For thy Maker is thine husband; the LORD of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called.
~ Isaiah 54:5
Turn, O backsliding children, saith the LORD; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
~ Jeremiah 3:14
Now when I passed by thee, and looked upon thee, behold, thy time was the time of love; and I spread my skirt over thee, and covered thy nakedness: yea, I sware unto thee, and entered into a covenant with thee, saith the Lord GOD, and thou becamest mine.
~ Ezekiel 16:8
And I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment, and in lovingkindness, and in mercies. I will even betroth thee unto me in faithfulness: and thou shalt know the LORD.
~ Hosea 2:19-20
He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
~ John 3:29
For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
~ 2 Corinthians 11:2-3
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
~ Colossians 2:20-23
Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
~ Romans 14:1-3
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
~ Colossians 2:8
But foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.
~ 2 Timothy 2:23, Titus 3:9
Gospel Sonnets, Or Spiritual Songs: The Believer Espousals, by Ralph Erskine. The following contains an excerpt from his work.
For thy Maker is thine husband.
~ Isaiah 54:5a
The Fruits of the Believer’s Marriage With Christ Particularly Gospel Holiness, and Obedience to the Law as a Rule.
The sweet solemnity of the marriage now over,
and the sad effects of the remains of
a legal spirit. The match is made,
with little din ’tis done ;
But with great pow’r unequal prizes won.
The Lamb has fairly won his worthless bride ;
She her great Lord,
and all his store beside.
He made the poorest bargain,
though most wise ;
And she, the fool,
has won the worthy prize.
Deep floods of everlasting love and grace,
That under ground ran an eternal space,
Now rise aloft ‘bove banks of sin and hell,
And o’er the tops of massy mountains swell.
In streams of blood are tow’rs of guilt o’erflown,
Down with the rapid purple current thrown.
The bride now as her all can Jesus own,
And prostrate at his footstool cast her crown,
Disclaiming all her former groundless hope,
While in the dark her soul did weary grope.
Down tumble all the hills of self-conceit,
In him alone she sees herself complete ;
Does his fair person with fond arms embrace,
And all her hopes on his full merit place ;
Discard her former mate,
and henceforth draw No hope,
no expectation from the law.
Tho’ thus her new created-nature soars,
And lives aloft on Jesus’ heav’nly stores,
Yet, apt to stray, her old adult’rous heart
Oft takes her old renounced husband’s part:
A legal cov’nant is so deep ingrained
Upon the human nature, laps’d and stain’d,
That, till her spirit mount the pnrest clime,
She’s never totally divorc’d in time.
Hid in her corrupt part’s proud bosom lurks
Some hope of life still by the law of works.
Hence flow the following evils, more or less;
Preferring oft her holy partial dress,
Before her Husband’s perfect righteousness.
Hence joying more in grace already giv’n,
Than in her Head and stock that’s all in heav’n.
Hence grieving more the want of frames and grace,
Than of himself the spring of all solace.
Hence guilt her soul imprisons, lusts prevail,
While to the law her rents insolvent fail,
And yet her faithless heart rejects her Husband’s bail.
Hence foul disorders rise, and racking fears.
While doubtful of his clearing past arrears:
Vain dreaming, since her own obedience fails,
His likewise little for her help avails.
Hence duties are a task, while all in view
Is heavy yokes of laws, or old or new:
Whereas, were once her legal bias broke,
She’d find her Lord’s commands an easy yoke.
No galling precepts on her back he lays,
Nor any debt demands, save what he pays
By promised aid, but lo! the grevious law
Demanding brick, wont aid her with a straw,
Hence also fretful, grudging, discontent,
Cray’d by the law, finding her treasure spent,
And doubting if her Lord will pay the rent.
Hence pride of duties too does often swell,
Presuming she performed so very well.
Hence pride of graces and inherent worth
Springs from her corrupt legal bias forth;
And boasting more a present with’ring frame,
Than her exalted Lord’s unfading name.
Hence many falls and plunges in the mire,
As many new conversions do require:
Because her faithless heart’s sad follics breed
Much lewd departure from her living Head,
Who to reprove her aggravated crimes,
Leaves her abandoned to herself at times:
That, falling into frightful deeps, she may
From sad experience learn more stress to lay,
Not on her native efforts, but at length
On Christ alone, her righteousness and strength:
Conscious, while in her works she seeks repose,
Her legal spirit breeds her many woes.
Faith’s victories over sin and Satan, through new and farther discoveries of Christ, making believers more fruitful in holiness than all other pretenders to works.
The gospel-path leads heaven ward; hence the fray,
Hell-pow’rs still push the bride the legal way.
So hot’s the war, her life’s a troubled flood,
A field of battle, and a scene of blood.
But he that once commenced the work in her,
Whose working fingers drop the sweetest myrrh,
Will still advance it by alluring force,
And from her ancient mate, more clean divorce:
Since ’tis her antiquated spouse the law
The strength of sin and hell did on her draw.
