Isaac Williams.

The baptistery, or, The way of eternal life online

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^Se Jpi^oi^tispicce.

How art Thou seen in Heaven, O living Well,
The Fount of our New- Birth, — the hlessed seal
Of our inheritance ? O who can tell
How countless Angels may around Thee kneel,
^\Tiile earth-bom clouds their glorious forms conceal,
And hide the golden vision from our view ?
Our God and Father Faith doth here reveal,
\\Tiose radiance hghts up the Baptismal dew,
WTiile we emerge in life where all thmgs are made new.

Countless as broods that fill the teeming sea,
On generations generations pom*
As through the mouth of Ocean, flowing free
Into the world through that Baptismal door :
Numbers innumerable, evermore.
Part on each side in endless destinies.
Some on advancing to light's bhssful shore.
Some on the road where sorrow never dies.
Each as thev choose their lot, the wav before them hes.



Haply to earth-dimm'd eyes alike they seem ; —
These worldly Favour courts with wnnning smiles.
And Pleasure lures with many a lightsome scheme,
Hope after hope their thoughtless way beguiles ;
That foul-hmb'd Monster, conscious of her wiles,
Sits o'er the arch and counts them for her own :
While Virtue shews the path where nought defiles.
And her meek children 'neath her solemn throne
Walk on their silent way, sad, desolate, alone.

On, step by step, they tread their way with fear.
And down-bent looks ; and as they onward pass
Grief's penitential robes they seem to wear :
Eying herself within a silent glass
Faith calmly moves, and from the worldly mass
Parts more and more, where Virtue's palmy rod
Points out the way ; and like the withering grass
The things of earth beneath her feet are trod,
"WTiile on their narrow way they upward walk with God.

Tlien light increases to the perfect day ;
Tlie world doth know them not, and cannot know,
Nor understand their ways, nor see the ray
That comes from Heaven to light them, while they go
From strength to strength ; along this vale of woe
A rainbow sprung fi-om the Baptismal well
Surrounds them, raining freshness o'er their brow ;
And Angels while they know not round them dwell.
Whence in their presence seems some Heaven-constraining spell.

Lo, one by one they pass, and are no more,
Walkinsr in awful stillness into light


Too jjure for mortal wisdom to explore ;
So solemnly and still they pass from sight ; —
Still as the minute-watches of the night.
Or trees that by the streams of life appear.
Waiting their change : O vision all too bright
For sinful man, who still must walk in fear.
Till death removes the veil and makes the vision clear.



A. — The Church loith her deep mysteries and rites
Portrayed in semblance of Cathedral aisles,
With pillared shades of stone, and cloistral ivalks,
Deadens and stiffens our expansive thoughts
Of her ethereal essence, casing them
In dead cold marble ; every finite form
That ivould set forth a nature infinite
Must circumscribe it.

B. — Yes, in that design

Your argument was straitened to that mould.
Bid so the Church is oft disclosed to man,
As a material Temple wrought of stones:
Yet often as a glorious living Form.

A. — Then might we not in verse delineate
A vision of the Bride invisible,
In Heavenly grace and beauty ivarm with life.
With Saints and Angels peopling all her courts ?
The secret struggles of the pilgrim soul,


And accidents that throng this mortal course
Oft Holy Wi'it reveals as living things, —
Spirits of good and evil. Angel forms
Tend on the cradle and the tomb of Christ,
And at His Judgment-seat come forth to view.

B. — Such a device seems of a scope too vast,
Of nature too ethereal to embrace,
In mould and language of poetic thought.

A. — TJie portraitures in these old cloistral books
Have bodied forth to meet the eye of sense
Stores of divinest ivisdom : these might range
To aid our neiv conception, and thus ived
Painting with poesy ; and haply stand
As storied walls of a Baptismal cell,
Or bring around a mimic theatre.
Shifting the sceneries of pictured life.
And shew as in a mirror things of Heaven.

B. — You scarce could weed from out this varied field
{WJiich seems a wilderness of type and thought)
Emblems of Roman worship, but therein
TJie microscopic eye of fear or hate
Would spy some poisonous herb, and thence would arm
Her venom'd barbs against you.

