THE PRECIOUS ANOINTING
"The precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments." Psalm 133:2
It is to this striking emblem—the anointing oil—rather than to the truth it illustrates, the present chapter especially relates. The truth illustrated in this beautiful passage, we admit, is a great and holy one—brotherly love. "Behold, how good, how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!" Would that we saw more of it in the professing Church of God! Then would the disciples of Christ be more marked and distinguished as such. "For by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another." But it is the holy and precious anointing itself to which we especially direct the reader's attention. The subject is of essential importance. It is the personal possession of this anointing that constitutes our true Christianity. The religion of vast numbers is but the religion of sentiment, the religion of form, the religion of ritualism—a religion utterly destitute of one particle of this divine and precious anointing. It is therefore of the greatest importance that each reader of this work should institute the most rigid self-scrutiny to ascertain his real possession of the Holy Spirit, the Anointer and the anointing, without an interest in which we possess but "a name to live while we are dead;" "having a form of godliness, without the power thereof." To aid the devout reader in his inquiry into this subject, it will be our object to illustrate the precious nature of this divine anointing, its application to Christ, the true spiritual Aaron and Head of the royal priesthood,—and its communication through Him to all who form a part of the one Anointed Priesthood. Oh that as we meditate upon this soul-reviving truth, the "oil of gladness" may diffuse its influence and fragrance through our souls, endearing Him to our hearts whose precious "name is as ointment poured forth" to those who know and love it.
The office of the priesthood under the Levitical dispensation was regarded as one of the highest designations of God in His Church. The priest stood, as it were, in God's place. He was Jehovah's viceregent—the medium of communication from God to the people, and from the people to God. He was to receive the word from the mouth of God, and communicate it to the people; and, on their part, he was to make sacrifice, take of their offerings, and present them to the Lord. It will thus be seen that the priesthood was one of the highest and holiest offices in the Church of God. It was in fact associated with royalty. Melchisedek was both a priest and a king—a royal priest. In this respect he was a remarkable type of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, by one of the prophets, is designated a "Priest upon His throne," and who stands to His Church in the twofold relation of King and Priest. Such is the dignity to which their union with Christ raises His people. They are, in virtue of that union, a "royal priesthood," "offering up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Christ."
We have remarked, respecting the priesthood under the old economy, that, so important was the institution, the instructions God gave for the selection of the priests, and their designation to the office, were of the most minute and significant character. Our present subject limits us to a single and specific one—the anointing. The directions of God touching the composition of the unguent—the precious oil—by which Aaron and the priests were set apart to their holy office, are minute and instructive:—"Moreover the Lord spoke unto Moses, saying, Take you also unto you principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty; and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels, and of cassia five hundred shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, and of oil olive an hin: and you shall make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the are of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil. And you shall anoint Aaron and his sons, and consecrate them, that they may minister unto me in the priest's office." (Exod. 30:22-25, 30.) How deep and precious the spiritual significance of all this! The great truth it is designed to illustrate is the nature and preciousness of that holy anointing of which all the "royal priesthood" of Christ are partakers, and apart from which all religion, the most intellectual, poetical, and strictly ritual, is vain and dead, spurious and worthless. One drop of this holy oil, this divine anointing, has in it more of God, more of Christ, more of the Holy Spirit, and more substance, sweetness, and preciousness, than all the religions of man, the most costly, splendid, and imposing, combined.
