Ralph Erskine Poems >>
The Believer's Principles : Chap. IV.

The Believer's Principles concerning Faith and Sense.

1. Of Faith and Sense natural.
2. Of Faith and Sense spiritual.
3. The harmony and discord between Faith and Sense.
4. The Valour and Victories of Faith.
5. The Heights and Depths of Sense.
6. Faith and Frames compared; or, Faith building upon Sense discovered.

Sect. I.
Faith and Sense Natural, compared and distinguished.

When Abram's body, Sarah's womb,
Were ripe for nothing but the tomb,
Exceeding old, and wholly dead,
Unlike to bear the promis'd seed:

Faith said, "I shall an Isaac see;"
"No, no," said Sense, "it cannot be;"
Blind Reason, to augment the strife,
Adds, "How can death engender life?"

My heart is like a rotten tomb,
More dead than ever Sarah's womb;
O! can the promis'd seed of grace
Spring forth from such a barren place?

Sense gazing but on flinty rocks,
My hope and expectation chokes:
But could I, skill'd in Abram's art,
O'erlook my dead and barren heart;

And build my hope on nothing less
That divine pow'r and faithfulness;
Soon would I find him raise up sons
To Abram, out of rocks and stones.

Faith acts as busy boatmen do,
Who backward look and forward row;
It looks intent to things unseen,
Thinks objects visible too mean.

Sense thinks it madness thus to steer,
And only trusts its eye and ear;
Into faith's boat dare thrust its oar,
And put it further from the shore.

Faith does alone the promise eye;
Sense won't believe unless it see;
Nor can it trust the divine guide,
Unless it have both wind and tide.

Faith thinks the promise sure and good;
Sense doth depend on likelihood;
Faith ev'n in storms believes the seers;
Sense calls all men, ev'n prophets, liars.

Faith uses means, but rests on none;
Sense sails when outward means are gone:
Trusts more on probabilities,
Than all the divine promises.

It rests upon the rusty beam
Of outward things that hopeful seem;
Let these its supports sink or cease,
No promise then can yield it peace.

True faith that's of a divine brood,
Consults not with base flesh and blood;
But carnal sense which ever errs,
With carnal reason still confers.

What! my disciples won't believe
That I am risen from the grave?
Why will they pore on dust and death,
And overlook my quick'ning breath?

Why do they slight the word I spake?
And rather sorry counsel take
With death, and with a pow'rful grave,
If they their captive can relieve?

Sense does inquire if tombs of clay
Can send their guests alive away;
But faith will hear Jehovah's word,
Of life and death the sov'reign Lord.

Should I give ear to rotten dust,
Or to the tombs confine my trust;
No resurrection can I see,
For dust that flies into mine eye.

What! Thomas, can't thou trust so much
To me as to thy sight and touch?
Won't thou believe till Sense be guide,
And thrust its hand into my side?

Where is thy faith, if it depends
On nothing but thy finger-ends?
But bless'd are they the truth who seal
By faith, yet neither see nor feel.

Sect. II.
Faith and Sense Spiritual, compared and distinguished. Where also the difference between the Assurance of Faith, and the Assurance of Sense.

The certainty of faith and sense
Wide differ in experience:
Faith builds upon, — Thus saith the Lord;
Sense the views his work and not his word.

God's word without is faith's resort,
His work within doth sense support,
By faith we trust him without pawns,
By sense we handle with our hands.

By faith the word of truth's receiv'd,
By sense we know we have believ'd.
Faith's certain by fiducial acts,
Sense by its evidential facts.

Faith credits the divine report,
Sense to his breathings makes resort:
That on his word of grace will hing,
This on his Spirit witnessing.

By faith I take the Lord for mine,
By sense I feel his love divine:
By that I touch his garment's hem,
By this find virtue thence to stream.

By faith I have mine all on band,
By sense I have some stock in hand;
By that some vision is begun,
By this I some fruition win.

My faith can fend ev'n in exile,
Sense cannot live without a smile.
By faith I to his promise fly,
By sense I in his bosom lie.

Faith builds upon the truth of God,
That lies within the promise broad;
But sense upon the truth of grace
His hand within my heart did place.

Thus Christ's the object faith will eye,
And faith's the object sense may see:
Faith keeps the truth of God in view,
While sense the truth of faith may shew.

Hence faith's assurance firm can stand,
When sense's in the deep may strand;
And faith's persuasion full prevail,
When comfortable sense may sail.

I am assur'd when faith's in act,
Though sense and feeling both I lack;
And thus mysterious is my lot,
I'm oft assur'd when I am not;

Oft pierc'd with racking doubts and fears:
Yet faith these brambles never bears;
But unbelief that cuts my breath,
And stops the language of my faith.

