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It is well also for another reason, that—if obliged to publish at present only a part of these records—Drs. Mitchell and Struthers should have selected the “Minutes,” beginning with November, 1644, for this first volume.  From “Lightfoot’s Journal of the Assembly of Divines,” extending from the opening of the Assembly, July 3d, 1648, to December 31st, 1644, and from George Gillespie’s “Notes of Proceeding of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster,” extending from February 2 to May 3, from September to December 31, 1644, we are enabled to form a much clearer conception of the course of discussion in the As­sembly, than could possibly be done from the imperfect memo­randa of these Minutes.  This will be very apparent on a com­parison of the jottings of these Minutes with the Notes of Lightfoot and Gillespie, covering, with several omissions, the brief period from November to December 31, 1644.  The three records of December 9th, 1644, are as follows:

  1. Lightfoot’s account is:

“We speedily fell upon the business about burial as soon as we were set ; and the matter was, whether to have anything spoken at the burial of the dead.

“Dr. Temple moved that something might be said at the very interment of the body ; but this was thought not fit to be given any rule for, but rather to pass it over in silence ; and so the minister left something to his liberty.  Dr. Temple moved again, whether a minister, at putting a body into the ground, may not say, ‘We commit this body to the ground,’ etc.  And it was conceived of the Assembly that he might ; and the words ‘without any ceremony more,’ do not tie him up from this.

“Then fell our great controversy about funeral sermons ; and here was our difficulty—how to keep funeral sermons is England for fear of danger by alteration, and yet to give content to Scotland that are averse from there.  It was the sense of the Assembly in general, that funeral sermons may be made, if a minister be called on for it; and the debate was now to find terms to fit and suit with both parties.  At last we fixed on this: ‘That the people should take up thoughts and conferences concerning death, mortality, etc.; and the minister, if he be present, shall put them in mind of that duty.’  Here I excepted at the last word, ‘duty,’ for that a little speech would put them in mind of medi­tating and conferring spiritually; therefore I moved an alteration, which was much backed by divers, and it was changed, ‘of their duty.’  The mind of the Assembly was that these words give liberty for funeral ser­mons.  And thus we had done the directory for burial.

“Then fell we upon the report of our votes concerning Church Gov­ernment, where we had left off the last day; and when we had done them, Mr. Burroughs entered his dissent against two or three propositions, viz. against the subordination of Assemblies one to another, and against the instance of the Church of Ephesus for a Presbytery ; and so did Mr. Nye, Mr. Carter, Mr. Sympson, and Mr. Bridges; and Mr. Sympson offered from Mr. Goodwin to enter his dissent ; but we would not admit of any proxies.”

  1. Gillespie’s account of the same debate, under date Decem­ber 9, 1644, is :

“The votes of Government were read and ordered to be transcribed, that they may be sent to the Parliament.

“Messrs. Burroughs, Nye, Bridges, Sympson, and Carter entered their dissent from three of the propositions :  1. That there is a subordination of congregational, classical, provincial, and national Assemblies for the government of the Church.  2. That the example of the Church of Ephesus proves the propositions concerning Presbyterial government.

  1. That no congregation which may associate ought to assume all and sole power of ordination. Mr. Goodwin and Mr. Greenhill were not present.”

It will be seen that he omits the debate on funerals altogether.

  1. Now, under the same date of December 9, 1644, the Minutes before us make the following record :

Sess. 337, Dec. 9, 1644, Monday Morning.

“ Protestation read.  Debate of the Directory for Burial…. Neverthe­less this doth not inhibit any minister at that time being present to give some seasonable word of exhortation.

Mr. Marshall offered a paper to express the affirmative part.

“ Debate about something to be added to the negative.

Dr. Temple made report of the alterations in the frame* of govern­ment.

“ Ordered, this draught of Government be transcribed, to be sent to both Houses of Parliament.

Mr. Burroughs enters his dissent from the subordination of Assem­blies in that proposition, ‘it is lawful and agreeable ;’ and that ‘of par­ticular congregations assuming the power of ordination ;’ and that ‘of the Church of Ephesus,’ if you mean [that they were congregations, fixed.]

