FILIAL PIETY

Next to your duty to God comes your duty to your _parents_; and you
can never form an excellent, amiable, and lovely character, unless the
foundation of it is laid in _filial piety_, as well as in piety towards
God. Solomon says to the young, “Hear the instruction of thy father,
and forsake not the law of thy mother; for they shall be an ornament
of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” Nothing will make
you appear so lovely in the eyes of others as a dutiful behaviour
towards your parents; and nothing will make you appear so unamiable
and unlovely as a disrespectful, disobedient carriage towards them.
No ornament sits so gracefully upon youth as filial piety; no outward
adorning can compare with it.

_Filial piety_ calls into exercise feelings towards your parents,
similar to those which piety towards God calls into exercise towards
him; such as esteem and veneration of his character, love to his
person, confidence in his word, submission to his authority, and
penitence for offences against him. When the heart is habituated to
the exercise of these feelings towards parents, it is prepared the
more readily to exercise them towards God. The promises which God has
made to those who honor their parents, and his threatenings against
those who dishonor them, are similar to those which he has made
respecting honor and obedience to himself. You owe it, therefore,
to God, to exercise filial piety, because he has required it, and
because it is one of the means he employs to cultivate piety towards
himself. _Gratitude_, also, should lead to filial piety, as well as
to piety towards God; for what God is to man, only in a lower sense,
the parent is to his child. Your parents are, under God, the authors
of your being. The greater part of parents’ lives is spent in rearing,
supporting, and educating their children. For this they wear out their
strength in anxious care and toil; they watch beside the bed of their
children when they are sick, with tender solicitude and sleepless
vigilance; they labor to provide for them. But good parents are, most
of all, anxious that their children should grow up intelligent and
virtuous, pious and happy. There is no being but God to whom children
are so much indebted as to a faithful parent; and almost all the
blessings that God bestows upon them come through their parents.

Filial piety has great influence on future character. One who has never
been in the habit of submitting to others, will always be headstrong
and self-willed; and such a character nobody loves. You cannot always
do as you please; and, if such is your disposition, you will always be
unhappy when your will is crossed. You will be unwilling to submit to
necessary restraints, and this will irritate, and keep you in misery;
for you will never see the time in your life when you will be so
entirely independent of others that you can have your own way in every
thing. Even the king on his throne cannot do this. But, if you have
always been in the habit of submitting to your parents, these necessary
restraints will be no burden. If, then, you would be respected,
beloved, and happy, when you grow up and take your place in society,
you must _honor your parents_. Cultivate the habit of submission to
their authority; of respectful attention to their instructions; and of
affection and reverence to their persons. These are the habits that
will make you respected, beloved, and happy. But as God has joined
a curse to parental impiety, so he makes it punish itself. And thus
you will find that it is generally followed with the most dreadful
consequences. Of this I might give many painful examples; but the
narratives would swell my book to an immoderate size.

The whole duty of children to parents, is expressed by God himself in
one word–HONOR. This word is chosen, with great felicity, to express
all the various duties of children toward their parents. There is a
great deal of meaning in this little word, _honor_.

Do you ask, “_How shall I honor my parents?_” In the first place, you
must honor them _in your heart_, by loving and reverencing them, and
by cultivating a submissive, obedient disposition. It is not honoring
your parents, to indulge an unsubmissive, turbulent spirit. To be angry
with your parents, and to feel that their lawful commands are hard or
unreasonable, is dishonoring them. The authority which God has given
your parents over you is for your good, that they may restrain you from
evil and hurtful practices, and require you to do what will be, in the
end, for your benefit. When they restrain you, or require you to do
what is not pleasing to you, they have a regard to your best interests.
To be impatient of restraint, and to indulge hard feelings toward them,
is doing them great dishonor. If you could read the hearts of your
parents, and see what a struggle it costs them to interfere with your
inclinations, you would feel differently. But these rebellious feelings
of yours are not only against your parents, but against God, who gave
them this authority over you.

Children also honor or dishonor their parents by their _words_. You
honor them, by addressing them in respectful language, and in a tone
of voice indicating reverence and submission, giving them those titles
that belong to their superior station. An example of this we have in
the answer of Samuel to what he supposed the call of Eli,–“Here am
I,”–a form of speech used by servants to their masters, and implying
attention to what was said, and a readiness to execute what was
commanded. But parents are dishonored, when their children answer them
gruffly, or speak in a sharp, positive, angry, or self-important tone;
or when they neglect to accompany their address with the usual titles
of respect, but speak out bluntly, “_Yes_,” or “_No_.” This shows the
state of the heart. And I think the reason why it is so difficult, in
these days, to teach children to say, “Yes, sir,” “No, ma’am,” &c., is,
that they do not feel in their hearts the respect which these terms
imply. You will perceive, by this remark, that I have no respect for
the notion which prevails, in some quarters, that these expressions are
not genteel.

Children likewise dishonor their parents, when they answer back, and
argue against their commands, or excuse themselves for not obeying. It
is as much as to say, they are wiser than their parents–which is doing
them a great dishonor. To speak to them in disrespectful, reproachful,
or passionate language, or to speak of them or their authority in such
language to others, is also a great offence against their honor. Under
the law of Moses, God punished this offence in the same manner that
he did blasphemy against himself:–“He that curseth his father or his
mother shall surely be put to death.” This shows what a great offence
it is in his sight.

Another way in which you honor your parents is, by giving respectful
attention to their instruction and counsels. God has committed your
instruction and training to them; and when they teach or advise you
according to the Scripture, their instructions are the voice of God to
you. If you despise their instruction, you cast contempt upon God, who
speaks through them, and who says, “My son, hear the instruction of thy
father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” It is very natural for
children to wish to follow their own inclinations. The impetuosity
of youth would hurry them on, heedlessly, in the high-road to ruin.
And, often, they despise the wholesome instruction and advice of their
parents, as only designed to interfere with their pleasures, and
abridge their enjoyments; while, in truth, their parents look beyond
_mere pleasure_, to that which is of greater importance. They look upon
these things in the light which age and experience has given them. If
you were going to a strange place, in a way with which you were not
acquainted, and should meet one that had been that way before, you
would put confidence in what he should tell you of the way, and follow
his directions. Your parents have passed through the period of life on
which you are now entering, and they know the way. You will do well to
confide in them, and abide by their instructions. If you neglect to
do so, you will be sure to get into difficulty. The path of life is
beset, on every side, with by-paths, leading astray; and these by-paths
are full of snares and pit-falls, to catch the unwary, and plunge them
into ruin. Your parents have become acquainted with these ways, and
know their dangers. If they are good people, and understand their duty
to you, they will warn you against them; and it will be the height of
folly for you to disregard their warnings. Multitudes, by doing so,
have rushed heedlessly on to ruin.

You must honor your parents, also, by a _prompt and cheerful obedience_
to their lawful commands. I say _lawful_, because no one ought to obey
a command to do what is positively wrong. If a wicked parent should
command his child to break the Sabbath, to lie, or to steal, or to
break any of God’s commands, it would be the child’s duty to refuse,
and meekly submit to the punishment which the parent might inflict. It
is not often that such things happen among us; but our missionaries in
Constantinople have related two instances that are in point. Two little
Armenian girls had learned to read, and obtained from the missionaries
some ideas of Christian morality. A person knocked at the door of their
house, and their father, not wishing to see him, told one of them to go
and tell the person that he was _not at home_. “That would be telling
a lie,” said the daughter. “What then?” said the father; “it is a
very little thing. You have only to say that I am not at home.” “But,
father,” she replied, “the Bible says it is wicked to tell lies, and I
cannot tell a lie.” He was angry, and called his other daughter, and
told her to go. She replied, “Father, I cannot, for it is wicked to
lie.” These children did right in refusing to obey such a command. But
in no other case, except when told to do what is wrong, will a child be
justified in refusing to obey.

Obedience must be _prompt_ and _cheerful_. Your parents are not
honored, when obedience is delayed to suit your convenience; nor when
you _answer back_, or try to _reason against_ your parents’ commands,
or plead for delay, that you may first finish your own work. A parent
who is honored will never have to repeat the same command. Some
children are bent on having their own way, and attempt to carry their
point by showing their parents that their way is best; which is the
same as saying to them that they are more ignorant than their children.
Neither is _sullen obedience_ honoring your parents. Some children, who
dare not disobey their parents, will go about doing what is required
of them with great reluctance, with perhaps a sullen expression of
the countenance, a flirt, an angry step, or a slam of the door, or
some other show of passion. Such conduct is a grief to parents, and
an offence against God, who will not count that as obedience, which
is not done cheerfully. But if you truly honor your parents from the
heart, you will not wait for their _commands_. You will be always
ready to obey the slightest intimation of their wishes. It is a great
grief to a parent, when, out of respect to his child’s feelings, he
has expressed his _wish_, to be obliged to add his _command_, before
the thing will be done. But filial piety never appears so amiable and
lovely as when it anticipates the wishes of parents, and supersedes the
necessity of expressing those wishes in advice or commands.

