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made him to be sin for us that knew no sin;” now it was that “ the arrows of the Almighty were within him, and the terrors of the Lord set in array against him;” now it was that “it pleased the Lord to bruise him, to put him to grief, and to make his soul an offering for sin;” now it was that the wrath of God flamed against him, standing in our stead, with as much violence as though it had exerted itself in one act against the wickedness of all mankind. It is true, that during all this time he was most dear to God, and that the Father beheld him with peculiar affection, whilst he was laying down his life for the glory of God and the salvation of man. Nevertheless it is certain that the fierce anger of God was exercised upon him. Any apparent inconsistency in these assertions, results from our ignorance of the divine attributes: we are apt to suppose that these attributes resemble human affections, and then to imagine contradictions and inconsistencies. The truth is, we know not what anger is in God; we have no idea whatever of the manner in which Christ bore it; but we know that he did bear it, although he was the object of the Father's tenderest love. When we consider these circumstances, can we wonder at his agony? He experienced not merely the reproaches, the contumelies, the barbarities of men,
, but as our Redeemer and Surety, bearing the load of our guilt, he felt the pressure of Almighty vengeance; he felt the severity of that anger before which the mountains tremble, and the earth vanishes away; he received in his own bosom all the violence of that indignation which the united constancy of men, and force of angels could not have sustained; he was encircled by those fires which would instantly have consumed any but a divine victim. Ah! could
the Saviour fail to be agonized, when he here bent under this wrath in the garden, and anticipated its infliction on the cross? The mere conception of these woes, which outweighed the sins of the whole world, would be sufficient to overwhelm us : could we but have a clear prospect of them, our souls would be filled with astonishment and horror, the consideration of the mighty weight of anguish would make us, like our Saviour, sweat drops of blood; our very frames must be dissolved: what mortal, or what angel then, can tell the anguish arising from its endurance ?
3. We may find a third cause for this grief in the reflections made by Christ, that millions would obstinately neglect his sufferings, and receive no benefit from them. He saw that although that death towards which he was advancing, would be a sufficient atonement for the sins of the world, yet, nevertheless, his followers would be few. Looking down through successive ages, he beheld the much-beloved Jerusalem, to which the gospel of salvation had in vain been offered, filling up the measure of its crimes, reduced to ruin by the Roman armies, and its faithless inhabitants consigned to everlasting He beheld those numbers who in every age grace;
those miserable men who in our days trample upon the blood of atonement, despise his full and perfect sacrifice, and aim their impotent attempts against his holy faith. He beheld the countless multitude of open sinners “ glorying in their shame;" of lukewarm professors “ having the form of godliness without the power.” And now think what sensations would be excited in the breast of the Redeemer, by such a view. His concern for the salvation of mankind was boundless; his compassion
for our miséries, most tender; his wish to rescue us from sin and perdition, most strong. Could he, whose love passes knowledge, whose compassion for every one of us, was infinitely greater than we can have for ourselves; could he, who more than once wept over perishing Jerusalem; he, whose heart melted with pity even for his crucifiers, and who, in the midst of his tortures, poured out his prayers to heaven in their behalf; could he view the eternal perdition of so many millions without sorrow unutterable? He alone knew the full extent of this perdition; to him damnation was not a word of empty sound; he fully comprehended the agonies of a soul ever gnawed by that worm which dieth not, ever rolling in those flames which are not quenched, ever sinking deeper and deeper in wretchedness and despair. Add to this, that as the Saviour was possessed of infinite knowledge, he beheld these scenes as actually present. He beheld all these transgressors already standing at his bar, already condemned, already sinking in the devouring flames, already exposed, naked and unarmed, to the lashes of an enraged conscience; already weighed down by the terrible indignation of the Lord God Almighty. What anguish must this contemplation have excited in the Saviour, especially when he considered that these were the last tears he was to pay to the sad destiny of these unhappy men, since he was now going to re-assume the throne of glory, on which no tears are shed, where no sorrow could invade his heart.
4. But the last cause of the agony, was the injections and assaults of evil spirits. This is intimated in several parts of the gospel. After the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, Satan is said to have departed from him “ for a season;" and in the evan
gelical history we meet with no period for his return, more probable than this. Christ, immediately before entering into the garden, tells his disciples, “ The prince of the world cometh;" and when apprehended by the Jews, says to them, “ This is your hour and the power of darkness.” These texts seem clearly to imply that Christ had now to contend with the band of apostate spirits. Foreseeing, perhaps, that his death was to be the expiation of the sins of the world, and that through its merits mankind were to be put in possession of the place which they once held in heaven, they may have endeavoured to terrify him from it, or to render it involuntary and constrained, and therefore useless. At any rate, they would rejoice to glut their vengence upon him who was expelling them from the bodies, and shaking their dominion in the souls of men. Ah! how keen must have been their attacks when, irritated by shameful defeats in all their previous assaults, urged on by diabolical malice, having free access to the soul of the Redeemer, without the intervention of bodily organs, and dreadfully powerful from their subtlety and long experience in wickedness, they poured in upon him a flood of temptations, and assailed him with evil and afflictive suggestions.
Such were the adequate causes of that dreadful agony which so agitated the mind of the Redeemer, and so afflicted his body, that blood gushed from every pore. Human capacities cannot conceive the extent and bitterness of these sufferings; human language cannot describe them: bowing under them, he prostrated himself upon the ground, and poured forth his fervent petitions to Almighty God, saying, “ O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, hut as thou
wilt.” He does not here pray for a deliverance from the death of the cross, as some have supposed : at the prospect of this he was never daunted; he knew that the prophecies and decrees of God made it irreversibly necessary; he ever rebuked with severity his disciples, when they would dissuade him from it; and, what is conclusive, the apostle Paul, (Heb. vi. 7.) speaking evidently of these very supplications, says, “ he was heard in that he feared;" an assertion that would plainly be untrue, if he prayed for a deliverance from death. The affliction which the Saviour desired to be removed (and which by a common figure he denominated a cup,) was that distress and agony with which he was then assailed; and it was removed, for he immediately became calm, and placid, and composed.
From the several circumstances of the agony thus considered, we derive many instructions and valuable lessons.
1. We learn from the example of our Saviour, what conduct becomes a Christian when under affliction and distress. The Christian religion requires no stoical insensibility, no sullen apathy, no haughty contempt of the evils of life. It permits us, like our Divine Master in this event of his life, to feel and lament the infelicities of our situation; to deprecate those calamities which we see approaching ; yet notwithstanding it thus condescends to the frailty of our nature, it nevertheless requires that when these afflictive judgments come, we should be perfectly submissive to the dispensations of God; that even whilst our tears flow, we should acquiesce in his disposal ; that the voice of nature exclaiming
Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from