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PB Valuable Contributions to CT

Audio Transcript 

Particular Baptist's Valuable Contribution

to Reformed Covenant Theology

By: Pastor Doug Barger

Christ Reformed Baptist Church

New Castle, IN 

Particular Baptists' Valuable

Contributions to Reformed

Covenant Theology

Spurgeon - THE Doctrine of the Divine Covenant lies at the root of all true theology. It has been said that he who well understands the distinction between the Covenant of Works and the Covenant of Grace is a master of divinity.  I am persuaded that most of the mistakes which men make concerning the Doctrines of Scripture are based upon fundamental errors with regard to the Covenants of Law and of Grace.

Today, I will not be seeking to prove the validity of Covenant Theology as a system of theological interpretation which is supported by 1) Scripture, 2) church history going as far back as the patristic era (A.D. 100 - A.D. 451), 3) further developed during the Reformation and Post-Reformation era among Reformed Scholasticism.


Additionally, the task before me is not to critique other systems of theology such as dispensationalism, or to systematically compare the two against one another, although at times there will come critique and analyzing.


During my talk, I admit that I will be speaking and referencing these two systems often in very broad categories as I emphasize their most basic and overarching principles, which most would agree are an accurate and fair representation of them, while at the same time assuming you all understand that

there are nuances within each theological system.


Admitting this much, my ultimate desire is to be as accurate as humanly possible in my representation of these systems of theology and their particular use within certain Christian communities, where in those communities and traditions, I believe there is a sincere, God-fearing desire to rightly divide the Word of God. 


So how do I propose we move forward with the subject at hand: 

PB valuable contributions to Reformed Covenant Theology?

Well, I would like to try an approach unlike anything I have ever done before: communicate it through my own experience and journey; that is, my own testimony as a Baptist coming away from Dispensationalism to Covenant Theology. I know you what your thinking. "That’s rather subjective."  Well, in a way it is, I admit, but at the same I will be presenting objective truths and facts that can easily be substantiated.



Moments prior to the start of a recent church service I was pleasantly surprised to see

a returning visitor who I had not seen; if I’m not mistaken, in over a year. 

This visitor who is in their 70’s and, according to their testimony, has been a Christian and part of Christ’s church for over 40 years. After the church service, this is basically what they told me in the presence of other members:

“The reason I never stuck around the first time I visited Christ Reformed Baptist Church was because of Covenant Theology. However, while away, the Lord, through various means, has convinced me of its truth and I said to myself, "CRBC was right all along, and so I’m back! Here I am!” 

The person went on to say that after 40 years of being part of and around Baptist churches, they cannot believe they never were taught and explained the Biblical truths contained in what is commonly referred to as Covenant Theology.


Now, allow me to ask you. Can you relate, in some degree, to the sentiments of this dear hoary head? 

I certainly can.  Being converted in a Baptist church, and being only acquainted with what is known as Dispensationalism, upon learning the principles of Covenant Theology, I immediately felt as though I had been horribly wrong all along with how the Bible’s story properly fit together; how God’s redemptive history flowed throughout all the ages! "How could I have been so misguided," I thought!


Regarding Dispensationalism: I will never forget the very first time that I had my first Holy Spirit "red-flag" moment (explain) as I listened to a preacher describe how that in the end-times the Jews and Gentiles were, in some sense, going to exist in different realms within the Eschaton.

In other words, because Dispensationalism, as one of its main overarching tenets, teaches that God has two peoples: 1) Israel, the OT people of God (God’s earthly people), and 2) the Church, the NT people of God (His Heavenly people). And as a system, always maintains a strong antithesis between the two, meaning that NEVER do the two meet,

as far as ever equaling each other or including one in the other.


Such an underlining principle lead this preacher, whether right or wrong within that system, to conclude that

the TWO PEOPLE OF GOD distinction (Jew and Gentile) would be in some sense maintained in the Eschaton.

Of course, this sort of distinction between JEW and GENTILE immediately challenged what I, even as

a young babe in the faith, recognized was abrogated in the teachings of the Apostle Paul. 

