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and affrightment through some evil approaching seizeth and surpriseth us, it is our duty to pray. Prayer is a salve for every sore. It is never out of season at any time, in any condition it is seasonable, but it is especially so in an agony. Alas! it is matter of wonder how poor people do that are sick, and sad, and sorrowful; in distress and in danger, and cannot pray.
As to prayer, we have for it the precept of the holy God again and again. «Call upon me in the day of trouble." Psalm 1. 15. “ Is any among yon afflicted ? let him pray," James v. 13. We have also the practice of holy men. They have used it and found good by it. Thus David writes, “In my distress I cried unto the Lord, and he heard me.” Psalm cxx. 1. “Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord.” Psalm cxxx. 1. So before him, Jacob, the father of wrestlers. Gen. xxxii. 8, &c. And Hannah. 1 Sam. i. Asa, Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, and all the good kings of Judah, all made use of this remedy. At such a time as this, when Christ's mystical body is, as it were, sweating in an agony, sweating like great drops of blood, what should every member of that body do but pray. Opray, pray. Prayers and tears are all the weapons that are allowed us at such a time, and all agree we may use these: if not in our solemn assemblies, yet in our closets, and by our bedsides.
Also, in reference to personal afflictions and family afflictions, whatever they be, prayer is heart's ease. As long as we can keep the passage open between us and heaven, and be often sending thither in fervent prayer, all is well, or if we cannot say it is well, we may say it shall be well. No man is truly miserable, let his condition be what it will, but he that hath a hard heart and cannot pray. (Dod's Sayings.) Now, concerning this prayer of our Saviour's, we may observe, .
1. The privacy of it. It was secret prayer, and, therefore, he went aside into a secret place to perform it. ." He went forward a little.” This accords with his own rule to us. “ Thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet." Matt. vi. 6. His disciples were in the garden with him, not far off where he was, therefore he went a little further to be out of their hearing. David 6 went in and sat before the Lord.” 2 Sam. vii. 18. There is no place so retired, so secret, where God is not. Song Sol. ii, 14. We read of Isaac walking out into the field at even-tide to meditate and to pray, and just then and there did Rebecca meet him. God's praying people can tell strange stories of their sweet communion with God many a time in secret prayer, and the rich returns they have had. It is good being in families where there is daily lively prayer, but were the master of the family an angel, or had the tongue of an angel in prayer, that would not do our business, unless, besides that, we keep up also the secret trade between God and our own souls. Never say, we want time or conveniency, for though some have more time and better conveniency than others, if the heart be towards it, we shall find some time and some conveniency for the duty. Thou canst find both for secret sinning, and why not then for secret praying? Observe,
2. The posture he used. “He fell on the ground and prayed." N. S. VOL. IV.
Matthew says he fell on his face. Matt. xxxvi. 39. Luke saith, xxj. 41, he kneeled down. It is probable he might use each posture; one while upon his knees, another while upon his face, as is usual in agonies, especially in such an agony. Elsewhere it is said, “He lifted up his eyes to heaven and said," &c. John xvii. 1. Here," He fell on the ground.” In prayer, though we read of many several gestures used by holy men upon several occasions, yet certainly that which is most reverent and most expressive of self-abasement and an inward awe of God doth best become us. It is said of the Pharisee, Luke xviii., he stood and prayed. His very standing seems to intimate the frame of his heart, which was proud and self-justifying. The publican also stood, but it was afar off, not lifting up so much as kis eyes to heaven, in the sense of his own vileness and meanness, and he was justified. What a sight was this to see the blessed Jesus, the Son of God and creator of all things, in this humble, lowly posture, with his face upon the ground. See what sin, our sin, brought him to. It is truly said he humbled himself; and doth it become us, then, to be proud and to lift up ourselves ? Learn of me," says he, “ for I am meek and lowly in heart.” Matt. xi. 29. When Rebecca saw Isaac upon his feet she alighted off her camel. Behold our Isaac, not upon his feet, but upon his face, and his face upon the ground. Let us, then, lay ourselves low before God, lower and yet lower, "Be clothed with humility, for God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” i Peter v. 5. Let this be the case especially when we draw near to God, for he is a great God, and a great king above all gods. The blessed angels, cherubim and seraphim, even tremble before him. Isa, vi. 1, 2, 3: much more should we.