Mr. Nye enters his dissent to the same propositions.

Mr. Carter desires the same.  Mr. Sympson desires the same.  He also desired that Mr. Goodwyn’s dissent may be entered, he being not well.

Ordered, That he have leave against to-morrow.

“ Mr. Bridges desired the same.”

This comparative exhibition of what is said in the “Journal” of Lightfoot, and the “ Notes” of Gillespie, and in these Mi­nutes,” touching the debate of December 9, selected by us at random, will enable the reader to form some conception of the general nature and style of these recently discovered records.

  • “Draught” is written above “frame” in the manuscript, which, as will be seen from Lightfoot, quoted already, is more proper.

The words in these brackets are crossed over with a black line.

 

 

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Three Hundred Years of Application . . . and Counting
Written by Rev. David T. Myers

This author still possesses all three volumes in his personal library. Bought while a Sophomore in college in 1960, the publishing date of their reprint, Thomas Watson’s one-hundred and seventy six sermons on the Westminster Catechisms of the Westminster Assembly are timeless in their assistance to every child of God who desires to know theology and have it applied to his or her spiritual life. I can testify to that, having underlined and proclaimed many truths from their pages for the edification of all Christians during my forty years in the pastorate.

The remarkable truth about their author is that we do not know either the time of his birth or the death of it either. They are missing from the history of the church, and known only by God. However, we do know that he was buried on this day in history, July 28, 1686, and so we write this brief biography on his life. Much of the latter is taken from a brief memoir written by none else than Charles Spurgeon.

Thomas Watson attended and graduated from Emmanuel College, Cambridge with a B.A. Degree in 1639 and a Master’s degree in 1642. It was said that he was a laborious student, prompting Spurgeon to quip “the conscientious student is the most likely man to become a successful pastor.” Watson went on to be just such a preacher at a Church of England parish and church called St. Stephen’s, Walbrook in London, England. But let there be no doubt here. Watson was a Presbyterian through and through. And to his congregation, many came, or as Spurgeon put it, the church was filled constantly with worshipers.

Among his sermons during those sixteen years was, as mentioned above, a thorough proclamation of the principle themes of the Westminster Confession of Faith. This author has in his years of ministry in catechetical studies among the covenant children of the church, adult studies in the Sunday School and Bible studies, and yes, even sermons from the sacred desk, used Watson’s thorough grasp of biblical texts, clear expositions of Bible doctrine, and practical applications. It might be 300 years old, but biblical truths such as these do not ever pass away in teaching and application.

There is found in two of his three books on the title page this phrase “Ejected by the Act of Uniformity.” We have mentioned before about that terrible act which threw out the Puritan members of the Clergy in the Church of England, countless of whom were Presbyterian clergy. Yet in the next 20 years until his death and burial in 1686, Watson continued on in the proclamation of the Word of God wherever people would come to hear him. Due to a weakening in his health, he was praying in his closet when he departed from this earth.

Words to Live By:
I read on the web recently something which disheartened me. Among the characteristics of a church pulpit committee was that they were looking for a minister who had a well known name! The apostle Paul to the Corinthians would write in 1 Corinthians 2:4, 5, “my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” The fault is ours, is it not, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we pay too much attention to the outward and external characteristics of those who minister to us the Word of God, and not enough attention to the plain and simple proclamation of the Word of God as empowered by the Spirit of God? If we want the spiritual power of the days of yesterday, we must set our hearts on men who are filled with the Spirit of God, who preach the whole counsel of God.

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Princeton [i.e., the College of New Jersey] graduates its first class

The history of early Presbyterian education is substantially the history of Princeton College. When Mr. Tennent died in 1745 his school was closed. Yet such had been its usefulness that the Synod of New York immediately, in 1746, took steps to perpetuate that institution of learning. It was located first at Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and Jonathan Dickinson was its first president. The students, except those of the village, boarded in the family of the president. Dr. Dickinson died shortly, and the school was removed to Newark in order to be placed under the care of Rev. Aaron Burr, so that he might accept the presidency without resigning his pastorate. The first class of six young men graduated November 9, 1748.

