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"Law versus Grace.".
I. St. Paul's maxim that it is death which puts an end to all obligation created by statute law. Expositors have often remarked how fond this apostle was of legal phraseology, and especially of illustrations borrowed from jurisprudence. His whole doctrine of justification, as we have it in the earlier portion of this Epistle, is in fact cast in a forensic mould. The verses immediately preceding this chapter describe conversion in language borrowed from an ancient legal process for the manumission of slaves. In harmony with the same obvious tendency of his mind, St. Paul is here borrowing a legal maxim to set forth the necessity for our Lord's judicial death; and citing an instance of it from the marriage law of the Hebrews. The maxim is this: nothing save death can ordinarily cancel the binding obligation of civil law over its subjects; but death always does so. What we are clearly meant to gather from this legal illustration is that the decease of Jesus as the legal representative of His people was necessary, in order to dissolve the claims over them of the Divine law.
II. St. Paul contends that it is indispensable that men should be loosed from the legal obligation, if ever they were to attain to real holiness. The lex scripta of Mosaism failed because it was only a lex scripta. It stood over against the fallen nature of man as the bare utterance of a stronger will, an imperative as cold and rigid as the stone it was graved upon, with nothing about it to quicken inward affection or move the deep springs of spiritual good in the human heart. In the gospel a new Word steps into the vacant seat of moral control, and begins to exert his quickening influence upon the moral life. That other is Christ Himself, risen from the dead and reigning in virtue of the grace He brings. If I am so joined to Him as to be delivered from the law through His death, then I must be so joined to Him as to be animated by His life. In the room of the dead letter of Moses' decalogue, prescribing duty to a dead soul, Christ breathes into the man a living spirit. The love for what pleases God proves itself the parent of a troop of happy impulses and pure affections and glad obediences to all the holy and perfect will of our Father in heaven.
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 191.
Reference: Romans 7:1 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 248.
I. "Ye are dead." This spiritual death must surely be in some profound sense so often and so earnestly is the phrase reiterated the mystical image of that death from which it derives its name. Whither does death conduct us? "Today shalt thou be with Me in paradise," said the Lord of Life to the dying penitent. He Himself "preached to spirits in confinement," preserved in the secret citadel of God; a world where, as He declared, all live unto Him, and whose happier region perhaps is typified by the bosom of Abraham, which the Jews employed to express it and which our Lord has consecrated by His adoption. The triumphant fulness of heavenly glory seems to demand the body no less than the spirit; and may we not fairly deem, with many of our safest and holiest divines, that there is beyond this scene, in some lone region of the illimitable universe, a home for the spirit, embodied, or clad it may be, with some fine and invisible materialism, where in the calm expectation of consummate bliss it learns the art of higher happiness, and trains its faculties for coming glory. And as in all our physical changes spiritual changes more essential seem pictured, I cannot but think that as our death represents the spiritual death that opens the Christian's course, so this intervening state of holy anticipation seems eminently to represent the peculiar blessedness that follows death to sin and to the law.
II. Departed saints are dead to the world, dead to its sins, dead to its avenging law. It cannot cast its shadow across the grave, and it cannot prolong one pang of bitterness, one touch of temptation. Its waves are broken beneath the walls of that sheltered paradise. These are the franchised of Christ and of death; dust has returned to dust that the spirit might return unto God; they have died into His eternal life. This is the story of the dying saint; such dying saints must you be even now, if you would live even now with Jesus.
W. Archer Butler, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 116.
References: Romans 7:4 . Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxv., p. 56. Romans 7:5-25 . Homilist, new series, vol. i., p. 109. Romans 7:6 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 11; Ibid., Sermons, 10th series, p. 217. Romans 7:6 , Romans 7:25 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., p. 216.
