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Poems By Poet Ralph Erskine  10/4/2015 8:24:28 PM
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  RALPH ERSKINE (1685-1752)

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The Believer's Riddle; Or, The Mystery Of Faith


Shewing the use and design of the Riddle.

Reader, the following enigmatic song
Does not to wisest nat'ralists belong:
Their wisdom is but folly on this head;
They here may ruminate, but cannot read,
For though they glance the words, the meaning chokes,
They read the lines, but not the paradox.
The subject will, howe'er the phrase be blunt,
Their most accute intelligence surmount,
If with the nat'ral and acquired sight
They share not divine evangelic light.

Great wits may rouse their fancies, rack their brains,
And after all their labour lose their pains;
Their wisest comments were but witless chat,
Unapt to frame an explication pat.
No unregen'rate mortal's best engines
Can right unriddle these few rugged lines;
Nor any proper notions thereof reach,
Though sublimated to the highest stretch.
Masters of reason, plodding men of sense,
Who scorn to mortify their vain pretence,
In this mysterious deep might plod their fill;
It overtops the top of all their skill.
The more they vainly huff, and scorn to read,
The more it does their foolish wit exceed.

Those sinners that are sanctify'd in part,
May read this riddle truly in their heart.
Yea, weakest saints may feel its truest sense,
Both in their sad and sweet experience.
Don't overlook it with a rambling view,
And rash suppose it neither good nor true.
Let Heaven's pure oracles the truth decide;
Renounce it, if it can't that test abide.
Noble Bereans soon the sense may hit,
Who sound the divine depth of sacred writ,
Not by what airy carnal reason saith,
But by the golden line of heaven-spun faith.

Let not the naughty phrase make you disprove
The weighty matter which deserves your love.
High strains would spoil the riddle's grand intent,
To teach the weakest, most illit'rate saint.
That Mananaim is his proper name;
In whom two struggling hosts made bloody game.
That such may know, whose knowledge is but rude,
How good consists with ill, and ill with good.
That saints be neither at their worst nor best,
Too much exalted, or too much deprest.

This paradox is fitted to disclose
The skill of Zion's friends above her foes;
To difference by light that Heaven transmits,
Some happy fools from miserable wits,
Add thus (if bless'd) it may in some degree
Make fools their wit, and wits their folly see.
Slight not the riddle then like jargon vile,
Because not garnish'd with a pompous style.
Could th' author act the lofty poet's part
Who make their sonnets soar on wings of art,
He on this theme had blush'd to use his skill,
And either clipt his wings, or broke his quill.

Why, this
climbs such divine heights
As scorn to be adorn'd with human flights.
These gaudy strains would lovely truth disgrace,
As purest paint deforms a comely face.
Heav'n's mysteries are 'bove art's ornament,
Immensely brighter than its brightest paint.
No tow'ring lit'rator could e'er outwit
The plainest diction fetch'd from sacred writ;
By which mere blazing rhet'ric is outdone,
As twinkling stars are by the radiant sun.
The soaring orators, who can with ease
Strain the quintessence of hyperboles,
And cloth the barest theme with purest dress,
Might here expatiate much, yet say the less,
If wi' th' majestical simplicity
Of scripture orat'ry they disagree.

These lines pretend not to affect the sky,
Content among inglorious shades to lie,
Provided sacred truth be fitly clad,
Or glorious shine ev'n through the dusky shade,
Mark then, though you should miss the gilded strain,
If they a store of golden truth contain:
Nor under-rate a jewel rare and prime,
Though wrapt up in the rags of homely rhime.

Though haughty Deists hardly stoop to say,
That nature's night has need of scripture day:
Yet gospel-light alone will clearly shew
How ev'ry sentence here is just and true,
Expel the shades that may the mind invoke,
And soon the seeming contradiction solve.
All fatal errors in the world proceed
From want of skill, such mysteries to read.
Vain men the double branch of truth divide,
Hold by the one, and slight the other side.

Hence proud Arminians cannot reconcile
Freedom of grace with freedom of the will.
The blinded Papist won't discern nor see
How works are good unless they justify.
Thus Legalists distinguish not the odds
Between their home-bred righteousness and God's.
Antinomists the saints perfection plead,
Nor duly sever 'tween them and their Head.
Socinians won't these seeming odds agree,
How heav'n is bought, and yet salvation free.
Bold Arians hate to reconcile or scan,
How Christ is truly God and truly man;
Holding the one part of Immanuel's name,
The other part outrageously blaspheme.
The sound in faith no part of truth controul:
Heretics own the half, but not the whole.

Keep then the sacred myst'ry still entire;
To both sides of truth do favour bear,
Not quitting one to hold the other branch;
But passing judgement on an equal bench;
The Riddle has two feet, and were but one
Cut off, truth falling to the ground were gone.
'Tis all a contradiction, yet all true,
And happy truth, if verify'd in you.

Go forward then to read the lines, but stay
To read the riddle also by the way.

Sect. I.

The Mystery of the Saints Pedigree, and especially of their relation to Christ's wonderful person.

My life's a maze of seeming traps,
A scene of mercies and mishaps;
A heap of jarring to and foes,
A field of joys, a flood of woes.

I'm in mine own and others eyes,
A labyrinth of mysteries.
I'm something that from nothing came,
Yet sure it is, I nothing am.

One was I dead, and blind, and lame,
Yea, I continue still the same;
Yet what I was, I am no more,
Nor ever shall be as before.

My Father lives, my father's gone,
My vital head both lost and won.
My parents cruel are and kind,
Of one, and of a diff'rent mind.

My father poison'd me to death,
My mother's hand will stop my breath;
Her womb, that once my substance gave,
Will very quickly be my grave.

My sisters all my flesh will eat,
My brethren tread me under feet;
My nearest friends are most unkind,
My greatest foe's my greatest friend.

He could from fend to friendship pass,
Yet never changes from what he was.
He is my Father, he alone
Who is my Father's only Son.

I am his mother's son, yet more,
A son his mother never bore,
But born of him, and yet aver
His Father's son my mother's were.

I am divorc'd, yet marry'd still,
With full consent, against my will.
My husband present is, yet gone,
We differ much, yet still are one.

He is the first, the last, the all,
Yet number'd up with insects small.
The first of all things, yet alone
The second of the great Three-one.

A creature? never could he be!
Yet is a creature strange I see;
And own this uncreated one,
The son of man, yet no man's son.

He's omnipresent, all may know,
Yet never could be wholly so.
His manhood is not here and there,
Yet he is God-man ev'ry where.

He comes and goes, none can him trace,
Yet never could he change his place.
But though he's good and ev'ry where,
No good's in hell, yet he is there.

I by him, in him chosen was,
Yet of the choice he's not the cause:
For sov'reign mercy ne'er was bought,
Yet through his blood a vent it sought.

In him concenter'd at his death
His Father's love, his Father's wrath:
Even he whom passion never seiz'd,
Was then most angry, when most pleas'd.

Justice requir'd that he should die
Who yet was slain unrighteously,
And dy'd in mercy and in wrath,
A lawful and a lawless death.

With him I neither liv'd nor dy'd,
And yet with him was crucify'd.
Law-curses stopt his breath, that he
Might stop its mouth from cursing me.

'Tis now a thousand years and moe
Since heav'n receiv'd him, yet I know,
When he ascended up on high,
To mount the throne, ev'n so did I.

Hence though earth's dunghill I embrace,
I sit with him in heav'nly place.
In divers distant orbs I move,
Inthrall'd below, inthron'd above.

Sect. II.

The mystery of the Saint's life, state, and frame.

My life's a pleasure and a pain;
A real loss, a real gain;
A glorious paradise of joys;
A grievous prison of annoys.

I daily joy, and daily mourn,
Yet daily wait the tide's return:
Then sorrow deep my spirit cheers,
I'm joyful in a flood of tears.

Good cause I have still to be sad,
Good reason always to be glad.
Hence still my joys with sorrow meet,
And still my tears are bitter sweet.

I'm cross'd, and yet have all my will;
I'm always empty, always full.
I hunger now, and thirst no more,
Yet do more eager than before.

With meat and drink indeed I'm blest,
Yet feed on hunger, drink on thirst.
My hunger brings a plenteous store,
My plenty makes me hunger more.

Strange is the place of my abode,
I dwell at home, I dwell abroad.
I am not where all men may see,
But where I never yet could be.

I'm full of hell, yet full of heav'n;
I'm still upright, yet still unev'n;
Imperfect, yet a perfect saint;
I'm ever poor, yet never want.

