The Believer’s Principles concerning the Law and Gospel;
1. The Mystery
2. The Difference.
3. The Harmony
4. The Place and Station,
Of Law and Gospel.
The Mystery of Law and Gospel.
Though law-commands and gospel-grace
Agree in mutual joint embrace;
Yet law and gospel in a shock
Can never draw an equal yoke,
The law of works, the law of grace,
Can’t stand together in one place;
The brighter scene destroys the dark,
As Dagon fell before the ark.
They harmonize like marry’d pairs,
Yet are at odds, and keep not squares:
As mercy stands from merit far,
The letter and the spirit jar.
The law does gospel-comforts harm,
The gospel breaks the legal arm;
Yet both exalt each other’s horn,
And garland brings their heads t’ adorn.
I through the law am dead to it,
To legal works and self-conceit;
Yet, lo! through gospel-grace I live,
And to the law due honour give.
The law great room for boasting makes,
But grace my pride and boasting breaks;
Yet all my boast the law does kill,
And grace make room to boast my fill.
The gospel makes me keep the law,
Yet from its painful service draw;
It does all law demands fulfil,
Yet makes them wholly void and null.
The gospel gives me no command,
Yet by obeying it I stand,
To strict obedience though it call,
Does bind to none, but promise all.
The law does strict commandment give,
That I the gospel-news believe;
But yet it teaches no such thing,
Nor e’er could gospel-tidings bring.
When I the gospel-truth believe,
Obedience to the law I give,
And when I don’t the law observe,
I from the gospel-method swerve.
Yet, if I do the law obey,
I am not in the gospel-way
Which does to new obedience draw,
Yet is the gospel no new law.
As precepts to the law belong,
Yet in the gospel field are throng,
Curs’d ev’ry gospel-slighter is,
Yet all its office is to bless.
It from the law has pow’r to kill,
Yet saving does its pow’r fulfil:
No savour but of life it hath,
Yet most the savour is of death.
Weakness perfection doth exclude,
The law is perfect, just, and good:
Yet can it nothing perfect make,
But all the comers to its break.
Strength to the gospel does belong,
Mighty through God it is, and strong:
It to the law does strength emit,
Yet ’tis the law gives strength to it.
The gospel gives the law, I see,
Sufficient strength to justify;
Yet may I say, in truth it is
The law that gives the gospel this:
For as the law no sinner clears,
But who the gospel-garment wears;
So none are justify’d by grace,
Unless the law-demand have place.
Again the law, which yet seems worse,
Gives gospel-news condemning force;
Yet they are news that never can,
Nor never will condemn a man.
Dread threat’nings to the law pertain,
Not to the gospel’s golden chain:
Yet all law-threats and Sinai’s ire
To gospel-grace are walls of fire.
The righteous law assoileth none
Of Adam’s guilty race, save one;
Who being guilty, for this cause
By God’s just law condemned was.
Yet free of guilt it did him see;
Hence fully clear’d, and set him free.
Yet had not guilt his soul involv’d,
By law he could not been absolv’d.
But he withal condemn’d and spoil’d
The law of works which him assoil’d:
And now the law is (in these views)
The marrow of the gospel news.
The law can justify no man
That is a sinner, yet it can
Thus favour sinful men, and free
The chief of sinner, guilty me.
The gospel too acquitteth none
That have not put perfection on,
And yet it cleareth none (I grant)
But those who all perfection want.
Those that with gospel-clearance meet,
Must by the law be found complete;
Yet never could (again I grant)
The gospel justifies a saint.
All perfect persons it controls,
And justifies ungodly souls;
Yet still no man its grace partakes,
But whom it truly godly makes.
The law withstands the gospel path,
Which yet its approbation hath;
The gospel thwarts the legal way,
Yet will approve the law for ay.
Hence though the gospel’s comely frame
Doth openly the law condemn:
Yet they are blind, who never saw
The gospel justify the law.
Thus gospel-grace and law-commands,
Both bind and loose each other’s hands:
They can’t agree on any terms,
Yet hug each other in their arms.
Those that divide them cannot be
The friends of truth and verity;
Yet those that dare confound the two,
Destroy them both, and gender woe.
This paradox none can decipher,
That plow not with the gospel-heifer.
The difference betwixt the Law and the Gospel.
