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a more decisive expression ; "he spoke the more vehemently, if I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in
wise.” His Lord did not reply any more; he beheld no doubt with grief his vain confidence; but nothing at present could weaken it, and He left him to be convinced by the event.
Now, my brethren, if we could be sure of man, we might be sure of this sincere, honest hearted, and devoted Apostle; for there is not the least doubt that he felt and meant all that he said ; and why should he deny his Lord ? He had already forsaken all, and followed Him; he had left his home, his friends, his property, his occupation, to attend constantly on Him, whom he knew to be the Messiah; he had seen already that it was a service of danger, for many times had his master's life been sought, and his companions must have shared in the persecution ; but still he had not hitherto been deterred by fear, nor corrupted by example; though many had gone back, yet when he and the rest were asked, whether they also would go away ? he had justly enquired, Lord, to whom shall we go ? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” What cause therefore was there for apprehension, that he would deny Him more now than on any former occasion ? How was there greater danger in the service, or less force in the reasons which had persuaded him to engage in it ? Every thing appears to be in his favour; he is very resolute, very zealous, very affectionate, fully convinced of the divine mission of his Master, and persuaded that his attachment will ultimately be rewarded : besides, he has made such solemn protestations of his fidelity; his own vows and resolutions will surely bind him; how can he break them without utter shame and disgrace to himself? No, he has gone too far to recede; he is more firmly resolved, than to depart from his purpose-above all, so soon! this very night, before the cock crows !—it is impossible; it could only have been said to prove his affection; he will set a noble example of constancy and courage, although others should be faint-hearted and irresolute; in such a cause death itself has no terrors for him—so strong does he feel in himself; and no man can have better reason for confidence in his own strength. But greater had been his security, had he been conscious of weakness; then perhaps he would have sought to be “strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might;” now he must fight the battle alone; it is his own choice; let us see the issue.
Arrived at the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus bids His.disciples to wait at a certain place, while He himself goes a little further, that he may
be more retired in his devotion. But He selects three of them to accompany him : and who are these favoured persons ? Peter and James and John; they had several times been distinguished above the rest for the honour of a closer attendance upon him; but there was a particular reason for it now; the two sons of Zebedee had professed that they were “ able to drink of the cup” which He should drink of, and He wished to show them by a nearer view, for what a bitter cup they must prepare, as well as the best method of preparing for it. Peter also, as you have seen, , greatly needed instruction how to behave on the approach of severe trials, and how to fortify himself for the endurance of them. they must not intrude too near into the privacy of His mysterious agony; they are only allowed to behold it at a distance, lest perhaps they should be altogether disheartened, and overwhelmed, by the spectacle of such deep affliction --for he“ began to be sorrowful and very heavy." Then saith He unto them, “my soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death ; tarry ye here, and watch with me.” Having given them this command, “He went a little further,” “as it were
about a stone's cast," “ and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” “And being in an agony, He prayed the more earnestly, and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground.” Such was the conduct of Christ; although His hour was now come, although He knew full well what was prepared for Him, and must have felt assured that he should triumphantly accomplish the work which he had left Heaven to undertake, yet as man he expresses fears, he shrinks from the prospect, he prays for help, he resigns himself to the will of God. What a lesson to us, not to be presumptuous in our own strength and fortitude, not to think that we stand securely, but to “take heed lest we fall;" not to be puffed up with vain confidence, but to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling! But how were the three disciples engaged in the mean time? Did they attend to his admonition, or follow his example? Did they share with him in his watchfulness, in his prayers, in his agony ? How much greater need had they to pray, either that they might not be exposed to danger, or that they might be supported under it! But they had defied it, and thought themselves equal to sustain it without assistance; their own resolution and strength were sufficient; so far from praying, they could not even “ watch,” He cometh unto them, and findeth them asleep;" foolish men ! Satan had not in vain desired to have them, that he might “sift them as wheat;" he had gained an advantage of them.
But Christ had more care for them, than they for themselves : He would not leave them without another warning; He rouses them from their dangerous slumber, and addressing himself particularly to Peter, thus gently rebukes them ; “What, could ye not watch with me one hour? watch, and pray, that ye enter not into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” But all in vain; a second and a third time he withdraws to pray, and a second and a third time he returns and finds them still sleeping. And now it is too late; the opportunity is past ; they may sleep for the moment that remains, for it is but a moment, there is no time for prayer, even if they were disposed. While he is yet speaking, the traitor and his band arrive, and he, strengthened by prayer to undergo the fate that is prepared for him, though he might have escaped as heretofore from their hands, or have summoned twelve Legions of Angels to his defence, voluntarily yields himself up, a patient and unresisting victim,