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To the reader.
If thou intendest to go any farther, I would entreat thee to stay here a little. If thou art, as many in this pretending age, a sign or title gazer, and comest into books as Cato into the theatre, to go out again, — thou hast had thy entertainment; farewell! With him that resolves a serious view of the following discourse, and really desireth satisfaction from the word and Christian reason, about the great things contained therein, I desire a few words in the portal. Divers things there are of no small consideration to the business we have in hand, which I am persuaded thou canst not be unacquainted with; and therefore I will not trouble thee with a needless repetition of them.
I shall only crave thy leave to preface a little to the point in hand, and my present undertaking therein, with the result of some of my thoughts concerning the whole, after a more than seven-years’ serious inquiry (bottomed, I hope, upon the strength of Christ, and guided by his Spirit) into the mind of God about these things, with a serious perusal of all which I could attain that the wit of man, in former or latter days, hath published in opposition to the truth; which I desire, according to the measure of the gift received, here to assert. Some things, then, as to the chief point in hand I would desire the reader to observe; as, —
First, That the assertion of universal redemption, or the general ransom, so as to make it in the least measure beneficial for the end intended, goes not alone. Election of free grace, as the fountain of all following dispensations, all discriminating purposes of the Almighty, depending on his own good pleasure and will, must be removed out of the way. Hence, those who would for the present (“populo ut placerent, quas fecere fabulas,”) desirously retain some show of asserting the liberty of eternally distinguishing free grace, do themselves utterly raze, in respect of any fruit or profitable issue, the whole imaginary fabric of general redemption, which they had before erected. Some of these make the decree of election to be “antecedaneous to the death of Christ” (as themselves absurdly speak), or the decree of the death of Christ: then frame a twofold election;44 T. M., Universality of Free Grace. [He refers to an author of the name of Thomas More. See page 153 of this preface. — Ed.] — one, of some to be the sons; the other, of the rest to be servants. But this election of some to be servants the Scripture calls reprobation, and speaks of it as the issue of hatred, or a purpose of rejection, Rom. ix. 11–13. To be a servant, in opposition to children and their liberty, is as high a curse as can be expressed, Gen. ix. 25. Is this Scripture election? Besides, if Christ died to bring those he died for unto the adoption and inheritance of children, what good could possibly redound to them thereby who were predestinated before to be only servants? Others55 Camero, Amirald, etc. make a general conditionate decree of redemption to be antecedaneous to election; which they assert to be the first discriminating purpose concerning the sons of men, and to depend on the alone good pleasure of God. That any others shall partake of the death of Christ or the fruits thereof, either unto grace or glory, but only those persons so elected, that they deny. “Cui bono” now? To what purpose serves the general ransom, but only to assert that Almighty God would have the precious blood of his dear Son poured out for innumerable souls whom he will not have to share in any drop thereof, and so, in respect of them, to be spilt in vain, or else to be shed for them only that they might be the deeper damned? This fountain, then, of free grace, this foundation of 150the new covenant, this bottom of all gospel dispensations, this fruitful womb of all eternally distinguishing mercies, the purpose of God according to election, must be opposed, slighted, blasphemed, that the figment of the sons of men may not appear to be “truncus ficulnus, inutile lignum,” — an unprofitable stock; and all the thoughts of the Most High, differencing between man and man, must be made to take “occasion,” say some, to be “caused,” say others, by their holy, self-spiritual endeavours. “Gratum opus agricolis,” — a savoury sacrifice to the Roman Belus, a sacred orgie to the long-bewailed manes of St Pelagius.