The law, supposing I have all,
Does ever for perfection call:
The gospel suits my total want,
And all the law can seek does grant.
The law could promise life to me,
If my obedience perfect be:
But grace does promise life upon
My Lord’s obedience alone.
The law says, Do, and life you’ll win;
But grace says, Live, for all is done:
The former cannot ease my grief,
The latter yields me full relief.
By law convinc’d of sinful breach,
By gospel-grace I comfort reach:
The one my condemnation bears,
The other justifies and clears.
The law shews my arrears are great,
The gospel freely pays my debt:
The first odes me the bankrupt curse,
The last does bless, and fill my purse.
The law will not abate a mite,
The gospel all the sum will quite:
There God in threat’nings is array’d,
But here in promises display’d.
The law and gospel disagree,
Like Hagar, Sarah, bond and free:
The former’s Hagar’s servitude,
The latter Sarah’s happy brood.
To Sinai black, and Zion fair,
The word does law and grace compare.
Their cursing and their blessing vie
With Ebal and Gerizzim high.
The law excludes not boasting vain,
But rather feeds it to the my bane:
But gospel-grace allows no boasts,
Save in the King the Lord of hosts.
The law still irritates my sin,
And hardens my proud heart therein:
But grace’s melting pow’r renews,
And my corruption strong subdues.
The law with thunder, Sinai-like,
Does always dread and terror speak:
The gospel makes a joyful noise,
And charms me with a still, small voice.
The legal trumpet war proclaims,
In wrathful threats, and fire, and flames:
The gospel-pipe a peaceful sound,
Which spreads a kindly breath around.
The law is weak through sinful flesh,
The gospel brings recruits afresh:
The first a killing letter wears,
The last a quick’ning spirit bears.
The law that seeks perfection’s height,
Yet gives no strength, nor offers might:
But precious gospel-tidings glad,
Declare where all is to be had.
From me alone the law does crave,
What grace affirms in Christ I have:
When therefore law-pursuits inthral,
I send the law to grace for all.
The law brings terror to molest.
The gospel gives the weary rest:
The one does flags of death display,
The other shows the living way.
The law by Moses was exprest,
The glorious gospel came by Christ:
The first dim nature’s light may trace,
The last is only known by grace.
The law may rouse me from my sloth,
To faith and to repentance both:
And though the law commandeth each,
Yet neither of them can it teach;
Nor will accept for current coin
The duties which it does injoin;
It seeks all but accepts no less
Than constant, perfect righteousness.
The gospel, on the other hand,
Although it issues no command,
But, strictly view’d, does whole consist
In promises and offers blest;
Yet does it many duties teach,
Which legal light could never reach:
Thus faith, repentance, and the like,
Are fire that gospel-engines strike.
They have acceptance here, through grace,
The law affords them no such place:
Yet still they come through both their hands,
Through gospel teaching, law commands.
The law’s a house of bondage sore,
The gospel opes the prison door:
The first me hamper’d in its net,
The last at freedom kindly set.
The precept craves, the gospel gives;
While that me presses this relieves;
And or affords the strength I lack,
Or takes the burden off my back.
The law requires on pain of death;
The gospel courts with loving breath:
While that conveys a deadly wound,
This makes me perfect, whole, and sound.
There viewing how diseas’d I am,
I here perceive the healing balm:
Afflicted there with sense of need,
But here refresh’d with meet remede.
The law’s a charge for what I owe;
The gospel my discharge to show:
The one a scene of fears doth ope;
The other is the door of hope.
An angry God the law reveal’d;
The gospel shews him reconcil’d:
By that I know he was displeas’d;
By this I see his wrath appeas’d.
The law thus shews the divine ire,
And nothing but consuming fire:
The gospel brings the olive-branch,
And blood the burning fire to quench.
The law still shows a fiery face:
The gospel shows a throne of grace:
There justice rides alone in state;
But here she takes the mercy-seat.
Lo! in the law Jehovah dwells,
But Jesus is conceal’d!
Whereas the gospel’s nothing else
But Jesus Christ reveal’d.
The Harmony betwixt the Law and the Gospel.
The law’s a tutor much in vogue,
To gospel-grace a pedagogue;
The gospel to the law no less
Than its full end for righteousness.
