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Poems By Poet Ralph Erskine  3/5/2015 8:32:34 AM
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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




M UCH fam'd on earth, renown'd for piety;
A midst bright seraphs now sings cheerfully,
S acred thine anthems yield much pleasure here;
T hese songs of thine do truly charm the ear.
E each line thou wrot'st doth admiration raise;
R ouse up the soul to true seraphic praise.

R eligiously thy life below was spent:
A mazing pleasures now thy soul content.
L ong didst thou labour in the church below;
P ointing out Christ, the Lamb who saves from wo,
H eaven's blessedness on sinners to bestow.

E rskine the great! whose pen spread far abroad,
R edeeming love; the sole device of God;
S ubstantial themes thy thoughts did much pursue;
K ept pure the truth, espous'd but by a few.
I ntegrity of heart, of soul serene;
N o friend to vice, no cloke to the profane:
E mploy'd thy talents to reclaim the vain.
Ralph Erskine



The Believer's Principles : Chap. II.

The Mystery of Law and Gospel.

Though law-commands and gospel-grace
Agree in mutual joint embrace;
Yet law and gospel in a shock
Can never draw an equal yoke,

The law of works, the law of grace,
Can't stand together in one place;
The brighter scene destroys the dark,
As Dagon fell before the ark.

They harmonize like marry'd pairs,
Yet are at odds, and keep not squares:
As mercy stands from merit far,
The letter and the spirit jar.

The law does gospel-comforts harm,
The gospel breaks the legal arm;
Yet both exalt each other's horn,
And garland brings their heads t' adorn.

I through the law am dead to it,
To legal works and self-conceit;
Yet, lo! through gospel-grace I live,
And to the law due honour give.

The law great room for boasting makes,
But grace my pride and boasting breaks;
Yet all my boast the law does kill,
And grace make room to boast my fill.

The gospel makes me keep the law,
Yet from its painful service draw;
It does all law demands fulfil,
Yet makes them wholly void and null.

The gospel gives me no command,
Yet by obeying it I stand,
To strict obedience though it call,
Does bind to none, but promise all.

The law does strict commandment give,
That I the gospel-news believe;
But yet it teaches no such thing,
Nor e'er could gospel-tidings bring.

When I the gospel-truth believe,
Obedience to the law I give,
And when I don't the law observe,
I from the gospel-method swerve.

Yet, if I do the law obey,
I am not in the gospel-way
Which does to new obedience draw,
Yet is the gospel no new law.

As precepts to the law belong,
Yet in the gospel field are throng,
Curs'd ev'ry gospel-slighter is,
Yet all its office is to bless.

It from the law has pow'r to kill,
Yet saving does its pow'r fulfil:
No savour but of life it hath,
Yet most the savour is of death.

Weakness perfection doth exclude,
The law is perfect, just, and good:
Yet can it nothing perfect make,
But all the comers to its break.

Strength to the gospel does belong,
Mighty through God it is, and strong:
It to the law does strength emit,
Yet 'tis the law gives strength to it.

The gospel gives the law, I see,
Sufficient strength to justify;
Yet may I say, in truth it is
The law that gives the gospel this:

For as the law no sinner clears,
But who the gospel-garment wears;
So none are justify'd by grace,
Unless the law-demand have place.

Again the law, which yet seems worse,
Gives gospel-news condemning force;
Yet they are news that never can,
Nor never will condemn a man.

Dread threat'nings to the law pertain,
Not to the gospel's golden chain:
Yet all law-threats and Sinai's ire
To gospel-grace are walls of fire.

The righteous law assoileth none
Of Adam's guilty race, save one;
Who being guilty, for this cause
By God's just law condemned was.

Yet free of guilt it did him see;
Hence fully clear'd, and set him free.
Yet had not guilt his soul involv'd,
By law he could not been absolv'd.

But he withal condemn'd and spoil'd
The law of works which him assoil'd:
And now the law is (in these views)
The marrow of the gospel news.

The law can justify no man
That is a sinner, yet it can
Thus favour sinful men, and free
The chief of sinner, guilty me.

The gospel too acquitteth none
That have not put perfection on,
And yet it cleareth none (I grant)
But those who all perfection want.

