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Instead of straining to make Christ appear brave in his afflictions, or on the other hand of blushing at some apparent pusillanimity, they let us freely into a full view of his faintness and sorrow. This fact has bewildered a host of critics, who " are wise above what is written." The agonizing sweat, the necessity of receiving comfort from an angel, have staggered them. Some have been so afraid of the bearing of these two occurrences upon the character of Christ, that they have expunged Luke 22: 43, 44, from the record.* Others have endeavored to fritter away the true sense of the verses; one supposing that the disciples, their own eyes being yet scarcely opened from sleep, mistook a shadow, or Christ himself, for an angel; a second supposing that they derived their belief in the angel's visit from a misunderstanding of an expression of Jesus; a third, that the account of the angel is a mere fable, conformed to the Jewish mode of explaining unusual events. Of this last opinion, is Gabler ; and, so long as he overlooks the peculiar meaning of the Redeemer's agony, he reasons well. “ Christ,” he says, " as through his whole life, so also in the last act of his life, displayed the greatest wisdom, constancy, greatness of mind. Although therefore, being truly a man, he might be affected according to the manner of men, and might tremble under his impending grievous woes; yet the anxiety of mind by which he was oppressed could not be lasting; and as he was eminently conspicuous for wisdom and magnanimity, he must have repressed all his disquietude by his own strength, and have solaced himself in the recollection of his Father's love, in the thought of his own office, and the advantages redounding to the world from his death. Therefore, the appearance of an angel by which his mind might be strengthened, was evidently superfluous.”+ Such testimony is valuable. It shews, that just in proportion as we exalt our estimate of Christ's human virtues, we must attribute his peeuliar melancholy in the garden to a peculiar cause. In a person of ordi. nary weaknesses, this agitation or manner would be far less noticeable than in one so distinguished for a clear and solid mind, an equable temperament, considerateness, patience, and fortitude. In him, as a common man, it is foreign from all that we should have expected, from all that had been witnessed before : it is a mystery.
The frankness of the Evangelists in relating his sorrow
Several Greek and Latin manuscripts, of very early date, omitted these two verses according 10 Epiphanius, Hilary, and Jerome.
+ See Kuinoel on the Evang. vol. 2. pp. 688, 9.
without the least attempt to apologize, shows that they regarded it as the price of our pardon; that they saw the necessity of his being pained and afflicted. All the sins of all generations of men were heaped together upon his head : how could be then be cheerful? His Father was expressing to him the unmingled displeasure of a God toward wrong: how could he then be glad ? He chose to be almost overwhelmed with anguish, or he would have failed to prove how much God hated sin. He chose to let men see, that his baptism was a baptism of blood. For the world he would not have it thought, that he was insensible to his pangs
As much as he valued his Father's justice, he was intent on showing, that the “stripes with which we are healed” were heart-felt, and the price for our ransom was an immense agony in his own spirit. No other man ever endured so violent temptation as he, so strong trials of fortitude and fidelity. Who but he ever carried the sorrows of bis ancestry and successors? Who but he ever bore a world's salvation ? His fortitude amid all his wailings was unparalled; his love for enemies greater than all our love for friends. Here then is the reason, why the Apostles gloried in publishing his tremblings; it was the only way to make known his magnanimity; his matchless compassion ; his love, that would resist a world's hatred and the malignity of hell. Here is the reason why saints, instead of dying like their inodel, have died triumphing in his groans and tears; it was that he groaned as the Redeemer, and wept to wash out the sins of all. Else is their “glorying void ;” nay it is cruel; for why shall we clap our hands at sight of the cross? Else is the boasting of the Apostles, else is the whole New Testament a riddle which man cannot expound; for who ever heard of such zeal to paint the distresses of a champion ; such confidence in the overwhelming agonies of a king and a conqueror ?
But the question is yet to be answered, what was the cup, from which Christ begged to be released? Can it be, that he shrank from making an atonement ? More than all things else, he desired to make it. His whole soul was bound up in the thought of dying. As he spake in the temple no longer ago than the preceding Monday, he exclaimed," now is my soul troubled; ond shall I say, Father save me from this hour of suffering ? No, no. For this very hour came I into the world.” I was born that I may suffer. I have set my heart upon saving the race. "Father glorify thy name." Besides,
“” Christ knew his Father's will that he should be crucified, and for the world he would not pray against that will. Still more, his prayer was answered; "he was heard in respect to that he
feared;" God commissioned an angel to relieve him, and so the cup passed away without his drinking it. But did he not die? Did he not atone for sin ? Then atoning death was not the
It was deliverance from the cup of frailty, rather than of suffering that he begged; from being left, as in his human nature he might be left, to sink under the load of his troubles, and thus lose his ability 10 redeem. He had heretofore received peculiar aid from God, John 3: 34; but that aid, when most needed, was to be withdrawn. In his capacity as a man, he was inferior both to the good and evil angels; yet now in this simple capacity, he was to be exposed to the whole army of fallen spirits. As the time of his death was to be the most important time that the world ever saw, the fallen spirits would occupy this time with more artful stratagems and bolder attacks, than were ever attempted before. Luke says, (4: 13,) that after the struggle in the wilderness, Satan had departed from Christ for a season ; John implies, (14: 30,) that the cunning deceiver having collected his strength, and finding the man again in a solitude, came back to him with fresh virulence. It was an alarming question to the victim of these attacks, can a man, deserted by his father and encompassed with foes, who