When once the fiery law of God
Has chas’d me to the gospel road;
Then back unto the holy law
Most kindly gospel-grace will draw.
When by the law to grace I’m school’d;
Grace by the law will have me rul’d:
Hence, if I don’t the law obey,
I cannot keep the gospel-way.
When I the gospel-news believe,
Obedience to the law I give:
And that both in its fed’ral dress,
And as a rule of holiness.
Lo! in my Head I render all
For which the fiery law can call:
His blood unto its fire was fuel,
His Spirit shapes me to its rule.
When law and gospel kindly meet,
To serve each other both unite:
Sweet promises, and stern commands,
Do work to one another’s hands.
The divine law demands no less
Than human perfect righteousness:
The gospel gives it this and more,
Ev’n divine righteousness in store.
Whate’er the righteous law require,
The gospel grants its whole desire.
Are law-commands exceeding broad?
So is the righteousness of God.
How great soe’er the legal charge,
The gospel-payment’s equal large:
No less by man the law can bray,
When grace provides a God to pay.
The law makes gospel-banquets sweet;
The gospel makes the law complete:
Law-suits to grace’s storehouse draw;
Grace docks and magnifies the law.
Both law and gospel close combine,
To make each other’s lustre shine;
The gospel all law-breakers shames;
The law all gospel-slighters damns.
The law is holy, just, and good;
All this the gospel seals with blood,
And clears the royal law’s just dues
With dearly purchas’d revenues.
The law commands me to believe;
The gospel saving faith doth give:
The law injoins me to repent;
The gospel gives my tears a vent.
What in the gospel mint is coin’d,
The same is in the law injoin’d:
Whatever gospel-tidings teach,
The law’s authority doth reach.
Here join the law and gospel hands,
What this me teaches, that commands;
What virtuous forms the gospel please,
The same the law doth authorise.
And thus the law-commandment seals
Whatever gospel-grace reveals:
The gospel also for my good
Seals all the law-demands with blood.
The law most perfect still remains,
And ev’ry duty full contains:
The gospel its perfection speaks,
And therefore gives whate’er it seeks.
Next, what by law I’m bound unto,
The same the gospel makes me do:
What preceptively that can crave;
This effectively can ingrave.
All that by precepts Heav’n expects,
Free grace by promises effects:
To what the law by fear may move,
To that the gospel leads by love.
To run to work, the law commands;
The gospel gives me feet and hands:
The one requires that I obey;
The other does the pow’r convey.
What in the law has duty’s place,
The gospel changes to a grace:
Hence legal duties therein nam’d,
Are herein gospel-graces fain’d.
The precept checks me when I stray;
The promise holds me in the way:
That shews my folly when I roam;
And this most kindly brings me home.
Law threats and precepts both, I see,
With gospel promises agree;
They to the gospel are a fence,
And it to them a maintenance.
The law will justify all those
Who with the gospel-ramsom close;
The gospel too approves for ay
All those that do the law obey.
The righteous law condemns each man
That dare reject the gospel plan:
The holy gospel none will save,
On whom it won’t the law ingrave.
When Christ the tree of life I climb,
I see both law and grace in him:
In him the law its end does gain;
In him the promise is Amen.
The law makes grace’s pasture sweet,
Grace makes the law my sav’ry meat;
Yea, sweeter than the honey-comb,
When grace and mercy brings it home.
The precepts of the law me show
What fruits of gratitude I owe;
But gospel-grace begets the brood,
And moves me to the gratitude.
Law-terrors pain the putrid sore;
And gospel-grace applies the cure:
The one plows up the fallow-ground:
The other sows the seed around.
A rigid master was the law,
Demanding brick, denying straw;
But when with gospel-tongue it sings,
It bids me fly, and gives me wings.
Both law and gospel close unite,
Are seen with more solace,
Where truth and mercy kindly meet,
In fair Immanuel’s face.
The proper Place and Station of the Law and the Gospel.
That in the four following Paragraphs, as well as in the three preceding Sections, by LAW, is mostly understood the doctrine of the Covenant of Works; and by GOSPEL, the doctrine of the Covenant of Grace.
The Place and Station of Law and Gospel in general.
When we the sacred record view,
Or divine Test’ments old and new;
The matter in most pages fix’d,
Is law and gospel intermix’d.
