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The Doctrine of Regeneration Further Explained

By Isaac Ambrose





      CHAP. 1.

      The Occasion and Method of this Treatise.

      SOME there are who, hearing the new birth to be so necessary to salvation, but never feeling in themselves any such change, have desired further helps. I advised them in the former treatise to be frequent in prayer, and hearing of the word: but so we have done, (say they) and yet we feel no conversion. It may be so, for not always the doing of these things, but perseverance in them through CHRIST obtains the blessing. I shall, for their further satis faction, give them a more particular method.

      The two things necessary for them that would have a part in the new birth, are, 1, To enter into the experience of it. 2. To be brought through it.

      1. The means necessary to enter into the experience of the new birth are, 1, Examination of themselves. 2. Confession of their sins. 3. Hearty prayer for the softening of their hearts. By which are obtained the three first steps sight of sin, sense of Divine wrath, sorrow for sin.

      2. The means to be used in order to be brought through it, are an application of the promises; and these produce their several effects; as, a sight of CHRIST; a desire after CHRIST; a relying on CHRIST; and obedience to CHRIST.

      CHAP 2

      The first Means in order to experience the New Birth.

      The means to be used as preparatory to this change are, first, examination. And the way to examine, is to set before men that crystal-glass of the law for their light and rule. To this purpose I have here annexed a catalogue; not that I can possibly enumerate all sins, but only the kinds; and if herein I come short, yet conscience may hereby bring into men's thoughts those others not mentioned.

      Now, then, (whosoever you art that beginnest' this blessed work,) examine thyself by this catalogue, but dd it warily, and truly; and where you findest thyself guilty, either note the particulars in this book, or transcribe them into some paper, that so they may be ready for thine eye when you comest to confession.

      I. Sins against the First Commandment.


      In every commandment we must observe both the duties required, and sins forbidden, for both these are implied in every one of the commandments; if in the first you art guilty, you must answer negatively; if in the second, you must answer affirmatively.

      1. For the ditties required. Have you ever taken the true GOD in CHRIST to be thy GOD? Have you abounded   in those graces by which you should cleave unto GOD, as in knowledge and love, and fear, and joy, and trusting in GOD? blast you observed GOD's mercies, and promises, and works and judgments upon thee, and (by a particular application) taken special notice thereof? Have you communicated with the Godly, and joined thyself to GOD's people, and delighted chiefly in them?

      2. For the sins forbidden, Have you not sometimes been guilty of blasphemy, or idolatry, or witchcraft, or atheism? Have you not been guilty of pride, a sin flatly opposing GOD, and first committed by devils? Have you not had inward reasonings that there is no GOD, or that he seeth not, or knows not, or that there is no profit in his service? blast you not trusted in man, or feared man, or loved the world, and thereby alienated thy heart from Cod? Have you not resorted to witches, or in the first place to physicians, and not to the living GOD? Have you not tempted GOD, and in the matters of GOD been either cold, or lukewarm, or preposterously zealous? Have you not been careless to perform the inward duties of GOD's worship in sincerity and truth? If in those you have transgressed, then has you broken this com mandment,

      II. Sins against the Second Commandment.


      1. For the duties required. Have you ever worshipped the true GOD purely according to his will? blast you observed all the outward duties of his worship, as prayer, tend vows, and fasting, and meditating, and the rest? Have you repaired to GOD's house, observed family duties, received the preachers of the gospel?

      2. For the sins forbidden, blast you not sometimes " walked after the imaginations of thy own heart," serving GOD out of custom? Have you not committed idol-worship, conceiving of GOD in thy mind in the likeness of a creature? Have you not made an image to liken GOD to it, or used any gesture of love and reverence to any such images? Have you not carelessly neglected to worship GOD, to call upon the Lord, to receive GOD's ministers, or to perform some other of the outward duties of GOD's worship? If in any of these you have transgressed, then have you broken this commandment.

      III. Sins against the Third Commandment.

      GOD IN VAIN.

