The backslider in heart will have the fill of his own ways, but a good man will be rewarded for his.
I. THE ELEMENT OF LONELINESS IN HUMAN LIFE. "The heart knoweth its own bitterness," etc. In one aspect our life path is thronged. It is becoming more and more difficult to be alone. Hours that were once sacred to solitude are now invaded by society. And yet it remains true that "in the central depths of our nature we are alone." There is a point at which, as he goes inward, our nearest neighbour, our most intimate friend, must stop; there is a sanctuary of the soul into which no foot intrudes. It is there where we make our ultimate decision for good or evil; it is there where we experience our truest joys and our profoundest griefs; it is there where we live our truest life. We may so crowd our life with duties and with pleasures that we may reduce to its smallest radius this innermost circle; but some time must we spend there, and the great decisive experiences must we there go through. There we taste our very sweetest satisfactions, and there we bear our very heaviest burdens. And no one but the Father of spirits can enter into that secret place of the soul. So true is it that
"Not e'en the dearest heart, and nearest to our own, Knows half the reasons why we smile or sigh." It is well for us to remember that there is more, both of happiness and of sorrow, than we can see; well, that we may not be overburdened with the weight of the manifold and multiplied evils we are facing; well, that we may realize how strong is the reason that, when our cup of prosperity is full, we may have "the heart at leisure from itself, to soothe and sympathize" with those who, beneath a smiling countenance, may carry a very heavy heart. For we have to consider - II. THE SUPERFICIAL ELEMENT IN MUCH HUMAN GLADNESS. "Even in laughter," etc. A man may smile and smile, and be most melancholy. To wear a smile upon our countenance, or to conclude our sentences with laughter, is often only a mere trick of style, a mere habit of life, cultivated with little difficulty. A true smile, an honest, laugh, that comes not from the lips or from the lungs, but from the heart, is a very acceptable and a very admirable thing. But a false smile and a forced laugh bespeak a double-minded soul and a doubtful character. Surely the angels of God weep almost, as much over the laughter as over the tears of mankind. For beneath its sound they may hear all too much that is hollow and unreal, and not a little that is vain and guilty. But, on the other hand, to smile with the glad and to laugh with the merry is a sympathetic grace not to be despised (Romans 12:15, first clause). III. THE ISSUE OF FALSE SATISFACTIONS. "The end of that mirth is heaviness." How often is heaviness the end of mirth! All enjoyment that does not carry with it the approval of the conscience, all that is disregardful of the Divine Law, all that is a violation of the laws of our physical or our spiritual nature, must end and does end, sooner or later, in heaviness - in depression of spirit, in decline of power. It is a sorry thing for a man to accustom himself to momentary mirth, to present pleasure at the expense of future joy, of well being in later years. LESSONS. 1. Let the necessary solitariness of life lead us to choose the very best friendships we can form; that we may have those who can go far and often with us into the recesses of our spirit, and accompany us, as far as man can, in the larger and deeper experiences of our life. 2. Let the superficiality of much happiness lead us to inquire of ourselves whether we have planted in our soul the deeper roots of joy; those which will survive every test and trial of life, and which will be in us when we have left time and sense altogether behind us. 3. Let the perilous nature of some gratifications impose on us the duty of a wise watchfulness; that we may banish forever from heart and life all injurious delights which "war against the soul," and rob us of our true heritage here and in the heavenly country. - C.
II. THE SUPERFICIAL ELEMENT IN MUCH HUMAN GLADNESS. "Even in laughter," etc. A man may smile and smile, and be most melancholy. To wear a smile upon our countenance, or to conclude our sentences with laughter, is often only a mere trick of style, a mere habit of life, cultivated with little difficulty. A true smile, an honest, laugh, that comes not from the lips or from the lungs, but from the heart, is a very acceptable and a very admirable thing. But a false smile and a forced laugh bespeak a double-minded soul and a doubtful character. Surely the angels of God weep almost, as much over the laughter as over the tears of mankind. For beneath its sound they may hear all too much that is hollow and unreal, and not a little that is vain and guilty. But, on the other hand, to smile with the glad and to laugh with the merry is a sympathetic grace not to be despised (Romans 12:15, first clause).
