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Bennetts End Reformed Baptist Church in Hemel Hempstead | The Holy Bible and The TV Guide
 

“Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.”  Matthew 26:36-46

Between the city and the Mount of Olives lay the valley of Jehosaphat, traversed by the little streamlet, or winter-brook, called the Cedron. Across this brook Jesus and the eleven now wend their way by the light of the moon - for at the Passover the moon was full - to a place called Gethsemane, where was a garden.

The transaction of which this ever-memorable garden becomes the scene is, with the exception of our Lord’s actual crucifixion, perhaps the most awful and solemnizing which even the Scriptures of God contain. How can we approach the consideration of it with sufficient reverence? How can we be deeply enough affected with the insight it gives us into the sorrow of the blessed Redeemer’s soul? Shall we not feel and own our utter helplessness to speak or think of this scene in a manner befitting its amazing and affecting disclosures? The Lord give us the Spirit of grace and supplications, that we may look on him whom we have pierced!

Leaving the nature and causes of Christ’s mysterious sorrow, and the nature and meaning of his prayers, to be considered more fully afterwards, and in the meantime speaking of the agony itself only very generally, let us try to place the affecting facts clearly before our minds.

He cometh, then, with the disciples “unto a place called Gethsemane.”

The account given by John is more circumstantial, though he passes over the events of which the garden was the scene. He says, “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into which he entered and his disciples. And Judas also, which betrayed him, knew the place: for Jesus oft-times resorted thither with his disciples” (John 18:1,2).

From this we learn that the garden of Gethsemane was a well-known retreat of the Redeemer. Though about to be the scene of a conflict unparalleled in his history, it had oft-times been the scene of his prayers - the place of his secret meditations and communings with God. For he was emphatically a man of prayer. It was by prayer that he kept up fellowship with the Father from whom he had come forth, and to whom he was soon to return. It was by prayer that he vanquished all the trials and sorrows and griefs assigned to him in his pilgrimage in the flesh. It was by praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, that he sustained his faith in the safety of his person and his cause in the love and faithfulness of his Father. It was by prayer that he sued out all the promises made to him in his covenant with the Father; for concerning his own possession of them, as well as his people’s, it may be said that, while they are absolutely given, and must inevitably be fulfilled, “yet for all these things will I be enquired of, saith the Lord.” The law of his humiliation and reward is in these words - “Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” And in this, as in other respects, his people must be conformed unto him that he may be the first-born among many brethren, he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified being all of one.

Gethsemane, then, had witnessed Jesus many times in prayer and supplication, though never so emptied (Phil 2:7) and abased as now. This was the crowning act of what had indeed been a long series - what had been a habit. “Oft-times he resorted hither.”

And so Judas knew the place. “And Judas also which betrayed him knew the place” (John 18:2). Hence Jesus was not fleeing from his fate when he betook himself to Gethsemane. He was voluntarily going forward to meet the sword of which he had spoken that it should smite him. It was very necessary that his death should be voluntary - that it should be in the spirit of the ancient oracle: “Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will, O my God” (Ps 40:7). Without this it could not have been acceptable to God, nor valuable as a sacrifice for sin. And it was needful also that his death should be seen to be voluntary, that the eleven might not be utterly offended - stumbling to rise again no more - in the conviction that his power was at length exhausted, that against his will he had been arrested or overpowered by a might which he could not set aside.

How numerous were the methods by which Jesus forewarned them that he went forward of his own accord to all his sufferings. “I lay down my life of myself,” saith he; “no one taketh it from me; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:15-18). And now when the hour is at hand, he leads the way to no place of concealment to baffle the traitor’s design, but to the place which Judas knew, for he ofttimes resorted to it. Every step towards the garden had in it the voice, “Lo, I come! I come, knowing the things which shall befall me here.” Yes: Jesus loved the Church, and gave himself for it. He loved me, says Paul, and gave himself for me.

Arrived within the garden, Jesus stations the larger number of his disciples near the entrance, with the injunction, “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.” It is the “Captain of Salvation” making disposition of his forces for a battle in which the weapons of warfare should not be carnal, in which he himself should bear all the fire and terror of the conflict, at once the victim and the conqueror, wounded for our transgressions, and ultimately carrying the victory by wielding himself to death. How solemnizing must this have been to the eight disciples to whom he thus assigned their position! They must have felt instinctively, from their Master’s words and tones and manner, that he was himself unusually sad and sorrowful. To the other three, indeed, he was to open up more fully the depths of anguish which now began to distract him. But already even his countenance must have borne traces of the coming conflict of his soul: and his words to them must have implied that such was the crisis now at hand, and such their Master’s views of it, that immediate prayer alone could enable him to meet and face it. “Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.” He speaks with authority, assigning them their post of duty. Yet he speaks to them not as servants, but as friends, telling them plainly what their Lord doeth. “I go,” says he, “I go to pray yonder.” All my hope now lies in prayer. Where will your strength lie? Remember ye the word that I said unto you, “The servant is not greater than his Lord.” Praying always with all prayer and supplication.

“And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee - Peter and James and John - and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.”

Leaving the main body of the disciples, Jesus, we see, advances, as if to meet the adversary in company with the three most valiant of his friends. And yet it is not that he calculates on their strength and aid, for he knows how miserably they will fail in the hour of trial: and their failure serves rather to prove that Jesus wrought a work, and bare a shock in this conflict; to which no mortal power or vigour was adequate. For if these three failed to acquit themselves as the sore exigencies EXIGENCY n. an urgent need or demand; a trial or emergency. of that dreadful hour demanded, there were none on earth that could stand when they had fallen. They were the strongest of the disciples; the flower and choice of the little flock. They had been more with Jesus than the others. They had been admitted with him where others had been excluded; and especially they had been with him in the holy mount, and were eye-witnesses of his majesty, when he received from God the Father honour and glory. They had seen the Saviour transfigured, his face shining as the sun and his garments white as the light. They had heard the voice from the excellent glory, saying, “This is my beloved Son, hear ye him.” They had seen their beloved Lord in the utmost glory in which he had ever appeared on earth in the days of his flesh. And now they were to see him lying prostrate on the ground, crushed with sorrow, weeping tears of anguish, shedding the blood of the “agony.” Thus high privileges prepare for sore trials; and the abundance of the revelation needs a thorn in the flesh to balance it!

If Peter could have got his own way, he would have been on the transfiguration mountain still, and there never would have been the agony of Gethsemane. He would have made tabernacles and dwelt there enjoying the glory and shrinking from the shame. But then this proposed arrangement of his would have cost the world’s salvation; for it was not amidst the glory and the radiance of the holy mount, but amidst the darkness and anguish of the garden and the desertion of the cross, that redemption was achieved and sealed. Thus the foolishness of God is wiser than men.

Yet, surely those that had seen most of the Saviour’s majesty and glory, and of Heaven’s testimony to his beloved person and his holy mission, were best selected to see also of his terrible trial. Their faith, cherished by such precious recollections, might have been expected to withstand severer ordeals. They who had almost reigned with him on the mountain, might have watched and suffered better with him in his agony - but no. Yet such as they were, they were his only confidants - his truest bosom friends on earth. And so when he began to be sorrowful and very heavy - “to be sore amazed and heavy” (Mark 14:33), he opens up his heart to them, and “saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” Jesus was not wont to tell his grief. He had ever been a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. But he had been well accustomed to bear his griefs in secret, and seldom sought relief from making others privy to them. Now his soul is filled with sorrow to overflowing, and so it bursts forth, and is poured into the bosoms of his friends. He can conceal his anguish no more.

And what, it must be asked, was the cause of the tormenting sorrow and amazement which now so greatly weakened and agitated the Son of God? It is a solemn question, worthy of long and reverent consideration. But doubtless his sorrow arose from the source that his prayer was concerned with - the vivid view and near approach of that cup which the Father was just giving him to drink. That curse of God, from which he came to redeem his elect people - that sword of the Lord’s wrath and vengeance which he had just predicted - the penal desertion on the cross - the withdrawal of all comfortable views and influences - and the present consciousness of the anger of God against him as the surety-substitute a person laden with iniquity - these were the elements mingled in the cup of trembling which was now to be put into his hands: and the prospect caused him deadly sorrow!

And he told the three. For sorrow seeketh sympathy when it will conceal no more; and the man of sorrows was in all things lie unto his brethren. The relief which pouring his anguish into their bosom could bring - even this was precious to him in the crisis of his sore affliction!

But it must be poured into his Father’s bosom, for nothing short of that could bring him real relief and strength. And so he plants his three dearest follower on their post of observation, and then advances alone to conflict directly with the hour and the power of darkness.

And now, mark by what successive steps, and how thoroughly, Jesus has separated himself to be alone with God. He and the eleven had left the city, with all its life and stir and care, behind them. Here is the first step. Arrived at the entrance of the garden, he leaves there the greater number of his followers, and advances further with the chosen three. Here is the second step. But, he must leave these also, and go forward alone, to meet the danger alone, to wrestle and agonize with God concerning it. But before he leaves the three, he gives them also an injunction as he had previously given to the others: “Tarry ye here, and watch with me.” Now this was the injunction which they so blameably neglected to observe. And the circumstances were such as - notwithstanding the excuse which the tender Saviour made for them - rendered them inexcusable in not observing it. How affecting was it to hear him whom they loved imploring the little service which this request implied! That he whom they had learned to regard as the Son of the living God, whom the winds and the sea obeyed, and whom they three had seen as if on the margin of heaven receiving the homage of glorified just men made perfect; that he should be reduced to such extremity as to express his desire that they would help him, by their watching with him in meeting the sore conflict to which he was now going forward alone; ought to have touched all the deepest feelings of their nature; and doubtless it did so, and perhaps more truly and tenderly than we can understand. But if it made this impression at the time - if this appeal struck the chords of sympathy in their hearts - the evil was that they did not practically follow up such feelings by a careful persevering, “watchful and prayerful” sympathy unto the end.

“And he went a little farther (or, as Luke says, “he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast”) and fell on his face, and prayed, saying: O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

No language can describe the impression which a statement like this ought to make upon us. The person who is here set before us - the position of prostrate, yea, all but abject supplication - the cry of anguish wrung out from him in the prospect of a stroke about to fall upon him which he trembles lest his weak, frail human nature should be unable to bear - all these considerations, and each of them, ought to fill us with the liveliest and most inexpressible astonishment. It is deeply to be feared that too many read the verses before us in a state of mind indefinitely approaching to unconscious yet real infidelity. Is it possible that there could be such an amount of insensibility in any mind that steadily contemplated this scene as an event which really occurred? Could this transaction be viewed with more indifference than it is by multitudes, even though it were announced as a mere fiction? Nay; suppose it were a fiction, it would be a grander one unspeakably than the imagination of the thoughts of any man ever devised. Regarded as a mere idea, though forgotten as a fact, it is still fitted to produce a most powerful effect, to arrest and compel attention, to fill the mind with amazement and with awe. But the startling idea, the awful conception of the living God, enthroned in the supreme government of a myriad of worlds, each one of which with its countless multitudes of living beings hangs upon his nod: of this great, self-existent, independent Jehovah, with his Godhead dwelling in the frail garb of human nature, lying prostrate on the cold ground in the attitude of deepest abasement and most prostrate prayer; the idea, combined with the assurance that it is an idea that was actually realised in this garden of Gethsemane! Oh! It reveals to us the carnality of our minds when we feel that we can meet a fact like this with so little of that adoring wonder and love and praise which reason and conscience tell us it is worthy and fitted to call forth. Truly no truth is more fully proved by experience and observation than that we need the Spirit to take the things of Christ and show them to us - that we need the Spirit of grace and supplications to be poured upon us ere we can look on him whom we have pierced and mourn.

But how could Jehovah-Jesus, the Eternal Son of the Highest, be reduced to such straits as these, to be prostrate on the ground, and lift the cry of helplessness so affectingly? The answer is that this is exactly “the mind that was in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient - obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:5-8). But did he not speak as one whose faith was shaken? - as one whose fear was awakened? As one whose fear was awakened; yes. But not as one whose faith was shaken. For in the very agony of his sorrow, when he groaned in spirit, he groaned in the Spirit of the Son, crying, “Abba, Father.”  “Father, if it be possible.” But did not this cry imply that he was begun to regret his covenant engagements, and to repine against the sufferings which they entailed? No: for his ;language is full of perfect and absolute submission. “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”

But did not this imply at least that in some respect Jesus longed earnestly to escape from his sufferings? It did indeed. It implied that, save for his Father’s will, appointing them and appointing his people’s salvation by means of them, save for this, it was most desirable that he should have no such sufferings to undergo. Could they have been real; could they have been anything else than imaginary and feigned; had not this been the Saviour’s feeling concerning them? Could he have had a true body and a reasonable soul, and not sensitively shrunk from undergoing “the terrors of the Lord”? Could his soul have been holy, could he have truly feared God, and not trembled in sorrow and in anguish in the prospect of his anger, or the presence of his wrath? And how could he have “learned obedience by the things which he suffered” save by subduing his natural and sinless to endure them, and thus denying and sacrificing himself?

But still, was it not something like a weakness and imperfection on the part of Jesus that he should speak as if he thought it possible that this cup should pass from him? “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” And truly it is not to be denied that here we have Jesus revealed to us in weakness, even as the Holy Spirit testifies that he was “crucified through weakness” (2 Cor 13:4). Yet let us mark of what nature this imperfection was. It consisted in nothing more than the powerful predominance - or, we may perhaps say, the sole presence - in his mind, for a moment, of the one thought of the desirableness of being exempted from the abyss of misery which yawned before him in his Father’s curse. That his holy human nature, considering the matter solely in itself, could not but desire to be exempt from such woe, we have already seen. Considered simply in itself, to desire exemption from the wrath of God was the dictate of his holy human nature, considered as at once sensitive and reasonable and holy. Not to have felt this desire, instead of being holiness unto the Lord, would have argued - what we tremble even to think of while we know it could not be - daring contempt of the divine anger and will! Nay: to have such impressive views as Jesus now had of his Father’s wrath, and not be filled with an earnest longing to escape from it (considering the matter simply by itself) would have argued that he did not possess a true human nature with all the sinless sensibilities which are of the essence of humanity. And if Jesus did for a moment consider the matter simply by itself; if he looked to the intense desirableness of this cup passing from him, without for the moment taking the matter in connection with past appointments or future consequences; if there was a moment during which the one only object which stood straight before his mind’s eye and filled all his vision, was the terror of the vengeance of the Omnipotent; did this indicate any imperfection but what was absolutely sinless and holy? His true human soul, not infinite (which is a character only of his Godhead) but finite, without which it had not been true, could not possibly behold all elements of truth in one act of contemplation. In unutterable sorrow and sore amazement, the object of dread for an instant engrossed the whole reflective faculty; and in that moment the desire, not unwarrantable but holy, which was suitable to that one instant of his sore experience, in the view of that one object which for the instant exclusively was in view - the desire, which, limiting his emotions to the single object now awakening them, it would have been unnatural, unreasonable, unholy, not to have felt - was emitted as the true and genuine and not undutiful desire of the moment - “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” - while, immediately admitting other thoughts; looking back on Eternal Counsels and irrefragable Scriptures and promises inviolable; the Saviour’s soul, admitting these other thoughts, and with them the feelings suitable to them also, qualifies his desire with the expression of entire submission - “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Yea, and the inconceivable intensity with which, without any disparagement of his love to his Father or his love to his Church, he exclaimed - “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” is just an index by which to mark the truth, or a line by which to fathom the depths, of that love to both, under the force of which he added: “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” For is it not unutterably desirable to flee from the wrath to come, whether, O sinner, it be in thine own case, or in Christ’s? And if he fled not, it was not because he was insensible to the terrors of his Father’s wrath, as sinners are who do not flee; but he fled not, that sinners might have a hope set before them to flee; he fled not because he was not an hireling, but the Good Shepherd that giveth his life for the sheep.

It is here, doubtless, that we should introduce into the narrative the glorious statement, which is made only by the evangelist Luke: “And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven strengthening him” (Luke 22:43).

Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister unto them that shall be heirs of salvation? What wonder, then, if we find them ministering unto him who is the elder brother, whom God hath appointed heir of all things? We know how they announced and celebrated his advent as the babe of Bethlehem; how they waited on him as the tempted One in the wilderness; how they ministered amidst the transactions of the resurrection morning, rolling away the stone, and guarding the place where the body of Jesus lay. All these and suchlike acts of service to the Mediator’s person, into whose redemption work they desire to look, were so many and very obvious instances of the Father’s glorious oracle concerning him, as it is written, “When he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him” (Heb 1:6).

We are not told how the angel on this occasion strengthened the agonising Redeemer. Yet if he came that he might visibly fulfil the terms of the oracle and “worship” him, we may see how suitable and seasonable such a ministration must have been, and how strengthening! For it was not with Jesus at this moment as in the times when his mighty and miraculous powers went forth; when the energies of his Godhead were in operation to attest his Messiahship, or bless and relieve his followers. The attributes of his divine nature were at this moment held in abeyance. They slumbered, or retired, to admit of that humiliation which, had all their glories pressed forward into view or into action, would have been impossible. And while the Godhead in the second person was indissolubly and eternally united with humanity in one person in the man Christ, the sufferings of “the man” reached their crisis and their complication - just as the positive action of his Godhead’s powers and attributes was more and more withdrawn and resigned. This was the precise nature of his abasement, that though it was no robbery for him to be equal with God, yet he laid aside the reputation though never really the reality thereof; and, remaining still, as he must ever remain, the same God unchangeable, he yet appeared in the form of a servant, not drawing on his divine might and energies, but denying himself their exercise and putting-forth - concealing, retiring out of view, withdrawing from the field of action, those prerogatives and powers of Deity, which in the twinkling of an eye might have scattered ten thousand worlds and hells of enemies. He withdrew them all from action that he might taste the weakness of created nature. And in thus denying himself the consolation and energy and support which the action of his divine upon his human nature, had he chosen, would have furnished to him boundlessly, in this consisted the test and trial of his submission to his Father’s yoke, in the body which he had prepared him. To draw unduly on the resources of his Godhead, and in a manner inconsistent with his relation and his duty towards the Father, as the Mediator between God and man in the days of his flesh, was precisely that act to which the devil in vain sought to tempt him when he said, “If thou be the Son of God, command these stones that they be made bread.” For Jesus to have done so would have been to “make himself of” some “reputation.” It would have been to resile from the form and the duty of a servant. It would have been to abandon his position as one made under the law.

But pre-eminently in the closing scenes of his obedience and sufferings were all manifestation and action and supporting influence of his divine nature withdrawn, as if all divine glories and perfections enfolded and inwrapt themselves into mysterious concealment within. So that the divine suppliant, though he was indeed divine, lay prostrate on his face upon the ground in all the weakness that could overtake a mere - mere man.

How unspeakably seasonable and consoling, that at such a crisis, by the adoring worship of an angel, the glory of his own Divine Person should be presented to the view of his created mind, to in some measure the anguish and the shame to which in his human nature he was at this moment reduced! True, the very nature of the case forbade that the arm of his omnipotence should spring forth and bear his enweakened body up against the infirmity and trembling which astonishment and sorrow had evoked; or that the light of his omniscience should gush in upon his human soul, as in God’s full flood, and reveal to it the glories and the joys which his sufferings should achieve. Not thus in the hour of his anguish and prostration could his eternal power and Godhead come into action to relieve and comfort him. But if, while all his divine were retired, withheld and resigned from his enjoyment of them, in order that in creature weakness he might expiate the sins of his elect - what if from heaven there come forth one of those ministers of God that do his pleasure, and literally fulfil the command of the Father, “Let the angels of God worship him!” To be made the object of divine worship and adoration: to be with profoundest love and reverence reminded, that, though reproached of men and despised of the people; though weakened and abased in body and in soul to the utmost extreme of anguish and woe; though avenged upon by God as the surety of countless sinners, bearing their responsibilities and visited with all their curse; though reduced in his created nature to all the extremity of helplessness and anguish of which it was susceptible, that still he was the adorable and true God, the living God and an everlasting king: to be worshipped still, while himself a prostrate agonising worshipper: still to be himself worshipped and adored by the messenger fro heaven with all the adoration that messenger had been rendering even at the Father’s throne. Oh! This was precisely the ministration of strength to his fainting soul which the crisis of his anguish required. This was unto him as the foretaste of his coming glory, when angels and principalities and powers should be subjected to him, and at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow. This worshipping angel was unto him as his Father’s messenger, meeting him in the moment of profound abasement to tell him of the exaltation that should follow. This answer to his prayer was like the voice of God saying unto the enfeebled man of Gethsemane: “Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever.”

The two great themes which engrossed the whole testimony of the Spirit of Christ as he spoke by all the prophets were “the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow.” The time had been when that glory, as by anticipation, appeared in blessed foretaste to be realised, and the same three witnesses beheld it. While the “glory” seemed thus revealed, the “sufferings” were the theme presented to the Saviour’s mind, and heavenly messengers descended on the holy mount and talked with him of “the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.” And now, when the “sufferings” begin to be realised, and are already endured even unto the anguish of death, “the glory that shall follow” is the theme suggested to the mind of Jesus; and an angel comes to strengthen and refresh his drooping spirit with the seasonable and assured conviction that he shall yet be glorified with the glory which he had with the Father before the world was.

Alas! that within a stone-cast of the place, in the immediate view of the very scene, where there seemed to meet in one all the intense variety of the unseen world, ranging in its compass from the cords of death and the pains of hell, to the worship and the glories of the heaven of heavens - even in the immediate view of such things as these, wherein the powers of the world to come had their action so infinitely momentous, so infinitely important even to themselves, the disciples should have so fallen from sympathy with Jesus as to fall asleep!

“And he cometh unto the disciples and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What! Could you not watch with me one hour?”

Ah! but let us beware lest any of us be chargeable with guilt of a similar or even deeper dye. There is such a thing as having the sufferings and anguish of Christ brought under our view, and seeing Christ set forth in ordinances manifestly prostrated, yea “manifestly crucified,” for sin, and yet remaining asleep in sin, yea dead in trespasses and in sins: without fleeing from the hateful evil which entailed upon the Saviour all his anguish, and without, therefore, fleeing from the wrath which Jesus dreaded, yet in love to sinners bore. Oh! Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead. Expose not yourself to such anguish and woe as filled even the soul of the Divine Redeemer with amazement and exceeding sorrow unto death. You cannot but know under a preached gospel, that either there must be some distinct and personal transaction, wherein, you choose this once wearied, afflicted, abased Redeemer as your own, that in those agonies which he suffered and in that death which he ultimately died, divine justice may accept what is due on you part to the law of your God which you have broken; or else, that same justice of God must find the satisfaction of a broken law in your own eternal endurance of the second death, which is the wages of sin. O careless transgressor! Asleep in a world on which the Son of God travailed in spirit, and died a ransom for sin; asleep, it may be, nearer to the unseen world than the three slumbering disciples were now to Jesus, for there may be but a step between you and death. Awake and flee in repentance and in faith to the hope which that suffering Saviour sets before you. Delay no more, lest the sword should find you out of Christ, and slay you with the second death!

But may not even believers be asleep? They were disciples whom Jesus found asleep when he returned from his agonising sufferings and prayers. And may not disciples still too often find that an unseemly slumber is upon their souls? Who among us feels that he is awake and alive, as he ought to be, to the powerful lessons which a scene like that of Gethsemane is fitted to teach us? Rather, who does not feel, in review of such a subject as this, that the sufferings of the Saviour’s soul, and the unparalleled love which led him to endure them - the “love so amazing, so divine” - deserves not only a larger extent but even another kind of requital than any we have rendered? What earnest Christian can fail to be ashamed of the weakness and changeableness of the love which is all that Jesus has ever received at his hands - of the unheartiness and the infrequency of the services he has rendered in his kingdom; of the slow and inconstant steps with which he has followed his example, and the much want of faith and fervency wherein he has failed to cultivate as he ought a holy and joyful fellowship with him in all his ordinances? Were Christians more with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane - more studious to enter in to the mind and love of a suffering Saviour - more given to cultivate the “fellowship of his sufferings,” and to realise the deep glories of their own redemption as up springing endlessly from the unfathomable abysses of the anguish of the Son of God, and boundless and secure to them only because his anguish was so great and all-sufficient - they would be far more awake to the things that are unseen and eternal, and live both more holy and more blessed under the powers of the world to come. Awake, then, ye children of God, to a livelier faith and a more penitent and grateful love to him who died for you and who rose again. It is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is your salvation nearer than when ye believed. He who lay prostrate on the ground in Gethsemane will soon come to sit upon his great white throne. Awake, and serve him in faith and love. Serve him, and fight for him, under the banner of his own most free and forgiving and sanctifying love - the love that braved Gethsemane and the cross for you. And ever tasting that the Lord is gracious, serve him with godly fear, remembering that the Lord our God is holy. So shall you not be ashamed before him at his coming.

“The Incidents” is from Hugh Martin’s The Shadow of Calvary, first published in 1875. Reprinted by the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland 1954, 1955, 1956. First Banner of Truth edition 1983 (Edinburgh), pp 13-31.

Chapter 2 - The Agony of Sorrow - Hugh Martin


“My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” Matthew 26:38

That the sorrow of Christ in Gethsemane was of a very intense and terrible description, we have many infallible proofs. The Scriptures testify, recording indeed his own testimony, that he “began to be very heavy,” to be “sorrowful,” to be “sore amazed,” and “sorrowful even unto death.” And these expressions are far from conveying the great force and emphasis of the original.

The terms in which Jesus himself poured out his griefs into the ears of the disciples, combined with the simple fact that he felt induced and constrained to speak of them at all, afford very affecting evidence that they were of a nature and degree which only the overhanging shadow of death, with all its woe could have caused to fall upon him. The aid and concert of that vigilance which he implored, as if their sympathy in his sore affliction word afford some comfort and alleviation; the fact that he instantly betook himself to prayer, that mightiest of all instruments which created natures can wield; the paroxysm (PAROXYSM n. a sudden outburst of emotion) of earnestness and energy with which he prayed; the frequency with which he recurred to agonising prayer as his only resource; his reiterated but unsuccessful appeals and visits to his disciples; and the bloody sweat which his intense wrestlings in prayer produced, even in that cold night (for it was that same night in which the soldiers made a fire for it was cold”) - all these are proofs that the anguish of the Saviour’s soul in Gethsemane was unparalleled by anything that even he, the man of sorrows, had yet encountered or endured.

In confining our attention at present to the consideration of the sorrow of the Lord, to discover what from the Scriptures may be learned of its nature and causes, we ought to feel that we specially require the Spirit of the Lord to rest upon us, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord, that we may not irreverently intrude where angels might tremble to advance, or gaze with presumptuous eye where angels might veil their faces with their wings. Deep grief, among mere men, is for the most part, generously accounted a sacred thing. Here we have the grief of him who is the ever-blessed God; the sorrow and weakness and fear and trembling of him who is the Lord God Omnipotent; the tears and prostrate agonies and cries of one who is now seated on the right hand of the majesty in the heavens, angels and principalities and powers being made subject to him!

Perhaps the most impressive proof that can be given of the inconceivable terrors of Christ’s sufferings considered as a whole, and as constituting the one undivided ransom for sin, results from the fact that the darkness of Gethsemane must be regarded as but the shadow of Calvary, this remark, at the same time, opening to us the nature and sources of what Christ endured when he said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” The sorrows of the garden arose from the prospect and foresight of the sorrows of the cross.