      1. For the duties required. Hast you been a constant learner, hearer, and doer of GOD's Word and will? blast you prayed with perseverance, understanding, and power of the Spirit, without doubting or wavering? Hast you come preparedly to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, and being come, have you discerned the Lord's body? Have you used all the titles and properties, and works, and ordinances of the Lord with knowledge, faith, reveĀ'rence, joy, and sincerity?

      2. For the sins forbidden. Have you not sometimes in thy talk dishonored the titles, attributes, religion, Word, people of GOD, or any thing that has in it the print of his holiness? Have you not caused the name of religion, or people of GOD to be ill thought of by thy ill course of life? Have you not rashly, or unpreparedly, or heedlessly, read the Word, heard sermons, received the sacraments, or performed any other part of the worship of GOD? Have you not thought or spoken blasphemously, or contemptuously of GOD, or of any thing whatsoever pertaining to GOD? If in any of these you have transĀ'gressed, then have you broken this commandment.

      IV. Sins against the Fourth Commandment.


      1. For the duties required. Hast. you (according to the equity of this commandment) always observed the Lord's Day, and other days and times set apart for GOD's service? Have you always prepared thy heart before you wentest into the house of the Lord, by meditation on GOD's Word and works, by examination and refor mation of thy ways, by prayer, thanksgiving, and holy resolution to carry thyself as in GOD's presence, and to hear and obey whatsoever you should learn out of the pure Word of GOD? Have you repaired to GOD's house in due time, and stayed the whole time of prayer, reading, preaching of the Word, singing of psalms, receiving of the sacraments? Have you performed private religious offices upon the Lord's Day; in private prayer and thanks-giving, in acknowledging thy offences to GOD, in recon ciling thyself to those you have offended, or with whom you art at variance; in visiting the sick, comforting the afflicted, contributing to the necessity of the poor, in structing thy children and servants (and the rest of thy family,) in the fear and nurture of the Lord?

      2. For the sins forbidden. Have you not sometimes spent the Lord's Day in idleness, or in worldly business, in vanities, or in sin? Have you not omitted public duties, or earnest in too late, or wentest out too soon? Have you not employed thy cattle, or servants, or children, or any others, though you workedst not thyself? Have you not profaned the Lord's Day, by needless works, words, or thoughts, about thy calling, or about thy recreation? has not the strict observance of the duties of that day been tedious unto thee, saying in thine heart, When will the day be gone? If in any of these you have transgressed, you have broken this commandment.

      V. Sins against the Fifth Commandment.


      I. For the duties here required. They are either in the family, common-wealth, or church. First, for the family. If you art au husband: -last you loved thy wife, " and dealt with her according to knowledge, giving honor to her as to the weaker vessel, and as being an heir, together with thyself, of the grace of life, so that your prayers were not hindered?" If you art a wife: Have you " submitted to thine own husband, as unto the Lord in every lawful thing?" Nast you put on the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit? If you art a parent: Have you brought up thy children " in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?" Have you corrected them, yet not provoked them by immoderate correction? Have you provided for them in their callings, or outward estates? If you art a child: Have you obeyed thy parents, and received correction with submission and reverence? Have you relieved them in their warts? Have you observed their instructions, and covered their infirmities? If you art a master: Have you entertained GOD's servants, and given unto.thy servant, or servants, " that which is just and equal?" If you art a servant: Have you been " obedient to thy master according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as unto CHRIST? Not answering again, nor purloining, but showing all good fidelity." Secondly, for the common-wealth; if you art a magistrate: Have you executed just laws? Have you reformed others' abuses, according to the power that was in thee? If you art a subject: Have you obeyed the higher powers in all just commands? Have you been " subject unto them, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake?" Thirdly, for the church; if you art a minister: Have you " taught in season, and out of season?" has " thy light shined before men, that they might see thy good works?" If you art an hearer: Have you communicated to them that teach thee in all good things? Have you obeyed them, and prayed for them, and loved them, and followed them, considering the end of their conversation?