III. THE ISSUE OF FALSE SATISFACTIONS. "The end of that mirth is heaviness." How often is heaviness the end of mirth! All enjoyment that does not carry with it the approval of the conscience, all that is disregardful of the Divine Law, all that is a violation of the laws of our physical or our spiritual nature, must end and does end, sooner or later, in heaviness - in depression of spirit, in decline of power. It is a sorry thing for a man to accustom himself to momentary mirth, to present pleasure at the expense of future joy, of well being in later years.
1. Let the necessary solitariness of life lead us to choose the very best friendships we can form; that we may have those who can go far and often with us into the recesses of our spirit, and accompany us, as far as man can, in the larger and deeper experiences of our life.
2. Let the superficiality of much happiness lead us to inquire of ourselves whether we have planted in our soul the deeper roots of joy; those which will survive every test and trial of life, and which will be in us when we have left time and sense altogether behind us.
3. Let the perilous nature of some gratifications impose on us the duty of a wise watchfulness; that we may banish forever from heart and life all injurious delights which "war against the soul," and rob us of our true heritage here and in the heavenly country. - C.
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways.I. THE GENERAL NATURE, SYMPTOMS, AND PROGRESS OF BACKSLIDING. The idea of backsliding is that of gradually receding from an object full in view. It is not the turning back as in the case of those who forsook the Saviour, it is rather like those who, moving against the stream, rest upon their oars. The backslider is one who has had some views and some experience, whether real or supposed, of true religion: there may even have been some enjoyment in the things of religion; but after some progress there is a gradual declension, a loss of taste and enjoyment, a decline in ardour and zeal. Particular symptoms of backsliding may be seen —
1. In the manner in which the secret duties of religion are attended to.
2. In attendance at public worship.
3. In the conduct, temper, and conversation. The progress of backsliding is from bad to worse. There is a gradual relinquishment of principle, an increasing laxity of practice, and an abuse of Christian privileges into an excuse for sin.
II. THE AWFUL CONSEQUENCES OF BACKSLIDING. "Shall be filled with his own ways." View the backslider. He has lost his delight, his enjoyment in religion. It is now an irksome task. He has gone down on the world's ground; does he find comfort there? No, he is still dissatisfied, still perplexed. He becomes impatient, irritable; a burden to himself, a burden to others. How tremendously will the text be found true when the finally impenitent is in that place where hope never comes!
(T. Webster, B.D.)
I. DESCRIBE WHAT BACKSLIDING IN HEART IS. To some the experience which we call "conversion " is more consciously definite than to others. Recall the experience. If the love then felt has not continued, there is backsliding in heart. The experience is compatible with great zeal and activity, with the maintenance of sound discipline, and with decided orthodoxy. The backslider in heart is thus described in the Word of God: he has lost his first love; he is lukewarm in spirit; mixed up with the world; double-minded and faint-hearted.
II. SOME OF THE THINGS THAT CONDUCE TO BACKSLIDING OF HEART.
1. Neglect of the Word of God. Most, if not all, such backsliding may be traced to this neglect.
2. Neglect of private prayer.
3. Suffering sin to remain unconfessed.
4. Want of Christian activity.
5. Not making public profession of our love to Christ.
III. HOW TO DEAL WITH THE BACKSLIDER IN HEART. "He is filled with his own ways." It is not easy to awaken his interest. It is always difficult to reach his conscience. Argument does not succeed. The only thing to do is to bring them back to their first experience. They must come to Jesus afresh.
(W. P. Lockhart.)
The Christian Magazine.I. Is it, then, inquired, IN WHAT DOES THIS BACKSLIDING CONSIST?
1. Let it be remarked, that it may be dated from becoming stationary in religious attainments. If the believer be making no progress in his course, nor attaining to greater proficiency in Christian experience, there exists some radical and internal defect. Already in heart he is deviating from God. Is he not growing in knowledge? Is his relish for Divine objects not becoming stronger? Does he experience no increasing keenness of appetite for spiritual provision? He must then be denominated a backslider, as the deficiency of requisite augmentation in these respects manifests that the present state of his heart is not altogether right with God.
2. Again, it consists in the real decline of those holy dispositions implanted in the soul by the Holy Spirit. The highest state of backsliding into which the genuine believer may fall is the indulgence in any flagrant or atrocious sin. Witness the egregious faults of Noah and Lot, of David and Peter.
