Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.


VI. The House of Annas

1.

"By the blood of Thy covenant I have sent forth Thy prisoner out of the pit wherein is no water."

And now to make Thy bondage more secure,
They take Thee in triumphant mockery
Unto the house of Annas, standing by,
Bandying from place to place with hands impure,
To render condemnation doubly sure,
Far from all human help, and heap on high
The gathering load of that night's misery.
Yet Thou didst willingly those chains endure
Upon Thy spotless Body in Thy love,
If only Thou might'st so our ransom prove,
When we before the accuser shall be brought,
Silent as criminals, and pleading nought
But the great ransom Thou for us hast wrought,
And the returns of love which in us move.

2.

"Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, this man shall be blessed in his deed."

For love of Thee is our true liberty;
And when we rightly love Thee and adore,
Thy law is then captivity no more,
But gladsome service most divinely free,
In perfect freedom, like the ministry
Of those in Heaven who are for ever bound
By blissful adoration most profound,
And know no other joy but serving Thee.
For then their freedom is indeed divine,
When doing their own will they follow Thine.
Thus Thy law is no bondage when within
Is love that giveth life; chains wrought by sin
Then vanish as the ice before the sun,
And full of glowing life the waters run.

3.

"Whoso committeth sin is the servant of sin."

But more and more those iron bonds increase,
When, setting Thy commandments all at nought,
In the imaginings of our own thought
We follow our own will, nor seek release.
Then if upbraidings of Thy Spirit cease,
'Tis that those fetters grow into the soul,
Part of ourselves, infect our being whole;
Those chains become ourselves--we are at peace.
Then by those bonds which Thou for us didst wear,
And by the blows which Thou for us didst bear--
When as some blood-stain'd, night-caught criminal
Within that house of bondage set in thrall,
Before that Pharaoh our Redemption stood,--
Save me from that Egyptian servitude.

4.

"And the servant abideth not in the house for ever."

Thy law hath bound me with a living band,
And in the dead of night, when all is still,
E'en like a thief, with footsteps dark and chill,
The great accuser shall before me stand,
And lift against me the upbraiding hand
In presence of the Judge; then vain the skill
That ever waits upon the tortuous will,
With ready self-deceivings at command,
To extricate, excuse, and to explain.
Nay, 'tis our will itself which is the chain
That binds us hand and foot, and doth remain
Drawing us, while we think not, to the gloom,
Till bondage doth itself become our home,
And thwarted will our everlasting doom.

5.

"I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold; therefore Mine own Arm brought salvation."

I gaze, and gazing tremble at the sight,
To see Thee, Who dost sit at God's right hand,
Bound by an impious rabble, thus to stand
Before Thy creature! Yet 'twas Thou this night,
In love and lowliness most infinite,
Didst kneel, to teach us this, love's last command,
And therefore now to Thee compulsion's band,
So grievous, is for our sakes sweet and light.
O strange fulfilment of the truths enroll'd
In scrolls of Prophets, and set forth of old
Through imaged types and shadows manifold!
Now these are set apart. Thyself I see
The mirror made of perfect liberty,
Thyself the living Type that teachest me.

6.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?"

What is the lesson which these sights impart?
That there are bonds to man invisible
Fram├ęd in Heaven, which have a mighty spell
To hold by secret influential art
Him Who was God and Man,--to bind the heart
With meek obedience, such as none can tell;--
Those chains are love--are love invincible,
Which from God's Altar suffer not to start,
Stronger than death, the love of wretched men.
Love was the bond that bound Thee from above,
Submissive e'en to death; oh, wilt Thou then
But kindle in our hearts this, Thine own love,
That it an adamantine chain may prove,
Nor suffer us from Thee to fall again.


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