In 1753 Rev. Gilbert Tennent and Rev. Samuel Davies were appointed by Synod to visit England and solicit aid for the college. In the face of very great prejudices against them and the theology which they represented, after a year’s canvass in England, Scotland and Ireland, they had secured widespread sympathy and public endorsement of the enterprise. They succeeded, financially, far beyond their expectation. The total sum raised must have approached, if it did not pass beyond, twenty-five thousand dollars.


Words To Live by:

Presbyterians have always sought and promoted an educated, thoroughly trained pastorate. The challenges presented by the world, the flesh and the devil require that much. Moreover, the Gospel ministry is not to be entered into lightly, and deserves our best efforts. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.—Deut. 6:5. If this command is true for believers, how much more so for those who would shepherd the Lord’s people?

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CHAPTER III.

CALVINISM AND SELF-GOVERNMENT.

The Roman Catholic Church is Arminian; the Episcopal Church is Calvinistic in its creed and Arminian in its clergy; the Methodist Church is Arminian in its clergy and creed. The Episcopal Church has a formula, called the “Thirty-nine Articles,” which is Calvinistic, but the greater part of the Church has grown away from it, and Arminianism is preached from nearly all its pulpits. In churches organized on the monarchical or oligarchical principle the doctrines of Calvinism cannot live. In proportion as the rulers absorb power into themselves the Church becomes Arminian. The greater the authority of the clergy, the deeper the shade of this doctrine. Consequently, the Roman Catholic Church is the most Arminian of all, because it is the most thoroughly monarchical. Albert Barnes, a great American writer, says, “There are no permanent Arminian Presbyteries, Synods, General Assemblies, on earth. There ii< no instance where this belief takes on the Presbyterian form. There are no Presbyterian forms of ecclesiastical administration where it would be long retained.”   On the other hand, it is a conspicuous fact that the Churches in which the principle of self-government is maintained are all Calvinistic. It is also to be noted that those Churches which are most nearly approximating toward ecclesiastical republicanism are becoming more Calvinistic in their theology. The two great distinctive features of the Presbyterian or Reformed Church are Calvinism, and self-government. Wherever the Church is established, these are its peculiarities.

The connection of these two principles of government and theology is by no means accidental. There is a strong moral twinship between them. One cannot long exist without the other, and minds which are constructed to believe one almost uniformly accept both. After a man has contemplated the Calvinistic conception of God—a Being absolutely supreme over all creation, everywhere present and everywhere almighty, one who decrees alike the death of a sparrow and the downfall of an empire—he turns a wearied gaze on human grandeur. What are earthly potentates compared to his God! All human distinctions sink to a level before this awful majesty, and he feels “the rich and the poor meet together: the Lord is the Maker of them all” (Prov. xxii. 2).

The history of Calvinism is the history of self- government. Beginning with Geneva in the sixteenth century, trace the progress of this great institution of human liberty through the changes of three hundred years. Says Renan, the unbelieving French author, “ Paul begat Augustine, and Augustine begat Calvin.” He meant it as sarcasm, but it is a splendid compliment to the last two names; and it is true. Calvin discovered in the Bible the great foundation of all theology—God’s absolute supremacy ; he found it where Augustine found it —where it had been since Paul by inspiration wrote it; and he built upon it the most powerful system of theology ever constructed. Froude, the historian, says, “Calvinism is the spirit which rises in revolt against all untruth. It is but the inflashing upon the conscience of the laws by which mankind are governed—laws which exist whether we acknowledge them or deny them, and will have their way to our own weal or woe according to the attitude in which we place ourselves toward them; inherent, like the laws of gravity, in the nature of things; not made by us, not to be altered by us, but to be discerned by us and obeyed by us at our everlasting peril.” Calvin felt the power of this colossal truth in his soul, and it became the inspiration of his life; he never flinched before tyranny, but continually waged war against it, and in Geneva developed a republic in Church and in State which has been the model of all similar institutions since.

