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A. S. Hayden
Early History of the Disciples (1875)


C H A P T E R   I I I.

The plea opened in New Lisbon--Co-operating agencies.

E VENTS were rapidly culminating for the work of conversion to open under new and peculiar conditions of success. The preachers were astir holding meetings in many places; not "protracted meetings," for the day for such meetings had not yet come. Many incidents of rare interest are connected with the stirring reformatory movement of the years from 1826 to 1832; but none, perhaps, more noteworthy than the opening of the great work in New Lisbon, in November, 1827. Bro. Scott felt that the evangelical part of the great commission had fallen into decay, and his soul was burdened with a great weight of duty to revive the apostolic method of preaching the gospel. After the discovery of the system of the gospel items already mentioned, he went to a community where he endeavored to impress the people with its truth; but he failed to enlist any souls for Christ. He felt the discouragement, and went on his knees to Jesus. He plead as did the lawgiver of Israel for his people. He was most earnest in prayer. He believed God. He believed his word; his promise of help. No man more sincerely, humbly, pleadingly, ever lay prostrate before God in supplications. His prayers in public, from a tender heart, melted all hearts around him.

      The effort must be repeated. It is the gospel--so [72] his meditation ran--Christ's own gospel, blessed by him at first for conversion, and to be blessed by him for that purpose to the end of time. "Lo! I am with you, world without end." Then he will be with his servants still. "This is thy word; I am thy servant." So "cast down, but not destroyed," he cried; and, again, with the prophet, "I believed, therefore have I spoken. I am greatly afflicted. I believe his word, and I will preach it again!"

      It seemed a blessed providence which permitted the first trial to be a defeat. God had him under farther discipline for a higher work. If he threw him on his back in discomfiture, it was that he might fall on his face in conscious need of Christ's own help for Christ's own work; that his gospel might be re-announced to the world in self-abasement, in weakness, and with the consciousness of the Lord's presence to aid in his work. He had been in ecstasy with the novelty and grandeur of the newly discovered truth, and with the thought of bringing sinners once more, and at once, through faith and obedience into the joys of salvation; with no less of joy in the gospel as it now flamed upon his heart, but perhaps tempered with fear and trembling, a state of feeling he often experienced, he resolved to go to New Lisbon.

      The old Baptist meeting-house, in which two months before he received the appointment of the association, was honored as the place for the opening of this grand appeal; a plea which was to shake society throughout the land. Scott was in his highest key. He realized the peril of the experiment, should it, on the one hand, not meet with an encouraging response; and on the other, the results to follow if he [73] should be sustained in this bold advance step; but his faith was equal to the occasion. He had examined the firmness of the ground, on which, in his new work he was to take his stand. He opened the plea with circumspection. He fortified his positions with clear and unanswerable arguments from the Word of God. As he advanced he became more inspired, forcible, and convincing. His audience were entranced. He moved on in eloquent demonstration. He was handling old themes, but he was bringing out a new and startling proposition--old as the apostles, but new in this age--that at any hour when a sinner yields and obeys the Lord Jesus, that same hour will the Lord receive him into favor and forgive his sins; that pardon is offered in the gospel on the terms of faith and obedience, and whoever believes on him with all his heart and obeys him, shall be pardoned through his blood; and that the promise of the gospel is his evidence and assurance of this salvation. A new era dawned when this was urged upon the people, as it was by the preacher on that occasion, for their immediate acceptance.

      When the preacher was drawing toward a conclusion of this scriptural exposition of the apostolic plan of salvation, he noticed a stranger enter the door. This man was a highly respectable citizen, and a worthy member of the Presbyterian Church. He was a diligent and pious student of the gospel; and had long been convinced that the Savior's command to convert the world was not now obeyed as it was preached by the apostles. He spoke frequently to his wife on the subject, and was so engaged that he sometimes read and conversed to a late hour at night. [74] She said on one of these occasions, "William, you will never find any one that will agree with you on that subject." He replied, "When I find any person preaching, as did the apostle Peter in the second chapter of Acts, I shall offer myself for obedience and go with him." This man was "waiting for the consolation of Israel."

