Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XII. Christ Stripped of His Garments


"As many were astonied at Thee; His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men."

O Thou, the Fount of all that's fair and good,
On Whose blest countenance, girt with bright rays,
Adoring angels and archangels gaze,
And drink unspeakable beatitude;--
Before Thy guilty creatures hast Thou stood
Thus covered with dishonour; in rude ways
Reft of that robe which did divinely blaze
On Tabor's heaven-uplifted solitude,
Which with mysterious healing did abound,
When virtue went forth through their skirts around
From That Thy sinless Body, which did wear
The sins of all the world; now stripp'd and bare,
Naked, as erst dishonouring Thy Hand
Adam in paradise did guilty stand.


"I am in misery, and like unto him that is at the point to die."

Long hast Thou striven since our sad parents' fall
To veil our nakedness, and sinful shame
Indelibly imprinted on our frame,
By skins as by a robe funereal,
And offering up of slaughter'd animal,
And more than all by Thine Almighty Name,
As by a shield from self-reproaching blame
Against the Accuser: in man's judgment-hall
Thyself, Who art the God of purity,
Art naked, stripp'd, and desolate--for me;
With virginal pure Flesh all trembling there,
And modest Soul than heaven of heavens more fair,
Shrinking within in speechless agonies,
A gazing-stock and scorn to cruel eyes.


"If so be that being clothed we shall not be found naked."

In this Thy nakedness as of the tomb,
By Thine unclothing we are clothed upon;
E'en as Thy dying for us life hath won,
And as Thine exile is to us our home,
So Thine unclothing hath to us become
Our house from heaven. Unhoused, unclothed, undone,
Thou hast our nakedness clothed with the sun
Of Thine Own brightness; as the clouds which roam
Onward, attendant on the sun's white throne,
Are in themselves all mist and gloom forlorn,
Yet clothed in golden radiance not their own
Are made the moving canopies of Heaven,
Hanging in wreaths around the face of morn,
Or beauteous imagery which is at even.


"He will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people:"--"that cover with a covering, but not of My Spirit."

So deeply in our spirits hidden lieth
The consciousness of this our nakedness,
Our guilty souls from Heaven's light shrink no less
Than do our bodies; when the eye would press
Home to its covert, inwardly it sigheth
At thought of its own nakedness, and crieth
To Him alone that knoweth her distress;
And when her conscious shame the Accuser trieth,
Can only in His sheltering Bosom hide.
The appliances which from the world we borrow
Are but the ministrations of our pride,
To find some hiding-place, and there abide:
But the great Judgment, with an endless sorrow,
Such coverings from the soul shall strip to-morrow.


"Thy rebuke hath broken My heart: I am full of heaviness: I looked for some to have pity on Me, but there was no man."

Thou hadst no sin, but didst in pity take
The tenderness of those meek souls serene
That on all brotherly compassions lean,
And when those sympathies of friends forsake,
Soul-stricken feel, as if the heart would break:
Such love, when by the rude world it is seen,
Is deem'd all weakness, though its griefs have been
Not for itself, but for its brethren's sake.
Through Psalms and Prophets thus, like the meek Dove,
His Spirit doth a mourner's heart express,
With images akin to human love.
And thus the Lord descending from above,
Clothed Himself with all human tenderness,
That so His Shadow might our weakness bless.


"Who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and forgettest the Lord thy Maker?"

All this for me, that by Thy mercy shriven
I might in soul and body be made whole,
That I might open my sin-festering soul
Before him unto whom Thy power is given
To bind and loose, and bear the keys of Heaven,
Back to its source the gather'd load to roll;
The soul by running leprosies made foul
To reinstate at pardon-gate, thence driven;
Though face-confusion waits on us before
One eye, and that in mercy: one pale star
Sits in the twilight at the evening door,
Whose blush precedes the darkness; better far
Than in the Judgment to unnumber'd eyes,
And the whole court of the assembled skies.

Project Canterbury