Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.


V. Christ in Bonds

1.

"Mine enemies are driven back; they shall fall and perish at Thy presence."

The quiet night, wherein no sound was heard
Save that meek prayer to sorrow reconcil'd,
To sounds discordant wakes, and tumult wild
Of banded foes approaching: Night's lone bird
By lantern, torch, and noise unwonted stirr'd,
Flaps overhead his wing, with movement mild,
Yet terror strikes in souls by guilt defil'd;
The power of darkness reigns; fears long interr'd
Rise up and walk the gloom: His words have thrill'd
To hearts which no misgiving knew before;
A spell unspeakable hath all things still'd,
And unimagined awfulness hath fill'd:
Those words have power to stop the ocean's roar,
And wake the dead that they shall sleep no more.

2.

"The Breath of our nostrils, the Anointed of the Lord, was taken in their pits."

A momentary terror seem'd to steep
Their senses, and a felt unearthly power
Before their lowly Victim made them cower--
Like pause that ushers in the thunders deep.
But now the spirits of darkness o'er them lower,
And turn their tongues to triumph, as they creep
Nigh to the city's gates, which guilty sleep
Stills to false slumbers in its destined hour.
Now gibe they cast, and scoff, and blasphemy
On the Divinest Stranger. He doth yield
To rudest violence His harmless Head,
Like a defenceless Lamb to slaughter led,
That He may o'er us cast His sheltering shield,
And from nocturnal terrors set us free.

3.

"Thou hast led captivity captive."

Thou art thus captive led our hearts to move,
And draw us unto Thee, that we our hands
May yield, and on our necks put Thy love-bands;
For Thy commandments thus as cords may prove
To lead us to that city's gates above,--
That city which is paved with Thy commands,
The gold and agate of celestial lands.
For heaviest chains are render'd light by love;
And therefore art Thou thus all rudely bound,
That we may in our bonds remember Thee;
And Thee remembering, ever may be found
Thy willing captives rather than be free
With the bad world--the fuller to abound
In Thy blest gift of heavenly liberty.

4.

"The year of My redeemed is come."

O wonderful fulfilment! is this He
Who comes down to announce th' eternal year
Of our release, to liberate from fear,
To ope the gates and set the prisoner free,
And is Himself our very Jubilee;
Yet thus, as some bruised Captive doth appear,
As one weighed by oppression most severe,
And needing all the power of liberty!
Thus He Himself, O wondrous sight! is found
With darkness and with chains encompass'd round,
Who comes to pour the light on blinded eyes.
Yet thus it is He brings to earth the skies,
That wheresoe'er a prisoner now remains
He may be with him in his silent chains.

5.

"If the Son shall make you free, then are ye free indeed."

Yes, in the eyes of false-discerning men
A helpless captive, but meanwhile His own,
To Whom th' Almighty Father hath made known
The mysteries of things that are unseen,
Beholding Him with undisturb├ęd ken
Discern their God, come down from His high throne
To teach us one great lesson--one alone--
"Learn thou of Me, for I am meek," and then
Thou shalt, 'mid troubles, find thy spirit's rest.
Think of no other freedom but the mind
To her deservings patiently resign'd:
And thou shalt find His Godhead manifest,
Until the weight of sorrows makes thee blest,
Injurious provocations render kind.

6.

"Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night."

And yet while I do thus in bonds behold
My Maker and my Judge all lowly bent,
And see in Him the Great Omnipotent,
Thus bowed to bring us back unto the fold,
My sorrow is unmov'd, my heart is cold,--
No stern repentance hath my bosom rent;
My tears long since are dried, my feelings spent,
As at a tale of this world often told.
But if I grieve at this my want of grief,
Thou wilt unto those sorrows bring relief
Which are from want of sorrow, and again
Kindle within my heart that living pain,--
Yearnings of penitential sad belief,
Which ever on my spirit may remain.


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