      Having prepared the way by showing from the Scriptures that the Kingdom of Christ was to be opened on Pentecost, and from Matt. xvi: 18, that the apostle Peter had the keys to open the door of it, or to proclaim the terms of admission into it, Scott was bringing his subject to a conclusion. Mr. Amend, having entered from the Presbyterian prayer-meeting, heard enough to see his drift, and to appreciate him when he repeated the language of inspiration, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Acts ii: 38, 39. He was standing on his feet listening with fixed attention. The preacher, all alive to his subject, called out for any of his audience who believed God and would take him at his word, to come forward and confess the Lord Jesus, and be baptized in his name for the remission of sins.

      "The time has come at last," said Amend; "God has accepted my condition; he has sent a man to preach as the New Testament reads; shall I fail to fulfill my pledge of obedience?" All this passed through his mind with instantaneous rapidity. "My pledge is on high; my prayer is answered; I will not confer with flesh and blood." With a promptness which astonished both the audience and the [75] preacher, he came to the seat assigned to converts. "Who is this man?" whispered the astonished preacher, who had seen him enter and had scanned his movement. "The best man in the community; an orderly member of the Presbyterian Church."

      It was enough. Success sanctioned the appeal. Mr. Scott looked upon it as a divine attestation of the correctness of his method; the Scriptures being his warrant for the truth of the things proclaimed. Here is a case in proof that the Word of God can be understood alike by all who study it with unbiased mind. This devout Presbyterian loved the truth as it is in Jesus. The doctrine of party is nothing to such men. The testimony of the apostles will have the same effect on all candid men when the doctrines and commandments of men are laid aside. From that day, with this seal to his ministry, he was stronger than Ajax. To borrow one of his own expressions, "he rushed in upon the people like an armed man!" Within a few days seventeen souls "hearing, believed and were baptized." There was great joy in New Lisbon. The whole town was aroused; some spoke against this way, others were amazed at the new things brought to their ears. The novelty and boldness of the movement broke up entirely the monotony of the customary process of "waiting," "seeking," tarrying at the pool till an angel of grace should trouble the waters of salvation.

      The contrast between the process of conversion, as generally taught, which led the soul through "much tribulation" of darkness and uncertainty, to a faint and flickering hope--and this the apostolic method--was so direct and palpable, that the conflict was [76] immediately initiated and strongly marked. The one led the sinner up through states of mind and frames of feeling, and upon the genuineness of these was based his hope of peace. The other brings him, with the same conscious conviction of his sins, to trust the mercy of Jesus, and to rely on Christ's promise of forgiveness, which he approaches and secures through the obedience of faith.

      It was singular, and indeed inexplicable to Mr. Scott, that the first person to respond to his call, and come forth to obey the gospel, should be a man who had not heard his sermon. If he had heard his premises, and had been enlightened by his argument, the case would have presented no cause of marvel. He had heard only his conclusion. He came. It was a mystery.

      Mr. Scott was restless under it. Several years afterward he addressed to Mr. Amend a note of inquiry in regard to it, and received in reply the following explanation:

      "I will answer your questions. I was baptized on the 18th of Nov., 1827, and will relate to you a circumstance which occurred a few days before that date. I had read the second chapter of Acts, when I expressed myself to my wife as follows: Oh, this is the gospel; this is the thing we wish, the remission of our sins! Oh, that I could hear the gospel in those same words as Peter preached it! I hope I shall some day hear, and the first man I meet who will preach the gospel thus, with him will I go. So, my brother, on the day you saw me come into the meeting-house, my heart was open to receive the word of God, and when you cried, 'The Scripture shall no longer be a sealed book, God means what he says. Is there any man present who will take God at his word and be baptized for [77] the remission of sins,'--at that moment my feelings were such, that I could have cried out, 'Glory to God! I have found the man whom I have long sought for.' So I entered the kingdom, when I readily laid hold of the hope set before me.

      It is no easy task, now that the position then assumed by Mr. Scott has won the victory, and become a distinguishing practice of many hundred thousand Christians, to appreciate the nature or the magnitude of the difficulties which environed him. When we consider his natural timidity; that he was not emboldened by the presence, or encouraged by the example, of any one in modern times; that the whole land, and, indeed, the whole world had been for ages silent as the grave respecting this peculiar and special idea, the surprise grows into wonder and amazement, and the event takes on the most evident tokens of the hand of God in it.

