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help, that his poor feeble human nature might be supported, that be might not fail in this great trial, that he might not sink and be swallowed up, and his strength so overcome that he should not hold out, and finish the appointed obedience. This was the thing that he feared, of which the apostle speaks in the 5th of Hebrews, when he says, “be was heard in that he feared.” When he had such an extraordinary sense of the dreadfulness of his sufferings impressed on his mind, the fearfulness of it amazed him. He was afraid lest his poor feeble strength should be overcome, and that he should fail in so great a trial, that he should be swallowed up by that death that he was to die, and so should not be saved from death; and therefore he offered up strong crying and tears unto him that was able to strengthen him, and support, and save him from death, that the death he was to suffer might not overcome his love and obedience, but that he might overcome death, and so be saved from it. If Christ's courage had failed in the trial, and he had not held out under bis dying sufferings, he never would have been saved from death, but he would have sunk in the deep mire; he never would have risen from the dead, for his rising from the dead was a reward of his victory. If his courage had failed, and he had given out, he would have ever remained from under the power of death, and so we should all have perished, we should bave remained yet in our sins. If he had failed, all would have failed. Ir be had not overcome in that sore conflict, neither he nor we could have been freed froin death, we all must have perished together. Therefore this was the saving from death that the apostle speaks of, that Christ feared and prayed for with strong crying and tears. His being overcome of death was the thing that he feared, and so he was heard in that he feared. This Christ prayed that the will of God might be done in his sufferings, even that he might not fail of obeying God's will in his sufferings; and therefore it follows in the next verse in that passage of Hebrews, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience, by the things which he suffered.” That it was in this respect that Christ in his
" agony so earnestly prayed that the will of God might be done, viz. that he might have strength to do his will, and might not sink and fail in such great sufferings; is confirmed from the scriptures of the old testament, as particularly from the 69th psalm. The Psalmist represents Christ in that psalm, as is evident from the fact that the words of that psalm are represented as Christ's words in many places of the new testament. That psalm is represented as Christ's prayer to God when his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow and amazement, as it was in his agony; as you may see in the 1st and 2d verses, Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul; I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.” But then the thing that is represented as being the thing that he feared
was failing, and being overwhelmed in this great trial: verses 14 and 15, “ Deliver me out of the mire, and let me not sink : let me be delivered from them that hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the water-flood overflow me, neither let the deep swallow me up, and let not the pit shut her mouth upon me.”
So again in the 22d psalm, which is also represented as the prayer of Christ under his dreadful sorrow and sufferings, verses 19, 20, 21. “But be not thou far from me, O Lord; O my Strength, haste thee to help me.
Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save me from the lion's mouth.” It was meet and suitable that Christ, when about to engage in that terrible conflict, should thus earnestly seek help from God to enable him to do his will; for he needed God's help—the strength of his human nature, without divine help, was not sufficient to carry him through. T
This was without doubt, that in which the first Adam failed in his first trial, that when the trial came he was not sensible of his own weakness and dependence. If he had been, and had leaned on God, and cried to him for his assistance and strength against the temptation, in all likelihood we should have remained innocent and happy creatures to this day.
2. It implies a request that God's will and purpose might be obtained in the effects and fruits of his sufferings, in the glory to his name, that was his design in them; and particularly in the glory of his grace, in the eternal salvation and happiness of his elect. This is confirmed by John xii. 27, 28. “Now is my soul troubled ; and what shall I say?- Father, save me from this hour:' but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name.' Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified, and will glorify it again.” There the first request is the same with the first request of Christ here in like trouble : “Now is my soul troubled and what shall I say Father, save me from this hour.'” He first prays, as he does here, that he might be saved from his last sufferings. Then, after he was determined within himself that the will of God must be otherwise, that he should not be saved from that hour, “but for this cause,” says he, “ came I to this hour;" and then his second request after this is, “ Father, glorify thy name!" So this is doubtless the purport of the second request in his agony when he prayed that God's will might be done. It is that God's will might be done in that glory to his own name that be intended in the effects and fruits of his sufferings, that seeing that it was his will that he should suffer, he earnestly prays that the end of his suffering in the glory of God and the salvation of the elect may not fail. And these things are what Christ so earnestly wrestled with God for in his prayer, of which we have an account in the text, and we have no reason to think, that they were not expressed in prayer as well as implied.
It is not reasonable to suppose that the evangelist in his other account of things mentions all the words of Christ's prayer. He only mentions the substance.
Ml. In what capacity did Christ offer up those earnest prayers
III to God in his agony ?
In answer to this inquiry, I observe that he offered them up not as a private person, but as high priest. The apostle speaks of the strong crying and tears, as what Christ offered up as high priest. Heb. v. 6, 7. “ As he says also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedeck: Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears,” &c. The things that Christ prayed for in those strong cryings, were things not of a private nature, but of common concern to the whole church of wbich he was the high priest. That the will of God should be done in bis obedience unto death, that his strength and courage should not fail, but that he should hold out, was of common concern ; for, if he had failed, all would have failed and perished for ever. And of course, that God's name should be glorified in the effects and fruits of his sufferings, and in the salvation and glory of all his elect, was a thing of common concern. Christ offered up these strong cries with his flesh in the same manner as the priests of old were wont to offer up prayers with their sacrifices. Christ mixed strong crying and tears with his blood, and so offered up his blood and his prayers together, that the effect and success of his blood might be obtained. Such earnest agonizing prayers were offered with his blood, and his infinitely precious and meritorious blood was offered with his prayers.
