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The Divinity of the Word Proved by the Authority of the Holy Fathers and Councils

23. The unceasing opposition of the Arians to the Council of Nice was on account of the Consubstantiality attributed to the Word. This term, consubstantiality, was never used, they said, by the ancient Fathers of the Church; but St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Hilary, and St. Augustine, attest that the Nicene Fathers took this word from the constant tradition of the first Doctors of the Church. Besides, the learned remark, that many works of the Fathers cited by St. Athanasius, St. Basil, and even by Eusebius, were lost, through the lapse of ages. We should also remember that the ancient Fathers who wrote previous to the existence of heresy, did not always write with the same caution as the Fathers who succeeded them, when the truths of the Faith were confirmed by the decrees of Councils. The doubts stirred up by our enemies, says St. Augustine, have caused us to investigate more closely, and to establish the dogmas which we are bound to believe. " Ab adversario mota quasstio discendi existit occasio"(l). The Socinians do not deny that all the Fathers posterior to the Council of Nice, held the sentence of that Council, in admitting the consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, but they say that those who wrote previous to the Council, held quite another opinion. (1) St. Aug. l. 16, de Civ. c. 2.  In order, therefore, to prove that the Socinians in this are totally astray, we will confine our quotations to the works of the Fathers who preceded the Council, who, if they have not made use of the very word consubstantial, or of the same substance as the Father, have still clearly expressed the same thing in equivalent terms.  

24. The Martyr St. Ignatius, the successor of St. Peter in the See of Antioch, who died in the year 108, attests, in several places, the Divinity of Christ. In his Epistle ad Trallianos, he writes: " Who was truly born of God and the Virgin, but not in the same manner;" and afterwards: " The true God, the Word born of the Virgin, he who in himself contains all mankind, was truly begotten in the womb." Again, in his Epistle to the Ephesians: " There is one carnal and spiritual physician, made and not made, God in man, true life in death, and both from Mary and from God;" and again, in his Epistle to the Magnesians: " Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before all ages, at length appeared," and, immediately after, he says: " There is but one God, who made himself manifest by Jesus Christ, his Son, who is his eternal Word."  

25. St. Polycarp was a disciple of St. John, and Bishop of Smyrna; he lived in the year 167. Eusebius (2) quotes a celebrated Epistle written by the Church of Smyrna to that of Pontus, giving an account of his martyrdom, and in it we read, that just before his death he thus expressed himself; " Wherefore in all things I praise Thee, I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, by the eternal Pontiff, Jesus Christ, thy beloved Son, through whom, to Thee, with him, in the Holy Ghost, be glory, now and for ever more. Amen." First, therefore, St. Polycarp calls Christ the eternal Pontiff, but nothing but God alone is eternal. Second He glorifies the Son, together with the Father, giving him equal glory, which he would not have done unless he believed that the Son was God equal to the Father. In his letter to the Philippians he ascribes equally to the Son and to the Father the power of giving grace and salvation. " May God the Father," he says, " and Jesus Christ, sanctify you in faith and truth and give you lot and part among his Saints." (2) Euseb. His. l. 4, c. 13.  

26. St. Justin, the Philosopher and Martyr, who died about the year 161, clearly speaks of the Divinity of Christ. He says in his first Apology: " Christ, the Son of God the Father, who alone is properly called his Son and his Word, because with Him before all creatures he existed and is begotten.” Mark how the Saint calls Christ properly the Son and the Word, existing with the Father before all creatures, and generated by him; the Word, therefore, is the proper Son of God, existing with the Father before all creatures, and is not, therefore, a creature himself. In his second Apology he says: " When the Word is the first-born of God, he is also God." In his Dialogue with Triphon, he proves that Christ in the Old Testament was called the Lord of Hosts, the God of Israel, and he then concludes by addressing the Jews: " If," says he, " you understood the prophets, you would not deny that he is God, the Son of the only and self-existing God." I omit many other passages of the same tenor, and I pass on to answer the objections of the Socinians. St. Justin, they say, in his Dialogue with Triphon, and in his Apology, asserts that the Father is the cause of the Word, and existed before the Word. To this we answer: the Father is called the cause of the Son, not as creator, but as generator, and the Father is said to be before the Son, not in time, but in origin, and, therefore, some Fathers have called the Father the cause of the Son, as being the principle of the Son. They also object that St. Justin calls the Son the Minister of God" Administrum esse Deo." We reply he is God’s Minister as man, that is, according to human nature. They make many other captious objections of this sort, which are refuted in Juenin’s Theology (3), but the few words of the Saint already quoted: " Cum verbuni Deus etiam est" when the Word is also God, are quite enough to answer them all.  

