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Fourthly, The object of this offering of Christ. He to whom he offered up prayers and supplications, is expressed and described. And this was και δυναμενος σωζειν αυτον εκ θανατε, • he that was able to save him from death,' that had power so to do. It is God who is intended, whom the apostle describes by this periphrasis, for the reasons that shall be mentioned. He calls him neither God, nor the Father of Christ, although the Lord Jesus in the prayers intended, calls on him by both those names. So in the garden he calls him Father, « Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,” Luke xxii. 42. And on the cross he called him God, “ My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?” Mat. xxvii. 48. And Father, again, in the resignation of his life and soul into his hands, Luke xxiii. 46. But in the reporting of these things our apostle waveth these expressions, and only describeth God as “ he who was able to save him from death.” Now this he doth, io manifest the consideration that the Lord Christ at that time had of God, of death, and of the causes, consequents, and effects of it. For his design is to de. clare what was the reason of the frame of the soul of Christ, in his suffering and offering before described, and what were the causes thereof.
1. In general, God is proposed as the object of the actings of Christ's soul in this offering of himself, as he who had all power in his hand to order all his present concerns. " To him who was able.” Ability or power is either natural or moral. Natural power is strength and active efficiency, in God omnipotency. Moral power is right and authority, in God absolute sovereignty. And the Lord Christ had respect to the ability or power of God in both these senses. In the first, as that which he relied on for deliverance. In the latter, as that which he submitted him. self to. The former was the object of his faith, namely, that God by the greatness of his power could support and deliver him, in and under his trial. The latter was the object of his fear, as to the dreadful work which he had undertaken. Now because our apostle is on the description of that frame of heart, and those actings of soul, wherewith our high Priest offered himself for us to God, which was with prayers and supplications, accompanied with strong cries and tears, I shall consider, from these words three things, considering the power or ability of God principally in the latter way.
1. What were the general causes of the state and condition, wherein the Lord Christ is here described by our apostle, and of the actings ascribed to him therein.
2. What were the immediate effects of the sufferings of the Lord Christ in and on his own soul.
3. What limitations are to be assigned to them from all which it will appear, why and wherefore he offered up his prayers
and supplications to him who was “ able to save him from death," wherein a fear of it is included, on the account of the righteous authority of God, as well as a faith of deliverance from it, on the account of his omnipotent power.
First, The general causes of his state and condition, with his actings therein, were included in that consideration and prospect which he then had of God, death and himself, or the effects of death on him.
1. He considered God at that instant, as the supreme Rector and Judge of all; the Author of the law, and the avenger of it; who had power of life and death, as the one was to be destroyed, and the other inflicted, according to the curse and sentence of the law. Under this notion he now considered God, and that as actually putting the law in execution, having power and authority to give up to the sting of it, or to save from it. God represented himself to himn first, as armed and attended with infinite holiness, righteousness and severity, as one that would not pass by sin, nor acquit the guilty; and then as accompanied with supreme or sovereign authority over him, the law, life and death. And it is of great importance under what notion we consider God, when we make our approaches to him. The whole frame of our souls, as to fear or confidence, will be regulated thereby.
2. He considered death not naturally, as a separation of soul and body, nor yet merely as a painful separation of them, such as was that death which in particular he was to undergo; but he looked on it as the curse of the law, due to sin, inflicted by God, as a just and righteous judge. Hence in and under it, he himself is said to be “ made a curse,” Gal. iii. 13. This curse was now coming on him as the sponsor or surety of the new covenant. For although he considered himself, and the effects of things on himself, yet he offered up these prayers as our sponsor, that the work of mediation which he had undertaken, might have a good and blessed issue.
From hence may we take a view of that frame of soul, which our Lord Jesus Christ was in, when he offered up prayers and supplications with strong cries and tears, considering God as he who had authority over the law, and the sentence of it, that was to be inflicted on bim. Some have thought that on the confidence of the indissolubleness of his person, and the actual assurance which they suppose he always had of the love of God, his sufferings could have no effect of fear, sorrow, trouble, or perplexity on his soul, but only what respected the natural enduring of pain and shame, which he was exposed to. But the Scripture gives another account of these things. It informs us that he “ began to be afraid,” and 6 sore amazed,” that “ his soul was heavy and sorrowful to death,” that he was “ in an agony,” and afterwards cried out, “ My God, my God, why hast thou
forsaken me?" under a sense of divine dereliction. There was indeed a mighty acting of love in God towards us, in the giving up of his Son to death for us, as to his gracious ends and purposes thereby to be accomplished. And his so doing is constantly in the Scripture reckoned on the score of love. And there was always in him, a great love to the person of his Son, and an ineffable complacency in the obedience of Christ, especially that which he exercised in his suffering. But yet the curse and punishment which he underwent, was an effect of vindictive justice, and as such did he look on it, and conflict with it. I shall not enter into the debates of those expressions which have been controverted about the sufferings of Christ, as whether he underwent the death of the soul, the second death, the pains of hell. For it would cause a prolix digression, to show distinctly what is essential to these things, or purely penal in them, which alone he was subject to, and what necessarily follows a state and condition of personal sin and guilt, in them who undergo them, which he was absolutely free from. But this alone I shall say, which I have proved elsewhere, wliatever was due to us fron the justice of God and sentence of the law, that he underwent and suffered. This then was the cause in general of the state and condition of Christ here described, and of his actings therein expressed.
Secondly, The effects of his sufferings in himself, or his sufferings themselves, on this account, may be reduced in general to these two heads.