Yet few, ev’n in a learned age,
Can so resolve the sacred page,
As to discern with equal eye,
Where law, where gospel sever’d lie.
One divine text with double clause
May speak the gospel’s voice and law’s:
Hence men to blend them both are apt,
Should in one sentence both be wrapt.
But that we may the truth pursue,
And give both law and grace their due,
And God the glory there display’d;
The foll’wing rules will give us aid:
Where’er in sacred writ we see
A word of grace or promise free,
With blessings dropt for Jesus’ sake;
We these for gospel-news may take.
But where a precept strict we find
With promise to our doing join’d,
Or threat’ning with a wrathful frown;
This as the law we justly own.
The Place and Station of Law and Gospel in particular. Where the difference is noted betwixt the Gospel largely viewed in its dispensation, and strictly in itself: and betwixt the gospel, and faith receiving it.
Wouldst thou distinctly know the sound
Of law and grace, then don’t confound
The dispensation with the grace:
For these two have a distinct place.
The gospel thus dispens’d we see,
Believe, and thou shalt saved be;
If not, thou shalt be damn’d to hell,
And in eternal torment dwell.
Here precepts in it are dispens’d,
With threat’nings of damnation fenc’d;
The legal sanction here takes place,
That none may dare abuse free grace.
Yet nor does that command of faith,
Nor this tremendous threat of wrath,
Belong to gospel, strictly so;
But to its dispensation do.
The method of dispensing here
Does law and gospel jointly bear;
Because the law’s subservient
Unto the gospel’s bless’d intent.
Precepts and threat’nings both make way,
The gospel blessings to convey;
Which differs much (though thus dispens’d)
From laws and threats whereby ’tis fenc’d.
Believe, and thou shalt saved be,
Is gospel, but improperly;
Yet safely men may call it thus,
Because ’tis so dispens’d to us.
But sure, the gospel-news we sing,
Must be some other glorious thing,
Than precepts to believe the same,
Whatever way we blend their name.
The gospel-treasurer’s something more
Than means that do apply the store:
Believing is the method pav’d,
The gospel is the thing believ’d.
The precious thing is tidings sweet
Of Christ a Saviour most complete,
To save from sin, and death, and wrath;
Which tidings tend to gender faith.
Faith comes by hearing God’s record
Concerning Jesus Christ the Lord;
And is the method Heav’n has blest
For bringing to the gospel-rest.
The joyful sound is news of grace,
And life to Adam’s guilty race,
Through Jesus’ righteousness divine,
Which bright from faith to faith does shine.
The promise of immortal bliss
Is made to this full righteousness:
By this our right, to life is bought;
Faith begs the right, but buys it not.
True faith receives the offer’d good,
And promise seal’d with precious blood:
It gives no title to the bliss,
But takes th’ intitling righteousness.
This object great of saving faith,
And this alone the promise hath;
For ’tis not made to faith’s poor act,
But is the prize that faith does take;
And only as it takes the same,
It bears a great and famous name;
For self, and all its grandeur, down
It throws, that Christ may wear the crown.
But if new laws and threats were all
That gospel properly we call,
Then were the precept to believe,
No better news than do and live.
If then we won’t distinguish here,
We cloud, but don’t the gospel clear;
We blend it with the fiery law,
And all into confusion draw.
The law of works we introduce,
As if old merit were in use,
When man could life by doing won,
Ev’n though the work by grace were done.
Old Adam in his innocence
Deriv’d his pow’r of doing hence:
As all he could was wholly due;
So all the working strength he knew.
Was only from the grace of God,
Who with such favour did him load:
Yet was the promise to his act,
That he might merit by compact.
No merit but of paction could
Of men or angels e’er be told;
The God-man only was so high
To merit by condignity.
Were life now promis’d to our act,
Or to our works by paction tack’d;
Though God should his assistance grant,
‘Tis still a doing covenant.
Though Heav’n its helping grace should yield,
Yet merit’s still upon the field;
We cast the name, yet still ’tis found
Disclaim’d but with a verbal sound.
If one should borrow tools from you,
That he some famous work might do;
When once his work is well prepar’d,
He sure deserves his due reward;
Yea, justly may he claim his due,
Although he borrow’d tools from you;
Ev’n thus the borrow’d strength of grace
Can’t hinder merit to take place.
