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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

III. The Cup of Agony


"My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recal to mind, therefore have I hope."

Teach me with Thee to mourn,--from Thee to learn
The comfort of the mourner on that day:
From Thy pure Presence let one piercing ray
Lighten our darkness, that I may discern
And with that inextinguish'd fire may burn
The foul black spots within me,--sins that weigh
With burden of an infinite dismay
On Thy sad soul, that knows not where to turn
From the big load of our unnumber'd sins,
Which comes upon Thy spirit's solitude,
As when some storm-fraught thunder-cloud begins,
Falling upon the ground with drops of blood.
Oh, bind me to Thine altar, that no more
I add each day I live to that sad store.


"If it die, it bringeth forth much fruit"

"In sweat of thine own brow thou shalt eat bread;"
This was man's penalty; and here he lies,
Driven from that Garden of his Paradise,--
Here in the wilderness, as one half dead,
With sweat of Blood upon His Body shed,
That we may in that costly Sacrifice
Eat of Life's Bread, and know its countless price,
With bitter herbs and sorrow. While our Head
Is thus bow'd low unto the very ground,
Oh, may we learn the lesson most profound
Contain'd in that His prayer; and from the sight
Know that mysterious penalty aright--
The cost of that true Bread His death shall give,
Whereof alone lost man can eat and live!


"Not as the world giveth, give I unto you."

Then take Thou us beneath those sheltering wings,
Where God and Man at every bleeding pore
Hath open'd for our sins Thy pardon's door;
We touch, see, feel our God, while memory clings
To every part which meditation brings
Before us; thus the cup that floweth o'er
With these Thy sorrows is for evermore
The cup wherein our health and gladness springs.
The cup we give to Thee is deadly wine,
Made of the poisonous grapes our sins have borne;
Thou givest in return the cup Divine,
Full of Thy love; and for the thorny crown
We give to Thee, Thou givest to Thine own
Wreaths bright with radiance of celestial morn.


"Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth."

For me, then, is this awful Sacrifice,
That Thou art drooping low, and dropping blood,
In this the stillness and the solitude
Of that dread hour, and every drop the price
Of thousands souls; and yet returning thrice,
In love for those who in an hour so rude
Were sleeping 'neath that dark green olive-wood,
With that still quiet voice of meek advice!
With wayward man He ever gently pleads,
But forces not his will, though standing by:
And yet for him, e'en while He speaks, He bleeds
At every vein, as seeing dangers nigh,
While he unconscious looks up vacantly,
And nought discerns, then sleeps, and little heeds.


"And what I say unto you I say unto all, Watch."

Within the lowest deep a lower deep
Receives the penitent in true self-hate,
Whose heart the thoughts of Thee shall penetrate;
Who more and more would fain his bosom steep
With rays of light from heaven, and wake to weep
The sins that fold themselves in our dark state,
Lest that e'en now our foes be at the gate,
And at our going hence arouse from sleep,
And summon us to bondage. While our eyes
Are weigh'd down by a seeming false repose
By spirits of darkness, He our danger knows.
But from this fathomless abyss of woes
Who shall raise up the Maker of the skies,
Fall'n to the ground in speechless agonies?


"Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark; let it look for light, but have none."

Thus hast Thou from Thy Father's bosom come
To empty all Thy glories, and from sight
Of Thine own Godhead every drop of light
Shut out, to take on Thee a sinner's doom!
No star of light amid the o'erwhelming gloom;
Save when upon the blackness of that night,
Which compass'd Thee as with a living tomb,
One little streak grew brighter and more bright,
An angel's wing, like one soft crystal spar
Of light from heaven. But now that gentle star
Is scared and fled, for up the steep afar
There gleam sulphureous torches lit from hell:
The lights in heaven are all invisible,
And rising Moon withdraws into her cell.

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