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a sort attend on the duty of social prayer, wherein they pray to God that he would have mercy on them and save; but after what a poor dull way is it that they do it! they do not apply their heart unto wisdom, nor incline their ear to understanding; they do not cry after wisdom, nor lift up their voice for understanding; they do not seek it as silver, nor search for it as for hidden treasures. Christ's earnest cries in his agony may convince us that it was not without reason that he insisted upon it, in Luke xiii. 24, that we should strive to enter in at the strait gate, which as I have already observed to you is, in the original, Aywvideole, “ Agonize to enter in at the strait gate." If sinners would be in a hopeful way to obtain their salvation, they should agonize in that great concern as men that are taking a city by violence, as Matth. xi. 12. “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force." When a body of resolute soldiers are attempting to take a strong city in which they meet with great opposition, what violent conflicts are there before the city is taken! How do the soldiers press on against the very mouths of the enemies' cannon, and upon the points of their swords! When the soldiers are scaling the walls, and making their first entrance into the city, what a violent struggle is there between them and their enemies that strive to keep them out! How do they, as it were, agonize with all their strength! So ought we to seek our salvation, if we would be in a likely way to obtain it. How great is the folly then of those who content themselves with seeking with a cold and lifeless frame of spirit, and so continue from month to month, and from year to year, and yet flatter themselves that they shall be successful !
How much more still are they to be reproved, who are not in a way of seeking their salvation at all, but wholly neglect their precious souls, and attend the duties of religion no further than is just necessary to keep up their credit among men; and instead of pressing into the kingdom of God, are rather violently pressing on towards their own destruction and ruin, being hurried on by their many headstrong lusts, as the herd of swine were hurried on by the legion of devils, and ran violently down a steep place into the sea, and perished in the waters ! Matth. viii. 32.
4. From what has been said under this proposition, we may learn after what manner Christians ought to go through the work that is before them. Christ had a great work before him when that took place, of which we have an account in the text. Though it was very near the close of his life, yet he then, when his agony began, had the chief part of the work before him that he came into the world to do; which was to offer up that sacrifice which he offered in his last sufferings, and therein to perform the greatest act of bis obedience to God. And so the Christians have a great VOL. VIII.
work to do, a service they are to perform to God, that is attended with great difficulty. They have a race set before them that they have to run, a warfare that is appointed them. Christ was the subject of a very great trial in the time of his agony, so God is wont to exercise his people with great trials. Christ met with great opposition in that work that he had to do, so believers are like to meet with great opposition in running the race that is set before them. Christ, as man, had a feeble nature, that was in itself very insufficient to sustain such a conflict, or to support such a load as was coming upon him. So the saints have the same weak human nature, and beside that, great sinful infirmities that Christ had not, which lay them under great disadvantages, and greatly enhance the difficulty of their work. Those great tribulations and difficulties that were before Christ, were the way in which he was to enter into the kingdom of heaven; so his followers must expect, “ through much tribulation, to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The cross was to Christ the way to the crown of glory, and so it is to his disciples. The circumstances of Christ and of his followers in those things are alike, their case, therefore, is the same; and therefore Christ's behaviour under those circumstances, was a fit example for them to follow. They should look to their Captain, and observe after what manner he went through his great work, and the great tribulations which he endured. They should observe aster what manner he entered into
the kingdom of heaven, and obtained the crown of glory, and so · they also should run the race that is set before them. Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Particularly,
(1.) When others are asleep, they should be'awake, as it was with Christ. The time of Christ's agony was the night season, the time wherein persons were wont to be asleep: it was the time wherein the disciples that were about Christ were asleep, but Christ then had something else to do than to sleep; he had a great work to do; he kept awake, with his heart engaged in this work. So should it be with the believers of Christ; when the souls of their neighbours are asleep in their sins, and under the power of a lethargic insensibility and sloth, they should watch and pray, and maintain a lively sense of the infinite importance of their spiritual concerns. 1 Thes. v. 6. “Therefore let us not sleep, as do others, but let us watch and be sober."
(2.) They should go through their work with earnest labour as Christ did. The time when others were asleep was a time when Christ was about his great work and was engaged in it with all his might, agonizing in it; conflicting and wrestling, in tears, and in blood. So should Christians with the utmost earnestness improve their time with souls engaged in this work, pushing through the opposition they meet with in it, pushing through all difficalties and sufferings there are in the way, running with patience the race set before them, conflicting with the enemies of their souls with all their might as those that wrestle not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers, and the rulers of the darkness of this world, and spiritual wickedness in high places.
(3.) This labour and strise should be, that God may be glorified, and their own eternal happiness obtained in a way of doing God's will. Thus it was with Christ: what he so earnestly strove for was, that he might do the will of God, that he might keep his command, his difficult command , without failing in it, and that in this way God's will might be done, in that glory to his ever great name, and that salvation to his elect that he intended by his sufferings. Here is an example for the saints to follow in that holy strife, and race, and warfare, which God has appointed them; they should strive to do the will of their heavenly Father, that they may, as the apostle expresses it, Rom. xii. 2, “ Prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God,” and ihat in this way they may glorify God, and may come at last to be happy for ever in the enjoyment of God.