3. Observe the title he gives to God. “Abba, Father." Abba, is a Syriac word, and signifies Father, most properly in the vocative case, speaking to one in that relation. The doubling of it notes importunity. Calvin saith, the reason why it is expressed in both languages is to signify that both Jews and Gentiles under the gospel dispensation are to worship God under one and the same sweet relation of a father.
It is used in compellation only, when a child speaks to his father. We have the expression only here and Rom. viii. and Gal. iv., where believers, in imitation of our Lord Jesus here, are said to cry Abbo, Father ; that is, in the same manner to address themselves to God as having the same spirit and the same relation-he by generation, by regeneration,
It is a great matter in our addresses to God in prayer to look upon him as a Father. Children have another manner of access, and other manner of entertainment than strangers. If God be our father, then we may come with boldness to the throne of grace,
* « The boldness of a child of God in prayer consists in the following things :
“1. In the liberty which we have to come as often as we will to the throne of grace, in any place, at any time, and upon all occasions. The oftener we come the more welcome we are. The father chides his child when he is long absent.
and lay open before him all our wants, and all our desires, in confidence that what we ask according to his will he will not deny us. Say our Father, not in word and tongue only, but with suitable disposition and affection.
It is a great matter in our agonies to look upon God as a Father. Though the cup he was to drink of was a bitter cup, yet being put into his hand by a Father, that satisfied him there was no hurt in it. He said, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” John xviii. 11. The same may we say, whatever trouble befalls us. If a child be sick, and the potion prescribed him be bitter, yet if his father will have him take it, he takes it. See the apostle discoursing at large to this purpose. Heb. xii. 5, &c. Observe,
4. The thing he prays for. “ That the hour might pass-that he would take the cup away."
“ What is meant by this hour, and this cup ? His whole passion approaching, together with the present agony which was then upon him. He calls an hour and a cup only. We read of a cup of salvation, Psalm cxvi. 13; of a cup of blessing, 1 Cor. x. 16; of a cup of consolation, Jer. xvi. 7. But this was none of these. It was a bloody cup, a cup of gall and wormwood-a cup of wrath, and fury, and astonishment-a cup with death in it, even the death of the cross. Note. God doth sometimes put even bitter cups into the hands of his own dearest children.
" What is meant by passing and taking it away ?" Either that it might not come at all: that a stop might be put to Judas in his career that he might not betray him, nor the soldiers apprehend him, nor the chief priests accuse him, nor Pilate condemn him, nor the people crucify him: that as to all this he might be spared. Especially that the Father would be pleased not to bruise him. Or, that he might have a quick dispatch in it, and a good issue from it: rather the former.
“If so, doth it not follow that he was no free-will offering? Doth it not intimate that he drew back and repented the bargain, contrary to what he said at another time-with desire I have desired it.
So our heavenly Father. When a stranger has done his errand he goes away, but a child stays.
* 2. Being come to the throne of grace we have liberty there, as to the matter of our prayers, to pour out our souls before him, to unbosom ourselves to him, to tell him all that is in our hearts. John xv. 7. God would have his people to hide nothing from him. Phil. iv. 6. Canst thou ask leave of thy father to dishonour him ?
“ 3. As to the language of prayer – we have liberty of speech. A child shall not be made an offender for a word. The little child said only, “My head, my head,' and that was enough to a tender father. Weeping hath a voice. Psalm vi. 8. If thou canst not speak, sigh and groan. Psalm xxxviii. 9.
“ 4. Leave to be importunate in prayer. Plead with God in prayer : press him with arguments, not to move him but us, and to strengthen our faith and hope. As Abraham, Gen. xviji. ; Moses, Exod. xxxii.; Numb, xi.; Daniel ix. 16, 17; Joshua xvii.; Job xxiii, 3, ."- Mr. Henry. Manuscript.
