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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XIX. The Mourning Women


"But Jesus, turning unto them, said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children."

How many tears since that portentous morn
Have been by pilgrims shed in that dear spot,--
The way of sorrows, or in hallowed grot,
Amid as now the unbeliever's scorn,
Or at Gethsemane, and altars worn
By kneeling worshippers, or on the height
Of Calvary, or e'en at distant sight
Of Salem on her mountain-seat forlorn!
Lest sin should be forgotten 'mid those tears,
When tenderness intense hath wrapt the soul
Of way-worn pilgrim, hath the stern appeal
Of these Thy words, with a Divine control
Himself unto himself served to reveal,
And oped repentance on forgotten years.


"For if they do these things in a green tree--"

And not alone on Sion's holy ground
Do these, Thy warning words, knock at the gate
Of Conscience, with self-mourning and self-hate,
But wheresoe'er the feeling soul is found,
Which, half-forgetful of her own deep wound,
Weeps at her Saviour's ills compassionate,
But to her own true sorrows wakes too late,
Or too remissly. When the day comes round,
Each year or week which doth Thy woes present,
Or hour which daily marks Thine agonies,
So oft upon the soul Thine uprais'd eyes
Are turned,--and these Thy words of sorrow call,
"Weep not for Me, but your own sins lament,
Beneath whose weight unto the ground I fall."


"What shall be done in the dry?"

Weep not for Me,--for thine own children mourn,
The offspring of thy bowels, evil deeds,
And evil thought, which from the heart proceeds;
These are the stripes by which My Flesh is torn;
These plant upon My Brows the twisted thorn,
That as I sink and fall the pavement bleeds.
For thee I weep,--for thy transcendent needs
When on the dead dry tree the fire is born
Which never more shall perish or decline;
When desolation at thy door appears,
Thy visitation past, thy foes around;
Therefore I bid thee join thy woes with Mine,
While, ere those ever-during flames abound,
They yet may be extinguished by thy tears.


"Thou makest it soft with the drops of rain, and blessest the increase of it."

Yea, Nature doth herself the type present
Of penitential sorrow to our eyes,--
Hanging with clouds the beauteous firmament,
Not only 'mid fierce storms to winter lent,
But also in the tranquil summer skies,
Where love itself doth seem to spread his tent
Above us, 'mid those crystal canopies,
Without whose aid on earth each creature dies.
The unclean spirit banished from the blest,
Walks ever through dry places seeking rest;
Where not a tear bedews the barren ground,
But stern impenitence doth aye remain.
He Who His blessed kingdom spreads around--
He walketh on the clouds and giveth rain.


"He sendeth out His word, and melteth them: He bloweth with His wind, and the waters flow."

To Thee mine eyes are turned, the hard rock smite,
Grant me Thyself the gracious gift of tears
To wash the wilderness of my past years,
E'en such as Peter wept, woke by Thy light,
Muffling his face in that o'erwhelming night:
Or that loved sinner who 'mid guilty fears,
In love o'erflowing, at Thy feet appears:
Or saintly Magdalene, who in Thy sight
Stood weeping at Thy grave, and thought Thee gone
From her sad eyes; those morning dew-drops shone
In the Sun's beams one moment, then were flown
For ever: or as he for his deep stain
Wept tears which in his Sion still remain,
To crystal turned in penitential strain.


"They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them:
I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way."

The gifts most gracious which descend from high
Are things that minister to sacred woe,
That we thereby may learn ourselves to know,
Bringing to view the things that had gone by.
Thus distant mountains 'neath the o'er-darken'd sky
Come near us, and distinct their shadows show,
'Neath clouds whose watery treasures drop below,
And voices from afar come floating nigh.
When summer suns grow warm on Cedron's vale,
That brook of sorrows is no longer seen,
The olives on its bank droop sere and pale.
Thus when the world spreads o'er us skies serene,
Forgotten are the thoughts of penitence,
Which from dark heavens their fruitful tears dispense.

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