      It is true the "Christian Baptist," in the first volume, had taught the scriptural connection between baptism and remission, in an essay by the elder Campbell; also in A. Campbell's Debate with Mr. McCalla the same truth was distinctly set forth. But it remained among the theories. Sinners still languished in despairing doubt, awaiting some light, emotion, or sensation on which they might settle as the "white stone" of elective grace, specially imparted to assure them they were of the elect for whom Christ died. Besides, all the prominent creeds of Christendom contain the doctrine of baptism as a pledge of remission, as an item of dogmatic belief. But not one of the sects built upon them carries out its creed, in this particular, into practical result, and [78] tells the awakened sinner, as did Peter on the first Pentecost after the ascension: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins."

      This practical use and application of the gospel to bring convicted sinners into the immediate enjoyment of the forgiveness of sins, through the pardoning mercy of God in Christ, constitutes an epoch of grand significance in the return of the disciples from the great apostasy back to Jerusalem, to its gospel and its glory. It had been taught and accepted as a doctrine; now it became an advocacy. It was a truth acknowledged in theory; it was now a duty demanding practice. Now restored as a practical truth, it was destined to become, in the hands of the proclaimers of the gospel, the means of revolutionizing the practice of the church as it relates to the reception of converts to Christ, by restoring to the ministry the method established by the holy apostles under the great commission.

      "The Lord gave the word, great was the company of them that published it." This re-announcement of the gospel was soon noised abroad. There were many Simeons and Annas, too, as well as Josephs, who were waiting for this consolation of Israel. There was, besides the preachers of the Mahoning Association, a class of preachers of ardent zeal and great influence with the people, who had come by a different path to the point in the process of conversion, at which the newly restored manner of presenting the gospel commended itself to them as a necessity, and as the only missing link in the chain of gospel agencies. These were known as "Christians," [79] "Bible Christians," or, sometimes, "New Lights." This last appellation they steadily repudiated. James Hughes, Lewis Hamrick, Lewis Comer, and John Secrest, all from Kentucky, coadjutors with the celebrated and godly B. W. Stone, came through Belmont and Columbiana counties, converting many, and planting churches according to the light of the gospel so far as they had attained to it. They repudiated all creeds, contended for the Bible alone, were sticklers for the name "Christian," and being full of zeal and gifted in exhortation, they gained many converts. They pursued the method known as the "mourning-bench system," completing the process of conversion and reception by giving to the convert publicly the "right hand of fellowship," when he was regarded as a member of the church. One of these, John Secrest, a man of mark in person, with glossy dark hair and black eyes, grave in manner, with powerful voice and persuasive address, came to William Mitchell's, in Belmont County, whose three sons, James G., Nathan J., and David G. Mitchell, afterward became men of much note and great usefulness in the reformation. These were all youths at the visit of Secrest.

      In conversation, Secrest said:

      "Bro. Mitchell, I have just been at Bethany, Va., to see Alexander Campbell. He edits a monthly called the 'Christian Baptist.' He is a man of great talent, a scholar, and he has got forty years ahead of this generation, and whether they ever catch up I have my doubts. He has waged war with the clergy, and he will bring them all down on his head, the Baptists in particular; and if he carries the thing through as he has commenced, he will [80] revolutionize the whole Protestant world, for his foundation can never be shaken. He has with him a man by the name of Scott, to whom I was introduced. He asked me these questions: 'Bro. Secrest, do you baptize a good many persons?' I told him I baptized quite a number. 'Then,' said he, 'into what do you baptize them?' This was a new thought, and it perplexed me. I tell you, Bro. Mitchell, the apostles baptized persons into Christ; not into the Baptist Church, or any other, but into Christ; and baptism is more than a mere outward ordinance; it has a greater significance than most people are aware of. In it we become related to Christ."

      The "Christian Baptist" became a regular guest in that family.

      Of this wing of the reformation came such men as John Whitacre, of Minerva; William Schooley, of Salem, both having birthright in the Quaker fraternity; John Flick also, and Joseph Gaston, with others of reputation among the churches. It was John Secrest and Joseph Gaston who appeared, and were welcomed among the Baptist ministry in the New Lisbon Association.