I. These are searching words, and direct our thoughts to the hidden light in pursuance of the design of explaining and enforcing the plan of man's justification in the gospel through the merits of Jesus Christ by faith. The Apostle shows that all men, Jew and Gentile alike, are sinners, deserving of death; that the law could not justify because all had disobeyed the law; and by baptism into Christ's death the Christian had died, as it were, to the law, and is no more bound to the law of the covenant than a woman after her husband's death is by the vows of her first marriage. Having thus been obliged to speak disparagingly of the law as a covenant in comparison with the gospel, the Apostle hastens to prevent an inference derogatory to the law itself, and consequently to the character of Him who gave it. The law has laid down a broad clear rule of right, and by taking away every plea of ignorance, and placing the weight of God's authority in the scale, it has, as it were, opened our eyes, and shown us that we are sinners.
II. Consider the sin of unlawful desires. The product of our corrupt nature may spring up spontaneously from the original soil, an evidence always of original sin, the parent of actual sin. The world is full of occasions which call them forth; the devil suggests, and the heart too readily answers to the call. They are the first steps towards the acts of sin and the actual violation of the letter of God's law, and when they in reality take place, the struggle issues, either in resisting the temptation by Divine grace and overcoming it, or a sin which results from yielding and defeat. The desire of sin, when indulged in, is as sinful as the act itself. The sinfulness of unlawful desires impresses upon us all the necessity of self-examination and watchfulness and prayer. Such desires are the natural offspring of our own evil heart, we are liable to their intrusion at all times and in all places. We should accustom ourselves to examine our desires, our thoughts, wishes, and external temptations, and judge them, not as carrying no guilt because not proceeding to the outward deed, but as mental acts, having their own moral character, and, as such, condemned or acquitted by the spiritual law of God. The weapons of this warfare of ours must not be carnal, but from God, and mighty to the pulling down of strongholds, if we would cast down the imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against God.
Bishop Temple, Oxford and Cambridge Journal, March 11th, 1880.
References: Romans 7:7 . Bishop Temple, Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ix., p. 145; Ibid., Church of England Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 145.
A Chapter in Saul's Early Life.
I. St. Paul repels with energy the idea that there can be anything essentially bad, unholy, or immoral about the blessed law of God itself. On the contrary, but for that law he could never have reached any real knowledge of sin. Only by the law's clear discovery of moral good does it bring home to us the conviction of sin's sinfulness. During childhood, and sometimes well on into early youth, we do not realise God's law. A moment arrives when the law of God comes home to the conscience with new power. In the case of young Saul, it was especially the tenth commandment which came home. It became plain to him that God forbids not merely doing wrong, but wishing wrong. He saw that to be good, therefore, one has to watch the earliest budding of a bad wish within the heart nay, that if the bad wish bud there at all, the law is already, and in that fact, broken. Ah! the happy dream life was ended then. Here was the death of all his peace and gladness. "Sin revived," says he, with a terse pathos, "sin awoke unto life, and I died."
II. The law had failed, then, shall we say? Instead of quenching sin in Saul's soul it had inflamed it. It had produced self-condemnation, inward strife, despair, and death. Was the law to blame for that? No, it was the very perfection and glory of the Decalogue that it contained that tenth and most spiritual precept. It was just its exceeding broadness and nobleness which made it impossible for unregenerate Saul to keep it. It was no fault of the law that it wrought in Saul lust and death; but it was the fault of what Saul had now learned to know as sin. Not sins, but sin: not sinfulness even as a simple quality of the sinner, but sin as a force, a dread and mighty factor in the human soul, which lies deep, deeper than desire, and proves itself strong, stronger than the better will that strives against it. In His mercy God meant men to learn this bitter, humbling, but most salutary lesson, that the natural heart is at enmity against God, since it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 201.
The Place of the Law in the Salvation of Sinners.
We have here:
I. A life which a man enjoys in and of himself before he knows God. "I was alive without the law once." This is the natural state of the fallen. It is here called life, and elsewhere it is called death. The wide diversity of the names employed to designate the same thing need not cause surprise. The one term expresses the true state of the man, and the other term expresses the man's own view of his state. In God's sight it is death; in his own imagination it is life.
