No. 693-12:301. A Sermon Delivered on Sunday Evening, by C. H. Spurgeon, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
A place called Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:36)
1. Though I have taken only these few words for my text, I shall endeavour to bring the whole narrative before your mind’s eye. It is a part of the teaching of Holy Writ that man is a composite being; his nature being divisible into three parts—“spirit,” “soul,” and “body.” I am not going to draw any fine distinctions tonight between the spirit and the soul, or to analyze the connecting link between our immaterial life and consciousness and the physical condition of our nature and the materialism of the world around us. Suffice to say, that whenever our vital organisation is mentioned, this triple constitution is pretty sure to be referred to. If you notice it carefully, you will see in our Saviour’s sufferings on our behalf that the passion extended to his spirit, soul, and body; for although at the last extremity upon the cross it would be hard to tell in which respect he suffered most, all three being strained to the utmost, yet it is certain there were three distinct conflicts in accordance with this threefold endowment of humanity.
2. The first part of our Lord’s dolorous pain fell upon his spirit. This took place at the table, in that upper room where he ate the Passover with his disciples. Those of you who have read the narrative attentively, will have noticed these remarkable words in the thirteenth chapter of John: “When Jesus had thus said, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you shall betray me.’” (John 13:21) Of that silent conflict in the Saviour’s heart while he was sitting at the table no one was a spectator. Into any man’s spiritual apprehensions it would be beyond the power of any other creature to penetrate; how much less into the spiritual conflicts of the man Christ Jesus! No one could by any possibility have gazed upon these veiled mysteries. He seems to have sat there for a time like one in the deepest abstraction. He fought a mighty battle within himself. When Judas rose and went out it may have been a relief. The Saviour gave out a hymn as if to celebrate his conflict; then, rising up, he went out to the Mount of Olives. His discourse with his disciples there is recorded in that wonderful chapter, the fifteenth of John, so full of holy triumph, beginning thus, “I am the true vine.” He went to the agony in the same joyous spirit like a conqueror, and oh! how he prayed! That famous prayer, what a profound study it is for us! It ought, properly, to be called “The Lord’s Prayer.” The manner and the matter are equally impressive. “These words spoke Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour is come; glorify your Son, so that your Son also may glorify you.’” He seems to have been chanting a melodious paean just then at the thought that his first battle had been fought, that his spirit, which had been troubled, had risen superior to the conflict, and that he was already victorious in the first of the three terrible struggles. As soon as this had occurred there came another hour, and with it the power of darkness, in which not so much the spirit as the soul of our blessed Lord was to sustain the shock of the encounter. This took place in the garden. You know that after he had come out triumphant in this death struggle he went to the conflict more expressly in his body, undergoing in his physical nature the scourging, and the spitting, and the crucifixion; although in that third case there was a grief of spirit and an anguish of soul likewise, which mingled their tributary streams. We would counsel you to meditate upon each separately, according to the time and the circumstance in which the preeminence of any one of these is distinctly referred to.
3. This second conflict which we have now before us well deserves our most reverent attention. I think it has been much misunderstood. Possibly a few thoughts may be given to us tonight which shall clear away the mist from our understanding, and open some of the mystery to our hearts. It seems to me that the agony in the garden was a repetition of the temptation in the wilderness. These two contests with the prince of darkness have many points of exact correspondence. If carefully pondered, you may discover that there is a singular and striking connection between the triple temptation and the triple prayer. Having fought Satan at the first in the wilderness, on the threshold of his public ministry, our Lord now finds him at the last in the garden as he nears the termination of his mediatorial work on the earth. Keep in mind that it is the soul of Jesus of which we now have to speak, while I take up the individual points, offering a few brief words on each.
I. The PLACE OF CONFLICT has furnished the theme of so many
discourses that you can hardly expect anything new to be said upon
it. Let us, however, stir up your minds by way of remembrance. Jesus
went to the GARDEN, there to endure the conflict, because it was the
place of meditation. It seemed fitting that his mental conflict
should be carried on in the place where man is most at home in the
pensive musings of his mind—
The garden contemplation suits.
