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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XXVIII. The Burial of Christ


"Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill?"

Jerusalem, is this thy Sabbath deep
Which with this dreadful stillness doth begin,
After the many-voiced and murderous din,
Where thou would'st have thy Lord His rest to keep,
In zeal against His life? O wondrous sleep,
Which speaks in Thy redeemed a rest from sin;
A rest which is with Thee that tomb within,--
Rest in the Rock which shall their senses steep
In a forgetfulness of all beside,--
A Sabbath wherein Thou Thyself shalt hide,
And work again Thy healing miracles
Among the dead and dying; and from thence
Choose Thine own penitent that dies to sense,
And with Thee in the eternal Sabbath dwells.


"We are buried with Him by Baptism unto death."

Where is Thy resting-place, Lord, after all
The sufferings of Thy Flesh so long and keen?
Where dost Thou keep Thy Sabbath all unseen?
Make Thou my heart as this sepulchral hall,
Though filled with recollections that appal;
Till from a sepulchre, by Thee made clean,
It shall become a temple all serene.
The World doth still against Thee press her call,
Some whisper grave and low, and mourning sigh,
And others loudly cry out, Crucify!
Yea, in each heart the Priests and multitude
Against Thee rise. With locks all dripping blood,
Where shalt Thou rest in the wide world forlorn,
But in the new-made breast of them that mourn?


"Behold, I stand at the door and knock."

As Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb,
Nor the cold uncouth manger, and the stall
Of the rude hinds and bleating animal,
Nor childhood's bands and Nazareth's low room,
Nor touch of unclean sinner, nor the gloom
Of Ades, nor the over-hanging cave,
Shrouding Thee round with darkness of the grave;
But as the Sun vile places doth illume
Untainted by the foulness, so didst Thou,
Loving that lowliness which stoop'd so low
From the Heaven of Heavens, still lowlier love to bow
To meanest things on earth, yet take no stain.--
Then wilt Thou not a humble Guest e'en deign
To enter my poor heart, and there remain?


"They shall look upon Me Whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Me as one mourneth for his only son."

Hard hath my heart been as the stony rock,
Yet therein would I make a place for Thee,
Where nought that breathes of mortal vanity
May more be laid, which might Thy sorrows mock;
But mournful Contemplation with a stock
Of better thoughts wait on Thee in my breast.
And if Thou thus wouldst come with me to rest,
I would 'gainst all things else my senses lock;
Like a closed sepulchre, where the rock weeps,
From very coldness, the ethereal dew
Condensing into drops, where hid from view
Around the cave the weeping moisture creeps.
So in this evening of my waning years
I would therein receive Thee with my tears.


"Let us also go, that we may die with Him."

And if in soul and body, by long pain,
All that is earthly shall be mortified,
And Thou therein Thy quickening Presence hide,
That which is stony wilt Thou burst in twain,
As from stern winter's womb, and rise and reign
In vernal resurrection,--to abide
Here in new life by sorrow sanctified
Awhile, her course of trial to sustain,
And then arise to Heaven; thus here below
The tide of all my thoughts, that ebb and flow
In joy or sadness, may in either still
Be quickened by an all-inspiring Love,
And so may move obedient to Thy will,
Responsive to the drawings from above.


"My flesh trembleth for fear of Thee, and I am afraid of Thy judgments."

Would that my heart were meet to be Thy rest
In holy stillness; would that I might dwell
With Thee alone in this Thy rocky cell,
And shut out all the world! O thought most blest,
And yet of all most dreadful, dispossessed
Of all things which the self-proud spirit swell,
To be alone with Thee--approachable
By nought but holy thoughts, or thoughts distressed
That yearn to be so! As the solemn night
In contemplation wrapt and silent gloom,
With all her stars and covering of thick shade;
So this our burial with Thee in the tomb
Is semblance of the time when out of sight
The disembodied soul with Thee is laid.

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