By Ralph Erskine
SECTION I. – Of a LAW-WORK, and the workings of legal pride under it.
So proud’s the bride, so backwardly disposed;
How then shall e’er the happy match be closed?
Kind grace the tumults of her heart must quell,
And draw her heav’n-ward by the gates of hell.
The Bridegroom’s Father makes, by’s Holy Sp’rit,
His stern command with her stiff conscience meet;
To dash her pride, and shew her utmost need,
Pursues for double debt with awful dread.
He makes her former husband’s frightly ghost
Appear and damn her, as a bankrupt lost;
With curses, threats, and Sinai thunder-claps,
Her lofty tower of legal boasting saps.
These humbling storms, in high or low degrees,
Heav’n’s Majesty will measure as he please;
But still he makes the fiery law at least
Pronounce its awful sentence in her breast,
Till through the law(1) convict of being lost,
She hopeless to the law gives up the ghost;
Which now in rigour comes full debt to crave,
And in close prison cast; but not to save.
For now ‘tis weak, and can’t (through our default)
Its greatest votaries to life exalt.
But well it can command with fire and flame,
And to the lowest pit of ruin damn.
Thus doth it, by commission from above,
Deal with the bride, when Heaven would court her love.
Lo! now she startles, at the Sinai trump,
Which throws her soul into a dismal dump,
Conscious another husband she must have,
Else die for ever in destruction’s grave.
While in conviction’s jail she’s thus inclos’d,
Glad news are heard, the royal Mate’s propos’d.
And now the scornful bride’s inverted stir
Is racking fear he scorns to match with her.
She dreads his fury, and despairs that he
Will ever wed so vile a wretch as she.
And here the legal humour stirs again
To her prodigious loss, and grievous pain:
For when the Prince presents himself to be
Her husband; then she deems, “Ah! is not he
Too fair a match for such a filthy bride?”
Unconscious that the thought bewrays her pride,
Ev’n pride of merit, pride of righteousness,
Expecting Heav’n should love her for her dress;
Unmindful how the fall her face did stain,
And make her but a black, unlovely swain;
Her whole primeval beauty quite defac’d,
And to the rank of fiends her form debas’d;
Without disfigur’d, and defil’d within,
Incapable of any thing but sin.
Heav’n courts not any for their comely face,
But for the glorious praise of sov’reign grace,
Else ne’er had courted one of Adam’s race,
Which all as children of corruption be
Heirs rightful of immortal misery.
Yet here the bride employs her foolish with,
For this bright match her ugly form to fit;
To daub her features o’er with legal paint,
That with a grace she may herself present.
Hopeful the Prince with credit might her wed,
If once some comely qualities she had.
In humble pride her haughty spirit flags;
She cannot think of coming all in rags.
Were she a humble, faithful penitent,
She dreams he’d then contract with full content.
Base varlet! think she’d be a match for him,
Did she but deck herself in handsome trim.
Ah! foolish thoughts! in legal deeps that plod;
Ah! sorry notions of a sov’reign God!
Will God expose his great, his glorious Son,
For our vile baggage to be sold and won?
Should sinful modesty the match decline,
Until its garb be brisk and superfine;
Alas! when should we see the marriage-day?
The happy bargain must flee up for aye.
Presumptuous souls in surly modesty,
Half saviours themselves would fondly be,
Then, hopeful th’ other half their due will fall,
Disdain to be in Jesus’ debt for all.
Vainly they first would wash themselves, and then
Address the fountain to be wash’d more clean.
First heal themselves, and then expect the balm:
Ah! many slightly cure their sudden qualm.
They heal their conscience with a tear of pray’r;
And seek no other Christ, but perish there.
O sinner! search the house, and see the thief
That spoils thy Saviour’s crown, thy soul’s relief,
The hid, but heinous sin of unbelief.
Who can possess a quality that’s good,
Till first he come to Jesus’ cleansing blood?
The pow’r that draws the bride, will also shew
Unto her by the way her hellish hue,
As void of ev’ry virtue to commend,
And full of ev’ry vice that will offend:
Till sov’reign grace the sullen bride shall catch,
She’ll never fit herself for such a match.
Most qualifi’d they are in heav’n to dwell,
Who see themselves most qualifi’d for hell;
And, ere the bride can drink salvation’s cup,
Kind Heav’n must reach to hell and lift her up:
For no decorum e’er about her found,
Is she belov’d; but on a nobler ground.
JEHOVAH’S love is like his nature free,
Nor must his creature challenge his decree;
But low at sov’reign grace’s footstool creep,
Whose ways are searchless, and his judgments deep:
Yet Grace’s suit meets with resistance rude
From haughty souls; for lack of innate good
To recommend them. Thus the backward bride
Affronts her suitor with her modest pride.
Black hatred for his offer’d love repays,
Pride under mask of modesty displays:
In part would save herself; hence, saucy soul,
Rejects the matchless Mate would save in whole.
(1) Gal. ii. 19.