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knew how much they would be sifted and straitened in that hour and power of darkness. He knew their faith would be shaken and greatly staggered by the approaching difficulties, when they should see their Shepherd smitten, and themselves scattered, the Son of man delivered into the hands of sinners, and the Lord of life hang dead
grave. He foresaw into what straits his poor people would fall, between a busy tempter and an unbelieving heart; therefore he prays and pleads with such importunity for them, that they might not fail.
2. He was now entering upon his intercession-work in heaven, and he was desirous in this prayer to give us a specimen of that part of his work before he left us; that by this we might understand what he would do for us when he should be out of sight. For this being his last prayer on earth, it shows us what affections and dispositions he carried hence with him, and satisfies us, that he who was so earnest with God on our behalf, such a mighty pleader here, will not forget us, or neglect our concerns in the other world. Yet, reader, I would have thee always remember that the intercession of Christ in heaven is carried much higher than this; it is performed in a way more suitable to that stale of honor to which he is now exalted. Here he used prostrations of body, crics and tears in his prayers: there, his intercession is carried in a more majestic way, becoming an exalted Saviour. But yet in this he hath left us a special assistance, to show the temper and working of his heart now in heaven towards us.
3. And lastly, he would leave this as a standing monument of his care and love for his people to the end of the world. And for this it is conceived Christ delivered this prayer so publicly, not withdrawing from the disciples to be private with God, as he did in the garden; but in their presence. And not only was it publicly delivered, but it was also, by a singular providence, recorded at large by John, though omitted by the other evangelists; that so it might stand to all generations.
IV. If you ask how this gives evidence of Christ's tender care and love to his people ? I answer, it appears in these two particulars.
1. His love and care were manifested in the choice of mercies for them. He doth not pray for health, honor, long life, riches; but for their preservation from sin, spiritual joy in God, sanctification, and eternal glory. No mercies but the very best in God's treasury does he ask for his people; the rest he is content should be dispensed promiscuously by Providence; but these he will settle as a heritage upon his children. Oh see the love of Christ ! look over all your spiritual inheritance in Christ, compare it with the richest, fairest, largest inheritance on earth ; and see what poor things these are to yours.
Oh the care of a dear Father! Oh the love of a tender Saviour !
2. Besides, what an evidence of his tenderness to you, and great care for you, was it, that he should so intently and so affectionately seek, and plead your concerns with God at such a time, even when a world of sorrow encompassed him on every side; a cup of wrath mixed, and ready to be put into his hand: at that very
time when the clouds of wrath grew black; a storm was coming, and such as he never felt before ; when one would have thought all his care, thoughts, and diligence should have been employed on his own account, his own sufferings. No, he doth, as it were, forget his own sorrows for our peace and comfort. O love unspeakable !
INFERENCE 1. Did Christ so eminently show his care and love for his people in this his parting hour; then he will keep them to the end. Do you hear how he pleads, how he fills his mouth with arguments, how he
chooses his words and sets them in order, how he winds up his spirit to the very highest pitch of zeal and fervency ? and can you doubt of success? Can such a Father deny the importunity and pleading of such a Son ? Oh, it can never be! he cannot deny him: Christ has the art and skill of prevailing with God. If the heart or hand of God were hard to be opened, yet this would
but when the Father himself loves us, and is inclined to do us good, who can doubt of Christ's success ? That which is in motion, is the more easily moved.” The cause Christ manageth in heaven for us is just and righteous. The manner in which he pleads is powerful, and therefore the success of his suit is unquestionable. Oh think of this, when dangers surfound your souls or bodies, when fears and doubts are multiplied within ; when thou art ready to say in thy haste, All men are liars, I shall one day perish by the hand of sin or Satan; think on that encouragement Christ gave to Peter, "I have prayed for thee.” Luke, 22 : 32.
2. Again, hence we learn that argumentative prayers are excellent prayers. The strength of every thing is in its joints; there lies much of the strength of prayer also. How strongly jointed, how nervous and argumentative was this prayer of Christ! Some there are indeed, that think we need not argue and plead in prayer
with God, but only present the matter of our prayers to him, and leave Christ (whose office it is) to plead with the Father; as if Christ did not present our pleas and arguments, as well as simple desires, to God; as if the choicest part of our prayers must be kept back, because Christ presents our prayers to God. No, no, Christ's pleading is one thing, ours another: "His and ours are not opposed, but subordinate; his pleading doth not destroy, but makes ours successful. God calls us to plead with him, "Come now, let us reason together.” Isa. 1:18. "God (as one observes) reasons with us by his word and providences outwardly, and by the motions of his Spirit inwardly: and we reason with him by framing, through the help of his Spirit, certain holy arguments, grounded upon allowed principles, drawn from his nature, name, word, or works." And it is condemned as a very sinful defect in professors, that they did not plead the church's cause with God; " There is none to plead thy cause that thou mayest be bound up." Jer. 30 : 13. What was Jacob's wrestling with the angel, but his holy pleading and importunity with God ? and how well it pleased God, let the event speak, "As a prince he prevailed, and had power with God." Gen. 32:24. Hos. 12: 4. His name was no more called Jacob, but Israel, a prince with God.
By these holy pleadings "the King is held in his galleries." Cant. 7:5. I know we are not heard either for our much speaking, or our excellent speaking; it is Christ's pleading in heaven that makes our pleading on earth available: but surely, when the Spirit of the Lord shall suggest proper arguments in prayer, and help the humble suppliant to press them home believingly and affectionately, when he helps us to weep and plead, to groan and plead, for, says one, " The heart cries to God more by groans than by words, and more by tears than by speaking,” God is greatly delighted with such prayers. " Thou hast said, I will surely do thee good,” said Jacob. Gen. 32 : 12. It is thine own free promise ; I did not go of myself, but thou badest me go, and encouragedst me with this promise. Oh this is pleasing to God, when by his Spirit of adoption we can come to him, crying, Abba, Father; Father, hear, forgive, pity, and help me. Am I not thy child, thy son, or daughter! To whom may a child be bold to go, with whom may a child have hope to prevail, if not with his father? Father, hear me. The fathers of our flesh are full of compassion, and pity their children, and know how to give good things to them when they ask. And is not the Father of spirits more full of compassion, more full of pity?
3. What an excellent pattern is here, for all that have the charge and government of others committed to them, whether magistrates, ministers, or parents, showing how to acquit themselves towards their relations when they come to die !
Look upon the dying Jesus, see how his care and love to his people broke out, when the time of his departure was at hand. Surely, as we are bound to remember our relatives every day, and to lay up prayers for them in the time of our health, so it becomes us to imitate Christ in our earnestness with God for them when we die. Though we die, our prayers do not die with us: they outlive us, and those we leave behind us in the world may reap the benefit of them when we are turned to dust.
For my own part, I must profess before the world that I have a high value for this mercy, and do, from the bottom of my heart, bless the Lord, who gave me a religious and tender father,* who often poured out his soul to God for me: he was one that was inwardly ac. quainted with God; and being full of love to his children, often carried them before the Lord, prayed and pleaded with God for them, wept and made supplications for them. The prayers and blessings left by him before the Lord, I esteem above the fairest inheritance on earth. Oh it is no small mercy to have thousands of fervent prayers lying before the Lord in heaven for us. And Oh that we would all be faithful to this duty! surely our love, especially to the souls of our relatives, should
cold. Oh that we would remember this duty in our lives, and, if God give opportunity and ability, discharge it fully when we die ; considering, as Christ
* Mr. Richard Flavel, a faithful and laborious preacher of the Gospel.