Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
~ Matthew 28:20
Ye know that after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified.
~ Matthew 26:2
And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
~ Acts 20:7
Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.
~ Proverbs 9:5
He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.
~ Psalm 111:4
Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,
~ Hebrews 13:20
Preparative Acts of Christ for His Own Death, by John Flavel. The following contains an excerpt from his work, “The Fountain of Life Opened Up: Or, A Display of Christ In His Essential and Mediatorial Glory.” 1671.
“The Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do you, as oft as you drink (it), in remembrance of me.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-25
DOCTRINE. That the sacramental memorial Christ left with his people, is a special mark of his care and love for them.
5. To conclude; Christ’s care and love are further manifested to his people, in this ordinance, as it is one of the strongest bonds of union between them that can be:1 Cor. 10:17. “We being many, are one bread, and one body; for we are all partakers of that one bread.” And though, through our corruptions, it falls out, that what was intended for a bond of union proves a bone of contention, yet, inasmuch as by this it appears how dearly Christ loved them; for as much also as here they are sealed up to the same inheritance, their dividing corruptions here slain, their love to Christ, and consequently to each other, here improved; it is certainly one of the strongest ties in the world, to wrap up gracious hearts in abundle of love.
And thus I have dispatched the doctrinal part of this point. The improvement of it is in the following inferences.
INFERENCE 1. Did Christ leave this ordinance with his church to preserve his remembrance among his people: Then surely Christ foresaw, that, notwithstanding what he is, has done, suffered, and promised yet to do for his people, they will for all this be still apt to forget him.
A man would think that such a Christ should never be one whole hour together out of his people’s thoughts and affections: that wherever they go, they should carry him up and down with them, in their thoughts, desires, and delights: that they should let their thoughts work towards Christ as the longing thoughts of her that is with child do work after that she longs for: that they should lie down with Christ in their thoughts at night, and when they awake be still with him that their very dreams in the night should be sweet visions of Christ, and all their words savor of Christ.
But O the baseness of these hearts! Here we live and converse in a world of sensible objects, which, like a company of thieves, rob us of our Christ, and lay the dead child in his room. Woe is me, that it should be so with me, who am so obliged to love him! Though he be in the highest glory in heaven, he does not forget us; he has graven us upon the palms of his heads; we are continually before him. He thinks on us, when we forget him. The whole honor and glory paid him in heaven by the angels, cannot divert his thoughts one moment from us; but every trifle that meets us in the way, is enough to divert our thoughts from him. Why do we not abhor and loathe ourselves for this? What! Is it a pain, a burden, to carry Christ in our thoughts about the world? As much a burden, if your heart be spiritual, as a bird is burdened by carrying his own wings.
Will such thoughts intrude unseasonably, and thrust greater things than Christ out of our minds? For shame, Christian, for shame, let not your heart play the wanton, and gad from Christ after every vanity. In heaven nothing else takes up the thoughts of saints to eternity; and yet there is no tiring, no satiety. O learn to live nearer that heavenly life. Never leave praying and striving, until you canned say as it is, Psalm. 63:5. “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips; while I remember you on my bed, and meditate on you in the night watches.”
INFERENCE. 2. Hence also we infer, that sacrament-seasons are heart melting seasons; because therein the most affecting and heart-melting recognitions and representations of Christ are made. As the gospel offers him to the ear, in the most sweet, affecting sounds of grace; so the sacrament to the eye, in the most pleasing visions that are on this side heaven.
There, hearts that will not yield a tear under other ordinances, can pour out floods: Zech. 12:10. “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and mourn.” Yet I dare not affirm, that everyone whose heart is broken by the believing sight of Christ there, can evidence that it is so by a dropping eye. No, we may say of tears, as it is said of love, Cant. 8:7. If some Christians would give all the treasures of their houses for them, they cannot be purchased: yet they are truly humbled for sin, and seriously affected with the grace of Christ. For the support of such, I would distinguish, and have them to do so also, between what is essential to spiritual sorrow, and what is contingent. Deep displeasure with yourself for sin, hearty resolutions and desires of the complete mortification of it, this is essential to all spiritual sorrow; but tears are accidental, and in some constitutions rarely found. If you have the former, trouble not yourself for want of the latter, though it is a mercy when they kindly and undissembledly flow from a heart truly broken.
And surely, to see who it is that your sins have pierced, how great, how glorious, how wonderful a Person that was, that was so humbled, abased, and brought to the dust, for such a wretched thing as you are, cannot but tenderly affect the considering soul. If it was for a lamentation in the captivity, “that princes were hanged up by the hands, and the faces of the elders not reverenced,” Lam. 5:12. And if at the death of Abner, David could lament, and say, “A prince, and a great man is fallen in Israel this day,” 2 Sam. 3:38. If he could pathetically lament the death of Saul and Jonathan, saying, “Daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you in scarlet; the beauty of Israel is slain upon the high places!” Ah! how much more should it affect us, to see the beauty of heaven fallen, the Prince of life hang dead upon a tree! O let the place where you assemble to see this sight of your crucified Jesus, be a Bochim, a place of lamentation.
