Master Sermon List
The Inner Life
"The Fresh Oil"
by Octavius Winslow
The Renewed Anointing of the Inner Life
"I shall be anointed with fresh oil." Psalm 92:10.
David, the evidence of whose spiritual restoration we have just been contemplating, in the deep, lowly contrition of his penitent heart- presents to our view, in the present subject, another and a deeply interesting phase of the recovered life of God in the soul. As a personal type of Christ, he, like his Divine and glorious Prototype, was an anointed "priest upon his throne." Upon his head the holy oil had been poured, setting him apart as king of Israel; and, as one of the "royal priesthood," he shared in that divine and holy anointing, by which all the "kings and priests of God" are consecrated, and of which they all alike partake.
But was this single act of anointing sufficient for David? No, conscious of the perpetual tendency of the grace within to decay, sensible of those spiritual relapses to which the inner life is ever exposed, he felt the necessity, and earnestly sought the application, of the renewed anointing, by which alone he could be "strengthened with all might in the inner man." Nothing could more clearly betray the present state of David's soul than the words, the precious meaning of which we propose endeavoring to unfold- "I shall be anointed with fresh oil." There is an evident consciousness of loss, a sense of deterioration, a conviction of relapse. The fragrance and the power of the former anointing were felt in a measure to have gone; and, painfully alive to the loss, the anointed of the Lord breathes the deep desire for, and expresses the full expectation of, the renewed anointing of the Holy Spirit in the inner life of his soul. The subject must be deeply interesting to the true Christian. Let us consider the anointing- the decay of the anointing- and the renewal of the anointing.
"The Lord's anointed" is the expressive and appropriate designation of all the Lord's people. This anointing it is that marks them as a "chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people." It is the Lord's peculiar mark upon them, which distinguishes and designates them as his own. All who are strangers to this anointing are strangers to the grace of God, and the calling of the Holy Spirit. There may be much spiritual light in the judgment, and even an open profession of religion before the world, added to which there shall be something of Jehu's "zeal for the Lord;" and yet that anointing of the Holy Spirit be still lacking, apart from which all intellectual illumination, and outward profession, and party zeal, pass for nothing with a heart-searching God.
As the proper signification of the endeared name 'Christ', is 'anointed', so the true signification of the honored appellation 'Christian', points us to the anointing, of which all who have union with Christ personally share. I believe the remark to be as solemn as it is true, that eternity will only fully unfold the amount of evil that has sprung from calling those Christians who call themselves Christians, without any valid title to the high, holy, and distinguished appellation. How imperfectly are men in general aware of the deep, the awful, the spiritual import of the term! They think not, they know not, that a Christian is one who partakes, in his renewing, sanctifying grace, of that same Divine Holy Spirit with which Christ was anointed of the Father for his great work.
Our first inquiry relates to THE ANOINTING OIL ITSELF. What is its nature? Of what is it composed? Truly it is most costly, precious, and fragrant. Let the type explain: "Then the Lord said to Moses, Collect choice spices 12 1/2 pounds of pure myrrh, 6 1/4 pounds each of cinnamon and of sweet cane, 12 1/2 pounds of cassia, and one gallon of olive oil. Blend these ingredients into a holy anointing oil." Exodus 30:22-25. Then observe the use to which Moses was to appropriate this anointing oil: "Use this oil also to anoint Aaron and his sons, sanctifying them so they can minister before me as priests. And say to the people of Israel, This will always be my holy anointing oil." Exodus 30:30-31.
Another reference to this anointing oil occurs in a deeply interesting connection. We allude to this same anointing of Aaron, the nature of which is used to symbolize the beauty and fragrance of brotherly love: "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard, that went down to the skirts of his garment," Psalm 133:1, 2. Thus valuable and cheering is the communion of saints! and they who partake the most richly of the anointing of Christ's Spirit in their hearts, feel the most deeply, and exemplify the most fully, on all occasions, sweet and holy love to all who bear the image of the Father, and who breathe the spirit of the Savior, whatever be their creed or name.