II. Let us now attend TO THE CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS OF THIS SPIRITUAL DISEASE.
1. Let it be recollected in general, that the primary cause of this grievous disorder is the corruption, depravity, and deceitfulness of the human heart. From this contaminated source all deviation from God originates.
2. One particular cause and symptom of backsliding is the intermission of religious duties, the appointed means of increase. It is well known that exercise and employment are necessary to preserve and promote health. Similar is the case with the Christian. Religious exercises and engagements are indispensably requisite for the advancement of gracious habits. The neglect of these will invariably induce declension. Let it suffice to mention two secret duties, inattention to which is particularly productive of declension. These are prayer and self-examination. The former is absolutely requisite for supporting the vital principle of grace, in a lively and prosperous condition. According to the comparisons of some worthy old divines, it is to the soul what the lungs are to the body. The other closet-duty specified as so needful for the prosperity of the soul is self-examination. "They," says a certain writer, "who in a crazy vessel navigate a sea wherein are shoals and currents innumerable, if they would keep their course or reach their port in safety, must carefully repair the smallest injuries, often throw out their line, and take their observations. In the voyage of life, also, the Christian who would not make shipwreck of his faith, while he is habitually watchful and provident, must make it his express business to look into his state, and ascertain his progress." Did we observe an extensive trader entirely neglect his books, and extremely averse to have them examined, a considerable suspicion and strong presumption would be instantly excited, that according to the vulgar phrase, he is going back in the world.
(The Christian Magazine.)
Evangelist.The bell-buoy must ring out over the rock all the time because the rock is there all the time. The reason the Bible warns so much about backsliding is because we are always in danger of backsliding. A disease may be eating our life away; our ship in the fog may be drifting upon a rocky coast. We are only in the greater danger if not aware of it. Backsliding begins unexpectedly: like a dangerous disease, it steals into our system so secretly that the utmost vigilance is necessary lest we be taken unawares.
I. Let us know, first, THAT BACKSLIDING BEGINS IN THE HEART. The leaves of a fruit-tree begin to fade, curl up, and wither; no fulness of life, no fruit. You suspect a worm — something gnawing at the seat of life — the heart. Men fall as trees do — after gradual decay at the heart (Proverbs 4:23; Hosea 10:2).
II. Well to remember, also, THAT A BACKSLIDER IN HEART IS NOT ALWAYS A BACKSLIDER IN LIFE. Indeed, he is often a zealous worker in external things; shows honest pride in all Church success. Also keeps up the forms of personal and public Christian duty faithfully, etc. But the form without the power (2 Timothy 3:5). Rich — poor (Revelation 3:17).
III. Note, also, SOME OF THE SIGNS OR INDICATIONS OF HAVING BACKSLIDDEN.
1. Loss of relish for private devotions. He may keep them up, but does not enjoy them as formerly (John 15:9).
2. Loss of interest in God's Word. He may continue to read, but not to love as before (Psalm 119:11, 97).
4. Loss of zeal in spiritual work. He does no soul-winning work (2 Timothy 4:2).
IV. Again, consider WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CAUSES OF BACKSLIDING.
1. Getting off guard. Unwatched avenues of approach (Mark 14:38).
2. Love of the world. When the world is in, Christ is out (1 John 2:15).
3. The habitual neglect of a single known duty (Jonah 1:1-3).
4. The habitual indulgence of a single known sin. Compromising; sparing the little one, etc. (2 Samuel 12:7).
V. Lastly, bear in mind SOME OF THE RESULTS OF BACKSLIDING IN HEART. "Shall be filled with his own ways." Not God's ways for His followers.
3. Ways of alienation. Forsaking the Saviour and His service (Malachi 3:13-15).
4. Ways of despair. Saddest human condition (1 Samuel 28:6, 15). Are you conscious of having backslidden even the least?
Christian Age.? — The heart is obedient to some law of heaven; the waters fail to flow by the attraction of sun and moon. In some parts of the globe the sea is gradually gaining on the land; in others it is gradually receding and leaving the land dry and bare. Are the full and cleansing waters of eternal life gaining on our coasts or no?