Holland was liberated by Calvinism. Never until these doctrines took possession did that country prevail against Spain. William the Silent became a strong Calvinist. Then he conquered, because Calvinism allied him, as he believed, with the Almighty. “ If God be for us, who can be against us ?” Motley writes: “ It would certainly be unjust and futile to detract from the vast debt which the Dutch republic owed to the Genevan Church. The earliest and most eloquent preachers, the most impassioned converts, the sublimest martyrs, had lived, preached, fought, suffered and died with the precepts of Calvin in their hearts. The fire which had consumed the last vestige of royal and sacerdotal despotism throughout the independent republic had been lighted by the hands of Calvinists.

“Throughout the blood-stained soil of France, too,” writes this historian, “the men who were fighting the same great battles as were the Netherlanders against Philip II. and the Inquisition, the valiant cavaliers of Dauphiny and Provence, knelt on the ground before the battle, smote their iron breasts with mailed hands, uttered a Calvinistic prayer, sang a song of Marot, and then charged upon Guise and upon Joyeuse under the white plume of the Bearnese. And it was upon the Calvinistic weavers and clothiers of Rochelle the great prince relied in the hour of danger, as much as on his mounted chivalry.

“In England, too,” continues Motley, “ the seeds of liberty, wrapped up in Calvinism and hoarded through many trying years, were at last destined to float over land and sea, and to bear the largest harvests of temperate freedom for the great commonwealths that were still unborn.” Henry VIII. did not reform the English Church: he merely cut it off from Rome. The Reformation of that Church was done by Calvinists. “ The Lambeth Articles,” drawn up under the authority of Elizabeth, “ affirm the Calvinistic doctrines with a distinctness which would shock many in our age who are reputed Calvinists.” But England was still under a despotism. With difficulty, a body of Calvinists called Puritans were preparing, in the providence of God, for the liberation of the people. Cromwell with the Puritans destroyed the despotism of centuries. True, after Cromwell passed away, the horrid spectre again made its appearance; but it was too late: the people had seen liberty, and under the guiding genius of William III., the Calvinist, the “divine right of kings ” met its final overthrow, and the grand principle of self-government was for ever fixed in the British constitution.

Turning to Scotland, we discover a great personality towering above all others—John Knox, the greatest benefactor that country ever had. He had learned theology under Calvin in Geneva, and he had tasted Romanism as a galley-slave in France. Froude says of him, “No grander figure can be found in the entire history of the Reformation in this island than John Knox. The time has come when English history must do justice to one but for whom, the Reformation would have been overthrown among ourselves, for the spirit which Knox created 6aved Scotland; and if Scotland had been Catholic again, neither the wisdom of Elizabeth’s ministers, nor the teaching of her bishops, nor her own chicaneries, would have preserved England from revolution. lie was the voice which taught the peasant of the Lothians that he was a free man—the equal, in the sight of God, of the proudest peer or prelate that had trampled on his forefathers.”

Thomas Carlyle writes: “This that John Knox did for his nation, I say, we may really call a resurrection as from death. . . . He is the one Scotchman to whom, of all others, his country and the world owe a debt.”

Thus it is seen by the testimony of men who were not Presbyterians that those who fought the great battles of human liberty were inspired by the doctrines of Calvinism.

These principles of self-government having beer, worked out in Geneva, France, Holland, England and Scotland, the time came for their establishment in other lands. There was a new world in the West to be colonized and developed. The Catholics took the southern part, and the Calvinists the northern. South America, Central America and the West Indies have stagnated under Catholic influence, while the United States and Canada have continually gone forward in progress. The free institutions of this country have been an asylum for the oppressed of all nations. Coming to North America, they have found liberty to think and to act according to the dictates of their own consciences. Free from cramping influences, they have developed in all departments. No country on earth ever before made such progress as that which has been seen in the short history of the American republic. To what principles are we indebted for the conditions which made this wonderful advancement possible? To those of Calvinism.

The early settlers of North America were largely Calvinists. The Huguenots from France, the Dutch from Holland, the Scotch and the Scotch-Irish, the Puritans from England, were the real pioneers of Western civilization, and they were all disciples of Calvin. These distinguished colonists came to the New World because, being Calvinists, they were not tolerated at home. They sought for liberty to worship God. They had tasted the bitterness of royal and ecclesiastical tyranny in Europe, and the high Calvinism with which they were imbued inspired them with an unconquerable desire for self- government. When the great conflict arose between the colonies and England, the Episcopalians generally sided with the mother-country; the Calvinists were for independence. They had their Church established by law, and before the Revolution the Presbyterians were denied a charter in New York. They were not allowed “ a legal title to a spot to bury their dead.”

But this was not to continue. They had left Europe to escape tyranny, and were not willing to submit to it in America. The feelings which inspired the break with England were as much religious as political, though a political act was the occasion of the rupture. A historian quotes an article published in a weekly journal of that day: “ This country will shortly become a great and flourishing empire, independent of Great Britain, enjoying its civil and religious liberty uncontaminated, and deserted of all control of bishops, . . . and from the subjection of all earthly kings.” Monarchy and Episcopacy stood together. The clergymen of that faith belonged to a State-Church and had sworn to support the authority of England. The king was the head of the Church, and they were bound by their allegiance to him.

But the Puritans, the Scotch, the Scotch-Irish, the Huguenots and the Dutch rallied under the banner of revolution. They fought for the right of self-government in Church and in State; God was on their side, and they won it. They framed their government according to the principles for which they had so long contended. They were building for the future, and were divinely guided in laying the foundation of a structure which is still rising before the nations, the inspiration of freedom in other lands and the admiration of mankind. Who were the men that did this work ? Calvinists—men who derived their principles, strong as granite, from the quarries of God’s eternal decree, “ according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.”

Ranke says, “John Calvin was virtually the founder of America,” and Renan said, “Paul begat Augustine, and Augustine begat Calvin.” But who, we ask, begat Paul ? Who was the author of that system of truth which has been the mainspring of civilization and the bulwark of human liberty? We answer, It was born in heaven, and claims paternity from God.

“ Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage ” (Gal. v. 1).

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With today’s episode, we come to the end of the first section of Rev. Kerr’s helpful little book, PRESBYTERIANISM FOR THE PEOPLE.

CHAPTER X.

PRESBYTERIANISM IN OTHER CHURCHES.

In the history of nations there have been, as before stated, two great principles of government contending from the beginning, monarchy and republicanism. In the one case, the people belong to their rulers; in the other, the rulers belong to the people. Under a monarchy the people are the servants, but in a republic they are the masters. Republicanism has the endorsement of God in the fact that the government of his people, as he organized it at first, was on that principle, and after they demanded a king in their civil administration self-government was still maintained in their religious institutions.

In 1 Sam. viii. we have an account of the change in the government of the people of Israel: “ The elders of Israel ” said to Samuel the prophet “ make us a king to judge us like all the nations.” “The thing displeased Samuel,” and he told the Lord, who said to him, “ They have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me.” Then follows a catalogue of those royal oppressions which would come upon them for rejecting the government ordained of God, and for committing authority into the hands of one man. In vs. 17, 18, God says, “And ye shall be his servants, and ye shall cry out in that day because of your king, which ye shall have chosen you: and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” The people had reason bitterly to repent of their folly in thus surrendering God-given rights into the hands of a king.

The tendency of monarchy, when unrestrained by constitutions and representative assemblies, is to stereotype the institutions and condition of a people, while self-government encourages progress. As civilization has advanced men have always demanded liberty and a voice in their own government. In some cases this has caused sudden revolutions and great bloodshed. The demand has not always been wisely made, as in the French Revolution. The French kings, infatuated with an idea that they ruled by “divine right,” believed that the people were their property, and oppressed them through many generations. At last, in the reign of Louis XVI., the downtrodden masses arose in their might and overthrew the monarchy. This was right, and they ought to have stopped with dethroning the king, but they were so maddened by tyranny and poverty that they beheaded their unfortunate sovereign. The same history was enacted in England when Charles I. was put to death.

