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and prays to the same purpose again. Oh how he returns upon God again and again, as if he resolved to take no denial! But, considering it must be so, he sweetly falls in with his Father's will," Thy will be done."
4. It was a prayer accompanied with a strange and wonderful agony: "being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Now he was red indeed in his apparel, as one that trod the wine-press. Consider what an extraordinary load pressed his soul at that time, even such as no mere man felt, or could support, even the wrath of the great and terrible God in its extremity. "Who (saith the prophet Nahum, 1:6) can stand before his indignation ? And who can abide in the fierceness of his anger ? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.”
The effects of this wrath, as it fell at this time upon the soul of Christ in the garden, are largely and very emphatically expressed by the several evangelists. Mat. thew tells us, his soul was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” Matt. 26 : 38. The word signifies " beset with grief round about.” And it is well expressed by that phrase of the psalmist, "The sorrows of death compassed me about, the pains of hell gat hold upon me.” Mark varies the expression, and gives us another word no less significant and full, "He began to be sore amazed, and very heavy.” Mark, 14:33. Luke has another expression for it in the text; He was "in an agony.” An agony is the laboring and striving of nature in extremity. And John gives us another expression, "Now is my soul troubled.” John, 12:27. The original word is very significant. This was the load which so oppressed his soul, that it could not find relief in tears; but the innumerable pores of his body are set open, to give vent by letting out streams of blood. And yet all this while no hand of man was upon him. This
was but a prelude to the conflict that was at hand. Now he stood, as it were, arraigned at God's bar, and had to do immediately with him. And you know " it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
INFERENCE 1. Did Christ pour out his soul to God so ardently in the garden, when the hour of his trouble was at hand? Then prayer is a singular preparative for, and relief under the greatest trouble. It is a happy circumstance, when troubles find us in the way of our duty. The best posture in which we can wrestle with affictions is upon our knees. The naturalist tells
if a lion find a man prostrate he will do him no harm. Christ hastened to the garden to pray, when Judas and the soldiers were hastening thither to apprehend him. Oh! when we are nigh to danger, it is good for us to draw nigh to our God. Then should we be urging that seasonable request to God, Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help.” Psalm 22 : 11. Wo be to him whom death or trouble finds afar off from God. And as prayer is the best preparative for troubles, so it is the choicest relief under them. Griefs are eased by groans. You know it is some relief if a man can pour out his complaint into the bosom of a faithful friend, though he can but pity him; how much more to pour out our complaints into the bosom of a faithful God, who can both pity and help us! Luther was wont to call prayers the leeches of his cares and sorrows; they suck out the bad blood. It is the title of Psalm 102: " A prayer for the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and poureth out his complaint before the Lord." It is no small ease to open our hearts to God.
To go to God when thou art full of sorrow, when thy heart is ready to burst within thee, as was Christ's in this day of his trouble; and say, Father, thus and thus the case stands with thy poor child; and so and so it is with me: I will not go up and down complaining from
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 en. joyment 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. 6:6. 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
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 se. verely 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