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Verse 4.—" Draw me, we will run after thee; the king hath brought me into his chambers; we will be glad and rejoice in tbee, we will remember thy love more than wine; the upright love thee." Under a feeling sense of our own weakness, we cry to thee, blessed Jesus, for thy powerful grace to be exerted in our behalf, and for the cords of thy love to be stretched unto us, to draw us away from all the vanities of this world—from all confidence in the flesh—from all the errors propagated around us; and we desire to be brought by King Jesus into his chambers; we desire to rest in his " everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure." Then, though storms arise, and winds of error blow and dash their surges round our habitation, yet here is our harbour of safety ; and while dwelling in this "secret place of the Most High," we will fear no evil, for our triumphant King bears the keys of death and hell at his girdle, and hath said, not an hair of our head shall perish, therefore we desire to obey the gracious command of our God, and to enter into our chambers, and shut the door about us, until the indignation of the Lord be overpast. "We will be glad, and rejoice in thee," and remember the fountain of thy love from whence all our salvation flows, and prove that we are " upright," by walking in the narrow way which leadeth unto life, and ascribe all the praise and glory to our covenant God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
"King of saints, and King of glory,
To thy chambers now we fly;
Bring thy golden sceptre nigh:
While the storms are passing by."
Verse 5.—" I am black, but comely, 0 ye daughters of Jerusalem, as the tents of Kedar, and as the curtains of Solomon." All the chosen saints of God, who are called by grace, can say with the church, " I am black as the tents of Kedar;" for we are by nature children of wrath even as others, all over defiled with sin; we are shapen in iniquity, and go astray from the womb speaking lies. Our very thoughts are all unclean; our best actions are condemned as unrighteous; our ways lead down to the chambers of death; and if salvation rested upon our doings, we must be lost for ever. But sing, 0 heavens, and rejoice, O earth, for now our captivity is turned, and we are pronounced " comely," through the comeliness which Jesus hath put upon us; being clothed in his righteousness, and accepted in the Beloved, we are invited to go forth in the dances of them that make merry, and to stand forth among the honourable women, even the daughters of Jerusalem.
"By nature we're black—defiled with sin,
Verse 6.—" Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me. My mother's children were angry with me, they made me keeper of the vineyard, but mine own vineyard have I not kept." "Look not upon me," O thou most Holy, only as I stand clothed in the righteousness of Jesus, in which thou beholdest all the election of grace without spot." "Look not upon me," O ye angels of heaven, only as I am coming up out of that fountain which is opened for sin and uncleanness, and then ye will hear the voice of Jesus saying, " Ye are clean." "Look not upon me, O ye saints of the most high God, only as ye behold me united to Jesus, then thou wilt hear the God of glory say, " The king's daughter is all glorious within." "The sun hath looked upon me;" the Sun of righteousness hath shined into my heart, and given me a discovery of my own vileness, therefore I see no inherent righteousness in myself that I dare trust in ; I am nothing but a poor gentile sinner, therefore " my mother's children were angry with me," for claiming an inheritance among them that are sanctified. "They made me keeper of the vineyard;" thay looked upon me as no better than a dog chained up to guard the vineyard from thieves and robbers. "But my own vineyard have I not kept;" this we acknowledge, 0 Lord, before thee, for the wild boar of the wood, the devil, hath broken down the fence of original purity, and we have been robbed of all our righteousness; but all glory to thee, for thou hast said, " Sing ye unto her a vineyard of red wine; I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment; I will keep it night and day, lest any hurt it;" therefore thy church is still secure.
"Sov'reign guardian of thy vine, Keep, O keep, this heart of mine; Chain the rebels to thy throne, Reigh triumphant there alone; Then though others angry be, I will still rejoice in thee." Orpington, Kent, August 30,1830. T. W.*
(For the. Spiritual Magazine.J
Prayer is an important subject; the man who is ignorant of its nature and importance has no reason to believe that he is born again. Prayer is the breath of spiritual life; where there is no life, there is no breathing after God; although forms may be used, yet the true matter of prayer is not indited in that heart where there is no grace.