Piece-meal she finds hell’s mighty force abate,
By new recruits from her Almighty Mate.
Fresh armour, sent from grace’s magazine,
Makes her proclaim eternal war with sin.
The shield of faith dipt in the Surety’s blood,
Drown’s fiery darts, as in a crimson flood.
The Captain’s ruddy banner lifted high,
Makes hell retire and all the furies fly.
Yea, of his glory every recent glance
Makes sin decay and holiness advance.
In kindness therefore does her heav’nly Lord
Renew’d discov’ries of his love afford,
That her enamour’d soul may with the view
Be cast unto his holy mould anew:
For when he manifests his glorious grace,
The charming favour of his smiling face,
Into his image fair transforms her soul’,
And wafts her upward to the heav’nly pole,
From glory unto glory by degrees,
“Till vision and fruition shall suffice.
And thus in holy beauty Jesus’ bride
Shines far beyond the painted sons of pride.
Vain merit-vouchers, and their subtile apes,
In all their most refin’d, delusive shapes.
No lawful child is ere the marriage born ;
Though therefore virtues feign’d their life adorn.
The fruit they bear is but a spurious brood,
Before this happy marriage be made good.
And ’tis not strange, for from a corrupt tree
No fruit divinely good produced can be?
But, lo! the bride, graft in the living root,
Brings forth most precious aromatic fruit:
When her new heart and her new husband meet,
Her fruitful womb is like a heap of wheat,
Beset with fragrant lilies round about”,
All divine graces in a comely root,
Burning within, and shining bright without.
And thus the bride, as sacred scripture saith,
When dead unto the law through Jesus’ death,
And matched with him, bears to her God and Lord
Accepted fruit, with incense pure decor’d.
Freed from law-debt, and bless’d with gospel-ease,
Her work is now her dearest Lord to please
By living on him as her ample stock,
And leaning to him as her potent rock,
The fruit that each law-wedded mortal brings,
To self accresces, as from self it springs,
So base a rise must have a base recourse,
The spring can mount no higher than its source,
But Jesus can his bride’s sweet fruit commend,
As brought from him the root, to him the end.
She does by such an offspring him avow
To be her Alpha and Omega too.
The work and warfare he begins, he crowns,
Though mangre various conflicts, ups and downs.
Thus through the darksome vale she makes her way,
Until the morning dawn of glorious day.
Section III. True saving Faith magnifying the Law, both as a covenant and as a rule.
False faith unfruitful and ruining.
Proud nature may reject this gospel-theme,
And curse it as an Antinomian scheme.
Let slander bark, let envy grin and fight,
The curse that is so causeless shall not light.
If they that fain would make by holy force
“Twixt sinners and the law a clean divorce,
And court the Lamb a virgin chaste to wife,
Be charged as foes to holiness of life,
Well may they suffer gladly on this score,
Apostles great were so maligned before.
“Do we make void the law through faith?” nay, why,
We do it more fulfil and magnify
Than fiery seraphs can with holiest flash ;
Avaunt, vain legalists, unworthy trash.
When as a cov’nant stern the law commands,
Faith puts her Lamb’s obedience in its hands:
And when its threats hush out a fiery flood,
Faith stops the current with her victim’s blood.
The law can crave no more, yet craves no less,
Than active, perfect righteousness.
Yet here is all, yea, more than its demand,
All rendered to it by a divine hand.
Mankind is bound law-service still to pay,
Yea, angel kind is also bound t’obcy.
It may by human and angelic blaze
Have honour, but in infinite partial ways.
These natures have its lustre once defae’d,
‘Twill be by part of both for aye disgrae’d.
Yet had they all obsequious stood and true,
They’d giv’n the law no more than homage due.
But faith gives’t honour yet more great, more odd,
The high, the humble service of its God.
Again to view the holy law’s command,
As lodged in a Mediator’s hand;
Faith gives it honour, as a rule of life,
And makes the bride the Lamb’s obedient wife.
Due homage to the law those never did,
To whom the obedience pure of faith is hid.
“Faith works by love, and purifies the heart,”
And truth advances in the inward part;
On carnal hearts impresses divine stamps,
And sully’d lives inverts to shining lamps,
From Abram’s seed, that are most strong in faith.
The law most honour, God most glory hath.
But due respect to neither can be found,
Where unbelief ne’er got a mortal wound,
To still the virtue-vaunter’s empty sound.
Good works he boasts, a path he never trode,
Who is not yet the workmanship of God’,
In Jesus thereunto created new;
Nois’d works that spring not hence are but a show,
True faith, that’s of a noble divine race,
Is still a holy, sanctifying grace;
And greater honour to the law does share,
Than boasters all that breath the vital air.
E’en heathen morals vastly may outshine
The works that flow not from a faith divine.
Pretensions high to faith a number have,
But ah! it is a faith that cannot save:
“We trust, say they, in Christ, we hope in God ;”
Nor blush to blaze their rotten faith abroad.