Eph. 2:13-14: "But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;"


Eph. 2:19-20: “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints (Jews), and of the household of God; 20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,

Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;


Rom. 10:12; Col. 3:11, 28; Gal. 3:28; etc.

Furthermore, I began to become uneasy with what I would hear regarding an “overemphasis”

of the privileged status of modern day Jews and the modern Israel state as the “Apple of God’s eye”.

After all, as I reflected upon the witness of the Scriptures, didn’t the prophets warn the them repeatedly in Scripture, and John and Jesus themselves warn the Jews of their destruction if they did not repent and come to Jesus in humble acceptance as their Messiah? 


I recall going to one Baptist church and seeing a modern-day Israeli flag on the wall next to

an American and Christian flag! "What was going on?" I thought. " Who are God’s People?" 


Is it true, like the Dispensational community claims that the purpose of Christ’s first coming was to establish an earthly kingdom in fulfillment of the OT promises to Israel and had the Jews accepted His offer, an earthly, visible kingdom would have been established and there would never have been a Christian Church, a gathering in of Gentiles?


However, on the other hand, because the Jews did reject it, and not until God returns to the primary work of fulfilling unmet obligations He still owes to Abraham’s descendants (however you qualify who that is since 70 A.D.),

God, in the meantime, started and is growing the Christian Church?


Eph.1:4-5  “….he hath chosen us in him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,”


Those in Christ, the Church, does not sound like an after-thought, nor is it anything less than the main emphasis

of all of God’s redemptive purposes from eternity past!


Perhaps, the most difficult aspect of the propositions of Dispensationalism for me personally was the teaching that the Church, that is the body of all those of faith in the Messiah, did not include OT saints, and that the body of Christ was strictly limited to the NT and never found in the OT.


John 8:56: “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.”


Gal.3:29 “And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

Well, as the years went by, I never found satisfactory answers to any of those concerns from teachers employing a Dispensational framework/hermeneutic to interpret the Scriptures. It always seemed as though they had to force the text to match their system, kind of like forcing a square object through a round hole. In other words, what ought to be a simple and straight forward biblical answer to questions such as "Who are God’s people? How do they become God’s people (how are they saved)? What is their eternal destiny?" often seemed unnecessarily complicated. In fact, it wasn’t until I had been a Christian for over 9 years was I first introduced to a different framework/hermeneutic, commonly known as Covenant Theology.


I first came across this (CT), I believe in 2008 when someone introduced me to the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith.  And upon reading (the confession of Faith) on its face value; not even studying its theology, I immediately recognized its accurate reflection of what I knew to be true from reading & studying the Scriptures as a Christian. Immediately many of the red-flags that I always had regarding what Dispensationalism presented were elevated. Finally, a systematic theological framework began to be developed around my pre-existing Biblical theology and this is how I think one’s theological construction should take place. (Scripture / then Systematics).


Upon seeking to study the doctrines in the confession a little further I was forced to start drilling down into the principles and underlining structure of Covenant Theology as a system and become better acquainted with their implications upon the rest of biblical doctrine.

At this time (2008-9), the majority of the sources I could find, in print or online, were mostly written by Presbyterians.  This was due to my own ignorance a) of my own Early English Particular Baptist heritage, b) access to historic PB works on the subject, and c) modern Baptists writing and/or speaking on these issues were unknown to me in my own Indiana Baptist circles (there was no RBFI).

So, I started to read the Presbyterian’s writings on CT.  Now, I admit, at this point in my Christian life, I knew very little about Presbyterian beliefs until I started reading their works. In fact, I specifically recall praying to the Lord to grant me a teachable and open Spirit as I wanted to simply know His truth regarding these questions, which seemed to be answered through a framework of CT, and which furthermore seemed to be best articulated

by Presbyterian pastors & theologians.


Thus, my journey began in CT by studying the Presbyterian fathers.


As I studied and searched, I was so blessed to learn of the contours of redemptive history through the various covenantal arrangements throughout all of Scripture, beginning with what CT identifies as “The Covenant of Works” (that is the arrangement God made with Adam in the Garden of Eden) all the way through to “The New Covenant.” All these covenants working together in some way or another to bring about the great

and ultimate promise revealed in Gen.3:15! 


