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vincing evidence, than, laying the Jewish council pros. trate at his feet, by a word, as he did the band in the garden; or coming down from the cross, at. the call of his enemies? It is undeniable that he went to the garden to meet his enemies, and foresaw the cer. tainty of his death. He would allow no means to be adopted to prevent it; and therefore ordered Peter to put up his sword, and said to him, “ Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it MUST be?" Mat. xxvi. 53, 54. Might he not have persisted in his prayer, “ Let this cup pass from me," with success, seeing his Father heard him always? But he knew his Father had determined otherwise, and therefore adds, “ Not as I will, but as thou wilt." According to the scheme of Socinians, this prayer should rather have been made to his crucifiers; as his death was determined by them, not by his Father; and to them he ought to have said, “ Not as I will, but as you will." This would have been some shadow of proof, that his death was not fixed by his Father.
2. The sufferings and death of Christ were volun. tary. It was impossible for him to suffer in any other way, not being obnoxious to it for any sin of his own. B. sides, involuntary suffering could not have been pro. ductive of any advantage to us. It is true, indeed, in the case of the sinner himself, bearing the punishment of his own sin, that it is of no moment whether it be voluntarily, or with reluctance. The sanction of the law is purely a threatening, not a precept, therefore does not require the obedience of the will in bearing the execution of it. In his punishment, the sinner is wholly passive; nor is any thing more necessary. In this case, were he able, in a limited time, to endure punishment adequate to the demerit of his sin, though with the greatest reluctance, he would be entitled to a termination of it.
In vicarious suffering, the case alters much. The divine Surety of sinners was no subject of the law, on his own account, consequently, could be obnoxious to no threatening. Even as their Surety, no threatening is ever denounced against him. The nature of that constitution, according to which he suffered, rendered his sufferings strictly obediential, and of course voluntary." He received his obligation to suffer from the hand of his Father, in the form of a command, not of a threatening, “ I have power to lay (my life) down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.” John X. 18. Every attempt to obey a command, with reluctance, destroys obedience; as all obedience lies radically in the cordial inclination of the will to do what is commanded. The legal priest performed obedience, in offering sacrifice, Jesus, our great high Priest, also obeyed, when he of. fered up himself, through the eternal Spirit, unto God. As a " servant, he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Phil. ii, 8. “ Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Heb. v. 8. His obedience did not lie in the pains which he endured, but in the fullest compliance of his will with the will of his Father. " Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened: burnt-offering and sin offering hast thou not required. Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea thy law is within my heart” Psalm xl. 9, 7, 8. As offering of sacrifice is the subject here treated, the law within his heart must refer particularly to it.
In doing this, his will was in perfect unison with the will of his Father.
These sufferings were the full impletion of bis sure, ty engagements to the Father, and had a special respect to his promise. These engagements were voluntary; as every covenant transaction must be. " Who is this that engaged his heart to approach unto me? saith the Lord.” Jer. xxx. 21. While he fulfilled these, and obeyed the command of his Father, he had a special eye to the promises made to him. By these the Fa. ther pledged himself to sustain him under his sufferings and also, in some sense, to reward them “Mine arm shall strengthen him. The enemy shall not exact upon him.” Psalm lxxxix. 21, 22. “He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.” Isaiah liii. 11. Pro mises are not made to mere suffering, but to obedience. The sinner has no promise, in any sense, with respect to his punishment; of support under it, the termination of it, or a reward, even though it were to terminate.
The relation the sufferings of Christ had to such pro. mises, shows that they were strictly obediential, and therefore voluntary.
From the manner in which he acted, he evidenced how voluntary he was in suffering. It is true, he conveyed himself, once and again, from the Jews, who were proceeding to kill him; this, however, did not proceed from any aversion to suffer, but from a regard to the will of his Father, who had fixed thetime, which was not then come. When the time arrived, he went voluntarily to the garden, his usual place of resort; knowing as certainly that Judas was to come there with a band to apprehend him, as he knew before that he was to betray him. He might have repaired to another place, or escaped while the band lay prostrate at his feet, but he would not.
How striking are his words on the occasion? 6. The prince of this world cometh—But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. Arise let us go hence." John xiv. 30, 31. Compare Chap. xviii. 1, 2.
The expressions, “ O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me," uttered by him in the garden, under his extreme agony, did not imply any thing incompatible with the most complete submission of his will to his father. When we consider the buman nature united to his divine person, any proper personal act of will, contrary to the will of the Father was impossible. To suppose it would be to charge him with an act of sin. When we consider also the promises of the Father to him, and the necessary effect of them, the truth of this will appear still more striking. “Behold my servant, whom I UPHOLD-I have put my Spirit upon him-He shall NOT FAIL,” &c. Isaiah xlii. 1, 4. Either, then, there was no contrariety to the divine will, in the expression alluded to, or if there were, the Father must have violated his promise, and the Spirit neglected to perform his work. But we have Christ's testimony to the contrary. “I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” John xvi. 33. The suffering nature must have been more than human, in order to have acted otherwise. As a created nature only, is capable of suffering, so, to avoid danger, and to shrink at the prospect of suffering, is inseparable from it. There is a natural inclination of the will to self-preservation, or a natural desire to avoid pain and enjoy happiness: this is interwoven with human nature, inseparable from it, and is not sinful. This desire does not result from reason and deliberation, though often regulated by reason, but re
sults from our very constitution, as susceptible of pleasure and pain. This is very different from a deliberate, rational, and moral act of the will. Such an act proceeds upon rational grounds, all circumstances and the end to be gained, being considered. The will of Christ, in the former sense, was the simple desire of nature, which his situation and work did not require him to destroy, but to regulate. This he did. When he considered the designs of heaven; the glory of his Father; and the salvation of his people ; he added, “ Not as I will, but as thou wilt." Had the rational and moral act of his will, coincided with the natural act, it would have been at variance with the will of his Father : but reason and every moral principle being, through the operation of the Spirit, in the highest exercise, regulated the natural desire, and prevented the moral compliance of the will with it. Nature acts in the one case; love to God, in the other. Nature seeks to elude the terrible stroke; reason seeks the accomplishment of the divine will. Nature suggested the idea of exemption from the most terrible sufferings; and had Jesus taken it up, deliberated upon it, and positively concurred with it, he would have sinned. He did not correct a rash mistake, or retract what he said; for he repeated the same expression thrice ; he only prevented a mistake. Could the human nature of Jesus, in glory, be put into such circumstances as in Gethsemane's garden, it could not avoid having the same desire. In no instance does the harmony of his will with his Father's appear more strikingly, than in the one alluded to. He puts a negative upon his own will, 6 Not as I will;" and he wishes the accomplishment of his Father's, “ But as thou wilt." ..3. These sufferings were very great. They have