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Illuminate our eyes, that they may be capable of rightly discerning the mysteries of the internal agonies of thy soul, with which thou hast pleaded our cause before the tribunal of the supreme justice. May our thoughts be so penetrated with the divine flames of thy endless love, that our stony hearts may be thoroughly warmed and softened. Grant this for the sake of that transcendent love of thine, Amen.
CONSIDERATION I. THE SCENE OF THE INTERNAL SUFFERINGS OF JESUS CHRIST; MATTHEW XXVI. 36.
MARK XIV. 32. JOHN XVIII. 1, 2.
“THEN cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, where was a garden, into which Jesus and his disciples entered. But Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place ; for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with his disciples.”
These words contain a summary account,
First, Of the place where Christ entered upon his spiritual conflict; and,
Secondly, of the company who attended him thither.
I. The place was a farm or country-house at the foot of the Mount of Olives, called Gethsemane, either from the oil-presses in which the olives growing in the adjacent grounds were pressed, or from the fatness of the soil, and fertility of the valley, As the singular providence of God directed all our Saviour's sufferings, and the most minute circumstances attending them ; so may it be reasonably supposed that it was not a mere matter of chance, that, his internal sufferings happened in this place.
It was, first, a valley at the foot of a mountain, and consequently a proper theatre for Christ's deepest humiliation to be exhibited on. When our blessed Saviour intended to manifest his glory to some of his disciples, he led them up on a high mountain (Matth. xvii, 1,;) but now, as the same disciples were to be witnesses of his lowest abasement, he retires with them to an obscure deep valley, In the former case, the nature of the thing required, that it should be represented on an (levated conspicuous place ;
in the latter, a lowly valley bore the greatest analogy to the transaction ; for in this instance, the Son of God descends from the high summit of his divine majesty into the valley of the lowest abasement, When he was to be glorified, he chose to be nearer heaven, the true seat of glory; when he humbles himself, he chose to descend on the earth, that he might expiate the presumptous crime of our first parents which they committed on earth, and also to set to the inhabi.. tants thereof an example of true lowliness and humiliation. In the Old Testament, the most glorious manifestations of the Divine presence were displayed on high mountains. The law was given on the summit of a hill, on a mountain God exhibited to the view of Moses the land of Canaan, and on a mountain God made himself known to Elijah ; but here the most solemn manifestation of God's holi. ness, justice, and love to mankind in the sufferings of his Son, is transacted in a low depressed valley, Who will now presume to say that the Lord is only a' God of the hills, and not of the plains and valleys ?' (1 Kings xx, 28.) For now the trans, cendent glory of the Lord is manifested also in a valley, though covered under the gloomy veil of sufserings. Now we may be assured, that neither height nor depth can separate us from the love of God' (Rom. viii. 34.) Christ has sanctificd both the one and the other; the blessed Jesus hath consecrated heights and depths. So that if God brings us into the low valley of an abject state ; if qur way to eternal bliss lies through the vale of tears,' (Psal. Ixxxiv. 7.) let us consider that the blessed feet of our Lord and Saviour have trodden the dreary path before us.
Secondly, It was the valley of oil or of fatness.' This circumstance was likewise directed by the hand of God; and the place may now justly deserve that name, since He entered it who was anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows;' (Psal. xv. 8.) though, for a time he emptied himself here of the sensible effects of this "oil of gladness,'to procure it again for the human race. This rich and fertile valley is a type of the spiritual fertility, which was to be the consequence of Christ's passion ; even in the accursed soil of the Pagans, till then productive only of thorns and thistles. Now shall the wilderness and the solitary place be glad, anıl the desert shall rejoice.? (Isaiah xxxv. 1.) Now the sterile heart of man, being manured by the blood of Christ, shall bring forth the peaceable fruits of righteousness.
But, thirdly, the place where Christ's spiritual sufferings commenced is still more particularly specified, by the addition, that it was a garden; which áppears to have belonged to the farm and adjoining to it. If it was not by accident that the sufferings of Christ began in a valley, much less was it without a divine appointment, that they began and ended in a garden; began in this, his conflict with death, and ended in his burial, which was performed in a garden. By this means, unquestionably, the Divine wisdom takes us, as it were, by the hand, and leads our thoughts to the garden of Eden, the place of our unhappy fall. It was but fit that in such a place where, by sin, we had alienated ourselves from God, that important transaction, by which the door to a communion with him was to be again opened to us should begin, Where the curse was first denounced, there the foundation for obtaining the blessing was to be laid. Where sin first entered into the world, there also was it first to be expiated.
Another circumstance, very observable in the history of Christ's sufferings, is the justice of Divine retaliation ; for the satisfaction of Christ was to be attended with circumstances similar to those of the first fall, which are also incidental to other sins. Now, a part of divine retaliation is, that God often punishes the sins of man at the very same place where they were committed. Thus Samson's eyes were put out at Gaza, (Judges xvi, 21.) where he had made a wrong use of them in unchaste looks and lacivious glances. (Judges xvi. 1.) The dogs licked up Ahab's blood on the spot, where he had shed the blood of Naboth ; (1 Kings xxi. 19. xxii. 38.) and the same thing may be here observed in the vicarious punishment of our great representative. In a garden we had presumptuously sinned; and in a garden is our blessed Lord punished for our sin.
What wanton scenes of dalliance and ebriety are often exhibited in gardens, during the heat of summer, under the secret covert of guilty shades! Never should a serious Christian set his foot in a garden without calling to mind the severe agonies, which Christ suffered in the fatal garden of Gethsemane.
But again, this garden is further described as a place often frequented by Christ and his disciples, and likewise well known to the perfidious traitor. Concerning the first it is said, 'Jesus oft times resorted hither with his disciples;' so that this was the place whither hę usually retired with his disciples, when he was inclined to be in a calm solitude. And, without doubt, the owner of this farm was a cordial friend to our blessed Lord, and received him at his house with singular pleasure ; since, otherwise, our Saviour would not have intruded himself an unwelcome guest. Hence we may learn the following truths;
1. Where the Lord Jesus is cordially entertained, there he delights to be. He is a most kind, loving friend, and easy to be intreated. In him is no moroseness, no austerity or haughtiness. The way to gain his favour and friendship is always open, 'for his delight is in the children of men.' (Prov. viii. 31.) How he loveth the people !' (Deut. xxx. 3.) Men are often fickle, and take pleasure in change; but he is ever constant and unchangeable in his friendship. What he forbade his disciples to do, viz. · Ye shall not go from one house to another,' (Luke x. 7.) he himself does by no means practise. Where he has once entered, he does not willingly leave the place: Let us therefore give up our hearts to be a perpetual abode for such an amiable guest.
2. The nearer the hour of suffering approaches, the more closely ought we to associate ourselves with the children of God. The Lord Jesus, before this crisis, used to pray alone; and for that purpose usually fixed on some solitary place in a desart, or on a mountain apart; (Matt. xiv. 22, 23. Luke vi. 12.) but on the days immediately preceding his pas. sion, when he did not pass the night in Jerusalem, he frequently resorted, with his disciples, to this place; without doubt, in order to pray and prepare himself for the sufferings and the pangs of death, which were then approaching. Hereby he has likewise sanctified, to his menibers, this communion in prayer, and recommended and established it by his great example.
Another particular mentioned of this field of conflict was, that it was known to the traitor. But Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place. This is taken notice of by St. John, on purpose to obviate any surmise, that Jesus went into the garden with a view of concealing himself, and flying from the face of danger. But the case was far otherwise : at this time he made choice of a known place with which