No mortal eye sees God and lives,
Yet sight and of him my soul revives.
I live best when I see most bright,
Yet live by faith and not by sight.

I'm lib'ral, yet have nought to spare;
Most richly cloth'd, yet stript and bare.
My stock is risen by my fall;
For, having nothing, I have all.

I'm sinful, yet I have no sin;
All spotted o'er, yet wholly clean.
Blackness and beauty both I share,
A hellish black, a heav'nly fair.

They're of the dev'l, who sin amain,
But I'm of God, yet sin retain!
This traitor vile the throne assumes,
Prevails, yet never overcomes.

I'm without guile, an Isra'lite,
Yet like a guileful hypocrite;
Maintaining truth in th' inward part,
With falsehood stirring in my heart.

Two masters, sure, I cannot serve,
But must from one regardless swerve;
Yet self is for my master known,
And Jesus is my Lord alone.

I seek myself incessantly
Yet daily do myself deny.
To me 'tis lawful, evermore,
Myself to love and to abhor.

In this vain world I live, yet see
I'm dead to it, and it to me.
My joy is endless, yet at best
Does hardly for a moment last.

Sect. III.

Mysteries about the saints work and warfare; their sins, sorrows, and joys.

The work is great, I'm call'd unto,
Yet nothing's left for me to do:
Hence for my work Heav'n has prepar'd
No wages, yet a great reward.

To works, but not to working dead;
From sin, but not from sinning freed,
I clear myself from no offence,
Yet wash mine hands in innocence.

My Father's anger burns like fire,
Without a spark of furious ire:
Though still my sins displeasing be,
Yet still I know he's pleas'd with me.

Triumphing is my constant trade,
Who yet am oft a captive led.
My bloody war does never cease,
Yet I maintain a stable peace.

My foes assaulting conquer me,
Yet ne'er obtain the victory;
For all my battles, lost or won,
Were gain'd before they were begun.

I'm still at ease, and still opprest;
Have constant trouble, constant rest;
Both clear and cloudy, free and bound;
Both dead and living, lost and found.

Sin for my good does work and win;
Yet 'tis not good for me to sin.
My pleasure issues from my pain;
My losses still increase my gain.

I'm heal'd, ev'n when my plagues abound,
Cover'd with dust, ev'n when I'm crown'd:
As low as death, when living high,
Nor shall I live, yet cannot die,

For all my sins my heart is sad,
Since God's dishonour'd, yet I'm glad;
Though once I was a slave to sin,
Since God does thereby honour win.

My sins are in his eye,
Yet he beholds no sin in me:
His mind that keeps them all in store,
Will yet remember them no more.

Because my sins are great, I feel
Great fears of heavy wrath; yet still
For mercy seek, for pardon wait,
Because my sins are very great.

I hope, when plung'd into despair;
I tremble, when I have no fear.
Pardons dispel my griefs and fears,
And yet dissolve my heart in tears.

Sect. IV.

Mysteries in Faith's extractions, way and walk, prayers and answers, heights and depths, fear and love.

With wasps and bees my busy bill
Sucks ill from good, and good from ill.
Humil'ty makes my pride to grow,
And pride aspiring lays me low.

My standing does my fall procure,
My falling makes me stand more sure.
My poison does my physic prove,
My enmity provokes my love.

My poverty infers my wealth,
My sickness issues in my health:
My hardness tends to make me soft,
And killing things do cure me oft.

While high attainments cast me down,
My deep abasements raise me soon;
My best things oft have evil brood,
My worst things work my greatest good.

My inward foes that me alarm,
Breed me much hurt yet little harm.
I get no good by them, yet see,
To my chief good, they cause me flee.

They reach to me a deadly stroke,
Yet send me to a living rock.
They make me long for Canaan's banks,
Yet sure I owe them little thanks.

I travel, yet stand firm and fast;
I run, but yet I make no haste.
I take away, both old and new,
Within my sight, yet out of view.

My way directs me, in the way,
And will not suffer me to stray:
Though high and out of sight it be,
I'm in the way; the way's in me.

'Tis straight, yet full of heights and depths;
I keep the way, the way me keeps.
And being that to which I tend,
My very way's my journey's end.

When I'm in company I groan,
Because I then am most alone;
Yet, in my closet secrecy,
I'm joyful in my company.

I'm heard afar, without a noise;
I cry without a lifted voice:
Still moving in devotion's sphere,
Yet seldom steady persevere.

I'm heard when answer'd soon or late;
And heard when I no answer get:
Yea, kindly answer'd when refus'd,
And friendly treat when harshly us'd.

My fervent pray'rs ne'er did prevail,
Nor e'er of prevalency fail.
I wrestle till my strength be spent,
Yet yield when strong recruits are sent.

I languish for my Husband's charms,
Yet faint away when in his arms;
My sweetest health does sickness prove;
When love me heals, I'm sick of love.

I am most merry when I'm sad;
Most full of sorrow when I'm glad:
Most precious when I am most vile,
And most at home when in exile.

My base and honourable birth
Excites my mourning, and my mirth;
I'm poor, yet stock'd with untold rent;
Most weak, and yet omnipotent.

On earth there's none so great and high,
Nor yet so low and mean as I:
None or so foolish, or so wise,
So often fall, so often rise.

I seeing him I never saw,
Serve without fear, and yet with awe.
Though love when perfect, fear remove;
Yet most I fear when most I love.

All things are lawful unto me,
Yet many things unlawful be;
To some I perfect hatred bear,
Yet keep the law of love entire.

I'm bound to love my friends, but yet
I sin unless I do them hate:
I am oblig'd to hate my foes,
Yet bound to love, and pray for those.

Heart-love to men I'm call'd t' impart,
Yet God still calls for all my heart.
I do him and his service both
By nature love, by nature lothe.

Sect. V.

Mysteries about flesh and spirit, liberty and bondage, life and death.

Much like my heart, both false and true,
I have a name, both old and new.
No new thing is beneath the sun;
Yet all is new, and old things gone.

Though in my flesh dwells no good thing,
Yet Christ in me I joyful sing.
Sin I confess, and I deny:
For though I sin, it is not I.

I sin against, and with my will;
I'm innocent, yet guilty still,
Though fain I'd be the greatest saint,
To be the least I'd be content.

My lowness may my height evince,
I'm both a beggar and a prince.
With meanest subjects I appear,
With kings a royal sceptre bear.

I'm both unfetter'd and involv'd.
By law condemn'd, by law absolv'd.
My guilt condignly punish'd see,
Yet I the guilty wretch go free.

My gain did by my loss begin;
My righteousness commenc'd by sin;
My perfect peace by bloody strife;
Life is my death, and death my life.

I'm (in this present life I know)
A captive and a freeman too;
And though my death can't set me free,
It will perfect my liberty.

I am not worth one dusty grain,
Yet more than worlds of golden gain;
Though worthless I myself endite,
Yet shall as worthy walk in white.

Sect. VI.

The Mystery of free justification though Christ's obedience and satisfaction.

No creature ever could or will
For sin yield satisfaction full;
Yet justice from the creature's hand
Both sought and got its full demand.

Hence though I am, as well I know,
A debtor, yet I nothing owe.
My creditor has nought to say,
Yet never had I aught to pay.

He freely pardon'd ev'ry mite,
Yet would no single farthing quit,
Hence ev'ry bliss that falls to me
Is dearly bought, yet wholly free.

All pardon that I need I have,
Yet daily pardon need to crave.
The law's arrest keeps me in awe,
But yet 'gainst me there is no law.

Though truth my just damnation crave,
Yet truth's engag'd my soul to save.
My whole salvation comes by this,
Fair truth and mercy's mutual kiss.

Law-breakers ne'er its curse have miss'd;
But I ne'er kept it, yet am bless'd.
I can't be justify'd by it,
And yet it can't but me acquit.

I'm oblig'd to keep it more,
Yet more oblig'd than e'er before.
By perfect doing life I find.
no more me bind.

These terms no change can undergo,
Yet sweetly chang'd they are: For lo,
caus'd my life, but now
the cause that makes me

Though works of righteousness I store,
Yet righteousness of works abhor;
For righteousness without a flaw
Is righteousness without the law.

In duties way I'm bound to lie,
Yet out of duties bound to fly:
Hence merit I renounce with shame,
Yet right to life by merit claim.

Merit of perfect righteousness
I never had, yet never miss;
On this condition I have all,
Yet all is unconditional.

Though freest mercy I implore,
Yet I am free on justice' score;
Which never could the guilty free,
Yet fully clears most guilty me.