That this was the case is obvious from the tenor of the Saviour’s prayers, for surely the one must throw light upon the other. Without doubt it was the source of his sorrow which formed the subject of his supplication. Now we learn, from the reiterated prayers which this sorrow called forth, that Jesus was not at this time directly drinking from the cup of his Father’s wrath. That he did upon the cross when, there in his own body, on the tree, he bare our sins and was made a curse for us, and suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust. But now, in Gethsemane, the agony or wrestling of prayer which arose from the agony and anguish of grief, concerned not the immediate but the ultimate drinking of that cup - not the immediate drinking of it, but only the immediate and final allocating of it to him as a cup which he should in due time drink, and which it was his now simply to accept and acknowledge as his portion. It is impossible to read the narrative carefully with a view to this question without observing that the Saviour agonises in his deadly sorrow and his oft-repeated wrestlings, not from anguish caused by drinking of this cup, but simply by the prospect if having yet to drink of it, by the foresight of the dreadful and inconceivable travail of his soul which drinking it would cause, insomuch that, were it possible, nothing could be so unspeakably desirable as that this cup should pass from him, and by the clear view of the absolute necessity of accepting it to which his love to his Father’s will and his people’s salvation finally and irreversibly committed and engaged him - “Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.” And so, this paroxysm of the Saviour’s agony passed away, not with the cup being drained, but simply with the cup being put into his hand by the Father’s will on the one side and accepted by Jesus in full submission to the Father’s will on the other. And that the cup thus given and received was not at this time drained, but simply received, is intimated by the Saviour himself subsequently when, on his entrance on the final and ultimate sorrows of death, by the arrest which Judas effected with his band of soldiers, Jesus reproved the untimely zeal of Peter, saying, “Put up thy sword into his sheath: the cup that my Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it.” His submitting to be thus arrested as a criminal was the commencement of his drinking that cup.

From this we may see that the cup which the Father gave him consisted substantially in the imputation to him of a criminal’s guilt, and the assignment to him of a criminal’s position and destiny. No sooner is the mysterious transaction of Gethsemane over than the secret and spiritual nature of what was there determined immediately begins to be manifest. From this moment, onward to his resurrection, Jesus is seen among men no more in any other character than that of a criminal. Every step now in his history is that of the history of a criminal. The whole may be summed up briefly thus: He is arrested - libelled - judged - condemned - executed. This whole series of successive positions and endurances as an offender, a transgressor; so immediately begun, so completely sustained and perfected; was the cup which he finally drained upon the cursed tree. This cup, Peter would have had him refuse; this position of a transgressor, Peter would have had him to renounce; when he set himself against the first element of it, in his Master’s arrest. Jesus refused to resist his seizure, on the ground that this were refusing the cup which the Father had given him to drink. Can there be any difficulty, then, in understanding what that cup was? That whole treatment of his person as the person of a malefactor, of which the arrest in the garden was the first step, constituted the cup concerning which the sorrows and wrestlings of the garden had been conversant.

We know how unrighteously the blessed Jesus was forced by men into those attitudes and destinies of an offender. We know that the arrest was unprovoked: the accusation, false: the trial, a mockery: the evidence, perjury: the sentence, unrighteous and malicious: its execution, murder. Yet still, here were all the circumstances and steps, if not the pomp and dignity, of judgment upon life and death: and if we look beneath the surface into what infinite wisdom meant in righteousness to shadow forth by the things which the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God determined should thus be done, we will find that, even as to hear of Christ drinking the cup of wrath, is but to hear in a figure of the atoning sufferings of the surety (SURETY n. a person who makes himself responsible for another’s performance of an undertaking or payment of a debt)
[Latin securitas - security]


Christ is his people’s surety in the Covenant of Grace, because he paid their debt as their substitute, in laying down his life in their place.

By so much was Christ made a surety of a better covenant.
Hebrews 7:22

I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him:
if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever:
Genesis 43:9; so to see him arrested, accused, condemned, and led to the death of a special malefactor, is in like manner only to see in a figure, to see as in a mirror, the successive footsteps of the avenging justice of the highest, as, armed with a valid commission to arrest, and a terrific scroll and handwriting of ordinances to accuse, and the warrant of the judge of all to condemn, and the everlasting sword of heaven’s wrath to avenge - she inwardly and unfalteringly pursues unto the end the Substitute if the guilty, the Seeker and the Saviour of the lost. That visible seizure of his person which the traitor accomplished - that libel, judgment, sentence, death, which in quick succession followed - in themselves so unrighteous; what were they in the determinate counsel of God, but the outward and visible sign of the hidden and spiritual process and prosecution which the incense, avenging judge carried on against the man that was “numbered with the transgressors”? Every position in which he now stands, whether as a captured criminal in the hands of constituted power, or accused at the tribunal of authority, or condemned by the highest voices in the Church and in the State, and led away bearing the cross, and crucified between two malefactors, one on either side - every one of these positions, however unrighteous as assigned to him by man, is but an index and an emblem of a corresponding and true and righteous position or relation no assigned to him, and which he now assumes, towards the Judge of all the earth. Yea, even the preference of Barabbas, who was a robber and seditious and a murderer, viewed as the emblem and seal of Christ’s hidden condemnation, is but righteous and necessary. Jesus, as the substitute of sinners, is more heavily laden than he!

We see then the cup which the Saviour drank, the doom which Jesus accepted, namely, a malefactor’s position and a malefactor’s retribution, symbolized with minute, prolonged, sustained accuracy by all that the wicked hearts and voices and hands of men now accomplished in him, but realized under and along with, yet far above and beyond these emblems, in the reckoning he now had to meet with God and the wrath of God he now had to bear.

And if such was the cup, what could his receiving the cup or consenting to receive it imply, but his submitting to be numbered with the transgressors, submitting to have the iniquities of his people laid upon him? This was what Gethsemane beheld transacted between the Father and the Son. Finally and formally the Father proposes to Jesus the assumption of the guilt of his Church unto himself. Finally and formally Jesus accepts and confirms what had been determined mutually in the counsel of peace from everlasting. He agrees, or rather solemnly ratifies all his previous agreements to be responsible in all the responsibilities of his elect people. “Not my will but thine be done.” “Thy will be done.” The Father lays upon him the iniquities of all whom he hath given to him: imputes to him the guilt of all that shall be redeemed: makes him that knew no sin to be sin for us: numbers him among the transgressors, as bearing in his own person the sins of many; and looks upon him as lying under the imputation of all their countless transgressions. It is unto this that Jesus says, “Thy will be done.” He assumes, therefore, at his Father’s will, the sins which he is to bear in his own body on the tree; and the baptism of blood in his agony which follows is the sign and seal of the covenant, which thus by imputation makes him out to be the chiefest and the most heavy laden of transgressors!

Can there be any difficulty now in understanding generally what the nature and emphasis of his sorrow must have been? Think of Jesus coming into this terrible position towards the Judge of all - towards his Father and his God - towards him whose approbation and pleasure were the light and joy of his life unspeakable! Think of him consenting to have all the sins of myriads imputed to him by his Father: to underlie, that is, the imputation, in his Father’s judgment, of every kind and degree and amount of moral evil - every species and circumstance and combination of vile iniquity! There is a book of reckoning which eternal justice writes in heaven, wherein is entered every charge to which infinite unsparing rectitude, searching with omniscient glance alike the darkness and the light, sees the sons of men become obnoxious. This terrific scroll, so far as the elect of God are concerned in it, was unrolled before the eye of Jesus at Gethsemane: “the iniquities of us all” which God was about to lay upon him, were therein disclosed: and you have to think of the sorrow with which he should contemplate his becoming responsible and being held of God to be responsible, for all that that record charged - his being accounted of God, in his own one person, guilty of all that that record bore! It was hereupon that the Christ who, in prophetic Scripture as in the fortieth Psalm, proclaimed himself the Father’s willing Covenant servant - “Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will, O my God; thy law also is within my heart” (Ps 40:6) - exclaims also, as one heavily laden with accumulated sins, and trembling, ashamed, and self-doomed because of them - “Innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of my head, therefore my heart faileth me” (Ps 40:17). And by the consenting testimony of historic Scripture, be began to be “sore amazed” and “very heavy,” and said unto his disciples: “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.”

In forming a judgment of the sorrow and anguish which the imputation of sin to the holy Jesus must have caused, there is a vexing fallacy to be guarded against. We are ready to suppose that however hard and terrible to bear must have been the wrath and death which were the wages of the sins for which he suffered, yet the imputation of these sins could have, in itself, cost him little anxiety, or caused him little sorrow, in the consciousness that he was not personally guilty of them - the consciousness of his own unsullied holiness.

Now let it be remembered that the imputations which even malicious men chose to make him underlie - the reproaches and revilings under which at man’s tribunal he was traduced (TRADUCE n.
to misrepresent in an unfavourable way),
to slander. - did, notwithstanding their very certain falsehood, much anxiety and grief in so much that he exclaims in his Psalm of sorrow: “Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness” (Ps 69); that same affection of his weary soul which he now endured in Gethsemane, when he was sore amazed and very heavy. And if these reproaches thus affected him, let us note these two points of difference, viz, First, that in the one case, the imputations cast upon him were from man and at man’s tribunal. In the other case, God laid upon him the iniquity of us all. God made him to be sin. God imputed to him - the Father whom he infinitely loved - the judge whom he infinitely revered as one who could not do but what is right - reckoned him among transgressors. And, secondly, in the next case, the imputations of men which broke his heart and filled it with heaviness, were repudiated and denied by him in all their extent, and to every effect. In the other, there was an imputation admitted as righteous, the proposal of infinitely righteous love and wisdom - the product and decree of divine Triune counsels from everlasting. If, then, misdeeds imputed by man and in every sense denied, and which indeed had no existence at all, were yet unto the breaking of the heart, what when iniquities are imputed by God and in a true and righteous sense admitted - admitted in a sense and to an effect which entailed immediate and full responsibility, avenging and unmitigated (UNMITIGATED adj. absolute; not excused to make milder or less severe.)
God “spared not his own Son, but delivered him up” (Romans 8:32) reckoning? True, the sins which were charged upon him were not his own, but they were so laid upon his and so became his, that he could not merely endure, but accept as righteous, the penalty which they entailed. He did not merely suffer the death which is the wages of sin: he did voluntarily give himself up to death - accepting it as due to him - acknowledging his holy liability to it - justifying as very righteous the doom which he trembled to anticipate. And if the punishment of those sins was thus not in semblance, but in reality accepted by Jesus as justly visited upon himself, must it not have been because the sins themselves had first been made his - verily, really his - to every effect save that alone of impairing his unspotted holiness and perfection? And if they were his to bring him wrath unto the uttermost in their penalty, must they not have been his to cause him grief and sorrow inconceivable in their imputation? True, they were not personally his own, and so they were not his to bring self-accusation, self-contempt, despondency, remorse, despair. But they were his sufficiently to induce upon his holy soul a shame, humiliation, sorrow - yea, sore amazement - as he stood at his Father’s tribunal, accountable for more than child of man shall ever account for unto eternity!

Still, confessedly, it is difficult to understand the sorrow and amazement and agony of a holy being in having sin thus by imputation imposed upon him. It is only a legal or judicial arrangement; so we reason. It is but a scheme of mercy to relieve the miserable. Or, be it that it is more; that it is a scheme of justice also to absolve the guilty; why should not the Surety’s conscious innocence triumph over the sorrow and the shame of this imputed sin? Why should he quail and tremble, filled with anguish and amazement, not merely by the prospect of the penalty which this imputation will ultimately bring, but in the immediate sense of shame, and the immediate endurance of a sorrow, which this imputation itself inflicts? What can there be in sin, when not personally his own, that can thus cause him agonise in pain and prayer, and offer up supplications with strong crying and tears?

There is nothing that we know of in all the history of God’s moral administration that can aid us by comparison in considering how sin imputed by the Judge of all to a personally holy being , should fill his soul with sorrow. But the illustration, which there exists no comparison to furnish, may be derived from a contrast. The sorrows of imputed sin may be illustrated, perhaps, by the joys of imputed righteousness. Sin imputed to a holy one must produce effects directly the reverse of righteousness imputed to a sinner. And thus, perhaps, in the justification of the believer and the Church, through the righteousness of Christ, we may learn somewhat of the terrible shame and condemnation of him who became responsible for all their sins.

1. The Contrast Stated in Scripture
To prepare the way for this reasoning from analogy, and in order to justify us in adopting it, let it be observed, first of all, that the contrast which we wish to examine is very emphatically stated in various Scriptures; the one term being represented as the issue and the fruit resulting and contemplated from the other. “He hath made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor 5:21). “Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor 8:9). It is very clearly implied in the latter of these texts that whatever was contained in the poverty wherewith Christ became poor, the very reverse should accrue to us in the riches wherewith by his poverty we should be made rich: if sin and sorrow and shame and death in the one, righteousness and joy and dignity and life eternal in the other. And in the former text it is very distinctly asserted that if God imputed our sins to him to have no sin of his own, it was in order that to us who have no righteousness of our own he might impute Christ’s righteousness in turn. To effect this marvellous exchange is the design contemplated in Christ’s union with the Church in federal unity, in one person mystical. He assumes her sin to taste its bitterness and bear its curse, that she may be enriched with his righteousness, to taste its joys, and be endowed with its heavenly rewards.. This contrast, therefore, is of express divine constitution - the one term moreover being the glorious fruit of the other. Sinners can be counted righteous, because the Holy One was reckoned a sinner.

2. Imputed Sin Brought Sorrow and Shame
Notice, then, secondly, that he that believeth on Jesus, though ungodly, and who is thereby accounted righteous, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to him, is not the less entitled to rejoice in that righteousness, even while it is true that it is not his own; yea, while it is true that he has nothing but sin of his own. He is entitled to rejoice, as one clothed in the glorious unsullied UNSULLIED adj. pure, unblemished. robes in which omniscient holiness can find no spot nor stain. While in himself, that is, in his flesh, there dwelleth no good thing, yet in the Lord he hath righteousness, and in him he may glory and make his joyful triumphant boast.

Even so, Jesus, when he was accounted a transgressor on for the transgressions of his people imputed to him, and received in infinite love to them and submission to his Father, when he said, “Thy will be done,” is not the less subjected to inevitable sorrow and shame in that imputed sin, even while it is true that it is not his own; yea, while it is true that he has none of his own; yea, while it is true that he has nothing but glorious and unsullied holiness of his own. He is subjected to sorrow and shame as one clothed in filthy garment in which omniscient holiness - his Father’s and his own - alike behold unbounded material for abhorrence. While in himself he is the beloved Son of God - in whom the Father is ever well pleased, yea, delighting in him specially in this very transaction Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.
John 10:17 because of his holy acquiescence in this holy liability in the sins of his sinful and unpurged Church, yet identified with his sinful and still unpurged Church in all her unpurged sin, he hath ground only for horror and humiliation. The believer’s own unworthiness ought not to avail to impair his joy, because a true righteousness is imputed to him, and he hath the blessedness6 Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man, unto whom God imputeth righteousness without works.
7 Saying, Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
Romans 4:6-8 of him to whom the Lord imputeth not his sin. The Surety’s own unspotted holiness cannot avail to prevent his sorrow, because sin is imputed to him and he hath voluntarily therefore assumed what misery must belong to him to whom the Lord imputeth - not his holiness - to whom the Lord imputeth nothing but sin.

3. Amazement Added To Sorrow
The fact that the righteousness which the believer rejoices in is not his own, not only does not diminish his joy, but on the contrary adds to it an element of wonder, a thrill of unexpected and surprising delight. To be exalted from a relation fraught with guilt and wrath and fear and death, and to be brought at once, on the ground of another’s merit, into one of favour and peace and blessedness and eternal life - to have the angry frown of an incensed judge turned away, and all replaced by the sweet smiles of a Father’s love - this, the fruit of the imputation of another’s righteousness, hiding all my sin, quenching all my fear, wonderously reversing all my fate, this is not only joyful but surprisins - wonderful, the doing of the Lord and marvellous in our eyes!

And so, for Jesus to be accounted a sinner by imputation must have added a pang of amazement to the sorrow and humiliation which ensued. In point of fact, this very element in his sorrow is pointed out. He began to be “sore amazed.” Not but that he fully expected it. Yet when it came, the change was in its nature “amazing.” To pass from a state of unimpeachedUNIMPEACHED adj. completely trustworthy, not open to doubt or question. integrity to one in which he was chargeable with all grievous sins - from a state in which his conscious and unsullied love and practice of all things that are pure and lovely and of good report caused him to obtain the announcements to his Father’s complacency and love - (“I do always those things that please him”) - to a state in which that love and practice still unimpaired, he nevertheless justified his Father’s justice in frowning on him in displeasure by the very horror and struggle in which he would, but for his Father’s will, have refused to be plunged: this must have struck into the very heart of all his sorrow an element of amazement amounting to absolute agony and horror. If an ecstasy of wonder thrills through the believer’s joy in the Lord his righteousness, there must have been a deeply contrasted paralysing amazement when the Holy One of God realised himself as worthy, in the sins of others, of condemnation at his Father’s tribunal.

4. Bearing the Sin of Those He Loved
The justified believer finds his joy in the righteousness of Christ augmented to the highest exaltation by the fact that this righteousness is not only not his own, but is the righteousness of one so beloved, so closely related to him as his living head, his elder brother - “my Lord and my God.” Had it been the righteousness of one standing in no endearing relation to him (were this conceivable) one who in future should be nothing more to him than any other, or one never more to be heard of, or at least never to be enjoyed in the embrace of friendship and the offices of love: the believer’s joy in such a righteousness imputed to him would have been unspeakably less. The exulting delight, unspeakable and full of glory, which the believer cherishes in clasping to his heart that righteousness of Jesus which is all his boast before God and angels, and which evermore is as a cordial to his fainting heart, the ever-reviving fountain to him of life from the dead, the secret and inexpressible exultation of his joy in this righteousness of Jesus just springs from the remembrance that it is the righteousness of one whom his soul loveth; of one who is all his salvation and all his desire; of one with whom he shall dwell forevermore - and thus better to him far than had it been his own. Imputation, therefore, it is evident, can carry with it a fervour and intensity of joy to which actual and personal possession can never reach.

And ah! Why may not this principle operate when imputation infers sorrow, being the imputation of sin? If Jesus had been forced to assume the place and responsibilities of the guilty (were that conceivable) the case in this respect would have been very different from what it was. It must not be forgotten that it was love that induced him to accept the imputation of iniquity - to bear away, as the Lamb of God, the sin of the world. Had it been the imputation of the sins of those whom he did not love (were that conceivable) his resulting sorrow would have been unutterably less; and there might have been some scope or place for the idea that the sin being merely imputed, and not all his own, he could afford to let it lie lightly upon his soul. But it was the sin of those whom he was not ashamed to call, and could not be induced to refrain from calling brethren - the sin of his children; his Church; his dearly beloved; his elect; his bride - “the Lamb’s wife.” His electing and everlasting love, therefore - free, sovereign, distinguishing, self-consuming - choosing this sinful Church into this intensely and divinely endearing relation, wherein his delights were with her by anticipation ere yet the morning stars sang for joy - bound her iniquity upon him as his own, even as it bound her as a seal upon his heart and as a seal upon his arm. Thus came the Holy One of Israel to have sin to reckon for - sin not his own in his own name, yet still his own in her name. And so, having guilt, and having conscience, even while he had not a guilty conscience, his soul was “exceeding sorrowful even unto death.” For he realised that he was “made sin”!

Oh, let us not think that, because personally and in himself perfectly holy, Jesus could on that account have experienced little sorrow from being numbered with the transgressors.

Not because in himself he is a sinner is the believer excluded from rejoicing in the imputed righteousness of Christ. Justified by faith in another’s merit, he may rejoice in the Lord, and glory in the God of his salvation. Yea, the fact that it is another’s merit which is the fountain of all his joy and the ground of all his glorying, infuses an element of admiration and astonishment into his glorying and his joy. And that it is the righteousness of his beloved and his friend, gives to his joy the crowning character of inexpressible delight and sweet and most generous exultation. Oh, blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth righteousness without works! “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he hath clothed me with the garment of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”

And turning now to the mournful side of this contrast - and surely it should break our hearts (Zech 12:10) to have to do it - turning to the mournful side of this contrast, which in its deep abasing poverty in sorrow has procured for us all this riches in gladness, we may surely understand how in like manner his personal holiness did not exempt him from sorrow when sin was imputed to him; how, rather, his sorrow was mingled with a peculiar terror and amazement, springing from the fact that the sin was the sin of others and not his own; and how that sorrow must have been deep and terrible in proportion as the love which bound these others to him in love even as his own soul, and thus identified them with himself, did thereby bind upon him as his own, in the name of those whom he was infinitely far from repudiatingREPUDIATE v.t. to reject, disown or deny utterly., all the iniquity which his Father’s justice charged against them.

It is not indeed the joy which a believer actually experiences as justified in the merit of Emmanuel which can properly be chosen as the counterpart and contrast to the sorrow of Jesus. It is rather the joy, in its purest form and fullest measure, which there is ground for the believer enjoying, that can alone form anything like an accurate, though even then the most inadequate, index to the contrasted sorrow of the Substitute and Surety of sinners. But we have seen enough in the analogy between imputed sin and imputed righteous to show, that as the latter, though imputed and not personal, does yet lay a ground of righteousness and surprising joy, so the former in like manner, though also not personal but merely imputed, does not on that account any less entail amazing sorrow and shame as its result.

Any aid which this analogy may furnish to us in looking into the amount of the Saviour’s sorrow is at the best but small, and the abyss of his troubles must ever be unsearchable - a matter of faith rather than of knowledge. But if the analogy is correct, then, to give to our idea such expansion as it is capable of - measuring still the sorrow of the Redeemer by the joy of the redeemed, we may observe:

1. Deeper Insight Brought Deeper Sorrow
That the more the believer sees of Christ’s righteousness, and the more he realises it by faith as his own, the deeper does that joy become which he is warranted to cherish in the Lord his Righteousness. We can conceive his faith, and his believing consciousness, to attain the consummate strength of a divine and infallible assurance. And, further, we may suppose the glorious spiritual insight he may have attained into the moral loveliness and beauty of the righteousness thus imputed to him to be such, that knowing of God that he is of God invested in this matchless robe of salvation, his joy thereupon should rise above all power of sublunarySUBLUNARY adj. situated beneath the moon, or between the orbit of the moon around the earth.
[ie: things within the sphere and influence of the earth.]
That is to say, worldly or temporal things. things to shake or overshadow it. This much as to the measure of the purchased joy - joy in imputed merit - and the conditions on which its rise and increase depend.

Similar are the conditions needful to depth of sorrow in imputed sin. First, infallible assurance (not to be called faith in this case, yet supplying its place in the other), infallible assurance that the imputation is effected; and secondly, a profound insight into the hatefulness and moral deformity of the sin that is imputed. To convey these the Jesus was verily the Father’s object in dealing with him in the garden. He gave him a view of the cup such as revealed to him the elements with which it was charged; and accurate and terrible therefore as was the view given him of the iniquities thus laid upon him, profound in proportion must have been that sorrow of which he spoke when he said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death.”

2. Christ’s Holiness made him more sensitive to the load of sin
But again, secondly, a believer’s joy in the righteousness of Christ rises to its fullest ecstasy of unmingled exultation and unassailable security, only when he actually enters the home of the redeemed and the presence of his Father on high. Then indeed will he glory in the Lord his righteousness, accepted into everlasting life in virtue of the righteousness of his Lord. And why should his joy then be bounded only by his own capacity of joy? For one reason among others, because the undimmed spiritual eye of his own personal and now unsullied holiness, can look with hitherto unknown appreciation and blessedness upon the transcendent moral beauties of the righteousness in which he walks in light. His perfect holiness now crowns his joy in the righteousness of Christ with its final and celestial radiance.

Ah! Does not the contrast again hold, very affectingly? Personal holiness and unspotted purity did not diminish the terrible humiliation and anguish Jesus underwent in being clothed with filthy garments, in being made sin, in being laden with iniquity and accounted a transgressor. Ah! no. The stainless personal perfection of Jesus made him inconceivably sensitive to all the degradation which his position at his Father’s tribunal as a transgressor implied. The believer, rejoicing in his Saviour’s righteousness, must at death be made perfect in holiness and pass into glory before he can comprehend the glorious depths of perfection in that righteousness which his beloved and friend hath brought in on his behalf. But Jesus, ever absolutely sinless, did, in virtue of that very sinlessness which we would reckon on as if it alleviated his sorrow, penetrate the depths of moral evil in all its compass and deformity and vileness which was now to be laid upon him: and his soul, because it was holy, was so much the more amazed, and very heavy, and exceedingly sorrowful even unto death.

3. A Mighty Aggregate
But the perfection of the contrast lies not between the joys of a single believer and the sorrows of the one Saviour who died for all. There shall be a people in the realms of day, blood-washed and redeemed and rejoicing, whom no man can number. Who shall measure the sum of the joy wherewith these millions of once apostate but justified transgressors, saved and sanctified for ever, shall joy in the God of their salvation? The voice of that mighty aggregate of joy shall be loud and long - yea, for ever. It shall be as the noise of many waters, ever springing up yet more and more from exhaustless abyssmal depths. It was that mighty aggregate of joy to which Jesus gave being by his sorrow. It is with that mighty aggregate of joy - ever deepening in the Holy Ghost unto eternity - that the sorrow of Jesus must be contrasted!

Are we not, then, in some measure prepared to rend our hearts and mourn, to bow our heads and worship, while a still small voice is asking: “Was there ever sorrow like unto my sorrow?”
 

Chapter 3: The Agony of Prayer
 

“And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground”  Luke 22:44

Before entering on the consideration of the import of our Lord’s prayer in the garden, there are one or two preliminary considerations requiring our attention.

A Man of Prayer

1.  The Scriptures present Jesus to us as a man of prayer. At an early period in his ministry we read a statement such as this: “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out and departed to a solitary place, and there prayed” (Mark 1:35). Again, after having fed the five thousand, Jesus, we are told, “straightway constrained his disciples to get into a ship and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitude away. And when he had sent the multitude away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray. And when the evening was come, he was there alone,” remaining thee until the fourth watch of the night, when he marvellously and miraculously showed himself to the disciples, walking upon the waters and subduing the storm (Matt 14:13). In like manner, the night preceding the day on which he chose the twelve to be his special disciples and witnesses, was dedicated to prayer: “And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples, and of them he chose twelve, whom he also named apostles” (Luke 6:12). These are instances in which Jesus is set before us as pre-eminently a man of prayer.

Made Like Unto His Brethren

2.  In the second place, this was of necessity involved in the fact of his being made in all things like unto his brethren, sin only excepted. To identify himself with his people in all their responsibilities, and in all their necessities and sinless infirmities, was the Redeemer’s purpose in assuming their nature. He would taste, by experience, all that was implied in their position, bearing by imputation all the sin that was involved in it, and entering by personal sympathy into all in it that was not sinful. He inevitably placed himself, therefore, in a position of acknowledged weakness and infirmity - of absolute dependence on God - a dependence to be exercised and expressed in the adorations and supplications of prayer. He was made of a woman, made under the law - under the law of prayer, as of other ordinances and duties - the law by which a man can receive nothing except it be given him from heaven, and except the Lord be inquired of for it (Ez 36:37).

