John Calvin – How God Works in Men’s Hearts

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1. MAN STANDS UNDER THE DEVIL’S POWER, AND INDEED WILLINGLY

Unless I am mistaken, we have sufficiently proved that man is so held captive by the yoke of sin that he can of his own nature neither aspire to good through resolve nor struggle after it through effort. Besides, we posited a distinction between compulsion and necessity from which it appears that man, while he sins of necessity, yet sins no less voluntarily. But, while he is bound in servitude to the devil, he seems to be actuated more by the devil’s will than by his own. It consequently remains for us to determine the part of the devil and the part of man in the action. Then we must answer the question whether we ought to ascribe to God any part of the evil works in which Scripture signifies that some action of his intervenes.

Somewhere Augustine compares man’s will to a horse awaiting its rider’s command, and God and the devil to its riders. “If God sits astride it,” he says, “then as a moderate and skilled rider, he guides it properly, spurs it if it is too slow, checks it if it is too swift, restrains it if it is too rough or too wild, subdues it if it balks, and leads it into the right path. But if the devil saddles it, he violently drives it far from the trail like a foolish and wanton rider, forces it into ditches, tumbles it over cliffs, and goads it into obstinacy and fierceness.” Since a better comparison does not come to mind, we shall be satisfied with this one for the present. It is said that the will of the natural man is subject to the devil’s power and is stirred up by it. This does not mean that, like unwilling slaves rightly compelled by their masters to obey, our will, although reluctant and resisting, is constrained to take orders from the devil. It means rather that the will, captivated by Satan’s wiles, of necessity obediently submits to all his leading. For those whom the Lord does not make worthy to be guided by his Spirit he abandons, with just judgment, to Satan’s action. For this reason the apostle says that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers,” who are destined to destruction, that they may not see the light of the gospel [2 Corinthians 4:4]; and in another place that he “is… at work in the disobedient sons” [Ephesians 2:2]. The blinding of the impious and all iniquities following from it are called “the works of Satan.” Yet their cause is not to be sought outside man’s will, from which the root of evil springs up, and on which rests the foundation of Satan’s kingdom, that is, sin.

2. GOD, SATAN, AND MAN ACTIVE IN THE SAME EVENT

Far different is the manner of God’s action in such matters. To make this clearer to us, we may take as an example the calamity inflicted by the Chaldeans upon the holy man Job, when they killed his shepherds and in enmity ravaged his flock [Job 1:17]. Now their wicked act is perfectly obvious; nor does Satan do nothing in that work, for the history states that the whole thing stems from him [Job 1:12].

But Job himself recognizes the Lord’s work in it, saying that He has taken away what had been seized through the Chaldeans [Job 1:21]. How may we attribute this same work to God, to Satan, and to man as author, without either excusing Satan as associated with God, or making God the author of evil? Easily, if we consider first the end, and then the manner, of acting. The Lord’s purpose is to exercise the patience of His servant by calamity; Satan endeavors to drive him to desperation; the Chaldeans strive to acquire gain from another’s property contrary to law and right. So great is the diversity of purpose that already strongly marks the deed. There is no less difference in the manner. The Lord permits Satan to afflict His servant; He hands the Chaldeans over to be impelled by Satan, having chosen them as His ministers for this task. Satan with his poison darts arouses the wicked minds of the Chaldeans to execute that evil deed. They dash madly into injustice, and they render all their members guilty and befoul them by the crime. Satan is properly said, therefore, to act in the reprobate over whom he exercises his reign, that is, the reign of wickedness. God is also said to act in His own manner, in that Satan himself, since he is the instrument of God’s wrath, bends himself hither and thither at His beck and command to execute His just judgments. I pass over here the universal activity of God whereby all creatures, as they are sustained, thus derive the energy to do anything at all. I am speaking only of that special action which appears in every particular deed. Therefore we see no inconsistency in assigning the same deed to God, Satan, and man; but the distinction in purpose and manner causes God’s righteousness to shine forth blameless there, while the wickedness of Satan and of man betrays itself by its own disgrace.

