Sermon 688. Sweet Savor
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, APRIL 29, 1866, BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"I will accept you with your sweet savor." Ezekiel 20:41.
GOD does not cease to observe the sins of His people. As the eyes of Moses never waxed dim, so the eyes of God do not growdim with regard to the sins of His chosen. We may learn this from the recapitulation of those offenses which we find in thechapter before us and in many other places inScripture. He looks down from Heaven and beholds their wanderings, the hardness of their hearts, the stubbornness of theirwill, their daily and continual violations of His statutes and commands. Mercy has some other source than that of laxnessin the memory of God. He knows thesins of man and He hates the sins of His people just as much as the sins of other men. No, if there are sins which are worsein God's estimation than others, they are the sins of His own elect.
But, notwithstanding this severe strictness, and although God must have a much clearer view of the evil of sin than any ofus ever can, He freely pardons those whom He reserves. He casts their sins behind His back and remembers not their iniquity.He blots out their transgression like a cloud, andtheir iniquities like a thick cloud. He has a time to chasten but He has also a set time to bless. He afflicts, but He doesnot afflict from the heart. And when He turns in a way of Grace to His people, He then seems to be flying on the wings ofthe wind for He comes with all Hissoul most heartily and richly to display His favor and His love toward the objects of His choice.
One would have thought that the persons described in this chapter never would have been acceptable to God. They had so thoroughlydefiled themselves, and after so many trials had been so desperately incorrigible, that one would have supposed the chapterwould have concluded with thunderbolts ofvengeance and a terrible voice condemning them to be driven forever from the face of the Most High. Instead of this it concludeswith mercy! The trumpet ceases its loud swell, and the melodious tone of the harp is heard in gentle notes of melody. Thethunder and the lightning areover, the storm is past, and the still small voice, in refreshing calm, proclaims the infinite pardon that proceeds froma tender Father's heart.
Our text seems to me very full of fatness. Its savor will be doubtless passing sweet to those who have grace to appreciateit. We shall contemplate it in two lights. First we have a promise that the persons of His people shall be accepted as a sweetsavor. Sinners are accepted through the merits ofChrist: "I will accept you with your sweet savor." I cannot accept you otherwise, but I will accept you thus. Then, secondly(which is more consistent with the context), we are assured that our offerings shall be accepted-"I will accept you with yoursweet savor." I will notonly love and receive you, but I will also receive your worship and your service.
Your sweet savor, those same things which once you offered to idols, you shall from now on bring as an offering to Me andwhen I have accepted you and you are reconciled to Me, then I will accept your good works and your prayers, and your praises,too.
' I. First of all, as being the fundamental evidence of Divine Grace, THE LORD ACCEPTS THE PERSONS OF HIS PEOPLE THROUGH THESWEET SAVOR OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. The merits of our great Redeemer are sweet savor in the nostrils of the Most High. Whetherwe speak of the active or passiverighteousness of Christ there is alike an overpowering fragrance. Such was the merit of His active life by which He honoredthe Law of God and exemplified every precept like a precious jewel in the pure setting of His own humanity.
Such, too, the merit of His passive obedience as He endured with unmurmuring submission, hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness-andwith the ever-deepening stream of sorrow-and at length yielded to that unknown agony when He sweat great drops of blood inGethsemane. And then when He gaveHis back to the smiters and His cheeks to them that plucked out His hair. He stretched His hands to the nails and was fastenedto the cruel wood that He might suffer the wrath of God on our behalf. These two things are sweet before the Most High, andfor the sake of His doing andHis dying, His substitutionary sufferings and His vicarious obedience, the Lord God of infinite Justice accepts us withthe sweet savor of Christ.
There are many sweet savors mentioned in the Old Testament. One of the first is the sacrifice of Noah where the word is usedwhich is implied here. As soon as Noah came out of the ark he offered up clean beasts, and it is said, "the Lord God smelleda sweet savor of rest." That is the very wordhere-a sweet savor or a savor of rest. And Noah obtained a Covenant made with him and with all creatures on the face ofthe earth-that a flood should no more destroy the earth-that Covenant being given partly as the result of the sweet savorof rest. In like mannerthere is a Covenant made with the chosen seed through our Lord Jesus Christ who is unto us a sweet savor of rest becauseGod delights in Him as our blessed Substitute and Representative.