27 St. Iræneus, a disciple of St. Polycarp, and Bishop of Lyons, who died in the beginning of the second century, says (4) that the Son is true God, like the Father. " Neither," he says, " the Lord (the Father) nor the Holy Ghost would have absolutely called him God, if he was not true God." And again (5), he says, " the Father is the measure, and he is infinite, and the Son containing him must be infinite likewise." (3) Juenin, Theol. t. 3, c. 1, s. 1. (4) St. Iræn, ad Hær. l. 3 c 6 (5) Idem, l. 4, r. 8.  They object that St. Iræneus has said that the day of judgment is known to the Father alone, and that the Father is greater than the Son; but this has been already answered (vide n. 10); and again, in another place, where the Saint says, " Christ, with the Father, is the God of the living" (6).  

28. Athenagoras, a Christian Philosopher of Athens, in his Apology for the Christians, writes to the Emperors Antoninus and Commodus, that the reason why we say that all things were made by the Son is this:  "Whereas," he says, "the Father and the Son are one and the same, and the Son is in the Father, and the Father in the Son, by the unity and power of the Spirit, the Mind and Word is the Son of God." In these words: " Whereas the Father and the Son are one," he explains the unity of Nature of the Son with the Father; and in the other, " the Son is in the Father, and the Father in the Son," that peculiarity of the Trinity called by theologians Circumineession, by which one Person is in the others. He immediately adds: " We assert that the Son the Word is God, as is also the Holy Ghost united in power."  

29. Theophilus, Bishop of Antioch, under the Emperor Marcus Aurelius, says (7): " We ought to know that our Lord Christ is true God and true man God from God the Father man from Mary, his human Mother." Clement of Alexandria (8) writes: " Now the Word himself has appeared to man, who alone is both at the same time God and man." And again he says (9): " God hates nothing, nor neither does the Word, for both are one, to wit, God, for he has said, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Origen (10) wrote against Celsus, who objected to the Christians, that they adored Jesus Christ as God, though he was dead, and he thus expresses himself: " Be it known to our accusers that we believe this Jesus to be God and the Son of God." And again he says (II), that although Christ suffered as man, the Word who was God did not suffer. (6) St. Iræn. ad Hær. I. 3, c. 11. (7) Theoph. l. 5; Allegor. in Evang. (8) Clem. Alex, in Admon. ad Græcos. (9) Idem, l. 1; Pædagog. c. 8 (10) Origen, l. 3, cont. Celsum. (11) Idem, 1. 4, cont. Celsum.  " We distinguish,” he says, " between the Nature of the Divine Word, which is God, and the soul of Jesus." I do not quote the passage which follows, as it is on that theologians found their doubts of the faith of Origen, as the reader may see by consulting Nat. Alexander (12), but there can be no doubt, from the passage already quoted, that Origen confessed that Jesus was God and the Son of God.  

30. Dionisius Alexandrinus, towards the end of the third century, was accused (13) of denying the consubstantiality of the Word with the Father, but he says: " I have shown that they falsely charge me with saying that Christ is not consubstantial with God." St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, one of Origen’s scholars, Bishop of Pontus, and one of the accusers of Paul of Samosata in the Synod of Antioch, says, in his Confession of Faith (14): " There is one God, the Father of the living Word, the perfect Father of the perfect, the Father of the only-begotten Son (solus ex solo), God of God. And there is one Holy Ghost from God having existence." St. Methodius, as St. Jerom informs us (15), Bishop of Tyre, who suffered martyrdom under Diocletian, thus speaks of the Word in his book entitled De Martyribus, quoted by Theodoret (16): "The Lord and the Son of God, who thought it no robbery to be equal to God."  

