Page images

O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.


: The cup which Jesus here prays might be removed from him, was not his present discomposure and dismay, but a violent death, which is called “a cup," because it was his portion: from this it was natural for him to wish to be delivered; and it was equally natural for a devout mind to express that wish by a prayer to God. By possible, must here be meant not a natural possibility (for in this sense all things are possible to God) but one consistent with the schemes of the Divine government: so that he does not pray to be delivered from death, whatever the consequences might be, but only conditionally, provided the same wise and good ends could be answered without it: if not, he is willing to submit to a violent death, with all its hor

Here then we see the greatest submission to the will of God, under the greatest distress; which is the best temper of mind that the circumstances of the agent admitted of.

It may appear surprising that, after Jesus bad foretold his own death and crucifixion, in consequence of a revelation of it, which he had received from heaven, he should think it possible that he might be delivered from it: but many predictions and commands mentioned in the Old Testament, which were delivered in the most absolute terms, appeared in the issue to be conditional; as in the case of Abraham, who received a command from God to offer up his son Isaac, which he was afterwards excused from executing; in that of Nineveh, of which it was foretold, by the prophet Jonah, that in forty days it should be destroyed, but which was saved, upon the repentance of the inhabitants; and in the case of Hezekiah, who was told, by the prophet Isaiah), to set his house in order, for that he should die, but, upon his earnest prayer, had his life spared, and was permitted to live fifteen years longer. These facts might lead Christ to entertain some distant hope of being exempted from suffering, although it had been foretold in so peremptory a manner.

That this hope was very faint, appears from the violent agitation of his mind.

40. And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What! Could ye not watch with me, keep awake with me, one hour? one moment?

Jesus addresses himself to Peter in particular, because of his late professions. When these things happened, it was probably a very late hour of the night, which was the reason of our Lord's exhortation to them, in the first instance, to watch or keep awake, and of their inability to comply with it.

41. Watch and pray, that ye ester not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Follow my example in praying to be delivered from trials: for although your judgment be well informed, and would direct you to behave aright, yet your passions will not support you in it. We see here that Jesus, ami lst all his fears about himself, retains a concern for his disciples, and preserves his temper towards them, notwithstanding they had behaved so ill as to fall asleep, while he was in the utmost distress.

42. He went out, rather he went from them, 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.

Notwithstanding the horror with which I view my sufferings, I am willing to submit to them, if thou hast determined that they are necessary, and the purposes of thy government cannot be accomplished in any other way: such a temper, considering what Jesus felt at this time, discovers the highest degree of faith in God, and exalts his conduct far above that of other men, who would have been willing to purchase deliverance from death upon any terms, in the like circumstances.

43. And he came and found them asleep again ; for their eyes were heavy.

Their spirits having been exhausted with sorrow, and it being also a very late hour, they were extremely drowsy: they remained awake, however, long enough to hear what Christ prayed, or at least so much of his language as is here recorded.

44. And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

Christ's motive for repeating the same sentiment so many times was, to express more fully his submission to the Divine will, in the same manner as David expressed his high respect for Jonathan, by bowing his face to the ground three times, 1 Sam. xx. 41.

45. Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest.

This sentence would be better translated as a question; Do ye still sleep, and take your rest? upbraiding them with still indulging themselves in sleep, notwithstanding his repeated admonitions *

Behold the hour is at hand, and the son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

As there was a great multitude that accompanied Judas, it is probable that Jesus had by this time heard the noise of their approach: by calling those who came to apprehend him, sinners, Jesus does not mean to express his opinion of their moral character, but merely that they were Gentiles and not Jews; for with Jews a common and familiar name for Gentiles was that of sinners. In Matt. xx. 19, Christ foretels that he shall be delivered up to the Gentiles; to whom he must likewise refer, when he says that he is betrayed, or delivered up, into the hands of sinners.

* Luke xxii. 46.

46. Rise, let us be going: behold he is at hand that doth betray me.

Christ was so far from attempting to escape, that he proposes to his disciples that they should rise, and go forth to meet those who were sent to apprehend him.


found repose.

1. From the conduct of Christ, upon this occasion, we learn where we ought to seek relief, when overwhelmed with distress; not in flying to business or pleasure, to company or amusements, in order to divert our thoughts from the causes of our sorrows or fears; much less in drowning the senses in wine, but in having recourse to retirement and prayer. Here it was that our master, when afflicted, sought relief; and here he

From the time that he unburthened his mind in prayer, he felt himself perfectly tranquil and composed; although, but a moment before, he had experienced the greatest agony of mind any human being ever endured in like circumstances. Let this recommend prayer to our esteem: it is a sovereign remedy for all our evils: nothing can be better calculated to give us fortitude for meeting danger, or for calming the troubled spirits, than those just views of the perfections and providence of God, which we acquire by this exercise. Let us then, my brethren, be instant in prayer, and not think it suficient to observe stated seasons for this purpose; but whenever the heart is oppressed with anxiety, or the mind agitated with fear or sorrow, let us, after the example of Christ, prostrate ourselves before our Father who is in heaven.

2. We see what sentiment it is proper for us to express, when afflicted: nothing can be more proper or becoming than that which comes from the mouth of Christ, Father, not as I will, but as thou wilt: thy will be done. If we should lose any of our valuable relatives and friends, upon whom our comfort and happiness in life appeared to depend; if our affairs should not prosper in the world, and we should be reduced from affluence and ease, to poverty and distress; if Providence should take away our health, and afflict us with pain and sickness, and bring us to the borders of the grave; if we should be reduced to straits and difficulties, on account of our religious profession, suffering the loss of reputation, of property and liberty, or even of life; in all these distresses, let us learn to say to God, with the same sincerity and readiness as our master, Thy will be done.It is impossible to escape trouble; for it is the necessary condition of humanity; nor is it possible entirely to suppress the feelings of human nature at the prospect: But if we can act thus under them, we shall show the strength of our faith and the force of Christian principles.

3. How different are the feelings and conduct of men before their trials, and at the time they actually arrive! The disciples of Jesus were bold and confident when danger was at a distance: they loved their master unto death: there was nothing to which they would not submit rather than disgrace him, or renounce their principles: they were prepared to brave every danger: yet a few moments afterwards they are negligent and careless : instead of sympathizing with their master when in the greatest distress; instead of being upon their knees to request assistance and strength for the trials which, they were repeatedly informed, were approaching; we find them asleep, insensible to their danger and to the feelings of pity.

It is not surprising that men who were so bold and

« PreviousContinue »