THE HOLY OINTMENT
“Moreover the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, 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 thou shalt make it an oil of holy ointment, an ointment compound after the art of the apothecary: it shall be an holy anointing oil"---Exodus xxx. 22-25.
PURE interior, celestial love for the Lord, softening and sanctifying all the powers of the soul, is described by the Holy Ointment by which the sanctuary and all it contained were consecrated. The mode in which such heavenly love can be obtained is enjoined in the divine directions before us, and the importance of the lessons the Divine Word has here in store for us may be gathered from the emphatic manner in which the injunctions are given. No imitation of it was to be permitted. It was not to be employed in common use upon the flesh of man. It was not to be given to a stranger. It is called the Ointment of ointment: a holy anointing oil.
This Ointment was the universal requisite in all consecration. From the ark of the testimony to the laver and its base all things were to be anointed with it, including the sanctuary itself. Aaron and his sons were also to be anointed with this sacred substance to consecrate them for the priesthood. It was the universal sanctifier.
This indispensable means in the sanctification of all things of the sanctuary and the priesthood can hardly fail to remind us that though religion is multiform, and has many agencies and many principles, yet one thing is essential to give purity, sanctity and life to them all: that one needful thing is Holy Love. This, then, is heaven's own ointment; the Ointment of ointment; the holy anointing oil; the consecrator of all things. Above all things, said the Apostle, put on Love.
The descent of this divine principle into the Humanity of the Saviour from the Divine Essence within Him was called anointing Him with the oil of gladness above His fellows (Ps. XLV. 7). Its reception by the individual Christian is receiving the oil of joy for mourning (Isa. LXI. 3). Love is the inward essence of all that is good. "Love is the fulfilling of the law."-Rom. XIII. 10.
But LOVE, the Christian principle, here represented by the Holy Ointment, is a very different thing from love, the human passion often expressed by the same word. The one is like the pure fire of the sun, which recreates, beautifies, strengthens, and spreads abundance where it shines; it diffuses blessing as an universal good. But the human passion is often a lurid fire, burning to seize and to possess, not for the good of the object loved, but for selfish pleasure only. This latter is an impure, blind, passionate, impulsive, short-lived thing, capable of being soon transformed into hate. But Christian love is serene constant, elevating, unwearied, and intense borrowed from His love, who descended to save, who lived on earth and died and rose again to. deliver, to win, and to purify the objects of His Divine affection.
How this pure love may be obtained is the subject of the Word before us. Let us carefully attend to the heaven-given lesson.
Do thou take to thyself chief spices. And then the specific fragrant things are named: the first of them is myrrh-the best myrrh, or pure myrrh.
Truths, which are understood and delighted in, are like things fragrant, exquisitely charming to the spiritual sense. The Word, to the enlightened and loving Christian, is like a succession of paradises, full of odours; it is a glorious country of fields which Jehovah has blessed. And when, like Mary, he has got his alabaster box of spikenard, very precious whose odour fills the house, he gives it all to Jesus from whom such odours come.
The best myrrh represented the chief truths of the letter of the Word. The leaves of the myrrh were valued in the East for many purposes, and amongst them for the preservation of the dead. Our Lord's body was anointed with myrrh and aloes (John XIX. 39, 40). Such preservation of the dead body was the figure of the conservation of everything good and true in the soul, until its resurrection, that is, its regeneration should take place. The wise men brought to the infant Saviour gold, frankincense and myrrh, when they came to worship Him; because in this signification act they acknowledged Him as the author of all celestial, spiritual and literal blessings. The myrrh is the last named because it represented the literal truths of the Word. The Lord's garments are said to smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia (Ps. XLV. 8), because He clothes Himself with divine truths as with garments, and these truths in their delightful character, and in their ascending order, are described as myrrh, aloes, and cassia.
Take to thyself the best myrrh, would therefore mean, make thyself familiar from affection with the truths of the Divine history, which unfold the tender mercy of the Lord. Dwell upon His loving kindness. Treasure up in thy mind every instance of Divine Patience, Benevolence, Care and Goodness, until thine eye shall glisten with gratitude, and thou shalt exultingly confess that "the Lord is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works."
Take to thyself the best myrrh. Ponder over the fatherly care of the Almighty with Abraham, with Isaac, with Jacob, with Israel in Egypt, with the Psalmist and the Prophets, but above all, meditate upon everything in the Saviour's history and learn of Him. Walk with Him while He heals the sick, feeds the poor, delivers the possessed, raises the dead, comforts the mourners, elevates the depressed, blesses all who will receive His mercy, and opens heaven to all believers; and thus you will find His divine footsteps so embalmed in a grateful memory that the undoubting confession of your souls will be, "Bless the Lord, 0 my soul and all that is within me, bless his holy name .... Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who crowneth thee with loving-kindness and tender mercies."-Ps. CIII. 1-4. These truths are, spiritually, the best myrrh.
