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CONTEMPLATION XXVIII.-THE AGONY.
MATTHEW XXVI. ; MARK XIV.; LUKE XXII. What a preface do I find to my Saviour's Passion! a Hymn, and an Agony: a cheerful Hymn, and an Agony no less sorrowful. A Hymn begins, both to raise and testify the courageous resolutions of his suffering ; an Agony follows, to shew that he was truly sensible of those extremities, wherewith he was resolved to grapple.
All the disciples bore their part in that Hymn; it was fit they should all see his comfortable and Divine Magnanimity, wherewith he entered into those sad lists: only three of them shall be allowed to be witnesses of his Agony; only those three, that had been the witnesses of his glorious Transfiguration. That sight had well forearmed and prepared them for this: how could they be dismayed to see his trouble, who there saw his Majesty ? How could they be dismayed to see his body now sweat, which they had then seen to shine? How could they be daunted to see him now accosted with Judas and his train, whom they then saw attended with Moses and Elias? How could they be discouraged to hear the reproaches of base men, when they had heard the voice of God to him from that excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased ?
Now, before these eyes, this sun begins to be overcast with clouds; He began to be sorrowful, and very heavy. Many sad thoughts for mankind had he secretly hatched, and yet smothered in his own breast ; now, his grief is too great to keep in : My soul is erceeding sorrowful, even unto death. O Saviour, what must thou needs feel, when thou saidst so? Feeble minds are apt to bemoan themselves upon light occasions : the grief must needs be violent, that causeth a strong heart to break forth into a passionate complaint. Woe is me, what a word is this for the Son of God! Where is that Comforter, which thou promisedst to send to others ? Where is that thy Father of all Mercies and God of all Comfort, in whose presence is the fulness of joy, and at whose right hand there are pleasures for evermore?
Where are those constant and cheerful resolutions, of a fearless walking through the valley of the shadow of death? Alas? if that face were not hid from thee whose essence could not be disunited, these pangs could not have been.
was withdrawn awhile, that there might be a cool, though not a dark night, as in the world, so in thy breast; withdrawn in respect of sight, not of being. It was the hardest piece of thy sufferings, that thou must be disconsolate.
But to whom dost thou make this moan, O thou Saviour of Men? Hard is that man driven, that is fain to complain to his
inferiors. Had Peter, or James, or John thus bewailed himself to thee, there had been ease to their soul in venting itself; thou hadst been both apt to pity them, and able to relieve them : but now, in that thou lamentest thy case to them, alas ! what issue couldst thou expect? They might be astonished with thy grief ; but there is neither power in their hands to free thee from those sorrows, nor power in their compassion to mitigate them. Nay, in this condition what could all the angels of heaven, as of themselves, do to succour thee? What strength could they have but from thee? What creature can help, when thou complainest? It must be only the stronger, that can aid the weak.
Old and holy Simeon could foresay to thy Blessed Mother, that a sword should pierce through her soul ; but, alas ! how many swords at once pierce thine! Every one of these swords is both sharp and edged; My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. What human soul is capable of the conceit of the least of those sorrows, that oppressed thine? It was not thy body, that suffered now: the pain of body is but as the body of pain: the anguish of the soul is as the soul of anguish. That, and in that thou sufferedst ; where are they, that dare so far disparage thy sorrow, as to say thy soul suffered only in sympathy with thy body; not immediately, but by participation; not in itself, but in its partner? Thou best knewest, what thou feltest; and thou, that feltest thine own pain, canst cry out of thy soul. Neither didst
My soul is troubled ;” so it often was, to tears : but, My soul is sorrowful; as if it had been before assaulted, now possessed of grief. Nor yet this in any tolerable moderation changes of passion are incident to every human soul: but Exceed ing sorrowful. Yet there are degrees in the very extremities of evils : those, that are most vehement, may yet be capable of a remedy, at least a relaxation; thine was past these hopes, Exceeding sorrowful unto death.
