Ephesians 6Our apostle, in the foregoing chapter, began to treat of relative duties, and concluded that chapter with the duties of husbands and wives; he begins this with the duty of children and parents to each other.
And here we have observable, that he begins this with the duty of the inferior first, of the child to the parents, as he did before with the duty of the wife, Eph 5:22. He first puts them in mind of their duty who are to obey; that being the most difficult duty, and the persons concerned in it usually more defective, and the work less easy and pleasing to our nature.
Observe, 2. The important duty which children are directed to: the duty of obedience and honour: Children, obey: honour your father and mother. This duty of honour and obedience implies inward reverence, and a lawful estimation of their persons, and honouring of them in heart, speech, and behaviour; it implies also outward observance, a pious regard to their instructions, executing all their commands which are not sinful, depending on their counsels, and following their good examples, owning with thankfulness their parents' care and concern for them, and covering the failings and infirmities found in them.
Observe, 3. The object of this duty: both parents, not the father alone, or the mother only, but both father and mother jointly. Children, obey your parents; honour thy father and thy mother: as obedience belongeth to all children, of what age, or sex, or condition soever, so are children obliged to obey both parents, the mother as well as the father, yea, she is named first, Lev 19:3; her sex being weaker, she is the more subject to contempt, Prov 23:22, saying, Hearken to thy father which begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.
Observe, 4. The noble principle from whence this obedience in children to parents ought to flow, namely, from the fear of God. Obey them in the Lord; that is, in obedience to his command, and in all things agreeable to his will, fearing his displeasure in case of disobedience: let not your obedience be barely natural and prudential, but christian and religious.
Observe, 5. The arguments used by our apostle to excite to the practice of this duty. The first argument is drawn from the equity of it, This is right; that is, the law of God and nature requires it. The great motive, which ought to excite us to the practice of any duty, is not so much the advantageousness, as the righteousness and equity, of the duty, as being commanded by God, and well pleasing in his sight: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. A second argument is, because this is the first commandment of the second table, which has a particular promise annexed to it: This is the first commandment with promise, that is, with an express promise; for every commandment hath both a promise and a threatening implied in it, and annexed to it; but this is the first commandment with a promise expressed, and that is a promise of long life, That thy days may be long; and this promise is always fulfilled, either in kind or equivalency, either by enjoying a long life on earth, or a better life in heaven.
Learn hence, That although our first and chief motive to obedience be the equity and righteousness of what God requires, yet we may, as a secondary encouragement, have respect to the promised reward, and particularly to the temporal advantage of our obedience. Long life is here promised to children, as an encouragement to obedience, which is in itself a very valuable mercy and blessing; and having eyed the command of God in the first place, they may and ought to have respect to the recompense of reward in the next place.
Here the duty of both parents to their children is laid down.
Where note, 1. The apostle's dehortation, or negative precept, Provoke not your children to wrath, that is, Be not too severe towards them, abuse not your parental power over them, provoke them not, nor embitter their spirits against you; by denying them what is convenient for them, by inveighing with bitter words against them, by unjust, unseasonable, or immoderate correction of them. To provoke or stir up any to sin, especially young ones, and particularly our children, renders us guilty before the Lord of all that sin which they have committed through our provocation: Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath.
Note, 2. St. Paul's positive injunction given unto parents, Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Where, 1. He directs to their education, Bring them up.
2. To join nurture and admonition with their education, Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; that is, give them good instruction, withhold not early correction, set before them good example, begin with them betimes, and suffer not the devil, the world, and the flesh, to bespeak them for their service before you engage them for God's; and remember, that there is a tie of nature, a tie of interest, and a tie of religion, which parents are under thus to do: Provoke not your children to wrath; but bring them up in the nurture, &c.
Observe here, 1. The general duty incumbent upon servants: that of obedience to their masters, according to the flesh, that is, in temporal things only; obey your earthly masters in things pertaining to the world, leaving the soul and conscience to God only, who alone is the sovereign Lord of it. Christian liberty is not inconsistent with evil subjection; such as are God's freemen may be servants to men, though not the servants of men; and, as servants, obedience is their duty in all lawful things.
Observe, 2. The qualifications and properties of this obedience, which is due and payable from servants to masters.
