John Newton’s own sermon notes
for his hymn
Song of Solomon 1:3
Thy name is as ointment poured forth
A chief part of this little book is an attempt to answer that question: What is thy beloved more than another beloved? The unbelieving world discover [reveal] much of the enormity and ignorance of their hearts in this: that one of the greatest quarrels they have with the people of God, is for their having such high thoughts and so much to say about the L.J.C. [Lord Jesus Christ]. They are ready to say, Can you not be content with fearing God and keeping his commandments, without so much talk of Christ? This makes the believer sigh, Alas that you did but know him too. If you did, surely you would think you could not speak enough of him.
I knew nothing about the fear of God. I never had a hearty desire to keep his commandments, till I began to know a little of Christ. I was starving and he fed me, I was sick and he visited me, I was naked, destitute of all good, and he clothed me with his own righteousness; I was shut up in the prison of sin and he came and burst open the doors and set me at liberty. How great is his goodness; how great is His beauty. In comparison of this tree of life, all the tallest of the sons of men are empty and barren. He is the chief among ten thousands and altogether lovely. The soul ranges as it were through the whole creation to find some worthy similitudes of her Lord but all are scanty and insufficient. Let us present consider this in my text. It may lead our thoughts to not only the excellency that is in Christ, but to his suitableness to us, and afford a glass in which you may see yourselves and be able to judge by the light of the Holy Spirit whether you are indeed worthy the name of Christians.
We shall enquire:
1. What is meant by his name
2. Why compared to ointment
3. How this ointment is poured forth
1. Thy name
This in general means his person (as Rev 3:4) or rather the manifestation of his person that by which he is known. The name of Christ includes the whole revelation concerning him, who he is, what he has done - all that we read of his love, his power and his offices make a part of his great and glorious name. The soul that is taught by the Word and Spirit of God to understand a little of these things receives such a sense of love and joy that the very sound of his name is sweeter than music to the ears, sweeter than honey to the taste.
He is named:
1.1 A Saviour
to save from guilt, sin and hell, this implies:
(i) his sufferings
(ii) his victory
1.2 A Mediator
There is an important concern between us and God - but how shall we approach? - who shall interpose? This name affords a comfortable answer.
1.3 A Husband
Our wants, debts and fears are many. But he is made known by this name (Isaiah 54) and he is rich enough to supply all.
2. This name compared to ointment
These were more frequent in use and many of more costly composition than common amongst us.
2.1 Some were healing
Applied to wound and bruises and putrefying sores. Now the sinner when he is awakened and comes to himself, finds himself like the man (Luke 10) stripped and wounded and half dead. Jesus like the good Samaritan comes with an eye of pity, to pour in the ointment of his name. This is a certain and the only cure for the wounds of sin. Many can witness to this. How when they began to feel their misery and see their danger, they made use of many means but found them all physicians of no value. Like the woman in the gospel when they had spent all their time and strength in this way they were no better but rather grew worse. But this ointment made them whole.
2.2 Some were cordial and reviving
The believing soul is subject to fainting - it has but little strength and meets many discouragements - but is relieved from time to time by the good savour of this ointment.
The name of Christ refreshes it with new strength under the:
(i) remains of sin
(ii) assaults of Satan
(iii) troubles of life
2.3 Ointments were used in feasts
(Luke 7:46. Hence Psalm 23:5) And the name of Jesus is a precious banquet to the believing soul. This fills him as with marrow and fatness - this puts an honour and a beauty upon him - therefore (verse 4) more than wine.
2.4 [The savour]
Precious ointments have a savour, a perfumed smell, which distinguishes the person that bears them. So this ointment of the name of Jesus, when poured into a believer's heart, it makes him smell as a field which the Lord has blessed. It is this communication of grace and holiness which they have received from their beloved which makes them known to each other and distinguishes them from the world.