If you honor your parents in your heart, you will pay an equal regard
to their counsels and commands, whether they are present or absent. If
you cast off their authority as soon as you are out of their sight, you
greatly dishonor them. Such conduct shows that you do not honor them at
all in your heart, but obey them only when you cannot disobey without
suffering for it. But if you keep their authority always present with
you, then you will do them great honor; for you show that they have
succeeded in fixing in your heart a deep-seated principle of reverence
and affection for them. If you truly honor your parents _in your
heart_, you will obey them as well when they are absent as present. The
parents’ authority and honor are always present with the good child.

Children, likewise, honor or dishonor their parents in their _general
behavior_. If they are rude and uncivil, they reflect dishonor upon
their parents; for people say, they have not been trained and
instructed at home. But when their behavior is respectful, correct,
pure, and amiable, it reflects honor upon the parents. People will
judge of the character of your parents by your behavior. Are you
willing to hear your parents reproachfully spoken of? No, your cheek
would glow with indignation at the person who should speak ill of your
father or your mother. But you speak evil of them, in your conduct,
every time you do any thing that reflects dishonor upon them in the
eyes of others. The blame of your conduct will be thrown back upon your
parents.

But the true way to honor your parents, at all times and in all
circumstances, is, to have your heart right with God. If you have true
piety of heart toward God, you will show piety toward your parents; for
you will regard the authority of his commandment, and delight in doing
what will please him. The fear of God, dwelling in your heart, will
lead you to reverence all his commands, and none more continually and
conscientiously than the one which requires you to honor your parents.
Every thing that you do for them will be done, “not with eye-service,
as men-pleasers, but with good will, doing service as to God, and not
to man.”

Boys of a certain age are frequently disposed to show their importance,
by assuming to be wiser than their parents. They call in question the
wisdom of their parents’ directions, and seek, in every possible way,
to set up their own will. This is particularly the case with respect
to the authority of the mother; they _feel too big to be governed by a
woman_; and if obliged to obey, they will be sullen about it. Instead
of requiting her care, by studying to be helpful,–anticipating her
wishes,–they seem to lose all sense of obligation, and regard what she
requires of them as an unreasonable interference with their pleasures;
and so, they will meet her requests in a snarling, snappish manner,
like an impertinent young mastiff, slighting, in every possible way,
the thing to be done. And if, in the Providence of God, such boys are
left without a father, they take advantage of the widowhood of their
mother, to resist her authority. I can scarcely think of any thing more
_unmanly_ than this. It is _mean_ and _despicable_. The mother, by all
the ties of gratitude, in these desolate circumstances, is entitled to
the kindness, assistance, and protection, of her sons; and to rebel
against her authority, because she may not have strength to enforce it,
manifests a very _black heart_. A young man, who, in any circumstances,
will treat his mother ill, is to be despised; but one who will take
advantage of the helplessness of her widowhood, to cast off her just
authority, is to be detested and abhorred.

Nothing has, perhaps, a greater influence upon the future character
of the _man_ than the trait of which we are speaking. The boy that is
obedient and submissive to parental authority will make a good citizen.
He has learned to _obey_, from his childhood; and he will be obedient
to the laws of his country; he will be respected in society, and may
rise to posts of honor. But the disobedient boy, who is turbulent and
ungovernable at home, will make a bad member of society. Never having
learned how to obey, he will be disobedient to the laws, and incur
their penalty; he will be found in evil company; engaged in mobs and
riots; making disturbance at fires, &c., till, perhaps, he will land
at last in prison, or be launched into eternity from the gallows. I
might easily fill the rest of this volume with the detail of cases,
in which a career of crime, ending in prison or on the gallows, has
been commenced in disobedience to parents, and in very many cases,
disobedience to widowed mothers.

