The Atonement (Poem by William Blane)

The Scapegoat, by William Holman Hunt, 1854

The Atonement

by William Blane

This poem was written some time after 1883, when William Blane emigrated from Scotland to South Africa. It first appeared in print in 1887, when William Shaw, of Maybole in Ayrshire, had it printed in Scotland as a penny pamphlet. Advertising it in a magazine of which he was the editor, Shaw described it as a ‘new poem’ (The Believer’s Treasury, Dec 1887, p. 191.).


When selfish, narrow-minded man
The mighty works of God would scan,
He’s sure to estimate the whole
In keeping with his narrow soul,
Till he, by truth divine, advance
Into the infinite expanse
That lies beyond his shallow thought,
And face-to-face with God be brought
To measure, by Jehovah’s strength,
The height, the depth, the breadth and length
Of all His works, which, every one,
Are worthy of their Author done.
God’s works are perfect; therefore man,
Who is imperfect, never can
Their fulness infinite explore,
But, gazing on them, must adore,
Ascribing wisdom, honour, might
To Him who reigns in Heaven’s light.
Then let us, with the consciousness
Of all our own unworthiness,
And with a deeper, holier sense
Of what God is, with reverence
Approach His mightiest work, that we
May meditate thereon, and He
May condescend to shed some ray
Of light divine to chase away
The misty notions all abroad
About this wondrous work of God,
Which yet is as the purest light
Shed freely on the darkest night,
Wherein God’s glories shine so clear
That sinless seraphs cannot bear
The sight; while we, as in a glass,
Behold them dimly, till we pass
To where no vail shall intervene,
Nor cloud nor darkness come between;
But face-to-face, before the throne,
We’ll know as we ourselves are known

When God the Earth’s foundations laid
And at their bounds the proud waves stayed
With angels’ shout the heavens rang,
The morning stars together sang.
And why such joy? Did He not know
It yet would be a scene of woe,
Of misery, and grief, and pain,
Where sin e’en unto death would reign?
Yes! From the first He knew the last;
With Him the future, present, past
Is all one vast, eternal now,
Who dares to say, “He knew not how
Sin would His fair creation mar,
And from His presence man debar?”
Then how could He the secret keep
Which would have made those angels weep
Instead of sing? Would He thus show
His power alone, and make them know
The vengeance of His dreadful ire,
To punish with eternal fire
Rebellious creatures? No! They knew
That He with whom they had to do
Was the Almighty, and that He
Sin in His presence could not see.
When Satan and his host rebell’d,