The Terms of the Covenant

3.  That Christ should be a man of prayer was required by the terms or conditions of the covenant between himself and the Father. That covenant, which imposed upon him certain obligations, made him the heir also of many promises. Yet the fulfilment of these promises was suspended on the condition that Jesus should solicit them in prayer. Whatsoever was needful for the preservation of his person, or the erection of his kingdom, the Father engaged to bestow, requiring only the Son to ask.

The strength, the grace, the support, the consolation needed by Jesus personally, had all to be sued out in prayer; as also the fruits of his death and the ingathering of his children. In all things by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, he had to make his requests known unto God. For such was the law of his office. Such, accordingly, was the decree concerning him, as he himself rehearses it in the second Psalm7  I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.
8  Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.
Psalm 2:8
: “I will declare the decree: Jehovah hath said unto me, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.” And the prayers of the Son of God, David’s Son and David’s Lord, are predicted also, when in the eighty-ninth Psalm19  Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people. 20  I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him: 26  He shall cry unto me, Thou art my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation. 27  Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth. 28  My mercy will I keep for him for evermore, and my covenant shall stand fast with him. Psalm 89:19,20,26-28 Jehovah speaketh in vision to his Holy One, and saith, “He shall cry unto me, My Father, my God, and the Rock of my Salvation.”

The True Nature of His Humiliation

4.  The subjection of Christ’s divine person, in his Mediatorial office, to this necessity of prayer, illustrates the true nature of his humiliation. Prayer is a confession of weakness, of insufficiency. But how singular is this in one who is a divine person - the Eternal Son of God! For he who thus prayed was God manifest in the flesh. Surely, therefore, he was God in an estate of humiliation. For observe. From whom did Jesus seek the grace and power which his frail human nature needed? From what source did he desire and expect to be supplied with grace sufficient for him, with strength made perfect in his weakness? Surely from Godhead - from the infinite resources and all-sufficiency of Godhead in the person of the Father. But, dwelt there not all the fulness of the Godhead in his own person bodily? And if so, why did he not directly, and without supplicating the Father, lay hold at once on all the resources of strength and consolation which his own Godhead, in the unity of his Mediatorial person, could have yielded? Why, if he was, in his own person, true and very God, did he not make way immediately to enrich, from the treasures of his own divine energies, that frail human nature which he had exalted into union with Deity? Surely with such unimpeded and immediate access to the whole fulness of God, as the man Christ Jesus may be supposed to have possessed, in virtue of the personal indwelling of the Godhead, he might at once have laid his hand on the very gift, or measure of divine grace and strength, which he required, without the circuitous process and the delay, so to speak, of offering up supplications to the Father?

The fact that Jesus did not thus spontaneously, and on his own authority, appropriate from his own divine resources and make over to his human nature the upholding energy he so earnestly desired, but humbly and patiently sought and waited for it from his Father, is an illustration of the wonderful statement made by Paul, when speaking of Jesus he says, “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil 2:6-8). It was the very God that was found in fashion as a man, in the likeness of men, in the form of a servant. At his disposal were all the attributes of which Godhead is possessed - all the strength and graces and gifts which Godhead can bestow. From his own Godhead he, the God-man, could have supplied gloriously to his own human nature, as he supplies to other created natures, all that is required for maintenance and wellbeing. It would not have been “robbery” had he done so. Yet he had emptied himself. His humiliation implied that he should refrain from seeking in this manner to strengthen his humanity. He was found simply “in fashion as a man,” resigning all claims to wield in his own behalf the powers of that Godhead which he still possessed unimpaired, though concealed. Though he was “in the form of God” - possessing, exhibiting, exercising the prerogatives of God - he took upon him “the form of a servant,” exercising himself unto all the subjection of a servant - the servant’s form alone appearing, the form of God retired from view. Hence, while still the true God, his were the infirmities and necessities of a man, and his Father’s Godhead was his refuge and his strength, his very present help in every time of trouble. Hence Jesus prayed. He required to pray: for in his humiliation, he emptied himself, and it was to his Father he applied, that according to his day his strength might be (Thy shoes shall be iron and brass; and as thy days, so shall thy strength be.
Deuteronomy 33:25)
. His miracles were wrought by the Father’s power: “My Father doeth the works.” And he received that power by prayer. As in the eminent miracle of raising Lazarus we find Jesus “lifting up his eyes and saying, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I know that thou hearest me always; but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou has sent me. And when he had thus spoken he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:41-43).

By the Father’s power was this stupendous work achieved - and that given in answer to prayer. For in the depths of his soul Jesus had prayed, and received secretly the consciousness of an answer: nor would he have given audible expression to his communion in prayer with the Father save for the people which stood by. But for their sakes he said it, that they might believe that the Father had sent him, that the Father did the works.

Thus the very nature of Christ’s humiliation explains the necessity and nature of his subjection to the ordinance of prayer: while it made prayer as truly indispensable to him as to any of his believing people. For in his resignation of all right to wield at pleasure the powers of his own Godhead, he “became poor” as his own poor and needy children, and left for himself only what they may ever draw upon - the fulness of the Father’s Godhead and his promises. How truly he became in all things like unto his brethren! In his exaltation in our nature he reassumed his Divine rights and glories, reaccepting full access to the spontaneous employment, for the Father’s glory and his own, of all that was his as the co-equal Son of God. “Father, glorify thou me with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” And as he humbled himself that he might be made like unto his brethren, so in being exalted in our nature, it is that the brethren may be made like unto him, as he testifies in his intercession for them. “And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them.”

Proceed we now to consider the prayer in Gethsemane. And here there are three things calling for attention. First, the subject; second, the nature; third, the success - of this prayer.

II. THE SUBJECT OR THE MATTER OF THIS PRAYER

The subject or the matter of this prayer. “O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, thy will be done.”

Now we are apt to regard this as an expression of resignation and submission, and nothing more, as a mere negative willingness to suffer the will of God. And the expression which Jesus employs often means this merely. Thus the friends of the Apostle Paul, when told by the Prophet Agabus the things that should befall him in Jerusalem, entreated him most vehemently that he would change his purpose, and when Paul would not be persuaded, they ceased, saying, “The will of the Lord be done.” In this they merely gave a pious yet bare acquiescence when they found that matters could not be otherwise; and henceforth they were willing, but not at all desirous, that Paul should go up to Jerusalem. But there is much more that this in the prayer of Jesus: “O my Father, thy will be done.” As when he commanded his disciples to pray, saying, “Our Father, who art in heaven, thy will be done on earth, even as it is done in heaven” - meaning that we ought to pray to be willing to know, obey, and submit to his will in all things as the angels do in heaven - so, in his own person, he exhibits an example of a positive and strong desire that the will of God should be done. He prays desirously that the will of God may positively be done - prays this “more earnestly” than when he went the first time and said, “Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me” - prays this “with strong crying and tears Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Hebrews 5:7” - prays this in a vehement agony of wrestling, more vehement than Jacob’s when he would not let the angel of the covenant go except he blessed him - prays this in an agony of blood. We do not enter at all into the mind of Christ if we limit his language to a mere expression of his willingness to drink that cup which could not pass from him. We must understand the Saviour as intensely desiring that the will of God should be done.

What was that will of God? Clearly the two sides of the statement are directly contrasted. “O my Father, since this cup may not pass from me, thy will be done.” Since it is thy will that it should not pass from me, I desire to drink it. I desire to drink this cup, and thereby fulfil thy will - fulfil thy will in alll its extent, in measure and in manner to secure thy full approbation, and so as to secure all thy most holy and most gracious eternal purpose.

O my Father thy will be done! Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: In burnt-offering and sacrifice for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) - Lo I come to do thy will, O God. By the which will those whom thou hast given me shall be sanctified through the offering of my body once for all. For their sakes therefore I sanctify myself - I consecrate myself a sacrifice for sin - that they also may be sanctified, separated from the world, consecrated to thee, holy to the Lord (Heb 10:5-10, John 17:19). The will of the Father evidently was that Jesus should be an offering for sin - the surety in the room of the guilty - that he should be made sin. “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not will, but in the body prepared for me I come to do thy will.” And farther, the will of the Father was that hereby the Church should be sanctified or consecrated, or, in short, saved with an eternal salvation and with exceeding joy. “By the which will was are sanctified.” Hence two things are implied in Jesus’ prayer:

Support and Grace Sufficient

1.  He prays for support and grace sufficient to enable him to fulfil the whole will and appointment of God in his coming death. That death was one in which his covenanted engagement was not merely that he should passively endure what should be laid upon him, but that he should actively and positively and obediently offer himself unto God - and pour out his soul unto death - and make his soul an offering for sin. With this before him, he prays for such measures of divine grace - such supply of the Spirit of God - such communications and degrees of faith and love and zeal - such ardour of love to God and to the Church, as shall sustain him not only in uncomplaining submission, but in fervent and unimpaired obedience unto the end. For so long as in the spirit of ardent obedience, he embraced every pang of sorrow, every infliction which it was his to bear in “dying the just for the unjust,” so long would he be a conqueror. In being positively obedient unto death he would be the conqueror of death; and exactly by dying in such a manner he would be saved from death. Hence in alluding to his prayer, Holy Scripture says “that he offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death” (Heb 5:7 Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared;
Hebrews 5:7
). This does not mean that Jesus prayed that he might be saved from dying, but saved in dying; saved from being swallowed up of death, by being enabled through death to swallow up death in victory. He prayed to him who, by the boundless riches of his sustaining grace, was able to enable him to meet death in the spirit of obedience and of zeal for his Father’s commandment, namely, that he should lay down his life for the sheep. He prayed to him who was able to strengthen him unto all endless love, that he might give himself, by positive “obedience unto death,” a sacrifice to God, a substitute for sinners. For so long as thus, by holy and obedient resolution, he presented himself unto death, he met and faced down death - never conquered by death so long as his own obedience was sustained. And should that obedience be sustained “unto death,” then would he be “saved from death” exactly by dying, and through death he would destroy him that had the power of death.

Accordingly it was renewed communication of strength from God that he prayed for in his weakness. With the burden of his Church’s guilt laid upon him, and the avenging penalty due to it about to be extracted from him in the wrath of God poured into his soul - or his own soul, under that wrath, soured out a victim to divine justice, a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour unto God - he feels that his weak human nature is utterly inadequate of itself to bear this burden, or come forth from beneath this ordeal with his obedience still inviolate. He calls therefore on the Lord. In an agony he wrestles earnestly. He offers up supplication and prayers with strong crying and tears. He is filled with holy fear. “According to thy fear, O God, so is thy wrath” (Ps 90:11). According, therefore to his fear, Messiah knoweth the power of the Father’s wrath as no other knows it. He trembles, dismayed. He casts himself prostrate on the ground. And as in the fortieth Psalm, which is his prayer in full, he who said, “I come to do thy will,” and who, on the imputation to him of his people’s sins, exclaimed, “Mine iniquities have taken hold upon me so that I am not able to look up,” exclaimed also in contemplating the wrath which this imputation involved: “Be please, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord make haste to help me: I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me, thou art my help and my deliverer, make no tarrying, O my God” (Ps 40:13,17).

With what earnestness and strong crying Jesus lifted up his voice and sought the Father’s strength may be learned from those Psalms that are manifestly prophetic of the Messiah, containing indeed the Messiah’s prayers. That the twenty-second and sixty-ninth Psalms are such every reader of the Bible knows; and from these, therefore, we bring forward the following supplications as part of those which Jesus offered up: “Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying: my throat is dried: mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. But my prayer is unto thee, O God, in an acceptable time. O God in the multitude of thy mercy, hear me, in the truth of thy salvation. Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink; let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the water flood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me. Hear me, O Lord, for thy loving-kindness is good; turn unto me according to the multitude of thy tender mercies. And hide not thy face from thy servant; for I am in trouble: hear me speedily. Draw nigh unto my soul and redeem it; deliver me because of mine enemies. But I am poor and sorrowful; let thy salvation, O God, set me up on high” (Ps 69).  “Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. For I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; me heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like as potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws: and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. Be not far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me. Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog” (Ps 22).  “Withhold not thy tender mercies from me, O Lord; let thy loving kindness and thy truth continually preserve me. For innumerable evils have compassed me about” (Ps 40:11,12).

In these supplication the one unvarying object of desire is divine help, preservation, grace that he may victoriously do and suffer the whole will of God. His crushing anxiety is that he may not fail nor waver from his obedience till he shall have done all that will of God on account of which a body was prepared for him. For the upholding power of his covenant God he prays, that his strength may not give way in bearing the condemnation of the Church and his Father’s wrath due to their iniquities. His work is very dear to him, and he agonises in prayer that he may be sustained unto the discharge of all that it involves. That work was assigned him by the Father’s will, aand with intense desire he cries: “Thy will be done!”

The Fruits of His Work

2.  But another thing involved in this prayer was a desire for the fruits of his work - the glory of the Father in the salvation of his people. For saith the Scripture, speaking of this will of God, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all.” Hence the prayer of Jesus implied in it a supplication for his Church that they may be sanctified - that is, separated, consecrated to God, and finally and fully saved. He prayed that he might so execute all that will of God, as that the covenanted result might follow in many sons and daughters being brought to glory. Hence in those Psalms which we have already quoted, in the midst of the petitions which supplicate grace for Jesus personally under his baptism of suffering and expiation, there occur, not seldom, petitions that refer to his people and their salvation - his anxiety to be preserved from failing in his work being increased by the thought that otherwise all hope of salvation would be cut off from the Church.

Thus, in the sixty-ninth Psalm, where he represents himself as the surety of the guilty, amenable in obligations not his own - for sins which he nevertheless so embraces in the imputation of them to himself and in the penalty due to them as to call them indeed his own, he says: “I restored that which I took not away: O God, thou knowest my foolishness, and my sins are not hid from thee: Let not them that wait, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed for my sake; let not those that seek thee be confounded for my sake, O God of Israel.” Again when anticipating the all-sufficient grace which he implored, and the glorious issue in the full expiation of his people’s sins and the full satisfaction of his Father’s justice, he says in the same Psalm (verse 32): “The humble shall see this and be glad, and your heart shall live that seek God.” It is the same in his prayer in the fortieth Psalm: “Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make haste to help me: Let those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee; let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified.” Let me so be sustained unto all gracious and holy obedience to thy will, that my offering of myself shall indeed be an acceptable sacrifice to God - a ransom infinitely precious - a ground of salvation and of boundless hope to all that seek Jehovah and his face - a fountain of redeeming grace so wonderful that all who love thy salvation shall shout for joy and magnify the Lord with me for ever.

Such, then, in substance were the two topics of this most marvellous prayer. First, the Lord Jesus implores all needful grace in the discharge of his duty of being “obedient unto death” - in his priestly office presenting himself through the Eternal Spirit {"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"} Hebrews 9:14

A sacrifice without spot unto God. Secondly, he implores therein the everlasting salvation of his people and the glory of his Father thereby.

That “will of God” was the offering of the body of Christ once for all: to accomplish this he prayed for all needful strength. By that “will of God,” also, his people are sanctified and perfected: to obtain this also was the object of his prayer. He had both these things in view when he said, “O my Father, thy will be done.”

II. THE NATURE OF THIS PRAYER

Consider the nature of this prayer. And in one word this was a prayer of importunate faith. It was the prayer of faith and importunity.

The Prayer of Faith

1.  It was the prayer of faith

Jesus, the Eternal Son of God, was a man of faith. By his incarnation he assumed a nature and a position in which nothing but faith could have sustained him. And the very fact that he found it possible and necessary for him to exercise faith, notwithstanding his glorious possession of the Godhead dwelling in his person, resulted from that humiliation of which we have already spoken. Though he was in the form of God, he emptied himself, and was found in fashion as a man - in all things like unto his brethren, sin only excepted. Hence the faith of the man Christ Jesus is stated by the writer to the Hebrews as a proof of the full extent to which Jesus, the living head of the Church, hath identified himself with his members: “For both he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto thee: And again, I will put my trust in him” (Heb 2:11-13).

So eminent and obvious was the faith which Jesus reposed in God that it was made especial matter of reproach to him. “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him; let him deliver him seeing he delighted in him.” Such was the prophetic testimony of the Spirit. And it was literally fulfilled; for “the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders said, He trusted in God; let him deliver him now if he will have him” (Ps 22:7; Matt 27:43). His faith was conspicuous even to his foes.

Now in order to the prayer of faith, there must be both the Word and Spirit of the Lord. It must be prayer in the Spirit, and prayer according to the Word. It must be so with every member of the Church. And Jesus, the Church’s head, is under the same law. He also must pray in the Spirit, if he would be heard. He also must have God’s words abiding in him, if he would ask what he will and it shall be given to him. But the covenant under which he lives and dies, and rises again, provides for this abundantly. For, thus saith Jehovah to his Christ, thus hath the Lord said to our Lord, “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord: My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words that I have put in thy mouth, shall never depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and forever” (Isa 59:21).

(1)Had Jesus the warrant of the Word for his prayer? Was it the promise of Jehovah that he pleaded? Was it as one who could say, “Remember unto thy servant the word on which thou hast caused me to hope. Psalm 119:49 Most certainly. When seeking the Father’s upholding power he had only to make mention of the Father’s covenant promise to him: “Behold by servant whom I uphold, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my Spirit upon him, he shall bring forth judgment unto the Gentiles. He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he have set judgment in the earth, and the isles shall wait for his law” (Isa 42:1-4). Or again, thus had Jehovah said in the prophets concerning him “whom man despiseth,” “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee; and I will preserve thee and give thee for a covenant of the people” (Isa 49:8). Hence did he say in faith: “The Lord God will help me; therefore I shall not be confounded; therefore have I set my face like a flint, for I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me: who will contend with me? Let us stand together. Who is mine adversary? Let him come near unto me. Behold, the Lord God will help me: who is he that shall condemn me?” (Isa 50:7-9). Yes, Messiah had abundant promises, exceeding great and precious promises, all Yea and Amen in himself. And his prayer was simply an inquiring for the thing which the Lord had spoken.

(2)But was Christ’s prayer also in the Spirit as well as according to the Word? Now we know that the Spirit of the Lord was given him without measure; and if so, he must have prayed in the Spirit. Believers receive from Christ the promise of the Spirit. According to the measure of the gift of Christ to each member, the Spirit comes forth to the Church from her living head to whom the Spirit was given without measure. And if in the believer the Holy Ghost is a Spirit of Grace and supplications, he must have primarily wrought in this same character, in all his fulness and in his highest efficacy in Jesus. There is not indeed any express passage in Scripture in which Jesus is said to have prayed in the Holy Ghost, yet the inference is valid and unavoidable. We find it stated by the Apostle that the Spirit helpeth our infirmities and maketh intercession for us according to the will of God - that he maketh intercession with groanings which cannot be uttered. Bearing this in mind, let us stand for a moment beside Jesus at the grave of Lazarus. We hear him there referring to a prayer which he had presented, and giving thanks that the Father had answered it. “Father I thank thee that thou hast heard me. And I know that thou hearest me always.” But on referring to the preceding context we find in it no record of any prayer that Jesus had offered up. We find it stated, however, a few verses before, that when Jesus saw Mary weeping and the Jews also weeping which came with her, “he groaned in the Spirit.” When we take this in connection with the fact that Jesus afterwards makes mention of a prayer which he had presented, and in connection with the description which Paul gives of the Spirit’s work in quickening the children of God in prayer, namely that “he maketh intercession in them with groanings which cannot be uttered,” are we not entitled to infer that when Jesus “groaned in the Spirit” he was offering up in the Spirit prayers and supplications, if not with strong crying, at least with tears (for at this time also “Jesus wept”) unto him that was able to hear him, and was heard, even as he immediately rendered thanks and put forth the power of giving life to the dead, even as the Father had given him. And indeed the Spirit of grace and supplications in the Church is just the Spirit of the Son in their hearts crying, Abba, Father, as doubtless that same Spirit it was in whom Jesus cried, “Abba Father, O my Father, thy will be done.”

How closely are the brethren conformed to the firstborn - he in all things made like unto him - he in all things made like unto them - that they might be conformed to the image of the Son! Mark it carefully. He is himself a man of prayer, as they must be. His prayer is the prayer of faith, as their’s must be. His prayer of faith is in the power of the Spirit, and on the warrant or promise of the Word; even as they must pray in the Holy Ghost, and with the Lord’s words abiding in them.

Importunate Prayer

2.  But, secondly, as this was believing prayer, so it was importunate. It was such as would take no denial. It was exceeding earnest: it was with strong and loud cries to God; it was with tears; it was with blood. “His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

There was never such prayer offered to God. Jacob’s prayer was earnest and persevering, importunate and successful, when he wrestled with the angel of the covenant and would not let him go without the blessing. But when Jesus wrestled, strove, agonised, it was such prayer as heaven and earth had never seen. He was charged with the vindication of his Father’s honour - with the maintenance of his Father’s law - with the salvation of countless thousands through eternity. He had to discharge himself of all these responsibilities in one only way, by suffering in all the powers and faculties of his created nature, in soul and body, the infliction of those stripes which should satisfy divine justice and be in the scales of equity a righteous equivalent for the second and eternal death of all for whom he gave himself. He had an amazing and appalling view of the justice and terror of such a doom, and his soul became exceeding sorrowful even unto death. No wonder that meeting such a doom with a body such as ours, sensitive in every nerve to every pang of physical endurance - and a soul unutterably more sensitive, in its unspotted purity, to the agony of those spiritual pangs which the frown and displeasure of the Almighty and the All-holy One caused him; he should have laboured in the anguish of his spirit to lay hold, in the prayer of faith, importunate and invincible, on the divine upholding power through which alone he could achieve the eternal wonder of an obedient endurance of the coming Cross. Loving his people also with an everlasting love, and alive to the dreadful doom from which he came to save them; understanding in the depths of his created spirit, as he had never till now understood, the bitter endless woe and shame from which he is about to rescue them; and seeing what that dreadful destiny is which must pass upon them and abide on them for ever, if he cannot obediently, willingly, wholly and successfully endure it all in their stead; with a love towards them rising in its action and intensity the more that he apprehends and appreciates all the endless terror from which it is his office and his work now to save them; and the more he apprehends and appreciates that, feeling only all the more unfit for going through with the work assigned him, yet all the more resolved to ransom and redeem his people - no wonder if trembling at the prospect of enduring that wrath of God, and trembling still more at the thought of failing, and so consigning his beloved elect to endure it, he throws himself in agony upon Jehovah as his refuge and his strength - fulfils his Father’s prophecy concerning him, “He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, my God, and the Rock of my Salvation” - appeals with loud cries to his Father’s promise, “My hand shall be established with him, mine arm shall strengthen him; my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him, and in my name shall his horn be exalted” - and in the depths of holy fear offers up supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that is able to save him from death.

III. THE SUCCESS OF THIS PRAYER

What was the success of this prayer? It was an abundant answer. “He was heard in that he feared.” He received all needful grace, all sustaining strength, qualifying and enabling him to endure the cross and despise the shame; and gain an eternal title to the joy that was set before him.

Two leading desires were embraced in this prayer. First, that he might obtain grace and zeal and love even in such measure as would keep him positively obedient unto death, that hereby he might destroy death and attain the perfection of his own office and power as a Prince of Life. And, second, as the sure fruit of this, the seeing of the travail of his soul in the salvation of all whom the Father had given to him. Now these are the very things which Scripture testifies he received in answer to prayer.

He Learned Obedience by the Things which He Suffered

1.  “He was heard in that he feared, and though he were a Son - the only begotten Son of God - he learned obedience by the things which he suffered Hebrews 5:7-8.

In answer to his prayer to be saved in dying, God taught him - God strengthened him to learn - that obedience unto death, whereby death should be destroyed. The Father bestowed upon him all grace to give himself willingly to death; to obey in positive priestly activity and holy zeal the commandment to lay down his life for the sheep. God taught him the great lesson of destroying death and being saved from death, by not passively suffering death - but by actively and obediently meeting death and offering himself in death a sacrifice to God without spot. God taught him this lesson in time of need. God gave this counsel; and his reins instructed him in the night season; so as that being thus obedient unto death, “his soul should not be left in the state of the dead, nor the Holy One suffered to see corruption” (Ps 16:8,9). And Jesus learned the lesson; learned obedience in the things which he suffered; and in dying obediently he was saved from death, and exclaimed, “It is finished” or “It is perfected.” He himself in all his office and work was hereby made perfect. Hebrews 5:7-9

The Salvation of His People

2.  But when Jesus prayed that he might be saved from death, his petition referred not personally to himself alone, but to himself as the head and high priest of the Church, and therefore to the salvation of all his people. He prayed that he might emerge from the jaws of death, not only safe in himself from all the claims of the king of terrors (Job 18:13-14) but bringing up with him also the eternal salvation of all for whom he died. Hence the Scripture assures us that in this point also he was heard. Not only was he heard on his own behalf, and saved from death, saved from succumbing under the last enemy, Jehovah teaching him the strange lesson of vanquishing death by being obedient unto death. Not only was he heard on this point, and taught and strengthened for obedience in the things which he suffered, but he received his people’s salvation also in and with his own, so that they dying in his death and rising to newness of life in his resurrection, “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” Hebrews 5:9

Hence those Psalms from which we have already quoted, as giving us in full the prayers which Jesus offered up in his sorrow, all point to the salvation of the Church - the promised seed - the prospering pleasure of the Lord - the gathering together of all the elect in Jesus. Thus in the fortieth Psalm - where the answer to the prayer is celebrated in the outset; “I waited patiently - (he waited who in the seventh verse says, Lo, I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me) - I waited patiently for the Lord, and he inclined unto me, and heard my cry. He brought me up also out of an horrible pit and out of the miry clay - (the same as in the sixty-ninth Psalm, “I sink in deep mire where there is no standing”) - and he set my feet upon a rock and established my goings: And he hath put a new song into my mouth - (for “he that sanctifieth and they that are sanctified are all of one, for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, In the midst of the Church will I sing praise unto thee”) - he hath put a new song into my mouth, even praise unto our God - many shall see it and fear, and trust on the Lord.” Many shall believe to the saving of the soul: many shall put their trust in the perfected author of salvation: many, even the great congregation who shall hear my song! Thus also the sixty-ninth Psalm closes with this joyful answer, “God will save Zion, and will build the cities of Judah. The seed also of his servants shall inherit it, and they that love his name shall dwell therein.” And precisely the same in substance is the close of the twenty-second Psalm, “A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. He shall come and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this” - that “It is finished.”

Thus, him the Father heareth always. “For I know that the Lord saveth his anointed; he will hear him from his holy heaven with the saving strength of his right hand. The king shall joy in thy strength, O Lord; and in thy salvation, how vehemently shall he rejoice! Thou hast given him his heart’s desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips.”

Such, then, were the subject, the nature, and the success of our Lord’s prayer in the garden.

Deferring the full application, let me close with three words of exhortation.

1.Be ashamed and confounded, ye who pray not for your own salvation! Shall the king of righteousness and peace, the Son of God, thus wrestle in supplication, with cries and tears and agony and blood, for the salvation of sinners, while you yourselves will not wrestle for that salvation which his prayers and his blood have purchased? Will you despise and neglect so great salvation, on which the Lord of glory set such a value that to gain it for such as you, he was content to be prostrate in anguish and extremity and amazement seized him at the bare thought of not securing what you despise? If you live in such prayerlessness, how inevitable and righteous will be the everlasting loss of you soul!