II. The Exodus from that Egypt; the escape from that false life by a dying. "The commandment came, sin revived, and I died." (1) "The commandment came." It is no longer an imitation law, modelled on the measure of his own attainments, which might be pressed upon his conscience, and yet not extinguish his self-righteous life. It is the unchanging will of the unchanging God the word which liveth and abideth for ever. It is a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces. (2) "Sin revived" at the entrance of this visitant. The commandment coming in did not cause, but only detected, sin. It was by the light of the commandment, when it came, that he discovered the sin which had all along been living and reigning in his heart and life. (3) "I died." The life in which he had hitherto trusted was extinguished then. Chased by the strange usurper from every part of its long-cherished home, the life flickers over it a moment, like the flame of an expiring lamp, and then darts away into the unseen.
III. He lives in another life. No interval of time separated the two. The death that led from one life was the birth of another. It is one act. The dying is the living. The exodus from this life is the entrance into that. He does not remain one moment dead. The instant after his death, you hear him exclaiming, "I died." His own voice declaring how and when he died is the surest evidence that he lives. "Nevertheless, I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." "Our life is hid with Christ in God."
W. Arnot, Roots and Fruits, p. 69.
References: Romans 7:9 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 299. Romans 7:9-25 . H. W. Beecher, Ibid., vol. iii., p. 179.
I. The sentiment of law, nowadays, is killing the living consciousness in man; it was so, it has been so, in all ages; man is not only in danger from the great majesties of nature, he is in danger not less from himself and from his own works. In many directions they are assuming proportions not less than terrible to him. He may say with the Apostle, "The law slew me." What, then, did the word law mean to St. Paul? What did he find in it? The whole Epistle to the Romans is an exhibition of the reconciliation made by God, of man with His law. It is to us a cold, hard word; but it represents that which is highest in God order, holiness, rectitude. The moderns think they have advanced far, when they discover that the universe moves upon the wheels of law. Paul plainly enough declares that, and he further opens his epistle declaring that man alone breaks through the barriers of law. This is the subject of the first chapter. Immoral is unlawful.
II. I conceive, then, that so long as we limit the Pauline conception of the word law to the legalism of Judaism, we do injustice, not only to the argument of the Apostle, but still more injustice to the scope and intention of the Christian system. When I hear Paul speak of the law of God, I understand by it God's expressed will. But then we know that will is the expression of God's character. God is a sovereign, but He has a law in His own being, beyond and beneath which He cannot go. He can do nothing unholy. He can do nothing wrong, nothing beneath the character of God.
III. The law of consciousness is used by the Apostle, when he rises from the review of the symmetry of things to the conditions of character by which God has made Himself known to us. But the birth of consciousness in the soul is the awakening of conscience; and while consciousness broods over matter, as a master over a slave, conscience, a still more inexorable master, broods over the consciousness. Law is still a terror, that which is fixed; the rigid hard law of things is still a sentence and a doom. But the law becomes our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. He is a new force in the soul. Terrified by what is fixed and arbitrary in law, I wanted to find the security of the law of permanence transcended by the law of change, and I find it here. I discover how "the law and the Spirit of life sets free from the law of sin," that is conscience, "and of death," that is nature.
E. Paxton Hood, Dark Sayings on a Harp, p. 173.
References: Romans 7:11 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1045; C. J. Vaughan, Lessons of the Cross and Passion, p. 241.
It is plain that the revelation of the law is made to assist us in copying the pattern which is there set before us. Consider the defect of character which is the natural consequence of not being fully impressed with each one of these three characteristics of God's government and His creation.
I. A man may be deficient in a sense of the holiness of the law. Of course he who does not feel the holiness of the law will not fully feel its goodness, still less its justice. The defect of such a man's character is a tendency to be earthly. To have his hopes, his aims, his labours, bounded by this present life; to lose all hold of the heavenly, unearthly side of religion; to be much more moral than devotional; to cut out all his duties by an earthly pattern. This defect of character admits of many degrees. But it is plain that such a man is not fashioned on the highest type. His service may be genuine as far as it goes; but it is imperfect, not only as all human service is imperfect in the execution, but imperfect in the very conception and idea.
