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expostulations during this hour. It were interesting to be informed of them, but only the substance of them was allowed to be written. “Abba, Father ! all things are possible with thee. Let me be delivered from the cup which threatens me. But if, on the whole, it be thy will that I drink it, then I prefer to drink it, to its dregs. I yield my will to thine.”
The writer of the 45th Psalm, in addressing the Saviour, exclaimed, "Gird thy sword upon thy thigh, 0 most mighty, with thy glory and thy majesty." Alas, this mighty conqueror was lying down without even a bed of straw, was trembling, faint, praying in anguish. “And in thy majesty ride prosperously; "thy right hand shall teach thee terrible things; thine
" arrows are sharp in the heart of the king's enemies;" but the arrow of bis enemies was now thirsting for his own blood ; and of all postures possible, he had taken the one most appropriate to a subdued, lowly spirit. The Jewish attitude in prayer was, ordinarily, standing ; frequently, kneeling. Solomon kneeled in the temple, and raised both his hands. Stephen also kneeled, when he breathed out his dying request. Elijah, during a particular prayer, sat, with his head bent down to his knees. Christ in his prayer after the sacrament, stood erect, and “ lifted up his eyes," but when, scarcely two hours from that time, the terrors of the garden had seized him, he was not content, not able indeed, either to stand or to kneel, and there was no listing up of the eyes. Having thrown himself at full length upon the ground, as David did while fearing one of his severest cups of aflliction, he lay a personification of unconsoled distress.*
At length he rises, and returns to the three disciples. He well knew that it was a critical hour for them. They were soon to lose their only hope, and to behold the imagined conqueror of the Romans taken prisoner, even by the subalterns of the Sanhedrim. Was there not reason to fear that the unexpected imprisonment would so shock the blinded disciples as to result in their apostacy; and in apostacy at the conspicuous moment, when fidelity was most loudly demanded? With the view of fortifying them against impending calamities, Christ expressly enjoined, when he left them an hour ago, “tarry here and watch; you have great need of watching, and praying, and thus preparing your minds for coming trouble. Unless you do prepare, you will be tempted soon to give up your confidence in ine.” Who now would conjecture that this injunction, after all that had been said and seen, could have been disobeyed by such a man as “ that disciple whom Jesus loved.” And yet, * See instances of such prostration in Num. 16 : 22. 2 Chron. 20: 18. Neh. 8:6.
when Christ returns to the three, he finds them all asleep? "Peter," he says, choosing to address the one who had made the boldest professions, “ Peter are you asleep? Could you not watch with me a single hour ? Unless you watch and pray, you will be in danger of falling by temptation. I believe, however, that you are willing in beart, but your bodily weariness has overcome your will."
Most men, when under excitement, are prone to reprove harshly, and to excuse themselves for wounding the sensibilities of the reproved, by the plea, that they were too much excited to consider what they said. But in Christ's most agonizing excitement he made all due apology for the foibles of his friends; and, lest he should injure the feelings of the sensitive John, veiled the rebuke to the three, under an address to that one of them who was most able to bear its brunt. Why did he not say, John are you awake? Because the younger disciple would have been overwhelmed, if Christ had not broken the force of the reproof by striking it first upon the elder, sterner, rock-like disciple. When Job was in his affliction, his three friends“ sat down with him upon the ground, seven days and seven nights, and none spake a word unto him for they saw that his grief was very great ;" Job ii. 13. But it was not so with the three friends of him who was more patient than "perfect” Job; and we have so much the more exalted esteem of bis tenderness in reproving, when we consider that he, when in trouble, needed as well as other men the sympathy of friends, and yet was left the only one awake, in the moment of his keenest distress, in the hour of his greatest danger; was left by the three whom he had selected from his chosen, and in defiance of his express, solemn command.*
The agony of Christ being too great to be endured, he goes quickly back to the spot for prayer. He prays again, that the mysterious cup may not be applied to his mouth, yet he finds no relief. He gets up again, and returns to see whether the disciples have minded his warning to watch and pray. Again he finds them asleep. He awakes them, and looks at them. They look at him, but are too much ashamed and out of coun
The disciples were indeed criminal in their disobedience to their master, yet their very lethargy was an evidence of their deep interest in him. Luke, who was a phy. sician, and on that account most apt to notice corporeal phenomena, says, that ihey were “ sleeping for sorrow;" and other medical men have described sleepiness as a symptom of grief, particularly in a state of animal exhaustion like that of the disci. ples. "I have often witnessed profound sleep,” says Dr. Rush,“ even in mothers immediatly after the death of a child. Criminals, we are told by Akerman, the keeper of Newgate in London, often sleep soundly the night before their execution. The son of Gen. Custine slept nine hours the night before he was led to the guillotine in Paris.” Diseases of the mind, Page 319.
tenance to say a word. Christ therefore says nothing, but lets his eye speak out his disappointment and grief. His sorrowful and desponding eye speaks enough. It wilts them down. He goes back the third time for prayer. Instead of finding relief from his tremblings, he was now more burdened than before. His God did not listen to his request, and his dearest friends would not keep awake. The city near him is still. All the inhabitants, save the watchmen on the towers, and the knot of conspirators against his life, are locked in sleep, and he, with the world against him, finds the very stillness of his solitude an enhancement of his grief. He is hunted as a “partridge on the mountains.” He weeps. We can hear him in the silent moonlight, weeping aloud. It is “strong crying and tears."* It is impossible to restrain his feelings, which were wont to gush out with the simplicity of innocence. It is now the highest pitch of his excitement. Oh the cup, the cup! All the terrors of the world of darkness, and all the pains of this, are clustered around him, by one desperate effort of the tempter. His mind affects his body. His frame is inwardly and thoroughly shaken. A profuse perspiration starts from him. Though a chill-dew was falling, and the night was cold enough for men to need a fire, who were sheltered within palace walls, and had just been exercising, John 18: 18; though Christ had been standing without exercise and in the open air, and though he felt the cold far more intensely than we feel it, because his system like that of other Orientals was peculiarly sensitive and tender, yet the pores of his skin were so freely open, that large drops of perspiration oozed out, from his forehead and all parts of his body. The falling of the drops to the ground could probably be heard, just as you may hear the drops of blood which fail from a wounded man's bleeding arm when it is stretched out. “Oh! my Father, Abba Father, he cries, if it be not merely convenient, not merely easy, but if it be in any way possible, let the cup pass from me. Nevertheless if I must drink it, then I will."