In one sentence we define the divine nature and the essential value of this precious anointing—it consists in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the soul. We marvel not, then, that in the typal unfolding of this truth, there should be such an accumulation of precious, fragrant, and costly things. And yet how far below the Antitype does it fall! What earthly things, the most rare and precious, can convey any adequate idea of the divine nature and the essential worth of the Holy Spirit? Who is He? There are those who would reduce Him to a mere attribute of God—an influence of the Most High—an emanation of the Deity—a divine principle! Alas! how many, even of the Lord's own people, have but the most dim and imperfect views of the personal dignity and official work of the Holy Spirit, who yet would recoil with abhorrence at the thought of holding a sentiment in the slightest degree derogatory to His glory. And among those who utterly and openly impugn the divine dignity of the Spirit, denying totally His personal oneness with the Godhead, to what subtle distinctions and hollow sophisms, in the enmity of the carnal mind to God's revealed truth, will they resort, rather than accept the plain and simple declarations of the Bible? But who is the Holy Spirit? Our mind is filled with sacred and solemn awe as we inscribe the words—THE HOLY SPIRIT IS THE THIRD PERSON IN THE GODHEAD. When we open the revealed Word and read the words which compose the formulary of baptism, and the apostolic benediction, who can doubt this truth? Touching the former we read, "Go you therefore and teach all nations (make disciples), baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit." (Matt. 28:19.) Touching the latter it is written, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen." (2 Cor. 13:14.) What shall we say to these distinct, emphatic declarations? Doubt them? Cavil at them? Reduce them to figures of speech? Deny and reject them? God forbid! Beloved reader, is there no secret thought in your mind derogatory to the Divine Personality of the Holy Spirit?—no lurking suspicion of His claims to your love, worship, and obedience? Do you cherish towards Him like feelings of holy awe, filial reverence, and implicit faith with those with which you regard the Father and the Son? In a word, do you honor, and love, and pray to the Holy Spirit even as you love, honor, and pray to the first and second Persons of the ever-blessed Trinity? Oh, do not forget that the debt of love, confidence, and obedience which you owe to the Spirit is the same! As you could not be redeemed and saved without the blood-shedding of the Son, so you could not be regenerated and sanctified but by the divine power of the Holy Spirit. Such, then, is the sacred anointing of the royal priesthood! The possession of the Holy Spirit, in all His divine perfections and official relations, by each believer in Jesus, is the precious anointing by which he is set apart as a priest of the Most High God. Can we conceive of any blessing more costly and precious? Of this blessing you are the recipient if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus. And the Word of God declares it:—"You have received the Spirit of adoption." "He has given you the earnest of the Spirit." "The Spirit of God dwells in you." How easy were it to multiply these proofs!
Passing from the person of the Spirit, we advert for a moment to the work of the Spirit. How precious is that work!—so precious that all language, all imagery, fails adequately to express it. If, beloved, you are a temple, a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, there is more of God, more of divine glory, dwelling within your soul, than in all the worlds that God has made, known and unknown. Oh, how imperfectly we estimate the value and high calling of a saint of God! But as we are to speak of this in a distinct chapter of the present work, we but refer to it now as illustrating the costliness of this anointing. The glory of a believer in Christ—like the glory of Him whose son he is—is a concealed glory. "The King's daughter is all glorious within." Where her dark corruption dwells, where the great conflict is passing, even there, amid so much that is opposite in nature and hostile in spirit, the great glory of the child of God dwells, and all that hidden glory consists of the work of the Holy Spirit in the soul. A broken heart for sin, the spirit of self-abhorrence, the trembling faith in Christ, the thirst for sanctification, the breathings after God, are component parts of that divine and precious anointing which has sanctified you as a priest of the Most High God.
The influences of the Holy Spirit enter essentially into the precious anointing of the believer. What progress in the divine life can there be apart from these? This sacred anointing needs perpetual care and replenishing. The spirit of prayer in our souls—how restrained! The spirit of adoption—how it droops! The spirit of love—how it languishes! The spirit of faith—how it fluctuates! The spirit of Christ—how it wanes! But the Holy Spirit quickens, revives, and restores by fresh inspirations of His influence. A gale from Him bears on its wings life, fruitfulness, and fragrance. When the 'south wind' blows upon the soul, the spices thereof flow out, and Christ comes into His garden, eats His pleasant fruit, and gathers His myrrh and His spice. And then, thus revived and refreshed by a renewed emanation of the Spirit's grace, the moral atmosphere in which the Christian walks is all permeated and perfumed with the fragrance of this precious anointing. Can you, then, estimate its worth? That heart-outpouring, that soul-breathing, that glimpse of Jesus, that hour of nearness to God, that moment's enjoyment of the Divine presence—oh! would you have bartered it for earth's choicest, costliest, fondest joys! Beloved, live not, as a priest of God, without the sensible indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Live in conscious union and communion with Him—seek to be filled with His influences. If prayer languishes—if grace decays—if affection chills—if there is any discovered relapse of your soul in the divine life, seek at once and earnestly the fresh communication of this divine anointing. "Let your garments always be white, and your head lack no ointment."