1. It must be with fear and trembling, that is, with fear of displeasing them; yet they must not act barely from fear, but out of love, both to God and their master.
2. It must be in singleness of heart, in great simplicity and sincerity of spirit, without guile, hypocrisy, and dissimulation.
3. They must eye their great Master in heaven, in all the services they perform to their masters here on earth, not with eye-service.
But how should servants have an eye to their great Master in heaven?
Ans. They should have an eye to the presence of their great Master, to the glory of their great Master, to the command of their great Master, and to the assistance and acceptance of their Master in heaven.
Learn hence, That our eyeing of God in all the services we perform, and making him the judge and spectator of all our actions, will be a singular help to make us sincere and single-hearted in all we do, and in all we design.
Again, 4. Their service must be performed with good-will, that is, with cheerfulness and delight, not grudgingly, unpleasantly, or from fear of punishment only; eyeing the Lord Christ in all that service they do for men.
Learn hence, That the meanest and basest services and employments, in the place and station which God sets us in, being done with right ends, is service done to Christ, and as such shall be accepted and rewarded by him: With good-will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.
Observe lastly, The reward which the Holy Ghost propounds, as an encouragement to poor servants in their obedience to their masters, and that is, the assurance of a reward from God, whatever disappointment they meet with from men; knowing that whatever a man doth out of obedience to the Lord, a reward of the same shall he receive, whether he be a poor bond-servant, or a free man and master.
Note here, How the basest drudgery of servants, when performed in obedience to God, and with an eye at his glory, is called here a good work, and shall not fail of a good reward. Whatsoever good thing any man doeth: when a poor servant scours a ditch, or does the meanest drudgery, God will reward him for it; for he looketh not at the beauty, splendour, and greatness, of the work but at the integrity and honesty of the workman; the mean and outwardly base works of poor servants, when honest and sincere, shall find acceptance with God, and be rewarded by him, as well as the more splendid, honourable, and expensive works of their rich masters: the same shall he receive of the Lord, whether he be bond or free.
Here the master's duty to his servant is directed to, both generally, and more particularly; in general, he directs masters to do the same things to their servants; not the same things for kind, but for manner of doing them; that is, in obedience to the same command of God, with an eye to the same glory of God, with the same singleness of heart, with the same love and goodwill.
Here note, That the greatest masters, yea, the greatest prince and potentate upon earth, lie under obligations, in point of duty, to their servants and inferiors; and it ought to be as much their care to discharge their duty sincerely, cheerfully, with good-will, and eyeing their great Master in heaven, as it concerns the poorest sinner to obey them in and after the same manner; Ye masters, do the same things unto them.
Next follow the particular directions given to masters; namely, to forbear threatenings; that is, let them not exercise their authority over them imperiously, and with rigour, but mildly, and with gentleness: rule them not tyrannically, but govern with moderation and temper.
Lord, how ordinary is it for men in place and power a little above others, to insult over and trample upon others, forgetting that there is one above them, whom they must be accountable unto themselves! Forbear threatenings, knowing that your Master also is in heaven with whom there is no respect of persons.
Here we have Almighty God described two ways:
1. From his magnificence and stately palace, in which his illustrious glory shineth: Your Master is in heaven; not as if he were only there, and not elsewhere, but eminently there, though every where else.
2. God is here described by his justice and impartiality in judging: There is no respect of persons with him; that is, when the rich master and poor servant come to stand upon a level before him, he will not respect either of them for their outward circumstance, but as a just judge, reward them both, according to their works.
Thus our apostle concludes this exhortation to the practice and performance of relative duties, between husband and wife, parent and child, master and servant.
He now closes his epistle with a special exhortation to all Christians, to look upon themselves as spiritual soldiers, listed under Christ's exalted banner, engaged in a continual warfare with the world, and the prince of the world; and accordingly he bespeaks them in a martial phrase to the end of the chapter.
Our apostle, calling us here forth to the Christian warfare, gives forth the first word of encouragement to battle: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
A Christian, above all men, needs resolution, and a daring courage: if he be possessed with fear, he is unfit to go into the field; if dispirited with strong impressions of danger, how unready for the encounter! Cowards win neither earth nor heaven. But where lies the Christian's strength? Verily, on the Lord, and not in himself; the strength of the whole host of saints lies in the Lord of hosts, and accordingly it ought to be the Christian's great care, in all difficulties and dangers, to strengthen his faith in the almighty power of God.