3. How poured forth
We read (Mark 14) that the woman brought precious ointment in a box - and when she broke the box then and not before the whole house was filled with its fragrance. Thus the grace and virtue of this name was confined and known but to few while our Lord conversed upon earth - but afterwards it was poured forth:
3.1 When he suffered
The precious vessel that contained this precious ointment was broken upon the Cross - the savour of his name, his love, his blood, poured out from every wound [in] his sacred body. See from his head, his hands, his feet, sorrow and love flow mingling down. From that hour it was quickly spread and diffused far and near. And here we are still to look for it. When we desire a new savour of this ointment, let us turn our eyes, our thoughts to Golgotha. To behold him by faith as he hung bleeding and dying, with outstretched arms inviting our regards and saying See if any sorrow was like to my sorrow.
(i) a sovereign balm for every wound
(ii) a cordial for our care
3.2 In the preached gospel
It was appointed for this end. And everything that bears the name of preaching - if it does not diffuse the knowledge of this good ointment - is dry and tedious, unsavoury and unprofitable. But by this foolishness of preaching it is spread abroad. The scene of our Lord's life was confined to a few places and it was a long while ago - but the ointment thus poured out has reached to distant lands and ages. Countless thousands have experienced its efficacy, and blessed be God, it is still fresh and still flowing. It is poured out amongst us at his day. Farther the expression poured forth may signify:
There is enough to spare.
It is not enclosed but open and common to all who know its value, as the light or water.
3.3 [At times of refreshment]
The Lord has likewise peculiar seasons of pouring it into the hearts of his people. These are called times of refreshment (Acts 3:19).
(i) Usually at the time of their first conversion.
(ii) Often in an hour of distress and trouble.
(iii) They may expect it likewise at the hour of death.
(iv) He often meets them with it in the ordinances - particularly when they approach his table. At this feast he revives them with the savour of his ointment and pours it upon their heads. He anoints them with this oil of joy and gladness above their fellows.
1. The happiness of the believer, above those who have their portion in this world. They have a medicine, a cordial always at hand.
2. You that have your hearts set upon sin - see how poor you are. Which of your vain pleasures and pursuits is it that you can say of it, Thy name is as ointment poured forth? Quite the contrary. Are they not briars and thorns? Is there not poison in your cup? Take heed lest that which is a savour of life unto life to many should be a savour of death unto death to you.
3. Who have a right to the bread and wine - even all those who see the value and long to know more of the virtue of this ointment. Fear not ye who seek Jesus, but come. Are you wounded? are you fainting? - let not this keep you away, but rather constrain you. You cannot do without it.
But as to those who live in sin, or who seek a righteousness of [your] own, from your attendance on outward ordinances, you have no right to the children's bread. I beg you, may I charge you, not to profane his institutions. If you will, you must, but remember the king will be there to view the guests. Take care lest he frown upon you. Such only would I keep away, but all that are awakened, that groan being burthened, that think yourselves unworthy of the smallest mercies, in his name I bid you heartily welcome, and I have his warrant for it (Isa. 55:1; 66:2)
John Newton’s sermon notebook
Cowper & Newton Museum
© Marylynn Rouse 2000
The John Newton Project
The name of Jesus
How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear.
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds
And drives away his fear.
It makes the wounded spirit whole
And calms the troubled breast;
'Tis manna to the hungry soul
And to the weary rest.
Dear name! the rock on which I build,
My shield and hiding place;
My never-failing treasury filled
With boundless stores of grace.
By Thee my prayers acceptance gain
Altho' with sin defiled;
Satan accuses me in vain
And I am owned a child.
Jesus! my Shepherd, Husband, Friend,
My Prophet, Priest and King;
My Lord, my Life, my Way, my End,
Accept the praise I bring.
Weak is the effort of my heart
And cold my warmest thought;
But when I see Thee as Thou art
I'll praise Thee as I ought.
'Till then I would Thy love proclaim
With every fleeting breath;
And may the music of Thy name
Refresh my soul in death.
Olney Hymns, 1779, Book 1, Hymn 57