But I prefer to confine your attention this morning to one figure peculiarly instructive. These words, "sweet savor," appearto me to contain an allusion to the incense which was commonly offered in religious worship and particularly to the incensewhich was used in the Jewish tabernacle, of whichyou will find a description in the thirtieth chapter of the book of Exodus. In order that the sweet merits of the Lord Jesusmay be the more fragrant to your understanding, I ask you to turn to that chapter and let me refer you to some points in whichthe holy incense brings outclearly before our eyes the qualities and excellencies of the merits of Christ.
You will read at the thirty-fourth verse-"And the Lord said unto Moses, Take unto you sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, andgalbanum, these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: And you shall make it a perfume,a confection after the art of the apothecary,tempered together, pure and holy: And you shall beat some of it very small, and put of it before the Testimony in the tabernacleof the congregation, where I will meet with you: it shall be unto you most holy. And as for the perfume, which you shall make,you shall not make toyourselves according to the composition thereof; it shall be unto you holy for the Lord. Whoever shall make like unto that,to smell thereto, shall even be cut off from his people."
Now you observe that this incense was sweet unto God-so, too, are the merits of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, as a Spirit infinitelyand exclusively holy, delights in holiness! As a truthful Spirit He cannot be satisfied with anything that is untruthful.As a most just, and yet loving Being, Hefinds in the Person of Jesus Christ an expiation which was in every way honorable to Justice, and a revelation of Graceaccording to the goodwill of Divine love which is precious to Himself beyond all expression, and admirable to all holy creaturesfar beyond all blessing andpraise. Whenever the great God contemplates His own dear Son, He feels an intense delight in surveying His Character andin beholding His sufferings.
You and I, so far as we have been taught of God, must find infinite and unspeakable delight in the Person and work of Christ.But alas, we are like common people who look upon a fine picture without a cultivated understanding in the art of painting-wecannot perceive the whole beauty-wedo not know the richness of its coloring and the wondrous skill of all its touches. Who but Jehovah understands holiness?Who like God knows what great love means? Or who save the Lord can comprehend justice and truth to perfection?
Therefore it is that as He gazes upon that matchless masterpiece of Love and Justice, of Truth and Holiness, embodied in thePerson of His dear Son, He finds that infinite satisfaction which our faith is perpetually struggling by small degrees torealize. There is no doubt a discipline by whichevery faculty may be educated. If I may use so homely an idea, the nostril of one man may be refreshed with a coarse perfumewhich would disgust another man of finer taste. The educated nostril may be able to discern between this and that savor tillit is only to be gratified withsomething exceedingly refined and delicate.
Adhering to the metaphor of the text, the Lord our God is so holy, and just, and true that the coarser virtues of mankind-thebest of all that we can bring-might disgust Him! But when He looks upon His dear Son there is such a rarity of sweetness inthe sacred confection of His blessedCharacter that He takes delight in it and the savor is sweet unto Him. We love Him, we delight in Him when we think of HisCharacter. In our inmost souls we feel that there is nothing we could find fault with, but everything to admire and adore.And the most holy God finds evengreater satisfaction!
The merits of the Savior are so sweet a savor to Him that we strive in vain to reach the knowledge of it. The sweetness ofthe incense in the Temple was meant to set this forth. The incense, however, was not the result of one sweet drug, but ofseveral mixed together. We have four mentioned. TheTalmud says there were eleven-we do not know whether there were or were not-we are content to believe, as the Scripturetells us, that there were four. Many ingredients, then, are mixed and mingled together to make up the one surpassing sweetnessof this incomparableperfume.
And, Brothers and Sisters, it is certainly so in Christ Jesus. If we take the characters of other men, however excellent theymay be, they only excel in some one, or possibly some two points. But when you contemplate the Savior you find all the virtuesenshrined in Him. Other men are stars but Heis a constellation! No, He is the whole universe of stars gathered into one galaxy of splendor! Other men are gems and jewelsbut His Character is perfect and matchless.