O let it not be forgotten, that one of the strongest evidences of our personal possession of this anointing, one of the most indubitable marks of our union to the kingdom of priests, is, our love to the brethren! How valuable and costly must true Christian unity be, when it is compared by the Holy Spirit to the precious unguent poured over the person of God's High Priest. "By this shall all men know," says our spiritual Aaron, "that you are my disciples, because you have love one to another."
But the type sets forth the anointing oil, or, in other words, the true spiritual anointing of every believer in Jesus, in three of its essential features. Its costliness. It is costly oil, be cause it is Divine. The Holy Spirit renews, sanctifies, and inhabits the believer as a Divine person. It is not the common light of nature, nor the ordinary teaching of man, nor the moral persuasion of truth, which has made him what he is- an experimental Christian; all his real grace, his true teaching, flows from the Divine Spirit.
His light is divine, his renewing is divine, his comfort is divine, his sanctification is divine, and must, therefore, be essentially most costly. Oh, there is more real value in one ray of the Spirit's light, beaming in upon a man's soul, than in all the teaching which books can ever impart! The Divine Spirit, loosing the seals of the written Word, and unfolding to him the mysteries of the kingdom, the glories of Christ's person, the perfection of Christ's work, the fulness of Christ's grace, the revealed mind and will of God, has in it more worth and glory than all the teaching the schools ever imparted. This oil is costly, then, because it is Divine.
What shall we say of its preciousness? How precious the grace of the Holy Spirit, what tongue is sufficiently gifted to describe? How precious is his indwelling- an ever-ascending, heaven-panting, God-thirsting, Christ-desiring Spirit! How precious are all the revelations he makes of Christ! How precious are the consolations he brings, the promises he seals, the teachings he imparts; all the emotions he awakens, the breathings he inspires, and the affections he creates; how precious are those graces in the soul of which he is the Author- the faith that leads to a precious Savior, the love that rises to a gracious God, and the holy affections which flow forth to all the saints!
And how shall we speak of its fragrance? No art of the apothecary can imitate it. One drop of this holy oil, falling
upon the soul, breathes around it a perfume like that of heaven. There is a fragrance in the man's spirit, in his conversation, in his example, in his very look, that speaks of the holy anointing: "The ointment of the right hand betrays him." There is a savor of Christ, a heavenliness of temper, a kind of divinity of soul, which mark him as belonging to the "royal priesthood." One drop of this costly, precious anointing oil, fills the whole house with its perfume. There is a peace in that abode, a light in that dwelling, an order, and regularity, and affection in that family, which distinguish it as the residence of a royal priest. And travel where he may, sojourn with whom he will, that anointed believer carries the conviction to the heart, and awakens the exclamation from the lip, "By this I know that you are a man of God, for the anointing of the Holy One is upon you." Thus fragrant is this anointing oil.
But Through What Channel Does This Anointing Come?
Only through the union of the believer to Christ, the Anointed One. All the saving operations of the Spirit upon the mind are connected with Jesus. If he convinces of sin, it is to lead to the blood of Jesus; if he reveals the corruptions of the heart, it is to lead to the grace of Jesus; if he teaches the soul's ignorance, it is to conduct it to the feet of Jesus- thus all his operations in the soul are associated with Jesus. Now, in conducting this holy anointing into the soul, he brings it through the channel of our union with the Anointed Head. By making us one with Christ, he makes us partakers of the anointing of Christ. And truly is the weakest, lowliest believer, one with this anointed Savior. His fitness, as the Anointed of God, to impart of the plenitude of his anointing to all the members of his body, is a truth clearly and beautifully set forth.
Thus is he revealed as the Anointed Head of the Church, the great High Priest of the royal priesthood: "You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows." "The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners." In the Acts of the Apostles, a distinct reference is made to this truth; "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit, and with power."
It was this anointing that was upon Christ that led the Church of old to exclaim, in the fervor of her love, "Because of the fragrance of your good ointments, your name is as perfume poured forth; therefore do the virgins love you." Song Sol. 1:3. His human soul, filled with the measureless influence of the Divine Spirit, the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in him bodily, he became the true Aaron, of whose anointing all the priests were alike to partake. One, then, with Jesus, through the channel of his union to the Head, the lowest member is anointed with this precious oil.
