Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THOUGHTS ON IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS, by JOHN BYROM

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THOUGHTS ON IMPUTED RIGHTEOUSNESS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Imputed righteousness! - beloved friend
Last Line: That 'twas by faith attracted into her.
Subject(s): Faith; Mankind; Thought; Belief; Creed; Human Race; Thinking

IMPUTED Righteousness!—beloved friend,
To what advantage can this doctrine tend?
If, at the same time, a believer's breast
Be not by real righteousness possess'd;
And if it be, why volumes on it made,
With such a stress upon imputed laid?

Amongst the disputants of later days,
This, in its turn, became a fav'rite phrase,
When much divided in religious schemes,
Contending parties ran into extremes;
And now it claims the attention of the age,
In Hervey's elegant and lively page:
This his Aspasio labours to impress,
With ev'ry turn of language and address;
With all the flow of eloquence, that shines
Thro' all his (full enough) embellish'd lines.

Tho' now so much exerting to confirm
Its vast importance, and revive the term,
He was himself, he lets his Theron know,
Of diff'rent sentiments not long ago;
And friends of yours, it has been thought, I find,
Have brought Aspasio to his present mind.
Now having read, but unconvinc'd I own,
What various reason for it he has shewn,
Or rather rhetoric—if it be true,
In any sense that has appear'd to you,
I rest secure of giving no offence,
By asking—"How you understand the sense?"
By urging, in a manner frank and free,
What reasons, as I read, occur to me,
Why righteousness, for man to rest upon,
Must be a real, not imputed one.

To shun much novel sentiment, and nice,
I take the thing from its apparent rise;
It should seem, then, as if imputed sin
Had made imputed righteousness begin;
The one suppos'd, the other, to be sure,
Would follow after—like disease and cure;
Let us examine, then, imputed guilt,
And see on what foundation it is built.

As our first parents lost a heav'nly state,
All their descendants share their hapless fate;
Forewarn'd of God, when tempted not to eat
Of the forbidden tree's pernicious meat;
Because incorporating mortal leaven
Would kill, of course, in them, the life of heav'n:
They disobey'd,—did Adam and his wife,—
And died of course to their true heav'nly life:
That life thus lost, the day they disobey'd,
Could not by them be possibly convey'd;
No other life could children have from them,
But what could rise from the parental stem:
That love of God, alone, which we adore,
The life, so lost, could possibly restore:
Their children could not, being born to earth,
Be born to Heav'n, but by a heav'nly birth:
God found a way, explain it how we will,
To save the human race from endless ill;
To save the very disobeying pair;
And made their whole posterity his care.

Has this great goodness any thing akin
To God's imputing our first parents' sin
To their unborn posterity?—What sense
In such a strange and scriptureless pretence?
For the men feel—so far we are agreed—
The consequences of a sinful deed;
Yet where ascrib'd, by any sacred pen,
But to the doers, is the deed to men?
Where to be found, in all the scripture thro',
This imputation, thus advanc'd anew?

Adam and Eve, by satan's wiles decoy'd,
Did what the kind commandment said—avoid—
To them with justice, therefore, you impute
The sin of eating the forbidden fruit;
And ev'ry imputation must, in fact,
If just, be built on some preceding act;
Without the previous deed suppos'd, the word
Becomes unjust, unnatural, absurd.

If, as you seem'd to think the other day,
All Adam's race, in some mysterious way,
Sinn'd when he sinn'd, consented to his fall;
With justice then impute it to them all:
But still it follows, that they all contract
An imputation founded upon fact;
And righteousness of Christ, in christian heirs,
Must be as deeply and as truly theirs,
A heav'nly life in order to replace,
As was the sin that made a guilty race:
So that imputing either good or ill
Must pre-suppose a correspondent will;
Or else imputers certainly must make,
Thro' ignorance or other cause, mistake.

Old Eli thus, not knowing what to think,
Imputed Hannah's silent pray'r to drink;
Little supposing that her silent pray'r
Would a successor unto him prepare.
There may be other meanings of the phrase,
To be accounted for in human ways;
But God's imputing to the future child
The sin, by which his parents were beguil'd,
Seems to establish an unrighteous blame,
That brings no honour to its Maker's name.

God's honour, glory, majesty, and grace,
I grant, is your intention in the case;
But wish revolv'd in your impartial thought,
How far the doctrine tends, when it is taught,
To such an honest purpose; and how far
Justice and truth may seem to be at war,
If God impute to guiltless children crimes,
Committed only in their parents' times.

Pious Aspasio, I imagine too,
Had God's resistless sov'reignty in view;
The charge of Puritan, or other name,
He scorn'd aright, and making truth his aim,
Found it, he thought, in eminent divines;
Of whose opinion these are the outlines;—
They think, at least they seem to represent,
That God, in honour, upon sin's event,
Could not forgive the sinners that had stray'd,
Without a proper satisfaction made
To his offended justice; and because,
Upon their breach of the Almighty's laws,
None else was adequate to what was done,
The vengeance fell on his Beloved Son;
Who gave himself to suffer in our stead,
And thus to life again restor'd the dead;
Because, consistently with justice, then
God could bestow his mercy upon men:
Man had contracted, in that fatal day,
Debt so immense, that man could never pay;
He who was God as well as Man,—he could;
And made the satisfaction thro' his blood;
Paid all the just demand—imputed thus
Our sin to him, his righteousness to us—
This sets the doctrine, if I take aright
Their words and meaning, in the plainest light.