His awful wrath they had beheld,
As o’er the battlements of heaven
They from their ancient seat were driven.
To prove the vengeance they had dar’d,
Where Justice had their place prepar’d.
But in His heart there reigned a love
That reached beyond the realms above,
And thus He did this world destine
To be the scene where it should shine
In all its rich and full display,
For which the curse but paved the way.
Though all th’ infernal host combin’d,
And sin and death were with them join’d
To do their worst, in hellish hate,
God’s will and purpose to frustrate,
Their efforts, though they wist it not,
That very will and purpose wrought.
A world which nought but sin did yield
Alone could be a fitting field
On whose dark scene to demonstrate
The love so rich, so free, so great,
That filled His heart a love that would
Reach far beyond the just and good,
And with its circle circumscribe
Each nation, kindred, tongue, and tribe,
And, for His boundless mercy’s sake,
For all their sins atonement make,
Provide salvation for the lost,
Free, yet at an infinite cost;
Yea, overcome the sinner’s heart,
And love, where hatred reigned, impart,
And people heaven with a throng
Of pardoned rebels, to prolong
To all eternity the lays
Of their Redeemer’s glorious praise.
That Love’s meridian height – The Cross –
With all its wondrous gain and loss,
Where Christ endured the grief and shame,
Gives answer to each righteous claim.
There, on the bleeding Sacrifice,
The sinner looks with tear-dimmed eyes.
That God should love a rebel so –
That Christ for Him endured such woe –
Is more than what his heart can bear;
‘Tis melted, and made captive there;
The work is done – his sins forgiven –
He’s born of God – an heir of heaven.
Thus, o’er His sin-made suffering Son,
God and the sinner are at one.
O matchless love! O wondrous plan!
Through which to rescue ruined man.
The power of God Creation shows,
His wisdom Nature doth disclose,
But by th’ Atonement He has shown.
His power into existence brought
The worlds. Incomprehensive thought!
When chaos reigned in ceaseless night
His voice was heard: “Let there be light!”
And light, without sun, moon, or star,
Burst forth and chased the darkness far!
His hand with beauty decked the scene
Which void and shapeless erst had been!
He breathed on Adam’s cold, clay frame,
And he a living soul became!
Was power exhausted as He stood.
And, viewing all, pronounced it good?
Or was His wisdom at an end
When Nature’s laws He made to blend,
And caused the worlds through pathless space
Harmoniously to run their race?
No! Though in these in vast degree
His wisdom and His power we see,
They are but glimmers, faint and dim,
Of what of those reside in Him.
But more His Love could not have done
Than yielded up His only Son.
And why so much? – For nothing less
Could meet His claims in righteousness.
Angels could not for sin atone,
Or Jesus ne’er had left the throne:
For though they each a life had giv’n,
Till empty were the realms of heav’n,
E’en all could not have purged one sin,
And brought the pardoned sinner in,
Arrayed in garments pure and white,
To dwell in heaven’s unsullied light.
Had man but one wrong action done,
None but the great Eternal’s Son
Could for that single sin atone;
And then He must be left alone
To sink beneath Heaven’s angry wave,
With none to pity, none to save,
Till, overpowered by Death and Hell,
He conquered, but, to conquer, fell;
And in their own deep, dark domain
Must over them the victory gain,
And to His girdle bind their keys,
Ere He their prisoner could release.
Or were there worlds for every Star
That glimmers in the distance far,
And myriad souls contained in each
Whose number Thought could never reach,
All burdened with a heavy load,
Of guilt, and ‘neath the wrath of God,
God’s Lamb, upon the altar laid,
For all atonement could have made.
Yea, if for demons He had died,
He would for them have satisfied
God’s utmost claim, and made them meet
Around His throne to take their seat,
Not as before, with wing-veiled face,
But, through the riches of His grace,
To rank among that blood-bought throng
Who sing for aye Redemption’s song.
Let none the ransom under-rate,
Or vainly try to estimate
What Jesus on the cross endured
Ere man’s salvation was procured.
‘Twas infinite! We might as well
Attempt to reach the gates of hell,
And see the lost in pain and woe,
Who must for evermore be so;
Then try to count th’ eternal years,
And sum the sighs, the groans, and tears
Which shall befall but one lost soul
While those eternal ages roll;
Then, if the sum our mind could gain;
A multiplier we’d obtain
If we could count the myriad host
Who through the fall of man were lost.
But vain the task to try to sum
The sufferings which would have come
On all mankind lost through the Fall!
Yet satisfaction for it all
God has received; and hence He can
Extend to every fallen man
Salvation – pardon full and free
Which is his own the moment he,
Lost, ruined, helpless, and undone,
Believes on Jesus, God’s dear Son.
Th’ Atonement was no business act
In which the Saviour did contract
To undergo so many pains
That He might cleanse so many’s stains.
He gave His all — His life’s blood flowed
To reconcile the world to God.
‘Twixt God and man, to close the rent,
The spotless Lamb of God was sent.
If all the sins of Adam’s race,
With perfect justice to each case,
In Heaven’s balances were laid,
They would be utterly outweighed
By Jesus’ death. The value lies
All in th’ infinite sacrifice;
When Christ for man was crucified,
Th’ Creator for the creature died.
The vail within God’s house of old,
That hid the mercy-seat of gold,
With cherubims was strangely wrought,
Which sadly to the memory brought
The gate of Eden, where these stood
With flaming sword lest man intrude,
And showed that Justice veiled God’s face
And stayed the current of His grace.
But when the vail was rent in twain,
These creatures were beheld again,
No more a terror to the heart,
But of the mercy-seat a part;
Beneath their wings the sprinkled blood,
Inviting sinners near to God.
Th’ Atonement is the mercy-seat
Where God the guilty one can meet,
And show him how his sins are gone,
Through what the Lord of Life hath done.
There Truth and Mercy meet together,
Justice and Peace have kissed each other
God’s attributes are harmonis’d,
And in His boundless love baptised;
There Justice, which we once did fear,
With outstretched hands invites us near.
The Cross is now God’s trysting-place
Where He can meet with man in grace –
Where, on the ground of Jesus’ blood,
The world may drink of Mercy’s flood,
And every soul by sin defiled
To God in Christ be reconcil’d.
What means a universal call
If there be not enough for all?
As if the Saviour passed some by
While He for others’ sins did die,
And that, though all are told to come,
There’s but provision made for some:
Or that, in some mysterious way,
God means not what the Scriptures say,
Let hampered minds their thoughts expand
Nor on such narrow footing stand:
The mighty work of Jesus scan –
He “tasted death for every man.”
He “died for all” that they who live
Back to Himself that life should give.
He has for “all” Atonement made –
For all mankind the ransom paid.
God loved the world; and when He gave
His Son, it was the world to save.
And though He knew some would not take
Of the provision He would make,
The foreseen choice of self-willed man
Changed not heav’n’s universal plan,
As, in the love that moved His heart,
All in th’ Atonement had a part.
Some will be lost, and rescued some,
Yet “Whosoever will” may come.
If not, He only mocks their fate
Who presses all, “ere ‘tis too late”,
To trust a work not for them done.
To take a pardon while there’s none,
To fly from hell without a way,
Or perish if they disobey.
They never can the sinner reach
Who, crippled thus, the Gospel preach.
Tis He who knows of food for all
That only can afford to call
A hungry world to come and feed –
All others would but mock their need.
O tell the tidings all around,
That every soul may hear the sound
Th’ Atoning work embraces all
Who were enveloped in the Fall.
To earth’s remotest regions go,
And preach to every child of woe,
Impartial who or what they be –
The rich, the poor, the bond, the free,
That Christ on their behalf had died,
That God with Him is satisfied,
And now is ready to forgive –
The simple terms, “Believe and live”.
And he who disregards the news,
And doth his day of grace abuse,
Shall find the worm that never dies,
As in the burning lake he sighs
To all eternity, shall be –
“There was provision made for me:
I might have been in Heaven above,
But I despised God’s mighty love.”