A. — Such vain talk

I heed not, — taking all religious care
That naught be left that bears the taint of ill
To injure blameless soids ; for much I fear
That e'en the tokens of her piety,
The rosary, the amice, cowl, and veil,


Are so allied ivitfi evil, that they seem
As deeply steep' d in some enchanters well,
And not in Holy Baptism. What forbids
But e'en from shades where baneful iveeds lie hid,
I still may gather floivers, and bid them grow
In the home vineyard of our mother Church ?
TJiese symbols have I gazhl on long and oft,
Tlvreading their morals and their mysteries,
And thence beguil'd to deeper — holier thoughts.
And surely heart-expanding Charity,
If aught she finds that ministers to good,
To others ivould like instruments suppAy.
Tfiese scenes are eloquent beyond all ivords.
For objects p)leading through the visual sense
Are stronger than discourses to the ear,
More powerfully they reach and move the soul.

B. — But grant no sign of Rome in these appears ; —
Yet these appeals to the more sensual eye
Do savour of her ivorship, in her courts
Imagination holds too high a place,
Leagu'd with material things, and charms the heart
Prone to idolatry, unconscious glides
To sense from spirit : upward to ascend
Is hard; it is on earth to live in Heaven.

A. — Yes, dangers on each side beset our road ;
When zeal, imbued with puritanic leaven,
Clogs up heart-easing Heaven-born poesy.
The sold thus stiffed breeds dark mutinies,
Irreverence, irreligion, hollow ivords,


Hypocrisies : yet on the other side
Let loose it riais on to material things,
And blends with sensuous idolatry.
. Tfie Church, His thought, is wakening through the land,
And seeking vent for the overloaded hearts
Which she has kindled, — pours her forth anew, —
Breathes life in ancient worship, — from their graves
Summons the slumbering Arts to wait on her,
Music and Architecture, varied forms
Of Painting, Sculpture, and of Poetry ;
These are allied to sense, but soul and sense
Must both alike find wing and rise to Heaven ;
Both soul and body took the Son of man,
Both soul and body must in Him serve God.

B. — If lowliness of heart and reverend faith

Be with us, we through these conflicting tides
May reach our Heavenly haven : if these guides
Be wanting we alike shall fail at last,
Whether we stretch our canvass to the gale,
Or creep) along the shore : yet in these days
I would hold back and fear. There are, 'tis said
Spirits abroad impatient of our Church,
Her iveakness and her children's, which is great.
Or driven by harshness to unfilial thoughts.
And yearn for union ivith intruding Rome.

A. — This union in His Church is God's own gift.
Not to be sciz'd by man's rude sinful hands,
But the bright crown of mutual holiness.
Therefore such leanings find in me no place.


So broad I feel the gulf 'twixt her and us,
Form'd by her dark and sad idolatries,
That I would rather die a thousand deaths
Than pass it : sure I cannot others lead
To thoughts which foreign are to all I love.
And find in me no sympathetic chord.
TJien may I not unfold my parable
In visions such as holy Hermas taught,
Seeking the warm light of antiquity.
The Gospel's glorious morn, and the first love
Of the immortal Spouse ? Let us the ivhile
In these most perilous and restless days
Cling the more close to our maternal Church
As to a guardian Angel — hold her hand —
With her rove haunts of hoar antiquity,
To which she leads and marshals us the way
As to our true and sacred heritage, —
And thus pursue her principles and powers
Develop' d from her shrines and Liturgies,
Covering her faults, supplying her defects ;
Such filial loyalty I deem our light,
Our strength, and our protection ; such a guide
I need, and uncomplaining watch her light.
Like the dim moon given to our wirdry clime.
The duteous child compares not, questions not.

TJiis sacred Art, which through the thoughtful eyes
Holds converse with the heart, she pleas' d allows
It by her holy altar finds a place,
Peoples th' enameVd ivindoivs, j)ours its stores


O'er shrines, o'er sculpturd floors, o'er 2iicfurd panes,

Miches of sacred scene and character —

Spirits and things of spirit brings to sense, —

With rude accoutrements of uncouth shape, —

Or female forms of Virtue^, and full oft

Delineations of the Judgment-day^.

E'en so the sister Art that speaks in stone

Cleaves o'er her fonts, like ivy, spreading round

Their shafts and sides with sacred imagery.

And scatters o'er them marble eloquence.

Therefore I deem these pictured sceneries,

Which, like siveet music heard in rural haunts.

Would interweave the forms of sight ivith song —

Breathe with 7io spirit alien to our Church,

Nor uncongenial to that character

That in her voice and form and motion speaks.

B. — All this I doubt not; and the uncouth shapes.
Harsh-featured oft and quaint and rude of limb,
TVherein her stores of ivisdom she retains,
Are hallow'd by severe antiquity.
But who loith modern lessons such ivould blend ?
And look you here ; 7ioiv these are fearful sights.
Monstrous, ill-shaped, and gaunt, and terrible.
From tvhich this gentle Age with lifted hands
Will turn, and 'gainst thy volume close the door.

