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    Signs and Wonders

    Do we belong to a charismatic Salvation Army? Or have we moved away from such expressions of faith, such as speaking in tongues, slaying in the Spirit, words of knowledge, prophecy and faith healing? March 24, 2011 by Lt-Colonel Max Ryan
    Filed Under:
    Opinion & Critical Thought
    Apart from church historians, few people today are aware that the Army, in its early days, was considered to be among the most flamboyant of religious movements. Speaking in tongues, slaying in the Spirit, words of knowledge, prophecy, faith healing and ecstatic behaviour are part of the story of the Church from earliest times. Such signs marked the beginnings of Pentecostalism, as well as Methodism and the Society of Friends. The Salvation Army, as a child of Methodism, followed the growth pattern of its denominational parent, from these charismatic beginnings to a more controlled approach to church life.

    Before William and Catherine Booth commenced revival meetings in the East End of London in the 1860s, they spent years as successful itinerant evangelists. Attendant signs and wonders marked their meetings.

    Wrote Commissioner Booth-Tucker, Catherine's biographer, “There can be little doubt that manifestations are permitted, in connection with powerful revivals as part of the signs and wonders with which God had promised to accompany the outpourings of his Holy Spirit. While it would doubtless be a mistake to seek for such manifestations, or to measure spiritual results by the frequency of their occurrence, nevertheless, when they do occur, they may be regarded as encouraging tokens of the divine presence.”

    Booth-Tucker's comment reflects the increasing caution of the Army's leadership to signs and wonders. In effect, the Army's approach was that even though one must not presume to seek such manifestations of the Spirit's presence, if such blessings did come, they should be accepted, though with due caution.

    British Salvationist historian Glenn K. Horridge has written an analytical survey of the Army's first 35 years. He concluded that the Army was definitely charismatic in its early days. He comments: “Contemporary evidence suggests the Movement to have been charismatic, with shouting, lying prostrate on the ground, and leaping in the air being reported in 1882. Also practised was 'reveling on the floor in the glory' and 'jumping for Jesus.' ”

    In these early days, some years before the Pentecostals would earn the sobriquet “holy rollers,” Salvationists were engaging freely in such activity. Horridge concludes: “The Army's official position on charismatic meetings remained ambiguous although such activity was probably even more widespread than reported.”

    A random sampling of Army publications through the years reveals that a charismatic experience complete with signs and wonders, yet in the Methodist holiness tradition, was a diminishing part of Salvation Army life.

    But there is evidence that faith healing has always had a place in Salvation Army ministry and worship. Historian R. G. Moyles writes about early interest in faith healing: “In some instances the articles in The War Cry by both converts and Army officers illustrated the still-undefined nature of Salvation Army beliefs. A strong proponent of 'faith healing,' Mrs. [Catherine] Booth wrote many defenses of the practice in the early War Cry, and the editor entertained occasional testimonies to the salutary effect of faith-healing services. For a while it seemed as if this would become one of the Army's key beliefs. Eventually, however, it was abandoned both in practice and publications.”

    Despite Moyles' contention that faith healing was abandoned, a major directive on faith healing was issued in 1902 by General William Booth. Had there been no problems, the Army's leader would not have found it necessary to issue this carefully worded document, in which he writes: “By faith healing, or divine healing, is to be understood the recovery of persons afflicted with serious diseases, by the power of God, in answer to faith and prayer, without the use of ordinary means, such as doctors, medicines and the like. That God should heal the sick after this fashion is in perfect harmony with the views and experience of The Salvation Army from the beginning. Nothing to the contrary has ever been taught by our authority, and numerous instances of faith healing have occurred in the Army throughout its history.

    “We have never discouraged officers or soldiers or any other persons from seeking the intervention of God by believing prayer on behalf either of the healing of their bodies, or the removal of any other afflictions which they may have been called upon to suffer. The very opposite has been the case.

    “I do not believe there can be a corps of The Salvation Army, at home or abroad, in which some signs and wonders have not been wrought. Have we not seen men and women and little children raised up from the borders of the grave, and restored to health and vigour, in answer to the prayer of faith?”

    However, Booth distanced the Army from the belief that healing is in the atonement, and that physical healing is a right for the Christian, further setting the Army on a path that diverged from the direction taken by charismatics.