Those that with gospel-clearance meet,
Must by the law be found complete;
Yet never could (again I grant)
The gospel justifies a saint.

All perfect persons it controls,
And justifies ungodly souls;
Yet still no man its grace partakes,
But whom it truly godly makes.

The law withstands the gospel path,
Which yet its approbation hath;
The gospel thwarts the legal way,
Yet will approve the law for ay.

Hence though the gospel's comely frame
Doth openly the law condemn:
Yet they are blind, who never saw
The gospel justify the law.

Thus gospel-grace and law-commands,
Both bind and loose each other's hands:
They can't agree on any terms,
Yet hug each other in their arms.

Those that divide them cannot be
The friends of truth and verity;
Yet those that dare confound the two,
Destroy them both, and gender woe.

This paradox none can decipher,
That plow not with the gospel-heifer.

Sect. II

The difference betwixt the Law and the Gospel.

The law, supposing I have all,
Does ever for perfection call:
The gospel suits my total want,
And all the law can seek does grant.

The law could promise life to me,
If my obedience perfect be:
But grace does promise life upon
My Lord's obedience alone.

The law says, Do, and life you'll win;
But grace says, Live, for all is done:
The former cannot ease my grief,
The latter yields me full relief.

By law convinc'd of sinful breach,
By gospel-grace I comfort reach:
The one my condemnation bears,
The other justifies and clears.

The law shews my arrears are great,
The gospel freely pays my debt:
The first odes me the bankrupt curse,
The last does bless, and fill my purse.

The law will not abate a mite,
The gospel all the sum will quite:
There God in threat'nings is array'd,
But here in promises display'd.

The law and gospel disagree,
Like Hagar, Sarah, bond and free:
The former's Hagar's servitude,
The latter Sarah's happy brood.

To Sinai black, and Zion fair,
The word does law and grace compare.
Their cursing and their blessing vie
With Ebal and Gerizzim high.

The law excludes not boasting vain,
But rather feeds it to the my bane:
But gospel-grace allows no boasts,
Save in the King the Lord of hosts.

The law still irritates my sin,
And hardens my proud heart therein:
But grace's melting pow'r renews,
And my corruption strong subdues.

The law with thunder, Sinai-like,
Does always dread and terror speak:
The gospel makes a joyful noise,
And charms me with a still, small voice.

The legal trumpet war proclaims,
In wrathful threats, and fire, and flames:
The gospel-pipe a peaceful sound,
Which spreads a kindly breath around.

The law is weak through sinful flesh,
The gospel brings recruits afresh:
The first a killing letter wears,
The last a quick'ning spirit bears.

The law that seeks perfection's height,
Yet gives no strength, nor offers might:
But precious gospel-tidings glad,
Declare where all is to be had.

From me alone the law does crave,
What grace affirms in Christ I have:
When therefore law-pursuits inthral,
I send the law to grace for all.

The law brings terror to molest.
The gospel gives the weary rest:
The one does flags of death display,
The other shows the living way.

The law by Moses was exprest,
The glorious gospel came by Christ:
The first dim nature's light may trace,
The last is only known by grace.

The law may rouse me from my sloth,
To faith and to repentance both:
And though the law commandeth each,
Yet neither of them can it teach;

Nor will accept for current coin
The duties which it does injoin;
It seeks all but accepts no less
Than constant, perfect righteousness.

The gospel, on the other hand,
Although it issues no command,
But, strictly view'd, does whole consist
In promises and offers blest;

Yet does it many duties teach,
Which legal light could never reach:
Thus faith, repentance, and the like,
Are fire that gospel-engines strike.

They have acceptance here, through grace,
The law affords them no such place:
Yet still they come through both their hands,
Through gospel teaching, law commands.

The law's a house of bondage sore,
The gospel opes the prison door:
The first me hamper'd in its net,
The last at freedom kindly set.

The precept craves, the gospel gives;
While that me presses this relieves;
And or affords the strength I lack,
Or takes the burden off my back.

The law requires on pain of death;
The gospel courts with loving breath:
While that conveys a deadly wound,
This makes me perfect, whole, and sound.

There viewing how diseas'd I am,
I here perceive the healing balm:
Afflicted there with sense of need,
But here refresh'd with meet remede.