      All these men, upon examination, accepted the order of the gospel as presented by Scott, adopted it, and spent their lives in its defense. Thus was afforded another case illustrating the manner in which the union of Christians is to be effected; by the knowledge, belief, and practice of the apostolic teaching; not by orders in council, not by conventional decrees, nor by some ethereal liberalism of sentiment without basis or bounds.

      Scott and Joseph Gaston became greatly devoted to each other, traveling and laboring much together. [81] They were as David and Jonathan. Gaston was charmed and instructed by the manly, intellectual eloquence of Scott, who, in turn, equally admired and loved the piety, simplicity, and pathos of Gaston. This brother hath a history--brief, sad, and lovely. He was the son of James and Mary Gaston, born on Peter's Creek, Washington County, Pa., March 25, 1801. When he was twenty years of age, his mother, then a widow, moved to Augusta, Carroll County, Ohio. Attending a prayer meeting, and showing some levity inconsistent in such a place, a Miss Walton, a member of the family where the meeting was held, fell upon her knees, and so earnestly commended his soul to Jesus, as to plant impressions there never to be effaced. Soon after, at a meeting held in Minerva by John Secrest, he confessed the Lord and was baptized. In the exercises of prayer and of exhortation, public and private, his heart and mouth were immediately opened. Many felt the power of religion under his earnest and impassioned appeals. Falling in with Bro. Scott, and learning more perfectly of "this way," he was carried up to new heights of wonder at the perfection of the knowledge of God, and of enthusiasm in pleading for sinners to be reconciled to God. The oil of Joseph's lamp burned brightly, but it was destined soon to burn out. He was afflicted with hemorrhage of the lungs. The violence of his labors brought on a crisis; and on the 6th of December, 1834, closed his most triumphant course. For twenty minutes immediately before his death, he exhorted those about him with great strength of voice, and almost angelic fervor; then he fell asleep as peacefully [82] as when an infant is hushed to its gentle slumbers.

      He was led to clearer views of the gospel in the following manner, as related by Bro. Scott:

      "I had appointed a certain day in which to break bread with the Baptist Church at Salem. Bro. Gaston was a resident of Columbiana County, and was at that time in the vicinity of Salem. The Baptist brethren regarded him as a good man and a true disciple; but he was a Christian or New Light, and contended for open communion--things which they greatly disliked. Before meeting, the principal brethren requested me to converse with him on the subject, saying they were sure I could convert him.

      "Accordingly I took him out in presence of them all; but he gave me no time, being as impatient and undoubting on open communion as they were on close communion. I told him, however, that the brethren had commissioned me to convert him to their opinions, and smiled. He said he had come to convert me to his.

      "I then set before him the terms of the ancient gospel as I had arranged them, and told him that their dispute about communion was silly and unprofitable. He heard me with delight. I appealed to the Scriptures, and he smiled; and soon, with a laugh, he exclaimed, 'It is all true! and I believe every word of it, and I will take you to a Christian brother who will receive it in a moment.'

      "After meeting, I accompanied him to the house of said brother, living a mile and a half from the village; and the man and his wife hearing it, and examining the Scriptures, received it with all readiness that sane night, so that on that day were brought over to the side of the gospel two excellent men, both laborers among the 'Christians.'"

      The "Christian brother" alluded to above, was William Schooley, a very useful and exemplary man. He was [83] a pioneer of great independence; manly, and long a pillar in the cause of primitive Christianity.

      He was born in Bedford County, Va., August 5, 1792. In 1802, when Ohio was yet a territory, he settled, with his parents, near the spot where the town of Salem now stands. In 1839, he removed to Maysville, Clay County, Ill. This, with the exception of a few years in Fulton County, Ill., was his continued residence till his death, which occurred Jan. 31, 1873, in the eighty-first year of his age.

      He was educated among the Friends, or Quakers, and imbibed their doctrines. But maturing in mind, as in years, and seeing Christendom all given up to the idolatry of partisan faiths, he became skeptical. Yet his reverence for the Bible held him fast. He read the gospel. In it his sincere and candid heart saw beauty and truth. "I thought," he says, "if there is any thing in religion, it is as much to me as any one else." In this state of mind he went several miles to hear one Robert Hocking, a "New Light" or Bible Christian. He claimed the Bible to be sufficient, opposed creeds as foundations of religious parties, and assumed the term Christian as the distinctive name of the followers of Christ. This gained his ready assent. Soon after, Thomas Whitacre came, and held a meeting in Schooley's house. Following up his convictions, he and many others confessed the Lord, and, after the manner of that people, were received into church relation by the "right hand of fellowship."

