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nity more of a very affecting nature, he cried out again: "It is finished." Every humbling circumstance concerning the life of the Messiah, that had been foretold, is accomplished. And I have now done and suffered all that 'my office required.' And knowing, that the prayer before offered was acceptable to the Father, he bowed his head, and willingly resigned his spirit, in hope of a resurrection to life, and the glorious exaltation that had been set before him.
Herein must be allowed to be every thing great and excellent; meekness toward men, peace of mind within, resignation to the will of God, confidence of his approbation, hope of after-glory and honour.
That there was somewhat very great and admirable, in the concluding circumstances of this amazing scene, is evident from the confession of the centurion, who presided at the crucifixion. "And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said; Truly, this man was the Son of God,” Mark xv. 39. St. Luke's words are, "Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying; Certainly this was a righteous man. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things that were done, smote their breasts, and returned," ch. xxiii. 46, 47.
Let me add a few thoughts by way of reflection.
1. From the view which we have now taken of our Lord's sufferings, we may perceive it was with good reason he prayed, that" this cup might pass from him," if it were pleasing to the Father; and that, when he attentively considered those sufferings which were near at hand, he was amazed, and sorrowful unto death, or was under great concern, accompanied with an uncommon sweat, Luke xxii. 39-41.
For it was a cup, filled with bitter ingredients, the pain and the shame of the cross; reproaches and scoffs, injurious to his high character, and the belief of his mission. Beside all the sufferings to be inflicted upon himself, he felt, undoubtedly, in that preparatory meditation, the grief, the doubts, the fears, and even the guilt, and miseries, which his ignominious sufferings would occasion in others. If the Father did not see fit to interpose for preventing the sufferings of his Son, he should be betrayed by one of his own
• Contristabatur autem non timore patiendi, qui ad hoc venerat ut pateretur, et Petrum timiditatis arguerat: sed propter infelicissimum Judam, et scandalum omnium Apostolorum, et rejectionem populi Judæorum, et eversionem miseræ Jerusalem. Hieron. in. Matt. xxvi. 37. p. 129. Vid. et in ver. 39. p. 129, 130.
disciples, who thereby would incur a most heavy doom ; so that it would be better for him, that he had not been born. He would likewise be disowned, and denied by another disciple; and all the rest would be offended in him. The minds of all his friends and followers, in general, would be pierced with inexpressible grief; and their just and reasonable belief in him, as the Messiah, built upon his mighty works, and the testimonies that had been given him from heaven, would be greatly shaken, if not quite overthrown. The Jewish people, with their rulers, would contract much guilt, and bring upon themselves heavy judgments and calamities. And how our Lord's mind was affected with the foresight of the desolations of Jerusalem, we well know from the tears which it drew from his eyes, and from the mournful lamentation which he made over that city, Matt. xxiii. 37-39. Luke xiii. 34, 35; ch. xix. 41–44.
From these, and other thoughts and considerations, present to the comprehensive mind of the blessed Jesus, justly did he renew that prayer: "Father, if it be possible, let this pass from me.'
cu am aware that some would affix another meaning to that prayer, and argue that our Lord did not deprecate his passion. But I think, with little success, and with less reason.
They say, how could our Lord pray against his passion, when he had reproved Peter for attempting to divert him from the thought of it? But our Lord's prayer was not founded upon Peter's views. Nor did it proceed from Peter's worldly temper. And after all, he added: "Not my will, but thine be done." He was resigned, and willing, and ready to take the cup, if infinite wisdom saw fit that he should take it, for advancing the interest of religion, and the good of men.
Some reluctance of nature upon this occasion, was not inconsistent with consummate virtue, and a full determination to acquiesce in what divine wisdom appointed. There is another plain instance of the like reluctance in regard to the same thing. "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name," John xii. 27, 28.f
Et in passione. Pater, si fieri, inquit, potest, transeat calix iste a me. locus hunc sensum habet: Si potest fieri, ut sine interitu Judæorum, credat Gentium multitudo, passionem recuso. Sin autem illi excæcandi sunt, ut omnes gentes videant, fiat, Pater, voluntas tua. Id. in Is. cap. viii. p. 84. Conser. Euseb. in Ps. 87. al. 88. p. 548, 551, 552.
Which place is exactly parallel with that which we are now considering.
These persons say, that by the cup which our Lord prayed might pass from him, he meant his agony in the garden, being afraid he should expire there. But is not that imputing to our Lord what is manifestly derogatory to his honour upon many accounts? For it implies distrust and want of faith, not easy to be accounted for, or reconciled with his high character, and his large experience of the divine presence with him. And it would be as difficult to reconcile this sense with the predictions concerning his dying the death of the cross, as any other interpretation whatever.
Once more, then, it is objected: How could our Lord pray, that the cup of his passion might pass from him, when he had foretold that he should suffer and die, and be raised again the third day?
But this objection likewise is of small moment, though of specious appearance. For, notwithstanding predictions, intervening events as they occur, both the good and the evil things of this life, and the actions of moral agents, will operate and influence the mind.
And whatever things are foreseen and foretold, we are to perform our duty to God and men, suitably to the circumstances which we are brought into in the intermediate space.