Since Jesus had been accustomed to indulge himself with midnight
reveries in the midst of those olive groves, he fitly chooses a place
sacred to the studies of the mind to be the place memorable for the
struggles of his soul—
In a garden man became
Heir of endless death and pain.
It was there the first Adam fell, and it was appropriate that there
The second Adam should restore
The ruins of the first.
He went to that particular garden, it strikes me, because it was within the boundaries of Jerusalem. He might have gone to Bethany that night as he had on former nights, but why did he not? Do you not know that it was according to the Levitical law that the Israelites should sleep within the boundaries of Jerusalem, on the Paschal night? When they came up to the temple to keep the Passover they must not go away until that Paschal night was over. So our Lord selected a rendezvous within the liberties of the city, so that he might not transgress even the slightest jot or tittle of the law. And again, he chose that garden, among others contiguous to Jerusalem, because Judas knew the place. He wanted retirement, but he did not want a place where he could skulk and hide himself. It was not for Christ to give himself up—that would be like suicide; but it was not for him to withdraw and hide himself—that would be like cowardice. So he goes to a place which he is quite sure that Judas, who was aware of his habits, knows he is accustomed to visit; and there, like one who, so far from being afraid to meet his death, pants for the baptism with which he is to be baptized, he awaits the crisis that he had so distinctly anticipated. “If they seek me,” he seemed to say, “I will be where they can readily find me, and lead me away.” Every time we walk in a garden I think we ought to remember the garden where the Saviour walked, and the sorrows that befell him there. Did he select a garden, I wonder, because we are all so fond of such places, thus linking our times of recreation with the most solemn mementoes of himself? Did he remember what forgetful creatures we are, and did he therefore let his blood fall upon the soil of a garden, so that as often as we dig and delve in it we might lift up our thoughts to him who fertilised earth’s soil, and delivered it from the curse by virtue of his own agony and griefs?
5. II. Our next thought shall be about the WITNESSES.
Christ’s spiritual suffering was altogether within the veil. As I
have said, no one could disclose or describe it. But his soul
sufferings had some witnesses. Not the rabble, not the multitude;
when they saw his bodily suffering, that was all they could
understand, therefore it was all they were permitted to see. Just so,
Jesus had often shown them the flesh as it were, or the carnal things
of his teaching, when he gave them a parable; but he had never shown
them the soul, the hidden life of his teaching, this he reserved for
his disciples. And thus it was in his passion; he let the Greek and
the Roman gather around in mockery, and see his flesh torn, and rent,
and bleeding, but he did not let them go into the garden with him to
witness his anguish or his prayer. Within that enclosure no one came
but the disciples. And notice, my brethren, not all the disciples
were there. There were a hundred and twenty of his disciples, at
least, if not more, but only eleven bore him company then. Those
eleven must cross that gloomy brook of Kidron with him, and eight of
them are left to keep the door, their faces towards the world, there
to sit and watch; only three go into the garden, and those three see
something of his sufferings; they behold him when the agony begins,
but still at a distance. He withdraws from them a stone’s cast, for
he must tread the winepress alone, and it is not possible that the
priestly sufferer should have a single companion in the offering
which he is to present to his God. At last it came to this, that
there was only one observer. The chosen three had fallen asleep,
God’s unsleeping eye alone looked down upon him. The Father’s ear
alone was attentive to the piteous cries of the Redeemer.
He knelt, the Saviour knelt and pray’d,
When but his Father’s eye
Look’d through the lonely garden’s shade
On that dread agony:
The Lord of all above, beneath,
Was bow’d with sorrow unto death!
Then there came an unexpected visitor. Amazement wrapped the sky, as
Christ was seen by angels to be sweating blood for us. “Give strength
to Christ,” the Father said as he addressed some strong winged spirit.
The astonish’d seraph bow’d his head,
And flew from worlds on high.
