Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gospel Sonnets of Ralph Erskine

Can you picture the father of good ol' John Paton, missionary to New Hebrides, sitting under the tree reading Erkine's Gospel Sonnets, his future wife secretly observing  him,  he reading until he can bear no more and must get low and pray?  

As I read them I think and think and think some more
Methinks I see the senior Paton, Christ to adore.
But really with faith's keen eye it's not that fatherly man I see
For these Poems, gospel rich, have awakened prayer in me.
(with apologies)

I was captivated by these two lines from Gospel Sonnets:

The law can crave no more, yet craves no less,
Than active, passive, perfect righteousness.

So searching through Erskine's book I found the whole in context as follows:
     The believer, being married to Christ, is both justified and sanctified
Proud nature may reject this gospel-theme,
And curse it as an Antinomian scheme.
Let slander bark, let envy grin and fight,
The curse that is so causeless shall not light.
If they that fain would make by holy force
‘Twixt sinners and the law a clean divorce,
And court the Lamb a virgin chaste to wife,
Be charg’d as foes to holiness of life,
Well may they suffer gladly on this score,
Apostles great were so malign’d before.
When as a cov’nant stern the law commands,
Faith puts her Lamb’s obedience in its hands:
And when its threats gush out a fiery flood,
Faith stops the current with her victim’s blood.
The law can crave no more, yet craves no less,
Than active, passive, perfect righteousness.
Yet here is all, yea, more than its demand,
All render’d to it by a divine hand.
Mankind is bound law-service still to pay,
Yea, angel-kind is also bound t’ obey.
It may by human and angelic blaze
Have honour, but in finite partial ways.
Thus doth the Husband by his Father’s will
Both for and in his bride the law fulfill:
For her, as ’tis a covenant; and then
In her, as ’tis a rule of life to men.
First all law-debt he most completely pays;
Then of law-duties all the charge defrays.
Does first assume her guilt, and loose her chains;
And then with living water wash her stains:
Her fund restore, and then her form repair,
And make his filthy bride a beauty fair;
His perfect righteousness most freely grant,
And then his holy image deep implant;
Into her heart his precious seed indrop,
Which, in his time, will yield a glorious crop.
But by alternate turns his plant he brings
Through robbing winters and repairing springs.
Hence, pining oft, they suffer sad decays,
By dint of shady nights and stormy days.
But blest with sap, and influence from above
They live and grow anew in faith and love;
Until transplanted to the higher soil,
Where furies tread no more, nor foxes spoil.
This book available for purchase here.

To read online click here. 

White Horse Inn blog discusses here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Beginning with Romans Chapter nine, when originally studying this book with my girls, we came up with a concept called "flow words."   It's like the keywords we previously employed to give us a handle on each chapter.  Now, though, we wanted a handle to IMPRINT an outline of each thought in chapter nine - thoughts that flow from one to the next  building an overwhelming case for the sovereignty of God in Salvation, that is his election.

Here are the "flow words" we have identified for Chapter Nine:

Keyword: Election
Memory Verse: Rom 9:11

Flow Words – Outlining the flow of thought through Romans Chapter Nine

Verses           Flow Word
Rom 9:1-5      Sorrow over Israel’s unbelief.
Rom 9:6         What is wrong with the Word of God? – NOTHING.
Rom 9:6         They are not all Israel which are of Israel.
Rom 9:7-9      Consider Isaac and Ishmael
Rom 9:8         Children of the flesh are not the children of God
Rom 9:10-13 Consider Jacob and Esau
Rom 9:11       Why? That the purpose of God according to Election might stand.
Rom 9:14       Is there unrighteousness with God?
Rom 9:15-29 God shows mercy as he wills.
Rom 9:17       Pharoh.
Rom 9:18-23 Potter and the Clay.
Rom 9:25       Prophecy fulfilled: I will call them my people which were not my people.
Rom 9:33       Believe on the Stumbling Stone.

Online Bible with Lots of helps:

Free Bible Software, many commentaries, versions, maps, dictionaries:

Saturday, November 26, 2011



Chap 1: Without Excuse
Chap 2: The Law Condemns
Chap 3: There is none righteous    
Chap 4: Imputation/Logizomai      
Chap 5: Headship/Representation 
Chap 6: Mortification/Vivification  
Chap 7: Who Shall Deliver           
Chap 8: Spirit of Life                    
Chap 9: Election                           

Alternate Keywords:
Chap 1: The Indictment Begins (Rom 1:18)
Chap 2: The law instructs but provides no promise/enablement
Chap 3: All have sinned, Total Depravity
Chap 4: Counted Righteous
Chap 5: Two Adams, First Adam/Second Adam
Chap 6: Dying to Sin and Living to God
Chap 7: O’ Wretched Man that I am
Chap 8: No Condemnation/ No Separation
Chap 9: (there are 13 “flow words” )

