John 17Our blessed Saviour having ended his consolatory and valedictory sermon, contained in the three foregoing chapters; in this chapter we have recorded his last prayer, with and for his disciples, before he left the world; which is a copy left upon earth, of what he doth now intercede for as an advocate in heaven. "It is good (saith one) to compare scripture with scripture, but not to prefer scripture before scripture; all scripture being written by inspiration of God:" but if any part of scripture be magnified above another, this chapter claims the pre-eminence; it contains the breathings out of Christ's soul for his church and children, before his departure; not for his disciples only, but for the succeeding church to the end of the world.
In the verse before us, observe, 1. These words spake Jesus; that is, after he had finished his excellent sermon, he closes the exercises with a most fervent and affectionate prayer; teaching his ministers, by his example, to add solemn prayer and supplication to all their instructions and exhortations: if every creature of God be to be sanctified by prayer, much more the word of God, which works not as a natural agent, but as a moral instrument in God's hand. Now as God sets the word on work, so is it prayer that sets God on work.
Observe, 2. As the order of Christ's prayer, so the gesture in which he prayed: He lifted up his eyes to heaven: as an indication of his soul being lifted up to God in heaven; to signify his reverence of God, whose throne is in heaven; and to denote his confidence in God, and raised expectation of aid and help from God, and not from any creature.
Learn, that the gestures which we use in prayer, should be such as may express our reverence of God, and denote our affiance and trust in him:
Observe, 3. The person prayed to, God, under the appellation of a Father: it intimates a sweet relation; it is a word of endearing affection, and implies great reverence towards God, and great confidence and trust in him.
Learn, it is very sweet and comfortable in prayer, when we can come and call God Father.
Observe, 4. The mercy prayed, for; The hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son may also glorify thee. The hour is come; that is, "The hour of my sufferings, and thy satisfaction; the hour of my victory, and of thy glory; the hour, the sad hour, determined in thy decree and purpose." No calamity can touch us till God's hour is come; and when the sad hour is come, the best remedy is prayer, and the only person to fly unto for succour is our heavenly Father.
Father, the hour is come, the doleful hour of my death and passion; glorify thy Son, glorify him at his death, by manifesting him to have been the Son of God; glorify him in his death, by accepting it as the death of thy Son for the sins of the world: glorify him after his death, by a speedy resurrection from the grave, and triumphant exaltation at thy right hand.
Here note, how the glory of the Father and the Son are inseparably linked together; it was the Father's design to glorify the Son, and it was the Son's desire to have glory from the Father, for this end, that he might bring glory to the Father: Glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee.
Observe here, 1. The dignity which Christ was invested with, power over all flesh: that is, authority to judge and sentence all mankind.
Observe, 2. How Christ came to be invested with this power; it was given him by his Father: Thou hast given him power over all flesh. Hence the Socinians would infer, that he was not God, because he received all from God; but the text speaks not of his divine power as God, but of his power as Mediator.
And the note is, that all mankind is under the power and authority of Jesus Christ as Mediator: he has a legislative power, or a power to give laws to all mankind; and a judiciary power, or a power to execute the laws that he hath given.
Observe, 3. The end for which Christ was invested with this power: That he might give eternal life to as many as God hath given him.
Here note, 1. That all believers, that is, all sincere and serious Christians, are given by God the Father unto Christ; they are given to him as his charge, to redeem, sanctify, and save; and as his reward, Isa 53:10.
2. All that are given to Christ, have life from him; a life of justification and sanctification on earth, and a life of glory in heaven.
3. The life which Christ gives to them that are given him, is eternal life.
4. That this eternal life is a free gift from Christ unto his people; though they do not work for wages, yet they shall not work for nothing: I give unto them eternal life.
That is, "This is the true way and means to obtain eternal life, namely by the true knowledge of God the Father, and of Jesus Christ the Mediator, who was commissioned and sent by his Father to accomplish the work of redmption for a lost world."
Here observe, Christ calls God the Father the only true God; not in opposition to the Son and Holy Ghost, who, being one in essence with the Father, are truly and really God, as well as the Father; but in opposition to idols and false gods. There is a great difference betwixt these two propositions: the Father is the only true God, and the Father only is true God. Christ saith the former: This is life eternal, to know thee the only true God. The Socinians say the latter: this is life eternal to know only thee to be the true God, and that neither Jesus Christ nor the Spirit are God, but the Father only.