The believer who is made alive by the grace and invincible power of the Holy Spirit, is sensible of his danger, hence he cries to God for deliverance; thus prayer marks his entrance into the new world, and of him it may be said, " behold he prayeth." And as he proceeds in the divine life he finds much work for prayer: Satan tempts—the world allures—dangers threaten—pleasures kill— glories cheat—sin annoys, and in many instances his deceitful heart leads him astray; then he cries, Lord, restore thy wandering sheep; his kind shepherd mercifully hears and restores his wandering soul, Ps. xxiii. 3. Prayer-attends the heir of grace through all the varied scenes of life, and intermingles with the last breathings of mortality, nor ceases its happy employment till its very nature is lost in the boundless gulf of praise. I proceed to notice,
1. The nature of prayer. 2. Its parts. 3. Its power. 4. The object to whom and through whom prayer is offered. 5. The persons who are encouraged to pray, and the encouragements.
1. The nature of prayer. Prayer does not consist of a multitude of words; the " sacrifices of God are a broken and a contrite heart;" this is evident, for such he will not despise. True prayer is the sincere breathing and devout aspiration of the new born soul; and sometimes this is mental, as is evident from the cases of Hannah and the publican. Hannah prayed, but her voice was not heard, which proves it was mental; God heard her prayer, and granted her a son, and she called his name Samuel, which signifies asked, 1 Sam. i. ] 2 to 20. The publican is another exception, whose case evidently shews, that prayer is true when there are none, or at most, but few words. This man only said, " God be merciful to me a sinner;" and it was accepted before all the boasted merit of the pharisee, for the publican went down to his house justified, rather than the other. See Luke xviii. 12, 13, 14. Let the doubting believer, who often fears he never prayed at all, remember that words are but air ; desire is prayer.
"Pray'r is the soul's sincere desire,
Utter'd, or unexpress'd;
To represent its nature it is sometimes called, knocking, seeking, asking. Those whom the Holy Spirit convinces of their poverty, he brings to mercy's door, and helps them to cry from a deep sense of want, and teaches them to wait for those answers which Jehovah has promised to give. Sometimes it is called a talking with God, pouring out the heart before him, lifting up the soul, groaning, &c. Well, blessed be the name of our covenant God, he understands the language of a groan ; for the groanings of the righteous are known to the Lord, while the Holy Spirit mercifully helps our infirmities with groanings that cannot be uttered. Rom. viii. 26.
There are different kinds of prayer; hence the apostle exhorts us to pray with all prayer; by which I suppose he means, public prayer —private prayer—closet prayer—family prayer—mental prayer— vocal prayer—and it is the duty of believers to assemble together for social prayer. Oh! brethren, do not forsake the assembling yourselves together, as the manner of some is. There are persons to be found in religious assemblies, (I would to God it were not so,) who think and speak meanly of social meetings for prayer; hence you will hear them say, • I think I shall not go out to night, it is only a prayer meeting!' Only a prayer meeting! what do they mean that it is of no importance? blush, brethren, at a thought so base. Others there are, who dare not go lest they should be called upon to engage in prayer: poor timid believer, I would sympathize with thee, but dare not encourage thee in staying at home to nurse thy fears and impoverish thy soul.
2. I proceed to notice its parts, which are as follows :—1st, Adoration. While the praying soul fears the Lord, he adores his wisdom, power, and grace. Invocation is also a part of prayer. In this respect, the christian possesses an advantage which the worldling knows nothing of: he has a God to go to, before whom he may unbosom his complaints, and find sweet relief; for Jehovah has caused it to be recorded in the sacred volume, that he will hear and deliver those who call upon him in the day of trouble. Ps. 1. 15. Confession is another part of prayer. Hence we find, that when Daniel prayed, he blended with his prayer an ingenuous confession of his sins. Dan. ix. 4. Oh! that in all our approaches to God we may be enabled to confess our sins, for he is faithful and just to forgive them through the all-atoning blood of Christ. Petition is a part of prayer. Brethren, we are petitioners, but we have a rich source to which to direct our petitions. Ask largely, brethren ; faith cannot ask too much in. the name of Christ. Thanksgiving is also a part of prayer. Hence the apostle's exhortation is, that with prayer and thanksgiving we let our request be known unto God. The various mercies God has granted call aloud for gratitude; hence we have cause to bless him for Christ, as for an unspeakable gift, and for all things in him.
