“I was a stricken deer that left the herd
Long since. With many an arrow deep in fixed
My panting side was charged, when I withdrew
To seek a tranquil death in distant shades.
There I was found by One who had Himself
Been hurt by archers. In His side He bore
And in His hands and feet the cruel scars.
With gentle force soliciting the darts,
He drew them forth, and healed, and bade me live.
Since then, with few associates, in remote
And silent woods I wander, far from those
My former partners of the peopled scene;
With few associates and not wishing more.”
Cowper, “The Task,” Book III
How blessedly is the story told of the work of the Spirit; of the favored sinner’s experience who is called by grace; of the comforting revelation of salvation and the heavenly effects and fruits felt and brought forth in God’s elect who know the grace of God in truth (Col. 1:6).
“I was a stricken deer that left the herd long since.” “Thine arrows are sharp in the heart of the King’s enemies; whereby the people fall under Thee” (Psa. 45:5).
When God sends forth His arrows, he does not draw “a bow at a venture” (2 Chron. 18:33). Such a thought has no place in the doctrine of God our Savior, but has its place in “another gospel which is not another” (Gal. 1:6-7), proclaimed by men who know not the truth as it is in our precious Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
But thus the eternal counsel ran,
Almighty grace, arrest that man;
I felt the arrows of distress,
And found I had no hiding place.”
When the set time is come it pleases God, not to propose but call by grace, Jehovah the Spirit sends forth His arrows like lightning (Zech. 9:14). Not an arrow misses its mark, for the Almighty is the Archer (Job 6:4). No armor that the sinner has arrayed himself in is of any avail. No matter how much he may have hardened himself in sin and has flattered himself he was proof against the lightnings of the thunder of God in the law (Ex. 19:16). “Thine arrows are sharp in the heart.” “They were pricked in their heart.” (Acts).
“Deep are the wounds Thine arrows give
They pierce the hardest heart;
Thy smiles of grace the slain revive,
And joy succeeds the smart.”
Who was more sinful, more hardened than I? With the herd, I ran in pursuit of fleshly lusts, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, a child of wrath even as others. But the Holy Ghost sent forth an arrow and hit me, the chief of sinners. Oh, what amazing grace! What divine love and tender mercy was this a proof of! Was the whole herd of mankind shot at? Was it a random shot that by chance struck me, and brought me down? Oh no! The work of the Lord is perfect. I was the one aimed at, and with no uncertainty does the Lord send forth the arrows from the quiver.
“I was a stricken deer.” As I review all the dealings of the Lord of Hosts with my soul, how sovereign are all His acts of grace, how distinguishing His love and mercy to such a vile sinner like me. Oh that I could love and praise the precious and glorious name of God, my Redeemer for His marvelous loving-kindness to my soul. The Lord wounded me. His sovereign grace singled me out, and I truly found His “arrows sharp in my heart,” and I felt in my soul, Oh what a sinner I am. A rebel, an enemy of God, a hell-deserving wretch, God is against me. “The arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me” (Job 6:4). As Job thus expresses himself, thus I found it.
That Scripture, “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth,” (Prov. 27:1), dashed me to the earth. My contemplated life in the pleasures of sin was blighted. My sins so many and so great as sharp arrows of the law of God I found to be unto death. It was the ministration of condemnation and death to me, a vile transgressor (2 Cor. 3:7-9). My sin taking occasion by the commandment deceived me, and by it slew me (Rom. 7:11). Sin revived and I died; the commandment which was ordained unto life I found to be unto death. “I was a stricken deer.” Stricken by the Lord. I felt I must perish, for the arrows of eternal justice pierced me and the poison thereof drank up my spirit. They were indeed deadly arrows. Jehovah’s holy and just condemnation convicted my soul of guilt. His terrors made me sore afraid.
Yes, I feared there was no escape for such a sinner. I said in my soul, Hell, the damnation of hell, is surely my destination and justly my portion. Oh, what pain and grief possessed my soul.