INFERENCE. 3. Moreover hence it is evident, that the believing and affectionate remembrance of Christ, is of singular advantage at all times to the people of God. For it is the immediate end of one of the greatest ordinances that ever Christ appointed to the church.
To have frequent recognitions of Christ, will appear to be singularly efficacious and useful to believers, if you consider,
1. If at any time the heart be dead and hard, this is the likeliest means in the world to dissolve, melt, and quicken it. Look hither hard heart; hard indeed if this hammer will not break it. Behold the blood of Jesus.
2. Are you easily overcome by temptations to sin? This is the most powerful restraint in the world from sin: Rom. 6:2 “How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” We are crucified with Christ, what have we to do with sin? Have such a thought as this, when your heart is yielding to temptation. How can I do this, and crucify the Son of God afresh! Has he not suffered enough already on earth; shall I yet make him groan as it were for me in heaven! Look, as David poured the water brought from the well of Bethlehem, on the ground, though he was athirst, for he said, it is the blood of the men? that is they eminently hazarded their lives to fetch it; much more should a Christian pour out upon the ground, yes, despise and trample under foot, the greatest profit or pleasure of sin; saying, Nay, I will have nothing to do with it, I will on no terms touch it, for it is the blood of Christ: it cost blood, infinite, precious blood to expiate it. If there were a knife in your house that had been thrust to the heart of your father, you would not take pleasure to see that knife, much less to use it.
3. Are you afraid your sins are not pardoned, but still stand upon account before the Lord? What more relieving, what more satisfying, than to see the cup of the New Testament in the blood of Christ, which is “shed for many for the remission of sins?” Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is Christ that died.”
4. Are you staggered at your sufferings, and hard things you must endure for Christ in this world? Does the flesh shrink back from these things, and cry, spare yourself? What is there in the world more likely to steel and fortify your spirit with resolution and courage, than such a sight as this? Did Christ face the wrath of men, and the wrath of God too? Did he stand as a pillar of brass, with unbroken patience, and steadfast resolution, under such troubles as never met in the like height upon any mere creature, until death beat the last breath out of his nostrils? And shall I shrink for a trifle? Ah, he did not serve me so! I will arm myself with the like mind, 1 Pet. 2:2.
5. Is your faith staggered at the promises? Can’t you not rest upon a promise? Here is what will help you against hope to believe in hope, giving glory to God. For this is God’s seal added to his covenant, which ratifies and binds fast all that God has spoken.
6. Do you idle away precious time vainly, and live unusefully to Christ in your generation? What more apt both to convince and cure you, than such remembrance of Christ as this? O when you considerest you are not your own, your time, your talents are not your own, but Christ’s; when you shall see you are bought with a price (a great price indeed) and so are strictly obliged to glorify God, with your soul and body, which are his, 2 Cor. 5:14. This will powerfully awaken a dull, sluggish, and lazy spirit. In a word, what grace is there that this remembrance of Christ cannot quicken? What sin cannot it mortify? What duty cannot it animate? O it is of singular use in all cases to the people of God.
INFERENCE. 4. Lastly we infer; Though all other things do, yet Christ neither does, nor can grow stale. Here is an ordinance to preserve his remembrance fresh to the end of the world. The blood of Christ does never dry up. The beauty of this rose of Sharon is never lost or withered. He is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. As his body in the grave saw no corruption, so neither can his love, or any of his excellencies. When the saints shall have fed their eyes upon him in heaven, thousands and millions of years, he shall be as fresh, beautiful, and orient as at the beginning. Others beauties have their prime, and their fading time; but Christ abides eternally. Our delight in creatures is often most at first acquaintance; when we come nearer to them, and see more of them, the edge of our delight is abated: but the longer you know Christ, and the nearer you come to him, still the more do you see of his glory. Every farther prospect of Christ entertains the mind with a fresh delight. He is as it were a new Christ every day, and yet the same Christ still. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!
The Third Preparative Act of Christ for His own Death
“And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, Saying–Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:41-44
The hour is now almost come, even that hour of sorrow, which Christ had so often spoken of. Yet a little, a very little while, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. He has affectionately recommended his children to his Father. He has set his house in order, and ordained a memorial of his death to be left with his people, as you have heard. There is but one thing more to do, and then the tragedy begins. He recommended us, he must also recommend himself by prayer to the Father; and when that is done, he is ready, let Judas with the black guard come when they will.
This last act of Christ’s preparation for his own death, is contained in this scripture; wherein we have an account, 1. Of his prayer. 2. Of the agony attending it. 3. His relief in that agony, by an angel that came and comforted him.
1. The prayer of Christ; in a praying posture he will be found when the enemy comes; he will be taken upon his knees: he was pleading hard with God in prayer, for strength to carry him through this heavy trial, when they came to take him. And this prayer was a very remarkable prayer, both for the solitariness of it, he withdrew about a stone’s cast, verse 41. from his dearest intimates, no ear but his Father’s shall hear what he had now to say; and for the vehemency and importunity of it; these were those “iketerias”, Heb. 5:7. strong cries that he poured out to God in the days of his flesh. And for the humility expressed in it; he fell upon the ground, he rolled himself as it were in the dust, at his Father’s feet. And in divers other respects it was a very remarkable prayer, as you will hear anon.
