Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.


VIII. The Penitent Restored

1.

"In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them."

In holy silence most adorable
Stands the meek Lamb of God, and not a sound
Escapes His lips in sacred sorrow bound,
"With grief acquainted." What though words may tell
Of pains and griefs which at death's portal dwell,
Yet who shall speak the secret flowing wound
When love itself in hour of need is found
Unfaithful?--in the heart unspeakable
Dwells the unstaunch├ęd wound and bleeds within,
Deep in the soul that lean'd on its own love.
E'en so Thy Spirit did Thy Prophets move
Whene'er Thy chosen children in their sin
Deny Thee;--ever grieving through all times
"The Man of Sorrows" o'er His children's crimes.

2.

"O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?"

Lord, are we in that tender heart so near
And dear to Thee? Thou knowest long before
Our very thoughts; our words are counted o'er
Before they rise, and on our tongues made clear
Unto ourselves and others they appear.
For our affections are the very store
That Thou would'st treasure up; and evermore
Close to our countenance Thine Eye and Ear
Is listening for our words, to us unknown.
Oh, let me ne'er amid the wicked stand,
Forgetting vows I made with Thee alone;
But if surrounded by the impious band,
Fill'd with the thoughts of Thy Gethsemane,
Let me forget myself--remember Thee!

3.

"He opened the rock of stone, and the waters flowed out, so that rivers ran in the dry places."

Then often from that silence, long conceal'd,
In awe beyond all utterance most keen,
Thine Eye turns on us; Satan then is seen
Departing; all his crafts at once reveal'd,
When he hath gain'd his end, and sin hath seal'd
Our disobedience: then breaks forth between
The love of our dear Lord, which long hath been
Watching, and yet so oft in vain appeal'd
To earnest vow and promise vainly spent.
Then by His rod the smitten rock is rent,
And suddenly the waters pour apace
From the deep hidden fountains of His Grace,
To freshen the dry wilderness within,
Parch'd by the fiery blast that pass'd in sin.

4.

"My sin is ever before me."

The Rock is smitten, and the water flows,
And ne'er shall cease to flow; but whensoe'er
That warning cock shall reach his wakeful ear,
That Eye again shall meet him 'mid Its woes,
And all that scene anew around him close,--
The midnight hall--the maiden drawing near--
The dread suspense--the agonizing fear--
The scoffer's noise and scorn--and the repose
Of that recalling Eye upon him cast
With tender reminiscence of the past,--
With meek reproving, yet forgiving glance,
Upon him turn'd with speechless utterance,--
Then all afresh, with unabated force,
Open'd the silent flood-gates of remorse.

5.

"Turn us again, O God; show the light of Thy countenance, and we shall be whole."

Whene'er he heard the cock crow Peter wept;
Again to his forgotten Lord he turn'd,
And all anew his old affections burn'd,
And penitential sorrows o'er him crept
With thrilling visions, which, whene'er he slept,
Woke him again to prayer. Oh, lesson learn'd
Not dearly, at whatever cost discern'd!
Oh, should temptation from us intercept
Thy loving Countenance, yet whensoe'er
We turn again, and to Thine Altar flee
From our own sins and from the world, oh, there
Lift on our hearts Thy gracious look Divine,
That we, returning to ourselves and Thee,
May wet with tears the pavement of Thy shrine.

6.

"When my heart is in heaviness I will think upon God."

Flow forth, flow forth, ye drops of holy brine,
And wash away the taints which else remain
Indelible in power or guilty pain.
That Eye which doth in pity now incline
Will blend Its tears, and blending give to Thine
A power to wash away the deepest stain,
And turn the bitter brine to healthful rain.
Then from dry ground shall spring the Root Divine;
But when our eyes meet Thine, oh, then no less
Be with us, Lord, sustain us and control,
Lest in that wakening of the sinful soul,
In sense of our bereavement, to the ground
We sink again in sorrow, and be drown'd
E'en in the flood of our own bitterness.


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