2.Be encouraged, ye that are seeking salvation, to come for it most confidently to Jesus. What he agonized and prayed with tears and blood to procure, he will now most joyfully and readily communicate. Oly be thou alone with Christ, as he calls thee to himself: and as assuredly as he was himself heard and “became the author of eternal salvation,” he will hear you and receive you, and redeem you from all your destructions, and you shall henceforth obey and love him. Well will you understand the meaning of the cry: “Saw ye him whom my soul loveth?”

3.Let believers offer up supplications and prayers, in the strength of those of Christ. Enter by faith into the rich inheritance of the prayers of your living Head, and into all the riches of their answers. Be ye in prayer beside the Saviour, mingling your strong crying and tears with his; yea, with what is now his glorious intercession; and when Jehovah looks on his anointed, he will lift on you the light of his countenance and fulfil all your petitions.

Chapter 4 - Failing Fellow Watchers

“What! could ye not watch with me one hour?”  Matt 26:40

If we turn to consider the aspect in which the disciples present themselves in this crisis, the first thought that strikes us is the perfect contrast between their infirmity and failure on the one hand, and the faithfulness and victory of their Lord on the other. It would seem as if the three chiefest of the apostles had been selected on this occasion expressly in order to prove how inadequate for such an hour - “the hour and the power of darkness” - was the utmost human strength. Jesus was engaged in a work in which none could aid him. The three most eminent believers then on earth, far from being able to take part with him in his sore travail in redeeming his brethren, failed even in the commanded vigilance that was necessary if they were even to be mere spectators of the scene. “When he cometh unto the disciples, he findeth them sleeping.”

Now we may consider - the Sin; the Rebuke; the Exhortation; the Apology, or rather the Explanation; the Relapses, and the Issue.

I.  THE SIN

In the first place, then, we are to consider their sin. While their Lord, their Friend, their Saviour was wrestling in an agony of sorrow and of prayer, they slumbered and slept. “When he cometh to the disciples, he findeth them sleeping.” But in this as in most similar cases, the chief matter of interest and especially, of general practical application, lies , not singly in the sin itself, but very much in the circumstances by which it was committed, and the aggravations by which it was characterised. It is when we take these into account that we really understand the case; particularly when, as in this instance, the guilt arises solely from the circumstances in which the deed is done. Their sleep was sinful, not in itself, but from the circumstances in which it occurred. And these were such as to render it grievously offensive to their Lord, and deeply humiliating to themselves. For instance, in the first place:

A Direct Breach

1.  It was a direct breach of their Lord’s injunction. For Jesus had said unto them, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death. Tarry ye here, and watch with me.” Even without this special requirement, the whole position of affairs, and the ordinary principles of Christian prudence, not to say of personal friendship and love to Jesus, ought to have been sufficient to commend to them unceasing vigilance as very specially the duty belonging to the hour that was passing over them. And so with every Christian and in all circumstances: his position and his principles alone - his position in the midst of an alluring world, of spiritual wickedness, and of the rulers of the darkness of the world; and his principles as one separated from the world and consecrated to God - these alone ought to be sufficient to keep him on his watch against temptation. But if, besides proving unfaithful to these, he be found breaking through express precepts of the Lord - not alive to the danger of his position, nor answering to the promptings of his principles; and even over and above that, deaf to special injunctions of the Lord, then surely he hath the greater sin - as these disciples had.

After Special Warnings

2.  Their sin was committed after very special warnings. “All ye shall be offended because of me this night.” There is evil at the door. There is danger approaching. And the time is this night. Ye shall be offended this night. If ye ever watched before - or ever mean henceforth to watch; if vigilance ever had, or shall have, any place with you at all, let it be “this night” - when your greatest crisis comes. Your chiefest hour of peril passes over you. For it will be Satan’s opportunity, and your necessity. The prince of this world cometh. It is the hour and the power of darkness. Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.

Now after such solemn and reiterated fore-warnings, was not their offence deeply aggravated? Alas! this is not an uncommon aggravation of the sins of believers. May not your sin in this respect have been like theirs? It may have been after warnings from the discipline of God’s providence, from the chastisements by which he condemned, and tried to break you from, that sin before. It may have been after warnings given you by experience of the danger of trusting to your own resolution, or leaning to your own understanding. It may have been after very special warning, seasonably and suitably administered in the preaching of the word; warnings borne home on your heart by the strong action of the good Spirit of God, seeking to conduct you to the land of uprightness; and, possibly, after dreadful warnings of the ruinous and fatal lengths to which others have gone by entering on the temptation against which you have not watched. And if these things be so, surely it is high time to awaken out of sleep.

The Refusal of a Personal Favour

3.  Their sin was aggravated by this sore consideration, that it was the refusal of a personal favour to their Lord. There were many grounds on which Jesus could have put the duty he enjoined. His own authority as their Lord and Master was enough. Their own danger, which he had clearly explained, should have been sufficient. But giving them credit for true love to his person, he chose rather to request their wakeful diligence as a personal favour to himself. He opened up to them his own rent and wounded heart. He showed before them his trouble. And he implored them, as they loved him, to watch with him in such an hour - the hour of the travail of his soul. Oh! who shall tell all the depth and tenderness of that personal and pathetic appeal which he made to them? “My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death. Tarry ye here, and watch with me.” Surely, by putting the duty upon a ground like this, Jesus consulted best for the likelihood of its being discharged, and addressed himself to the strongest motives that could have engaged them to discharge it. Every one who is alive to the claims of sacred friendship is aware that the recommendation of a beloved friend is far more likely to be observed, when he chooses to bind it up with the truth and evidence of our personal attachment to himself, than when he puts it merely on the ground of our own interest, or, if he be a superior, on the ground of his official authority over us. And when Jesus thus asked their watchfulness as a personal favour, as a tribute of their love which he would be gratified to receive, we feel as if we might almost do well to be indignant at the men who failed to gratify him.

But let us consider ourselves. Has Jesus never asked any personal favour at our hands? And if so, have we never failed as they did? Is it the eleven alone, or is it these three highly-favoured ones among the only, that have it in their power to add this aggravation to their sin? Was such a possibility limited to the few who companied with Jesus in the days of his flesh? On the contrary, Jesus places all our sanctification on the same footing on which he placed this request to the apostles. Over and above the unchangeable authority of God, and the ever-binding obligation of his law as a perfect and inviolable rule of our obedience; not to speak of the promotion of our own comfort and true moral dignity, or of the reward which is found in keeping those commandments which are not grievous; over and above all responsibilities and motives which arise from our relation to God - the Father, Son and Holy Spirit - and from unchangeable principles alike of law and gospel; Jesus has condescended to pour a peculiar tenderness and life and strength and unflagging freshness and welcome over all the obligations of his people, by putting their whole obedience on the footing of a grand series of personal favours to himself. It is this that wakens up the finest feelings of the truly Christian or regenerated heart. It is this, as one element, which differences infinitely the generous and evangelical obedience of those that are freely forgiven, from the selfish self-righteous efforts of those that know not the gospel. It is this, as one element and ornament of gospel holiness, that makes the king’s daughter all glorious within; that justifies as very holy a free justification; and almost sanctifies twice the sanctification of the children of God.

They are enlisted and engaged by the gospel to render many a personal favour to their Lord; to gratify the Son of God, their beloved and their friend; to promote his highest satisfaction; to cause him to see of the travail of his soul; to have a share in causing the pleasure of the Lord to prosper in his hand. For what else does Jesus mean, or on what other footing but this does he place our obedience, when he says, “If ye love me keep my commandments”? And what else did Paul mean but this - this, in all its sweetest and most engaging power - when he said, “The love of Christ constraineth us to live not unto ourselves, but unto him that died for us and that rose again”?

But if these things be so, how aggravated are the sins of believers, implying, as they must thus imply, a rejection of the Lord’s tenderest appeal, a refusal to do the Saviour a pleasure!

Breaking a Confidence

4.  The sin of the disciples was aggravated by this consideration that Jesus had reposed great confidence in them. He had selected them from a whole nation to be his especial followers and companions. He had admitted them to a sacred familiarity and intimacy which ahs almost made them the objects of a holy envy - if the expression might be used - in all ages since. He had, in his late discourse with them at the paschal table, poured out his heart to them in strains of divine truth and tenderness and love, which have been the ever-fresh study and astonishment of spiritual minds, in proportion to their light and holiness and love, ever since they were put on record. He had brought forward these three highly-favoured men nearer to the marvellous scene of his agony than any others, and made them spectators of what he would have shrunk from the rude, unfeeling world beholding. And it was very far from being the first time that these selected three had been allowed to see ad hear things from which the others were excluded. Surely they had been very generously, very confidingly dealt with. Surely it touched their honour very closely that they should not fail in such an hour as this. And if they did, do we not feel that their offence was aggravated by the weighty trust and tender confidence which they belied?

For it is a principle which operates well and powerfully on natures in which generous emotion has any place. To repose large confidence in such a case, is to create or call forth the honour which receives and guards and justifies it. Among the higher order of minds, and often in the humblest ranks, it may be seen to bind the servant to his master by one of the strongest ties, and to give a moral dignity to the relation - He hath counted me honourable, and I will prove that he was not mistaken.

How beautiful it is to find every fine feeling of our nature seized upon and sanctified and impressed into action by the gospel! That glorious gospel of the grace of God finds the sinner not trustworthy at all towards God - an apostate, an enemy, a traitor: and it slays his enmity; reverses his apostasy; sweeps away all his treachery and guile; transforms him into a trusty and a loyal child of honour; simply by at once reposing in him the highest confidence. It finds him bankrupt - dishonourably so, destitute, his character broken, his credit gone. And it gives him a character by giving him some of the jewels of the crown royal of heaven to keep. It gives him freely, in his unworthiness and untrustworthiness, a plenary forgiveness of all his sins, and a rich reconciliation to his offended Father in heaven; and hopes that he will not abuse a mercy so large and liberal. It gives him free access to the great covenant treasure chest of the unsearchable riches of Christ; and hopes that he will never spend them on his lusts, or sin that grace may abound. It gives him great consolation and good hope through grace, reversing all his destiny and his inheritance; and making him a free son of God without money and without price, it hopes that he will walk worthy of the high vocation wherewith he is called. It gives him a clean heart and a right spirit, and the indwelling of the Spirit of our God, and hopes that when entrusted therewith he will keep that good thing which is committed to him through the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in him. It deals bountifully with him, and trusts that he will live and keep God’s law. It places in his hands the honour of his God, necessarily committed in his own character as a professed child of God, bearing the heavenly Father’s image; and hopes that he will give no occasion to the adversary to blaspheme, but rather cause men to glorify God on his behalf and to take knowledge of him that he has been with Jesus. In fine, it gives him Christ, to be his for ever, to dwell in his heart by faith, the fountain and pledge of all - and then leaves it to himself to cry out, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits towards me?”

But if, by negligence and wilfulness, he belie a confidence so generous, how aggravated and heinous must be the believer’s iniquity - even as was that of these disciples in Gethsemane!

Violation of their Lord's Example

5.  We must remark yet another aggravation of their sin. They failed to discharge a duty for which they had both an example and an encouragement, in the work in which Jesus himself was engaged. Had he retired into the garden for repose; courting the relief of sleep from the fatigues and anxieties of the day, and the still more dread prospects of the morrow; leaving them, the while, to act as sentinels to guard his privacy, or forewarn him of the enemy’s approach - even in such a case, with all the duty of unlimbering wakefulness devolved on themselves alone, while their master sought repose; they ought to have been animated by such holy jealousy to guard their post of honour as would diligently have warded off, or at least eagerly and early descried (DESCRY v.t. to catch sight of, to successfully discern) all signs of danger, and challenged all comers with the challenge of the Bride in the Song, “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, that ye stir not up nor awake my beloved till he please.”

But the case was very different. Their commanded wakefulness was not designed to minister to his ease or protect his comfort. It was only to second, very faintly, the intense action of his own infinitely trying duty. He left them, himself to pray: “Tarry ye here, while I go and pray yonder.” And they had to lay aside every weight and their heaviness, and the sin that did beset them, literally looking unto Jesus. For he was immediately within their view. He was under their very eye, himself watching unto prayer - very eminently “praying with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for al saints.” Ah! he assigned them no work which he shunned himself. And still he assigns his people no difficulty, no duty, unknown or foreign to his own experience. This very duty of watching and praying that ye enter not into temptation, when enjoined by Jesus, ought surely to be felt as coming with all gracefulness and all the enforcement which example may carry, over and above what may be derived from authority. He was himself intensely wakeful and prayerful. He had an agony of wakefulness and prayer. The disciples ought to have seen this; ought to have kept their eye upon it. They ought to have stimulated themselves, quickened themselves, shaken off the bands of their neck and the spell of slumber, by the sight - the thought - that he was himself assailed as they were; that he too, like them, yea infinitely more, was the mark of Satan’s fiery darts; that the skirtsie: (the outskirts of the battle) only of the cloud of battle troubled them, while its central terrors were wrestling with him, who in watchfulness and agony of prayer was wrestling with the very power of darkness. And still the same is true of every tried believer. He ought to watch and pray as at the gate of Gethsemane; as in the view of Jesus’ wrestlings; in the remembrance of Jesus’ temptations. Is it not to this very end that such frequent assertion is made to the effect that he himself hath suffered being tempted - to assure us also that he is thus able to succour them that are tempted?
Hebrews 2:18
Is it not to make us watch and pray, as in the very wake of our Lord’s own vigilance and prayer, that we are assured we have not an high priest Hebrews 4:15 who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin? Ought it not to have inspired the disciples with unquenchable persistency in watching unto prayer, that they was the Captain of their Salvation precisely so engaged himself with the powers of evil? Was it not enough to nerve them with endless resistance - that they could not possibly fall or fail while they might thus participate in the success which the Lord’s own watchfulness and prayer were achieving? So that to fall from his example and fellowship was to fail of his triumph, and to refuse the dominion over evil which Jesus was procuring for them! For when he called them to “watch with him” - to watch simultaneously with him, after the example and in the concert of his own watchfulness and prayer - did not Jesus imply that they should in that case conquer in and with his own conquest? And still, when with this model before them - a model that is strangely fraught, as no other is, not merely with the elements of an example, but with the power of a triumph and the pledge of a deliverance - when this model was before them, believers shun the contest or slumber in it, surely, like the disciples, they have the greater sin.

Yes, this sin was exceeding sinful. They slumbered while their lord was in his sorrow; they did so in breach of his express injunction; in defiance of special warning; unto the refusal of a personal favour solicited by their Lord; unto the belying of great confidence reposed in them; and in violation of their Lord’s own example as it transpired before them.

No wonder, then, that this exposed them to the rebuke which might well carry some indignation in it -

II.  THE REBUKE

“What! could ye not watch with me one hour?” “And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter: What! could ye not watch with me one hour?”

We mark, at once, the just severity with which this rebuke, addressed to all, was specially pointed to Peter. What! Thou that didst so lately speak so resolutely: “Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will not I be offended” - “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” Is your valour, and is your love, come to this so soon? “He saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou couldst not thou watch one hour?” (Mark 14:37). Alas! on whom then can I rely?

But while rightfully pointed especially to Peter, the rebuke was addressed to all; for what Peter had said, the same “likewise also said all the disciples.” Nor were there any among them whose consciences could refuse it as a merited and seasonable reproof - a word profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that they might be led the better to furnish themselves for good works.

Mark the varied emphasis of this rebuke, applicable in almost all its force to slumbering believers in and circumstances.

Could not ye watch with me one hour?

1.  "What! could not ye watch with me one hour?" Could not ye watch with me? ye who have sojourned with me, and suffered with me, and been interested deeply in me; and are interested, more than ye know, in my sorrows and my trials, and my successful endurance of them - my contests and temptations and my triumphant victory over them. Ye who have cast in your lot with me; who have forsaken all and followed me; who have periled all you hope and all your happiness in me. Oh! who can be expected to watch with me, if it be not such as you?

And still all these elements of emphasis may be found in the Saviour’s rebuke to every negligent or backsliding believer. Cannot ye watch with me, who have been taught to know me; to believe in me; to love me, to cast in all your lot with me; to count me all your salvation and all your desire? Be it so that the unawakened world sees little in temptation to break their slumber or arouse them to prayer: could not ye, who have been differently dealt with, and have otherwise learnt Christ; could not ye watch unto prayer? Ye who have been admitted to my fellowship, entrusted with my honour, partakers of my love, aspirants to my Father’s kingdom on high - could not ye watch with me, that ye enter not into temptation?

Could not ye watch with me one hour?

2.  “What! could not ye watch with me one hour?” What is it to be “with me”? - in my company; not alone; not in your own cause or battle; not in your own skill nor your own strength; but in every sense “with me.” When your watching is to be an act - a trying act it may be, but still an act - of fellowship with me? When it is required in order that you may in all things be conformed to me; that you may not lose the blessing of conformity, the bond and benefit of fellowship “with me?” In such circumstances “could ye not watch?” I send you on no warfare at your own charges. I send you indeed on no warfare of your own. I shall myself be your leader, your prototype, your forerunner in the battle - the wakeful prayerful battle - of temptation; in all your afflictions myself afflicted; in all points tempted like as you are; suffering in being tempted. And when you watch “with me,” you shall triumph if I triumph; if you suffer with me, you shall also reign. Yes, this is the singular secret of the Christian’s success in all things: he is in all things “with Christ.” He links on, by faith, his very temptations with those of Christ, and finds therefore all the victory of Christ his own. (Romans 8:37)

He watches with Christ; and then in his blindness Christ is eyes to him in the wilderness. He prays with Christ; and Christ is intercessor and merit for him in his unworthiness. The watchings and the prayers of Christ in the days of his flesh are not only his example but his inheritance; and he has more than the disciples could have asked or thought - he has on his side the vigilance of Israel’s shepherd, now watching in the power of an endless life; he has the intercession of one who has laid aside his tears and agonies, and bespeaks his people’s welfare in glorious and august state at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens. So that, ever as the believer is true to his position as one in communion with Christ, he may be tempted with Christ nevertheless he shall triumph, yet not he but Christ that dwelleth in him, and the life of trial that he lives in the flesh shall be a life of triumph by the faith of the Son of God, who was tried and triumphed for him. If I am called to no temptation but after this rule, well may wonder and indignation be expressed if I resile and refuse. What! can you not watch, when you are called to keep watch with me?

Could ye not watch with me one hour?

3.  And, “Could ye not watch with me one hour?” Is your vigilance already overpowered; your resistance already gone? I gave you to wit that the night would be eventful; that this whole night would call for special anxious wakefulness; that ere its watches were all transpired - by daybreak or at cock-crowing - all might not be among you as it ought to be! But, “Simon, couldst not thou watch one hour?” I marvel that ye are so soon removed from me! Where is the constancy you spake of? For I bear you record that, if it had been possible, you would have plucked out your own eyes and have given them to me. “Who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth” tempted, watching unto prayer in an agony? Ah! is not this rebuke often needed? Could you not watch with Christ one hour? Your heart warmed with some strong and tender feeling of the love of Christ; coming to him at his gospel call and finding peace and joy in believing; pouring out your heart before him in the first prayer of guileless Sonship, so very different from all that went before in the spirit of bondage; you gave yourself to Jesus as one whose decision was for ever irrevocable, and you vowed that though all men should forsake him and his cause, yet would not you - as for you and your house you would serve the Lord. You did this as honestly, as sincerely, as ever the eleven bound themselves to Jesus; with as little reservation as they, on this eventful night, when acting, at least for the time, as Israelites indeed in whom there was no guile, they avowed their resolution that they would not be offended in their Lord. But too soon, like them, you felt the action on your whole nature of an evil power which, in the hour of warm-hearted, generous fealty to Jesus, you had forgotten to calculate upon: and erewhile the withering spell of worldly influence, and close-cleaving infirmity, managed by the subtlety of him the beguiled Eve, brought you down from the lofty elevation of your holy purpose; weakened you out of the energy with which you started on the Christian race and by which for a little “you did run well” - a slumber, the same in its nature, though in degree never again so complete, as that from which the grace of God had awakened you, overtook you once more; till roused by the sting of conscience, or the stroke of Providence, or the word of Scripture - any or all of these together - you heard, by means of them, Christ’s painful but righteous reprimand: “What! could ye not watch with me one hour?” Are ye so soon removed?

Was it not well that he came to you at all, in however great severity he spoke? Better far that Jesus should come and find you sleeping, than that he should leave you sleeping and cast you off. Is it not good, if he comes to thee, believer, in this word of reproof and warning now, if such be now thy state of backsliding; especially when he comes to renew his exhortation, and give you as it were, in his grace, a fresh lease of your opportunity to vindicate your integrity, to renew the love and faithfulness of your youth?

For it is thus that he mingles his painful reproof with profitable instruction in righteousness; enjoining once more the duty that had been forgotten: “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.”

III.  THE EXHORTATION

We have said this is the same duty enjoined anew. For, combining the informations given by all the Evangelists, we find from Matthew and Mark that before leaving them at all, ere yet he entered the garden, Jesus enjoined on them the necessity of vigilance: “Tarry ye here, and watch with me”; while we learn from Luke that at the same time he enjoined on them the necessity of prayer: “He came out, and went, as he was wont, to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples also followed him. And when he was at the place, he said unto them, Pray that ye enter not into temptation” (Luke 22:39,40). So that Jesus had really nothing new to say to them - no fresh or additional advice to give them, but the same which they had heard from the beginning.

And there is a lesson in this. For in the decay or slumber of your Christian life, it is not something new that is to revive you; not some novel doctrine; not some unheard of, or lately discovered, Christian exhortation; not some singular and striking advice, prescribing some royal road different from that in which the usual footsteps of the flock are marked, not prescribing even any means or method of revival hitherto unknown to yourself. No: there is a great snare hid under any such expectation as that. You are to stand in the beaten path, and inquire for the good old ways you trod before, if you would find reinvigorating grace and rest unto your soul.

It is to be desired, indeed, that this old commandment to inquire for the good old way may come as a new commandment to you now. It is to be hoped that by a fresh baptism of the Spirit, and fresh humiliation and sense of danger, and quickened spiritual perception on your part, it may have almost the aspect, in its anew discovered suitableness, and in its striking seasonableness of an absolutely new commandment. But it is the same commandment that ye have heard from the beginning of your Christian life: “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.” Yet it need not seem to you and old commandment or if old, yet it should be welcome as an old and faithful friend. For realise only, in the light of your experience, and especially of the sins and failings that have made it needful that Jesus should come and re-issue to you this injunction - realise your weak and defenceless state, and with this the multitude and power and assailing force of those that are enemies to your soul - and realise your own fearful want of wisdom of experience in spiritual warfare - which is almost the only thing which your incipient experience has taught you: think of the subtlety and wiles of the devil, and of the manifold conjunctures in which you are found of him at great disadvantage, as when weak and hungry in body, and faint in mind, even though pursuing: think how the enemy can turn all such disadvantage to account; and realise especially the terrible and fateful issue, if you cannot conquer, in so much that if this battle be finally lost, you are lost: and does it not come upon you with the joy of a great and fresh discovery that the old injunction is still as suitable as ever; that while ever, it may be, surrounded by temptation and assailed, you have ever the liberty - I shall not say the duty - but the privilege, the liberty, the warrant, the high right, to watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation at all; and the high assurance that as the prayer of vigilance and faith moves for your protection the infinite wisdom and love and power and faithfulness of God, this old, this new commandment, be it only observed and obeyed, will, even in the midst of innumerable and more than visible dangers, gird your soul with the glad assurance of a present safety, and the almsgiving hope of a final triumph?

Watch

“Watch ye, therefore, and pray that ye enter not into temptation.” For what Jesus said to them, he says to all: Watch and pray. Watch: be vigilant. Be thou a faithful sentinel on thy post of duty - thy post of honour. Let the eye of faith and spiritual wisdom be wide open on your position; and you shall see much that the world can never see, much that it concerns you very greatly that you yourself should see. And first of all - duty particular to sentinels and soldiers in the warfare of faith - watch and know thyself. Keep thy heart with all diligence and vigilance, for out of it are the issues of life. Arrest its traitorous lusts and besetting sins: condemn and crucify them. If they will not die at once, as they seldom will, watch them all the more; double the guard upon them, and put them under the surveillance of conscience in its highest force and honour. And while thus, on thy faithfulness and honour towards God, they are crucified and watched, and their dominion prevented. Let not their presence prevail to cast thee out of communion with the Holy One, but rather let the peace of God garrison thy heart and let it rule there, to the which also thou art called.

Watch the dangers of your special callings - your companionships - your particular connections with the world - your objects of personal attachment.

Watch very specially the sources and causes of past unfaithfulness and failure. Watch the enemy’s approaches - his methods of trying you. He goeth about like a roaring lion. He changes himself into an angel of light. Watch, that you be not ignorant of his devices.

Q106

What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
 

Answer

In the sixth petition (which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil) we pray, That God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.

Westminster
Shorter Catechism

Watch your graces - what state they are in, what strength they are in, what danger they are in. Watch especially your repentance and your faith. Oh! keep them ever fresh. See if the vine flourish, or if the little foxes spoil the tender grapes. Watch what the Lord hath given you - the gracious and contrite heart, the meek and quiet spirit, which are of great price. Watch the treasure of your renewed heart, that you may be ever able to bring forth good things there from. Keep that good thing which is committed to you, through the Holy Ghost that dwelleth in you. Be not deceived into any slumbering, at any time, for Satan by subtlety may beguile you. Be thou ever aware of the disposition of the enemies’ powers. Set thee with the prophet on thy watch. Yea, watch thou with Christ on thy tower. Watch with him. Abide thou in Christ, and watch with him.

Pray

Pray also: yea, with all prayer and supplication, watching thereunto with all perseverance. Pray that of God’s grace you may be preserved from being tempted or supported and delivered when you are tempted. He can, if he please, prevent you, not only from entering into temptation, from falling into its snare and seducement, but even from being assailed by temptation at all. And, doubtless, often in answer to the appeal of conscious weakness and holy fear, the Lord dispenses with the discipline of temptations, with which, but for such frame of humble holy depreciation, it might have been indispensable to try his people and prove them. Pray, therefore, in subjection to the wisdom and the will of your Father, that he would prevent temptations from framing and forming themselves against you. But in any issue, pray that they may not form themselves against you and prosper. Pray that he would let you know when temptation is at hand; that he would always forewarn you of every special danger. Pray that he would make you not unwise in these things, but understanding the wiles of the devil and the will of the Lord. Pray that he would make you strong in himself and in the glory of his power. Pray for armour, and put it on. Put ye on the whole armour of God, praying always in the Spirit. Pray, above all - if you would not enter into temptation - in the name of him who was in all points tempted like as you are, yet without sin: and let them remembrance of the temptations of the Lord feed your faith with nourishment of new life and hope, in the assurance that he is able and willing to succour them that are tempted.

Watch and Pray

Thus, “Watch and pray,” doing both. Yea more; not only combining, but blending them.

“Pray to be enabled to watch. Watch that you may know what to pray for. Pray for the grace of vigilance. Watch for materials of prayer. . .
Watch the efficacy of prayer. Pray for success in watching. Watch, if you would be kept on the alert to pray. Pray that you may be kept alert upon your watch tower.”