But how comes eternal life to depend as well upon the knowledge of Jesus Christ, as of God the Father, if Jesus Christ, be only man, and not truly and really God? For this our Saviour affirms, This is life eternal, to know thee and Jesus Christ.
Whence learn, 1. That the beginning, increase, and perfection of eternal life, lieth in holy knowledge.
2. That no knowledge is sufficient to eternal life, but the knowledge of God, and Jesus Christ, who is also God; for who can think that the knowledge of a mere creature should be accounted equally necessary to salvation with the knowledge of the great and mighty God?
Surely, if our happiness consists equally in the knowledge of God and Christ, then God and Christ are of the same nature, equal in power and glory. The comprehensive sense of the word seems to be this, "That the knowledge of the only true God, and of Jesus Christ the Mediator, is the life of grace, and the necessary way to the life of glory."
Learn hence, that the whole life of Christ, while here on earth, was a glorifying of his Father; he glorified his Father by the doctrine which he preached; he glorified his Father by the miracles which he wrought; he glorified his Father by the unspotted purity and innocency of his life, and by his unparalleled sufferings at his death.
That is, I am now about to finish it: he speaks of what he was resolved to do as already done.
Here note, 1. That it is work that glorifies God.
2. That every man has his work, his proper work, assigned him by God.
3. This work must be finished here upon earth.
4. That, when we have done our proportion of work, we may expect our proportion of wages.
5. That it is a blessed thing at the hour of death to be able to say in sincerity and uprightness, that we have glorified God in the world, and have finished the work which he appointed us to do; Father, I have glorified thee on earth; and have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
From the connection of this with the former verse learn, 1. That whoever expects to be glorified of God in heaven, must glorify him first here upon earth.
2. That, after we have glorified him, we may expect to be glorified with him and by him. I have glorified thee, and now, O Father, glorify thou me; it follows, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
Here note, 1. That Christ as God, had an essential glory with God the Father before the world was: he had this glory not in the purpose and decree of God only, as the Socinians would have it; for he doth not say, "Glorify me with the glory which thou didst purpose and prepare for me before the world was:" but "which I had and enjoyed with thee before the world was:" by which words our Lord plainly asserts his own existence and being from eternity, and prays for a re-exaltation to that glory which he enjoyed with his Father before his incarnation.
Note, 2. That Christ, as Mediator, did so far humble himself, that he needed to pray for his Father to bestow upon him the glory which he wanted; namely, the glory of his ascension and exaltation: Now, O Father, Glorify me with thine own self.
As if Christ had said, "Father, glorify me, embrace and honour me as thy Son, who have been, in the eyes of the world, handled disgracefully as a servant." It is an actual glory that Christ speaks of, not in decree and purpose only, for that believers had as well as he; but this was a glory when no creature was in being.
By the name of God, we are here to understand his nature, his property, and attributes, his designs and counsels for the salvation of mankind. Christ, as the prophet of his church, made all these known unto his people.
Learn hence, that Jesus Christ has made a full and complete discovery of his Father's mind and will unto his people: I have manifested thy name unto them which thou gavest me; thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word.
Learn, 1. That all believers are given unto Christ, as his purchase, and as his charge: they are given him as his subjects, as his children; as the wife of his bosom, as the members of his body.
Learn, 2. That none are given to Christ but those that were first the Father's: Thine they were, and thou gavest them me.
Learn, 3. That all those that are given unto Christ, do keep his word; they keep it in their understandings, they hide it in their hearts, they feel the force of it in their souls, they express the power of it in their lives: They have kept thy word.
Observe here, 1. The faithfulness of Christ in revealing the whole will of his Father to his disciples.
2. The proficiency of his disciples in the school of Christ: They knew all the things which Christ had told them; namely, that whatsoever he had, was given him of the Father, and that he had these things from him to be a mediator.
Learn hence, that Christ hath approved himself a faithful prophet to his church; a faithful messenger from his Father to his people, in that he hath added nothing to his message, nor taken nothing from it.
