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MATTHEW 26:13.

Covington, GA., Nov.20, 1869.

DEAR SISTER PHILLIPS: - Since my return from the Primitive Western Association in Cowetta County, in October last, through a consideration of the few words which passed between us at the breakfast table at Mr. Weaver’s, relative to the text of scripture in Matt. 26:13, upon which you had requested my views, I have had more special reflection than heretofore.

Upon reading the text; “Verily, I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her,” I am led necessarily to a consideration of the act of this woman in anointing Jesus’ head with ointment, and the principle which governed her in the performance of the act. In comparing the account given of Matthew of the circumstances of the case, with Mark 14:3-9, I rather involuntarily am led to the conclusion that it is the same instance. It is true John says, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair, while Matthew and Mark says it was his head which was anointed. This seeming discrepancy may be obviated by the consideration that John recorded a portion of the circumstance which the other evangelists did not, and he did not record what others did, so far as the anointing of the head is concerned. The anointing it appears took place, according to the account of each of the writers, a little before the Passover, and is of an interesting importance. Whether the circumstances are the same, or different circumstances are recorded, there is no derogation of the importance, or vitality of the subject. The act of this woman inculcates the principle of faith in her heart as the gift of God. In reply to the indignant feelings of the disciples at the supposed waste of the ointment, Jesus said, “Why trouble ye the woman; for she hath wrought a good work upon me?” She must have had faith to perform a good work, for without faith it is impossible to please God. Still further Jesus said, “For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.” Or, as is expressed in John, “Against the day of my burying hath she kept this.” The literal circumstance is illustrative of her affection and regard towards his, as well as an experimental knowledge of him as her Savior and Redeemer. She did it for, or because of his burial. Here, I expect, is the gist of the subject in its full bearing upon the text. The woman, whom I am inclined to believe was the sister of Martha and Lazarus, had a revealed knowledge of the Lord Jesus as the Son of the Most High God, the atoning sacrifice for the sins of God’s elect in the whole world, and also in his death and burial her sins were remitted forever, or buried beyond the possibility of a resurrection. Her faith was her salvation, like the case of the woman recorded in Luke 7:50. All the ancient saints from Abel’s time until the incarnation of the promised Messiah, were saved through the faith of him that was to come. They viewed in the death and burial of the Son of God, their sins and iniquities fully remitted, or as it is expressed in Heb. 9:15, “That by means of death for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” This woman was one of the called, to whom the promise was made, and she anointed his head, as a sure token, not only of her love to him, and her confidence in his atoning blood for the remission of her sins, but that in his resurrection, ascension, and exaltation upon his throne in the heavens, full satisfaction is rendered to the law and justice in her behalf, and in the behalf of all who are called according to God’s purpose.

In this anointing something further must be understood than the mere literal circumstance. Anciently the practice of anointing the bodies of the dead was customary, and in the church, it is said, in early times, it was observed. Perhaps this woman may have considered this custom in anointing Jesus’ head, but I consider some higher and more excellent consideration controlled her. Anointing was a venerated custom in Israel in relation to kings, priests, and some prophets. We have several instances of the kind. Saul was anointed with a vial of oil. The use of a vial on this occasion denotes the weakness and brittleness of Saul’s kingly government. David was anointed with a horn of oil. A horn represents strength and durability, and bespeaks the character of David’s kingly government. Our spiritual David, the author of our text, was anointed of God. “I have found David my servant, with my holy oil have I anointed him.” Psa. 89:20. He is seated upon the throne of his kingdom. The name Messiah, or Christ, signifies the ANOINTED. The anointing of priests and prophets was significant of high positions of great importance. Aaron was anointed, or consecrated high priest, and Elisha was anointed a prophet by Elijah. Our blessed Lord, united within himself the three distinct offices of king, priest and prophet. In every other sense he possesses the full embodiment of every perfection and character with which he is constituted fully the Savior of his people.

In a higher and more exalted sense do I consider the spiritual application of our subject than the literal transaction. The act of this woman illustrates something which is fully known and appreciated among the saints in the whole world, and of which she stands as a memorial. The ointment was precious, and very costly, indicating its intrinsic value. The love of God shed abroad in the hearts of the saints through Jesus Christ the anointed Head of the Church, passes through and over all the members of Christ’s spiritual body, the church, fully ramifying all the subjects of grace, and is of intrinsic value unsurpassed. The psalmist speaks of it in this matter, “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; as the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion, for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life forevermore.” Psa. 133. The odor of the ointment, in a literal sense, filled the house. The odor of this heavenly ointment fills the church of God, which is the house of God and causes the saints to rejoice, and be exceeding glad at the feet of Jesus, their exalted Redeemer. For this anointing is in full operation when love flows from heart to heart, from Christ the Head, including the body, to the foot. To be at each other’s feet, clothed with the garments of salvation, and their mouth filled with praise, and beholding the perfect symmetry of Christ and his church in beatific vision, is the highest point of elevation reached by the saints in time. They honor their ascended Lord, who was dead and buried, but ever liveth, their glorious intercessor.