2. This scripture gives you also an account of the agony of Christ, as well as of big prayer, and that a most strange one: such as in all respects never was known before in nature. It was a sweat as it had been blood, which, (as) is neither an hyperbole, as some would make it: nor yet a similitude of blood; as others fancy, but a real bloody sweat. For so (as) is sometimes taken for the very thing itself, as John 1:14. And as a worthy divine of our own well notes, that if the Holy Spirit had only intended it for a similitude or resemblance, he would rather have expressed it, as it were drops of water, than as it were drops of blood, for sweat more resembles water than blood.
3. You have here his relief in this his agony and that by an angel dispatched post from heaven to comfort him. The Lord of angels now needed the comfort of an angel. It was time to have a little refreshment when his face and body too stood as full of drops of blood, as the drops of dew are upon the grass. Hence we note,
DOCTRINE. That our Lord Jesus Christ was praying to his Father in an extraordinary agony, when they came to apprehend him in the garden.
To open and explain this last act of preparation on Christ’s part for our use, I shall at this time speak of these particulars. First, The place where he prayed. Secondly, The time when he prayed. Thirdly, The matter of his prayer. And lastly, The manner how he prayed.
First, For the circumstance of place, where was this last and remarkable prayer poured out to God? It was in the garden. Matthew tells us it was called Gethsemane, which signifies, (as Pareus on the place observes) “the valley of fatness, namely, of olives, which grew in that valley or garden most plentifully”. This garden lay very near to the city of Jerusalem. The city had twelve gates, five of which were on the east side of it, among which the most remarkable were the fountain gate, so called of the fountain Siloe. Through this gate Christ rode into the city in triumph, when he came from Bethany, the other was the sheep-gate, so called from the multitude of sheep driven in at it for the sacrifice, for it stood close by the temple; and close by this gate was the garden called Gethsemane, where they apprehended Christ, and led him through this gate, as a sheep to the slaughter. Between this garden and the city, ran the brook Cedron, which rose from a hill upon the south, and ran upon the east part of the city, between Jerusalem and the mount of olives: and over this brook Christ passed into the garden, John 18:1. To which the Psalmist alludes in Psalm. 110:7. “He shall drink of the brook in the way; therefore he shall lift up the head.” For this brook running through the valley of Jehosaphat, that fertile soil, together with the filth of the city which it washed away, gave the waters a black tincture, and so fitly resembled those grievous sufferings of Christ, in which he tasted both the wrath of God and men.
Now, Christ went not into this garden to hide, or shelter himself from his enemies. No, that was not his end; for if so, it had been the most improper place he could have chosen, it being the accustomed place where he was accustomed to pray, and a place well known to Judas, who was now coming to seek him, as you may see, John 18:2. “And Judas, which betrayed him, knew the place, for Jesus ofttimes resorted there with his disciples.” So that he repairs there, not to shun, but to meet the enemy; to offer himself as a prey to the wolves, which there found him, and laid hold upon him. He also resorted there for an hour or two of privacy before they came, that he might there freely pour out his soul to God. So much for the circumstances of place where he prayed.
Secondly, We shall consider the time when he entered into this garden to pray: and it was in the shutting in of the evening: for it was after the passover and the supper were ended. Then (as Matthew has it, chapter 26:36.) Jesus went over the brook into the garden, between the hours of nine and ten in the evening, as it is conjectured; and so he had between two and three hours time to pour out his soul to God. For it was about midnight that Judas and the soldiers came and apprehended him there. So that it being immediately before his apprehension, it shows us in what frame and posture Christ desired to be found: and by it he left us an excellent pattern, what we ought to do, when imminent dangers are near us, even at the door. It becomes a soldier to die fighting, “and a minister to die preaching,” and a Christian to die praying. If they come, they will find Christ upon his knees, wrestling mightily with God by prayer. He never spent one moment of the time of his life idly; but these were the last moments he had to live in the world, and here you may see how they were filled up and employed.
