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earnestly exhorted them to make use of the same preservative and remedy, of watchfulness and prayer, which he himself now did.
He goes on to add : “ The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” This clause bath been generally considered, as designed to suggest a gracious plea, or excuse for the disciples under their present drowsy frame. But, perhaps, it ought rather to be considered, as containing a motive to enforce the preceding exhortation to watchfulness and prayer. He allows, that the real purpose of their hearts was well inclined to perform their duty; and that, when they had just before declared their determined attachment to him, even unto death, they had expressed only their true sentiments. But right purposes and dispositions alone were not an effectual security. The flesh is weak; and even its innocent infirmities and reluctances against sufferings and death might occasion their being betrayed into unfaithfulness and apostacy; therefore they still had need of all the additional supports of watchfulness and prayer for divine assistance, lest they should be overcome by temptation. When we consider the situation in which our Lord
was, when he delivered this caution, it seems to derive from it an inexpressible energy and pathos. He who said, “The spirit truly is willing, but the Aesh is weak," did, at the instant he said so, suffer a most violent perturbation of his whole animal frame, which occasioned such distress and anxiety of spirit, as caused him to cry out, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death, and consequently was subjected through this weakness of the Acsh, to a most severe trial of the constancy of his submission to the will of God.
Having said thus to the three disciples, he went away again the second time, and prayed, saying; “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except í drink it, thy will be done.” This is much of the same import as his former petition had been; and therefore St. Mark says, “he prayed, saying the same words.” He then returned to his disciples, and, as St. Mark observes," he found thein asleep again, for their eyes were heavy, neither wist they what to answer him.”
We are not told, indeed, that he said any thing to them this second time.
But finding the paroxysm of his mental and bodily distress not at all relieved, he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. St. Luke adds further : “ Being in an agony he prayed trore earnestly,
and his sweat was like great drops of blood falling down to the ground;" from wł ence, I presume, it appears that the whole system of his fibres was extremely relaxed, or that the current of the blood in his vessels was driven forward with such prodigious rapidity, as to force its way through the extremities of the fine vessels of the skin, and mingle with the sweat which flowed profusely from him. A case, which, I suppose, could not happen without being attended with most acute pain, especially, in that extremely disordered and irritable state of the whole nervous system. A case, which one cannot contemplate without shuddering, and to which the highest similar affections of the human fraine, we have known, will bear no comparison. Some ancient writers, indeed, have spoken of like cases happening on very extraordinary occasions; and a few examples in later ages have been collected*.
How extremely miserable and distressing is the condition of any person, who through strong apprehensions and fears of evil, or other perturbations of the nervous system by the painfui passions, is thrown into a profuse though natural sweat. What then must be his condition, who being in an agony, his sweat was like great drops of blood falling to the earth!
Gracious Heaven! In what a situation of distress was the Son of God and Saviour of the world now in ! And yet, even in this situation, his absolute submission and resignation to the will of God remained unshaken, and dictated these ainazing words; “O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.'' A strain of Piety, that even surpasseth, and is more astonishing than, the extreme of misery which he suffered.
But, was it possible, that such a submissive address as this could fail of acceptance with that merciful God, who heareth prayer? No surely. He who said, that none of the seed of Jacob should seek his face in vain : He who hath encouraged the humble and dutiful applications of all the miserable, by saying, “ Call upon me in the day of trouble, I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me;" could not reject such a prayer as this from his own well-beloved son. St. Luke tells us, that there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him: i.e. a heavenly messenger was sent, commissioned and empowered by God, to restore the enfeebled and disordered state of his whole bodily
# Vid. Thcolog. Repos. v. ii.p. 378. 476.
frame to its wonted strength and proper state; and, no doubt, that would immediately cause the perturbation and distress of his mind to cease, and put an end to the temptation.