The family is a little kingdom in miniature. The father and mother are
king and queen; and children, and others residing in the family, are
the subjects. I have treated at large, in the last chapter, on your
duties to your parents; but I must not pass over your behavior towards
the other members of the family. And here, I wish you to keep in mind
all I have said about the _formation of character_. Remember, that the
character you form in the family will, in all probability, follow you
through life. As you are regarded by your own brothers and sisters
at home, so, in a great measure, will you be regarded by others,
when you leave your father’s house. If you are manly, amiable, kind,
and courteous, at home, so you will continue to be; and these traits
of character will always make you beloved. But if you are peevish,
ill-natured, harsh, uncourteous, or overbearing, at home, among your
own brothers and sisters, so will you be abroad; and, instead of being
beloved, you will be disliked and shunned.

The best general direction that I can give is, that you carry out the
golden rule in your behavior toward your brothers and sisters, and
all other persons who reside in the family. If you do to them as you
would wish them to do to you, all will be well. But I must be a little
more particular. Boys are often disposed to assume a dictatorial,
domineering air toward their sisters, as though they thought themselves
born to rule, and were determined to exercise their dominion over their
sisters, because they have not strength to resist their tyranny. But
I can hardly think of any thing more unmanly. It shows a very mean
spirit, destitute of noble and generous feelings, to take advantage
of the weakness of others to tyrannize over them. But to do this to
those who, by the relation they bear to you, are entitled to your love
and protection, is base beyond description. The same is true, though
perhaps in a less degree, in regard to the conduct of an elder toward a
younger brother.

A brother should be kind, tender, courteous, and delicate, in his
behavior toward his sisters, never treating them with rudeness or
neglect, and standing ready always to protect them from the rudeness of
other boys. He should never speak gruffly to them, nor in a lordly,
domineering, or contemptuous manner. Such conduct toward other misses
or young ladies would be esteemed very unhandsome and ungentlemanly;
and why should it not be so esteemed at home? Are your own sisters
entitled to less respect than strangers?

Accustom yourself to make confidants of your sisters. Let them
understand your feelings, and know your designs; and pay a suitable
regard to their advice. By this means you may be saved from many a
snare, and you will secure their affection and sympathy. Never form any
design, or engage in any enterprise, which you are ashamed to divulge
to them. If you do, you may be sure it will not end well.

One rule, well observed at home, among brothers and sisters, would go
far towards making them accomplished gentlemen and ladies, in their
manners:–BE COURTEOUS TO EACH OTHER. Never allow yourself to treat
your brothers or sisters in a manner that would be considered rude or
ungentlemanly, if done to other young persons visiting in the family.
Especially, never allow yourself to play tricks upon them, to teaze
them, or, in a coarse, rough manner, to criticize or ridicule their
conduct, especially in the presence of others. But if you see any thing
that you think needs reforming, kindly remind them of it in private.
This will have a much better effect than if you mortify them, by
exposing their faults before company. Be careful of their feelings, and
never needlessly injure them.

Boys sometimes take delight in crossing the feelings of their brothers
and sisters, interfering with their plans, and vexing them, out of
sheer mischief. Such conduct is especially unamiable, and it will
tend to promote ill-will and contention in the family. Be not fond of
informing against them. If they do any thing very much amiss, it will
be your duty to acquaint your parents with it. But in little things, of
small moment, it is better for you kindly to remonstrate with them, but
not to appeal to your parents. In some families, when the children are
at home, your ears are continually ringing with the unwelcome sounds,
“Mother, John”–“Father, Susan”–“Mother, George,” &c.–a perpetual
string of complaints, which makes the place more like a bedlam than a
quiet, sweet home. There is no sight more unlovely than a quarrelsome
family,–no place on earth more undesirable than a family of brothers
and sisters who are perpetually contending with each other. But I know
of no place, this side heaven, so sweet and attractive as the home of
a family of brothers and sisters, always smiling and happy, full of
kindness and love, delighting in each other’s happiness, and striving
how much each can oblige the other. If you would have your home such a
place, you must not be selfish; you must not be too particular about
maintaining your own rights; but be ready always to yield rather than
to contend. This will generally have the effect to produce the same
disposition in your brothers and sisters; and then the strife will be,
which can be most generous.