The glorious Gospel will effect
The gath’ring in of that Elect
Which, long before time had begun,
God did foresee would trust His Son;
And whom He therefore did destine
To be conformed by power divine
Into His image, and to be
His “glorious Church,” from blemish free.
But this, though known and valued much,
Doth not the great Atonement touch.
True, ’twas the special treasure sought,
But, for it, all the field was bought.
“Christ loved the Church,” and in His love
Did for her die, that she above
Might be the partner of His throne.
But she is not the fruit alone
That from the “Corn of Wheat” doth grow,
Which He on Calvary did sow.
Think of the souls before the flood
Who trusted in the Living God –
Of Abr’am and the saints of old
Who died in faith, as we are told –
Of Israel’s thousands who foresaw
The End of all their shadowing law –
Of nations, tribes, and kindreds who
Have lived and died and never knew
Of Revelation’s glorious light,
With whom the Judge shall do the right.
Then, death takes half our race away
In infancy and childhood’s day;
These, through th’ Atoning work, are His
Who said, “Of such the kingdom is.”
Then let our minds reach on before,
Till times of tribulation sore
Shall overtake the sons of men,
And see the grace of God e’en then
In sealing thousands as His own;
Then, turn with John to yonder throne –
See gathered there from every land
That countless, white -robed, praising band
Who, in the tribulation great,
For God and Truth their lives did hate.
Then think of the millennial bliss,
When Christ shall reign in righteousness;
A thousand years of peace sublime
Shall be enjoyed in every clime.
Then, on the merits of His blood
He shall the whole creation flood
With waves of blessing, rich and free,
For He shall reign from sea to sea;
And then, as now, for every breath
All shall be debtors to His death.
And when that scene has passed away,
And all is one eternal day –
When gathered is that myriad throng,
Who through the Cross to Him belong,
From Adam to the latest one
Who’ll trust the work on Calv’ry done,
“The travail of His soul” He’ll see,
And satisfied His heart shall be.
And as to all eternity
He leads that shining company
From fount to fount of pure delight,
Mid still increasing glory bright,
Where He shall to their gaze unfold
Those glories which have ne’er been told;
For ever at each fresh display
Of love, and grace, and glory, they
Shall fall adoring at His feet,
Forget all heaven in worship meet,
And gladly to His glory own
That, through the Atoning work alone,
They have a title to be there,
To see Him, and His glory share.
The cherubim of dreadful ire,
The seraphim with Mercy’s fire,
All angels, the Archangel too,
Shall reap eternal blessing through
The death of Christ. For while therein
They see God’s estimate of sin
And fear, they also there can see
His love revealed beyond degree;
Which firmer confidence inspires,
And tunes all heaven’s unceasing lyres,
In loftier strains than e’ er before,
To swell His praise for evermore.
The Father who receives the lost,
The Son who paid in blood the cost,
The Holy Spirit of all grace,
Who leads them to their resting-place –
The great eternal, triune God,
The Source from whom Life’s river flowed,
The Goal to which its course doth tend –
Beginner of all things and End,
Finds in th’ Atonement such a rest
As seraph tongues have ne’er expressed.
God’s perfect bliss shall ever be
Around His shining throne to see
His ransomed through the Cross enjoy
Pleasures for aye without alloy.
To all creation – land and sea –
Each blade of grass, each flower and tree,
To fish and reptile, fowl and beast,
And to mankind (deserving least)
Each dawning day fresh blessing brings
On Mercy’s long-enduring wings;
And every drop of dew and rain,
And ray of light and sheaf of grain,
And universal blessing giv’n
To guilty man by gracious Heaven,
And all the pleasant things of earth,
Proclaim the great Atonement’s worth.
But for th’ Atonement who can tell
Why earth is favoured more than hell?
Why fallen man such good receives,
While fallen angels nought relieves.
But all these blessings are no more
Than earnests of what lies before.
Creation now sin’s bondage owns,
But, hopeful for redemption, groans,
And waits the time of joy and peace,
When sin and sorrow, all shall cease.
To earth O what a joyful day!
The long-felt curse shall flee away,
And all creation, free, shall raise
One universal shout of praise.
The mountains and the hills shall sing,
The woods with joyful voices ring;
For Nature all afresh shall bloom,
And earth primeval bliss resume.
The raging sea, hushed to a calm,
Shall murmur a millennial psalm,
And all its inmates peaceful be,
Alike from fear and hatred free:
While man to man, from shore to shore,
“Know ye the Lord,” shall say no more.
And when the righteous King of Peace
Proclaims Creation’s sweet release
From all the curses of the Fall,
‘Twill to His death ascribe it all,
And, joyful for a thousand years,
Shall reap what He has sown in tears.

