SOUL HEIGHTS and SOUL DEPTHS by Octavius Winslow

Soul Heights

"The Lord is my strength, and He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon my high places." -Habakkuk 3:19.

"O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, show me your face, let me hear your voice; for your voice is sweet and your face is lovely."  Song of Solomon 2:14

  These words, though not taken from our Psalm, are yet in such close harmony with its teaching, and suggest so befitting and graceful a close of its exposition, that we venture to append them, as sustaining and crowning the leading truths of this volume. They speak of HEIGHTS- of "high places" belonging to the believer, upon which God makes His saints to walk as with the hind's swift and sure foot. "He will make my feet like hinds' feet, and He will make me to walk upon my high places."
  The only true elevation of man is that of the soul, and the only individual who really knows anything of soul elevation is he whose standing before God is in Christ Jesus. "In Your righteousness shall they be exalted." It is not always in the 'depths' with the Christian. He who is invariably so, reflects but imperfectly the true nature, and brings great dishonor upon the divine character, of Christ's holy gospel. Our blessed Lord describes His people as "lights to the world." But with many of His disciples, alas! how dimly does their light burn! Were the world to take its notion of the religion of Jesus from their illustration of its character and spirit, what injustice would be done both to that religion and its Divine Author!
  The true element of the gospel is holy joy. It is emphatically the "joyful sound." "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." It possesses the elements of all joy. It reveals Jesus, the Savior of the lost; it proclaims a Salvation for the chief of sinners, full, finished, free; it leads to a Fountain open for cleansing the uncleanness of all sin; it unfolds a righteousness without a seam, a stain, or a flaw, for the full and free justification of the ungodly; it supplies the most powerful motive to all holiness; while it unseals the deepest, sweetest springs of all consolation and comfort to the broken heart and the wounded spirit. Surely, there are no soul-depths here, except the depths of divine love, the depths of holy joy, the depths of strong consolation!
  But, what are some of these "high places" of the Church of God upon which He makes His people to walk? "He will make me to walk upon my high places."
  Need we place in the foreground, the high place of Conversion, upon which all that are saved are made to walk? It is the first and leading step to each ascent of the believer. In what a low place does the soul of man walk until it reaches the 'high place' of converting grace! The highest life of an unregenerate man is, in a spiritual sense, but a low life; it is in the 'depths' of sin and selfishness, of enmity against God, and of ruin against his own being. Take the most intellectual pursuit, the most refined enjoyment- be it science, or art, or music- viewed as bounded only by the present life, as ending in self, having no relation to the higher interests of the soul, the claims of eternity, and the glory of God- how low the life! In the strong language of inspiration, "He feeds on ashes" - "feeds on wind."
  Is this life worthy of a rational, responsible, immortal being? Is it worthy of one soon to confront death, judgement, and eternity? soon to appear at Christ's bar, to give an account of a stewardship of intellect, and of rank, and of wealth, and of time, and of influence, the most responsible and solemn ever entrusted to mortal hands? Is this the life you are living, my reader? is this the mere existence in which you vegetate? Rise to a higher life, a nobler purpose, a more glorious end! Don't you know that, "we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, to give account of the deeds done in the body"? That "every one must give account of himself to God"?
  But conversion reverses this sad picture. When the soul is 'born again,' it emerges from its lower life, and ascends into a new, a divine, a heavenly life- a life from God, and for God; a life in Christ, and by Christ, and with Christ; a life best described by the language of one who lived it fully, lived it nobly, lived it until crowned with a martyr's diadem- "For Me to Live Is Christ."
  Oh, upon what a 'high place' does the soul born from above now walk! Truly, it is a new birth, a re-creation! Old things have passed away, and God's Spirit has made all things in that life new. How revolutionized the whole soul! It has awakened as from a dream, a trance, a death, and finds itself in a new world of thought and feeling, of life, holiness, and love. It never really lived until now. Oh the blessedness of now truly living, and of living for God! The feeling of his soul finds its truest exponent in language of the apostle: "None of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself. For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live, therefore, or die, we are the Lord's."
  God makes His people's feet like hinds' feet, to walk in the high places of His love. Who can describe the sacredness and preciousness of this walk? "God is love," and to enjoy God's love, and to dwell in God's love, is to walk upon the highest place on earth, and in the closest proximity to heaven. The love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Spirit, is to dwell in God and God in us. How elevating this walk! How it lifts us above the dark clouds of trial and sorrow that float beneath, into a high and luminous atmosphere, in which we can read, in the light of His love, all our Heavenly Father's dealings with us below.
