Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XIII. Christ Crucified


"Be astonished, O ye heavens, at this, and be horribly afraid, be ye very desolate, saith the Lord."

My Lord and God, I see Thee standing bare,
Reft of Thy robes, and shuddering at the sight
Of executioners, that try their might
In mock essays, and rods and cords prepare.
And now the lictor band are entering there;
The morning throws askant her cold grey light,
But more and more the while a tenfold night
Possession takes of that dread theatre;
For Thou, who art the Sun of Righteousness,
Withdrawest all Thy beams--in sore distress;
As wanton soldiery are closing round,
And evil spirits have their senses drowned
In cruelty;--while, to the pillar bound,
Thou wait'st the stroke in shivering nakedness.


"By His stripes we are healed."

Such is the offering of Thyself, that we
May willingly embrace the healing scourge,
While the rude world mocks at the thoughts that urge
To chastening laws of self-severity.
But what is all this sorrow poured on Thee?
Not that our flesh may from this gloom emerge
In pamper'd ease; but when she strives to purge
In-dwelling sins by their due penalty,
Or takes the scourging of a Father's Hand,
She may remember that on Thee were laid
Her heavy burdens, and rejoice when made
Like unto Thee, Who thus didst trembling stand,--
May learn there is no health but in the rod
Which hath been borne by our own pitying God.


"There is no whole part in My body. I am feeble and sore smitten."

The scene of blood comes thickening on that morn,
And now of the loud scourge I hear the sound
Redoubled, and I see the reddening wound,--
Wound upon wound,--His tender back is torn,
Flower of all human flesh--the Sinless born;
The Lily of the Vales that loved the ground,
Shrinking from view profane, and spotless found;
Now lifted like the rose upon the thorn,
Which hangs its head beneath the stormy shower;
And ere it sheds in death its dripping leaves,
One purple petal, as it earthward grieves,
Falls wet with dew from the o'erloaded flower:
So from Thy Body, mingling with Thy tears,
Drops Thy life's-blood, and on the stone appears.


"He bare our griefs, and carried our sorrows."

Thus the Almighty God is prostrate bent
Beneath the unpitying scourge and soldier throng,
Yielding those Hands to the fast binding thong,
Which moulded the o'er-hanging firmament;--
A fainting Victim with sore anguish spent.
Thus till the day of doom He comes among
His children's thoughtless ways of mirth or wrong,
Bearing the burden of our punishment,--
Comes in some attitude of speechless throes
Upon our joys and sorrows to attend;
Teaching us what alone His Spirit knows,
Our state, our origin, our being's end;
While thus our true and everlasting Friend
Pleads with us in the silence of His woes.


"By His knowledge shall My righteous Servant justify many."

This from our penal stripes is the reprieve,
In this oblation they are sanctified;
The Father reconciled henceforth shall hide
Within His tabernacle those that grieve:
And the almighty Comforter shall cleave
To those in suffering unto Him allied:
That they beneath this shadow may abide,
He scourgeth every son He doth receive.
In this bad world with leprous taint o'ercast,
Which to its own corruption fades so fast,
Nothing in the All-seeing Eyes is good,
Save as the mirror of the Eternal Son,
When therein is beheld what He hath won,
In images of His atoning Blood.


"Blessed are they which have been sorrowful for all Thy scourges; for they shall rejoice for Thee,
when they have seen all Thy glory, and shall be glad for ever."

Thy sorrows were one cloud of black amaze,
Unmitigated gloom due to our sin;
But unto us an angel face comes in,
And still with solitary sweetness stays,
Pleading to tender sympathies within
For Thee and for Thy sorrows, while we gaze,
Amid the gathering storm; as fain to win
From recklessness of our too mirthful days
To love Thy sorrows, and to be with Thee,
Rather than in the world. Thus unto me
A star comes out beyond the stormy sky
That wrapt Thee round; to us Thy Blood is Wine,
Thy griefs our hope, Thy dying Life divine,
Refreshment in Thine anguish-drooping Eye.

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