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
A good man shall be satisfied from himself
I. A GOOD MAN. Goodness is an internal quality. The good man is whole within, sound within. Hence his satisfaction; all health is within. Piety has its own internal resources and powers. There is a pretty story told of a king, Shah Abbas, who in his travels met with a shepherd. He found him to be so wise that he elevated him to great power: he became a great statesman. But it was discovered, many years after, that he frequently went to a lonely house, of which he kept the key; there it was supposed he kept his treasure; nay, it was supposed that there he hatched schemes against his royal master; thither, it was thought, traitors might resort. The whispering courtiers persuaded the king to break open the door, in order that all the villainy may be laid bare, and there was found an empty room, save that his shepherd's wallet and staff, and crook, and old coat were there. "Hither," said he, "I come, in order that if I ever am tempted to think more highly of myself than I ought to think, I may be rebuked by remembering my origin, and what my rise has done for me." Contentment is containment; the idea in it is that of having learned the lesson of self-sufficing and self-sustaining. Contentment is a sense of possession; a sense of satisfied want.
II. A MAN SATISFIED. The lives of most men are passed in fretfulness. To fret is to fray out; fretfulness wears life threadbare. Contentment is the science of thankfulness. The causes of discontent are idleness, living to no purpose. It is only in self-occupation that we have self-possession.
III. THE SOURCE OF THE SATISFACTION. "From himself."
1. The holy man is satisfied with the object and foundation of his faith.
2. In the evidence of his religion.
3. In the ordinances of the sanctuary.
4. In the law of life.
5. In the apportionment and destiny of the world.There may be four replies to the question, Are you satisfied?(1) I am. Not with myself, but from myself. I find my happiness within.(2) I am not. Religion is to me not rest, but unrest; it is described to me now principally by unsatisfied, appetites.(3) I try to persuade myself that I am, but I am not; it is all so fading, so fleeting, could be satisfied, could we continue here.(4) I am. Extremes meet — I am. I see no reason for anxiety, and my business and my pleasures, they suffice for me. But what you call satisfaction I call death. There is not one ray of happiness, properly, from yourselves; all is borrowed, and all is illusion. If you do not find the true contentment on the earth, you will find it nowhere.
(E. Paxton Hood.)
1. That everything be done for the highest good of mankind generally, or of other men, not for self.
2. That it be done in the best, most perfect manner possible to the doer.
3. That in doing it, we recognise that universal design of a Father's love under which the well-being of any creature, and of the whole universe, is possible. He whose life embodies these principles is a good man. Good and bad men are not born such, nor made such by external power. They become such freely. How universal is the application of this principle I Every single thing that a man does involves either the use or abuse of some power that he possesses. The great good of man is ever inward, intellectual, spiritual. The main element of power will be, that the good man is seeking to reach some ideal of life, the source of his inspiration, and the object of his most ambitious hopes.
(S. Fager, B.A.)
(W. Sparrow, D.D.)
1. The satisfaction of the good man arises from the circumstance that he is regulated in his character and conduct by a fixed and stable thing — by principle. The question with him is, What is duty? What is due to God? He does not live by impulse; he is not moved by passion; he is not ruled by circumstances; he does not act to secure any temporary object. These things would make any man miserable, if his satisfaction were to arise from them. In the midst of his activity the good man's satisfaction arises from himself — from the consciousness that he acts upon principle and in the sight of God.
2. The sentiment may be illustrated by the contrast which is often exhibited between the good man and the wicked, when the latter is called upon to eat the fruit of his own ways. We frequently find that a man has brought himself by his folly and sin — by extravagance, imprudence, and passion — into a condition of perfect thraldom, and perhaps of peril, from which it is impossible to liberate himself. The man has brought such wretchedness into his heart, such poverty and distress upon his family, is so tied and bound by the consequences of his own conduct, that he has no power to help himself, and if relieved at all, it must be by the interference of others, and at the expense of his own character. Now, in a ease like that, the man so relieved is satisfied; but he is not "satisfied from himself." The good man, on the contrary, is not only preserved from such pain and wretchedness, but is placed in circumstances, the result of a wise and holy course of conduct, as to be able to help others.
3. The satisfaction of a good man arises from his being preserved from the sting and reproach of an evil conscience. This is somewhat of a negative expression, but it is a great and positive blessing. It is something a man has not — that is, he has not a disturbed, pained, and lacerated conscience.
