« PreviousContinue »
and sufferings, according to the different states of his nervous system, or his bodily health.
4. It is to be observed, that the agony of Christ implied nothing inconsistent with the most perfect confidence in God, and entire submission to his will. For while he could say, “ My soul is exceeding sorrowful,” he could also say to his Father, “Not my will, but thine be done." Hence we have a proof, that great grief is not incompatible with entire resignation to the will of God.
5. Whatever might be the cause or the causes of the agony, it was but a momentary suffering. For immediately after Christ's return the third time from prayer,
Judas appeared with a band of soldiers to arrest him ; and who could have displayed more magnanimity and fortitude than Jesus did on that occasion ! All he said to Judas, to the band, and afterwards to the Sanhedrim, and to Pilate, evinced the most perfect fortitude and selfpossession. So did every thing subsequent to the agony, till he expired on the cross, if we except the short and unexplained exclamation, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!” Is it, then, safe to infer from momentary agonies, the causes of which are to us unknown, that Christ either endured Almighty wrath, or was deficient in fortitude of mind ? Such inferences appear to me unwarranted by the circumstances of the case, and highly presumptuous and reprehensible.
6. It should be remembered, that it was the appointment of God, that the Captain of our salvation should be " made perfect through suffering ;” and the agony in the garden might be designed to perfect the exhibition of the Son's "obedience unto death.” If the agony was occasioned in part by overwhelming views of the suffer
ings he was about to endure on the cross, these views may have been presented to his mind for the more perfect trial of his confidence and submission. Besides, the agony itself was well adapted to prevent any suspicion that his apparent submission was the fruit of Stoical principles or Stoical feeling; and to teach all his followers to beware of judging unfavorably of the moral characters of men, merely on the ground that they appear susceptible of deep feeling in the prospect of great sufferings. For the Captain of our salvation was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”
7. In addition to the prospect of an ignominious and cruel death, there might be other things which greatly contributed to the agony in the garden ;-things too, which will remain unknown to men in the present state. There are, however, some things which appear to me not improbable as among the causes of the agony, and which I shall venture to suggest.
It is reasonable to suppose, that Jesus well knew that great things were depending on his obedience unto death ;
; and that, although he possessed miraculous powers, he was
a partaker of flesh and blood,” and in all points” liable to be “tempted like as we are.” In the garden, he might have a clear foresight of the malignity and the insults which he was about to experience from his deluded persecutors. What, then, could be more natural, than that he should feel a deep concern, lest by some improper word, or resentful feeling, he should mar the sacrifice which he was about to offer ? This concern would naturally be ircreased, by clear and affecting views of the sinful state of mankind, the miseries to which they were exposed, and from which he had been sent to redeem them,
Another thing deserves our notice :-Jesus had foretold the miseries which were coming on Jerusalem; and while on his then recent journey to that place, “when he beheld the city, he wept over it," and uttered an affecting lamentation. Suppose, then, that while in the garden, he had not only a clear view of his approaching crucifixion, -of the blindness and bitterness of his persecutors,-of the obduracy with which they would say to Pilate," His blood be on us and on our children,”—but also of the fearful ruin which awaited that people; how could it be otherwise than that his feeling heart should be filled with the keenest anguish? If, while at a distance from the city, the sight of it caused him to weep and lament, how exquisite must have been his grief in the garden, if, in his view, his own crucifixion was associated with the sufferings which were soon to be brought on his persecuting countrymen !
That this last conjecture is not destitute of probability, may appear from a striking passage in our Lord's history, which perhaps deserves more attention than it has hitherto received. After the sentence of death had been passed upon him, and while on his way to the cross, he was followed by “a great company of people, and of women, who also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them, said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold, the days are coming in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps that never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us, and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in the green tree, what shall be done in the dry!” Luke xxiii. 27–31,
Here we are called to contemplate the benevolence of our Savior's heart, while on his way to the cross. It is not to be doubted that he felt much on his own account ; yet he seems to have had far deeper feelings on account of the miseries which were coming on his unhappy countrymen and country-women. His language to the women, who were weeping and lamenting on his account, was not of the nature of derision, nor of disapprobation, as though he had no occasion for their sympathy, nor as though their weeping for him was improper. But in return for *their sympathy for him, he expressed in a feeling manner his sympathy and concern for them and their children; assuring them that however distressing his situation was or might appear to them to be, yet they had still greater reason to be concerned for themselves and their children. His words seem to imply, that the sufferings which were coming on himself were light when compared with those which were coming on the people of Jerusalem.
Now let it be remembered, that Christ's language to the women was uttered after the agony in the garden, and while approaching the place of crucifixion. If, then, the agony in the garden had been the effect of God's anger, and if, on his way to the cross, he was in expectation of feeling such further displays of God's wrath, as would be equivalent to all the miseries which might justly be inflicted on a world of sinners, -or
“A weight of wo, more than whole worlds could bear;" would he, so situated, have been likely to utter the sym-. pathetic language which he addressed to the weeping
daughters of Jerusalem ?” Could he, with propriety, have suggested to them, that they had more cause to weep for themselves and for their children, than for him?
These thoughts relating to the agony are submitted to the candid consideration of my brethren. I do not pretend to know the causes of the agony; but I think it may be accounted for in a manner more scriptural, than that of imputing it to God's anger; for, to me, such an imputation is too shocking for words to express.
Before dismissing this subject, it may be proper briefly to answer a question, which has been proposed by a writer of acknowledged respectability. The question is stated as follows:
“Since he did not suffer on account of any guilt of his own, on what ground can they reconcile his sufferings with the justice of God, who hold that he is not a substitute for sinners ? "*
If by Christ's suffering as "a substitute for sinners," were meant no more than that he actually suffered to save us from sin and suffering, I should readily acquiesce. But more than this is meant in the common use of the words, and more is unquestionably meant by the writer who proposed the question. The following remarks are therefore submitted in answer to his inquiry.
1. The justice of God is not at variance with his benevolence and mercy; and it seems to be a law of benevolence, that every rational being should be willing to do or to suffer, whatever may be really necessary for the good of the intelligent universe.
2. I have not found in the Bible, nor in the book of Providence, any passage which says, that it would be unjust in God to subject an innocent or even a holy being to temporary suffering, if this be necessary to a wise and
• Professor Stuart's Discourses, p. 12.