by Ralph Erskine
SECTION III. - The hurtfulness of not preaching CHRIST, and distinguishing duly between law and gospel.
HELL cares not how crude holiness be preach'd,
If sinners' match with Christ be never reach'd;
Knowing their holiness is but a sham
Who ne'er are married to the Holy Lamb.
Let words have ever such a pious shew,
And blaze aloft in rude professor's view,
With sacred aromaties richly spiced,
If they but drown in silence glorious Christ:
Or, if he may some vacant room supply,
Make him a subject only by the bye;
They mar true holiness with tickling chat,
To breed a bastard Pharisaic brat.
They wofully the gospel message broke,
Make fearful havock of the Master's flock;
Yet please themselves, and the blind multitude,
By whom the gospel's little understood.
Rude souls perhaps imagine little odds
Between the legal and the gospel roads:
But vainly men attempt to blend the two;
They differ more than Christ and Moses do.
Moses, evangelizing in a shade,
By types the news of light approaching spread:
But from the law of works by him proclaim'd,
No ray of gospel grace or mercy gleam'd.
By nature's light, the law to all is known,
But lightsome news of gospel grace to none.
The dong covenant now, in part or whole,
Is strong to damn, but weak to save a soul.
It hurts, and cannot help, but as it tends
Thro' mercy to subserve some gospel ends.
Law-thunder roughly to the gospel tames,
The gospel mildly to the law reclaims.
The fiery law, as 'tis a covenant,
Schools men to see the gospel aid they want;
Then gospel aid does sweetly them incline
Back to the law, as 'tis a rule divine.
Heav'ns healing work is oft' commenc'd with wounds,
Terror begins what loving-kindness crowns.
Preachers may therefore press the fiery law,
To strike the Christless man with dreadful awe.
Law threats which for his sins to hell depress,
Yea, damn him for his rotten righteousness;
That while he views the law exceeding broad,
He fain may wed the righteousness of God.
But, ah! to press law-works as terms of life,
Was ne'er the way to court the Lamb a wife.
To urge conditions in the legal frame,
Is to renew the vain old-covenant game.
The law is good, when lawfully 'tis us'd, (1)
But most destructive when it is abus'd.
They set no duties in their proper sphere,
Who duly law and gospel don't sever;
But under massy chains let sinners lie,
As tributaries or to do or die;
Nor make the law a squaring rule of life,
But in the gospel throat a bloody knife.
(1) 1 Tim. i. 8.