Nor try the trust of which they make a show,
If of a saving or a damning hue.
They own their sins are ill; true, but, ’tis sad,
They never thought their faith and hope were bad.
How evident’s their home-bred nat’ral blaze,
Who dream they have believed well all their days;
Yet never felt their unbelief, nor knew
The need of pow’r their natures to renew?
Blind souls that boast of faith, yet live in sin,
May hence conclude their faith is to begin:
Or know they shall, by such an airy faith,
Believe themselves to everlasting wrath.
Faith that nor leads to good, nor keeps from ill,
Will never lead to heav’n nor keep from hell.
The body without breath is dead no less?;
No less Is faith without the works of holiness?
How rare is saving faith, when earth is crammed
With such as will believe, and yet be damn’d;
Believe the gospel yet with dread and awe
Have never truly yet believ’d the law?
That matter shall be well, they hope too soon,
Who never yet have seen themselves undone.
Can of salvation their belief be true,
Who never yet believ’d damnation due?
Can these of endless life have solid faith,
Who never fear’d law-threats of endless death?
Nay, sail’d they ha’nt yet to the living shore,
Who never felt their sinful woful sore.
Imaginary faith is but a blind,
That bears no fruit, but of a deadly kind ;
For can from such a wild, unwholesome root
The least production raise of living fruit.
But saving faith can such an offspring breed,
Her native product is a holy seed.
The fairest issues of the vital breath
Spring from the fertile womb of heav’n-born faith ;
Yet boasts she nothing of her own, but brings
Auxiliaries from the King of kings,
Who graves his royal law in rocky hearts,
And gracious aid in soft’ning show’rs imparts.
This gives prolific virtue to the faith,
Inspir’d at first by his almighty breath,
Hence, fetching all her succours from abroad,
She still enploys this mighty pow’r of God.
Drain’d clean of native pow’rs and legal aim’,
No strength but in and from Jehovah claims.
And thus her service to the law o’ertops
The tow’ring zeal of Pharisaic fops.
Section IV. The believer only, being married to Christ, is justified and sanctified ; and the more gospel freedom, from the law as a covenant, the more holy conformity to it as a rule.
Thus doth the husband by his father’s will
Both for and in his bride the law fulfil:
For her, as ’tis a covenant ; and then
In her, as ’tis a rule of life to men.
First, all law-debt he most completely pays;
Then of law-duties all the charge defrays.
Does first assume her guilt, and loose her chains ;
And then with living water wash her stains;
Her fund restore, and then her form repair,
And make his filthy bride a beauty fair ;
His perfect righteousness most freely grant,
And then his holy image deep implant;
Into her heart his precious seed indrop,
Which, in his time, will yield a glorious crop.
But by alternate turns his plants he brings
Thro’ robing winters and repairing springs.
Hence, pining oft, they suffer sad decays,
By dint of shady nights and stormy days.
But blest with sap, and influence from above,
They live and grow anew in faith and love;
Until transplanted to the higher soil,
Where furies tread no more, nor foxes spoil.
While Christ, the living root remains on high,
The noble plant of grace can never die:
Nature decays, and so will all the fruit,
That merely rises on a mortal root.
Their works, however splendid, are but dead,
That from a living fountain don’t proceed ;
Their fairest fruit is but a garnish’d shrine,
That are not grafted in the glorious vine.
Devoutest hypocrites are rank’d in rolls
Of painted puppets, not of living souls.
No offspring but of Christ’s fair bride is good,
This happy marriage has a holy brood
Let sinners learn this mystery to read,
We bear to glorious Christ no precious seed,
‘Till, thro’ the law, we to the law be dead’.
No true obedience to the law, but fore’d,
Can any yield, ’till from the law divorc’d.
Nor to it as a rule, is homage giv’n,
Till from it, as a cov’nant, men be driv’n,
Yea more, till once they this divorce attain,
Divorce from sin they but attempt in vain ;
The cursed yoke of sin they basely draw,
‘Till once unyoked from the cursed law.
Sin’s full dominion keeps its native place,
While men are under law, not under grace?
For mighty hills of enmity won’t move,
‘Till touch’d by soy’reign grace and mighty love.
Were but the gospel-secret understood,
How God can pardon where he sees no good;
How grace and mercy free, that can’t be bought,
Reign thro’ a righteousness already wrought:
Where woful reigning unbelief depos’d,
Mysterious grace to blinded minds disclos’d:
Did heav’n with gospel-news its pow’r convey,
And sinners hear a faithful God but say,
“No more law-debt remains for you to pay;
Lo! by the loving surety all’s discharg’d.”
Their hearts behov’d with love to be enlarg’d:
Love, the succinct fullfilling of the law”,
Were then the easy yoke they’d sweetly draw,
Love would constrain and to his service move
Who left them nothing else to do but love.
Slight now his loving precepts if they can;
No, no; his conqu’ring kindness leads the van.