      2. For the sins forbidden. And first, for the family: If you art an husband: Have you not sometimes abused thy wife, or injured her in thought, word, or deed? If you art a wife: Have you not been wasteful, or froward, or idle? If you art a parent: Have you not been care-less, especially of thy children's souls? If you art a child: Have you not despised thy father's or mother's instruction? Have you not mocked them, or shamed them, or grieved them? If you art a master: Have you not governed thy family negligently? Have you not withheld that which was just and equal in diet, wages, encouragement? If you art a servant, least you not been idle and slothful? Have you not served grudgingly, and not from the heart? Secondly, for the common-wealth. If you art a magistrate: have you not been as a lion, or a bear, roaring and raging over the poor people? Have you not decreed unrighteous decrees? Respecting the persons of the poor, or honoring the persons of the mighty? If you art a subject:' has you not " reviled the GODs, or cursed the rulers of thy people?" Have you not disobeyed the higher powers, or denied " tribute, or custom, or honor, or fear, to whom they are due?" Thirdly, for the church. If you art a minister: has you not been profane in thy life and conversation? Have you not run before you vast sent? Or being sent, have you not been negligent in using the gift that was in thee? Have you not caused GOD's people to err? Have you not committed simony, or sought in-directly for the fleece, not regarding the flock? Have you not strengthened the hands of evil doers, in preach ing peace to wicked men? I-Iast you not "given heed to fables, (or to some unprofitable matter,) rather than Godly edifying which is in faith?" If you art an hearer-bast you not resisted the minister, and the word preached by him? Whatsoever you art, husband or wife, parent or child, master or servant, magistrate or subject, minister or hearer, if in any of these you have trans gressed, then you have certainly broken this command ment.

      VI. Sins against the Sixth Commandment.


      1. The duties required. Have you ever desired aid studied by all means lawful, to preserve thine own per-son, and the person of thy neighbor?

      2. For the sins forbidden. Have you not sometimes envied others? Have you not offended others in words, by censuring, or reviling, or " rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing?" Have you not offended others in deeds, plotting against the just, or doing evil to any man? Have you not been angry with thy brother without cause, or continued long in anger? Have you not rejoiced at others' fall; or wished a curse to their souls? Have you not done evil to thyself, by inordinate fretting, or grieving, or drinking, or saying in thy pasĀ'sions, " Would to GOD I were dead?" Have you not been a sower of discord, or some way or other, an occasion of the discomfort, or of the death of thy neighbor? If in any of these you have transgressed, you have then broken this commandment.

      VII. Sins against the Seventh Commandment.


      1. For the duties required. Have you ever kept thyself pure in soul and body, both towards thyself and others?

      2. For the sins forbidden. Have you not sometimes been defiled with whoredom, adultery, polygamy, or self-pollution. Have you not offended in the occasions of uncleanness, as in idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, wanton company, or gay attire? Have you not sinned in thy senses, or gestures, or words? Have you not harbored in thy heart impure thoughts, inordinate affections? Have you not behaved thyself immodestly, using some manner of dalliance and wantonness? If in any of these you have transgressed, then have you broken this commandment.

      VIII. Sins against the Eighth Commandment.


      1. For the duties required. Have you by all good means furthered the outward estate of thyself and of thy neighbor?

      2. For the sins forbidden. Have you not sometimes got thy living by an unlawful calling? Have you not impoverished thyself by idleness, or unnecessary expences? Have you not withheld from thyself, or others, that which should have been expended? Have you not gotten or kept thy neighbor's goods by falsehood or force, and made no restitution? Have you not stolen by usury, or oppression, or fraud in buying or selling? Hast you not robbed GOD of his tythes and offerings? Have you not some way or other impaired thy neighbor's estate? If in any of these you have transgressed,. then have you broken this commandment.

      IX. Sins against the Ninth Commandment.


      1. For the duties required. Have you always, by all means, sought to maintain thy own and thy neighbor'& good name, according to truth and a good conscience?