31. We now come to the Latin Fathers of the Western Church. St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (1 7), proves the Divinity of the Word with the very texts we have already quoted. " The Lord says: I and the Father are one." And again, it is written of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, " and these three are one." In another place he says (18), " God is mingled with man; this is our God this is Christ." I omit the authority of St. Dionisius Romanus, of St. Athanasius, of Arnobius, of Lactantius, of Minutius Felix, of Zeno, and of other eminent writers, who forcibly defend the Divinity of the Word. (12) Nat. Alex. sec. 3, Diss. 16, art. 2. (13) Dionys. Alex, apud St. Athan. t. 1, p. 561. ( (14) St. Greg. Thaum. p. 1, Oper. apud Greg. Nyssen. in Vita Greg. Thaum. (15) St. Hier. de Scrip. Eccles. c. 34. (16) Theodoret, Dial. 1, p. 37. (17) St. Cyprian, de lib. Unit Eccles. (18) Idem, l. de Idol, vanit.  I will merely here quote a few passages from Tertullian, whose authority the Socinians abuse. In one part he says, speaking of the Word (34), " Him have we learned as produced from God (prolatum), and so generated, and therefore he is said to be God, and the Son of God, from the Unity of substance He is, therefore, Spirit from Spirit, God from God, and light from light." Again he says (35): " I and the Father are one, in the unity of substance, and not in the singularity of number." From these passages it clearly appears that Tertullian held that the Word was God, like the Father, and consubstantial with the Father. Our adversaries adduce some obscure passages from the most obscure part of his works, which they imagine favour their opinion; but our authors have demolished all their quibbles, and the reader can consult them (36).  

32. It is, however, certain, on the authority of the Fathers of the three first centuries, that the Faith of the Church in the Divinity and consubstantiality of the Word with the Father has been unchangeable, and even Socinus himself is obliged to confess this (37). Guided by this tradition, the three hundred and eighteen Fathers of the General Council of Nice, held in the year 325, thus defined the Faith:  "We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten Son from the Father, that is, from the substance of the Father; God of God, light of lights, true God of true God, consubstantial to the Father, by whom all things were made." This self-same profession of Faith has been from that always preserved in the subsequent General Councils, and in the whole Church. (34) Tertull. Apol. c. 21. (35) Idem, lib. con. Praxeam. c. 25. (36) Vide Juvenin. t. 3, q. 2, c. 1, a. 1, sec. 2; Tournely, t. 2, q. 4, art. 3, sec. 2; Antoin. Theol. Trac. de Trin. c. 1, art. 3. (37) Socinus Epist, ad Radoc, in t. 1, suor. Oper.  III. OBJECTIONS ANSWERED.  

33. Before commencing, it would be well to remember, as St. Ambrose (1) remarks, that the texts of Scripture adduced by our adversaries, are not always to be taken in the same sense, as some of them refer to Christ as God, and more as man; but the heretics confuse one with the other, applying those which refer to him as man, as if they referred to him as God. " The pious mind," the Saint says, " will distinguish between those which apply to him, according to the flesh, and according to the Divinity; but the sacrilegious mind will confound them, and distort, as injurious to the Divinity, whatever is written according to the humility of the flesh." Now, this is exactly how the Arians proceed, in impugning the Divinity of the Word; they always fasten on those texts, in which Christ is said to be less than the Father. To upset most of their arguments, therefore, it will always be sufficient to explain, that Jesus, as man, is less than the Father, but as God, by the Word, to which his humanity is united, he is equal to the Father. When we speak, therefore, of Jesus Christ, as man, we can lawfully say that he is created, that he was made, that he obeys the Father, is subject to the Father, and so forth.  

