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front row of the battle, and made a spectacle to men and angels of the weakness of man's best determinations, and the infirmity of the strongest faith.
Then, continues the evangelist, “ Jesus began to be sore amazed and very heavy." This was the period of our Lord's greatest suffering, and acutest agony. The horrors of the cross were not to be compared with the terrors of the garden ; in the former his bodily sufferings were predominant, but here his mental agonies.
That evil spirit, who, after the temptation in the wilderness, had " departed from him for a season,
now returned with tenfold greater virulence, to grapple with him in his hour of weakness, and, if it were possible, to frustrate for ever, the one great purpose of his mission.
Doubtless, when our Lord entered the garden, he could discern those hosts of spiritual enemies, who, unseen to mortal eye, unknown to mortal apprehension, were thronging the midnight air, waiting
the appointed time when they might struggle, hand to hand, with the second Adam, as they had once, alas ! too successfully, assailed the first. That time had now arrived. “ This is your hour, said our Lord to the conspirators, “ and the power
of darkness." Every description which the evangelists give, of the state of mind in which our Lord entered upon the conflict, prove the tremendous nature of the assault, and the vivid and perfect anticipation of its terrors, which possessed the mind of the meek and lowly Jesus.
Thus the expression employed by St. Matthew, signifies literally, that Jesus
“surrounded” with grief; that of St. Mark, that he began to be “exceedingly astonished, and to be overwhelmed with anguish ;” that of St. John, that his soul was in the greatest “ perturbation.” Then it was that our blessed Lord, in his human nature, almost overpowered by what should come upon him, about to
pour out his soul,
“ with strong crying
"2 before the throne of his heavenly Father, anxious at such an hour, to secure every aid to which suffering mortality can fly for refuge, expected to derive something of support and consolation from human sympathy, and human friendship. For we read, that he said to the three disciples, whom he had selected as, of all his dear companions, the dearest to his heart, “ My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death; tarry ye here and watch with me.”
What an entreaty was this from the Lord of life to his poor helpless creatures ! - Watch with me:" at once the highest duty, and the sublimest privilege, ever offered to created beings! To be thus, as it were, united to the Saviour in his last conflict; while he alone fought the battle with those powers of darkness, from which mere mortality would have shrunk defeated, and dismayed; to be
2 Hebrews v.
permitted to watch, and to pray with him, to strengthen his failing hands, to cheer his fainting spirit, freely to offer all at least of those poor services, which man could offer at such an hour, and in such a contest! Thus, as Aaron and Hur of old, held up the arms of the exhausted Moses, that Israel might triumph over Amalek, so were those beloved disciples now required to hold up the arms, and aid the prayers of their fainting Master. Surely one such hour in Gethsemane, would not have been too dearly purchased by a participation in Calvary itself.
And now, were we strictly to confine ourselves to the history of him upon whose life we are commenting, we should tarry with Peter at the gate of the garden, and await the return of Jesus; but, my Christian brethren, however deeply we may be interested in Peter, we cannot but be far more deeply interested in Peter's Lord. Let us, then, for a few moments, follow the Lamb of God into
the inmost recesses of the garden ; let us behold his sufferings and his agony; let us listen to his reiterated prayer; so shall
we, under the divine blessing, derive a more profitable lesson from the Master, than the disciple could ever teach us.
Behold, then, the Lord Jesus, having withdrawn about a stone's throw from his disciples, prepares alone to encounter the spirits of evil; and yet he is not alone, for his father is with him.3
Listen to the first words, which, after he has fallen upon the ground, in deepest anguish of spirit, burst from his lips : He said, “0, my Father.” Surely, never before, throughout the eternity of his existence, had these words been prompted by such a feeling, as now filled, and oppressed his bosom!
How blessed was it for our Lord, how blessed is it for us his children, that in our utmost extremity we have still a Father. Human counsellors may for
3 See John xvi. 32.