Clamours of unbelieving fears,
So frequently disturb mine ears,
I cannot hear what faith would say,
Till once the noisy clamours stay.

And then will fresh experience find,
When faith gets leave to speak its mind,
The native language whereof is,
My Lord is mine, and I am his.

Sad doubtings compass me about,
Yet faith itself could never doubt;
For, as the sacred volume saith,
Much doubting argues little faith.

The doubts and fears that work my grief,
Flow not from faith, but unbelief;
For faith, whene'er it acteth, cures
The plague of doubts, and me assures.

But when mine eye of faith's asleep,
I dream of drowning in the deep:
But as befals the sleeping eye,
Though in sight remain, it cannot see;

The seeing faculty abides,
Though sleep from active seeing hides;
So faith's assuring pow'rs endure
Ev'n when it ceases to assure.

There still persuasion in my faith,
Ev'n when I'm fill'd with fears of wrath;
The trusting habit still remains,
Though slumbers hold the act in chains.

The assuring faculty it keeps,
Ev'n when its eye in darkness sleeps,
Wrapt up in doubts; but when it wakes,
It rouses up assuring acts.

Sect. III.
The Harmony and Discord between Faith and Sense; how they help, and how they mar each other.

Though gallant Faith can keep the field
When cow'rdly Sense will fly or yield;
Yet while I view their unusual path,
Sense often stands and falls with Faith.

Faith ushers in sweet Peace and Joy,
Which further heartens Faith's employ:
Faith like the head, and Sense the heart,
Do mutual vigour fresh impart.

When lively Faith and Feeling sweet,
Like dearest darlings, kindly meet,
They straight each other help and hug
In loving friendship close and snug.

Faith gives to Sense both life and breath,
And Sense gives joy and strength to Faith;
"O now," says Faith, "how fond do I
In Sense's glowing bosom lie!"

Their mutual kindness then is such,
That oft they doting too too much,
Embrace each other out of breath;
As AEsop hugg'd his child to death.

Faith leaping into Sense's arms,
Allur'd with her bewitching charms,
In hugging these, lets rashly slip
The proper object of its grip:

Which being lost, behold the thrall!
Anon Faith loses Sense and all;
Thus unawares cuts Sense's breath,
While Sense trips up the heels of Faith.

Her charms assuming Jesus' place,
While Faith's lull'd in her soft embrace;
Lo! soon in dying pleasures wrapt,
Its living joy away is snapt.

Sect. IV.
The Valour and Victories of Faith.

By Faith I unseen Being see
Forth lower beings call,
And say to nothing, Let it be,
And nothing hatches all.

By faith I know the worlds were made
By God's great word of might;
How soon, Let there be light, he said,
That moment there was light.

By faith I soar and force my flight,
Through all the clouds of sense;
I see the glories out of sight,
With brightest evidence.

By faith I mount the azure sky,
And from the lofty sphere,
The earth a little mote espy,
Unworthy of my care.

By faith I see the unseen things,
Hid from all mortal eyes;
Proud Reason stretching all its wings,
Beneath me flutt'ring lies.

By faith I build my lasting hope
On righteousness divine,
Nor can I sink with such a prop,
Whatever storms combine.

By faith my works, my righteousness,
And duties all I own
But loss and dung; and lay my stress
On what my Lord has done.

By faith I overcome the world,
And all its hurtful charms;
I'm in the heav'nly chariot hurl'd
Through all opposing harms.

By faith I have a conqu'ring pow'r,
To tread upon my foes,
To triumph in a dying hour,
And banish all my woes.

By faith in midst of wrongs I'm right,
In sad decays I thrive;
In weakness I am strong in might,
In death I am alive.

By faith I stand when deep I fall,
In darkness I have light;
Nor dare I doubt and question all
When all is out of sight.

By faith I trust a pardon free
Which puzzles flesh and blood;
To think that God can justify,
Where yet he sees no good.

By faith I keep my Lord's commands,
To verify my trust;
I purify my heart and hands,
And mortify my lust.

By faith my melting soul repents,
When pierced Christ appears;
My heart in grateful praises vents,
Mine eyes in joyful tears.

By faith I can the mountains vast
Of sin and guilt remove;
And them into the ocean cast,
The sea of blood and love.

By faith I see Jehovah high
Upon a throne of grace;
I see him lay his vengeance by,
And smile in Jesus' face.

By faith I hope to see the Sun,
The light of grace that lent;
His everlasting circles run,
In glory's firmament.

By faith I'm more than conqueror,
Ev'n though I nothing can;
Because I set Jehovah's pow'r
Before me in the van.

By faith I counterplot my foes,
Nor need their ambush fear;
Because my life-guard also goes
Behind me in the rear.

By faith I walk, I run, I fly,
By faith I suffer thrall;
By faith I'm fit to live and die,
By faith I can do all.