"Of course!" I thought to myself. "This is what we read in our Bibles."  Our first father Adam disobeyed God in the Garden, and then, as a consequence spiritually and subsequently physically, he died; and indeed we all after him also inherit this curse of spiritual and physical death (1 Cor.15:22, Rom.5:12). 


The Omniscient, Triune God of Scripture was not surprised by this, and thus He would have planned/predestined a people in Christ whom he would save from such a wretched mess! This eternal (predestined plan, if you will) is known in CT as the Covenant of Redemption (COR) in which, depending on who you read, all three persons within the Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit) agreed to commit to a role in redeeming God’s church in Christ. And guess what? This is exactly what I knew to be true in the Scriptures from such passages as Psalm 2; Isaiah 53:10-12; Ephesians 1:3-14; as well as

many other passages in the Gospel of John.


This eternal COR being worked out in history is often referred to as the Covenant of Grace (COG) by which God condescends down to man and makes known His provisions of salvific grace

available through His promised and provided Messiah. 


Q. 30. Doth God leave all mankind to perish in the estate of sin and misery?

A. God doth not leave all men to perish in the estate of sin and misery, into which they fell by the breach of the first covenant, commonly called the Covenant of Works; but of his mere love and mercy delivereth his elect out of it, and bringeth them into an estate of salvation by the second covenant, commonly called the Covenant of Grace.



Q. 31. With whom was the covenant of grace made?
A. The covenant of grace was made with Christ as the second Adam, and in him with all the elect as his seed.



Q. 32. How is the grace of God manifested in the second covenant?
A. The grace of God is manifested in the second covenant (COG), in that he freely provideth and offereth to sinners a Mediator, and life and salvation by him; and, requiring faith as the condition to interest them in him, promiseth and giveth his Holy Spirit to all his elect, to work in them that faith, with all other saving graces; and to enable them unto all holy obedience, as the evidence of the truth of their faith and thankfulness to God,

and as the way which he hath appointed them to salvation.


William Perkins: “COG is a compact made between God and man touching reconciliation and life everlasting by Christ.”

Francis Turretine speaks of the COG as “a gratuitous pact between God offended and man the offender, entered into in Christ, in which God promises to man freely on account of Christ: remission of sins and salvation, and man, relying on the same grace, promises faith and obedience.”

Herman Witsius defines the COG “an agreement between God and the elect sinner: God declaring his free goodwill concerning eternal salvation, and everything relative thereto, freely to be given to those in covenant by and for the sake of the Mediator Christ: and man consenting to that goodwill by a sincere faith”.


Ahh, so the COG is a way to understand the eternal design of God regarding the salvation of His people

through Jesus Christ apart from Law and apart from one’s own righteousness! IN OTHER WORDS CT ADVOCATES A LAW/GOSPEL DISTINCTION and that distinction, for the sake and purity of the Gospel itself, is always to be carefully maintained and articulated (Gal. 1:8).


You could imagine the lightbulb turning on in my spiritual mind regarding the entire scope and panoramic view of God’s eternal plan for His people in Christ as I contemplated the triune God (Father, Son and Spirit) agreeing to save fallen sons of Adam through the Gospel, by Grace alone through Faith Alone!




Well, after reading various historic and modern Presbyterian authors on the subject (CT), here are several things which I realized were accurate, straightforward reflections of the truth’s in Scripture:

  1. Who are God’s people? - God has one true people throughout all of redemptive history: those who have been made part of His family through Christ the Mediator, the object of all saving faith.

  2. How do they become God’s people (how are they saved)? - Simple: by faith. The substance of salvific grace was granted to OT saints through faith as well as NT saints. While the OT saints did not know His name, but knew His person as promised; the NT saints knew His name and person and thus with fuller revelation came a fuller power and work of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.

  3. What is their eternal destiny? – As one family of God, they all inherit the same eternal reality – HEAVEN.


In other words, the covenant of grace gives us everything necessary for life and salvation because it gives us Christ the Savior.  The covenant of grace shows the wonderful unity of the Bible, with Christ’s redemptive work as its scope and overall historical purpose. At least at this point, I was convinced that CT was the best system and framework to understand God’s redemptive plan for perishing sinners.


