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Then Jesus "began to be sorrowful, and very heavy:"-to be "sore amazed.”—The words signify much more than they express; "they imply, that he was possessed with fear, horror, and amazement; encompassed with grief, and overwhelmed with sorrow; pressed down with consternation and dejection of mind; tormented with anxiety and disquietude of spirit."
How vast must that pressure have been which obliged him to complain, and to complain to his inferiors!" My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death!" He was in an "AGONY!"-a word used no where else in the New Testament;-an agony so great and astonishing, that "his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood, falling to the ground." In this extreme distress he betook himself to prayer; he first kneeled down, and afterwards fell on his face upon the ground, saying, "O Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me! nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt."
What a mysterious scene is this! What could be the occasion of this agony! It was no human enemy that hurt him; nor was it the fear of his approaching death. Probably, it was some peculiar conflict with the powers of darkness; for this was "their hour." Perhaps, the restraint usually laid on these malignant spirits was now removed; and who can tell what terrors they may inflict, if permitted? Probably, our Lord had now before his eyes the collected guilt of millions of sinners, and the intolerable misery due to their iniquities: and what an agony must this occasion, when an individual finds one "wounded spirit" more than he can bear?
Here stop, and see "the sinfulness of sin." Perhaps you have seen it only in the garden of pleasure, wearing the mask of happiness-here, in the garden of sorrow, behold sin stripped of its mask.-See, in the agony of Jesus, its true nature and proper effects. "The wages of sin is death;" therefore the soul of
Christ was sorrowful, "even unto death." See here a specimen of that "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish," which every soul of man not interested in Christ must suffer; not for a few hours, but to all eternity. And here, believer, see what thou must have suffered, if Jesus had not suffered it for thee. But "it pleased the Lord to bruise him and put him to grief,” that thou mayest be filled with joy unspeakable. He drank this bitter cup, that he might put into thy hand the sweet cup of salvation.
Our Lord, who knew before-hand all things which should befal him, intimated to his disciples the near approach of the traitor Judas,-"Rise," said he, "let us be going; he is at hand that betrayeth me." This infamous man had sold his affectionate Master to the priests; and, knowing the place of his retirement, comes attended with an armed force; yet, still pretending friendship, salutes him with a kiss, which was the appointed signal for his apprehension. Jesus offers no resistance, nor attempts to escape. The Lamb of God freely offers himself up; and with surprising intrepidity and composure, tells them who he is. He could have slain them all in momont; for he no sooner uttered the words, I am He, than his enemies drew back, and "fell to the ground," as if they had been struck with lightning. He asked nothing for himself; but desires a passport to ensure the safety of those slothful disciples, who had been too careless to watch with him one hour. He rebukes Peter for using his sword, and kindly heals the officer whom he had wounded. "Then all his disciples forsook him, and fled."
Now let us follow our Lord from the garden, through the streets of Jerusalem, bound and hurried along, as if he had been a thief, from one part of the city to another first to the house of Annas, and then to the palace of Caiaphas, where, though it was night, the principal part of the Sanhedrim were met to receive their prisoner.
And here what horrid injustice reigned! So innocent was he, that his enemies were forced to contrive to forge the shadow of a charge against him. They could scarcely find any villians hardy enough, to come forward and accuse him. At length two witnesses arose, pretending that, three years before, he had talked about destroying the temple, and rebuilding it in three days. This foolish charge, founded on a gross perversion of his words, was deemed sufficient ground of accusation; and accordingly early in the morning, he was brought before the great council, and put upon his defence. But he thought proper to decline any vindication of himself before bloody men, who were determined to murder him. Thus "he was oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."
Being adjured by the High Priest to declare whether he was the Messiah, the Son of the blessed God, he affirmed it fully. These wretched hypocrites, taking the advantage of his confession, and pretending great concern for the honour of God, charged him with blasphemy, and immediately adjudged him to death. But of life and death was, in a great the as power measure, taken from them by the Romans, instead of putting him to death by stoning, they took him to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor; who at their request proceeded to his trial. Here, with malignant cunning, they charge him, not with blasphemy, but with sedition, refusing to pay tribute to Cæsar, and calling himself a king, in opposition to the emperor. Our Lord was still silent; at which Pilate was astonished. Pilate having examined him privately, was satisfied of his innocence, and wished to discharge him. But the Jews increased their vehemence against him, insisting upon it that he should be put to death. To which at length Pilate an unjust time-serving man, reluctantly consented.
Shocking were the insults which he endured at various times and places, from the officers of the priests and from the soldiers. He was mocked, buffeted, spit upon, blindfolded, crowned with thorns, and most severely scourged. But thus was the Scripture fulfilled; for it is remarkable that every particular part of his sufferings was predicted long before by the pro phets; and thus, under the influence of their own wicked passions, they, unwittingly, accomplished the divine decrees, "for to do whatsoever his hand and counsel determined before to be done." Acts iv. 27.
And now they speedily proceed to the execution of the unjust and bloody sentence. And he, bearing his cross, went forth to a place called Golgotha, or the place of a skull, for there the bodies of many criminals were buried. O how different a procession was this from one which had passed the streets a few days before! Then the multitude welcomed him into the city, shouting Hosanna!-now they hasten his death as a malefactor, crying "Away with him, crucify him." So little is popular applause to be regarded. A few, indeed, sympathize with our suffering Lord; but he, affected more with their future woe than with his own present suffering, says,-"Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children."
Fatigued, and ready to faint with pain, loss of blood, and the weight of the cross, which he carried upon his bleeding shoulders, Cymon, a stranger, is compelled to bear it for him. At length they arrive at the place : it was "without the city," in answer to the types of old; which required that the sin offerings should be made without the camp; and as an example to us, that we should be willing to follow him " without the camp bearing his reproach." The cross, being laid upon the ground, the sacred body of our Lord, now stripped of his garments, is laid upon it stretched as upon a rack, and fastened to it with large spike nails, cruelly driven through his hands and his feet.
The cross was then drawn upright, its foot being placed in a hole dug for the pupose ;-there our Lord hangs; the whole weight of his blessed body bearing upon the wounded parts of it. Not content with the corporeal pains he endured, the cruel people endeavoured to aggravate them by bitter taunts and reproaches. They amused themselves with his misery; they ridiculed his pretending to be the Son of God, and the King of Israel; his rebuilding the temple. They bid him "come down from the cross," and then they would believe on him: they tell him "to save himself," if he could save others. And in all this, the chief priests and scribes, forgetting their dignity, joined the unthinking rabble.
Thus" it behoved Christ to suffer;" and thus the "scriptures were fulfilled." Thus was he " lifted up," like his type, the brazen serpent, in the wilderness. He was cut off, but not for himself," as Daniel predicted. They pierced his hands and his feet," as said the Psalmist: he was "mocked, scourged and crucified," as himself had before declared: " they cast lots for his garments," and "he was numbered with the transgressors."
In this painful situation our Lord continued for several hours; for it was a slow, lingering, and extremely painful kind of death: it was also shameful in the highest degree;-a gallows, and a gibbet are not names of greater infamy among us, than that of the cross then was. It was also deemed an accursed death. By the law of Moses, a person hanged upon a tree, was deemed accursed of God. Alluding to this, St. Paul says, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us."-Gal. iii. 13.
Our Lord, who, when at large, went about doing good, continued to manifest his benevolence, even upon the cross. He prays for his unfeeling murderers :Father, forgive them, they know not what they do."