(4.) In all the great work they have to do, their eye should be to God for his help to enable them to overcome. Thus did the man Christ Jesus: he strove in his work even to such an agony and bloody sweat. But how did he strive ? It was not in his own strength, but his eyes were to God, he cries unto him for his help and strength to uphold him, that he might not fail; he watched and prayed, as he desired his disciples to do; he wrestled with his enemies and with his great sufferings, but at the same time wrestled with God to obtain his help, to enable him to get the victory. Thus the saints should use their strength in their Christian course, to the utmost, but not as depending on their own strength, but crying mightily to God for his strength to make them conquerors.
(5.) In this way they should hold out to the end as Christ did. Christ in this way was successful and obtained the victory and won the prize ; he overcome, and is set down with the Father in his throne. So Christians should persevere and hold out in their great work to the end ; they should continue to run their race till they have come to the end of it; they should be faithful unto the death as Christ was; and then, when they
have overcome, they shall sit down with him in his Throne. Rev. iii. 21. “To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my
Father in his throne.” 5. Hence burdened and distressed sinners, if any such are here present, may have abundant ground of encouragement to come to Christ for salvation. Here is great encouragement to sinners to come to this high priest that offered up such strong crying and tears with his blood, for the success of his sufferings in the salvation of sinners. For,
1st. Here is great ground of assurance that Christ stands ready to accept of sinners, and bestow salvation upon them, for those strong cries of his that he offered up in the capacity of our high priest, show how earnestly desirous he was of it. If he was not willing that sinners should be saved, be they ever so unworthy of it, then why would he so wrestle with God for it in such a bloody sweat ? Would any one so earnestly cry to God with such costly cries, in such great labour and travail of soul for that, that he did not desire that God should bestow ? No, surely! but this shows how greatly his heart was set on the success of his redemption, and therefore since he has by such earnest prayers, and by such a bloody sweat obtained salvation of the Father to bestow on sinners, he will surely be ready to bestow it upon them, if they come to him for it; otherwise he will frustrate his own design ; and he that so earnestly cried to God that his design might not be frustrated, will not, after all, frustrate it himself.
2. Here is the strongest ground of assurance that God stands ready to accept of all those that come to him for mercy through Christ, for this is what Christ prayed for in those earnest prayers, whose prayers were always heard, as Christ says, John xi. 42. “And I knew that thou hearest me always." And especially may they conclude, that heard their high priest in those strong cries that he offered up with his blood, and that especially on the following account.
(1.) They were the most earnest prayers that ever were made. Jacob was very earnest when he wrestled with God; and many others have wrestled with God with many tears; yea, doubtless many of the saints have wrestled with God with such inward labour and strife as to produce powerful effects on the body. But so earnest was Christ, so strong was the labour and fervency of his heart, that he cried to God in a sweat of blood; so that if any earnestness and importunity in prayer ever prevailed with God, we may conclude that that prevailed.
(2.) He who then prayed was the most worthy person that ever put up a prayer.
He had more worthiness than ever men
or angels had in the sight of God, according as by inheritance he has obtained a more excellent name than they; for he was the only begotten Son of God, infinitely lovely in his sight, the Son in whom he declared once and again he was well pleased. He was infinitely near and dear to God, and had more worthiness in his eyes ten thousand times than all men and angels put together. And can we suppose any other than that such a person was heard when he cried to God with such earnestness ? Did Jacob, a poor sinful man, when he had wrestled with God, obtain of Gọd the name of Israel, and that encomium that as a prince he had power with God, and prevailed ? and did Elijah, who was a man of like passions, and of like corruptions with us when be prayed, earnestly prevail on God to work such great wonders ? and shall not the only begotten Son of God, when wrestling with God in tears and blood, prevail, and have his request granted him ?
Surely there is no room to suppose any such thing; and therefore, there is no room to doubt whether God will bestow salvation on those that believe in him, at his request.
(3.) Christ offered up these earnest prayers with the best plea for an answer that ever was offered to God, viz. his own blood ; which was an equivalent for the thing that he asked. He not only offered up strong cries, but he offered them up with a price fully sufficient to purchase the benefit he asked.
(4.) Christ offered this price, and those strong cries both together; for at the same time that he was pouring out these earnest requests for the success of his redemption in the salvation of sinners, he also shed his blood. His blood fell down to the ground at the same instant that his cries went up to heaven. Let burdened and distressed sinners that are ready to doubt of the efficacy of Christ's intercession for such unworthy creatures as they, and to call in question God's readiness to accept them for Christ's sake, consider these things. Go to the garden where the Son of God was in an agony, and where he cried to God so earnestly, and where his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood, and then see what a conclusion you will draw up from such a wonderful sight.
6. The godly may take great comfort in this that Christ has as their high priest offered up such strong cries to God. You that have good evidence of your being believers in Christ and his true followers, and servants, may comfort yourselves in this, that Christ Jesus is your high priest, that that blood, which Christ shed in his agony, fell down to the ground for you, and that those earnest cries were sent up to God for you, for the success of his labours and sufferings in all that good you stood in