8. He stood to strengthen, not to fight, for Christ must fight alone; but applying some holy cordial, some sacred anointing to the oppressed Champion who was ready to faint, he, our great Deliverer, received strength from on high, and rose up to the last of his conflicts. Oh, my dear friends, does not all this teach us that the outside world knows nothing about Christ’s soul sufferings? They draw a picture of him; they carve a piece of wood or ivory, but they do not know his soul sufferings; they cannot enter into them. Indeed, even the mass of his own people do not know them, for they are not made conformable to those sufferings by a spiritual fellowship. We do not have that keen sense of mental things to sympathise with such grievings as he had, and even the favoured ones, the three, the elect out of the elect, who have the most spiritual graces and who have therefore the most suffering to endure, and the most depression of spirits, even they cannot pry into the fulness of the mystery. Only God knows the soul anguish of the Saviour when he sweat great drops of blood; angels saw it, but yet they did not understand it. They must have wondered more when they saw the Lord of life and glory sorrowful with exceeding sorrowfulness, even to death, than when they saw this round world spring into beautiful existence from nothingness, or when they saw Jehovah garnish the heavens with his Spirit, and with his hand form the crooked serpent. Brethren, we cannot expect to know the length and breadth and height of these things, but as our own experience deepens and darkens we shall know more and more of what Christ suffered in the garden.
9. III. Having thus spoken about the place and the witnesses, let us say a little concerning THE CUP ITSELF.
10. What was this “cup” about which our Saviour prayed—“If it is possible let this cup pass from me?” Some of us may have entertained the notion that Christ desired, if possible, to escape from the pangs of death. You may conjecture that, although he had undertaken to redeem his people, yet his human nature flinched and recoiled at the perilous hour. I have thought so myself in times past, but on more mature consideration, I am fully persuaded that such a supposition would reflect a dishonour upon the Saviour. I do not consider that the expression “this cup” refers to death at all. Nor do I imagine that the dear Saviour meant for a single moment to express even a particle of desire to escape from the pangs, which were necessary for our redemption. This “cup,” it appears to me, relates to something altogether different—not to the last conflict, but to the conflict in which he was then engaged. If you study the words—and especially the Greek words—which are used by the various evangelists, I think you will find that they all tend to suggest and confirm this view of the subject. The Saviour’s spirit having been vexed and having triumphed, there was next an attack made by the Evil Spirit upon his mental nature, and this mental nature became as a result most horribly despondent and cast down. Just as when on the pinnacle of the temple the Saviour felt the fear of falling, so when in the garden he felt a sinking of soul, an awful despondency, and he began to be very heavy. The cup, then, which he desired to pass from him was, I believe, that cup of despondency, and nothing more. I am the more disposed so to interpret it, because not a single word recorded by any of the four evangelists seems to exhibit the slightest wavering on the part of our Saviour concerning offering himself up as an atoning sacrifice. Their testimony is frequent and conclusive: “He set his face to go towards Jerusalem”; “I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how I am constrained until it is accomplished”; “The Son of Man goes, as it is written of him.” You never hear a sentence of reluctance or hesitancy. It does not seem to be consistent with the character of our blessed Lord, even as man, to suppose that he desired that final cup of his sufferings to pass away from him at all.
Moreover, there is this, which I take to be a strong argument. The
apostle tells us that he was “heard in that he feared.” Now, if he
feared to die, he was not heard, for he did die. If he feared to bear
the wrath of God, or the weight of human sin, and really desired to
escape from it, then he was not heard, for he did feel the weight of
sin, and he did suffer the weight of his Father’s vindictive wrath.
Thus it appears to me that what he feared was that dreadful
depression of mind which had suddenly come upon him, so that his
soul was very heavy. He prayed his Father that that cup might pass
away; and so it did, for I do not see in all the Saviour’s griefs
afterwards that singular overwhelming depression he endured when in
the garden. He suffered much in Pilate’s hall, he suffered much upon
the tree; but there was, I was almost about to say, a bold
cheerfulness about him even to the last, when for the joy that was
set before him he endured the cross; yes, when he cried, “I thirst,”
and, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I think I notice a
holy force and vigour about the words and thoughts of the sufferer
which the weak and trembling state of his body could not extinguish.