      Population was sparse, and preachers few. Bro. Schooley was soon called forth to exhort the members, and to defend the "new religion," as these simple and elementary views of the gospel began to be called. The people spoke of him as a preacher; and from that time, November, 1822, till he was past eighty, he ceased not to labor in the gospel. He was ordained March 16, 1823, by Elders John Secrest and Thomas Whitacre. His labors [84] were mostly in Columbiana County, though he preached in one or two counties adjoining, and traveled some in Pennsylvania and Virginia. He says: "I went to the warfare at my own expense. I do not recollect that I received more than one dollar for my labors, as it was thought among the brethren that it was wrong to pay for preaching the gospel. This idea came from the Quakers. However, it was very convenient; it cost them nothing. Yet it was a heavy burden to those that preached. I have never thought it right to sell the gospel, or to make it a matter of merchandise; but I think the members of the church ought to know their duty, and to be prudently liberal towards the laborers of the gospel." So writes this good and sound man at an advanced age.

      Schooley was a large, heavy man, remarkably firm and unyielding in his conscientious convictions. He was more distinguished for sound sense, prudence in counsel, and for his clear teaching of the gospel, than for eloquence or power of appeal. Hence he was less a revivalist than many; but he yielded a far more steady and permanent support to the churches. He was a leading man in the community, profoundly respected for his thorough honesty and benevolence.

      The souls of Gaston and Scott became "knit together in love." They labored together with great zeal and overwhelming success; whole churches of the "New Lights" and of the Baptists, in Salem, New Lisbon, Fast Fairfield, Green, New Garden, Hanover, and Minerva, unloading the ship of the contraband wares of human tradition, became one people in the Lord and in his word. Conversions followed their labors in all places.

      Bro. Gaston was ordained among the "Bible Christians." His fervid soul knew no bounds in his efforts to save sinners. A plaintive strain of [85] tenderness mingled with his impassioned persuasiveness. In tears he begged the people to turn from sin and come to Christ. In the ardor of his soul he has been known to fall upon his knees that he might plead more effectively, and win the lost soul to the Savior. Once when Scott's own powers of exhortation--a gift in which he was a great master--failed to bring the people to repentance, he turned suddenly around, exclaiming, "Bro. Joseph, you get at these people!"

      As he found his lungs giving away he exclaimed, "Oh! if I had only understood the gospel when I made my start in religion! How much suffering I might have escaped, and how much more good I might have done! But now I must go down to an untimely grave, and leave this good and glorious work of publishing the gospel to others!" After some six years of a most active, laborious, self-denying and very successful ministry, this pure, devoted man gathered up his feet upon his couch and was with Jesus. He expired, in Steubenville, at the residence of his brother-in-law, Mr. Manful. His brother James leaned over his sainted brother in his departure. His breathing became heavy, his eyes closed, and while all waited the last pulse, he suddenly revived, and addressed to all about him an exhortation of wonderful power. It was delivered in a full sonorous voice, accompanied by the free use of his hands. Then the farewell to his wife and children followed, and in a few moments he entered the chariot.

      It was noted that every one in the room at the time of his death, who was not already a Christian, turned to the Lord. [86]

      The bright jewel of the "Ancient Gospel," as the newly discovered arrangement of its fundamental items began now to be designated, attracted universal attention. So simple, so novel, so convincingly clear, and so evidently supported by the reading of the Acts, it won friends and wrought victories wherever it was proclaimed. It spread rapidly and became the topic of excited investigation from New Lisbon to the Lakes. Mr. Scott's success in Columbiana County had so completely demonstrated the correctness of his method of the direct application of the gospel for the salvation of sinners, that his zeal knew no bounds. He was a rapid rider. Mantled in his cloak, with a small polyglot Bible in the minion type, which he constantly studied, he hurried from place to place to tell the news; to preach the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ.