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J. C. Ryle – Christ’s Power to Save

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“He is able to save to the uttermost, those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25

There is one subject in religion about which we can never know too much. That subject is Jesus Christ the Lord. This is the mighty subject which the text that heads this page unfolds, Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ’s intercession.

I have heard of a book entitled “The Story without an End.” I know no story deserving that title so well as the everlasting Gospel—this is indeed and in truth the story without an end. There is an infinite “fullness” in Christ. There are in Him “unsearchable riches.” There is in Him a “love which passes knowledge.” He is an “unspeakable gift.” (Col. 1:19; Eph. 3:8; 3:19; 2 Cor. 9:15.) There is no end to all the riches which are treasured up in Him—in His person, in His work, in His offices, in His words, in His deeds, in His life, in His death, in His resurrection. I take up only one branch of the great subject this day. I am going to consider the intercession and priestly office of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There are three points which I purpose to examine in opening the text which heads this paper.

I. You have here a description of all true Christians—they are a people who “come to God by Christ”

II. You have the work that Jesus Christ is ever carrying on behalf of true Christians—He “ever lives to make intercession for them.”

III. You have the comfortable conclusion built by Paul upon Christ’s work of intercession. He says, “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

I. You have, first, a description of all true Christians. It is most simple, most beautiful, and most true. Great is the contrast between the description given by the Holy Spirit of a Christian, and the description which is given by man! With man it is often enough to say that such a one “goes to church,” or that such a one “belongs to this body of Christians, or to that.” It is not so when the Holy Spirit draws the picture. The Holy Spirit describes a Christian as a man “who comes unto God by Christ.”

True Christians come unto God. They are not as many who turn their backs upon Him—who “go into a far country,” like the prodigal son, “who go out,” like Cain, “from the presence of the Lord,”—who are “alienated, strangers, and enemies in their mind by wicked works.” (Coloss. 1:21.) They are reconciled to God and friends of God. They are not as many, who dislike everything that belongs to God—His word, His day, His ordinances, His people, His house. They love all that belongs to their Master. The very footprints of His steps are dear unto them. “His name is as ointment poured forth.” (Cant. 1:3.) They are not as many, who are content with coming to church, or with coming to chapel, or with coming to the Lord’s table. They go further than that. They “come unto God,” and in communion with God they live.

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Richard Sibbes – The Difficulty of Salvation (1 Peter 4:18)

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If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the wicked and ungodly appear? — 1 Pet. 4:18

What is meant here by righteousness, to wit, a man endued with evangelical righteousness. By ‘righteous’ here, is meant that evangelical righteousness which we have in the state of the gospel, namely, the righteousness of Christ imputed to us; for Christ himself being ours, his obedience and all that he hath becomes ours also; and whosoever partaketh of this righteousness which is by faith, hath also a righteousness of sanctification accompanying the same, wrought in his soul by the Spirit of God, whereby his sinful nature is changed and made holy; for ‘if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature,’ 2 Cor. 5:17. The same Spirit that assures us of our interest in Christ, purifies and cleanseth our hearts, and worketh a new life in us, opposite to our life in the first Adam; from whence flows new works of holiness and obedience throughout our whole conversation. There must be an inward inherent righteousness, before there can be any works of righteousness. An instrument must be set in tune before it will make music; so the Spirit of God must first work a holy frame and disposition of heart in us, before we can bring forth any fruits of holiness in our lives. For we commend not the works of grace as we do the works of art, but refer them to the worker. All that flows from the Spirit of righteousness are works of righteousness. When the soul submits itself to the spirit, and the body to the soul, then things come off kindly. Take a man that is righteous by the Spirit of God: he is righteous in all relations; he gives every one his due; he gives God his due; spiritual worship is set up in his heart above all; he gives Christ his due by affiance in him; he gives the holy angels their due, by considering he is always in their presence, that their eye is upon him in every action he doth, and every duty he performs; the poor have their due from him; those that are in authority have their due. If he be under any, he gives them reverence and obedience, &c.; ‘he will owe nothing to any man but love,’ Rom. 13:8; he is righteous in all his conversation; he is a vessel prepared for every good work. I deny not but he may err in some particular; that is nothing to the purpose. I speak of a man as he is in the disposition and bent of his heart to God and goodness, and so there is a thread of a righteous course, that runs along through his whole conversation. The constant tenure of his life is righteous. He hungers and thirsts after righteousness, and labours to be more and more righteous still, every way, both in justification, that he may have a clearer evidence of that, as also in sanctification, that he may have more of the ‘new creature’ formed in him, that so he may serve God better and better all his days. Now, if this man shall scarcely be saved, where shall the sinner and ungodly appear? Where you have two branches.