From whence soe’er we borrow pow’rs,
If life depend on works of ours;
Or if we make the gospel thus
In any sort depend on us;
We give the law the gospel-place,
Rewards of debt the room of grace;
We mix Heav’n’s treasures with our trash,
And magnify corrupted flesh.
The new and gospel covenant
No promise to our works will grant;
But to the doing of our Head,
And in him to each gospel-deed.
To godliness, which is great gain,
Promise is said to appertain:
But know, lest you the gospel mar,
In whom it is we godly are.
To him and to his righteousness
Still primar’ly the promise is;
And not ev’n to the gracious deed,
Save in and through the glorious Head.
Pray let us here observe the odds
How law and grace take counter roads,
The law of works no promise spake
Unto the agent, but the act.
It primar’ly no promise made
Unto the person, but the deed:
Whate’er the doing person shar’d,
‘Twas for his deed he had reward.
The law of grace o’erturns the scale,
And makes the quite reverse prevail:
Its promise lights not on the deed,
But on the doing person’s head;
Not for his doing, but for this,
Because in Christ his person is;
Which union to the living Prince,
His living works and deeds evince.
Good fruits have promise in this view
As union to the Branch they shew;
To whom the promises pertain,
In him all Yea, and all Amen.
Observe, pray; for if here we err,
And do not Christ alone prefer,
But think the promise partly stands
On our obeying new commands;
Th’ old cov’nant-place to works we give,
Or mingle grace with do and live;
We overcloud the gospel-charms,
And also break our working arms.
More honour to the law profess,
But giving more we give it less.
Its heavy yoke in vain we draw,
By turning gospel into law.
We rob grace of its joyful sound,
And bury Christ in Moses’ ground:
At best we run a legal race
Upon the field of gospel-grace.
The Gospel no new Law, but a joyful sound of Grace and Mercy.
Law precepts in a gospel mold,
We may as gospel-doctrine hold;
But gospel-calls in legal dress,
The joyful sound of grace suppress.
Faith and repentance may be taught,
And yet no gospel-tidings brought;
If as mere duties these we press,
And not as parts of promis’d bliss.
If only precepts we present,
Though urg’d with strongest argument,
We leave the wak’ned sinner’s hope
In darkness of despair to grope.
The man whom legal precepts chase,
As yet estrang’d to sov’reign grace,
Mistaking evangelic charms,
As if they stood on legal terms.
Looks to himself, though dead in sin,
For grounds of faith and hope within,
Hence fears and fetters grow and swell,
Since nought’s within but sin and hell.
But faith, that looks to promis’d grace,
Clean out of self the soul will chase,
To Christ for righteousness and strength,
And finds the joyful rest at length.
Proud flesh and blood will startle here,
And hardly such report can bear,
That Heav’n all saving store will give
To them that work not, but believe.
Yet not of works, but ’tis the race
Of faith, that it may be of grace:
For faith does nothing but agree
To welcome this salvation free.
“Come down, Zaccheus, quickly come,
Salvation’s brought unto thy home:
In vain thou climb’st the legal tree;
Salvation freely comes to thee.
Thou dream’st of coming up to terms,
Come down into my saving arms:
Down, down, and get a pardon free,
On terms already wrought by me.
Behold the blessings of my blood,
Bought for thy everlasting good,
And freely all to be convey’d,
Upon the price already paid.
I know thou hast no good, and see
I cannot stand on terms with thee,
Whose fall has left thee nought to claim,
Nor aught to boast but sin and shame.”
The law of heavy hard commands
Confirms the wak’ned sinner’s bands;
But grace proclaims relieving news,
And scenes of matchless mercy shews.
No precept clogs the gospel-call,
But wherein grace is all in all;
No law is here but that of grace,
Which brings relief in ev’ry case.
The gospel is the promise fair
Of grace all ruins to repair,
And leaves no sinner room to say,
“Alas! this debt I cannot pay;
This grievous yoke I cannot bear,
This high demand I cannot clear.”
Grace stops the mouth of such complaints,
And store of full supply presents.
The glorious gospel is (in brief)
A sov’reign word of sweet relief;
Not clogg’d with cumbersome commands,
To bind the soul’s receiving hands.