The language of that twenty-second Psalm, which seems to have struck
the keynote, if I may so speak, of his devotion on the cross, is full
of faith and confidence. If the first verse contains the bitterest of
woe, the twenty-first verse changes the plaintive strain. “You have
heard (or answered) me” marks a transition from suffering to
satisfaction which it is delightful to dwell upon. Now, perhaps some
of you may think, that if this cup only meant depression of the
spirits and dismay of the soul it was nothing of much moment or
significance, or at least it weakens the spell of those unusual words
and deeds which twine around Gethsemane. Permit me to beg your
pardon. Personally I know that there is nothing on earth that the
human frame can suffer to be compared with despondency and
prostration of mind. Such is the dolefulness and gloom of a heavy
soul, yes, a soul exceedingly heavy even to death, that I could
imagine the pangs of dissolution to be lighter. In our last hour
joy may light up the heart, and the sunshine of heaven within may
bear up the soul when all else is dark. But when the iron enters into
a man’s soul, he is unmanned indeed. In the cheerlessness of such
exhausted spirits the mind is confounded; I can well understand the
saying that is written, “I am a worm and no man,” of one who is a
prey to such melancholy. Oh that cup! When there is not a promise
that can give you comfort, when everything in the world looks dark,
when your very mercies frighten you, and rise like hideous spectres
and portents of evil before your view, when you are like the brothers
of Benjamin as they opened the sacks and found the money, but instead
of being comforted by this said, “What is this that God has done to
us?” when everything looks black, and you seem, through some morbid
sensitiveness into which you have fallen, to distort every object and
every circumstance into a dismal caricature, let me say to you, that
for us poor sinful men this is a cup more horrible than any which
inquisitors could mix. I can imagine Anne Askew (a) on the rack,
braving it out, like the bold woman she was, facing all her accusers,
I am not she that lyst
My anchor to let fall;
For euery dryzzling myst
My ship’s substantiall,
but I cannot think of a man in the soul sickness of such depression of spirits as I am referring to, finding in thought or song a palliative for his woe. When God touches the very secret of a man’s soul, and his spirit gives way, he cannot bear up very long; and this seems to me to have been the cup which the Saviour had to drink just then, from which he prayed to be delivered, and concerning which he was heard.
Consider for a moment what he had to depress his soul. Everything, my
brethren, everything was draped in gloom, and overcast with darkness
that might be felt. There was the past. Putting it as I think he
would look at it, his life had been unsuccessful. He could say with
Isaiah, “Who has believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the
Lord revealed?” “He came to his own, and his own did not receive
him.” And how poor was that little success he did have! There were
his twelve disciples; one of them he knew to be on the way to betray
him; eight of them were asleep at the entrance to the garden, and
three asleep within the garden! He knew that they would all forsake
him, and one of them would deny him with oaths and curses! What was
there to comfort him? When a man’s spirit sinks he wants a cheerful
companion; he wants someone to talk to him. Was this not felt by the
Saviour? Did he not go three times to his disciples? He knew they
were only men; but then a man can comfort a man in such a time as
that. The sight of a friendly face may cheer one’s own countenance,
and enliven one’s heart. But he had to shake them from their
slumbers, and then they stared at him with unmeaning gaze. Did he not
return back again to prayer because there was no eye to pity, and no
one who could help? He found no relief. Half a word sometimes, or
even a smile, even though it is only from a child, will help you when
you are sad and prostrate. But Christ could not get even that. He had
to rebuke them almost bitterly. Is there not a tone of irony about
his remonstrance? “Sleep on now and take your rest.” He was not
angry, but he did feel it. When a man is low spirited he feels more
keenly and acutely than at other times; and although the splendid
charity of our Lord made that excuse—“The spirit is willing but the
flesh is weak,” yet it did cut him to the heart, and he had an
anguish of soul like what Joseph felt when he was sold into Egypt by
his brothers. You will see, then, that both the past and the present
were sufficient to depress him to the greatest degree. But there was
the future; and as he looked forward to that, devoted as his
heart was, and unfaltering as was the courage of his soul (for it
would be sacrilege and slander I think to impute even a thought of
flinching to him), yet his human heart quailed; he seemed to
think—“Oh! how shall I bear it?” The mind recoiled from the shame,
and the body recoiled from the pain, and the soul and body both
recoiled from the thought of death, and of death in such an
He proved them all—the doubt, the strife,
The faint, perplexing dread;
The mists that hang o’er parting life
All gathered round his head:
That he who gave man’s breath might know
The very depths of human woe.
Brethren, none of us have such cause for depression as the Saviour had. We do not have his load to carry; and we have a helper to help us whom he did not have, for God who forsook him will never forsake us. Our soul may be cast down within us, but we can never have such great reason for it, nor can we ever know it to so great an extent as our dear Redeemer did. I wish I could picture to you that lovely man, friendless like a stag at bay, with the dogs encompassing him all around, and the assembly of the wicked enclosing him; foreseeing every incident of his passion, even to the piercing of his hands and his feet, the parting of his garments, and the lots cast upon his vesture, and anticipating that last death sweat without a drop of water to cool his lips! I can only conceive that his soul must have felt within itself a solemn trembling, such as might well make him say, “I am exceedingly sorrowful even to death.”
13. This, then, seems to me to be the cup which our Lord Jesus Christ desired to have passed from him, and which did pass from him in due time.
14. IV. Advancing a little further, I want you to think of the AGONY.
We have been accustomed to describe this scene in the garden using
this word. You all know that it is a word which means “wrestling.”
Now, there is no wrestling where there is only one individual. To
this agony, therefore, there must have been two parties. Were there
not, however, mystically speaking, two parties in Christ? What do I
see in this King of Sharon but, as it were, two armies? There was the
stern resolve to do all, and to accomplish the work which he had
undertaken; and there was the mental weakness and depression which
seemed to say to him, “You cannot; you will never accomplish it.”
“Our fathers trusted in you, and you delivered them. They cried to
you and were delivered; they trusted in you and were not confounded”;
“but I am a worm and no man, a reproach of men, and despised by the
people”; so that the two thoughts come into conflict—the shrinking of
the soul, and yet the determination of his invincible will to go on
with it, and to work it out. He was in an agony in that struggle
between the overwhelming fear of his mind and the noble eagerness of
his spirit. I think, too, that Satan afflicted him; that the powers
of darkness were permitted to use their utmost craft in order to
drive the Saviour to absolute despair. One expression used to depict
it I will handle very delicately; a word that, in its rougher sense,
means, and has been applied to, people out of their mind and bereft
for awhile of reason. The term used concerning the Saviour in
Gethsemane can only be interpreted by a word equivalent to our
“distracted.” He was like one bewildered with an overwhelming weight
of anxiety and terror. But his divine nature awakened up his
spiritual faculties and his mental energy to display their full
power. His faith resisted the temptation to unbelief. The heavenly
goodness that was within him so mightily contended with the Satanic
suggestions and insinuations which were thrown in his way that it
came to a wrestling. I should like you to catch the idea of
wrestling, as though you saw two men trying to throw one another,
struggling together until the muscles stand out and the veins start
like whip cord on their brows. That would be a fearful spectacle when
two men in desperate wrath thus close in with each other. But the
Saviour was so wrestling with the powers of darkness, and he grappled
with such terrible earnestness in the fray that he sweat, as it were,
great drops of blood:—
The powers of hell united prest,
And squeezed his heart, and bruised his breast,
What dreadful conflicts raged within.
When sweat and blood forced through his skin!
