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Richard Sibbes :: The Eighth Sermon - Isaiah 25:8-9

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THE GLORIOUS FEAST OF THE GOSPEL
The Marriage Feast
Between
Christ and His Church

 


The Eighth Sermon — Isaiah 25:8-9

 

He shall swallow up death in victory, and the Lord God well wipe away tears from off all faces, and the rebukes of his people shall he take away from off all the earth, for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord, we have waited for him, we well be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Promises of God flow from God’s goodness

 

O come closer to the particulars. It shall be said in that day, Lo this is our God. The mouth of the Lord hath spoken gracious things before, hath promised a Feast, and an excellent Feast. God’s manner is first of all to give promises to his Church; Why? His goodness comes from his goodness, his goodness of grace comes from his goodness of nature. He is good, and doth good. Now the same goodness of disposition which we call bounty, that reserves heaven and happiness for us in another world, the same goodness will not suffer us to be without all comfort in this world because the knowledge and revelation of the glory to come hath much comfort in it. Therefore in mercy he not only intends performance of glory, but out of the same fountain of goodness, he intends to reveal whatsoever is good for his Church in the way to glory. So that promises of good, come from the same goodness of God by which he intends heaven. For what moved God to come out of that hidden light, that no man can come into and discover himself in his Son? The Word in his promises to reveal his mind to mankind and make known what he will have us to do, and what he will do to us, but only his goodness is the cause of all. And therefore the end of promises in God’s intention is to comfort us in the way to heaven, that we may have something to support us; they are promissa, quasi premissa. They are promises and premises, and sent before the thing itself.

 

Now here it comes that the glory to come is termed “the joy of heaven”, and “the glorious estate to come”. You have need of patience that you may get the promises. Heaven and happiness is called the promises because we have them assured in promises. The blessings of the New Testament are called promises, as the children of the promise, yea the heirs of glory because all is conveyed by a promise; therefore all happiness is conveyed by a promise.

Promises free and full

 

Now the promises are of good things. They are for the spring of them, free from God’s free goodness; for the measure of them, full; for the truth of them, constant, even as God himself that promises. And therefore we may well build upon them.

Let us count promises our best treasure

 

Before I go any farther, I beseech you let us account the promises of the good we have to be our best treasure, our best portion, our best riches, for they be called precious promises; not only because they be precious in themselves, but because they are from the precious love of God in Christ to us. They are likewise for precious things, they are laid hold of by precious faith, as the Scripture calls them, and therefore they are precious promises. Let us not only account of our riches that we have, for what is that we have, to what we speak of, to that we have in promise. A Christian is rich in reversion, rich in bills, and obligations. Christ hath bound himself to him, and he can sue him out when he pleases. In all kinds of necessity, he can sue God for good; he can go to God and say, Remember thy promise Lord, wherein thou hast caused me, thy servant, to trust, and can bind God with his own Word.

 

But I take this only in passage as the foundation of what I am to speak.

 

From the mouth of God you see the great promises delivered and now we have waited for them. That which answers promises, is expectation and waiting.

God takes a long day for performance of promises

 

The second thing therefore between the promises wherein God is a debtor, and the performance is that there is a long time, a long day. Oftentimes God takes a long day for performing of his promise, as 400 years Abraham’s posterity went to be in Egypt. And it was 4000 years from the beginning of the world till the coming of Christ; which was the promise of promises, the promise of the seed, a great long day. And therefore Christ is said to come in the latter end of the world. Abraham had promise of a son, but it was not performed till he was an old man. Simeon had a promise to see Christ in the flesh, but he was an old man, ready to yield up the ghost before it was performed. God takes a long day for his promises—long to us, not to him—for to him a thousand years are but as one day (2 Peter 3:8).

To exercise our faith; to wain from the creature

 

The promises of God are long in performing; for to exercise our faith, and our dependence to the full, to take us off from the creature, and to endear the things promised to us, to set the greater price upon them when we have them. Many other reasons may be given, ill intended to enlarge myself in that point. A Christian hath a title to heaven, as soon as he is a Christian he is an heir to heaven; perhaps he may live here twenty or forty years more, before God takes him up to glory. Why doth he defer it so long?