2. That it is our duty to know and believe on Christ, as the only messenger and mediator sent of God: Now they have known that all things whatsoever thou hast given me are of thee.
As if Christ had said, "The message by thee my Father committed to me, I have communicated to them my disciples, and they have received it, and will communicate it from thee to the world; being sufficiently assured that my coming and preaching was all by commission from thee."
Hence learn, 1. That the doctrine of the gospel, which was revealed by Christ, was received from the Father.
2. That faith is a receiving of the word of Christ, and of Christ in and by the word. Receiving is a relative term, and presupposes an offer. God offers on his part, and we receive on our part, the whole word with the whole heart. That the ministers of the gospel are to preach that, and only that, which they have out of the word of God: I have given them the word which thou gavest me.
That is, "I now offer up a prayer particularly, 1. For my apostles, designed for so great a work as the preaching of the everlasting gospel to the obstinate Jews and obdurate Gentiles.
2. I intercede also for all believers at this time, for their perseverance in the faith, and constancy in persecution, but I do not now intercede for the wicked and impenitent world, they not being capable (whilst such) of these mercies and blessings;" though at other times we find him praying for the world, yea, for his very crucifiers: Father, forgive them, &c.
Nay, in this very prayer, at the 20th verse, he prays for the world; that is, for the Gentile world; all those that, by the preaching of the apostles and their successors, should be brought to believe on him to the end of the world.
Learn hence, 1. That the Lord Jesus Christ is the great and gracious intercessor.
2. That all believers, all the children of God in general, are under the fruit and benefit of Christ's intercession.
3. That as all the members of Christ in general, so the ministers and ambassadors of Christ in special, have a particular interest in Christ's intercession: and great are the advantages of his intercession for them.
1. From the person interceding, Christ: consider the dignity of his person, God-man: the dearness of his person, God's son.
2. From the manner of his intercession: not by way of entreaty, but meritorious claim.
3. From the sublimity of his office: our intercessor is near to God, even at his right hand.
4. From the fruits of his intercession: it procures the acceptance and justification of our persons, the hearing and answering of our prayers, the pardon and forgiveness of our sins, our preservation in grace, and our hopes of eternal glory.
We may understand this two ways;
1. Of all persons; all my friends, all my disciples, are thine as well as mine.
Thence learn, that the Father and the Son have a like share and property in all believers.
2. The words in the original, being of the neuter gender, signify, all thy things are mine, and all my things are thine.
Christ and his Father are one, and they agree in one; they have the same essence and nature, the same attributes and will; Christ hath all things that the Father hath, willeth all things that the Father willeth, and doeth all things that the Father doeth; he is therefore really and essentially God. It followeth, And I am glorified in them: that is, I am made glorious by their owning and receiving me, by their believing in me, and accepting of me for their Lord and Saviour.
Thence note, that the Lord Jesus Christ is eminently glorified in and by all those that believe in him, and belong unto him.
Here observe, 1. Our Saviour's present condition: I am no more in the world: that is, I shall continue on earth but a small time longer, and then ascend to my Father in heaven.
Learn thence, that Jesus Christ, as he is man, he is gone out of this lower world into the immediate presence of his Father; he had been abased before, he must be exalted now; he had no more work to do on earth, but much to do in heaven, therefore he left this earth to go to heaven.
Observe, 2. Our Saviour's prayer to his Father for his apostles, before he left the world: Holy Father, keep them; that is, preserve them by thy divine power and goodness, for the glory of thy holy name.
Here note, 1. The title and appellation given to God, Holy Father.
Thence learn, that when we go to God in pryaer, especially for grace and sanctification, we must look upon him as an holy Father, as essentially and originally holy, as infinitely and independently holy.
Note, 2. The supplication requested of God: Keep through thy name those whom thou hast given me.
Thence learn, that the perseverance of the saints in a state of grace, is the sweet effect and fruit of Christ's prayer: Christ has begged it, and it cannot be denied; there being such an harmony and sweet consent betwixt the will of the Father the will of the Son.
Three things concur to the believer's perseverance.
On the Father's part there is everlasting love, and all sufficient power.
On the Son's part, there is everlasting merit, and constant intercession.
On the Spirit's part, there is a perpetual inhabitation, and continued influence.