34. We shall now review the captious objections of our opponents:  First They object to us that text of St. John (xiv, 28): " The Father is greater than I am." But, before quoting this passage, they ought to reflect that Christ, before speaking thus, said: " If you loved me, you would, indeed, be glad, because I go to the Father, for the Father is greater than I." Here, then, Jesus calls the Father greater than himself, inasmuch as he, as man, was going to the Father in heaven; but mark how, afterwards, speaking of himself, according to the Divine Nature, he says, "The Father and I are one;" and all the other texts already quoted (Sec. I.), are of the same tenor, and clearly prove the Divinity of the Word, and of Christ. (1) St. Ambrose, l. 5, de Fide, c. 8, n. 115.  Second They object that Christ says: " I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me" (John, vi, 38); and also that passage of St. Paul: " And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then the Son also himself shall be subject unto him, that put all things under him" (I. Corinth, xv, 28). The Son, therefore, obeys, and is subject to the Father, and, therefore, is not God. In regard to the first text, we answer that Jesus Christ then explained the two Wills, according to the two Natures he had to wit, the human will, by which he was to obey the Father, and the Divine Will, which was common both to him and the Father. As far as the second text goes, St. Paul only says, that the Son, as man, will be always subject to the Father; and that we do not deny. How, then, can it interfere with our belief in his Divinity? Third They object that passage of the Acts of the Apostles (iii, 13): " The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus, whom you, indeed, delivered up," &c. See here, they say, how a distinction is made between the Son and between the Father, who is called God. We answer, that this refers to Christ as man, and not as God; for the words, " he glorified his Son," are to be understood, as referring to Christ in his human nature. St. Ambrose, besides, gives another answer, when he says, " that if the Father is understood by the name of God alone, it is because from him is all authority."  

35. The following objections are just of the same character as the preceding. They object, fourthly, that text of the Proverbs: " The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made anything from the beginning" (Prov. viii, 22). This is the text, according to the Vulgate, and the Hebrew original is just the same; but in the Greek Septuagint it is thus read: " The Lord created me in the beginning of his ways." Therefore, the Arians say, the Divine Wisdom which is here spoken of was created, and they strengthen their argument, by quoting from Ecclesiasticus (xxiv, 14): " From the beginning, and before all ages, I was created." We answer, first of all, the true reading is that of the Vulgate, and that alone, according to the Decree of the Council of Trent, we are bound to obey; but though we even take the Greek, it is of no consequence, as the word created (here used in the text of Proverbs and Ecclesiasticus), as St. Jerome and St. Augustine (2) teach us, does not exactly mean creation, for the Greeks promiscuously used the words created and begotten, to signify sometimes creation, sometimes generation, as appears from Deuteronomy (xxxii, 16): "Thou hast forsaken the God that begot thee, and hast forgotten the Lord that created thee." Hence generation is taken for creation. There is a passage also in the Book of Proverbs, which, if we consider the text, can only be understood of the generation of the Divine Wisdom: " I was set up from eternity, and of old, before the earth was made Before the hills I was brought forth" (Proverbs, viii, 23). We should remark here the expression, " I was set up from eternity." That shows how we ought to understand the word created is to be understood in the former quotation. We might also answer, with St. Hilary, that the word created refers to the human nature the Word assumed, and the words, brought forth, to the eternal generation of the Word (3). Wisdom here is spoken of as created, and, immediately after, as begotten; but creation is to be referred, not to the immutable nature of God, but to the human generation. " Sapientia itaque quæ se dixit creatam, eadem in consequenti se dixit genitam: creationem referens ad Parentis inde mutabilem naturam, quæ extra humani partus speciem, et consuetudinem, sine imminutione aliqua, ac diminutione sui creavit ex seipsa quod genuit." In the text of Ecclesiasticus, cited immediately after, it is clear that the Incarnate Wisdom is spoken of:  "He that made me rested in my tabernacle;" for this by the Incarnation was verified. God, who " created" Jesus Christ according to his humanity, " rested in his tabernacle" that is, reposed in that created humanity. The following passage is even, if possible, clearer: "Let thy dwelling be in Jacob, and thy inheritance in Israel, and take root in my elect." All this surely refers to the Incarnate Wisdom, who came from the stock of Israel and Jacob, and was then the root of all the elect. Read on this subject St. Augustine, St. Fulgentius; and, above all, St. Athanasius (4). (2) St. Hieron. in Cap. 4; Ep. ad Eph. St. August. lib. de Fid. & Simb. (3) St. Hilar. lib. de Synod, c. 5. (4) St. Aug. l. 5, de Trin. c. 12; St. Fulgent, lib. contra serm. fastid. Arian. St. Athanas. Orat. contra Arian.  