      2. For the sins forbidden. Have you not sometimes loved (or made) a lie? Have you not raised a false report? Have you not censured or judged others? Have you not flattered thyself and others, saying unto the wicked, you art righteous? Have you not condemned some without witness, or forborne to witness for others when you knewest the truth? Have you not been un charitably suspicious, or a despiser of thy neighbor? Have you not told a lie, whether jestingly, or officiously, or perniciously? If in any of these you have trans gressed, then has you broken this commandment.

      X. Sins against the last Commandment.


      1. For, the duties required. Have you always been truly contented with thy own outward condition? Have you rejoiced at others' good, and " loved thy neighbor as thyself?"

      2. For the sins forbidden. Have you not sometimes conceived evil thoughts in thy heart? Have you not been discontented with thy own condition? Have you not coveted after something or other that was thy neighbor's? If in any of these you have transgressed, then have you broken this commandment.

      CHAP. 3

      The second Means preparatory to the New Birth.

      AFTER examination, (which may serve thee for one day's work or two,) the next duty is confession. Take a catalogue of those sins which you have noted, and spread thy catalogue before the Lord; there read you seriously and particularly, saying, " O Lord, I confess I have committed this sin, and the other sin:" (as they are before thee in order,) " of all these sins I am guilty, especially of those sins wherein I delighted, my bosom-sins; and now, O Lord, standing, as it were, at the bar of thy tribunal, I arraign myself, and accuse myself, and judge myself worthy of the utmost of thy wrath and indignation. For one sin you castedst Adam out of paradise; for one sin you castedst the angels out of heaven; and what then shall become of me, that have committed a world of sins?" Here pause awhile, and meditate on thy unworthiness: " O that I should be so foolish, so brutish, so mad to commit these sins, these manifold sins! O that by these sins I should break so holy a law, provoke so good and great a Majesty! What: should I do, but remembering my evil ways, even loathe myself in my own sight, (yea, abhor myself in dust And ashes,) for my iniquities and my abominations?" For conclusion, you may imitate the publican, who, not daring " to lift up his eyes, smote his breast:" so do You, and say with him, "GOD be merciful to me a sinner."

      CHAP. 4

      The third Means to be used in order to the New Birth.

      AFTER confession, (which may well serve thee for another day's work,) seek for true sorrow and mourning for thy sins. Seek you must, and never leave seeking, till you feel thy heart melt within thee. To this purpose, read some tracts on death, judgment, hell, CHRIST's pas sion, and the joys of heaven; last of all, (and I judge it best of all,) resolve to set every day some time apart to beg it of the Lord. And, at the time appointed, fall down on thy knees, spread thy catalogue, confess, accuse, judge, condemn thyself again; which done, beg of the Lord to give thee that soft heart he promised, Ezek. xxxvi. 26, " A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." Say then to thyself, " Is this the Lord's pro mise? O Lord perform it to my heart; take away my stony heart, and give me an heart of flesh, a new heart, a new spirit," &c. Here make thine own prayer. Be not careful of words, only let the words be the true voice of thy heart. Pray, and call, and cry with vehemency andfervency not to be uttered. When you have done, if the Lord do not yet hear thee, pray again the next day, and the next day, yea, put on this resolution, that you Wilt never leave praying till the Lord hear thee in mercy, till he make thee to feel thy heart melt within thee, yea, (if it may be,) till you seest thy tears trickling down thy cheeks, because of thy offences. The Lord will, perhaps, hear thee at the first time, or at the second time, or if he do not, be not discouraged, GOD has his times. GOD speaketh once and twice, and a man per ceiveth not; happy he who relenteth at last. Give it not over, persist You, thy suit is just, and importunity will prevail.

      The first Reason for this Sorrow.

      This must be done; First, because without pangs there is no birth. The sorrows of a penitent man are as the pangs of a woman. Now as there can be no birth without pains of travail going before, so neither true repentance without some terrors of the law, and straits of conscience. " Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear," says the apostle to the Romans; to show us, they once did receive it. When? but in the very first preparation to conversion. Then it was that the Spirit of GOD in the law did so bear witness unto them of their bondage, that it made them to fear. And certainly thus it is, in some degree, with every man in his first conversion; his contrition must be vehement, bruising, breaking, renting the heart, and causing throws, (as of a woman laboring of child,) before there can be a new birth.

