By Ralph Erskine
SECTION II. – Conviction of SIN and WRATH, carried on more deeply and effectually on the heart.
So proudly forward is the bride, and now
Stern Heav’n begins to stare with cloudier brow;
Law-curses come with more condemning pow’r
To scorch her conscience with a fiery show’r
And more refulgent flashes darted in;
For by the law the knowledge is of sin. (1)
Black Sinai thund’ring louder than before,
Does awful in her lofty bosom roar:
Heav’n’s furious storms now rise from ev’ry airth, (2)
In ways more terrible to shake the earth, (3)
Till haughtiness of men be sunk thereby,
That Christ alone may be exalted high.
Now stable earth seems from her centre tost,
And lofty mountain in the ocean lost;
Hard rocks of flint and haughty hills of pride,
Are torn in pieces by the roaring tide.
Each flash of new conviction’s lucid rays
Heart-errors, undiscerned till now, displays.
Wrath’s massy cloud upon the conscience breaks,
And thus menacing Heaven, in thunder speaks:
“Black wretch, thou madly under foot hast trod
Th’ authority of a commanding God;
Thou, like thy kindred that in Adam fell,
Art but a law-reversing lump of hell,
And there by law and justice doomed to dwell.”
Now, now, the daunted bride her state bewails,
And downward furls her self-exalting sails;
With pungent fear, and piercing terror brought
To mortify her lofty legal thought.
Why? The commandment comes, sin is revived, (4)
That lay so hid, while to the law she lived;
Infinite majesty in God is seen,
And infinite malignity in sin,
That to its expiation must amount
A sacrifice of infinite account.
Justice its dire severity displays,
The law its vast dimensions open lays.
She sees for this broad standard nothing meet,
Save an obedience sinless and complete.
Her cob-web righteousness, once in renown,
Is with a happy vengeance now swept down.
She who of daily faults could once but prate,
Sees now her sinful, miserable state.
Her heart, where once she thought some good to dwell,
The devil’s cab’net filled with trash of hell.
Her boasted features now unmasked bare,
Her vaunted hopes are plunged in deep despair.
Her haunted shelter-house in by-past years
Comes tumbling down about her frighted ears.
Her former rotten faith, love, penitence,
She sees a bowing wall, and tott’ring fence.
Excellencies of thought, and word, and deed,
All swimming, drowning in a sea of dread,
Her beauty now deformity she deems;
Her heart, much blacker that the devil’s seems;
With ready lips she can herself declare
The vilest ever breathed in vital air.
Her former hopes, as refuges of lies,
Are swept away, and all her boasting dies.
She once imagined Heaven would be unjust
To damn so many lumps of human dust,
Formed by himself; but now she owns it true,
Damnation surely is the sinner’s due:
Yea, now applauds the law’s just doom so well,
That justly she condemns herself to hell;
Does herein divine equity acquit,
Herself adjudging to the lowest pit.
Her language, “Oh! if God condemn, I must
From bottom of my soul declare him just;
But if his great salvation me embrace,
How loudly will I sing surprising grace!
If from the pit he to the throne me raise,
I’ll rival angels in his endless praise:
If, hell-deserving, me to heaven he bring,
No heart so glad, no tongue so loud shall sing.
If wisdom has not laid the saving plan,
I nothing have to claim, I nothing can.
My works but sin, my merit death I see;
Oh! mercy, mercy, mercy, pity me!”
Thus all self-justifying pleas are dropped,
Most guilty she becomes – her mouth is stopped.
Pungent remorse does her past conduct blame,
And flush her conscious cheek with spreading shame.
Her self-conceited heart is self-convict,
With barbed arrows of compunction pricked:
Wonders how justice spares her vital breath,
How patient Heaven adjourns the day of wrath;
How pliant earth does not with open jaws
Devour her, Korah-like, for equal cause;
How yawning hell, that gapes for such a prey,
Is frustrate with a further hour’s delay.
She that could once her mighty works exalt,
And boast devotion framed without a fault,
Extol her nat’ral powers, – is now brought down,
Her former madness, not her powers, to own;
Her present beggared state, most void of grace,
Unable even to wail her woful case,
Quite powerless to believe, repent, or pray:
Thus pride of duties flies and dies away.
She, like a hardened wretch, a stupid stone,
Lies in the dust, and cries, Undone, undone!
(1) Rom iii. 20.
(2) Wind, or quarter.
(3) Isa. ii. 17, 19.
(4) Rom vii. 9.