By Ralph Erskine
The Believer’s Espousals;
Upon Isaiah liv. 5. Thy Maker is thy Husband
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 cramm’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 the fancy, or allure the sense,
But aim, if everlasting life’s thy chase,
To clear thy mind, and warn thy heart thro’ 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 Heav’n, 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 strong espousals may
Be explicated in the foll’wing way.
This is the preface from Ralph Erskine’s Gospel Sonnets. I have greatly enjoyed this book. Ralph Erskine was a pastor of the Secessionist Church of Scotland. He was born March 15, 1685 and died November 6, 1752. I also own two other books of his containing his sermons. Erskine is Calvinistic in his theology, and helped to lead me down that path as well. As I have time, I plan to share sections of Gospel Sonnets here in this blog. I first learned of this book from reading John G. Paton’s autobiography. Paton describes that his father was reading Erskine’s Gospel Sonnets aloud in a garden when a young lady heard him and commented on its beauty. They married, and John was born to them. John Paton’s story is remarkable. So much so that Sheri and I decided to name our fifth child, Paton Valor Southerland in John G. Paton’s honor.