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By this time they had passed through the city over Kidron's brook, and we now see them in the garden of Gethsemane.
There are four things worth noticing in the text:
1. Where does He come from. 2. What brought Him there. 3. His state of soul and employment. 4. His companions.
I. He comes from the place of commemoration. He, with His twelve disciples, had just partaken of the passover supper. This was a command of God given by Moses. Every year this ordinance of the passover was to be observed. Now, Jesus with His disciples being Jews, met together, and for the last time see them alone partaking of the roasted lamb and bitter herbs, here commemorating their deliverance from Egyptian bondage and oppression.
He comes from the place of inauguration. Having finished now with the last rite of the Jewish dispensation, before separating, and previous to His death, He institutes His own ordinance, which is properly called the “ Lord's supper.” Listen to the Lord Himself, instituting and administering His own ordinance, first, it is to His own disciples, and these are baptized ones. He, Jesus, takes the bread, blesses it, and breaks it, then says to them; “Take eat, this is My body which is given for you.” Now the command for the future is, “This do in remembrance of me.” Then follows the cup; He gave thanks once more, and passed it to the circle, and said, “Drink ye all of it, for this cup is the new Covenant in My blood, which is shed for you and many, for the remission of sins." The cup, He told them, was a symbol of the new covenant, under which His followers had now come, in distinction to the one they had left for His sake. It was to be a memorial of Him, and a constant recognition of their faith in the virtue of His atoning death—that death which was the seal of this new covenant.
II. What brought Him there?
The place was Gethsemane, a garden that Jesus often frequented alone, and also with His disciples. As Hart says:
Thither, by their Master brought,
His disciples likewise came;
Often set their hearts on flame,
It was a place of quiet and calm retreat from the noise and excitement, and business din of the city ; for Jesus loved often to be alone, sometimes in secret communion with God, at other times with His disciples.
A garden. When we begin to read the Bible, we soon come to this word; it was where our first parents were placed ; here in the garden, where man was found, sin is first committed, and the curse is entailed. Ages roll away: at last we find the second man, the Lord from heaven, in the garden ; there He comes under the curse of sin, to roll it away for His church.
But what brought Him there?
1. It was love— His love was fixed upon His church before time, though fallen, sunken, and ruined, His love remained the same.
It was His love
for her brought Him to the spot—brought Him in to the sad, gloomy, suffering condition in which we now behold Him.
“ Nothing brought Him from above,
Nothing but redeeming love."
2. His covenant engagements brought Him there too.
If we make certain engagements, they involve us in certain responsibilities, and liabilities. Now, Jesus engaged in covenant with God, His Father, to redeem the church, to purify, to justify, to glorify, and present her faultless and unblameable before God in love. Such an engagement involved the engaged in corresponding liabilities, and no release from them could there be but by the due performance of them. Thus we find Jesus here in the garden, in order to fulfil these engagements. He was there to receive the cup of wrath of God's righteous anger due to sin—He took it and drank the whole, and obtained the cup of blessing and salvation for His loved body, the church.
Painfully was His path marked with scorn and reproach from men : He, whose soul was truth, was condemned as a deceiver and blasphemer,
With what willingness He came to the place, there to be arrested—to be condemned by Pilate, and led to Calvary, to die and become the sacrifice to atone for our guilt! III. His state of soul and employment.
My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death,” are his own wordsHe is called the man of sorrows-now He declares how sorrowful He is.
Sin brings sorrow, and as the Substitute of the church—the cup having been put into His hands, nothing now but suffering is before Him. “And very heavy.” Sin is heavy, and all the sins of millions are now laid upon Him. “And the Lord (Isaiah says) hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all." Thus we see the soul of the Redeemer exceeding sorrowful, and very heavy with the church's sins upon Him, bearing the curse due to them, paying the penalties demanded of Him. He bore all away, and before He expired said, “It is finished," and with a “loud voice gave up the ghost."
2. Employment.—“Sit ye here while I go and pray yonder.”
Full of sorrow, bowed down with the heavy weight of sin upon Him, He resorts to prayer, and that private. “Sit ye
here." I must be alone to pray. You cannot hear My groans; you must not hear My language to My God in this deep soul trouble. The intensity of His soul trouble is seen by the language he uses :"Oh my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass
, from Me!” and the threefold repetition of the words again proves how overwhelmed He was. Thus we see prayer eases the mind of the sorrowing and suffering Saviour.
What a lesson is here taught to the anxious sinner, burdened with his sin, and full of heaviness because of soul trouble !–Go in secret, and pour out your heart into the ears of Him who once trod the like path penally for you.