And here, secondly, free-will, “amor et deliciæ humani generis,” corrupted nature’s deformed darling, the Pallas or beloved self-conception of darkened minds, finds open hearts and arms for its adulterous embraces; yea, the die being cast, and Rubicon passed over, “eo devenere fata ecclesiæ,” that having opposed the free distinguishing grace of God as the sole sworn enemy thereof, it advanceth itself, or an inbred native ability in every one to embrace a portion of generally exposed mercy, under the name of free grace. “Tantane nos tenuit generis fiducia vestri?” This, this is Universalists’ free grace, which in the Scripture phrase is cursed, corrupted nature. Neither can it otherwise be. A general ransom without free-will is but “phantasiæ inutile pondus,” — “a burdensome fancy;” the merit of the death of Christ being to them as an ointment in a box, that hath neither virtue nor power to act or reach out its own application unto particulars, being only set out in the gospel to the view of all, that those who will, by their own strength, lay hold on it and apply it to themselves may be healed. Hence the dear esteem and high valuation which this old idol free-will hath attained in these days, being so useful to the general ransom that it cannot live a day without it. Should it pass for true what the Scripture affirms, namely, that we are by nature “dead in trespasses and sins,” etc., there would not be left of the general ransom a shred to take fire from the hearth. Like the wood of the vine, it would not yield a pin to hang a garment upon: all which you shall find fully declared in the ensuing treatise. But here, as though all the undertakings and Babylonish attempts of the old Pelagians, with their varnished offspring, the late Arminians, were slight and easy, I shall show you greater abominations than these, and farther discoveries of the imagery of the hearts of the sons of men. In pursuance of this persuasion of universal redemption, not a few have arrived (whither it naturally leads them) to deny the satisfaction and merit of Christ. Witness P― H―, who, not being able to untie, ventured boldly to cut this Gordian knot, but so as to make both ends of the chain useless. To the question, Whether Christ died for all men or no? he answers, “That he died neither for all nor any, so as to purchase life and salvation for them.” Ὦ τᾶν ποῖόν σε ἔπος φύγεν ἕρκος ὀδόντων; Shall cursed Socinianism be worded into a glorious discovery of free grace? Ask now for proofs of this assertion, as you might justly expect Achillean arguments from those who delight ἀκίνητα κινεῖν, and throw down such foundations (as shall put all the righteous in the world to a loss thereby), “Projicit ampullas et sesquipedalia verba,” ὑπέρογκα ματαιότητος, great swelling words of vanity, drummy expressions, a noise from emptiness, the usual language of men who know not what they speak, nor whereof they do affirm, is all that is produced. Such contemptible products have our tympanous mountains! Poor creatures, whose souls are merchandised by the painted faces of novelty and vanity, whilst these Joabs salute you with the kisses of free grace, you see not the sword that is in their hands, whereby they smite you under the fifth rib, in the very heart-blood of faith and all Christian consolation. It seems our blessed Redeemer’s deep humiliation, in bearing the chastisement of our peace and the punishment of our transgressions, being made a curse and sin, deserted under wrath and the power of death, procuring redemption and the remission of sins through the effusion of his blood, offering himself up a sacrifice to God, to make reconciliation and purchase an atonement, his pursuing this undertaking with continued intercession in the 151holy of holies, with all the benefits of his mediatorship, do no way procure either life and salvation or remission of sins, but only serve to declare that we are not indeed what his word affirms we are, — namely, cursed, guilty, defiled, and only not actually cast into hell. “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” See this at large confuted, lib. iii. Now, this last assertion, thoroughly fancied, hath opened a door and given an inlet to all those pretended heights and new-named glorious attainments which have metamorphosed the person and mediation of Christ into an imaginary diffused goodness and love, communicated from the Creator unto the new creation; than which familistical fables Cerdon’s two principles were not more absurd; the Platonic numbers nor the Valentinian Æones,66 Iren. lib. ii., cap. 6, 7, 14, 15, etc.; Clem. Strom. iii.; Epiph. Hæres. xxxi.; Tertul. ad Valen. flowing from the teeming wombs of Πλήρωμα, Αἰών, Τέλειος, Βυθός, Σιγή, and the rest, vented for high glorious attainments in Christian religion, near fifteen hundred years ago, were not less intelligible. Neither did the corroding of Scriptures by that Pontic vermin Marcion equalize the contempt and scorn cast upon them by these impotent impostors, exempting their whispered discoveries from their trial, and exalting their revelations above their authority. Neither do some stay here; but “his gradibus itur in cœlum,” heaven itself is broke open for all. From universal redemption, through universal justification, in a general covenant, they have arrived (“haud ignota loquor”) at universal salvation; neither can any forfeiture be made of the purchased inheritance.
“Quare agite, ô juvenes, tantarum in munere laudum,
Cingite fronde comas, et pocula porgite dextris,
“March on, brave youths, i’ th’ praise of such free grace,
Surround your locks with bays; and full cups place
In your right hands: drink freely on, then call
O’ th’ common hope, the ransom general.”
