“O Father, Guide Me”

"O FATHER, GUIDE ME"
"The meek will He guide in judgment…" (Psalm 25.9)

     INTRO.: A song which expresses the desire for the Father to guide us in this life as we prepare for judgment is "O Father, Guide Me." The text was written and the tune was composed both by Robert Clifton Welch, who was born Nov. 5, 1916, on a farm at Railton, KY, near Glasgow, the youngest son of eight children born to Ed and Laura Sturdivant Welch. When he was five, his parents started taking him to worship at nearby Carter Schoolhouse where they and two or three other families had begun meeting. At the age of seven, when he was just into reading, he was given a New Testament and then was baptized at the age of eight during a gospel meeting. His father died of tuberculosis when he was twelve. After he had finished elementary school, there was no high school in the community at that time and no money for him to go, so at the age of fourteen he went to stay with an aunt who lived twenty miles away so that he could attend high school at Meador in Allen County and work for his aunt’s family to pay for the schooling. Having preached his first sermon at age thirteen, he became interested in music and following his graduation at age seventeen he had an opportunity to lead singing in a meeting not far from home. As the only male member of the congregation, he had been helping to keep the worship going at home, but his mother encouraged him to do as much song leading in other places as he could.

     In addition, as brethren heard of Robert’s work in the home congregation, they would ask him to come and speak for them, and his mother supported him in doing that too. Often, brother Welch rode a mule to his preaching appointments throughout southern Kentucky. During this time, he also was working at farming, carpentry, and surveying, but saw the need for further education, so five years after graduating from high school he went to Freed-Hardeman College at Henderson in western Tennessee, where he graduated in 1943. That same year he married Stella Louise Pitts of northern Mississippi whom he had met while in college. To this union were born John, Mary, and Martha. Following graduation, Robert and Louise moved to Lawrenceburg, TN, where he was working with B. G. Hope, and at some point during this time he led singing for a meeting at Florence, AL, in which Roy Cogdill was preaching. Brother Cogdill presented a lesson on some subject related to the authority of the word. That night, after returning to where he was staying, brother Welch produced this song, although it was not published until many years later.  From Lawrenceburg, the Welches moved to Springfield, MO, where brother Welch labored with the Johnson and Dale congregation and also completed his college degree at Southwest Missouri State College.

     In the years after that, the Welches lived in Uvalde (where he formed a friendship with Austin Taylor), and Pleasanton, TX; Florence, AL; Louisville, KY (where he labored first at Bardstown Rd. and then at Wendell Ave. and Oak Grove); Birmingham, AL; Nacogdoches, TX; back to Springfield, MO; then to Louisville, KY, again (where he worked with the Eastland church). In 1963, brother Welch compiled and published a hymnbook, Abiding Hymns, which was very popular among "non-institutional" churches of Christ for a number of years. It contained "O Father, Guide Me" and six other hymns that are by him. From Louisville, the Welches moved across the river to New Albany, IN, where he worked with the Silver St. church, and then to Florence, KY, where he labored with the Northern Kentucky church and also served as an elder for part of his time there. In addition, he held meetings throughout the nation; conducted three debates, one of which with H. E. Shreiner on premillennialism was published in book form; wrote a number of books including several commentaries; and edited a quarterly journal, Faith and Facts, which is still being published by his son. Because of health problems, the Welches decided to move Indianapolis, IN, where he served an elder with the High School Rd. church and led singing at lectures for over twenty years. His death occurred on June 18, 2003, at Indianapolis.

     This hymn reminds us of our dependance upon God for guidance in life.

I. Stanza 1 asks God to guide us
"O Father, guide me here below The riches of Thy grace to know;
And teach me as I journey on The Word of God to lean upon."
 A. God has promised to guide His people: Ps. 32.8
 B. Those who are guided by Him can know the riches of His grace: Eph. 1.7, Col. 1.27
 C. But to have this guidance and its blessings, we must learn to lean upon God’s word: Prov. 3.5-6

II. Stanza 2 reminds of us the danger of falling
"I know that Thou has made the way So clear that I can never stray;
Yet in my weakness I may fall When I forget my All in all."
 A. God has a strait and narrow way for us to travel: Matt. 7.13-14
 B. This way is so clear and plain that it will keep us from straying and stumbling: Ps. 27.11, Isa. 35.8, Eph. 3.3-5, 2 Pet. 1.8-10
 C. Yet, when we fail to follow God’s way, we will fall: 1 Cor. 10.12, Gal. 5.4

III. Stanza 3 seeks God’s help in keeping focused on the right goal
"O help me trust in Thee for aid, And by Thy word may I be made
To see the glorious height sublime To which my soul, by faith, shall climb."
 A. A life which walks the narrow way and keeps from straying is one which fully trusts in the Lord: Ps. 37.3-5
 B. The one who so trusts in the Lord will be made by God’s word to see the glorious height sublime that God has prepared for His people: 2 Cor. 4.16-18
 C. But the only way to climb to that height is to live by faith: Rom. 1.17, 2 Cor. 5.7

IV. Stanza 4 points our minds to the eternal bliss of heaven
"’Tis faith and hope that light my way To that celestial land of day;
God is the light when I get there, Eternal bliss with Him to share."
 A. It is faith and hope that help us to center our minds on the celestial land of day: 1 Cor. 13.13, Heb. 11.13-16, 1 Pet. 1.3-5
 B. God Himself will be the only light that we need when we get there: Rev. 21.23
 C. And in that light we shall share eternal bliss with Him: 1 Jn. 2.25

     CONCL.: In my experience, this is probably one of brother Welch’s best-known hymns, It is also one of my favorites, and I have tried to commit it to memory. I do not believe that I am alone in my assessment.  Many years ago, I was visiting in a meeting where brother Welch was preaching. The congregation just happened to use his songbook, and I recall overhearing the song-leader’s telling brother Welch that he felt that this hymn was more spiritual than many others and therefore led it often. Unfortunately, since Abiding Hymns is no longer in print, and newer hymnbooks, even those claiming to emphasize songs by members of the Lord’s church, have not used any of brother Welch’s songs, they are not very well known today. However, as I journey through this life toward eternity, my daily request of God should be, "O Father, Guide Me."

     (Note: this song was copyrighted in 1963; the words have been reprinted here by permission)

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