      The second Reason for this Sorrow.

      Again, without contrition there can be no interest in, or union with CHRIST. Therefore it was that John the Baptist, says Chrysostom, " first thoroughly frighted the minds of his hearers with the terror of judgmerFt and expectation of torment, and when he had thus taken down their stubborness, then at length he made mention of CHRIST." Certainly, the first thing that draws to CHRIST, is to consider our miserable estate without him: no man will come to CHRIST except he be hungry: no man will take CHRIST's yoke upon him, till he come to know the weight of SATAN's yoke. To this end, there-fore, must every man be broken with lashes of con-science, that so despairing of himself he may flee unto CHRIST.

      The third Reason for this Sorrow.

      Again, without hearty sorrow there can be no spiritual comfort. We must first be humbled before the Lord,: and then he will lift us up. GOD pours not the oil of his mercy save into a broken vessel? GOD never comforts thoroughly, save where he finds humiliation and repent ance for sin. "The Word of GOD (says one,) has three degrees of operation in the hearts of his chosen: First,- it falleth to men's ears as the sound of many waters, a mighty, a great, and confused sound, and which commonly bringeth neither terror nor joy, but a won dering and acknowledgment of a strange force. This is that which many felt, hearing CHRIST, when they were astonished at his doctrine. The next effect is, the voice of thunder, which bringeth not only wonder, but fear also; not only filleth the ears with sound, and the heart with astonishment, but moreover shaketh and terrifieth the conscience. The third effect is the sound of harping, while- the word not only ravisheth with admiration, and striket- the conscience with terror; but also, lastly. filleth it with sweet peace and joy. Now albeit the two first degrees may be without the last; yet none feel the last who have not in some degree felt both_ the former." Ile says true, in some degree, though commonly the deeper the sense of misery, the sweeter is the sense of mercy.

      I. AND now if (by GOD's blessing,) you feelest this sorrow and melting of heart, the next thing you must do is to seek for the remedy, which remedy consists of these ingredients: 1. A sight of CHRIST. 2. A desire after CHRIST. 3. A relying on CHRIST. 4. Obedience to CHRIST. 5. Comfort in CHRIST sought for and obtained. You wilt say, these ingredients are pearls indeed, but how shall I obtain them? I answer, By the applica tion of the promises. And since every ingredient has its particular promises, I shall let thee see them iu orderr only do you apply them thyself. Some may object, I dare not look to the promise, I cannot believe; if I could believe, then I could expect good from the promise. I answer, You wilt never believe on these terms; you must not first have faith, and then go to the promise; but go to the promise, and expect faith from thence: this is the rule; " I must not, bring faith to the promise, but receive faith from it, and therefore there will I hang, and wait till the Lord please to work it."

      II. The Declarations and Promises procuring a sight of CHRIST.

      The first step that brings comfort to thy heavy soul is the sight of CHRIST: and to procure this sight, you have these promises and declarations. Matt. 1:21, "You shall call his name JESUS, for he shall save his people from their sins." John 1:29, "Behold the Lamb of GOD which taketh away the sins of the world." John 3: 16, " GOD so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have life everlasting." Rom.

      iii. 25, " GOD has set forth CHRIST JESUS to be a recoil-ciliation through faith in his blood." 1 Cor. 1:3O, " CHRIST JESUS of GOD is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption." I Tim. 1: 15, "This is a true saying, and by all men worthy to be received, that CHRIST JESUS came into the world to save sinners." 1 John ii, 1, 2, " If any sin,. we have an Advocate with the Father, JESUS CHRIST the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world."

      All these tell thee, that, as you art a sinner, so you have a Savior; only do you apply them, and certainly they will help thee in the first step of this remedy, to-wit, the sight of CHRIST.