‘Tis joyful news of sov’reign grace,
That reigns in state through righteousness,
To ransom from all threat’ning woes,
And answer all commanding do’s:
This gospel comes with help indeed,
Adapted unto sinners need:
These joyful news that suit their case,
Are chariots of his drawing grace:
‘Tis here the Spirit pow’rful rides,
The fountains of the deep divides;
The King of glory’s splendour shews,
And wins the heart with welcome news.
The Gospel further described, as a bundle of good news and gracious promises.
The first grand promise forth did break
In threats against the tempting snake;
So may the gospel in commands,
Yet nor in threats nor precepts stand:
But ’tis a doctrine of free grants
To sinners, that they may be saints;
A joyful sound of royal gifts,
To obviate unbelieving shifts:
A promise of divine supplies,
To work all gracious qualities
In those, whose pronest to rebel,
Are only qualify’d for hell.
Courting vile sinners, ev’n the chief,
It leaves no cloak for unbelief;
But ev’n on gross Manassehs calls,
On Mary Magdalens and Sauls.
‘Tis good news of a fountain ope
For sin and filth; a door of hope
For those that lie in blood and gore
And of a slave for ev’ry sore.
Glad news of sight unto the blind;
Of light unto the dark’ned mind;
Of healing to the deadly sick;
And mercy both to Jew and Greek.
Good news of gold to poor that lack;
Of raiment to the naked back;
Of binding to the wounds that smart;
And rest unto the weary heart.
Glad news of freedom to the bound;
Of store all losses to refound;
Of endless life unto the dead;
And present help in time of need.
Good news of Heav’n, where angels dwell,
To those that well deserved hell;
Of strength too weak for work and war,
And access near to those afar.
Glad news of joy to those that weep,
And tender care of cripple sheep;
Of shelter to the soul pursu’d,
And cleansing to the hellish-hu’d:
Of floods to sap the parched ground,
And streams to run the desert round;
Of ransom to the captive caught,
And harbour to the found’rig yacht;
Of timely aid to weary groans;
Of joy restor’d to broken bones;
Of grace divine to graceless preys,
And glory to the vile and base:
Of living water pure, that teems
On fainting souls refreshing streams;
Of gen’rous wine to cheer the strong,
And milk to feed the tender young:
Of saving faith to faithless ones;
Of soft’ning grace to flinty stones;
Of pardon to a guilty crew,
And mercy free, where wrath was due.
Good news of welcome kind to all,
That come to Jesus at his call;
Yea, news of drawing pow’r, when scant,
To those that fain would come, and can’t.
Glad news of rich mysterious grace,
And mercy meeting ev’ry case;
Of store immense all voids to fill,
And free to whosoever will:
Of Christ exalted as a Prince,
Pardons to give and penitence;
Of grace o’er coming stubborn wills,
And leaping over Bether hills.
Faith comes by hearing these reports;
Straight to the court of grace resorts,
And free of mercenary thoughts,
Gets royal bounty all for nought.
Faith’s wing within the clammy sea
Of legal merit cannot fly;
But mounting mercy’s air apace,
Soars in the element of grace.
But as free love the blessing gives
To him that works not, but believes;
So faith, once reaching its desire,
Works hard by love, but not for hire.
More Poetry from Ralph Erskine:Ralph Erskine Poems based on Topics: Jesus Christ, Love, God, Sin, Death & Dying, Light, Belief & Faith, Soul, Life, Man, Place
- The Believer's Jointure : Chapter II. (Ralph Erskine Poems)
- The Believer's Espousals : Chapter VI. (Ralph Erskine Poems)
- The Believer's Jointure : Chapter I. (Ralph Erskine Poems)
- The Believer's Espousals : Chapter II. (Ralph Erskine Poems)
- The Believer's Espousals : Chapter I. (Ralph Erskine Poems)
- The Believer's Espousals : Chapter III. (Ralph Erskine Poems)
Readers Who Like This Poem Also Like:Based on Topics: Love Poems, Man Poems, God Poems, Life Poems, Light Poems, Mind Poems, Time Poems, Death & Dying Poems, Soul Poems, Nature Poems, War & Peace Poems
Based on Keywords: jointly, maintenance, appeas, affirms, dagon, differs, qualify, hagar, estrang, diseas, reconcil