When everlasting love exerts the sway,
They judge themselves more kindly bound t’ obey ;
Bound by redeeming grace in stricter sense
Than ever Adam was in innocence,
Why now they are not bound, as formerly,
To do and live, nor yet to do or die;
Both life and death are put in Jesus’ hands,
Who urges neither in his kind commands,
Not servile work their life and heav’n to win,
Nor slavish labour death and hell to shun.
Their aims are purer, since they understood
Their heav’n was bought, their hell was quench’d with blood.
The oars of gospel-service now they steer,
Without or legal hope or slavish fear.
The bride in sweet security can dwell,
Nor bound to purchase heav’n nor vanquish hell:
But bound for him the race of love to run,
Whose love to her left none of these undone;
She’s bound to be the Lamb’s obedient wife:
And in his strength to serve him during life,
To glorify his loving name for ay,
Who left her not a single mite to pay
Of legal debt, but wrote for her at large,
In characters of blood, a full discharge.
Henceforth no servile task her labours prove,
But grateful fruits of revential love.
Section V. Gospel-grace giving no liberty nor freedom to sin, but to holy service and pure obedience.
The glorious husband’s love can’t lead the wife
To whoredom, or licentiousness of life:
Nay, nay; she finds his warmest love within,
The hottest fire to melt her heart for sin.
His kind embrace is still the strongest cord
To bind her to the service of her Lord,
The more her faith insures this love of his,
The more his law her delectation is.
Some dream, they might, who this assurance win,
Take latitude and liberty to sin.
Ah! such bewray their ignorance, and prove
They want the lively sense of drawing love,
And how its sweet constraining force can move.
The ark of grace came never in to dwell,
But Dagon-lusts before it headlong fell.
Men basely came into lasciviousness
Abuse the doctrine, not the work of grace.
Huggers of divine love in vice’s path,
Have but the fancy of it, not the faith.
They never soar’d aloft on grace’s wing,
That knew not grace to be a holy thing.
When regnant she the pow’rs of hell appals,
And sin’s dominion in the ruin falls.
Curst is the crew, whose
Makes grace a cover to their idleness.
The bride of Christ will sure be very loth
To make his love a pillow for her sloth.
Why, may’nt she sin the more that grace abounds?
Oh! God forbid! the very thought confounds.
When dead unto the law, she’s dead to sin ;
How can she any longer live therein’?
To neither of them now is she a slave,
But shares the conquest of the great, the brave,
The mighty Gen’ral, her victorious bead,
Who broke the double chain to free the bride.
Hence, prompted now with gratitude and love,
Her cheerful feet in swift obedience move,
More strong the cords of love to duty draw,
Than hell and all the curses of the law.
When with seraphic love the breast’s inspir’d
By that are all the other graces fir’d ;
These kindling round, the burning heart and frame
In life and walk send forth a holy flame.
A Caution To All Against A Legal Spirit; Especially To Those That Have a Profession Without Power, And Learning Without Grace.
Why, says the haughty heart of legalists,
Bound to the law of works by nat’ral twists,
“Why such ado about a law-divorce;
Men’s lives are bad, and would you have ’em worse?
Such Antinomian stuff, with laboured toil,
Would human beauty’s native lustre spoil.
What wickedness beneath the cov’ring lurks,
That lewdly would divorce us from all works?
Why stir about the law and grace?
We know that merit cannot now take place.
And what need more?”
Well, to let slander drop,
Be merit for a little here the scope.
Ah! many learn to lisp in gospel terms,
Who yet embrace the law with legal arms.
By wholesome education some are taught
To own that human merit now is naught;
Who faintly but renounce proud merit’s name,
And cleave refin’dly to the Popish scheme.
For graceful works expecting Divine bliss;
And, when they fail, trust Christ for what’s amiss.
Thus to his righteousness profess to flee;
Yet by it still would their own saviours be.
They seem to works of merit bloody foes;
Yet seek salvation, as it were’, by those.
Blind Gentiles found, who did not seek nor know;
But Isra’l lost it whole, who sought it so’.
Let all that love to wear the gospel-dress,
Know that as sin, so dastard righteousness
Has slain its thousands: who, in tow’ring pride,
The righteousness of Jesus Christ deride:
A robe divinely wrought, divinely won,
Yet cast by men for rags that are their own.
But some to legal works seem whole deny’d,
Yet would by gospel works be justify’d,
By faith, repentance, love, and other such;
These dreamers being righteous overmuch,
Like Uzza give the ark a wrongful touch.
By legal deeds, however gospeliz’d,
Can e’er tremendous justice be appeas’d?
Or sinners justify’d before that God,
Whose law is perfect and exceeding broad”?
Nay, faith itself, that leading gospel grace,
Holds, as a work, no justifying place.
Just Heav’n to man for righteousness imputes
Not faith itself, or in its acts or fruits;
But Jesus’ meritorious life and death,
Faith’s proper object, all the honour hath.
From this doth faith ‘derive its glorious fame,
Its great renown and justifying name:
Receiving all things, but deserving nought;
By faith’s all begged and taken, nothing bought.