If I look at Peter, I admire the crown imperial, where every jewel glitters-other men finish but a part of the picture, andthe background is left-or else there is something in the foreground that is but roughly touched. But he finishes the whole,not the minutest of which is hiscourage. If I look at Paul, I am amazed at his industry and devotedness to the cause of God. If I look at John, I see theloveliness and gentleness of his bearing. But when I look to the Savior I am not so much attracted by any one particular virtueas by the singular combination ofthe whole. There are all the spices-the stacte, and the onycha, and the galbanum, and the pure frankincense-the varied perfumescombine to make up one perfect confection.
Still more remarkable is the perfect balance of the Savior's Character as typified to us in the exact proportions of thesespices. You observe they are to be of equal weight. If you look, there is not to be so much stacte, and then but half as muchof galbanum, but each one in its fairproportion-they are to be of equal weight. So is it in Christ. It is difficult to get a fully-balanced character. You cansee in some men indomitable energy, but you cannot see at the same time any delicate tenderness. You will see in another anexceeding tenderness whichdegenerates into effeminacy through want of some sternness to modify it.
Who among you would wish to imitate Elijah? He is sterling in his integrity, a noble specimen of humanity, but the gentlenesswhich should temper his fiery courage is so far lacking that much as you admire him you cannot love him. Even Moses-thoughI may venture to say that among those thatare born of women there has never been a greater. There has never been one beside himself who could have his name ennobledin the same song with our great Prophet-the song of Moses, the servant of God and of the Lamb-yet, as you look at Moses, beautifullybalanced as hischaracter is in most respects, that condescending loveliness which glistens in the Savior you cannot detect about the gloryeven of the Hebrew lawgiver.
Brethren, the Savior's Character has all goodness in all perfection! He is full of Divine Grace and the Truth of God. Somemen, nowadays, talk of Him as if He were simply incarnate benevolence. It is not so. No lips ever spoke with such thunderingindignation against sin as the lips of the Messiah."He is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap. His fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor." Whilein tenderness He prays for His tempted disciple, that his faith may not fail, yet with awful sternness He winnows the heapand drives away the chaff intounquenchable fire!
We speak of Christ as being meek and lowly in spirit, and so He was. A bruised reed He did not break, and the smoking flaxHe did not quench-but His meekness was balanced by His courage-and by the boldness with which He denounced hypocrisy. "Woeunto you, Scribes and Pharisees,hypocrites! You fools and blind, you serpents, you generation of vipers, how can you escape the damnation of Hell?" Theseare not the words of the milksop some authors represent Christ to have been. He is a man-a thorough man throughout-a God-likeman-gentle as awoman, but yet stern as a warrior in the midst of the day of battle. The Character is balanced-as much of one virtue asof another. As in Deity every attribute is full orbed-justice never eclipses mercy, nor mercy justice, nor justice faithfulness-soin theCharacter of Christ you have all the excellent things, "whatever things are lovely, whatever things are true, whatever thingsare just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are of good report," you have them all. But not one of them casts a shadowon another-they shineeach and all with undimmed splendor!
Turning to the incense again, I shall want you to notice that all the ingredients of this incense were of the very finestkind-pure frankincense. And then again in the thirty-fifth verse, "pure and holy." And then the thirty-sixth verse-"most holy."So all the virtues of Christ were thebest forms of virtue. His love was not love in word but in deed. His faithfulness was not the faithfulness of cynicism,which criticizes and finds fault-it was the faithfulness of a friend that loves at all times. Select any one trait in theRedeemer's Character, I mind notwhich it is, you shall find that in that respect He will surpass the greatest master of that virtue, be he whomever he may!
Take His faith in God-I do not think we sufficiently admire the faith of Christ-that faith never wavers even in the time ofHis strong crying and tears. As David so richly describes it, He still trusts in God, rests on Him-appropriates the Divinename, "My God, My God," and whichadoration exclaims, "You are holy, O You that inhabits the praises of Israel." Oh that mighty faith of His! You shall takeAbraham's faith and put it side by side with the faith of Jesus and you find the Patriarch failing here and there, thoughhe was the father of the faithful. Butthe faith of Jesus was steadfast and immoveable.
