Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XVI. Christ Condemned


"The Anointed of the Lord was taken in their pits, of Whom we said, Under His shadow we shall live."

When kings are by their subjects doom'd to die,
All Christian hearts strange horror doth appal,
And boding expectations on them fall
Of some unwonted and dire tragedy,--
Embodied evil seems itself so nigh.
And when the martyrs in man's judgment-hall
Under decree of death are given in thrall,
Our souls are touched by a strange sympathy,
Beyond expression of the outer sense;
Though these be heirs of sin and death, yet thence
In these emotions of man's heart is shown
Something more deep than to himself is known,
Which witness bears to God's Anointed One,--
A King condemn'd in perfect innocence.


"Look how wide also the east is from the west, so far hath He set our sins from us."

From sentence pass'd on Adam's sinful brood,
To that last Judgment whither all things tend,--
Midway between man's origin and end,
This condemnation of our God hath stood;
Nay, rather doth, in mourning attitude,
From end to end its outstretch'd shade extend.
And whosoe'er would rightly comprehend
This mortal being, capable of good,
In that dear shadow sees mankind, and 'neath
The coming on of what is after death,--
Those vast realities of which to hear,
Man's soul unto its centre shakes with fear,--
Thus daily shall himself regard, and prove
The depth of that great truth--that God is Love.


"The love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

In all things that portend this world's decease,
As the quick fall of all that is therein,
And death's dark rangers, whose broad net doth win
By subtle sure instalments,--as Disease,
Winter, Decay, and Sorrow,--in all these
We read Thy condemnation, and our sin,--
Our sin which went so fast when once let in
That it could never rest in its increase,
Until this height of heights it had attain'd
Which could no further go, but reach'd the skies.
Then in the strife Thy Love the conquest gain'd,
Which, like a mantle, from the All-seeing Eyes
Strove our exceeding sinfulness to hide,
And by humility to slay our pride.


"If one died for all, then were all dead."
Each day he lives is man condemn'd to die,
By One Who sits within the Judgment-hall
Rais'd in the heart of every criminal,
Whose righteous sentence no one can put by:
And then the stern decree to ratify,
Sleep still returns in night's o'ershadowing pall,
And sets death's stamp and image on us all.
To this Thy condemnation would I fly,
That self-condemn'd, while o'er myself I grieve,
I may in this, Thy dying, find reprieve:
But as Thou in Thy love, in this our stead,
As one with guilt oppress'd dost hang Thy Head,
I would put on my own mortality
By dying to myself, and live to Thee.


"Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me."

If this the mirror be of things on earth,--
All men with one consent against Thee stirr'd,
And e'en Barabbas unto Thee preferr'd,--
Then let me not in seriousness or mirth
Grieve to be set aside as nothing worth,
Another listen'd to, admired, and heard.
Such are occasions upon me conferr'd,
Whereby I may attest my better birth:
This is the daily dying I must love;
In Thee my lineage thus, and portion prove:
While I in my own breast my sentence bear,
Self-judging, self-condemn'd. Then why should I
Chafe at my prison-house, if thus to die
Is in Thy righteousness to have a share?


"For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."

But Self must first be kill'd by penitence,
And buried in the grave of healthful sorrow:
The suns that harbinger a golden morrow
Blend with the hues of blood, and goings hence
In darkness, and soft tears which clouds dispense.
'Tis only thus our sinful selves undoing
That aught in us is bred which finds renewing,
And may partake in Christ's Own innocence.
The seed must disappear in wintry bed
Ere it in the full harvest lifts its head,
When He Who bears the sickle shall descend,
Sitting on a white cloud. O wondrous end!
When Pharisee and Pilate, we and they
Before their Criminal stand on that day!

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