Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XI. Pilate and Herod Reconciled.


"The fierceness of man shall turn to Thy praise."

Herod and Pilate are made friends to-day,
And Jew and Gentile are together met,
By unseen hands the Corner-stone is set,
Both walls to one are tending now their way;
For evil spirits His behests obey,
And work His will, caught in their own strange net,
While they confederate foes with malice whet
Against incarnate Goodness. Thus they lay
In Sion the chief Corner-stone, with blood
Cemented, and made firm and ratified
By voice of the infatuate multitude.
All are united now with one accord,
All in one headlong purpose are allied
Against the Lord of life, the living Word.


"Both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever
Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done."

Gentile, and Jew, and Scribe, and Sadducee,
People, and priests, and kings are now made one,
By malice brought to wondrous union,
Mock counterfeit of holy charity;
Such power hath truth divine, that things we see
Catch at its likeness, in its impress run,
Shadows on earth of the celestial sun:
As when in spreading tribes at enmity,
Ishmael, and Edomite, and Hagarene,
Midian, and Amalek, there soon was seen
The "sire of many nations:" swift they sprung
From that great prophecy which yet was young,
Like sands on the sea-shore, in forecast given
Of Christian nations like the stars of heaven.


"Woe is me, my mother, that thou hast born me a man of strife and a man of contention to the whole earth!"

Thus is the Gospel as a sword on earth,
Kindling division more inveterate
Than in ought else is known of human hate:
Pride, lust, wrath, envy, sadness, impious mirth,
Which in our hearts' dark ruins have their birth,
In ways most manifold and intricate
Combine against the Light, else separate.
Yet Truth the while in its own household hearth
Shines, amid foes its standard onward beareth,
And ne'er but by itself is overcome,
When trampled most, victorious most appeareth,
Outcast and hated through the world to roam,
Seeking in every heart to make its home;
Whatever cannot love the heavenly Guest it feareth.


"Though they curse, yet bless thou."

To Pilate's judgment-hall again returned,
With sorer woes oppress'd, and bearing still
At each remove a heavier weight of ill,
From place to place His love more brightly burn'd,
At each remove His patience was discern'd.
While evil winds turn'd not His steadfast will,
Whose flame burnt upward, but its rising fill,
Till He the length, and breadth, and depth hath learn'd
Of human bitterness. Of ills they pour
Full measure press├Ęd down and running o'er
Into His bosom, which He doth restore
To them again steep'd in His precious Blood;
While Satan's darts, by patient love withstood,
Are by Him made to work eternal good.


"O My people, what have I done unto thee? and wherein have I wearied thee? Testify against Me."

Thus driven from place to place, He makes appeal
From judgment unto judgment in all eyes,
In judgment stands before all enemies,
Crying aloud, each hidden thing reveal,
Bring forth your reasons nothing to conceal,
Let wicked men and spirits now arise,
One Woman-born your enmity defies,
Else on His innocence ye set your seal.
Ye in like manner shall before Him stand,
Each, one by one, stand as a criminal,
And make appeal in the great judgment-hall
Of men and angels; all things now at hand
Shall onward pass to the eternal strand,
Where sentence shall be given upon us all.


"If these things be in you and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Would that to Thee we might be likened now,
So we this persecution should obtain,
And turn obtain'd to our abiding gain;--
From trial-scene to scene we thus might go,
Gaining in each advantage o'er the foe,
So unto us each heaven-descended pain
Might wash away some guilt-contracted stain,
And we our own abasement come to know;
So more and more may learn how to forgive;
And more forgiving, may be more forgiven;
That more forgiven, we the more may love;
And loving more, like That we love may prove;
And liken'd more to Him, in Him may live,
And find in Him the rest which is of Heaven.

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