by nature are stronger than he, who are aware that now is their time, and who put forth unprecedented power because their time is short; can a man, all alone, sustain their incessant and violent assaults? No wonder that this danger almost overpowers him. Oh, should he sink under the withdrawment of God's face, should the temptations which had been resisted in the wilderness now prevail, the long wished atonement could not be made. If, in the extremity of all his sufferings bodily and mental, the great adversary should raise in him one thought of impatience, or entice him into a solitary wish that God would change his decree, then would the sacrifice he incomplete. The lamb must be without blemish, or its death without avail. Or if, remaining incorrupt, he should give way to sorrow, and die before he was delivered to the cross, then too the predicted scheme of salvation would fail. What a harrowing thought was this to the soul of Jesus! He recoiled from the thought of sinning. He could not bear to think of going to his father's house, until he could say, “ the work which thou gavest me to do," " it is finished.” He prayed, and prayed, and prayed, that he might not yield as a captive to his wonderful temptations, nor sink into premature death under his wonderful burdens. Instead then of praying, that he might not die as an atoning sacrifice, he prayed that he might die so; and the cup, from which he
would fain be delivered, was just the opposite of that which selfish men have imagined.*
And now, as to the record of an angel's appearance to Jesus, did any one, unsophisticated, ever question its literal truth? Why should it be questioned? Does the reception of angelic aid derogate from the divine honor of Christ?' Why need we forget, that Christ was a man, as really as we; that God answered his prayers as he answered ours, by employing the instrumentality of second causes; and that angels, being superior to Christ's human nature, might as well be employed to assist it when in need, as to assist Paul and Silas when in prison. He needed the consoling offices of a bright spirit from heaven, as much as he ever needed food or sleep, and it was no more derogatory to be cheered by an intelligence above him, than to be carried, as he was on the Monday previous, by an animal below him ; see Matt. 21 : 1–11.
It was during Christ's third prayer, that he became more fervent, more importunate than ever. His earnestness rose with his distress, and at the height of his distress the supplicated aid was given. A friend, hale and vigorous from God's circle, strengthened him to sustain the ponderous load without sinking. Never, therefore, can we find a better example of both the duty and the influence of prayer. Christ prayed perseveringly ;-while the answer was long deferred. It is the characteristic of true perseverance, to importune through the longest delay in the darkest night, without a gleam of evidence that the answer is coming. He prayed submissively ; while the answer was most intensely longed after. So strong was the Saviour's will, that once, twice, yea thrice he withdrew in solitude ; for a whole hour lay on the cold earth in high excitement; praying perseveringly that he might not sink under his load ; yet he was willing to give up this strong desire for the mere pleasure of his Sovereign. Sometimes we submit, because we say, “it is just, we deserve the evil we suffer;" Christ submitted not to evil which he had deserved, but to the simple will of another. It is the characteristic of submission to surrender our highest good to the will of him who "giveth no
* It is unbecoming in us to pronounce confidently, on the causes of Christ's suffering in the garden, or the meaning of his prayer. The Scriptures being so silent on the subjeci, we must be content with probability, and may well suppose that the full cause of ihe agony cannot be ascertained on earth. Read on the subject, Doddridge's Family Expositor, page 317, Note b., also Shari's Com. on the Hebrews, Excursus 11; also Hess. Geshichte der drey leizen Lebens-jahre Jesu, B. 10. C.). For illustrations of the word “cup," as used in the prayer, see Ps. 11 : 7; 75: 7,8; Is. 51 :
Jer. 25: 15; 49: 12; 51:7; Rev. 14:"10. Christ had previously alluded to it; sce Matt. 20 : 22; Mark 10: 38 ; John 18: 11. VOL. VI-NO. X.
account to his servants." Christ prayed affectionately, while drinking the bitterness of his Father's chastisement. How difficult we find it to love God when we are in acute pain! How much more difficult would it be, if that pain were not deserved! But Christ, while "wounded and bruised” by Jehovah "for our transgressions," not his own, was so far from murmuring, that he looked up with a child's love, and could not leave off the endearing appellation, " Father," but must say “Abba,” even when the Father's face was clouded with a frown. His prayer availed much at least ; the fervent prayer of the righteous man always will avail much. At the very time when most needed did the answer come; the time of his greatest distress; in the very way which was most honorable to him, because a spiritual way; most interesting to us, because so instructive. It instructs us in the humanity of Jesus, he was strengthened by one stronger than he; in God's mode of instrumental government, “who maketh his angels spirits, his ministers a flame of fire.” The curiosity of man would fain search ont, what was the angel's name, to what order did he belong, did he ever appear on earth before or since? Was it Gabriel, or Michael, or he who came down to Christ in the wilderness, or he who brought “good tidings" to the shepherds of Bethlehem? But this curiosity must wait, to be satisfied when we arrive at the angel's home. Suffice it to say, this same angel is now worshipping the Being, whose human nature he once strengthened; see Rev 5: 8-14.
From want of education and experience in ministers, it results that the purity of revivals of religion, is often injured and their duration suspended, by a defective method of presenting the truth ; by not understanding and enforcing it as a system; by not being able to see the consistency of its parts, as well as the grand and powerful influence of its entire revelation, when brought to bear on the minds and consciences of men. In no way is the symmetry of the Gospel so much endangered and the force of truth so much weakened, as by men, in revivals of religion, who are not able to see the consistency of its parts and to secure its influence as a perfect system. –And hence it is, we find the class of preachers alluded to, in danger of selecting a few truths of the Gospel, and such as are