To endear the things promised; to fit us for enjoyment

 

The reason is: God will fit us for heaven by little and little and will perfume us as Esther was perfumed, before she must come to Ahasuerus; there were many weeks and months of perfuming. So God will sweeten and fit us for heaven and happiness. It is a holy place, God a holy God. Christ is that holy one, and for us to have everlasting communion with God and Christ in so holy a place, requires a great preparation. And God by deferring it so long, will mortify our affections by little and little, and will have us die to all base things here in affection before we die indeed. David had title to the Kingdom as soon as ever he was anointed, but David was fitted to be an excellent king indeed, by deferring the performance of the promise till afterward. So in our right and title and possession of heaven, there is a long time between.

 

Our Saviour, Christ, was 34 years before he was taken up to heaven because he was to work our salvation. And he was willing to suspend his glory for such a time that he might do it; to suspend his glory due to him from the first moment of his conception. For by virtue of the union, glory was due to him at the first, but because he had taken upon him to be a Mediator, out of love he would suspend his glory due to him, that he might suffer. And so God by way of conformity, will suspend the glory due to us, that we may be conformed to Christ. Though we have right to heaven as soon as we are born, yet God will suspend the full performance of it; because he will by correction, and by length of time subdue by little and little that which makes us unconformable to our Head.

 

And can we complain for any deferring of heaven when we are but conformed to our glorious Head, who was content to be without heaven so long.

A condition of waiting is a mixed condition of imperfection and perfection

 

But to go on. As there be gracious and rich promises and they have long time of performance to us, and hope deferred makes the soul languish (Proverbs 13:12). So God vouchsafes a spirit to fit that expectation of his, a spirit of hope and waiting. And this waiting hath something perfect in it and something imperfect, it is a mixed condition. There is good because there is a promise; for a promise is the declaration of God’s will concerning good, but because it is a promise of a thing not performed, there is an imperfection. So there is a mixture in the promise and a mixture in the grace, hope, and expectation; and waiting is an imperfect grace. That there be glorious things, it is perfection of good that we have them not in possession, that is the imperfection. So that hope is something, but it is not possessed. A promise is something, but it is not the performance. A seed is something, but it is not the plant.

 

Thus God mixes our condition here of perfection and imperfection. He will have us in state of imperfection, that we may not think ourselves at home in our country, when we are but in our way. Therefore he will have us in a state of imperfection, that we may long homeward; yet he will have it a state of good, that we may not sink in the way.

We have a taste here of what we shall have hereafter to support us

 

And not only promises, for in the way to heaven God keeps not all for heaven, he lets in drops of comfort oftentimes in the midst of misery. He doth reveal himself more glorious and sweet than at other times, there is nothing reserved for us in another world, but we have a beginning a taste, an earnest of it here, to support us till we come to the full possession of what remains.

 

We shall have full communion of saints there; we have it here in the taste of it. We know what it is to be acquainted with them that be gracious spirits. We have praising of God forever there; we know the sweetness of it here, in the house of which made David desire this one thing, that he might dwell in the house of God, to visit the beauty of God (Psalm 27:4). There we shall have perfect peace, here we have inward peace, unspeakable and glorious; a peace that passes understanding in the beginning of it (Philippians 4:7). There we shall have joy without all mixture of contrariety. Here we have joy, and joy unspeakable and full of glory. There is nothing in heaven that is perfect, that is sweet and good, and comfortable, but we have a taste, and earnest of it here. The Spirit will be all in all there. There is something of it in us now; more light in our understandings, more obedience in our wills, more and more love in our affections, and it is growing more and more.

 

And therefore all is not kept for time to come. We have something beginning here besides promises; there is some little degrees of performance, so that the state between us and heaven is a state mixed of good and imperfection.

Waiting is a grace whereby God fits us for an imperfect condition

 

Now God hath fitted graces suitable to that condition and that is expectation or waiting, a fit grace and a fit disposition of soul from imperfect condition that is afterwards to be perfected; for fruition is the condition of perfect happiness not of waiting, for waiting implies imperfection.