What was it, what could it be, O Saviour, that lay thus heavy upon thy Divine Soul ? Was it the fear of death? Was it the forefelt pain, shame, torment of thine ensuing crucifixion? O poor and base thoughts of the narrow hearts of cowardly and impotent mortality! How many thousands of thy blessed Martyrs have welcomed no less tortures, with smiles and gratulations; and have made a sport of those exquisite cruelties, which their verytyrants thought unsufferable! Whence had they this strength but from thee? If their weakness were thus undaunted and prevalent, what was thy power! No, no: it was the sad weight of the sin of mankind; it was the heavy burden of thy Father's wrath for our sin, that thus pressed thy soul, and wrung from thee these bitter expressions.
What can it avail thee, O Saviour, to tell thy grief to men ? Who can ease thee, but he, of whom thou saidst, My Father is greater than I! Lo, to him thou turnest; O Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me,
Was not this that prayer, O dear Christ, which in the days of thy flesh thou offeredst up with strong crying and tears to him, that was able to save thee from death? Surely, this was it. Never was cry so strong ; never was God thus solicited. How could heaven choose but shake at such a prayer from the power that made it? How can my heart but tremble, to hear this suit from the Captain of our Salvation? O thou, that saidst, I and my Father are one, dost thou suffer aught from thy Father, but what thou wouldst. what thou determinedst? Was this cup of thine either casual or forced ? Wouldst thou wish for what thou knewest thou wouldst not have possible ? Far, far be these misraised thoughts of our ignorance and frailty. Thou camest to suffer, and thou wouldst do what thou camest for; yet, since thou wouldst be a man, thou wouldst take all of man, save sin : it is but human, and not sinful, to be loth to suffer what we may avoid. In this velleity of thine, thou wouldst show what that nature of ours, which thou hadst assumed, could incline to wish ; but in thy resolution, thou wouldst shew us what thy victorious thoughts, raised and assisted by thy Divine power, had determinately pitched upon ; Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt. As man, thou hadst a will of thine own : no human soul can be perfect without that main faculty. That will, which naturally could be content to incline towards an exemption from miseries, gladly vails to that Divine will, whereby thou art designed to the chastisements of our peace. Those pains, which in themselves were grievous, thou embracest as decreed; so as thy fear hath given place to thy love and obedience. How should we have known these evils so formidable, if thou hadst not in half a thought inclined to deprecate them? How could we have avoided so formidable and deadly evils, if thou hadst not willingly undergone them? We acknowledge thy holy fear; we adore thy Divine fortitude.
While thy mind was in this fearful agitation, it is no marvel, if thy feet were not fixed. Thy place is more changed, than thy thoughts. One while, thou walkest to thy drowsy attendants, and stirrest up their needful vigilancy: then thou returnest to thy passionate devotions, thou fallest again upon thy face.
If thy body be humbled down to the earth, thy soul is yet lower: thy prayers are so much more vehement, as thy pangs are ; And being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. O
my Saviour, what an agony am I in, while I think of thine! What pain, what fear, what strife, what horror was in thy Sacred Breast! How didst thou struggle under the weight of our sins, that thou thus sweatest, that thou thus bleedest !
All was peace with thee : thou wert one with thy co-eternal and co-essential Father; all the Angels worshipped thee; all the powers of heaven and earth awfully acknowledged thine infiniteness. It
was our person that feoffed thee in this misery and torment: in that, thou sustainedst thy Father's wrath and our curse.
