Prayer for the Dark Places
James Smith, 1861
What mischief has SIN done in our world! What misery it has introduced! Sin is indeed a fearful evil — full of deadly poison! Wherever we look — we see the terrible effects of sin; and the further we look — the more fearful those effects appear. It is no wonder therefore, if we are often led to cry out with the Psalmist, "Have regard for your covenant, because haunts of cruelty fill the dark places of the land!" Psalm 74:20
The People's Condition.They are in the dark, therefore their dwellings are called the dark places of the land. They are in a state of ignorance, represented by darkness, gross darkness.
They are ignorant of God — of his nature, which is spiritual.
They are ignorant of his law — which is holy, just, and good.
They are ignorant of his gospel — which is a glorious proclamation of salvation — salvation for the vilest, salvation for all who need it, for whoever will — salvation without money and without price.
They are ignorant of themselves —
of their immortality,
of their sinful and condemned state before God,
of their danger as rebels against God, and
of their need of the salvation which is in Christ Jesus.
They are ignorant of the church of God — it's privileges, happiness, employments, and prospects.
They are ignorant of the nature of the eternal state of the sinner and the saint; they know nothing of a dreadful Hell, nor of a glorious Heaven.
O distressing condition in which to be found!
Their Conduct.Cruelty. Ignorance leads to cruelty; the ignorant are generally cruel. It makes men cruel to themselves — inflicting tortures, and putting themselves to terrible pain. It makes them cruel to their relatives — the husband to his wife, the parents to their children, the children to their parents, neighbor to neighbor, rulers to their subjects, subjects to their rulers, tribes to tribes, and nations to nations. What is the history of a heathen country — but the history of cruelty! O the cruel customs, the cruel ceremonies, and the cruel wars, which are still so common! Well may Asaph say, "haunts of cruelty fill the dark places of the land!" Nor is cruelty confined to them — but just in proportion as sinners are in a state of spiritual ignorance — are they unkind and cruel. Let us then join in,
The Prayer."Have regard for your covenant." In God's covenant with Abraham he promised, saying, "In you and in your seed, shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." And in the covenant of grace he has said, speaking to his beloved Son, "I the Lord have called you in righteousness, and will hold your hand, and will keep you, and give you for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles." Just the very thing they need, therefore it is repeated in another place. "I will also give you for a light of the Gentiles, that you may be my salvation unto the ends of the earth." Well then may we plead, "Have regard for your covenant," and do as you have said. Fulfill your word where it is written, "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest." Then there will be no longer any dark places of the earth, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.
This covenant was ratified, sealed, and confirmed with
the blood of Jesus, called "the blood of the everlasting covenant." Of this
covenant Jesus is the Surety, the Mediator, and Intercessor — we may
therefore pray, "Have regard for the promise of the covenant — to the
blood of the covenant, and to Jesus in whom the covenant
stands, and who fulfills all its glorious offices."
What Is Our Duty?It is to sympathize, and to sympathize deeply with those who reside in the dark places of the earth, and who dwell in the haunts of cruelty. Nor is sympathy enough, we should pray and plead for them with God. Nor is prayer enough, we should use every means in our power to send the gospel to them. Nor is it enough to send them the gospel, we should so live as to stimulate by our example all around us, to engage in this important work.
The knowledge of God, which they need, and we should send them — will civilize them, and teach them industry, civility, mercy, and love. The covenant rightly understood, encourages missionary effort, as it awakens sympathy, reveals God's provision, makes known his gracious promises, and sets before us the glorious end. Be sure then, the man does not understand God's covenant of grace — who shuts up his compassion from the heathen world, neglecting to pray for, and send the gospel to the dark places of the earth. O my brethren, can we read the accounts sent us from time to time of the cruelties practiced in heathen lands, remembering that those who do so, are our brethren and sisters in the flesh. Or can we think of the dreadful consequences of dying in sin, and in ignorance of God — and not from the deepest depths of our souls cry out, "Have regard for your covenant, because haunts of cruelty fill the dark places of the land!"