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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XXXIII. The Ascension


"Who maketh the clouds His chariot, and walketh upon the wings of the wind."

He hath gone up on high, the Heavens appear
To stoop for Him, and earth itself to rise
To send Him thither; henceforth earth and skies
Seem as if reconciled to draw more near,
While for His Saints He is preparing there
A place, though hidden from our mortal eyes;
And in those hearts which unto Him arise
By His descending gracious Comforter,
Preparing for Himself a place below,
From mortal eyes though hidden,--with new laws
Thus lifted up the souls of men He draws
After Him, where above He pleads their cause,--
Draws after Him, as sparks that upward go,
And rise unto the sun from whence they flow.


"If thou see Me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee: but if not, it shall not be so."

As from an exile's sad and ruined coast,
They who would send one to prepare a home
In happier climes, where they themselves would come,
And watch him in departing; yet, when lost,
Miss his protecting hand, and feel then most
Bereaved; so we, where clouds the skies illume,
Watch Him ascend, and feel an evening gloom
Steal o'er us on our way by shadows cross'd.
But if our hearts we wean from things of sense,
And cleanse our eyes by faith and abstinence
To see Him still in His departing hence,
The mantle of His peace shall on us rest;
His Spirit's double portion fill our breast;
And we e'en by His absence be more blest.

"Yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more."

'Tis said, in love there is this mystery,
That we cannot recall the absent glance,
Nor very self of a dear countenance,
When far away; of this the cause may be
That those we love are one with us, and we
Cannot behold ourselves. When out of sight
Thus love runs forth to what is infinite;
And so the more we love, the less we see:
For it is given to feed on the Divine,
When we the human lose; and the Unseen
Comes to be with us more, the more we wean
Our thoughts from what is sensible. Be mine
The better part to see not, yet believe:
Although the more I love, the more I grieve.


"For the corruptible body presseth down the soul, and the earthly tabernacle weigheth down the mind."

The human soul is yearning after love,
And finding not still feels itself alone,
Turning from side to side with ceaseless moan;
Or if she find what may affection move,
The object of her love turns to reprove,
By misplaced trust, or stern disunion,
Or disappointment; or if raised to One,
Who is the Everlasting rest above
Of Spirits divine, though for a while unseen;
The more her inward poverty she knows,
And finds unrest in seeking for repose:
Nor can sustain her to those heights serene
Against the attractions of our lower birth,
Whose gravitation draws her back to earth.


"He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God Whom he hath not seen?"

But since our God Incarnate is on high,
And in mysterious channels from the skies
Blends with our fallen nature; and brought nigh
Flows into all our human sympathies,
The everlasting Life of those that die;
No longer may our love thus buried lie
In low-born cares, with not a thought to rise,
And walk amid those pure societies;
Till life itself becomes the sepulchre
Of the undying soul; itself the prey
Of creeping things, or things far worse than they;
Imbedded in unworthy hope and fear,
Ere in the tomb, in its appointed day,
Its mantle of corruption disappear.


"Whom having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice."

For now our very flesh He hath put on,
And in the intricate spirit thus hath wound
With involutions many and profound,
From state of our corruption hath begun
To hallow the affections He hath won,
And feelings human and Divine hath bound
To His own service; with them to surround
His place of rest and Sabbath. As the sun
Drowns in itself all lesser fires to feed
Its own,--itself afar yet wondrous near:
So may He with regenerating fear
As from our being's centre still proceed
To every inmost feeling, word, and deed,--
To every outward sense, and eye, and ear.

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