By Ralph Erskine
SECTION IV. - The Believer only being married to Christ, is justified and sanctified: and the more gospel freedom from the law as a covenant, the more holy conformity to it as a rule.
THUS doth the Husband by his Father's will
Both for, and in, his bride the law fulfil:
For her, as 'tis a covenant; and then
In her, as 'tis a rule of life to men.
First, all law-debt he most completely pays,
Then of law duties all the charge defrays.
Does first assume her guilt, and loose her chains,
And then with living water wash her stains;
Her fund restore, and then her form repair,
And make his filthy bride a beauty fair;
His perfect righteousness most freely grant,
And then his holy image deep implant;
Into her heart his precious seed indrop,
Which, in his time, will yield a glorious crop.
But by alternate turns his plants he brings
Through robbing winters and repairing springs.
Hence, pining oft, they suffer'd sad decays,
By dint of shady nights and stormy days.
But blest with sap, and influence from above,
They live and grow anew in faith and love;
Until transplanted to the higher soil.
While furies tread no more, nor foxes spoil.
Where Christ the living root remains on high,
The noble plant of grace can never die;
Nature decays, and so will all the fruit
That merely rises on a mortal root.
Their works, however splendid, are but dead,
That from a living fountain don't proceed;
Their fairest fruit is but a varnish'd shrine,
That are not grafted in the glorious Vine.
Devoutest hypocrites are rank'd in rolls
Of painted puppets, not of living souls.
No offspring but of Christ's fair bride is good,
This happy marriage has a holy brood.
Let sinners learn this mystery to read,
We bear to glorious Christ no precious, seed,
Till through the law, we to the law be dead.(1)
No true obedience to the law, but forc'd,
Can any yield, till from the law divorc'd.
No to it, as a rule is homage giv'n,
Till from it, as a cov'nant, men be driv'n.
Yea more, till once they this divorce attain,
Divorce from sin they but attempt in vain;
The cursed yoke of sin they basely draw,
Till once unyoked from the cursed law.
Sin's full dominion keeps its native place,
While men are under law, not under grace.(2)
For mighty hills of enmity won't move,
Till touch'd by conqu'ring grace and mighty love.
Were buy the gospel-secret understood;
How God can pardon where he sees no good;
How grace and mercy free, that can't be bought,
Reign through a righteousness already wrought:
Where woful reigning unbelief deposed,
Mysterious grace to blinded minds disclosed:
Did Heaven with gospel-news its power convey,
And sinners hear a faithful God but say,
"No more law-debt remains for you to pay;
Lo! by the loving Surety, all's discharged,"
Their hearts behoved with love to be enlarged:
Love, the succinct fulfilling of the law,(3)
Were then the easy yoke they'd sweetly draw;
Love would constrain and to his service move
Who left them nothing else to do but love.
Slight now his loving precepts if they can;
No, no; his conquering kindness leads the van.
When everlasting love exerts the sway,
They judge themselves more kindly bound t'obey,
Bound by redeeming love in stricter sense
Than ever Adam was in innocence.
Why now they are not bound, as formerly,
To do and live, nor yet to do or die;
Both life and death are put to Jesus' hands,
Who urges neither in his kind commands,
Not servile work their life and heaven to win,
Nor slavish labour death and hell to shun.
Their aims are purer, since they understood,
Their heaven was bought, their hell was quenched with blood.
The oars of gospel-service now they steer,
Without or legal hope or slavish fear.
The bride in sweet security can dwell,
Nor bound to purchase heaven nor vanquish hell:
But bound for him the race of love to run,
Whose love to her left none of these undone;
She's bound to be the Lamb's obedient wife,
And is his strength to serve him during life;
To glorify his loving name for aye,
Who left her not a single mite to pay
Of legal debt, but wrote for her at large,
In characters of blood, a full discharge.
Henceforth no servile task her labours prove,
But grateful fruits of reverential love.
(1) Gal. ii. 19.
(2) Rom. vi. 14.
(3) Rom. xiii. 10.