1. The righteous shall scarcely be saved.

2. The terrible end of sinners and ungodly, where shall they appear? &c.

Now in that the righteous man thus described by me shall scarcely be saved, consider two things.

1. That the righteous shall be saved.

2. That they shall scarcely be saved.

The righteous are saved. What do I say? the righteous shall be saved? He is saved already. ‘This day is salvation come to thine house,’ saith Christ to Zaccheus, Luke 19:9. ‘We are saved by faith, and are now set in heavenly places together with him,’ Eph. 2:6. We have a title and interest to happiness already. There remains only a passage to the crown by good works. We do not, as the papists do, work to merit that we have not, but we do that we do in thankfulness for what we have. Because we know we are in the state of salvation; therefore we will shew our thankfulness to God in the course of our lives.

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Avi Brickner – The Jewishness of the New Testament

The Jewishness of the New Testament

Why a rabbi who considered the New Testament to be anti-Semitic changed his mind

Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein was curious when he observed one of the teachers in his school reading a book printed in German. Asking the teacher what he was reading, the book was passed to him. He leafed casually through the pages until his eye fell upon the name, "Jesus Christ". Realizing that the little book was a New Testament, he sternly rebuked the teacher for having it in his possession. He furiously threw the book across the room. It fell behind some other books on a shelf and lay forgotten for nearly 30 years.

An outbreak of intense anti-Jewish persecution arose some years later in Rabbi Lichtenstein’s native Hungary, and he was not surprised that the attacks were carried on in the name of Christianity. In the midst of the pogroms, he was startled to read the writings of men who, in the name of Christ, sternly denounced the anti-Semites and defended the Jews. Among these were prominent figures such as the honoured Biblical scholar Franz Delitzsch, professor at the University of Leipzig. He was intrigued by statements which spoke of the message of Christ as one of love and life to all people.

At this time, the little New Testament, flung in anger into a dusty corner years ago, was found. For the aging rabbi it had been a closed and hated book which he thought to be the source of venom aimed at his people. Was it really what he had supposed it to be? He opened its pages and began to read. Continue reading “Avi Brickner – The Jewishness of the New Testament”

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Dr. John MacArthur – Personal Evangelism 101: Offer God’s Mercy

Too many modern evangelistic methods offer the wrong thing. The point of the gospel is not to bring contentment, purpose, or a sense of completeness to your life. It’s not about unlocking God’s plan for your happiness or fulfillment. Those are often by-products of saving faith, but none of them is the primary focus of the gospel. Christ didn’t die for the sake of our emotional stability.

He died to rescue sinners from eternal separation from Him—to be our substitute and pay a debt we could not pay. The offer of the gospel is that atonement is available through the mercy and grace of God, and that He has made a way for us to enjoy eternity with Him.

That was the offer Christ made to the Samaritan woman at the well in the fourth chapter of John’s gospel. In verse 10 He exposed her spiritual need, encouraging her to ask Him for the “living water” only He could provide. Her incredulous response indicates she didn’t fully understand what He was saying.