    In recent years, the Army has approached the issue of signs and wonders with caution. While the Army does not rule out the possibility of people being miraculously healed or other physical manifestations of God's power, most Salvationists are no longer accustomed to charismatic expressions. Regardless of our views on these issues, one thing is certain: God's Spirit is still at work among us in extraordinary ways.

    Lt-Colonel Maxwell Ryan is retired in Burlington, Ont., where he serves as a part-time hospital chaplain and amateur Army historian.


    On Monday, March 11, 2019, Steven said:

    It is interesting that so many teachers jump to verse 28 of 1 Corinthians 14, preferring to bypass and ignore verse 2.


    On Saturday, April 7, 2018, Gizelle Little said:

    Corinthians says do all the manifestations decently and in order. The manifestations are the tools of the gift of holy spirit. There are 9. Faith, miracles, healing, word of wisdom, word of knowledge, discerning of spirits, tongues, interpretation and prophecy. There are ministries of the gift of holy spirit. 5 - apostles prophets pastors evangelists & teachers. What one is willing to do for Yahweh is what they will be rewarded for doing at the bema. One who trusts the Father and His Son, will rely upon his awesome and mighty power to perform these exploits for His Kingdom.


    On Tuesday, June 14, 2016, Anthony said:

    hi i came to the lord about forty years ago.There was an army core that was very pentecostal.
    they spoke in tongues and interpreted and prayed for the sick. god bless the Salvation Army

    On Friday, April 29, 2016, cassie kean said:

    Good answer Captain Royal. We need to keep our focus on spiritual things and as the Apostle Paul, being crucified to the world meant he was able to live thoroughly and completely in the 'real' world because as Henry Blackaby wrote in his book "Experiencing the cross, " Paul's encounter and experience of the power of the cross and the wisdom of the cross was so radical in his life that it controlled how he approached the entire world."
    Paul was separated from the world yet was still so much a part of it, he didn't change with the times, but "he brought the thinking of God to the world and saw it transformed." (H. B.)
    I believe that's our mandate as believers today as well. For those who have been given different gifts of the Spirit, we use them to glorify our Saviour, and if that be tongues, no doubt I believe He will have an interpreter.

    On Friday, April 29, 2016, Ira Barrow said:

    For me, praise and worship begins with the first song, no matter if it is an ultra-traditional song written in the seventeenth century or a ultra-modern, praise and worship song, written seventeen minutes ago. Praise is a part of prayer. Reading the scripture has strong worship element about it. I have recognized praise and worship in every meeting I've even been in since I was a child. That would be more than 7000 meetings. It is nothing new, people just want to package it differently. That's good!

    Sing a new song? Yes. I really enjoy many of them. But make sure they adhere to our doctrinal position and try your best to select songs, or choruses, that are reasonably easy to sing. Those of us who have not been able to sing some of the newer stuff have been quite accepting and patient with those more musically gifted. In all of our singing, please do not neglect the songs of confession and commitment. Remember, we can praise God in song without loving Him, but we cannot love Him without praising Him in song. "The angels sing a glorious song, but not a song like mine....".

    By the way, 70 years ago I attended a Praise Meeting every Sunday afternoon. And Army history tells us that Bramwell Booth, when training cadets, called for "a praise and worship team" to help the congregation with the singing. The group that came out of that were called "songsters" but over the years they evolved to the point where they became a choir and ceased to fulfil their initial function. But they can return to that role again and still continue to be a vocal group.

    God bless everyone who wants to praise and worship God.

    On Friday, April 29, 2016, Captain Royal Senter said:

    Edgar: Two things...

    It is not wrong to speak or pray in tongues if (a) it is genuinely from the Holy Spirit and (b) if there is an interpreter for any public use of tongues in accordance with 1 Cor 14:28. It is also important to recognize that if speaking in tongues will cause more problems than edification, then it is probably unwise to do so - God is not a god of disorder and using our freedom in spite of other people is not an act of love.

    Secondly, we need to be careful about saying things like "the church needs to move with the times". We are a God-led and Scripture-driven people (or at least we should be). God does not change and neither does the Bible. We can only change when it is in harmony with God's mind as revealed in Scripture even if that means that we are out of step with the times. There is a lot of room for us to change as much of what we do it cultural but we had better be certain of the truth when making changes.

    On Sunday, April 24, 2016, edgar funi said:

    The church should move with the times. There should be praise and worship services. As a Salvationist is it wrong to speak or pray in tongues?

    On Monday, February 23, 2015, Gray Liddell said:

    Thank you Max for taking the time to put this article together. It's helpful - bless you. I was wanting a bit more clarity about this aspect of the early years of the SA. It is nice that it has come from within the organisation so as to give us a good source to follow up any further enquiries.

    On Tuesday, December 2, 2014, Rob Jeffery said:

    I've seen the Holy Spirit at work in The Salvation Army, the Pentecostal Church, the Anglican Church, the United Church, and the Roman Catholic Church. There are differences in form, but the Spirit is still present. We should be comfortable enough in our own "skin" as Salvationists, knowing that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in our movement, to acknowledge, as Lieut. Col Ryan does in his article, that The Army of the past looks a little different than The Army of the present. That's okay. The Holy Spirit is still working.

    I'm encouraged that our early leaders put some helpful parameters around the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. I think it makes sense when you consider our Methodist heritage of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience, that they would indeed do that.

    The Holy Spirit works through our reason and experience to discern these 'signs and wonders' that we often associate with the Spirit's movement. These are needed. We can be thinking Christians, and spirit-filled at the same time. This very sad article can attest to this need.

    On Saturday, November 29, 2014, Dwight Theisen said:

    Pray in agreement with me for the manifestation of healing and restoration of my health concerns which are already healed in the name of Jesus, by His stripes, death/shed blood and resurrection by the power of God. By God's grace and my faith in the goodness of God through Christ and His ability and will to make me whole.

    On Friday, November 7, 2014, Esther Rani John said:

    Dear salvation army team,
    Praise the lord. I am Esther from India in chennai. I visited about army. I thank god. Pastor I met an accident. I got fractured in my back spine. Pls pray that god must strengthened me through ur prayer. Email with me. ur words will guide me. Thanks s lot.

    On Thursday, August 15, 2013, clare stevens said:

    Point of clarification. One mustn't equate historic Wesleyan holiness groups with the current charismatic movement - especially with its obsession with tongues. Wesley was christocentric in his theology and emphasized a deeper work of heart cleansing subsequent to salvation. In the late 19th century, the influence of Asa Mahan of Oberlin college and others portended a switch from christocentric theology of a deeper work of grace to a pneumatological emphasis. Terminology related to pentecost came into the holiness movement with references to the baptism of the Holy Spirit as the work of heart cleansing. Circa, 1906, Azusa Street gave birth to the modern tongues movement. It borrowed the terminology of pentecost from the holiness movement but it was referring to a very different experience. In fact, most of the charismatic deriviatives have dropped any reference to heart cleansing entirely. Prior to 1906, tongue speaking was isolated among groups like the Shakers under false prophetess, Ann Lee and the Mormons. The history of the tongues movement is notably void of any references to the Salvation Army. True, holiness circles were often characterized by emotional outbursts but not with speaking in tongues. We must avoid historical revisionism and keep our theology in tact.

    On Monday, January 23, 2012, lynette madzima said:

    How wonderful to know or be reminded that God's spirit has no bounderies,i am proud to be a salvationist.

    On Thursday, March 31, 2011, Daniel Giversen said:

    @Jan Edward Steffen: You ar so very right. It was said about the scout movement, but probably regards all movements that has turned into organisation: every generation need to reinvent the movement. Reinvention is not throwing everything aboard, removing the framework and cutting the root, but rather evaluating how the original intentions and goals can be fulfilled in this generation harvesting from the experience gained in the past. Thus the movement stays alive instead of regressing and die. forgetting our roots in the apostolic times, the trinity strive (nicene-constantinopolitan synods), the reformation,the methodist revival, the early days of SA as well as the experiences of Finney, Moody etc. would be fatal. What we cannot do is copying unconditionally, but we can adapt it to our circumstances and local practices still preaching the gospel about salvation available for all sinners.