As knowledge increases among them men become independent and are unwilling to be oppressed. They feel that they have a right to decide who shall rule over them; they gradually learn that the government is for the benefit of the people, and not the people for the benefit of the government; and at last they demand the right to elect their own rulers. This is the fundamental principle of all republics; and it is the principle, not the form, which constitutes the real government. Great Britain is a monarchy in form, but it is more of a republic in principle. The people elect their own Parliament, and the Parliament makes the laws. In the British government there are left many traces of the old monarchical principle, but they are slowly being submerged under the advance of knowledge. In France, under Napoleon I., the government was in form a republic, but in principle and reality a despotism. He was called “the republican emperor.” By gradual encroachments this splendid tyrant had absorbed in himself the power of government, until what was republican in form became extremely monarchical in principle. At last it was overthrown. With regard to government, there is little in a name.

The great principle of republicanism is what mankind contend for, and not a name or a form; so, when the British people got liberty to elect their own rulers, they did not care enough for the name of a monarchy to fight about it. They had the substance of a republic, and wisely left the name to take care of itself.

Presbyterianism is ecclesiastical republicanism. The name is of little value as compared with the great principle for which, in Church and in State, martyrs have died. The Presbyterian Church has not the monopoly of this principle among the de-nominations. Presbyterianism is the opposite of episcopacy, and yet it can be conceived that the republican principle might grow up in the Episcopal Church and that it might die out of the Presbyterian body. It may also be conceived that neither denomination should be wholly Episcopal or wholly Presbyterian—that the two principles of monarchy and republicanism should exist together in the same body. But one must predominate. This is really the state of the case. There is no Church or State government which is purely monarchical or purely republican.

The Roman Catholic Church is a monarchy in form and in regulating principle, and it is nothing but a despotism from top to bottom. The Church of England is monarchical in form, but the principle of republicanism has been gradually making its way in the body, until now the people have almost as much power as the clergy. The same statement may be made with reference to the Methodist Episcopal Church. The principle of republicanism has made remarkable encroachments upon this great denomination. True, the bishops still have the power of appointing and removing pastors, which is monarchical, but when agreeable to the people they are allowed to remain much longer in one charge than formerly, and a strong sentiment is growing up in favor of their permanent settlement. Of more importance is the fact that the election of their lower officers is with the people. These officers go on and elect higher ones, called bishops, who are vested with greater powers than belong to the rulers of a spiritual republic. It is a republican house with a monarchical roof.

The Congregational and Baptist denominations have been making progress toward republicanism. They were at first almost pure democracies—that is, people without any rulers, people who made their own laws and administered them without the intervention of anything more than mere committees. The need of greater authority has caused these officers to take power into their hands, but always with the consent of the people. Some distinguished Baptist ministers—Spurgeon and others—have advised that their Associations and conventions be clothed with presbyterial, congressional or parliamentary power—that is to say, with judicial and administrative authority.

This process will go on. It will sometimes be temporarily checked or turned backward for a brief period, but the gravitation of history is toward republicanism in Church and in State. This is not directly the effect of the example of the Presbyterian Church, though other churches are indirectly indebted to that denomination. Geneva has been justly called “the Mother of Modern Republics,” and every historian knows that Presbyterianism was the mother of Geneva.

The logic of experience, which causes men to consider what is the best way to manage affairs, has caused them to gravitate, in civil and ecclesiastical government, toward republicanism. They seek liberty, which they cannot have under a civil or ecclesiastical monarchy or oligarchy, and they desire efficiency, which is hardly attainable in a pure democracy ; so they are adopting the middle principle, of appointing representatives and giving them power to rule, holding them responsible for their conduct of the affairs of government. The study of the inspired word with its expansive truths, that enlarge the range of man’s thinking and teach him to believe himself a son of God; the spirit of universal charity, which animates the whole body of Christians, causing them to do as they would have others do unto them; and the example of Scripture precedents,—have all conspired to republicanize Churches and States. Indeed, it is hardly possible that a community can be thoroughly Christian without in the course of time becoming in some degree republican.

Under the operation of these influences the Churches have been unconsciously approximating toward a common centre. By whatever ways they have come, it is certain that they are nearer together than ever before. May we dare to hope for a time when the denominations shall be like the States of the American Union—free, harmonious and independent, but one in a grand spiritual confederation for one another’s help and for the conquest of the world? The convergence of events seems to point to that splendid consummation.

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