Be noble and generous in your treatment of domestics. Never be so mean
as to domineer over the hired men or women employed about the house,
or in the field. Keep out of the kitchen as much as possible. But
if you are obliged to go there, remember that you are on the cook’s
premises. Keep out of her way, and be careful not to put things out
of their place, or make litter. Nothing is more annoying to her than
such conduct, because it interferes with her efforts to keep things
in order, and increases her labor. Never ask servants to help you,
when you are able to help yourself. It is very provoking to them to
be called to wait on the little _gentlemen_ about house. Cultivate
independence of character, and help yourself. You will never be fit
for any business, if you always depend on others to help you in little
every-day affairs.

Young men and boys should cultivate a _love of home_ as a defence
against the temptations to frequent bad company and places of resort
dangerous to their morals. A boy or a young man, who is deeply and
warmly attached to his mother and sisters, will prefer their society
to that of the depraved and worthless; and he will not be tempted to
go abroad in search of pleasure, when he finds so much at home. It is
a delusive idea, that any greater pleasure can be found abroad than
is to be enjoyed at home; and that boy or young man is in a dangerous
way, to whom the society of his mother and sisters has become insipid
and uninteresting. When you feel any inclination to go abroad in search
of forbidden pleasure, I advise you to sit down with your sisters, and
sing, “_Home, sweet home_.” And here I may say that the cultivation
of music will add much to the attractions of home. It is a delightful
recreation. It soothes the feelings, sweetens the temper, and refines
the taste. In addition to the cultivation of the voice, and the
practice of vocal music, you will find great satisfaction in learning
to play on some instrument of music, to be able to carry your part on
the flute or viol. This will greatly diminish the temptation to go
abroad for amusement; and in proportion as you find your pleasure at
home, will you be safe from those evil influences which have proved
the destruction of so many boys.

But perhaps you are an _only child_. Then you will enjoy the exclusive
affections and attention of your parents, without a rival. But you
will lose the advantage of the society of brothers and sisters. The
former will be no benefit; for parents do not abate their love to their
first-born, when others are added to their number. But the exclusive
love to an only child often degenerates into excessive indulgence. The
society of brothers and sisters, though it often tries the temper,
yet contributes greatly to the happiness of a child. It provides a
wholesome discipline, and affords the means of learning how to behave
among equals; which an only child cannot learn at home. You will be
likely to think too much of yourself, because you will receive the
exclusive attentions of your parents, and will not have before you the
daily example of your equals. These things you must guard against; and
endeavor to make up the deficiency, by carrying out the hints I have
given, in the society of other children, wherever you meet them.

In conclusion, I will give you one little _family rule_. You may think
it a _very little_ one; but it is able to do wonders. If you will
try it one week, and never deviate from it, I will promise you the
happiest week you ever enjoyed. And, more than this, you will diffuse
such a sunshine about you as to make others happy also. My little rule
is this: NEVER BE CROSS.

Most of what I have said in the last two chapters will apply to your
behavior at school. When you go to school, your teachers take the
place of your parents. To them, for the time being, your parents have
delegated their authority. You are bound, therefore, to give to them
the same reverence and obedience which are due to your parents. To
disobey, or to dishonor them in any other way, is a breach of the
fifth commandment, which, in its spirit, requires _subordination to
lawful authority_; or, as the Catechism says, “The fifth commandment
requireth the preserving the honor of, and performing the duties
belonging to, every one, in their several places and relations, as
superiors, inferiors, or equals.” You ought, therefore, in the first
place, to pay strict regard to every rule of the school, as a religious
duty; and obey your teacher, in all things, with the same promptness
and cheerfulness that you would obey your parents. You should be too
careful of your own reputation to permit yourself to be reprimanded
by your teacher. If you take up the resolution that you will be so
diligent, faithful, and well-behaved, as never to be reproved, you
will find it a very wholesome restraint, to keep you within the bounds
of propriety. Be careful of the _honor_ of your teachers, remembering
that, if you dishonor them, you break God’s holy commandment. Never
call in question their arrangements; and never indulge feelings of
dissatisfaction. Especially, never speak slightingly or disrespectfully
of them, nor of their ways. It does not become you to call in question
their arrangements, or their mode of teaching. If you are wiser than
they, you had better not seek instruction from them; but if not, then
you should be satisfied with the dictates of their superior wisdom.
Never attempt to question their proceedings, nor to argue with them,
when they require you to do any thing. Be very careful, also, not
to carry home tales from school; because such a practice tends to
cultivate a disposition to tattle, and often leads to great mischief.
Yet, when your parents make inquiries, it is your duty to answer them.

