THE INNER LIFE  by Octavius Winslow

David in the Dust, Breathing after God

"The Re-quickening of the Inner Life"

"My soul cleaves unto the dust; quicken me according to your word." -Psalm 119:25.

We have more than once in this work adverted to the indestructible nature of true grace, the deathlessness of God's life in man's soul. But we may associate with this truth another idea. Not only cannot the spiritual life be destroyed- but it cannot even, for any great length of time, be depressed. Such is its divine elasticity- so to speak- such its vital energy, whatever the superincumbent weight sinking it to the earth, whatever the fetters that would confine it to the dust- it succeeds eventually in throwing off its pressure, in bursting its bonds, and in soaring again to its native skies. Thus in the lowest spiritual frame of the child of God, though cleaving even to the dust, there is a divine, ascending power in the soul, which ever lifts it in holy breathings and aspirations after God. Not merely is the principle of spiritual life secured, but its power cannot be destroyed.

How striking the confirmation of this truth afforded by the experience of David- two or three features of whose spiritual history we propose, in the present and succeeding chapters, to review, as illustrative of a relapsed and recovered state of the inner life. We can scarcely imagine a lower depth of sorrow and humiliation to a heavenly mind than that set forth by the words, "My soul cleaves to the dust," -prostrated, groveling in the very earth. And yet, behold the indestructible principle of grace! -his soul mounts heavenward, in the holiest and most spiritual breathings that ever rose from human lips- "Quicken me according to your word." May the Spirit of God now be our teacher, and impart to each reader a personal application of his truth, while from these instructive and striking words we consider the RE-QUICKENING OF THE INNER LIFE OF THE

We must not, however, entirely overlook DAVID'S PAINFUL AND HUMILIATING POSTURE AND CONFESSION- "My soul cleaves to the dust." There is a profound signification in this sentence. Were we to restrict its meaning to the unconverted state of man, what words, or what image, could more forcibly and vividly describe and portray that fearful condition? No principle is more true and palpable than that the center of the soul's moral gravity is earth. It originally was heaven: "God made man upright." The center of his soul's repose was God. Standing erect in conscious innocence, his countenance, the index of his soul, was elevated, beholding the countenance of his Father and his God.
"While other creatures towards the earth look down,
 God gave to man a front sublime, and raised
 His noble view to scope the starry heavens."
But falling from that elevation, his soul wandering away from God, earth then became the center of its gravitation. All his moral and intellectual tendencies are now downward and earthly. It is an awful view to take of a rational and immortal being, and yet from its truthfulness we dare not shrink. "The first man is of the earth, earthy." He is described as "minding earthly things." Earth is the center to which all the faculties and powers of his soul tend, the point where all his schemes terminate, the boundary by which all his desires and expectations are limited. This little planet of ours circumscribes all the powers and tendencies, tastes and pursuits, of his rational and deathless mind. Select the most intellectual pursuits, the most refined enjoyments, the most reasonable schemes that ever awoke a thought or inspired a feeling in the natural man, and the utmost we can say of it is- It is of the earth, earthy. His soul cleaves to the dust; his mind clings to, and grovels upon, the earth. There is nothing of God in his thoughts, of Christ in his affections, or of eternity in his plans. There is no looking beyond this little speck of matter, which, like the insect crawling upon its leaf, seems all the universe to him. As that insect knows nothing of, and cares nothing for, a world teeming with life beyond its microscopic boundary, so the carnal mind- alas that an irrational creature should be our comparison! -groveling upon the ground, sees not what a world, thinks not what a universe, stretches far away beyond it, of which it soon itself is to be an inhabitant.

For this flight of the soul to eternity, for this its solemn appearing in the presence of God- its scrutiny, its judgment, and its destiny- is there any adequate care, or thought, or preparation? None whatever! Everything else is cared for, prepared for, and thought of, except the soul's departure to the other world. Is not this folly? is it not madness? is it not a crime of the deepest dye? "Earthly, sensual, devilish," he cleaves to the dust. All his enterprises, pleasures, aggrandizements- magnificent, refined, noble as they are-
spring from the dust, are restricted to the dust, and with the dust they perish forever. What an awful, yet unexaggerated description, is this of the natural man! Reader, if not a subject of the converting grace of God, you are the original of this dark, gloomy, repulsive picture!

But the words upon which we are now commenting are those of a living, heaven-born, heaven-breathing, and heaven-destined soul. They admit us into one of the secrets of the inner and divine life, with which, alas! we are, the most of us, but too familiar. Shall we attempt an analysis of this peculiar state of spiritual mind, of which David's language is so expressive? It presents a mournful acknowledgment of the influence of an evil nature. David deeply felt this. Flesh in the child of God is as really flesh as in the child of Satan. The old man, the Adamic nature,
is precisely the same that it always was. Regeneration does not transform 'flesh' into 'spirit'. It proposes not to eradicate and expel the deep-seated root of our degenerate nature; but it imparts another and a supernatural nature- it implants a new and an antagonistic principle. This new nature is divine; this new principle is holy; and thus the believer becomes the subject of two natures, and his soul a battle-field, upon which a perpetual conflict is going on between the law of the members and the law of the mind; often resulting in his temporary captivity to the law of sin which is in his members. Thus every spiritual mind is painfully conscious of the earthly tendency of his evil nature, and that from the flesh he can derive no sympathy or help, but rather everything that discourages, encumbers, and retards his spirit in its breathings and strugglings after holiness. His "soul cleaves to the dust."

A mournful sense of the seductive power of earthly things enters deeply into this state of mind. As we bear about with us, in every step, an earthly nature, it is not surprising that its affinities and sympathies should be earthly; that earthly objects should possess a magnetic influence, perpetually attracting to themselves whatever was congenial with their own nature in the soul of the renewed man. Our homeward path lies through a captivating and ensnaring world. The world, chameleon-like, can assume any color, and Proteus-like, any shape, suitable to its purpose, and answerable to its end. There is not a mind, a conscience, or a taste, to which it cannot accommodate itself. For the gross, it has sensual pleasures; for the refined, it has polished enjoyments; for the thoughtful, it has intellectual delights; for the enterprising, it has bold, magnificent schemes. The child of God feels this engrossing power; he is conscious of this seductive influence. Worldly applause- who is entirely proof against its power? Human adulation- who can resist its incense? Creature power- who is free from its captivation? Love of worldly ease and respectability, influence and position; a liking to glide smoothly along the sunny tide of the world's good opinion- who is clad in a coat of armor so impervious as to resist these attacks? Have not the mightiest fallen before them? Such are some only of the many ensnaring influences which weave themselves around the path of the celestial traveler, often extorting from him the humiliating acknowledgment- "My soul cleaves to the dust."

In this category we may include things which, though they are in themselves of a lawful nature, are yet of an earthly tendency, deteriorative of the life of God in the soul. What heavenly mind is not sadly sensible of this? Our ever-foremost, sleepless, subtle foe, stands by and says, "This is lawful, and you may freely and unrestrictedly indulge in it." But another and a solemn voice is heard issuing from the sacred oracle of truth, "All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient." And yet, how often are we forced to learn the lesson, that lawful things may, in their wrong indulgence and influence, become unlawful, through the spiritual leanness which they engender in the soul! Oh, it is a narrow path which conducts us back to paradise! But our Lord and Master made it so; he himself has trodden it, "leaving us an example that we should follow his steps;" and he, too, is sufficient for its narrowness. Yes; such is the gravitating tendency to earth of the carnal nature within us, we are ever prone and ever ready, at each bland smile of the world, and at each verdant, sunny spot of the wilderness, to retire into the circle of self-complaisance and self-indulgence, and take up our rest where, from the polluted and unsatisfying nature of all earthly things, real rest can never be found. Thus may even lawful affections, and lawful enjoyments, and lawful pursuits and pleasures, wring the confession from the lips of a heavenly-minded man- "My soul cleaves unto the dust."

But there is sometimes a casting down to the dust which springs immediately from the mighty hand of God himself. The Lord occasionally brings his people very low. He may lay upon them heavy trial, sore affliction, causing them to 'be low in a low place.' This is often done to take off the rough edge of their too free indulgences, to humble them in the midst of their too fond enjoyments; and thus to prove their grace, and to exercise their graces, God brings them down even to the dust. Because we cannot keep our hearts low, therefore God makes our condition low.