Waiting carries with it all graces

 

This waiting carries with it almost all graces, waiting for better times in glory to come, it hath to support it. It is a carriage of soul that is supported with many graces. For first we wait for that we believe, we have a Spirit of faith to lead to it. And then we hope, before we wait and hope is the anchor of the soul (Hebrews 6:19) that stays the soul in all the waves and miseries of the world. It is the helmet that keeps off all the blows. This hope issues from faith, for what we believe, we hope for the accomplishment of it.

Patience, Long-suffering, Contentment, and Silence from murmurings

 

So that all graces either make way for waiting, or accompany it. The graces that accompany the waiting for good things in time to come are patience, to endure all griefs between us and the full possession of heaven. Then long suffering, which is nothing else but patience lengthened because troubles are lengthened, and the time is lengthened. So there is patience and patience lengthened, which we call long suffering. And then together with patience and long suffering, there is contentment without murmuring at the dispensation of God, something in the soul that he would have it to be so. He that hath a heart to rise because he hath not what he would have, he doth not wait with that grace of waiting that issues from a right spring.

 

God reserves joy for the time to come, for our home. We should be content to have communion with God and the souls of perfect men, and not murmur though God exercises us with many crosses here.

 

And therefore the Scripture casts it a silence, In silence and in hope shall be your strength. The soul keeps silence to God in this waiting condition, and this silence quells all risings in the soul presently. As David, my soul kept silence unto the Lord (Psalm 94:17). It will still all risings of the heart, issuing from a resignation of the soul to God, to do as he will have us to do. So it implies patience and long suffering, contentment, holy silence, without murmuring and repining.

Watchfulness; Fruitfulness

 

And then it implies watchfullness over ourselves, (till we come to the full accomplishment of the promises) that we carry not ourselves unworthily in the meantime. That we should not spend the time of waiting in wickedness, to fetch sorrow from the devil, and the world to comfort us or to be beholding to Satan. This is no waiting, but murmuring and rebellion, when in crosses and discomforts we cannot be content, but must be beholding to the devil. So there must be watchfullness and not only so, but fruitfulness in waiting. For he waits, that waits in doing good, that waits in observance. He waits for his Master’s coming that is doing his duty all the time in a fruitful course of observance and obedience, else it is not waiting. Waiting is not merely a distance of time, but a tilling up of that time with all gracious carriage, with obedience, and with silence, with long suffering and contentment, and watchfulness that we take not any ill course, and observance, and with fruitfulness, that we may fill up times of waiting, till performance with all the graces, that we may have communion with God.

Want of waiting and the cause of wickedness

 

It is another manner of grace than the world thinks. What is the ration of all the wickedness of the world and barrenness, and voluptuousness, but because they have not learned to wait? They hear of good things and precious things promised; but they would have present payment, they will have something in hand. As Dives, son, son, thou hast had thy good things here; they will have their good things here. And what is the reason of wickedness, but because they will have present pleasures of sins. We must prefer the afflictions of Christ before the pleasures of sin. Now that shortness of spirit to have reward here is the cause of all sin. They have no hope, nor obedience, nor expectation to endure the continuance of diuturnity [lastingness]; where then is patience, and hope, and contentment?

 

The character of a Christian is that he is in a waiting condition, and hath the grace of waiting; others will have the pleasures of sin, their profits and contentments, else they will crack their consciences, and sell Christ, God, heaven, and all.

 

A Christian as he hath excellent things above the world, so he hath the grace of expectation, and all the graces that store up, and maintain that expectation till the performance come.

Many rubs between us and heaven

 

And therefore it is a hard thing to be a good Christian, another thing than the world takes it to be. For mark I beseech you, what is between us and heaven, that we must go through if ever we will come there. Between us and heaven, the thing promised, there be many crosses to be met withall, and they must be born, and born as a Christian should do. Through many afflictions we must enter into the kingdom of Heaven. Besides crosses, there be scandalous offences, that be enough to drive us from profession of religion without grace. Sometimes good men by their failings and fallings out, they fall into sin and fall out; and that is a scandal to wicked men. “O” say they, “who would be of this religion, when they cannot agree among themselves.” This is a great hindrance and stop. It is a scandal and rub in the way, not so much in themselves. We are full of scandal ourselves, catch at anything that we may except against the best ways; there is a root of scandal in the hearts of all because men will not go to hell without reason.

