By Ralph Erskine
SECTION IV. – Man’s strict attachment to legal TERMS, or to the law as a condition of life.
SAY, on what terms then Heaven appeased will be?
Why, sure perfection is the least degree.
Yea, more, full satisfaction must be given
For trespass done against the laws of Heaven.
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 even as justice infinite is just.
But, says the legal, proud, self-righteous heart,
Which cannot with her ancient consort part,
“What! won’t the goodness of the God of heaven,
Admit of smalls, when greater can’t be given?
He knows our fall diminished all our funds,
Won’t he accept of pennies now for pounds?
Sincere endeavours for perfection take,
Or terms more possible for mankind make?”
Ah! poor divinity, and jargon loose;
Such hay and straw will never build a house.
Mistake not here, proud mortal, don’t mistake;
God changes not, nor other terms will make.
Will divine faithfulness itself deny,
Which swore solemnly, Man shall 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?
Shall faithfulness be faithless for our sake,
And he his threats, as we his precepts break?
Will our great Creator deny himself,
And for full payment take our filthy pelf?
Dispense with justice, to let mercy vent,
And stain his royal crown with ‘minished rent?
Unworthy thought! O let no mortal clod
Hold such base notions of a glorious God.
Heaven’s holy covenant, 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 despatch,
E’er prove the fiery law’s adequate match?
Vain man must be divorced, 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 usurper’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 every grace,
The quality of all the ransomed race,
Of promised favour ‘tis a fruit, a clause;
But no procuring term, no moving cause.
How unadvised the legal mind confounds
The marks of divine favour with the grounds,
And qualities of covenanted friends
With the condition of the covenant blends?
Thus holding gospel truths with legal arms,
Mistakes new-covenant fruits for federal terms:
The joyful sound no change of terms allows,
But change of persons, or another spouse.
The nature same that sinned must do or die,
No milder terms in gospel-offers lie.
For grace no other law abatement shews,
But now law-debtors may restore its dues;
Restore, yea, through a Surety in their place,
With double interest, 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 called to wed,
And let no rival *bruik the marriage bed.