3. Its power. Prayer has been the means (through the power of God attending it) of doing wonders. It has conquered Israel's foes. Amalek wages war with Israel, and engages them in battle. Moses, as their commander, ascends the mount; Aaron and Hur accompanying him up thither, to assist his devout spirit in prayer: while they held up his hands, Israel were victorious; but when they let them down, Amalek prevailed. It has divided the waters, so that Israel marched through on dry ground. It has smitten an hundred and fourscore and five thousand of Israel's foes in one night. It has opened and shut the windows of heaven, quenched the raging flames, shut the lion's mouths, brought Jonah from the bottom of the deep. If we consult the new testament, we shall find that it has opened the prison doors, and brought the apostles forth to resume their labours in their master's name. Prayer which was offered for Peter took, or was the means of taking him from between the infuriated soldiers, and bringing him to his friends again. If you consider the abovementioned cases separately, you will find, that they were wrought in answer to prayer. Brethren, may the Lord enable you to pray one with and for each other, for James says, "the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much," James v. 16.
4. The object to whom, and through whom prayer is offered. Vol. VII.—No. 82. 2 M
Some pray to the sun, others to the moon, others to the stars, and some to idols of wood and stone. But the christian is better taught; he is taught to know the true God in Christ as the blessed object of spiritual worship; hence he prays to God, in his glorious trinity of persons, through the Mediator, who is the way of access to the throne of grace. Eph. ii. 18. He is the glorious angel who has the censer full of incense, which he offers with the prayers of the saints. Rev. viii. 3, 4. This golden censer is his own loving heart, filled with the incense of his merits. Christ having entered into heaven to appear in the presence of God for us, pleads on our behalf the merits of his blood. Dear reader, does sin prevail, darkness distress, so that thou canst not order thy speech before him? remember Jesus pleads, the Father hears, and accepts thy prayers through the all-prevalent merits of his blood. Make atoning blood thy plea, and thou shalt prevail with God.
"Great Advocate, almighty Friend,
On him our humble hopes depend:
Our cause can never, never fai',
For Jesus pleads, and must prevail."
What encouragement does this afford praying souls, that Jesus pleads in the court of heaven, and the Holy Spirit in the court of conscience; for he is said to make intercession for the saints according to the will of God. While the intercession of Christ silences the accusation of conscience, and dissipates fear; that of the Holy Spirit kindles afresh the flames of love in the heart, and gives new life to prayer.
5. The characters who are encouraged to pray. They are the poor and needy, weary and heavy laden, who are invited to the throne of grace. Matt. xi. 28. Oh! that all such may be enabled to come to Christ as their Brother and Friend. When Joseph's brethren came to him, they came with empty sacks, and he filled them; so may you and I come to Jesus, emptied of sinful self, and righteous self, and he, as our elder brother, and heavenly Joseph, will fill our hungry souls with the soul-supporting cares of his everlasting love, and the good things of his grace.
Prayer is a means which God has appointed, as a channel for the conveyance of spiritual favours. Ezek. xxxvi. 37. Yea, it is a piece of spiritual armour, with which the christian soldier is equipped for the field of battle. Let this be used, and Satan will flee before it; let it be disused, and Satan will gain the advantage, and barrenness of soul will follow. May the Lord give us grace to watch and pray, that we enter not into temptation.
The advantages which flow from heaven, by means of prayer, are many. Communion with God, knowledge of interest in the blood of the cross, and sweet peace with God through Jesus Christ. Now, brethren, may the Lord strengthen our faith, and help us to wrestle with him as Jacob did, and plead with him as the Syrophenician