« PreviousContinue »
enlighten the benighted children of men. Silver and gold he had none. But what he imparted to many thousands was worth more to them than if he had bestowed upon them the richest jewels of which the Roman Emperor was possessed. And he was not only a blessing to that generation, but bas been so since his death by the fruits of what he did in his life time, the foundations he then laid, and by the writings which he has left for the good of mankind to the end of the world. He then was, and ever since has been, a light to the church next in brightness to the Sun of Right
And it was by means of his excellent spirit and excellent behaviour that he became such a blessing. Those were the things that God made useful in him for doing so much good. And if we should imitate the apostle in such a spirit and behaviour, the undoubted consequence would be, that we also should be made great blessings in the world; we should not live in vain, but should carry a blessing with us wherever we went. Instead of being cumberers of the ground, multitudes would be fed with our fruit, and would have reason to praise and bless God that he ever gave us a being. Now, how melancholy a consideration may it be to any persons that they have lived to no purpose; that the world would have been deprived of nothing, if they had never been born; and it may be, have been better without them than with them. How desirable is it to be a blessing. How great was the promise made to Abraham, “In thee shall all families of the earth be blessed."
6. For us to follow the good example of the apostle Paul, would be the way for us to die as he did. 2 Tim. iv. 6—8. “ For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that
7. This would secure us a distinguished crown of glory here. aster. It is thought by some, and not without great probability, that the aposile Paul is the very next in glory to the man Jesus Christ himself. This is probable from his having done more good than any, and from his having done it through so great labours and sufferings. The apostle tells us, “Every man shall receive bis own reward, according to his owu labour."
I shall conclude with mentioning some things as encouragements for us to endeavour to follow the excellent example of this great apostle. Many may be ready to say that it is in vain for them to try. The apostle was a person so greatly distinguished; it is in vain for them to endeavour to be like him. encouragement, consider, VOL. VIII.
But for your 1. That the apostle was a man of like passions with us. He had naturally the same heart, the same corruptions; was under the same circumstances, the same guilt, and the same condemnation. There is this circumstance that attends the apostle's example to encourage us to endeavour to imitate him, which did not attend the example of Christ. And yet we are called upon to imitate the example of Christ. This is probably one main reason why not only the example of Christ, but also those of mere men are set before us in the scriptures. Though you may think you have no great reason to hope to come up to the apostle's degree, vet that is no reason why you should not make his good example your pattern, and labour, as far as in you lies, to copy after him.
2. This apostle, before he was converted, was a very wicked man, and a vile persecutor. He often speaks of it himself. He sinned against great light.
3. He had much greater hinderances and impediments to eminent holiness from without than any of us have. His circumstances made it more difficult for him.
4. The same God, the same Saviour, and the same head of divine influence are ready to help our sincere endeavours, that helped him. Let us therefore not excuse ourselves, but in good earnest endeavour to follow so excellent an example. And then, however weak we are in ourselves, we may hope to experience Christ's suffering, and be able to say from our own experience, as the apostle did before him, " when I am weak, then am I strong."
LUKE xxii. 44.
And being in an agony he prayed more carnestly, and his sweat
was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in his original nature, was infinitely above all suffering, for he was " God over all blessed for evermore;" but, when he became man, he was not only capable of suffering, but partook of that nature that is remarkably feeble and exposed to suffering. The human nature, on account of its weakness, is in scripture compared to the grass of the field, which easily withers and decays. So it is compared to a leaf; and to the dry stubble; and to a blast of wind : and the nature of feeble man is said to be but dust and ashes, to have its foundation in the dust, and to be crushed before the moth. It was this nature, with all its weakness and exposedness to sufferings, which Christ, who is the Lord God omnipotent, took upon him. He did not take the human nature on him in its first, most perfect and vigorous state, but in that feeble forlorn state which it is in since the fall; and therefore Christ is called “a tender plant,” and “a root out of a dry ground.” Isaiah liji. 2. “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness, and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him." Thus, as Christ's principal errand into the world was suffering, so agreeably to that errand, he came with such a nature and in such circumstances as most made way for his suffering ; so his whole life was filled up with suffering, he began to suffer in his infancy, but his suffering increased, the more he drew near to the close of his life. His suffering after his public ministry began, was probably much greater than before; and the latter part of the time of his public ministry seems to have been distinguished by suffering. The longer Christ lived in the world, the more men saw and heard of him, the more they hated him. His enemies were more and more enraged by the continuance of the opposition that he made to their lusts'; and the devil having been often baffled by him, grew more and more enraged, and strengthened the battle more and more against him: so that the cloud over Christ's