4. Consider also the positive and increasing pleasure, the growing delight, of the good man's soul. It is not wrong for a man to reflect with grateful complacency upon actions that are good. A man who has lived a life of active goodness, and can reflect on a long series of deeds that will bear reflection, has a source of essentially high, and pure, and profound satisfaction within him.Lessons from this theme:
1. The subject, properly understood, is in exact harmony with evangelical truth.
2. It is important to examine our condition, and the relationship we sustain to God and goodness.
3. If by God's grace men have been brought into a state of harmony with God and all that is good, and if their life, inward and outward, is in such harmony that it is ministering, as it were, to their souls a secret blessed satisfaction, they should be very careful not to put the harp out of tune. Good men, Christian men, by giving way to temptation, by committing sin, have interfered with the harmonious movements of their life, and got out of health.
4. Learn to have a noble and manly view of life. Live for duty, not for pleasure; for principle, not for expediency; for the approbation of God, not for the praise of men. Let us think not about immediate and temporal, but ultimate and external results.
(T. Binney.)John 4:14): — Why put these clauses together? Surely you will say, "To illustrate a truth by way of contrast": for does the one not point to a man who is satisfied from the fountain of a human morality, while the other views an indwelling Christ as the spring of ceaseless satisfaction . The words of Christ are an exegesis of Solomon's words. Both proclaim the self-sufficiency of the spiritual life. Our subject is the self-sufficient life.
I. IT ARISES FROM ITS INWARDNESS. Solomon says a good man is satisfied from "himself"; Christ that the water He gives is "in him." But what is the living water which Christ gives? Christ tells us it is eternal life. The fountain itself is Jesus "glorified in the heart by the Holy Ghost." Note the inwardness of the "Well" — "from himself" says Solomon, "in him" says Christ. But where? In what part of man does Christ dwell? At the moment of regeneration Christ enters the deepest being of man — enters that which underlies all faculties — changes it; makes it His Holy of Holies, and from it works through the whole range of man's nature. Christ dwells in man — in that mysterious something which transcends consciousness which thinks, loves, imagines, wills. This seat of Christ in the regenerate, underneath the faculties of the man, explains how he possesses ceaseless happiness, undisturbed peace, unbroken tranquillities.
II. IT ARISES FROM ITS SELF-ACTIVITY. Look at the "Well." This is Christ Himself, in whom dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily — i.e., the unlimited attributes and life of the Godhead — all grace, all glory, all power. This Divine Well is not like the pool of Bethesda, whose stagnant waters had to be stirred by an angel's hand before they could live with virtue and healing power. The fulness of Jesus Christ in a man is a living fulness. It is eternally alive. The water springs up. This suggests two ideas.
1. It brings this life before us not as mere water that springs up, but as life, a living thing, which, like all other kinds of life, takes to itself an organism, and builds itself up by the law of evolution and development, until it reaches the maturity of its being.
2. Note the goal of its movement, — the point toward which it unfolds itself — springs up, not to the world, but up into everlasting life. Still the water, its satisfying element, is independent of the world. All along it has been so. Christ, the fountain, is eternally active. The water springs up in itself, and its final point is eternal life. We must not, however, suppose with some that this life becomes eternal, as if at first it was mortal, might die; but at some point became eternal. No. It is eternal in its germ, eternal in its initial developments. The idea of our text is quite different. It is a life which, not having its source on earth, obeys a law of nature, and seeks its original source in heaven. Man, originally formed in the image of God, seeks reunion with Him.
III. IT ARISES FROM ITS POWER TO SATISFY MAN. This is a fact of life — felt according to the spirituality of the man, the depth and riches of his Christ-experience. This lone widow, stripped of all, so utterly destitute that she has nothing to compete with Christ in her, has a joy unspeakable and full of glory. This sweet, saintly spirit, who for long has lain upon a bed of pain and sickness, who for years has seen neither grass grow nor flower bloom, who lives in that garret amid the dust and noise of the great city, has Christ in her heart, a well of water — a satisfaction, a perfect joy. The salt waters of trial and sorrow, and toil and loss may overflow us, but down in the regenerate part of man is a well of water — fresh, sweet, living, always springing up. This is the joy and peace that lie beyond the touch of time.
