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ful and distressed ? It is true that as he had assumed a human body, sensible to pain, it might be wounded, and its wounds might affect the mind; but here are no chains which bind him, no executioners who scourge him, no soldiers who insult him, no cross to which he is nailed. He is in a beautiful garden, in a delightful solitude, attended only by his beloved disciples, who are expressing their assurances of fidelity and constancy. Here appears nothing that could interrupt the calm of his mind, nothing but what would afford him the serenest pleasure. It is true again, that the soul may sometimes be convulsed without the intervention of bodily pain; that the passions may shake it and become internal executioners; that the sense of guilt, that the remorse of conscience, may excite within the breast an inward hell. But in Christ the passions were always submissive to reason and piety; his soul was never delivered as a prey to their fury; he never experienced an emotion that was excessive. But in Christ, conscience could find nothing to condemn; his conduct was all pure, and holy, and beneficent; his past actions, when recollected, would afford him peace and joy, instead of filling him with sorrow and dismay. It is true, finally, that Jesus perfectly knows, that he is shortly to expire. But death is to terminate all his sorrows, and to restore him to that glory which he had with the Father before the world be. gan. It never possessed any terrors for him. Upheld by the unshaken constancy and firmness of his soul, and by an inviolable trust in his Father, he had often contemplated with pleasure the narrow interval between himself and the cross, and been straitened until his baptism of blood was accomplished. When he was under the actual pressure of those sufferings
which preceded his death, he was composed and firm: we find not that he made one complaint of the cruelty of his foes; or uttered one groan, when his hands and feet were nailed to the engine of torture ; or shed one tear when the scourges tore his flesh, when the iron entered into his soul, when the thorns wounded his sacred temples. Is it probable that the bare prospect of death thus convulsed him, who with such firmness met it when clothed in all its terrors ? What is then that invisible arm that smites him? What is the cause of that astonishing grief, which calls down an angel from heaven to strengthen him, the Creator of angels'; which urges those strong cries and tears, and forces from his agonized frame that dreadful sweat of blood ?
There are several causes, * which, in their conjoined influence, were fully sufficient to produce this wonderful event; we will explain them after we have observed, in order to prevent erroneous ideas, that these sufferings were felt only by the human nature of Christ; the divine nature, possessed of infinite and immutable felicity, cannot possibly be affected by any sorrow or pain. In Christ, the two natures were perfectly united without being confounded or mingled together; and in all his sufferings, the divinity did not exert itself, or was operative only in communicating strength to the humanity, to bear what would have been utterly insupportable to any mere man. Its influence on the body was suspended, whilst he remained three days lifeless; its influence on the soul is now suspended in Gethsemane.
1. And this intermission of the Divine Presence, this withdrawal of the human nature from the ineffa
* See an excellent discourse on the causes of the Agony, by Bishop Browne, from which I have borrowed several thoughts in this sermon.
ble bliss and consolation of his Godhead, we make the first cause of the agony of the Saviour. It was proper that he should undergo this, since it constituted one part of the punishment denounced against the sinner, which punishment was here borne by him. From the weakness of our reason, and the feebleness of our powers, we cannot tell the precise manner of this suspension and intermission of the divine presence, nor how it could take place in consistence with the intimate and inseparable union of the divine and human natures. This, with many other mysteries of grace, as well as of nature, will not be perfectly comprehended by us, till we arrive at the kingdom of light. But, though we cannot explain it, a few considerations will show that it produced misery unutterable. The presence thus withdrawn from our Saviour, is the source of all true joy, the fountain of all real consolation. It is this, which alone constitutes heaven; it is this which fills angels with ecstasy, and archangels with rapture; and there is not one of those exalted beings who does not view a single moment's intermission of it with greater dread, than we do the pangs of death, the disruption of the soul from the body. Of this cheering presence, the only fountain of real happiness, Christ was now deprived. This separation from the
presence of God, is one of the chief sources of the misery of the accursed. Depart from me,” is the terrible sentence pronounced upon the inhabitants of the regions of wo. Though Christ experienced none of that despair which corrodes the soul of these wretched beings, but still preserved his faith and confidence, yet, as far as this sentence relates to separation from God, the effect of it was felt by him. Oh! then, how far beyond imagination must his anguish have been!
Believers, recur for a moment to your own sensations. Have any periods of your life been half so wretched as those in which the light of God's countenance was eclipsed, and the emanations of his love interrupted? Have the keenest outward sorrows ever given you pains comparable to those felt by you, when the presence of God was veiled from your eyes ? After thinking of yourselves, consider those who have made more eminent advances in the divine life, and you will find, that in exact proportion to their holiness, is their anguish in losing these spiritual delights, and their fervency in crying out, “ Hide not thy face from me, O Lord, for I am troubled !" Think then, that if men, weak and but partially sanctified, infinitely unable to comprehend the full value of this blessing, having enjoyed it but for a short time, and in a small degree, inclined from their natural dispositions to seek for delights from other sources; if these were so deeply afflicted at the intermission of the Divine Presence, what must Jesus have felt? Jesus, whose holiness was consummate, and without spot: Jesus, who knew how properly to estimate this blessing, and who made of it his only joy: Jesus, who, as the uncreated Word, had through eternity possessed all the glories of the Godhead, and enjoyed the cheering light of his Father's countenance, and who, even in his human nature, had received the Spirit without measure, and had dwelling in him the fulness of divinity, but who now finds himself emptied at once of what he had for ever enjoyed, divested of the ineffable bliss resulting from the full communications of the felicity of the infinitely blessed God. Oh! in vain do the thoughts labour to comprehend the immensity of that anguish springing from such a loss! None but God can conceive
the happiness of God; and none but he who knows it, can tell the wo arising from the loss of it. My brethren, of what must our hearts be made, if they can remain insensible, whilst considering that love passing knowledge, which for our sakes submitted to agonies such as these? Jesus, compassionate Saviour! when I think of thine outward woes, and bodily pains; groans, sighs, tears are extorted from me; but as soon as I meditate on these, the ineffable and mysterious agonies of thy soul, I rise above outward sorrow, and filled with veneration and awe, I wonder, I adore, I am overwhelmed with the consideration of these unfathomable sufferings.
2. But a second cause of this agony was, the burden of those sins under which, as Saviour, he laboured. On him was laid the iniquity of us all: he was to become the propitiation for the transgressions of the whole world. Consider but a moment, and you will see how this must have weighed down his holy soul. He perfectly knew the infinite guilt and odiousness of that sin, to atone for which he was to be offered in sacrifice. We view it with comparative indifference, because we have such inadequate ideas of its nature: but he clearly saw how loathsome it is in the sight of God, how opposed to his character and law, how base an ingratitude to our heavenly Father, how polluting to our own souls. He beheld the infinite number of those sins for which he was to expiate: each one of them with all its aggravations was present to his view. With what horror and detestation must the contemplation of this vast heap of guilt have filled his holy soul! and how severe must have been the aspect of that infinite justice, how terrible its strokes, which he now was to satisfy to the uttermost. Now it was that “God