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A Poem on Law and Gospel

June 13, 2009

I just received the Reformation Heritage Books catalogue today in the mail.  On the very front is a poem entitled “A Poem on Law and Gospel” by Ralph Erskine.  We need to be careful not to attribute to Erskine a hatred of the Law, but rather he is pointing out the incompleteness and insufficiency of it for Life.  It exalts the Gospel.  I loved it:

Ralph Erskine, The Beauties of Erskine, 1745

A Poem On Law & 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.


The law will not abate a mite,

The gospel all the sum will quit;

There God in thret’nings is array’d

But here in promises display’d.


The law excludes not boasting vain,

But rather feeds it to my bane;

But gospel grace allows no boasts,

Save in the King, the Lord of Hosts.


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’s a house of bondage sore,

The gospel opens prison doors;

The first me hamer’d in its net,

The last at freedom kindly set.


An angry God the law reveal’d

The gospel shows him reconciled;

By that I know he was displeased,

By this I see his wrath appeased.


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.

I loved the last stanza.  


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