Did it seem to stagger once when He said, "O My Father, if it is possible let this cup pass from me"? Oh, it never failed!His steadfastness was never more illustrious than when He thus spoke, "Nevertheless not as I will but as You will." Or, again,
"Your will be done." Was not that faith exercised in purest submission? Take any other of the virtues (I have not time todo so this morning, nor is it necessary that I should, but), wherever you fasten your meditations you shall see Christ excelsthere- His gold is the gold ofOphir-His jewels are of the first water-His wheat is the finest of the wheat-the fat of kidneys! And when He lays Himselfupon the altar it is not as the lean bullock which of old Israel would bring to God, but as the fatted one offered with thewhole strength andperfection of every part of Him unto the Most High! Every component part, then, of the incense was pure, and so was everypart of the merit of Christ.
You will not fail, also, to observe that there is no stint as to quantity. In some other parts of the temple service quantitiesare given, as, for instance, in the twenty-third and the following verses of this chapter. You have the quantities of eachingredient for making the anointing oil, yethere you have no quantities whatever for the incense. The anointing oil had five hundred shekels worth of one principalspice, and two hundred and fifty shekels worth of another-but this is to be made without limit-as if to indicate that themerits of Jesus Christ knowno bounds whatever!
Oh, when that sacred box of precious ointment was broken on the Cross, who knows how far the merit of it extended? It perfumedthe earth to its utmost bound so that God has had patience with it. It acted as a salt to all creation so that it might notbe destroyed, and the sweet perfume went up toHeaven. The angels knew it and returned their harps, and God perceived it, and with benignant smile looked upon the humanrace-
"Oh the sweet wonders of that Cross, Where God the Savior loved and died! Her noblest life my spirit draws From His dear woundsand bleeding side." There is no end to the merit of Jesus! You lost Sinners, you need not think that it cannot avail for you.However great your sin its ill savor can allbe quenched through the sweet savor of His perfect merit! And though your sins should be so many and so numerous that itshould seem impossible but that the swift witnesses as avengers of blood should follow you up with their clamors, yet Godregards more His Son than He does thesin of man, and has an eye to the merit of the Savior as well as to the demerit of the sinner. The first is greater thanthe second, so that He passes by transgression, iniquity, and sin, and remembers not the transgression of His people becauseHis mercy in Christ Jesus enduresforever. It is without stint or quantity.
I hope I shall not weary you, but this seems to me to be a rich vein. I would observe that all through this incense is spokenof as being peculiarly holy, most holy unto God. The entire dedication of Christ's life and death to God is most remarkable.You can never see a divided aim about theSavior's action. When but a child, He said, "Know you not that I must be about My Father's business?" To the very last Hewas still consumed with the zeal of His Father's house. He never had a thought of fame. It is really wonderful how littleJesus Christ seemed to notice whatpeople thought of Him.
There used to be an idea that Christ did a great many things to prevent people from forming such-and-such erroneous impressionsof Him. For instance, it was supposed that He was anxious, after His Resurrection, to make it clear that He was Himself andthat He was not an impostor. I do not thinksuch a motive ever entered into His mind. He was so simple and childlike that He acted out His whole self not perpetuallyguarding against misconstruction, nor restricting Himself because of the adversary. His Character was too transparent, andHis actions were too unvarnished toadmit of His continually locking up that loophole, or stopping up that gap. Not He! His life was clear, without a spot ofdefilement-His whole soul drifted right on to this one thing-the glory of God through the salvation of man.
He was not deluded for a moment by the golden apples that were cast in His pathway. They would have made Him a king, but Hewas a King too great to stoop to an earthly crown! As temptation could not attract Him, so neither could trials and difficultiesrestrain Him. Like an arrow from a bow thathas been drawn by a strong archer, He sped right onward to the great goal of His existence-the accomplishment of the workthat God had given Him to do. "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it is accomplished!" Heset His face to go up toJerusalem-He never turned His face away until He could look up to Heaven and say, "It is finished!" and then He gave upthe ghost. Christ's merits are most holy, purely offered unto God-no selfishness, no worldliness-everything Divine.