    On Wednesday, March 30, 2011, Jan Edward Steffen said:

    I'm so thankful for this wonderful article on the historic Holy Spirit empowered beginnings of the Salvation Army. We in every denomination are aware of the slow erosion of power and passion as over time we transition from 'movement' to 'monument', from a chrystaline river of life to chrystalization.
    Sociologists would call this 'historical drift', that is, all groups or organizations, secular or spiritual, over time move away from it's founding vision, values and mission. A simple reading through the four gospels as well as the book of Acts reminds me often of how far the modern church has drifted from the intent of the Master and His apostolic church. The bible even warns us in Hebrews "We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away."
    In the case of the church and it's mission in the world, we must look backwards to our roots and our common 'pentecostal' beginnings (Acts 2) in order that we might move forward with the Spirit's help into the continuing mission and cause of the Saviour.
    Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever!

    On Tuesday, March 29, 2011, Daniel Giversen said:

    I can only agree, that we shall not fear the working of The Holy Spirit. But it is nescessary to move with caution and test the spirits to avoid attacks from Satan.

    E.g. some years ago in some independent churches across the world they experienced "manifestaions" with falling of gold dust and receiving golden teeth fillings - I attended some of these meeting and never saw the dust or the teeth fillings. What I saw, was people euphorically moving focus from God towards the "manifestations". The editior at the danish christian newspaper "Udfordringen" had some "gold dust" tested, and it wasn't gold. Since then I have heard no reports of these manifestations. At my best judgment, what I experienced was man's fraud or Satan's deceit, not the work of The Holy Spirit.

    As Roberts Adams attest one of the questions about faith healing is, whether we can claim healing as a right, or wether we should rather have faith in sa well as pray and hope for it realising that God is sovereign, and he is good even if he says "wait till the eternity." Paul got that answer regarding his "thorn in the flesh": my mercy is enough. And the story of Job also clearly states, that suffering is a part of life, even if it is not God's will, and he will act in HIS time.

    Another question is equalling sickness and demonizing (demonizing being attack by demons, not directly possession) and thereby alienating modern medicine. Medicine weren't as developed when Jesus walked on earth, and in the case of the bleeding woman, who touched the edge of his robe, on the way to Jairus' daughter, we see the stereotypical image of a physician of the time: for 14 years she had suffered from treatments from many physicians. But Jesus himself advised people healed from leprozy to be seen by a priest to be stated clean. And reading Pauls advice to Timothy regarding wine for the stomach, probably he had consulted Luke. Equalizing all sickness with demonizing would mean ignoring the facts of bacteria and vira as well as antibiotics. And it would unnescessarily stress people to think they became sick because of their sins. Instead it is more appropriate to focus on Jesus as the almighty healer, and unless we have direct signs of demonizing/possession we put it into his mighty hands.

    On Monday, March 28, 2011, Captain Justin Bradbury said:

    Max, thank-you for sharing this article with us. I regularly pray for the sick at Wednesday night Prayer Gatherings at Southlands, and we have seen a number of people healed. I believe there is a way for us in the Army to excercise all the gifts of the Spirit in our day without going to unnecessary excesses. We need not fear the working of the Spirit, but free ourselves to enjoy the fullness of the Holy Spirit's ministry in our midst in renewed ways in these days.

    On Saturday, March 26, 2011, Daniel Giversen said:

    I can only agree. In my Bible it states: "And these signs will accompany those who believe..." (Mark 16, 17-18). I have seen this kind of movement by The holy Spirit and of course I believe. But I also understand the caution from the early Army-leadership: I've seen a major charismatic revival in the Salvation Army in Denmark from about 1990 moving into dissesion and finally die! Today we don't talk about regression but retreat. Why? Of course there is no simple explanation. But I have tried to understand in order not commit the same errors again:

    *Discussion moved from regarding charismatics and revival to regarding persons involved in the revival espescially in connection with links to the Prosperity Gospel of the Faith Movement
    *Personal persecution
    *Spread of downright lies
    *Focus moved from Jesus to the signs and wonders

    How could this happen amongst neighbourloving, sincerely believing christians?
    *Lack of biblical education and experience inside the at least three sides of the dissension.
    *Lack of knowledge on Salvation Army history e.g. William Booth encouraging cooperation with other denominations, and even himself cooperated with the Latter Day Saints - within the principles of not critisizing, but showing the right way
    *Misinformation regarding the charismatic movement and the Faith Movement often not distinguishing - and claims of JDS-doctrines - doctrines that even the Faith Movement rejects
    *Attacks from Satan

    Thus caution as well as studying the scriptures and church history should be encouraged, at the same time we allow signs and wonders in our ministry. Naivety and lack of knowledge is an open main gate to Satans attacks on the congregation! Let us worship Jesus, seek the scriptures and shut this main gate to allow revival accompanied by signs and wonder.