Pray to be enabled to watch. Watch that you may know what to pray for. Pray for the grace of vigilance. Watch for materials of prayer. Watch that you may know temptation by its mere presence: and pray that your eyes may be purged from dimness, and anointed with eye-salve, so that you may see afar off, and may discern good and evil. And then watch with keen and piercing eye, that you may see the answers to prayer. Watch the efficacy of prayer. Pray for success in watching. Watch, if you would be kept on the alert to pray. Pray that you may be kept alert upon your watch tower. The enemy is subtle: you must watch his movements. You yourself are weak: you must pray for strength. If you could keep yourself, it might be sufficient to watch, but as God only can keep you, you must join prayer with watchfulness. If God would keep you any otherwise than by strengthening and guiding you to keep yourself, it might be sufficient to pray; but as it is, you must combine watchfulness with prayer - watching for your salvation with fear and trembling, the Lord working in you and enabling you to watch of his good pleasure. Thus he persuaded both the “watch and pray that you enter not into temptation.”

Such is the blessed exhortation which Jesus graciously gives, even when he comes to reprove and rebuke his disciples.

IV.  THE APOLOGY OR EXPLANATION

Jesus added, in his tenderness, a gracious apology or explanation. For as a father, even when he punisheth, pitieth his children, and maketh all due allowances for true heartedness and love, even so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. Jesus admitted their integrity, while he indicated and condemned their infirmity. “The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak.” “Ye are willing according to the spirit, but weak as regards the flesh.” “The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, and ye cannot do the things that ye would.”

Now this agrees with the testimony of Luke, who assures us that they were sleeping for sorrow. “And when he rose up from prayer, and was come unto his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow” (Luke 22:45). They were not heartlessly indifferent to their Lord’s sorrows. They sympathised in them all, as their own. They, too, were exceeding sorrowful. But as fools watch not the dangers of buoyant prosperity, they foolishly watched not the dangers of depressing grief: and their very sorrow, in its heaviness, put them off their guard and sank them in untimely slumber. Alas! for the wiles of the devil, wherein, alike from our levity and our heaviness of heart, he can find occasion for his malice.

Yet when Satan sifts the faithful, not grain of wheat shall be treated as chaff. The grace which really lives in the hear renewed, even though for the time it may be overpowered - the eyes of the Lord are upon it continually. Jesus saw their sorrow; and he interpreted it as proof that the spirit was willing, even though the infirmity of their flesh prevailed.

As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

Revelation 3:19

That they were indeed spiritual men, true believers and faithful brethren, Jesus took for granted both in rebuking and exhorting them, and he framed his rebuke and exhortation accordingly. But for this - but for the spirit being willing - he would have expressed neither wonder nor indignation at their want of vigilance. The very point of the reproof - “What! could ye not watch with me on hour” - lay in the fact that he was addressing spiritual and “willing” men (Ps 110:3) - men renewed in their wills or in the spirit of their minds. Such a reproof would have been out of place to a worldly or unreeled heart. And the exhortation, as well as the reproof, proceeds upon the same consideration. It is not at all suitable, and is not addressed in the first instance, to the unconverted. To you, Christ’s first address is not, “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.” Ye have never been out of temptation nor out of sin. Ye are in the flesh and dead in sin. His first searching question and rebuke to you is, What! why will ye die? And his first exhortations are like these: Flee from the wrath to come! Come out from among them and be ye separate, and touch not the unclean thing. Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead. Repent and believe the gospel. There can be no watchfulness in the spiritually blind - no prayer against temptation in the spiritually dead.

But if ye be willing according to the spirit but weak according to the flesh, then this exhortation is exactly to the point. For it is possible that it can be obeyed, only because “the spirit is willing”; it is necessary to be observed because “the flesh is weak.”

Mark, then, to whom this exhortation is given and consider whether it be an admonition to which you can immediately and at once address yourself. Amidst the weakness of the flesh, is the spirit really willing? Is the prevailing bent of your most cherished desires towards universal holiness unto the Lord? Consider and know. See what is really your true and inner man. See what is the real hidden man of the heart, whether it be the old man ungratified or the new man in God’s own image longing after that image of God in its full perfection. See whether in your failures you seek to draw with pleasure, or with sorrow, on this very verdict of Jesus: “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” And when you do apply this relief or mitigation, is it to deepen or is it to dispense with repentance? And when you sorrow over your failures, your inconsistencies of Christian character and walk, is it with regret and remorse merely for having failed of what conscience said was duty? Or is it with the special grief for having failed and been thwarted in what your heart tells you - and what God who is greater than your heart knoweth - was not only your duty, but your generous and upright and still unshaken desire? This last will be true when the spirit is willing.

V.  THE RELAPSES

Finally: Be warned by the fate of the eleven. They relapsed again, and yet again; and they lost this battle utterly. Jesus had at last to give up exhorting them, and hand them over to be taught by stern and sore experience. “Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; behold, he is at hand that doth betray me. And while he yet spake, lo! Judas, one of the twelve, came, and a multitude with swords and staves.” And Jesus, who had watched and prayed, met them with dignity and peace and unshaken constancy. The eleven had lost the opportunity of so arming themselves.

Ah! how was Peter hereby prepared for his greater fall - the others for forsaking Jesus and fleeing - all of them for being guilty of sin and laden with sorrow, till they should be forgiven and restored by a risen Redeemer! Who can trace how very different their conduct and their comfort might have been, during that terrific time, had they watched and prayed like Jesus, and as Jesus had enjoined? They escaped with their faith indeed still in life: for the watching and prayer of him with whom they would not watch, had been for them even more than for himself. They escaped, yet so as by fire. Even so may you reach heaven at last, if indeed you are Christ’s. For if ye are Christ’s, the Spirit of Christ dwelleth in you. Otherwise ye could be none of his. And if the Spirit of him that raised up Christ from the dead dwell in you, you are renewed in the spirit of your minds, and the spirit is willing though the flesh is weak, and the Lord will not break his covenant with you. Every true believer, whatsoever may befall him by the way, shall at last appear before God in Zion.Psalm 84:7, and dwell where neither sorrow nor sighing nor sifting can come anymore - where the inhabitants shall not say, I am sick, for those that dwell there are forgiven their iniquities, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes. But even though the spirit may be willing, yet if you fail to watch and pray against the weakness of the flesh, and so fall into temptation and a snare, you may reach heaven in the end, but it may be by a path in which no joy of the Lord shall be your strength until the end come - a path in which you may be left to pierce yourself through with many sorrows, and in which God may mingle for you many a cup of bitterness and trembling - “the wormwood and the gall!”

Watch ye, therefore, and pray that ye enter not into temptation.

Chapter 5: Gethsemane a Prayer-Chamber for Disciples

“Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples”  John 18:2

Would it not be well if disciples ofttimes resorted thither with Jesus? Is there not, indeed, a sense in which Gethsemane ought to be regarded as the very oratoire of the Church, the closet, spiritually, where we may, with many precious aids to faith, pray to our Father who seeth in secret and rewardeth openly, as we shall see he rewarded the Man of Sorrows?

It has been said - and well said - that a sinner should not only come to the cross, but dwell there; that the believer should abide at Calvary. Inspired warrant for the saying is found in Paul’s experience: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life that I live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). I am spiritually identified with Christ in his cross. I am united to Christ the crucified one. I am always offered up unto God, in and with him who offered himself in death a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour unto God. “Nevertheless,”it is as a living sacrifice that I am offered up; for he with whom I am crucified was crucified for me; and even in dying he was the Living One: therefore I live also; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me. Therefore I live at the cross, because I live by the cross. My home, my fortress, my high tower and dwelling-place is Calvary.

On the same principles and warrants of faith may not the believer say, My soul’s secret prayer chamber shall be Gethsemane?

Great shall be his reward. For there are three things he will find Gethsemane can furnish him with in prayer: in the first place, a blessed and perfect warrant; in the second place, a precise and comprehensive subject; and, in the third place, an honourable and a blessed fellowship.

Let these be your inducements to make Gethsemane the scene of your own believing prayers. Come ye hither, to this garden of the Lord, to be the Lord’s remembrancers and give him no rest till he arise and have mercy upon you and on Zion his holy habitation. Come ye hither, and ye shall find a high warrant and assurance of success; the true topic and full compass of your petitions; and companionship in prayer that will make you least alone when alone with Jesus as in Gethsemane.

I.  A BLESSED AND PERFECT WARRANT FOR PRAYER

In the first place, then, by praying as in Gethsemane you have the blessed advantage of knowing your right or liberty of praying - your warrant or assurance of being heard. For it is in reality here, in Gethsemane, that there resounds the glorious oracle: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

See on what foundation the truth of that blessed saying rests and where it was at first proclaimed. We must by no means separate this most precious announcement from the reason which the Lord himself assigns for issuing it, nor forget the place from which at first it issued. Now, in point of fact, it rests upon the prayers of Jesus and the answers which were vouchsafed to him. The time was when Jesus had to cry for acceptance and salvation - when he had to watch for the acceptable time and improve the day of salvation. “Salvation” was the burden of what he sought from God in agony with strong crying and with tears; he cried “unto him that was able to save him from death.” And “ ”acceptance is the grand leading element in salvation; acceptance as righteous in God’s sight; hence Jesus says, in expressing his faith and prospects, “He is near that justifieth me. Isaiah 50:6-8. These, then, were what he needed in the days of his flesh: justification or acceptance as God’s righteous servant - deliverance or salvation from the dominion of death. And he found them both. He was delivered from death by his own “obedience unto death,” and thus his “soul was not left in the state of the dead, nor did he, the Holy One, see corruption.” And he was accepted or justified also - “justified in the Spirit” - through his willing endurance of condemnation in the room and stead of his guilty but beloved people. Of this salvation from death by dying, and of this acceptance or justification by his willingness to be condemned, the Prophet Isaiah testifies, or, rather, by the Spirit of inspiration, Jehovah, the Father, testifies, in converse with Jehovah, the Son, the covenant-head and surety Genesis 43:9. For thus saith “Jehovah, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One,” “to him whom man despiseth” - to him who was despised and rejected of men: “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth and to cause to inherit the desolate heritages; that thou mayest say to the prisoners, Go forth; and to them that sit in darkness, Show yourselves”

Isa 49:7-9 Thou shalt be made perfect and become the author of eternal salvation; thou shalt acquire the right and power of translating sinners out of darkness, and redeeming slaves from bondage; thou shalt have the prevailing sovereign right of combined authority and grace to say to the prisoners, Go forth, and to them that sit in darkness, Show yourselves; on condition that thou criest unto me for thine own acceptance in an acceptable time. Offering up “supplications to him that is able to save” thee in a “day of salvation,” thou shalt be heard and helped - helped from the sanctuary and strengthened out of Zion - saved in that thou hast feared. Yea, “behold the Lord God will help thee, who is he that shall condemn thee?” “Thou art my servant in whom I will be glorified.” “Thou art my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” “In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee.” Such is the covenant promise to the Son.

Surely this promise received a very signal fulfilment in Gethsemane, when there appeared unto him from heaven an angel strengthening him. And his Father strengthened him inwardly with strength in his soul, and filled him with all grace and love and patience, and calm courage and resolve to endure the cross despising the shame. Never more than in Gethsemane did Jesus find his prayer to be unto the Lord “in an acceptable time and in the truth of his salvation” (Ps 49:13).

And now having obtained an acceptable time and a day of salvation to himself, does he keep these great blessings to himself, or does he freely lay them open to participation on the part of all who will count them blessings indeed, all who will consent to accept them at his hands? There is indeed to sinners now a day of salvation, an acceptable time - a time of seeking while the Lord may be found, a time of calling on him while he is near. But what is this accepted time, this day of salvation? What is it but the participation, the prolongation of Christ’s own accepted time? It is into it that we are called to enter, with all the high warrant an assurance of acceptance and salvation which his acceptable time and his day of salvation afford.

It is thus that the Apostle Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, finds all our warrant for acceptable prayer springing out of the accepted and answered prayers of Jesus himself. Quoting from Isaiah, in his second epistle to Corinth (6:2), he rehearses the words of Jehovah the Father to Jehovah Jesus promising to hear and answer and help him, and grounds upon them the glorious assurance, without which we can neither believe nor hope nor pray, “We beseech you that ye receive not the grace of God in vain; for he saith” - he saith to Jesus - “I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold,” then, O Corinthians, “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Yes, it is because Jesus was heard in a time accepted that you can now pray with the hope of acceptance: it is because he was heard in that he feared when he prayed to him that was able to save him from death that you have now a day of salvation. Now indeed does the blessed Saviour - the suppliant of Gethsemane, heard and answered - now does he draw near to the slaves of darkness and sin, to bring them forth to the light and salvation of his own kingdom. Now does he truly say to the prisoner, “Go forth,” and to thee, O soul, still in darkness, he saith, “Show thyself.” And why shouldst thou refuse, when he comes to share with thee his own “accepted time,” to make thee a partaker of his own “day of salvation” - to give as sure salvation to thy person, and as sure acceptance to thy prayer, as he himself found for his own person and his own prayers in Gethsemane, when the Father heard him out of Zion, and saved him from falling under the dominion of death?

In Gethsemane, then, you have your high warrant for prayer. In Gethsemane you find the acceptable time - the day of salvation; true and sure and infallible as the salvation which the person of Jesus found - the acceptance which the prayer of Jesus met with. In Gethsemane you seek the Lord in a time when he may be found, you call upon him in a place where he is very near.

And here let me speak to the prayer less and procrastinating. Knowing the terrors of Gethsemane, we would desire to persuade you to seek the Lord while he may be found, to call upon him while he is near. For, oh! be persuaded that if Gethsemane warrants the prayer of faith and assures its answer, it warrants also the justice and assures the certainty of terrible damnation to those who do not pray. That sufferer and suppliant who wrestles there in such anguish and amazement and heaviness and sorrow inexpressible and unparalleled, is bearing nothing more than what he is bearing away from them that believe, but which will abide for ever upon them that believe not. Such as it was to him who stood in the room of the guilty, wuch will it be without abatement to the guilty who through love to sin and of the world and in unbelief continue to stand in their own name before the Holy One of Israel, having no lot nor part in the Saviour s salvation, but despising the acceptable time which Jesus found for himself and would willingly share with you. Was his soul “exceeding sorrowful” under the imputation of the sins of sinners? And what shall your sorrow be if ye awake into eternity with your sins still on your own head - on your own head for ever? Would it be fair or righteous that, with others’ sins lying to his charge, his soul should be very heavy, crushed within him, pressed down to death with sorrow and your sorrow should be less? Nay; “their sorrows shall be multiplied” that live and die impenitent and out of Christ. Was he amazed, “sore amazed”? Sinners that meet their own reckoning, unrelieved and unforgiving through that reckoning which justice had with Jesus in Gethsemane, shall be filled , in their horror and damnation, with terrible amazement. Why should he be, and not you - you who defy God in your deadly unconcern and reject and despise his Son by your careless and prayerless unbelief? “The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites; who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings”?

Ah! if with the holy and spiritual and far-sighted soul of Jesus, imputation of sin when it came near upon him, took even him by surprise; filled him with sore amazement, assumed an aspect of horror which, when at a distance, though he had all along expected its advent and laid his account in holy intelligence with being made a curse, he could not have expected to be so crushing, so full of the wine of astonishment, and thus in trembling and in tears and in blood, the Lord God Omnipotent in the likeness of sinful flesh threw himself upon the cold ground and moaned in the anguish of his spirit and his sweat was it were great drops of blood: what horrible surprise and amazement and blank terror for ever shall seize on you, O prayerless soul, when, awakened from your carnal sleep, arrested by the ministers of divine vengeance, and flung out, a cast-away, on the dread plains of eternity, you find that the accepted time is past, the day of salvation that Gethsemane secured gone, and nothing yours from Gethsemane at all, except the sorrow and the amazement and the agony, remediless and merciless for ever! Choose ye this day which you will accept: the agony of prayer in a time of acceptance, the agonising to enter in at the strait gate in a day of salvation, and glory for ever beyond - or the agony of sorrow, with nothing but a fearful looking for of vengeance and fiery indignation. Choose, do I say? O how little room for choice! Accept at once and improve the time of acceptance. Be saved now in the day of salvation. Let your prayer be offered now in the acceptable time, in the multitude of the Lord’s mercy and the truth of his salvation. Bless God that prayerless-ness and procrastination have not already sealed your doom. Draw near to Gethsemane to pray, tremblingly grateful that it gives you liberty and warrant to pray in the full assurance of faith and of acceptance, and henceforth be followers of them who through faith and patience are now inheriting the promises.

And ye, to whom the high duty and privilege of prayer is not unknown, ye who are the Lord’s remembrancers - rest your warrant, your assurance on the answered prayers of Jesus, and ye too shall receive an answer. The battle of believing prayer is won. It was won in Gethsemane. Ye are but following up the victory. Come ye, therefore, to Gethsemane and offer here your supplications. Here was your Lord himself accepted - here was he heard and helped and saved from death; and here, therefore, the living oracle resounds to you: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

II.  A PRECISE AND COMPREHENSIVE SUBJECT FOR PRAYER

But, in the second place, you will find also in Gethsemane the true topic and the full compass of all acceptable supplications. Here you will find a distinct and all-embracing subject of prayer. For, as the sum and substance of all that you ask of God, you simply adopt the prayer of Gethsemane, “O my Father, thy will be done.”

Now this does not mean simply that in every prayer of yours you are to seek a spirit of submission to the Father’s will and acquiescence therein. That is indeed conveyed under this lesson as part of the truth involved. And it lies in the very essence of prayer that we should seek, and indeed desire, nothing but what is agreeable to the will of God. So very elementary and obvious is this that, to see its truth, we have only to contemplate the proposal of asking something in opposition to the divine will, to feel the recoil which the mind instantly makes from the idea as the worst form of deliberate impiety. Assuredly it is the dictate both of reason and of Scripture that only when “we ask anything according to his will can we have the confidence that he heareth us” (1 John 5:14). And this lesson Gethsemane very solemnly confirms and enforces. “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not my will but thine be done. O my Father, since this cup may not pass from me, thy will be done.”

Thus far we are supplied in Gethsemane with a rule of prayer - a general principle or maxim applicable to prayer at all times, whatsoever may be the subject of the petitions, namely, that we must ask what things are agreeable to the will of God.

But we mean something more than this when we say that Gethsemane furnishes, briefly yet comprehensively, the very subject, the topic, the matter of prayer. Come ye here and learn of Jesus what to pray for. Come ye here and enter into the mind and spirit of Jesus in reference to that same will of God which he prays may now be done. And how well may you accept the invitation, and what a price to get spiritual riches does such an invitation put into your hand! This will of God is the same which Jesus came from heaven to do, and not his own. “Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will, O my God.” Come then and lay hold on that same will of God and see how thou art enriched with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

(1)  Separated Unto the Lord

For, first of all, the immediate blessing which you receive by doing so is that you are separated at once unto the Lord. You come out and are separate, and the Lord is a Father unto you, and ye are his sons and his daughters. His will separates you in destiny from the world far as the east is distant from the west, and separates your guiltiness and sin equally far away from you. For do we not read concerning this will which Jesus came to do: “O my Father thy will be done” (Matt 26:42); “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God” (Heb 10:9); do we not read, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10)? We are sanctified, that is, set apart to God, separated to him as his peculiar possession, consecrated by the blood of Jesus, redeemed to the Lord, not our own but bought with a price. Taking hold, then, on this will of God, you find it separates you from the world; it withdraws and translates you out of darkness into God’s marvellous light and into the kingdom of the Son of his love; having in it a resistless efficacy to claim and take and keep you as the Lord’s peculiar inheritance. For by this will of God ye are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all.

How blessed, then, to come into Gethsemane and there to deal in prayer and supplication with that same will of God with which Jesus was so sorrowfully yet so faithfully concerned. You come to give yourself unto the Lord, to surrender your soul and body and love and service to the God of salvation. You do so in Gethsemane. You do so with express reference, in the prayer of faith, to that will of God which Jesus came to do, and for the doing of which a body was prepared him. You learn the topic of your prayer in this garden of the Lord’s agony. You lay hold on the will of God and surrender yourself to him. Be assured it is a time of acceptance. Your surrender is accepted in deed and in truth. The Lord cannot reject what is his own; and by this will of God you are sanctified, separated to him as his own, whom he cannot disallow. For the Lord knoweth them that are his.

Is this comfort too high for you? Is it, as it were, meat too strong for thee, O meek and contrite soul, who art in thine own estimation no better than a babe in Christ - glad couldst thou but realise that even that blessed state and character are thine? Still we say to you, come here into Gethsemane and learn from Jesus to pray concerning this same will of God with which all his prayer is conversant.

(2)  Coming to Christ

For, in the second place, you know, do you not, that “all whom the Father giveth to him shall come to him, and him that cometh he will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Ah, this blessed twofold truth! This assurance, so glorious and consoling to Jesus, that “all whom the Father hath given him shall come to him”; and this other assurance, so gracious and consoling to you, that “him that cometh he will in no wise cast out”; they both alike rest upon this same will of God, and by it Jesus will ever vindicate and verify them.

For we often lose the full strength of the sayings of Christ, by detaching them from the connection in which they originally appear. No doubt, we often so detach and isolate them in order that we may hide them in our heart, and perhaps few of the blessed Saviour s ever memorable announcements have been more frequently or more deeply graven on the fleshly tables than that ever precious word which liveth and abideth for ever, to shut out all our dark misgivings and obviate all our guilty and (but for Jesus) well grounded fears, and silence all our doubts and unbelieving objections - the ever gracious word of the Lord - “Him that cometh I will in no wise cast out.” Doubtless, also, though it stood alone and by itself, this word of Christ were very precious, and exceedingly abundantly sufficient as a warrant to bring near to him the guiltiest of the children of men, however great and numerous their provocations and backslidings, however debasing and vile their sin. Still it is best to note the full strength which this word of the Lord derives from other truths which he allies and binds up with it; and to see the foundation or the ground on which Jesus sets forth his warrant to proclaim it as a truth. “All whom the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh I will in no wise cast out.” Why are these things so? Why should it be so certain that all whom the Father hath given to Jesus shall come to him, and why so equally sure that him that cometh, whosoever he may be, or whatsoever he may have been or done, shall in no wise be cast out? Does Jesus assign any reason for these things, any evidence that they are true and sure? He does. They are both true and sure, “for,” saith he, “I came down from heaven not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” Thus Jesus at once binds in the truth of this two-fold assurance with that will of God which he came to do. Every elect soul shall come and every soul that cometh shall be welcome, “for I came down from heaven to do the Father’s will: for, lo, I come, to do thy will, O God.” But how should this will of God, which Jesus came to do, secure on the one hand the coming of those whom the Father hath given him and secure on the other hand the gracious reception or acceptance of him, whosoever he may be, that cometh? Very clearly and very surely because these are the things which that will of God contemplates and provides for and guarantees. For there is a two-fold assurance - the first bearing more upon the secret things of God and relating to his people’ election; the second, more upon the things that are revealed, that pertain to his people’s calling, and both are founded on that will of God. The first declares that all that are given him shall come to him, for Jesus in this respect came to do the Father’s will, and “this is the Father’s will that hath sent me, that of all whom he hath given me I should lose nothing but should raise it up at the last day” (verse 39). The second declares that whosoever cometh I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven to do the will of him that sent me: and on this point, “This is the will of him that sent me, that everyone that seeth the Son, and believeth on him, should have everlasting life, and I will raise him up at the last day” (verse 40).

When, therefore, in Gethsemane the Lord said, “O my Father, since this cup may not pass from me, thy will be done; O my Father, thy will be done”; that will of thine be done which I came down from heaven to do - for which thou didst prepare for me a body that I might do it; the subject of his prayer embraced the coming to him of all whom the Father gave him, and a blessed and assured welcome to every one whosoever he may be that cometh.

Again, then, we say, Come ye to Gethsemane and take hold on this prayer of Jesus. Learn from him the subject of your supplication. Take hold with him upon the will of God, which he came from heaven to do; especially on that which is revealed in all its fulness, even that every one that seeth the Son and believeth on him shall have eternal life, and Jesus shall raise him up at the last day; that him that cometh he will in no wise cast out; for that is the will of God with which Gethsemane’s prayer is so solemnly concerned.

Again, then, we say, Come ye to Gethsemane and take hold on this prayer of Jesus. Learn from him the subject of your supplication. Take hold with him upon the will of God, which he came from heaven to do; especially on that which is revealed in all its fulness, even that every one that seeth the Son and believeth on him shall have eternal life, and Jesus shall raise him up at the last day; that him that cometh he will in no wise cast out; for that is the will of God with which Gethsemane’s prayer is so solemnly concerned. Come ye to him in this garden where the will of his Father is so dear to him and costs him so much in his agony. And if that very will of his Father be to the effect that you, coming, shall in no wise be cast out, Oh! with what readiness, with what joy, with what full assurance of faith may you come! Oh! let us draw near with a true heart and in the full assurance of faith. Yes, and thus having made our calling, let us also make our election sure, persuaded that it was not only of the Father’s will that on coming to Jesus we have been welcome, but that it was of the Father’s will that we have come, being indeed of the number whom the Father hath given to the Son; and so we have not chosen him, but he hath chosen us, when in the volume of the book it was written of Jesus, and all his members also were written (Ps 40:7 Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me,
Psalm 40:7
; 139:16 Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.
Psalm 139:16
). Here, then, again is the will of God, the same by which we are sanctified or separated to him, by the offering of the body of Christ once for all.

(3)  Sanctification

And now, thirdly, being thus in no wise cast out, but rather sanctified and consecrated by this will of God, on which you lay hold in the prayer of faith in Gethsemane, remember now that “this is the will of God, even your sanctification,” your sanctification not merely in the sense of separation to the Lord, but of being holy to him now that you are separated. “Be ye perfect and complete in all the will of God”; and be so just by realising that you are separated unto him and have all that freedom from evil, and that access by faith unto all grace, which such separation requires. By that will of God ye are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all (Heb 10:10). And by that one offering also Jesus hath for ever perfected them that are sanctified (Heb 10:14). He hath given you a perfect acceptance, and a perfect adoption. Made perfect himself through the instrumentality of his own prayers and their answer (Heb 5:9), he hath perfected also those whom he hath consecrated to his God, whom he hath washed from their sins in his own blood and made them kings and priest unto his Father. He presents you to God justified in his sight - justified perfectly, with no taint whatever, and no stain of condemnation on you any more. He presents you to God adopted into the household of faith - adopted perfectly, with no trace of slavery of strangeness or foreign origin at all - no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God, to go no more out for ever, but to be followers of God as dear children. Oh! what remains, then, but that having acceptance most free and perfect; adoption, also, gratuitous and complete and sure; you should now be perfect and complete also in doing the will of God - walking before him and being perfect? Justified in the righteousness of Jesus, that pure and spotless robe, and the King’s eye resting on you with approbation, will you not keep your honour bright and your garments unspotted from the world? Enrolled for ever among the free born sons of God, will you no go and work to-day in his vineyard, and occupy until he come, your eye beaming keen with love and looking for the glory to be revealed? And praying ever in Gethsemane, in the full compass of Christ’s own prayer concerning the Father’s will, will you not remember, among other elements of that will, and as indeed crowning the other with the beauties of holiness - that “this is the will of God, even your sanctification”?