Now let us turn our thoughts below
Upon the filling pit of woe,
And ask the question – Who shall dwell
With the devouring flames of Hell?
The gate is wide, the way is broad,
That leads the soul away from God,
Yet never man in hell shall mourn
Who has not had a chance to turn.
Whether he be a pagan wild,
Or born a Christian’s favoured child,
God will not suffer him to go
Unwarned to everlasting woe.
Where Revelation is unknown,
And men in heathen darkness groan,
His Spirit will the wand’rer seek,
Conscience and Providence will speak,
Creation will the Godhead show,
And God shall judge them as they know;
And though they cannot Christ refuse,
The good or evil they can choose,
And shall be left without excuse;
For nothing but rejected light
Shall doom a soul to endless night.
But those who live in gospel lands,
Where many a faithful witness stands
To warn them from the downward road,
And point them to “the Way” to God;
Who will not from destruction turn,
Shall deepest sink and saddest mourn.
O favour-ladened Christendom!
From thee how many thousands come
The number of the damned to swell,
And louder make the wail of Hell.
When Death and Hell to judgment yield,
And earth shall be a teeming field
Of rising bodies – on that day,
When earth and heaven shall flee away,
Dissolving back again to space,
Before the Judge’s awful face,
They, in their sins, before the throne
Shall stand (while He Who sits thereon,
With retribution in His looks,
Shall judge them from the opened books)
Without one faint excuse to give,
Or reason why they ought to live.
“The Book of Life,” whose precious leaves
No unbeliever’s name receives,
Heav’n’s solemn verdict shall reveal,
Eternally their doom to seal,
Which God Himself cannot repeal.
With what confusion, grief and fear,
Shall they the solemn sentence hear!
Without the earth beneath their feet,
Or Heav’n above – with no retreat
Except the burning, surging sea
Of fire and brimstone, which shall be,
With all its woe, relief from rays
Of light so searching, and the gaze
Of Him Whose love they once refus’d,
And Whose long-suffering they abus’d.
And as to all eternity.
In still increasing agony,
With madd’ning grief, in dark despair,
Through all their sins they suffer there
The value of the Saviour’s blood
They still shall prove is known to God,
And God alone; and shall confess
The cause of all their wretchedness,
From which they hope for no relief,
To be the sin of unbelief.
If, at the judgment, it were seen
That all are saved who could have been –
That, to the lost, God’s offered Lamb
Was but a mockery and sham,
Which they were blinded to refuse,
His scant provision to excuse,
‘Twould lighten up hell’s gloomy plains
And turn to pleasure all its pains;
And those who into it were driven
Would not desire a place in heav’n,
While even there the favoured few
Their biased choice would almost rue.
But like the cloud to Israel light,
And to th’ Egyptians worse than night,
The Cross shall ever stand between
The upper and the nether scene;
The light of where the ransom’d dwell –
The deepest, darkest shade of hell.
The arch-fiend, too, the effect shall feel,
Of having bruised the Saviour’s heel.
He, with his whole infernal crew,
In bitter, dire remorse shall rue
That e’er he left the nether sphere
To make his blind adventures here.
Hades and Death shall vanquished be,
And all their prisoners set free.
The second death, the burning lake,
Shall all opposing powers o’ertake;
For He Who once to death did yield
Shall so completely gain the field,
That all His enemies shall be
Beneath His feet eternally.
Thus all below and all above
To all eternity shall prove,
In blissful gain, or rueful loss.