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MATTHEW xxvi. 36, 37. Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Geth
semane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. And He took zoith Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began
to be sorrowful and very heavy. THESE words are introductory to the description of a very interesting and important scene in the life of suffering, which Jesus Christ had to fulfil on the earth. It is usually called His agony, and may be said, on some accounts,
, to require our attention scarcely less than His crucifixion and death. I design therefore, on this occasion, to begin with stating the whole transaction, as the three first Evangelists (Matt. xxvi. 36, &c. Mark xiv. 32, &c. Luke xxii. 39, &c.) have recorded it; after which, my remaining space shall be occupied with a few suitable inferences and remarks.
First; the place called Gethsemane was a garden, over the brook Kedron, about the Mount of Olives, to which Jesus had been in the habit of resorting aforetime with His dis
ciples. Thither, accordingly, in the present instance, He took them, pursuant to His custom, immediately on rising from the table, where, under the emblems of bread and wine, He had made them partakers of His own body and blood, appointed to be offered on the morrow for their salvation. But it seemed not fit that the whole company of His disciples should be spectators of what He there had to undergo. Having selected only Peter, James, and Johnthe three who had witnessed His transfiguration-to be near Him, He commanded the remainder—“Sit ye here, while I go and pray
yonder.” Then, having arrived at the further place, and being free from the restraint of their presence, He began to be sorrowful, and very heavy-to be sore amazed—in a state, probably, approaching to consternation. This He shewed by evident signs (we may suppose) in His countenance and gestures : also, He spake with His tongue, complaining of the weight of affliction which He felt coming over Him;
My soul,” He said, “ is exceeding sorrowful,
even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch “ with me.” Having thus spoken, as if He could hardly endure to be alone, and at the same time would not be closely observed by His companions, He went forward still further by Himself, about a stone's cast, and kneeling
down, fell on His face, and prayed. The words of His supplication, according to St. Matthew, and in agreement with the other Evangelists, were—“ O my Father, if it be possible, let this " cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, “ but as Thou wilt." This declares what was uppermost in the mind of Jesus, and was beginning so painfully to distress Him. The appointed period was now at hand, that He should become the victim to Divine justice on behalf of guilty man; and the near prospect, or rather foretaste, of what He must accordingly undergo, made it seem almost too much for Him to sustain. He had, a little before, when looking forward to it, exclaimed—“What “ shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: “ but for this cause came I unto this hour. Fa
ther, glorify thy name;"—words (John xii. 27.) expressive of much inward conflict, or of a strong reluctance in His flesh to suffer, only to be got the better of by the recollection that He had come on purpose to suffer, and by a zeal for His heavenly Father's glory. His prayer in the garden expresses a similar frame of human infirmity and unwillingness, mingled with, yet still decidedly under subjection to, the principles of a superior nature. Jesus there contemplated the death which was approaching Him, as a bitter draught, or “ cup,” which He would fain be spared from drinking, might His Father's good pleasure to save mankind be accomplished in any less painful way: an image this, frequently employed in the sacred writings, to signify a portion whether of weal or woe, and one which, it is probable, we can als readily apprehend.
Let us beware, however, not to associate the subject in hand with any common or unworthy recollections. The cup, which our Redeemer had before Him, was bitter infinitely beyond any other, which hath ever, hitherto, excited shuddering amongst ourselves. It had been mixed, not for the benefit of one only, nor for the cure of an unimportant disease, but for the life of a perishing world; and the terrors infused into it bare proportion to that so vast an object. Accordingly, in addition to what has been above stated—in addition to the grievous disturbance of spirit, the sorrow amounting to heaviness and amazement, which Jesus is said to have exhibited in the garden, and His anxious prayer that the cup might pass from Him other, yet stronger marks of inward agitation, are to be noticed in Him. Having returned, after that He had prayed the first time, to His disciples, from whom He had withdrawn Himself, and expostulated with them, because they had fallen asleep, He went away again from them, and prayed a second time; and then, having returned as before, and found them as before, sleeping, He went away again, and prayed a third time, using the same words. This conduct of Jesus, while He was waiting for those whom He expected to apprehend Him-His going so repeatedly backwards and forwards, and His prayers thus again and again poured out, should seem to betoken a threefold, or an exceeding measure of distress. He could not (if I may so speak) calmly wait for His enemies, and be still; but felt constrained to be moving to and from a sign, which, considering His generally steadfast and composed character, should enable us in some degree to imagine the horrible dread, which, at that time, was possessing Him. Also the circumstance, that He used thrice the same words of supplication, shews Him to have been extremely pressed, or to have been compelled by an intense earnestness of desire. The deliverance which He longed for, or rather the portion which He deprecated, had so much power over His feelings, that He cared not for variety of expression. His thoughts were, not about the language, but the matter of his address, and about presenting it often enough to be accepted with His Father. But more than all, the record of St. Luke, that, while He prayed, “ His sweat