She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself and his sons and his cattle?” (John 4:11-12)

There is a scornful sarcasm in her words. She’s mocking the idea that Jesus could get anything at all from the well without a bucket, or that what He could supply would be any better than what came from the well their ancestor Jacob had dug.

But Christ is not dissuaded by her scorn.

Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

It’s here that the analogy of water comes to its point. Christ isn’t concerned with satisfying her temporary thirst. He’s got far greater things in mind. He’s talking about an endless supply of riches and blessing—eternal satisfaction that she can’t imagine. It’s a permanent, consistent, everlasting blessing, and all she needs to do is ask.

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Yancey Arrington – How Were Old Testament Saints Saved?

It’s a fair question: How were Israelites saved in the Old Testament? The rationale behind the question mostly stems from the fact that we, as New Testament believers, can look back at the Person and Work of Jesus for our salvation. However, what if you lived during a time when Jesus hadn’t arrived, namely, the period of the Old Testament? Were you saved by your obedience to the Law? Did God just give everyone a “free pass” until Christ arrived? How did salvation work for those who were still waiting for the gospel of Jesus?

One of my favorite responses to this question is from Old Testament and Biblical Theology scholar Graeme Goldsworthy. In his must-read work Gospel and Kingdom he writes:

From man’s point of view we see the Scriptures unfold a step-by-step process until the gospel is reached as the goal. But from God’s point of view we know that the coming of Christ to live and to die for sinners was the pre-determined factor even before God made the world. We must not think of God trying first one plan and then another until he came up with the perfect way of salvation. The gospel was pre-ordained so that at the exact and perfect time God sent forth his Son into the world.

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Jeremiah Burroughs – Christ is All in All

The Apostle Paul was a chosen vessel to bear the name of Christ, to carry it up and down in the world. Indeed, his spirit was full of Christ. He desired to know nothing but Christ, to preach nothing but Christ, to be found in none but Christ. The very name of Christ was delightful to him. He seeks to magnify Christ in all of his epistles and, in these words I read to you, he omnifies Christ. He does not only make Him great but he makes Him all. There is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free, but Christ is all and in all. That is, there is no privilege in the one to commend them to God, and there is no lack of anything in the other to hinder them from God. Let men be what they will in their outward respects, what is that to God? Let them be never so mean in regard of all outward things, that can never hinder them from the enjoyment of God, for God does not look at these things, but Christ is all and in all to them.

As far as God sees Christ in anyone He accepts them. If Christ is not there, no matter what they have, He does not regard them. Christ is all in all, even in the esteem of the Father Himself. He was the delight of the Father from all eternity, Prov.8:30, and the Father undertook infinite contentment in Him upon His willingness to undertake this blessed work of the redemption of mankind. God the Father is infinitely satisfied in Christ. He is all in all to Him. Surely if Christ is an object sufficient for the satisfaction of the Father, much more, then, is He an object sufficient for the satisfaction of any soul.

But that which is the main scope of the Holy Ghost here is this high expression of Christ’s transcendent excellency, which I will deliver in this doctrinal proposition: Christ is the only means of conveyance of good that God the Father intends to communicate unto the children of men in order to eternal life; He is all in all. This which I am to preach to you now, namely God’s communicating Himself in His mercy to mankind through a Mediator, is the very sum of the gospel, the great mystery of godliness. It is the chief part of the mind and counsel of God that He would have made known to the children of men in this world. This is the great message that the ministers of the gospel have to bring, and it is the most absolutely necessary point in all theology.

That which I shall this day endeavor is to show you something of the glory of God shining in this truth: that God communicates Himself through a Mediator, through His Son. It is absolutely necessary for you to know if you would have eternal life. It is possible to be ignorant of many other truths and still be saved, but there must be something of this or there can be no salvation. The mistake in this very thing is the miscarriage and the eternal undoing of thousands upon thousands of souls. Many believe that they have need of, and can never be saved without, God’s mercy. The light of nature convinces us of this. But they are ignorant of, and do not see the reality of, this truth: that God communicates His mercy through a Mediator. They miscarry and perish eternally with cries to God for mercy because they come to God, but not through a Mediator.

