Anxiety: solace from the Garden of Gethsemane

(Photo: Unsplash)

By Elizabeth Prata

Christopher Newman Hall (1816-1902), born at Maidstone and known in later life as a ‘Dissenter’s Bishop’, was one of the most celebrated nineteenth century English Nonconformist divines. He was active in social causes; supporting Abraham Lincoln and abolition of slavery during the American Civil War, the Chartist cause, and arranging for influential Nonconformists to meet Gladstone. His tract Come to Jesus, first published in 1848 also contributed to his becoming a household name throughout Britain, the US and further afield, supposedly selling four million copies worldwide over his lifetime. Source Wikipedia

His famous tract Come to Jesus can be found at Chapel Library and read for free.

from Amazon

In 1891 Hall wrote a book of prayers-devotionals aimed at solace. He drew from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and wrote about the sorrows and comforts our Messiah endured in those moments. What follows is an excerpt from Chapter 26. His introduction states his purpose for the book and after that, the excerpt of 2 of the 6 points he makes about anxiety:

GETHSEMANE—Leaves of Healing from the Garden of Grief by Newman Hall, 1891

This Book is the fulfillment of a long-cherished purpose. It expresses the thoughts and prayers of many years, and is published with devout desire to minister consolation to some of the afflicted children of God.

“Be not anxious for your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.” Matthew 6:25

“Fear not, little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

In the parable of the man who said to his soul, “You have many goods laid up for many years,” the Great Teacher warned the rich against eagerness in accumulating wealth. He then warned the poor against anxiety about securing the necessaries of life. Covetousness is of the mind, not of the condition. The poor may be as eager for pence as the rich for pounds. There is anxiety of the cottage, as well as of the counting-house; fretting care, not only that the barn be full, but lest it become empty. So our Lord admonishes all His followers not to be perplexed about earthly things. Take no fretting thought—be not anxious. For this He gives six powerful reasons, Luke 12:22-32.

1. Contrast the smallness of what makes us anxious—with the greatness of what God has already given. He bestows life without our labor or taking thought. We breathe when asleep as when awake, and the blood circulates and builds up the wasting tissues without our consciousness. Is not that life more than the food which supplies it, and that body more than the clothing that clothes it?

Sometimes the rich are anxious in their abundance, what selection shall be made for the feast—”what shall we eat?” And sometimes the crowded wardrobe causes anxiety as to which dress shall be selected for some occasion of pleasure or display—”with what shall we be clothed?” But many more are anxious about the empty cupboard—how to obtain food for their day’s hunger, or clothing to shield the body from the cold. But if God gives life, will He not sustain it—and if He sustains the body, will He not clothe it? “The life is more than food, and the body than clothing.”

2. God provides for birds and flowers—much more for us. “Consider the ravens,” so familiar to the disciples. Let us consider our own homely or beautiful musical birds—the blithe sparrow chirping in the hedge or city-street; the thrush as it warbles its glad matins and vespers, repeating each strain as loving it; the black-bird, with mellow plaintive tones; the lark upspringing to heaven, rapturously singing as it soars; the rustic robin cheering winter’s gloom with its mellifluous sweetness, worthy to be named even with the nightingale, faithful summer-visitant, gladdening both darkness and day with its enchanting melodies. They do not sow nor reap nor gather into barns—yet God feeds them! He endowed them with that keen vision to spy their food, those agile wings to reach it, that sharp bill to seize it.

“He hears the ravens that cry, and satisfies the desire of every living thing.” And will He not much more feed you whom He has more richly endowed—you who can, and therefore should, sow and reap and store, with all industry and prudence? But having done your duty in the exercise of such capacities, and having prayed to your Father who much more cares for you—should you be anxious, as if inferior to birds in trusting Him?

Consider also “the lilies how they grow;” (flowers in general, or specially the scarlet anemone—making the spring pastures of Palestine radiant with beauty). We may consider the flowers poetically, and listen to the wisdom or the music of their speech. The painter considers them artistically, and reproduces their forms and hue, so that in smoky towns we may be reminded of rural beauty, and in winter’s dreariness of summer’s loveliness. But we may also and chiefly consider the lilies as reminding us of God. “How they grow!” Who can understand all the mystery of the life even of a tiny flower? They “toil not,” as men; “neither do they spin,” as women. Their life is brief; flourishing today, and, as in the East, cut down to dry in the sun, and next day burnt up in the oven; and yet so graceful in form, so beautiful in color, the objects of so much thoughtful and tasteful care, “that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.”

And will God not much more clothe you, who can both toil and spin, and who have the same God who esteems you of far greater value, and has promised that you shall not lack anything that is good? 

The chapter can be read in its entirety here.

Or the whole book here.

I will post the remaining excerpt from chapter 26, “Anxiety” tomorrow.