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Sowing in the Wind, Reaping under Clouds

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BEST of Spurgeon, a must read!

Sowing in the Wind, Reaping under Clouds

"He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds
shall not reap."--Ecclesiastes 11:4.

Sow when the time comes, whatever wind blows. Reap when the times
comes, whatever clouds are in the sky. There are, however, qualifying
proverbs, which must influence our actions. We are not to discard
prudence in the choice of the time for our work. "To every thing there
is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven." It is well to
sow when the weather is propitious. It is wise to "make hay while the
sun shines." Cut your corn when there is the probability of getting it
dry.

But Solomon here is pushing the other side of the matter. He had seen
prudence turn to idleness; he had noticed some people wait for a more
convenient season, which never came. He had observed sluggards making
excuses, which did not hold water. So he, with a blunt word, generalizes, in
order to make the truth more forcible. Not troubling about the exceptions to
the rule, he states it broadly thus: "Take no notice of winds or clouds. Go
one with your work whatever happens. 'He that observeth the wind shall not
sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap.'"

I. The first thought that is suggested by these words is this: NATURAL
DIFFICULTIES MAY BE UNDULY CONSIDERED. A man may observe the wind, and regard
the clouds a great deal too much, and so
neither sow nor reap.

Note here, first, that in any work this would hinder a man. In any
labour to which we set our hand, if we take too much notice of the
difficulties, we shall be hindered in it. It is very wise to know the
difficulty of your calling, the sorrow which comes with it, the trial
which arises out of it, the temptation connected therewith; but if you
think too much of these things, there is no calling that will be carried
on with any success. Poor farmers, they have a crop of hay and cannot
get it in; they may fret themselves to death if they like, and never earn a
penny for a seven years' fretting! We say of their calling that it is
surrounded with constant trouble. They may lose everything just at the
moment when they are about to gather it in. The seed may perish under
the clods when it is first sown. It is subject to blight and mildew, and
bird, and worm, and I know not what beside; and then, at the last, when
the farmer is about to reap the harvest, it may disappear before the
sickle can cut it.

Take the case of the sailor. If he regards winds and
clouds, will he ever be put to sea? Can you give him a promise that the
wind will be favourable in any of his voyages, or that he will reach his
desired haven without a tempest? He that observeth the winds and
clouds, will not sail; and he that regardeth the clouds will never cross
the mighty deep.

If you turn from the farmer and the sailor, and come
to the trader, what tradesman will do anything if he is always worrying
about the competition, and about the difficulties of his trade, which is
so cut up that there is no making a living by it? I have heard this, I
think, about every trade, and yet our friends keep on living, and some
of them get rich, when they are supposed to be losing money every
year! He that regardeth the rise and fall of prices, and is timid, and will
do no trading because of the changes on the market, will not reap. If
you come to the working-man, it is the same as with those I have
mentioned; for there is no calling or occupation that is not surrounded
with difficulties. In fact, I have formed this judgment from what friends
have told me, that every trade is the worst trade out; for I have found
somebody in that particular line who has proved this to a
demonstration. I cannot say that I am an implicit believer in all I hear
about this matter. Still, if I were, this would be the conclusion that I
should come to, that he that observed the circumstances of any trade or
calling, would never engage in it at all; he would never sow; and he
would never reap. I suppose he would go to bed, and sleep all the four-
and-twenty hours of the day; and after a while, I am afraid he would
find it become impossible even to do that, and he would learn that to
turn, with the sluggard, like a door on its hinges, is not unalloyed
pleasure after all.

Well now, dear friends, if there be these difficulties in connection with
earthly callings and trades, do you expect there will be nothing of the
kind with regard to heavenly things? Do you imagine that, in sowing
the good seed of the kingdom, and gathering the sheaves into the
garner, you will have no difficulties and disappointments? Do you
dream that, when you are bound for heaven, you are to have smooth
sailing and propitious winds all the voyage? Do you think that, in your
heavenly trading, you will have less trials than the merchant who has
only to do with earthly business? If you do, you make a great mistake.
You will not be likely to enter upon the heavenly calling, if you do
nothing else but unduly consider the difficulties surrounding it.

But, next, in the work of liberality this would stay us. This is Solomon's
theme here. "Cast thy bread upon the waters:" "Give a portion to seven, and
also to eight;" and so on. He means, by my text, that if anybody occupies his
mind unduly with the difficulties connected with liberality, he will do
nothing in that line. "He that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that
regardeth the clouds shall not reap.." "How am I to know," says one, " that
the person to whom I give my money is really deserving? How do I know what he
will do with it? How do I know but what I may be encouraging idleness or
begging? By giving to the man, I may be doing him real injury." Perhaps you
are not asked to give to an individual, but to some great work. Then, if you
regard the clouds, you will begin to say, "How do I know that this work will
be successful, the sending of missionaries to a cultivated people like the
Hindoos? Is it likely that they will be converted?" You will not sow, and you
will not reap, if you talk like that; yet there are many who do speak in that
fashion. There was never an enterprise started yet but somebody objected to
it; and I do not believe that the best work that Christ himself ever did was
beyond criticism; there were some people who were sure to find some fault
with it. "But," says another, "I have heard that the management at
headquarters is not all it ought to be; I think that there is too much money
spent on the secretary, and that there is a great deal lost in this direction
and in that." Well, dear friend, it goes without saying that if you managed
things, they would be managed perfectly; but, you see, you cannot do
everything, and therefore you must trust somebody. I can only say, with
regard to societies, agencies, works, and missions of all kinds, "He that
observeth the wind shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not
reap." If that is what you are doing, finding out imperfections and
difficulties, it will end in this, you will do nothing at all.

Going a little further, as this is true of common occupations and of
liberality, so it is especially true in the work of serving God. Now, if I
were to consider in my mind nothing but the natural depravity of man,
I should never preach again. To preach the gospel to sinners, is as
foolish a thing as to bid dead men rise out of their graves. For that
reason I do it, because it has pleased God, "by the foolishness of
preaching, to save them that believe." When I look upon the alienation
from God, the hardness of the human heart, I see that old Adam is too
strong for me; and if I regarded that one cloud of the fall, and original
sin, and the natural depravity of man, I, for one, should neither sow nor
reap. I am afraid that there has been a good deal of this, however.
Many preachers have contemplated the ruin of man, and they have had
so clear a view of it that they dare not say, "Thus saith the Lord, Ye dry
bones, live." They are unable to cry, "Dear Master, speak through us,
and say, 'Lazarus, come forth!' " Some seem to say, "Go and see if
Lazarus has any kind of feeling of his condition in the grave. If so, I
will call him out, because I believe he can come;" thus putting all the
burden on Lazarus, and depending upon Lazarus for it. But we say,
"Though he has been dead four days, and is already becoming corrupt,
that has nothing to do with us. If our Master bids us call him out from
his grace, we can call him out, and he will come; not because he can
come by his own power, but because God can make him come, for the
now is when they that are in their graves shall hear the voice of God,
and they that shall hear shall live.

But, dear friends, there are persons to whom we should never go to
seek their salvation if we regarded the winds and the clouds, for they
are peculiarly bad people. You know, from observation, that there are
some persons who are much worse than others, some who are not
amenable to kindness, or any other human treatment. They do not seem
to be terrified by law, or affected by love. We know people who go
into a horrible temper every now and then, and all the hope we had of
them is blown away, like sere leaves in the autumn wind. You know
such, and you "fight shy" with them. There are such boys, and there are
such girls, full of mischief, and levity, or full of malice and bitterness;
and you say to yourself, "I cannot do anything with them. It is of no
use." Just so. You are observing the winds, and regarding the clouds.
You will not be one of those to whom Isaiah says, "Blessed be ye that
sow beside all waters."

Some one may say, "I would not mind the moral condition of the
people, but it is their surroundings that are the trouble. What is the use
of trying to save a man while he lives, as he does, in such a horrible
street, in one room? What is the use of seeking to raise such and such a
woman while she is surrounded, as she is, with such examples? The
very atmosphere seems tainted." Just so, dear friend; while you observe
the winds, and regard the clouds, you will now sow, and you will not
reap. You will not attempt the work, and of course you will not
complete what you do not commence.

So, you know, you can go on making all kinds of excuses for doing
nothing with certain people, because you feel or think that they are not
those whom God is likely to bless. I know this to be a common case,
even with very serious and earnest workers for Christ. Let is not be so
with you, dear friends; but be you one of those who obey the poet's
words,--

"Beside all waters sow;
The highway furrows stock;
Drop it where thorns and thistles grow;
Scatter it on the rock."

Let me carry this principle, however, a little further. You may unduly
consider circumstances in reference to the business of your own eternal
life. You may, in that matter, observe the winds, and never so; you may
regard the clouds, and never reap. "I feel," says one, "as if I never can
be saved. There never was such a sinner as I am. My sins are peculiarly
black." Yes, and if you keep on regarding them, and do not remember
the Saviour, and his infinite power to save, you will not sow in prayer
and faith. "Ah, sir; but you do not know the horrible thoughts I have,
the dark forebodings that cross my mind!" I know that, dear friend; I do
not know them. I know what I feel myself, and I expect that your
feelings are very like my own; but, be what they may, if, instead of
looking to Christ, you are always studying your own condition, your
own withered hopes, your own broken resolutions, then you will still
keep where you are, and you will neither sow nor reap.

Beloved Christians, you who have been believers for years, if you
begin to live by your frames and feelings, you will get into the same
condition. "I do not feel like praying," says one. Then is the time when
you ought to pray most, for you are evidently most in need; but if you
keep observing whether or not you are in the proper frame of mind for
prayer, you will not pray. "I cannot grasp the promises," says another;
"I should like to joy in God, and firmly believe in his Word; but I do
not see anything in myself that can minister to my comfort." Suppose
you do not. Are you, after all, going to build upon yourself? Are you
trying to find your ground of consolation in your own heart? If so, you
are on the wrong tack. Our hope is not in self, but in Christ; let us go
and sow it. Our hope is in the finished work of Christ; let us go and
reap it; for, if we keep on regarding the winds and the clouds, we shall
neither sow nor reap. I think it is a great lesson to learn in spiritual
things, to believe in Christ, and his finished salvation, quite as much as
when you are down as when you are up; for Christ is not more Christ
on the top of the mountain than he is in the bottom of the valley, and he
is no less Christ in the storm by midnight than he is in the sunshine by
day. Do not begin to measure your safety by your comfort; but measure
it by the eternal Word of God, which you have believed, and which you
know to be true, and on which you rest; for still here, within the little
world of our bosom, "he that observeth the wind shall not sow; and he
that regardeth the clouds shall not reap." We want to get out of that
idea altogether.

I have said enough to prove the truth of my first observation, namely,
that natural difficulties may be unduly considered.

II. My second observation is this: SUCH CONSIDERATION INVOLVES US IN SEVERAL
SINS.

If we keep on observing circumstances, instead of trusting God, we
shall be guilty of disobedience. God bids me sow: I do not sow,
because the wind would blow some of my seed away. God bids me
reap: I do not reap, because there is a black cloud there, and before I
can house the harvest, some of it may be spoiled. I may say what I like;
but I am guilty of disobedience. I have not done what I was bidden to
do. I have made an excuse of the weather; but I have been disobedient.
Dear friends, it is yours to do what God bids you do, whether the
heavens fall down or not; and, if you knew they would fall, and you
could prop them up by disobedience, you have no right to do it. What
may happen from our doing right, we have nothing to do with; we are
to do right, and take the consequences cheerfully. Do you want
obedience to be always rewarded by a spoonful of sugar? Are you such
a baby that you will do nothing unless there shall be some little toy for
you directly after? A man in Christ Jesus will do right, though it shall
involve him in losses and crosses, slanders and rebukes; yea, even
martyrdom itself. May God help you so to do! He that observeth the
wind, and does not sow when he is bidden to cast his seed upon the
waters, is guilty of disobedience.

Next, we are guilty also of unbelief, if we cannot sow because of the
wind. Who manages the wind? You distrust him who is Lord of the
north, and south, and east, and west. If you cannot reap because of a
cloud, you doubt him who makes the clouds, to whom the clouds are
the dust of his feet. Where is your faith? Where is your faith? "Ah!"
says one, "I can serve God when I am helped, when I am moved, when
I can see a hope of success." That is poor service, service devoid of
faith. May I not say of it, "Without faith it is impossible to please
God"? Just in proportion to the quantity of faith, that there is in what
we do, in that proportion will it be acceptable with God. Observing of
winds and clouds is unbelief. We may call it prudence; but unbelief is
its true name.

The next sin is really rebellion. So you will not sow unless God
chooses to make the wind blow your way; and you will not reap unless
God pleases to drive the clouds away? I call that revolt, rebellion. An
honest subject loves the king in all weathers. The true servant serves
his master, let his master do what he wills. Oh, dear friends, we are too
often aiming at God's throne! We want to get up there, and manage
things,--

"Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his judgments, be the god of God."

Oh, if he would but alter my circumstances! What is this but tempting
God, as they did in the wilderness, wishing him to do other than he
does? It is wishing him to do wrong; for what he does is always right;
but we must not so rebel, and vex his Holy Spirit, by complaining of
what he does. Do you not see that this is trying to throw the blame of
our shortcomings upon the Lord? "If we do not sow, do not blame us;
God did not send the right wind. If we did not reap, pray not to censure
us; how could we be expected to reap, while there were clouds in the
skies?" What is this but a wicked endeavour to blame God for our own
neglect and wrong-doing, and to make Divine Providence the pack-
horse upon which we pile our sins? God save us from such rebellion as
that!

Another sin of which we are guilty, when we are always looking at our
circumstances, is this, foolish fear. Though we may think that there is
no sin in it, there is great sin in foolish fear. God has commanded his
people not to fear; then we should obey him. There is a cloud; why do
you fear it? It will be gone directly; not a drop of rain may fall out of it.
You are afraid of the wind; why fear it? It may never come. Even if it
were some deadly wind that was approaching, it might shift about, and
not come near you. We are often fearing what never happens. We feel a
thousand deaths in fearing one. Many a person has been afraid of what
never would occur. It is a great pity to whip yourselves with imaginary
rods. Wait till the trouble comes; else I shall have to tell you the story I
have often repeated of the mother whose child would cry. She told it
not to cry, but it would cry. "Well," she said, "if you will cry, I will
give you something to cry for." If you get fearing about nothing, the
probability is that you will get something really to fear, for God does
not love his people to be fools.

There are some who fall into the sin of penuriousness. Observe, that
Solomon was here speaking of liberality. He that observeth the clouds
and the winds thinks "That is not a good object to help," and that he
will do harm if he gives here, or if he gives there. It amounts to this,
poor miser, you want to save your money! Oh, the ways we have of
making buttons with which to secure the safety of our pockets! Some
persons have a button manufactory always ready. They have always a
reason for not giving to anything that is proposed to them, or to any
poor person who asks their help. I pray that every child of God here
may avoid that sin. "Freely ye have received, freely give." And since
you are stewards of a generous Master, let it never be said that the most
liberal of Lords has the stingiest of stewards.

Another sin is often called idleness. The man who does not sow
because of the wind, is usually too lazy to sow; and the man who does
not reap because of the clouds is the man who wants a little more sleep,
and a little more slumber, and a little more folding of the hands to
sleep. If we do not want to serve God, it is wonderful how many
reasons we can find. According to Solomon, the sluggard said there
was a lion in the streets. "There is a lion in the way," said he, " a lion is
in the streets." What a lie it was, for lions are as much afraid of streets
as men are of deserts! Lions do not come into streets. It was idleness
that said the lion was there. You were asked to preach the other night,
and you could preach, but you said, no, you could not preach.
However, you attended a political meeting, did you not, and talked
twice as long as you would have done if you had preached? Another
friend, asked to teach in Sunday-school, said, "I have no gifts of
teaching." Somebody afterwards remarked of you that you had no gifts
of teaching, and you felt very vexed, and asked what right had anyone
to say that of you? I have heard persons run themselves down, when
they have been invited to and Christian work, as being altogether
disqualified; and when somebody has afterwards said, "That is true,
you cannot do anything, I know," they have looked as if they would
knock the speaker down. Oh, yes, yes, yes, we are always making these
excuses about winds and clouds, and there is nothing in either of them.
It is all meant to save our corn-seed, and to save us the trouble of
sowing it.

Do you not see, I have made out a long list of sins wrapped up in this
observing of winds and clouds? If you have been guilty of any of them,
repent of your wrong-doing, and do not repeat it.

III. I will not keep you longer over this part of the subject. I will now
make a third remark very briefly: LET US PROVE THAT WE HAVE NOT FALLEN INTO
THIS EVIL. How can we prove it?

Let us prove it, firstly by sowing in the most unlikely places. What says
Solomon? "Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after
many days." Go, my brothers and sisters, and find out the most unlikely
people, and begin to work for God with them. Now, try, if you can, to
pick out the worst street in your neighbourhood, and visit from house
to house, and if there is a man or woman more given up than another,
make that person the object of your prayers and of your holy
endeavours. Cast your bread upon the waters; then it will be seen that
you are trusting God, not trusting the soil, nor trusting the seed.

Next, prove it by doing good to a great many. "Give a portion to seven,
and also to eight." Talk of Christ to everybody you meet with. If God
has not blessed you to one, try another; and if he has blessed you with
one, try two others; and if he has blessed you to two others, try four
others; and always keep on enlarging your seed-plot as your harvest
comes in. If you are doing much, it will be shown that you are not
regarding the winds and the clouds.

Further, prove that you are not regarding winds and clouds by wisely
learning from the clouds another lesson than the one they seem made to
teach. Learn this lesson: "If the clouds be full of rain, they empty
themselves upon the earth;" and say to yourself, "If God has made me
full of grace, I will go and pour it out to others. I know the joy of being
saved, if I have had fellowship with him, I will make a point of being
more industrious than ever, because God has been unusually gracious
to me. My fulness shall be helpful to others. I will empty myself for the
good of others, even as the clouds pour down the rain upon the earth."

Then, beloved, prove it still by not wanting to know how God will
work. There is a great mystery of birth, how the human soul come to
inhabit the body of the child, and how the child is fashioned. Thou
knowest nothing about it, and thou canst know. Therefore do not look
about thee to see what thou canst not understand, and pry into what is
concealed from thee. Go out and work; go out and preach; go out and
instruct others. Go out to seek to win souls. Thus shalt thou prove, in
very truth, that thou art not dependent upon surroundings and
circumstances.

Again, dear friend, prove this by consistent diligence. "In the morning
sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand." "Be instant
in season, out of season." I had a friend, who had learned the way to
put a peculiar meaning upon that passage of Scripture, "Let not thy
right hand know what thy left hand doeth." He thought that the best
way was to have money in both pockets; put one hand into each
pocket, and then put both hands on the collection plate. I never
objected to this interpretation of the passage. Now, the way to serve
Christ. Is to do all you possibly can, and then as much more. "No," says
you, "that cannot be." I do not know that it cannot be. I found that the
best thing I ever did was a thing I could not do. What I could do well,
that was my own; but what I could not do, but still did, in the name and
strength of the Eternal Jehovah, was the best thing I had done. Beloved,
sow in the morning, sow in the evening, sow at night, sow all day long,
for you can never tell what God will bless; but by this constant sowing,
you will prove to demonstration that you are not observing the winds,
nor regarding the clouds.

IV. I now come to my concluding observation: LET US KEEP THIS EVIL OUT OF OUR
HEARTS AS WELL AS OUT OF OUR WORK.

And, first, let us give no heed to the winds and clouds of doctrine that
are everywhere about us now. Blow, blow, ye stormy winds; but you
shall not move me. Clouds of hypotheses and inventions, come up with
you, as many as you please, till you darken all the sky; but I will not
fear you. Such clouds have come before, and have disappeared, and
these will disappear, too. If you sit down, and think of man's inventions
of error, and their novel doctrines, and how the churches have been
bewitched by them, you will get into such a state of mind that you will
neither sow nor reap. Just forget them. Give yourself to your holy
service as if there were no winds and no clouds; and God will give you
such comfort in your soul that you will rejoice before him, and be
confident in his truth.

And then, next, let us not lose hope because of doubts and temptations.
When the clouds and the winds get into your heart, when you do not
feel as you used to feel, when you have not that joy and elasticity of
spirit you once had, when your ardour seems a little damped, and even
your faith begins to hesitate a little, go you to God all the same. Trust
him still.

"And when thine eye of faith grows dim,
Still hold to Jesus, sink or swim;
Still at his footstool bow the knee,
And Israel's God thy strength shall be."

Do not go up and down like the mercury in the weather-glass; but
know what you know, and believe what you believe. Hold to it, and
God keep you in one mind, so that none can turn you; for, if not, if you
begin to notice these things, you will neither sow nor reap.

Lastly, let us follow the Lord's mind, and come what will. In a word, set
your face, like a flint, to serve God, by the maintenance of his truth, by
your holy life, by the savour of your Christian character; and, that
being done, defy earth and hell. If there were a crowd of devils
between you and Christ, kick a lane through them by holy faith. They
will fly before you. If you have but the courage to make an advance,
they cannot stop you. You shall make a clear gangway through legions
of them. Only be strong, and of good courage, and do not regard even
the clouds from hell, or the blasts from the infernal pit; but go straight
on in the path of right, and God being with you, you shall sow and you
shall reap, unto his eternal glory.

Will some poor sinner here to-night, whether he sinks or swims, trust
Christ? Come, if you feel less inclined to-night to hope, than you ever
did before. Have hope even now; hope against hope; belief against
belief. Cast yourself on Christ, even though he may seem to stand with
a drawn sword in his hand, to run you through; trust even an angry
Christ. Though your sins have grieved him, come and trust him. Do not
stop for winds to blow over, or clouds to burst. Just as thou art, without
one trace of anything that is good about thee, come and trust Christ as
thy Saviour, and thou art saved. God give you grace to do so, for Jesus'
sake! Amen.
 
Member
Coconut,

Thanks for the excellent post. iI especially liked your reference to making prudence an excuse for doing nothing.

Good withholds Divine Revelation from those who proudly esteem themselves as being prudent and gives it to those who are humble and open to His Word.

SLE
 
Member
"If the clouds be full of rain, they empty
themselves upon the earth;" and say to yourself, "If God has made me full of grace, I will go and pour it out to others.
And, first, let us give no heed to the winds and clouds of doctrine that are everywhere about us now. Blow, blow, ye stormy winds; but you
shall not move me. Clouds of hypotheses and inventions, come up with you, as many as you please, till you darken all the sky; but I will not fear you. Such clouds have come before, and have disappeared, and these will disappear, too. If you sit down, and think of man's inventions
of error, and their novel doctrines, and how the churches have been bewitched by them, you will get into such a state of mind that you will neither sow nor reap. Just forget them. Give yourself to your holy service as if there were no winds and no clouds; and God will give you
such comfort in your soul that you will rejoice before him, and be confident in his truth.
Thanks Coconut, Great post, I haven't read any Spurgeon lately, good stuff!
 
Member
Cloud Watcher Revealed

:love: I am guilty, Coconut, of not casting my bread upon the waters. I need to get back to being serious about sowing seed and specifically, witnessing.
Oh, my, I have so many excuses, and when I think of them now, they are so silly. "I don't have time, I have the baby." "They won't listen." "I don't have anything special to offer." "I need to mind my own business." "They might hurt my children or my husband and infiltrate our lives." The list goes on, and on. When I first got saved, I was not like that!!! I was everywhere in the neighborhood, at the store, just daring people to look at the light and joy on my face so that I could tell them Who gave it to me!!!!! I have become a coward, a softie, looking at the clouds and the wind. I will be returning to this post of Spurgeon's and praying about taking these words to immediate action without fear, worry, and timidity. Thank you, Jesus, Praise You, Lord.
 
Member
"What I could do well, that was my own; but what I could not do, but still did, in the name and strength of the Eternal Jehovah, was the best thing I had done." Glory to God!

How could Charles know his message would cross the span of a hundred years or more, and still carry the weight of eternal power to change hearts and lives forever!

Mat 9:36 But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.
Mat 9:37 Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few;
Mat 9:38 Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.
 

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