Sect. V.
The Heights and Depths of Sense.

When Heav'n me grants, at certain times,
Amidst a pow'rful gale,
Sweet liberty to moan my crimes,
And wand'rings to bewail;

Then do I dream my sinful brood,
Drown'd in the ocean main
Of crystal tears and crimson blood,
Will never lie again.

I get my foes beneath my feet,
I bruise the serpent's head;
I hope the vict'ry is complete,
And all my lusts are dead.

How gladly do I think and say,
When thus it is with me,
Sin to my sense is clean away,
And so shall ever be?

But, ah! alas! th' ensuing hour
My lusts arise and swell,
They rage and re-inforce their pow'r,
With new recruits from hell,

Though I resolv'd and swore, through grace,
In very solemn terms,
I never should my lusts embrace,
Nor yield unto their charms;

Yet such deceitful friends they are,
While I no danger dream,
I'm snar'd before I am aware,
And hurry'd down the stream.

Into the gulph of sin anon,
I'm plunged head and ears;
Grace to my sense is wholly gone,
And I am chain'd in fears;

Till straight, my Lord, with sweet surprise,
Returns to loose my bands,
With kind compassion in his eyes,
And pardon in his hands.

Yet thus my life is nothing else,
But heav'n and hell by turns;
My soul that now in Goshen dwells,
Anon in Egypt mourns.

Sect. VI.
Faith and Frames compared; or, Faith building upon Sense discovered.

Faith has for its foundation broad
A stable rock on which I stand,
The truth and faithfulness of God,
All other grounds are sinking sand,

My frames and feelings ebb and flow;
And when my faith depends on them,
It fleets and staggers to and fro,
And dies amidst the dying frame.

That faith is surely most unstay'd,
Its stagg'ring can't be counted strange,
That builds its hope of lasting aid
On things that ev'ry moment change.

But could my faith lay all its load
On Jesus' everlasting name,
Upon the righteousness of God,
And divine truth that's still the same:

Could I believe what God has spoke,
Rely on his unchanging love,
And cease to grasp at fleeting smoke,
No changes would my mountain move,

But when, how soon the frame's away,
And comfortable feelings fail;
So soon my faith falls in decay,
And unbelieving doubts prevail:

This proves the charge of latent vice,
And plain my faith's defects may show;
I built the house on thawing ice,
That tumbles with the melting snow,

When divine smiles in sight appear,
And I enjoy the heav'nly gale;
When wind and tide and all is fair,
I dream my faith shall never fail:

My heart will false conclusions draw,
That strong my mountain shall remain;
That in my faith there is no flaw,
I'll never never doubt again.

I think the only rest I take,
Is God's unfading word and name;
And fancy not my faith so weak,
As e'er to trust a fading frame.

But, ah! by sudden turns I see
My lying heart's fallacious guilt,
And that my faith, not firm in me,
On sinking sand was partly built;

For, lo! when warming beams are gone,
And shadows fall; alas, 'tis odd,
I cannot wait the rising Sun,
I cannot trust a hiding God.

So much my faith's affiance seems
Its life from fading joys to bring,
That when I loose the dying streams,
I cannot trust the living spring.

When drops of comfort quickly dry'd,
And sensible enjoyments fail;
When cheering apples are deny'd,
Then doubts instead of faith prevail.

But why, though fruit be snatch'd from me,
Should I distrust the glorious Root;
And still affront the standing tree,
By trusting more to falling fruit?

The smallest trials may evince
My faith unfit to stand the shock,
That more depends on fleeting sense,
Than on the fix'd eternal Rock.

The safest ark when floods arise,
Is stable truth that changes not;
How weak's my faith, that more relies
On feeble sense's floating boat?

For when the fleeting frame is gone,
I straight my state in question call;
I droop and sink in deeps anon,
As if my frame were all in all.

But though I miss the pleasing gale,
And Heav'n withdraw the charming glance;
Unless Jehovah's oath can fail,
My faith may keep its countenance.

The frame of nature shall decay,
Time-changes break her rusty chains;
Yea, heav'n and earth shall pass away;
But faith's foundation firm remains.

Heav'n's promises so fix'dly stand,
Ingrav'd with an immortal pen,
In great Immanuel's mighty hand,
All hell's attempts to raze are vain.

Did Faith with none but Truth advise,
My steady soul would move no more
Than stable hills when tempests rise,
Or solid rocks when billows roar.

But when my faith the counsel hears
Of present sense and reason blind,
My wav'ring spirit then appears
A feather toss'd with ev'ry wind.

Lame legs of faith unequal, crook;
Thus mine, alas! unev'nly stand,
Else I would trust my stable Rock,
Not fading frames and feeble sand.

I would, when dying comforts fly,
As much as when they present were,
Upon my living joy rely.
Help, Lord, for here I daily err.