by Octavius Winslow

The Anointing

"You anoint my head with oil." Psalm 23:5

The holy anointing of the believer is a subject occupying a significant and prominent place in the teaching of God's word. Nor is this to be wondered at. It constitutes one of the most expressive emblems of spiritual blessing, as it is one of the divinest elements of the Christian life. Indeed, apart from its possession, spiritual life has no existence or reality in the soul. The indwelling of the Spirit in the regenerate is nothing less than the anointing of the Spirit; and the anointing of the Spirit indicates our priestly relation as a part of the "Royal Priesthood," of which the Lord Jesus Christ is the Great High, and only sacrificing, Priest over the House of God. The limits of the present chapter restrict our illustration of this subject to the reference David makes to it in the Psalm- "You anoint my head with oil." Having spoken of the Banquet provided for him by the Shepherd, David naturally and appropriately adverts to a related blessing- the anointing which in Eastern countries was considered an essential and inseparable requisite on all great festive occasions. Homer, Aristophanes, Pliny, and other ancient classic writers, frequently refer to its use as a mark of respect shown by the host to his guests before the meal. But not the head only was it customary thus to anoint. The feet- shod with sandals, and therefore rendering the act all the more appropriate and grateful- were wont to be bathed, and then anointed with fragrant oil. This often a filial office on the part of the daughter, not more reflecting the affection and reverence of the child, than it was honoring and refreshing to the parent.

To this Eastern custom, doubtless, reference is made in the frequent allusion to the symbol. For example- "Let your garments be always white, and let your head lack no ointment." Again- "You, when you fast, anoint your head." And what reader of his Bible does not recall that touching narrative of the woman recorded by the Evangelist, who, following her Savior into the Pharisee's house, bearing an alabaster box of precious ointment, "stood at His feet behind Him weeping, and began to wash His feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment." Pause for a moment, and ponder this exquisite picture! It is too beautiful and significant to be superficially studied. She had been a sinner lost- but Jesus found her, and she was now a sinner saved. She loved much. Her affection for Jesus was not a mere sentiment evaporating in words; it was a real and practical principle, embodied and expressed in an act not less grateful to Jesus than expressive of her true affection. Oh there is no bath so acceptable to the Savior as the tears of penitence- and no anointing so precious to Him as the service of love! We now turn to the subject more immediately before us- "You anoint my head with oil."

We must place in the foreground the truth that, all true spiritual anointing centers in, and flows from, Christ the Head and Depositary of His Church. It is in this light we shall understand the frequent and significant references to Christ as the Anointed of God. Thus for example, at Solomon's dedication of the temple- "O Lord God, turn not away the face of Your Anointed." Again- "You love righteousness, and hate wickedness: therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows." And David prayed- "Behold, O God, our shield, and look upon the face of Your anointed." Once more- "God has anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power." And to crown all, we have Isaiah's glorious prophecy- "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord has anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek." And what, it will be asked, was this anointing of which Christ was the Object? As God, He needed it not; but as Man, it was necessary to the accomplishment of His mission that His Humanity should be filled with the Spirit; and this was the anointing which He received- "for God gives not the Spirit by measure unto Him." "Your holy child Jesus, whom You have anointed." From this rapid glance at the source and nature of the believer's anointing, let us show in what way it becomes ours.

It becomes ours in virtue of our union with Christ. Engrafted into Him, we partake of His anointing, as the branch partakes of the sap of the vine- as a member participates in the life of the body. Apart from union with Christ, there can be no life from Christ. "If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His." "Hereby we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He has given us." On this truth we need not enlarge. Clear is it to every spiritual and reflective mind that, united by the Spirit to Christ, we partake of all that Christ is- His fulness of the Spirit as Man, which is the 'anointing which teaches us of all things.' Oh, beloved, realize your union with Christ! in proportion to this will be the spiritual vitality of your soul. "You anoint my head with oil."

What are some of the ideas suggested by this anointing of the believer? The first clearly is that of consecration. To consecrate, or set apart, to a particular and holy office or function, anointing was invariably employed. We find this in the consecration of Aaron and his sons to the office of priesthood. "You shall put upon Aaron the holy garments, and anoint him, and sanctify him, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office." Thus, by the Holy Spirit we are anointed and set apart to be Christ's Royal Priesthood- the only priesthood in the Church of God, of which all true believers of every name partake. How high the office! how solemn the consecration! how divine and precious the anointing! Forget not, O my soul, that you are, as one with Christ- sanctified and set apart by the consecrating oil of the Spirit to be a royal priest of God! The holy unction is upon you, and henceforth you are a priest of God, in union with all His saints, anointed to "offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." "You anoint my head with oil."