Sect. VII.

The mystery of God the justifier,
Rom. iii. 26.
Justified both in his justifying and condemning; or soul-justification and self-condemnation.

My Jesus needs not save, yet must;
He is my hope, I am his trust.
He paid the double debt, well known
To be all mine, yet all his own.

Hence, though I ne'er had more or less
Of justice-pleasing righteousness,
Yet here is one wrought to my hand,
As full as justice can demand.

By this my Judge is more appeas'd
Than e'er my sin his honour leas'd.
Yea, justice can't be pleas'd so well
By all the torments borne in hell.

Full satisfaction here is such,
As hell can never yield so much;
Though justice therefore might me damn,
Yet by more justice sav'd I am.

Here ev'ry divine property
Is to the highest set on high;
Hence God his glory would injure,
If my salvation were not sure.

My peace and safety lie in this,
My Creditor my Surety is,
The judgement-day I dread the less,
My Judge is made my righteousness.

He paid out for a bankrupt crew
The debt that to himself was due;
And satisfy'd himself for me,
When he did justice satisfy.

He to the law, though Lord of it,
Did most obediently submit.
What he ne'er broke, and yet must die,
I never kept, yet live must I.

The law, which him its keeper kill'd,
In me its breaker is fulfill'd;
Yea magnify'd and honour'd more
Than sin defac'd it e'er before.

Hence though the law condemn at large,
It can lay nothing to my charge;
Nor find such ground to challenge me,
As Heaven hath found justify.

But though he freely me remit,
I never can myself acquit.
My Judge condemns me not, I grant;
Yet Justify myself I can't.

From him I have a pardon got,
But yet myself I pardon not.
His rich forgiveness still I have,
Yet never can myself forgive.

The more he's toward me appeas'd,
The more I'm with myself displeas'd,
The more I am absolv'd by him,
The more I do myself condemn.

When he in heav'n dooms me to dwell,
Then I adjudge myself to hell;
Yet still I to his judgement 'gree,
And clear him for absolving me.

Thus he clears me, and I him clear,
I justify my justifier,
Let him condemn or justify,
From all injustice I am free.

Sect. VIII.

The mystery of sanctification imperfect in this life; or, the Believer doing all, and doing nothing.

Mine arms embrace my God, yet I
Had never arms to reach so high;
His arms alone me hold, yet lo
I hold, and will not let him go.

I do according to his call,
And yet not I, but he does all;
But though he works to will and do,
I without force work freely too.

His will and mine agree full well,
Yet disagree like heav'n and hell,
His nature's mine, and mine is his;
Yet so was never that nor this.

I know him and his name, yet own
He and his name can ne'er be known.
His gracious coming makes me do;
I know he comes, yet know not how.

I have no good but what he gave,
Yet he commends the good I have.
And though my good to him ascends,
My goodness to him ne'er extends.

I take hold of his cov'nant free,
But find it must take hold of me,
I'm bound to keep it, yet 'tis bail,
And bound to keep me without fail.

The bond on my part cannot last,
Yet on both sides stands firm and fast.
I break my bands at ev'ry shock,
Yet never is the bargain broke.

Daily, alas! I disobey,
Yet yield obedience ev'ry day.
I'm an imperfect perfect man,
That can do all, yet nothing can.

I'm from beneath, and from above,
A child of wrath, a child of love.
A stranger e'en where all may know;
A pilgrim, yet I no-where go.

I trade abroad, yet stay at home;
My tabernacle is my tomb.
I can be prison'd, yet abroad;
Bound hand and foot yet walk with God.

Sect. IX.

The mystery of various names given to the Saints and Church of Christ; or, the Flesh and Spirit described from inanimated things, vegetables and sensitives.

To tell the world my proper name,
I both my glory and my shame;
For like my black but comely face,
My name is Sin, my name is Grace.

Most fitly I'm assimilate
To various things inanimate;
A standing lake, a running flood,
A fixed star, a passing cloud.

A cake unturn'd, nor cold, nor hot;
A vessel sound, a broken pot:
A rising sun, a drooping wing;
A flinty rock, a flowing spring.

A rotten beam, a virid stem;
A menst'rous cloth, a royal gem;
A garden barr'd, an open field;
A gliding stream, a fountain seal'd.

Of various vegetable see
A fair, a lively map in me.
A fragrant rose, a noisome weed;
A rotting, yet immortal seed.

I'm with'ring grass, and growing corn;
A pleasant plant, an irksome thorn;
An empty vine, a fruitful tree;
An humble shrub, a cedar high.

A noxious brier, a harmless pine;
A sapless twig, a bleeding vine:
A stable fir, a pliant bush;
A noble oak, a naughty rush.

With sensitives I may compare,
While I their various natures share:
Their distinct names may justly suit
A strange, a reasonable brute.

The sacred page my state describes
From volatile and reptile tribes;
From ugly vipers, beauteous birds;
From soaring hosts, and swinish herds.

I'm rank'd with beasts of diff'rent kinds,
With spiteful tygers, loving hinds;
And creatures of distinguish'd forms,
With mounting eagles, creeping worms.

A mixture of each sort I am;
A hurtful snake, a harmless lamb;
A tardy bunny, a speedy roe;
A lion bold, a tim'rous doe.

A slothful owl, a busy ant;
A dove to mourn, a lark to chant:
And with less equals to compare,
An ugly toad, an angel fair.

Sect. X.

The mystery of the saints old and new man further described; and the means of their spiritual life.

Temptations breed me much annoy,
Yet divers such I count all joy.
On earth I see confusion reel,
Yet wisdom ord'ring all things well.

I sleep, yet have a waking ear;
I'm blind and deaf, yet see and hear:
Dumb, yet cry,
Abba, Father
, plain,
Born only once, yet born again.

My heart's a mirror dim and bright,
A compound strange of day and night:
Of dung and di'monds, dross and gold;
Of summer heat and winter cold.

Down like a stone I sink and dive,
Yet daily upward soar and thrive.
To heav'n I fly, to earth I tend;
Still better grow but never mend.

My heav'n and glory's sure to me,
Though thereof seldom sure I be:
Yet what makes me the surer is,
God is my glory, I am his.

My life's expos'd to open view,
Yet closely hid and known to few.
Some know my place, and whence I came,
Yet neither whence, nor where I am.

I live in earth, which is not odd;
But lo, I also live in God:
A spirit without flesh and blood,
Yet with them both to yield me food.

I leave what others live upon,
Yet live I not on bread alone;
But food adapted to my mind,
Bare words, yet not on empty wind.

I'm no Anthropophagite rude,
Though fed with human flesh and blood;
But live superlatively fine,
My food's all spirit, all divine.

I feast on fulness night and day,
Yet pinch'd for want I pine away,
My leanness, leanness, ah! I cry;
Yet fat and dulle of sap am I.

As all amphibious creatures do,
I live in land and water too:
To good and evil equal bent,
I'm both a devil, and a saint.

While some men who on earth are gods,
Are with the God of heaven at odds,
My heart, where hellish legions are,
Is with the host of hell at war.

My will fulfils what's hard to tell,
The counsel both of heav'n, and hell;
Heav'n, without sin, will'd sin to be;
Yet will to sin, is sin in me.

To duty seldom I adhere,
Yet to the end I persevere.
I die and rot beneath the clod,
Yet live and reign as long as God.

Sect. XI.

The mystery of Christ, his names, natures, and offices.

My Lord appears; awake my soul,
Admire his name, the Wonderful,
An infinite and finite mind
Eternity and time conjoin'd.

The everlasting Father styl'd,
Yet lately born, the virgin's child.
Nor father he nor mother had,
Yet full with both relations clad.

His titles differ and accord,
As David's son, and David's Lord.
Through earth and hell how conq'ring rode
Thy dying man, the rising God!

My nature is corruption doom'd;
Yet when my nature he assum'd,
He nor on him (to drink the brook)
My person nor corruption took.

Yet he assum'd my sin and guilt,
For which the noble blood was spilt,
Great was the guilt-o'erflowing flood,
The creature's and Creator's blood!

The Chief of chiefs amazing came,
To bear the glory and the shame;
Anointed Chief with oil of joy,
Crown'd Chief with thorns of sharp annoy.

Lo, in his white and ruddy face
Roses and lilies strive for place;
The morning-star, the rising sun,
With equal speed and splendour run.

How glorious is the church's head,
The Son of God, the woman's seed!
How searchless is his noble clan,
The first the last, the second man!

