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Romans x. 1-21

THE problem of Israel is still upon the Apostle's soul. He has explored here and there the conditions of the fact that his brethren, as a mass, have rejected Jesus. He has delivered his heart of its loving human groan over the fact. He has reminded himself, and then his readers, that the fact however involves no failure of the purpose and promise of God; for God from the first had indicated limitations within the apparent scope of the Abrahamic Promise. He has looked in the face, once for all, the mystery of the relation between God's efficient will and the will of the creature, finding a refuge, under the moral strain of that mystery, not away from it but as it were behind it, in the recollection of the infinite trustworthiness, as well as eternal rights, of man's Maker. Then he has recurred to the underlying main theme of the whole Epistle, the acceptance of the sinner in God's own one way; and we have seen how, from Israel's own point of view, Israel has stumbled and fallen just by his own fault. Israel would not rest upon "the Stone of stumbling"; he would collide with it. Divine sovereignty here or there—the heart of Jewish man, in its responsible personality, and wholly of itself, rebelled 265 against a man-humbling salvation. And so all its religiousness, its earnestness, its intensity, went for nothing in the quest for peace and purity. They stumbled—a real striking of real wayward feet—at the Stumbling Stone; which all the while lay ready to be their basis and repose.

He cannot leave the subject, with its sadness, its lessons, and its hope. He must say more of his love and longing for Israel; and also more about this aspect of Israel's fall—this collision of man's will with the Lord's Way of Peace. And he will unfold the deep witness of the prophecies to the nature of that Way, and to the reluctance of the Jewish heart to accept it. Moses shall come in with the Law, and Isaiah with the Scriptures of the Prophets; and we shall see how their Inspirer, all along from the first, indicated what should surely happen when a salvation altogether divine should be presented to hearts filled with themselves.

Brethren, he begins, the deliberate desire (εὐδοκία) of my heart, whatever discouragements may oppose it,167167We thus attempt to convey the force of μέν. and my petition unto God for them,168168So read; not "for Israel." is salvationwards. He is inevitably moved to this by the pathetic sight of their earnestness, misguided indeed, guiltily misguided, utterly inadequate to constitute for them even a phantom of merit; yet, to the eyes that watch it, a different thing from indifference or hypocrisy. He cannot see their real struggles, and not long that they may reach the shore.

For I bear them witness, the witness of one who once was the type of the class, that they have zeal of God, an honest jealousy for His Name, His 266 Word, His Worship, only not in the line of spiritual knowledge (κατ' ἐπίγνωσιν). They have not seen all He is, all His Word means, all His worship implies. They are sure, and rightly sure, of many things about Him; but they have not "seen Him." And so they have not "abhorred themselves" (Job xli. 5, 6). And thus they are not, in their own conviction, shut up to a salvation which must be altogether of Him; which is no contract with Him, but eternal bounty from Him.

Solemn and heart-moving scene! There are now, and were then, those who would have surveyed it, and come away with the comfortable reflection that so much earnestness would surely somehow work itself right at last; nay, that it was already sufficiently good in itself to secure these honest zealots a place in some comprehensive heaven. If ever such thoughts had excuse, surely it was here. The "zeal" was quite sincere. It was ready to suffer, as well as to strike. The zealot was not afraid of a world in arms. And he felt himself on fire not for evil, but for God, for the God of Abraham, of Moses, of the Prophets, of the Promise. Would not this do? Would not the lamentable rejection of Jesus which attended it be condoned as a tremendous but mere accident, while the "zeal of God" remained as the substance, the essence, of the spiritual state of the zealot? Surely a very large allowance would be made; to put it at the lowest terms.

Yet such was not the view of St Paul, himself once the most honest and disinterested Jewish zealot in the world. He had seen the Lord. And so he had seen himself. The deadly mixture of motive which may underlie what nevertheless we may have to call an honest hatred of the Gospel had been shewn to him in the white light of Christ. In that light he had seen—what 267 it alone can fully shew—the condemnableness of all sin, and the hopelessness of self-salvation. From himself he reasons, and rightly, to his brethren. He knows, with a solemn sympathy, how much they are in earnest. But his sympathy conceals no false liberalism; it is not cheaply generous of the claims of God. He does not think that because they are in earnest they are saved. Their earnestness drives his heart to a deeper prayer for their salvation.

