Gospel Sonnets Chapter V Section 3

By Ralph Erskine

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 never be reach'd;
Knowing their holiness is but a sham,
Who ne'er are marry'd to the holy Lamb.
Let words have never such a pious shew,
And blaze aloft in rude professor's view,
With sacred aromatics richly spic'd,
If they but drown in silence glorious Christ;
Or, if he may some vacant room supply,
Make him a subject only by the by;
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 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 new of light approaching spread;
But from the law of works by him procliam'd,
No ray of gospel-grace or mercy gleam'd.
By nature's light the law to all is know,
But lightsome news of gospel-grace to none.
The doing cov'nant now, in part or whole,
Is strong to damn, but weak to save a soul.
It hurts, and cannot help, but as it tends
Through mercy to subserve some gospel-ends.
Law thunder roughly to the gospel tames,
The gospel mildly to the law reclaims.
The firey law, as 'tis a covenant,
Schools men to see the gospel-aid they want;
Then gospel-aid does sweetly them inclune
Back to the law as 'tis a rule divine.
Heav'n's healing work is oft commenc'd with wounds,
Terror begins what loving kindness crowns.
Preachers may therefore press the firey law,
To strike the Christless man with dreadful awe.
Law-thrats 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 cov'nant game.
The law is good when lawfully 'tis us'd,
But most destructive when 'tis abus'd.
They set not duties in the proper sphere,
Who duly law and gospel don't severe;
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.

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