II. Again, a man may not have a strong sense of the goodness of God's law. Such a man, of course, has but a poor and narrow idea of holiness. But still he may have much more sense of that than of God's goodness. He shuts himself out from much that is tender, much that touches the heart, much that softens and blesses, because he will not open his senses to receive the gifts of his Maker.
III. Lastly, a man may be wanting in a sense of the justice of God's government. And perhaps for us imperfect creatures this is the most dangerous deficiency of all. Such a one generally shows his want by a weak desire to bury the past. He has no sense of a sin once done being a substantive thing tied inevitably to substantive consequences. And for this very reason he cannot feel any need for a Redeemer or a redemption. And so he never comes with a full acknowledgment of his guilt to the foot of the Cross, resigning soul and body to Him who alone can cleanse.
Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, p. 111.
I. What is sin? Rebellion the resistance of a human mind against the sovereignty of its Creator. It little matters, in comparison, what may be the act by which a rebel shows that he is a rebel; the fact is the important thing that he is in a state of rebellion. Man measures sin by the degree of the injury which a sin inflicts on society, or upon the man who does it. God measures sin by the degree of the rebellion which He sees in that sin against Himself. What we call the sin is in His sight only the index of the sinfulness which lies deep down in the heart.
II. No sin is single, no sin is solitary, there are no islands in sin. The principle of obedience is a single thing; the man that has broken one law has violated the principle of obedience, and therefore he is as much a breaker of the law as if he had broken a thousand things. Again, all God's law is one law. It resolves itself into one Thou shalt love the Lord thy God. He that hath done one sin did not love God; therefore by his want of love he has brought himself guilty to the count of all the law for the law is love.
III. Every sin which a man does, lies in a series in which that one sin is a link, and none can calculate what will be the chain of repetitions and the chain of consequences, which shall stretch on and on from sin to sin, from person to person, from circle to circle, from age to age beyond time into eternity. The sins that we do very soon pass out of our memory, in the crowd of new and pressing engagements and thoughts which come around us; we perhaps very little realise now the sins which once pressed very heavily and were very vivid to our consciences. But with God's view each one sin is as green and fresh as at the moment when it was done. Let us try then to look on sin as God looks on it, and we shall better appreciate the infinite grace of Him who was made sin for us.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 319.
References: Romans 7:13 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1095; Ibid., Morning by Morning, p. 71; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., P. 103.
Dualism in the Life.
I. This is the earliest place in this Epistle where the two terms "flesh and spirit" occur in clear contrast, with the peculiar ethical sense conferred upon them by one another. In the next chapter we find them in constant use, as the key words of his argument. The point of St. Paul here is that the law of God partakes of His own nature. It, too, is spiritual. It reflects the Divine character, for it expresses the Divine will, and therefore between it and the nature of man, as man now is, there holds precisely the same incompatibility which our Lord affirmed between what is born of the flesh and what is born of the spirit. In this sad closing picture of his own experience, even after his mind had become reconciled to the law, St. Paul has made himself a mirror in which men of earnest holiness and habits of self-scrutiny have in every age seen themselves reflected. Such an internal dualism such a strife of opposites such a comparative impotency to realise the good they propose, are standing characteristics of saintliness, if we may judge saints by their most secret confessions and self-examinations.
II. St. Paul speaks of the law in his members as waging such successful war, that it even carried him off at times into captivity, like a prisoner of war. For the sinful principle which has its seat in an inborn disposition makes sudden sallies when a soul is off its guard, then leaps on with some gust of passion, and before it can gather itself up to resist it is swept forward by the unexpected pressure and is lost. So anger overtakes some, so lust others. Let us entreat God for a watchful temper. In Christ Jesus is a spirit of life. What the law never could do, because it was weak through the flesh, God has done in Christ. The Spirit whom we have received in Christ is the true answer to every "Who shall deliver?" Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.
