Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.


XXI. The Cross Lifted up

1.

"And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."

And now, with strength combined of murderous hands,
The Cross uplifted Thy pale Frame sustains,
Rooted and fixed with violence, which strains
Thy wounds afresh; and as it upward stands,
Thine own deep wounds themselves are made the bands
That hold Thee on death's bed; with bursting veins
Thy Body hangs upon its own dread pains.
Each way extending, broad as Thy commands,
Deep as Thy judgments, as Thy mercies high,
It stretches forth, and shows with mystic sign
The breadth, and depth, and height of Love Divine,
Which forms ineffably that throne of Thine;
Broad as all space in boundless majesty,
Deeper than hell, and higher than the sky.

2.

"I became dumb, and opened not my mouth; for it was Thy doing."

Thus He Who is Himself the Eternal Truth
Turns into truth these shadows as they pass,
And makes men's evil deeds to be the glass
To mirror His perfections; for, in sooth,
He works His will alike in weal or ruth.
As shadows that fleet o'er the waving grass
Are but reflections of the cloudy mass
That range the heavens above, and vex or soothe
The summer skies, filling the passive hills
With thunder-falls or spots of dark repose;
E'en so whate'er for final good He wills
In man's free agencies He will disclose;--
Infinite Love! though man, 'neath seeming ills,
Knows not His coming steps, nor where He goes.

3.

"He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin."

And now the lifting-up sets open wide
The gates of agony: thus to fulfil
The accumulated crown of murderous skill.
They who are lifted heavenward, by His side,
Upon their Cross in patience must abide.
Because He willed, He suffered; 'tis the will
That sanctifies the suffering, and sets still
Each thought that to impatience is allied;
'Tis suffering that affords the wond'rous price
To every guilt-atoning sacrifice.
The offerings of Cain were fruits of earth,
Not sanctified by suffering, nothing worth;
But Abel's worthier gift was of the slain,
And dying animals that spoke of pain.

4.

"He stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed."

When Thou wast laid on the sin-curs├ęd ground
(Man's hiding-place until the day of doom),
It, sanctified by Thee, became the womb
Of Resurrection. Now, 'mid skies around,
The living Victim to the Altar bound,
'Mid universal nature's dreadful gloom
Thou shedd'st Thy light our darkness to illume;
With patience and with love immortal crowned,
Our Conqueror lifted on Thy throne; and there,
Pursuing through his realms the prince of air;
From soul-destroying vapours and disease
Clearing the foul and poisonous atmosphere;
Henceforth a road for saints to mount the skies,
Full of celestial and sweet influences.

5.

"To set up on high those that be low; that those which mourn may be exalted to safety."

The Cross is lifted up on Calvary's height,
And we thereby are lifted up to Heaven;
Such earth-redeeming power therein is given.
The beasts may earthward bend their lowering sight,
But man doth bear his countenance upright,
That he may gaze upon the Cross and live,
And our affections so may upward strive,
Taking their wing from thence and power of flight
To Heaven. O Form of everlasting fire,
Fed by the anointing of the oil of love,
Be Thou within us, that we never tire,
By stern self-sacrifice sustain'd above;
But still our busy thoughts may upward move,
And ever to their heavenly home aspire.

6.

"He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for My sake shall find it."

There is a tale in Eastern fable told
Of a magnetic isle in distant seas,
To which, as barks borne by the heavenly breeze
Approach, in manner strange and manifold,
The iron spars no longer keep their hold,
But part in sunder. Thus when ride at ease,
Knit by a thousand iron purposes,
The full-rigged schemes of worldlings proud and bold,
They loosely walk, as on a summer sea,
Upon their own unfathomed destiny;
But if by timely Providences driven
To Thee, the stable Truth and land of Heaven,
Then all their worldly homes are sunder riven,
And they who seize the Wood are borne to Thee.


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