This precious ointment is also likened to the dew which falls upon the mountains. In a literal sense dew is a moisture in the atmosphere, or heavens, which falls gently upon the earth, or mountains, by night, and moistens wherever it falls. As the mountain of the Lord’s house, or church, is established in the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills, {Isa. 2:2,} the refreshing dew which descends from the spiritual or immortal glory, enlivens and fully saturates the whole body of Christ, and each member of that body separately. The voice of inspiration declares, “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass.” Deut. 32:2. How refreshing, soul-inspiring, and soul-comforting, is the doctrine of God our Savior, and the speech of him whose tongue is as the pen of a ready writer, when this precious anointing is felt and enjoyed. Then the communion of saints is sweet, for they are in the banqueting house of our God, and his banner over them is love. There the blessing of the Lord is known and felt, even life for evermore.

There are many figures, metaphors and striking illustrations used in holy writ to present the relationship and union of Christ and his people. The woman in our subject presents to my mind a very interesting illustration of the bride of Christ. Her spiritual origin is in her exalted Redeemer, and her earthly or natural origin is in Adam. In the latter sense she sustains a covenant relation to her Head and Husband. He came in the flesh to redeem her from the dominion of sin under the law. She was under the law, and under its curse. The union and relationship is indivisible. She was not fully developed under the Old Testament dispensation, but was in an imperfect state. In the literal circumstance recorded in Mark 14:8, Jesus says, “She has done what she could; she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.” Women ministered to his necessities. They were present when he suffered, and at his burial. Some of them were present on the morning of his resurrection, with spices to anoint him. The spouse of Christ did all she could for him under a dispensation which dealt death and damnation to all those who violated it. Her sins and transgressions were laid upon him, and the law demanded his death and burial in her behalf. He was crucified and slain in accordance with the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God for the salvation of his bride. His death and burial was as important in the counsel and purpose of Jehovah as his resurrection and glorification. Every link in the chain of God’s predestinating purpose of love and mercy is as strong and durable as Omnipotence. The bride, when under the exercise of saving faith, beholds her death under the law, and under its curse, and the burial of her sins when Jesus was dead and buried, and her resurrection with Christ from under the condemnation of the law, and her justification by his blood in the remission of her sins. The love of Christ constrains her to acknowledge him in the ordinance of baptism, and in obedience to his laws, rules, precepts and commandments. Her acknowledgment of him under all circumstances is expressive of her love and respect for him as her Lord and Husband. This is synonymous in its application to the anointing, which I have already discussed, as I understand the subject.

After a lengthy dissertation, I have at last reached the text. The text inculcates the doctrine and principles already elaborated. It is an undoubted truth in the experience of the saints, as the word verily properly signifies, that wheresoever the gospel is preached in its primitive purity, the love of God embracing Christ and his church, is presented in its fullness and glory. It is good tidings of great joy to the bride of Christ, or in other words to the saints of the Most High God. The love and devotion of the woman in a literal sense in anointing the head of Jesus, may not often be spoken of as a memorial, but in a spiritual sense in contemplating the bride of Christ in her devotion to her Lord in the heavenly anointing, her act is a lasting memorial of her, never to be forgotten while time endures, or the gospel is preached. Her love and obedience to her Lord is presented only in reference to the great truth of inspiration which declares, “We love him because he first loved us.” I John 4:19. Again, “And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandment, dwelleth in him, and He in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.” I John 3:23,24. The heavenly unction or anointing which the saints receive from the Holy One, should be reciprocated by them under all circumstances. This applies to individual saints with the same weight and force as to the church in a collective sense. John says, “The anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you; but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.” Further John says, “And now, little children, abide in him, that when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” How excellent and glorious is the love of Christ to his people, and the communion of saints.

My dear sister, I have not exhausted the subject, though I may have exhausted your patience. I hope what I have written will not be unprofitable to you, as I have endeavored to comply with your request, though in a private manner. Our personal acquaintance was brief, though pleasant to me. Please write if in accordance with your feelings and wishes, as a letter from you will be appreciated by me. Remember me to your husband in christian regard, and accept a token of my christian love to you.

Joseph L. Purington.