Observe, 3. The end of Christ's supplication on behalf of his people: That they may be one, as we are one.
Here note, 1. That the heart of Christ is exceedingly set upon the unity and oneness of his members. The believers' union with Christ their head, and one with another, has some resemblance to that unity that is betwixt the Father and the Son. For it is an holy and Spiritual union, a close and intimate union, an indissoluble and inseparable union.
Observe, here, 1. That those which shall be saved, are given unto Christ, and committed to his care and trust.
2. That none of those that are given unto Christ, as his charge, and committed to his care and trust, shall be finally lost: Those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost: it follows, but the Son of perdition.
A person may be said to be the son of perdition two ways; actively and passively.
Actively, he is so who makes it his work and business to destroy others.
Passively, he is a son of perdition, who for his wickedness in destroying others, is destroyed himself.
Judas was a son of perdition in both these senses; his heart was maliciously set upon destroying Christ, and willfully set upon his own destruction: his coveteousness and hypocrisy prompted him to betray our Saviour, his despair provoked him to destroy himself.
In these words our Saviour declares the great reason why he did at this time so publicly and solemnly pray for his disciples; it was to fill them with joy and comfort, that their joy might not be diminished by Christ's departure, but rather increased by the coming of the Comforter: That they may have my joy fulfilled in them: that is, the joy which they take in me, and the joy which they have from me.
There is a double care which Christ takes of his people; namely, a care of their graces, and a care of their joy and comfort; how solicitious was he to leave his disciples joyful before he departed from them! He delights to see his people cheerful; and he knows of what great use spiritual joy is in the Christian's course, both to enable us for doing, and to fit us for suffering.
Learn hence, 1. That Christ is the author and orignal of the joy of his people: My joy.
2. That it is Christ's will and desire, that his people might be full of holy joy: That my joy may be fulfilled in them.
3. That the great end of Christ's prayer and intercession was, and is, that his peoples' heart may be full of joy: These things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
I have given them thy word, partly by external revelation, and partly by internal illumination; and for thy word's sake the world hates them, as also because they are not of the world.
Learn, 1. That Christians, especially ministers to whom Christ has given his word, must expect the world's hatred. Few of the prophets or apostles died a natural death: as their calling is eminent, so must their sufferings be exemplary. The best ministers, and the best men, are usually most hated. There is an antipathy against the power of godliness; or a cruel, causeless, implacable, and irreconcilable hatred against the saints, because of their strictness in religion, and contrariety to the world.
2. That it is to the honour of believers that they are like unto Christ, in being the object of the world's hatred: The world hates them, because they are not of the world, as I am not of the world.
This Christ adds both for information and consolation; for information, that they should look for such hatred, misery, and trouble, as they saw him grapple with; and for consolation, to think that the world can never hate us so bad as it hated Christ.
Here observe, 1. That the wisdom of Christ sees fit to continue his children and people in the world, notwithstanding all the perils and dangers of the world. He has work for them, and they are of use to him, for a time, in the world; till their work be done, Christ's love will not, and the world's malice cannot, remove them from hence. Yet Christ prays that his Father would keep them from the evil; that is, from the sins, temptations, and snares of this wicked world.
Thence note, that a spiritual victory over evil is to be preferred before a total exemption from evil; it is a far greater mercy to be kept from sin in our afflictions, than from the afflictions themselves.
Learn farther, how necessary divine aid is to our preservation and success, even in the holiest and best of enterprizes, and how necessary it is to seek it by fervent prayer.
Note, also, that such as sincerely devote themselves to Christ's service, are sure of his aid and protection whilst so employed.
Sanctify them, not initially, for so they were sanctified already, but progressively: let them increase more and more in grace and holiness.
Learn hence, 1. That such as are already sanctified, must labour and ought to endeavour after further measures and higher degrees of santification: that the most holy may yet be more holy.
2. The word of God is the great instrument in God's hand for his people's santification.
3. That the word of God is the truth of God; Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. The word of God is a divine truth, an eternal truth, an infallible truth, an holy truth.
Observe here, 1. Christ's mission; the Father sent him into the world.
Christ's sending implies the designation of his person, his qualification for the work, his authority and commission.
