And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he said to his disciples, Sit you here, while I shall pray.…
It is this death — this travail of the soul, which from the beginning to the end of a Christian life is effecting or producing that holier creature which is finally to be presented without spot or wrinkle, meet for the inheritance of the saints in light. It is in the pangs of the soul, that he feels the renewing influence of the Holy Ghost, realized in the birth of the Christian character, who in any age of the world recovers the defaced image of his God. I think it gives a preciousness to every means of grace, thus to consider them as brought into being by the agonies of the Redeemer. It would go far, were this borne in mind, to defend it against the resistance or neglect, if it were impressed on you that there is not a single blessing of which you are conscious, that did not spring from this sorrow — this sorrow unto death of the Redeemer's soul. Could you possibly make light, as perhaps you now do, of those warnings and secret admonitions which come you know not whence, prompting you to forsake certain sins and give heed to certain duties, if you were impressed that it was through the very soul of the Redeemer being "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death," that there was obtained for you the privilege of access to God by prayer, or the having offers made to you of pardon and reconciliation? Do you think you could kneel down irreverently or formally, or that you could treat the ordinance of preaching as a mere human institution, in regard to which, it mattered little whether you were in earnest or not? The memory that Christ's soul travailed in agony to procure for you those blessings — which, because they are abundant, you may be tempted to underrate — would necessarily impart a preciousness to the whole. You could not be indifferent to the bitter cry; you could not look languidly on the scene as you saw the cross. This is a fact; it was only by sorrow — sorrow unto death of the Redeemer's soul — that any of the ordinary means of grace — those means that you are daily enjoying, have been procured. Will you think little of those means? Will you neglect them? Will you trifle with them? Will you not rather feel that what cost so much to buy, it must be fatal to despise? Neither, as we said, is it the worth only of the means of grace that you may learn from the mighty sorrow by which they were purchased; it is also your own worth, the worth of your own soul. When we would speak of the soul and endeavour to impress men with a sense of its value, we may strive to set forth the nature of its properties, its powers, its capacities, its destinies, but we can make very little way; we show little more than our ignorance, for search how we will the soul is a mystery; it is like Deity, of which it is the spark; it hides itself by its own light; and eludes by dazzling the inquirer. You will remember, that our Lord emphatically asked: "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" It is implied in the question, that if the whole world were offered in barter — the world, with all its honours and its riches — he would be the veriest of fools who would consent to the exchange, and would be a loser to an extent beyond thought, in taking creation and surrendering his soul. Then I hear you say, "This is all a theory!" It may be so. "The world in one scale, is but a particle of dust to the soul in the other! We should like to see an actual exchange: this might assure us of the untold worth that you wish to demonstrate." And, my brethren, you shall see a human soul put on one side and the equivalent on the other. You shall see an exchange! Not the exchange — the foul exchange which is daily, ay, hourly! made — the exchange of the soul for a bauble, for a shadow; an exchange, which even those who make it would shrink from if they thought on what they were doing — would shrink from with horror, if they would know how far they are losers and not gainers by the bargain. The exchange we have to exhibit is a fair exchange. What is given for the soul is what the soul is worth. Come with us, and strive to gaze on the glories of the invisible God — He who has grieved in the soul, "for He emptied Himself, and made Himself of no reputation," that the soul might be saved! Come with us to the stable of Bethlehem! Come with us to Calvary! The amazing accumulation of which you are spectator — the fearful sorrow, on which you hardly dare to look — the agony of Him who had done no sin — the agony of Him who was the Lord of glory — the death of Him who was the Prince of Light — this was given for the soul; by this accumulation was redemption effected. Is there not here an exchange — an exchange actually made, with which we might prove it impossible to overrate the value of the soul? If you read the form of the question — "What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" you will see it implies that it is not within the empire of wealth to purchase the soul. But cannot this assume the form of another question — What would God give in exchange for the soul? Here we have an answer, not of supposition, but of fact: we tell you what God has given — He has given Himself.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.