Its highest name is from the wedding vote,
So instrumental in the marriage knot.
Jehovah, lends the bride, in that blest hour,
Th’ exceeding greatness of his mighty pow’r?;
Which sweetly does her heart-consent command
To reach the wealthy Prince her naked hand.
For close to his embrace she’d never stir,
If first his loving arms embrac’d not her:
But this he does by kindly gradual chase,
Of rousing, reaching, teaching, drawing grace.
He shews her, in his sweetest love address,
His glory, as the Sun of righteousness;
At which all dying glories earth adorn
Shrink like the sick moon at the wholesome morn.
This glorious Sun arising with a grace,
Dark shades of creature-righteousness to chase,
Faith now disclaims itself, and all the train
Of virtues formerly accounted gain;
And counts them dungt, with holy, meck disdain
For now appears the height, the depth immense
Of divine bounty and benevolence:
Amazing mercy, ignorant of bounds!
Which most enlarged faculties confounds.
How vain, how void now seem the vulgar charms,
The monarch’s pomp of courts, and pride of arms?
The boasted beauties of the human kind,
The pow’rs of body, and the gifts of mind?
Lo! in the granduer of Immanuel’s train,
All’s swallowed up, as rivers in the main.
He’s seen, when gospel light and sight is giv’n.
Encompass’d round with all the pomp of heav’n.
The soul, now taught of God, sees human schools
Make Christless Rabbis only litrate fools;
And that, till divine teaching pow’rful draw,
No learning will divorce them from the law.
Mere argument may clear the head, and force
A verbal, not a cordial clean divorce.
Hence many, taught the wholesome terms of art,
Have gospel-heads, but still a legal heart.
‘Till sov’reign grace and pow’r the sinner catch,
He takes not Jesus for his only match,
Nay, works compete! Ah! true, however odd,
Dead works are rival with the living God.
‘Till Heav’n’s preventing mercy clear the sight,
Confound the pride with supernat’ral light;
No baughty soul of human kind is brought
To mortify her self-exalting thought.
Yet holiest creatures in clay-tents that lodge,
Be but their lives scann’d by the dreadful Judge;
How shall they e’er his lawful search endure,
Before whose purest eyes heav’n is not pure?
How must their black indictment be enlarged,
When by him angels are with folly charg’d?
What human worth shall stand, when he shall scan?
O may his glory stain the pride of man.
How wond’rous are the tracts of divine grace?
How searchless are his ways, how vast th’ abyss?
Let haughty reason stop, and fear to leap:
Angelic plummets cannot sound the deep.
With scorn he turns his eyes from haughty kings,
With pleasure looks on low and worthless things:
Deep are his judgments, sov’reign is his will,
Let every mortal worm be dumb, be still.
In vain proud reason swells beyond its bound:
God and his counsels are a gulf profound,
An ocean wherein all our thoughts are drown’d.
Arguments and Encouragements to Gospel-Ministers to Avoid a Legal Strain of Doctrine, And Endeavour the Sinners’s Match with Christ by Gospel-Means.
A legal Spirit the root of damnable errors.
Ye heralds great, that blow in name of God,
The silver trump of gospel-grace abroad:
And sound, by warrant from the great I AM,
The nuptial treaty with the worthy Lamb,
Might ye but stoop the unpolish’d muse to brook,
And from a shrub an wholesome berry pluck;
Ye’d take encouragement from what is said,
By gospel-means to make the marriage-bed,
And to your glorious Lord a virgin chaste to wed.
The more proud nature bears a legal sway,
The more should preachers bend the gospel-way:
Oft in the church arise destructive schisms
From anti-evangelic aphorisms;
A legal spirit may be justly nam’d
The fertile womb of every error damı’d.
Hence Pop’ry, so connat’ral since the fall,
Makes legal works like saviours merit all;
Yea, more than merit on their shoulder loads,
To supererogate like demi-gods.
Hence proud Socinians set their reason high,
‘Bove ev’ry precious gospel-mystery,
Its divine author stab, and without fear
The purple covert of his chariot tear.
With these run Arian monsters in a line,
All gospel truth at once to undermine;
To darken and delete, like hellish foes,
The brightest colour of the Sharon Rose.
At best its human red they but decry,
That blot the divine whitė, the native dye.
Hence dare Arminians too, with brazen face,
Give man’s free-will the throne of God’s free grace;
Whose self-exalting tenets clearly shew
Great ignorance of law and gospel too.
Hence Neonomians spring, as sundry call
The new law-makers, to redress our fall.
The law of works into repentance, faith,
Is chang’d, as their Baxterian Bible saith.
Shaping the gospel to an easy law,
They build their tottring house with hay and straw;
Yet hid, like Rachel’s idols in the stuff,
Their legal hand within a gospel-muff.
Yea, hence spring Antinomian vile refuse,
Whose gross abettors gospel-grace abuse;
Unskill’d how grace’s silken latchet binds
Her captives to the law with willing minds.