With equal brightness in his face,
Shines divine justice, divine grace;
The jarring glories kindly meet,
Stern vengeance and compassion sweet.

God is a Spirit, seems it odd
To sing aloud the blood of God?
Yea, hence my peace and joy result,
And here my lasting hope is built.

Love through his blood a vent has sought,
Yet divine love was never bought:
Mercy could never purchas'd be,
Yet ev'ry mercy purchas'd he.

His triple station brought me peace,
The Altar, Priest, and Sacrifice;
His triple office ev'ry thing,
My Priest, my Prophet is, and King.

This King, who only man became,
Is both the Lion and the Lamb;
A King of kings, and kingdoms broad;
A servant both to man and God.

This prophet kind himself has set
To be my book and alphabet,
And ev'ry needful letter plain,

Alpha, Omega,

Sect. XII.

The mystery of the Believer's fixed state further enlarged; and his getting forth out of evil.

Behold, I'm all defil'd with sin,
Yet lo, all glorious am within,
In Egypt and in Goshen dwell;
Still moveless, and in motion still.

Unto the name that most I dread,
I flee with joyful wings and speed.
My daily hope does most depend
On him I daily most offend.

All things against me are combin'd,
Yet working for my good I find.
I'm rich in midst of poverties,
And happy in my miseries.

Oft my Comforter sends me grief,
My Helper sends me no relief.
Yet herein my advantage lies,
That help and comfort he denies.

As seamsters into pieces cut
The cloth they into form would put,
He cuts me down to make me up,
And empties me to fill my cup.

I never can myself enjoy,
Till he my woful self destroy;
And most of all myself I am,
When most I do myself disclaim.

I glory in infirmities,
Yet daily am sham'd of these;
Yea, all my pride gives up the ghost,
When once I but begin to boast.

My chymistry is most exact,
Heav'n out of hell I do extract:
This art to me a tribute brings
Of useful out of hurtful things.

I learn to draw well out of woe,
And thus to disappoint the foe;
The thorns that in my flesh abide,
Do bunny the tympany of pride.

By wounding foils the field I win,
And sin itself destroys my sin:
My lusts break on another's pate,
And each corruption kills its mate.

I smell the bait, I feel the harm
Of corrupt ways, and take th' alarm.
I taste the bitterness of sin,
And then to relish grace begin.

I hear the fools profanely talk,
Thence wisdom learn in word and walk:
I see them throng the passage broad,
And learn to take the narrow road.

Sect. XIII.

The mystery of the Saints adversaries and adversities.

A Lump of wo affliction is,
Yet thence I borrow lumps of bliss:
Though few can see a blessing in't,
It is my furnace and my mint.

Its sharpness does my lust dispatch;
Its suddenness alarms my watch,
Its bitterness refines my taste,
And weans me from the creature's breast.

Its weightiness doth try my back,
That faith and patience be not slack:
It is a fanning wind, whereby
I am unchaff'd of vanity.

A furnace to refine my grace,
A wing to lift my soul apace;
Hence still the more I sob distrest,
The more I sing my endless rest.

Mine enemies that seek my hurt,
Of all their bad designs come short:
They serve me duly to my mind,
With favours which they ne'er design'd.

The fury of my foes makes me
Fast to my peaceful refuge flee;
And ev'ry persecuting elf
Does make me understand myself.

Their slanders cannot work my shame,
Their vile reproaches raise my name;
In peace with Heav'n my soul can dwell,
Ev'n when they damn me down to hell.

Their fury can't the treaty harm,
Their passion does my pity warm;
Their madness only calms my blood:
By doing hurt they do me good.

They are my sordid slaves I wot;
My drudges, though they know it not:
They act to me a kindly part,
With little kindness in their heart.

They sweep my outer-house when foul,
Yea, wash my inner filth of soul:
They help to purge away my blot,
For Moab is my washing pot.

Sect. XIV.

The mystery of the Believer's pardon and security from revenging wrath, notwithstanding his sin's desert.

I, though from condemnation free,
Find such condemnables in me,
As make more heavy wrath my due
Than falls on all the damned crew.

But though my crimes deserve the pit,
I'm no more liable to it;
Remission seal'd with blood and death
Secures me from deserved wrath.

And having now a pardon free,
To hell obnoxious cannot be,
Nor to a threat, except anent
Paternal wrath and chastisement.

My soul may oft be fill'd indeed
With slavish fear and hellish dread:
This from my unbelief does spring,
My faith speaks out some better thing:

Faith sees no legal guilt again,
Though sin and its desert remain:
Some hidden wonders hence result;
I'm full of sin, yet free from guilt:

Guilt is the legal bond or knot,
That binds to wrath and vengeance hot;
But sin may be where guilt's away,
And guilt where sin could never stay.

Guilt without any sin has been,
As in my Surety may be seen;
The elect's guilt upon him came,
Yet still he was the
holy Lamb.

Sin without guilt may likewise be,
As may appear in pardon'd me:
For though my sin, alas! does stay,
Yet pardon takes the guilt away.

Thus free I am, yet still involv'd;
A guilty sinner, yet absolv'd;
Though pardon leave no guilt behind,
Yet sin's desert remains I find.

Guilt and demerit differ here,
Though oft their names confounded are,
I'm guilty in myself always,
Since sin's demerit ever stays.

Yet in my head I'm always free
From proper guilt affecting me;
Because my Surety's blood cancell'd
The bond of curses once me held.

The guilt that pardon did divorce,
From legal threat'nings drew its force:
But sin's desert that lodges still,
Is drawn from sin's intrinsic ill.

Were guilt nought else but sin's desert,
Of pardon I'd renounce my part;
For were I now in heav'n to dwell,
I'd own my sins deserved hell.

This does my highest wonder move
At matchless justifying love,
That thus secures from endless death
A wretch deserving double wrath.

Though well my black desert I know,
Yet I'm not liable to woe;
While full and complete righteousness
Imputed for my freedom is.

Hence my security from wrath,
As firmly stands on Jesus' death,
As does my title unto heav'n
Upon his great obedience giv'n.

The sentence Heav'n did full pronounce,
Has pardon'd all my sins at once:
And ev'n from future crimes acquit,
Before I could the facts commit.

I'm always in a pardon'd state
Before and after sin; but yet
That vainly I presume not hence,
I'm seldom pardon'd to my sense.

Sin brings a
on my head,
Though from avenging wrath I'm freed.
And though my sins
pardon'd be,
Their pardon's not
to me.

Thus though I need no pardon more,
Yet need new pardons ev'ry hour.
In point of application free;
Lord, wash anew, and pardon me.

Sect. XV.

The mystery of faith and sight, - of which more,
The Believer's Principles. Chap. iv.

Strange contradictions me befal,
I can't believe unless I see;
Yet never can believe at all,
Till once I shut the seeing eye.

When sight of sweet experience
Can give my faith no helping hand,
The sight of sound intelligence
Will give it ample ground to stand.

I walk by faith, and not by sight:
Yet knowledge does my faith resound,
Which cannot walk but in the light.
Ev'n when experience runs a ground.

By knowledge I discern and spy
In divine light the object shown;
By faith I take and close apply
The glorious object as mine own.

My faith thus stands on divine light,
Believing what it clearly sees,
Yet faith is opposite to sight,
Trusting its ear, and not its eyes.

Faith list'ning to a sweet report,
Still comes by hearing, not by sight;
Yet is not faith of saving sort,
But when it sees in divine light.

In fears I spend my vital breath,
In doubts I waste my passing years!
Yet still the life I live is faith,
The opposite of doubts and fears.

'Tween clearing faith and clouding sense,
I walk in darkness and in light.
I'm certain oft, when in suspense,
While sure by faith, and not by sight.

Sect. XVI.

The mystery of faith and works, and rewards of grace and debt.


He that in word offendeth not,
Is call'd a perfect man I wot,
Yet he whose thoughts and deeds are bad,
The law-perfection never had.

I am design'd a perfect soul,
Ev'n though I never kept the whole,
Nor any precept; for 'tis known,
He breaks them all, that breaks but one.

By faith I do perfection claim,
By works I never grasp the name;
Yet without works my faith is nought,
And thereby no perfection brought.

Works without faith will never speed,
Faith without works is wholly dead:
Yet I am justify'd by faith,
Which no law works adjutant hath.

Yea gospel-works no help can lend,
Though still they do my faith attend:
Yet faith by works is perfect made,
And by their presence justify'd.

But works with faith could never vie,
And only faith can justify:
Yet still my justifying faith
No justifying value hath.