Our Lord foretold the treachery of Judas. And yet he often warned that disciple, and said enough to discourage and dissuade him from that evil conduct, and said in his hearing: "Woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed. Good were it for that man if he had not been born," Matt. xxvi. 24; Mark xiv. 21.
He also foretold the fall of Peter; and yet did a great deal to prevent it, giving such warnings and directions to him and the rest, as were most likely to secure their steadi
He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, and the overthrow of the Jewish nation. Nevertheless, after his ascension, his apostles, by his special direction, did all that was in their power, by preaching and working miracles among the people for a long season, to bring them to repentance, and to prevent their final ruin.
In like manner our Lord had foretold his own ignomini
For it is as if he had said: 'I have prayed, saying, "Father save me from this hour." Yet I am willing to do and suffer what shall be most for the advancement of thy glory, and the interest of religion in the world. My 'first and chief desire is, that "thy name may be glorified." Thou therefore by thy all-wise Providence, order what may be most conducive to that end: and I acquiesce, whatever it is.'
ous sufferings and death, and his resurrection afterwards. Nevertheless he was greatly concerned in the near view and approach of those sufferings. If he had not he had not been man. Nor does he dissemble it. For going out with his disciples after supper to the mount of Olives, when he came to the place called Gethsemane, he said to the rest, "Sit ye here whilst I go and pray yonder. And he taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy," or to be in great concern of mind." 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 farther, 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." Which prayer he also repeated.
Meditating in this retirement on the sufferings he had in view, he earnestly recommended his case to infinite wisdom, expressing acquiescence in the divine will whatever it should be. After which he was strengthened and comforted by the presence of an angel sent to him from heaven, and by considering" the joy that was set before him," Heb. xii. 2, and the benefits that would accrue to mankind by his death and resurrection.
Whereupon he arose, went out to meet him that betrayed him, and those who came to apprehend him, and went through the amazing scene of sufferings that followed, with full composure, and all the indications of a most excellent temper, which have been delineated, though too faintly, in the preceding part of this discourse.
Our Lord said to his disciples, " Watch, and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing; but the flesh is weak." He was himself an example of those duties, suited to all, the best, and the strongest, in a state of trial. And he was an instance of the benefit of them.
There can be no doubt, that the apostle refers to these devotions of our Saviour, in those words, "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, to him that was able to save him from death. And was heard in that he feared," Heb. v. 7. Or, wash delivered from his fear.
Our Lord's devotions in the garden, if duly considered, are liable to no exceptions. They are edifying, and exemplary. Acquiescence in the divine will is always reckoned
Matt. xxvi. 36-46. Mark xiv. 32-42. Luke xxii. 39-46.
by wise meni a proof of perfection of virtue, or of great progress therein. If there be no sensibility to pain and shame, nor any apprehensiveness of mind in the prospect of sufferings, there can be no virtue in resignation to the disposals of Providence. The greater the sensibility of any posals human frame to the evils of this life, the greater must be the virtue of resignation under them; and the more engaging is the example of such patience.'
2. The view which we have now taken of our Lord in his last sufferings, may be of use to confirm our faith in him, and increase our esteem for him, and enable us to vindicate him against such as would detract from him. Indeed he is, in all respects, the greatest character that has appeared on this earth. "Never man spake like him," John vii. 46. Nor has there ever been any other man who lived and died as he did.
3. The view which we have now taken of our Lord in his last sufferings may be of use to lessen our regard for worldly honour and grandeur, and to abate our dread of the evils of this life.
If we should have a prospect of any great trial, we are to recommend ourselves to the disposal of Providence, and should submit our will to the will of God. If troubles befal us, we should aim to bear them with a greatness of mind resembling that of our great Master; that is, without murmurings and complaints, or dejection of spirits, with meekness and patience, and a comfortable hope and expectation of being vindicated, and rewarded in due time.
1 Ινα δυνηται λεγειν εν τη φυλακή, φ φιλε κριτών, ει ταυτῇ τοις θεοις φίλον, TAUTY YEVεOOW. Arrian. Epict. Í. 1. c. 4. * Vid. Cleric. H. E. ann. 29. n. xliii. Says that good man, and great preacher, Abp. Tillotson: All this our Lord bore, not with a stoical and stupid insensibility, but with a true patience. For no man had greater apprehensions of suffering, and a more quick and tender ⚫ sense of it, than he had. He had not only the more manly virtues of wisdom, ' and resolution, and constancy; but was clothed also with the softer passions of human nature, meekness, and compassion, and grief, and a tender sense of pain and suffering; "He took our infirmities," says the prophet," and bore our griefs." And this he expressed both in his agony in the garden, and in his behaviour upon the cross. He did not despise pain, but dreaded it, and yet submitted to it. He did not outbrave his sufferings, but bore them decently. He had a human sense of them, but bore them with a divine patience, resigning himself absolutely to the will of God, when he saw them coming: and when they were upon him, expressing a great sense of pain without the least 'sign of impatience And hereby he was a pattern accommodated to the 'weakest and tenderest of mankind. He did not give us an extravagant example of bravery, and a sturdy resolution; but, which was much fitter for us, of a patient submission to the will of God, under a great sense of suffering.' Serm. 166. the second upon 1 Pet. ii. 21, near the end. See likewise the beginning.