J. B. W.
I am straitened till it be accomplished ?" No such thing can be inferred from it. But he speaks this to show, that, being a man, be had all the sinless infirmities of a man, among which this is onefear suffering and death, from a principle of self-preservation, which is in our nature. Note his proviso also—" If it be possible." If it may consist with my Father's honour, and man's redemption : " If thou be willing.” Luke xxij. 42. He takes it for granted it might have been otherwise if the Father had so pleased. It is good to bold fast by God's power in all our straits and troubles. 2 Chron, IL 6 Observe,
5. His speedy submission. “ Not what I will, but what thon wilt;" that is, I as a man may desire that which thou as God seest not fit to bestow; therefore not the human, but the divine will be done. The same should we say at all times in all things. Acts xxi. 14. Observe,
6. The repetition of his prayer, which shows his great importnity. When we are in the pursuit of any choice mercy, we should not think much to pray again and again for it. Observe,
7. The reply or return that was made to it. He had said formerly, « Thou hearest me always." Was he heard now in this? Yes, be was. “He was heard in that he feared." Heb. y. 7. An answer to prayer may be given two ways. The one is, when the thing itself is granted in kind which we ask. And this is ordinary. “ For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him." 1 Sam. i. 27. The other is, when not the thing itself, but something else, quite as good, is granted in lieu of it. As to Abraham, Gen. xvii. 18, 20, 21, “ And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, As for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year.” As to Paul, “ My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor. xü. 9. Thus was our Lord Jesus answered here. “ And there appeared as angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” Luke xxii. 4). An angel strengthen him! How could that be? Was not he God blessed for ever? Yes, he was ; but was not he man also ? This strengthening was to his human nature, which, being weak and infirm, had need of it, and had it accordingly. The angels are ministering spirits sent abroad for the good of those who are the heirs of salvation. Heb. i. 14. If for the rest of the children, surely for the elder brother, the first begotten, and first born. They were ready to him in one of his great conflicts. “Then the devil leaveth him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto him." Matt. iv. 11. We little think how much we are beholden to the ministry of the good angels for their help in our agonies. “He shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.” Ps. xci. 11, 12. The praise whereof is to be given to the God of the angels.
“What did the angels do to him here to comfort him. They
communicated to him, not any new strength which he had not before, to enable him to drink this cup or to undergo the burden, but they suggested that to his humanity, the consideration whereof was cheering to him like a cordial : as,
(1.) The great glory that would redound to God by his drinking this cup; especially the plenary satisfaction which his offended justice would have from it for the wrong done to him by sin.
(2.) The great good that would redound to fallen man by it in his redemption and salvation. He must else have certainly perished, the whole kind of him, whereas now behold a remnant is saved.
(3.) The name that he himself would have by it above every name in his exaltation. All nations should call him blessed, to him every knee should bow.
(4.) The nearness and certainty of his victory in his resurrection. It is but an hour, but a cup.
The same or some such like considerations the saints have to comfort themselves and one another with in all their agonies of suffering for righteousness' sake. If the cup do not pass, if we are supported under it, we have no cause to complain. It is angel-like work for Christians to help to strengthen and comfort one another under sufferings. The Lord Jesus himself will certainly do it to those that are his, for he knows by experience what an agony is, and what need there is of others' help, yea, though our inferiors. " In all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." Heb. ii. 17, 18. 2 Cor. i. 3, 4, 5.
Three things especially we learn from this part of this story.
1. That whensoever we see any black or dark hour, any bitter or bloody cup coming towards us, it is our duty to pray for the passing of it away.
I do not only say that it is lawful for us to do it, but I say it is our duty to do it: we must, and we sin if we do it not. The Lord himself expressly requires it of us—he graciously promises to accept of us therein-be wonders if he hath it not-he chides severely for the neglecthe hath given encouraging examples of his acceptation. “ Call upon me in the day of trouble.” Ps. 1. 15. James v. 13. “ If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” “ And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor.” “ Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord.” “ And the Lord said unto Moses, wberefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.” “ Peter was kept in prison ; but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him.” He was released. See Acts xii. There is good reason why this is the case. It is of his sending whatever it be. By praying to him we acknowledge this. He, and none but He, can remove it. “I, even I, am