SOUL HEIGHTS and SOUL DEPTHS
by Octavius Winslow
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.'