Ralph Erskine (1685 – 1752) is known with men like Thomas Boston and his Brother Ebeneezer Erskine as one of the Marrow Men, who stood for Justification by Faith Alone and against the spread of legalism and Arminianism in the 18th century Scottish Presbyterian church. What he is less well known for however, are his wonderful gospel poems, few of which are still in print. Here is one particularly moving example:
The bride with open eyes, that once were dim,
Sees now her whole salvation lies in him;
The Prince, who is not in dispensing nice,
But freely gives without her pains or price.
This magnifies the wonder in her eye,
Who not a farthing has wherewith to buy ;
For now her humbled mind can disavow,
Her boasted beauty and assuming brow;
With conscious eye discern her emptiness,
With candid lips her poverty confess.
O glory to the Lord that grace is free,
Else never would it light on guilty me.
I nothing have with me to be its price,
But hellish blackness, enmity and vice.
In former times she durst presuming come.
To grace’s market with a pretty sum
Of duties, prayers, tears, a boasted set,
Expecting heav’n would thus be in her debt.
These were the price, at least she did suppose,
She’d be the welcomer because of those :
But now she sees the vileness of her vogue,
The dung that close to ev’ry duty clog,
The sin that doth her holiness reprove,
The enmity that close attends her love,
The great heart-hardness of her penitence,
The stupid dullness of her vaunted sense,
The unbelief of former blazed faith,
The utter nothingness of all she hath.
The blackness of her beauty she can see,
The pompous pride of strain’d humility,
The naughtiness of all her tears and pray’rs :
And now renounces all her worthless wares :
And finding nothing to commend herself,
But what might damn her, embezzled pelf*;
At sov’reign grace’s feet doth prostrate fall,
Content to be in Jesus’ debt for all.
Her noised virtues vanish out of sight,
As starry tapers at meridian light;
While sweetly, humbly, she beholds at length
Christ, as her only righteousness and strength.
He with the view throws down his loving dart,
Imprest with pow’r into her tender heart.
The deeper that the law’s fierce dart was thrown,
The deeper now the dart of love goes down :
Hence, sweetly pain’d, her cries to heav’n do flee ;
O none but Jesus, none but Christ for me !
O glorious Christ! O beauty, beauty rare !
Ten thousand thousand heav’ns are not so fair,
In him at once all beauties meet and shine,
The white and ruddy, human and divine.
As in his low, he’s in his high abode,
The brightest image of the unseen God.
How justly do the harpers sing above,
His doing, dying, rising, reigning love ?
How justly does he when his work is done,
Possess the centre of his Father’s throne ?
How justly do his awful throne before
Seraphic armies prostrate, him adore ;
That’s both by nature and donation crown’d,
With all the grandeur of the Godhead round ?
But wilt thou, Lord, in every deed come dwell
With me, that was a burning brand of hell ?
With me, so justly reckon’d worse and less
Than insect, mite, or atom can express ?
Wilt thou debase thy high imperial form,
To match with such a mortal, crawling worm ?
Yea, sure thine errand to our earthly coast,
Was in deep love to seek and save the lost:
And since thou deign’st the like of me to wed,
O come and make my heart thy marriage-bed,
Fair Jesus, wilt thou marry filthy me!
Amen, Amen, Amen ; so let it be.
* pelf – wealth or riches dishonestly gotten