Monday, August 20, 2007

GOSPEL SONNETS - Chapter 1 - Section 3

By Ralph Erskine
Chapter 1

SECTION III. – Man’s LEGAL Disposition.

BUT, after all, the bride’s so mal-content,
No argument, save pow’r is prevalent
To bow her will, and gain heart’s consent.
The glorious Prince’s suit she disapproves,
The law, her old primordial husband, loves;
Hopeful in its embraces life to have,
Though dead and buried 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 now 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, (1)
Sues quick’ning comforts in a killing head.
Her dead and bury’d husband has her heart,
Which can nor 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-bred 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 heaven be pleased, 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.’ (2)
Upon their all, their best, they’re fondly mad,
Though yet their all is naught, their best is bad.
Proud man his can-does mightily exalts,
Yet are his brightest works but splendid faults:
A sinner may have shews of good, but still
The best he can, even at his best, is ill.
Can heaven or divine favour e’er be won
By those that are a mass of hell and sin?
The righteous law does numerous 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 numerous years!

(1) Luke xxiv. 5.
(2) Matt. xviii. 26.

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