Learn hence, that Christ did not of himself undertake the office of a Mediator, but was sent; that is, authorized and commissioned of God so to do; Thou hast sent me into the world.
Observe, 2. As Christ's mission, so the apostles' mission: As thou hast sent me, so have I sent them.
Learn thence, that none may, or ought, to undertake the office of the ministry, without an authoritative sending from Christ himself; not immediately and extraordinarily by voice or vision, but immediately by the officers of the church. And such as are so sent, are sent by Christ himself; and if so, it is the people's duty to reverence their persons, to respect their office, to receive their message: As thou hast sent me, so have I sent them.
The word sanctify here, is not to be taken for the cleansing, purifying, or making holy, that which before was unclean; but Christ's sanctifying himself imports,
1. His separation of setting himself apart to be a sacrifice for sin.
2. His consecration or dedication of himself to this holy use and service.
Hence learn, that Jesus Christ did dedicate and solemnly set himself apart to the great work and office of a Mediator.
Learn, 2. That the great end for which Christ did thus sanctify himself, was, that he might sanctify his members; therefore did he consecrate and set himself apart for us, that we should be consecrated to, and wholly set apart for, him.
Hitherto our Saviour had been praying for himself and his apostles; now he prays for all persons, both Jews and Gentiles, that should believe on him, throughout the world, by the preaching of the gospel.
Hence learn, 1. That all believers have a special interest in Christ's prayer.
2. That in the sense of the gospel they are believers who are wrought upon to believe in Christ through the word.
3. That such is Christ's care of, and love to his own, that they were remembered by him in his prayer, even before they had a being: I pray not for these alone, but for all that shall believe in me.
The special mercy, and particular blessing which Christ prays for on behalf of believers, is a close and intimate union betwixt the Father, himself, and them, and also betwixt one another; such an union as doth in some sort resemble that union which is betwixt God and Christ; not an unity of essence and nature, but of wills and affections.
Hence note, 1. That the mystical union betwixt Christ and his members carrieth some resemblance with that union which is betwixt the Father and the Son.
2. That the union amongst the ministers and members of Jesus Christ, is of so great importance, necessity, and consequence, that he did in their behalf principally and chiefly pray for it. An unity of love and affection, of faith and profession, an unity of practice and conversation, are mercies which Christ earnestly prayed for, and has dearly paid for; and nothing is more desired by him now in heaven than that his disciples should be one among themselves here on earth: Father, may they be one, as we are one: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
Here Christ intimates one special advantage that would redound to the world by this desirable union betwixt the ministers and members of Christ; it will, if not convert, yet at least convince the world, that I and my doctrine came from God.
Thence note, that union amongst Christ's disciples is one special mean to enlarge the kingdom of Christ, and to cause the world to have better thoughts of him and his doctrine: By their being one, as we are one, the world will believe that thou hast sent me.
Here observe, 1. Christ's communication of that glory to believers, which he had received of the Father; that is, not his essential glory, but his mediatorial glory: The glory which thou gavest me. Now Christ hath no glory given him as God, but much glory bestowed upon him as Mediator.
Observe, 2. The end of this communication,why he gave his disciples that glory which the Father had given him; namely, that they might be one.
Learn, 1. That God the Father had bestowed much glory on Christ his Son, as he is Man, and Mediator of the church.
2. That the same glory for kind and substance, though not for measure and degree, which Christ as Mediator has received from the Father, is communicated to true believers.
3. That the great end of this communication was, and is, to oblige and enable his people to maintain a very strict union among themselves; The glory which thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as we are one.
4. That unity amongst believers is part of that glory which Christ as Mediator hath obtained for them.
Observe here, 1. That as the Father is in Christ, so is Christ, in believers, and they in him: the Father is in Christ in respect of his divine nature, essence, and attributes; and Christ is in believers, by the inhabitation of his Holy Spirit.
Observe, 2. That the believers' happiness consisteth in their oneness, in being one with God through Christ, and one amongst themselves: That they may be made perfect in one.
Observe, 3. That God the Father loveth Christ his Son: Thou lovest them, as thou hast loved me.
God loveth Christ, first, as God; so he is Primum Amabile, the first object of his love, as representing his attributes exactly.