Thirdly, Next let us consider the matter of his prayers or the things about which he poured out his soul to God in the garden, that evening. And verse 42 informs us what that was: he prayed, saying, “Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will, but your be done.” These words are involved in many difficulties, as Christ himself was when he uttered them. By the cup, understand that portion of sorrows then to be distributed to him by his Father. Great afflictions and bitter trials are frequently expressed, in scripture, under the metaphor of a cup. So, that dreadful storm of wrath upon the wicked, in Psalm. 11:6. “Upon the wicked he shall rain snares, fire, and brimstone and a horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup,” that is the punishment allotted to them by God for their wickedness. And an exceeding great misery, by a large or deep cup. So Ezek. 23:32, 33, “You shall drink of your sister’s cup deep and large; you shall be laughed to scorn, and had in derision; it containeth much. You shall be filled with drunkenness and sorrow, with the cup of astonishment and desolation, with the cup of your sister Samaria.” And when an affliction is compounded of many bitter ingredients, stinging and aggravating considerations and circumstances, then it is said to be mixed. “In the hand of the Lord there is a cup, and the wine is red, (noting a bloody trial) it is full of mixture, and he pours out the same but the dregs thereof all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out and drink them:” that is their shall have the worst part of the judgement for their share. Thus afflictions and calamities are expressed by the metaphor of a cup; great calamities by a deep and large cup; afflictions compounded of many aggravating circumstances, by a mixed cup. And from the effect it has on those that must drink it, is called a cup of trembling, Isa. 57:17. “You have drunken at the hand of the Lord, the cup of his fury, the dregs of the cup of trembling.” Such a cup now was Christ’s cup; a cup of wrath; a large and deep cup, that contained more wrath than ever was drunk by any creature, seen the wrath of an infinite God. A mixed cup, mixed with God’s wrath and man’s in the extremity. And all the bitter aggravating circumstances that ever could be imagined; great consternation and amazement; this was the portion of his cup.
By the passing of the cup from him, understand his exemption from suffering that dreadful and horrid wrath of God, which he foresaw to be now at hand. For as the coming of the cup to a man, does, in scripture- phrase, note his bearing and suffering of evil, as you find it, Lam. 4:21. “Rejoice and be g}ad, O daughter of Edom, that dwell in the land of Uz; the cup also shall pass through unto you; you shall be drunken, and make yourself naked;” which is an ironical reproof at the Idumeans, the deadly enemies of the Jews, who wickedly insulted over them, when the cup was at their mouths: as if the Lord had said, you have laughed and jeered at my people, when my hand was on them; you rejoiced to see their calamities: well, make yourselves merry still if you can, the cup shall pass through unto you; your turn is coming, then laugh if you canned. So, on the contrary, the passing away of the cup, notes freedom from, or our escaping of those miseries. And so Christ’s meaning, in this conditional request, is, Father, if it be your will, excuse me from this dreadful wrath; my soul is amazed at it. Is there no way to shun it? Cannot I be excused? Or if it be possible, spare me. This is the meaning of it. But then here is the difficulty, how Christ, who knew God had from everlasting determined he should drink it, who had compacted and agreed with him in the covenant of redemption so to do, who came (as himself acknowledges) for that end into the world, John 18:37, who foresaw this hour all along, and professed when he spoke of this bloody baptism with which he was to be baptized, that he was “straitened until it was accomplished,” Luke 12:50. How (I say) to reconcile all this with such a petition, that now when the cup was delivered to him, it might pass, or he excused from suffering; this is the knot, this is the difficulty.
What! did he now repent of his engagement? Was all he said before but a nourish, before he saw the enemy? Does he nor begin to wish to be disengaged, and that he had never undertaken such a work? Is that the meaning of it? No, no, Christ never repented of his engagement to the Father, never was willing to let the burden lie on us, rather than on himself; there was not such a thought in his holy and faithful heart; but the resolution of this doubt depends upon another distinction, which will clear his meaning in it.
1st, You must distinguish of prayers. Some are absolute and peremptory; and so to have prayed that the cup might pass, would have been chargeable with such absurdities, as were but now mentioned: others are conditional and submissive prayers, “If it may be, if the Lord please.” And such was this, If you be willing; if not, I will drink it. But you will say, Christ knew what was the mind of God in that case; he knew what transactions had of old been between his Father and him; and therefore though he did not pray absolutely, yet it is strange he would pray conditionally it might pass. Therefore in the
2d Place, you must distinguish of the natures according to which Christ acted. He acted sometimes as God, and sometimes as man. Here he acted according to his human nature; simply expressing and manifesting in this request the reluctance it had at such sufferings, wherein he showed himself a true man, in shunning that which is destructive to his nature.
As Christ had two distinct natures so two distinct wills. And (as one well observes) in the life of Christ, there was an intermixture of power and weakness, of the divine glory, and human frailty. At his birth a star shone, but he was laid in a manger. The devil tempted him in the wilderness, but there angels ministered to him. As man he was deceived in the fig-tree, but as God he blasted it. He was caught by the soldiers in the garden, but first made them fall back. So here, as man he feared and shunned death; but as God-man he willingly submitted to it.
“It was (as Deodatus well expresses it) a purely natural desire, mere man, by which for a short moment he apprehended and shunned death and torments; but quickly recalled himself to obedience, by a deliberate will, to submit himself to God. And besides that, this desire was but conditional, under the will of God, accepted by Christ; but from the contemplation of which he was a while diverted by the extremity of horrors; therefore there was no sin in it, but only a short conflict of nature, presently overcome by reason, and a firm will: or a small suspension, quickly overcome by a most strong resolution. Finally, this sacred deliberation in Jesus was not made simply, or in an instant, but with a short time, and with a counterpoise, which is the natural property of the soul in its motions, and voluntary actions.”