Such, reader, was the low estate of David when he exclaimed, "My soul cleaves to the dust!" Ah! how many whose eye scans this page may take up and breathe his words! You feel a deadness, a dulness, and an earthliness, in enjoyments, and duties, and privileges, in which your whole soul should be all life, all fervor, all love. You are low where you ought to be elevated; you grovel where you ought to soar; you cleave to the earth where you ought to be embracing the heavens. Your thoughts are low; your affections are low; your feelings are low; your spirits are low; and you seem almost ready to question the existence of the life of God in your soul. But even in this sad and depressed state, may there not be something cheering, encouraging, hopeful?

There was evidently in David's- "My soul cleaves unto the dust; quicken me." This was the cheering, encouraging, hopeful feature in the psalmist's case- his breathing after the re-quickening of the Divine life of his soul. Here was that which marked him a man of God. It was a living man complaining of his deadness, and breathing after more life. It was a heaven-born soul lamenting its earthliness, and panting after more of heaven. It was a spiritual man mourning over his carnality, and praying for more spirituality. It is not the prayer of one conscious of the low state of his soul, and yet satisfied with that state. Perhaps no expression is more familiar to the ear, and no acknowledgment is more frequently on the lips of religious professors, than this. And yet, where is the accompanying effort to rise above it? Where is the putting on of the armor? Where is the conflict? Where is the effort to emerge from the dust, to break away from the enthralment, and soar into a higher and purer region?

Alas! many from whose lips smoothly glides the humiliating confession, still embrace the dust, and seem to love the dust, and never stretch their pinions to rise above it. But let us study closely this lesson of David's experience, that while deep lamentation filled his heart, and an honest confession breathed from his lips, there was also a breathing, a panting of soul, after a higher and a better state. He seemed to say- "Lord, I am prostrate, but I long to rise; I am fettered, but I struggle to be free; my soul cleaves to the dust, but, quicken me!" Similar to this was the state of the Church so graphically depicted by Solomon in his Song- "I sleep, but my heart wakes."

But what does the petition, thus breathed, imply? What does the blessing, thus craved, involve? First, a restoration of soul from past backslidings. Let the spiritual believer but take the history of a single week as the gauge of the general tenor of his life, and what a lesson does it read to him of the downward, earthly tendency of his soul! Yes, in one short week how have the wheels lessened in their revolutions- how has the timepiece of his soul lost its power- how have the chords of his heart be come unstrung! But his prayer is for Divine quickening. What a petition! and what a blessing! "Quicken me." Blessed is that soul that can echo these words. The Lord quickens the longing souls of his people. "He restores my soul," is the testimony not of David only. What do we rank among our most prized mercies? -what do we count our sweetest joys? -what constitutes our most hallowed seasons? Are they not the fresh gales of grace from heaven, blowing softly over our souls? and "lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig-tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell." What a spring-time of soul is it then! It is a 'little reviving' from the Lord- a quickening of the soul in its dead, wintry state.

This prayer also implies what, alas! is so needful in many, a re-conversion of soul. It is a putting of the Lord's hand a second time to the work of grace in the heart. "When you are converted," said our Lord to Peter, "strengthen your brethren." What! had not Peter already been converted? Most truly. But although a regenerate man, he had so relapsed in grace as to need a re-conversion. Our Lord's meaning, then, obviously is, "When you are restored, recovered, re-quickened, then strengthen your brethren." How many religious professors stand in need of a fresh baptism of the Holy Spirit! You, perhaps, my reader, are one. Where is the spiritual vigor you once displayed? where the spiritual joy you once possessed? where the unclouded hope you once indulged? where the humble walk with God you once maintained? where the fragrance that once breathed around you? Alas! your soul cleaves to the dust; and you need the reconverting grace, the renewed baptism of the Spirit. "Quicken me!" is your prayer.

A clearer manifestation of Divine life in the soul is not the least blessing contained in this prayer for quickening. How little realization enters into the religion of many! There is the full credence of the judgment to the truth; a conversing about religion, the ministry, and the church. But where is felt the realizing power, the earth-fading, heaven-attracting power, of vital godliness in the soul? Dear reader, the hour that will bring your religious profession, your religious creed, your religious notions, to the test, is at hand; and the great question in that awful moment will be, "Am I fit to die? -have I in my soul the life of God? -am I born of the Spirit? -have I a living Christ in my now failing, dying heart?"