Secondly, as Mediator, Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life for my sheep. Joh 10:17.
Observe, 4. That God the Father loves believers, even as he loved Christ himself; that is, he loves them upon the same grounds that he loved him; namely, for their nearness, and for their likeness to him.
1. For their nearness and relation to him; he loveth Christ as his Son, believers as his children, Behold what manner of love the Father bestoweth upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! 1John 3:1.
2. The properties of the Father's love towards Christ and believers are the same: doth he love Christ with a tender love, with an unchangeable love, with an everlasting love? so doth he love believers also.
Observe, 5. That Christ would have the world know, that God the Father loveth the children of men, as well as himself; Christ is not ambitious to engross all our love unto himself, but would have the world take notice of the good-will of his Father, as well as of himself, to lost mankind; of the Father's loving himself, as well as of his own love in coming: That the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Our Saviour had prayed for his disciples' sanctification before, here he prays for their glorification:
1. That they may be where he is; now Christ is with them in his ordinances, in his word, and at his table; ere long they shall be with him as his friends, as his spouse, as his companions, in his kingdom.
2. That they may be with him where he is; that is more than the former; a blind man may be where the sun is, but not with the sun, because he doth not enjoy the light and benefit of it. To be with Christ where he is, imports union and communion with him.
3. That being with him where he is, they may behold his glory; that is, to see it, and everlastingly to possess and enjoy it.
Learn, 1. That all those that are given to Christ as his charge, and as his reward, shall certainly come to heaven to him; Father, I will that they be with me; because I have merited that they should be with me; I will that they behold my glory, because I have purchased it at so dear a rate.
Learn, 2. That the work and employment of the saints in heaven chiefly consist in seeing and enjoying Christ's glory; for it will be a possessive sight; the language of every look will be, "This happiness is mine, this glory is mine."
3. That the top and height of the saints' happiness in heaven consists in this, that they shall be with Christ; Father, I will that they may be with me, to behold my glory.
Observe here, 1. The appellation given to God: O righteous Father. This is the sixth time that Christ in this prayer has called God, Father, it being so sweet a relation, and producing all love, delight, joy, and confidence in God, by him that practically reproves it.
But observe, that at verse 11, Joh 17:11, when Christ prayed for his people's sanctification, he said, Holy Father, making use of that attribute which is the cause of all holiness in the creature; but now praying for their glorification, he says, O Righteous Father; righteous in making good thy promises both to me and them.
Observe, 2. What it is that our Saviour affirms concerning the wicked and unbelieving world, that they have not known God; The world hath not known thee; not as if the world hath not known him at all, but not known him aright; the unbelieving and unsanctified part of the world having no saving knowledge of God, not living answerably to what they know to be their duty.
Observe, 3. What Christ affirms concerning himself: But I have known thee, and these have known thee. Intimating thus much unto us, that Jesus Christ knows God immediately, and all others know him by the means of Christ; Christ is the original and fontal cause of all the saving knowledge that believers have of God. There is not the least ray of saving illumniation that doth not descend from Christ and the Spirit of Chirst: I have known thee, and these have known that thou didst send me.
That is, "I have made known unto them thy nature, attributes, counsels, will and commands, and I will continue the manifestation of the same unto the end.
Learn thence, that the saving knowledge of God was not attainable by natural abilities, but cometh to us by the special revelation of Jesus Christ: I have declared unto them thy name.
Learn, 2. That they that have the name of God, his nature, and will, savingly declared to them, do not stand in need of any farther declarations and discoveries of God's nature and will to be made unto them: I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it.
That is, "That the love which is originally in thyself, as the fountain of all grace, may be communicated and dispensed from thee to them, and become inherent in them."
Learn hence, that it is not enough for the people of God that they are beloved of him, and that his love is towards them; but they must endeavour to have it in them; that is, experience it in the effects of it, and in the sense and feeling of it in their own souls.
The safety of a Christian lies in this, that God loves him; but the joy, the comfort, and happiness of a Christ, consists in the knowledge, in the sensible apprehension and feeling, of his love; therefore Christ closeth his prayer for his members, with this affectionate and comprehensive petition: Let the love wherewith thou hast loved me, be in them, and I in them.
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