In a word, as there was nothing of sin in it, it being a pure and sinless affection of nature; so there was much good in it, and that both as it was a part of his satisfaction for our sin, to suffer inwardly such fears, tremblings, and consternation: and as it was a clear evidence, that he was in all things made like unto his brethren, except sin. And lastly, as it serves notably to express the grievousness and extremity of Christ’s sufferings, whose very prospect and appearance, at some distance, was so dreadful to him.
If the learned reader desire to see what is further said on this point, let him read what the judicious and learned Parker, in his excellent book “de descensu”, has collected upon that case.
Fourthly, Let us consider the manner how he prayed, and that was,
1. Solitarily, He does not here pray in the audience of his disciples, as he had done before, but went at a distance from them. He had now private business to transact with God. He left some of them at the entering into the garden; and for Peter, James, and John, that went farther with him than the rest, he bids them remain there, while he went and prayed. He did not desire them to pray with him, or for him; no, he must tread the winepress alone. Nor will he have them with him, possibly lest it should discourage them to see and hear how he groaned, sweat, trembled, and cried, as one in an agony, to his Father.
Reader, there are times and cases, when a Christian would not be willing, that the dearest and most intimate friend he has in the world, should be privy to what passes between him and his God.
2. It was an humble prayer; that is evident by the postures into which he cast himself; sometimes kneeling, and sometimes prostrate upon his face. He creeps in the very dust, lower he cannot fall; and his heart was as low as his body. He is meek and lowly indeed.
3. It was a reiterated prayer; he prays, and then returns to the disciples, as a man in extremity turns every way for comfort: so Christ prays, “Father, let this cup pass,” but in that the Father hears him not; though as to support he was heard. Being denied deliverance by his Father, he goes and bemoans himself to his pensive friends, and complains bitterly to them, “my soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death.” He would ease himself a little, by opening his condition to them; but alas, they rather in crease than ease his burden. For he finds them asleep, which occasioned that gentle reprehension from him, Mat. 26:40. “What, could you not watch with me one hour?” What, not watch with me? Who may expect it from you more than I? Could you not watch? I am going to die for you, and cannot you watch with me? What! cannot you watch with me one hour? Alas! what if I had required great matters from you? What: not an hour, and that the parting hour too! Christ finds no ease from them, and back again he goes to that sad place, which he had stained and purpled with a bloody sweat, and prays to the same purpose again. O how he returns upon God over and over, as if he resolved to take no denial! But, however, considering it must be so, he sweetly falls in with his Father’s will, Your will be done.
4. And lastly, It was a prayer accompanied with a strange and wonderful agony: so says verse 44. “and being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat was it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Now he was red indeed in his apparel, as one that trod the wine-press. “It was not a faint thin dew, but a clotted sweat, “trumboi haimator”, clodders of blood falling upon the ground. It is disputed whether this sweat was natural or preternatural. That some in extremity have sweat kind of bloody thin dew, is affirmed. I remember Thuanus gives us two instances that come nearest to this, of anything I ever observed or heard of. “The one was a captain, who by a cowardly and unworthy fear of death was so overwhelmed with anguish, that a kind of bloody dew or sweat stood on all his body. The other is of a young man condemned for a small matter to die by Sixtus 5 who poured out tears of blood from his eyes, and sweat blood from his whole body.”
These are rare and strange instances, and the truth of them depends upon the credit of the relator; but certainly for Christ whose body had the most excellent crests and temperament, to sweat clotted blood, or globules of blood, as some render it; and that in a cold night, when others needed a fire within doors to keep them warm, John 18:18. I say, for him to sweat such streams through his garments, falling to the ground on which he lay, must be concluded a preternatural thing. And indeed it was not wonderful that such a preternatural sweat should stream from all parts of his body, if you do but consider what an extraordinary load pressed his soul at that time, even such as no mere man felt, or was able to stand under, even the wrath of a great and terrible God, in the extremity of it. “Who (says the prophet Nahum, chapter 1:6.) can stand before his indignation? And who can abide in the fierceness of his anger? His fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him.”
The effects of this wrath, as it fell at this time upon the soul of Christ in the garden, are largely and very emphatically expressed by the several Evangelists who wrote this tragedy. Matthew tells us, his soul was “exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” Matth. 26:38. “The word signifies beset with grief round about.” And it is well expressed by that phrase of the psalmist, “The sorrows of death compassed me about, the pains of hell got hold upon me.” Mark varies the expression, and gives it us in another word no less significant and full, Mark 14:33. “He began to be sore amazed and very heavy,” “Sore amazed, it imports so high a degree of consternation and amazement, as when the hair of the head stands up through fear.” Luke has another expression, for it in the text; he was “en agonia”, in an agony. An agony is the laboring and striving of nature in extremity. And John gives it us in another expression, John 12:27. “Now is my soul troubled.” The original word is a very full word. And it is conceived the Latins derive that word which signifies hell, from this, by which Christ’s troubles are here expressed. This was the load which oppressed his soul, and so straitened it with fear and grief, that his eyes could not vent or ease sufficiently by tears; but the innumerable pores of his body are set open, to give vent by letting out streams of blood. And yet all this while, no hand of man was upon him. This was but a prelude, as it were, to the conflict that was at hand. This bloody sweat in which he prayed, was but as the giving or sweating of the stones before a great rain. Now he stood as it were, arraigned at God’s bar, and had to do immediately with him. And you know “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” The uses of this follow in this order.