The sweet-smelling cinnamon and the sweet-smelling calamus represent the spiritual sense of the Divine Word in relation to faith, and in relation to goodness. Cinnamon is the inner bark of the plant which produces it. It represents those inner truths, which are perceptible and delightful to faith. While the calalmus, or sugar-cane, is the symbol of those truths which especially attract to goodness. Goodness gives sweetness to truth. A sweet disposition is gentle, tender, loving, and considerate. The Lord says to the fallen Church by the prophet, " Thou hast brought me no sweet cane for money; neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities "-Isa. XLIII. 24. The sweet cane the Lord desires to be brought is the sweet spirit of modest gentleness, of unassuming goodness. The sweet desire to diffuse happiness, to promote peace, to take the bitterness from sorrow, and made sad hearts smile again, this is the sweet cane, the aromatic calamus, the Lord desires us to have.
What a blessing in a home is a young bright spirit full of tender affection! The aroma of such a soul disarms anger softens grief, and spreads around a sphere of comfort and of joy· The charm of such a spirit is the heavenly calamus the guileless love of doing good.
Would you minister to souls diseased? Would you bind up the wounds which have been made by falsity, envy, and hate? Would you banish discord and cold from souls which have been torn and chilled by doubt, difficulty, and dislike? Then be sure you take the cinnamon of inner genuine truth, and, above all, sweeten It with the genuine love of doing good. Never hope to sweeten others until you have obtained from Him who can sweeten all the spirit of mercy, of peace upon earth, and goodwill towards men.
The cassia, which was the next ingredient of the Holy Ointment, was a much more precious and costly substance than the others. We might gather this fact and its signification from its being mentioned last In order, both here and in that remarkable declaration in the forty-fifth Psalm, about the Lord's garments: All thy garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia."-v. 8.
Cassia would seem to signify that inmost wisdom which springs from inmost love. The soul which feels the play of interior peace, the preference for interior goodness, perceives also In every part of the Divine Word a supreme lesson of love. It extracts from every narrative and every part of the Holy Volume an aura of the Inner mind of the Most High. There is a hidden something that constrains such a soul to feel that love has framed the universe and every soul in it, and the laws of heaven are laws of love. The inner depths of the Holy Word have a play of heavenly fire, which does not burn but fills the interior of the spirit with joy unspeakable, with serene and heartfelt peace. It is a fragrance full of heaven; celestial cassia. Like the hidden manna, it is only known by those who receive it:
" The man who feels interior peace
Alone can know its worth:
From wisdom, love, and righteousness
This peace derives its birth."
The heights mentioned in the text, and their proportions, are interesting to notice, The myrrh, the first mentioned and the cassia, the last mentioned, were to be each five hundred shekels: while the cinnamon and the calamus would only make five hundred between them.
This order would seem to imply that religion is one in its highest sense, one also in its outward sense and outward practice; but in its intermediate operations, faith and love are presented distinctively, like the cinnamon and the calamus. A man may have an inward purpose to follow the Lord, but before he can carry that purpose out he must define it to himself, and familiarize himself with its principles, and then come into the love of doing them. He must perceive their inner meaning and feel their sweetness. When to the first disposition there are added the other two, there is then the preparation made which leads to virtuous action. Such action corresponds to the inward purpose as nearly as the Christian's ability will permit. Thus it is as with the aromatics before us. Five hundred shekels weight of the cassia; five hundred of the myrrh; and the cinnamon and the sweet calamus make five hundred between them. The number five hundred seems to correspond to the extent of human ability. When our Lord speaks of the two classes of debtors to our Heavenly Father, he describes those whose frailties are light as owing fifty pence, while those who had fallen to the fullest extent as owing five hundred (Luke VII. 41). When the Prophet saw the temple in vision, which represented the future Church of Christianity, he states it measured five hundred reeds on each side: which again would appear to be expressive of the full extent of human ability.
With this idea, then, we may understand the spices which were to be taken up to the weight of five hundred shekels, as expressive of a full reception of the three degrees of heavenly truth-natural, spiritual, and celestial-to the fullest extent of which man is capable: of each degree there must be five hundred.
But we must not forget the last portion of this important compound-the oil olive: for this represents the spirit of love itself.
The olive tree is regarded as the supreme of trees wherever it is cultivated. As it beautifies the sunny lands of the south of Europe and of Asia, its bright and lovely leaves, as they glitter in the sun, suggest the idea of silver, while the oil whose excellent qualities are so highly and so universally esteemed may well be called golden.
The two holy affections of love to the Lord, and love to the neighbour, are represented in heaven, the Prophet Zechariah informs us, by "the two olive branches, which through the two golden pipes, empty the golden oil out of themselves."-Zech. IV. 12. The same two sacred loves were represented by similar imagery to John, as described in the Revelations. "These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the whole earth." They are called the two witnesses for they witness to the soul of God and heaven. Them no one can destroy without himself being destroyed (xi, 4, 5). With these two holy affections it is ever so. He who hurts them injures himself; he who destroys them destroys himself.
The oil of which the Psalmist speaks is the same oil of heavenly love: "Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over."-XXIII. 5. "But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the mercy of God for ever and ever."-LII.8.