Lo, justifying grace from heav'n
Is foreign ware, and freely giv'n:
And saving faith is well content
To be a mere recipient.

Faith's active in my sanctity:
But here its act it will deny,
And frankly own it never went
Beyond a passive instrument,

I labour much like holy Paul;
And yet not I, but grace does all;
I try to spread my little sails,
And wait for powerful moving gales.

When pow'r's convey'd, I work; but see,
'Tis still his pow'r that works in me.
I am an agent at his call,
Yet nothing am, for grace is all.


In all my works I still regard
The recompense of full reward;
Yet such my workings is withal,
I look for no reward at all.

God's my reward exceeding great,
No lesser heav'n than this I wait:
But where's the earning work so broad,
To set me up an heir of God?

Rewards of debt, rewards of grace,
Are opposites in ev'ry case;
Yet sure I am they'll both agree
Most jointly in rewarding me.

Though hell's my just reward for sin,
Heav'n as my just reward I'll win.
Both these my just rewards I know,
Yet truly neither of them so.

Hell can't in justice be my lot,
Since justice satisfaction got;
Nor heav'n in justice be my share,
Since mercy only brings me there.

Yet heav'n is mine by solemn oath,
In justice and in mercy both:
And God in Christ is all my trust,
Because he's merciful and just.


Here is the riddle, where's the man
Of judgement to expound?
For masters fam'd that cannot scan,
In Isra'l may be found.

We justly those in wisdom's list
Establish'd saints may call,
Whose bitter-sweet experience blest,
Can clearly grasp it all.

Some babes in grace may mint and marr,
Yet aiming right succeed:
But strangers they in Isra'l are,
Who not at all can read.
Ralph Erskine



The Believer's Espousals : Chapter I.

Hark, dying mortal, if the Sonnet prove
A song of living and immortal love,
'Tis then thy grand concern the theme to know,
If life and immortality be so.
Are eyes to read, or ears to hear, a trust?
Shall both in death be cram'd anon with dust?
Then trifle not to please thine ear and eye,
But read thou, hear thou, for eternity.
Pursue not shadows wing'd, but be thy chase,
The God of glory on the field of grace:
The mighty hunter's name is lost and vain,
That runs not this substantial prize to gain.
These humble lines assume no high pretence,
To please thy fancy, or allure thy sense:
But aim, if everlasting life's thy chase,
To clear thy mind, and warm thy heart through grace.
A marriage so mysterious I proclaim,
Betwixt two parties of such diff'rent fame,
That human tongues may blush their names to tell,
To wit, the Prince of Heaven, the heir of hell!
But, on so vast a subject, who can find
Words suiting the conceptions of his mind?
Or, if our language with our thought could vie,
What mortal thought can raise itself so high?
When words and thoughts both fail, may faith and pray'r
Ascend by climbing up the scripture-stair:
From sacred writ these strange espousals may
Be explicated in the following way.

Chap. I. Sec. I.

The Fall of Adam.

A general account of Man's fall in Adam, and the remedy provided in Christ; and a particular account of Man's being naturally wedded to the law, as a covenant of works.

Old Adam once a heav'n of pleasure found,
While he with perfect innocence was crown'd;
His wing'd affections to his God could move
In raptures of desire, and strains of love.
Man standing spotless, pure, and innocent,
Could well the law of works with works content;
Though then (nor since) it could demand no less
Than personal and perfect righteousness:
These unto sinless man were easy terms,
Though now beyond the reach of wither'd arms.
The legal cov'nant then upon the field,
Perfection sought, man could perfection yield:
Rich had he, and his progeny remain'd,
Had he primeval innocence maintain'd:
His life had been a rest without annoy,
A scene of bliss, a paradise of joy.
But subtil satan in the serpent hid,
Proposing fair the fruit that God forbid,
Man, soon seduc'd by hell's alluring art,
Did, disobedient, from the rule depart,
Devour'd the bait, and by his bold offence
Fell from his blissful state of innocence.
Prostrate, he lost his God, his life, his crown,
From all his glory tumbled headlong down;
Plung'd in a deep abyss of sin and woe,
Where, void of heart to will, or hand to do,
For's own relief he can't command a thought,
The total sum of what he can is naught.
He's able only now t'increase his thrall;
He can destroy himself, and this is all.
But can the hellish brat Heav'n's law fulfil,
Whose precepts high surmount his strength and skill?
Can filthy dross produce a golden beam?
Or poison'd springs a salutif'rous stream;
Can carnal minds, fierce enmity's wide maw,
Be duly subject to the divine law?
Nay, now its direful threat'nings must take place
On all the disobedient human race,
Who do by guilt Omnipotence provoke,
Obnoxious stand to his uplifted stroke.
They must ingulf themselves in endless woes,
Who to the living God are deadly foes;
Who natively his holy will gainsay,
Must to his awful justice fall a prey.
In vain do mankind now expect, in vain
By legal deeds immortal life to gain:
Nay, death is threaten'd, threats must have their due,
Or souls that sin must die, as God is true.

Sect. II.

Redemption Through Christ

The second Adam, sov'reign Lord of all,
Did, by his Father's authorising call,
From bosom of eternal love descend,
To save the guilty race that him offend;
To treat an everlasting peace with those,
Who were and ever would have been his foes.
His errand, never-ending life to give
To them, whose malice would not let him live;
To make a match with rebels, and espouse
The brat which at his love her spite avows.
Himself he humbled to depress her pride,
And make his mortal foe, his loving bride.
But, ere the marriage can be solemniz'd,
All lets must be remov'd, all parties pleas'd;
Law-righteousness requir'd must be procur'd;
Law-vengeance threaten'd, must be full endur'd;
Stern justice must have credit by the match;
Sweet mercy by the heart the bridge must catch.

Poor bankrupt! all her debt must fire be paid;
Her former husband in the grave be laid:
Her present lover must be at the cost
To save and ransom at the uttermost;
If all these things this suitor kind can do,
Then he may win her, and her blessing too.
Hard terms indeed! while death's the first demand:
But love is strong as death, and will not stand
To carry on the suit and make it good,
Though at the dearest rate of wounds and blood;
The burden's heavy, but the back is broad,
The glorious lover is the mighty God.
Kind bowels yearning in th' eternal Son,
He left his Father's court, his heavenly throne,
Aside he threw his most divine array,
And wrapt his Godhead in a veil of clay;
Angelic armies, who in glory crown'd,
With joyful harps his awful throne surround,
Down to the crystal frontier of the sky,
To see the Saviour born, did eager fly;
And ever since beheld with wonder fresh
Their Sov'reign and our Saviour wrapt in flesh:
Who in this garb did mighty love display,
Restoring what he never took away.
To God his glory, to the law its due,
To heav'n its honour, to the earth its hue;
To man a righteousness divine, complete,
A royal robe to suit the nuptial rite:
He in her favours, whom he lov'd so well,
At once did purchase heav'n and vanquish hell.
Oh! unexampled love! so vast, so strong,
So great, so high, so deep, so broad, so long!
Can finite thought this ocean huge explore,
Unconscious of a bottom or a shore!
His love admits no parallel, for why?
At one great draught of love he drank hell dry.
No drop of wrathful gall he left behind;
No dreg to witness that he was unkind.
The sword of awful justice pierc'd his side,
That mercy thence might gush upon the bride.
The meritorious labours of his life,
And glorious conquest of his dying strife;
Her debt of doing, suff'ring, both cancell'd,
And broke the bars his lawfull captive held.

Down to the ground the hellish host he threw,
Then mounting high the trump of triumph blew,
Attended with a bright seraphic band,
Sat down enthron'd sublime on God's right hand;
Where glorious choirs their various harps employ,
To sound his praises with confed'rate joy.
There he, the bride's strong Intercessor, sits,
And thence the blessings of his blood transmits,
Sprinkling all o'er the flaming throne of God,
Pleads for her pardon his atoning blood;
Sends down his holy co-eternal Dove,
To shew the wonders of incarnate love,
To woo and win the bride's reluctant heart,
And pierce it with his kindly-killing dart;
By gospel light to manifest that now
She has no further with the law to do;
That her new Lord has loos'd the fed'ral tie
That once hard bound her, or to do or die;
That precepts, threats, no single mite can crave;
Thus for her former spouse he digg'd a grave;
The law fast to his cross did nail and pin,
Then bury'd the defunct his tomb within,
That he the lonely widow to himself might win.

Sect. III.