The law's a charge for what I owe;
The gospel my discharge to show:
The one a scene of fears doth ope;
The other is the door of hope.

An angry God the law reveal'd;
The gospel shews him reconcil'd:
By that I know he was displeas'd;
By this I see his wrath appeas'd.

The law thus shews the divine ire,
And nothing but consuming fire:
The gospel brings the olive-branch,
And blood the burning fire to quench.

The law still shows a fiery face:
The gospel shows a throne of grace:
There justice rides alone in state;
But here she takes the mercy-seat.

In Sum:

Lo! in the law Jehovah dwells,
But Jesus is conceal'd!
Whereas the gospel's nothing else
But Jesus Christ reveal'd.

Sect. III.

The Harmony betwixt the Law and the Gospel.

The law's a tutor much in vogue,
To gospel-grace a pedagogue;
The gospel to the law no less
Than its full end for righteousness.

When once the fiery law of God
Has chas'd me to the gospel road;
Then back unto the holy law
Most kindly gospel-grace will draw.

When by the law to grace I'm school'd;
Grace by the law will have me rul'd:
Hence, if I don't the law obey,
I cannot keep the gospel-way.

When I the gospel-news believe,
Obedience to the law I give:
And that both in its fed'ral dress,
And as a rule of holiness.

Lo! in my Head I render all
For which the fiery law can call:
His blood unto its fire was fuel,
His Spirit shapes me to its rule.

When law and gospel kindly meet,
To serve each other both unite:
Sweet promises, and stern commands,
Do work to one another's hands.

The divine law demands no less
Than human perfect righteousness:
The gospel gives it this and more,
Ev'n divine righteousness in store.

Whate'er the righteous law require,
The gospel grants its whole desire.
Are law-commands exceeding broad?
So is the righteousness of God.

How great soe'er the legal charge,
The gospel-payment's equal large:
No less by man the law can bray,
When grace provides a God to pay.

The law makes gospel-banquets sweet;
The gospel makes the law complete:
Law-suits to grace's storehouse draw;
Grace docks and magnifies the law.

Both law and gospel close combine,
To make each other's lustre shine;
The gospel all law-breakers shames;
The law all gospel-slighters damns.

The law is holy, just, and good;
All this the gospel seals with blood,
And clears the royal law's just dues
With dearly purchas'd revenues.

The law commands me to believe;
The gospel saving faith doth give:
The law injoins me to repent;
The gospel gives my tears a vent.

What in the gospel mint is coin'd,
The same is in the law injoin'd:
Whatever gospel-tidings teach,
The law's authority doth reach.

Here join the law and gospel hands,
What this me teaches, that commands;
What virtuous forms the gospel please,
The same the law doth authorise.

And thus the law-commandment seals
Whatever gospel-grace reveals:
The gospel also for my good
Seals all the law-demands with blood.

The law most perfect still remains,
And ev'ry duty full contains:
The gospel its perfection speaks,
And therefore gives whate'er it seeks.

Next, what by law I'm bound unto,
The same the gospel makes me do:
What preceptively that can crave;
This effectively can ingrave.

All that by precepts Heav'n expects,
Free grace by promises effects:
To what the law by fear may move,
To that the gospel leads by love.

To run to work, the law commands;
The gospel gives me feet and hands:
The one requires that I obey;
The other does the pow'r convey.

What in the law has duty's place,
The gospel changes to a grace:
Hence legal duties therein nam'd,
Are herein gospel-graces fain'd.

The precept checks me when I stray;
The promise holds me in the way:
That shews my folly when I roam;
And this most kindly brings me home.

Law threats and precepts both, I see,
With gospel promises agree;
They to the gospel are a fence,
And it to them a maintenance.

The law will justify all those
Who with the gospel-ramsom close;
The gospel too approves for ay
All those that do the law obey.

The righteous law condemns each man
That dare reject the gospel plan:
The holy gospel none will save,
On whom it won't the law ingrave.

When Christ the tree of life I climb,
I see both law and grace in him:
In him the law its end does gain;
In him the promise is Amen.

The law makes grace's pasture sweet,
Grace makes the law my sav'ry meat;
Yea, sweeter than the honey-comb,
When grace and mercy brings it home.

