Saturday, August 16, 2008

Calvinism and Mariah Carey

Reformed folks are probably more familiar with William Carey, sometimes referred to as the father of modern missions. William Carey is famous for saying, "Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God." The following video, however, speculates about possible Calvinistic tendencies of his fellow Carey clansman (clansperson?), Mariah:



H.T. Brought, ironically enough, to my attention by Let My People Read.

The Real Turretin on: The Duty of the King Toward Religion

JetBrane at Iron Ink has provide a quotation from the real Francis Turretin on the subject of the duty of the Christian magistrate. (link) JetBrane goes on to make an application to the so-called R2KT (Radical Two-Kingdom Theology) viewpoint. Without getting embroiled (for now) with that topic, I can of course commend Turretin's comments as an interest read.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Science Rejects Free Will

This article (link) is not going to convince anyone, and perhaps it shouldn't. The article basically says that a team of scientists have discovered that they can determine people's decisions (at least some simple ones) before the people themselves can determine their decisions. That suggests something to the effect of determinism. While I enjoy the article, and it is helpful to sort of tweak the noses of my Libertarian Free Will (LFW) advocating friends, there are some problems with it, and I'll be up front about them:

1) Science is notoriously erroneous. It is typically based on induction, and consequently it is frequently revised as new evidence arrives and the old inductions cannot accommodate them.

2) Even within science, the study of the human mind is usually viewed as a "soft" science. It's very difficult to ensure proper controls for studies, and there are some studies that have purported to verify very questionable hypotheses, such as telepathy/clairvoyance.

3) Science can only deal directly with the physical. We have reason to believe that at least some aspect of decisions are conducted in the spiritual realm. Thus, we would not expect that science could fully address the issue of decision-making.

Despite all those caveats, the article is interesting and is something that LFW advocates should be prepared to address.


Amazing Prediction

The self-titled "Plain Path Puritan" recently made the following prediction: "I predict a mass conversion of paedo-baptist Reformed Christians at the [so-called] PuritanBoard to Roman Catholicism within the next five years." (brackets in the original) (link)

It's an amazing prediction. It's amazing for this reason: the folks at Puritan Board are among the most conservative of Presbyterians. I'm sure my Roman Catholic readers would be delighted if the prediction came true, but I'm afraid that I'd be falsely raising their hopes if I said there was any chance of it happening.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Biblical Evidence for the Veneration of Relics Ignored?

Previously, I discussed (and rebutted) the claim that the Scriptural discussion of the transport of Joseph's bones from Egypt to Canaan was evidence of the veneration of relics in the Old Testament (link). Now, I turn to a second favorite passage that relic-venerators tend to appeal to, as allegedly supporting their position. That passage is the discussion of the resuscitation of a man who touched Elisha's bones.

The Scripture in question is as follows:

2 Kings 13:20-21
20And Elisha died, and they buried him. And the bands of the Moabites invaded the land at the coming in of the year. 21And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.

The point of this passage would seem to be an indication of the extreme poverty of the prophet, as well as a testimony to the reality of his divine appointment as a prophet.

1) Note that they buried Elisha. They did not place his bones in a synagogue or in the temple to be venerated.

2) Note that they buried Elisha in a place of the dead. This is confirmed by the fact that men who were burying a man (who is so unimportant as not even to be named in Scripture) found Elisha's sepulcher at hand. Thus, it appears that Elisha's sepulcher was not in a place of great importance, but in a place of the dead.

3) Note that Elisha's sepulchre was open. If it had been a closed sepulchre, it would not have been convenient to dump a body into it. An open sepulchre was an unpleasant and foul thing, even though it had an important purpose. In fact, the Psalmist uses it to provide a negative picture of the sinful man's mouth:

Psalm 5:9 For there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue.

Notice the comparison there. An open sepulchre, as you can see, has the advantage of not smelling so bad at the mouth of the sepulchre, but inside is death: a carcase. We can deduce that these open sepulchres were either deep (to accomplish this smell prevention issue), and consequently the prophet Jeremiah likens the quiver of mighty men to an open sepulchre:

Jeremiah 5:16 Their quiver is as an open sepulchre, they are all mighty men.

Or possibly the idea is that open sepulchres were in essence mass graves: which would also make sense both in the context of 2 Kings 13 and Jeremiah 5 (although I am inclined to the former view).