16. Observe the way in which Christ conducted the agony. It was by prayer. He turned to his Father three times with the very same words. It is an indication of distraction when you repeat yourself. Three times with the very same words he approached his God—“My Father, let this cup pass from me.” Prayer is the great panacea for depression of spirit. “When my spirit is overwhelmed within me, I will look to the rock that is higher than I.” There will be a breaking up altogether, and a bursting of spirit, unless you pull up the sluices of supplication, and let the soul flow out in secret communion with God. If we would state our griefs to God they would not fret and fume within, and wear out our patience as they are sometimes accustomed to do. In connection with the agony and the prayer there seems to have been a bloody sweat. It has been thought by some that the passage only means that the sweat was like drops of blood; but then the word “like,” is used in Scripture to mean not merely resemblance but the identical thing itself. We believe that the Saviour did sweat from his entire person, great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Such an occurrence is very rare indeed among men. It has happened a few times. Books of surgery record a few instances, but I believe that the people who under some horrifying grief experience such a sweat never recover; they have always died. Our Saviour’s anguish had this peculiarity about it, that although he sweat as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground, so copiously as if in a crimson shower, yet he survived. His blood must needs be shed by the hands of others, and his soul poured out to death in another form. Remembering the doom of sinful man—that he should eat his bread in the sweat of his face, we see the penalty of sin exacted in awful measure by him who stood as surety for sinners. As we eat bread today at the table of the Lord we commemorate the drops of blood that he sweat. With the perspirings on his face, and huge drops on his brow man toils for the bread that perishes; but bread is only the staff of life: when Christ toiled for life itself to give it to men he sweat, not the common perspiration of the outward form, but the blood which flows from the very heart itself.
Oh that I had words to bring all this before you. I want to make you
see it; I want to make you feel it. The heavenly Lover who had
nothing to gain except to redeem our souls from sin and Satan, and to
win our hearts for himself, leaves the shining courts of his eternal
glory and comes down as a man, poor, feeble, and despised. He is so
depressed at the thought of what is yet to be done and suffered, and
under such pressure of Satanic influence, that he sweat drops of
blood, falling upon the cold frosty soil in that moonlit garden. Oh
the love of Jesus! Oh the weight of sin! Oh the debt of gratitude
which you and I owe to him!
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
18. V. We must proceed with the rich narrative to meditate upon our SAVIOUR CONQUERING.
19. Our imagination is slow to fix upon this precious feature of the dolorous history. Although he had said, “If it is possible let this cup pass from me”; yet presently we observe how tranquil and calm he is after he rises up from that scene of prostrate devotion! He remarks, as though it were in an ordinary tone of voice he announced some expected circumstance,—“He is at hand who shall betray me; rise, let us be going.” There is no distraction now, no hurry, no turmoil, no exceeding sorrow even to death. Judas comes, and Jesus says, “Friend, why are you come?” You would hardly know him to be the same man who was so sorrowful just now. One word with an emanation of his Deity suffices to make all the soldiers fall backwards. Immediately he turns around and touches the ear of the high priest’s servant, and heals it as in happier days he was accustomed to heal the diseases and the wounds of the people who flocked around him in his journeys. Away he goes, so calm and collected that unjust accusations cannot extort a reply from him; and although beset on every hand yet is he led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he does not open his mouth. That was a magnificent calmness of mind that sealed his lips, and kept him passive before his foes. You and I could not have done it. It must have been a deep profound peace within which enabled him to be thus mute and still amidst the hoarse murmur of the council and the boisterous tumult of the multitude. I believe that having fought the enemy within, he had achieved a splendid victory; he was heard in that he feared, and was now able in the fulness of his strength to go out to the last tremendous conflict in which he met the embattled hosts of earth and hell; and yet unabashed after he had encountered them all, to wave the banner of triumph, and to say, “It is finished.”