Now since accounting for the truth amiss
May give distaste in such an age as this,
And be a stumbling-block to them who might
Receive an explanation that was right;
Not as a captious foe, but hearty friend,
May one intreat such teachers to attend,
And reconcile their system, if they can,
To God's proceeding with his creature man;
To that paternal, tender love and grace,
Which at man's fall immediately took place;
That inward, holy thing, imbreathed then,
Which would rekindle Heav'n in him again:
Does wrath, or vengeance, or a want appear
Of satisfaction, or of payment here,
In man's Creator? For mankind had He
A purchas'd grace, which contradicts a free?
Is it not plain, that an unalter'd love
Sent help to poor fall'n creatures from above,
Unbargain'd, unsolicited, unmov'd,
But by itself, as its exertion prov'd;
No foreign promise; no imputed ease;
But remedy as real as disease;
That would, according to true nature's ground,
Bring on the cure, and make the patient sound.
That Christ, that God's becoming man was it,
Your friends with highest gratitude admit;
Whose utmost talents are employ'd to shew
The obligations that to him we owe;
To press the object of our faith and trust,
CHRIST, ALL in ALL, the righteous and the just;
The true, redeeming life—essential this,
To ev'ry christian who aspires to bliss;
Why not subjoin—I cite the hero Paul,
And make appeal to christians—in you all?
Form'd in you, dwelling in you, and within,
Regenerating life, dethroning sin;
Working, in more and more resigned wills,
The gradual conquest of all selfish ills;
Till the true christian to true life revive,
Dead to the world, to God, thro' him, alive.

What num'rous texts from Paul, from ev'ry saint,
Might furnish out citations, did we want;
And could not see, that righteousness, or sin,
Arise not from without, but from within?
That imputation, where they are not found,
Can reach no farther than an empty sound;
No farther than imputed health can reach
The cure of sickness, tho' a man should preach
With all the eloquence of zeal, and tell
How health imputed makes a sick man well:
Indeed, if sickness be imputed too,
Imputed remedy, no doubt, may do;
Words may pour forth their entertaining store,
But things are just, as things were just before.

In so important a concern as that
Which good Aspasio's care is pointed at,
A small mistake, which at the bottom lies,
May sap the building that shall thence arise.
Who would not wish that architect, so skill'd,
On great mistake might not persist to build;
But strictly search and for sufficient while,
If the foundation could support the pile?

This imputation, which he builds upon,
Has been the source of more mistakes than one:
Hence rose,—to pass the intermediate train
Of growing errors, and observe the main,—
That worse than Pagan principle of fate,
Predestination's partial love and hate;
By which, not tied, like fancied Jove, to look
In stronger destiny's decreeing book,
The God of christians is suppos'd to will
That some should come to good, and some to ill;
And for no reason, but to shew, in fine,
Th' extent of goodness and of wrath divine.

Whose doctrine this? I quote no less a man
Than the renowned Calvin for the plan;
Who having labour'd, with distinctions vain,
Mere imputation, only, to maintain,
Maintains, when speaking on another head,
This horrid thought, to which the former led:
"Predestination here I call," (says he
Defining) "God's eternal, fix'd decree;
"Which having settled in his will, he pass'd
"What ev'ry man should come to at the last;"
And lest the terms should be conceiv'd to bear
A meaning less, than he propos'd, severe,
"For all mankind" (he adds to definition,)
"Are not created on the same condition:"
Pari Conditione—is the phrase;
If you can turn it any other ways;
"But life to some, eternal, is restrain'd,
"To some, damnation endless pre-ordain'd."

Calvin has push'd the principle, I guess,
To what your friends would own to be excess;
And probably Aspasio less inclin'd
To run directly into Calvin's mind,
Would give imputing a more mod'rate sense,
That no damnation might arise from thence;
But how will mollifying terms confute
The fam'd reformer's notion of impute?
If it confer such arbitrary good,
The dire reverse is quickly understood;
So understood, that open eyes may see
'Tis Calvin's fiction, and not God's decree:
Not His, whose forming love, and ruling aid,
Ceaseless extend to all that He hath made;
Who gave the gift which He was pleas'd to give,
That none might perish, but that all might live,
His only Son, in whom the light, that guides
The born into the world to life, resides;
A real life, that by a real birth
Raises a life beyond the life of earth,
In all his children—but, no more to you,
Better than me, who know it to be true;
And if Aspasio's really humbled soul
Be by a touch of garment-hem made whole,
He might, as I should apprehend, be sure
That imputation could not cause the cure.
When the poor woman, in the gospel, found
Touch of the Saviour's cloaths to make her sound,
We know the virtue did from Him proceed,
That, mix'd with faith, restor'd her, as we read;
Gone out of Him obliges to infer,
That 'twas by faith attracted into her.

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