Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XXXII. The Forty Days


"In that day shall the Lord of Hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty, unto the residue of His people."

O glorious, wonderful, and blessed days,
When Christ full oft at each accustomed scene
Walked in the Resurrection,--oft unseen,
And oft appearing to the adoring gaze;
At morn or eve, on travellers' pensive ways,
By rocky cove, or shore, or mount serene,
Or at the social board, would intervene,
In veil of flesh hiding His Godhead's blaze;
Unknown, yet well known; in such marvellous change,
Like the impalpable air, in stillness brought
Through close-barred doors, silent, swift, calm as thought,
Yet palpable: in vast and boundless range,
Setting the laws of matter all at nought,
And yet the same in transmutation strange.


"It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him."

Great earnest of the time when, cleansed from sin,
The Saints shall rise with bodies glorified,
Like half-transparent veils to flesh allied,
Yet changed; when those affections which have been
Growing into the soul, and laid therein
By fiery trials, shall no longer hide,
But on the outward features shall abide,
Like fervid emanations from within,
Which mould the breathing form and character,
And impress of the soul. O vision fair,
That meets not human eye or human thought,
But sets our dull imaginings at nought,
When these our earthly frames, divinely wrought
And purified, with Christ Himself appear!


"When I awake up after Thy likeness, I shall be satisfied with it."

When our insensate limbs lie on the bed
Of sleep, on the live spirit visions break,
Which then without the body is awake.
And if it be, as holy men have said,
That sleep is but an image of the dead,--
What time the soul the lifeless body leaves,
And to new being lives, and joys, and grieves,--
Then things which here we most have cherishèd
May blend with visions of that after-sight,
As here in dreams of woe or keen delight;
But when our souls and bodies shall unite,
Then it may be as when we ope our eyes
At waking, and with sense regained arise
To woe or joy's substantial verities.


"They shall walk with Me in white."

I see a company bright with new light,
That moving form a silver galaxy,
'Mid trees of Paradise that hang thereby;
Where waters, clear as flowing chrysolite,
From an o'erhanging cave flow down the height;
O'er each, with a distinctness all his own,
A starry effluence hath formed a crown;
And by the side of each there comes to sight
A wingèd angel, with endearing face,
Or guidance leading on, or calm embrace;
And some before the rest, within a stream
Of silver rays, which from the portal pours,
Rising, approach the everlasting doors,
Borne from their feet, and whitening in the beam.


"Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men."

And over all there lay a bright serene,
A calm no man can speak, whose dread repose
Lifted it up above the joys and woes
Of this our turbulent unquiet scene,
And set apart: thus onward are they seen
Advancing: if it motion could be called
That was so like repose, whose peace appalled
The looker-on of earth, and rose between
This world and Heaven: while here a glorious group,
Turned Heaven-ward in its still slow measured dance,
Did Eastward through the lustrous trees advance:
While others from behind, in lengthened troop,
Looked up to where an angel seemed to stoop,
With trumpet-voice, and held their sense in trance.


"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God."

But if no hand or thought can rightly paint
That scene so terrible and yet so fair,
Much less can mortal thought,--by grovelling care,
Or low pursuit, or the defiling taint
Of foul imaginings void of restraint,
Made sensual,--from things of earth, sea, air,
Learn aught of those bright things beyond compare.
Yea, saintly souls themselves are frail and faint
Aught to conceive of that high blessedness:
They gain no glimpse, or if they should attain,
Yet find no words that vision to express;
Or if they language find to speak, no less
Their burning words to others speak in vain,
Who hear but cannot understand the strain.

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