J. Oswald Dykes, The Gospel according to St. Paul, p. 211.
References: Romans 7:18 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iv., p. 84; W. Ground, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 316; H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 5th series, p. 115.Romans 7:19 . H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 364.
What are the lessons of life which we have to deduce from the doctrine of original sin?
I. First, of course, there is that dependence on God's help, which we can never too often repeat to our hearts as our only stay. We have to learn not merely as an abstract truth but as a living fact, as a principle which will check and control, and yet uphold our hearts throughout the day, that we are in God's hands and not our own. We are not the real combatants in the great battle; rather our souls are the battle-field, and Christ and sin fight there for supremacy, and we can but surrender ourselves to one of the two. We are weak and helpless, except in as much as God may help us. If we would ask what are the tokens of our having learnt the lesson, the answer is, that besides the quiet trust in God, the chief token of our having learnt to lean on God, and not on ourselves, is the avoidance of all unnecessary temptation.
II. As on the one hand we learn our absolute dependence on God, so do we learn and get comfort in our Christian warfare. We learn that there is a sense in which we can, like the Apostle, disclaim our own faults and say as he did, "It is not I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." In so far as we do not consent to our own faults, in so far they are not our own; in so far as we yield to them, they are ours. And God who is greater than our hearts, and knoweth all things, can see when we have honestly striven, and assuredly will not deny His help in such a struggle.
III. We must not be disappointed, or cast down, or disheartened, because we find our self-improvement very much slower than we expect or like. The evil to be cured is past human remedy. God will cure it if we wish. But He will cure it in His own way, and at His own time. We must be content to fight the battle in His name and strength, and leave the issue in His hands.
Bishop Temple, Rugby Sermons, p. 122.
References: Romans 7:21 . Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 262.Romans 7:21-25 . A. D. Davidson, Lectures and Sermons, p. 458.
Victory amid Strife.
I. There are, says an ancient father, four states of man. In the first, man struggles not, but is subdued; in the second, he struggles and is still subdued; in the third, he struggles and subdues; in the fourth, he has to struggle no more. The first state of heavy sluggish acquiescence in sin is man's condition when not under the law of God. The second, of a fruitless, ineffectual struggle, is his state under the law, but not with the fulness of Divine grace. The third, wherein he is in the main victorious, is under the full grace of the gospel. The fourth, of tranquil freedom from all struggle, is in the blessed and everlasting peace. Three of these states there are now. However any be under the power of grace, they, while in the flesh, must have conflict still. It would not be a state of trial without conflict. And this conflict is within, as well as without. This very condition of our being must be good for us, since God, after He has redeemed, regenerated, renewed us, has given us of His Spirit, and made us members of His Son, united us to Christ, and made us temples of the Holy Ghost, but still leaves more or less responsibility in those whom He willed to sit on His right hand and on His left in His kingdom.
II. This conflict is continual. It spreads through the whole life and through every part in man. Man is besieged on all sides. No power, no faculty, no sense, is free from this warfare. Every sense is tempted or tempts to sin; the law of sin is found, although by God's grace it reigns not, in all our members. But though the whole man is besieged thus within and without, his inward self, his life, his soul, where God dwells, whereby he is united to God, is hemmed in, but not overcome, unless his will consents. "Sin lieth at the door." The will holds the door closed; the will alone opens the door. If thou open not the door thyself, sin cannot enter in. Resist the very first motions. It is then that thou art most in thy own power. Be not weary of resisting, although the temptation come again and again. Each such resistance is an act of obedience to God; each, done by His grace, draws down more of His grace to thee; in each His good pleasure will the more rest upon thee; by each thou wilt become more a vessel of His grace and love, more fitted and enlarged for His everlasting love.