To the troubled and distressed Christian :-Art thou overwhelmed with sorrow, grief, trial, difficulties ? Go with thy burden, and thy trouble, and say with thy suffering Lord, “Oh my Father, if it be possible let this cup pass from me. He will ease thy mind, soothe thy soul, and deliver thee, for Jesus, His Son's sake.
IV. Who are His companions ?' His disciples. Peter, James, and John-How came they to be His companions ? How came they to be so honoured, so favoured, to be in such company—for they were once rude, rough fishermen- caring nothing for Jesus, wholly absorbed with this life. The answer is simple, plain, and clear—for He called them, and they followed Him.
1. What is the call ? Out of darkness into His marvellous light—all the time we are in the dark, we can neither see the deformed objects by which we are surrounded, nor the beautiful ones. So man by nature, he is in the dark—when he is called by grace, he is brought into the light: now he sees sin in all its deformity, its evil, and defilement in his own person, life, and character. He, with this light, sees the danger to which he is exposed.
Now, with the light of grace, he sees the beauty of Jesus' person—His work of law obedience—His death, as making an end of sin, as just suitable and adapted to save him from his ruined state. Thus he is called by grace, and made a loving and willing companion of Jesus.
Again, we are called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ. These disciples enjoyed His company—had the advantage of His teaching, counsel, advice—were often profited by His prayers, in contrast to the multitude who only heard and understood Him by parables ; but these men, His disciples, were called into the meaning of them, and have fellowship by the way.
So the sinner now is called by divine grace to have fellowship with Jesus, and to be a partaker of some of the things He has obtained for us on our way homewards. Do we partake of Him by precious faith—the blood He has shed, the peace He has procured, the pardon effected, and the righteousness He has wrought out ? thus are we the called disciples of Jesus and His chosen companions; and because of His choice of us in so calling us, we make Him the chief companion of our hearts.
Are there any here who are not companions of Jesus, but companions of the world and sinners? Oh, think of what a sad state you are in ; for the world is to be burned up, and sinners are to be consumed from off it; and where will
you be found ? Oh, think of this, and remember there is only one place of safety, and that is—to be a companion of Jesus, the once suffering, one, but now risen and glorified Mediator.
CHURCH MEMBERSHIP. unparalleled peril, the Hebrew ChrisBy W.J. STYLES, Keppel-street Chapel.
tians are earnestly besought not " to
forsake the assembling of themselves THE Word of God enjoins baptized together," as was the manner of some, believers to pursue their heavenward who are mentioned only to be conjourney in company with those that sured. Christian association is therefear God. Isolated Christians were fore incumbent upon all that fear. all but unknown in the apostolic age God. -the age which set a pattern and The duty, moreover, is not merely precedent to the church to the end of stated in broad and general terms, time—and, in prospect of a period of but in the New Testament very ex
plicit and detailed directions are given as to how Christian association should be maintained. These it is not our present purpose to examine and enforce. They are to be found in the the hand-books of articles of faith and practice which have been adopted and circulated in most of our chapels. In these, proof-texts in abundance are cited, and no candid reader can, we think, fail to admit that a Strict Baptist Church is an embodiment of the divine ideal, and that we have the fullest warrant for asserting that the only scriptural way in which a baptized believer can maintain the fellowship of saints, is by joining and earnestly adhering, to such an sembly. These points assumed, it is our purpose to draw attention to a few less common considerations upon this weighty subject.
1. À Christian Church is a “gathering together unto Jesus Christ," 2 Thess. ii. 1. It is not a mutual expression of attachment among a body of believers, however Christful and affectionate, merely: it is not an expressive token of appreciation of a ministry, however scriptural and earnest, merely: it is not an act of adherence to a creed, however comprehensive, merely. It is a gathering of living and loyal Christians, in the energy of the Holy Ghost, around the person of their ever-living Lord. His authority convenes them. His will, as revealed in His Word, regulates their actions. His approving and inspiring presence is the great blessing desired.
Above all things they seek the realization of His gracious promise, that where His thus gathered people are to be found, Hein the person of the Holy Ghostmost assuredly is, in all His plenitude of His power to save, succour and sympathise, Matt. xviii. 20. This is no unimportant crotchet, but a solemn and scriptural principle, the reception of which is vital to our happiness as church members. If
motive inferior to' loyalty to Jesus brings us into the church, the failure that we shall doubtlessly find therein will cause continual discomfort and sorrow. If
we join because we have gained good from the pastor, or because we like the people, or because their creed satisfies our judgment, and accords with our experience, our motive is lower than God's principle, and we shall be mortified and humbled. If, however, we do so for Christ's sake, much as the coldness and inconsistency we may meet with, may grieve us, we shall never wish to recall the step, nor ever question its propriety. His abiding presence will cheer and stay the soul.