The soothing influence of oil expresses the softening effects of love. All jarring discord fades away where this heavenly oil is freely used. The wheels of human life require often oiling to enable them to work freely and smoothly, without noise and without destruction. Oil is also a healer of human wounds and in this respect also is the symbol of holy love; Nothing heals like kindness. Under the combined influence of time that other servant of the Most High, and love, the soul of sympathy how many broken spirits have been healed, learned to part company from dark despair and smile as In the days of childhood.
Oil is the source of light. We all remember the parable of the Wise and foolish virgins. The foolish had lamps as well as the wise, but they had no oil in their vessels. The grace of holy love alone can keep the lamp of faith alive. Where love is waning light soon becomes dim; and when love utterly ceases the light ere long will be found to have gone out. So was it with the foolish virgins; so will it ever be.
And when we remember the theory, now perhaps scarcely to be called a theory, so certain does it seem that all the heat and light in earthy substances were in remote ages derived from the sun, and by a marvellous divine chemistry are stored up in the heat-producing substances. of nature, may we not also conclude that the oil of holy love in the human soul is the wondrous adaptation and condensation, by divine means unknown to us of the love of God, the Sun of Righteousness!
O wondrous thought! God first by ways of mercy unutterable stores up His graces within us, and then dwells in His own virtues, and enables us to dwell in Him.
Another quality of oil is said to be that it imparts smoothness to troubled water, and thus greatly increases its transparency. Many interesting accounts have been given of articles lost in water at moderate depths becoming visible when oil has been poured upon the surface, and thus enabled the previously invisible objects to come plainly into view.
It is certain that minds calmed by kindness can reveal stores of recollections long hidden from sight and believed to be lost. When the sinner's soul has been tranquillized by consolation, how often have the treasures of counsels long forgotten, of tender impressions received from kind parents, or in a Sunday school, believed to have been quite gone, been fully restored to view, and been powerful to reclaim, to comfort, and to bless. The hallowed influence of holy love can thus work wonders, not only in calming the storm of human passion, but in revealing to itself the remains of former instruction and happiness, bringing it to hopefulness, to effort, to faith, and reformation.
Well, then, may oil, especially olive oil, be the symbol of heavenly love. Well may we understand that neither ark nor candlestick, neither table of shewbread nor altar of incense, neither laver, base, nor priest, nor the sanctuary itself could be consecrated to the service of the Lord, except by being touched with the holy anointing oil. Without love, both praise and prayer, both eloquence and zeal, both miraculous power, and faith itself, are all vain adornings of a soul dead at heart, and cold to things divine, as the icy glitter of a wintry day.
But when heavenly love and its appropriate truths are joined in the soul, a principle so holy is obtained that it sanctifies all the rest. This union is described very clearly in the Divine Word elsewhere. "Truth shall spring out of the earth; and righteousness'<shall look down from heaven. Yea, the Lord shall give that which is good."-Ps. LXXXV. 11, 12.
How plainly are we taught in this striking symbol of the Holy Ointment that the supreme affection which consecrates everything else in the soul must not be feeling alone, as that was not olive oil alone. It must be love united to its appropriate truths, as the oil was united to its appropriate spices. Thus love becomes a true, genuine, and abiding principle, and is not merely an emotion. Religious feeling without its appropriate truths is superstitious, blind, easily excited to crime, and quite able to conjoin itself to any impurity of life. The world has always
within it a large amount of religious earnestness and devotional feeling, but often fails in uniting with it the sacred truths which are represented by the myrrh, the cinnamon, the calamus, and the cassia. This must however be faithfully done if we would have our souls truly consecrated.
It is said, it must be done after the art of the apothecary, or as it might be better rendered, the work of the ointment-dealer. The true ointment-dealer is the Lord. "I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich, and white raiment that thou mayest be clothed; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve that thou mayest see."-Rev. III. 18.
From Him alone are all the sacred substances derived of which the Holy Ointment is formed, and from Him the direction by which the union can be effected. When we daily read His Word, and pray earnestly and thoughtfully to Him, He will give us the spices of His truth and in the particular circumstances of life direct our steps aright, and as we shun evil and do good in daily life, the blessed union of love and wisdom takes place within us. This is the art of the Divine ointment-dealer. Thus shall we know there is balm in Gilead. There is a Physician there (Jer. VIII. 22).
The injunction that no one should make any imitation of the ointment, teaches that in religion there should be no allowance given to self-derived fancy. What does the Lord teach should be our sole inquiry: Give me thy holiness, O Lord: should be our .only prayer. Teach me thy Word, 0 Heavenly Father, and give me grace to do it. Thus is the soul made heavenly, and filled with the glory of the Lord.
That this religious state should not be assumed for any selfish object, or from any principle separate from the Church is taught when it is said, " The ointment should not be poured upon man’s flesh, nor given to a stranger. It is holy, and it shall be holy unto you."
May it be holy to each of us. May a settled purpose make the truths of the Holy Word sacred to us for the end for which they were given. They will then reveal their inherent fragrance, their holy power, and living efficacy. Let us look up for the Lord's blessing while we learn, and the Holy Oil will flow down, like that of the widow’s cruse, and it will never stay, so long as we are willing to receive It. Thus shall we obtain the incomparable ointment that will soften and hallow our whole interior life, and fill us with the fragrance of heaven.
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From From Egypt to Canaan (1867)