A while back my pastor gave a sermon, most of which I forgot, about how the grace that God offers through Jesus is greater than our feeble and invariably failed attempts to live up to it. One part I did not forget, however, was a short poem illustrating how hopeless our cause is without the Gospel. The poem’s origin in unclear and was either written by John Bunyan (of Pilgrim’s Progress fame) or John Berridge , an eighteenth century evangelist. John writes:
Run, John, run the law commands
But gives us neither feet nor hands.
Far greater news the gospel brings:
It bids us fly and gives us wings.
As my pastor, Mark Vroegop, puts it, “the Law is rigid, demanding, clear, and impossible. It demands that we run when we have no hands or feet.” But as the verse states, the gospel frees us from this impossible burden and enables us to live up to the expectations of the law vicariously through Jesus.
The poem is beautiful because it simply expresses such a beautifully simple concept.
Here are a few other variations on the poem. One from another eighteenth century preacher, Ralph Erskine:
A rigid matter is the law
Demanding brick, denying straw
But when with gospel tongue it sings,
It bids me fly and gives me wings
I liked them so much I wrote my own:
The law shouts fire, the bell it tolls
But gives us buckets filled with holes;
The Gospel’s answer, though, is plain
When fire’s shouted, gives us rain.
And one from my good friend Michael Buschbacher
The law of God is just and pure,
Reveals disease but gives no cure,
But the Gospel gives what was denied
What once was dead, it makes alive.