« PreviousContinue »
tion; at least, this is to imitate our blessed Lord, so far as we can imitate him at all; it is adopting into our lives, the principle which regulated his.
Again; it appears, on one occasion at least, that our Lord's retirement to prayer was preparatory to an important work, which he was about to execute. The manner in which Saint Luke states this instance is thus: "And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God; and when it was day, he called unto him his disciples, and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles." From this statement I infer, that the night, passed by our Lord in prayer, was preparatory to the office which he was about to execute; and surely an important office it was; important to him; important to his religion; important to the whole world. Nor let it be said, that our Lord, after all, in one instance at least, was unfortunate in his
twelve one was a traitor.
not error; a remarkable
choice; of the
That choice was prophecy was to
be fulfilled, and other purposes were to be answered, of which we cannot now speak particularly. "I know," says our Lord, "whom I have chosen." But let us confine ourselves to our observation. It was a momentous choice; it was a decision of great consequence; and it was accordingly, on our Lord's part, preceded by prayer; not only so, but by a night spent in prayer. "He continued all night in prayer to God;" or, if you would rather so render it, in a house, set apart for prayer to God. Here, therefore, we have an example given us, which we both can imitate, and ought to imitate. Nothing of singular importance; nothing of extraordinary moment, either to ourselves or others, ought to be resolved upon, or undertaken without prayer to God; without previous devotion. It is a natural operation of piety to carry the mind to God, whenever any thing presses and weighs upon it; they who feel not this tendency, have reason to accuse and suspect themselves of want of piety. Moreover, we have for it the direct example of our Lord himself: I believe also, I may add, that we have the
example and practice of good men, in all of the world.
Again; we find our Lord resorting to prayer in his last extremity; and with an earnestness, I had almost said, a vehemence of devotion, proportioned to the occasion. The terms in which the evangelists describe our Lord's devotion in the garden of Gethsemane, the evening preceding his death, are the strongest terms that could be used. As soon as he came to the place, he bid his disciples pray. When he was at the place, he said unto them, "Pray that ye enter not into temptation." This did not content him ; this was not enough for the state and sufferings of his mind. He parted even from them. He withdrew about a stone's cast, and kneeled down. Hear how his struggle in prayer is described. Three times he came to his disciples, and returned again to prayer; thrice he kneeled down, at a distance from them, repeating the same words. Being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly: drops of sweat fell from his body, as if it had been great drops of
blood; yet in all this, throughout the whole scene, the constant conclusion of his prayer was, "Not my will, but thine be done." It was the greatest occasion that ever was and the earnestness of our Lord's prayer, the devotion of his soul, corresponded with it. Scenes of deep distress await us all. It is in vain to expect to pass through the world without falling into them. We have, in our Lord's example, a model for our behaviour, in the most severe and most trying of these occasions: afflicted, yet resigned; grieved and wounded, yet submissive; not insensible of our sufferings, but increasing the ardour and fervency of our prayer, in proportion to the pain and acuteness of our feelings.
But, whatever may be the fortune of our lives, one great extremity, at least, the hour of approaching death, is certainly to be passed through. What ought then to occupy us? what can then support us? Prayer. Prayer, with our blessed Lord himself, was a refuge from the storm; almost every word he uttered, during that tremendous scene, was prayer: prayer the