Project Canterbury

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

By Isaac Williams

London: Joseph Masters, 1849.

XXXIV. The Descent of the Holy Spirit


"Their eyes saw the Majesty of His glory, and their ears heard His glorious voice."

"Let there be Light!" God said: and at the sound,
With varied order, beautiful and young,
From the dead formless void Creation sprung,
And sea and land with their alternate bound,
And shining worlds that range the blue profound,
With hills and woods, and beasts the hills among,
And painted birds that in the forest sung,
And flowers of scent, and hue that deck'd the ground,
And seas and streams where roam'd the finny herd.
But how much more when that creative Word,
The Gift Unspeakable on man conferr'd,
Was seen in flaming tongues that came to sight,
And heard in rushing winds of viewless might,
Saying to man's dark soul, "Let there be Light!"


"The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry."

"Let there be Light!" Dead matter heard of old,
When the foundations of the world were laid,
And e'en in hearing instantly obeyed.
But twice nine hundred years have onward roll'd,
Since with His gifts and graces manifold
The Spirit hath gone forth, with light arrayed,
And the Almighty fiat hath been said;
Then why is the fulfilment yet untold?
There was of days a numbering and delay
When rose this visible scene of earth and sky,
Which hastes so fast to fade away and die:
To the All-wise it needs a longer day,
From the soul's endless ruin and decay,
To form a world for immortality.


"For a thousand years in Thy sight are but as yesterday: seeing that is past as a watch in the night."

It needs a longer time to reinstate:--
The world arose in six days at His word,
And clothed itself in beauty as it heard;
But ere the mighty water-floods abate,
Which once have issued from the penal gate,
When Ocean for its cleansing hath been stirr'd,
By days, and weeks, and months must be deferred.
It needs a once-lost world to renovate
Much time, much suffering, many words, much price,
Of God Himself the costly Sacrifice,
With a long system of atoning pains
In shadows or in substance, which remains
From the beginning to the end of time,
When all shall fill One Mighty Truth sublime.


"As a drop of water unto the sea, and a gravel-stone in comparison of the sand; so are a thousand years to the days of eternity."

But if the things beheld so glorious seem,
And long the time to be, and which hath been;
But yet how short the time, how poor the scene
Compared with that which issues from this dream,
Of which the sun is but a spark or beam?
And it may be, when death shall intervene,
All time hath comprehended then is seen
As instantaneous as a lightning gleam;
Or as when God first spake, and there was light.
E'en now more old we grow, or more the soul
Is in her view enlarged, or to the goal
Draws near, more brief appear the things of sight:
How short shall then appear this little whole,
When we behold it from thwe shore aright?


"I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number."

How populous, 'tis said, is solitude!
Men hear it, and receive the truth sublime,
Yet mark not why. If rightly understood,
It is the company of the wise and good:
In solitude we pass from present time,
Above the living crowd we needs must climb,
And make the past and future our abode.
Thus when in solitary thoughts we brood
Upon the City which descends from high,
Before and after are unnumber'd eyes,
Such as are found in the eternal skies,
More than the thickest earthly companies:
And we may blend in the society
Of Saints, which on the breast of Jesus lie.


"Before man is life and death; and whether him liketh shall be given him."

When at the Word of power creation rose,
The elements to their appointed place
All hastened, each to hold their separate space;
Earth, Sea, and Air, and Light and Darkness chose
Each their own realms, and barriers interpose,
Distinct in their gradations; each his race
To run, and to fulfil his day of grace.
And we, too, who have heard His voice, must close,
And take our stations, or we are undone.
That Word of power hath gone forth to all lands,
With gifts, and benedictions, and commands;
And gather'd in unto the Holy One,
Sprinkled with blood, each Saintly Spirit stands,
Before the Lamb that sitteth on the throne.


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