This incense, although little is said of it, was, of course, compounded when the ingredients were all brought together. Ithad to be compounded with great care, according to the art of the confectioner. Now, there certainly is great art and wondrousskill in the composition of the Savior's life.Why there is wondrous skill about the record of it, for those who have denied the authenticity of the evangelists oughtto accept a challenge which has often been put to them. Are there four narrations written? Would somebody who believes theseto be forgeries kindly forge a fifth?Would somebody be pleased to write another which, though as much a forgery as any of the other four, should be consistentand have something new to recommend it?
I would even venture to say if somebody attempted to make one new miracle, or write the fabulous record, they would find itas impossible to write a miracle on paper as to work the miracle-for there are some traits and points about the miracles ofthe Savior which betoken their genuineness,since to describe or imagine them were not possible! We could easily prove our point if this were the time, but it is notnecessary. There is a matchless beginning in the life of the Savior and a matchless ending. In what is not done there is asmuch that is characteristic aboutChrist as in what is done. If you have ever read those spurious gospels which profess to contain the early life of the Savior,the protevangeleon, you will see that this absurd, ridiculous, preposterous composition never could be harmonized with thelife of the Savior.
What is not there even in the record is as wonderful, I say, as what is there! The whole life is a compound of the confectioner.But it seems that when compounded it had to be all bruised and broken. "You shall beat some of it small," says our version.Look at that "some of it." How did it getthere? "You shall beat of it." Not "some of it," but "all of it." "You shall beat of it small, very fine." Now, certainlythe whole life of the Savior was a process ofbruising Him very fine. He begins with grief. He concludes with agony. "Foxeshave holes, and the birds of the airhave nests," but He has not where to lay His head-and at last He has not a rag to cover Him-but hangs naked to His shameupon the Cross.
His very grave is borrowed, just as was the manger in which He lay as an Infant. Altogether the whole sweetness of the lifeof Christ is brought out by the exquisite griefs which He is made to suffer. I question whether anybody knows anything aboutthe sweetness of Christian Grace till he has beentried. We are told that when the ships are floating near Ceylon they can smell the perfume of the cinnamon groves-
"What though the spicy breezes Blow softly on Ceylon's isle."
But navigators tell us that the perfumes are only smelt in poetry-you never smell them there-in fact, cinnamon does not smell!And that we might wander through all those groves without knowing that they were odoriferous. But take the cinnamon and beginto grind it-begin to poundit, above all begin to burn it-then it is that you get the sweetness!
And the good man's goodness is not known so much in his days of happiness and pleasure as in his times of sorrow and of grief.We must be put into the mortar. We must feel the weight of the pestle to get the sweetness from it. And the Savior's wholelife was just that pounding beneath the heavyhammer of human wrath and at last of Divine anger against sin-and then the sweetness came forth. But this incense was mostsweet to God when it came to the burning. It was put upon the altar amidst the hot coals and then the sweet perfume went up.So, Beloved, the verypreciousness of Christ in its most extreme and best degree is to be seen when He is put upon the hot coals in Gethsemane,Gabbatha, and Golgotha.
However, I need not tell you the tale over again. You loving hearts have learned it well. Your tender souls have wept allalong the Via Dolorosa up to the Cross and through the hours of grief and suffering. You know what a sweet savor that musthave been when the thrice holy Savior offered Himselfas a holocaust to God that He might put away the ill savor of human guilt. Thus I have run through the whole. You will observeI do not stop to say a word about the four ingredients. It is very easy to spiritualize, and more especially the most difficultpassages, because then youcan say any nonsense you like. I have, however, omitted to do so. I do not really think there is anything to be said aboutthem except just this-the stacte appears to have been a form of myrrh which dropped from the myrrh tree without cutting, andtherefore was highlyesteemed.
The voluntary sufferings of Christ, in that He gave Himself and laid down His life-no man taking it from Him- does certainlyrender His sufferings peculiarly delightful both to us and to God. As for the onycha there is a great dispute about it. Theword seems to be allied with anothersignifying a distillation-and the Savior's blood is a marvelous distillation from His body, and His grief from His soul.The galbanum appears to have been a very bitter drug and it has been thought, therefore, by commentators, that it could nothave been used as a sweetperfume. I think differently. It is well known that many of the most bitter tasting drugs are sometimes the sweetest smellingwhen they come to the fire. And honey, which is so sweet to the taste, becomes sour when laid on the flames.
