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M. I may safely answer, "Yes;" for did not the Lord Jesus intend that this divine Comforter should make up to them for the loss of His visible presence? There are many ways in which He would do this. The value, indeed, of this inestimable gift, the gift of the Holy Ghost, is taught us nowhere so strongly as by our Lord on this occasion. What a blessing it is still, even to us, though not inspired like the Apostles, we shall, perhaps, never fully understand in this world; for by reason of the perverseness of our natures, we are continually more or less resisting His blessed influences, and we never allow Him to do all that He would do for us: but what the Holy Spirit was intended to be to us, and still more to the Apostles, we see plainly when we find our Saviour encouraging His disciples under His own departure, because, consequence of that, the Comforter would come to
Thus did the Lord Jesus strengthen the hearts of His disciples, He promised them the Holy Ghost; He talked to them of mansions in the heavens; He bequeathed to them a legacy of peace; "My peace," He said, "I give unto you;" He exhorted them to abide in Him as branches in the parent vine, that they might bring forth fruit unto everlasting life, He assured them of the Father's love to them, and promised that, whatever they should ask the Father in His name, He would give it them. And, to crown the whole, Jesus lifted up His eyes to heaven and prayed for them; prayed to God to keep them safe through this evil world, and to make them one, even as He and the Father are one; prayed that He would sanctify them by His word, and bring them
to His eternal kingdom. Happy disciples, to be the subjects of such a prayer! And happy may we be too: for not only for that little assembly did Christ pray, but (praised be His grace!) for all those also who should believe on Him, through their word; for all true believers; the living members of His Church in every age; that all might be united in the same privileges on earth, in the same glory in heaven.
What a subject for our thoughts, our hopes, our supplications does this sublime prayer afford us! What a precious portion of God's word! How dear to every Christian! How cheering to each one of us should it be amidst our daily conflicts and troubles, to think that Jesus prayed for us also to the eternal Father, and committed us to His keeping and love; that we might not perish, but have everlasting life! What an encouragement to pray for ourselves!
You will find our Saviour's last conversation with His disciples and His affecting prayer, on both of which I have only been able now to touch very briefly, recorded in St. John's Gospel from the xivth to the xviiith chapters.
You see how important every moment was that passed in that supper chamber; and how much was crowded into those few short hours, of deep and solemn interest to the whole world.
How thankful should we be that we are thus admitted, as it were, into the sacred retirement of the Redeemer, to listen to what passed there, and even to partake in the blessings there distributed! Well may we long to linger in that spot of holiest memory; feeling that it is indeed "good to be here:" but the sacred moments rolled by; and a time so precious to the [Second Series.]
disciples and to us, passed away; and the hour came when even they, however reluctantly, must leave the supper chamber: and we must now follow them, where they followed their Lord and our Lord. We are told that, "when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives, unto a place called Gethsemane; where was a garden, into which He entered with His disciples." Moses was told, as he approached the burning bush, to put off his shoes from off his feet, because the place where He stood was holy ground. And is not this holy ground? the garden of Gethsemane, the spot where that mysterious agony occurred, in which our Lord's prospect of suffering was so appalling as to lead Him to pray, that, if it were possible, He might be spared the approaching trial, and the bitter cup might pass from Him. Shall we not approach it with reverence and awe; and put away, as we draw near, every worldly or unquiet thought?
The Garden of Gethsemane was at the foot of Mount Olivet;
"Low, and proper to be made
The Redeemer's lone retreat."
It had apparently been often consecrated before by the presence of the Son of God, who, when He wished to retire from the noise and interruptions of the world, would retire to this sweet and quiet spot. For St. John tells us, that "Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples."
E. How they must have loved that garden, Mamma! M. I have no doubt they did: for there they must ofttimes have held holiest communion with Christ their Saviour there no doubt their hearts had often been
warmed with the heavenly truths He taught: there they had, perhaps, frequently joined with their Redeemer in prayer.
But whatever had been their associations with this spot hitherto, they would be nothing to the remembrance that would henceforth belong to it. Jesus no doubt had known all along, that this garden was to be the scene of that dreadful conflict which He was to go through before He died: who can say that this was not the very reason why from love to us He chose to go there? who can say that He had not visited that spot so often, to accustom His mind to the awful scene that was to take place there? Yet when the dreadful night came, His human nature for a moment shrank from it. He was about to bear our griefs, to carry our sorrows, the sorrows and griefs of a whole world! to be wounded for our transgressions, to be bruised for our iniquities, the iniquities and transgressions of all the human race! Great, inconceivably great, would be the sufferings that should atone for such accumulated guilt. No wonder that even the Son of God shrank from them; especially as He was Himself "holy, harmless, undefiled," free from all spot of sin, and therefore unmeet for suffering. Appalling was His agony; there did He pray in His distress with strong crying and tears to God; "and his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground." Can we wonder that, "wrung with anguish and whelmed with blood," He should cry, "My soul is vexed and sorrowful even unto death;" and again, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me?" especially when we recollect that He was man, as well as God, and that to our human nature sorrow is at all
times a very bitter and distasteful cup. But though fully sensible of its bitterness, the Holy Jesus drank it with the most entire resignation to the divine will, adding to His prayer for deliverance those submissive words, "Nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt."
Such was the agony in the garden of Gethsemane. Yet none on earth observed: none of those whose sins had caused this agony. His very disciples slept: the favourite three, Peter, James, and John, took no notice of their Master's grief. Heaven only sympathised; "there appeared an angel unto him from heaven strengthening him." Surely if we would see sin in its true colours, we have only to look at our Saviour prostrate in Gethsemane under its awful weight! If ever you are tempted to think lightly of sin, let me beseech you to call to mind this dreadful night!
E. But how could the disciples sleep at such a time?
M. It was wonderful, indeed, that they could, and shows how weak our nature is. Our Lord had withdrawn from them at their first entrance into the garden, telling them to remain and watch: but they could not watch even one hour. When He returned, He found them "sleeping for sorrow" and weariness of body. So little are human beings, even at the best, to be depended upon in the time of trouble: so apt are they, by reason of the frailty of the flesh, to fail us, when we most need their help: so that, if God were not ever at hand to strengthen us, we should often sink under our sorrows.
E. Was Jesus much displeased with His disciples?