Man's Legal Disposition

But, after all, the bride's so malecontent,
No argument, save pow'r, is prevalent
To bow her will, and gain her heart's consent.
The law, her old primordial husband, loves;
Hopeful in its embraces life to have,
Though dead, and bury'd in her suitor's grave;
Unable to give life, as once before;
Unfit to be a husband any more.
Yet proudly she the new address disdains,
And all the blest Redeemer's love and pains;
Though now his head that cruel thorns did wound,
Is with immortal glory circled round;
Archangels at his awful footstool bow,
And drawing love sits smiling on his brow.
Though down he sends, in gospel-tidings good,
Epistles of his love, sign'd with his blood:
Yet lordly she the royal suit rejects,
Eternal life by legal works affects;
In vain the living seeks among the dead,
Sues quick'ning comforts in a killing head.
Her dead and bury'd husband has her heart,
Which cannot death remove, nor life impart.

Thus all revolting Adam's blinded race
In their first spouse their hope and comfort place.
They natively expect, if guilt them press,
Salvation by a home-bread righteousness:
They look for favour in Jehovah's eyes,
By careful doing all that in them lies.
'Tis still their primary attempt to draw
Their life and comfort from the vet'ran law;
They flee not to the hope the gospel gives;
To trust a promise bare, their minds aggrieves,
Which judge the man that does, the man that lives.

As native as they draw their vital breath,
Their fond recourse is to the legal path.
'Why,' says old nature, in law-wedded man,
'Won't Heav'n be pleas'd, if I do all I can?
If I conform my walk to nature's light,
And strive, intent to practise what is right?
Thus won't I by the God of heav'n be bless'd,
And win his favour, if I do my best?
Good God? (he cries) when press'd with debt and thrall,
Have patience with me, and I'll pay thee all.'
Upon their all, their best, they're fondly mad,
Though yet their all is naught their best is bad.
Proud man his can-do's mightily exalts,
Yet are his brightest works but splendid faults.
A sinner may have shews of Good, but still
The best he can, ev'n at his best, is ill.
Can heav'n or divine favour e'er be win
By those that are a mass of hell and sin?
The righteous law does num'rous woes denounce
Against the wretched soul that fails but once:
What heaps of curses on their heads it rears,
That have amass'd the guilt of num'rous years!

Sect. IV.

Man's Strict Attachment to Legal Terms, or to the Law as a Condition of Life

Say, on what terms then Heav'n appeas'd will be?
Why, sure perfection is the least degree.
Yea, more, full satisfaction must be giv'n
For trespass done against the laws of Heav'n.
These are the terms: What mortal back so broad,
But must for ever sink beneath the load?
A ransom must be found, or die they must,
Sure, ev'n as justice infinite is just.

But, says the legal, proud, self-righteous heart,
Which cannot with her ancient consort part,
'What! wont the goodness of the God of heav'n
Admit of smalls when greater can't be giv'n?
He knows our fall diminish'd all our funds,
Won't he accept of pennies now for pounds?
Sincere endeavours for perfection take,
Or terms more possible for mankind to make?'
Ah! poor divinity and jargon loose;
Such hay and straw will never build the house.
Mistake not here, proud mortal, don't mistake,
Good changes not, nor other terms will make.
Will divine faithfulness itself deny,
Which swore solemnly Man should do, or die?
Will God most true extend to us, forsooth,
His goodness, to the damage of his truth?
Will spotless holiness be baffled thus?
Or awful justice be unjust for us?
Small faithfulness be faithless for our sake,
And he his threats, as we his precepts break?
Will our great Creditor deny himself,
And for full payment take our filthy pelf?
Dispense with justice, to let mercy vent?
And stain his royal crown with 'minish'd rent?
Unworthy thought; O let no mortal clod
Hold such base notions of a glorious God.

Heav'n's holy cov'nant, made for human race,
Consists, or whole of works or whole of grace.
If works will take the field, then works must be
For ever perfect to the last degree:
Will God dispense with less? Nay, sure he won't
With ragged toll his royal law affront.
Can rags, that Sinai flames will soon dispatch,
E'er prove the fiery law's adequate match?
Vain man must be divorc'd, and choose to take
Another husband, or a burning lake.

We find the divine volume no-where teach
New legal terms within our mortal reach.
Some make, though in the sacred page unknown,
Sincerity assume perfection's throne:
But who will boast this base usuper's sway,
Save ministers of darkness, that display
Invented night to stifle scripture day?
The nat'ralist's sincerity is naught,
That of the gracious is divinely taught;
Which teaching keeps their graces, if sincere,
Within the limits of the gospel-sphere,
Where vaunting, none created graces sing,
Nor boast of streams, but of the Lord the spring.
Sincerity's the soul of ev'ry grace,
The quality of all the ransom'd race:
Of promis'd favour 'tis a fruit, a clause;
But no procuring term, no moving cause.

How unadvis'd the legal mind confounds
The marks of divine favour with the grounds,
And qualities of covenanted friends
With the condition of the cov'nant blends?
Thus holding gospel-truths with legal arms,
Mistakes new-cov'nant fruits for fed'ral terms.
The joyful sound no change of terms allows,
But change of persons, or another spouse.
The nature same that sinn'd must do or die;
No milder terms in gospel-offers lie.
For grace no other law-abatement shews,
But how law-debtors may restore its dues;
Restore, yea, through a surety in their place.
With double int'rest and a better grace.
Here we of no new terms of life are told,
But of a husband to fulfil the old;
With him alone by faith we're call'd to wed,
And let no rival bruik the marriage-bed.

Sect. V.

Man's vain attempt to seek Life by Christ's righteousness joined with their own, and legal hopes natural to all.

But still the bride reluctant disallows
The junior suit, and hugs the senior spouse.
Such the old selfish folly of her mind,
So bent to lick the dust, and grasp the wind,
Alleging works and duties of her own
May for her criminal offence atone;
She will her antic dirty robe provide,
Which vain she hopes will all pollution hide.
The filthy rags that saints away have flung,
She holding, wraps and rolls herself in dung.
Thus magure all the light the gospel gives,
Unto her nat'ral consort fondly cleaves.
Though mercy set the royal match in view,
She's loth to bid her ancient mate adieu.
When light of scripture, reason, common sense,
Can hardly mortify her vain pretence
To legal righteousness; yet if at last
Her conscience rous'd begins to stand aghast,
Press'd with the dread of hell, she'll rashly patch,
And halve a bargain with the proffer'd match;
In hopes his help, together with her own,
Will turn to peaceful smiles the wrathful frown.
Though grace the rising Sun delightful sings,
With full salvation in his golden wings,
And righteousness complete; the faithless soul,
Receiving half the light, rejects the whole;
Revolves the sacred page, but reads purblind
The gospel-message with a legal mind.
Men dream their state, ah! too slightly view'd,
Needs only be amended, not renew'd;
Scorn to be wholly debtors unto grace,
Hopeful their works may meliorate their case.
They fancy present prayers and future pains
Will for their former failings make amends:
To legal yokes they bow their servile necks,
And, lest soul-slips their false repose perplex,
Think Jesus' merits make up all defects,
They patch his glorious robe with filthy rags,
And burn but incense to their proper drags:
Disdain to use his righteousness alone,
But as an aiding stirr'p to mount their own;
Thus in Christ's room his rival self enthrone,
And vainly would, dress'd up in legal trim,
Divide salvation 'tween themselves and him.

But know, vain man, that to his share must fall
The glory of the whole or none at all.
In him all wisdom's hidden treasures lie,
And all the fulness of the Deity.
This store alone, immense, and never spent,
Might poor insolvent debtors well content;
But to hell-prison justly Heav'n will doom
Proud fools that on their petty stock presume.

The softest couch that gilded nature knows,
Can give the waken'd conscience no repose.
When God arraigns, what mortal pow'r can stand
Beneath the terror of his lifted hand?
Our safety lies beyond the natural line,
Beneath a purple covert all divine.

Yet how is precious
Christ, the way,
And his the way of life by
But can its vot'ries all its levy show?
They prize it most, who least its burden know:
Who by the law in part would save his soul,
Becomes a debtor to fulfil the whole.
Its prisoner he remains, and without hail
Till ev'ry mite be paid; and if he fail,
(As sure he must, since, by our sinful breach,
Perfection for surmounts all mortal reach,)
Then curs'd for ever must his soul remain,
And all the folk of God must say, Amen.
Why, seeking that the law should help afford,
In honouring the law, he slights its Lord,
Who gives his law-fulfilling righteousness
To be the naked sinner's perfect dress,
In which he might with spotless beauty shine
Before the face of majesty divine:
Yet, lo! the sinner works with mighty pains
A garment of his own, to hide his stains;
Ungrateful! overlooks the gifts of God.
The robe wrought by his hand, dy'd in his blood!

