Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XXVI. Christ Expiring on the Cross


"I am in misery, and like unto him that is at the point to die."

With Eyes which now are closed, now ope anew,
As spirits faintly ebb and faintly flow
In dying; with pale Head that now droops low,
Now turns this side, now that, with death's cold dew
Suffused; now faint upraising turns to view,
With prayers that look to Heaven, as some sore woe
Breaks on the languishment of death; and now
The slumbers of the grave press and pursue
Retiring life; while faint, with fevered tongue,
He thirsts,--with heart that burns to do God's will;
He thirsts,--each word prophetic to fulfil:
And thus, with trembling hands, His foes among,
Seizes and holds the cup of bitterness,
To His parched lips the dregs of woe to press.


"Love is strong as death."

On sable wings, o'ershadowing the sun's rays,
Death came, as to his own appointed reign,
Where he beheld the torturing beds of pain,
Scenting afar his quarry. With amaze
He back recoils, and upon One doth gaze
Whom he hath had no warrant to detain;
Sinless, and yet with sorrows, his sad train,
Consorting. At the sight he doubting stays,
Till He Who issued from the Virgin's womb,
With voice omnipotent that cried aloud,
Showed Himself, amid nature's awful gloom,
Stronger than death in dying; then resigned
Himself a willing Victim; dying bowed,
And on His Father's Breast His Head reclined.


"I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do."

"Tis finishèd!" That voice hath reached the shore
Of never-ending ages, and more far
Than hath been traversed by the highest star;
Swifter than lightning it hath pierced the door
Of Hell, and echoes there for evermore.
'Tis finishèd: Death from life's theatre
The everlasting portals doth unbar,
The sinless Soul hath passed, and all is o'er.
It is a moment which we all must see,
On which there hangs a whole eternity,
And which to each can be but once; when they
Who now in Heaven watch this our trial day
Shall to each other say, "'tis finishèd;"
And men on earth shall whisper, "he is dead."


"Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me."

This thought it is which, if our love were cold,
Might lead us still, from very sympathy,
To hang our eager eyes and hearts on Thee:
That this most fearful moment must be told,
Whose memory shall never more grow old;
And that we have no strength in that dread hour
But that which emanates from this Thy power
In dying. Mortals now most proud and bold,
Who set at nought that hour, shall then most need
Thy succour, and a heart to Thee fast knit
In fellowship of suffering, used to feed
On Thee, and by austere self-rule made fit
For thoughts which ever from Thy Cross proceed,
'Neath which all penitential mourners sit.


"Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach."

The goat, for the Lord's household to atone,
Bleeding and slain upon the altar lay,
As the most Sacred Body on this day:
The living goat, which, when all else was done,
Was let go to the wilderness unknown,
"Bearing the sins of many," did portray
The Sacred Soul, which suffered such dismay
And sorrow, and from sight of men was gone.
Victims on which were laid the sins of men
Polluted and polluting were, and then
"Without the gate," as some accursed thing,
Cast forth: and surely this Sin-offering
Were one accepted, and of boundless price,
If shame and pain can mark a sacrifice.


"She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks."

Rizpah, that keepeth watch upon her Seven,
Sets forth the sevenfold grief of her bereaved
Of Him Who seven fulfils, until received
Into the Eighth of Rest, the day of Heaven,
The sixth is now consummate; this same even
Man was in Eden made; and now, reprieved
From Eden's curse, mankind, in Christ relieved,
Shall enter on the Sabbath, where 'tis given
To rest alone with God. Thus now I know,
Daughter of Aiah, why thy sorrows so
To holy mention have been consecrate;
And why thy weeping form early and late
On Gibeah's hill sits sad and desolate,
The image of another's deeper woe.

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