      In Columbiana and adjoining counties, no man had greater influence than John Whitacre. He was born to be a leader. Though unambitious, he possessed varied abilities of a higher order which naturally gave him eminence. He was frequently solicited to stand the poll for the legislature, and for congress, but he steadily refused. He was elected to the office of County Surveyor for Stark County by a handsome majority, when the voters on the opposing ticket counted nine hundred of a majority.

      He was born in Loudon County, Va., February 14, 1790. His father and mother, Edward and Martha Whitacre, were strict members of the Friends' Society; consequently, their children had a birthright among that people. They moved into Columbiana County when the Indians, and the game which they chased, abounded in the [87] forests. Chances for education were scanty, but he drank with avidity from all springs of knowledge, taught in the schools, became master of the art of surveying, and served as the surveyor of the county about thirty-four years. In his surveying tours he often preached the gospel with great effect. He joined the movement which originated about the beginning of this century under the labors of Stone, Hughes, O'Kane, and others; and was baptized by Robert Hawkins, of Pennsylvania. When the advocates of the newer light, or, rather, the older light of the original gospel, came to him, he met them book in hand. After a careful consideration of this plea, and a candid examination of the Scriptures, he said, "It is true; and as I have set out to follow the Bible, I can not reject it." He never wavered, but held on till the day of his death preaching the glad tidings wherever an opportunity offered. He was very zealous, and sought in every way to teach the people. He was popular as a preacher, convincing in proof, warm and persuasive in exhortation, and brought many souls to Christ. He abounded in anecdote, was ready and apt in figures, pointed and witty in retort. These qualities, with a benevolent disposition, and a manly, noble form, singled him out as a man first in society, and first before great assemblies. He was not only hospitable, but "given to hospitality." His business talents--the owner and successful conductor of the mills at Minerva--enabled him to gratify his generous and social dispositions, by entertaining, with great liberality, the many guests who for many years were welcome in his family mansion.

      Staying over night at a hotel where were other guests, strangers to him, in the evening the conversation arose among them in regard to Christianity. A young man who had imbibed skeptical sentiments spoke up pertly: "I would not believe those old Bible stories eighteen hundred years old, nor any thing for which I had not the evidence of my senses." Whitacre, who, till now had been silent, [88] spoke: "Young man, I perceive you have no mind." He replied, with warmth: "Sir, I claim to have as much mind as you, or any other man." "Let me ask you a question," said Whitacre: "Did you ever see your mind, or hear it? or did you ever feel, taste, or smell your mind?" "No, sir," said the youth. "Then, according to your own assertion, you have no mind!" This "brought the house down," and the young man was afterward wiser and more modest. On another occasion, he was at a meeting where several persons were gathered at the "altar" in prayer for divine power to come down. Among them was a lady of intelligent appearance, who evidently was in deep distress. She prayed that God would "give her faith--saving faith; that he would help her to believe in Jesus." When she closed, Whitacre spoke to her: "Madam," said he, "what would you give for faith in Mahomet?" "Nothing," was her somewhat indignant reply. "Why not?" he continued. "Because," she rejoined, "I believe him to be an impostor." "But why are you so anxious for faith in Jesus Christ?" "Because," said she, "I believe he is my only Savior." "Well," said Whitacre, "why are you praying for that which you say you have? Why not go forward and obey the gospel, and be made free from sin?" On an occasion, while out surveying, he asked a young lady in the family if she was a Christian. "No, sir, I am not." "Would you like to be?" he asked. "Yes, sir; if I only knew how, I would gladly become one." He made an appointment, and 'so preached' and taught the people that not only she, but many others turned to the Lord; and a church was founded which for many years was a blessing to the people.

      He was taken sick while surveying the farm of Ira M. Allen, near Canton, and died at Mr. Allen's house. The nervous system was prostrated; the brain power gave way; the 'wheel was broken at the fountain, and the silver cord was loosed.' [89]

      He belonged to a generation of noble men who wrought a work which no man appreciated in their day. For unflinching integrity, and a life-long devotion to truth and righteousness, it is not easy to overestimate the grandeur and excellence of his life. He died the 26th day of November, in the 77th year of his age. [90]


[EHD 72-90]

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Early History of the Disciples (1875)

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