In vain the Son of God this web did weave,
Could our vile rags sufficient shelter give:
In vain he ev'ry thread of it did draw,
Could sinners be ov'rmantled by his law
Can men's salvation on their works be built.
Whose fairest actions nothing are but guilt?
Or can the law suppress th' avenging flame,
When now its only office is to damn?
Did life come by the law in part or whole,
Blest Jesus dy'd in vain to save a soul.
Those then who life by legal means expect,
To them is Christ become of no effect;
Because their legal mixtures do in fact
Wisdom's grand project plainly counteract.
How close proud carnal reasonings combine,
To frustrate sovereign grace's great design?
Man's heart by nature weds the law alone,
Nor will another paramour enthrone.

True, many seem by course of life profane,
No favour for the law to entertain;
But break the bands, and cast the cords away,
That would their raging lusts and passions stay.
Yet ev'n this reigning madness may declare,
How strictly wedded to the law they are;
For now (however rich they seem'd before)
Hopeless to pay law-debt, they give it o'er,
Like desp'rate debtors mad, still run themselves in more.
Despair of success shews their strong desires.
Till legal hopes are parch'd in lustful fires.
'Let's give,' says they, 'our lawless will free scope,
And live at random, for there is no hope.
The law, that can't them help, they stab with hate.
Yet scorn to beg, or court another mate.
Here lusts most opposite their hearts divide,
Their beastly passion, and their bankrupt pride.
In passion they their native mate deface,
In pride disdain to be oblig'd to grace.
Hence plainly, as a rule 'gainst law they live,
Yet closely to it as a cov'nant cleave.
Thus legal pride lies hid beneath the patch,
And strong aversion to the gospel-match.
Ralph Erskine



The Believer's Principles : Chap. Iv.

Faith and Sense Natural, compared and distinguished.

When Abram's body, Sarah's womb,
Were ripe for nothing but the tomb,
Exceeding old, and wholly dead,
Unlike to bear the promis'd seed:

Faith said, 'I shall an Isaac see;'
'No, no,' said Sense, 'it cannot be;'
Blind Reason, to augment the strife,
Adds, 'How can death engender life?'

My heart is like a rotten tomb,
More dead than ever Sarah's womb;
O! can the promis'd seed of grace
Spring forth from such a barren place?

Sense gazing but on flinty rocks,
My hope and expectation chokes:
But could I, skill'd in Abram's art,
O'erlook my dead and barren heart;

And build my hope on nothing less
That divine pow'r and faithfulness;
Soon would I find him raise up sons
To Abram, out of rocks and stones.

Faith acts as busy boatmen do,
Who backward look and forward row;
It looks intent to things unseen,
Thinks objects visible too mean.

Sense thinks it madness thus to steer,
And only trusts its eye and ear;
Into faith's boat dare thrust its oar,
And put it further from the shore.

Faith does alone the promise eye;
Sense won't believe unless it see;
Nor can it trust the divine guide,
Unless it have both wind and tide.

Faith thinks the promise sure and good;
Sense doth depend on likelihood;
Faith ev'n in storms believes the seers;
Sense calls all men, ev'n prophets, liars.

Faith uses means, but rests on none;
Sense sails when outward means are gone:
Trusts more on probabilities,
Than all the divine promises.

It rests upon the rusty beam
Of outward things that hopeful seem;
Let these its supports sink or cease,
No promise then can yield it peace.

True faith that's of a divine brood,
Consults not with base flesh and blood;
But carnal sense which ever errs,
With carnal reason still confers.

What! my disciples won't believe
That I am risen from the grave?
Why will they pore on dust and death,
And overlook my quick'ning breath?

Why do they slight the word I spake?
And rather sorry counsel take
With death, and with a pow'rful grave,
If they their captive can relieve?

Sense does inquire if tombs of clay
Can send their guests alive away;
But faith will hear Jehovah's word,
Of life and death the sov'reign Lord.

Should I give ear to rotten dust,
Or to the tombs confine my trust;
No resurrection can I see,
For dust that flies into mine eye.

What! Thomas, can't thou trust so much
To me as to thy sight and touch?
Won't thou believe till Sense be guide,
And thrust its hand into my side?

Where is thy faith, if it depends
On nothing but thy finger-ends?
But bless'd are they the truth who seal
By faith, yet neither see nor feel.

Sect. II.

Faith and Sense Spiritual, compared and distinguished. Where also the difference between the Assurance of Faith, and the Assurance of Sense.

The certainty of faith and sense
Wide differ in experience:
Faith builds upon, - Thus saith the Lord;
Sense the views his work and not his word.

God's word without is faith's resort,
His work within doth sense support,
By faith we trust him without pawns,
By sense we handle with our hands.

By faith the word of truth's receiv'd,
By sense we know we have believ'd.
Faith's certain by fiducial acts,
Sense by its evidential facts.

Faith credits the divine report,
Sense to his breathings makes resort:
That on his word of grace will hing,
This on his Spirit witnessing.

By faith I take the Lord for mine,
By sense I feel his love divine:
By that I touch his garment's hem,
By this find virtue thence to stream.

By faith I have mine all on band,
By sense I have some stock in hand;
By that some vision is begun,
By this I some fruition win.

My faith can fend ev'n in exile,
Sense cannot live without a smile.
By faith I to his promise fly,
By sense I in his bosom lie.

Faith builds upon the truth of God,
That lies within the promise broad;
But sense upon the truth of grace
His hand within my heart did place.

Thus Christ's the object faith will eye,
And faith's the object sense may see:
Faith keeps the truth of God in view,
While sense the truth of faith may shew.

Hence faith's assurance firm can stand,
When sense's in the deep may strand;
And faith's persuasion full prevail,
When comfortable sense may sail.

I am assur'd when faith's in act,
Though sense and feeling both I lack;
And thus mysterious is my lot,
I'm oft assur'd when I am not;

Oft pierc'd with racking doubts and fears:
Yet faith these brambles never bears;
But unbelief that cuts my breath,
And stops the language of my faith.

Clamours of unbelieving fears,
So frequently disturb mine ears,
I cannot hear what faith would say,
Till once the noisy clamours stay.

And then will fresh experience find,
When faith gets leave to speak its mind,
The native language whereof is,
My Lord is mine, and I am his.

Sad doubtings compass me about,
Yet faith itself could never doubt;
For, as the sacred volume saith,
Much doubting argues little faith.

The doubts and fears that work my grief,
Flow not from faith, but unbelief;
For faith, whene'er it acteth, cures
The plague of doubts, and me assures.

But when mine eye of faith's asleep,
I dream of drowning in the deep:
But as befals the sleeping eye,
Though in sight remain, it cannot see;

The seeing faculty abides,
Though sleep from active seeing hides;
So faith's assuring pow'rs endure
Ev'n when it ceases to assure.

There still persuasion in my faith,
Ev'n when I'm fill'd with fears of wrath;
The trusting habit still remains,
Though slumbers hold the act in chains.

The assuring faculty it keeps,
Ev'n when its eye in darkness sleeps,
Wrapt up in doubts; but when it wakes,
It rouses up assuring acts.

Sect. III.

The Harmony and Discord between Faith and Sense; how they help, and how they mar each other.

Though gallant Faith can keep the field
When cow'rdly Sense will fly or yield;
Yet while I view their unusual path,
Sense often stands and falls with Faith.

Faith ushers in sweet Peace and Joy,
Which further heartens Faith's employ:
Faith like the head, and Sense the heart,
Do mutual vigour fresh impart.

When lively Faith and Feeling sweet,
Like dearest darlings, kindly meet,
They straight each other help and hug
In loving friendship close and snug.

Faith gives to Sense both life and breath,
And Sense gives joy and strength to Faith;
'O now,' says Faith, 'how fond do I
In Sense's glowing bosom lie!'

Their mutual kindness then is such,
That oft they doting too too much,
Embrace each other out of breath;
As AEsop hugg'd his child to death.

Faith leaping into Sense's arms,
Allur'd with her bewitching charms,
In hugging these, lets rashly slip
The proper object of its grip:

Which being lost, behold the thrall!
Anon Faith loses Sense and all;
Thus unawares cuts Sense's breath,
While Sense trips up the heels of Faith.

Her charms assuming Jesus' place,
While Faith's lull'd in her soft embrace;
Lo! soon in dying pleasures wrapt,
Its living joy away is snapt.