A. — Tliis Age needs them the more. Self -loving Times, —

a e. g. on the west window of New College Chapel, as m Image XVIII.

'* e. g. on the west window at Magdalene College Chapel, as in Image XXII.


IVhich fain would from religion crop the flower
And leave the thorns behind, — require the more.
That toe should not omit that hitter part
Which in each healthful chalice blends below.

B. — Yes, if design could match the dreadful theme,
And execution match design : yet here
There is put forth no breathing eloquence,
No stern embodying of inspired thought.
Which could it meet the thoughtful gaze of men
Would fill the eyes with tears, the breath ivith sighs,
Like rain and icinds upon the stagnant lake.
And so amend the heart.

A. — Such eloquence

Each to himself must minister; and oft
Doubtless a heart, yearning for things of Heaven,
Hath fed on storied ivalls o'er cottage hearth,
And rude embroideries of quaint device.
Which Taste tvould mock at. Pure religious care
Would strive to wed performance with design,
Till both give birth to heart-ennobling thought.
Full of high adoration. Yet neer yet
Could warmest rhetoric of high discourse,
Nor earnest fear with gravest eloquence.
So form tlte piicture e'en of that dread Day,
But while meek spirits tremble, others scoff'
Or cavil, or at phrase or doctrine carp.
Bringing God's herald to their Judgment-seat,
And not themselves before the throne of God.
One tvell we know hath given such utterance


To the deep jlood of his own fervent thoughts,

That seem'd to us some stream of Paradhe

Flowing o'er Eden^s gems of golden thought,

Troubled indeed, and strong, and jyassionate,

But such as floioed from 'neath the throne of God —

Of Judgment and of Baptism and of Sin.

And ivhen our hearts in trembling silence long

Stored deep his words, and loere bowed doum to earth,

Nor tvish'd to be uplifted ; — then we found

'Twas the light theme of after-dinner talk.

Chance meetings by the loay, debate, and strife,

And co7itroversial whisperings ; — tender souls

So pitiful forsooth, and full of care

Best that their brethren s spirits be cast dmvfi

By theme so terrible, and over-iorought !

Alas, 171 them no fear of such despair !

B, — I grant it ; yet I doubt if these rude shapes
Are themes of wholesome terror ; haply such
Might be, envelop d in the cloud and shade,
Or set in outline ; such thus dimly seen
Are oft more eloquent ; the mind supplies
Its own Diviner language, and Jills up
The picture : Painting it is said hath less.
The statue more of breathing p)oesy.

A, — Yes, for strong passion oft when left half -told
Breathes insptiration and true eloquence.
Far more than many ivords : and it tvere well
If thus our limner could portray these shapes,
That they should stand reveaVd in outline, dim,


More statue-Jike, more full of poetry ; —

Or hcdf-nnthdraio from sight, and clothe in shade,

For night and darkness is their Jit abode.

And thus in Holy Writ such lusion comes,

With spirits, where the stars are gleaming through

Their bodiless and jmre ethereal forins.

But if Sin puts on shape to meet the eye,

TJiese hideous forms, or foul deformities,

Most meetly speak her qualities and frame ;

For such is Sin in God's creation fair,

Foul treason 'gainst the Majesty of Heaven,

Against all goodness, beauty, harmony ;

Monsters, dark creeping things, and hideous snakes

In nature are the types lohich speak her forms.

Ajid sure much harmful influence is ivrought,

By those proud spirits of the later age

Who throiv heroic grandeur o'er the shape

Of the Arch-Evil One, — in dread sublime

Throning him, as that bard we may admire

But cannot lore.

B. — Still some, as icell you know,

Esteem' d for ivisdom among those we love,
Shrink from this language to the eye dis^ilayed,
And cannot but disprove.

A. — This thought full long

Shook my strong ji^ffpose, much creating doubt;
But noiv no more, by judgments strong outweigh' d
And sacred reasonings. Minds of various men
Are variously attemper d ; in the soul


There is a?i eye and ear, as in the frame,

Attun'd or not attun'd to harmonies ;

Some more than others catch responding notes

Of sound or language. Some from tongue and pen

Banish all figure, comprehend it not:

Others read loisdom through similitudes,

Through medium of external sign and form.

Their speech hy nature rich with images.

And this, if I with reverence so may speak,

Is God's oivn language : yea, that Eastern tongue

Which He hath chosen to converse with man

Is formed of symbols. Is not all His zvorld

And all His word one speaking parable,

Speaking to sense of tlmigs invisible ?