But what a prayer is this in view of a scene and a scrutiny so solemn: "Quicken me! Lord, quicken your work in my soul, and strengthen that which you have wrought in me. The love that congeals, the faith that trembles, the hope that fluctuates, the joy that droops; may you inspire with new life, new energy, new power! It is of little moment what others think of me; Lord, you know my soul cleaves to the dust. There is in my heart more of earth than of heaven; more of self than of Christ; more of the creature than of God. You know me in secret- how my grace wanes, how my affections chill, how seldom my closet is visited, how much my Bible is neglected, how insipid to my taste the means of grace, and how irksome and vapid are all spiritual duties and privileges. Lord, stir up yourself to the revivifying of my soul; quicken, O quicken you me in your ways. Enlarge my heart, that I may run the way of your commandments."

THE ARGUMENT with which this holy petition is urged is most powerful and prevalent- "According to your word." According to the promise of the word, and the instrumentality of the word. Both are engaged to quicken the soul. The promise is most precious: "I will heal their backslidings, I will love them freely; for my anger is turned away from him. I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily, and cast forth his roots as Lebanon. Those who dwell under his shadow shall return; they shall revive as the corn, and grow as the vine." This precious promise to quicken and revive you, to shed the dews of his grace upon your soul, thus moistening and nourishing the roots and stems, and fruits of the new and heavenly life within you, God stands ready to fulfil in your holy and happy experience: "I will be as the dew unto Israel." Christ is our dew- the dew of his love, the dew of his grace, the dew of his Spirit, is prepared- silent and unseen, but effectual and vivifying- to fall upon the renewed powers of your nature-reviving the work of God in your soul.

But by the instrumentality of the word, the Lord quickens the soul. The word of Christ is "spirit and life;" therefore it is a quickening word. "This is my comfort in my affliction; for your word has quickened me." Again, "I will never forget your precepts; for with them you have quickened me." Therefore did Jesus pray to his Father in behalf of his Church, "Sanctify them through your truth." Thus does the word quicken.

We are here constrained to suggest an inquiry- May not the prevalent decay of spiritual life in the church of God- the low standard of spirituality, the alarming growth of soul-destroying error- the startling discovery which some modern teachers appear to have stumbled upon, that doctrines which the church of Christ has ever received as revealed truth, which councils have authorised, and which creeds have embodied, and which the sanctified intellects of master spirits- the Anakims and the Shamgars of polemic divinity and divine philosophy of past ages- have contended for and maintained, are not found in the Bible, but are the visionary dogma of a bygone age- we say, may not these prevalent evils be mainly attributable to the contempt thrown upon the word of God?

We verily and solemnly believe it to be so. We need to be constantly reminded that the great regenerator and emancipator of the world is the Bible- that nothing short of this will disturb the spiritual death which universally prevails, and that nothing short of this will free the human mind from the shackles of error and superstition which enslave at this moment nearly two-thirds of the human race. This "Sword of the Spirit," -like that of Goliath, "there is none like it" -has overcome popery and infidelity, and, unimpaired by the conflict, it is ready to overcome them yet again. Give me the circulation of the Bible, and with this mighty engine I will overthrow the tyranny of Antichrist, and establish the fair and original form of Christianity. O that in this day of sad departure from the word of God, we may rally round the Bible in closer and more united phalanx! Firm in the belief of its divinity, strong in the conviction of its potency, may we go forth in the great conflict of truth and error, wielding no weapon but the "Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." In all our spiritual relapses, too, may the word of the Lord quicken us: may it, like a mighty lever, raise our soul from the dust to which it so much cleaves!

And what will be some of the EFFECTS of a revived, re-quickened state of the inner life? Oh, many and blessed! Then will follow a clearer perception of Divine truth, the meaning and beauty of which, now so much obscured by reason of the dust which adheres to the soul, will appear in clearer and richer luster. The public means of grace will be seen to be Divinely appointed and indispensably needful. Vain excuse for their neglect will be laid aside, and the Sabbath and the week-day services will find you at your "well," waiting for Him who stands by it, to draw the water and give you to drink. Private duties will be sought more eagerly, and will be found more precious. The dust will be swept from your Bible, and the smouldering embers be rekindled upon your altar, and you will be found "watching daily at the Lord's gates, waiting at the posts of his door."