      III. The Invitations and Promises procuring a Desire after CHRIST.

      You may say, I see CHRIST, and I see that his person, and death, and blood-shedding are precious and saving; but how may I make him mine? How may I know that he is my Savior? I answer, you must hunger and thirst after him; this desire is the second step. And to provoke thee to this duty, consider these invitations and promises: Isa. lv. 1, "Ho,_ every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that has no money, come ye, buy and eat, yea come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price." John 7:37, 38, " In the last clay, that great day of the feast, JESUS stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink; he that believeth on me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water." Rev. 22: 17, " Let him that is athirst come, and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."

      These may excite thee to thirst after CHRIST, that sove reign fountain, opened to the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for. uncleanness.

      IV. The invitations, Declarations, and Promises procuring a relying on CHRIST.

      Yet you may say, I thirst indeed, but I dare not drink; I desire, but I dare not come near to lay hold on CHRIST. I am a most vile, unworthy wretch, and my sins are of a scarlet die. True it is, for thee to pretend to a part in CHRIST, while wallowing yet in thy sins: for thee to believe that CHRIST is thy righteousness, while purposing to go on in any one known sin, were a most cursed, horrible presumption indeed; but where all sin is a burden, there a man may be bold. A man may; yes, he must. If you groanest under sin, if you longest after CHRIST, apply these promises, and they will force thee to lay hold on the Rock, to take CHRIST for thine own, to throw thy sinful soul upon the bleeding wounds of JESUS, and to cast thyself with confidence into the bosom of his love.

      Matt. 12:28, "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Isaiah 4: 1, "Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that has no money, come ye, buy and cat, yea come, buy wine and milk, without money, and without price." And lest you say, I am so far from bringing any thing in my hand, that I bring a world of wicked ness in my heart, and my sins, I fear, will hinder my acceptation; no, says he; Isa. lv. 7, " Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts, [and this is thy desire, thy case,] and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our GOD, for he will abundantly pardon." If all this will not do without a more solemn invitation, see how the Lord of heaven sends forth his ambassadors to entreat thee to come in:2 Cor. 5:2O, " Now then we are am bassadors for CHRIST, as though GOD did beseech you by us; we pray you in CHRIST's stead be ye reconciled unto GOD." Or, if he cannot woo thee, lo, he commands thee:1John 3:23, "And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son JESUS CHRIST." Or, yet to drive thee to CHRIST, he not only commands, but threatens: Heb. 3: 1S, "And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believe not." How is it possible, but that all, or some of these, should bring in every broken heart to believe, and every one that is weary of his sins, to rely upon the Lord of life for everlasting welfare?

      V. The Declarations and Promises procuring Obedience to CHRIST.

      And yet you may say, I have cast myself on CHRIST; is this all I must do? No, there is yet another step; he is not only to be thy Savior, but thy Husband; you must love him, and serve him, and honor him, and obey him; you must endeavor not only for pardon of sin, and salvation from hell, but for purity, obedience, ability to do or suffer any thing for CHRIST. And to pro voke thee to this duty, consider these texts. Jer. xxxi. 33, " This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: after those days, says the Lord, I will put my law into their inward parts, and write it in their hearts, and I will be their GOD, and they shall be my people." Matt. 7:21, " Not every one that says, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven." Matt. 11:29, "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls." Matt. 16:24, " If any man will come after me, let him take up his cross and follow inc." 2 Cor. 5: 15, " He died for all, that they who live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them." 1 John 1:6,7,

      If we say we have fellowship with hint, and walk in darkness, we and do trot the truth, But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another: and the blood of JESUS CHRIST his Son cleanseth us from all sin." 1 John 2:5, 6, " He that keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of GOD per fected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that says, he abideth in him, ought himself also to walk even as he walked." 1 John 3:6, 9, "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not. Whosoever is born of GOD does not commit sin, for his seed remaineth in him, and he cannot sin, because he is born of GOD." All these may invite thee to enter into the holy path, and to fight; under CHRIST's banner against the world, the flesh, and the devil unto thy life's end.

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