  There it is we read and understand the wondrous words- "Whom the Lord loves He chastens." "Whom I love I rebuke and chasten." It is impossible to interpret the dark and mysterious dispensations of God's providence accurately but in the light of His love; and when thus seen and interpreted, we can, as with the hind's feet, walk firmly and safely upon the craggy and perilous places of adversity and trial, affliction and sorrow, each step luminous with His presence and vocal with His praise. "Every cloud that veils love, itself is love."
  Oh, be not satisfied with walking in low shaded places- with but a faint and cold experience of God's love in your hearts; but climb in faith these high places, breathe their atmosphere, and bask in their warmth, comprehending with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of God's love in Christ Jesus, which passes knowledge, that you might be filled with all the fulness of God.
  There are high places in Christ Jesus where God's saints, as with the hind's springing and cheerful foot, are made to walk. "I am the way," was the significant and gracious declaration of Jesus. In this "Way" the "new and living Way," which leads into the holiest, all God's saints walk; and thus walking as with the hind's confiding and gladsome step, they are "raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus." Yes, "heavenly places!" Such, is a sense of full pardon through His sin-atoning blood; such, is a sense of complete acceptance through His soul justifying righteousness; such, is the supply of His all-sufficient grace drawn from Himself, the infinite and inexhaustible Reservoir; such, too, the streams of sympathy and gentleness flowing from His human and compassionate nature, along all our pathway of suffering and sorrow.
  Oh, these are indeed 'high places' in the Christian's travel through the wilderness and across the desert home to his Father in heaven! There is room for you, my reader, here. Do not walk at a distance from these 'high places,' viewing them from afar; but draw near, ascend, plant your feet on the 'stairs' (Song 2:14), the 'secret' of which you will thus learn, and with the hind's strong and firm foot ascend step by step until you reach the summit, and, pour forth your anthem of love and praise- "My soul does magnify the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior."
  And what true saint of God has not pressed, as with the hind's foot, the 'high places' of communion with God? "There is a path which no fowl knows, and which the vulture's eye has not seen." And there are paths, doubtless, untrodden even by the hind's venturous foot. But, here is a 'high place' where all the children of God travel, some with bolder and firmer foot than others; yet all leave their traces here. All are men and women of prayer; all have "entered into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way, which He has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, His flesh;" all walk with God on these 'high places' of communion.
  PRAYER raises the believer into the highest and holiest atmosphere. It would be impossible to reach a moral altitude of the soul loftier, purer, and brighter than this. The 'stairs' which, from the lowest depth, lead up to this hallowed height, are trodden and worn by the feet of many a Christian pilgrim, climbing with his burden and need, with his supplication and thanksgiving, to the mercy-seat. Well rewarded is he for his holy toil! Who has climbed these sacred 'stairs,' laden with sin, weary with care, pressed with neediness, crushed with sorrow, but has walked on these 'high places' with the hind's foot of strength and boldness, exclaiming with the Apostle, "Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."
  Arise from your 'depths,' and give yourself to prayer! Uplift your eyes, dim with tears though they be, and gaze upon those sunny heights of divine communion towering above and smiling down upon you, and inviting your ascent. There sits your Father! there ministers your Intercessor! there rises the cloud of incense, prepared to perfume and secure the acceptance of your every petition- all encouraging you to plant your trembling foot upon the sacred 'stairs,' and "draw near with a true heart, and in full assurance of faith."
  With such powerful attractions, and with such divine encouragements, alas! how we "restrain prayer before God!" How unbelievably, I had almost said, atheistically, we limit the power and goodness and veracity of God as the Answerer of Prayer! Alike ungrateful for the benefits we have received, and indifferent towards those we are still in expectation of, we neglect prayer, the only medium through which we can prove our gratitude to God.