Some have suggested that an open sepulchre is basically a crevasse in the earth, a deep, naturally occurring pit into which a body could basically be dumped, thereby saving cost in terms of the time spent having to dig up the earth for burial. This would make sense as well - the idea being in Jeremiah 5 that the mighty men have a basically limitless supply of arrows.

4) The sepulchre was not a rock-face sepulchre, like that in which Jesus was buried. Recall that the man was not simply tossed or placed into the sepulchre, but lowered into the open sepulchre. This "lowered" suggests that the sepulchre opened upward rather than laterally. Again, this confirms that Elijah was not buried in some elaborate tomb designed to honor him, but rather in a low-cost alternative.

Analysis of Verse with Respect to Veneration Hypothesis

With the analysis above in mind, we should examine the verse in view of the hypothesis that it has something to do with venerating relics. Frankly, of course, there is no hint of veneration. Indeed, the idea of placing (even carefully) an apparently dead body on top of Elisha's would seem to show the opposite of veneration for him (dead bodies were unclean).

One might argue that the knowledge that it was the place where Elisha was buried shows some amount of honor, but it is the sort of bare honor that demonstrates that Elisha was at least not buried in an unmarked grave (as contrasted, for example, with the Muslims' practices).

Rather than being used specifically for the purposes of showing veneration, some might argue this as showing the supernatural effects associated with the corpses of holy men.

Leaving aside the issue of whether Elisha was particularly holy, it is interesting to note that the passage does not explicitly say that the man about to be buried was dead. It says he revived, which is ambiguous (both in the original Hebrew and in our English translation) as to whether the man came to life or simply recovered from a state of apparent death (presumably folks wouldn't bury an apparently alive person).

Either way, it is reasonable to infer that one of the reasons for the mention of the revival was to highlight this as a sort of posthumous miracle of Elisha. It is a reasonable inference, but not a necessary one. Regardless of whether it is a correct inference, all that it demonstrates is that God chose to testify to Elisha's gifts in this particular way at this particular time.

In other words, we would have no logical or proper ground to infer a general principle from this isolated and Scripturally unexplained occurrence. It certainly does not teach the veneration of relics, nor does it provide a rational basis for endorsing the superstitious legends that have sprung up around various relics, within churches that engage in relic veneration.

In short, we can reject the theory that 2 Kings 13:20-21 in any way supports relic veneration or the churches that practice such activity. You might think, based on the explanation above, that no one would attempt to use such a clearly unhelpful passage as 2 Kings 13:20-21, but - in fact - we see such happening in papist apologetics (Dave Armstrong, for example, falsely claims that "In the Old Law we read of the veneration of the Jews for the bones of Joseph (Exodus 13:19; Joshua 24:32), and of the prophet Eliseus [Elisha] ...." (quoting with approval from Bertrand Conway) link; See also Steve Ray relying on Joseph and Elisha, Ron aka "Saint under Construction" similarly relying on Joseph and Elisha, and this anonymous article that has received Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur which relies on Elisha while wisely omitting reference to Joseph)

May the God of the Living keep us from this,


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Real Turretin on: Perseverance and the Law

Josh Lim at Reformed Blogging, has posted a nice selection from the real Francis Turretin on the relationship between Perseverance of the Saints and the Law. (link) As you can imagine, Turretin insists that certainty of salvation does not give us license to sin freely.


Biblical Evidence for Indulgences?

Dave Armstrong (DA), a lay apologist for Rome, asserts that there is "explicit biblical [sic] evidence for all the essential notions behind indulgences" (link to source of discussion) (link to quotation).

Initially, it's worth noting that the explicitness of the "explicit biblical [sic] evidence" is undermined by the fact that it is not for indulgences, but for "all the essential notions behind" indulgences. It seems fair to say that DA has conceded that there is no explicit Biblical evidence for indulgences.

1) How does DA pick the "essential notions behind"?

DA is not very clear in this regard. It is as though he picks them out of a hat. This is not surprising, since the doctrine of Indulgences is not a Biblical doctrine. Thus, if one is going to be limited in how one picks doctrines that are to be called the "essential notions behind."