The effects of this anointing are what might be expected from a cause so glorious. It beauties the soul. It is that anointing spoken of by the Psalmist: "And oil to make his face to shine." Therefore is it called the "beauties of holiness." How does a man's face shine- how is his countenance lighted up- when the joy of the Lord is his strength, when the Spirit of adoption is in his soul, when the love of God is shed abroad in his heart!
It gladdens, too. Therefore it is called the "oil of joy," and "the oil of gladness." It causes the heart to sing in its deep sorrows, imparts the "garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness," and fills the soul with the glory of that "kingdom which consists not in foods and in drinks, but in righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit."
Another effect springing from this anointing is the deep teaching it imparts: "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth." "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." Such are some of the effects of this holy anointing. It beautifies, gladdens, and teaches.
The Decay Of The Anointing
And is there a possibility of the decay of this anointing? May its power lessen, and its fragrance evaporate? We fear the possibility of this melancholy change is but too true. That the true priesthood of the Lord can entirely lose this Divine anointing, we do not for one moment assert. Never more will God withdraw his Spirit, where he has once implanted the precious gift. We speak it solemnly for the glory of God, we utter it confidently for the comfort of the weak-minded, those who are of a fearful heart- that when once God has poured this anointing upon a soul, that soul shall never utterly and forever lose it. To every foe that seeks its destruction, to all the hostile influences opposed to its well-being, God will utter his solemn words of warning: "Do my anointed no harm." Yes, there is that in the very anointing itself that forms a shield around the royal priest.
But, sad truth- there is not a stronger evidence of the lessening of a man's grace, of the declension of the inner life, of the backsliding of his heart, of the spiritual leanness of his soul, than is found in the decay of this anointing. It may lose its freshness, shed no fragrance, impart no power, and scarcely be discernible in the character and tone of the believer's piety. How may we trace this melancholy state-this evaporation of the anointing oil? Variously: in the matter of real, close transaction with God- where there is the decay of the Divine anointing, there is but little dealing between God and the soul, the walk is distant- the spirit is shy; searching of heart, and confession of sin, and dealing with the blood, are things laid aside for a more convenient season.
The lack of real power in prayer betrays the loss; perhaps in nothing is it more evident. The habit of prayer may not be suspended; the form of prayer is still observed; but there is no life, nor power, nor unction in prayer; no taking of heaven with holy violence; no wrestling with the Angel of the Covenant; no taking hold of God's strength; no grasping the promise of God, or leaning upon God in the promise; no real faith to believe that God will perform what he has engaged to do.
And why? Because there is a decay of the anointing, and with it a decay of the spirit and power of prayer. We listen to his voice in supplication, but we feel his loss in our own soul. There is nothing in his prayer that breaks our heart, that embitters sin, that leads us to Christ, that lifts our soul from the dust into the sweet sunshine of communion with God; and we are forced to trace it to the lack of that Divine and holy oil which makes the face to shine, and which, in its reflected luster, throws a radiance over the countenance of others.
In Christian fellowship, too, we are sensible of the lack. The little sparks that we strike, fall upon no kindling material. In vain we endeavor to light up his soul; dampness, coldness, and deathliness seem to extinguish every effort. We can extract nothing that imparts an elevation to our own, perhaps, depressed minds. There is no savor in his salt, no water in his well, no rays of warmth radiating from his soul; but a dryness, a deadness, a deteriorating influence, of which every spiritual mind brought in contact with him is sensible.
We speak to him of Jesus, but the echo is faint; we talk of the blessedness of holding communion with God, and we advance the sentiment that the throne of grace is the sweetest, loveliest, holiest spot on earth- but there is no cordial response. Indeed, there is nothing that lifts us up, but everything, rather, that depresses and that sinks us. We are painfully conscious that we have spent an hour in the society of one whose communion has occasioned us a serious loss. We feel as if we had been in the company of an iceberg, the influence of which has sunk the spiritual thermometer of our souls well near to its lowest point. And what is the cause? Our brother has lost the power and freshness of the anointing oil in his soul.