2. A Christian Church is a union on the basis of truth : and there should be hearty concord between its members on the doctrines and ordinances of the gospel. The object for which it exists is the maintenance and manifestation of the fellowship of saints; and it is impossible that Christians should cordially walk, work, and worship together, if severed in heart by doctrinal divergencies. A doctrine of the gospel, to a true child of God, is not a mere opinion which has no authentic foundation, and may or may not be true. It is the succinct statement of one of the links in the great chain of divine facts on which his eternal happiness depends. Our salvation does not rest on a gigantic “perhaps,” but on an immutable certainty, of the stability of which we have been assured by the Holy Spirit. Earnest men must think earnestly about their religion. They cannot tainely submit to have facts which they deem of vital moment slighted; nor dare they, in the spirit of courteous compromise, allow their lips to be sealed on subjects which to them are dearer than life.
It has been urged that we may
agree to differ,” and consort on the ground of the truths only which we hold in
Narrowly examined, however, this principle will be seen to be impossible among men whose hearts are fired with love to the truth. It is really a gag upon honest outspokenness, for it enforces silence upon every point upon which diversity of opinion can possibly exist. This reduoes church fellowship to a mock
ery and delusion. It has, indeed, been tried, but with inost disastrous results. The Spirit has been grieved, prayer hindered, zeal quenched, testimony retarded, and the full-orbed gospel attenuated into the merest generalities, while all the good attained has been the introduction of disloyal members into otherwise faithful brotherhoods. Hitherto our denomination has maintained this point with godly determination. May it continue to do so. By this means alone can
we be saved from the "anythingarianism” which is eating like a canker into the heart's core of the dissenting communities of EngLand.
3. As a church consists of those whom Christ has drawn to. Himself, and the Spirit has led into the truth, it is the creature of God. Its existence and dimensions are due to His sovereign pleasure. It is thus a witness on earth for its Head in heaven. It should, therefore, be regarded with high respect as a sacred and divine institution. “To despise a church” (1 Cor. xi. 22) is to pour contempt on Him who called it into being. To give offence to it is a high misdemeanour, which will infallibly call forth tokens of His displeasure. Its weakness, 'its poverty, or the paucity of gifts possessed by its members, do not affect its heavenly dignity; and sorrow will surely befall the saint who inflicts injury on that which God makes His peculiar care.
On the other hand, to “ seek the good” of the church, is most honourable in the sight of God. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee.”
The last chapter of the epistle to the Romans is sometimes regarded as an uninteresting list of names. It is, however, far from being so. It pourtrays heaven's interest in those who actively engage in unselfish ministrasions for the welfare of the church on earth.
Is my reader in honourable connection with a church of Christ ? let him be grateful. God has signally favoured him by bringing him
into association with the only true nobility—the excellent of the earth. Is he one whose character, conduct, or conversation, tell adversely upon the interests of the church to which he belongs ? Let him pause and consider. An unseen hand will smite him unless he repents. Is he a graceless professor ? A lifeless sinner among living saints ? An offensive weed in the garden of the Lord ? An enemy among Israel's hosts, but wearing the regimentals of Zion's king? He is “twice dead,”—dead in a dead profession, and dead in trespasses and sins. He is, perhaps, of all lost sinners, the character most obnoxious to God; and when the end comes,
and come it will, what must be this wretched mocker's doom? His life is a prolonged insult to the chaste spouse of Christ, and shall not the Lord take vengeance on his iniquity ?
4. Churches are ordained by God for purposes of the most important character. We are to receive one another to the glory of God, and the glory of God has the most vital connection with the true welfare of His people. As isolated Christians, we should be powers for good. In combination our influence should be proportionably augmented. Our testimonies should commingle like the well-blended voices in a chorus. If our church life does not tend to develop fluence, and make us what otherwise
never should have been, some radical error demands discovery and rectification.
Obvious as these considerations appear, how poor a thing our church life often is! How few realise its dignity! Some are apathetic and cold in relation to it.
As a matter of course they belong to a church, but their adherence to it lacks earnestness and purpose, and their membership is profitless to themselves and useless to others. Others, though earnest at heart, fail through ignorance. They do not realize the dignity and importance of their position, and for want of defiuiteness of aim, find no proper employment for their energies, Much good night therefore be effected