Of course, given that the doctrine of Indulgences is not itself a Biblical doctrine, one might think that DA would look for essential notions permitting uninspired men to innovate doctrines not taught by the apostles. DA, however, does not do this, as we see when we turn to:

2) What are the "essential notions behind"?

DA writes: "These passages form the biblical [sic] basis for priestly absolution (forgiveness), and broadly speaking, for both papal and Church jurisdiction (by extension, for the power to impose penance -- binding, retaining -- and to grant indulgences -- loosing, forgiving)."

Apparently, the two "essential notions" that DA thinks are behind indulgences are absolution and church jurisdiction. But are these enough to address the essence of indulgences? Surely not.

Before we get to the issue of jurisdiction over penance/indulgences and forgiveness, there is the more fundamental issue of whether a proper category of temporal punishment of sin exists. This category does not have a reason for existence until the doctrine of Purgatory develops, because it is principally Purgatory for which indulgences become of value.

That is to say, the concept of earthly penance is not enough to justify the doctrine of Indulgences, which is based on the concept of temporal punishment for sins. Prior to the development of Purgatory and the concept of temporal punishment for sins, the concept of earthly penance can be viewed simply as a test of sincerity, as discipline (as distinct from punishment) for sins, or both.

Of course, Scripture nowhere makes the eternal/temporal punishment distinction. Christ's righteousness, suffering, and death are attributed to the believer in justification. Thus, as Paul says:

Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

But even if the alleged "essential notions" are not enough to justify the doctrine of Indulgences, let us address the next question:

3) Do DA's claims have support for what they assert?

DA claims that he has provided support for "priestly absolution" and "the power to impose penance ... and to grant indulgences." But, in fact, such concepts are not discussed in the passages he relies upon.

Instead, DA attempts to read his church's doctrines into three texts of Scripture:

A) Matthew 16:19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

B) Matthew 18:18 Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

C) John 20:23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.

The first two passages (A and B) speak of the so-called power of the keys - of binding and loosing. But look at what is said: not what is bound on earth will be bound on earth or what is bound on earth will be bound in purgatory -- but rather what is bound on earth shall be bound in heaven.

Furthermore, the two passages (A and B) make no distinction between temporal and eternal punishments. In fact, though they mention earth and heaven they basically place an equals sign between them, such that what is true on earth is true in heaven. Thus, they actually undermine the underlying essential notion that there is a difference between temporal punishment for sins and eternal punishment for sins.

Likewise the third passage (C) makes no distinction between temporal and eternal punishment for sin, simply treating sin as sin. Thus, again, the essential notions behind Indulgences are not supported but undermined.

Furthermore, contrary to DA's claims, the passages do not describe "priestly absolution. " There is no discussion of priests performing the various binding/loosing remitting/retaining mentioned in the three passages.

It should be noted that the concept of a New Testament priesthood as separate from the "laity" is not a Scriptural concept. Nevertheless, there is nothing "explicit" (recall that was DA's claim) in the text that limits the binding/loosing or remitting/retaining to even the category of ordained ministers, other elders, or deacons. In fact, there is no explicit limitation at all.

Now, DA may want to counter that in the text only certain people are addressed and thus implicitly the binding/loosing and remitting/retaining is limited. One problem is that if one wishes to make that argument, one has to be prepared for the fact that there is nothing in the passage provided to avoid taking that implicit limit to its logical conclusion, namely that it was limited to only those people in particular to whom it was given.

Finally, naturally, the explanation of what the binding/loosing remitting/retaining constitutes is simply not explict in the passage (contrary to DA's broad assertions). In fact, in the case of binding/loosing, the passage is not even explicit that the binding/loosing has to do with sin.

In fact, with respect to the first two passages (A and B) there is a reasonable argument to be made that the reference could be to revelation - such that those with the power of the key to bind and loose may have the ability to keep heavenly information secret or reveal it.

The most obvious counter-argument to such a response is that these are the keys of the kingdom of heaven, i.e. that reference is being made to entry into the kingdom of heaven - i.e. to salvation. If this is the case, though, the verse cannot have any relation to Indulgences - which do not provide salvation.

