SOUL HEIGHTS and SOUL DEPTHS by Octavius Winslow


"I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in his word do I hope."
Psalm 130:5.

As the richest veins and the purest springs are found in the lowest strata of the earth, so in his profoundest soul-depths the believer often discovers the most precious truths, and is brought into the experience of the costliest blessings of the divine life. His deepest soul-excavations yield him the richest ore. We explore the treasures of God's word, and we unseal the springs of Christian experience, when, like David, we cry out of depths, or with Jonah, as from the 'fish's belly.' What thoughtful, spiritual mind can doubt this fact as it traces each verse of this remarkable psalm? A new vein of divine truth is opened, and a new spring of Christian experience is unsealed, in the passage we have now to consider faith's waiting and resting in soul depths. "I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait, and in His word do I hope." Mark the object, and then the ground, of David's waiting and resting posture. His sinking soul is as 'a weaned child,' and in that state has found a resting-place.

Mark, the OBJECT of David's waiting. "I wait for the Lord." Preparatory to this, David has learned two essential things in the depths- his sinfulness, and God's forgiveness. Having tasted the exceeding bitterness of the one, and the indescribable sweetness of the other, he is brought into a state of the most blissful repose; waiting for, and resting upon, his covenant God and Father. We know nothing of divine forgiveness until we are brought to the knowledge and confession of our personal sinfulness. Acquaintance with our own heart leads to an acquaintance with God's heart; a conviction that we are lost by sin, results in a conviction that we are saved by Christ. There are many religionists- religious in their own way- who are entire strangers to the wounding, and consequently are entire strangers to the healing: knowing nothing of the moral disease, they have experienced nothing of the spiritual remedy. It was not until the serpent-stung Israelite was conscious of the deadly virus flowing through his veins that he raised his eye, and rested it upon the brazen serpent uplifted in the wilderness, looking upon which he was healed. Nor is it until the Holy Spirit convinces of Satan's venomous sting, and of sin's fatal poison flowing throughout his whole being, that the soul-'ready to perish' looks in faith to Jesus, and is saved. But, we turn to this instructive verse. For whom does the Psalmist wait? "I wait for the Lord." How entirely is David divorced from the human, and how closely united to the Divine! We are so earthly that we gravitate to the earth- are "of the earth earthy;" we are so human that we cling to humanity, and make flesh our arm. And no little discipline is often required- the furnace seven times heated, and the knife of a two edge temper- before we are refined of the one and are pruned of the other. David had now found his true standing. He had fallen into great soul-straits, but, as we have shown, not below God. "The bright and Morning star" still shone resplendent above Him, and on it he fixed his believing eye. We cannot too frequently reiterate the truth, that it is impossible that a gracious soul can sink below God. There is that divine principle in him which utterly forbids it. When water ceases to seek its level, and light to flow back to the sun; when sparks fail to fly upwards, and the thirsty gazelle pants not for the water-brook, then may the living water in the soul cease to rise to the Source from where it came, and then may the divine love in the heart fail to flow back to the Heart from which it sprang.

But, again we ask, For whom did David wait? Higher he could not rise- lower would have plunged him in a yet profounder depth of soul dejection. Shall we put the question negatively? He did not wait for man. Long, wearisome and disappointing had been his waiting, had the creature been the object. "Cursed is the man that trusts in man, and that makes flesh his arm." How constantly we are drawing down upon us this dire curse! We build upon the creature, hang upon it, wait for it, until we wring the last drop from it as from a sponge, and nothing is left but emptiness and aridity. Oh, if but half the time we have spent in waiting on, and in waiting for, man-and at last finding him but a wounding reed and a broken cistern- had been spent in waiting upon and for the Lord, how much more successful and how much happier we should have been! But, sweet and holy the lesson taught us by David's example: "I wait for the Lord." Beyond this, as we have remarked, the soul cannot ascend; and to this Divine height every believer may rise. Nor is the flight of faith long or wearisome. The Lord is near to His people; "a very present help in time of trouble." David found it so: "You are near, O Lord." And so the Apostle: "The Lord is at hand." It is this consciousness of the Lord's nearness to us which disarms us of fear, strengthens us for service, and inspires us- howsoever deeply tried and assailed- with the boldness and strength of a lion! You have, perhaps, in a time of pressing need, of deep anxiety, or of earthly expectation, been waiting for weeks or months upon man. And still you wait, and hope deferred has made you sick at heart. Turn your eye from the creature to the Creator, from man to God, from false and powerless friends to your Heavenly, all-mighty, all-sufficient Father, and you shall not be ashamed of your trust. "My soul, wait you only upon God; for my expectation is from Him." "The Lord is my Portion, says my soul: therefore will I hope in Him." Is it sweet to lean upon one we love, hanging upon his arm for support, and reclining upon his bosom for sympathy? On whose wisdom we can unhesitatingly rely, in whose love we can confidently repose? Transfer this thought to God! How unutterable the blessedness, how vast the privilege, and how happy the result, of waiting upon Him who stands to us in the relation of our Father and Redeemer; our Brother and Friend; waiting the movement of His pillar of cloud; waiting the supply of His inexhaustible providence; waiting the comfort of His unchanging love; waiting for the fulfilment of the word of promise upon which He has caused our soul to hope! "My soul waits on the Lord." There does not exist a more privileged and holy condition of the soul than that of being entirely cast upon God. When the created arm fails to sustain, and the human heart to love, when earthly props give way, and affection and sympathy have fled their last asylum, when the barrel of meal is well near exhausted, and the cruse of oil distills its last drop-oh then to exclaim, "My soul, wait you only upon God; for my expectation is from Him" -this is a privilege indeed, a privilege eclipsing all others! If the Lord permits us a measure of creature support and sympathy- and this He sometimes does- it is in gracious condescension to the weakness of our faith and the craving of our constitutional temperament. Thus He dealt with the doubting Thomas. "Reach hither your finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither your hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing." Sense was thus summoned to the aid of faith, and so helps it to believe. "Lord, help my unbelief." But the highest reach, and most God-glorifying act of faith is that expressed in David's words- "I wait for the Lord." Oh count it the richest experience of the divine life when, thus weaned and divorced from creature help, you are brought to wait only on the Lord, exclaiming,-"Now I have no prop, no supply, no sympathy, no comfort, but that which I find in Jehovah. I am shut up to Infinity alone: my help comes from the Lord." Passing from this rapid view of the Divine Object of David's waiting posture, let us look at the posture itself "I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait." We pronounce this a most blessed posture of the believer. It runs counter to everything that is natural, and, therefore, it is all the more a supernatural grace of the gracious soul.

