumstances of their education; yet it was not so credible to others, who lived remote from Jerusalem, and neither knew the apostles, nor the manner of their education, nor were witnesses of the miraculous rise and beginning of this gift of tongues. These could only hear them speak in their language; but whether their knowledge of this language had been acquired by study, or was supernatural and infused, for this they had only common fame, and the apostles own word, which may seem to have been but a slender evidence for a thing so strange. And so it must be acknowledged to be, if the apostles affirmation, that this gift was supernaturally conferred upon them, had not been otherwise countenanced and supported; as it was in a very extraordinary and remarkable manner, by their being endowed with a power to work other miracles of all kinds, which they did every where, and very frequently, upon all occasions. And this was sufficient to give credit to what they affirmed, concerning the supernatural gift of tongues: for when they saw them work other miracles of all sorts, they had no reason to doubt of the truth and reality of this miraculous gift of tongues, which was abundantly confirmed by the other miraculous powers with which they were endowed. So that the gospel, wherever it came, carried its own evidence along with it, and was confirmed by the very manner of its conveyance and delivery; and well might men entertain it as a Divine doctrine, when the very manner and 390means, whereby it was conveyed to the world, was so strange and astonishing a miracle, as was never wrought in the world before, upon any occasion whatsoever. And this will yet be farther evident, if we consider, in the

Third place, The wonderful effect which this miracle immediately had upon the spot, and on the very day when it first appeared.

It had so glaring an evidence, and carried such conviction in it, that the doctrine which they who were endowed with miraculous gifts did preach, was immediately received and entertained by a very great number of the hearers; who, upon the conviction of this great miracle, became proselytes to this new religion, and were solemnly admitted to the profession of it by baptism; as we read, ver. 41. of this chapter; where, after St. Peter had made an end of his sermon to the people upon this occasion, it is said, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Here was a mighty effect, three thousand converted at one sermon, being convinced by the evidence of this miracle. And it is a very immediate effect; for it is said, that “the same day three thousand were added to the church.” Here was an effect proportionable to the greatness and strangeness of its cause; a mighty victory gained over the prejudices of men, and the powers of darkness, by the light and conviction of this miracle, which our Saviour seems to have kept in reserve for this great occasion, when his gospel and religion was to be first published, and to make its solemn entrance into the world. Here was a large portion of first-fruits, and a great earnest of that spiritual harvest, 391which the apostles had began to reap; of which the first-fruits among the Jews were a type: for their harvest also was at this very season of the year; as I noted before.

Fourthly, We will consider the great usefulness of this miraculous gift, for the more easy and speedy conveyance of the doctrine of Christianity, and the diffusing and spreading the knowledge of it in the world; and this, if we consider it, not as a miracle, but only as a means so very convenient to this purpose, that, by the advantage of it, the gospel made a greater progress in the space of a few years, than in human probability could have been made without it in many ages: and it was spread farther in thirty years, than could in reason have been expected in fifteen hundred, by natural and ordinary means: “So mightily grew the word of God, and prevailed;” being carried on in so powerful and supernatural a manner.

Fifthly, We will consider, why this was the first miraculous gift conferred upon the apostles more visibly, and before any of the rest. The other miraculous powers were only visible in their effects; but this was visible, not only in the effects of it, but likewise in the cause and the manner of its being conferred: “for the Holy Spirit rested upon them, in the form of fiery cloven tongues;” to signify, not only the diversity of languages which they should be enabled to speak, but the quick and piercing efficacy of their speech. The reason of all which seems to be, because this was the greatest of all miracles, and therefore fit to be first: for, as I shewed before, this, in the judgment of our Saviour, (who best understood the different degrees of miracles) was greater than any of those which he 392himself in his life-time had wrought; and, likewise, because this miracle was of greater use than any of the rest, and more necessary to the effectual discharge of their apostolical office, and to the easy success and more speedy effect of it. For by this miraculous gift more especially, the apostles were, as it were, consecrated to their office, and made capable to discharge it with ease and effect; their office being to publish the doctrine of the gospel to the world, and to be witnesses of our Saviour’s resurrection from the dead, which was to be the great confirmation of his doctrine; neither of which they could, with any probability of effect and success, have done without this miraculous gift: for what slow progress must they have made, and how little could they have advanced in this work, had they either done all by interpreters, or been put to have learned the languages of the several nations, to which they had been to preach, before they could have published this doctrine among them?