I think the bitterest form of galbanum would be the most significant if that is what is intended, for it would then expressthe bitterness of His griefs to His own taste, but the sweetness of the savor of these bitters to the Most High. Frankincense,especially, you know is exceedingly bittertasting, but extraordinarily sweet when laid upon the hot bars of iron or upon hot coals. There were many sorts of frankincense-therewas one which was very rare and highly esteemed which appears to have been the pure frankincense intended here. But whatevereach of thosedrugs may have been, or may not have been, it is certain they made a compound which God reserved to Himself and enjoinedthat it should never be used by men for any sort of purpose. It was reserved for Himself to set forth the holy merits, theinimitable perfections, thetranscendent glories of the Character of the sufferings of that precious Redeemer of whom God says to us, "I will acceptyou with your sweet savor."
Now for two or three practical words before I pass on. Do you feel your need of this sweet savor? How can you hope to be acceptedbefore God in yourselves? I think that the word "loathing," which occurred in our reading just now, is what we must feel withregard to our sinful selves. There may besome of you, very much growing in sanctification, who possibly look upon yourselves and congratulate yourselves on the progressthat you have made. But I confess, if I know anything of the Divine life, that while I do feel myself more consecrated toChrist than ever I was, yet I dofeel my unworthiness to be permitted to say so.
My utter powerlessness to do anything as of myself is a present pressing and overwhelming thought with me-one that lowersme into the dust and ashes and makes me sometimes wonder that Christ should even touch such an one-and yet at the same timeto hope that if God, foreseeing all thisevil, could nevertheless look upon me, He will not cast me away. Brothers and Sisters, do you not feel that you cannot beaccepted unless it is through this sweet savor? Well, then, when you feel this, will you, in the next place, prize that sweetsavor? Speak of it in the highestand most eulogistic terms!
You cannot exaggerate when you speak of the virtues and merits of the Redeemer. Set a high store by His Person! Prize Hislife, and like St. Bernard you may say-
"Jesus, the very thought of You With sweetness fills my breast."
Brethren, what a preciousness must there be in Him to overcome our want of preciousness! What a savor to put away our illsavor! What a cleansing power in His blood to take away sin such as ours! And what glory in His righteousness to make suchunacceptable creatures to be accepted in the Beloved!
And if you have gotten so far as to prize it, the next exhortation I would give you is never come before God without it. Turningback to that passage in Exodus you notice that the Lord says in the thirty-sixth verse, "You shall beat some of it very small,and put of it before the testimony in thetabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with you." Oh, never assay to meet God without that precious incense!Never think of such a thing! As the Apostle tells us, "Our God is a consuming fire." Give Him this incense to consume, thatHe doesn't consume us! Bring Him thismerit lest our demerit should compel Him to smite us as He did Nadab and Abihu when they offered strange fire before thealtar.
What a blessed thing, then, to stand in prayer and feel that you are offering up again the blood of Jesus! What a delightfulexercise in praise to feel that your praise comes up accepted because of the incense which He offers! Oh, to live under theshadow of the atoning Cross! Brethren, we do notexperience enough of this. I confess, sorrowfully, the wanderings of my own spirit away from Calvary. May the Master bindus to the horned altar where His blood was shed and may we never venture again to go away from that blessed spot! Do not attemptto meet God, except through themerit of this sweet savor.
Take care, dear Friends, that you never doubt your acceptance when you once have it. You cannot be accepted without Christ.But, when you have once gotten His merit, you cannot be unaccepted. Notwithstanding all your doubts and fears, and sins, Jehovah'sgracious eyes never look upon you in anger.Though He sees your sin and perceives it since He is Omniscient-He looks at you through Christ and sees no sin-for He answersthe prayer of that hymn-
"Him, and then the sinner see, Look through Jesus' wounds on me." You are always accepted in Christ, you are always blessedand beloved, always dear to the Father's heart!