Observe, 2. A direction given how a saint may come to be strong in the Lord; namely, by putting on the whole armour of God; that is, by being clothed with the following graces, which are hereafter mentioned in this chapter; as, the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the sword of the Spirit, &c.
Now these are called armour of God, because they are of his appointment and institution; and of his make and constitution; and this armour must be put on, that is, our grace kept in continual exercise. It is one thing to have armour in the house, and another to have it buckled on in the field; it is not sufficient to have grace in the habit and principle, but it is grace in act and exercise that must conquer spiritual enemies.
Observe, 3. A reason assigned why the Christian is to be thus completely armed: That he may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil; intimating that the devil is one chief enemy we have to combat with in the Christian warfare, and that this enemy is a wily, subtle enemy, discovering his dangerous policy, first by tempting and alluring into sin, and them by vexing and tormenting for sin. But Satan, with all his wits and wiles, shall never finally vanquish (though he may, in a particular battle, overcome) a soul clad with spiritual armour; nay, he that hath this armour of God on, shall certainly vanquish and overcome him: Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against, &c.
The apostle mentioned our enemy in the former verse; here he describes the combat in this verse, We wrestle. A Christian's life is a perpetual warfare, a continual wrestling; but with what, and with whom?
Ans. Negatively, Not with flesh and blood; that is, not only or chiefly with flesh and blood, with human enemies; but we must grapple and contend with angelical powers, with devils, who are principalities and powers, &c.
Here note, How the devil and his angels are described:
1. By their prince-like authority and government which they exercise in the world, called therefore principalities and powers, to denote that Satan is a great and mighty prince: a prince that has the heart and knee of all his subjects.
2. By the seat of his empire: he rules in this world, not in the other; the highest the devil can go, is the air; heaven fears him not. And he is a ruler of the darkness of this world: that is, in such sinners as labour under the darkness of sin and ignorance.
3. Satan and his angels are here described by their spiritual nature, called spiritual wickedness, that is, wicked spirits: intimating to us, that the devils are spirits; that they are spirits extremely wicked; and that these wicked spirits do chiefly annoy Christians with, and provoke them to, spiritual wickedness.
4. They are described by their residence or place of abode: in high places; that is, in the air, of which he is called the prince.
From the whole note, How plainly Christ our captain deals with all his soldiers, and the difference between Christ's dealing with his followers, and Satan with his: Satan durst not let sinners know who that God is whom they fight against, but Christ is not afraid to show his saints their enemy in all his power and strength; well he might, because the weakness of God is stronger than the powers of hell.
Observe here, 1. How our apostle having described the enemy in the foregoing verse, and set him forth in all his formidable strength and power, comes forth in the head of his Ephesian camp, gives a fresh alarm, and bids them arm! arm! Take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand in the evil day; intimating that an evil day is before us; that it will be of mighty advantage to us to be able to stand in the evil day; and that without the help of divine armour we cannot stand in that day. The sanctifying graces of God's Spirit are this armour: he that has not these, let his common gifts be never so gay and glorious, he will never hold out to fight the last battle, but fall into the enemy's hand, and be taken captive by him at his will.
Observe next, How our apostle comes to describe the armour of God piece by piece, which the Christian is to put on before he takes the field against the enemy. Here is the soldier's girdle, his breastplate, his shoes, his shield, his helmet, and his sword, all described; his offensive and defensive weapons, wherewith soldiers of old used to arm their bodies from head to foot.
Now the apostle assigneth to particular graces a use and excellency answerable to these pieces of armour, and shows that there is some resemblance between every grace and that piece of the bodily armour to which it is here compared; but observable it is, that although there be pieces of armour for all other parts of the body, here is none assigned for the back, nor back-parts, because there must be no running away, no hope of escaping by flight in this spiritual warfare: if we turn our back upon our enemy, we lie open to his darts, and are in danger of destruction; if we fight on, we have our second in the field, and are sure of victory, provided we enter the field in order and stand to our arms, maintain our watch, keep our ground, and appear armed cap-a-pie, from head to foot, with the several pieces of armour here recommended: the first of which is the girdle of truth, Having your loins girt about with truth Eph 6:14 that is, sincerity of heart. Doth a girdle or belt adorn the soldier? so doth sincerity adorn the Christian. Doth the girdle strengthen the soldier's loins? so doth sincerity strengthen the soul, and every grace in the soul: it is sincere faith that is strong faith; it is sincere love that is mighty love.