head grew darker and darker, as long as he lived in the world, till it was in its greatest blackness when he hung upon the cross, and cried out, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me! Before this, it was exceedingly dark, in the time of his agony in the garden; of which we have an account in the words now read; and which I propose to make the subject of my present discourse. The word agony properly signifies an earnest strife, such as is witnessed in wrestling, running, or fighting. And therefore in Luke xiii. 24. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate : for many, 1 say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able ;” The word in the original, translated strive, is aywricec0c. “ Agonize, to enter in at the strait gate.” The word is especially used for that sort of strife, which in those days was exhibited in the Olympick games, in which men strove for the mastery in ruvning, wrestling, and other such kinds of exercises; and a prize was set up that was bestowed on the conqueror. Those, who thus contended, were, in the language then in use, said to agonize. Thus the apostle in his epistle to the Christians of Corinth, a city of Greece, where such games were annually exhibited, says in allusion to the strivings of the combatants, “And every man that striveth for the mastery," in the original, “Every one that agonizeth, is temperate in all things.” The place where those games were held, was called Aywv, or the place of agony; and the word is particularly used in scripture for that striving in earnest prayer wherein persons wrestle with God: they are said to agonize, or to be in agony, in prayer. So the word is used Rom. xv. 30. “Now 1 beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me:" in the original cuvaywn/ccbat mot, that ye agonize together with me.
So Colos. iv. 12. “Always labouring fervently for you in prayer, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God :" in the original ayuvitwv, agonizing for you. So that when it is said in the text that Christ was in an agony, the meaning is that his soul was in a great and earnest strife and conflict. It was so in two respects :
1. As his soul was in a great and sore conflict with those terrible and amazing views and apprehensions which he then had.
2. As he was at the same time in great labour and earnest strife with God in prayer.
I propose therefore, in discoursing on the subject of Christ's agony, distinctly to unfold it, under these two propositions,
1. That the soul of Christ in his agony in the garden had a sore conflict with those terrible and amazing views, and apprehensions, of which he was then the subject.
Il. That the soul of Christ in bis agony in the garden had a great and earnest labour and struggle with God in prayer.
J. The soul of Christ in his agony in the garden had a sore conflict with those terrible amazing views and apprehensions, of which he was then the subject.
In illustrating this proposition I shall endeavour to show, 1. What those views and apprehensions were.
2. That the conflict or agony of Christ's soul was occasioned by those views and apprehensions.
3. That this conflict was peculiarly great and distressing; and
4. What we may suppose to be the special design of God in giving Christ those terrible views and apprehensions, and causing him to suffer that dreadful conflict, before he was crucified.
I proposed to show
First. What were those terrible views and amazing apprehensions which Christ had in his agony. This may be explained by considering,
1. The cause of those views and apprehensions; and 2. The manner in which they were then experienced.
1. The cause of those views and apprehensions, which Christ had in his agony in the garden, was the bitter cup which he was soon after to drink on the cross. The sufferings which Christ underwent in his agony in the garden, were not his greatest sufferings; though they were so very great. But his last sufferings upon the cross, were his principal sufferings; and therefore they are called “the cup that he had to drink.” The sufferings of the cross, under which he was slain, are always in the scriptures represented as the main sufferings of Christ; those in which especially “he bare our sins in his own body," and made atonement for sin. His enduring the cross, his humbling himself, and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, is spoken of as the main thing wherein his sufferings appeared. This is the cup that Christ had set before him in bis agony. It is manifest, that Christ had this in view at this time, from the prayers which be then offered. According to Matthew, Christ made three prayers that evening, while in the garden of Gethsemane, and all on this one subject, the bitter cup that he was to drink. Of the first, we have an account in Matt. xxvi. 39. “And he went a little farther, and sell on bis face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, Jet this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will but as thou wilt:" of the second in the 42d verse, “ He went away again the second time and prayed, saying, O my Father, is this cup may not pass from me, except I drink it, thy will be done:” and of the third in the 44th verse, “ And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.” From this it plainly appears what it was of which Christ had such terrible views and apprehensions at that time. What he thus insists on in his prayers, shows on what his mind was so deeply intent. It was his sufferings on the cross,