Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XVIII. Christ Bearing the Cross


"Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me."

The way of sorrows and this burden sore
Are of Thy life the sad epitome,
Wherein a weight of sorrows hung on Thee,
With Thine eyes on us fixed for evermore,
That we may rest our hearts on Thee before,
And gazing on Thee in Thy way of grief,
May from our very sorrows find relief,
Till hardship be to us hardship no more;
That Thou, by Thine abasement and deep loss,
May'st clothe us with Thy Godhead by Thy Cross.
So may our heart of hearts of Thee partake,
Till sorrow becomes welcome for Thy sake,
And e'en our punishment becomes our rest,
Exalted more, the more we are oppress'd.


"He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom."

Thy sanctifying Shadow rests on these,
Therefore below do shame and sorrow prove
Within illumined by Almighty love,
And minister to gentle influences,
Which hide themselves in shade from human eyes.
Sweet scents and songs haunt lowly field and grove,
From birds on streamlet banks, and woodland dove;
While mountain heights, bare in the summer skies,
Shake from their haughty necks the genial rain,
Of kites and birds of prey the wild domain.
'Tis like frail man to love to walk on high,
But to be lowly is to be as God;
It is to drink the wine-press He hath trod,
Replete with strength and immortality.


"As gold in the furnace hath He tried them, and received them as a burnt-offering."

Oh, wondrous warning to our pride and mirth,
Our God and King in infamy and pain!
And he that runs may read this lesson plain,
That They Who know of things the eternal worth
Mark this as man's best portion here on earth,--
The wisdom of our God, though man's disdain,--
That thus to suffer with Him is to reign;
His kingdom hath in man no other birth.
Our God in sorrows; O heart-thrilling voice!
O Truth, in characters of blood anneal'd!
By words, by sighs, by His example seal'd,
Who made the lowest place His earnest choice:
Once only His meek Spirit did rejoice,
That this His Wisdom was to babes reveal'd.


"Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple."

Oh, may we with an ever-deepening fear
Gaze on these sorrows, where Thy Form is found
With one Hand leaning on the bleeding ground--
One Hand that heavy burden strives to bear!
Thus may we to that awful cup draw near
Thou had'st to drink amid that multitude,--
Draw near, and look into that cup of Blood,
And see our very selves reflected there.
We too must of a cup of sorrow drink;
Our destined road is called "the vale of tears,"
Where we must bear our cross in human fears
And sorrows, and to earth in silence sink.
Each branch put forth in weakness must disclose
An image of the Tree on which it grows.


"Every one that is perfect shall be as his Master."

Each branch that is disclosed as it expands
Sets forth the Cross, each tendril that anew
Is found thereon still hastes to bring to view
Another and another; as it stands,
Each shows the Cross with its outstretching hands,
Which seize their branching hold, celestial dew
Imbibing, and the soft ethereal blue;
Such is the Vine of Salem in all lands.
Each day, that hath in Christ its better birth,
Must bear its Cross; without that destined load
'Tis a day lost on the once traversed road
To that eternity which springs from time;
It hath no tendrils that may upward climb
Into the infinite, but falls to earth.


"We will not sin, knowing that we are counted Thine."

Lord, can it be that we, of feeble frame,
By taking Thine own burden make it less,
And share the weights that on Thy shoulders press?
As he who to the Holy City came,
Meeting Thee in that hour of Thy distress,
And followed,--for "obedience" was his name,--
Bearing Thy Cross for Thee; so dost Thou bless
Obedience, and to Thee dost draw the same,
When penitential thoughts within us burn.
Yea, if so dear to Thee our love's return,
That they who see Thy Face at this rejoice,
Reading therein the Eternal Mind and Voice;
They and their love were present to Thee now,
Like a refreshing breeze on Thy faint Brow.

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