Sect. IV.

The Valour and Victories of Faith.

By Faith I unseen Being see
Forth lower beings call,
And say to nothing, Let it be,
And nothing hatches all.

By faith I know the worlds were made
By God's great word of might;
How soon, Let there be light, he said,
That moment there was light.

By faith I soar and force my flight,
Through all the clouds of sense;
I see the glories out of sight,
With brightest evidence.

By faith I mount the azure sky,
And from the lofty sphere,
The earth a little mote espy,
Unworthy of my care.

By faith I see the unseen things,
Hid from all mortal eyes;
Proud Reason stretching all its wings,
Beneath me flutt'ring lies.

By faith I build my lasting hope
On righteousness divine,
Nor can I sink with such a prop,
Whatever storms combine.

By faith my works, my righteousness,
And duties all I own
But loss and dung; and lay my stress
On what my Lord has done.

By faith I overcome the world,
And all its hurtful charms;
I'm in the heav'nly chariot hurl'd
Through all opposing harms.

By faith I have a conqu'ring pow'r,
To tread upon my foes,
To triumph in a dying hour,
And banish all my woes.

By faith in midst of wrongs I'm right,
In sad decays I thrive;
In weakness I am strong in might,
In death I am alive.

By faith I stand when deep I fall,
In darkness I have light;
Nor dare I doubt and question all
When all is out of sight.

By faith I trust a pardon free
Which puzzles flesh and blood;
To think that God can justify,
Where yet he sees no good.

By faith I keep my Lord's commands,
To verify my trust;
I purify my heart and hands,
And mortify my lust.

By faith my melting soul repents,
When pierced Christ appears;
My heart in grateful praises vents,
Mine eyes in joyful tears.

By faith I can the mountains vast
Of sin and guilt remove;
And them into the ocean cast,
The sea of blood and love.

By faith I see Jehovah high
Upon a throne of grace;
I see him lay his vengeance by,
And smile in Jesus' face.

By faith I hope to see the Sun,
The light of grace that lent;
His everlasting circles run,
In glory's firmament.

By faith I'm more than conqueror,
Ev'n though I nothing can;
Because I set Jehovah's pow'r
Before me in the van.

By faith I counterplot my foes,
Nor need their ambush fear;
Because my life-guard also goes
Behind me in the rear.

By faith I walk, I run, I fly,
By faith I suffer thrall;
By faith I'm fit to live and die,
By faith I can do all.

Sect. V.

The Heights and Depths of Sense.

When Heav'n me grants, at certain times,
Amidst a pow'rful gale,
Sweet liberty to moan my crimes,
And wand'rings to bewail;

Then do I dream my sinful brood,
Drown'd in the ocean main
Of crystal tears and crimson blood,
Will never lie again.

I get my foes beneath my feet,
I bruise the serpent's head;
I hope the vict'ry is complete,
And all my lusts are dead.

How gladly do I think and say,
When thus it is with me,
Sin to my sense is clean away,
And so shall ever be?

But, ah! alas! th' ensuing hour
My lusts arise and swell,
They rage and re-inforce their pow'r,
With new recruits from hell,

Though I resolv'd and swore, through grace,
In very solemn terms,
I never should my lusts embrace,
Nor yield unto their charms;

Yet such deceitful friends they are,
While I no danger dream,
I'm snar'd before I am aware,
And hurry'd down the stream.

Into the gulph of sin anon,
I'm plunged head and ears;
Grace to my sense is wholly gone,
And I am chain'd in fears;

Till straight, my Lord, with sweet surprise,
Returns to loose my bands,
With kind compassion in his eyes,
And pardon in his hands.

Yet thus my life is nothing else,
But heav'n and hell by turns;
My soul that now in Goshen dwells,
Anon in Egypt mourns.

Sect. VI.

Faith and Frames compared; or, Faith building upon Sense discovered.

Faith has for its foundation broad
A stable rock on which I stand,
The truth and faithfulness of God,
All other grounds are sinking sand,

My frames and feelings ebb and flow;
And when my faith depends on them,
It fleets and staggers to and fro,
And dies amidst the dying frame.

That faith is surely most unstay'd,
Its stagg'ring can't be counted strange,
That builds its hope of lasting aid
On things that ev'ry moment change.

But could my faith lay all its load
On Jesus' everlasting name,
Upon the righteousness of God,
And divine truth that's still the same:

Could I believe what God has spoke,
Rely on his unchanging love,
And cease to grasp at fleeting smoke,
No changes would my mountain move,

But when, how soon the frame's away,
And comfortable feelings fail;
So soon my faith falls in decay,
And unbelieving doubts prevail:

This proves the charge of latent vice,
And plain my faith's defects may show;
I built the house on thawing ice,
That tumbles with the melting snow,

When divine smiles in sight appear,
And I enjoy the heav'nly gale;
When wind and tide and all is fair,
I dream my faith shall never fail:

My heart will false conclusions draw,
That strong my mountain shall remain;
That in my faith there is no flaw,
I'll never never doubt again.

I think the only rest I take,
Is God's unfading word and name;
And fancy not my faith so weak,
As e'er to trust a fading frame.

But, ah! by sudden turns I see
My lying heart's fallacious guilt,
And that my faith, not firm in me,
On sinking sand was partly built;

For, lo! when warming beams are gone,
And shadows fall; alas, 'tis odd,
I cannot wait the rising Sun,
I cannot trust a hiding God.

So much my faith's affiance seems
Its life from fading joys to bring,
That when I loose the dying streams,
I cannot trust the living spring.

When drops of comfort quickly dry'd,
And sensible enjoyments fail;
When cheering apples are deny'd,
Then doubts instead of faith prevail.

But why, though fruit be snatch'd from me,
Should I distrust the glorious Root;
And still affront the standing tree,
By trusting more to falling fruit?

The smallest trials may evince
My faith unfit to stand the shock,
That more depends on fleeting sense,
Than on the fix'd eternal Rock.

The safest ark when floods arise,
Is stable truth that changes not;
How weak's my faith, that more relies
On feeble sense's floating boat?

For when the fleeting frame is gone,
I straight my state in question call;
I droop and sink in deeps anon,
As if my frame were all in all.

But though I miss the pleasing gale,
And Heav'n withdraw the charming glance;
Unless Jehovah's oath can fail,
My faith may keep its countenance.

The frame of nature shall decay,
Time-changes break her rusty chains;
Yea, heav'n and earth shall pass away;
But faith's foundation firm remains.

Heav'n's promises so fix'dly stand,
Ingrav'd with an immortal pen,
In great Immanuel's mighty hand,
All hell's attempts to raze are vain.

Did Faith with none but Truth advise,
My steady soul would move no more
Than stable hills when tempests rise,
Or solid rocks when billows roar.

But when my faith the counsel hears
Of present sense and reason blind,
My wav'ring spirit then appears
A feather toss'd with ev'ry wind.

Lame legs of faith unequal, crook;
Thus mine, alas! unev'nly stand,
Else I would trust my stable Rock,
Not fading frames and feeble sand.

I would, when dying comforts fly,
As much as when they present were,
Upon my living joy rely.
Help, Lord, for here I daily err.
Ralph Erskine



Meditations On Smoking Tobacco; Or, Smoking Spiritualized

Part 1.

This Indian weed now wither'd quite,
Though green at noon, cut down at night
Shows thy decay;
All flesh is hay.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The pipe so lily-like and weak,
Does thus thy mortal state bespeak.
Thou art ev'n such,
Gone with a touch.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the smoke ascends on high,
Then thou behold'st the vanity
Of worldly stuff,
Gone with a puff.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And when the pipe grows foul within,
Think on thy soul defil'd with sin;
For then the fire
It does require.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

And seest the ashes cast away;
Then to thyself thou may say,
That to the dust
Return thou must.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Part II.

Was this small plant for thee cut down?
So was the Plant of great renown;
Which mercy sends
For nobler ends.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

Doth juice medicinal proceed
From such a naughty foreign weed?
Then what's the power
Of Jesse's flow'r?
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The promise, like the pipe, inlays,
And by the mouth of Faith conveys
What virtue flows
From Sharon's Rose.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

In vain th' unlighted pipe you blow;
Your pains in outward means are so,
Till heav'nly fire
Your heart inspire.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.

The smoke, like burning incense, tow'rs;
So should a praying heart of yours
With ardent cries
Surmount the skies.
Thus think, and smoke tobacco.
Ralph Erskine

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Poems By Poet Ralph Erskine