    On Saturday, March 26, 2011, walter boland said:

    Having been on This Wonderful Christian Journey for approx 60 years,and having been early taught to read,study,SEEK and to EMBRACE what the HOLY SPIRIT revealed to me as MY
    SPIRITUAL BIRTHRIGHT,That I cannot recall anywhere reading in GOD'S WORD that at some given period in time that Certain Manifestations which AUTHENTICATED that A SPIRITUAL
    REVOLUTION had been PERFORMED by the HOLY SPIRIT would cease,leaving us with nothing more than an HOPE-SO,MAYBE,NOT CERTAIN derivative as the basis for our FAITH...God's
    Word,declares that "that these things(previous accounts) were for ALL TIME and serious
    repercussions would be incurred by those who tampered or dared to remove them..Rev 22:18,19.
    Maybe the church (ours included) should be asking again of those who profess to be SAVED
    The lyrics of song 244 byr etiired General John Gowans are absolutely true;IF YOU WANT IT..ITS YOURS.
    God Bless..ret"s csm walter boland

    On Saturday, March 26, 2011, robert adams said:

    It would seem that The Salvation Army(TSA) from its inception did not foresee the level to which ‘faith healing’ would become part of it’s early mission and ministry. During the 1880’s God was at work, from late night healing meetings in tents, to Divine Healing Conventions at Army camps, people were reported as being miraculously healed. In the UK, one Major Pearson believed in the power of God to restore the blind, the lame, and the deaf and held services in the Tontine Street Circus, Hanley . Many thousands were reported to have attended, and before the night was over several people had ascended to the platform to testify of miraculous healings. Divine Healing Conventions were being held by Canadian Officers (such as Captain George E. Fisher ) and also in Stratford, Canada, a Captain Payne was an enthusiastic reporter of healing, proud that in TSA, “the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the leprous sinners are cleansed”.

    In the NZ War Cry 1886, it was reported ‘On Sunday, June 6th God told us in a vision to go to Miss Ross and tell her in the name of King Jesus to get up. In His strength she obeyed, to the joy of her family…on Wednesday 10th…Wilhelminn Ross worshipped in public for the first time since smitten with paralysis sixteen years before.’ This is one of many testimonies of ‘faith-healings’ being reported in TSA War Cry publication throughout the world.

    III.I.II The turn of the century

    Prior to the 1900’s it seemed that ‘faith healing’ was a growing ministry in TSA. However, in the late 1890s, one Commissioner Arthur Booth-Clibborn , was preaching divine healing within TSA. The heart of his message was aligned with other faith healers of the day claiming that “…Christians may claim healing from sickness on the grounds that Christ has already carried that sickness for them just as he has carried their sins". Although the General believed in, and desired to see more healing miracles in TSA , his view on the Atonement was not that Christ carried sickness in the same way that He carried sin.

    At the end of 1900, Arthur Booth-Clibborn specifically wrote the General requesting liberty to preach freely ‘divine healing’ but he was refused based on William Booths doctrinal stance, and as a result Arthur and wife Catherine resigned from TSA. After his resignation Arthur felt ‘free to preach the urgent Gospel not only of Christ the Saviour, but Christ the healer…’

    The Generals response to this “runaway” teaching was a memorandum on faith healing that was released later in 1902. This not only clarified TSA doctrinal position, it also revealed the founders heart on faith-healing.

    III.I.III The Founder on ‘faith-healing’

    In his memorandum, the General emphatically states his desires with regard to ‘faith-healing’:
    ‘I strongly desire that these instances of Divine interposition should greatly increase and multiply amongst us.’
    Booth suggests that the performance of such miracles could be a powerful way to captivate people’s attention, alerting them to things eternal and opening the door for sharing the Gospel.
    ‘’We have proclaimed this on the house-tops…’ Booth stresses, ‘…[that] we Salvationists have believed and taught from the beginning that God does, when He sees that He can thus glorify Himself and benefit men, go out of His ordinary course in healing the sick in answer to the Prayer of Faith.’ Booth goes on to say “Therefore, oh, my Comrades, I want you to labour mightily for their [faith-healings] multiplication.”