I remember one day, when in the midst of my distress, I sat in anguish of soul pondering over my awful condition. Oh so vile and abominable did I feel I was, such a mass of sin. I was well-nigh plunged into utter despair, and I felt there could be no mercy for such a vile transgressor. On every hand, I could see that which brought my sins to view and the law that I had transgressed poured forth its curses on my sinful head. What was I to do to assuage my wounded heart? Filled with anguish because of my sin, my soul fainted within me, realizing by the wonderful teaching of the Holy Spirit my lost and undone condition.
While in this state, little did I know the mercy, the rich mercy, in store for my soul. The wounds which God’s truth made in my heart I could not heal, and I thought they were forerunners of my eternal destruction, and now the Lord was about to destroy me utterly.
“I was a stricken deer that left the herd long since.” Yes, some sixty-five years from now past the Lord separated me from the herd. The work of Jehovah the Holy Ghost in my soul was such that I could not run to the same excess of riot with my companions in sin. The time past of my life sufficed me (1 Peter 4:3). I now loathed the paths of sin, and sought to find the way of holiness. Before I was a stricken deer I could run as eagerly as any of the herd in transgressions, in vile practices and filthy conversation. In all ungodliness I reveled and banqueted, taking my fill of sin. But when Jehovah’s arrow wounded me, “I was a stricken deer.” My heart was faint, the pleasures in the pursuit of sin languished and died. I had no heart to keep up with the herd. God’s voice in the law gave me (so I felt) my death wound, and His gracious and divine work in my soul had implanted and begotten hatred of evil, and hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Matt. 5:6; Prov. 8:13). I “turned from transgression” (Isa. 69:20). I wanted the companionship of the herd no longer. God’s arrows within me distressed me and thank up my spirit (Job 6:4).
My sinful and perishing condition occupied all my thought, cut me off from the pursuit of the pleasures of sin. Others might run after vain and vile delights, but as for me, “I was a stricken deer.” Jehovah’s arrow had arrested me; forbade my continuance with the herd in their vile and wicked ways. I left the herd long since; yes, I shunned my former associates, their very presence and sinful conversation aggravated my painful wounds. As I evaded them and secluded myself, some of them sought me, and inquired what was the matter with me, was I sick? What made me so sad looking and lonely?
After persistent inquiries I told them what was the matter with me, and how I could no longer run with them in sin. At this they laughed and jeered, and I became the laughing stock and the butt of many of their sinful jokes.
But “with many an arrow deep infixed, my panting side was charged.” They were no skin-deep wounds God’s arrows made in me, but “deep infixed” His arrows were lodged by His almighty power and love, and thus I entered into the experience of one who cried out, “Thine arrows stick fast in me, and Thy hand presses me sore” (Psa. 38:2). No creature power can extract the arrows of the Almighty. It is the Lord who says, “I wound, and I heal” (Deut. 32:29; Job 5:18). His own gracious hand removes the arrows and binds up the wounds. Truly, Thou art glorious and wonderful in all Thy works, O Lord. How surprisingly gracious, teeming with loving-kindness and infinite tender mercy have all Thy dealings been with a poor sinner like me. Oh that I could love Thee and praise Thy glorious matchless name.
“With many an arrow deep infixed my panting side was charged.” All my attempts to draw forth these arrows lacerated my soul the more. God’s barbed arrows pierced my heart, not one of which could I remove. Each day fresh arrows from Jehovah’s bow were “deep infixed” in me, and oh what pangs and sorrows my soul underwent. I mourned and wept in solitude, distressed by my hateful, cruel sins, harassed by the devil, and the curses and arrows of the law drank up my spirit. “I was a stricken deer that left the herd long since, with many an arrow deep infixed, my panting side was charged,” and in the depths of my troubled soul my agonized soul for mercy cried unto the Lord. Yet did I fear and feel myself too vile for God’s mercy to reach me. “I withdrew to seek a tranquil death in distant shades.” The stricken deer, with its life blood ebbing away, faint and exhausted, retires to die. “I was a stricken deer” in whom God’s arrows were “deeply fixed.” The sorrows of death encompassed me and the pains of hell got hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. “Ready to perish,” was I to die in my sins (Deut. 26:5; Isa. 27:13). None but those who have been stricken by the arrows of the Lord know what are the sorrows of this death. Sin is the poison of the Almighty’s arrow in the law. Sin thank up my spirit (Job 6:4). Sin is the sting of death (1 Cor. 15:46).