Spiritual illumination is another property and effect of this holy anointing. "As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit– just as it has taught you, remain in him." The anointing of the Spirit- that is, His divine teaching- renders us in a manner independent of human teaching in divine truth. "You do not need that any MAN teach you." Thankful indeed should we be for any spiritual aid in the understanding of the Scriptures, and in our travel heavenward, afforded by holy and well-informed minds. But the authorised Teacher and Interpreter of God's word is the Holy Spirit alone, independent of all human or ecclesiastical teaching or authority. And where human assistance is lacking, the Holy Spirit is ever present with His own inspired Word-  the Author with the Book- to loosen the seals thereof, making known to us the hidden things of God's mind and will and heart as therein revealed.

Oh, my soul! seek plentifully this anointing! Honor the Spirit as your Divine Interpreter. What is dark, He will illuminate. What is discrepant, He will harmonize. What is hard to believe, He will elucidate, and give you faith to accept; and so He will-as Christ did of old- "open your understanding, that you might understand the Scriptures."

And how sanctifying is this anointing! He is emphatically the "Spirit of holiness" -the "Holy Spirit." As He is the Author of our spiritual life, so is He its divine Promoter. We have no holiness which is not His fruit in the soul. The Holy Spirit is our Sanctifier, as Christ is our Sanctification. And He sanctifies us by bidding us wash daily in the blood of Christ- and to draw all our supplies of grace from the fulness of Christ- thus taking of the things of Christ, and showing them unto us, and by anointing enabling us to reflect Christ- to live Christ- to labor for Christ- to suffer for Christ- and, if need be, to die for Christ. If, then, you would be holy- and, "without holiness no man can see the Lord " -seek large supplies of this sanctifying anointing of the Spirit, that your experience may be an echo of the Psalmist's- "You anoint my head with oil."

Nor must we- in conclusion- overlook the comfort which this divine anointing conveys to the soul. It is the "oil of gladness." As the Divine Paraclete, the Holy Spirit is the Comforter of the Church. "I will send the Comforter," was the precious promise of the ascending Savior. Christ is the Comfort, the "Consolation of Israel." The Holy Spirit is the Comforter- by whom the sympathy, and grace, and consolation of Christ is conveyed into our sad and disconsolate hearts. The Holy Spirit is pledged by His office to pour the 'oil of joy' into the broken and sorrowful heart. You are, perhaps, spiritually and sorely tried. You may imagine that the Lord has forgotten to be gracious; that in anger He has shut up His tender mercies; that your past spiritual experience has been a delusion, and your religious life a pious fraud- and that you have no part or lot in the matter. And now you refer your present affliction- your mental gloom and spiritual despondency- to Divine anger, and have resigned your present to dark despair, and your future to inevitable woe! But this is your infirmity! You are not in a position to judge of your true condition, to form an intelligent and correct opinion of your real case. Oh! how comforting is the thought that the Lord does not endorse our self-condemnation: when we condemn ourselves, He does not! "My thoughts are not yet your thoughts, says the Lord."

But whatever may be the sword that has wounded you- the arrow that has pierced you- the cloud that has darkened your mind- or the sorrow that has broken your heart- lo! the loving Shepherd stands prepared to pour the 'oil of gladness' on your head- to give you the "oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness." O Lord! "You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever!" Psalm 30:11-12

In conclusion. Be exhorted to seek large communications of this holy anointing. The growth of your spiritual life- the holiness of your Christian walk- the glory of Him whose you are and whom you serve, demand that your head should be anointed- daily and abundantly- with holy oil. "Be filled with the Spirit." The anointing of Christ, our true Aaron, flows down to the fringe of His robe; and those who sit lowest and the closest at His feet in the spirit of penitence, love, and docility will partake the most richly of this holy unction. Oh with what power you will then testify for Jesus! If a minister of Christ, you will preach as with 'a tongue of fire,' with such unction, wisdom, and demonstration of the Spirit as no enemy of the truth shall be able to gainsay; sinners shall be converted to God, and the flock confided to your care will exhibit all the marks of a manly, vigorous Christianity, built up in sound doctrine and holiness of life. Oh! never cross the threshold of your pulpit but with the prayer- "Anoint me, O Christ, for this service with fresh oil."

If a Christian laborer, your work, your visits, your prayers will be attended with an energy and force perfectly irresistible; and "the ointment of your right hand will betray" you as one upon whose head the holy anointing has truly and richly fallen. Thus go forth to service and suffering- to toil and labor- to spend and to be spent for Christ- your garments always white, and your head lacking no ointment.