It is true, St. Luke placcth the incident of the appearance of the angel to strengthen him immediately after his first address to his Father, and before the account he gives of his agony and bloody sweat. But it appears plain from the nature of the things, that the agony could not come on after the angel had strengthened him, but must have happened before; otherwise, his strengthening had no effect; since, in that case, the most violent symptoms of bis disorder and debility came on afterwards; which cannot be supposed. Besides, it is very plain, that St. Luke did not intend to be perfectly accurate in placing the several incidents he records exactly according to the order in which they happened. For he takes no notice at all of our Lord's returning to the disciples till he comes to the close of his account; and there he says that when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow, and said unto them, “ Why sleep ye? Rise and pray,
lest ye enter into temptation.' Whereas, it appears from St. Mathew, who is much more exact in observing the order of the incidents, that this reproof and charge were given after his first prayer, and at his first return to them. At his second he said nothing to them : at his third, when the agony and temptation were over, he said,
Sleep on now and take your rest: bebold, the hour is at hand, and the son of man iš betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; behold, he is at hand that doth betray me."
Perhaps, some persons may be inclined to ask: Why did not our Saviour, by his own miraculous power preserve, or deliver himself from these grievous and agonizing sufferings which he endured in the garden : but the ministry of an angel from heaven inust be employed to strengthen him? But, may not a like question be asked with equal reason, concerning all the natural inconveniences and bodily sufferings he endured through his life and at his death However, to such inquiries it is sufficient to reply, that it was his duty, and uniform determined purpose to support every thing, which the will of his Father appointed to him and laid upon him. This suffering in the garden he considered, and called a cup which the Father had put into
his hand, he would not therefore refuse it, or put it away himself, however desirous he might be of its removal, and however earnestly he intreated his Father to take it
away. Besides, the miraculous power with which he was endowed, was given to him by his Father, and given for certain particular and appointed purposes, and those only. It was not given him for his own use and service, nor fact did he ever employ it for his own security or advantage. The only instances which I recollect, wherein he can be supposed to have exerted a miraculous power for his own service,, was when he extricated himself from his enraged enemies, who were going to destroy him. But, I think, there is nothing in any of the accounts referred to, which obliges us to conclude, that he delivered himself by miracle, and not rather by wisdom and prudence only, and by taking opportunities which offered to mingle among the crouds that attended him, and so escape out of his enemies' hands. As for his walking on the water, and stilling the tempests which had arisen on the sea, it appears plain to me, that the chief and even sole design of these, was for the confirmation of the faith of his disciples in his divine authority and power, and to take away every remainder of their doubts and unbelief. Although there appeared in him the great po.ver of God for the relief and service of others, yet he himself lived in the world, as a mere weak and feeble
man, subjected to the common infirmities and sufferings of other men.
Thus have we attended our Lord through the several incidents of this very extraordinary and affecting scene. I have endeavoured to explain to you what I apprehend to be the nature, and probable cause of his terrible suffering on this occasion. And I hope I need make no apology for engaging in a disquisition of this kind, as whatever tends to throio light on any part of the gospel history, particularly upon so uncommon a transaction as this, which seems involved in considerable obscurity because uncommon, but especially on an incident which so deeply affected our beloved Lord and master, cannot fail of having an importance with all Christians, and, I trust, will be agreeable to you.
Behold, Christians, what your Saviour suffered in this miserable hour of temptation ! Surely, he might well have adopted the words of the prophet Jeremiah : Was there ever any sorrow like unto my sorrow? He was indeed a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. To such things as these
did he subject himself, by taking part in our frail nature. that he might redeem us from misery and death. Yet these sufferings, terrible as they were, seem to have been distinct from, and intended for different purposes than, those last sufferings to which the New Testament writers unanimously concur to ascribe the efficacy of our redemption and salvation.
But, whilst we reflect with compassion and a degree of terror on his agony in the garden, with what admiration should we consider bis behaviour under 11. “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” And again :
And again : “O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me, except I drink'it, thy will be done.” Gracious God! What a perfect and unshaken submission to thy will was here—to what a severe trial was it put, and yet it remained firm. Sure, never was such wilness borne to the rectitude, wisdom and goodness of thy appointments: never were they so honoured in the depthis of distress.
My fellow Christians, while we stand astonished at the excellence of this spirit, at the perfection of this piety, cannot we also derive from it some portion of a like temper? By frequent and attentive meditation on this pattern, by resolutions often renewed, by the exertion of our best endeuvours on every occasion that calls for it, let us strive to acquire some degree of that spirit which breathed these subniissive words from the mouth of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.