After a brief quotation from Karl Adam (which provides some similar assertions to those of DA without any Biblical evidence), DA quotes from 1 Corinthians 5:3-5 and 2:6-8 and 10-11 and provides the following commentary:

St. Paul in his commands and exhortations to the Corinthians is in entire agreement with the Catholic tenets of penance and indulgences. He binds in 1 Corinthians 5:3-5 and looses in 2 Corinthians 2:6-7,10, acting as a type of papal figure in 2 Corinthians 2:10, much like St. Peter among the Apostles. He forgives, and bids the Corinthian elders to forgive also, even though the offense was not committed against them personally. Clearly, both parties are acting as God's representatives in the matter of the forgiveness of sins and the remission of sin's temporal penalties (an indulgence). In this as in all other doctrinal matters, the Catholic Church is grounded in the Bible, takes seriously all that it teaches, and grapples with all the implications and deepest wellsprings of Truth to be found within the pages of God's Holy Scriptures.

Counting the errors in this paragraph is somewhat laborious, but perhaps it will be edifying:

1) The idea that the cited passages are "in entire agreement with the Catholic tenets of penance and indulgences," is really a red herring. Even supposing that were true, it would only be relevant if those passages were raised as an objection to such doctrines.

2) DA comment that, "He binds in 1 Corinthians 5:3-5," is not supported by Paul using the word for "bind" in that passage. Furthermore, Paul doesn't impose penance on the man, he excommunicates him.

3) DA states: "looses in 2 Corinthians 2:6-7,10," but that is also not supported by Paul using the word for "loose" in that passage. Furthermore, Paul speaks only of forgiveness and not excuse from the suffering of temporal punishments, as in the doctrine of Indulgences.

4) DA states: "acting as a type of papal figure in 2 Corinthians 2:10," but if there is an resemblance between Paul's activity and the supposed activity of a pope, Paul is engaging in the activity - not foreshadowing it.

5) DA states: "much like St. Peter among the Apostles," but there is no suggestion in the text to support an analogy of "Paul is to the Corinthians as Peter is to the other Apostles."

6) DA states, "He forgives, and bids the Corinthian elders to forgive also, even though the offense was not committed against them personally," but the text does not say that they offense was not committed against them personally.

7) DA states: "Clearly, both parties are acting as God's representatives in the matter of the forgiveness of sins and the remission of sin's temporal penalties (an indulgence)," but actually, as noted above, only the forgiveness of sins is mentioned, not the "remission of sin's temporal penalties."

8) DA finally states: "In this as in all other doctrinal matters, the Catholic Church is grounded in the Bible, takes seriously all that it teaches, and grapples with all the implications and deepest wellsprings of Truth to be found within the pages of God's Holy Scriptures." But, in fact DA's comment is misleading on several levels. The teaching of Catholicism is grounded on the authority of the Vatican, not on the authority of the Scripture. It is not a doctrine "grounded in" or otherwise derived from the Bible. It is the not the result of infallible exegesis - in fact it doesn't even claim to be! (i.e. that's not the Vatican's claim) It is not the result of battling with Scripture, as suggested by DA's comment, or - at best - there is absolutely no historical record of such grappling taking place.

Although Dave goes on to quote from a Cardinal of his church, the bulk of the remainder of Dave's article is really related to penance - which DA admits has "developed" over time (though some of the footnotes mention indulgences and their Medieval abuse).

In conclusion, we may safely continue to view Indulgences as not Biblically evidenced, despite Mr. Armstrong's boldly titled blog post.

Thanks be to the God who Justifies,


Monday, August 11, 2008

Christian vs. Christian

Please consider praying for peace between the neighboring nations of Georgia (almost 90 "Orthodox") and Russia (at least about 20% "Orthodox" and perhaps higher). Without taking sides on the issue of who started and who is to blame, please consider praying that peace will be restored between these two nations.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Cur Deus Homo? Further Response to Horne

Gene Bridges provided the following comments (link) which I have reproduced in part below:

As you noted, stating that the Covenant of Grace is in some way "conditional" or "conditioned" on faith does not lead to it being (a) meritorious or (b) pactum merit. Indeed that's a non sequitur.