These and the like persuasions I no way dislike, because wholly new to the men of this generation; that I may add this by the way:— Every age hath its employment in the discovery of truth. We are not come to the bottom of vice or virtue. The whole world hath been employed in the practice of iniquity five thousand years and upwards, and yet “aspice hoc novum” may be set on many villainies. Behold daily new inventions! No wonder, then, if all truth be not yet discovered. Something may be revealed to them who as yet sit by. Admire not if Saul also be among the prophets, for who is their father? Is he not free in his dispensations? Are all the depths of Scripture, where the elephants may swim, just fathomed to the bottom? Let any man observe the progress of the last century in unfolding the truths of God, and he will scarce be obstinate that no more is left as yet undiscovered. Only the itching of corrupted fancies, the boldness of darkened minds and lascivious wanton wits, in venting new-created nothings, insignificant vanities, with an intermixed dash of blasphemy, is that which I desire to oppose; and that especially considering the genius (if I may so speak) of the days wherein we live; in which, what by one means, what by another, there is almost a general deflection after novelty grown amongst us. 88 “Quidam creduli, quidam negligentes sunt, quibusdam mendacium obrepit, quibusdam placet.”“Some are credulous, some negligent, some fall into errors, some seek them.” A great suspicion also every day grows upon me, which I would thank any one upon solid grounds to free me from, that pride of spirit, with an Herostratus-like design to grow big in the mouths of men, hath acted many in the conception and publication of some easily-invented false opinions. Is it not to be thought, also, that it is from the same humour possessing many, that every one of them almost strives to put on beyond his companions in framing some singular artifice? To be a follower of others, though in desperate engagements, is too mean an undertaking.
152And let it be no small peccadillo, no underling opinion, friends, if in these busy times you would have it taken notice of. Of ordinary errors you may cry, —
“Quis leget hæc? ― nemo hercule nemo,
They must be glorious attainments, beyond the understanding of men, and above the wisdom of the word, which attract the eyes of poor deluded souls. The great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ, recover his poor wanderers to his own fold! But to return thither from whence we have digressed:—
This is that fatal Helena, a useless, barren, fruitless fancy, for whose enthroning such irksome, tedious contentions have been caused to the churches of God; a mere Rome, a desolate, dirty place of cottages, until all the world be robbed and spoiled to adorn it. Suppose Christ died for all, yet if God in his free purpose hath chosen some to obtain life and salvation, passing by others, will it be profitable only to the former, or unto all? Surely the purpose of God must stand, and he will do all his pleasure. Wherefore, election either, with Huberus, by a wild contradiction, must be made universal, or the thoughts of the Most High suspended on the free-will of man. Add this borrowed feather to the general ransom, that at least it may have some colour of pompous ostentation. Yet if the free grace of God work effectually in some, not in others, can those others, passed by in its powerful operation, have any benefit by universal redemption? No more than the Egyptians had in the angel’s passing over those houses whose doors were not sprinkled with blood, leaving some dead behind him. Almighty, powerful, free grace, then, must strike its sail, that free-will, like the Alexandrian ships to the Roman havens, may come in with top and top-gallant; for without it the whole territory of universal redemption will certainly be famished. But let these doctrines of God’s eternal election, the free grace of conversion, perseverance, and their necessary consequents, be asserted, “movet cornicula risum, furtivis nudata colouribus;” it hath not the least appearance of profit or consolation but what it robs from the sovereignty and grace of God. But of these things more afterward.