Be diligent in your studies, from _principle_, not from a spirit
of emulation. Remember that you are placed at school for your own
benefit. It is not for your parents’ advantage, nor for the benefit
of your teachers, that you are required to study; but for your own
good. Remember how much pains your parents take, to give you this
opportunity. They give up your time, which they have a right to
employ for their own benefit, and they expend money for the support
of schools, that you may have the opportunity of obtaining useful
learning. You are bound, therefore, to improve this opportunity with
great diligence. You will not think it a task, that you are compelled
to study; but you will regard it as a price[1] put into your hands to
get wisdom. It is all for your own benefit. In school hours, therefore,
you should put away all thoughts of play, and all communication with
other scholars, and give yourself strictly and closely to your studies.

[1] Prov. xvii. 16.

But, I suppose you will find the most difficulty in regulating your
conduct during the intervals of school hours, and on your way to and
from school. When a great many young persons of your own age are
together, there is a disposition to throw off restraint. I would
not have you under such restraint as to avoid all relaxation and
innocent hilarity; for these are necessary to keep your mind and
body in a healthful condition. But, here, you will be more exposed
to temptation. As punctuality is of great importance in school, and
a necessary habit to be cultivated, you need to make it a matter of
principle to be always in your seat a few minutes before the opening
of school. A failure to do this, will rob you of many advantages, and
greatly embarrass your teacher. It will, also, give you the habit of
tardiness, which will be a great injury to you, as long as you live,
whatever may be your occupation. But, in order to be punctual, you must
not linger to engage in sport by the way. So, likewise, in returning
from school, you ought to be equally punctual in reporting yourself
at home; for you know not what your parents may have for you to do.
This, also, forbids your lingering for amusement on the way home. But,
besides these, there are other reasons why you should not idle away
your time on the way. Idle boys are always in the way of temptation; for

“Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.”

If you linger along on the way, you will be very likely to meet with
some bad boys, who will lead you astray, and involve you in some
mischief that will get you into serious difficulty. A boy was walking
along in the streets of Boston, and another boy, who knew him by name,
called to him from the other side of the street, saying, “Come, John,
come over here, and we’ll have some fun.” “No, I can’t,” John replied;
“I must go home.” “But just come over here a minute.” “No, I can’t,”
said John; “my mother expects me home.” But the boy still urged him,
and at length prevailed on him to cross the street. They then went into
a hardware store; and the boy who called John over stole some knives
and disappeared; and John was taken for the theft, because he was with
the other boy at the time, and put in jail. Thus, by just stopping
on the way, and going across the street, he got into jail. If he had
made it his invariable rule to go directly on his way, and not linger,
and idle his time away, he would have been saved from this suffering,
shame, and disgrace. But, if you indulge in the same habit of lingering
by the way, you will be exposed to similar temptation and trouble.

In all your intercourse with your school-fellows, be kind and obliging.
Treat them courteously, and avoid every thing that is rough, coarse,
and rude. Endeavor to behave like a _young gentleman_. Avoid the
company of boys who are rough and coarse in their manners, or profane
or obscene in their conversation. You will insensibly imbibe their
vulgarity, if you associate with them. In your sports or plays, be
conscientiously fair and honorable. The boy, who is unfair or dishonest
in his play, when he becomes a man, will drive a hard bargain or be
dishonest in his business.

If you go where boys and girls are associated in the same school, have
a strict regard to propriety, in your intercourse with the other sex.
Be gentlemanly in your behavior towards them. Avoid all rudeness or
roughness of manners and conversation in their presence. Especially,
refrain from rude jests and low buffoonery. You may engage with them
in sensible conversation; but a well-bred girl will be offended if you
attempt to please her by trying how nonsensically and silly you can
talk. Venture no improper liberties; but maintain your own self-respect
by respecting them.

Finally, see that you do nothing in school or out of it, which you
would be unwilling your parents should see; and remember that there is
One Eye that is always upon you.

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