All things tvith Him are double, each event

Doth throiu its shadow forioard ; all His word

Is a full store of countless images,

Who knows them best is most Divinely wise.

B. — Those figures are of God, but yours of man.

Yet grant such is God's teaching ; still, methinks,
Should we enshrine these forms uncouth and strange
In spiritual temples of the inner mind,
We should do wrong to pure immortal Truth,
Blending it with such semblance mean and poor.

A. — All earthly things are poor to speak Divine :
For what are types that set forth things of God,
Moses to Jesus, or the Ark to Heaven ?
What is the ruin which on Sodom raitis.
Or armies compassing lost Sioiis ivalls,


To that great dooms-day ivhich theij liarhinger ?

Poor shadows all of dread reality.

Language suggests, the feeding eye receives,

And healthful minds convert to aliment,

Tli unhealthy turn to bane : hence sickly souls,

And those replenished with immortal bloom.

A graver question haunts me —

B. — Should a child

Drink in these lessons with a greedy eye,
And in the dreadful stillness of dead night
Cry out, — of fearful forms and eyes uncouth
That fright his slumbers : —

A. — You have truly toucKd

But clothed in fairer utterance the thought
That moves me ; — better far that Oceans depths
Should overwhelm our pictured themes, than ive
Offend Christ's little ones : yet much I doubt ,
If objects that affright the tender mind
Make it to fall, nay sometimes cause to stand,
And nothing here 1 trust may find a shape
That so should terrify ; — for I prefer
Judgments of Childhood to the worldly ivise
As less by bias sway'd.

B.— Well, if so be

The test is easy, here Mercutio comes
Along thi embowering walk, where evening shades
Fall, and the purple clouds are trooping by.

A. — Him tvould I make my judge.



B. — You have in him

Both judge and advocate ; — -for all these things

Partake of those ivild tales lohich Childhood loves,

Of haunted castles and enchanted lore.

Who has not conned, and icith Aladdin^s law.p

Wander'' d through tales of Araby, and scenes

Of watery realms conceal d beneath the sea,

Beauteously terrible; or Spense/s world

Of sword and spear ethereal 9 These methinhs

Touch Childhood as akin to the unseen.

The iiifinite and wild that speak of Heaven, —

The image hid in chambers of the heart

Which pants for the ideal, in a soul

Fresh from the hands of God : but here he comes.

A. — Mercutio, you and I these pictured scenes

Have often traced together, and have touclid
On deep grave themes, until we passd to thoughts
That left us musing and in better tvorlds,
With such a wimmig interest that seemd
To set your sports behind, and for aivhile
Left you more thoughtful : — think you this design
Is such as would affright you, or create
Visions of fear ? have ever such remained
Sleeping or sleepless hanging on your thoughts,
And our discourse appear d to rise iii dreams
Making night terrible ? See this dread scene
The Day of final doom.

M — . / think that these

Might issue from the limners hand, so wrought


As not to terrify : no more than sights

In Gothic aisles and old Cathedrals dim.

Which sickness might invest ivith her own hues

Of terror, — no more than at dead of night

When Contemplation summons uj) the theme

Of the great Judgment. Words of Holy Writ, —

Of the undying tvorm and place of fire —

Will oft stand forth with poiver unknown before,

When night and darkness bring the unseen near.

A. — How fraught icitli grave instruction is this scene !
How eloquent! how full of warning thought '^ !
Look here, this is the great ArchangeVs trump
llliich Scripture speaks of ,• and observe that here
The ce7itre and circumference is this.
That all hearts shall be opend ; — and this mark,
'Tis made throughout to hang on this alone.
Whether ive have loved God, or have loved self :
These are the mirrors ivherein souls are seen,
These are the books ; on this the scale depends ;
This is announced to the Eternal years :
See, Virtue looks alone upon this love.
And these 7ioiv pass unharmed into the Sun
Of Glory : here note the designers skill
To mark the King and Queen tvhen crownless now,-
They issue from deep-rended monuments.
Which bear the stamp of ancient Royalties.

M. — And are they blessed ? we would have them so,
Kings have been Martyrs.

'^ See Judgment scene, Image XXII.


A. — It tvould seem that these

Arise too late, the blessed noiv are gone,
" The dead in Christ rise first." The painter means
Christ's kingdom is the poors'. And here is one
Tom from the blessed, and who bids his friends
A long farewell ! But let us dwell no more
On the dread scene ; — ive noiv have power to choose.