If eternal death be unsufferable, if every sin deserve eternal death, what, Oh what was it for thy soul, in this short time of thy bitter Passion, to answer those millions of eternal deaths, which all the sins of all mankind had deserved from the just hand of thy Godhead? I marvel not, if thou bleedest a sweat, if thou sweatest blood. If the moisture of that sweat be from the body, the tincture of it is from the soul. As there never was such another sweat, so neither can there be ever such a suffering. It is no wonder, if the sweat were more than natural, when the suffering was more than human. O Saviour, so willing was that precious blood of thine to be let forth for us, that it was ready to prevent thy persecutors ; and issued forth in those pores, before thy wounds were opened by thy tormentors. Oh that my heart could bleed unto thee, with true inward compunction for those sins of mine, which are guilty of this thine Agony; and have drawn blood of thee, both in the garden and on the cross. Woe is me: I had been in hell, if thou hadst not been in thine Agony; I had scorched, if thou hadst not sweat. Oh let me abhor my own wickedness, and admire and bless thy mercy But, o
blessed spirits, which came to comfort my conflicted Saviour, how did ye look upon the Son of God, when ye saw him labouring for life under these violent temptations ! With what astonishment, did ye behold him bleeding whom ye adored! In the Wilderness, after his duel with Satan, ye came and ministered unto him, and now in the Garden, while he is in a harder combat, ye appear to strengthen him. o the wise and marvellous dispensation of the Almighty! Whom God will afflict, an angel shall relieve; the Son shall suffer, the servant shall comfort him ; the God of Angels droopeth, the angel of God strengthens him.
Blessed Jesu, if as man thou wouldst be made a little lower than the angels, how can it disparage thee to be attended and cheered up by an angel? Thine humiliation would not disdain comfort from meaner hands. How free was it for thy Father, to convey seasonable consolations to thine humbled soul, by whatsoever means! Behold, though thy cup shall not pass, yet it shall be sweetened. What if thou see not, for the time, thy Father's face? yet, thou shalt feel his hand. What could that spirit have done, without the God of Spirits? O Father of Mercies, thou mayest bring thine into Agonies, but thou wilt never leave them there. In the midst of the sorrows of my heart, thy comforts shall refresh my soul. Whatsoever be the means of my supportation, I know and adore the Author.
CONTEMPLATION XXIX.-PETER AND MALCHUS;
OR, CHRIST APPREHENDED.
WHEREFORE, O Saviour, didst thou take those three choice disciples with thee from their fellows, but that thou expectedst some comfort from their presence? A seasonable word may sometimes fall from the meanest attendant; and the very society of those we trust carries in it some kind of contentment.
Alas! what broken reeds are men! While thou art sweating in thine Agony, they are snoring securely. Admonitions, threats, entreaties cannot keep their eyes open. Thou tellest them of danger, they will needs dream of ease ; and though twice roused, as if they had purposed this neglect, they care lessly sleep out thy sorrow and their own peril. What help hast thou of such followers? In the mount of thy Transfiguration, they slept; and, besides, fell on their faces, when they should behold thy glory, and were not themselves for fear: in the garden of thine Agony, they fell upon the ground for drowsiness, when they should compassionate thy sorrow, and lost themselves in a stupid sleepiness.
Doubtless, even this disregard made thy prayers so much more fervent. The less comfort we find on earth, the more we seek above. Neither soughtest thou more, than thou foundest: Lo, thou wert heard in that which thou fearedst. An angel supplies men: that spirit was vigilant, while thy disciples were heavy. The exchange was happy.
No sooner is this good angel vanished, than that domestic devil appears. Judas comes up, and shews himself in the head of those miscreant troops. He, whose too much honour it had been to be a follower of so Blessed a Master, affects now to be the leader of this wicked rabble. The sheep's fleece is now cast off; the wolf appears in his own likeness.
He, that would be false to his Master, would be true to his chapmen. Even evil spirits keep touch with themselves.
The bold traitor dare yet still mix hypocrisy with villainy: his very salutations and kisses murder. O Saviour, this is no news to thee. All those, who under a shew of godliness practise impiety, do still betray thee thus.
Thou, who hadst said, One of you is a devil, didst not now say, “ Avoid Satan ;” but, Friend, wherefore art thou come? As yet, Judas, it was not too late. Had there been any the least spark of grace yet remaining in that perfidious bosom, this word had fetched thee upon thy knees. All this sunshine cannot thaw an obdurate heart.
The sign is given ; Jesus is taken. Wretched traitor ! why