  "Who is it that has spread out the earth beneath our feet, opened paths to human industry across the waters, and hung the brilliant vault of the heavens above our heads? Who is it that directs my paths with the torch which enlightens me during the day? Who is it that makes the fountains spring up in the depths of the valleys? Who has dug out for our rivers the beds in which they are enclosed; has made the animal creation subservient to our necessities; has organized this vile dust; has given it at once life and intelligence; has engraved upon this handful of earth, of which I am composed, the resemblance of Divinity? and also, after this glorious image has been obscured and defaced by sin, who is it that has re-established it in its pristine beauty?  MY FATHER!" (Gregory)
  And yet we limit His power, distrust His faithfulness, and question His love, in hearing and answering PRAYER! Ascend, then, this sacred mount; walk with God upon these high places; cheered and strengthened by the words of Jesus: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatever you shall ask the Father in my name, He will give it you..... Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full."
  And are there no high places of holy joy, of sweet repose and heavenly communion, where the saints may walk even in the midst of affliction and sorrow? Most assuredly there are. There are "high places" even in the valley, where God causes some of His sweetest springs to flow. Trials are steps heaven-ward; sorrows steps God-ward, in the experience of the saints. "When men are cast down, then you shall say, There is lifting up." The 'secret of the stairs' -God's hiding-place of His saints has often revealed the secret of His providence; and the mystery of His providence, thus made known, has in its turn unfolded the deeper mystery of His love.
  Oh, it is often so, that the believer has never known how deeply God loves him, how truly a child of God he was, and how tender and faithful his Father's love, until God has afflicted him. Then he sees love, and nothing but love, in the calamity that has impoverished, in the disease that has wasted, in the bereavement that has crushed, in the fickleness that has changed. Love is the best interpreter of love, as its truest inspiration. The moment tried and sifted faith disentangles itself of second causes, and rests in God, that moment the bitter and unlovely bulb bursts into the sweet and beauteous flower, laden with the dew and bathed in the sunshine of heaven. It is thus that, sanctified sorrows yield to the believer the richest fruit; and that in the valley he drinks from sweeter springs than flow from the mountain's top!
  Doubtless, the hind of the mountain often springs from rock to rock, from crag to crag, footsore and weary; the very feeling of pain and weakness rendering its bounds more cautious and its hold more sure. Thus does the believer walk in deep and sore trial. Wounded in heart, weary in spirit, and weakened in trial, he walks upon his high places of difficulty and danger warily, humbly, prayerfully. He is in the valley, and yet upon the mount: chastened and humbled under God's hand, he yet is in closer communion with his Father, more conscious of the sweet presence of his Savior, than when he trod the high places of worldly prosperity, and basked in the sunshine of creature good.
  But, it is not always, and we write this for the comfort of God's tempted ones- that the saints of God accept this discipline of trial without murmur and rebellion. They too often lose sight of the wisdom that appoints, and the faithfulness that sends the trial, and the immense good to themselves it was designed to accomplish. Thus they refuse to walk in high places of fellowship with their Heavenly Father, beneath whose loving corrections they lie. As an old divine remarks, "The physician attacks the disease, and not the patient; his object is to cure him whom he causes to suffer. It is thus that God, whose mercy is infinite, chastises us only to bring us into the way of salvation, or to confirm our course in it. You are not angry with your physician when he applies the cautery or the knife to your gangrened limb; on the contrary, you can scarcely find language adequate to the expression of your gratitude; you keep repeating that he has saved your life by preventing the disease from spreading, and you pay him liberally for his attentions. Yet you murmur against the Lord, who wounds only for our good; and you are unwilling to acknowledge that the afflictions with which He visits us are the only means capable of restoring health to our souls, or of securing the continuance of it when it is restored to us."
  Expect, then, the happiest results from this curative process of your Divine Physician. The prescription may be unpalatable, and the excision painful; nevertheless, the richest blessing to you and the highest glory to God will be the happy and hallowed result! "Every branch in me that bears not fruit He takes away, and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bring forth more fruit." In this light, view you your present sickness, suffering, and sorrow. The medicine is prescribed by Jesus, the knife is in a Father's hand, and your song shall be-"He has done all things well."
"Heart, poor heart! while thus you are bleeding,
Faint and anguished is your needing,
Mercy for your life is pleading,
Dews of Pity round you shine;
And as Mercy, grace conferring,
Leads forth to Light the erring,
Hope your laden depths is stirring
With the might of Faith Divine
Griefs are gifts from Mercy's shrine,
You shall chaunt Amens for Thine."
  Remember that the hinds' feet are to ascend. Learn this truth, that God has given you powerful elements of soul-ascension. You have feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. You have wings of faith that can out-distance the eagle in its flight. Be not content, then, with a low standard of personal religion; with walking, where you may climb; with skimming the surface, when you may soar to the sun.