 

Now because we are easy to take offence, rather then we will be damned without reason, it is not easy to hold out. Besides this, Satan plies it with his temptations from afflictions and from scandal. He amplifies these things in the fancy, “Who would be a Christian? Ye see what their profession is.” And so he makes the way the more difficult.

We are of unsettled dispositions

 

And then again, look at our own disposition to suffer, to hold out, to fix. There is an unsettledness, which is a proper infirmity in our natures since the fall. We love variety, we are inconstant, and cannot fix ourselves upon the best things, and we are impatient of suffering anything. We are not only indisposed to do good, but more indisposed to suffer any ill. The Spirit must help us over all this, which must continue all our life long; till we be in heaven, something or other will be in our way. Now the Spirit of God must help us overall these afflictions. We shall never come to heaven to overcome afflictions, and scandals, and temptation which Satan plies us here withall.

It’s hard to overcome tediousness of time; All to be overcome by waiting

 

And then to overcome the tediousness of time, this needs a great deal of strength. Now this grace of expectance doth all. And therefore it is so oftentimes stood upon in Scripture, in Isaiah, and in the Psalms, how often is it repeated, Wait on the Lord, if he tarry wait thou (Isaiah 40:31; Psalm 27:14; Psalm 37:34). The Lord will wait for them that wait for him, and it is the character in Scripture of a Christian. Moses he saith, such as waited for the consolation of Israel before Christ came in the flesh, such a one is one that waits for the consolation of Israel. To have a gracious disposition, and a grace of waiting was the character of good people. Now since the coming of Christ, the character of the New Testament is to wait for Christ’s appearance. There is a crown of glory for me, and not only for me, but for all them that love his appearance (2 Timothy 4:8). That is an ingredient in waiting, when we love the thing we wait for. And so (Titus 2:12) The grace of God that teaches to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, and to live holily, and justly and soberly in this present evil world, looking for and waiting for this glorious appearing of Jesus Christ.

 

So that looking with the eye of the soul, partly on the first coming of Christ, which was to redeem our souls, and partly upon the second, which is to redeem our bodies from corruption, and to make both soul and body happy, it makes a man a good Christian. For the grace of God on the first, teaches us to deny ungodliness; and looking for Christ’s appearing makes us zealous of good works. You have scarce any Epistle, but you have time described for looking for the coming of Christ. As Jude, Preserve yourselves in the love of God and wait for the coming of Christ. So that as there be gracious promises, and a long day for them, God vouchsafes grace to wait for the accomplishment of them.

 

Now as God gives grace to wait, so he will perform what we wait for. As they say here, we have waited, that is the speech of enjoying. God will at length make good what he hath promised; and what his truth hath promised, his power will perform. Goodness inclines to make a promise, truth speaks it, and power performs it as you shall see here.

 

We have waited…(Isaiah 25:9)

 

In God there is a mouth of truth, a heart of pity, and a hand of power. These three meeting together, make good whatsoever is promised. He will fulfill the desires of them that fear him (Psalm 145:19). The desires that God hath put into his children, they be kindled from heaven, and he will satisfy them all out of his bowels of pity and compassion. He will not suffer the creature to be always under the rack of desire, under the rack of expectation, but he will fulfill the desire of them that fear him. And therefore learn this for the time to come.

God will perform promises to them that wait

 

Though we wait, God will perform whatsoever we wait for; and therefore, lo, we have waited for him. As there is a time of promising, so there is a time of performing; as there is a seed time, so there is a time of harvest. There is a succession in nature and a succession in grace; as the day follows the night, and the Sabbath the week, and the Jubilee such a term of years. And as the triumph follows the war, and as the consummation of marriage follows contract, so it is a happy and glorious condition above all conditions here on earth. Therefore in this text you have not only the seed time of the Christian, we may sow in tears and an expectation as in sowing; but here is likewise the harvest of a Christian. There is time of sowing, so there is time of reaping; as time of waiting, so of enjoying. We have waited, and now, lo, we have what we waited for.

