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Master, and ignorant of the weakness of human nature at the approach of danger, replied, with still greater vehemence, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee:” and the rest of the disciples joined with him in these earnest protestations of inviolable fidelity. How far they were verified by the event, we shall soon see. We are now arrived at a very awful and somewhat mysterious part of our Saviour's history, his agony in the garden, which is next related to us by St. Matthew. “Then cometh Jesus (says the evangelist) with them to a place called Gethsemane, a rich valley, near the Mount of Olives, through which ran the brook Cedron, and on the side was a garden, into which Jesus entered. And he said unto his disciples, Sit ye here (at the entrance probably of the garden) while I go and pray yonder. And he took with him, into a more retired part of the garden, Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee, James and John, the very same disciples who
who accompanied him at his transfiguration; that they who had been witnesses of his glory might be witnesses also of his humiliation and affliction. 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 (that is, if it be possible for man to be saved, and thy glory promoted as effectually in any other way as by my death) let this cup, this bitter cup of affliction, pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. And he cometh unto his disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? you who so lately made such vehement professions of attachment to me! Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.” Ye have need to watch and pray for your own sakes, as well as mine, that you may not be overcome by the severe trials that await you, nor be tempted to desert me. Yet at the
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same moment, feeling for the infirmity of human nature, he adds, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” That is I know your hearts are right, and your intentions good; but the weakness of your frail nature overpowers your best resolutions, “ and the thing which ye would ye do not.” “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.” That is, henceforth, hereafter (for so the original strictly means) you may take your rest; your watching can be of no further use to me; my trial is over, my agony is subdued, and my destiny determined. I shall soon be betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, therefore, let us go and meet this danger. Behold he that be
trayeth me is at hand. This is the account given us of what is called our Saviour's agony in the garden; in the nature and circumstances of which there is certainly something “difficult to be understood; ” but it is at the same time pregnant with instruction and consolation to every disciple of Christ. We may observe, in the first place, that the terror and distress of our Lord's mind on this occasion seems to have been extreme, and the agony he endured, in the highest degree poignant and acute. He is said here to be “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” St. Mark adds, that he was “sore amazed and very heavy “;” and St. Luke tells us, that “being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground i.” To what Call Se
* Ch. xiv. 33. + Ch. xxii. 44.
cause could thesse uncommonly painful sensations be owing: There is great reason to believe that they could not arise solely from the fear of death, or of the torments and the ignominy he was about to undergo; for many great and good men, many of the primitive martyrs for instance, and of our first reformers, have met death and tortures without feeling, at least without expressing, such excessive terrors of mind as these. But it should be considered, that besides the apprehensions of a death in the highest degree excruciating and disgraceful, to which in his human nature he would be as liable as any other person, there were several circumstances peculiar to himself, which might exceedingly embitter his feelings, and exasperate his sufferings. In the first place, from the foreknowledge of every thing that could befal him, he would have a quicker sense and a keener perception of the torments he was to undergo than any other person could 7 possibly