  Ascend from your depths of darkness and doubt, of coldness and unbelief, and walk in your 'high places' of filial fellowship with God, of active service for Christ, of earnest self-denying labor for the conversion of sinners, of close communion with Eternal realities. "Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away. O my dove, that are in the clefts of the rock, in the secret Places of the stairs, let me see your countenance, let me hear your voice; for sweet is your voice, and your countenance is lovely."
  Blessed are they who hide them in "the clefts of the Rock" -the wounds of Jesus; yet more blessed they who, in "the secret places of the stairs," are learning to ascend into a higher, purer, and sunnier region of spiritual life, entire consecration, and unclouded hope. Until death uncage your spirit, and your unclasped, uplifted wings bear you home to God, be much in the 'clefts of the rock,' in the 'secret of the stairs,' and with hinds' feet walking on the high places of God. Then shall the promise be fulfilled in your experience- "He shall dwell on high (margin, heights, or high places): his place of defense shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure."
  Lord, I would sincerely bend my ear to Your sweet, all-persuasive voice- "ARISE, MY LOVE, MY FAIR ONE, AND COME AWAY."

  "Oh, I am heavy laden! Faith's eye is growing dim;
I wander on in darkness, groping in vain for Him;
For Him whom my soul loveth, for Him who died to be
A sacrifice for sinners, a Fount of life to me.
  "Sweet dove of downy plumage, I pray you bid me hide
In clefted rocky shadows, close to Your wounded side!
Your voice of silver sweetness, Your face of beauty rare,
I seek in secret places the- 'secret of the stair.'
  "I hear them! hear the sweet words, He whispereth to me
His words of loving welcome, forgiveness full and free.
Once more His face appeareth, in answer to my prayers,
And thus in joy I learn it, that 'secret of the stairs.'
  "That precious, precious secret- He writes it deep within
Of peace and joy abounding, and victory over sin;
But in the inner temple, where burns the altar flame,
In word of light is graven, His new, His wondrous name.
  "The 'stairs' were painful climbing, when first my weary feet
Essayed, untried, to mount them, an unknown God to meet;
But now His arm is round me, and light and free as air,
I mount with wing unwearied, and reach the topmost 'stair.'
  "O Lord of life unending, of daily life the key,
Be food, and drink, and manna, and living grace to me!
Walk with me all my journey, be round me everywhere;
But give Your conscious presence, in 'secret on the stair.'
  "For life is ever cloud-land, and only they who know
Your guiding eye can follow, where You would have them go.
One secret of the staircase, appears a beacon star
To shine upon Your pilgrims, to guide them from afar.
   "And fierce and sharp the battle, which those who would engage
To be Your crested warriors, for life and death must wage;
But armor of God's forging, which every conqueror wears,
Is stored in secret places, the 'secret of the stairs.'
   "When sorrow's chilling fingers, turn hearts and memories cold,
When sad remembrance lingers, on voices loved of old,
Lo, on the 'stairs' there sits, all white in angel sheen,
Pale Resignation singing sweet, hymns our sobs between.
  "A storehouse overflowing, with choicest heavenly things,
From which the dear Lord daily, His priceless mercy brings;
A sheltered nook where comes; nor doubt, nor fear, nor care,
Earth knows no safer hiding, than that behind the 'stair.'
  "Dead world, there is a secret, known only unto me,
A sweet and thrilling secret- I cannot tell it thee;
But if you too would learn it, would catch it unawares,
Go, seek as I have sought it, 'in places of the stairs.'
  "O Dove! my Dove I know You! I see Your lovely face,
I hear Your honeyed accents; of truth, and love, and grace;
The smile of peace You give; is fair, exceeding fair;
This is the choicest 'secret' that lingers on the 'stair.'
  "No more I walk in darkness, no more my footsteps stray;
The Rock whose cooling shadow, falls over all my way,
Is full of clefts for hiding, and secrets of the stair,
And rest is mine, and glory; the Lord is with me there!
  "Here hiding safe forever, within this sacred shade,
Nor sin, nor death, nor torment; can bid me be afraid;
 For I have learned the 'secret'; sought long with tears and prayers,
A present help Christ dwells in, the 'places of the stairs.'
(Mary Winslow)