THE SWEET SAVOR
"The Lord smelled a sweet savor." Genesis 8:21
Reader! do not you desire that your soul may prosper at
the throne of grace? Perhaps you reply, "Such blessedness is beyond all
price. But how can one so low as a creature—so vile as a sinner, gain happy
acceptance?" Blessed be God! there is a ready door. Draw near, leaning by
faith on the arm of Jesus—robed by faith in His righteousness—pleading by
faith the costly merits of His blood, and you enter encircled with songs of
welcome! All heaven rejoices over you with joy unutterable.
Our Bible seems written with the grand intent thus to
guide, by an ever-living way, to the rest of God. Therefore it is, that in
its pages we see the golden portals flying open, when touched by hands like
ours. Abel comes with the appointed Lamb—no frown repels him. "God
accepted Abel, and his offering." Noah comes with the same key—no
bolts obstruct him. His service is grateful incense. "The Lord smelled a
sweet savor." So it ever has been. So it ever must be.
There is a virtue in the death of Jesus, so precious, so
mighty, that it has resistless power with God. Whenever the poor sinner
presents it, there is new chorus to the hymns on high; "again they say
Hallelujah." How important is it, that this truth should be as a sun without
a speck before us! Hence the Spirit records, that when Noah shed the blood
which represented Christ, "The Lord smelled a sweet savor." Thus the
curtains of God's pavilion are thrown back; and each attribute appears
rejoicing in redemption. The Lamb is offered, and there is fragrance
throughout heaven. O my soul, these are blessed tidings. They show the
irresistible plea, by which we may obtain pardon, and every needful grace.
This lesson might indeed have been spread over a wide
expanse of reasoning and of proof; and still the outline might have been
scarcely touched. But the Spirit simply states, "The Lord smelled a sweet
savor." We catch one glance, and all is seen. The cross is raised, and
clouds of prevailing odor pierce the skies.
This image is a bright jewel in the Bible-treasury,
because it speaks the language of every class, in every age, in every
climate. It was light to pious pilgrims in patriarchal times. After the
lapse of centuries, it is equally light to us. It revived our elder
brethren. It will revive the last saint. It stoops to the lowliness of the
most lowly hut. It soars above the loftiness of the most lofty intellect.
"The Lord smelled a sweet savor." All read and understand alike, that
Jehovah reposes in Jesus, and is satisfied to the extent of Deity. Just as
one orb contains all light, so this brief word is the whole Gospel of
reconciliation. The children of Israel were taught in the twilight-rites the
fullness of the work of Christ. The flowing blood preached all forgiveness.
But to assure their hearts, over each victim this olive-branch was
waved—"The priest shall burn all on the altar to be a burnt-sacrifice, an
offering made by fire, of a sweet savor unto the Lord."
So, too, when the Apostle Paul uplifts the cross, he
proves its power by the same emblem. "Christ also has loved us, and has
given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet
smelling savor." This is the magnifying medium, through which we see, that
the dying of Jesus is the garden of God's sweetest perfumes. His one
sacrifice is eternal and unbounded fragrance.
Let us now draw nearer, and learn how the whole Godhead
here expands itself in limitless delights. When we contemplate God in His
majesty, we see upon His head the many crowns of every pure and holy
excellence. They all shine in one grand harmony of infinite, unchangeable
glory. They cannot be parted. They cannot exist asunder. They are united by
bands, which God alone could frame, but which God can never disunite. The
question instantly arises, How can they all concur in raising a sinner to
share the Eternal's throne?
First, let JUSTICE speak. Its claim strikes terror. It
has a right to one unbroken series of uninterrupted obedience through all
life's term. Each straying of a thought from perfect love incurs a
countless debt. It has in its hand an immeasurable roll, written within and
without against us. If it be willing to relax, it would merely overlook
evil, and God would cease to be God. Therefore it sternly cries, pay me
what you owe! But how shall he pay, who has nothing of his own but
sin?—Behold the Cross. Here Jesus pays a death, the worth of which no tongue
can reckon. Justice holds scales, which groan indeed under mountains upon
mountains of iniquity—but this one sacrifice more than outweighs the pile.
Thus justice rejoices, because it is infinitely honored. For if all the
family of man had been cast into the prison-house of torment—if they had
writhed forever, paying the penalty of hell-pains—the whole could never have
been cancelled. Eternity could not have seen the end. But Jesus dies, and
justice at once is crowned with everlasting satisfaction.
A case from common life, though far short of the entire
truth, may help to clear it to our view. A debtor's debt amounts to
thousands. His means can render a penny on each day. The creditor arrests
him and takes the daily mite. Years pass, but the mass scarcely lessens. The
removal of a daily grain will not wear out the ocean's sands. But let a rich
man come, and in one sum discharge the whole. The claim ceases. The prisoner
goes free. The creditor exults in a payment, which is unlooked-for gain.
Thus at the cross, justice receives a cup of atonement, so full, that it can
hold no more. It revels in the sweetness of the savor.
Ponder the wonders which are here achieved. Justice
not only drops its avenging sword, but it becomes arrayed in smiles of
approving love. It is no more an adversary, demanding condemnation.