INFERENCE 1. Did Christ pour out his soul to God so ardently in the garden, when the hour of his trouble was at hand? Hence we infer, That prayer is a singular preparative for, and relief under, the greatest troubles. It is sweet, when troubles find us in the way of our duty. The best posture we can wrestle with afflictions in, is to engage them upon our knees. The naturalist tells us, if a lion find a man prostrate, he will do him no harm. Christ hastened to the garden to pray, when Judas and the soldiers were hastening there to apprehend him. O! when we are near to danger it is good for us to draw near to our God. Then should we be urging that seasonable request to God, Psalm. 22:11. “Be not far from me, for trouble is near; for there is none to help.” We be to him, whom death or trouble finds afar off from God. And as prayer is the best preparative for troubles, so the choicest relief under them. Griefs are eased by groans. The heart is cooled and disburdened by spiritual evaporations. You know it is some relief if a man can pour out his complaint into the bosom of a faithful friend, though he can but pity him; how much more to pour out our complaints into the bosom of a faithful God, who can both pity and help us; Luther was accustomed to call prayers the leeches of his cares and sorrows; they suck out the bad blood. It is the title of Psalm. 102, A prayer for the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed, and pours out his complaint before the Lord. It is no small ease to open our hearts to God. When we are as full of grief, as Elihu was of matter, let us say as he did, Job 32:19. “Behold, Lord, my heart is as wine which has no vent, it is ready to burst as new bottles. I will speak that I may be refreshed.”
To go to God when you are full of sorrow, when your heart is ready to burst within you, as it was with Christ in this day of his trouble; and say, Father, thus and thus the case stands with your poor child; and so and so it is with me; I will not go up and down complaining from one creature to another, it is to no purpose to do so; nor yet will I leave my complaint upon myself: but I will tell you, Father, how the case stands with me; for to whom should children make their moan, but to their Father? Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me. What thinkest you, reader, of this? Is it relieving to a sad soul? Yes, yes; if you be a Christian that have had any experience this way, you will say there is nothing like it; you will bless God for appointing such an ordinance as prayer, and say, Blessed be God for prayer: I know not what I should have done, nor how in all the world I should have waded through the troubles I have passed, if it had not been for the help of prayer.
INFERENCE. 2. Did Christ withdraw from the disciples to seek God by prayer? Thence it follows, That the company of the best men is not always seasonable. Peter, James, and John, were three excellent men, and yet Christ says to them, Tarry you here, while I go and pray yonder. The society of men is beautiful in its season, and no better than a burden out of season. I have read of a good man, that when his stated time for closet- prayer was come, he would say to the company that were with him, whatever they were, Friends, I must beg your excuse for a while, there is a friend waits to speak with me. The company of a good man is good, but it ceases to be so, when it hinders the enjoyment of better company. One hour with God is to be preferred to a thousand days enjoyment of the best men on earth. If your dearest friends in the world intrude unseasonably between you and your God, it is neither crude nor unmannerly to bid them give place to better company; I mean, to withdraw from them, as Christ did from the disciples, to enjoy an hour with God alone. In public and private duties we may admit of the company of others to join with us; and if they be such as fear God, the more the better: but in secret duties, Christ and you must whisper it over between yourselves; and then the company of the wife of your bosom, or your friend, that is as your own soul, would not be welcome. “When you prayest, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret,” Mat. 6:6. It is as much as if Christ had said, See all clear; be sure to retire in as great privacy as may be; let no ear but God’s hear what you have to say to him. This is at once a good note of sincerity, and a great help to spiritual liberty and freedom with God.
INFERENCE. 3. Did Christ go to God thrice upon the same account? Thence learn, that Christians should not be discouraged, though they have sought God once and again, and no answer of peace comes. Christ was not heard the first time, and he goes a second: he was not answered the second, he goes the third and last time, yet was not answered in the thing he desired, namely, that the cup might pass from him; and yet he has no hard thoughts of God, but resolves his will into his Father’s. If God deny you in the things you ask, he deals no otherwise with you than he did with Christ. “O my God (says he) I cry in the day-time, but you hear not; and in the night, and am not silent.” Yet he justifies God, “but you are holy,” Psalm. 22:2. Christ was not heard in the thing he desired, and yet heard in that he feared, Heb. 5:7.
The cup did not pass as he desired, but God upheld him, and enabled him to drink it. He was heard as to support, he was not heard as to exemption from suffering: his will was expressed conditionally; and therefore though he had not the thing he so desired, yet his will was not crossed by the denial. But now, when we have a suit depending before the throne of grace, and cry to God once and again, and no answer comes; how do your hands hang down, and your spirits wax feeble!
