Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

X. Christ before Herod


"They have cast their heads together with one consent; and are confederate against thee; the tabernacles of the Edomites."

Sent from that heathen judgment-hall of woe,
They now in mockery rude their Victim bring
Before the subtle Galilean king;
While through the streets they hurry to and fro,
Now throng behind, and now before Him go,
In hate successful loud and triumphing;
As some poor death-bound prince, or captive thing,
Forced through Rome's streets before his last death blow;
Or sacrificial beast, amid the throng
To some old heathen altar urged along;
Or as fierce dogs hunt down the gentle hare,
From place to place, loud yelling for its blood;--
The Pharisees their Victim have pursued;
Lo, in the kingly palace, they are there.


"If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!"

Steep'd in the murder'd Baptist's holy blood
Sits the incestuous and adulterous chief,
Well pleased to view the Saviour in His grief,
Hoping to see some miracle of good.
Oh, strange infatuation which withstood
The strivings of the Spirit! Oh, how brief
The day of our salvation and relief,
Ere tenfold night doth on the senses brood,
Close up the eye and ear, and case the heart
In thick-ribbed iron! Pharaoh-like, to see
Signs to the Almighty Presence which belong,
As of some sportive juggler at his art.
And yet himself unscathed to sit among
The lightnings of Incarnate Deity!


"But He answered him nothing."

Silence most eloquent, beneath the sound
Of earthly things, with current deep and strong,
Doth like a hidden ocean move along;
What silent retributions do abound!
What silent intercessions all around!
Time silent steals, in memory keeps the wrong,
And then puts forth his hand amid the throng.
Our God disown'd, our King with shame is crown'd,
And in that robe is made the scorn of men:
The sun shall see a Herod in his might
Spangled in that same silver robe of light,
And men aloud declare him God, and then
The Angel's hand shall smite his royal form,
Mark'd as the prey of the devouring worm.


"I am the Rose of Sharon and the Lily of the valleys. As the lily among thorns, so is my love."

Behold the lilies of the vernal field;
For Solomon was ne'er arrayed so bright,
In all his tissued robe of silver light,
As one of these, to thoughtful eyes reveal'd.
The microscope will show their crystal shield,
All studded with fair pearls and chrysolite,
And purple veins that track the virgin white,--
A beauteous world from our gross eyes conceal'd.
That glittering robe of kingly Solomon
By this false Idumean is put on:
But fairer than the glory of the flower
Was Christ's white robe of spotless innocence,
Worn in His bleeding Passion's darkest hour,
Too brilliant for the eye of mortal sense.


"They have washed their robes, and made them white in the Blood of the Lamb.
Therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple."

Thence the white robes of all-prevailing prayer,
Through all her courts shall to His Church descend,
Multiplied at her shrines unto the end.--
Numberless as the stars on the dark air
Come forth, and the departed sun-light share.
That robe a silent language doth attend,
It speechless intercession seems to wear,
As representing Him Who stood our Friend
Before the king of terrors. At that day,
In plenitude of His Almighty sway,
Whate'er things Him approach'd, hate, jest, or chance,
Put on themselves divine significance;
E'en as the setting sun, of clouds brought nigh,
Makes to himself a glorious pageantry.


"God forbid that I should sin against the Lord, in ceasing to pray for you."

By mockery cloth'd in that white garb of scorn
Stood our Great Sacrifice for us to plead,
And to our God in silence intercede,
And solitude; then what if thus forlorn
In all His courts that snowy vest is worn,
Pleading, alas, for them who little heed,
'Mid enemies who know not their great need,
As Christ Himself upon that holy morn.
That lifting up of hands may still avail,
As on the mount apart, when Israel fought,
Moses, sustained by Sacerdotal power,
Outstretch'd his arms in silence, and thence brought
A power to Israel in that destined hour,
With lifting up of hands to win or fail.

["Since that accident to our Lord, the Church hath not indecently chosen to clothe her priests with albs, or white garments: and it is a symbolical intimation and representment of that part of the passion and affront which Herod passed upon the holy Jesus: and this is so far from deserving a reproof, that it were to be wished all the children of the Church would imitate all those graces which Christ exercised when He wore that garment, which she hath taken up in ceremony and thankful memory."--Jer. Taylor, Life of Christ.]

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