In another, this decay may be traced in his low views of Christ, with the invariable accompaniment of high thoughts of himself. He has low views of the personal glory of the Savior, the sight of which ought to fill his soul with adoring transport. He has depreciating views of the atoning blood of the Savior, the thought of which should fill his mouth with the highest praise. He seldom contemplates that glory; he rarely travels to that blood; and the mournful consequence is, his little love to Christ. And what is the cause? His distance from the Anointed One. He has left the feet of the true Aaron, like Peter, and has mixed himself up with the world, like Ephraim; and so has lost the Christ-endearing, Christ-exalting, self-abasing influence of the Divine anointing.
In yet others it may be traced in an uncertain state of mind as to their personal acceptance. Inquire what they know of the Spirit's witness- of a well-founded hope of heaven- of the joy of pardoned sin? Nothing! Lacking that inward anointing which enlightens, confirms, and strengthens the soul in the joyous consciousness of its acceptance, they seem to dwell forever in the region of doubt and uncertainty, of agitation and fear, as to their personal salvation.
What are some of the CAUSES to the operation of which we are to trace an effect so sad? Many are THE DETERIORATING INFLUENCES to which the anointing of the Christian is exposed. The influence of the world is injurious. There are few who can have much transaction with it, even in a lawful way, and not be conscious of real spiritual loss. But few Christians can bear up against it. There are but few Thorntons, we fear, in the commercial world- men who build their sacred oratories by the side of their banking and their counting-houses- and who, from the world's turmoil, are wont to retire and hold communion with God. Anointed Christian, the world in which you live, through which you journey, is the great foe to that sacred anointing that is upon you!
Therefore would we say- beware of it! Give it no advantage over you; mix not unnecessarily with it; float not down with its tide; do not be eager for its wealth. Grind not the faces of the poor; oppress not the needy; withhold not from the hireling his wages. Conform not to its pleasures; countenance not its public amusements. Bear not the sacred unction into the world's light, earthly, polluted, God-disowning, and Christ-dishonoring atmosphere. The opera, and the semi-theatrical oratorio- even though the passion and the agonies of the Divine Messiah are set to the gamut-and the ballroom, are not appropriate places for him upon whose head the sacred anointing oil has been shed.
To this power of the world, may be added those unfavorable influences arising from unmortified sin, from known neglects of duty, and from communion with cold, lifeless professors of religion- all of which tend to absorb the sacred fluid.
The Renewal Of The Anointing
But let us turn to a more pleasing theme- the renewal of this Divine anointing: "I shall be anointed with fresh oil." That David felt conscious of the evaporation of the oil, there can be no question. But with this conviction he was not content to remain. He panted for more life; he longed for more quickening; he lifted up his soul for the renewed anointing
"I shall be anointed with fresh oil." That the Lord re-anoints his people, who can doubt? Alas for them, if He did not! The ample provision which he has made for the exigence proves it. There is more of the precious oil in the sacred Vessel! O blessed, holy, comforting truth to those who, mournfully conscious of their loss, are earnestly desirous for their recovery. In the Lord Jesus Christ all fulness of anointing dwells. "With him is the residue of the Spirit." He is prepared to impart more grace to those who have lost grace, or, who to their present state desire to add an increase.
In the renewed quickening of the Spirit, the re-anointing is received. "Quicken me! " was the reiterated prayer of David. What! was he not already a quickened soul? Undoubtedly. Yet, feeling the need of a renewed quickening, he earnestly importunes for it: "Quicken me in your truth, through your judgments, by your precepts: only quicken me- for this my soul pants." And while the world was asking, "Who will show us any good?" the fervent breathing of this anointed priest of God was, "Quicken me, O Lord, for your name's sake." O seek this renewed quickening!
New supplies of grace from Christ are implied in this fresh anointing. New grace- to subdue new corruptions, perpetually rising to the surface; to meet new temptations, through the ever-shifting ways of the subtle enemy; to overcome new difficulties, perpetually occurring in the path to heaven; and to bear up under new trials, ever transpiring in a world of tribulation.
The renewed joys and comforts of the Holy Spirit are also found in the fresh anointing. The joys which had evaporated, are replaced by others; the peace which had been interrupted, flows back again; consolations which had fled, are restored; and confidence in God, which seemed shaken, is once more established in the soul.