The seal of adoption more deeply impressed upon your heart, you will have a more vivid sense of your sonship, and "Abba, Father," will oftener breathe from your lips. Tribulation and suffering- the cup which your Heavenly Father may give you to drink- will then be received without a question, and be drunk without a murmur. Your spiritual influence, now so greatly impaired, will then, in the exhibition of a more healthy profession of Christianity, of a more holy and consistent example, be felt, acknowledged, and honored. These are but a mere tithe of the blessings which will result from your re-quickening.

We may here meet a question which has often been asked by those who are conscious of a relapsed state of soul. "Am I still to be found in spiritual duties and enjoyments while sensible of a backsliding state of heart from God?" To this we reply- The warrant of a Christian's duty is not the measure of his grace, but the command of his God. If this be so- and we have no reason to question its truth- then be your state of soul low as it may, you are bound to meet all those obligations and to discharge all those duties which a profession of Christ enjoins, irrespective of the spiritual and mental fluctuations to which the soul is always exposed.

Unless you are aware of his design, Satan will here attain a great advantage over you. Assuming the form of an angel of light, and with angelic gentleness and plausibility, he will suggest that your frame of soul is too torpid and lifeless and dull to draw near to God. That your affections are too frigid, your love too congealed, your heart too carnal, your mind too groveling, your pursuits too earthly, your backslidings too great, your neglects too many to take to Christ. He will hold up to view the folly and the hypocrisy and the inconsistency of being found in the employment and use of holy and spiritual duties, while your soul thus cleaves to the dust. But listen not to his false suggestions, and heed not his sophistical reasoning, no not for a moment. It is only in the way of waiting upon God that you will be recovered from the lapsed state of your soul. In the way of meditation, of confession, of tears, of prayer, you may yet rise from the dust, and with bolder pinion, and richer plumage, and sweeter song, soar to the gate of heaven, and return again, scattering around you its blessings, and reflecting its glory. Oh! go to Jesus, then, however low and discouraging your spiritual state may be, and relax not a single mean of grace.

Allow a CLOSING EXHORTATION. Beware how you clog yourself needlessly with the dust; there is no necessity why you should cling to it. It is most true, that in the dust of self-abasement you cannot lie too deeply. "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes," says the repentant Job. "He puts his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope," says the weeping Jeremiah. But the dust of earthly pursuits and pleasures are not suited to you as a heaven-born soul. The dust is the serpent's food, not the bread of a renewed mind. You were born again- not to dig into the earth with the mole, but to soar to the heavens with the eagle. Your God is in heaven, your Savior is in heaven, the glorified saints are in heaven; and in faith, and in hope, and in conversation, you should be in heaven also.

Then do not clog yourself needlessly with dust. Do not be in haste to be rich. Do not be anxious after great worldly enterprises, magnificent schemes, with a view merely of accumulating wealth. "Those who will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition." Be content with God's disposal of you, and with his allotment
to you. Walking uprightly and in his fear, you shall lack no good thing. "He will never leave you, nor forsake you, so that you may boldly say, The Lord is my helper." Let the world, and worldly things, sit lightly upon you. Its smiles and its frowns, its caresses and its woundings, are but for a moment- and then all will forever have fled.

"Now let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short, so husbands should not let marriage be their major concern. Happiness or sadness or wealth should not keep anyone from doing God's work. Those in frequent contact with the things of the world should make good use of them without becoming attached to them, for this world and all it contains will pass away." Arise, then, and shake yourself from the dust, and put on your beautiful garments, and array yourself in your costly ornaments- the righteousness of the incarnate God, and the graces of the sanctifying Spirit. Thus quickened and revived, thus rising from the dust to which your soul has so long been cleaving, O how sweetly will you sing as heavenward you soar! "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God: for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation, he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels."

Go to Jesus just as you are. Take your deadness to Christ- take your barrenness to Christ- take your decay to Christ- take to Christ your frame of mind just as it is. Jesus stands between you and God, prepared to present to God every sigh, and groan, and desire, and tear, and request; and to convey from God every blessing, covenant, blood-purchased blessing, which it is possible for him to give, or needful for you to receive. Exult in the prospect of soon reaching heaven, where there are no frosts to congeal, where there is no blight to wither, and where no earthly tendencies will ever weigh down to the dust the life of God in your soul.