Some flourishing pretences are usually held out by the abettors of the general ransom; which by thy patience, courteous reader, we will a little view in the entrance, to remove some prejudice that may lie in the way of truth:—
First, The glory of God, they say, is exceedingly exalted by it; his good-will and kindness towards men abundantly manifested in this enlargement of its extent; and his free grace, by others restrained, set out with a powerful endearment. This they say; which is, in effect, “All things will be well when God is contented with that portion of glory which is of our assigning.” The princes of the earth account it their greatest wisdom to varnish over their favours, and to set out with a full mouth what they have done with half a hand; but will it be acceptable to lie for God, by extending his bounty beyond the marks and eternal bounds fixed to it in his word? Change first a hair of your own heads, or add a cubit to your own statures, before you come in with an addition of glory, not owned by him, to the Almighty. But so, for the most part, is it with corrupted nature in all such mysterious things; discovering the baseness and vileness thereof. If God be apprehended to be as large in grace as that is in offence (I mean in respect of particular offenders, for in respect of his he is larger), though it be free, and he hath proclaimed to all that he may do what he will with his own, giving no account of his matters, all shall be well, — he is gracious, merciful, etc; but if once the Scripture is conceived to hold out his sovereignty and free distinguishing grace, suited in its dispensation to his own purpose according to election, he is “immanis, truculentus, diabolo, Tiberio tetrior (horresco referens).” The learned know well where to find this language, and I will not be instrumental to propagate their blasphemies to others. “Si deus homini non placuerit, deus non erit,” said Tertullian 153of the heathen deities; and shall it be so with us? God forbid! This pride is inbred;1212 “Natura sic apparet vitiata ut hoc majoris vitii sit non videre.” — Aug. it is a part of our corruption to defend it. If we maintain, then, the glory of God, let us speak in his own language, or be for ever silent. That is glorious in him which he ascribes unto himself. Our inventions, though never so splendid in our own eyes, are unto him an abomination, a striving to pull him down from his eternal excellency, to make him altogether like unto us. God would never allow that the will of the creature should be the measure of his honour. The obedience of paradise was to have been regulated. God’s prescription hath been the bottom of his acceptation of any duty ever since he had a creature to worship him. The very heathen knew that that service alone was welcome to God which himself required, and that glory owned which himself had revealed that he would appear glorious in it. Hence, as Epimenides1313 Laert. in Vit. Epimen. advised the Athenians in a time of danger to sacrifice Θεῷ προσήκοντι, “to him to whom it was meet and due,” — which gave occasion to the altar which Paul saw bearing the superscription of Ἀγνώστῳ Θεῷ, “To the unknown God,” — so Socrates tells us in Plato,1414 Plato de Legib., lib. vii. that every god will be worshipped τῷ μάλιστα αὐτῷ ἀρέσκοντι τρόπῳ, “in that way which pleaseth best his own mind;” and in Christianity, Hierome sets it down for a rule, that “honos præter mandatum est dedecus,” God is dishonoured by that honour which is ascribed to him beyond his own prescription: and one wittily on the second commandment, “Non imago, non simulachrum damnatur, sed non facies tibi.” Assigning to God any thing by him not assumed is a making to ourselves, a deifying of our own imaginations. Let all men, then, cease squaring the glory of God by their own corrupted principles and more corrupted persuasions. The word alone is to be arbitrator in the things of God; which also I hope will appear, by the following treatise, to hold out nothing in the matter in hand contrary to those natural notions of God and his goodness which in the sad ruins of innocency have been retained. On these grounds we affirm, that all that glory of God which is pretended to be asserted by the general ransom, however it may seem glorious to purblind nature, is indeed a sinful flourish, for the obscuring of that glory wherein God is delighted.
Secondly, It is strongly pretended that the worth and value of the satisfaction of Christ, by the opposite opinion limited to a few, are exceedingly magnified in this extending of them to all; when, besides what was said before unto human extending of the things of God beyond the bounds by himself fixed unto them, the merit of the death of Christ, consisting in its own internal worth and sufficiency, with that obligation which, by his obedience unto death, was put upon the justice of God for its application unto them for whom he died, is quite enervated and overthrown by it, made of no account, and such as never produced of itself absolutely the least good to any particular soul: which is so fully manifested in the following treatise, as I cannot but desire the reader’s sincere consideration of it, it being a matter of no small importance.
Thirdly, A seeming smile cast upon the opinion of universal redemption by many texts of Scripture, with the ambiguity of some words, which though in themselves either figurative or indefinite, yet seem to be of a universal extent, maketh the abettors of it exceedingly rejoice. Now, concerning this I shall only desire the reader not to be startled at the multitude of places of Scripture which he may find heaped up by some of late about this business (especially by Thomas More, in his “Universality of Free Grace”), as though they proved and confirmed that for which they are produced, but rather prepare himself to admire at the confidence of men, particularly of him now named, to make such a flourish with colours and drums, having indeed no soldiers at all; for, notwithstanding all their pretences, it will appear that they hang the whole weight of their building on 154three or four texts of Scripture, — namely, 1 Tim. ii. 5, 6; John iii. 16, 17; Heb. ii. 9; 1 John ii. 2, with some few others, — and the ambiguity of two or three words, which themselves cannot deny to be of exceeding various acceptations. All which are at large discussed in the ensuing treatise, no one place that hath with the least show or colour been brought forth by any of our adversaries, in their own defence, or for the opposing of the effectual redemption of the elect only, being omitted, the book of Thomas More being in all the strength thereof fully met withal and enervated.
