James Smith, 1865
"Out of the depths have I cried unto You, O Lord." Psalm 130:1
The Psalmist represents himself, as one in deep waters,
or in deep caverns — in imminent peril — in deep distress — in sore trouble.
Every Christian can more or less sympathize with him. All know something of
the depths — but some sink lower, and continue longer in them than
others. Generally speaking, those who sink deepest in soul distress — rise
highest in spiritual enjoyment. The darker the night of sorrow — the
brighter the day of deliverance appears. Those who can say, "The pains of
hell got hold upon me," can also add, "He brought me up, also, out of a
horrible pit, He set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings: and He
put a new song into my mouth, even praise unto our God."
Let us look at his SITUATION."In the depths!" Ah, believer, we know what these depths mean! Into what depths we sunk when the law was brought home to the conscience, and the bar of equity was set up there. When vivid and soul-stinging convictions of sin were felt. The whole life seemed to be unfolded, and our secret sins set in the light of God's countenance. The heart was disclosed, and, Oh, the evils that were discovered there! What floods of corruption were rolling there — the waves whereof cast up mire and dirt. Then guilt pressed us down like a ponderous load; darkness, thick darkness enveloped the soul, we lost our foothold and began to sink!
Down we went into gloom, despondency, terror, alarm, and dread! All hope seemed to flee away, and our cry was, "I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me!" We felt as if we were now in the lowest pit, in darkness, and in the deeps. We dreaded going to sleep at night — lest we should awake in hell. There seemed to be but a step, between us and the dreadful pit of hopeless despair. Satan pursued us with his horrid temptations, suggestions, and solicitations. The fearful thoughts he injected into the mind, the dreadful pictures he drew on the imagination, and the awful blasphemies he caused to roll through the soul — made us feel that we were in a "horrible pit" indeed, and the more we tried to extricate ourselves — the deeper we sunk, until "all hope that we should be saved, was then taken away."
These are, indeed, awful depths, and some souls have had to wade through them, not only days and weeks — but even months, and a few for years. At such times, providence often appears to run cross; relatives are unusually trying; Christians, perhaps, are cold towards us; and everything seems to conspire to plunge us deeper and deeper into the abyss!
No tongue can describe, no language can set forth, what
some poor Christians suffer in these depths. They do not attempt to
tell another, they feel quite alone, and conclude that no one ever passed
along that road to heaven. Ah, this is a mistake! Many have found that the
way to heaven — is by the gates of hell. Many sunk deep in the mire — before
they too could place their foot upon the rock of ages; many have felt worse
than Egyptian darkness — before they could say, "You have delivered my soul
from death, and my eyes from tears, that I may walk before the Lord in the
light of the living." Enough of this, let us consider his,
Application. "I cried unto the Lord." Words soon uttered — but what do they contain? Perhaps days of sorrow, nights of distress, weeks of agony, months of grief. "I cried unto the Lord." No one else could help, ease, or deliver me! This we learn by bitter experience. No arm can reach us in these depths — but the arm of God! No power can raise us up — but the power of God! The Lord knew where the Psalmist was, could hear his cry, and was alone able to deliver him. Would He deliver? There was a doubt upon this; more, a painful fear. But as no one else could help, it was in vain to look to any other quarter.
The Lord encourages souls who are in the depths to cry unto Him, in many portions of His Word, and by the deliverances He has wrought for others. Not only so — but the Holy Spirit occasionally throws a ray of light into the soul, breaths for a moment into the troubled spirit, and excites the cry that enters into the ears of the Lord God Almighty. The sinner feels he must cry — or die! He must be delivered by the hand of God — or perish forever. His case is desperate — unless God interferes.
As the soul is in the depths — so the cry comes up from the depths of the soul. No form of prayer will suit here, no human composition will meet the case now. The heart must pray, it must be the soul's own cry. "I cried unto the Lord." He felt deeply, he desired deliverance right heartily, he cried out energetically, and persevered in crying with importunity. By day and by night, at home and abroad, on the knees and when walking, at rest or in business, the cry still goes up, "O Lord, I beseech You, deliver my soul!"
Unbelief works, doubts discourage, delays dishearten, and Satan suggests, "It is all of no use!" But it is a cry for life, eternal life — and therefore the cry cannot be effectually silenced; the Holy Spirit is at work — and therefore, the enemy shall not prevail. This is striving to enter in at the strait gate. This is the kingdom of heaven suffering violence, and the violent taking it by force.
The cry was for deliverance: To be brought into liberty, the liberty with which the Lord makes His people free. To enjoy society and satisfaction; the society of saints, of Jesus, and God our Father; and to feel the satisfaction that flows from the pardon of sin, the Spirit of adoption, and the assurance of our acceptance with God. To walk in peace and holiness; with a peaceful conscience, "in all the ordinances and commandments of the Lord, blameless." To work for God, and his generation; not only enjoying deliverance — but rendering again, according to that which the Lord has done for us, and to glorify our God in the day of visitation. To be of use to others, and live to purpose in the present evil world.
Christian, there may be many depths between earth and heaven; because you are out of one depth — you must not conclude that you will never get into another. Some have sunk into the depths even on a dying bed, and have cried out from the depths, just before they began to sing the new and never-ending song. Fresh convictions, trying dispensations, Satanic accusations, backsliding from God, or restraining prayer before God — may plunge us into fearful depths.
If we are not in the depths now — we soon may be, let him, therefore, "who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall." David said, "My mountain stands strong — I shall never be moved." And it was not likely that a mountain would move — but he immediately adds, "You hid your face, and I was troubled." If God hides His face from us, trouble and distress will soon overcome us.
Once in the depths — no one can deliver us out of them but Jesus, the Great Deliverer. The deeper we sink, the more singular will be our deliverance, and the greater glory will the Deliverer get. O what a contrast will the heights of the heavenly Zion be — to the dreadful depths into which we sink in this wilderness world.
To conclude, it is a sweet thought that not one of the Lord's people ever perished in the depths yet. Jonah cried "out of the belly of hell," when he was cast "into the deep," and the Lord heard and delivered him. Jeremiah cried out of "the low dungeon," and the Lord delivered him. Yes, poor soul, however low you sink, however much you suffer, however long you lie in the deeps — the great Shepherd will hear the bleatings of His poor sheep, the good Samaritan will come where you are — and you shall sing songs of deliverance to the honor of His name. However deep you sink — others have sunk as deep; however long you lie there — others have lain as long; however much you suffer — others have suffered more. And if you had but light, you might see that your Savior sunk lower than you, and left His footprints there!
Cry then, cry mightily to God, and the day of deliverance will soon dawn, and you will have cause to exclaim, "I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome by trouble and sorrow. Then I called on the name of the Lord: 'O Lord, save me!' The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion." Psalm 116:1-5