God keeps times and seasons in his own power

 

But why doth not the Holy Ghost set down a certain time, but leaves it indefinite, In that day? God keeps times and seasons in his own power; the point of time in general he leaves it. There is a day, but the point and moment of time he keeps in his own power. It is enough to know there is a day, and a day that will come in the best season; God’s time is the best time. When judgments were threatened upon the wicked, they say, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall die. So Saul, tomorrow thou shalt die, and was he the better? So where there is a certain time of God’s coming in judgment, godly men would not be the worse, and wicked men never the better. Therefore God reserves it indefinite, In that day.

There is a glorious day yet for Christians; There be particular days of performance in this life

 

There is a day, and it is a glorious day, a day of all days, a day that never will have night, a day that we should think of every day. That day, by way of excellency. And before that day there be particular days in this world, wherein God shows himself and fulfills the expectation of his children, to cherish the grand expectation of life everlasting. As in times of trouble they expect of God, and wait for deliverance in God’s time, and they must be able to say, Lo, we have waited. Because it is a beginning and pledge of the great performance that shall be consummate at that great day and of all the miseries that shall then be removed. So there is a day when the Jews shall be converted, and the fullness of the Gentiles brought in, and the man of sin discovered, and consumed by the breath of Christ. And when the Church of God sees them, they may say, Lo, we have waited for the Lord, and Lo, he is come, that which we looked for is now fulfilled. So that God reserves not the fulfilling of all the promises to the great day of all days, but even in this life he will have a that day.

Good to observe what days of performance God gives in

 

And it were very good for Christians in the passages of their lives, to see how God answers their prayers and delivers them. Let them do as the saints in the Old Testament, that gave names to places where they saw God. As Penuell, he shall see God, and Abraham, God will be seen in the Mount. So Sampson and others they gave names to places where they had deliverance, that they might be moved to be thankful. A Christian takes in all the comforts of this life to believe the things of the last great day. Lo, we have waited for him.

 

That shall be a time of sight, and fruition, of full power, and full joy, which is reserved for heaven. Then we shall say, Lo, behold this is the Lord. The more we see God here, the more we shall see him hereafter. There be many ways of seeing, so as to say, Lo, this is the Lord. We may say from the poorest creature, Lo this is the Lord, here are beams of his Majesty in the works of his justice and mercy, Lo here is the Lord. The Lord hath brought mighty things to pass, the Lord is marvelously loving to his Children. Behold and see the salvation of the Lord. We may say, Lo here, and see something of God in every creature, no creature but hath something of God. The things that have but mere being, have something of God; but the things that have life have more of God. And so in some there is more, in some less of God.

 

But in the Church of God specially, we may see his going in the Sanctuary; lo this God hath done for his Church. And in the Sacraments we may say, “I have seen the Lord,” and felt the Lord in his Ordinance by his Holy Spirit. We do all this before we come to see him in heaven, but that is not meant specially.

 

We shall say, Lo, this is the Lord, when we shall see him in heaven, all sight here leads to that sight. Faith hath a sight here, but it is in the Word and Sacrament, and so imperfect; but the sight in heaven is immediate and perfect, and therefore opposed to faith. We live by faith, and not by sight; in heaven we shall live by sight, not that we live not by sight here in some degree, for the lesser sight leads to the greater sight. But in comparison of sight in heaven, there is no sight.

A sight of God comparative here

 

The Scripture speaks of sight of God comparatively: Moses saw God, that is, more than any other. And Jacob saw God, that is comparatively more than before, but not fully and wholly. We can apprehend him but not comprehend him, as they say; we may see something of it, but not wholly. But in heaven we shall have another sight of God and then we shall say, Lo, this is the God we have waited for; we shall see Christ face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).

 

Beloved, that is the sight indeed. And if ye will ask me whether we shall see God then or not, consider what I said before, this is the God we have waited for in obedience and fruitfully.

 

If we shall be ravished with the sight of God, surely if we see him here we may see him there. We see him with the eye of faith, we see him in the Ordinance, we have some sight of God that the world hath not. God discovers himself to his Children, more than to the world. And therefore they say, Thou revealest thyself to us, not unto the world. A Christian wonders that God should reveal his love, and mercy, and goodness to him, more than to others. And therefore if we belong to God and shall see him hereafter, we must see him now, as we may see him, we must have some knowledge of him. And if we see God any way, all things in the world will be thought of no request in comparison of the communion of God in Christ. As Isaiah, We have seen the Lord, and what have we to do with idols? The soul that hath seen Christ, grows in detestation of sin and loathes all things in comparison.