And when the Holy Ghost convinced my soul of sin by the arrows of the law I felt there was no hope for me. I was ready to die. How could I survive the sting of death? What could save me from my sin? Sin taking occasion by the commandment deceived me, and by it slew me (Rom. 7:11).
Thus I was taught and thus prepared to know and confess to the praise of the Lord of hosts that “salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). “There I was found by One who had Himself been hurt by archers.” It was the Lord who found me. As it is written, “The Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the lot of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; He led him about, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye” (Deut. 32:9-10). Oh can I ever forget, ever unmindful be, of the wondrous acts of tender mercy to my soul? Oh what proofs of Thy eternal love hast Thou revealed to my soul’s everlasting consolation. It passes knowledge, passes all telling, that dear love of Thine, 0 my God. A poor, vile, sinful worm am I, and yet Thou lovest me, and hast redeemed me from all my sins, from all my woes. Thou hast put gladness in my heart, and the earnest of Thy Spirit in my heart. I rejoice in hope of the glory of God, that I, a poor vile transgressor, with all the elect and blood-bought flock, shall be glorified with Thy dear Son, our Jesus Emmanuel.
“Immortal honors be unto Thy glorious name,
I would Thy praises evermore proclaim;
My soul all grace and power ascribe to Thee,
For Thou, 0 Lord, has saved a wretch like me.”
When in a solitary way (Psa. 107:4), sick and wounded and ready to die, “There I was found by One who had Himself been hurt by the archers.” Jesus sought me and found me. He is the great Shepherd of the sheep (Luke 15:4-6; Ezek. 34).
Well do I remember the time when in my soul’s distress I first saw Jesus with an eye of faith. When He was thus revealed to my soul I saw He “had Himself been hurt by the archers.” Never shall I forget the sight that the Holy Ghost gave to me, a poor, wounded, sin-stricken, ready-to-perish sinner, of Christ crucified. I beheld Him the anti-typical Joseph. “The archers have sorely grieved him, and shot at him; and hated him: but his bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were, made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob” (Gen. 49:23-24).
In grateful remembrance I now remember that night when “I was found by One who had Himself been hurt by the archers.” For some time before this I had gone sighing in the anguish of my soul because of the arrows of the Almighty within me. At first I thought it was useless to cry for mercy, for I felt I was altogether too vile a transgressor; that there could be no hope for a wretch like me. The terrors of Jehovah’s justice made me afraid, and I could see nothing before me but to perish in my sins. But at length the Holy Spirit spoke these words in my heart, “God is love.” A little hope sprang up in my distressed heart, and in bitter anguish over my sins I cried, God, be merciful to me, a sinner.
It was the dear Lord who taught me thus to pray, and thus I became one of those whom He calls “My suppliants” (Zeph. 3:10).
Years have passed since first I cried unto the Lord in my distress, and to this day I am often found a suppliant at the feet of the Lord. Oh what marvelous grace to me is shown! Yes, by the loving-kindness of the Lord I can sing, “I love the Lord, because He hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because He hath inclined His ear unto me, therefore will I call upon Him as long as I live” (Psa. 116:1-2).
When first my soul was exercised to cry to God for mercy, I felt indeed my need but I did not know, I did not see how mercy could reach me. How could the holy and just God pardon my sins? But when Jesus found me, oh what a revelation of mercy and salvation I beheld in Him. There in my grief and wounds, a stricken deer with many arrows deep infixed, I was found by One who had Himself been hurt by the archers. It was nighttime, in the darkness of the night, in my bedroom, imploring the Lord to have mercy upon my soul and to pardon all my sins, that Jesus the dear Savior was discovered to me. There was presented to my mind a vision of Christ crucified. Not with my natural eyes. There was nothing before my mortal sight in the midnight darkness in my bedroom. I saw Jesus, the dear Redeemer, on the cross, and while thus I gazed upon Him, a voice in my soul said, “Salvation is in My dear Son.” Then for the first time it was revealed to my soul Jehovah’s way of salvation. As one perishing, my heart went forth in cries and sighs and bitter weeping unto Jesus to save me. I saw indeed that He was the One who had Himself been hurt by the archers. In His side He bore, and in His hands and feet the cruel scars.” Never shall I forget the sight that the Holy Spirit gave me of the crucifixion of the Son of God. Oh how hideous and hateful did sin appear, that Christ should so suffer. He, who knew no sin, was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.