20. VI. Let us ask in drawing to a conclusion, WHAT THEN IS THE LESSON FROM ALL THIS?
21. I think I could draw out twenty lessons, but if I did they would not be so good and profitable as the one lesson which the Saviour draws himself. What was the lesson, which he particularly taught to his disciples? Now, Peter, and James, and John, open your ears; and you, Magdalene, and you, Mary, and you, the wife of Herod’s steward, and other gracious women, listen for the inference which I am going to draw. It is not mine; it is that of our Lord and Master himself. With how much heed should we treasure it up! “What I say to you I say to all, ‘Watch.’” “Watch”; and yet again, “Watch and pray lest you enter into temptation.” I have been turning this over in my mind trying to understand the connection. Why on this particular occasion should he exhort them to watch? It strikes me that there were two kinds of watching. Did you notice that there were eight disciples at the garden gate? They were watching, or ought to have been; and three were inside the garden; they were watching, or ought to have been. But they watched differently. Which way were the eight looking? It strikes me that they were placed there to look outwards, to watch lest Christ should be surprised by those who would attack him. That was the reason of their being stationed there? The other three were placed to watch his actions and his words; to look at the Saviour and see if they could help, or cheer, or encourage him. Now, you and I have reason to look both ways, and the Saviour seems to say as we look upon the agony—“You will have to feel something like this, therefore watch”; watch outwards; be always on your watchtower, lest sin surprise you. It is through trespasses that you will be brought into this agony; it is by giving Satan an advantage over you that the sorrows of your soul will be multiplied. If your foot slips your heart will become the prey of gloom. If you neglect communion with Jesus, if you grow cold or lukewarm in your affections, if you do not live up to your privileges, you will become the prey of darkness, dejection, discouragement, and despair; therefore, watch, lest you enter upon this great and terrible temptation. Satan cannot bring strong faith, when it is in healthy exercise, into such a state of desolation. When your faith declines and your love grows negligent, and your hope is inanimate, then he can bring you into such disconsolate heaviness that you do not see your signs, nor know whether you are a believer or not. You will not be able to say, “My Father,” for your soul will doubt whether you are a child of God at all. When the ways of Zion mourn, the harps of the sons and daughters of Zion are unstrung. Therefore, keep good watch, you who like the eight disciples are charged as sentinels at the threshold of the garden.
But you three, watch inward. Look at Christ. “Consider him who
endured such opposition of sinners against himself.” Watch the
Saviour, and watch with the Saviour. Brothers and sisters, I should
like to speak this to you so emphatically that you would never forget
it. Be familiar with the passion of your Lord. Get right up to the
cross. Do not be satisfied with that, but get the cross on your
shoulders; get yourself bound to the cross in the spirit of the
apostle when he said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I
live.” I do not know that I have had sweeter work to do for a long
time than when a few weeks ago I was looking over all the hymn
writers and all the poets I knew of for hymns upon the passion of the
Lord. I tried to enjoy them as I selected them, and to get into the
vein in which the poets were when they sang them. Believe me, there
is no fount that yields such sweet water as the fount that springs
from Calvary just at the foot of the cross. Here it is that there is
a sight to be seen more astounding and more ravishing than even from
the top of Pisgah. Get into the side of Christ; if is a cleft of the
rock in which you may hide until the tempest is passed over. Live in
Christ; live near to Christ; and then, let the conflict come, and you
will overcome even as he overcame, and rising up from your sweat and
from your agony you will go out to meet even death itself with a calm
expression on your brow, saying, “My Father, not as I will, but as
My God, I love thee; not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
Nor because they who love thee not
Must burn eternally.
Thou, oh my Jesus, thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace;
And griefs and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
Yea, death itself—and all for me
Who was thine enemy.
Then why, oh blessed Jesus Christ,
Should I not love thee well?
Not for the hope of winning heaven,
Nor of escaping hell;
Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Nor seeking a reward,
But as thyself hast loved me,
Oh ever loving Lord.
E’en so I love thee, and will love,
And in thy praise will sing;
Because thou art my loving God,
And my Eternal King.
I hope that this meditation may be profitable to some tried
Christians, and even to impenitent sinners as well. Oh that the
pictures I have been trying to draw might be seen by some who will
come and trust in this wondrous man, this wondrous God, who saves all
who trust in him. Oh, rest on him! “Though your sins are as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson,
they shall be as wool.” Only trust him, and you are saved. I do not
say you shall be saved another day, but you are saved tonight. The
sin which was on your shoulder heavy as a burden when you came into
this house shall all be gone. Look now to him in the garden, on the
cross, and on the throne. Trust him; trust him; trust him now; trust
him only; trust him wholly;
Let no other trust intrude;
None but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good.
24. May the Lord bless you, every one in this assembly, and at the table may you have his presence. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon—Matthew 26:36-56]
(a) Anne Askew: (1520/1521-July 16, 1546) was an English poet and Protestant who was persecuted as a heretic. She is the only woman on record to have been tortured in the Tower of London before being burnt at the stake. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Askew"