In view of a blessing so needed and so precious, is it necessary that, in closing this chapter, we exhort the spiritual reader that he set himself earnestly, believingly, expectingly, to be re-anointed with fresh oil? And yet there are some who need to be stirred up to this their great privilege. To them we would say- Do not be content with the old anointing. It is essential to a more holy and happy life, it is essential to a peaceful and cloudless death, that you seek to be anointed with fresh oil. Do not be satisfied with past experiences. You may at one time have possessed the clear witness of the Spirit; you may have enjoyed the love of God in your heart; you may have lived so near to Christ, as to have found "Wisdom's ways, ways of pleasantness, and her paths, paths of peace," but the old anointing ceases to afford you now the high delight which you once experienced.
Seek, then, the fresh anointing of the Spirit. Seek to have a new revelation of Christ to your soul. Seek the renewed application of his precious blood to your conscience. O seek the fresh oil! There is a fresh supply in Christ; a fresh supply in the Spirit; a fresh supply in the heart of God; a fresh supply in the covenant of grace. Jesus is prepared to pour it upon your soul more abundantly. The Holy Spirit is prepared to lead you to the source where this costly treasure dwells. A vessel of clay though you are- your capacity small, your unworthiness great- yet is the Triune God ready to recognize your exalted dignity and rank as a king and a priest, by shedding more copiously than ever the oil of gladness upon your head.
Let aged Christians, especially, look to the state of their souls, and seek this renewed anointing. In nearing the end of their journey, in looking into their graves, and beyond them, to the meeting with their God and Savior, they will need to be anointed with fresh oil. One drop- O how will it insinuate itself through the whole inner life, diffusing energy and might! -the soul thus renewing its strength, and composing its ruffled pinions for its heavenly flight. Come, pilgrim of many a weary stage! Come, soldier of many a hard-fought battle! Come, voyager of many a storm and tempest, and sit down at the Savior's feet, and receive of the fresh oil! Come, gather up the trailing garments, shake off the gathered dust from your sandals, wipe the sweat from your brow, and rest awhile upon the bosom of your Lord, while with fresh oil he anoints you for your burial. Is it not time for you to give up this poor world's pursuit, and lay aside, in some measure, its needless anxiety and cares, and allow a holy pause, a solemn calm, to intervene- before you unclasp your helmet, lay down your staff, and are gathered to your fathers?
As ministers of Christ, as stewards of the great mysteries of the gospel, let us not be satisfied without this renewed anointing. We stand perpetually in need, beloved, of the FRESH oil. The power we are incessantly exhausting, the grace we are constantly using, the multiform duties, the numerous labors in which we are continually engaging, demand that we keep our eye intently fixed upon the state of our own anointing. The past application of the holy oil will not meet our present exigencies. We need an ever-overshadowing, ever-teaching, ever-anointing Spirit.
Going to our work relying upon former communications of grace, upon old stores of knowledge- the present teaching and anointing of the Holy Spirit unsought- that work must of necessity be performed in a cold and insipid, in a perfunctory and powerless manner, to the great detriment of the truths we preach, of the souls we instruct, and of the Master we serve. In the absence of the fresh anointing, we shall be tempted, either to substitute old performances for new, or else to serve the sanctuary with unbeaten oil. In order to come before our people with new treasures, or to exhibit truths, already known and familiar, with such unction and vigor as will impart to their presentation all the freshness and power of newly-discovered revelations, we must be anointed with fresh oil.
Why is it that we sow so much, and reap so little? Why, after our studious preparation, and exhausting toil, there is so little real power in our preaching, and from that preaching so little immediate result? Why is it that our words, instead of burning upon our lips, and thrown like glowing embers into the bosoms of our hearers, enkindling holy fires, alas! do but drop like icicles, congealing before they reach a solitary heart? Is it not, verily, because we lack the fresh oil? Necessary as is education- valuable as is learning- useful auxiliaries as are all the treasures we can draw from science- enriching as is intellect- and entrancing as is eloquence, these alone constitute not the able minister of the New Testament. Other and far more important requisites are needed to compose and perfect this high and holy character. Without the anointing of the Holy Spirit, what spiritually enlightening, sanctifying, saving power has the most erudite, and eloquent, and convincing ministry? None whatever! O how greatly we overlook this!