Therefore lift up a song and as you see the smoking incense of the merit of the Savior coming up perpetually before the sapphirethrone let the incense of your praise go up also-
"Now to the Lamb, that once was slain, Salvation, glory, joy remain!"
II. It is certain from the connection that the text means that THE LORD WILL ACCEPT THE OFFERINGS OF HIS PEOPLE WHEN HE HASACCEPTED THEIR PERSONS. He will not only receive them into His love but all that they do for Him He will likewise receive.Before a man is accepted his best works must beunacceptable-they come from a fountain that is impure-and they are defiled. Moreover, a man who is not reconciled to Godoffers nothing to God.
He may seem to do so, but he has always some sinister motive which renders all his doings selfish. He has something to gainthereby or some misery to escape, and therefore he does not serve God out of a pure motive.
But as soon as the man knows that he is saved, being reconciled to God by the death of His Son, then God becomes his God andhe worships Him as such-and his offerings are really presented to the Most High. These are accepted. Those things which weoffer to God must be such as He hasappointed. The sweet smelling savor must not be made of cassia and cinnamon, and calamus-it must be made of stacte and onycha,and galbanum and frankincense. Many persons serve God sincerely, but from lack of serving Him according to His ordained methodtheir services cannotbe accepted.
God has given us a Statute Book, let us follow it. Let us not bring before God, as the Papist does, works of superstition,or works of supererogation-but let us bring such as are commanded-for to obey is better than sacrifice, to hearken, than thefat of rams. Let our lives be lives ofobedience, not lives of fancy, superstition, and inventions of our own. Prayer, praise, consecration, giving, holy living-theseare all ordained. Let us be diligent in the mixing up of these sweet savors. We must bring before God, if we would be acceptedin our works,something of all the virtues. It must not be all galbanum nor all stacte-not all intrepid courage without any subdued reverence,nor all the simplicity of affection without any of the sublimity of faith-it must not be all self-denial though there mustbe some of it.
Gravity itself must be tempered with cheerfulness. There must be something of every form of virtue to make up the blessedcompound! We must endeavor to bring something of all exercises-not prayer without praise, nor works without prayer-not mentalenergy without spiritual gifts, norgifts without holiness-it must be a mixture, a compound of the whole. We must bring something of all our powers-not allintellect, not all heart. It must be something of intellect in judgment and understanding-something of the heart in enthusiasmandjoy-something of the body, for the members of the body are members of Christ.
It must be much of the soul, for the soul's service is the soul of service. We must bring to God a compound of excellenciesfrom all the powers which He has renewed and consecrated to Himself. Oh it were matchless if God the Holy Spirit should graciouslyenable us to imitate Christ in this that wemight have some of all the Divine Graces, not lacking in any respect, but as a man of God thoroughly furnished unto everygood work! We must, above all, pay great attention to small things. "You shall beat some of it very small." If we would bringa holy life to Christ we must mindour fireside duties as well as the duties of the sanctuary. We must be attentive as servants to our service, as mastersto managing the household.
We must look to our private devotions. We must look to our hearts' secret longings-there must be the ejaculation as well asthe long prayer. There must be the grateful spirit as well as the song of praise. Oh, that we could bring to God a life beatensmall so that even in little things theHoly Spirit might be manifest, working in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure! We must take care that thissweet incense of ours is not made for man nor used by man. Accursed is that life, however good, which lives only for man togaze upon! But blessed is that lifewhich is lived for God's sake and for Christ's sake-for higher motives than man's eye could suggest-and for a nobler rewardthan man's hand can ever give.
To be holy unto God is the grand thing, my Brothers and Sisters! To truly feel that you are not living for self, that youare not even living for your country nor for your fellow man so much as you are living to the Most High God-the marks of whoseownership in yourself you desire to bear inyour body and in your spirit! May it be yours and mine to have a life which, both in its prayer and praise, its giving andits ordinary living shall be redolent with the fullness of the Spirit of God-a perfume that may make our life like walkingthrough a garden, a fragrancethat may make us like the king's storehouse where all manner of precious fruits are laid up, and all manner of sweet frankincensestored away!