Secondly, The breastplate of righteousness; by which is to be understood the love and practice of universal holiness.
But why is this compared to a breastplate?
Ans. Because as the breastplate defends the most principal parts of the body, where the heart and vitals are closely couched together; thus holiness preserves the soul and conscience, the principal parts of a Christian, from the wounds and harms of sin, which is the weapon that Satan uses to give conscience its deadly stab with.
The third piece of Christian armour is the spiritual shoe, fitted to the soldier's foot, and worn by him so long as he keeps the field against sin and Satan: the soldier's way is sometimes full of sharp stones, and sometimes strewed with sharp iron spikes stuck into the ground; the soldier will soon be wounded, or foundered, if not well shod. Therefore the direction here is, Let your feet be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; that is, maintaining an holy readiness of spirit, and a resolute frame of heart, to undergo any suffering, and endure any hardship in your Christian warfare; which frame of spirit being wrought in us by the doctrine of the gospel, is therefore called the preparation of the gospel of peace.
The fourth piece of armour recommended above all to be put on, is the shield of faith; this is that grace by which we believe the truth of God's word in general, and depend upon Christ in particular, as crucified, for pardon and life, and this upon the warrant of the promise.
But why is faith compared to a shield?
Ans. Because, as the shield defends the whole body, so faith defends the whole man; the understanding from error, the conscience from searedness, the will from rebellion against the will and command of God. And as the shield defends the whole armour, as well as the soldier's whole body, it defends the breastplate, as well as the breast; so faith is our armour upon armour, a grace that preserves all other graces whatsoever.
The fifth piece of armour is mentioned, The helmet of salvation; Eph 6:17 by which the grace of hope is understood, which has for its object salvation, called therefore the hope of salvation. Salvation is the ultimate and comprehensive object of the Christian's expectation; and it is compared to an helmet, because as the helmet defends the head, so doth the hope of salvation defend the soul; it keeps the head above water, and makes the Christian bold and brave. Hope is a grace of singular use and excellent service to a Christian, in the whole course of his Christian warfare; it puts him upon noble services, it keeps him patient under the greatest sufferings, and it will enable the soul to wait long for the performance of divine promises.
The sixth piece of spiritual armour is the sword. Eph 6:17. The former were defensive, but this is both an offensive and defensive weapon; such is the word of God. But why compared to a sword?
Ans. In regard both of its necessity and excellency: the sword was ever esteemed a most necessary and useful part of the soldier's furniture; of such usefulness, necessity, and excellency is the word of God, by which the Christian doth defend himself, and offend his enemies.
But why is it called the sword of the Spirit?
Ans. Because the Spirit was the author of it; the Spirit of God is the interpreter of it: and it is the Spirit that gives the word its efficacy and power in the soul: the word of God, contained in the scriptures, is the sword by which the Spirit of God enables his saints to overcome and vanquish all their enemies.
The seventh and last piece of spiritual armour is mentioned, and that is prayer: Praying always, with all prayer, &c. Eph 6:18
Here note, The time for prayer, praying always; the sorts and kinds of prayer, praying always, with all prayer; the inward principle of prayer, from which it must flow, in the Spirit; the guard to set about the duty of prayer, watching thereunto; the constancy to be exercised in the duty, with all perservance, the comprehensiveness of the duty,for all saints.
Learn, That prayer is a necessary duty for all Christians, and to be used, with all other pieces of spiritual armour, by the Christian soldier.
Our apostle having directed the Ephesians to the duty of prayer in general, desires them here to pray for himself in particular.
Where observe, 1. His exhortation and direction to pray for himself, and all the ministers of the gospel: And for me. Learn hence, That the ministers of Christ are and ought in a special manner to be remembered in the saints' prayers.