This is the sum of the gospel and the most supernatural truth revealed in all the Book of God. It is a truth that was hidden from nearly all the world for many ages. There is no truth revealed in all the Scriptures whereby we can honor God as much as this. This, indeed, is the great honor that God would have in the world, to be honored in His Son and in the great design He has of bringing forth glorious things by His Son and, therefore, though we know never so much of God and would honor Him merely as the Creator of heaven and earth, yet God does not accept that honor. That is only to honor Him in a natural way. We never know what it is to honor God correctly so as to be accepted by Him until we come to honor Him in an evangelical way, to honor Him in His Son. Yet the greatest honor He has from most in this world, even from multitudes in the very church of God who hear the mystery of Christ opened to them, is offered to Him merely in a natural way and not in this spiritual, evangelical service of God.

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Dr. R. C. Sproul – Why Do I Need Jesus?

If I’m happy with my life, why do I need Jesus?

I hear that from a lot of folks. They say to me, “I just don’t feel the need for Christ.” As if Christianity were something that were packaged and sold through Madison Avenue! That what we’re trying to communicate to people is “Here’s something that’s going to make you feel good, and everybody needs a little of this in their closet or in their refrigerator,” as if it were some commodity that’s going to add a dash of happiness to our lives.

If the only reason a human being ever needed Jesus was to be happy and a person is already happy without Jesus, then they certainly don’t need Jesus. The New Testament indicates, however, that there’s another reason you or somebody else needs Jesus. There is a God who is altogether holy, who is perfectly just, and who declares that he is going to judge the world and hold every human being accountable for their life. As a perfectly holy and just God, he requires from each one of us a life of perfect obedience and of perfect justness. If there is such a God and if you have lived a life of perfect justness and obedience—that is, if you’re perfect — then you certainly don’t need Jesus. You don’t need a Savior because only unjust people have a problem.

The problem is simply this: If God is just and requires perfection from me and I come short of that perfection and he is going to deal with me according to justice, then I am looking at a future punishment at the hands of a holy God. If the only way I can escape punishment is through a Savior and if I want to escape that, then I need a Savior. Some people will say that we’re just trying to preach Jesus as a ticket out of hell, as a way to escape eternal punishment. That’s not the only reason I would commend Jesus to people, but that is one of the reasons.

I think that many people in today’s culture don’t really believe that God is going to hold them accountable for their lives—that God really does not require righteousness. When we take that view, we don’t feel the weight of the threat of judgment. If you’re not afraid to deal with God’s punishment, then be happy as a clam if you want. I would be living in terrible fear and trembling at the prospect of falling into the hands of a holy God.

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Michael S. Horton – Saved From God

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Undoubtedly the most familiar words in the English Bible, John 3:16 rightly holds the highest place in the Christian memory. For in one succinct sentence, it announces the center of biblical revelation.

First, it assures us that God was loving toward his fallen creatures even before the actual event of the Crucifixion, keeping us from the mistake (too often committed) of assuming that the Cross persuaded God to be merciful. Rather, it was because of his eternally merciful nature that he found a way to reconcile us without alienating himself. God’s love comes before the Cross, eternally prior to it, as he established a covenant of redemption with Christ as the Mediator before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4-11; Jn 6:39; 1 Pt 1:20). Second, it reminds us that God the Father is not the “bad guy” in the drama who would like to condemn, with the Son stepping in to persuade him of the loving path. What could be clearer throughout John’s Gospel than that the Father sent the Son on this loving mission? Too often, in our desire to defend the biblical doctrine of the substitutionary atonement, we risk envisioning the Father as the one who reluctantly saves sinners, as if he has to save them, after all, because the Son has offered the perfect sacrifice. Few actually state it in such stark terms, but often this is the message that people have heard as we explain the orthodox doctrine. The Son, not the Father, was the self-giving victim, but the Father was in Christ when his Son bore his wrath. Instead of confusing or separating the divine persons, let us simply wonder at the foot of the Cross at how God the Father, even in executing his just wrath, could be filled with such anguish and loathing that he would turn his eyes from his own Son (Mk 15:33-34).

