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Poems By Poet Ralph Erskine  7/31/2014 6:39:47 PM
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  Best Poems From
  RALPH ERSKINE (1685-1752)
 
 

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  1.     

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
   
 

   
   
 

  2.     

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
   
 

   
   
 

  3.     

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
   
 

   
   
 

  4.     

The Believer's Espousals : Chapter I.

Preface.
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,
despised
And his the way of life by
doing
priz'd!
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
   
 
 

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Poems By Poet Ralph Erskine