    On Friday, March 25, 2011, John Stephenson said:

    Max--As you well know I am one who believes as you do about the charismatic/pentecostal history in TSA. The descriptions of the Friday Night Holiness Meetings and the articles in old War Crys and other writings clearly indicate we were not just a Holiness Organization but a Charismatic/Pentecostal Holiness Organization.
    When I was in Training College (1975-1977) in Toronto the Charismatic segments in the Army were active with Major Bruce Harcourt at Queen Street Harbour Light and other events in the city and at the Training College.
    In our second year I did a 180 page paper on the Charosmatic/Pentecostal history of the Army using Army documents and other historical information about the rise of the Pentecostak Movement which showed many of the early leaders of what todis the Pentecostal Churches had Army background.
    There was even an Order and Regulations for use of Oil for Divine Healing issued by General Wm. Booth.
    I know that when I was an Officer I had Healing Altar Calls and after leaving the Army continued being a Charismatic. Years later when we returned to the Army I can relate events at Men's Camp in Manitoba when a Soldier was prayed over re sight Problems whose site improved.
    There were events in the late 1970's which put the Charismatic/pentecostal ecpressions back in the closet. There was active discouragment of practices by senior officers.
    Today we should celebrate our Pentecostal/Charismatic origins and exercise our Gifts as Christians--tongues, healing, etc. .

    On Friday, March 25, 2011, David Jackson said:

    You can read more about Smith Wigglesworth at http//

    On Thursday, March 24, 2011, Major John Gerard said:

    I have never NOT believed in Divine intervention into disease as a direct result of prayer, especially collective prayer. Although I never personally claimed the Gift of Healer, I can testify that especially during my second year of Officership, many mighty acts of healing did occure and acknowledged as the handy work of God.

    I will relate one story. One Sunday morning , after the service, a woman soldier came to the Citadel with obvious signs of stroke. I mentioned to here that the whole Corps would pray for her during the Salvation Service. She did not come to the service. However, at exactly 8.45 pm ( and I took note of the time ) I asked the congregation to stand and link arms together as a sign of our collective faith, to concentrate on her healing and I would ask God to immediately heal the woman. After the service, the Devil kept saying that healing would not happen. So I determined to visit the lady the next morning and asked the question: when were you healed, instead of asking ,if you were healed.

    When the soldier came to the door her physical features were normal. I asked the question: when were you healed. Her reply was, about 8.45 pm last night I was on my knees praying for healing and a hugh forced came over me and I stood up healed and immediately began to praise the Lord.

    Testimony periods, praise periods, will also go the way of the dodo bird if we do not reverse course. Let us welcome the many avenues of blessing from the holy Spirit. Praise the Lord.

    On Thursday, March 24, 2011, John Umasanthiram said:

    I believe the Army was very charasmatic in the early days and that resulted in the growth of the Army. We are living in a world where people want to see the impact and the proof that religion can make a difference in the lives of the people. While living in Malaysia and Singapore for many years, I have seen the practice of faith healing, slaying of the spirit, speaking in tongues, prophecy, etc. These churches grow in Asia eventhough there is no freedom of religion but people have found freedom through God.
    Maybe we need to look at the other churches, cultures, etc whereby we can learn. People need to see the power of God working in peoples life... eg. healing, miracles happening, etc.

    Well coming from a Hindu background, The Salvation Army is my first and only church, is a great Army and God has changed me to what I am now because he healed and brought changes in my life. God is good all the time, and all the time He is Good.

    God bless you.
    John Umasanthiram

    On Thursday, March 24, 2011, Kim Sullivan said:

    What a wonderfully courageous post! It is absolutely true that the Army had more miracle manifestations in its early days, and that the Methodist movement was downright fanatical in their beginnings. In fact, one of the most respected faith healers in the history of pentacostalism is Smith Wigglesworth. He and his wife were saved and served in the Army in England. Bravo to you for reminding the Salvationists of their heritage. Maybe we will see some of these manifestations again in the Army's services.

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