Memory Verses -  Extended Memory Verses
Rom 1:20 - Chap 1: Rom 1:20, Rom 1:1, Rom 1:8, Rom 1:16-20
Rom 2:13 - Chap 2: Rom 2:13, Rom 2:12-16
Rom 3:10 - Chap 3: Rom 3:10, Rom 3:10-12, 3:18, 3:21, 23 3:28-29
Rom 4:3   - Chap 4: Rom 4:3, Rom 4:23-25
Rom 5:19 - Chap 5: Rom 5:19, Rom 5:8, Rom 5:14
Rom 6:11 - Chap 6: Rom 6:11, Rom 6:1-3, Rom 6:22, Rom 6:23
Rom 7:24 - Chap 7: Rom 7:24, Rom 7:18, Rom 7:25
Rom 8:2   - Chap 8: Rom 8:2, Rom 8:1, 8:8-9, 8:28, or whole chapter
Rom 9:11 - Chap 9: Rom 9:11-16, Rom 9:6, 9:8, 9:20, 9:25

Chapter One showing us that we were all WITHOUT EXCUSE. That what can be known of God has been made MANFEST IN us and shown to us by GOD. Even the invisible things of God being clearly understood ever since the creation of the world, from the things that are made, even his eternal power and GODHEAD. God is. Who can deny? No one! All are without excuse. As my little girl almost 10 years old at the time said, “There had to be someone that wasn’t made to make all that was made.”

Moving on to Chapter Two, we find that the there is no law to empower us unto the making of our own righteousness. No standard we can erect will ever serve to justify us in the end before a holy God. Having the standard is never enough we must from the first breath uphold all things perfectly and at all times, for it is not the hearers of the law that are just before God but the doers of the law that shall be justified. Again from the mouth of my little girls: “The law tells you what to do, but it doesn’t give you the power to do it.” And if we might assert “We had no standard to guide us, we had no law written on stone to show us the way, how can we then be judged?” We also learned that we evidence all the time the work of the law written on our hearts, we have a conscience, we look at the actions of one another and say approvingly ‘that was good’ or ‘that was bad.’ We have law enough, which if we sin without law we shall also PERISH without law. So then the Law cannot save us, but only condemn. The Law Condemns, either that law which the Jews were under or even which standard is a “work of the law written in our hearts.”

Then in Chapter Three, the case against us having already been made , yet there is more. We hear an argument from Holy Scriptures written long before the book of Romans. “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” A number of scriptures are cited, humbling us, showing us our hopeless state without remedy in ourselves. Some of which are: Psa 14:1-3, Psa 53-13, Psa 5:9, Psa 140:3, Psa 10:7, Isa 59:7-8, Psa 36:1

The charges are numerous, our own inability plainly stated: “None that understands,” “none that seeks after God,” Everyone unprofitable, no one doing GOOD. My Throat like an open grave is a man-eater. (note: I said “my” not “their” for the difficulty for me is to see my own place in this dreadful list, to see these holy charges falling upon me, but they do if I attempt to stand on my own person, ability and goodness.) My tongue has used deceit, and the deadly poison of an asp is under my lips. Mouth full of cursing - (too well do I know that truth.) Destruction and misery in my way. Not knowing the way of peace with my wife, my fellow, my friend, and especially MY GOD. The one true cause of all the previously mentioned is summed all up in the greatest of all sins, “There is no fear of God before my eyes.” Had I feared God aright, my entire passion would be for him, my thoughts always running to him, I would have diligently read His book, prayed without ceasing, this Holy Fear would have flavored my every action. Fear that doesn’t cower but cries out “who do I have in heaven but thee and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.” Not the fear of cowardice but the Holy fear that COMES to God.

So the testimony being clear that there is NONE RIGHTEOUS, and we know also that the UNRIGHTEOUS shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. 1Co 6:9-11 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?

But if the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God, and there is None righteous, not even me, where can I go? To whom should I flee, for I, having no righteousness of my own, am at a loss, a great and terrible loss, I with no goodness of my own by which I can enter heaven and stand before GOD. My heart cries out in earnest despair “What righteousness is there then by which I can stand in the day of Judgment?” 

IMPUTED RIGHTOUSNESS - GLORIOUS AND EXCEEDINGLY GREAT GOOD NEWS - for what does the scriptures say: Rom 4:3 - Abraham believed God, and it was COUNTED unto him for righteousness. Surely the scriptures included Abraham when they said there is NONE RIGHTEOUS, and yet Abraham by God was COUNTED righteous. This gives me some hope. This is good news. Can I hope also like Abraham to believe God and by faith to be counted righteous?

Romans Chapter Four assures us that this is the very case:
Rom 4:23-25 Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.

Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross in our place and for our sins. Jesus Christ having completed and satisfied in his LIFE and Death all that he set out to do, sin having no more hold on him, HE was raised again, having completed that work which was necessary for our justification.

TO US it shall be IMPUTED, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead. Nothing meritorious in our own faith, but faith the means or instrument which joins us to Christ who did what he did in our place.


But how can this work? How can the righteousness of another be reckoned or counted as being mine? The answer, REPRESENTATION or HEADSHIP being illustrated in Chapter Five with a comparison between the First Adam and the Second ADAM, Jesus Christ. Adam was a figure of him that was to come, he representing all that were in him. Because of the representative office of ADAM, when he sinned all that were in him were made sinners, he brought death upon all because he represented all. Jesus Christ also is the HEAD of his people and represented them in all he did both in his living perfectly for us as our head and in his dying in our place upon the cross. Through the obedience of our representative, Jesus Christ, many shall be made righteous.

CHAPTER SIX: So in imputation and headship we have VERY GOOD NEWS, so good in fact that some may bring the abuse either complaining about the gospel being too good and scornfully saying “Shall we continue to sin that Grace may abound?” Or rather finding grace so good thinking they see an allowance for sin - “Let’s sin that grace will abound.” But the answer is a horrified negation, “THIS CANNOT EVER BE.” We should think along these lines - that we are dead to sin and alive to God. We should be dying daily to sin and living unto God, free from sin to serve righteousness, Mortification and Vivification.

CHAPTER SEVEN describes how we find this dying to sin and living to God difficult. In us, that is in our own flesh there is no strength. Looking in ourselves we do not find the ability to do good. Sin yet remains. We still have flesh remaining within to contend with, and yet being born of God we have new desires, we cry out “O Wretched man that I am who shall deliver me from this body of death - thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

CHAPTER EIGHT showing us that we are not left as orphans in this world to RUN in our own strength. The law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. The description is given - believers walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. But when we, as described in chapter seven, find ourselves with flesh still remaining, an enemy that beats hard upon us this chapter shows that believers, all of them, are not in the FLESH but in the Spirit. The Spirit is life and peace, we are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if it is true that the Spirit of God dwells in us. And if we do not have the Spirit of Christ then we are not Christians at all and we do not belong to Jesus. But being believers, we know that the Spirit of God dwells in us and knowing this let us who live in the Spirit also WALK in the Spirit. These fruits will follow, we can pray to this end, live for this goal, we will be mortifying the deeds of the flesh by the same Spirit who dwells in us. This Spirit will give us the nature of Children. We will cry out to God in the Spirit of Adoption, Abba Father. The chapter begins with “No Condemnation for those who are IN Christ.” And ends with NOTHING Can separate us FROM Christ. Contained within this chapter we found one of the sweetest of all verses for believers, declaring that GOD causes all things to work together for good. We found the Golden Chain that cannot be broken, and we concluded then that of course nothing can separate us - we cannot be condemned for God justifies and Christ died, and all the calamities and enemies that confront us cannot destroy us or separate us from Jesus Christ. His glory is at stake and he will lose none of his own. We are secure because we are IN him.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wings to Fly: The law and the Gospel

My son, sent me this poem by Ralph Erskine.   He tells me it is from a much larger book by Erskine full of poems/sonnets.  Or perhaps it is one long Sonnet, I'm not sure. If I ever find the book I hope to either own it or download to my tablet.   Read carefully, Erskine has such insight.  And think, doesn't this remind you so much of that other short snippet usually ascribed to John Bunyan but most likely by another John or perhaps even by Erskine. I'm speaking of "Run John Run The law commands, but gives us neither feet nor hands, far better news the gospel brings, it bids us fly and gives us wings."  If you find the book by Erskine please let me know - I'll be grateful for sure.  Happy Thanksgiving, I am confident you will read the following with thankful heart overflowing .

The law can crave no more, yet craves no less,
Than active, passive, perfect righteousness.
The legal path proud nature loves so well,
(Though yet 'tis but the cleanest road to hell)

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:

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 righteous law condemns each man
That dare reject the gospel-plan;
The holy gospel none will save
On whom it won't the law engrave.

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

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.
The glorious gospel is (in brief)
A sovereign word of sweet relief;
Not clogg'd with cumbersome commands,
To bind the soul's receiving hands.
'Tis joyful news of sovereign grace
That reigns in state through righteousness

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.

A rigid manner was the law,
demanding brick, denying straw;
But when with gospel tongue it sings,
It bids me fly, and gives me wings."
by Ralph Erskine

The above may have been collected from various parts of the book, "Gospel Sonnets" by Ralph Erskine.  I added the breaks between verses as I saw most fitting - you may have done better.  

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Joyful Application of the Sovereignity of God

At the beginning of last summer my fifteen year old daughter went on a short term missions trip to New Orleans with several other youth from our church.  They worked with Urban Impact Ministries and Nola Fusion.   click here to learn more about Urban Impact and Nola Fusion.

Upon return those who went gave an excellent report to the church body.   My daughter put her experience in writing.  Below is her words explaining her experience in New Orleans, some of the fears and unknowing she experienced, and how an understanding of the Sovereignty of God and  how realizing all thing are for God's Glory worked to bring her joy and success during her time in New Orleans.  (Note: on the night before my daughter left for New Orleans we learned from the Corps of Engineers that the Missouri River would rise and swell way beyond its banks rising three feet above the floor of our basement.  The night before she left we evacuated our basement and two days later built a three foot levy guarding our walk in basement.  While in New Orleans these things weighed on her mind and worked greater patient endurance than otherwise may have occurred.  Although the flooding of the Missouri River lasted for over three months and the river rose over 21 feet beyond normal the levees built by the Corp, the County and the City all worked to hold the water at bay sparing our home and many others in our community though some dear neighbors lost home and land being on the wrong side of the levee.)

By the Grace of God my Fifteen Year Old's Joyful Application of the Sovereignty of God:

One verse that helped me throughout my trip to New Orleans was my favorite verse from Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”    Knowing that God had a purpose for me on this trip and that it would lead to God’s glory was a great comfort to me since I didn’t really know how the week was going to go.  

   I was a little overwhelmed when I saw all the poverty within five minutes of our drive to the yellow house.
We saw abandoned houses, broken windows, graffiti everywhere, gangs hanging around the city streets, and homeless people wandering around. I didn’t think I was going to see all that in only a couple of minutes. Then, just before we pulled into the yellow house I saw what I thought was a huge gang of kids hanging on the street just before we entered the yellow house, I quickly realized that it was just the other group of kids that came from NE. ;) 

   I had so many worries the first couple of days while I was in New Orleans. I didn’t know how the week was going to lay out, or how I was going to make friends and make my conversations glorifying to God, I was missing my family, and worried about our house, I wasn’t really sure how God was going to work in me during our stay, and I’ve never even done something like this before or even been away from my family for this long, so I didn’t have them to tell me what to think of everything that I was experiencing. Then we found out that we couldn’t call our families every night and I had to be separated into a group away from our church group and with a whole bunch of strangers for parts of the day. In my heart I was angry and frustrated about leaving our church group and having to be with this other group for a whole week!! 
  When we got back to our room that night I took time to lay down and think over everything that was going on. And talk to God about how I should take all this in. He reminded me that God put me here in New Orleans and in the purple group, and that it was wrong of me to be angry at where he has put me. I was put in the purple group to glorify God and that I should be glad and thankful for where God has put me. After that I was rejoicing knowing that he planned for me to be in that group and here in New Orleans and it gave me a sense of relief and a desire to take everything that came my way with joyfulness and thanksgiving because God is in control. 

    The week got better as it went, I started getting more comfortable with my team, and I loved getting to play and know the kids in New Orleans better! Although I missed my family and wanted to call them so desperately, I turned to God and was more dependent on Him. Whenever I was alone or was bothered by my thoughts I looked on Christ and remembered Romans 8:28. God gave me comfort and the words to say when I talked to some of the kids that I met. I got to share the gospel with two girls that I met with in New Orleans. One was a girl from the NE team and the other was from New Orleans. I was rejoicing when I got that opportunity to tell them the gospel and it made me so rejoiceful getting to share how good God is! 

    Through this trip God constantly reminded me of his sovereignty and how we are completely dependent on him. He gave me a peace that he was in control, even at home. I knew that if our house or my Dad’s work was flooded and if it was all taken away, it would be good. And I really realized that all my joy comes from God. When I’m at home it’s hard to realize that because I have parents to tell me how to do things, a nice bed, a good church, and all these comforts, but if it was all taken away would I still be happy. I got a little taste of that in New Orleans when I had some of that taken away, and God showed me that the only real joy I have comes from God. I did have a fun time getting to see all the kids in New Orleans, having good food,
 music, games, seeing the French Quarter, getting to know all the interns, getting to know the kids in our youth better, hanging out with our leaders, but the only and real joy you have is doing it for the glory of God. He is our joy! 

   Now that I am back from New Orleans I’ve been thinking about all that happened and trying to let it soak in. I’ve always had a desire to be an overseas missionary and right now I’m praying to see where God wants me. I am still young and I know I have a lot more growing and maturing to do in the Lord, but God has a plan and he is still working in me and I pray that whatever happens until that day where I will be where God wants me that I will live for his Glory and continue having a deeper desire to know Him.

For more on the Youth Trip to New Orleans click here