IV. Why was Christ so earnest in those supplications ? Luke speaks of them as very earnest; the apostle speaks of them as strong crying; and his agony partly consisted in this earnestness: and the account that Luke gives us, seems to imply that his bloody sweat was parıly at least with the great labour and earnest sense of his soul in wrestling with God in prayer. There were three things that concurred at that time, especially to cause Christ to be thus earnest and engaged.
1. He had then an extraordinary sense how dreadful the consequence would be, if God's will should fail of being done. He had then an extraordinary sense of his own last suffering under the wrath of God, and if he had failed in those sufferings, he knew the consequence must be dreadful. He having now such an extraordinary view of the terribleness of the wrath of God, his love to the elect tended to make him more than ordinarily earnest that they might be delivered from suffering that wrath to all eternity, which could not have been if he had failed of doing God's will, or if the will of God in the effect of his suffering had failed.
2. No wonder that that extraordinary sense that Christ then had of the costliness of the means of sinners' salvation made him very earnest for the success of those means, as you have already heard.
3. Christ had an extraordinary sense of his dependence on God, and his need of his help to enable him to do God's will in this great trial. Though he was innocent, yet he needed divine help. He was dependent on God, as man, and therefore we read that be trusted in God. Matth. xxvii. 43. “He trusted in God; Let him deliver him now if he will save him: for he said, I am the Son of God.” And when he had such an extraordinary sight of the dreadfulness of that wrath he was to suffer, he saw how much it was beyond the strength of his human nature alone.
V. What was the success of this prayer of Christ ?
To this I answer, He obtained all his requests. The apostle says, “ He was heard in that he feared;" in all that he feared. He obtained strength and help from God, all that he needed, and was carried through. He was evabled to do and to suffer the whole will of God; and he obtained the whole of the end of his sufferings—a full atonement for the sins of the whole world, and the full salvation of every one of those who were given him in the covenant of redemption, and all that glory to the name of God, which his mediation was designed to accomplish, not one jot or tittle hath failed. Herein Christ in his agony was above all others Jacob's antitype, in his wrestling with God for a blessing; which Jacob did, not as a private person, but as the head of his posterity, the nation of Israel, and by which he obtained that commendation of God, “ As a prince thou hast power with God;" and therein was a type of him who was the Prince of princes.
APPLICATION. Great improvement may be made of the consideration of the strong crying and tears of Christ in the days of his flesh many ways for our benefit.
1. This may teach us after what manner we should pray to God, not in a cold and careless manner, but with great earnestness and engagedness of spirit, and especially when we are praying to God for those things that are of infinite importance, such as spiritual and eternal blessings. Such were the benefits that Christ prayed for with such strong crying and tears, that he might be enabled to do God's will in that great and difficult work that God had appointed him, that he might not sink and fail, but might get the victory, and so finally be delivered from death, and that God's will and end might be obtained as the fruit of his sufferings, in the glory of God, and the salvation of the elect.
When we go before God in prayer with a cold, dull heart, and in a lifeless and listless manner pray to him for eternal blessings, and those of infinite import to our souls, we should think of Christ's earnest prayers that he poured out to God, with tears and a bloody sweat. The consideration of it may well make us ashamed of our dull, lifeless prayers to God, wherein, indeed, we rather ask a denial than ask to be heard; for the language of such a manner of praying to God, is that we do not look upon the benefit that we pray for as of any great importance, that we are indifferent whether God answers us or not. The example of Jacob in wrestling with God for the blessing, should teach us earnestness in our prayers, but more especially the example of Jesus Christ, who wrestled with God in a bloody sweat. If we were sensible as Christ was of the great importance of those benefits that are of eternal consequence, our prayers to God for such benefits would be after another manner than now they are. Our souls also would with earnest labour and strife be engaged in this duty.
There are many benefits that we ask of God in our prayers, which are every whit of as great importance to us as those benefits which Christ asked of God in his agony were to him.
It is of as great importance to us that we should be enabled to do the will of God, and perform a sincere, universal, and persevering obedience to his commands, as it was to Christ that he should not fail of doing God's will in his great work. It is of as great importance to us to be saved from death as it was to Christ that he should get the victory over death, and so be saved from it. It is of as great, and infinitely greater, importance to us, that Christ's redemption should be successful in us, as it was to him that God's will should be done, in the fruits and success of his redemption.
Christ recommended earnest watchfulness and prayerfulness to his disciples, by prayer and example, both at the same time. When Christ was in his agony, and came and found his disciples asleep, he bid them watch and pray, Matth. xxvi. 41. “ Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation : the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” At the same he set them an example of that which he cominanded them, for though they slept he watched, and poured out his soul in those earnest prayers that you have heard of; and Christ has elsewhere taught us to ask those blessings of God that are of infinite importance, as those that will take no denial. We have another example of the great conflicts and engagedness of Christ's spirit in this duty. Luke vi. 12. " And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.” And he