But there is still more to this verse: God gave his only-begotten Son. As John’s Gospel declared at the beginning, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God…No one has seen God but God the One and Only.” Not only did God send a Savior, but the Savior he sent was himself God. Furthermore, he was and remains God’s “only-begotten Son.” There are no incarnations before or after the virginal conception of Jesus of Nazareth. Thus, there is no other way to the Father but through this Son. He is not an idea or a principle, but a person. Redemption cannot come through other sons or daughters, through universal truths of human reason, experience, or morality that are somehow present in all major religions. There is only one God and one “only-begotten Son” who is capable of saving. All who are named God’s children derive their sonship by adoption, but this Son is “eternally-begotten before all worlds.” As the eleventh-century theologian Anselm expressed it, our Savior had to be God in order to pay an infinite debt and conquer sin and death. But he had to be Man, since it was humanity, after all, that had merited divine wrath through original and personal sin. So already we see that a high view of the work of Christ requires and rests upon a high view of the person of Christ.

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A. W. Pink – The Holy Spirit’s Work in Salvation

In Acts 19 we learn that when the apostle Paul came to Ephesus he asked some disciples of John the Baptist Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (v. 2) And we are told “They said unto him, No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Sad to say, history has repeated itself. Without doubt, were the members of hundreds of so-called “churches” (in which modernism and worldliness rule) asked the same question—they would be obliged to return an identical answer. The reason why those disciples at Ephesus knew nothing about the Holy Spirit was, most probably, because they had been baptized in Judea by the forerunner of Christ and then had returned to Ephesus where they remained in ignorance of what had taken place on the day of Pentecost. But the reason why the members of the average “church” know nothing about the third Person of the Godhead, is because the preachers they sit under, are silent concerning Him.

Nor is it very much better, with many of the churches still counted as orthodox. Though the Person of the Spirit may not be repudiated and though His name may occasionally be mentioned—yet, with only rare exceptions is there any definite scriptural teaching given out concerning the offices and operations of the divine Comforter. As to His work in salvation, this is very little understood even by professing Christians. In the majority of the places where the Lord Jesus is still formally acknowledged to be the only Savior for sinners, the current teaching of the day is that Christ has made it possible for men to be saved—but that they themselves must decide whether they shall be saved. The idea now so widely prevailing, is that Christ is offered to man’s acceptance, and that he must “accept Christ as his personal Savior,” “give his heart to Jesus,” “take his stand for Christ,” etc., if the blood of the Cross is to avail for his sins. Thus, according to this conception, the finished work of Christ, the greatest work of all time and in all the universe, is left contingent on the fickle will of man as to whether it shall be a success or a failure!

Entering now a much narrower circle in Christendom, in places where it is yet owned that the Holy Spirit has a mission and ministry in connection with the preaching of the Gospel, the general idea prevails even there, that when the Gospel of Christ is faithfully preached, the Holy Spirit convicts men of sin and reveals to them their need of a Savior. But beyond this very few are prepared to go. The theory prevailing in these places is that the sinner has to cooperate with the Spirit, that he himself must yield to the Spirit’s “striving”, or he will not and cannot be saved. But this pernicious and God-insulting theory denies two things: to argue that the natural man is capable of cooperating with the Spirit, is to deny that he is “dead in trespasses and sins” for a dead man is incapable of doing anything. And, to say that the operations of the Spirit in a man’s heart and conscience may be resisted and withstood—is to deny His omnipotence!

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