Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XXIV. The Promise of Paradise


"Where I am, there shall also My servant be."

Not in the dark meridian firmament
Would we discern our God; not in that cloud,
Nor in that Voice in dying heard aloud,
Which shook creation, and the strong rocks rent;
But in that pitying voice of One half-spent,
Beneath of coming death the silent shroud,
Which prayer of the meek penitent allowed;
And still small answer of the Omnipotent,
Which spoke of endless morn ere day was run,
In Paradise, lit by the eternal Sun.
Oh, that before I die that gentle word
Might come unto my spirit, breathing rest;
Then worlds might part asunder, in my breast
Nothing but that small Voice shall more be heard!


"O let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before Thee;
according to the greatness of Thy power preserve Thou those that are appointed to die."

From this Thy Mercy-seat, before all eyes,
Thou stretchest forth Thine arms unto all space,
Inviting all unto Thy love's embrace--
All comprehending as the summer skies,
Which bend to earth with fostering charities.
But upon whom, and in what hour of grace,
Dost Thou lift up Thy beatific Face,
With whispering Voice that speaks of Paradise?
Not on the rich, the many, or the great:
On one alone; on one, in this world's view,
A wretched outcast, scorned and desolate;
Who shares the Cross with Thee and owns it due,
Claiming the King of sorrows as his own,
And 'neath the o'erwhelming cloud discerns His throne.


"He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his life shall see the light."

Oh, might I 'neath that shadow find repose
In the assurèd hope of endless morn,
As all things I behold are westward borne
Unto their setting and the daylight's close!
But while I see Thy Face in dying throes,
A thousand voices call to me to mourn,
And cry aloud within my breast forlorn,
Ah, no! ah, no! thou canst not be as those,
Or as that penitent who, in his pangs,
Upon the bed of death in sorrow hangs!
Oh, faith beyond all faithfulness! when all
Forsook and fled, when e'en Apostles fall,
As death's dark valley they together trod,
He in the Man of Sorrows knows his God.


"When my heart is in heaviness I will think upon God."

But in that dreadful secret not to press,
And with no vain presuming confidence
Of what must be at our departure hence,
While sitting at death's portal we confess
The heart-felt sense of our unworthiness
Of aught but pains; then with no vain pretence
The Spirit Which is veiled from outward sense
May in the sight of his own nothingness
Comfort the mourner; for, in very deed,
We know full well the hour of pressing need
Is the time ever chosen for relief,
And prayer hath comfort in the hour of grief;
Such grace hath Baptism unto suffering given;
Yet Love still fears on verge of Hell or Heaven.


"I will be as the dew unto Israel: he shall grow as the lily."

"My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch."

The lily, some lone fountain's favoured child,
Holds all aloof from intercourse of earth,
Wherein it has below its secret birth;
But in some watery hollow, free and wild,
Lifts up its virgin whiteness, undefiled,
Suffused with blushes; when the sun grows warm
Stretches its stalk erect, and lifts its form
Above the pool's calm face awhile beguiled;
But when night's shades come on, its air-borne crest
Contracts again, folds up its blooming breast,
And on the watery surface is at rest.
Thus though awhile the spirit proudly shows,
Yet only, when the shades around her close,
On her baptismal waters finds repose.


"They shall be amazed at the strangeness of his salvation beyond all that they looked for."

Yet surely often no enlivening ray
Doth lighten the dark valley at its close,
When busy thought finds no place for repose,
But ever-during dark shuts out the day.
Yea, e'en on pure meek spirits oft dismay
Hangs, and expectance of the penal woes:
In that deep water-flood which o'er them goes,
Of God's dark judgments, none can trace the way.
Yet such are blessed, if thus made at last
Like to the Son of God; and when 'tis past,
Where on the clay-cold features and closed eyes,
Death sits, there cometh forth a glad surprise,
Which says it is "far better," or in doom
They hear, yet scarce believe, the blessed "Come!"

Project Canterbury