In the first place, it is the posture of faith. It is a believing posture of the soul. The faith of the unbeliever- if faith it may be called- hangs upon air. He that builds below God builds upon shadows. Reposing his happiness and his hope upon his intellect, his health, his family, his life, he builds it upon the 'baseless fabric of a vision.' God never intended that the creature should find its happiness outside of Himself. "My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the Fountain of living waters, and have hewn out cisterns broken cisterns, that could hold no water." But here is the gracious soul hanging in faith upon God in Christ Jesus- upon the veracity of God to fulfil His promise upon the power of God to help him in difficulty- upon the wisdom of God to counsel him in perplexity-upon the love of God to shield him in danger upon the Omniscience of God to guide him with His eye-and upon the Omnipresence of God to cheer him with His presence, at all times and in all places, his Sun and his Shield. Oh have faith in God! The moment the soul can believingly repose upon Him, it ceases to be the sport of every wind and wave of circumstance and doubt, and drops its anchor on the firm and immovable bedrock of DIVINITY. It is also a prayerful posture. To wait for the Lord is not the languid waiting of indolence and indifference. This would be practical infidelity, the presumption of unbelief. The soul waiting for God is the soul waiting upon God. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength." The Lord often shuts us up to this waiting for His interposition on our behalf, that He might keep us waiting and watching at the foot of His cross- in earnest, believing, importunate prayer. Oh, it is the waiting for the Lord that keeps the soul waiting upon the Lord! We learn the sustaining, as well as the prevailing, power of prayer when brought into this holy posture in our soul-depths. Accept that as a most needful discipline that brings you into a prayerful waiting for the Lord. There is so much in daily life to stifle the spirit and hinder the exercise of prayer, so much that interposes itself between God and the soul; that the trial, the disappointment, the pressure, the "tarrying of the vision," becomes a powerful and precious help to the soul that is shut up to the taking hold upon God alone. "Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus." How instructive and precious are these words! There is first, the Prohibition- "Be anxious for nothing," anxious only to please God, and casting all other care upon Him. There is secondly, a Precept- "In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Give yourself to prayer, take hold on God, and with supplication blend the incense of grateful, prayerful thanksgiving. There is thirdly, the Promise- "And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts." How rich and how comforting! Walk in the prohibition, obey the precept, and God will fulfil the promise! All this is involved in David's soul-posture– I wait for the Lord, my soul does wait."It is also the posture of a patient waiting for the Lord. "I waited patiently for the Lord, and He heard my cry." There is not a more God-honoring grace of the Christian character than patience- a patient waiting on and for the Lord. Impatient of God's delays which we must ever remember are not God's denials- we cast about for means and ways of deliverance other than those in strict harmony with God's word and in simple confidence in His power. An impatient spirit kept Moses out of Canaan. An impatient act, an impatient word, what evil has it wrought!

But, to wait for the Lord and upon the Lord- His time of answer, His way of deliverance, His source of supply unburdens the mind of a thousand corroding anxieties, dislodges from the heart countless trembling fears, and preserves the feet from rushing into worldly, carnal expedients of relief, which would but plunge the soul into yet lower depths of difficulty and distress. Oh, cultivate this holy posture of a patient waiting for, and upon, the Lord! It is that Christian grace, the fruit of the Spirit, which will enable you to bear with dignity, calmness, and submission the afflictive dealings of your Heavenly Father, the rebuke of the world, and the wounding of the saints. In patience you will possess your soul, in patience you will suffer, and in patience you will do God's infinitely wise, holy, and approving will. It will strengthen you also in your work for the Lord. "By patient continuance in well-doing," you will "seek for glory, honor, and immortality, and eternal life." "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him." And whether buffeted for your wrong-doing, or for well-doing, you take it patiently, this is acceptable to God. Lord, endow us with this Christ-like grace of patience- patiently waiting the time and the way of Your interposition; patiently waiting you say to our soul, "I am Your salvation." "It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord."

