Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

IX. Pilate's Judgment-Hall


"By Me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth."

Lord, if the wicked are "a sword of Thine,"
And princes do not "bear the sword in vain,"
When, as Thy delegates, on earth they reign;
And hearts of kings are in Thy Hand Divine,
Which Thou as streams of water dost incline,
To fertilize, to freshen and sustain,
Or to destroy: then by this patient chain
To which Thou didst in love Thyself resign,
When Thou with downcast eyes and back-bound hand
Before the potentates of earth didst stand;
Teach us beneath the oppressive powers of ill
Thy chastening rod to see, and so be still;--
Loving that Church which bears Thy sign of scorn,
Nor conquers but when she that Cross hath borne.


"When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee."

When for the sins of Thine own Israel
Nebuchadnezzar sits upon the throne,
And holds her in the chains of Babylon,
He with His children in the fires shall dwell
Who now, to human eyes made visible,
Stands before Pilate;--to them shall be known,
Walk with them, and shall claim them for His own.
As here on earth, when conflagrations swell,
Heaven's winds rush down, and are around them brought,
So in the kingdom of Thy grace below,
When fires of persecution round us grow,
Thy Spirit, like a moist and freshening wind,
Comes to be with us in the viewless mind,
With visitations of refreshing thought.


"It was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these."

The eagle doth a twofold emblem prove,
The advancing emblem of imperial state,--
The abomination which makes desolate,--
Or soaring gentle as the household dove,
The very image of celestial love,
The Royal sign of the regenerate.
E'en so the kingly Unction from above
Sometimes the inner reins doth penetrate
With the Anointing of the King of kings,
Setting the standard of the Cross therein,
As kingly David when of Saul pursued;
Sometimes for chastening of Thy people's sin,
God's minister of wrath to sight it brings,
As Saul's ambitious hate and fortitude.


"If My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight."

But whensoe'er the kings that bear Thy trust,
Thy Cross more dear than their own sceptre hold;
And, 'neath the shining purple and the gold,
Sackcloth put on, and penitential dust:
The world's mysterious hate against the just
Shrinks from that light; allegiance first grows cold,
And then, in ways most strange and manifold,
The many-handed monster in his lust
His multitudinous sides again shall shake,
And cast them to the ground, and there in hate
Their crown and sceptre 'neath his feet shall break;
And therefore Thy true kingdom here below
From Thine own Cross shall ne'er be separate,
But find its strength in that dread sign of woe.


"I am the good Shepherd, and know My sheep, and am known of Mine."

What though His endless reign spreads forth below,
'Tis "as it were in secret" and unknown,
E'en as Himself when friendless and alone,
Before the heathen Pilate thus made low.
His kingdom is the Truth, and they who know
The Truth shall find their way unto His throne,
Entering that City's gates. And He shall own
Their due allegiance. Where He reigns e'en now
On this bad earth His kingdom is true peace,
Order, and harmony, and blessed love,
For ever manifold yet ever one,
One King, one Kingdom; cloth├ęd with the sun,
His kingdom with His knowledge doth increase,
Till both are in fruition lost above.


"The throne of God, and of the Lamb."

Thy kingdom is release from death and sin,
From the heartburnings and the fear and strife;
For the Lamb's Blood, which speaks of endless life,
Is on the door by which we enter in,
Beats in the heart when true life doth begin;
Fills all the veins; each grace which there is rife
Speaks of that Blood; the Church is but the Wife
Of the meek Lamb--the Bride His Blood doth win.
'Tis the slain Lamb that sits upon the throne:
Therefore no place is in that kingdom known
For pride's disquiet, and ambition's pains;
It is the Lamb Himself that all sustains;
All there, in all things, at all seasons own
The love and meekness of the Lamb that reigns.

Project Canterbury