The indestructibleness of this anointing is the last element of its preciousness to which we allude. It is no small mercy to a child of God, that amid the evanescence of spiritual feeling, the ebb and flow of Christian experience, nothing affects the imperishable nature of that divine anointing by which he was once and forever consecrated to an unchangeable priesthood. All earth's perfumes evaporate and die; the blight is upon every flower, the curse is in every sweet; but here is that which can never be destroyed. Once the Holy Spirit quickens the soul with the breath of life, once He enkindles a spark of love to God in the heart, once He breathes upon the believer this celestial perfume, he possesses a blessing which no age can impair, and which no circumstance can change. Hostile influences there may be which would seem to peril its existence—the indwelling taint of sin would threaten its purity and sweetness—yet nothing shall ever prevail to destroy the work of the Spirit in the heart of the regenerate. It is an anointing incorruptible—it has a fragrance imperishable. The power and perfume thereof shall go down with the believer into the grave, shall embalm and preserve the slumbering dust of God's elect, until, in the morning of the first resurrection, the trumpet of the archangel bids them rise to meet their Lord in the air. What behold I in that narrow house? What see I reposing in that clay-cold bed? A ruined temple of the Holy Spirit! Will it ever be restored again? Oh, yes! "We look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself." (Phil. 3:20, 21.) Thus precious is this holy oil, the divine anointing of the believer in Jesus. It imparts dignity to his person, for it constitutes him a priest-royal. It imparts fragrance to his sacrifices, for it makes them "an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." His prayers are precious, his praises are precious, his labors are precious, his every lowly act of love, obedience, and service is inconceivably precious to God, touched with this divine and holy oil. And as the perfume of the rose still lingers upon the broken and crumbled ruins of the shattered vase, so the divine perfume of the Holy Spirit's indwelling, regenerating, sanctifying grace shall cling to the believer, his works and labor and memory, long after death shall have ruined the material structure, and it shall have returned to the dust from whence it came. "The righteous shall be had in everlasting remembrance." "The memory of the just is blessed."
But while we thus maintain the essential indestructibility of this precious anointing, we would by no means fail to caution the believer against that which yet may seriously impair its vigor, obscure its beauty, and lessen its fragrance. Essentially it may not perish, influentially it may. Intrinsically it cannot be destroyed, efficiently it can. A noxious element may insinuate itself into this divine unguent, and blend with it a mixed and ungenial redolence. "Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth an ill savor: so does a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor." (Eccles. 10:1.) An uneven walk, an unwatchful spirit, an unChrist-like deportment may blend with this precious anointing, and thus destroy its fragrance, and impair its power. The moral influence of the Church in the world is in proportion to her spiritual separation from the world. The light she emits throughout the earth will be graduated by her holy elevation above the earth. The chandelier which illumines an apartment is suspended from its center. The Church of God is the world's moral chandelier. The Divine Sun from whom she receives her holy luster, has condescendingly, but emphatically, pronounced her the "light of the world." It follows, then, that the spiritual influence which the Church is to exert in the world as a conservator of the truth, as a witness for Christ, and as an instrument to guide men to the Savior, will be potent and successful, healthy and powerful, in proportion to her own moral elevation, holiness, and spirituality. What applies to the Church as a corporate body, equally applies to the individual Christian. Oh, what a blessing in the sphere in which he moves is a man of God, living under the rich anointing of the Holy Spirit! It is impossible he can be hid. "The ointment of his right hand betrays itself." And the moral savor of that ointment—the holy, heavenly fragrance that floats around him—testifies to all who are brought within its influence, of God, of Christ, of eternity. See, then, that your religion is not half Christian, half Infidel—half Protestant, half Popish—half sincere, half compromising. Beware of the "dead fly in the ointment." Worldliness of living—covetousness of heart—an unforgiving temper—an earthly, groveling mind—an uncharitable, censorious spirit—a want of integrity and uprightness of principle in your dealings with men—a secret rebellion of will against the government, the providence, the disposal of God, may just be that "dead fly." These may be the things, or others of a like character, which lessen your heavenliness of mind, impair your spiritual vigor, shade your divine light, veil your precious anointing, and render your moral influence as a laborer for Christ so little useful to man, and your walk as a believer in Jesus so little honoring to God.
