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and to behold his glory,” is, in his estimation, the greatest of all blessings; and the prospect of this, as the consequence of death, makes him not only willing, but even desirous to die. Yet still this desire has a very peculiar character, and is clearly distinguished from the desire of what is good in itself, or what is unmixed good. The saint is, like the apostle Paul,
straitened,” (it is the same word as that used in the text) when he desires “to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better *.”
Let us recollect, that, in the case of the Saviour, his bloody passion was viewed by him not merely as inevitable, but as near at hand ; that its pangs were incomparably more severe than the agonies of death in its most torturing form; that he had not that undefined kind of idea which we have of the agonies of dissolution, but a clear and comprehensive conception of his approaching sufferings in all their extent; and that his desire for the attainment of those glorious objects which were to be gained by his sufferings, was inconceivably more intense than that of the holiest saint for the celestial blessedness; and then will we have some idea of that painful struggle, that restless anxiety, that unconquerable resolution, that unalterable determination, that ardent desire, which agitated the Saviour's heart, and probably communicated a very peculiar expression to his countenance, when he said, “ I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" The Captain of our salvation surveyed the host of his enemies. He pereeived them in battle-array, and knew that conflict was inevitable. He observed the full extent of their forces, and saw that the contest must be painful and bloody. But he knew that final success was not doubtful, and that the fatigue, and anxiety, and agony of the combat, would be richly recompensed by the honours and joys of victory. In painful, eager expectation, he waited the signal from “ Him who appointed him” to enter the field of toil, and blood, and glory.
* Phil. i. 23.
We may then consider these words of our Lord, as expressive of a firm conviction, that he must suffer,—a clear apprehension of the extent and severity of his approaching sufferings, with a corresponding state of feeling, -and an invincible determination, and eager desire, to have these sufferings accomplished.
1st, In these words, our Lord intimates a firm conviction, that he must suffer. The sufferings of Christ may be considered as voluntary, or necessary, according to the different views we take of them. There was no necessity, in the nature of things, that the Son of God should interfere for the salvation of a lost world. Such interference was, in the highest degree, voluntary. It were perhaps saying too much, even to assert, that, on the supposition of his interfering in man's salvation, it was, in the nature of things, necessary that he should become incarnate, and suffer and die. “ Such knowledge is too wonderful for us ; it is high, we cannot attain to it.” But, on the supposition of the existence of that system of divine determination, in reference to man's salvation, which the Scriptures unfold, there can be no doubt that the incarnation, and sufferings, and death of Christ Jesus, were indispensibly necessary : Necessary, for the divine Father had appointed them—the divine Son had engaged to sustain them and the divine Spirit had declared that they should be undergone. The divine Father had appointed thein : Him,” says the apostle, “ being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain.” The divine Son had engaged to sustain them: - When he cometh into the
world, he saith, Lo, I come to do thy will, o God." The divine Spirit had declared that they should be undergone : In the prophetic oracles, he both disclosed the fact that he was to suffer, and defined the manner of his sufferings*
As his sufferings were certain, so he was perfectly aware of their certainty: Their certainty was the result of counsels in which he bore a part of engagements into which he voluntarily entered- of declarations which his Spirit had emitted. Accordingly, when the Saviour speaks of his approaching sufferings, he does not speak of them as contingencies, but as certainties. “ The Son of man must be lifted up. The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and of the scribes, and after three days rise again. This that is written must be accomplished in me.-- All things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me t.”
2d, In the words of the text, our Lord discovers a clear apprehension of the extent and severity of the sufferings which awaited him, and a corresponding state of feeling. They intimate, not merely that our Lord knew that he must suffer, but also, that the particular details of his sufferings were present to his mind, and produced their appropriate impression on his feelings: “How am I straitened till it be accomplished !"
That our Lord possessed a minute acquaintance with all that he was to suffer, is plain from the consideration, that he was privy to that eternal purpose of God, in which every thing, however minute, with respect to the economy of human salvation, was arranged.
* Isa. liii. ; Psal, xii ; Dan. ix. 26. + John iii. 14; Mark viii. 31; Luke xxii. 37.
The same truth necessarily results from his intimate knowledge of the Old Testament predictions, in which his sufferings are so particularly foretold; and his own numerous and very circumstantial prophecies, still farther illustrate its evidence.
In some cases, perhaps, it would be an alleviation of anticipated evil, were we able accurately to measure the dimensions of the apprehended misfortune. The gigantic shadows which coming evils cast before them, often excite a degree of alarm altogether disproportioned to their real magnitude. Fear frequently distorts its object; and we are sometimes astonished to feel, how easily we bear evils, which in the apprehension were altogether intolerable. But this remark does not hold in the case of our Lord, and for an obvious
The evils which awaited him were inconceivably greater than the human imagination, left to itself, could have ever formed any conception of. The wrath of God which he had to sustain, and of which he had just apprehensions, is far more dreadful than the most horrible picture which imagination, guided by fear in its wildest mood, can delineate : “Who knoweth the power of his anger ?" He alone who can measure the extent of infinite power, and fathom the depths of in. finite wisdom, can resolve the fearful question. We can only answer—"According to his fear, so is his wrath.”
As our Lord obviously possessed a keenness of sensibility proportioned to the clearness of his apprehensions, and the extent of his knowledge, these views of his approaching sufferings must have produced the most exquisite agonies of mind. It is an overwhelm. ing study to read the Old Testament predictions in reference to our Lord's sufferings, and endeavour to realize his feelings while he perused them. When he fixed his mind on this awful subject, and gave himself up to the dreadful anticipation, his deep drawn sighs, and his ensanguined sweat, even more than his bitter cry, and his fearfully energetic language, prove the sharpness of the anguish. “The iron entered in. to the soul ," when he exclaimed, “Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, if it be pos. sible, let this cup pass from me. I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished *!"
3d, In the words of the text, our Lord discovers an invincible determination, and ardent desire, to finish his appointed course of suffering. There is nothing in the character of the Saviour, as delineated by the Evangelists, more remarkable than that resoluteness of determination with which he pursued the course marked out for him ;-and this is the more striking when contrasted with the general mildness and gentleness of his disposition and deportment. On no occasion do we see the placid quietness of his temper so much ruffled as when Peter, presuming too much on the condescension of his Lord, urged him to abandon the thoughts of suffering. “ Get thee behind me,” said the meek and affectionate Jesus to the friend of his heart, “Get thee behind me, thou adversary; thou art an offence unto me." The threatenings of enemies. and entreaties of friends were equally ineffectual in moving him from his purpose.
His answer to both was, I must work the work of him who sent me.” There is no hesitation, no balancing of advantages or disadvantages. The path lay before him, and he pressed straight onward, though earth and helt opposed all their force. His conduct puts us in mind of the rea
* John xii. 27; Matth. xxvi. 39.