Then we complain with the church, Lam. 3:8. “When I cry and shout, he shuts out my prayers; you coverest yourself with a cloud, that our prayers cannot pass through.” Then, with Jonah we conclude “we are cast out of his sight.” Alas! we judge by sense according to what we see and feel; and cannot live by faith on God, when he seems to hide himself, put us off, and refuse our requests. It calls for an Abraham’s faith, to “believe against hope, giving glory to God.” If we cry, and no answer comes presently, our carnal reason draws a headlong hasty conclusion. Sure I must expect no answer: God is angry with my prayers: The seed of prayer has lain so long under the clods, and it appears not; surely it is lost, I shall hear no more of it.
Our prayers may be heard, though their answer be for the present suspended. As David acknowledged, when he coolly considered the matter, Psalm. 31:22. “I said in my haste, I am cut off from before your eyes; nevertheless you heardest the voice of my supplication, when I cried unto you.” No, no, Christian; a prayer sent up in faith, according to the will of God, cannot be lost, though it be delayed. We may say of it as David said of Saul’s sword, and Jonathan’s bow, that they never returned empty.
INFERENCE. 4. Was Christ so earnest in prayer, that he prayed himself into every agony? Let the people of God blush to think how unlike their spirits are to Christ, as to their prayers-frames!
O what lively, sensible, quick, deep, and tender apprehensions and sense of those things about which he prayed, had Christ? Though he saw his very blood starting out from his hands, and his clothes died in it: yet being in an agony, he prayed the more earnestly. I do not say Christ is imitable in this; no, but his fervor in prayer is a pattern for us, and serves severely to rebuke the laziness, dullness, torpor, formality, and stupidity, that are in our prayers. How often do we bring the sacrifice of the dead before the Lord! how often do our lips move, and our hearts stand still! O how unlike Christ are we! his prayers were pleading prayers! full of mighty arguments and fervent affections. O that his people were in this more like him!
INFERENCE. 5. Was Christ in such an agony before any hand of man was upon him, merely from the apprehensions of the wrath of God, with which he now contested? “Then surely it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God; for our God is a consuming fire.”
Ah, what is divine wrath, that Christ staggered when the cup came to him! Could not he bear, and do you think to bear it? Did Christ sweat clots of blood at it, and do you make light of it? Poor wretch, if it staggered him, it will confound you. If it made him groan, it will make you howl, and that eternally. Come, sinner, come; do you make light of the threatening of the wrath of God against sin? Do you think there is no such matter in it, as these zealous preachers make of it? Come look here upon my text, which shows you the face of the Son of God standing as full of purple drops under the sense and apprehension of it, as the drops of dew that hang upon the grass. Mark how he cries, “Father if it be possible, let this cup pass.” O anything of punishment rather than this. Hear what he tells the disciples; “My soul, (says he,) is sorrowful even to death: amazed, and very heavy.” Fools make a mock at sin, and the threatening that lie against it.
INFERENCE. 6. Did Christ meet death with such a heavy heart? Let the hearts of Christians be the lighter for this, when they come to die. The bitterness of death was all squeezed into Christ’s cup. He was made to drink up the very dregs of it, that so our death might be the sweeter to us. Alas! there is nothing now left in death that is frightful or troublesome, beside the pain of dissolution, that natural evil of it. I remember it is storied of one of the martyrs, that being observed to be exceeding jocund and merry when he came to the stake, one asked him, What was the reason his heart was so light, when death, (and that in such a terrible form too) was before him? O said he, my heart is so light at my death, because Christ’s was so heavy at his death.
INFERENCE. 7. To conclude, what cause have all the saints to love their dear Lord Jesus with an abounding love? Christian, open the eyes of your faith, and fix them upon Christ, in the posture he lay in the garden, drenched in his own blood; and see whether he be not lovely in these his dyed garments. He that suffered for us more than any creature could or did, may well challenge more love than all the creatures in the world. O what has he suffered, and suffered upon your account! it was your pride, earthliness, sensuality, unbelief; hardness of heart, that laid on more weight in that day that he sweat blood.
The First Preparation for Christ’s Death, on his Enemies Part, by the treason at Judas
“And while he yet spoke, lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him.” Matthew 26:47- 49
The former sermons give you an account how Christ improved every moment of his time, with busy diligence, to make himself ready for his death. He has commended his charge to the Father, instituted the blessed memorial of his death, poured out his soul to God in the garden, with respect to the grievous sufferings he should undergo; and now he is ready, and waits for the coming of the enemies, being first in the field.
And think you that they were idle on their parts? No, no, their malice made them restless. They had agreed with Judas to betray him. Under his conduct, a band of soldiers was sent to apprehend him. The hour, so long expected, is come. For “while he yet spoke,” says the text, “lo, Judas, one of the twelve, came, and with him a great multitude, with swords and staves.”
These words contain the first preparative act, on their part, for the death of Christ, even to betray him, and that by one of his own disciples. Now they execute what they had plotted, ver. 14, 15. And in this paragraph you have an account, 1. Of the traitor, who he was. 2. Of the treason, what he did. 3. Of the manner of its execution, how it was contrived and effected. Lastly, Of the time, when they put this hellish plot in execution.