NOW, at this point I began to think that if the Presbyterians had been so correct with these issues, then perhaps I need to give them a sincere and honest hearing as to the whole matter of why they baptize infants,

who themselves (as babies) cannot express faith on any level. 


Perhaps through Covenants I would discover that I had drastically missed something related to the whole issue of Christian Baptism. At this point, I admit, I was going into waters that were rather uncomfortable as a Baptist. However, like before, I prayed the Lord would open His truth to me and

I would follow it, no matter where it lead me.


In doing so I quickly discovered how closely the Presbyterians aligned their reasoning of Baptizing infants with their understanding how the COG is; as they say, “ADMINSTRED” through the OT covenants (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic). 

In other words, they contend that since God utilized the OTC to appropriate/administer the substance of the COG (faith), then the OTC themselves are the Covenant of Grace being administered in different forms throughout history

until the time of the New Covenant.


Q. 34. How was the covenant of grace administered under the Old Testament?
A. The covenant of grace was administered under the Old Testament, by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the passover, and other types and ordinances, which did all fore–signify Christ then to come, and were for that time sufficient to build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they then had

full remission of sin, and eternal salvation.


1828 Webster Dictionary: Administration
> dispensing; distribution; as the administration of justice, of the sacrament, or of grace.


While the PBs agreed that yes, the substance of the COG was appropriated, and yes, administered to the elect by faith, through these OTC with their various ordinances (as the Gospel typified), this did not necessitate that when the gospel was REVEALED/COMMUNICATED in shadowy form within these OTC that such a revelation automatically places that OTC in the category of being considered the COG itself. This is significant because it horizontally impacts many other doctrines and practices in the life of the church.


Up to this point, our English Particular Baptist forefathers who signed the 1677/89 Baptist Confession would have agreed with all the previous positions of their Presbyterian and Independent contemporaries of the 17th century. However here at this point they would not view the OT covenants as actually being the COG, for to do so would create a conflict with biblical theology; namely by placing temporal, law based covenants (with it a woks principle) alongside the outworking of the COG rooted in God’s eternal election, which they contended was purely gospel.


This zeal to clearly delineate the boundaries of Law and Gospel with regards to OTCs, did not in anyway make the PBs complacent to the importance of a robust commitment to the proper usefulness of God’s Moral Law. While confessionally affirming that the moral law of God remained a universal obligation for all mankind as a rule of life (1689 Chp. 19), with respect to CT, wherever there existed an OT covenant with punishments, cursing, or a “breaking off” of its members due to their failure and disobedience, the PBs were unwilling to allow that covenant

(categorically speaking) to be deemed as the COG.


#01 By this, they carefully maintained the LAW / GOSPEL distinction in their approach to the OT covenants and in particular how those covenant’s related to the COG. 



This approach to understanding the Covenants allowed for a) continuity among the OT and NT as the COG is progressively revealed throughout all of Scripture, while also b) naturally alleviating the tension which existed in the other models of Reformed CT of oversimplifying or flattening all OT covenants into the mold of the COG, thus trying to fit the Mosaic covenant (and/or any covenant that carried with it conditions) as being the COG and subsequently struggling to give a satisfactory answer to how that view harmonizes with the Scripture’s witness which places LAW (with its works principle) and GRACE (with its gospel principal) as being two distinct children;

one born of a bond woman and one born of a free woman (Gal.4)

Rather than binding the COG strictly to equaling the OTCs, the PBs ELEVATED the COG above these earthly forms and shadows and, like the author of the books of Hebrews, they argued that no one was ever saved by these OTCs but rather these OTCs were pointing to a reality which they themselves were inadequate to provide = the COG which was running parallel with the OTCs throughout redemptive history casting more and more light upon farther and farther steps leading up to COG’s final revelation in the person of Jesus Christ.