Thus praying always with all prayer and supplication in Gethsemane you shall neither want a high warrant and assurance of success, nor a rich, full theme for your petitions.

But there is a third advantage to be found from praying as in Gethsemane.

III.  AN HONOURABLE AND A BLESSED FELLOWSHIP IN PRAYER

You shall have company most honourable and blessed. Here you will have Jesus for your companion. Here you will have communion or fellowship or partnership in prayer with him. For as on Calvary you have fellowship with him in his sufferings, being crucified with Christ; and as in Golgotha you have fellowship with him in his grave, being buried with him by baptism unto death; and as in his resurrection you have fellowship with him, knowing him in the power thereof and raised up with him unto newness of life; even so, come, and by the same faith have fellowship with him in Gethsemane in prayer. Come here to pray. Resort thither often to pray, as he did. And realise that you do not enter on this high privilege of prayer, which still is a very arduous duty, alone. You have company here, company the highest and the best. Of the people there is One with you, one chosen out of the people, one like unto the Son of Man, your leader and commander, your forerunner in all things, your pattern, your more than pattern, your Prince in prayer. You do not come to ground unoccupied, to ground where you shall stand - or kneel - alone. You do not betake yourself to prayer in your own name at all or with your own voice alone, as if you could pray with a prevailing voice. No. But you draw near to Jesus. You pray side by side with him. You fall into the fellowship and concert of his very prayer. By faith you adjoin and identify your prayer with his. “I beseech you that ye all speak the same thing” with him, “being perfectly joined with him in one mind, and in one Spirit” - the Spirit of the Son in you crying, Abba Father!

Ah! your closet, where your Father in heaven seeth in secret, is no dull, blank, dreary place of enforced resort, if it thus becomes to you, by faith, as it were the garden of Olives, where Jesus prayed. There you find the fellowship of Jesus in his prayer, in his wrestling love to that will of God. It is to you a place of true and deep communion. You watch there and pray with Jesus!

True it is that Jesus is not now literally in Gethsemane. He is in the Most Holy Place not made with hands. But you do not come to Gethsemane as if Jesus had never been there. No, it is very much changed to you because Jesus has been there before you. All is bright to you and safe because Jesus was there. For whosesoever he hath been as the forerunner, he hath left some radiance of heaven and some sweet smelling myrrh behind him. The grave itself is irradiated to the eye of faith, and its corruption and offensiveness suppressed in the estimation of faith because Jesus himself has been there. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. He is not here, he is risen as he said. There is no terror here. There is a glory here that annihilates the shame. There is no dominion of death here; no destroying sway. For you know that your Redeemer has been here; and that he was dead and is alive again, and behold he liveth for evermore. You know that your Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth; and though after you skin worms destroy this body, yet in your flesh shall you see God. O death! where is thy sting? O grave! where is thy victory? There is no divination at all against Israel, and specially no victory and dominion over Israel in the grave, for Jesus has been there. Come, see the place where the Lord lay!

Come, in like manner, to Gethsemane. Come, see the place where the Lord prayed! Here he prayed with supplications and strong crying and tears, wrestling even unto blood. True, he is not here. He is ascended as he said. And his prayers now are glorified, even as his person is. But still, even as the grave is sweetened with the fragrant savour of his burial, and the believer’s body there shall rest, still united to Christ, till the resurrection, so now when you enter Gethsemane, is it not fragrant with the savour and the success of him whose strong crying and tears Gethsemane witnessed; and may you not here continue instant in prayer, united to and in communion with him, and having fellowship in the prayer of him who was here as your forerunner? For in leading you forth as his own sheep, he ever goeth before you. In Gethsemane he goeth before you in prayer: he seeks to associate you there in prayer with himself, that so your failure or success may all rest upon his responsibility.

Wilt thou not, O my soul, agree with the suppliant sufferer, thy Saviour, in his most blessed proposal to watch and pray with him? Oh! why shouldest thou refuse? For how great shall be thy gain! Thy prayer now placed on the same footing with his; resting on the same promise and covenant; embracing the self-same theme; cast in the same mould; directed to the same aim; prompted by the name Spirit of the Son crying, Abba Father; and risked upon the same destiny and issue; thy prayer with his; bound up and identified with his; cannot but be heard, as his was heard in that he feared. Be thou separated from Christ, standing apart in thine own righteousnesses, which are filthy rags; leaning on thine own strength, or following the dictates of thine own understanding. And there is no acceptance for thy prayer at all. The proud and the self-sufficient he seeth afar off. But be thou one with the suffering suppliant in Gethsemane. By faith, fall thou into the strain and concert and fellowship of that very prayer whereby he prevailed with God - the true Israel and Prince with God - the Prince of life, the Prince of peace, the Prince of prayer; and thou shalt never miss the blessing. The King will crown thee with his love.

Yes, believer; your prayer of faith may well be linked on by faith and identified with Christ’s prayer, for is it not very closely bound up with it already and from the first? Is not every prayer of faith allied to Christ’s prayer by this most singular and interesting bond, that it is in part the very answer of that prayer of Christ? Is it not in answer to his very prayer that you have been taught and led, by the Spirit of faith and adoption, to pray? Was not this, in part, what Jesus sought, when he prayed that his Father’s will might be done - by the which will we are sanctified, set apart to God, set apart to that life of which prayer is the vital breath and element? Why! what is your prayer of faith but the fruit of what Jesus in his prayer sowed? He sowed his prayer in tears; and he watered it with blood; and he pressed it down in the ground by his death and in his grave. “For except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Thus spake Jesus of his person, which by death should become a living root of innumerable redeemed ones, rising in him to newness of life. The principle is true of his prayer as well as of his person. The prayers of faith are the fruit of his prayer, even as the children of faith are the travail of his soul. And as the persons of the redeemed are united to the person of Christ, the prayers of the redeemed are one with his prayer. Realise, then, your fellowship in Gethsemane in prayer with Jesus, for this is no fancy but an animating spiritual truth. Realise the union of your prayer with his prayer, even as also of your person with his person. Abide in him and he in you; with your prayer also abiding in his, and identified therewith; and his words and his prayers abiding in you. And you shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.

Thus will you learn to wield with growing spiritual power and wisdom your liberty of praying in the name of Jesus. You pray not only in the merit, but in the strength and the fellowship and the succession of his own prayer. And then your answer is secure. For as Jesus in his own risen person is the first fruits of them that slept, assuring the resurrection in due time of all his own; so the answer of his prayer is the first fruits of all answers whatsoever. For his prayer, in a high sense, is in reality the first answered prayer among the sons of men; and all others have received, or shall receive, an answer, only by falling into the concert of this, into the succession and series of which this is the leading type and forerunner - the series of which this prayer, like Jesus himself, is the first-born and the beginning, in all things having the pre-eminence. True, in mere point of time others had been answered before it: just as in mere point of time Lazarus, and the widow’s son of Nain, and the man whose body touched the dead prophet’s bones, and others were raised before - some of them long before - the Lord died and rose and was revived. Yet in reality he is “the first that should rise from the dead” (Acts 26:23): he is the first fruits form the dead, and every one in his own order. And so his answered prayer of Gethsemane was the first fruits of all answers to prayer. It takes the lead. It gloriously leads on the prayers of faith in all climes and ages. Oh! follow thou here where Jesus leads. Pray thou in Gethsemane where Jesus prays. Be thou with him here, though it should be with strong crying and tears. Be thou with him here, where the kingdom of heaven suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. Be thou with him here, agonizing to enter in at the strait gate; taking the kingdom of heaven by force, as he did; and do it, in and with him. Be thou one with him in his faithfulness and importunity; and thou shalt be one with him in his high success.

And now, if you disdain not to associate with Christ in prayer amidst the tears and cries and blood of Gethsemane, thou shalt be with him also by faith, and that even now, in the unutterable glory of the Most Holy Place, sitting with him already by faith in the heavenly places. For the principle is that if we suffer with him we shall also reign with him. And if you fall into the concert of his humiliation prayer, you shall partake with him in the glorious fruit of his sovereign and authoritative intercession at the right hand of the majesty on high. For in this respect will God fulfil to you the promise that he that humbleth himself shall be exalted. He fulfilled this promise to Jesus. And not a single point in which he was abased, but correspondingly was he glorified. Was his person, in this garden, rolled in blood, stained with the dust of battle and the soil of earth? Ah! who can comprehend the glory of his humanity now as, possessing the power of an endless life, and inheriting incorruption, he stands in the midst of the throne, radiant in the glory which he had with the Father before the world was? But his prayers also are glorified. Yes; they are as free from strong crying and tears as his blessed person is purged from the blood of his conflict and the soil of his prostration on the ground. And what difference there is between his person as then and now; the same difference there is between his supplications in the days of his flesh and his mighty and majestic intercessions at his Father’s right hand. For whereinsoever he was abased, the Lord also hath highly exalted him; and his person and his pleadings, which were alike in humiliation, are now glorified together. Dost thou, O believer, join thyself in the prayer of humiliation with Jesus in the garden? The Lord exalts thee in his own estimation by seeing thee in Christ in the Holy Place not made with hands. Oh! how grand the reward! How precious the inducement to prayer! Thy prayers, as they come up for a memorial before God, are purged from all imperfection, and glorified in this High Priest’s censer. Thy many painful wanderings of heart; thy manifold infirmities; thy distressing conflicts with unbelief and temptation , which in prayer are thine own burden and thy constant cause of humiliation and of shame; are all - if thou dost only pray in faith and in fellowship with Jesus - all intercepted and disentangled and annihilated by the intercessory advocacy of thy glorified head. All thy supplications are cleansed and purified and glorified, and fragrant with added incense; free from all stain of sin and of the soil and blood and dust of battle as surely as the person of the Advocate himself is glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and his intercession is free from crying and from tears. And wilt thou barter this privilege of prayer, O my soul, for any mess of pottage or any pleasure this world can give, or any bribe with which the powers of hell can tempt thee? Be ashamed and confounded, for thy little valuation of it in the time that is past; and hence forth abide thou with Christ, though it be in Gethsemane; and thou shalt ask what thou wilt and it shall be given thee. What though, to thine own sense and feeling, thou art still in the garden of wrestling, where strong crying and tears can often be by no means dispensed with? The Father seeth thee already spiritually raised up together with the Son and made to sit together with him in the heavenly places. By faith and hope thou enterest within the veil, where Jesus hath already entered as the forerunner. And what by faith and hope is already thine shall be thine in the glory that cometh, when the Lord himself shall come and bid thee enter into the joy of thy Lord, where Gethsemane’s strong crying and tears and bloody sweat shall no more come into remembrance, save as the purchase price of the blood-washed and white-robed throng to whom Gethsemane hath been, through grace, a vestibule to that glory in which God shall wipe away all tears from all faces.

Chapter 6:Secret Prayer Answered Openly

“Judas, then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns, and torches, and weapons. Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward and fell to the ground. Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he. If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: That the saying might be fulfilled which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none.”  John 18:3-9

The arrest and capture of God’s Messiah, as a criminal, is a procedure so replete with scandal and offence as loudly to demand an explanation.

It is not the part which man enacted in this matter that needs to be explained; or if it does, the explanation is very obvious, and was furnished some time before by Jesus himself when contending with his persecutors: “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham. But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:39-44).

But admitting all this, the real difficulty and the deep offence still remain. For all the shame to which Jesus was thus subjected was controlled “by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God” (Acts 2:23). And the explanation so urgently required, the scandal or stumbling-block to be taken out of the way, is this: In view of the personal innocence of Jesus, how can it possibly comport with the righteousness of God that he should load his Messiah with the accurately-sustained reproach and the systematic destiny and retribution of guilt? Is it not, at the first blush, a very grievous scandal - soon to be spread all through Jerusalem and thereafter all through the world, till the end of time, whosesoever this gospel shall be preached, that this Jesus, through whom mighty works of God had shown themselves, is under arrest as if he were a thief or a robber? And is not the rock of scandal or offence mightily increased in magnitude and dangerousness when it is understood that such is the will of God concerning him?

For this is no random or riotous mob that overpowers the Son of Man. His position is very different from what it would have been had the members of the synagogue of Nazareth made him prisoner on the occasion of his first discourse among them, “when, being filled with wrath, they rose up and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong” (Luke 4:29). And it requires another explanation. For here we have the forms of justice gone through, and the rights of authority put forth for his apprehension. The determinate counsel of God operates its own profound will through the deliberate counsels of men in high places. Civil and ecclesiastical powers combine to place Jesus, by every legal form, in the position of a criminal, under the charge of having broken laws civil and sacred alike - human and divine. The great multitude, with staves and swords, with lanterns and torches, were acting as men under commission to so what they did. They had all the authority with which they could possibly have been armed. They were the “chief priest and elders and Pharisees” (John 18:3; Matt 26:47), who had procured the band of men and officers. This “band,” with their officers or captains, were undoubtedly a detachment of Roman soldiers obtained from Pilate. Already, therefore, the rulers took counsel against the Lord’s anointed. Onwards from this ominous commencement of the dreadful game on hand, Jew and Gentile were playing it in consultation; and whatever authority the Synagogue could wield, or the Governor’s hall put forth, were combined to give official force and validity to the warrant that now went forth against the Son of Man.

For it was a thoroughly official warrant which was now out for his arrest, thoroughly competent, however unrighteous. Barabbas himself could not have been more duly apprehended than Jesus now was, and that by the determinate counsel of God. Now, what is the explanation? Why did the righteous God place his holy Messiah in such an attitude and destiny? Why did his determinate counsel arrange that the innocent Jesus should depart this life under all the forms of a criminal’s punishment, preceded by all the steps of a criminal process or prosecution?

The doctrine of Jesus dying as a holy martyr, sealing his doctrine with his blood - will that remove the scandal? Nay; it blasphemes the character of God and shocks the conscience of man. Was the righteous over-ruling God, the judge of all, evoking merely a martyr’s testimony, when he awoke all legal and official powers in Jerusalem to serve the ends of his “determinate counsel,” and put the case against Jesus into legal shape and follow it out from first to last in all due legal form? God forbid.

Or will the Arminian notion of Jesus dying in some sense, and in the same sense, for all men - that is, when rightly sifted and examined, merely in some sense for the good of men, so that now all men can make better terms with God or have another chance of escaping hell - an opportunity, though a relaxed or softened covenant, to save themselves. That also is very far from removing this grievous scandal or explaining this most offensive exhibition.

There must be an explanation that will gloriously vindicate the justice of God in so pursuing and prosecuting legally the man of sorrows. There must be an explanation which will not merely vindicate the character of God, in the sense of showing that this process or prosecution which the divine “determinate counsel” carried on, is no impeachment of the divine justice, but that it involves an illustrious instance and forthgoing of this divine justice. There must be an explanation which will even swallow up the scandal in glory and make the very offence of the cross a fountain and a revelation of high moral excellence and triumph - not only not the eclipse, but the victory of righteousness.

The doctrine which thus at once vindicates the personal innocence of Jesus and the public righteousness of God, and transforms the scandal into glory, and the shame into moral loveliness, is the surety ship and substitution of Jesus in the room of his people, with the imputation to him, thereon, of his people’s transgressions. Accordingly, for this very reason - the Holy Ghost signifying this very truth - both at the commencement and at the close of this criminal process, the imputation of sin to Jesus is announced as the satisfactory and sufficient explanation of the whole.

1.  The Commencement of the Process - “reckoned among the transgressors”

Thus, in the first place, when warning the disciples of the shock which their feelings, and their faith, would sustain that night when these things should come to pass, Jesus furnished them with the true principle that would guide them safely: “For I say unto you that this which is written must yet be accomplished in me, And he was reckoned among the transgressors: for the things concerning me have an end” (Luke 22:37). This is the end which the things concerning me must have; namely, that I must be reckoned among the transgressors. This is the issue and the outgoing that my destiny must have. To this end all things are now pointing with me, even that I should be made sin, and bear the sins of many, having their iniquities made to meet upon me, being by imputation a transgressor and dealt with as such - yea, bearing the sins of a multitude whom no man can number, and through federal unity with them and as their legal representative and surety, responsible for all their transgressions and liable to be righteously and relentlessly pursued in their name even unto death. Grasp ye this principle: see me as in the eye of the righteous God standing in this position; and behold how the determinate counsel of God gives palpable revelation of the hidden realities of this marvellous case as it stands at his bar in righteousness by overruling and employing what of official power and authority are existing in the land, so that on the platform of obvious events there may be represented in symbolical or dramatic exhibition the infinitely righteous but invisible quarrel of the divine sword against the soul of the sin-laden substitute of sinners.

2.  The Close of the Process - “numbered with the transgressors”

And then, secondly, the Scriptures formally and expressly announce this principle again, when the process is closed and the sword is quenched in the blood of Jesus. For when the evangelist Mark records the final act of this legal process, namely, the crucifixion itself, “And with him they crucify two thieves, one on the right hand and the other on his left,” struck with the literal event as forming a marvellous and forcible commentary on the prophecy, he adds: “And the Scripture was fulfilled, which saith, And he was numbered with the transgressors” (Mark 15:27,28).

That Scripture, in all the fulness of its doctrinal meaning, might have been fulfilled although many of the outward circumstances of Christ’s final sufferings had been ordered otherwise. Substantially it received its fulfilment in the fact that Jesus died the cursed death in the room and stead of the guilty. And Jesus might have so died, unto the satisfaction of divine justice, though he had not been arrested as a criminal by the hand of man or subjected to a judicial trial at the tribunals of the Jewish Sanhedrin and the Roman Governor, or crucified in company with malefactors. But then the palpable and blessedly abounding evidence that he so died as a surety for the guilty, himself laden with guilt, the guilt of imputed sin, would have been marvellously diminished. The anger of the invisible God against the invisible soul of the man Christ Jesus could not be beheld by mortal eye. But the world might be constrained to behold it as in a glass. And hence, to set it forth as if in unmistakable and terrible sacramental signs and seals, in and with which to the experience of the soul of Emmanuel the unseen process of his Father’s wrath was being carried on, the Father wielded at his pleasure, in infinite holiness, the official authority of those in high places of the land; put in requisition all forms of competent and legal order in criminal procedure; sacramentally, as it were, prosecuted the surety by awaking and employing against him all the constituted functions of “the powers that be” and which are “ordained of God,” every one in his place “the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath.” Hence the oracle which we hear resounding both at the commencement and the close of this process we ought to accept as justifying and explaining all that takes place between. “He was numbered with the transgressors, for he bare the sins of many” (Is 53:13). And it was to exhibit this hidden, spiritual fact that from the initial process of arrestment to the final execution on the cross God exhibited his own Son, a spectacle to angels and to men, in all the successive stages of a prosecuted criminal’s position; while thus, also, it comes to pass that what were otherwise invincibly scandalous, becomes a brilliant mirror in which to the eye of faith there shines forth with dazzling splendour the unmistakable evidence of that glorious covenant whereby Jesus the Holy One and the Just made sin for us, makes an end of sin, makes reconciliation for iniquity and brings in everlasting righteousness.

It is a strange midnight scene, this at the gate of Gethsemane. The rich flood of silver moonbeam, for it is fool moon at the Passover, fills the quiet vale, and here and there breaks in shivered gleams upon the little brook that murmurs among the olives. A grief-worn figure stands among some others, sleep-worn and fatigued, whom he is addressing in the mingled vein of rebuke and tenderness, when lo, a rush and hurried tread of many footsteps, the sudden gleam of lamps and torches, the clash of weapons; and immediately a great multitude, a band of soldiers, led on byh one who knows the ground and where the object of their search must be, confront the Lord and his disciples. And now the conduct of Jesus - full of immediate majesty and unbroken self-possession - demands our notice. Setting aside the traitor’s kiss and salutation, he presents himself at once as he whom they seek and surrenders in due order to their commission and their warrant.

It is to part of this transaction that we confine our attention at present. It is detailed by John alone, being entirely supplementary to the information of the other Evangelists; and we can hardly help feeling that John recorded it with peculiar pleasure and as a very study in illustration of his master’s glorious character and conduct.

For this procedure on the part of Jesus is, as we have said, full of majesty, and it is full of spiritual import. In fact the key to it is to be found by tracing in it the answer to the prayer in the garden: and viewing it in this light, the accordance is more complete than might at first be supposed, while the interest of the passage is greatly enhanced.

We must bear in mind that the ultimate agony of Christ’s prayer consisted of a burning and unquenchable desire that the will of God might be done. “O my Father, thy will be done.” And this will of God embraced immediately and directly these two objects: first, that Jesus should offer himself a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour to God; and, secondly, that herein he should be an effectual and accepted ransom securing the redemption of those whom the Father hath given to him. The first part of this will of God, namely, the offering of the body of Christ once for all, is asserted in the well-known passage: “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, but a body hast thou prepared me; in burnt offerings and sacrifices for sins thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, lo! I come to do thy will, O God” (Heb 10:5-7). And the second part of God’s will, namely, our separation and consecration to God, and thereby also our salvation, as the fruit of Christ’s death and sacrifice, is set forth in close connection with this in a subsequent verse, when the apostle says, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all” (Heb 10:10). Hence when the apostle describes his prayer of anguish in Gethsemane in these terms, “In the days of his flesh, he offered up supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death,” and when he assures us that his prayer was heard and answered “in that he feared” (Heb 5:7); he proceeds to show that it was precisely in these two points that the answer to his prayer consisted; first, that he might receive all needed grace to be “obedient unto death,” positively offering himself a sacrifice; for this was that will of God which he came to do: and secondly, that all his sheep, his children, the travail of his soul, might be secured unto eternal salvation. For unquestionably in these respects would the apostle have us to understand that he was “heard in that he feared”; namely, first, inasmuch as “though he were a Son he learned obedience by the things which he suffered” (verse 8), being made perfect in his function as a high priest, not by mere passive suffering, which is the destiny of the victim, but by active obedience, which is the duty of the priest, and especially of such a priest as Jesus, to whom it appertained, through the eternal Spirit, to offer himself without spot unto God. And then, secondly, the will of God being thus performed by Jesus, the sanctification or salvation of his people is also given to him, for being thus “made perfect he became the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him” (verse 9).

Such are the two objects of God’s will, the two corresponding elements of Christ’s prayer, and the two-fold and complete answer. They embrace indeed, and briefly represent, the grand will and purpose of God in the everlasting covenant, consisting, as they really do, of the mutual pledge between the Father and the Son; first, on the part of the Son to the Father, that he should be obedient unto death, the ransom and the righteousness of the Church; and secondly, on the Father’s part to the Son, that he should indeed see of the travail of his soul, and that the Church in all her members should be ransomed and made the righteousness of God in him for ever.

Now, it is precisely these two elements of God’s will, of Christ’s prayer, and its answer, which reappear in this scene of the arrest and surrender of the Surety. For in the intercourse which he conducts with his pursuers before they lead him away captive there is, you will observe, a double series of inquiry and response; and the special character and aim of each is opened up by the key which we have suggested. Thus:

I.  THE FIRST SERIES OF INQUIRIES AND RESPONSE

“Jesus therefore knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth and said unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also which betrayed him stood with them. And as soon as he said unto them, I am he, they went backward and fell to the ground.” (verses 4-6).

Now it is obvious that the whole point of this first series of questions and replies turns on the fact that Jesus means, positively and distinctly, by his own will unmistakably expressed, and his own deed unconstrained performed, to surrender himself into their hands. It is not enough to say that “he is led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” That is truth, most blessed truth; and regarding Christ as the victim, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, it was very necessary that there should be realised in him the conditions requisite in the ancient and symbolic offerings, that he should go not unwillingly to the altar, even as also that he should be without spot or blemish. Hence there is very special attention directed to the fact that he was “led as a lamb to the slaughter.” But this is not the whole truth concerning him; for he is not only the Lamb, but the High Priest also whose duty it is to present the Lamb, to present himself as atonement and a sacrifice, to go forward not merely in uncomplaining submission, but in the active discharge of duty, learning not only to suffer meekly, but “learning obedience” in his sufferings; himself, in unutterable majesty, even in the midst of all his shame, conducting the glorious service at the unseen altar of God, and positively there offering up himself by his own intensely active will and deed. He is now come more immediately to that portion of the destiny assigned him where Eternal Justice prosecutes him as responsible for the guilty. The cup put into his hand in the garden was, doubtless, the final assignment to him of the position of a Surety and the consequent imputation of sin. Immediately thereafter his destiny and position became obviously those of a criminal. However unrighteously assigned to him by the malice of men, his position in all its steps, from his apprehension to his execution, had sacramental significance and truth in it terribly, as assigned to him by God; and from the very first stage of it in which the warrant went out for his arrest, it behoved him to feel that the time was specially come for him to adopt the oracle of the fortieth Psalm concerning him - Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, a body hast thou prepared me: Lo, I come to do thy will, O my God; Father, thy will be done; and now when the commissioned agents of lawful authority, moved by thy holy and determinate counsel, are here to lead me to the death of shame, they are to me, as by a holy sacrament of thy holy wrath, the agents of thy will, pursuing against me the quarrel of thy sword, O righteous Father: and therefore to them - yea, rather to Thee in them - I yield. “Whom seek ye?” “Jesus of Nazareth.” Then “I that speak unto you am he.”

Now this was the first part of Gethsemane’s prayer answered, in so far as the arrest or apprehension of the Surety was concerned. He agonised for grace and strength to be obedient unto the will of God. And now, by express will and act of his own, he offers himself to be apprehended.

This is the point or substance of the passage, and the separate circumstances all find their due significance, and are seen to be introduced with much precision, when the aim and scope of the whole is thus viewed.

1.  Jesus Actively Presented Himself

Thus, in the first place, the Evangelist introduces the circumstances of Christ’s perfect knowledge of what should happen to him. "Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth and said unto them, Whom seek ye?" (verse 4). It is not merely that Jesus, though he foresaw the consequences, was willing to surrender himself, so that we may be sure that in love to his people he knowingly placed himself in the very way of the sufferings which on their account awaited him. All that is true: and it greatly commends the love of Jesus. But it is something more immediately to the point which the Evangelist has in view. Jesus "knew all things that should come upon him"; and that they might not come upon him as a mere passive sufferer or victim, he went forth to meet them and actively present himself. He did not do so before; for that would have been ultroneously provoking, eliciting against himself and unduly hastening the destiny that was awaiting him: that therefore he did not do. The things that should "come upon him" he was not in any sense to bring upon himself. He did not go forth to seek, or court, or call forth danger. But now that the danger and the destiny were "coming upon him" he "went forth" now! Earlier, he would have been eliciting and producing evil against himself, the author of his own sorrows. Later, he would have been caught by them as their victim, the mere passive sufferer - not the positively active - the "obedient unto death." Here, then, was the precise moment for Jesus to offer himself; neither the author, nor the passive victim, of "the things that should come upon him," but meeting them in the moment when by active duty he could so suffer as to vanquish them. Hence Jesus, in the very moment and manner requisite, "knowing the things that should come upon him, went forth and said unto them, Whom seek ye?"

