Project Canterbury

The Altar; or Meditations in Verse on the Great Christian Sacrifice

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

II. The Garden


"The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him."

The stars are silent o'er our heads above,
The graves are silent 'neath our feet below,
And silent are the deepest thoughts we know;
Silent our God, in Whom we live and move;
And silent the unutterable Love
That pleads for man, while he still to and fro
In busy noise and loud tumultuous show
Is hurrying day by day, as if he strove
To drown that Voice which to his heart is given;
Yet wheresoe'er Thy Spirit wakes him, there
Is stillness as of stars in summer even.
Thus round Thine unseen throne still everywhere
Unutterable silence speaks Thy prayer,
"Thy will be done on earth, as 'tis in Heaven."


"He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied."

"Father, not Mine own will, but Thine be done,"
Thrice spoken, and in speaking thrice fulfill'd;
And so whate'er the Human nature will'd
Is lost in the Divine, and made all one,
In perfect love and perfect union:
The o'errunning cup is drain'd, no drop is spill'd,
Each thought in perfect resignation still'd:
The beatific crown for us is won,--
The Manhood join'd to Godhead. Thus to grieve!
Thus even from a creature to receive
One gleam of consolation sent from heaven,
One drop to lighten that o'erwhelming cup,
Or strengthen the weak Hand that raises up
The bitter chalice,--which to us is given!


"A sore burden, too heavy for me to bear."

Given to us sinners, our due penalty,--
But ta'en by Him and drunk for all mankind:
And worse than bleeding scourge or thorn entwin'd,
The wounded spirit's secret agony,
Which yields itself to death, yet dreads to die.
There is a weight upon each mortal mind;
The good, to their own burden oft resign'd,
To bear some brother's burden fain would try;
But He doth bear the burden of us all.
Yet why that lamentable thrilling moan?
The earth is weak, and trembling to her fall,
And her inhabitants are feeble grown,
Like wither'd leaves at winter's early call:
He beareth up its pillars all alone.


"Why shouldest Thou be as a man astonied, as a mighty man that cannot save?"

Yea, where else shall we find a solitude
Equal to this; in this His paradise,
In this the garden of His agonies,
Wherein alone the Second Adam stood,
Wherein alone He kneel'd down, sweating blood--
From Him withdrawn all human sympathies,
And bliss Divine all hidden from His eyes,
In wrath for our transgressions! Only good,
He bows beneath the wickedness of all,
And prays like some sin-burden'd criminal:
While groans of sick creation through all time,
And all the woes that flow'd from Adam's crime,
Concentrate were in that dread agony,
And found their utterance in that sad cry.


"I have trodden the wine-press alone."

Thus our High-Priest enters the holy place
With His Own Blood to intercede; and now,
Calls us to join with Him, and leaves below
His prayer, and His example, and His grace;--
His Spirit in our hearts, in this short space
Given for repentance. Thus He bids us know
His groanings of unutterable woe,
And 'neath the cloud of God's averted face
Mourns in our heart of hearts. O awful scene!
Where our High-Priest, as if within the vail,
By us below is interceding seen,
In that dark night of anguish kneeling pale,
With crying, and with tears, and failing breath,
Pleading with Him Who can redeem from death.


"He sitteth alone, and keepeth silence, because he hath borne it upon him. He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope."

Lord, unto me Thy warning Voice reveal,
Lest the world steal my heart, and hide the theft;
But, of her soft appliances bereft,
May I in that bereavement learn to feel
That one thing still is given me--thus to kneel
And be as Thou; that one thing still is left--
That where Thy Flesh is rent, the Rock is cleft,
Thy Hand may for a while from man conceal
What I am now, what I have been before.
And I, if I may find a refuge there,
May oft and oft repeat that holy Prayer,
Closing the door; and while I thus explore
The deeps of sad self-knowledge, more and more
Humiliation learn, but not despair.

Project Canterbury