Turretin (the real one) went over this as hyper-Calvinism arose among the Supras/High Calvinists of his period. FT distinguished between faith as a meritorious condition and faith as an instrumental condition. We affirm the latter, not the former. Since the reason people believe is due to effectual calling/regeneration and that is only by way of grace that is applied by the Spirit, which comes a result of the atonement, which was accomplished by the Son in obedience to the Father (notice the Trinitarian relation-a relation the FVists often discuss), it is all of grace, as you say. Ergo, while affirming the latter (instrumental conditionality) we deny the former (that the CoG would be meritorious).

FT drew this distinction of conditions in the face of those who were seeking to collapse the decrees, and thus the conditions, into one, and therefore misconstruing the CoG. By collapsing the decrees, there were questions that arose as to the nature of conditions. In their day, they were asking if the CoG is wholly unconditional or conditional. FT's reply was in essence that it is unconditional with respect to merit (being that it is of grace) yet conditional with respect to instrumentality. Sound like a familiar problem today...?

I answer:

Gene, there is a strong interconnect between the issue of faith's role as condition or instrument (as well as the nature/basis of the hypothetical merit of Adam and the actual merit of the active obedience of Christ), and the issue of the atonement.

It is interesting to hear Pastor Horne turning as he does in the comments we were discussing (link) to Anselm's "Cur Deus Homo," which is usually thought of as a work on the atonement.

It seems that:

a) He (i.e. Pastor Horne) overlooks the role of sin in necessitating the incarnation. Contrary to Hodge et al., he seems to imagine that it is simply the fact that we are creatures that prevents us from having merit. Thus, he overlooks original sin: both in its effect of imputed guilt and in its effect of total depravity.

b) He also overlooks that Anselm states "Now it is not by any means to be supposed that the good angels were confirmed by the fall of the evil, but by their own merit. For as the good, if they had sinned with the evil, would have been condemned together with them; so the unrighteous, had they remained steadfast with the just, would have been equally confirmed in grace. For if some of them were to be confirmed only by the fall of others, either none would ever be confirmed, or it would be necessary that one should fall, who should be punished for the sake of the confirmation of the others; both of which are absurd." (Cur Deus Homo, Book 1, Chapter XVII) While I do not fully agree with Anselm on this (I do not think confirmation in obedience was according to the merit of obedience, but according to grace) Pastor Horne's appeal to Anselm is clearly erroneous, for Anselm does not build his argument on the theory that creatures qua creatures are unable to obtain merit of any kind.

c) He also overlooks that Anselm states: "So, therefore, when the angel had the power of depriving himself of righteousness, and did not so deprive himself, and had the power of causing himself not to be righteous, and did not so cause himself, he is rightly asserted to have given himself his own righteousness, and to have made himself righteous. In this way, therefore, has he his righteousness from himself, (for a creature can in no other way have it from himself,) and on that account is he to be praised for his righteousness; and he is righteous, not from necessity, but from free will, since that is improperly termed necessity in which there is neither
compulsion nor prohibition." (Cur Deus Homo, Book 2, Chapter X) This, while not using the word "merit," conveys a similar concept. As can be seen from the same chapter, a little further on, when Anselm asks the following penetrating question: "What do you say of God, who cannot sin; (and yet He did not merit this by having had the power of sinning and not sinning) is not He to be praised for His righteousness?"

Likewise, Pastor Horne appears to have the same thing in mind when he argues "Horton, if I recall, is all concerned about protecting Christ’s merit. I don’t see how that can fail to be proper merit without denying the absolute necessity of Christ’s work. There is a history of doing so among some of the Reformed, but I think it is now largely resisted and should be." (source) But in this:

d)He overlooks that the merit of Christ's active obedience in fulfilling the law is pactum merit. It is by the covenant of works that Christ as man deserves life on account of his obedience. That's what makes his death significant. If he did not merit life, he would be dying for himself.

e) He also overlooks that Christ's so-called passive obedience in suffering and dying on the cross can also be viewed pactum merit. It is not pactum merit vis-a-vis the covenant of works, but the covenant of grace. Christ's humiliation is the condition of the covenant of grace (not our faith, as has already been distinguished in the preceding posts on this subject). It should be noted of course, that as Thomas Boston explains:

Secondly, How does the narrow way lead to life ? And,
1st. NEG. Not by way of merit, proper or improper. Proper merit is what arises from the intrinsic worth of the thing done, fully proportioned to the reward. Such is the merit of Christ's obedience and death. But no such merit can be in our works ; for there is no proportion between our obedience and eternal life, whatever the papists pretend; Rom. viii. 18; 2 Cor. iv. 17; and whatever they be, they are due from us to God; Rom. viii. 12; Luke xvii. 10. Improper merit is what arises from paction ensuring such a reward on such a work as the condition thereof; so that the work being performed, the reward becomes a debt. So Adam's perfect obedience would have been meritorious, namely by paction. But no such merit is in our works. Legal protestants advance this, though they do not call it merit, while they pretend that God has promised eternal life on condition of our obedience; thinking it enough to free them from the doctrine of merit, that they do not pretend to an intrinsic worth in the works, proportioned to the reward. But what more do they yield in this, than innocent Adam behoved to have yielded, had he perfected his obedience? Do they not hereby confound the two covenants? for all the difference remains only in degrees, which do not alter the kind. The scripture rejects this as well as the other;
Rom. iv. 4, and vi. 23. Paul would not lippen to it; Phil. iii. 9.
(Thomas Boston, Whole Works of the Late Reverend Thomas Boston, Volume X, p. 376 - 1851 ed.)

Thus, we acknowledge that Christ's death, as the God-man, was (because of the dignity of his person) of infinite intrinsic merit, although we likewise acknowledge that such merit would have been completely without applicable value, if God had not condescended (as legislator) to permit substitution of the offender in the punishment of sin. In contrast, the dignity of a mere image of God is much less demanding only life for life (Genesis 9:6 Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.).

f) Indeed, he overlooks the interconnection between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The only way that the death of an innocent man can be pleasing to God is upon the two-fold bases that (a) the innocent man's death is being offered on behalf of someone else and (b) that the someone else is guilty.

g) He overlooks the general impossibility of anyone meriting anything from God in the strict sense. To assert that anyone can merit (in the strict sense) anything from God would seem to be a denial of the impassivity of God. If someone will argue from Christ's deity that impassivity is not implicated, we may likewise note that Christ did all things whatsoever he did in obedience to the will of the Father, which likewise prevents them from being acts of strict merit (though we may note that they were still deserving of glory).

At the end of the day, it is Horne who overlooks why God had to become man: the covenant of works (the law) had to be fulfilled, and so did the covenant of grace. By the merit obtained under the covenant of works, and the substitution permitted under the covenant of grace, Christ merited life for those for whom he died.

It was necessary because Christ's righteousness is the only pure righteousness acceptable to God under the covenants. No other righteousness will do: not the righteousness of the Apostles, of the prophets, or of the greatly blessed and highly favored mother of our Lord - for they were all sinners, both by virtue of Adam's sin (as it is written, Romans 5:19 "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.") and their own sin (as it is written, Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"). Only Christ's righteousness can save, and it can and does save completely. God graciously accepts Christ's sacrifice on behalf of those for whom it is offered by Christ. Thus, justice is satisfied while mercy is shown.

Praise be to our Loving God,


P.S. Perhaps it would of interest to some of my readers to provide a part of a poem by Ralph Erskine:

The law of works we introduce,
As if old merit were in use,
When man could life by doing won,
Ev'n though the work by grace were done.

Old Adam in his innocence
Deriv'd his power of doing hence —
As all he could was wholly due;
So all the working strength he knew,

No merit but of paction could
Of men or angels e'er be told;
The God-man only was so high
To merit by condignity.

Were life now promis'd to our act,
Or to our works by paction tack'd ;
Though God should his assistance grant,
Tis still a doing covenant.

Though Heav'n its helping grace should yield,
Yet merit's still upon the field;
We cast the name, yet still 'tis found
Disclaim'd but with a verbal sound.

If one should borrow tools from you.
That he some famous work might do;
When once his work is well prepar'd,
He sure deserves his due reward:

Yea, justly may he claim his due,
Although he borrow'd tools from you:
Ev'n thus the borrow'd strength of grace
Can't hinder merit to take place.

From whence soe'er we borrow pow'rs,
If life depend on works of ours;
Or if we make the gospel thus
In any sort depend on us;

We give the law the gospel-place,
Rewards of debt the room of grace;
We mix Heav'ns treasure with our trash,
And magnify corrupted flesh.

Gospel Sonnets, pp. 301-02 (1870 ed.), Ralph Erskine