Observe, 2. The mercy which he desires them to pray for: That utterance may be given: namely a readiness to deliver to others what God has handed unto us. Ministers depend upon God for utterance, and it is their people's duty to be earnest with God to give it to them.
Observe, 3. The end why he desires this utterance: That he may open his mouth boldly to make known the ministry of the gospel.
Where note, 1. The sublime nature of the gospel minister: and that is, to make known that gospel-mystery.
2. The manner how he is to perform this work: That I may open my mouth boldly; namely, in asserting truth, and in reproving sin, with a wise and prudent, with a meek and humble, with an active and zealous boldness.
Observe 4. A double argument to back and enforce his request to pray for him:
1. From his office: For which I am an ambassador. The ministers of the gospel are God's ambassadors; and shall not their people pray for the success of their embassies?
2. From his afflicted state: He was an ambassador in bonds; his zeal for God, and his truth, confined him to a prison; he preached himself into a gaol. Well, therefore, might they pray for him, who had now lost his liberty, and soon after was to lose his life, for them: no prayers can be too much to strengthen the hands, and to encourage the hearts, of such as suffer tribulation and persecution for the sake of Christ: Pray for me, that I may make known the mysteries of the gospel, for which I am an ambassadsor in bonds.
Observe here, 1. The tender love and affectionate regard which St. Paul bore to these Ephesians in the midst of his sufferings, and during his imprisonment: he not only wrote, but sent to them. No doubt, the apostle had but few, very few, fast friends with him at Rome, whom he could repose entire confidence in, and receive great consolation from; however, he will deny himself to serve them.
A faithful minister of Jesus Christ is so tenderly affectionate towards his flock, that he prefers their spiritual edification before his own private and particular advantage; though St. Paul was now a prisoner, and under a daily expectation of death, and had few to attend him, yet he sends one of his most beloved friends away to them, choosing rather himself to want an attender, than that they should want a comforter: nothing better becomes a minister of Christ than a public spirit.
Observe, 2. The character of the person whom St. Paul sent unto them; he is described,
1. By his name, Tychicus.
2. By his state: he was a brother, that is, a christian, a beloved brother, a brother in Christ.
3. By his office: he was a minister, yea, a faithful minister in the Lord, that is, in the work of the Lord; between whom and St. Paul there was a sweet harmony, an happy union of hearts, a joint care and endeavour in carrying on the interest of Christ amongst the churches.
Behold, how good and pleasant a thing it is, when ministers of Christ are dear to each other; when instead of divisions, emulations, and strife, amongst them, they can give testimonials of each other, as well-deserving; without endeavouring to conceal and obscure the gifts and graces of God, which are eminent in any of their fellow-labourers, on purpose only to set off themselves, that their own performances may be the more taken notice of. St. Paul was far from this spirit, as appears by the character which, upon a fit occasion, he gave of Tychicus.
Observe, 3. The design and end which St. Paul had in sending Tychicus unto them: and that was two-fold;
1. That he might acquaint them with St. Paul's condition and state: That ye might know my affairs, how I do, and what I do, I have sent Tychicus to declare unto you all things.
What! all things without exception?
Yes, both doings and sufferings; the apostle was ashamed of neither.
Learn thence, That the life and conversation of ministers, both public and private, must and ought to be such that they need not be ashamed to have it known, or concerned that the church should know, what they do, how they manage; to the intent that their people may be deified by their conversation, as well as instructed by their preaching; Tychicus shall declare unto you all things.
The second end St. Paul had in sending Tychicus from himself to the Ephesians was, that he might comfort their hearts. But how could Tychicus do this? These ways:
1. By making known to them the true cause of his sufferings. St. Paul's enemies had laid heavy things to his charge, these might perhaps fly as far as Ephesus: now, though the apostle regarded little what the wicked world said of him, yet he desired to be set right in the thoughts of the churches, and accordingly sends Tychicus to acquaint them with the cause of his imprisonment.
2. To keep them from discouragement, and being inordinately cast down at the report of his sufferings. No doubt, St. Paul's chain entered into their souls, and his sufferings were their sorrow; he therefore sends Tychicus, to prevent their immoderate sorrow and mourning upon this account.