The Jews, who were very zealous of their religion, (which was likewise from God, and was attested by miracles) upon occasion of several calamities which befel them, and carried them into captivity, were dispersed in several nations; and yet how slowly, for want of this gift, did they gain proselytes to their religion? and how few did they convert to it in the space of four or five hundred years? by which we may judge how little Christianity would have gained upon the world, had it not been countenanced and assisted from heaven in this miraculous manner. I come now to the

Sixth and last thing which I proposed to inquire into; namely, Whether there be any necessity now, and, consequently, probability, of the renewing of 393this miracle, in order to the conversion of infidels, and the gaining over of those many and great nations in the remoter parts of the world, who are still strangers and enemies to the Christian religion.

That which would induce a man to hope well in this case, is, that without some such miraculous gift there is little or no probability of the conversion of infidel nations: unless God should be pleased, by some unexpected means, to bring over to Christianity some powerful prince of great reputation for his wisdom and virtue; who, by the influence of his example, and by his favour and countenance, might give advantages to the planting of it among his subjects. And yet, considering the inveterate and violent prejudices of men against a new religion, such an attempt would, in all human probability, be more likely to end in the ruin of the prince, and the overturning of his government, than in the establishing of a new religion. Of which kind there have been several instances very remarkable in Japan and Æthiopia, and perhaps in places and times nearer to us, and within our own memory.

But if any such thing should be attempted by private persons, the undertaking would meet with such insuperable obstacles, not only from the prejudices and interests of men, but from the great difficulty of gaining languages so different from our own, that it must in all likelihood have a very slow progress, and at last fall to the ground, for want of proper and effectual means to carry it on. For though the morality of the Christian religion be admirable, and very apt to recommend itself to the unbiassed and impartial reason of mankind (if any such thing were any where to be found), yet,66   See Sermon cxcii. p. 308. of this volume. the 394death of the Son of God is such a stumbling-block, as is very hard for human reason to get over. Of which the Jesuits in China were so sensible, that, according to their usual sincerity, they thought best to conceal that most essential part of the Christian doctrine which relates to the death and sufferings of our Saviour. So I am sure St. Paul took it to be, when he tells the Corinthians, that “he determined to know nothing among them, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” This, it seems, he looked upon as the most material and valuable part of the Christian religion, and of greatest consequence to be known by us. But the Jesuits, it seems, thought otherwise, and therefore concealed it from their converts: for which most shameful and unchristian practice, several of them were very lately under prosecution at Rome.

Besides all this,77   See the beforementioned Discourse. the matters of fact upon which the truth of Christianity does necessarily depend, as the birth, and life, and miracles, and death, and resurrection of our blessed Saviour, and his visible ascension into heaven: I say, these matters of fact, though we have a most credible history and relation of them brought down to us, do not carry so strong and sensible a conviction in them, to those who never heard of them before, as to be able to conquer and bear down a violent prejudice: nor is it in reason to be expected, that these things should easily be admitted by those, who are utter strangers to our history of former times, and consequently not fit to judge of what value they are.

I speak not this to discourage any from using their best endeavours to propagate our religion 395among infidels, where the providence of God opens a door, and gives any opportunity for it. Among the many bad things that have been clone in the church of Rome, there is one thing very much to their honour—that they have been at very great charge and pains in their missions for the conversion of the infidel nations, especially in the eastern parts of the world, to that which they account the true Christian religion. And if the matter had been as honestly managed, as I hope it was piously intended, and their charity and zeal had been equally warm for the conversion of the northern infidels, where there is nothing to be met with but frost and cold, as it hath been for the conversion of those parts of the world where gold and spices abound, it had deserved great praise, notwithstanding their mistakes in religion, and the great mixture of errors and corruptions in it.

And it is no small reproach to the protestant religion, that there hath not appeared an equal zeal among us for this purpose: and that to our un wearied endeavours to promote the interest of trade in foreign parts, there hath not been joined a like zeal and industry for the propagating of the Christian religion; which might surely be attempted, with more than ordinary advantage, in those places where we have so free a commerce.

It is not good for men to be confident, where they are not certain; but88   See the forecited Discourse. it seems to me not impossible, if the conversion of infidels to Christianity were sincerely and vigorously attempted by men of honest minds, who would make it their business to instruct those who are strangers to our religion in the pure 396doctrine of Christianity, free from all human mixtures and corruptions: it seems to me, in this case, not at all improbable, that God would extraordinarily countenance such an attempt, by all fitting assistance, as he did the first publication of the gospel: for as the wisdom of God is not wont to do that which is superfluous, so neither is it wanting in that which is necessary. And from what hath been said upon this argument, the necessity seems to be much the same that it was at first.

I would not be mistaken in what I have said about this matter; I do not deliver it as positive, but only as probable, divinity; no-wise contrary to Scripture, and very agreeable to reason.

Thus much may suffice to have spoken concerning this miraculous gift of tongues, conferred upon the apostles at the time of Pentecost.

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