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one creature to another, it is to no purpose; nor yet will I leave my complaint upon myself; but I will tell thee, Father, how the case stands with me; for to whom should children make their complaint but to their Fa ther? Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me. What thinkest thou, reader, of this? Is it relieving to a sad soul? Yes, yes; if thou be a christian that hast had any experience of this, thou wilt say there is nothing like it; thou wilt bless God for appointing such an ordinance as prayer, and say, Blessed be God for prayer: I know not what I should have done, nor how I should have waded through all the troubles I have passed, if it had not been for the help of prayer.
2. Did Christ withdraw from the disciples to seek God by prayer? Then the company of the best of men is not always seasonable. Peter, James, and John were three excellent men, and yet Christ saith to them, Tarry ye here, while I go and pray yonder. The society of men is useful in its season, but no better than a burden out of season. I have read of a good man, that when his stated time for closet prayer was come, he would say to the company with him, whoever they were, "Friends, I must beg you excuse me for a while, there is a Friend waits to speak with me." The company of a good man is good, but it ceases to be so when it hinders the enjoyment of better company. One hour with God is to be preferred to a thousand days' enjoyment of the best men on earth. If thy dearest friends intrude unseasonably between thee and thy God, it is neither rude nor unfriendly to bid them give place to better company; I mean, to withdraw from them, as Christ did from the disciples, to enjoy an hour with God alone. In public and social duties we may admit the company of others to join us; and if they be such as fear God, the more the better: but in secret duties, Christ and thou must communicate between yourselves; and then the com
pany of the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend that is as thine own soul, would not be welcome. "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet; and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret." Matt. 66. It is as much as if Christ had said, Be sure to retire into as great privacy as may be; let no ear but God's hear what thou hast to say to him. This is at once a mark of sincerity and a great help to spiritual liberty and freedom with God.
3. Did Christ go to God thrice upon the same account? Then christians should not be discouraged, though they have sought God once and again, and receive no answer of peace. Christ was not heard the first time, and he goes a second; he was not answered the second, and he goes the third, and yet was not answered in the thing he desired, namely, that the cup might pass from him; still he has no hard thoughts of God, but resolves his will into his Father's. If God deny you in the things you ask, he deals no otherwise with you than he did with Christ. "O my God, (saith he,) I cry in the day-time, but thou hearest not; and in the night, and am not silent." Yet he justifies God,
but thou art holy." Psalm 22: 3. Christ was not heard in the thing he desired, and yet was heard in that he feared. Heb. 5: 7. The cup did not pass as he desired, but God upheld him, and enabled him to drink it. He was heard as to support, he was not heard as to exemption from suffering: his will was expressed conditionally; and therefore though he had not the thing he so desired, yet his will was not crossed by the denial.
But now, when we have a suit depending before the throne of grace, and cry to God once and again, and receive no answer, how do our hands hang down and our spirits wax feeble! Then we complain, "When I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayers. Thou coverest thyself with a cloud, that our prayers cannot pass
through." Lam. 3: 8, 44. Then, with Jonah, we conclude we are cast out of his sight." Alas! we judge by sense according to what we see and feel; and cannot live by faith on God, when he seems to hide himself, put us off, and refuse our requests. It calls for an Abraham's faith to "believe against hope, giving glory to God." If we cry, and no answer comes presently, our carnal reason draws a headlong, hasty conclusion. Surely I must expect no answer: God is angry with my prayers. The seed of prayer has lain so long under the clods, and it appears not; surely it is lost, I shall hear no more of it.
Our prayers may be heard, though their answer be for the present delayed. As David acknowledged, when he coolly considered the matter, "I said in my haste, I am cut off from before thine eyes; nevertheless thou heardest the voice of my supplication when I cried unto thee." Psalm 31:22. No, no, christian; a prayer sent up in faith, according to the will of God, cannot be lost, though it be delayed. We may say of it as David said of Saul's sword and Jonathan's bow, that they never returned empty.
4. Was Christ so earnest in prayer, that he prayed himself into a very agony? Let the people of God blush to think how unlike their spirits are to Christ, as to their praying frames.
Oh what lively, quick, deep, and tender apprehensions of those things about which he prayed, had Christ! Being in an agony, he prayed the more earnestly. I do not say Christ is imitable in this; no, but his fervor in prayer is a pattern for us, and serves severely to rebuke the dulness and formality of our prayers. How often do we bring the sacrifice of the dead before the Lord! how often do our lips move, and our hearts stand still! Oh! how unlike Christ are we! his prayers were pleading prayers; full of mighty argu
ments and fervent affections. Oh! that his people were in this more like him!
5. Was Christ in such an agony before any hand of man was upon him, merely from the apprehensions of the wrath of God, with which he now contested? "Then surely it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; for our God is a consuming fire.” Ah, what is divine wrath, that Christ should faint when the cup came to him! Could not he bear, and dost thou think to bear it? Did Christ sweat as it were drops of blood before it, and dost thou make light of it? Poor man, if it staggered him, it will confound thee. If it made him groan, it will make thee howl eternally. Come, sinner, come; dost thou make light of the threatenings of the wrath of God against sin? Dost thou think there is no such matter in it as these zealous preachers represent? Come, look here upon my text, which shows thee the face of the Son of God full of purple drops under the sense and apprehension of it. Hark how he cries, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass." Oh any thing of punishment rather than this. Hear what he tells the disciples; "My soul is sorrowful, even to death: amazed, and very heavy." But fools make a mock at sin, and the threatenings that lie against it.
6. Did Christ meet death with such a heavy heart? Let the hearts of christians be the lighter for this, when they come to die. The bitterness of death was all squeezed into Christ's cup. He was made to drink the very dregs of it, that so our death might be the sweeter to us. Alas! there is nothing now left in death that is frightful, besides the pain of dissolution. I remember it is related of one of the martyrs, that being observed to be cheerful when he came to the stake, one asked him why his heart was so light, when death, and that in such a terrible form, was before him? Oh, said he, my
heart is so light at my death, because Christ's was so heavy at his.
7. What cause have all the saints to love their dear Lord Jesus with an abounding love! Christian, open the eyes of thy faith, and fix them upon Christ as he lay in the garden. He that suffered for us more than any creature ever did or could, may well challenge more love than all the creatures in the world. Oh what hath he suffered, and suffered upon thy account! thy pride, thy earthliness, sensuality, unbelief, hardness of heart added weight to the burden of his sorrows in that day.
FIRST PREPARATIVE FOR CHRIST'S DEATH ON HIS ENEMIES' PART-TREASON OF JUDAS.
"And while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and slaves, 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." Matt. 26, 47-49.
We have seen how Christ prepared himself for his death. He has commended his people to the Father; instituted the blessed memorial of his death; poured out his soul to God in the garden; and now he is ready, and waits for the coming of his enemies. And think you that they were idle on their part? No, no, their malice made them restless. They had agreed with Judas to betray him. Under his conduct, a band of soldiers was sent to apprehend him. The hour, so long expected, is come. For "while he yet spake, lo, Judas, one of