Why is it deemed almost a crime to declare fully and broadly the distinguishing doctrines of grace? Why is it that the preaching of other days- the clear, bold enunciation of the great fundamental truths of the gospel- would be sufficient to imperil the popularity of almost any minister in some of the high places of the Christian Church? The answer is- the formation of a distaste for such preaching, by a ministry, in many instances, possessing much intellectual power, but lacking the power of the Holy Spirit. It is to be feared that much of the ministry of the day is creating a taste and forming a character sadly opposed to preaching thoroughly evangelical, deeply spiritual, and possessing, in a large degree, the anointing of the Spirit of God. We do not hesitate to affirm of the generality of the preaching of our times, that it is too intellectual and recondite. Men are aiming to throw off magnificent sermons, the result of the most exhausting mental toil. Hence the constant rotation in the Christian ministry, the perpetual change in the pastoral relation.
It is utterly impossible that any physical or mental constitution, the most robust, can long endure such close study, such severe thinking, such incessant application, such overtasked powers, without either an utter prostration, or else seeking repose in another and a new sphere of labor, where old material is made to supply the place of fresh. That there are some holy and honorable exceptions to this statement, both within and outside of the Established Church, we rejoice to believe- men of God who preach not themselves, but with beautiful simplicity, and holy fervor, and fresh anointing, preach Jesus in all his personal glories, and in all the fulness and perfection of his atoning work- men who do not shun to declare the whole counsel of God- upon them we depend as the conservators of the truth, and to them we look as the spiritual regenerators of the prevailing style of pulpit labor.
We would venture upon one more exhortation. Remember your priesthood- it comes through a royal line, and it proceeds from the Anointed One. Let the thought be ever present with you, "I am a king! I am a priest! I bear about me the anointing of the Lord!" The abiding, solemn reflection, the awful consciousness of the fact, will arm you against those influences which tend to wither the life of your soul. You will especially watch and pray against whatever is known to be injurious to your anointing, to produce a dryness and deadness in your spirit.
See well to the character of your reading. Avoid the writings that drain the sweet, holy oil from your soul. Can you peruse a chapter of a novel, or a light romance, or a tale of fiction, and not be conscious of violence, in some measure, done to this Divine anointing? Impossible! Beware, then, of the drying, absorbing tendency and effects of worldly literature.
Guard, too, against the influence of worldly associations- the deadening, carnalizing influence of the society of the ungodly. We bid you not separate yourself entirely from them, for this were to go out of the world. The gospel of Jesus is not reclusive nor selfish. The religion of Christ is not the religion of convents, and monasteries, and hermit's cells. It bids, and it constrains, a Christian to love the souls of men, to live for the world's good, to labor for the world's blessing, to purify it with his grace, and to illumine it with his Christianity. But, we beseech you, avoid its intimacies, its friendships, its alliances, and a needless exposure to its society, if you would keep fresh upon your soul the sweet holy oil.
If, then, upon an honest examination of the circle in which you move, of the profession you have assumed, of the business you pursue, of the pleasures you indulge, of the connections you are forming, of the friendships you are cultivating, you discover that which is injurious to the life of God in your soul, which despoils you of the fragrance of your grace, which impairs your spiritual power, and lessens your usefulness in the church and in the world- beneath the cross, and under the renewed anointing of the Holy Spirit, abandon it at once and forever. Surrendering it heartily, solemnly, for Christ's sake, you shall suffer no loss but the loss of that which robbed you of the costliest, sweetest, holiest blessing this side the sunny land of heaven.
Loss! O no! You shall be a rich gainer. He in whose name you did it- whose love constrained you, whose grace strengthened you, whose glory guided you, whose eye watched you, whose smile beamed upon you, and whose ministering spirits, invisibly but closely, clustered around you, will pour a tide of blessing so rich into your soul, as shall compel you, in wondering, adoring gratitude and praise to exclaim, "You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over."