2.  Whom seek ye?

Hence also, in the second place, the significance of the fact that Jesus extorted from them an acknowledgement that it was him they sought. “He went forth and said unto them, Whom seek ye? And they answered him, Jesus of Nazareth.” For he will not be captured incognito. It shall be thoroughly understood on all sides who it is that is sought, and who it is that is taken. He will answer only to his own name and surrender with all things explained and understood. It shall be done with all quietness, but it shall be done with no room for mistake. It is Jesus that is surrendering. It is no nameless wanderer - no unknown adventurer. It is he of whose mighty works and gracious doctrines Jerusalem has heard abundantly, and these very captors themselves have heard. This whole work is at their peril; and it touches their responsibility that they should be constrained to confess that it is Jesus whom they seek, and constrained to know that it is Jesus who puts himself at their disposal. Yes! It is at the name of Jesus that he surrenders; it is in that capacity that he offers himself a sacrifice - as one who “saves his people from their sins.”

3.  Judas stood with them

Then a third circumstance noted by the Evangelist is the fact that Judas stood by, a spectator to this intercourse of inquiry and reply which now went forward. Then “Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them” (verse 5). He stood with them. He saw the whole transaction. He heard all the conversation. And he was confounded and amazed. This is what he had never expected. This positive obedience on Christ’s part, in absolutely and freely surrendering himself, he had not looked for. It renders all his own treachery and planning in a sense ridiculous. It sets aside, as null and useless, all his scheme to indicate his master by a kiss, and all his excited conjuring to the soldiers to “hold him fast” - “to take him and lead him away safely” (Matt 26:48; Mark 14:44).It pours contempt upon the whole part the traitor took in this scene. It renders his procedure utterly superfluous, utterly abortive. His kiss, his clever secret sign or token previously arranged and agreed upon, is altogether unnecessary, for Jesus announces and acknowledges himself. His admonition to “hold him fast” is as unnecessary for Jesus surrenders himself. His fraud and force - his concerted fraud and his advised force are rendered all useless together. It is a shocking and a galling attitude in which the traitor is placed by this positive obedience of Jesus. For thus Jesus “makes a show of him openly” as immersed in a “superfluity of naughtiness” - unnecessarily wicked, wicked overmuch!

Yes; do thou the will of thy God, O believer, as Jesus did, and thy faithfulness shall reveal an eternal confusion and abortion in all that the enemies of thy soul can undertake against thee.

4.  They went backward and fell to the ground

And now, in the forth place, the last circumstance mentioned by John in this part of the scene finds its interesting explanation also. “As soon then as he said unto them, I am he, they went backward and fell to the ground” (verse 6). For while concerning that positive obedience to the will of God which is the key to this transaction, the Apostle says, “Though he were a Son yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” we must also remember that though he learned obedience by the things which he suffered, yet still he was the Son, the Eternal Son, the effulgence of the Father’s glory; the true and very God, “by the blast of whom men perish, and by the breath of his nostrils they are consumed” (Job 4:9). And it was not without its significance that his obedience, as the Son of Man, God’s faithful servant, should carry with it on the minds of men some terrifying stamp and witness of his glory as the Son of God. Thus his voice seems in this instance to have conveyed some impression of majesty and terror: and his enemies fell before him as if driven by a flash of fire to the ground. “For the voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is upon the waters; the God of glory thundered.” “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory - the glory as of the only begotten of the Father.”

Was the voice of Jesus, when he thus spoke gently, surrendering himself a prisoner, so terrible that a great multitude with swords and weapons rushed back as if blinded by the lightning? And when he sits, the Eternal upon his throne, that same arrested prisoner the judge of all the earth, what power will his words of retribution carry!

But with regard to this incident in its bearing on Christ’s procedure as manifesting the answer of his prayers; observe in conclusion, that it puts the copestone on the evidence that Jesus was in reality and in good faith surrendering himself by an act of positive and meritorious activity. It was not because he could not do anything better in the circumstances; not because he was already in their power and he would make a virtue of a necessity, claiming credit for an act of self-surrender which the overwhelming force of the adversary counselled as the most advisable step that now remained. No. He had but gently to announce himself to these men as the object of their search, and immediately, like the keepers of his grave, when the dazzling glory of the angelic beings falls upon their eyeballs, they tremble and become as dead men. And thus the whole fulness of will and merit in his positive obedience in yielding himself to them or, rather, to God, announcing his hidden will through them, is gloriously vindicated as the doctrine which this passage is designed to teach and which every circumstance which the Spirit of God thought right to record is fitted to confirm. Thus, as far as this portion of Gethsemane’s prayer in reference to the will of God is concerned, we see it fully and gloriously answered; and in this noble instance we may see, in the case of our great High Priest himself, his own blessed word fulfilled, “Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

But there was a second element in the will of God and in the prayer of Jesus, having reference to the fruit of his obedience unto death - the deliverance, namely, and salvation of the Church. Accordingly it is on it that the second series of question and reply is fitted to throw an interesting light.

II.  THE SECOND SERIES OF INQUIRIES AND RESPONSE

“Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he. If therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: that the saying might be fulfilled which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me, I have lost none” (verses 7-9).

The special feature of this resumption of the strange work of interrogation lies manifestly in the fulfilment here described of the word which Jesus had formerly spoken. This is the point and scope of this second half of the conference. The first turned upon the absolute perfection of Christ’s positive obedience in surrendering himself. The language of it is: “Lo, I come to do thy will.” The language of the second part is: “By the which will we are sanctified, through the offering of the body of Christ once for all.” For Jesus has no intention whatever to surrender in any other character or capacity than as the surety of his people, the shepherd of the sheep, the good shepherd giving his life for the sheep; by death redeeming the transgressions of the guilty; by death ransoming many sons unto life and glory who were all “as dead men.” As to himself, personally considered, his captors have no right to seize him, even as they have no power but what he gives them; for behold, they are “gone backward and fallen to the ground.” And if he yield himself at all, it is to his Father and not to them - to his Father, as announcing his will in and through them. And he does so as the representative and substitute of his flock, called to be so by his Father’s will, called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedeck. But his Father’s will also is that none of his little ones should perish; that they should be emancipated from the curse of the law, by the surrender of their surety in their stead. Jesus knew this portion also of his Father’s will, and his heart was set upon it. It was indeed the joy that was set before him - the purchase of his pain - the pledge and promise made to his obedience unto death. Hence Jesus is resolved to guard and defend this element of his Father’s will as much as he is prepared to acknowledge and fulfil the former.

But a distinction must here be premised. We may regard these pursuers of our Lord in two lights; either, first, personally and in their responsibility as consciously fulfilling their own wicked passions; or, secondly, as unconsciously fulfilling the holy purpose of God - not witting that they are the agents of the Most High accomplishing the determinate counsel of his will and prosecuting the righteous cause of his justice.

1.  Personal Responsibility

Viewing them in the former light, we see in their conduct a terrible violation of divine restraint. For though baffled at first and thrown back - overthrown marvellously by a word - it is clear they never seek to quit the ground or lay aside their purpose. Had they done so, certain it is that Jesus would never have challenged or provoked them to resume it. It was not with this view, or for this reason, that he resumed his interrogations. He saw them still resolved, so soon as they recovered, to continue and prosecute their design; and undoubtedly he gave them a renewed opportunity of apprehending him, only because they desired and sought it. Now, mark in this the grievous hardness of their hearts: for, to prosecute a guilty purpose after the grace of God interposes obstacles and restraints, whether on the conscience secretly, or by obvious providences, argues that hardening of the heart, and that following of an evil course greedily and with resolution, which points in the direction of judicial blindness and abandonment, and which approaches fast towards the sin which is unto death. Beware how you deal with such restraints; for the manner in which you deal with them discloses very much of your moral and spiritual state, and deeply and solemnly and very dangerously affects it.

You design some evil course or end. You covert the wages of unrighteousness, or you resolve on such a deed of wrath as worketh not the righteousness of God. You are tempted to go and or to go and avenge yourself on Nabal
1 Samuel 25:10-13
. But on your way the Lord’s restraint interposes. 1 Samuel 25:23-25, or rather God in his mercy waylays you, seeking to turn you from your purpose. And this dispensation of restraining influence distinctly says: Oh, do not this wickedness which I hate, and it shall be no grief unto thee nor offence of heart another day. You listen. You see the Lord’s hand. You hear the Lord’s voice. You stop short. You are reproved. You are snatched from evil. You breathe freely and
1 Samuel 25:32,33
. “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, which sent thee this day to meet me, and blessed be thy advice which hath kept me this day from evil.” Yes! bless God who hath thus interposed to warn; and bless God again who hath given thee grace to take the warning and to turn from thine evil purpose. Follow up such gracious dealing. For surely the Lord would seem in all this to have towards thy soul a purpose of life and of love; and thy soul, if thou art faithful, shall be bound up in the bundle of life with the Lord thy God. For such restraints upon his part, when met by humble submission and docility on thine, would seem to prove that there is the grace of God in thine heart and the fear of God before thine eyes; and if thus thy gracious state be revealed, its graciousness shall hereby also be confirmed and be strengthened too.

But dost thou despise, and burst, and break through the restraining of the Lord? Then fear lest this demonstrate gracelessness and confirm unchangeably and finally thy graceless state. What! You will curse Israel for the wages of unrighteousness! You will go with the men! But in the way the Lord interposes. He sends the angel with the drawn sword. He opens the dumb beast’s mouth to speak with man’s voice. He interferes at least sufficiently to show that you are rushing violently against his will and righteousness. But still you go with the men: you go as soon as the angel’s sword is withdrawn. You rise from your sick-bed and return once more to love the world as before, and serve mammon with the best of your heart, as really your master and your god. The voice of trembling that spake on that sick-bed and cried, “Let me die the death of the righteous".
Numbers 23:10
and let my latter end be like his,” is silent now; and the restraining angel being thus gone, you resume your journey and your course of sin. Then, know that your latter end shall not be peace, but calamity and desolation at which the Lord shall mock! Or if it be not so, the Lord being marvellously merciful unto you, your salvation shall be accomplished only by marvellously mercy on his part, and through the depths of terrible repentance on thy part - as it was doubtless in the case of some of these very men who forgot the voice which felled them to the ground and resumed their evil work notwithstanding; but who were brought to repentance, if they were among the penitent, only under that sore charge and conviction: “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” - even as when his gentle voice, like a thunderbolt, threw you to the ground - “him have ye taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: and when they heard these things they were pricked to the heart, and said, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:22,23,37).

Ah! it had been better for them that they had accepted the restraint which the Lord placed upon them: better far that they had returned, as a previous band of agents had, without their prisoner
John 7:44-46
. And had the chief priests and Pharisees asked them, Why have ye not brought him? - remembering his word which, as a whirlwind, drove back an armed band of men, they might have said, surely with even more force than their predecessors said, “Never man spake like this man!”

Still in his gospel Jesus speaks, and speaks as never man spake, even in the foolishness of preaching, as it touches and tells upon the trembling consciences of men. There is something far more than a man’s voice - a proof of Christ speaking to us through our fellow men. Alas! it is still too largely true that the restraint of Christ’s voice still goes for nothing: and men, overthrown by it for the moment, rise and resume their sins!

2.  Unconscious Agents of the Most High

But, secondly, losing sight of the individual responsibility and wicked wills of these men, and regarding them as the unwitting instruments by which the will and purpose of eternal justice is indicated, the lesson which their terrified resile and strange return to their purpose reads, is a different one. It is to this effect, that even Divine Justice - thus secretly pursuing Jesus, and giving obvious and sacramental representation of her secret pursuit of his soul even unto death, by wielding against him all the authority of the land - even Divine Justice could not consent to accept of Christ’s surrender; yea would have shrunk back as affrighted from the proposal; except on the condition and proviso that he was surrendering on his part, and accepted on hers, as the ransom and the price for a multitude who should thus “go free.” Jesus, as an independent king, demands these terms from his pursuers. He demands, as one able to enforce what he demands; as one who has his very captors in his power, having altogether changed places with them; and able to appal and paralyse them by his gentle speech. “If ye seek me, let these go their way.” It is the King of Israel commanding deliverances for Jacob. He demands this as the condition on which he surrenders. But far more may we say that Divine Justice demands this also, as the only condition on which she will consent to accept his surrender. Till this is clearly brought out, her unconscious agents fall back in amazement and terror at the very offer of himself which Jesus makes. It is not till the safety of the sheep is on all hands guaranteed and secured that the Justice of God will allow her agents to place their rude hand upon the shepherd. The determinate counsel of God drives them back in dismay till it be understood by all concerned that the arrest of Jesus shall purchase the freedom of his children. It is, you say, Jesus whom you seek - Jesus who saves his people from their sins. If ye seek me, let these go their way: “And hereby was fulfilled the word that he spake, Of those whom thou hast given me I have lost none.”

But is not this straining the event too far and dragging out of it an inference which it is not fitted to yield? How can the plain fact of Jesus demanding the liberty of the eleven be taken as a proof of the profound truth that the salvation of those for whom he died is secure; a fulfilment of his own saying, “Of those whom thou hast given me I have lost none”?

Let it be borne in mind that this whole scene is dramatic, symbolic, sacramental, in the sense in which we have already explained. The substantial fact of Christ, the surety, guilty by imputation in his people’s sins, being therefore summoned and arrested by Divine Justice to appear before the tribunal of his Father and the incensed face of an angry God, is an invisible fact. But at the time when it was in reality accomplished - invisibly accomplished, as of course its nature implied - it was also symbolically represented, while its reality and terrors were also as it were sacramentally sealed, by the accompanying formalities of a criminal prosecution, visibly conducted by human agents accomplishing the counsel of God. And thus in symbol, as well as in secret and in infinitely more terrible reality, “He was numbered with the transgressors.”

Over against this invisible arraignment of Jesus at God’s tribunal must be placed the emancipation of the Church and the letters patent of her liberty, which as the fruit of Christ’s surrender passed under the great seals of heaven at the very same time - a glorious transaction in the court of the Most High God; glorifying the arrest of Christ as infinitely holy, wise and righteous - itself also an invisible transaction. But then it might be, it ought to be, symbolically and sacramentally set forth also on earth, by some visible sign and seal, or drama, simultaneously with the substitute’s arrest, transacted on the same spot and at the same time, secured by the surety himself as the fruit and condition of his surrender. Hence, just as his capture by the hands of men obviously shadowed forth and surely sealed his arrest under the hand of the King invisible, so this escape of the eleven equally represents as in a mirror - and, be it observed, seals with all sensible proof and conviction - the eternal salvation which Christ’s offering and sacrifice secured for his people. So that we see, in this very humble fact of the eleven being exempted from apprehension or arrest with Jesus by the Roman soldiers, a sacramental or symbolic and confirming evidence - a dramatic representation, and thereby and therewith also a real fulfilment of the saying, “Of those whom thou hast given me I have lost none.”

Oh! Jesus did not die - why should he die? - how indeed could he die? - ignorant of the fruits which his death should bear. That man indeed saw little of the truth and glory of the everlasting covenant who said that “the work and death of Jesus would have been very glorious though no individual of the human race had ever come and reposed living faith in the surety.” How dishonouring to the work of Jesus! How dishonouring to the righteousness of God! To what straits are men reduced when at all hazards they will have it that the death of Jesus was accomplished alike for the saved and the lost! For if he died for the lost, and yet his death did not secure them from being lost, it must be something else than his death that secured the saved unto salvation. So that if Jesus died for all alike, it is not his death that secures the salvation of any; it only secures, it seems, the possibility of salvation for all! That is the whole fruit of it, and it is this which has tempted to the terrible and blasphemous assertion that “his death would have been a glorious work though none had been saved by it at all.” That is to say, though he had never earned the name of Jesus, who saves his people from their sins! We have not so learned the covenant or gospel or our salvation. And very clearly our blessed Lord did not so understand the case in which he himself has so glorious an interest. “If ye seek me, let these go their way, that the saying might be fulfilled, Of those whom thou hast given me I have lost none.”

Now this was his Father’s will: these were his Father’s gift. Concerning this gift and this will of his Father, his soul in Gethsemane had agonized in prayer. And now his prayer is answered. His Father’s will on this most vital point is done. “All whom the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh I will in no wise cast out. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will that sent me, that of all which he hath given me, I should lose nothing.” “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight; be it unto me according to thy word. O my Father, thy will be done.” And even so it is done indeed. “If ye seek me, let these go their way. And the saying is fulfilled which he spake, Of those whom thou hast given me I have lost none.”

It appears then, on a review of this whole transaction, that in so far as this first and initial process admitted of it, the whole is conducted as in the precise answer to the prayer of Gethsemane; and the answer in regard is given openly. First; the surety prays for grace to do the will of God - to be obedient unto death. And he shows that in answer to his prayer the Lord has taught him, and that he has “learned obedience.” He is not arrested in the imperfect and incomplete capacity of a passive victim; he surrenders in the duty and the action of an High Priest made perfect. And it is openly transacted. A great multitude look on and behold the majesty in which he acts. Secondly; the surety prays that by this will of God his sheep may be sanctified and set apart in safety and unto holiness by the offering of his body once for all. And it is done unto him, and done also openly. They go free in the presence of their foes; there doth not an hair of their head fall to the ground; none of them is lost. And a great multitude looks on and sees their salvation. Thus all that Jesus prayed for is granted, and granted openly before the world. And now, “Thou also, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly” (Matt 6:6).

Pause then, O my soul, and contemplate and improve this great sight of the Substitute and Saviour of sinners arrested and surrendering to the hands of justice. It is sin that makes him liable to this arrest; and it is the wages of sin, it is death, that pursues him relentlessly unto the end. And how, O sinful soul, shalt thou escape? If these things be done in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry? If this judgement and arrest begin on the Son of God, how shalt thou be allowed to go at large? Thy sins are many: they are legion. Each one of them has power to awaken a relentless prosecutor, who will never slumber till he hail thee to the bar and judgment seat of God. All may be smooth and quiet with thee now; but be sure thy sin will find thee out. Numbers 32:23. And then, whither wilt thou flee? Whither shall I go from thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend into heaven thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, surely the darkness shall cover me, even the night shall be light about me. For there is not a word upon my tongue, but lo, O Lord, thou knowest it altogether. Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid thine hand upon me. Psalm 139:4,5,7-11.

And now, O my trembling soul, thou hast no escape from this warrant that is gone out from the Judge of all against thee. Though thou dig into hell thence will his hand take thee; though thou climb up to heaven thence will he take thee down; though thou hide thyself on the top of Carmel, he will search and take thee out thence; and though thou be hid from his sight in the bottom of the sea, thence would he command the serpent to arrest and bring thee forth into his sight. Yea, in vain, even in the awful end, wouldst thou call upon the mountains and the rocks to fall upon thee and hide thee from the face of the Lamb.

Men and brethren, what shall we do? Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him, lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison Matthew 5:25-26,

But thou art guilty. Thy conscience tells thee so; and tells thee thou oughtest to be arrested and hailed to the bar of God. Yea verily. But is there not a shield? Is there not a plea? Might it not be well to arrest thyself and surrender? Oh! that I could but get the counsel of the Wonderful, the Counsellor, you say. Oh! that I might live in the redemption and freedom purchased by the arrested, the self-surrendered Substitute. Oh! that I were verily among the number whom Jesus shields with that omnipotent demand, “Let these go their way.” And wherefore mayest thou not? There was not one vile and wretched slave of sin among these Roman soldiers, had he only arrested himself instead of arrested the Lord, and thrown away the weapons of his rebellion, and self-surrendered and self-disarmed passed over to the little band of disciples, but - on the spot where he had shown his guilty will to kill the Prince of Life, but shown his will also to turn to him and live - would have shared at once in the shield which Jesus cast around his own, in the exemption and salvation which with a great price he was procuring for them, and with a prevailing voice pronouncing over them.

And what remains then, O my sinful and troubled soul, but that with all weapons of self-defence and all pleas of self-justification for ever thrown away, thou too, like those pursuers, but in a very different spirit, must “seek Jesus of Nazareth”; and, when thou hast found him, thou too, like them, must “hold him fast,” but after a very different fashion, even with the bands of faith and love. Art thou begun to seek him? And has he never asked thee, “Whom seekest thou?” He still conducts such conferences of interrogation. To those that seek him in this other spirit, he is still known to say, in another manner than he doth unto the world, in another voice than he spake to his pursuers, “I am he.”

Ah! when in his word, in his sanctuary, by his pleading Spirit, he draws near, do not put the Lord away. “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that speaketh unto thee, thou wouldst ask of him and he would give thee all the safety and salvation thou canst need. Say not, “When Messiah is come” he will put all my guilty fears to flight and give me liberty to “go my way” when he hath enlarged my heart. For “I say unto thee that Messiah is come already,” and you see how “they have done unto him whatsoever they listed!” And he is come again, he is always coming again in the power of his Spirit, to divide the spoil with the strong and gather up the fruits of what they listed to do unto him. Hark! his voice! “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” O seeking soul! “Messias is come already.” Hear him, Oh! hear him saying, “I that speak unto thee am he.” Fall not back affrighted. Fall down rather at his feet, self-surrendered to thy Lord. Surrender thyself into the hands of justice in the virtue of thy Lord’s own surrender. Arrested, with thine own full consent, by the word of God, by the ambassadors of peace, by the Spirit of truth and holiness - self-arrested before a God of grace, and self-surrendered in the faith and fellowship of Christ’s vicarious surrender to a God of justice - the same God, his God and your God - a just God and a Saviour; in union with Christ, and in the communion of his law-magnifying obedience unto death and finished work of priestly presentation of himself a sacrifice of a sweet-smelling savour unto God; thou yieldest thyself now to God, in Christ and with Christ; and thy life is held sacred and secure indeed. Thou yieldest thyself, not as a dead man, but as one alive from the dead. Thou dost arrest thyself, and art not arrested but released. Thou dost judge thyself, and thou art not judged but acquitted. Thou dost humble thyself, and the Lord exalts thee in due time. For thou art arrested with Christ; nevertheless, yea thereby, thou art acquitted. Thou surrenderest with Christ; nevertheless, yea thereby, thou art gloriously emancipated and made free indeed. No more dost thou flee to hide thee from thy God. Rather thou dost flee unto him to cover thee. He himself is thy hiding-place now, and under his wings shalt thou trust; for he will keep thee from trouble and compass thee about with songs of deliverance. The warrant to arrest thee, to bind thee hand and foot, and cast thee into outer darkness, has been gloriously answered - the warrant that went forth against thy Lord is its answer. Any handwriting demanding thee also is seen to be void, obliterated, nailed to the gate of Gethsemane: and over thee and all thy fellows in the fellowship of faith in Jesus there is heard the prevailing voice, securing that no weapon formed and no prosecution raised against thee shall prosper, the password and watchword of the Lord’s blood-bought and embannered host, in the power of which they pass and re-pass, “going out and in and finding pasture” ever safe, ever free - the voice of their Lord, which the gates of hell must ever hear with trembling: “Ye sought me, but let these go their way.”

Yes! Go thy way: thy substituted Lord hath saved thee, and thou hast faith in him, hast thou not, as well thou mayest? Go thy way in peace; hunted no more in terror, as by any broken bond of law divine, for thy substituted Lord hath magnified the law {The LORD is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable}.Isaiah 42:21 and made it honourable; nor as by any lawful warrant of guilty conscience, for the blood of thy substituted Lord cleanseth the conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Go, as the free child of the Highest, an heir of his house and of his heavenly land for ever. Go; and the shield of thy Saviour’s defence be ever round thee! Go thy way, and walk in it undefiled. Go, and sin no more. Go on thy way rejoicing.

How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Hebrews 9:14

 

“And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staces, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed him. And Jesus said unto him, Friend, wherefore art thou come? Then came they, and laid hands on Jesus, and took him. And behold, one of them which were with Jesus stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then Jesus said unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be? In that same hour said Jesus to the multitudes, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hand on me.”  Matt 26: 47-55

Gleams of glory may be seen ever and anon flashing through the dark shadows of Calvary. Strange transitions - marvellous contrasts - that take us by surprise! An argument for the divine authorship of the narrative might be periled on them.

The grandest instance was on Calvary itself. The last was the grandest, when Jesus, hanging on the cross, turned that shameful cross into a throne and, himself in the hour and article of death - death with all its curse and woe - dispensed from that strange throne, divine forgiveness and eternal life to a dying malefactor, his fellow sufferer at his side.

We have an illustrious and somewhat similar case in the narrative of the arrest in Gethsemane. For while “numbered with the transgressors” and captured as a criminal, he does, nevertheless, in reality, himself ascend the tribunal, and bringing all the parties on the scene in turn to his bar, he pronounces judgment on the conduct of each. And it may give unity to our reflections on this amazing drama if we examine it from this point of view.

The arrested prisoner has turned judge, and his sentence goes forth and takes range over all around him. He has a cunning traitor; a little band of true but weak and erring friends; and the host of open foes to deal with. These are on the stage before him, and there are no more. They all act the different parts. Jesus has his opinion concerning each of them. And with ineffable discrimination and dignity, he constrains them in their order to hear it.

I.  THE TRAITOR

And first he sets aside the traitor. “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” “Judas! Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Matt 26:50; Luke 22:48).

We all know the fearful part which he enacted, and on which Jesus animadverted in these emphatic questions. It was he who had projected the scheme of this arrest, and procured the warlike band of agents who were now putting it in execution. It was under his direction that the soldiers, and their officers - men of an honourable profession and usually making a strong point of their honour - had basely consented to act. It was the man who had sold his friend for thirty pieces of silver by whom they had agreed to be guided. And not thinking his past treachery enough, nor leaving it entirely to himself as his own matter, they join with him in a new exhibition of it as calculated to save them perhaps a little trouble and enable them to put through the business more quietly, they consent to a secret sign by which the traitor purposes to guide them to their object; for Judas “had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss that same is he,” “hold him fast” - “take him and lead him away safely” ( Matt 26:48, Mark 14:44). And then, when it is all arranged, see how the traitor draws near, as if shocked by the threatened danger to his master’s person and, affecting at once total ignorance, surprise, and sorrow in reference to it, offers the last salutation of faithful love, and pathetically laments his master! For he “goeth straightway to him and saith, Master, master, and kissed him” (Mark 14:45).

But Jesus quietly and quickly despatches his case. “Friend, wherefore art thou come?” (Matt 16:50). “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” (Luke 12:48).

Why indeed should Jesus dwell at any length on such a case? There is no hope of bringing such a one to penitence. The Son of perdition has already sealed himself as lost. Already he has passed his day of grace. The dealings which infinite compassion had taken with him to turn him from his purpose, he had resisted and rendered unavailing. Infinite righteousness and infinite wisdom have resolved to leave him now alone. Why should Jesus dwell on his case? It is already ripe for the Eternal Judgment, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory and all the nations shall be gathered before him. It can stand over till then. The very briefest mention of it may be sufficient now!

Hence the curtness with which Jesus deals with him. He does not at all expostulate. He does not show him the source of his sin, as when he deals with Peter: Peter is true at heart and shall be restored. He does not tell him that the power of darkness and of Satan has swept over him, and he tells the rude soldiery: the rude soldiery do it very much ignorantly in unbelief. He does not even demand him to abstain. He does not even command him to depart. He says enough to reveal his knowledge of the traitor’s treachery, and has nothing more to say to Judas - till the great white throne shall be set!