Who, is so insensible to the distresses of the Saviour, as not to see that he was, at this critical hour, enduring a hidden, stifled agony, immensely deeper than a mere man ever endured or fathomed? How his whole appearance and every motion indicates his perplexity. He was so inwardly agitated, that he could not stand still. Though he was exhausted as well as
* Heb. 5: 7. This passage indicates, that the Saviour wept in the garden, though the Evangelists do not notice the fact; and also that his voice was affected by his weeping, and sounded like that of any man who earnestly begs for help while he is convulsed in tears.
the disciples, yet he left the eight to sleep, and went forward himself with the beloved three to pray. But he finds that he cannot pray even with the select friends, and he leaves them also that he may pray alone. While the three are struggling without success against stupor, he is all wakefulness and life, and emotion. In his perplexity he throws himself down, with his face grazing on the earth. He gets up, and moves with hurried step and care-worn face to the sleepers ; reproves them, but stays with them scarcely a moment; hies back to the spot for prayer; back again to his friends, then with renewed grief to beg the third time for ease; and soon returns to the place which he had started from, and revisited so often. His moving to and fro, now walking, now standing still, now lying down, not once trying to rest, sometimes pouring out the most earnest prayer, sometimes sobbing aloud, while the tears silently rolled down his face, at last his sending out, by mere force of feeling, a cold full sweat ; all this vicissitude of hurried movement and plaintive cries is an exact picture of a man penetrated to his inmost soul with inetlable fears.
But what reason had Christ to shudder at death? Whose gold or silver had he coveted? Whom had he reviled ? What one sin had he ever committed? If any one was beloved of God, was not the only begotten Son ? why then should he distrust? If any one could be cheered by heavenly antepasts, could not he who merited and indeed was expecting a richer reward than all others, even than angels? Fix your eye, reader, on the self-styled " chief of sinners.” Hear his courageous tones when he speaks of dying. “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course; I have kept the faith.
To live is Christ” to me, “and to die is gain. I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better. O death, where is thy sting! ( grave, where is thy victory?" Listen to the words of a sinner in modern days, the lamented Payson, as he lay on the verge of the grave.
“ I have done nothing myself. I have not fought, but Christ has fought for me; 1 have not run, but Christ has carried me; I have not worked, but Christ has wrought in me." Since my sickness commenced, “ I have suffered twenty times--yes, to speak within bounds, twenty times as much as I could in being burnt at the stake, while my joy in God has so abounded as to render my sufferings not only tolerable but welcome.” “Death comes every night and stands by my bedside in the form of terrible convulsions, every one of which threatens to separate the soul from the body. Yet while my body is thus tortured, the soul is per
fectly happy. I seem to swim in a flood of glory.* Said an imperfect martyr,“ I glory in these flames; Iam enwreathed with a crown of fire." Said another, “I make my stake my throne. This burning is all I wish for on earth.” Turn now your eye from these men, and gaze at Christ, stretched out on the damp ground, and there weeping and sweating, even before any corporeal pains have seized him. Tell me, you who think that Christ died the death of a mere man; tell me, why it was, that the man, better than all others, should be overborne by his inward thoughts, more than others by their thoughts and pangs? Why this shuddering and shrinking back in the only one who could justly claim salvation? “ The sting of death is sin;" oh why then was the death of one " who knew no sin” so full of stings. Had not God promised, " if thou wilt prepare thine heart and stretch out thine hands toward me, then shalt thou lift up thy face with joy ;' when thou art in tribulation, if thou be obedient unto the voice of the Lord, he will not forsake thee;" “he is the strength of his people in times of trouble?” Will not Christ confide in promises like these? Can he not believe as much as a transgressor, who said, “when my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up ? What ! shall a slothful servant rejoice in God, and a faithful son be left to wailing? Is this the reward of faithfulness? For this end had the man of sorrows encountered all the perils and hardships of his pilgrimage? Hundreds of dying penitents in our own day, hundreds who were to be saved “scarcely," " so as by fire,” have feared less, recoiled less than Jesus. If his death had no meaning distinct from theirs, why was it so inferior to theirs in the expression of noble feeling? You
say, that he was a mere man; but no, on your principles he was less than a man. You say that he died as a common martyr ; but not so, on your principles he was a weak, timorous, irresolute martyr; trembling lest an evil come upon him, though he deserved no evil; fearing that God would forsake him, though God had promised a thousand times, to ten thousand sinners, that he would never forsake. Truly the idea, that Christ died an ordinary death, robs his character, not only of its divine glories, but even human virtues; denies his divinity, and impeaches his humanity; impugns his courage, insults his fortitude, and well nigh annibilates his faith.
Biographers, aware of the honor conferred on the character by courage in the midst of perils, have been careful to blazon abroad the bold expressions of their heroes, and to conceal such as indicated fear. But the Evangelists shew no such concern.
* See Memoirs of Dr. Payson, pp. 361, 365, 367. Fifth Edition.