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SERMON XIX,

MATT. xxvi. 41.

Watch and pray, that ye enter not into tempta

tion : the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

It is in seasons of adversity and dangerous trial that men’s principles are put to the proof, and the real worth of their character shineth forth.

And we may truly say, that never was equal fortitude and presence of mind, or so perfect a piety, humanity and benevolence, disclosed

upon

the theatre of this world, as by our Saviour in his last sufferings.

The evangelist had immediately before been giving an account of that overwhelming sorrow and dejection of mind which the blessed Jesus laboured under at this time ; at the near approach of that cruel and infamous death

which

which he was to undergo, of which he had the full foreknowledge given him ; recording his humble submissive prayer at the same time to God, if it might be consistent with the designs of his infinite wisdom, and good for himself and for all, to be delivered from it, ver. 39. “ O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”

In this sad extremity, on removing to a small distance from his disciples, to pray in secret to the great Supporter of all his creatures in their distresses, he had desired the three whom he had selected from the rest, to keep themselves awake and attend to what passed, that they might give him assistance if he should want and call for it; for he was afraid of fainting quite away.

" Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; tarry ye here, and watch with me.” He addresses himself to Peter, as he had made greater professions of attachment than the others, to make him sensible of his faults. But when he returned, expecting to receive comfort from them, ver. 40, “ he findeth them asleep:"-upon which, " he saith unto

Peter,

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Peter ; What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

“ Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation : the spirit indeed is willing, but the Aesh is weak.”

In this latter clause it has been thought by some that our Saviour makes a kind apology for his disciples, to excuse them for their not being more attentive to himself; viz. that he knew they were well disposed to him, but their sorrow and heaviness had got the better of them ; warning them, however, to be more careful for the time to come. But although he might be inclined to pass over their unkindness to himself, and unconcernedness for him in his distress, it is not likely that he should apologize for their neglect and inattention, when at the same time they themselves were in the most imminent danger, and going to be put to the most severe trial, which would terrify them so as to make them desert him, their Master, in his greatest need, and might issue in their deserting truth and goodness, and falling away entirely from him.

In his rebuke, therefore, though tempered with mildness, as it was now, and al

ways

VOL. I.

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ways where he saw a good disposition, yet there was a just severity, which they must have felt afterwards, if it had not its immediate effect upon them : as if he had said; Although I cannot prevail with you to keep a little awake for my sake, to be of some small help to me, and join your secret prayers to God for me; I would press you to holy vigilance and prayer at this time on your own accounts : “ Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. “ The spirit indeed is willing." I know

you have good purposes and resolutions : you have lately all of you made your boast of these; that you would die with me rather than deny

me.

But I warn you, that, with all your good intentions, 6 the flesh is weak :" You are frail and fallible creatures, and liable to be surprised and carried to what is wrong, though you

do not intend it, unless you are greatly . upon your guard, and seek for assistance where only, and where always, it is to be found.

We shall endeavour to gather some of that instruction which our Lord intended here to give to those his first disciples, and to all of us. And,

I. Our Lord speaks in some commendation of his disciples, when he says;

“ The spirit is willing.”

It is a good beginning, a necessary foundation, without which nothing can go on well, to have a willing mind, to entertain sincere resolutions to do our duty and what God requires of us. And this is a thing that we may be certain of, if we will deal honestly with ourselves. For what can a man know, if he cannot know his present intentions and disposition? And if we are thus sincerely and honestly disposed, we may be assured that we are under the protection and care of Almighty God, and shall not be rejected by him.

This, we may not doubt, recommended our Lord's disciples to him; that, amidst their many faults and imperfections, they were men of pious minds, willing to be taught, and addicted to no vice whatsoever.

Persons like these are they whom our Lord calls given to him of the Father ; i.e. persons fitted to be put under his tuition and direction, to be taught by him, and advanced in virtue and happiness for ever. Of whom he thus speaks in one place, (John vi. 37.) “ All that 2 B 2

the

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