Section II. A legal strain of Doctrine discovered and discarded.
No wonder Paul the legal spirit curse,
Of fatal errors such a feeding nurse.
He, in Jehovah’s great tremendous name,
Condemns per verters of the gospel-scheme.
He damn’d the sophist rude, the babbling priest
Would venture to corrupt it in the least;
Yea, curst the heav’nly angel down to hell,
That daring wonld another gospel tell’.
Which crime is charged on these that dare dispense
The self-same gospel in another sense.
Christ is not preached in truth, but in disguise,
If his bright glory half absconded lies.
When gospel-soldiers, that divide the word,
Scarce brandish any but the legal sword.
While Christ the author of the law they press,
More than the end of it for righteousness.
Christ as a seeker of our service trace
More than a giver of enabling grace.
The king commanding holiness they show,
More than the Prince exalted to bestow;
Yea, more on Christ the sin revenger dwell,
Than Christ Redeemer both from sin and hell.
With legal spade the gospel field he delves,
Who thus drives sinners in unto themselves;
Halving the truth that should be all reveal’d,
The sweetest part of Christ is oft conceal’d.
We bid men turn from sin, but seldom say,
“Behold the Lamb that takes all sin away?!”
Christ, by the gospel rightly understood,
Not only treats a peace, but makes it good.
Those suitors therefore of the bride, who hope
By force to drag her with the legal rope,
Nor use the drawing cord of conquering grace,
Pursue with flaming zeal a fruitless chase;
In vain lame doings urge, with solemn awe,
To bribe the fury of the fiery law:
With equal success to the fool that aims
By paper walls to bound devouring flames.
The law’s but mock’d by their most graceful deed.
That wed not first the law-fulfilling Head;
It values neither how they wrought nor wept,
That slight the ark wherein alone ’tis kept.”
Yet legalists, Do, Do, with ardour press,
And with prepost’rous zeal and warm address,
Would seem the greatest friends to holiness:
But vainly (could such opposites accord)
Respect the law, and yet reject the Lord.
They shew not Jesus as the way to bliss,
But Judas-like betray him with a kiss
Of boasted works, or mere profession puft,
Law-boasters proving, but law-breakers oft.
The hurtfulness of not preaching Christ, and distinguishing duly between law and gospel.
Hell cares not how crude holiness be preach’l,
If sinner’s match with Christ be never reach’d;
Knowing their holiness is but a sham,
Who ne’er are marry’d to the holy Lamb.
Let words have never such a pious shew,
And blaze aloft in rude professor’s view,
With sacred aromatics richly spic’d,
If they but drown in silence glorious Christ ;
Or, if he may some vacant room supply,
Make him a subject only by the bye;
They mar true holiness with tickling chat,
To breed a bastard Pharisaic brat.
They woefully the gospel-message brock,
Make fearful havock of their master’s flock;
Yet please themselves and the blind multitude,
By whom the gospel’s little understood.
Rude souls, perhaps, imagine little odds
Between the legal and the gospel roads:
But vainly men attempt to blend the two;
They differ more than Christ and Moses do.
Moses evangelizing in a shade,
By types the news of light approaching spread ;
But from the law of works, by him proclaim’d,
No ray of gospel-grace or mercy gleam’d.
By nature’s light the law to all is known,
But lightsome news of gospel grace to none.
The doing cov’nant now, in part or whole,
Is strong to damn, but weak to save à soul.
It hurts, and cannot help, but as it tends
Thro’ mercy to subserve some gospel-ends.
Law-thunder roughly to the gospel tames,
The gospel mildly to the law reclaims.
The fiery law, as ’tis a covenant,
Schools men to see the gospel-aid they want;
Then gospel aid does sweetly them incline
Back to the law, as ’tis a rule divine.
Heav’n’s healing work is oft commenc’d with wounds,
Terror begins what loving-kindness crowns.
Preachers may therefore press the fiery law,
To strike the Christless men with dreadful awe.
Law-threats which for his sin to hell depress,
Yea, damn him for his rotten righteousness;
That while he views the law exceeding broad,
He fain may wed the righteousness of God.
But, ah! to press law-works as terms of life,
Was ne’er the way to court the Lamb a wife.
To urge conditions on the legal frame,
Is to renew the vain old cov’nant game.
The law is good, when lawfully ’tis used,
But most destructive, when it is abus’d.
They set not duties in the proper sphere,
Who duly law and gospel don’t revere;
But under massy chains let sinners lie,
As tributaries, or to do or die.
Nor make the law a squaring rule of life,
But in the gospel-throat a bloody knife.
Section IV. Damnable Pride and Self-righteousness, so natural to all men, has little need to be encouraged by legal preaching.
The legal path proud nature loves so well,
(Tho’ yet ’tis but the cleanest road to hell)
That, lo! e’en these that take the foulest ways,
Whose lewdness no controuling bridle stays;
If but their drowsy conscience raise its voice,
‘Twill speak the law of works their native choice,
And echo to the rousing sound,
” Ah! true: I cannot hope to live unless I do.”