Fourthly, Some men have, by I know not what misprision,1515 The word is here used in the obsolete sense of “mistake,” and has no reference so the legal offence of evasion or concealment now understood by the term. — Ed. entertained a persuasion that the opinion of the Universalists serves exceedingly to set forth the love and free grace of God; yea, they make free grace, that glorious expression, to be that alone which is couched in their persuasion, — namely, that “God loves all alike, gave Christ to die for all, and is ready to save all if they will lay hold on him;” — under which notion how greedily the hook as well as the bait is swallowed by many we have daily experience, when the truth is, it is utterly destructive to the free distinguishing grace of God in all the dispensations and workings thereof. It evidently opposeth God’s free grace of election, as hath been declared, and therein that very love from which God sent his Son. His free distinguishing grace, also, of effectual calling must be made by it to give place to nature’s darling, free-will; yea, and the whole covenant of grace made void, by holding it out no otherwise but as a general removing of the wrath which was due to the breach of the covenant of works: for what else can be imagined (though this certainly they have not, John iii. 36) to be granted to the most of those “all” with whom they affirm this covenant to be made? Yea, notwithstanding their flourish of free grace, as themselves are forced to grant, that after all that was effected by the death of Christ, it was possible that none should be saved, so I hope I have clearly proved that if he accomplished by his death no more than they ascribe unto it, it is utterly impossible that any one should be saved. “Quid dignum tanto?”
Fifthly, The opinion of universal redemption is not a little advantaged by presenting to convinced men a seeming ready way to extricate themselves out of all their doubts and perplexities, and to give them all the comfort the death of Christ can afford before they feel any power of that death working within them, or find any efficacy of free grace drawing their hearts to the embracing of Christ in the promise, or obtaining a particular interest in him; which are tedious things to flesh and blood to attend unto and wait upon. Some boast that, by this persuasion, that hath been effected in an hour which they waited for before seven years without success. To dispel this poor empty flourish, I shall show, in the progress, that it is very ready and apt to deceive multitudes with a plausible delusion, but really undermines the very foundations of that strong unfailing consolation which God hath showed himself abundantly willing that the heirs of promise should receive.
These and the like are the general pretences wherewith the abettors of a general ransom do seek to commend themselves and opinion to the affections of credulous souls; through them making an open and easy passage into their belief, for the swallowing and digesting of that bitter potion which lurks in the bottom of their cup. Of these I thought meet to give the reader a brief view in the entrance, to take off his mind from empty generals, that he might be the better prepared to weigh all things carefully in an equal balance, when he shall come to consider those particulars afterward insisted on, wherein the great strength of our adversaries lies. It remaineth only that I give the Christian reader a brief account of my call unto, and undertaking in, this work, and so close this preface. First, then, I will assure thee it is not the least thirst in my affections to be drinking of the waters of Meribah, nor the least desire to have a share in Ishmael’s portion, 155to have my hand against others, and theirs against me, that put me upon this task. I never like myself worse than when faced with a vizard of disputing in controversies. The complexion of my soul is much more pleasant unto me in the waters of Shiloah:—
“― Nuper me in littore vidi,
What invitation there can be in itself for any one to lodge, much less abide, in this quarrelsome, scrambling territory, where, as Tertullian1717 Ad. Mar. says of Pontus, “omne quod flat Aquilo est,” no wind blows but what is sharp and keen, I know not. Small pleasure in those walks which are attended with dangerous precipices and unpleasing difficulties on every side:—
“Utque viam teneas, nulloque errore traharis;
Per tamen adversi gradieris cornua Tauri,
No quiet nor peace in these things and ways, but continual brawls and dissensions:—
“― Non hospes ab hospite tutus,
The strongest bonds of nearest relations are too commonly broken by them. Were it not for that precept, Jude 3, and the like, of “contending earnestly for the faith once delivered unto the saints,” with the sounding of my bowels for the loss of poor seduced souls, I could willingly engage myself into an unchangeable resolution to fly all wordy battles and paper combats for the residue of my few and evil days.