With such a dogmatic move, the PBs maintained in a very simple and yet orthodox way the purity of the LAW/GOSPEL distinction which was common to all streams of CT. This is rather genius if want takes the time to think about it.  Because what it does is: on the one hand it emphasizes an underlining dogmatic teaching of Reformed covenantalism (Law/Gospel distinction) thereby placing them within mainstream Reformed covenantalism (and further distancing them from the continental ANA-BAPTISTS), and on the other hand it strengthened what I would describe as the ‘integrity of substance offered by the COG’


COG Marrow of Substance – WLC Q.30 “….out of his mere love and mercy God delivers His elect out of (sin and misery), and brings them into an estate of salvation through Christ”.

1828 Webster: Integrity  “Purity; genuine, unadulterated, unimpaired state; as the integrity of a language.”

#02 By not allowing the OT HISTORICAL COVENANTS (and all those who by mere birth were members of those covenants) to be categorically accepted as the COG and by default members within the COG, the PBs RESOLVED THE OBVIOUS TENSION of having members in the COG who were a) not the elect, and b) members in the COG who could fall-away or out of covenant relationship with God.

Such tension has over the centuries plagued churches who hold and practice a typical, classic Pedobaptist model of CT.  All one has to do is examine their history and read of the various attempts to force such a mixed-membership in the COG to conform to the Bible’s witness of the nature of the church consisting of only born again believers, that is Christ’s Elect, who will be Preserved until the end by God Himself. 

The PBs consistently maintained the truth presented in the WLC Q.31 that “The covenant of grace was made with Christ…and in him with all the elect as his seed”. Thus, no one who does not posses saving faith can be rightly considered as having an ‘interest,’ or rather a ‘portion or share’ of ownership in the COG.




Not only does it fence the scope and purpose of the COG of ever becoming in anyway unclear or obscure, but it also greatly avoids the mistake that is found in Dispensationalism, which is, creating TWO PEOPLES of GOD within the COG.

What I mean is this: as a necessary consequence of equating the COG with the OTCs, the Presbyterians and Independents were forced to begin to articulate a CT that would allow unbelievers to be regarded

as members within the COG, but only outwardly lacking its real spiritual substance.


Largely, their logic and reasoning can be boiled down to this: because under the OCs (as the COG) there were those who were by covenant-law considered rightful members of the visible covenant community, i.e. ISRAEL, so likewise the same holds true in this particular administration of the COG known as the NC era. 

They would argue that in the covenant community there were OUTWARD only members who benefited only in a physical sense and there were those who by faith were INWARD members. This is how you can say that both Jacob and Esau were members in the COG – one OUTWARD and one INWARD.


Now (with this over-simplistic view) you can begin to see why they largely appealed to CT for justification in giving the NC sign of baptism to infants who cannot express faith, much like circumcision, the sign of the AC was given to boys under the OC.

Well, the PBs acutely perceived that one fatal flaw of flattening and/or equating the OTCs with the COG and thus creating a dual outward and inward membership, is that it unnecessarily minimizes the reality of what Paul taught in the book of Galatians. That through the Gospel of Christ, the substance and benefit of the COG, a person is engrafted into the true vine despite what earthly covenant arrangement they were part of, and these and these alone

are members of the COG with Christ as their head sharing in the faith;

just like a great patriarch of the faith – Father Abraham.


The PBs would also stress that a MIXED-MEMBERSHIP view also obscured the clarity of that was promised by the prophets would someday occur, and what Christ and the Apostles confirmed was in fact being accomplished

during Christ’s earthly ministry.


And what was this promise? Well, namely that which was articulated by the prophet in Jeremiah 31 “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers… I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.”  What’s interesting about this particular prophecy is, as many of you already know, this prophesy from Jerimiah is used by the author of the book of Hebrews in Hebrews 8:8-12 as referring to the New Covenant. Which, in part is why the 1689 PBs would prefer to equate the COG with the NC and not any of the other Historical OTCs.


#03 And this brings me to my final appreciation of the valuable contribution of the PBs to Reformed CT, and that is their consistent, balanced application of Biblical Typology.