1. We have here a description of the traitor: and it is remarkable how carefully the several Evangelists have described him, both by his name, surname, and office, “Judas, Judas Iscariot, Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve;” that he might not be mistaken for Jude or Judas the apostle. God is tender of the names and reputations of his upright-hearted servants. His office, “one of the twelve,” is added to aggravate the fact, and to show how that prophecy was accomplished in him, Psalm. 41:9. “Yes, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, has lift up his heel against me.” Lo, this was the traitor, and this was his name and office.
2. You have a description of the treason, or an account what this man did. He led an armed multitude to the place where Christ was, gave them a signal to discover him, and encouraged them to lay hands on him, and hold him fast. This was that hellish design which the devil put into his heart, working upon that principle, or lust of covetousness, which was predominant there. What will not a carnal heart attempt, if the devil suit a temptation to the predominant lust, and God withhold restraining grace!
3. You have here the way and manner in which the hellish plot was executed. It was managed both with force and with fraud. He comes with a multitude, armed with swords and staves, in case they should meet with any resistance. And he comes to him with a kiss, which was their signal, lest they should mistake the man. For they aimed neither at small nor great, save only at the King of Israel, the King of glory. Here was much ado, you see, to take a harmless Lamb, that did not once start from them, but freely offered himself to them.
4. And lastly, When this treasonable design was executed upon Christ. And it was executed upon him while he stood among his disciples, exhorting them to prayer and watchfulness, dropping heavenly and most seasonable counsels upon them. “While he yet spoke, lo, Judas, and with him a multitude, came with swords and staves.” Surely, it is no better than a Judas’s trick, to disturb and afflict the servants of God in the discharge of their duties. This was the traitor and his treason; thus it was executed and at this time. Hence we observe,
DOCTRINE. That is was the lot of our Lard Jesus Christ, to be betrayed into the hands of his mortal enemies, by the assistance of a false and deceitful friend.
Look, as Joseph was betrayed and sold by his brethren; David by Achitophel, his old friend; Samson by Delilah, that lay in his bosom; so Christ by Judas, one of the twelve; a man, his friend, his familiar, that had been so long conversant with him: he that by profession had lifted up his hand to Christ, now by treason lifts up his heel against him; he bids the soldiers bind those blessed hands, that not long before had washed the traitor’s feet.
In the point before us, we will,
First, Consider Judas, according to that eminent station and place he had under Christ.
Secondly, We will consider his treason, according to the several aggravations of it.
Thirdly, We will enquire into the cause or motives that put him upon such a dreadful, hellish design as this was.
Fourthly, and lastly, we will view the issue, and see the event of this treason, both as to Christ and as to himself. And then apply it.
First, As for the person that did this, he was very eminent by reason of that dignity Christ had raised him to. For,
1. He was one of the twelve; one retained not in a more general, and common, but in the nearest, and most intimate and honorable relation and service to Jesus Christ. There were in Christ’s time several sorts and ranks of persons that had relation to him. There were secret disciples; men that believed, but kept their stations, and abode with their relations in their callings. There were seventy also whom Christ sent forth; but none of these were so much with Christ or so eminent in respect of their place, as the twelve, they were Christ’s family, day and night conversant with him: it was the highest dignity that was conferred upon any: and of this number was Judas. The ancients have much extolled the apostolical dignity. Some stiled these twelve, pedes Christi, the feet of Christ: because they, as it were, carried Christ up and down the world. Others, oculi Dei, the very eyes of God; they were his watchmen, that took care for the concernments of his name and gospel in the world. Others, mammae ecclesiae, the breasts of the church; they fed and nourished the children of God by their doctrine. Now, to be one of this number, one of the twelve, what a dignity was this.
2. Yes, he being one of the twelve, was daily conversant with Christ: often joined with him in prayer, often sat at his feet, bearing the gracious words that came out of his mouth. It was one of Austin’s three wishes, that he had seen Christ in the flesh: Judas not only saw him but dwelt with him, traveled with him, and eat and drank with him. And during the whole time of his abode with him, all Christ’s carriage towards him was very obliging and winning; yes, such was the condescension of Christ to this wretched man, that he washed his feet, and that but a little before betrayed him.
3. He was a man of unsuspected integrity among the apostles. When Christ told them, One of you shall betray me; none thought on him, but everyone rather suspected himself; Lord, is it I? says one, and so said they all; but none pointed at Judas, saying, You are he.
4. To conclude, in some respect, he was preferred to the rest. For he had not only a joint commission with them to preach the gospel to others, (though, poor unhappy wretch, himself became a cast-away) but he had a peculiar office, he bare the bag, that is he was Almoner, or the steward of the family, to take care to provide for the necessary accommodations of Christ and them. Now who could ever have suspected, that such a man as this should have sold the blood of Christ for a little money? that ever he should have proved a perfidious traitor to his Lord, who had called him, honored him, and carried himself so tenderly towards him?