It stands, as an advocate, insisting on acquittal. The principle,
which rigidly requires death for each sin, as rigidly refuses to take the
payment twice. Cling then to the cross. There justice, by a mighty plea,
establishes your right to heaven.
Next, there is a sweet savor here to the TRUTH of God. If
justice is unyielding, so too, is Truth. Its yes is yes; is no is no. It
speaks, and the word must be. Heaven and earth may pass away, but it cannot
recede. Now its voice is gone forth, denouncing eternal wrath on every sin.
Thus it bars heaven's gates with adamantine bars. In vain are tears, and
penitence, and prayers. Truth becomes untrue, if sin escapes. But Jesus
comes to drink the cup of vengeance. Every threat falls on His Head. Truth
needs no more. It claps the wings of rapturous delight, and speeds to heaven
to tell that not one word has failed.
Take another faint image. A king issues a decree. His
oath is pledged that death shall follow disobedience. A subject rebels. He
is convicted. Execution is required. If the king hesitate, where is his
truth and faithfulness, and where is the majesty of his empire? But let the
king's son, in the offender's stead, endure the penalty. Then the law is
magnified, the statute is inviolate, the sacredness of order rejoices, while
the guilty lives. Thus, when Jesus suffers, Truth gains honor for its every
saying, and smells a sweet savor of content.
Believer, rejoice in the cross. Here only, the Word,
which had forged such mighty chains, finds that it can live in your life. It
demands salvation for you; for it has nothing against you, but all for you
in the unalterable promise, "Whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but
have everlasting life."
Need I add, that Jesus is a sweet savor to the HOLINESS
of God. This perfection is the sensitive plant of heaven. It recoils from
the approach of sin. It cannot look upon uncleanness. It has no eye, but for
unsullied righteousness. It only breathes where all is pure. Now, at the
cross a marvel is effected, which is joy to every fiber of its heart—a
stream thence flows, which washes out the crimson-dye, until it can be no
more found. Nor is this all. The sinner looks to the cross, and, as he
gazes, the love of evil withers, and the love of God buds forth. Thus
the cross presents to Holiness "a glorious Church, not having spot, or
wrinkle, or any such thing."
Reader! would you obtain a title and fitness for heaven?
Live at the cross. It gives a fitness to inherit. It gives an
aptness to enjoy. Ministers of Christ, would you weaken the sway of
Satan? Preach the cross. They only die to the rule of sin, who die in Jesus
to its penalties. There is no sanctifying principle but faith in Christ!
Sweet too is the savor which MERCY here inhales. Mercy
weeps over misery. In all afflictions it is afflicted. It tastes the
bitterest drop in each cup of woe. But when anguish is averted, the guilty
spared, the perishing rescued, and all tears wiped from the eyes of the
redeemed, then is its holiest triumph! Loud is its rapture, when it sees a
countless multitude snatched from the bitterest agonies, and borne to
celestial bliss! Overflowing is its delight, when it hears voices, like
ocean's waters, hymning the victories of the Lamb! Infinite is its joy, when
it realizes that this adoration will swell louder in melody through endless
ages! But it is only at the cross that Mercy raises this exulting head. I am
painfully aware that many of the sons of sin have some vague thought of
finding mercy without finding Christ. Oh! that they might learn, before it
is too late, that God's saving mercy is only found at Calvary!
Reader! I trust, that you now distinctly see, how every
attribute sings, and rejoices, and gives thanks, and glories in the
all-satisfying Jesus. His incense ascends, and heaven luxuriates in the
savor. Hence the Father brings in the Son with the happy voice, "Behold my
elect, in whom my soul delights;" and again, "This is my beloved Son, in
whom I am well pleased."
Reader! is the like mind in you? Is the joy of heaven
your joy? Is its refreshment the refreshment of your heart? Is its perfume
the perfume of your spirit? Does your every faculty expand and rejoice in
Jesus? Is He your Paradise of every spice and every flower? Is He your
Garden of Eden, in which each moment is a moment of blossoming, and each
blossom opens in increasing fragrance?
Believe me, every sweet savor is in Him. Believe me,
there is no sweet savor elsewhere. The world is a foul desert. The vapor of
its weeds is corruption and rottenness. Turn from its thorns and briers.
Come and walk up and down in the verdant places of the Gospel. Partake of
the deliciousness which here abounds. The ransomed all sing in the ways of
the Lord; "His name is as ointment poured forth." "He is the Rose of
Sharon." "A bundle of myrrh is my Beloved unto me." "He is as a cluster of
henna blossoms." "All your garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia."
He is the sweet savor, which can never fail.
Can any hear this and turn to Christless habits? Ah!
child of sin, pause, I beseech you. Apart from Christ, your person is
accursed—Your merit is a filthy rag—Your prayer is an abomination—Your
praise is an insult—Your service is a mockery—Your walk is a daily step from
God—Your death is a downfall into hell. Tell me, is it not far better to be
unto God a sweet savor of Christ? Think! a life redolent of Christ will be
an eternity of fragrance through the realms of light. But a life which is
the scent of earth's corruptions, becomes at last a loathsome fume in the
charnel-house of darkness.