No conscious breast of mortal kind can trace
The my’stry deep of being saved by grace.
Of this nor is the nat’ral conscience skill’d;
Nor will admit it, when it is reveal’d;
But pushes at the gospel like a ram,
As proxy for the law, against the Lamb.
The proud self righteous Pharisaic strain
Is, “Blest be God I’m not like other men ;
I read and pray, give alms, I mourn and fast;
And therefore hope to get to heav’n at last:
For tho’ from ev’ry sin I be not free,
Great multitudes of men are worse than me,
I’m none of those that swear, cheat, drink, and whore!”.
Thus on the law he builds his Babel tow’r.
Yea, ev’n the vilest cursed debauchee
Will make the law of works his very plea;
“Why, says the rake, what take you me to be?
A Turk or infidel (you lie)
I can’t Be termed so base, but by a sycophant;
Only I hate to act the whining saint.
I am a Christian true ; and therefore bode,
It shall be well with me, I hope in God.
An’t I an honest man?
Yea, I defy
The tongue that dare assert black to mine eye.’
Perhaps, when the reprover turns his back,
He’ll vend the viler wares o’ ‘s open’d pack,
And with his fellows, in a strain more big,
“ Bid damn the base, uncharitable whig.
These scoundrel hypocrites (he’ll proudly say)
Think none shall ever merit heav’n but they.
And yet we may compete with them: for see,
The best have blemishes as well as we.
We have as good a heart (we trust) as these,
Tho’ not their vain superfluous shew and blaze.
Bigotted zealots, whose full crimes are hid,
Would damn us all to hell: but, God forbid.
Whatever such a whining sect profess,
‘Tis but a nice, morose, affected dress.
And tho’ we don’t profess so much as they,
We hope to compass heav’n a shorter way:
We seek God’s mercy, and are all along
Most free of malice, and do no man wrong.
But whims fantastic shan’t our heads annoy,
That would our social liberties destroy,
Sure, right religion never was designed
To mar the native mirth of human kind.
How weak are those that would be thought nonsuch!
How mad, that would be righteous overmuch!
We have sufficient, though we be not cramm’d:
We’ll therefore hope the best, let them be damn’d.”
Ah! horrid talk! yet so the legal strain
Lards even the language of the most profane.
Thus devilish pride o’erlooks a thousand faults,
And on a legal ground itself exalts.
This do and live, tho’ doing pow’r be lost,
In ev’ry mortal is proud nature’s boast.
How does a vain conceit of goodness swell
And feed false hope, amidst the shades of hell?
Shall we, who should by gospel-methods draw,
Send sinners to their nat’ral spouse the law;
And harp upon the doing string to such,
Who ignorantly dream they do so much?
Why, thus, instead of courting Christ a bride,
We harden rebels in their native pride.
Much rather ought we in God’s name to place
His great artill’ry straight against their face;
And throw hot Sinai thunderbolts around,
To burn their tow’ring hopes down to the ground.
To make the pillars of their pride to shake,
And damn their doing to the burning lake.
To curse the doers unto endless thrall,
That never did continue to do all.
To scorch their conscience with the flaming air,
And sink their haughty thoughts in deep despair ;
Denouncing Ebal’s black revenging doom,
To blast their expectation in the bloom:
‘Till once vain hope of life by works give place
Unto a solid hope of life by grace.
The vigorous use of means is safely urg’d,
When pressing calls from legal dregs are purged;
But most unsafely in a fed’ral dress,
Confounding terms of life with means of grace.
Oh! dangrous is th’ attempt proud flesh to please,
Or send a sinner to the law for ease;
Who rather needs to feel its piercing dart,
‘Till dreadful pangs invade his trembling heart;
And thither only should be sent for flames
Of fire to burn his rotten hopes and claims;
That thus disarmed he gladly may embrace,
And grasp with eagerness the news of grace.
Section V. The Gospel of divine grace the only means of converting sinners; and should be preached therefore most clearly, fully, and freely.
They ought, who royal grace’s heralds be,
To trumpet loud salvation, full and free ;
Nor safely can to humour mortal pride,
In silence evangelic myst’ries hide.
What heaven is pleas’d to give, dare we refuse;
Or under ground conceal, lest men abuse?
Suppress the gospel flow’r, upon pretence
That some vile spiders may suck poison thence?
Christ is a stumbling-block, shall we neglect
To preach him, lest the blind should break their neck?
That high he’s for the fall of many set
As well as for the rise, must prove no let.
No grain of precious truth must be supprest,
Tho’ reprobates should to their ruin wrest.
Shall heaven’s corruscant lamp be dimm’d, that pays
Its daily tribute down in golden rays?
Because some, blinded with the blazing gleams,
Share not the pleasure of the lightning beams.
Let those be hardened, petrify’d and harm’d,
The rest are molify’d and kindly warn’d.