Yes, it is the very brevity that is the lesson here: the terrifically short and easy method with the sealed for hell! Mark you this: that if you put away the discipline of Christ in grace and providence, in forbearance and affliction, as he seeks to probe your evil heart and show you all its treachery to him and its love for the world and the sin which crucified him - if you set your face against his efforts to emancipate you from the carnal mind which is treachery and enmity to God - then these efforts will become more and more brief, till at last the Saviour, who once yearned to pluck you as a brand from the burning, shall treat you with the utmost brevity and most perfect coolness, scarce even condescending to express in this life his indignation at your crimes. Ah! how many, by resisting the Spirit of the Lord, bring themselves to this dread experience! The time was when God’s dealings with them in providence and on their consciences exhibited on his part a prolonged and warm interest in their spiritual condition: such manifestations of his gracious disposition towards them have been slighted and perverted; till gradually diminishing they are at length withdrawn, and the final expression of his mind towards them - terrifically brief, scarcely indicating whether wrath or compassion - seems designed for little more than to remit the case to the eternal tribunal. Ah! What fresh force and meaning this gives to that blessed sentence, so full of mingled tenderness and terror, but so often heard in vain - “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found; call ye upon him while he is near.

And especially when you see the one design of such a final and brief and unimpassioned utterance to the traitor. What is it, in the essence of it, but just a disclosure of his guilt? It serves the purpose, and is intended to serve no more - to paint the crime as with the blaze of a lightening flash upon the dark cloud. “Friend!” professed friendship and its opportunities now turned by thee to serve the devil! Treachery! “Betrayest thou?” “The Son of man,” who came to call sinners to repentance and save the lost, whom thou hast known well for years as going about doing good and nothing else. “With a kiss”? - the last token of affection! And this lightening flash, bursting in upon his black soul, unlike the lightening of the skies, which the darkness devours immediately, dwells there in permanence, making his guilt to glare on his conscience for ever! Ah! That is the object of the Lord’s last dealing with the impenitent: brief in other respects, it shall be long enough and full enough for that His sin shall be forced upon his view, and burned in upon his soul in letters of fire that cannot be quenched. And with this terrible engraving upon his soul, the man disappears, remitted to the throne of judgment - to the left hand, among the lost!

Are there any whose ungodliness, amidst a life of Christian profession, of apparent friendship, is ripening them for this? - as it ever must be ripening them, till the heart be changed and made true. Ah! better to be anything than a church-going, communicating, professing “friend,” ripening for the judgment of the lost. Better be a rude Roman soldier, in heathen baseness and blindness. Awake and flee. Flee to Jesus himself in truth. Confess thy sins and want of love. Seek forgiveness in his blood: ask if he will still be reconciled. If thou do this in truth, he will be found of thee. Thy converse with him shall not be cool and brief, but long, and full, and loving. Repent truly of all thy wickedness, and turn to him as all thy desire: confess to him full, even all the treachery and enmity that are in thine heart: deplore it as thy grief and burden - and appeal at once to ransom and renew thee. Then will he put the best robe on thee as his child that was dead and is alive again; he will kiss thee with the sweet kiss of reconciliation complete and irreversible; and suffer thee to kiss him with that of true faithfulness and love. Yea, do thou thus “kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and,” like the Son of Perdition, “ye perish from the way, when once his wrath is kindled but a little” (Ps 2:12).

II.  THE DISCIPLES

Jesus judges the conduct of the disciples. And there is great need for the expression of his opinion here, for the eleven by their violence have well nigh banished from this wondrous scene all its moral grandeur and turned it into an unseemly broil. “For when they saw what would follow,” even that their beloved master, made prisoner, should be separated from them, “they said unto him, Lord, shall we smite with the sword?” (Luke 22:49). And not waiting for their Lord’s reply, they rush forward to oppose his apprehension, under the hot and hasty championship of Peter - of Peter, of course, as usual. “And Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear.” (John 18:10). Now this looks friendly, zealous, noble, daring. On Peter’s part this looks very much like redeeming his animated promise of faithful and devoted constancy: “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” Is it not hard that Peter should be blamed? Would you have him to stand aside, and quietly and basely see his beloved Lord fall into the hands of his unfeeling foes? And when Peter sees Judas, one of the twelve, betraying him - when that infinitely scandalous fact bursts on his view - above all, when he thinks how he himself failed to watch as his Lord had bidden him, and how if he had done so, he might have given timely warning as he saw the many gleams of torchlight indicating the approach of a multitude striking down into the valley and nearing the fated garden; burning with true love to Jesus, with speechless indignation against Judas, and torturing reproach of himself, what wonder if he throws discretion and wisdom and calmness to the winds, and drawing his sword rushes forward to the rescue? But then he does throw everything like judgment and prudence to the winds and interposes in a manner fitted to increase and complicate the evil. And it is thus also that you will do, if you fail in commanded duty as he had failed, and attempt to resume the work of serving the Lord without a due humiliation and forgiveness. Conscious disobedience, or neglect of duty, has involved the name or cause of Christ in your hands in difficulties from which you long to extricate it. You see the bitter fruits of negligence. Oh, that you had watched and prayed! You might have given, you might have taken, warning in time, before the band of the enemy had got such advantage against you. But now, they are at hand that will betray your master’s name, or your own Christian character or peace. You have entered into temptation. You are almost in the grasp of spiritual wickedness in high places, if not of the rulers of the darkness of this world. You make a convulsive rush against them. You stretch out a rash hand to save the ark. The sword flies from its scabbard, or the hot flashing temper pours out its indignation. Or you call down fire from heaven. Your self-reproach hurries you to do something, if by any means yet the threatened evil may be averted or the evil done be reversed.

Ah! But there is no meekness, and no wisdom, and no life divine in your purpose, and no strength divine in your execution of it. What you do in this spirit only complicates the difficulty: you do not walk safely in the midst of trouble. Nor will you ever do so till there be true repentance and true restoration, till you go and weep bitterly, till in secret you confess your sin and be forgiven. Till before the Lord you feel that you are a fool and a weakling. Then will you reappear before men, wise in the light of the Lord and strong in the glory of his power. Yes, and this course had better be taken at once, else the past unwatchful ness will work onward unto greater sin, till you deny the Lord as Peter did and your weeping be the more bitter in the end.

But let us listen to the judgment and opinion of Jesus. It is given with instant promptitude, and is supported by rich and overflowing reason. “Put up thy sword into his place: for they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scripture be fulfilled that so it must be? Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath; the cup that my Father hath given me to drink shall I not drink it?” (Matt 26:52-54; John 18:11).

Now this throws a flood of light upon the subject. For in these words Jesus presents the question of Peter’s conduct in four convincing aspects; placing it in its true relation to four different parties: the authorities of earth; the angels of heaven; the Scriptures of God; and the will of the Father. He introduces as parties variously interested in the case this splendid gradation: the powers that be; the angels; the Scripture; the Father. And he shows that the various relations in which they stand to the presently enacting scene Peter’s conduct violates.

1.  The Powers that be

And first, “the powers that be which are ordained of God,” are interested parties in this case. It is by their authority, by their warrant, most unrighteously extorted, or put forth, but still in itself competent and inviolable, that he is now arrested; and resistance in such a case by a private party is simply rebellion.

For such is undoubtedly our Lord’s meaning when he says, “Put up thy sword into his place, for they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” It is ridiculous to profess to find in this a decision of Christ on the subject of war; far more so to find in it a decision against even defensive war as sinful or against the profession of a soldier as in itself unlawful. It is equally absurd to plead this text in support of what used to be called the divine right of kings, in virtue of which it was held that they might be guilty of extortion and oppression towards their subjects to any extent, while their victims were forbidden by Scripture to rise and resent the tyranny, or rise and throw off the tyrant. The words of Jesus give no countenance to the notion that all war is sinful; and as little to the equally unfounded idea that all revolutions must be rebellions. We live, as Britons, under a constitution guaranteed to us by a revolution settlement, which was righteous and good, and which banished from the throne a dynasty whom the nation declared, most justly, had forfeited its love and its submission, and whom the judgment of God upon their wickedness has since pursued into extinction. And as we live in internal tranquillity under God, in virtue of a settlement secured by a just revolution, we ought to be prepared in like manner to guard our external relations by readiness, when necessary, for defensive war.. The righteousness, in certain cases, of revolution within; and the righteousness, in certain cases also, of war without, are principles indeed absolutely necessary to the maintenance of peace within the nation itself and of peace with those around us. And these are principles sanctioned in many passages of Scripture, and certainly not condemned by the words before us.

We venture also very strongly to assert that the admirable historian of the Reformation has done deep injustice to one of the finest portraits in his noble picture gallery - we mean Zwingle - whom, simply because he died in the field, sword in hand, he represents as having forgotten that the “weapons of our warfare are not carnal,” and as having violated the command which Jesus here gives to Peter. We are persuaded that the lawfulness of the battle in which the great Swiss reformer fell is not to be settled by the offhand quotation of this or any other text. The fact that they were religious men in Switzerland was no reason why they should see, without a struggle, their fatherland overrun and devastated by the wild troops of their allied persecuting foes. Apart from their love to the gospel, it will be no easy matter for any historian to show that the Swiss did wrong in risking their liberties on the issue of battle; and most certainly the introduction into the question of their religious rights as Christians, which they loved and sought to guard even more than their liberties as men, will not make it any easier to prove that they sinned in fighting to defend and retain them. We feel interested in the question, for the memory of our covenanted forefathers in one period of their history stands in the same position, and must share the same fate, as the memory of Zwingle.

But passing from this: observe the extremely limited judgment which Jesus really gives in the text and which cannot properly be applied save to circumstances similar to those which called it forth. A thoroughly competent warrant for his apprehension had been issued by the civil authorities of Jerusalem, and was now being served upon him, very rudely, no doubt, but still by the competent and appointed agents. What is duty in such a case? Manifestly to yield obedience to the powers which be, and which are ordained of God; for “whosoever resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves condemnation. We must needs, therefore, be subject, not only for wrath, but for conscience sake” (Rom 13:3-5). The duty manifestly is to respect the authoritative warrant; to yield and permit the case to go to proof and judgment. It is not the case of a whole capital or kingdom put under arrest, or in a state of siege, by a bloodthirsty and ambitious tyrant. But it is a competent warrant executed on a private party. For such, in relation to the state or civil power, Jesus was simply a private person, “made under the law,” refusing most properly to be accounted “a judge or a divider.” Hence the duty of the blessed Saviour was clear: it was submission. And the resistance which he could not consistently with duty offer himself, he could not permit his friend to offer in defence: he commanded him to “put his sword into his sheath”; for any loss of life he might cause in such circumstances would be, not manslaughter, as in lawful war or righteous self-defence, but murder, an iniquity to be punished by the judge according to the primeval sentence, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood by man shall his blood be shed.” Hence both the meaning and the strict applicability of the Saviour’s words in the circumstances: They that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Peter than was forgetting his calling and position as a private man and as a subject, when he rushed forward sword in hand to defend his master.

It was far otherwise when Abraham took up arms to rescue his friend Lot from captivity. Abraham was in reality, and by the word of God, no private person, but the very king and heir of Canaan, though his inheritance was held in reversion. And what is even more in point than that: it was not by competent and lawful authority that Lot had been made a prisoner, but by a wild marauding band of robber border chieftains, to whom neither Lot nor Abraham owed the least allegiance or submission. Very different is the position of Peter when Jesus, his friend, is arrested. Peter is no prince in disguise as Abraham was; no heir by covenant of the land in which he is a sojourner. And Jesus is not exempted from allegiance, as Lot was, to the parties concerned in arresting him. To draw the sword therefore in these circumstances is rebellion, and the bloodshed which Peter might cause would be murder.

This is the first light in which Jesus puts the case, and though it stood alone, it is a very serious one.

2.  The Angels

But, secondly: Jesus introduced a far nobler party in the case when he refers to the spectatorship and possible interposition of the angels. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” There is great beauty and sublimity in this. The military legion was of Roman origin and peculiar to the Roman army, and the introduction of this idea at this moment when Jesus is confronted by a band of Roman soldiers is singularly apposite and happy. And then the number twelve is that of the disciples, including alike the eleven rash and unhelpful friends and the false-hearted and exposed betrayer. Jesus gathers up, as it were from all sides, the references suggested by the scene before him, and embodies them in one of the most exalted utterances of which the case was susceptible: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he should presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?”

Thus was Peter rebuked for his sin and folly in fleeing to an unlawful method of defence. This Jesus, whom he would defend by his rash sword, is the head of all principality and power. When God bringeth in his only begotten into the world he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him. Even Satan knew that God had given his angels charge over him lest he should dash his foot against a stone. Jesus reminds Peter of this. He tells him he could at once obtain a resistless phalanx - more than seventy thousand strong - of heavenly angelic beings; that he has only to call upon his Father, “who maketh his angels spirits and his ministers a flame of fire,” and presently this Peter, this New Testament Elisha, looking up after the blinding glory of the chariots of fire and horses of fire, might mourn his safely ascended Lord crying, “My Father, my Father, the chariots of Israel and the horsemen thereof!” But it is not thus that Jesus shall ascend, without tasting death. He must “taste death” for Peter himself, and “for every one” who like him loveth the appearing of the Lord the second time. And hence if the Father sends not such an angelic guard of honour and of safety to the Son, and if indeed the Son abstains from asking it, ought not Peter to see that it is because the united will of the Father and the Son is otherwise; and how vain, therefore, and fruitless, must be the interposition of Peter’s sword.!

Is the Christian at any time in great distress and danger? And is he tempted to flee to an unlawful mode of relief from the distress, or of averting the danger? Remember this consolation concerning the angels, and possess your soul in patience. “You are complete in Christ, who is the head of all principality and power.” You are complete in him because he is so. He is exalted above all principalities and powers, both good and evil, that he may guard you safely from the evil; that he may minister to your salvation by the good. Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister to them that shall be heirs of salvation? Never flee to sinful schemes of self-protection and defence while there are legions of angels at your Father’s disposal to entrust with the charge of your safety and deliverance. If it be for your good, they will surround you invisibly, and suffer not a hair of your head to fall. Ah! How often may these holy beings acts as a wall of fire round about a child of God. Have faith in God. Take not one step aside from the path of strict integrity and truth to procure a quicker return of peace and comfort. And suffer no friend of yours to aid you by any scheme in which unrighteousness enters even by an hairsbreadth. If thy Father in heaven, who consults thy good, and could give thee twelve legions of angels immediately to free thee from all that troubles thee, is pleased still to leave thee for a while wrestling with spiritual evils or exposed to temporal danger, then how vain must be thine own unauthorised remedies prove! Buy not exemption from danger at the price of sin: that is a bargain which Satan often counsels, but which never really stands. Wait till the angels bring it thee, a free donation from thy Father, without money and without price: thine, then, by high authority than can never be questioned, by safe deed of gift which can never be reversed.

Wait patiently and do not fret. If the vision tarry wait for it: it will come and will not tarry; and in the meantime the just shall live by faith. Have faith in thy Father, and it will emancipate thee from the bondage of carnal policy. It is never time to cease your faith in him and flee to sinful or unauthorised methods of your own. His angels are innumerable; his resources are inexhaustible: it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes; it is better to trust in the Lord than put confidence in any fleshly wisdom or any arm of flesh. For while you do this, nothing, absolutely nothing, can do you any real evil. “Because thou hast made the Lord which is my refuge, even the Most High, thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways” (Ps 91:9-11).

3.  The Scriptures of God

But, thirdly: in judging Peter, Jesus brings in another, a still nobler party, to this singularly interesting case. He introduces now the Scriptures of God. They, too, have interest in this matter: all their truth and faithfulness, all their divine origin and accuracy, are at stake. For says Jesus, “How then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that so it must be?” If I evade this warrant of arrest, which shall now lead me as a lamb to the slaughter; if this their purpose so to lead me away be defeated, whether by thy sword or by legions of angels, in either case “How shall the Scriptures be fulfilled?” Here is the honour due to Scripture - a party in the case, higher, we have said, even than the angels, since to the living oracles of God’s written word even they must defer, for by the Scriptures their office must be guided, by the Scriptures must their visits be controlled or restrained. It is the Scriptures that withhold them now from pouring forth in thousands to defend their arrested Lord. We may well be in subjection to the Scriptures, when we see them taking rank as higher than the angels.

Yes! But there is a higher honour put upon these Scriptures still, when we see Jesus in subjection to them. It is he that pleads their authority - it is he that yields himself up to that which they require. “Lo, I come to do thy will, O my God: thy law also is within my heart; in the volume of the book it is written of me: yea, also, thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.” How grand and exalted the position of the Scriptures! They must control the zeal of Peter. They must withhold the visits of angels. They inspire the soul of Jesus, the Son of God.

1.Are you in the position of Jesus? Your cause, or person, or character, or comfort is attacked and endangered? Defend it scripturally; in the spirit of the Scripture. Defend it so that the Scriptures may be honoured and fulfilled. Though you walk in the midst of trouble, you shall walk in safety while you walk in the leadings and in the line of the Scriptures. It is there that Jesus walks; and there you walk therefore humbly with him - in the participation both of his company and safety. “Tell me, O thou whom my soul loveth, where thou feedest; where thou causest thy flock to rest at noon?” Under the burning sun, where do thy flock seek the shade and the safety. Follow the Scripture which is the Shepherd’s voice, and thou shalt find rest unto thy soul. How readest thou? Let the Scripture be fulfilled.

2.Are you in the position of Peter? It is not your own, but your friend’s person, or character, or comfort that is imperilled. Defend him scripturally - in the spirit of the Scriptures: as one who considers well the question, How must I act that the Scripture may be fulfilled? If you do not so; if you act on the hot impulse of mere passionate sentiment, and not on the calm, clear judgment of Christian principle, you may give him cause full soon to long to be saved from his friends. Your good will to help him may only complicate his danger. Ah! It is the service of Christian friendship that is truly valuable; the interposition of him who aids me, invisibly, by the effectual fervent prayer which availeth much; who aids me, outwardly, by movements in my cause prompted not by mere natural affection, but by spiritual love, and guided by, not the rash impulse of his own mind, but the wisdom of God which he hath received liberally from him who upbraideth not. Would you really help your friend? Let the Scriptures of the Lord be your councillors. As in the friendship of Jonathan and David, these loving ones exclaimed mutually, “The Lord be between thee and me,” the Lord as indicating his will by the oracle anent the throne of Israel, so let the Lord as speaking in his own written word be between you and your friend. And this will be the source and secret of effectual aid rendered on your part, and of the highest possible enjoyment in receiving it on his.

3.Or, again, is it still more exactly the position of Peter that you occupy, in that the friend you are called to defend is actually the same, Peter’s Lord and yours? The name of Jesus is dishonoured among those in whose company you are often thrown, or his cause reviled, or his servants abused. Ah! let this friend, if any friend, be defended scripturally. Seek the meekness and wisdom which the Scriptures enjoin: avoid the wrath of man which the Scriptures forbid, and which never worketh the righteousness of God. Inquire at the living oracle, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” Lord, how wilt thou have me to confess and defend thy name? Labour to live so blameless and without offence that if Christ in you be hated, or you for the sake of Christ, the Scripture may be seen to be fulfilled which saith, “They hated me without a cause.”

4.  The Father

But, fourthly; Jesus ultimately carries the matter to the highest court of all. “The cup that my Father hath given me to drink, shall I not drink it?” He now makes his Father a party in the case. Hence this noble series of gradations by which Jesus brings this matter into relation with successive rights and agencies: the authorities on earth; the angels of heaven; the Scriptures of God, till he places it in immediate connection with the will of the Holy One of Israel - it is like that mystic ladder which the pilgrim father saw, which was “set upon the earth and the top of it reached to heaven, and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it; and, behold! Jehovah stood above it.”

Thus ultimately the case in hand is carried up to Jehovah, submitted to the Father’s will. This brings out the chiefest aggravation of Peter’s sin. He would have interposed to frustrate the will of God; yea, the will of God for the redemption of the Church. Strange that this should have been so often the temptation under which Peter fell, the temptation also which he so often brought to bear, though in vain, upon his master! What else was it than an undisguised attempt to bring to nought the whole scheme of salvation when, Jesus having “begun to show them how he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and raised again the third day, Peter took him and began to rebuke him and say unto him, This be far from thee, Lord: this shall no be unto thee” (Matt 16:21-23)? What was this but an effort to undo the whole plan of redemption and forbid the work of the Redeemer? “Jesus turned and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me: thou savourest not the things that be of God but those that be of men.” Did Peter learn wisdom? How read we? “After six days Jesus taketh Peter, and James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him; they spake of the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. Then answered Peter, and said, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt let us make here three tabernacles: one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elias.” What! Simon Peter; no more shame; no cross; no sacrifice for sin; no death; not even the decease thou hast heard the visitants from heaven talking of? Still savouring not the things which be of God but those that be of men?

And now again the third time; when the Father’s sword of awful righteousness awakes against the shepherd, must thy puny sword be ready to dispute it? Oh! thine infinite folly! What! in thy blindness measuring swords with the supreme God! And all to prevent the salvation of the elect and thine own! Go thy way. We shall never call thee, nor thy successor, the Father of the Church; thou canst not even feed one lamb till thy Master’s death which thou wouldst again forbid has taken place; yea, till the crucified One shall rise again and forgive thee, and restore thee from thy sin. Thou art a loving and an earnest man; and worthy in much of our esteem and imitation; but in this thou art walking by the wisdom which is from beneath. Thou shalt be in no sense the Church’s head. Her salvation is far from safe in thy hands. It is not thy fault that she is saved at all. Yet thou art truly loved by all the faithful, for Jesus hath prayed for thee that thy faith may not fail.

How gloriously does Christ’s constancy shine forth in the contrast! How safe is our salvation in his hands! How unsafe would it be in Peter’s or our own!

Now this is the very essence of the contrast between faith and unbelief. Unbelief shrinks from being contented with having my eternal salvation entirely in the hands of another. Unbelief searches diligently for somewhat to trust to in myself, and would look upon it with complacency, and rest upon it with peace and delight, could it but succeed in the search. The search is vain. In me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing. But faith looks out. Faith looks to Jesus. Faith says, Jesus is sufficient; Jesus is infallible and true. Faith sees salvation safe in his hand and says, “My Lord and my God,” I am thine: and we so are one, that thy will to save me is as good to me as my own willingness to be saved; yea, better, brighter, steadier, unlimbering, unflagging, changeless. And then thy power is all-sufficient. Thou art all my salvation; thou art all my desire. None but Christ: none but Christ.

Hearken, then, to the great Councillor as he sets his erring follower right, pointing out to him the true aspects of the case in all its glorious breadth: telling Peter his sin, and showing him his Master’s duty and his own. Behold how safely Jesus walks: surrendering to the powers that be; believing in the guardianship of angels, but forbearing for the time their aid; fulfilling the Scriptures of God; yielding submission and obedience to his Father’s will. Thus also would he have Peter to walk; and thus also thee, O believer, as thou takest up thy cross and followest Jesus. Abide in thy calling and observe every ordinance of God. Pray in faith to thy Father, refusing the aid of fleshly wisdom and sinful policy; for multitudes of angels at the last moment can rescue thee; and at the worst even, as thou thinkest, it shall be the best, when they carry thee to Abraham’s bosom. Fulfil the Scriptures, being not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the word, and blessed in thy deed. And finally receive all appointments of God as from your Father’s hand; that hand in which you must be for ever safe. So shalt thou walk in safety, amidst all adversaries whatsoever, thine eye being single and thy whole body full of light.

III.  THE CAPTORS

But there is another party standing at the bar of this singular arrested judge. He judges not the traitor only, and his own rash friends, but his captors even must hear his judgment concerning themselves. “Then said Jesus to the chief priests and captains of the temple and the elders which were come to him, Be ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves? When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me. But this is your hour and the power of darkness.”

Now the point of this address turns on the fact that Jesus complains of their attempt to place him in a false position, and raise against him a groundless prejudice. They come against him with swords and staves as if he were a thief, a malefactor, a felon. No doubt this was done that the Scripture might be fulfilled which saith, “And he was numbered with the transgressors”; and in this light Jesus willingly submitted. But then it was not with the will and the view to fulfil the Scriptures that his captors acted; neither came it into their heart. And on this ground, in addressing them, Jesus was entitled to complain. This was an act of low cunning, and discreditable trickery, on their part. They might have taken him at any time in the temple, but they feared the people. They must affect to regard him as a felon before they dare to arrest him. But they get the length even of doing that. For it is “their hour and the power of darkness.”

Now here is the principle on which all persecution against the godly is conducted. It is not for being godly that the world professedly persecutes them. The world feels that decency forbids to touch them till a semblance of some other charge is raised to cover and, if possible, conceal the real ground of hatred. It is not as a holy and benevolent teacher, winning the esteem of the nation, that Jesus is arrested: it is as a felon. It is not as holy and heavenly minded men that primitive Christians are persecuted. It is as disturbers of the peace of the Roman empire; as setters forth of strange gods; enemies of the imperial authority, as it prescribes the imperial religion. It is in that character they are given to the wild beasts at Ephesus or at Rome.

It is the same principle or policy in all cases, great or small. Look into the family, the field, the workshop, where the ungodly scorn and ridicule the righteous. It is not under the character of righteous that they persecute him. That would be too obviously and visibly the very spirit of hell. It must be a little masked and hidden from the view of others; ay, they seek even to hide it from themselves. It is not because he is a Christian, righteous, godly man they hate him. They cannot condemn him under that which is the true aspect of his character. They must misrepresent him first.

Did you ever thus ridicule the strict godly? And do you not remember that you first called him hypocrite and tried to make yourself believe him a hypocrite before you spoke against him? Who is among you that dislikes the prayerful, bible-reading, righteous child of God? You dare not do it till you have attempted to believe him hypocritically and uselessly precise. It is under that false aspect you feel at liberty to ridicule the godly, and ridicule them accordingly you do. Then know that you have entered on an “hour of the power of darkness”; for this is a very special device of Satan to seal your impenitence and harden your heart. What! this godly man whom you despise is a hypocrite, is he? You come out strong against him as a poor hypocrite? And yet he is “daily with you in the temple.” At least he is weekly with you in the sanctuary, and you “lay no hands on him” there; you lift not up your voice of ridicule against him there. He and you both are there - both there on the Lord’s day; coming as the Lord’s people come; sitting before him as his people ; both, with your lips, showing much love unto him. And the difference is that when gone from the temple he prays to his Father in secret and glorifies his Father in public, while you are prayerless at home and godless abroad. Who is the hypocrite?

Beware! When you scorn the righteous you may succeed in injuring, you may succeed in paining them. But the hour in which you do so coincides with the hour of the power of the devil. How horrible! if your opportunity and Satan’s coincide! How far may they carry you when thus combined! They carried these men the length of crucifying the Lord of glory. May they not carry you the length of crucifying him afresh?

Despise not, then, the children of the Lord: rather join their ranks. Say to any of them with whom you stand related, “Entreat me not to leave thee; nor to return from following after thee: we will go with thee; for we have heard that God is with thee. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” The blessed time which sees this holy resolution, far from being the hour or the power of darkness, shall be thy day of gracious visitation and the day of thy Saviour’s power; and like his people, whom you once despised, you also “shall be willing in the day of his power.”

We close by calling your attention once more to the glory of Christ as a judge, even in the midst of his shame as an arrested malefactor. With his vesture dipped in the blood of his agony and stained with the soil of earth, he still gives pledge and prelude of his victory, when he shall come with dyed garments from Bozrah, glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength. Above all, he gives pledge and prelude of that awful final assize when we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ.

 The Shadow of Calvary, first published in 1875. Reprinted by the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland 1954, 1955, 1956. First Banner of Truth edition 1983 (Edinburgh)

 

 
     
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