It is not, then (that I may return), any salamandrian complexion that was the motive to this undertaking. Neither, secondly, was it any conceit of my own abilities for this work, as though I were the fittest among many to undertake it. I know that as in all things I am “less than the least of all saints,” so in these I am
― οὔτε τρίτος οὔτε τέταρτος
Οὔτε δυωδέκατος οὐδ’ ἐν λόγῳ οὐδ’ ἐν ἀριθμῷ
Abler2020 Vindic. Redempt., by my reverend and learned brother, Mr John Stalham; Mr Rutherford, Christ Drawing Sinners. pens have had, within these few years, the discussing and ventilating of some of these questions in our own language. Some have come to my hands, but none of weight, before I had well-nigh finished this heap of mine own, which was some twelve months since and upwards. In some of these, at least, in all of them, I had rested fully satisfied, but that I observed they had all tied up themselves to some certain parts of the controversy, especially the removing of objections, neither compassing nor methodizing the whole; whereby I discerned that the nature of the things under debate, — namely, satisfaction, reconciliation, redemption, and the like, — was left exceedingly in the dark, and the strong foundation of the whole building not so much as once discovered. It was always upon my desires that someone would undertake the main, and unfold out of the word, from the bottom, the whole dispensation of the love of God to his elect in Jesus Christ, with the conveyance of it through the promises of the gospel, being in all the fruits thereof purchased and procured by the oblation and intercession of Jesus Christ; by which it could not but be made apparent what was the great design of the blessed Trinity in this great work of redemption, with how vain an attempt and fruitless endeavour it must needs be to extend it beyond the bounds and limits assigned unto it by the principal agents therein. That arguments also might be produced for the confirmation of the truth we assert, in opposition to the error opposed, and so the weak established and dissenters convinced, was much in my wishes. The doctrine of the satisfaction of Christ, his merit, and the reconciliation wrought thereby, understood aright by few, and of late oppugned by some, being so nearly related to the point of redemption, I desired also to have seen cleared, unfolded, 156vindicated, by some able pen. But now, after long waiting, finding none to answer my expectation, although of myself I can truly say, with him in the Comedian, “Ego me neque tam astutum esse, neque ita perspicacem id scio,” that I should be fit for such an undertaking, the counsel of the poet also running much in my mind, —
“Sumite materiam vestris, qui scribitis, æquam
Viribus; et versate diu, quid ferre recusent,
Yet, at the last, laying aside all such thoughts, by looking up to Him who supplieth seed to the sower, and doth all our works for us, I suffered myself to be overcome unto the work with that of another, “Ab alio quovis hoc fieri mallem quam a me; sed a me tamen potius quam a nemine;” — “I had rather it should have been done by any than myself, of myself only rather than of none;” especially considering the industrious diligence of the opposers of truth in these days:—
“Scribimus indocti doctique, ―
Ut jugulent homines, surgunt de nocte latrones;
Add unto the former desire a consideration of the frequent conferences I had been invited unto about these things, the daily spreading of the opinions here opposed about the parts where I live, and a greater noise concerning their prevailing in other places, with the advantage they had obtained by some military abettors, with the stirring up of divers eminent and learned friends, and you have the sum of what I desire to hold forth as the cause of my undertaking this task. What the Lord hath enabled me to perform therein must be left to the judgment of others. Altogether hopeless of success I am not; but fully resolved that I shall not live to see a solid answer given unto it. If any shall undertake to vellicate and pluck some of the branches, rent from the roots and principles of the whole discourse, I shall freely give them leave to enjoy their own wisdom and imaginary conquest. If any shall seriously undertake to debate the whole cause, if I live to see it effected, I shall engage myself, by the Lord’s assistance, to be their humble convert or fair antagonist. In that which is already accomplished by the good hand of the Lord, I hope the learned may find something for their contentment, and the weak for their strengthening and satisfaction; that in all some glory may redound to Him whose it is, and whose truth is here unfolded by the unworthiest labourer in his vineyard,
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