For knowing not the righteousness of our (τοῦ) God, His way of being just, yet the Justifier, and seeking to set up their own righteousness, to construct for themselves a claim which should "stand in judgment," they did not submit to the righteousness of our (τοῦ) God, when it appeared before them, embodied in "the Lord our Righteousness." They aspired to acceptance. God bade them submit to it. In their view, it was a matter of attainment; an ascent to a difficult height, where the climber might exult in his success. As He presented it, it was a matter of surrender, as when a patient, given over, places himself helpless in a master-healer's hands, for a recovery which is to be due to those hands alone, and to be celebrated only to their praise.169169Cp. 1 Pet. i. 2; εἰς ὑπακοὴν ... Ἰησοῦ Χριτοῦυ; an "obedience" which means the decisive submission of the sinner to the Saviour's method of mercy.

Alas for such "ignorance" in these earnest souls; for such a failure in Israel to strike the true line of "knowledge"! For it was a guilty failure. The Law had been indicating all the while that their Dispensation was not its own end, but one vast complex means to shut man up to a Redeemer who was at once to satisfy 268 every type, and every oracle, and to supply "the impossible of the Law" (viii. 3), by giving Himself to be the believer's vicarious Merit. For the Law's end, its Goal, its Final Cause in the plan of redemption, is—Christ, unto righteousness, to effect and secure this wonderful acceptance, for every one who believes. Yes, He is no arbitrary sequel to the Law; He stands organically related to it. And to this the Law itself is witness, both by presenting an inexorable and condemning standard as its only possible code of acceptance, and by mysteriously pointing the soul away from that code, in its quest for mercy, to something altogether different, at once accessible and divine. For Moses writes down (γράφει) thus the righteousness got from the Law, "The man who does170170Ὁ ποιήσας: the aorist sums up acts into a single idea of action. them, shall live in it"171171Ἐν αὐτῇ: "in the righteousness"; such seems to be the true reading. To "live in" a righteousness is to live as it were surrounded, guaranteed, by it. (Levit. xviii. 5); it is a matter of personal action and personal meriting alone. Thus the code, feasible and beneficent indeed on the plane of national and social life, which is its lower field of action, is necessarily fatal to fallen man when the question lies between his conscience and the eternal Judge. But the righteousness got from faith, the acceptance received by surrendering trust, thus speaks (Deut. xxx. 12-14)—in Moses' words indeed, (and this is one main point in the reasoning, that he is witness,) yet as it were with a personal voice of its own, deep and tender; "Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend to the heaven?" that is, to bring down Christ, by human efforts, by a climbing merit; "or, Who shall descend into the abyss? that is, to bring up 269 Christ from the dead," as if His victorious Sacrifice needed your supplement in order to its resurrection-triumph. But what does it say? "Near thee is the utterance, the explicit account of the Lord's willingness to bless the soul which casts itself on Him,172172Observe that the context in Deut. xxx. is full of the thought that rebels and law-breakers shall be welcome back when they come penitent to their God, "without one plea," but taking Him at His word. in thy mouth, to recite it, and in thy heart," to welcome it. And this message is the utterance of faith, the creed of acceptance by faith alone, which we proclaim; that if you shall confess in your mouth Jesus as Lord,173173Or, with an alternative reading, "that Jesus is Lord." as divine King and Master, and shall believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, owning in the soul the glory of the Resurrection, as revealing and sealing the triumph of the Atonement, you shall be saved. For with the heart faith is exercised, unto righteousness, with acceptance for its resultant; while (δὲ) with the mouth confession is made, unto salvation, with present deliverance and final glory for its resultant, the moral sequel of a life which owns its Lord as all in all. For the Scripture says (Isai. xxviii. 16), "Everyone who believes on Him shall not be ashamed," 174174See above, ix. 33. shall never be disappointed; shall be "kept, through faith, unto the salvation ready to be revealed in the last time" (1 Pet. i. 5).

We have traversed here a tract pregnant of questions and mystery. We have to remember here also, as in previous places, that the Scripture is "not a sun, but a lamp." Much, very much, which this passage suggests as problem finds in its words no answer. This citation 270 from Deuteronomy, with its vision of ascents and descents, its thoughts of the heaven and the abyss, what did it mean when aged Moses spoke it in the plains of Moab? What did it mean to him? Did he see, did he feel, Messiah in every clause? Had he conscious foreviews, then and there, of what was to be done ages later beyond that stern ridge of hills, westward of "the narrow stream"? Did he knowingly "testify beforehand" that God was to be born Man at Bethlehem, and to die Man at Jerusalem? We do not know; we cannot possibly know, until the eternal day finds Moses and ourselves together in the City of God, and we better understand the mysterious Word, at last, in that great light. If our Master's utterances are to be taken as final, it is quite certain that "Moses wrote of Him" (John v. 46). But it is not certain that he always knew he was so writing when he so wrote; nor is it certain how far his consciousness went when it was most awake that way. In the passage here cited by St Paul the great Prophet may have been aware only of a reference of his words to the seen, the temporal, the national, to the blessings of loyalty to Israel's God-given polity, and of a return to it after times of revolt and decline. But then, St Paul neither affirms this nor denies it. As if on purpose, he almost drops the personality of Moses out of sight, and personifies Justification as the speaker. His concern is less with the Prophet than with his Inspirer, the ultimate Author behind the immediate author. And his own prophet-insight is guided to see that in the thought of that Author, as He wielded Moses' mind and diction at His will, Christ was the inmost purport of the words.

We may ask again what are the laws by which the Apostle modifies here the Prophet's phrases. "Who 271 shall descend into the abyss?" The Hebrew reads, "Who shall go over (or on) the sea?" The Septuagint reads, "Who shall go to the other side of the sea?" Here too "we know in part." Assuredly the change of terms was neither unconsciously made, nor arbitrarily; and it was made for readers who could challenge it, if so it seemed to them to be done. But we should need to know the whole relation of the One inspiring Master to the minds of both His Prophet and His Apostle to answer the question completely. However, we can see that Prophet and Apostle both have in their thought here the antithesis of depth to height; that the sea is, to Moses here, the antithesis to the sky, not to the land; and that St Paul intensifies the imagery in its true direction accordingly when he writes, "into the abyss."

Again, he finds Justification by Faith in the Prophet's oracle about the subjective "nearness" of "the utterance" of mercy. Once more we own our ignorance of the conscious purport of the words, as Moses' words. We shall quite decline, if we are reverently cautious, to say that for certain Moses was not aware of such an inmost reference in what he said; it is very much easier to assert than to know what the limitations of the consciousness of the Prophets were. But here also we rest in the fact that behind both Moses and Paul, in their free and mighty personalities, stood their one Lord, building His Scripture slowly into its manifold oneness through them both. He was in the thought and word of Moses; and meantime already to Him the thought and word of Paul was present, and was in His plan. And the earlier utterance had this at least to do with the later, that it drew the mind of the pondering and worshipping Israel to the idea of a contact with God in His Promises which was not external and 272 mechanical but deep within the individual himself, and manifested in the individual's free and living avowal of it.

As we quit the passage, let us mark and cherish its insistence upon "confession," "confession with the mouth that Jesus is Lord." This specially he connects with "salvation," with the believer's preservation to eternal glory. "Faith" is "unto righteousness"; "confession" is "unto salvation." Why is this? Is faith after all not enough for our union with the Lord, and for our safety in Him? Must we bring in something else, to be a more or less meritorious makeweight in the scale? If this is what he means, he is gainsaying the whole argument of the Epistle on its main theme. No; it is eternally true that we are justified, that we are accepted, that we are incorporated, that we are kept, through faith only; that is, that Christ is all for all things in our salvation, and our part and work in the matter is to receive and hold Him in an empty hand. But then this empty hand, holding Him, receives life and power from Him. The man is vivified by his Rescuer. He is rescued that he may live, and that he may serve as living. He cannot truly serve without loyalty to his Lord. He cannot be truly loyal while he hides his relation to Him. In some articulate way he must "confess Him"; or he is not treading the path where the Shepherd walks before the sheep.

The "confession with the mouth" here in view is, surely, nothing less than the believer's open loyalty to Christ. It is no mere recitation of even the sacred catholic Creed; which may be recited as by an automaton. It is the witness of the whole man to Christ, as his own discovered Life and Lord. And thus it means in effect the path of faithfulness along which the 273 Saviour actually leads to glory those who are justified by faith.

That no slackened emphasis on faith is to be felt here is clear from ver. 11. There, in the summary and close of the passage, nothing but faith is named; "whosoever believeth on Him." It is as if he would correct even the slightest disquieting surmise that our repose upon the Lord has to be secured by something other than Himself, through some means more complex than taking Him at His word. Here, as much as anywhere in the Epistle, this is the message; "from faith to faith." The "confession with the mouth" is not a different something added to this faith; it is its issue, its manifestation, its embodiment. "I believed; therefore have I spoken" (Psal. cxvi. 10).

This recurrence to his great theme gives the Apostle's thought a direction once again towards the truth of the world-wide scope of the Gospel of Acceptance. In the midst of this philo-judean section of the Epistle, on his way to say glorious things about abiding mercy and coming blessing for the Jews, he must pause again to assert the equal welcome of "the Greeks" to the Righteousness of God, and the foreshadow of this welcome in the Prophets. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek (wonderful antithesis to the "no distinction" of iii. 23!). For the same Lord is Lord of all, wealthy to all who call upon Him, who invoke Him, who appeal to Him, in the name of His own mercies in His redeeming Son. For we have the prophecies with us here again. Joel, in a passage (ii. 32) full of Messiah, the passage with which the Spirit of Pentecost filled Peter's lips, speaks thus without a limit; "Every one, whoever shall call upon the Lord's Name, shall be saved." As he cites the words, and the 274 thought rises upon him of this immense welcome to the sinful world, he feels afresh all the need of the heathen, and all the cruel narrowness of the Pharisaism which would shut them out from such an amplitude of blessing. How then can175175Throughout these questions we read the verbs in the conjunctive. they call on Him on whom they never176176We thus represent, with hesitation, the aorist tense. believed? But how can they believe on Him whom they never heard? But how can they hear Him apart from a proclaimer? But how can they proclaim unless they are sent, unless the Church which holds the sacred light sends her messengers out into the darkness? And in this again the Prophets are with the Christian Apostle, and against the loveless Judaist: As it stands written (Isai. lii. 7), "How fair the feet of the gospellers of peace, of the gospellers of good!"177177No doubt the immediate reference of Isai. lii. 7 is to good news for "Zion" rather than from her to the world. But the context is full not only of Messiah but (ver. 15) of "many nations."

Here, as an incident in this profound discussion, is given for ever to the Church of Christ one of the most distinct and stringent of her missionary "marching-orders." Let us recollect this, and lay it on our own souls, forgetting awhile, for we may, the problem of Israel and the exclusiveness of ancient Pharisaism. What is there here for us? What motive facts are here, ready to energize and direct the will of the Christian, and of the Church, in the matter of the "gospelling" of the world?

We take note first of what is written last, the moral beauty and glory of the enterprise. "How fair the feet!" From the view-point of heaven there is nothing on the earth more lovely than the bearing of the name of Jesus Christ into the needing world, when the bearer 275 is one "who loves and knows." The work may have, and probably will have, very little of the rainbow of romance about it. It will often lead the worker into the most uncouth and forbidding circumstances. It will often demand of him the patient expenditure of days and months upon humiliating and circuitous preparations; as he learns a barbarous unwritten tongue, or a tongue ancient and elaborate, in a stifling climate; or finds that he must build his own hut, and dress his own food, if he is to live at all among "the Gentiles." It may lay on him the exquisite—and prosaic—trial of finding the tribes around him entirely unaware of their need of his message; unconscious of sin, of guilt, of holiness, of God. Nay, they may not only not care for his message; they may suspect or deride his motives, and roundly tell him that he is a political spy, or an adventurer come to make his private gains, or a barbarian tired of his own Thule and irresistibly attracted to the region of the sun. He will often be tempted to think "the journey too great for him," and long to let his tired and heavy feet rest for ever. But his Lord is saying of him, all the while, "How fair the feet!" He is doing a work whose inmost conditions even now are full of moral glory, and whose eternal issues, perhaps where he thinks there has been most failure, shall be, by grace, worthy of "the King in His beauty." It is the continuation of what the King Himself "began to do" (Acts i. 1), when He was His own first Missionary to a world which needed Him immeasurably, yet did not know Him when He came.

Then, this paragraph asserts the necessity of the missionary's work still more urgently than its beauty. True, it suggests many questions (what great Scripture does not do so?) which we cannot answer yet at all:—"Why 276 has He left the Gentiles thus? Why is so much, for their salvation, suspended (in our view) upon the too precarious and too lingering diligence of the Church? What will the King say at last to those who never could, by the Church's fault, even hear the blessed Name, that they might believe in It, and call upon It?" He knoweth the whole answer to such questions; not we. Yet here meanwhile stands out this "thing revealed" (Deut. xxix. 29). In the Lord's normal order, which is for certain the order of eternal spiritual right and love, however little we can see all the conditions of the case, man is to be saved through a personal "calling upon His Name." And for that "calling" there is need of personal believing. And for that believing there is need of personal hearing. And in order to that hearing, God does not speak in articulate thunder from the sky, nor send visible angels up and down the earth, but bids His Church, His children, go and tell.

Nothing can be stronger and surer than the practical logic of this passage. The need of the world, it says to us, is not only amelioration, elevation, evolution. It is salvation. It is pardon, acceptance, holiness, and heaven. It is God; it is Christ. And that need is to be met not by subtle expansions of polity and society. No "unconscious cerebration" of the human race will regenerate fallen man. Nor will his awful wound be healed by any drawing on the shadowy resources of a post-mortal hope. The work is to be done now, in the Name of Jesus Christ, and by His Name. And His Name, in order to be known, has to be announced and explained. And that work is to be done by those who already know it, or it will not be done at all. "There is none other Name." There is no other method of evangelization.


Why is not that Name already at least externally known and reverenced in every place of human dwelling? It would have been so, for a long time now, if the Church of Christ had followed better the precept and also the example of St Paul. Had the apostolic missions been sustained more adequately throughout Christian history, and had the apostolic Gospel been better maintained in the Church in all the energy of its divine simplicity and fulness, the globe would have been covered—not indeed in a hurry, yet ages ago now—with the knowledge of Jesus Christ as Fact, as Truth, as Life. We are told even now by some of the best informed advocates of missionary enterprise that if Protestant Christendom (to speak of it alone) were really to respond to the missionary call, and "send" its messengers out not by tens but by thousands (no chimerical number), it would be soberly possible within thirty years so to distribute the message that no given inhabited spot should be, at furthest, one day's walk from a centre of evangelization. This programme is not fanaticism, surely. It is a proposal for possible action, too long deferred, in the line of St Paul's precept and example. It is not meant to discredit any present form of well-considered operation. And it does not for a moment ignore the futility of all enterprise where the sovereign power of the Eternal Spirit is not present. Nor does it forget the permanent call to the Church to sustain amply the pastoral work at home, in "the flock of God which is among us" (1 Pet. v. 2). But it sees and emphasizes the fact that the Lord has laid it upon His Church to be His messenger to the whole world, and to be in holy earnest about it, and that the work, as to its human side, is quite feasible to a Church awake. "Stir up, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the wills of Thy faithful 278 people," to both the glory and the necessity of this labour of labours for Thee, "that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of it, may of Thee be plenteously rewarded," in Thy divine use of their obedience, for the salvation of the world.

But the great Missionary anticipates an objection from facts to his burning plea for the rightness of an unrestrained evangelism. The proclamation might be universal; but were not the results partial? "Here a little, and there a little"; was not this the story of missionary results even when a Paul, a Barnabas, a Peter, was the missionary? Everywhere some faith; but everywhere more hostility, and still more indifference! Could this, after all, be the main track of the divine purposes—these often ineffectual excursions of the "fair feet" of the messengers of an eternal peace? Ah, that objection must have offered no mere logical difficulty to St Paul; it must have pierced his heart. For while His Master was his first motive, his fellow-men themselves were his second. He loved their souls; he longed to see them blessed in Christ, saved in Him from "the death that cannot die," filled in Him with "life indeed" (ἡ ὄντως ζωή, 1 Tim. vi. 19). The man who shed tears over his converts as he warned them (Acts xx. 31) had tears also, we may be sure, for those who would not be converted; nay, we know he had: "I tell you, even weeping (καὶ κλαίων), that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ" (Phil. iii. 18). But here too he leans back on the solemn comfort, the answer from within a veil,—that Prophecy had taken account of this beforehand. Moses, and Isaiah, and David, had foretold on the one hand a universal message of good, but on the other hand a sorrowfully limited response from man, and notably 279 from Israel. So he proceeds: But not all obeyed178178The aorist gathers up the history of evangelization into a point of thought. the good tidings, when "the word" reached them; for—we were prepared for such a mystery, such a grief—for Isaiah says (liii. 1), in his great Oracle of the Crucified, "Lord, who believed our hearing" (ἀκοὴ), the message they heard of us, about One "on whom were laid the iniquities of us all"? And as he dictates that word "hearing," it emphasizes to him the fact that not mystic intuitions born out of the depths of man are the means of revelation, but articulate messages given from the depths of God, and spoken by men to men. And he throws the thought into a brief sentence, such as would lie in a footnote in a modern book: So we gather (ἄρα) that faith comes from hearing; but the hearing comes through Christ's179179Read Χρισυοῦ, probably. utterance (ῥῆμα); the messenger has it because it was first given to him by the Master who proclaimed Himself the Way, Truth, Life, Light, Bread, Shepherd, Ransom, Lord. All is revelation, not reverie; utterance, not insight.

Then the swift thought turns, and returns again. The prophecies have foretold an evangelical utterance to the whole human world. Not only in explicit prediction do they do so, but in the "mystic glory" of their more remote allusions. But I say, Did they not hear? Was this failure of belief due to a limitation of the messenger's range in the plan of God? Nay, rather, "Unto all the earth went out their tone, and to the ends of man's world (ἡ οἰκουμένη) their utterances" (Psal. xix. 4). The words are the voice of that Psalm where 280 the glories of the visible heavens are collocated with the glories of the Word of God. The Apostle hears more than Nature in the Sunrise Hymn of David; he hears grace and the Gospel in the deep harmony which carries the immortal melody along. The God who meant the skies, with their "silent voices," to preach a Creator not to one race but to all, meant also His Word to have no narrower scope, preaching a Redeemer. Yes, and there were articulate predictions that it should be so, as well as starry parables; predictions too that shewed the prospect not only of a world evangelized, but of an Israel put to shame by the faith of pagans. But I say (his rapid phrase meets with an anticipating answer the cavil yet unspoken) did not Israel know? Had they no distinct forewarning of what we see to-day? First comes Moses, saying,180180So we paraphrase πρῶτος (not πρῶτον) Μωϋσῆς λέγει. in his prophetic Song, sung at the foot of Pisgah (Deut. xxxii. 21), "I—the 'I' is emphatic; the Person is the Lord, and the action shall be nothing less than His—I will take a no-nation to181181So we attempt to give the force of ἐπ' οὐκ ἔθνει, ἐπὶ ἔθνει. move your jealousy; to move your anger I will take a nation non-intelligent"; a race not only not informed by a previous revelation, but not trained by thought upon it to an insight into new truth. And what Moses indicates, Isaiah, standing later in the history, indignantly explains: But Isaiah dares anything (ἀποτολμᾷ), and says (lxv. 1), "I was found by those who sought not Me; manifest I became to those who consulted not Me."182182Ἐμὲ is emphatic in both clauses. Ἐπερωτᾶν is used of the consultation of an oracle. Our translation thus seems better than the more secondary explanation, "who sought not to do My will." But as to Israel he says, 281 in the words next in order in the place (lxv. 2), "All the day long I spread my hands open, to beckon and to embrace, towards a people disobeying and contradicting."

So the servant brings his sorrows for consolation to—may we write the words in reverence?—the sorrows of his Master. He mourns over an Athens, an Ephesus, and above all over a Jerusalem, that "will not come to the Son of God, that they might have life" (John v. 40). And his grief is not only inevitable; it is profoundly right, wise, holy. But he need not bear it unrelieved. He grasps the Scripture which tells him that his Lord has called those who would not come, and opened the eternal arms for an embrace—to be met only with a contradiction. He weeps, but it is as on the breast of Jesus as He wept over the City. And in the double certainty that the Lord has felt such grief, and that He is the Lord, he yields, he rests, he is still. "The King of the Ages" (1 Tim. i. 17) and "the Man of Sorrows" are One. To know Him is to be at peace even under the griefs of the mystery of sin.

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