The precepts of the law me show
What fruits of gratitude I owe;
But gospel-grace begets the brood,
And moves me to the gratitude.

Law-terrors pain the putrid sore;
And gospel-grace applies the cure:
The one plows up the fallow-ground:
The other sows the seed around.

A rigid master was the law,
Demanding brick, denying straw;
But when with gospel-tongue it sings,
It bids me fly, and gives me wings.

In Sum:

Both law and gospel close unite,
Are seen with more solace,
Where truth and mercy kindly meet,
In fair Immanuel's face.

Sect. IV.

The proper Place and Station of the Law and the Gospel.

That in the four following Paragraphs, as well as in the three preceding Sections, by LAW, is mostly understood the doctrine of the
Covenant of Works;
and by GOSPEL, the doctrine of the
Covenant of Grace.

Paragraph I.

The Place and Station of Law and Gospel in general.

When we the sacred record view,
Or divine Test'ments old and new;
The matter in most pages fix'd,
Is law and gospel intermix'd.

Yet few, ev'n in a learned age,
Can so resolve the sacred page,
As to discern with equal eye,
Where law, where gospel sever'd lie.

One divine text with double clause
May speak the gospel's voice and law's:
Hence men to blend them both are apt,
Should in one sentence both be wrapt.

But that we may the truth pursue,
And give both law and grace their due,
And God the glory there display'd;
The foll'wing rules will give us aid:

Where'er in sacred writ we see
A word of grace or promise free,
With blessings dropt for Jesus' sake;
We these for gospel-news may take.

But where a precept strict we find
With promise to our doing join'd,
Or threat'ning with a wrathful frown;
This as the law we justly own.

Paragraph II.

The Place and Station of Law and Gospel in particular. Where the difference is noted betwixt the Gospel largely viewed in its dispensation, and strictly in itself: and betwixt the gospel, and faith receiving it.

Wouldst thou distinctly know the sound
Of law and grace, then don't confound
The dispensation with the grace:
For these two have a distinct place.

The gospel thus dispens'd we see,
Believe, and thou shalt saved be;
If not, thou shalt be damn'd to hell,
And in eternal torment dwell.

Here precepts in it are dispens'd,
With threat'nings of damnation fenc'd;
The legal sanction here takes place,
That none may dare abuse free grace.

Yet nor does that command of faith,
Nor this tremendous threat of wrath,
Belong to gospel, strictly so;
But to its dispensation do.

The method of dispensing here
Does law and gospel jointly bear;
Because the law's subservient
Unto the gospel's bless'd intent.

Precepts and threat'nings both make way,
The gospel blessings to convey;
Which differs much (though thus dispens'd)
From laws and threats whereby 'tis fenc'd.

Believe, and thou shalt saved be,
Is gospel, but improperly;
Yet safely men may call it thus,
Because 'tis so dispens'd to us.

But sure, the gospel-news we sing,
Must be some other glorious thing,
Than precepts to believe the same,
Whatever way we blend their name.

The gospel-treasurer's something more
Than means that do apply the store:
Believing is the method pav'd,
The gospel is the thing believ'd.

The precious thing is tidings sweet
Of Christ a Saviour most complete,
To save from sin, and death, and wrath;
Which tidings tend to gender faith.

Faith comes by hearing God's record
Concerning Jesus Christ the Lord;
And is the method Heav'n has blest
For bringing to the gospel-rest.

The joyful sound is news of grace,
And life to Adam's guilty race,
Through Jesus' righteousness divine,
Which bright from faith to faith does shine.

The promise of immortal bliss
Is made to this full righteousness:
By this our right, to life is bought;
Faith begs the right, but buys it not.

True faith receives the offer'd good,
And promise seal'd with precious blood:
It gives no title to the bliss,
But takes th' intitling righteousness.

This object great of saving faith,
And this alone the promise hath;
For 'tis not made to faith's poor act,
But is the prize that faith does take;

And only as it takes the same,
It bears a great and famous name;
For self, and all its grandeur, down
It throws, that Christ may wear the crown.

But if new laws and threats were all
That gospel properly we call,
Then were the precept to believe,
No better news than do and live.

If then we won't distinguish here,
We cloud, but don't the gospel clear;
We blend it with the fiery law,
And all into confusion draw.