I. TWO GREAT PRINCIPLES OF HAPPINESS, or ingredients of which it is composed.
1. Peace of mind. Unless the mind is in a state of quietude and peace there cannot be happiness. And peace is communicated to the spirit in a direct and glorious manner through Divine influence.
2. Expectation. Looking forward to something that we possess not.
II. THE SUPERIORITY OF THESE PRINCIPLES TO OUTWARD CIRCUMSTANCES.
1. God has not chosen outward circumstances as the medium through which He imparts these elements of happiness to the mind.
2. God has so ordered it in the economy of grace that man is the intelligent and voluntary agent in the application of these elements of happiness to his own case.
3. Whenever our minds are under the influence of the highest principles of happiness they are not only independent of circumstances, but actually exercise a control over them.
(A. G. Fuller.)
I. THE BACKSLIDER. This class includes —
1. Apostates. Those who unite them- selves with the Church of Christ and for a time act as if they were subjects of a real change of heart. Then they break away and return back to their worldliness. Such was Judas.
2. Those who go into open sin. Men who descend from purity to careless living, and from careless living to indulgence of the flesh.
3. Those who, in any measure or degree, even for a very little time, decline from the point which they have reached. Note the word "backslider." He is not a back-runner, nor a back-leaper, but a back-slider; he slides back with an easy, effortless motion, softly, quietly, perhaps unsuspected by himself or anybody else. Nobody ever slides up. The Christian life is a climbing. If you would know how to back-slide, the answer is, "Leave off going forward and you will slide backward." Note that this is a backslider in heart. All backsliding begins within, begins with the heart's growing lukewarm. What is the backslider's history? "He shall be filled with his own ways." The first kind of fulness is absorption in his carnal pursuits. Then they begin to pride themselves upon their condition and to glory in their shame. Presently the backslider encounters chastisement, and that from a rod of his own making. A fourth stage is at last reached by gracious men and women. They become satiated and dissatisfied, miserable and discontented.
II. THE GOOD MAN. His name and history. The text does not say he is satisfied with himself. No truly good man is ever self-satisfied. The good man is satisfied from himself. A good man is on the side of good. He who truly loves that which is good must be in measure good himself. A good man is "satisfied from himself" because he is independent of outward circumstances, and of the praise of others. The Christian man is content with the well of upspringing water of life which the Lord has placed within him. Faith is in the good man's heart, and he is satisfied with what faith brings him. Pardon, adoption, conquest over temptation, everything he requires. Hope and love are in the good man's heart. When the good man is enabled by Divine grace to live in obedience to God, he must, as a necessary consequence, enjoy peace of mind.... who takes the yoke of Christ upon him, and learns of Him, finds rest unto his soul.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. A good man is most likely to escape the evils and calamities of life and to pass through this world the freest from troubles and vexations. His virtues will be a natural defence and security to him against many evils and miseries which would otherwise befall him. Most of the things which embitter human life arise from their faults and follies, their unreasonable lusts, and unruly passions. The good man places his happiness in the favour of God and the sense of his own integrity. He desires no more than he wants; and he wants no more than he can use and enjoy; and this reduces his necessities to a narrow compass. He bears an universal good-will to all mankind and is always ready to do all the good he can to others. He is sober and temperate in all his pleasures and enjoyments; and this upon a principle of religion and virtue.
2. Whatever calamities or afflictions befall a good man he will bear them much better than other people. Disappointments are not so great to him who takes an estimate of things, not from fancy or opinion, but from truth and reality, and the just weight and moment of them. Though his virtues are not full proof against the strokes of fortune, and cannot ward off every blow, yet they will blunt the edge of afflictions and greatly abate their smart. It is well to consider the uncertainty of all external enjoyments, not to overvalue them, or set our hearts upon them, or place our happiness in them.
3. The good man has pleasures and enjoyments peculiar to himself which will, in a great measure, supply the want of external blessings. Every good and virtuous action we do affords us a double pleasure. It first strikes our minds with a direct pleasure by its suitableness to our nature; and then our minds entertain themselves with pleasant reflections upon it. Learn —(1) It is an unjust reproach to cast upon religion and virtue that they deprive us of joy and comfort and satisfaction.(2) What is the true cause of the trouble and uneasiness which are to be found under the sun.
(W. Garrett Horder.)
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