Page images

intimate converse with God. His sublime visions of inspiration, and those 'burning thoughts' which stretched far into eternity, which dwelt on objects beyond and above this world; all these must be locked up in his own bosom, for no human friend could partake of them; no human eye could trace the path over which his lofty mind ranged; no other human spirit could enter into these high communings.

As the son and messenger of God, he doubtless had joys which the world feels not; "he had meat to eat which we know not of.' But still his official elevation and duty necessarily cut him off from the perfect fellowship of his kind-from the charities of home, from the sympathies of domestic affection, from that pure and quiet stream of joy, which flows around the hallowed spot to which domestic ties have bound the human heart. Yes, his very greatness deprived him of the social happiness which common men most covet; it made him incapable of consolation from the sympathy of others, while he was painfully alive to all their misery in the present life, and all their danger from the fuWell then might our blessed Saviour's life be one of sadness, for he was a lonely stranger in the world he came to save and bless. His home was not here; his happiness was not here; his kingdom was not here. He had absolutely no earthly interest of his



Such we may suppose was the habitual tone of his mind-tender, pensive, and inclined to sadness.

In the second place, we may inquire how a temper,

such as I have imperfectly described, was likely to be affected by the circumstances in which he stood and the events which he saw crowding upon him on that dreadful night. It was a time of darkness and dismay. His enemies, led on by the traitor Judas, were coming to break in upon the sacred privacy of his devotions, and lay rude and violent hands on his person. They had long persecuted and hunted down as a felon this purest, sublimest being that ever visited the abodes of man, and now, to fill up the measure of their atrocity, they were about to drag him away to a mock trial and an infamous execution, amidst shout and insult from a misguided populace.

And this must be the end of his toils, the dark close of his earthly ministry. As the promised Messiah, he had come with a dispensation of pardon and life to his fellow men. He had come to establish his kingdom on earth; the reign of righteousness and peace and joy in a holy spirit. Was this kingdom established? How had heaven's own messenger been received? Alas, his own countrymen, in full view of his miracles, had rejected him with scorn and rage. Had he then labored in vain? Had his untiring patience and toil and suffering produced no fruit to cheer his last departing hour?

He had not indeed labored in vain; yet it was his destiny to see but little fruit of his labors during his own life. It was the will of God that his kingdom should not be fully established till after his death. Hence he had seldom enjoyed the happiness of imme

diate and visible success. His converts had been few, and these mean and low in their outward condition. His ministry was now at an end, and he had the pain which every good mind must feel when nearly all attempts to benefit mankind have been rudely opposed and frustrated by human perverseness. He was certainly far above all vulgar and unworthy ambition. He was willing to waive all claim to personal distinction. Still as the kind benefactor of men, he severely felt the want of that joy, which results from successful efforts to promote their salvation. The dark and sad hour was now at hand, when he was to leave his blessed work which had been cheered by so few instances of success; and his countrymen, whom he earnestly wished to save— over whom he had wept in the anguish of his soul-must perish in their obduracy.

And there is no doubt that the bitterness of the cup, which he so earnestly prayed to have removed, was aggravated by the base ingratitude of one, and the criminal fears of all his disciples. They had not yet caught the martyr's spirit which was afterwards kindled up at his own cross. He knew that they would desert him at the last extremity; and possessing a generous sensibility, it was severely painful to him to know, that in a world, for which he had lived and was about to die, he should not find one sympathising friend to sustain his sinking spirit, or soothe his dying agonies.

To these feelings of despondency, so natural in one of like passions with ourselves, we may add the

horrors of that particular death to which he was hastening. We have at this distant period no distinct idea of the terrors of this cruel mode of execution. The cross is to us the hallowed symbol of salvation. It is associated in our minds with all we love and revere in Christ, and all that we hope in the promises of his revelation. The shame of the cross is taken away. We glory in it-we cannot connect with it ideas of reproach, infamy, and intense suffering. It was not so at that time. The cross was reserved for the ignominy and torture of the vilest criminals only. The living victim was stretched on the timbers, with spikes rudely driven through his quivering members, and thus left to die in long and lingering agony, the scorn and derision of each unfeeling passer by.

It may be thought strange that this exalted being, who with the majesty of God's own representative had declared 'I am the resurrection and the life,' should be thus borne down by the terrors of death. Meaner ones have often suffered martyrdom with unshrinking fortitude. We are not to suppose that the glorious sufferer was afraid to die; but sublime, god-like as he was, he might well shudder and recoil at the infamy and anguish of the cross. Its image was before him in the terrible distinctness and certainty which his prophetic character gave it; there was none of the secret hope of escape, which might have supported a common martyr; none of the passionate enthusiasm which might raise a fanatic above the fear of suffering--none of the stern insensibility which produces a common

place indifference to danger and death. With all the feelings of a kind and gentle heart, he calmly surveyed the horrors of his destiny; and it was no imperfection in his sublime character, to feel as a man rather than as a hardened soldier. As a man he earnestly prayed that the cup of suffering might pass from him. He was too pure and too heavenly, to teach his followers to undervalue that life which is the gift of God. He was too humble to set them the example of voluntary and ostentatious martyrdom.

[ocr errors]

He left us at last a glorious example of submission, when he drank of the bitter cup, saying, Father, not my will, but thine be done.' He accomplished his destiny with a firmness worthy of his life and his cause. He met the scoffs of his persecutors, the insults of a mock trial, his iniquitous sentence, his frightful execution, with but one single exclamation, wrung from him by the intenseness of mortal agony, and then died as he had lived, in fervent prayer for his enemies.

I have thus, as well as I could, pointed out some particulars in the character and position of Jesus, which might give rise to his strong expressions of anguish in the garden of Gethsemane. It is a narrative which softens our hearts and cherishes our religious sensibilities. Our purest and holiest affections may cluster with unfading freshness around the garden of suffering. In our affecting remembrance of what he was, what he did, and what he suffered for us, we may see all that is excellent in man, reflecting the sublime moral

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »