"O MASTER, LET ME WALK WITH THEE"
"…My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth…" (Jn. 14.27)
INTRO.: A hymn which asks the Lord to give us peace that we might be a servant to Him is "O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee" (#65 in Hymns for Worship Revised and #164 in Sacred Selections for the Church). The text was written by Washington Gladden, who was born on a farm near Potts Grove, PA, on Feb. 11, 1836. Following his graduation from Williams College in 1859, he became a minister in the Congregational Church the next year and began his work in Brooklyn, NY. From there he moved to North Adams, MA, in 1866, but returned to the New York City area in 1871 to become religion editor for the New York Independent, a popular newspaper of the day. For three years he spent much time fighting political corruption, such as the notorious Boss Tweed ring. It was largely through Gladden’s personal efforts and insistent editorials that the Tammany Hall leader himself was prosecuted and eventually put behind bars for fifteen years.
After resigning from the paper, Gladded served as minister of the Congregational Church in Springfield, MA, from 1874 to 1882. It was during this time, in March of 1879, that he published a poem in Sunday Afternoon, a magazine that he edited. Entitled "Walking With God" in the column "The Still Hour," it was meant only to be a private meditation for devotional reading, but a friend, Charles H. Richards, suggested that portions of it could be used for a hymn. Gladden himself chose and already existing tune (Maryton) that had been composed in 1874 by a minister in the Church of England, Henry Percy Smith (1825-1898). The hymn, with this tune, was first published in 1880 at New York City in Christian Praise, compiled by Richards. In 1882, Gladden moved to the First Congregational Church in Columbus, OH, where he remained for the last 32 years of his life.
Gladden was widely known not only for his influential preaching and writing, but also for his social concerns as well. In 1883 he arbitrated a telegraphers’ strike and the year after he negotiated a settlement for the Hocking Valley coal strike. Also, he served as moderator of the National Council of Congregational Churches from 1904 to 1907. Students from the Ohio State University flocked to hear his popular lessons. Though generally considered a religious liberal in his day, he was convinced that he needed to counteract the distortions of the infidel Robert Ingersoll, who was then confounding the religious world with his lecture, "The Mistakes of the Bible." These sermons were published as Who Wrote the Bible?, which proved to be his best seller. After retiring in 1914, Gladden died in Columbus on July 2, 1918.
Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song appeared in the 1922 edition of the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1, words only) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1963 Abiding Hymns edited by Robert C. Welch; the 1963 Christian Hymnal edited by J. Nelson Slater; and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 edited by L. O. Sanderson. Today it may be found in the 1971 Songs of the Church, the 1990 Songs of the Church 21st C. Ed., and the 1994 Songs of Faith and Praise all edited by Alton H. Howard; the 1978/1983 Church Gospel Songs and Hymns edited by V. E. Howard; the 1986 Great Songs Revised edited by Forrest M. McCann; and the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; in addition to Hymns for Worship, Sacred Selections, and the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
This hymn teaches that our service to God must be based on intimate fellowship with Him.
I. Stanza 1 points out that we need to be walking with the Master
"O Master, let me walk with Thee In lowly paths of service free;
Tell me Thy secret, Help me bear The strain of toil, the fret of care."
A. We cannot literally walk with Jesus as did the disciples of His day, but when we follow His example, we walk with Him spiritually as they did physically: 1 Pet. 2.21
B. As we follow His example, His steps will lead us in paths of service because in everything we do we must serve the Lord Christ; Col. 3.22-23
C. Yet, as we walk with Him, He will help us bear the strain of toil and the fret of care because we can cast all our cares on Him: 1 Pet. 5.7
II. Stanza 2 points out that we need more sympathy with others
"Help me the slow of hear to move By some clear, winning word of love;
Teach me the wayward feet to stay, And guide them in the homeward way."
A. There are so many who are slow of heart because they have erred from the truth: Jas. 5.19-20
B. It should be our desire to help them by sharing some clear, winning word of love from the gospel, which is God’s power of salvation: Rom. 1.16
C. Thus, as we look upon the numbers of those who are wayward, we need to be concerned enough about their spiritual condition to do what we can to guide them in the homeward way and bring them to the Lord: Matt. 9.36-38
III. Stanza 3 points out that we need patience to keep us strong
"Teach me Thy patience! Still with Thee In closer, dearer company,
In work that keeps faith sweet and strong, In trust that triumphs over wrong."
A. All who seek to serve the Lord need patience and longsuffering that will enable them to walk worthy: Eph. 4.1-2
B. This patience will help us to be steadfast in our work that will keep faith sweet and strong: 1 Cor. 15.58
C. It will also help us to endure in our trust so that we may triumph over wrong and receive the reward: Heb. 10.36
IV. Stanza 4 points out that we need both hope and peace in our lives
"In hope that sends a shining ray Far down the future’s broadening way,
In peace that only Thou canst give, With Thee, O Master, let me live."
A. We need hope to realize that the future’s broadening ray has something beneficial for us: Rom. 8.24-25
B. We also need peace that will guard our hearts as we journey toward what the future has to offer: Phil. 4.6-7
C. Such hope and peace will motivate us to make sure that we live with the Master by making sure that He lives in us by faith: Gal. 2.20
CONCL.: The portions of Gladden’s hymn which he did not think suitable for a hymn are as follows:
"O Master, let me walk with Thee Before the taunting Pharisee;
Help me to bear the sting of spite, The hate of men who hide the light,
The sore distrust of souls sincere Who cannot read Thy judgments clear,
The dullness of the multitude, Who dimly guess that Thou art good."
Not everyone can be a preacher or an elder in the Lord’s church. But there are other ways that each child of God can be of service to Christ. To do our very best in His service, we must constantly be saying to the Lord, "O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee."