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stances that ever could be imagined; great consternation and amazement: this was the portion of his cup.
By the passing of the cup from him, understand his exemption from suffering that dreadful wrath of God which he foresaw to be now at hand. Christ's meaning in this conditional request is, Father, if it be thy will, excuse me from this dreadful wrath. My soul is amazed at it. Is there no way to shun it? Cannot I be excused? Oh, if it be possible, spare me. This is the meaning of it.
But how could Christ, who knew God had from everlasting determined he should drink it; who had agreed in the covenant of redemption so to do; who came (as himself acknowledges) for that end into the world, John, 18:37; who foresaw this hour all along, and professed when he spake of this bloody baptism with which he was to be baptized, that he was straitened till it was accomplished," Luke, 12:50; how could he now when the cup was delivered to him, so earnestly pray that it might pass from him, or he be excused from suffering. What! did he now repent of his engagement? Doth he now begin to wish to be disengaged, and that he had ⚫ never undertaken such a work? No, no, Christ never repented of his engagement to the Father, never was willing to let the burden lie on us, rather than on himself; there was not such a thought in his holy and faithful heart; but the resolution of this doubt depends upon another distinction, which will show his meaning in it.
Mark then the distinction between absolute and submissive prayers. It was the latter that Christ offered, "If thou be willing;" if not, I will drink it. But you will say, Christ knew what was the mind of God; he knew what transactions had been of old between his Father and him; and therefore though he did not pray absolutely, yet it is strange he would pray conditionally it might pass.
Mark, then, in the second place, the different natures
in which Christ acted. He acted sometimes as God, and sometimes as man. Here he acted according to his human nature; simply expressing and manifesting in this request its reluctance to such sufferings: wherein he showed himself a true man, in shunning that which was destructive to his nature. As Christ had two distinct natures, so two distinct wills. And (as one well observes) in the life of Christ there was an intermixture of power and weakness, of the Divine glory and human frailty. At his birth a star shone, but he was laid in a manger. The devil tempted him in the wilderness, but there angels ministered to him. He was caught by the soldiers in the garden, but first made them fall back. So here, as man he feared and shunned death; but as God-man he willingly submitted to it. "It was (as Deodatus well expresses it) a purely natural desire, by which, as man, for a short moment he apprehended and shunned death and torments; but quickly recalled himself to obedience, by a deliberate will to submit himself to God."
In a word, as there was nothing of sin in it, it being a pure and sinless affection of nature; so there was much good in it, and that both as it was a part of his satisfaction for our sin, to suffer inwardly such fear, trembling, and consternation; and as it was a clear evidence that he was in all things made like unto his brethren, except sin; and also, as it serves to express the grievousness and extremity of Christ's sufferings, the very prospect of which, at some distance, was so dreadful to him.
IV. Let us consider the manner in which he prayed: it was,
1. Solitarily. He doth not here pray in the audience. of his disciples, as he had done before, but went at a distance from them. He had now private business to transact with God. He left some of them at the en
rest, he bids remain He did not desire no, he must "tread
trance of the garden; and Peter, James, and John, who went farther with him than the there, while he went and prayed. them to pray with him, or for him; the wine-press alone." Nor will he have them with him, lest it should discourage them to see and hear how he groaned, trembled, and cried, as one in an agony, to his Father.
Reader, there are times when a christian would not be willing that the dearest and most intimate friend he hath in the world should be privy to what passes between him and his God.
2. It was an humble prayer: that is evident by the postures into which he cast himself; sometimes kneeling, and sometimes prostrate upon his face. He lies in the very dust, lower he cannot fall; and his heart was as low as his body. He is meek and lowly indeed. 3. It was a reiterated prayer; he prays, and then returns to the disciples, as a man in extremity turns every way for comfort: "Father, let this cup pass," but in that request the Father hears him not; though as to support he was heard. Being denied deliverance by his Father, he goes and bemoans himself to his pensive friends, and complains bitterly to them, " My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." But alas! they rather increase than ease his burden. For he finds them asleep, which occasioned that gentle reprehension, "What, could ye not watch with me one hour?" Matt. 26:40. What, not watch with me? Who may expect not watch? I am
it from you more than I? Could you going to die for you, and cannot you watch with me! What! cannot you watch with me one hour? Alas! what if I had required great matters from you? What! not an hour, and that the parting hour too? Christ finds no ease from them, and back again he goes to that sad place which he had stained with a bloody sweat,
and prays to the same purpose again. Oh how he returns upon God again and again, as if he resolved to take no denial! But, considering it must be so, he sweetly falls in with his Father's will," Thy will be done."
4. It was a prayer accompanied with a strange and wonderful agony: "being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." Now he was red indeed in his apparel, as one that trod the wine-press. Consider what an extraordinary load pressed his soul at that time, even such as no mere man felt, or could support, even the wrath of the great and terrible God in its extremity. "Who (saith the prophet Nahum, 1:6) can stand before his indignation? And who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him."
The effects of this wrath, as it fell at this time upon the soul of Christ in the garden, are largely and very emphatically expressed by the several evangelists. Matthew tells us, his soul was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Matt. 26: 38. The word signifies "beset with grief round about." And it is well expressed by that phrase of the psalmist, "The sorrows of death compassed me about, the pains of hell gat hold upon me." Mark varies the expression, and gives us another word no less significant and full, "He began to be sore amazed, and very heavy." Mark, 14:33. Luke has another expression for it in the text; He was "in an agony." An agony is the laboring and striving of nature in extremity. And John gives us another expression, "Now is my soul troubled." John, 12:27. The original word is very significant. This was the load which so oppressed his soul, that it could not find relief in tears; but the innumerable pores of his body are set open, to give vent by letting out streams of blood. And yet all this while no hand of man was upon him. This
was but a prelude to the conflict that was at hand. Now he stood, as it were, arraigned at God's bar, and had to do immediately with him. And you know "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
INFERENCE 1. Did Christ pour out his soul to God so ardently in the garden, when the hour of his trouble was at hand? Then prayer is a singular preparative for, and relief under the greatest trouble. It is a happy circumstance, when troubles find us in the way of our duty. The best posture in which we can wrestle with afflictions is upon our knees. The naturalist tells us, if a lion find a man prostrate he will do him no harm. Christ hastened to the garden to pray, when Judas and the soldiers were hastening thither to apprehend him. Oh! when we are nigh to danger, it is good for us to draw nigh to our God. Then should we be urging that seasonable request to God, "Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help." Psalm 22 : 11. Wo be to him whom death or trouble finds afar off from God. And as prayer is the best preparative for troubles, so it is the choicest relief under them. Griefs are eased by groans. You know it is some relief if a man can pour out his complaint into the bosom of a faithful friend, though he can but pity him; how much more to pour out our complaints into the bosom of a faithful God, who can both pity and help us! Luther was wont to call prayers the leeches of his cares and sorrows; they suck out the bad blood. It is the title of Psalm 102: "A prayer for the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord." It is no small ease to open our hearts to God.
To go to God when thou art full of sorrow, when thy heart is ready to burst within thee, as was Christ's in this day of his trouble; and say, Father, thus and thus the case stands with thy poor child; and so and so it is with me: I will not go up and down complaining from