Biblical typology cannot be denied by any serious student of Scripture. Why? Well, for short the Apostles frequently help us understand the OT through typology. For example, the flood of Noah’s day (Genesis 6—7) is used as

a type of baptism in 1 Peter 3:20–21. You get the point.


A TYPE in Scripture is a person or thing in the Old Testament that foreshadows a person or thing

in the New Testament, which would be properly considered the ANTI-TYPE.


Scripture itself identifies several Old Testament events as TYPES of Christ’s redemption, including the tabernacle, the sacrificial system, and the Passover. In fact, if time permitted us we could unpack the ceremonial law

as a TYPE in the book of Hebrews (9:19-26).


Additionally, according to 1 Corinthians 5:7, The Passover is specifically identified as a TYPE of Christ.

All this is important because the PBs biblical typology is how they specifically and successfully distinguished the COG from the earthly, national, and conditional covenants God made with Abraham, Moses and David. They allowed a balanced, biblical typology to demonstrate exactly what is stated in Hebrews 10:4 “…it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.”

In other words brethren, through typology we know that these TYPES contained as part of the OTCs laws and ordinances which pointed outside of themselves to the ANTI-TYPE which was Christ – the substance of the COG. 

Thus, it is not only a philosophical fallacy but also a theological error to conclude

the TYPE is in essence also the ANTI-TYPE.


The Abrahamic Covenant contained many TYPES and SHADOWS (including, but not limited to circumcision, land promises, offspring, kings) all of which pointed outside of itself to a greater reality, a spiritual reality only available in the COG thus the AC can not rightfully be considered that which it TYPIFIED.


Such theological precision enabled the PBs to utilize biblical typology to locate the promises of the COG within the various OTCs without making the fallacy of equating any one particular OTC with the COG, and in doing so they a) satisfy the contours of continuity and discontinuity evident between the OC and NC, and b) they provide a clearer articulation of the application of the substance of the COG that hitherto had been provided.



One of the most important things I want you to take away from this talk is that the hermeneutical methods and tools of biblical interpretation which our PB forefathers utilized were not those of the continental Anabaptists, but rather those of the reformed tradition. These men were from English Puritanical Stock of the Non-Conformist strand and by and large, like other notable reformed theologians were contributing to systems of CT which they felt did not need to be abandoned, but needed to be nuanced and further refined to better conform to the witness Scripture, fully appreciating all its continuities and discontinuities.


Oftentimes individuals rush far too quickly in categorizing the Biblical covenants as either a covenant of Works or a covenant of grace in order to construct a system which will support a treasured practice or tradition within church.

This was not the Spirit of the Reformation.


Thus, in the spirit of Semper Reformanda, our PB fathers picked up theirs quills, mounted their pulpits at the cost of great sacrifice, and defended the faith once delivered unto the saints. 


We dear brethren, have a precious, deeply theological and biblical heritage as covenantal PBs, i.e. REFORMED BAPTISTS, and may the Lord bless us and help us in becoming more historically sensitive to that heritage and not for the sake of idolizing history and/or lofty theology, but rather that our hearts may bleed.


2013 - The Distinctiveness of Baptist Covenant Theology (Pascal Denault)

2005 - Covenant Theology: From Adam to Christ (RBAP Nehemiah Coxe)

2018- Shadow to Substance: The Federal Theology of the English Particular Baptists (1642-1704)  (Sam Renihan)

2010 – The Fatal Flaw (Jeffrey D. Johnson)

1878 – Lectures on Baptism (William Shirreff)

1973 – Children of Abraham (David Kingdon)

doug website photo.jpg

Doug Barger is the founding minister of Christ Reformed Baptist Church. He has served the Churches of Jesus Christ within Indiana through various capacities over the last 19 years, following his conversion in 2001.  In addition to serving at CRBC he continues his theological studies at London Reformed Baptist Seminary (London, UK), Covenant Baptist Seminary (Owensboro, KY), and the Institute for Reformed Baptist Studies (Mansfield, TX).  Doug currently resides in Henry County with his wife Jessica, and their three children, were they serve and pray that the glory of God through Jesus Christ will be made known throughout this region where the Lord has placed them.


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