It is the posture of rest. A soul-waiting for the Lord, is a soul-resting in the Lord. Waiting and resting! Wearied with traversing in vain the wide circle of human refuges- coming to the end of all your own wisdom, strength, and resources your uneasy, jaded spirit is brought into this resting posture of waiting on, and waiting for, the Lord; and thus folds its drooping wings upon the very bosom of God. Oh how real and instant the rest found in Jesus! Way-worn and footsore, toilworn and garment-stained, battered with many a tempest and buffeted with many a wave, burdened, sinking, fainting, you have come to Jesus, and with the beloved disciple reclined your head upon His bosom; and, lo! in a moment the wind ceased, the billows slept, all was perfect peace and unruffled repose, and there was a great calm; and then, with the wondering mariners, you exclaim: "What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him!" Oh, there is no rest for the burdened, no peace for the anxious, no joy for the desponding, but faith in a divine, personal, and gracious Savior. Reposing in Him, however profound the depths of the soul, dark the clouds that drape it,

or surging the waters that overwhelm it, all is sunshine and serenity within. No external circumstances touch the under current of divine peace, which flows on in silvery sweetness, calm, unruffled, undisturbed. "When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?" "The voice of the Lord is upon the waters," full of majesty, power, and tenderness, commanding, curbing, stilling them. "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You." For what, beloved, are you waiting on the Lord? Are you waiting for the application of pardoning grace? No poor soul ever waited for God's absolution and waited in vain. If the Lord the Spirit has given you an insight of the evil of your nature, of the sinfulness of your heart, and a consequent contrition and sorrow, you are nearer to the joy of His salvation than ever Hagar was to the well of water flowing at her side. The Lord open your eye of faith to see it! O Lord, say unto my soul, I am your salvation! Are you waiting the answer to prayer? You shall not wait in vain. As soon will He cease to be God as cease to hear and answer the prayers of His saints. Prayer has an appointed time; though it tarry, wait for it. God's time is always the best and most opportune. He is never one moment too soon, nor one moment too late; never before, and never behind His time. "The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry." Pray on, you seeking one; pray on, you child of sorrow; and if your petition is not immediately granted, learn that its tarrying is not its refusal, but meant only to test your sincerity, intensify your earnestness, invigorate your faith, and glorify your God.

Perhaps, in deep affliction and sorrow, you are waiting and watching for the "Consolation of Israel." Be it so. As sure as He came- though in infantile form- to the holy watchers in the temple, so sure will He come to you; and when, like the aged Simeon, you clasp Him in joy to your heart, with him you will be ready to exclaim, "Now, Lord, let You Your servant depart in peace!" Only wait until the crucible has melted, and the furnace has refined, and the rod has blossomed; only wait until affliction has accomplished its purpose, and sorrow has fulfilled its mission; and then Jesus, the "Consolation of Israel," will heal what He has made sore, and bind up what He has wounded, pouring into your desolate, bleeding heart the oil and the wine of His sympathy and love. We reach the ground of the Psalmist's waiting upon the Lord: "And in His word do I hope." Here is the only sure basis of faith and hope of the gracious soul, sinking in its profound and fathomless depths. God's word is the only plank to which faith clings, and clinging to which, will float the tempest-tossed, wave-buffeted soul safe to the shore. It is in God's word, and not man's, the believing soul hopes. Forever His word is settled in Heaven! Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one word of God shall fail. God's word is truth. "All the promises of God are yes and Amen in Christ Jesus." The believing, sinking soul trusts in nothing human, in nothing visionary, when it trusts in the revealed word of God. All other foundations are but as the shifting, treacherous sand. All expectation is visionary and delusive but that which draws its inspiration from, and rears the structure of its hope upon, the eternal, unchangeable word of the living God. God's revealed word is a divine, immortal rock, building upon and hoping in which, the soul shall before long spring from its lowest depth to its loftiest height, chanting its "new song before the throne of God and the Lamb."

Oh! whatever else fails you, cling to God's word. Part with all yes, with life itself- rather than part with it. "Cast not away your confidence which has great recompense of reward."

"This Book, this holy Book, on every line
Marked with the seal of high Divinity;
On every leaf bedewed with drops of love
Divine, and with the eternal heraldry
And signature of God Almighty stamped
From first to last; this ray of sacred light,
This lamp from off the everlasting throne,
Mercy took down, and in the night of Time
Stood, casting on the dark her gracious bow;
And evermore beseeching men with tears
And earnest sighs to read, believe, and live."