36.- They object, fifthly, that St. Paul says of Christ, in his Epistle to the Colossians (i, 15): " Who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of every creature. " Hence, they infer that Christ is the most excellent of creatures, but still only a creature. We may here reply, that the Apostle speaks of Christ in this text, according to his human nature, as St. Cyril explains it (5). But it is generally interpreted of the Divine Nature, and he is called the first-born of all creatures, because by him all creatures were made, as St. Basil explains it (6): " Since in him were made all things in heaven and on earth." In the same manner, he is called, in the Apocalypse, " the first born of the dead" (Apoc. i, 5); because, as St. Basil again explains it, he was the cause of the resurrection of the dead. Or he may be called the first-born, because he was generated before all things, as Tertullian (7) explains it: " The first-born, because he was born before all things; the only-begotten, as the only-begotten of God." St. Ambrose (8) says the same thing. We read the first-born we read the only-begotten; the first born, because there was none before him the only-begotten, because there was none after him.  

37. They object, sixthly, that expression of St. John the Baptist (John, i, 15): " He that shall come after me is preferred before me" (ante me factus est); therefore, say they, the Word was created. St. Ambrose (9) answers, that all that St. John meant by the expression, " was made before me" (ante me factus est), was, that he was preferred or placed before him, for he immediately assigns the reason: " Because he was before me," that is, because he preceded him for all eternity, and he was, therefore, not even worthy to " unloose the latchet of his shoe." The same answer meets the passage of St. Paul:  " Being made so much better than the angels" (Heb. i, 4), that is, he was honoured so much more than the angels.  

38. They object, seventhly, that text of St. John (17, 3): " Now this is eternal life, that they may know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." Hence it is declared, say they, that the Father only is true God; but we answer, that the word "only" does not exclude from the Divinity, unless creatures alone, as St. Matthew says: " No one knoweth the Son but the Father, nor the Father but the Son" (Matt, xi, 27). (5) St. Cyril, l. 25; Thesaur. (6) St. Basil, l. 4, con. Eunom. (7) Tertul. con. Frax. c. 7. (8) St. Ambrose, l. 1, de Fide. (9) St. Ambrose, l. 3, de Fide.  Now, it would be a false conclusion to deduce from this that the Father does not know himself; and, therefore, the word "only" in the former text is to be taken, as in the twelfth verse of the thirty-second chapter of Deuteronomy: " The Lord alone was his leader, and there was no strange God with him." Another proof is that text of St. John (xvi, 32): " And shall leave me alone." Here the word alone (solum) does not mean that he is excluded from the Father, for he immediately adds: " And yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me." And thus, likewise, must we understand that text of St. Paul: " We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no God but one; for although there be that are called gods, either in heaven or on earth, yet to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we unto him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him" (I. Cor. viii, 5, 6). Here the expression, " One God, the Father," is meant to exclude the false gods, but not the Divinity of Jesus Christ, no more than saying "Our Lord Jesus Christ," excludes the Father from being still our Lord.  

39. They also adduce the sixth verse of the fifth chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians: " One God, and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in us all." We answer that the words: " One God, and Father of all," do not exclude the Divinity of the other two Persons; for the word, Father, is not here taken in its strict sense, as denoting the Person of the Father alone, but in that essential sense, by which the word, Father, is applied to the whole Trinity, which we invoke when we say: - Our Father, who art in heaven." We thus, also, answer the other text adduced from St. Paul to Timothy: " For there is one God and one Mediator of God and man, the man, Christ Jesus (I. Tim. ii, 5). The expression, " one God," does not exclude the Divinity of Jesus Christ; but, as St. Augustine remarks, the words which immediately follow " one Mediator of God and man," prove that Jesus Christ is both God and man. " God alone," the Saint says, " could not feel death, nor man alone could not subdue it."  