A vital part of our subject remains to be considered—the confluence of this precious oil in the Lord Jesus Christ, the true spiritual Aaron of the "Royal Priesthood." We term this a vital truth, and justly so, because it is the source of all spiritual life to the believer. We are Christian in truth only as we are one with Christ. We are living branches in reality only as we have union with Jesus the Living Vine. We are an anointed priesthood only in virtue of our sacerdotal relation to Him, the Great High Priest of His Church. Here is—union; and this union is—life. Now, our blessed Lord Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit. His human nature was filled with the Spirit, and in this consisted His divine anointing, and in this anointing His consecration as the Royal Sacerdotal Head of a succession of royal priests. How clear and beautiful are the inspired testimonies to this truth! For example, in the Old Testament we read, "I have found David my servant; with my holy oil have I anointed him." (Ps. 89:20.) "You loves righteousness, and hate wickedness: therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows." (Ps. 45:7). "Behold, O God, our shield, and look upon the face of your anointed." Now, in what did this anointing of Christ consist but the fullness of the Holy Spirit? So we read, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit." (Acts 10:38.) So the indwelling fullness of the Spirit, "For God gives not the Spirit by measure unto him." His humanity was indebted for the wisdom with which it spoke, for the understanding by which it discerned, which made Him of "quick understanding in the fear of the Lord," for the power with which it wrought, and for the beauty which, amid its humiliation and woe, made it so transcendently glorious, to the indwelling fullness of the Holy Spirit. Oh, what would our humanity be were it filled, as was the Son of God's, with the fullness of the Spirit! And if, in our Christian character, we would approximate to this model—in a word, if we would be Christ-like—we must be more richly replenished with the Holy Spirit. "Hereby we know that He (Christ) abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us." (1 John 3:24.) We shall be assured of our union to Christ, of His home in our hearts, of our relation to the seed-royal, the true priesthood, by the inhabitation of the Spirit. O Divine and Holy Spirit! enter us, unworthy though we are; make Your home in our hearts, vile though they be; breathe life and love, peace and joy, into our souls; quicken us, seal us, teach us, sanctify us, and make us divine, by making us Christ-like—happy, by making us holy,—and so fill and occupy us with Yourself that there may be no room for the reign of sin, the power of the world, and the love of self. Beloved, you cannot besiege the throne of grace for a more needed and a greater blessing than the fullness of the Holy Spirit. Do not think that we employ an expression too strong when we speak of the fullness of the Spirit. It is recorded of Stephen that he was "full of faith, and of the Holy Spirit." And that this was not a peculiar or privileged case, the apostle exhorts all believers to be "filled with the Spirit." Seek, then, beloved, for your own soul this divine anointing. Be not satisfied with a measured bestowment of the precious blessing, but in earnest and importunate supplication open your mouth wide, that He may fill it! Oh the readiness of the Spirit to impart the boon! Oh the willingness of Christ, the Anointed, to satiate every longing soul, and to replenish every hungry soul from His own overflowing fullness! The straitness is in us, not in Jesus. Seek, then, with a seeking that will take no denial, the fullness of the Spirit!