A various savour, flowers in grace’s field,
Of life to some, of death to others yield.
Must then the rose be veil’d, the lily hid,
The fragrant savour stifled? God forbid.
The revelation of the gospel-flow’r,
Is still the organ fram’d of saving pow’r:
Most justly then are legal minds condemn’d,
That of the glorious gospel are ashamed:
For this the divine arm, and only this, “
The power of God unto salvation is.
For therein is reveal’d, to screen from wrath,
The righteousness of God, from faith to faith?”
The happy change in guilty sinner’s case
They owe to free displays of sov’reign grace ;
Whose joyful tidings of amazing love
The ministration of the spirit prove,
The glorious vent the gospel-news express,
Of God’s free grace, through Christ’s full righteousness
Is heav’n’s gay chariot, where the spirit bides,
And in his conqu’ring pow’r triumphant rides.
The gospel-field is still the spirit’s soil,
The golden pipe that bears the holy oil ;
The orb where he outshines the radiant sun,
The silver channel where his graces run.
Within the gospel-banks his flowing tide
Of lightning, quickening motions sweetly glide.
“Received ye the spirit, scripture saith,
By legal works, or by the word of faith?”
If by the gospel only, then let none
Dare to be wiser than the wisest One.
We must, who freely get, as freely give
The vital word that makes the dead to live.
For ev’n to sinners dead within our reach
We in his living name may most successful preach.
The spirit and the scripture both agree
Jointly (says Christ) to testify of me.
The preacher then will from his text decline,
That scorns to harmonize with this design.
Press moral duties to the last degree?
Why not? but mind, lest we successless be,
No light, no hope, nor strength for duties spring,
Where Jesus is not Prophet, Priest, and King.
No light to see the way, unless he teach ;
No joyful hope, save in his blood we reach ;
No strength, unless his royal arm he stretch.
Then from our leading scope how gross we fall,
If, like his name, in ev’ry gospel-call,
We make not him the First, the Last, the All!
Our office is to bear the radiant torch,
Of gospel-light, into the dark’ned porch
Of human understandings, and display
The joyful dawn of everlasting day;
To draw the golden chariot of free grace,
The dark’ned shades with shining rays to chase,
‘Till heav’n’s bright lamp on circling wheels be hurl’d,
With sparkling grandeur round the dusky world:
And thus to bring, in dying mortals sight,
New life and immortality to light.
We’re charg’d to preach the gospel, unconfin’d,
To ev’ry creatures of the human kind;
To call, with tenders of salvation free,
All corners of the earth to come and seet:
And ev’ry sinner must excuseless make,
By urging rich and poor to come and take:
“Ho, ev’ry one that thirsts,” is grace’s call
Direct to needy sinners great and small;
Not meaning those alone, whose holy thirst
Denominates their souls already blest.
If only those were call’d, then none but saints;
Nor would the gospel suit the sinner’s wants.
But here the call does signally import
Sinners and thirsty souls of every sort;
And mainly to their doors the message brings,
Who yet are thirsting after empty things;
“Who spend their means no living bread to buy,
And pains for that which cannot satisfy.”
Such thirsty sinners here invited are,
Who vainly spend their money, thought, and care,
On passing shades, vile lusts and trash, so base
As yields the immortal souls no true solace.
The call directs them, as they would be blest,
To choose a purer object of their thirst,
All are invited by the joyful sound
To drink who need, as does the parched ground,
Whose wide mouth’d clefts speak to the brazen sky
Its passive thirst without an active cry,
The gospel-preacher then with holy skill
Must offer Christ to whosoever will,
To sinners of all sorts that can be nam’d;
The blind, the lame, the poor, the halt, the maim’d’.
Not daring to restrict th’ extensive call,
But op’ning wide the net to catch ’em all.
No soul must be excluded that will come,
Nor right of access be confin’d to some,
Though none will come till conscious of their want,
Yet right to come they have by soy’reign grant;
Such right to Christ, his promise, and his grace,
That all are damn’d who hear and don’t embrace:
So freely is th’ unbounded call dispens’d,
We therein find ev’n sinners unconvinc’d;
Who know not they are naked, blind, and poor,
Counsell’d to buy, or beg at Jesus’ door,
And take the glorious rob, eye-salve, and golden store.
This prize they are oblig’d by faith to win,
Else unbelief would never be their sin.
Yea, gospel-offers but a sham we make,
If ev’ry sinner has not right to take:
Be gospel-hearlds fortify’d from this
To trumpet grace, howe’er the serpent hiss.
Did hell’s malacious mouth in dreadful shape
‘Gainst innocence itself malignant gape;
Then sacred truth’s devoted vouchers may
For dire reproach their measures constant lay.
With cruel calumny of old commenc’d,
This sect will ev’ry-where be spoke against”,
While to and fro he runs the earth across
Whose name is Adelphion Kategoros.
In spite of hell be then our constent strife
To win the glorious Lamb a virgin-wife.