40. They object, eighthly, the text: " But of that day or time, no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father" (Mark, xiii, 32). So, say they, the Son is not omniscient. Some have answered this, by saying, that the Son did not know the day of judgment as man, but only as God; but this does not meet the objection, since we know from the Scriptures, that to Christ, even as man, the fullness of knowledge was given: " And we saw the glory, the glory as it were, of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (John, i, 14); and again: " In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Collos. ii, 3). And St. Ambrose (10), treating of this point, says: " How could he be ignorant of the day of judgment, who told the hour, and the place, and the signs, and the causes of judgment." The African Church, therefore, obliged Leporius to retract, when he said, that Christ, as man, did not know the day of judgment, and he at once obeyed. "We, therefore, answer, that it is said the Son did not know the day of judgment, as it would be of no use, nor fit that men should know it. This is the way in which St. Augustine explains it. We are, therefore, to conclude that the Father did not wish that the Son should make known the day, and the Son, as his Father’s Legate, said in his name, he did not know it, not having received a commission from his Father to make it known.  

41. They object, ninthly, that the Father alone is called good, to the exclusion of the Son: " And Jesus said to him: Why callest thou me good? None is good but one, that is God" (Mark, x, 18). Christ, therefore, they say, confesses that he is not God. St. Ambrose (11) answers this. Christ, he says, wished to reprove the young man, who called him good, and still would not believe he was God, whereas, God alone is essentially good; it is, says the Saint, as if our Lord should say: " Either do not call me good, or believe me to be God."  

42. They object, tenthly, that Christ has not full power over all creatures, since he said to the mother of St. James and St. John: " To sit on my right or left hand, is not mine to give you" (Matt, xx, 23). We answer, it cannot be denied according to the Scriptures, that Christ received all power from his Father: " Knowing that the Father had given him all things into his hands" (John, xiii, 3); " All things are delivered to me by my Father" (Matt, xi, 27); " All power is given to me in heaven, and on earth" (Matt, xxviii, 18). How, then, are we to understand his inability to give places to the sons of Zebedee? We have the answer from our Lord himself:  " It is not mine," he says, " to give to you, but to them for whom it is prepared by my Father." See, then, the answer: " It is not mine to give you;" not because he had not the power of giving it, but I cannot give it to you, who think you have a right to heaven, because you are related to me; for heaven is the portion of those only for whom it has been prepared by my Father; to them, Christ, as being equal to the Father, can give it. " As all things," says St. Augustine (12), "which the Father has, are mine, this is also mine, and I have prepared it with the Father." (10) St. Ambrose, l. 5, de Fide. c. 16, n. 204. (11) St. Ambrose, l. 2, de Fide. c. 1. (12) St. Angus. /. 1, de Trin. c. 12.  

43. They object, eleventhly, that text: " The Son cannot do anything from himself, but what he sees the Father doing" (John, v, 19). St. Thomas (13) answers this. " When it said that the Son cannot do anything for himself, no power is taken from the Son, which the Father has, for it is immediately added: "For what things soever he doth, these the Son also doth, in like manner;" but it is there that the Son has the power, from his Father, from whom he also has his Nature." Hence, Hilary (14) says: " This is the Unity of the Divine Nature; ut ita per se agat Filius quod non agat a se" The same reply will meet all the other texts they adduce, as: " My doctrine is not mine" (John, vii, 16); " The Father loves the Son, and shows him all things" (John, v, 20); " All things are delivered to me by my Father" (Matt, xi, 27). All these texts prove, they say, that the Son cannot be God by Nature and Substance. But we answer, that the Son, being generated by the Father, receives everything from him by communication, and the Father, generating, communicates to him all he has, except the Paternity; and this is the distinction between Him and the Son, for the power, the wisdom, and the will, are all the same in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Arians adduce several other texts, but the reader will find no especial difficulty in answering them, by merely referring to what he has already read. (13) St. Thomas, 1, p. 9, 42, a. 6, ad 1. (14) Hilar. de Trin. l. 9.  

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