E. B. Pusey, Sermons, vol. ii., p. 327.
References: Romans 7:22 , Romans 7:23 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1062; A. P. Peabody, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxii., p. 397.
I. When a man begins to hunger and thirst after righteousness, and, discontented with himself, attempts to improve himself, he soon begins to find a painful truth in many a word of the Bible to which he gave little heed, as long as he was contented with himself and with doing just what pleased him, right or wrong. He soon finds out the meaning and the truth of that terrible struggle between the good in him and the evil in him, of which St. Paul speaks so bitterly in the text. How, when he tries to do good, evil is present with him. How he delights in the law of God with his inward mind, and yet finds another law in his body warring against the law of God, and bringing him into captivity to the law of sin. How he is crippled by old habits, weakened by cowardice, by laziness, by vanity, by general inability of will, till he is ready disgusted at himself and his own weakness to cry, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
II. Let him but utter that cry honestly; let him once find out that he wants something outside himself to help him, to deliver him, to strengthen him, to stir up his weak will, to give him grace and power to do what he knows instead of merely admiring it and leaving it undone; let a man only find out that; let him see that he needs a helper, a deliverer, a strengthener, in one word a Saviour, and he will find one. Like St. Paul, after crying "O wretched man that I am!" he will be able to answer himself, "I thank God God will deliver me, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ will stir up this weak will of mine, Christ will give me strength and power, faithfully to fulfil all my good desires, because He Himself has put them into my heart not to mock me, not to disappoint me, not to make me wretched with the sight of noble graces and virtues to which I cannot attain, but to fulfil His work in me."
C. Kingsley, All Saints' Day, p. 41.
References: Romans 7:22-25 . Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. iii., p. 34.Romans 7:23 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxv., No. 1459. Romans 7:24 . Good Words, vol. iii., p. 445; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. iii., p. 37; C. J. Vaughan, Lessons of the Cross and Passion, p. 227.
I. The consciousness of sin is so far a universal fact of human nature, that if any one of us is without it, it is because of some disease and defect in his own mind. The conviction of sin may be stifled, nay, it is stifled every day, and yet it is universal as light is universal, although some may shut their eyes close and admit none of it; so is the consciousness of sin universal, although many believe that they have got rid of it altogether. For this very absence of conviction only proves the incompleteness of their nature. They deceive themselves, and the truth is not in them. They are sleeping steeped in cold mists and poisonous dews, but they know not the poison because they are asleep. Yet fire burns and poison destroys not the less, when the senses that are sentinels against them desert their posts. Every man whose nature is complete and awake and active knows that there is such a thing as sin and that he is a partaker in it.
II. In what does the consciousness of sin consist? It is the consciousness of division and strife within a man. His mind is not at peace with itself. In our pride we revolt against God, and all our inner thoughts start into rebellion against us. Today, with its high hopes and promises, passes censure on tomorrow with its foolish outbreaks and lame performances. If we could add a little weight to our will, or abate but a little from the force of our temptations! but as it is, the secret record of our lives would be a register of unfulfilled intentions.
III. Such a condition must be one of misery, out of which it is natural to try to escape, either by the door of deliverance opened to us by Christ in His gospel, or through the gates of death and hell. And all these belong not to the nature of sin itself, but only to our consciousness of it. Let us remember that the Physician is close at hand, who will pour balm into our wounds, who will create a new heart and a new spirit within us.
Archbishop Thomson, Lincoln's Inn Sermons, p. 188.
References: Romans 7:24 , Romans 7:25 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. v., No. 235; T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 313; J. Wells, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 5; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 347; Ibid., vol. xiv., p. 356; Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 96. Romans 7:25 . Good Words, vol. iii., p. 447. Romans 8:1 . G. Moberly, Parochial Sermons, p. 157; Three Hundred Outlines on the New Testament, p. 128; Preacher's Monthly, vol. i., p. 420; vol. ii., p. 258; vol. vii., p. 113; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 44.Romans 8:1-4 . D. Bagot, Church of England Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 125.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Romans 7". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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