For some time on bended knee that night, with cries importunate I besought the Almighty to show me mercy, and all the while I saw the dear Savior extended on the cross in agony and blood. “In His side He bore, and in His hands and feet the cruel scars.” Yes, Emmanuel, our Lord Jesus Christ was the One hurt by the archers (Gen. 43:23-24). To save His people from their sins He came into the world. He, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but He took upon Himself the form of a servant. He came to do the will of the Father. He was made flesh, and made sin, and made a curse for the sins of His people, His elect, His bride. He bore our sins in His own body on the tree. Yes, when the “due time” was come (Rom. 5:6). He was smitten by the arrow of the Almighty. He was smitten of God and afflicted. For the transgression of My people was He smitten (Isa. 53:8).
Oh what a sacred awful sight, to view Christ crucified while the Holy Ghost opens up to the soul the unfathomable depths of Jehovah’s justice and grace declared in the atonement made by the sacrifice and precious blood of Christ, the dear Lamb of God. While thus at the feet of the crucified One, longing for some word, some glance to heal my painful wounds and save me from my sin and misery, I thought the dear Redeemer looked down upon me from the cross with such compassion and tender love in His countenance that it seemed to my soul that “He with gentle force was soliciting the darts” that lacerated my soul. I felt to cast my all on Him, to repose my soul alone in, His sufferings and blood to save me from my perishing condition, to heal all my wounds.
And this He did, for at length He looked with surpassing love upon me, and said in my heart, I suffered for thee; I did this for thee. The arrows that stuck fast in me, His own hand, His salvation, “drew them forth, and healed, and bade me live.” Oh, what mercy to a vile sinner like me! What comfort and rejoicing filled my heart! My wounds were healed, my pain and anguish were gone. I believed in Him by the mighty power of God, believed He had suffered and died and was crucified for me, and had purged away my sins in His precious blood.
The remainder of that (to me) memorable night I spent in sacred, joyful meditation upon the wonders of mercy, love and grace revealed to me, a poor sinner. My ransomed, healed soul was filled with love and adoration, and I walked up and down that dark room in joyful praises. A brother of mine, who had been sleeping in the next room, cried out, “I wish you would hold your tongue and let me go to sleep.” I did not wish to hinder him getting his sleep, so I tried to be quiet, but my heart was rejoicing in God’s salvation.
“Since then, with few associates, in remote
And silent woods I wander, far from those
My former partners of the peopled scene;
With few associates, and not wishing more.”
Jehovah’s discriminating grace so wrought in my heart that I could no more associate “with my former partners of the peopled scene.” Poor sinners saved by grace are those whom I now love to meet, and in sweet fellowship hold sweet converse upon the matchless, glorious and gracious works of the Lord our God in the salvation of sinners. Those who, like myself, can say, “I was a stricken deer,” who have known the wounds that God inflicts (Jer. 30:14-17; Hosea 6:1), and who by the power and grace of Jehovah can say, With His stripes we are healed (Isa. 53:5). Such associates as these I crave. These in the gospel of Christ are my bosom companions (Psa. 119:63). So precious is their companionship that I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to the blessed Jehovah Father, Son and Holy Ghost, that He has cast my lot where I am favored with a few such companions, some of the blood-bought flock of Emmanuel.
It is written that Lot was vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked; for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day-to-day with their unlawful deeds (2 Peter 2:7-8). So in some measure it is with all of “the taught of the Lord.” The child of God soon learns that he is a pilgrim and a stranger in the world, and he need not marvel if the world hate him. But with those of like precious faith (2 Peter 1:1), they desire to walk and sojourn while in this present evil world.
“Midst scenes of confusion and creature complaints,
How sweet to my soul is communion with saints,
To find at the banquet of mercy there’s room,
And feel in the presence of Jesus at home.”
Elder Frederick W. Keene, Raleigh, NC
The Signs of The Times, April 1937