 

And then again, if we shall ever see God in glory, in this glorious and triumphing manner, This is the Lord, this sight is a changing sight. There is no sight of God, but it changes and alters to the likeness of God, when he calls to look up to him, and he looks on us in favour and mercy. The best fruit of his favour is grace, of peace, and joy, for these beams that issue from him, grace, as beams from the sun. But wherever God looks with any favour, there is a conformity to Christ, a gracious, humble, pitiful, merciful, obedient disposition, which is an earnest of the Spirit of Christ. And there is a study of purity, of a refined disposition from the pollutions of the world. The pure in heart shall see God (Matthew 5:8). They that hope to see God forever in heaven, will study that purity that may dispose, and fit them for heaven. And there is such a gracious influence in it that they that hope for heaven, the very hope must needs help to purify them.

There is an influence from the thing hoped for to uphold graces in waiting

 

As there is grace suitable to waiting, so there is an influence from the things hoped for, to give vigor to all grace. As all the graces of a Christian fit and enable him for heaven, so hope of heaven yields life to all grace. There is a mutual influence into these things. God vouchsafes discovery of these glorious things, to help us to wait, to be patient, and fruitful and abundant in the work of the Lord. And the more we wait fruitfully, and patiently, and silently, the more we see of heaven. So that as in nature, the seed brings the tree, and the tree the seed; so in the things of God one thing breeds another, and that breeds that again. So that waiting and grace fit us for heaven, and the thought of heaven puts life and vigor into all the graces that fit us for heaven.

 

What is our faith to those glorious things we shall see hereafter? What is patience, but for consideration of that? What is hope, but for the excellency of the object of hope? And what were enduring of troubles, if something were not in heaven to make amends for all? They help us to come to glory, and the lively hopeful thoughts of those things, animate and enliven all the graces that fit for heaven. If ever we shall hereafter possess heaven, and say, Lo, this is he we have waited for, we must see him here, so as to undervalue all things, to see him with a changing sight, for the object of glory cannot be revealed, but it will stir up a disposition suitable to glory. If this be not, never hope for a sight of him in heaven.

We should look to the last end to fit us for it

 

And therefore let me entreat and beseech you, with the Apostle Paul, to look to the end, look to the main chance that can come in this world, and that shall come hereafter. It is wisdom to look to the end. A man that builds a house, will think of the end, that is the dwelling and habitation that he propounds. We are for everlasting communion with God; we are to be perfect as in grace, so in glory. Heaven is our element, we rest not till then, we are in motion till then, that being our station. Then think often of this, never to rest in any intermediate condition because we are in waiting, till we come to that condition. Let us so carry ourselves, that we may say, This we waited for, it is the glory we expected. It is our wisdom often to have the end of our lives in our eyes that we may be helped to wait patiently, cheerfully, and comfortably, till the consummation come when all promises shall end in performance, when all that is ill and imperfectly good shall be removed, a consumption of ill and a consummation of all good.

 

O have that day in our eyes, that day of all days, and the very thoughts of it will fit us for the day. The thoughts of our end will fit and stir us up to all means tending to that end. Physical is good if it tend to health. The very thoughts of that prescribes order, and means. We read, Seek the Kingdom of Heaven first, and all other things shall be added to you (Matthew 6:33). The thought of the end prescribes order to all means, and it prescribes measure, How to use the world, as though I used it not; for the thoughts of my end stir me up to use all courses suitable to that end. And therefore the best wisdom in Christians is often to prefix the end and to be content in no grace, nor comfort, as it is in a way of imperfection, but to look upon every grace, every comfort, every good as it tends to perfection. David desired not to dwell in the House of God forever because he would terminate his desire in the house of God here, but he aims at Heaven. And so when the saints of God bound and terminate their desires and contentment, it is with reference to the last day, the rest of a Christian, beyond which they cannot go, even communion with God himself.

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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