M. — Sure these must reach the heart ; and oftentimes
When I pursued them step by step ivith you,
I seem' d to drink in sermons full of thought.
They differ from th' enchanted tales in this,
Those terrify but soothe not ; these of yours
Of terror yet of sure protection speak :
These terrors are but ivholesome thoughts of crime.
These enemies are sins, — the shield is God.

A. — Yes, children here are wiser than ourselves :
Imagination ivakes in a new world
Replete tvith ivonders to the cfiildish soul ;
And ere it yet has known the sting of guilt.
It needs to learn that serpents lie in flotvers,
Tliat evil spirits hide as well as good
In this fair ivilderness wherein they wake.

Now to resume the theme of our discourse : —
/ should be loath to let this awful Work
{Bereft of all that pains self-pleasing minds)
Like a bright -speckled serpent craivl along
Reft of its sting, to please a gaping shoiv :
As God hath given them stings let us adore
The awful emblem, nor in God's great world


IVtsh adders boneless : but by graver thought

Gather sweet honey from the stinging bees ;

And adder's oil 'tis said will heal its wounds.

So we from such may gain a holy fear

And high philosophy . 'Tis such a theme

Which frets the world and arms its slanderous tongues

Deep steep' d in poisonous hate ; 'tis this which goads

The loud disputers of God's word and ivill,

'Gainst self-renouncing bearers of the Cross,

JVherever found, or such as seem to be.

Such hate I deem the shadow of God's truth,

And without vjhich the substance cannot stand,

Nor bathe its steps in sunshine of true Light,

The shadow which ne'er left the Lord of Truth,

Inseparable as night attending Day,

WJiene'er the light of God doth fall on man.

Yet they loho seek for safety, not for ease, —

Who seek to know themselves, — such awful theme

Will ponder. Here to fix the heart and eyes

Will heal the sores of controvei'sial strife.

Straiten our loills, our motives purify.

Humble our hearts, make single-eyed to see.

And single-hearted to embrace the truth.

Thus to behold the pregnant thunder-cloud.

Bound with the rainbow which surrounds the Judge,

Shall bid God's children hasten 'neath the roof

Of His own sheltering House, and there await

Its coming on with tender offices.

Each emulous his brother to befriend,


Each to forget himself; such have no ear
For controversial triflings and debate,
Naught that responds within to party strife.

Then I would not my little bark should sail
To summer suns without that dreadful freight,
Nor Baptism's storied ivalls omit such scenes
However poor portray' d ; — set forth to view
With feeble eloquence, yet such as might
Ai'rest one glance, — one thought, ivhich entering in
The door of the life-Mndling — shaping soul.
May haply there lie hid, yet something blend
Of reverend thought vjith other lighter themes ;
May to the fount of action entrance find,
Tliat streams which issue thence may bear the tinge
Of fear, and dread expectance of that morn.
Reader and writer on that morn must meet : —
Thrice hajjpy, could this theme arouse but one
To hide his brow on his uplifted hand,
Recalling his past life in silent prayer.


Part I.
The Baptistery

Image the First
Tlie Choice of Life

Image the Second
Childhood at Self- Examination

Image the Third
Tlie Shortness of Time

Image the Fourth
The Preparations of Prayer

Image the Fifth
Gi\'ing Thanks for all Things

Image the Sixth
Angels bearing Crosses

Image the Seventh
Tlie Churcli asking the Prayers of her

Part II.

Image the Eighth
Tlie Complaint of the Penitent

Image the Ninth .
Habit Moulding Chains

Image the Tenth .
Actions written in Heaven

Image the Eleventh
Man encompassed with Blessings















Image the Twelfth
The Birth of Christ in the peaceful heart

Image the Thirteenth
Trusting always in God

Image the Fourteenth
The Death of the Righteous

Image the Fifteenth
Visiting Holy Places, or the Pilgrims of St. David's

Part III.

Image the Sixteenth
The Waters of the City of God

Image the Seventeenth
The Balances of the Sanctuary

Image the Eighteenth .
The Daughters of the Heavenly Sion

Image the Nineteenth .
The Treasures of the King's Palace

Image the Twentieth
The Pattern shewed in the Mount

Image the Twenty-first
The Eyes which are in every Place

Image the Twenty-second
The Day of Days, or the Great Manifestation

Image the Twenty-third
The Years of Eternitv ....


There is a Fonta witliin whose burnished face
The overarching pile itself reflected sleeps^

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Online LibraryIsaac WilliamsThe baptistery, or, The way of eternal life → online text (page 1 of 13)