1. His dereliction. He was under a suspension of the comforting influences of his relation to God. His relation to God as his God and Father, was the fountain of all his comforts and joys. The sense hereof was now suspended. Hence was that part of his cry," My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” The supporting influences of this relation were continued, but the comforting influences of it were suspended, see Psal. xxii. 1-3., &c. And from hence he was filled with 6 heaviness and sorrow.” This the Evangelists fully express : he says of himself, that bis " soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death,” Mat. xxvi. 38. which expressions are emphatical, and declare a sorrow that is absolutely inexpressible. And this sorrow was the effect of his penal desertion. For sorrow is that which was the life of the curse of the law. So when God declared the nature of that curse to Adam and Eve, he tells them that he will give them « sorrow," and “ multiply their sorrow," Gen. iii. 16, 17. With this sorrow was Christ now filled, which put him on these strong cries and tears for relief. And this dereliction was possible, and proceeded from hence, in that all communications, from the divine nature to the human, beyond subsistence, were voluntary.
2. He had an intimate sense of the wrath and displeasure of
God, against the sin that was then imputed to him.
All our sins were then caused by an act of divine and supreme authority, to meet on him, “ God laid on him the iniquity of us all,” Isa. liii, 6. Even all our guilt was imputed to him, or none of the punishment due to our sins could have been justly inflicted on him. In this state of things, in that great hour, and wonderful transaction of divine wisdom, grace and righteousness, whereon the glory of God, the recovery of fallen man, with the utter condemnation of Satan depended, God was pleased for a while, as it were, to hold the scales of justice in equilibrio, that the turning of them might be more conspicuous, eminent and glorious. In the one scale, as it were, there was the weight of the first sin and apostasy from God, with all the consequents of it, covered with the sentence and curse of the law, with the exigence of vindictive justice ; a weight that all the angels of heaven could not stand under one moment. In the other were the obedience, holiness, righteousness and penal sufferings of the Son of God, all having weight and worth given to them by the dignity and worth of his divine person. Infinite justice kept these things for a season, as it were, at a poize, until the Son of God by his prayers, tears and supplications, prevailed to a glorious success in the delivery of himself and us.
Thirdly, Wherefore, as to the limitation of the effects of Christ's sufferings in and on himself, we may conclude in general, 1 That they were such only as are consistent with absolute purity, holiness, and freedom from the least appearance of sin. . 2. Not such as did in the least impeach the glorious union of his natures in the same person. Nor, 3. Such as took off from the dignity of his obedience, and merit of his sufferings, but were all necessary thereunto. But then, 4. As he anderwent whatever is or can be grievous, dolorous, afllictive and penal in the wrath of God, and sentence of the law executed; so these things really wrought in him sorrow, amazement, anguish, fear, dread, with the like penal effects of the pains of hell, from whence it was that he offered up « prayers and supplications, with strong cries and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death,” the event whereof is described in the last clause of the verse.
Και εισακεσθεις απο της ευλαβειας και 4 and was heard in that which he feared.” To be heard in Scripture signifies two things : 1. To be accepted in our requests, though the thing requested be not granted unto us. God will hear me, is as much as God will accept of me, is pleased with my supplication, Psal. lv. 17. xxii. 21. 2. To be answered in our request. To be heard, is to be deliv. ered. So is this expressed, Psal. xxii. 24. In the first way there is no doubt but that the Father always heard the Son, John xi. 42. always, in all things, accepted him, and was well pleased in him. But our inquiry is here, How far the Lord Christ was heard in the latter way, so heard as to be delivered from what he prayed against. Concerning this observe, that the prayers of Christ in this matter were of two sorts.
1. Hypothetical or conditional ; such was that prayer for the passing of the cup from him. Luke xxii. 42. “ Father, if thou wilt, let this cup pass from me.” And this prayer was nothing, but what was absolutely necessary unto the verity of human na. ture, in that state and condition. Christ could not have been a man, and not have had an extreme aversation to the things that were coming upon him. Nor had it been otherwise with him, could he properly have been said to suffer. For nothing is suffering, nor can be penal unto us, but what is grievous unto our nature, and what it is abhorrent of. This acting of the inclination of nature, both in his mind, will and affections, which in him were purely holy, our Saviour expresseth in that conditional prayer. And in this prayer he was thus answered. His mind was fortified against the dread and terror of nature, so as to come unto a perfect composure in the will of God. « Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.” He was heard herein, so far as he desired to be heard. For although he could not but desire deliverance from the whole as he was a man ; yet he desired it not absolutely, as he was wholly subjected to the will of God.
2. Absolute. The chief and principal supplications which he offered up to him who was able to save him from death were absolute, and in them he was absolutely heard and delivered. For upon the presentation of death unto him, as attended with the wrath and curse of God, he had deep and dreadful apprehensions of it, and of how unable the human nature was to undergo it, and prevail against it, if not mightily supported and carried through by the power of God. In this condition, it was part of his obedience, it was his duty to pray, that he might be delivered from the absolute prevalency of it; that he might not be cast in his trial, that he might not be confounded nor condemned. This he hoped, trusted, and believed, and therefore prayed absolutely for it, Isa. 1. 7, 8. And herein he was heard absolutely. For so it is said, “ he was heard," ato TNS kvad66.35.
The word here used, surcosist, is in a singular construction of speech, and is itself of various significations. Sometimes it is used for a religious reverence; but such as hath fear joined with it, that is, the fear of evil. Frequently it signifies fear itself, but such a fear, as is accompanied with a reverential care and holy circumspection. The word itself is but once more used in the New Testament, and that by our apostle, chap. xii. 28. where we well render it godly fear; suncons, the adjective is used three times, Luke ii. 25. Acts ii. 5. viii. 2. every where denoting a religious fear. Heb. xi. 7. we render the verb sucr9us, by . mov