28 October 2009

"The Altar" by George Herbert

A broken ALTAR, Lord, thy servant rears,
Made of a heart, and cemented with tears:
Whose parts are as thy hand did frame;
No workman's tool hath touched the same.
A HEART alone
As such a stone,
As nothing but
Thy power doth cut.
Wherefore each part
Of my hard heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise thy name.
That if I chance to hold my peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O let thy blessed SACRIFICE be mine,
And sanctify this ALTAR to be thine.
George Herbert (1593-1633)

Comments on this comparison between the heart and the altar of the Old Testament from "The One Year Book of Poetry" (October 24th);
"Herbert knew that his heart was so hard that only God's power could cut it. Attempting to use tools on his heart - such as self-denial, outward adjustments, or overt sanctity - would turn him into a performer rather than a worshiper.

Nothing we offer on or from the altar of our heart will curry God's favor, for God has already made the perfect offering for us - Jesus Christ. We simply need to accept his sacrifice for our sins.
God doesn't want us to work for his acceptance. We cannot make our heart - through self-effort - an altar that pleases him."


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