The holy oil was poured upon the head of Aaron. This is most significant. The Lord Jesus—our Aaron—was anointed with the Spirit, as the HEAD of His Church. "He is the Head of the body, the Church." And the fullness of the Spirit that dwelt in Him was not for Himself alone, but to be communicated to all the members of His mystical Body. Trace the course of this holy oil thus poured upon the head of Aaron. It "went down to the skirts of his garment." How expressive and instructive the type! In virtue of our union with Christ, we become partakers of His precious anointing. So clearly and indissolubly are we one with Jesus, the Great High Priest, we share in all that He is, and partake of all that He possesses. He imparts to us His life, clothes us with His righteousness, washes us in His blood, replenishes us from His fullness, and will finally raise us to His glory, share with us His throne, and we shall reign with Him forever.
This anointing that flows from Christ is received by us through faith. The life we live amid daily conflict, trial, and toil, we live by the faith of the Son of God. This is the channel through which the sacred anointing flows down to us. What a mighty principle is this! When, at the close of the day, we throw our head upon our pillow, and in silent reflection review its brief history, we often marvel how we traveled through it. We look back upon the pressure, the temptation, the trial, the sorrow, and we are a wonder to ourselves. What was it that bore up and brought us triumphantly through? Oh, it was the power of faith conveying into our souls the fullness of Christ! It was the downflowing of this holy oil of grace and strength, of gladness and joy, from our enthroned and glorified Head that imparted wisdom in the perplexity, clearness in the judgment, strength in the temptation, fortitude in endurance, meekness in provocation, patience in suffering, and calmness, peace, and quietness amid the keenness of sorrow and the surgings of grief. Faith leaning upon, and drawing from, Christ, is the secret of it all.
But not merely in virtue of union to Christ, or through the medium of faith, are we the recipients of this precious anointing. It flows from the loving heart of Christ, and is the free, spontaneous bestowment of His grace. There is not a being in the universe that Christ loves as He loves the saints. He is constantly ordering, and arranging, and disposing all events and circumstances for the promotion of their well-being. He would have His joy remain in us, and our joy to be full. And every feeling of holy gladness that thrills us, every spring of sacred joy that refreshes us, every gleam of divine sunshine that falls upon our path, is an emanation from the Divine anointing that distills from Christ upon our souls. Love is the source of it all, love is the conveyancer of it all, love is the end of it all. Light pours not more freely from the sun, nor water from the fountain, than does the "oil of gladness" flow from the heart of Jesus into the hearts of His saints. See how freely the precious anointing flows—"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." O wonderful words! O precious announcements! Come, my soul, and listen! Jesus' anointing was not for Himself, but for others. It was for the "meek," it was for the "broken-hearted," it was for the "mourners in Zion," it was for the "captive," it was for "those who are bound," it was for those who are bowed down to the dust with the "spirit of heaviness." It was for poor, empty sinners—souls that hunger and thirst for righteousness—who feel their vileness, necessity, and nothingness; who come to Him as empty sinners to a full Savior. Who lowers a full bucket into the well? Who carries a full pitcher to the spring? It is emptiness that travels to fullness. So must you come to, deal with, live upon, and receive from, Jesus. A full Christ and an empty sinner travel the same road, side by side, step by step, hand in hand, to glory. With no other will Christ walk. The proud, the self-sufficient, He knows afar off; and they know Him afar off. But the spiritual mourner, the brokenhearted, the poor in spirit, these are they upon whom Jesus delights to pour the oil of joy and gladness, which causes their hearts to glow, their faces to shine, their lips to praise. "Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart." One drop of this precious anointing will turn your sorrow into joy, your mourning into dancing, your complaining into singing; make the name, the work, and sympathy of Jesus more fragrant and precious, and cause the lamp of love and holiness to burn more freely and more brightly than ever. Such are some of the precious privileges and blessings of a vital, inseparable union of a believing sinner with the Lord Jesus.