The law of works we introduce,
As if old merit were in use,
When man could life by doing won,
Ev'n though the work by grace were done.

Old Adam in his innocence
Deriv'd his pow'r of doing hence:
As all he could was wholly due;
So all the working strength he knew.

Was only from the grace of God,
Who with such favour did him load:
Yet was the promise to his act,
That he might merit by compact.

No merit but of paction could
Of men or angels e'er be told;
The God-man only was so high
To merit by condignity.

Were life now promis'd to our act,
Or to our works by paction tack'd;
Though God should his assistance grant,
'Tis still a doing covenant.

Though Heav'n its helping grace should yield,
Yet merit's still upon the field;
We cast the name, yet still 'tis found
Disclaim'd but with a verbal sound.

If one should borrow tools from you,
That he some famous work might do;
When once his work is well prepar'd,
He sure deserves his due reward;

Yea, justly may he claim his due,
Although he borrow'd tools from you;
Ev'n thus the borrow'd strength of grace
Can't hinder merit to take place.

From whence soe'er we borrow pow'rs,
If life depend on works of ours;
Or if we make the gospel thus
In any sort depend on us;

We give the law the gospel-place,
Rewards of debt the room of grace;
We mix Heav'n's treasures with our trash,
And magnify corrupted flesh.

The new and gospel covenant
No promise to our works will grant;
But to the doing of our Head,
And in him to each gospel-deed.

To godliness, which is great gain,
Promise is said to appertain:
But know, lest you the gospel mar,
In whom it is we godly are.

To him and to his righteousness
Still primar'ly the promise is;
And not ev'n to the gracious deed,
Save in and through the glorious Head.

Pray let us here observe the odds
How law and grace take counter roads,
The law of works no promise spake
Unto the agent, but the act.

It primar'ly no promise made
Unto the person, but the deed:
Whate'er the doing person shar'd,
'Twas for his deed he had reward.

The law of grace o'erturns the scale,
And makes the quite reverse prevail:
Its promise lights not on the deed,
But on the doing person's head;

Not for his doing, but for this,
Because in Christ his person is;
Which union to the living Prince,
His living works and deeds evince.

Good fruits have promise in this view
As union to the Branch they shew;
To whom the promises pertain,
In him all Yea, and all Amen.

Observe, pray; for if here we err,
And do not Christ alone prefer,
But think the promise partly stands
On our obeying new commands;

Th' old cov'nant-place to works we give,
Or mingle grace with do and live;
We overcloud the gospel-charms,
And also break our working arms.

More honour to the law profess,
But giving more we give it less.
Its heavy yoke in vain we draw,
By turning gospel into law.

We rob grace of its joyful sound,
And bury Christ in Moses' ground:
At best we run a legal race
Upon the field of gospel-grace.

Paragraph III.

The Gospel no new Law, but a joyful sound of Grace and Mercy.

Law precepts in a gospel mold,
We may as gospel-doctrine hold;
But gospel-calls in legal dress,
The joyful sound of grace suppress.

Faith and repentance may be taught,
And yet no gospel-tidings brought;
If as mere duties these we press,
And not as parts of promis'd bliss.

If only precepts we present,
Though urg'd with strongest argument,
We leave the wak'ned sinner's hope
In darkness of despair to grope.

The man whom legal precepts chase,
As yet estrang'd to sov'reign grace,
Mistaking evangelic charms,
As if they stood on legal terms.

Looks to himself, though dead in sin,
For grounds of faith and hope within,
Hence fears and fetters grow and swell,
Since nought's within but sin and hell.

But faith, that looks to promis'd grace,
Clean out of self the soul will chase,
To Christ for righteousness and strength,
And finds the joyful rest at length.

Proud flesh and blood will startle here,
And hardly such report can bear,
That Heav'n all saving store will give
To them that work not, but believe.

Yet not of works, but 'tis the race
Of faith, that it may be of grace:
For faith does nothing but agree
To welcome this salvation free.

'Come down, Zaccheus, quickly come,
Salvation's brought unto thy home:
In vain thou climb'st the legal tree;
Salvation freely comes to thee.

Thou dream'st of coming up to terms,
Come down into my saving arms:
Down, down, and get a pardon free,
On terms already wrought by me.