You will say, "But there will be so much imperfection notwithstanding." Ah, that there will! "There may be much defilementwhen we have done our best." Ah, so it is! The best of men are still men at the best. But the word comes very sweetly-"I willaccept you with your sweet savor." When Godaccepts you, He accepts what you do for His sake. He sees you no longer as a mere fallen man but as a man renewed by HisSpirit. He counts you a vessel to honor! He puts these sweet things into you and loves them as He sees them in you. I knowthe prayer is broken, but it is theprayer of His own dear child-and therefore He whom we call "Abba, Father," accepts it! I know the praise has little of musicin it to the tutored ear, but it is the praise of one whose heart loves God, and He hears no discord there.
I know your gifts to His church and His poor are necessarily but little, for yours is the poor widow's portion perhaps, andyou can give only your two mites. But I know that as they fall into the treasury, Jesus sits over against the treasury andhears sweet sounds in the dropping of your gifts. Iknow your life is such that you mourn over it every day, but still you serve God in it, and you long to serve Him more-andthat love of yours is written in the Book of the King's record and you shall be His in the day when He makes up His jewels-andyour works shall beHis, too, for your works shall follow you to the skies when you rise in Jesus-and your reward even for a cup of cold watershall be as sure as it will be gracious! And your entrance into the joy of your Lord shall certainly be bestowed upon youaccording to the Divine Gracewhich is in Christ Jesus by which He has accepted you.
Desire, dear Friend in Christ, to be such a savor! Make it your grand ambition that your life really may be fragrant to theMost High. Do not be satisfied to be an unbroken alabaster box. Do not be willing to be a flower that "wastes its sweetnesson the desert air," or "a gem of purest ray serene"that is hidden in the caverns of seclusion. Seek to do something-seek to serve Christ! Pray that you may be a sweet savorof Christ unto God in every place where Providence may cast your lot. And if you are such a sweet savor, rejoice that youare so-rejoice that yourname is written in Heaven!
What? Though men shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for Christ's name sake, rejoice that you are numbered withthe honorable multitude who have suffered for Jesus' sake! And though you are not knights that ride first in the battle, bethankful that you may be as the esquires thatfollow at their heels, willing for the fray and able to bear the buffeting which the Lord may appoint you! Care less andless for man's esteem. Remember that your holiness will never shield you from calumny. Rest assured that the most strict walkingwill never preserve you from theenvenomed tongue of slander.
If your life should be as pure as the crystal river that springs from beneath the throne of the Most High, there will be foundsome that will muddy that stream and mire it with their feet. Coals of juniper, hot coals of juniper shall be given unto you,O you false tongue! But as for you, Believer,care not for that tongue, though it is sharp as a razor, and though every cut of it is poisonous as the poison of an adder.Bear it! Bear it! For do you not understand that your incense was never meant for man's approbation, but for the Most High?It must be for God, and for Godonly! And if man cannot smell it, or appreciate its savor, what shall I say but, though it was meet that my pearls shouldnot be cast before swine, if they have happened to be where swine may trample on them, the swine acts but according to itsnature, and the pearl is not hurt bythe swine's feet-it is still a pearl when trampled in the mire-a pearl that God's eyes will see and fetch out, notwithstandingall.
And oh, dear Friends, bless the Lord Jesus day by day that your works are made accepted with yourself through Him! When youhave done anything that is right, and good, and pure, bring it and lay it at His feet! Come here, you that toil with holyindustry, and bring your sheaves to store in thegarner of your Boaz whose fields you have reaped. Come here, you that have found jewels diving into the depths of humansin to bring them up, and lay these pearls at the feet of Solomon, who is master of the seas into which you have dived. "Theearth is the Lord's and the fullnessthereof. The world and they that dwell therein." And especially are we, the blood-besprinkled ones, the sacramental hostof God's elect ordained as priests to offer sacrifices acceptable unto God.
Oh, let us praise the love that bought us, the blood that redeemed us, the power that sustains us, the Grace that smiles uponus, the righteousness that covers us, the arm which supports us and the whole Redeemer who is able and willing, and beforelong will receive us to Himself and to our greatreward! May we all look to Jesus and to His merit, and then go forth, for the love we bear His name, to show Him afreshin our own persons to the sons of men! The Lord accept this morning's offering for His name's sake. Amen.