One instructive point yet remains to be considered. The precious ointment that was on the head of Aaron went down to the skirts of his garments: it reached to the extremity of his sacred person. The spiritual significance of this is peculiarly precious and encouraging to the "poor in spirit,"—to those whose self-acquaintance leads them to walk humbly with God. The humble, believing soul, that lies the nearest and the lowest at Christ's feet, receives the most abundantly of this overflowing and downflowing grace. There is no spot in the universe which concentrates upon itself so much blessedness—where meet and cluster, in focal power, so many holy, precious privileges, as the feet of Jesus. There we learn, there we receive, there we shelter. We are safe, because we are low—we are happy, because we are near. "He gives grace to the lowly," and the lowliest, the most near, receive the most grace. Is this your place, O believer? Do not think meanly of it. There is but one that surpasses it—it is the foot of the throne in glory! And no soul will find itself at the foot of the throne in heaven, that does not find itself at the feet of the Savior on earth. The lowliness of the posture may possibly blind the eye to its peculiar blessedness: a bolder and more confident one may be considered preferable. But let us not be deceived; give me Mary's tears rather than Peter's boasting. Let me sit with her at the feet of Jesus, rather than stand with the self-confident apostle in the judgment-hall. In pleading for this lowly posture, we plead not for a state of mind that excludes holy joy, and an assured hope, as elements foreign to this condition. Far from it. The anointing of Christ—is it not the "oil of gladness?" and does He not give "the oil of joy?" Most assuredly. Then, the believing soul that lies prostrate at His feet—close to the Fountain of all grace, sympathy, and love—partakes the most largely of the "joy of the Lord, which is the strength of their soul;" for "the meek shall increase their joy in the Lord." There, too, hope sheds her brightest beams. For if ever the "good hope through grace" which the gospel unveils, shines the most resplendent upon the soul, it is when, reclining at Jesus' feet, it clings in faith, glows in love, and melts in contrition.
Be exhorted, beloved reader, not to be content without the consciousness of this precious anointing. Rest not satisfied with but a "name to live." Do not surmise or trust that you are Christ's disciple, or child of God, but seek this inward, divine testimony. Plead with God the Holy Spirit to communicate to your soul freely and daily of this precious anointing. This holy oil will impart clearness to your mind, so that you shall have a "right judgment in all things;" it will impart sweetness to your temper, gentleness to your spirit, and will give you a lowly, loving, self-condemning heart. It will make more Christ-like your carriage towards others. Vacating the judgment-seat, and ceasing to be censorious, fault-finding, and condemning, you will be filled with charity and love: the grace of kindness will be in your heart, and the law of kindness on your lip. This precious anointing is so soul-transforming, so Christ-assimilating in its influence, that it is impossible to partake of it in any degree and not be like Jesus. When you see a religious professor proud in heart—lofty in spirit—covetous in his aims—condemning others, justifying himself—detracting, unsympathizing, harsh,—you see one lacking this anointing. He is not sitting at the feet of Jesus. It is only there that the believer sees so much to censure, to loathe, and to condemn in himself, that he has not an eye to discover, nor a tongue to revile, nor a hand to unveil the faults and imperfections of a brother. The holy oil empties and lays low. If in faithfulness it prompts to admonish and to rebuke, it will impart such tenderness, gentleness, and kindness of spirit, of tone, and of words, as shall be an "excellent oil" upon a Christian brother's head, winning him back to Christ by the irresistible law of love. And, oh, if your soul thirsts to know more of Jesus, seek more abundantly the influence of the Holy Spirit. Rest not until He reveals Christ to you. As a royal priest, anointed of God, you possess that indwelling Spirit, who is pledged to instruct, sanctify, and comfort you, until the Master comes and takes you home. "This anointing which you have received of him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, you shall abide in him." Living beneath this anointing that flows from the Head of His Church, down to the lowest, lowest, poorest, obscurest, feeblest member of His body, your heart will often sigh and long for his appearing, and will pray—"Come, Lord Jesus; come quickly."