Behold the blessings of my blood,
Bought for thy everlasting good,
And freely all to be convey'd,
Upon the price already paid.

I know thou hast no good, and see
I cannot stand on terms with thee,
Whose fall has left thee nought to claim,
Nor aught to boast but sin and shame.'

The law of heavy hard commands
Confirms the wak'ned sinner's bands;
But grace proclaims relieving news,
And scenes of matchless mercy shews.

No precept clogs the gospel-call,
But wherein grace is all in all;
No law is here but that of grace,
Which brings relief in ev'ry case.

The gospel is the promise fair
Of grace all ruins to repair,
And leaves no sinner room to say,
'Alas! this debt I cannot pay;

This grievous yoke I cannot bear,
This high demand I cannot clear.'
Grace stops the mouth of such complaints,
And store of full supply presents.

The glorious gospel is (in brief)
A sov'reign word of sweet relief;
Not clogg'd with cumbersome commands,
To bind the soul's receiving hands.

'Tis joyful news of sov'reign grace,
That reigns in state through righteousness,
To ransom from all threat'ning woes,
And answer all commanding do's:

This gospel comes with help indeed,
Adapted unto sinners need:
These joyful news that suit their case,
Are chariots of his drawing grace:

'Tis here the Spirit pow'rful rides,
The fountains of the deep divides;
The King of glory's splendour shews,
And wins the heart with welcome news.

Paragraph IV.

The Gospel further described, as a bundle of good news and gracious promises.

The first grand promise forth did break
In threats against the tempting snake;
So may the gospel in commands,
Yet nor in threats nor precepts stand:

But 'tis a doctrine of free grants
To sinners, that they may be saints;
A joyful sound of royal gifts,
To obviate unbelieving shifts:

A promise of divine supplies,
To work all gracious qualities
In those, whose pronest to rebel,
Are only qualify'd for hell.

Courting vile sinners, ev'n the chief,
It leaves no cloak for unbelief;
But ev'n on gross Manassehs calls,
On Mary Magdalens and Sauls.

'Tis good news of a fountain ope
For sin and filth; a door of hope
For those that lie in blood and gore
And of a slave for ev'ry sore.

Glad news of sight unto the blind;
Of light unto the dark'ned mind;
Of healing to the deadly sick;
And mercy both to Jew and Greek.

Good news of gold to poor that lack;
Of raiment to the naked back;
Of binding to the wounds that smart;
And rest unto the weary heart.

Glad news of freedom to the bound;
Of store all losses to refound;
Of endless life unto the dead;
And present help in time of need.

Good news of Heav'n, where angels dwell,
To those that well deserved hell;
Of strength too weak for work and war,
And access near to those afar.

Glad news of joy to those that weep,
And tender care of cripple sheep;
Of shelter to the soul pursu'd,
And cleansing to the hellish-hu'd:

Of floods to sap the parched ground,
And streams to run the desert round;
Of ransom to the captive caught,
And harbour to the found'rig yacht;

Of timely aid to weary groans;
Of joy restor'd to broken bones;
Of grace divine to graceless preys,
And glory to the vile and base:

Of living water pure, that teems
On fainting souls refreshing streams;
Of gen'rous wine to cheer the strong,
And milk to feed the tender young:

Of saving faith to faithless ones;
Of soft'ning grace to flinty stones;
Of pardon to a guilty crew,
And mercy free, where wrath was due.

Good news of welcome kind to all,
That come to Jesus at his call;
Yea, news of drawing pow'r, when scant,
To those that fain would come, and can't.

Glad news of rich mysterious grace,
And mercy meeting ev'ry case;
Of store immense all voids to fill,
And free to whosoever will:

Of Christ exalted as a Prince,
Pardons to give and penitence;
Of grace o'er coming stubborn wills,
And leaping over Bether hills.

Faith comes by hearing these reports;
Straight to the court of grace resorts,
And free of mercenary thoughts,
Gets royal bounty all for nought.

Faith's wing within the clammy sea
Of legal merit cannot fly;
But mounting mercy's air apace,
Soars in the element of grace.

But as free love the blessing gives
To him that works not, but believes;
So faith, once reaching its desire,
Works hard by love, but not for hire.
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