3. To comfort their hearts with the report of that holy joy and cheerfulness of spirit which was found with him in and under all his sufferings.
O! it is an excellent sight to behold the saints at liberty mourning over their afflicted brethern; and they that are sufferers become comforters of them that are at liberty.
Lord! never doth thy holy religion appear more glorious, than when thy ministers commend it by their sufferings for it; and no way can they commend it higher, than by an holy, humble cheerfulness of spirit in their sufferings for it; thy ministers preach with for greater advantage from a prison, than they can from a pulpit.
4. Might not St. Paul send Tychicus now to the church at Ephesus, to engage the churches to pray with earnestness for himself, as well as to comfort them?
O! none so covetous of prayers as the ministers of Christ, and no ministers like suffering ministers.
St. Paul sets all the churches at work to pray for him in prison; and great reason for it; a prison has its temptations as well as a palace; when men play the persecutors, the devil forgets not to be a tempter; sometimes he will attempt to soften them with impressions of fear; at another time he hopes to overcome them, and weaken their courage, by their friends' tears and entreaties; sometimes the devil hopes to embitter a suffering saint's spirit against his persecutors, and to sour him with the leaven of malice and wrath.
O! it is no easy matter to receive evil, and yet wish none to him from whose hands we have received it; to reserve love for him that shows wrath and hatred to us, is a glorious but a difficult work. But if all this fails, yet the devil hopes to blow him up with pride, and a high conceit of himself, who dares suffer, when others shrink, and is ready to lay down their head, when others pull in their heads, and seek to save themselves in a whole skin. Pride is a salamander, that can live in the very flames of martyrdom; if any saint need the humility of many saints, it is he that is called to suffer for Christ. St. Paul was very sensible of this: he well knew that a suffering condition is full of temptation, that a christian's strength to carry him through it is not in his own keeping, God must help, or the stoutest champion will quail.
He also knows that prayer is the best means to fetch in that help; and accordingly St. Paul here sends Tychicus to Ephesus, to engage the auxiliary forces of the saints' prayers on earth, and the posse caeli from heaven, that he might glorify God in a suffering hour.
Our apostle being now come to the close and conclusion of this excellent epistle, he shuts it up with very fervent and affectionate wishes and prayers for them.
1. He wishes the brethern, the converted christians, in and about Ephesus, peace, peace with God, peace with conscience, peace especially one with another, and all manner of outward prosperity, comprehended in the word peace.
2. Mutual love among themselves.
3. The grace of faith, the fountain of the former; all which he wishes from God the Father, not excluding, but including, the Son and Holy Ghost, and from Jesus Christ the Mediator, through virtue of whose merit and intercession all saving benefits are conveyed unto believers.
St. Paul's example is instructive to the ministers of Christ in all succeeding ages. Would we have our ministerial endeavours attended with manifest success? we must be much in prayer, in serious and fervent prayer to God, to work those graces in our people, faith, love, and holiness, which we have been by our ministry recommending to their care and practice: that minister who is most prayerful is usually most successful.
Still our apostle goes on praying: he began and closes his epistle with prayer; and the blessings prayed for are grace and peace; peace in the former verse comprehending all temporal felicity; and grace in this comprehending the special favour and loving kindness of God: this he prays may be the portion of all those that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, or incorruption, as the word signifies; that is not for time only, but for eternity; not in show and appearance only, but in reality.
Sincere love to our Lord Jesus Christ is a sure character and undoubted mark of such a person as has found grace in God's sight, and is very high in the divine favour. Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ; he doth not say with a seraphim's, but with a sincere, love.
Quest. But when, and how, may a person know that he loves Christ in great sincerity?
Ans.If Christ be enthroned in thy heart as a chief commander; if he be esteemed by thee as thy chiefest excellency, and thy choicest treasure; if he be thy chiefest delight and joy; and if he be thy chiefest refuge, unto which thou fliest in all dangers and distresses; thou mayest conclude thy supreme love is placed upon him, that thou lovest him in sincerity.
And the more thou lovest him, the more lovely wilt thou be unto him, and the more will thy heart be let out in desires after him, and in fervent longings for the full fruition and final enjoyment of him; for those whom we love we long to be with. Come then, Lord! down to me, Or take me up to thee.
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