“THE MASTER’S TOUCH”
“And besought Him that they might only touch the hem of His garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole” (Matt. 14:36)
INTRO.: A song which figuratively applies the idea of touching the hem of Christ’s garment to our coming to the Lord is “The Master’s Touch.” The text was written by Willa Calvert Smith. The tune was composed by Tillit Sidney Teddlie (1885-1987). The song was copyrighted in 1935 by L. O. Sanderson, but it did not appear in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) which Sanderson edited for the Gospel Advocate Co. Rather, it apparently was first published in the 1935 Songs We Love, a small booklet of 36 hymns edited by Sanderson for Interstate Press of Nashville, TN. I have not been able to find any information about Mrs. Smith except that she produced words for another song with music by Teddlie, "I Have a Loving Shepherd,” which was copyrighted in 1937 by Teddlie and used in some of his songbooks.
I did locate a reference to a couple of songs that appeared in an Internet project known as Glory Special; they are “Sing and Play” by Ernest Rippetoe and Willa Calvert Smith, and “Why Must the Savior Die?” by Willa Calvert Smith and Mabel Theirle. In a 1942 Stamps-Baxter convention book Lasting Peace there was a song “O Child, Return” by Willa Calvert Smith and Letrice Wofford Benedict. And one website lists a piece of sheet music “It Is Written In The Stars” from 1947 written by Willa Calvert Smith and David Hall and published by Nordyke Music Publications of Hollywood, CA. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "The Master’s Touch" appeared in the 1938 Spiritual Melodies edited by Teddlie, and the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2 edited by Sanderson. Today it may be found in the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.
The song talks about those who need the Master’s touch in their lives.
I. Stanza 1 mentions those who are hungry
“There’s many a heart that’s weary, There’s many a soul that’s sad.
To them all the world seems dreary; There’s nothing to make them glad.
These toil-worn souls are hungry; Their longing and pain are such
That naught can appease their hunger, Except in the Master’s touch.”
A. Jesus recognized that those who are weary: Matt. 11:28-30
B. Such souls are hungry for something, although they may not know what it is: Matt. 5:6
C. Jesus offers that which will truly satisfy their hunger: Jn. 6:27-35
II. Stanza 2 mentions those who are helpless
“They scarcely will feel their weakness; In darkness they grope about.
They strive in an empty meekness To drive the dire hunger out.
These toil-worn souls are helpless—It’s power that they need so much;
There’s only one power to save them—The power of the Master’s touch.”
A. Just as a physically hungry person may be weak and helpless, so one who is spiritually hungry may be weak: 1 Thess. 5:14
B. Their attempts to satisfy their needs by the things of this world are empty, just like the prodigal son’s desire to satisfy his hunger with the pods that the swine ate: Lk. 15:11-16
C. Jesus offers those who are helpless power to save—the gospel: Rom. 1:16
III. Stanza 3 mentions those who are struggling
“These wandering souls are lying Perhaps at your very door;
Give heed to their heartfelt crying And let them not hunger more.
These toil-worn souls are struggling; Their pathway is hard and rough.
Go tell them redemption’s story And give them the Master’s touch.”
A. All people at one time or another are wandering souls like sheep gone astray: 1 Pet. 2:25
B. Those in such a condition are struggling in a pathway that is hard and rough: Matt. 7:13
C. Jesus offers them redemption: Eph. 1:7
CONCL. Each stanza ends with a repeat basically of the seventh and eighth lines of the stanza. Since hymns are a form of poetry, hymn writers often take pictures of literal, physical events and use them figuratively to describe some spiritual truth. Obviously, we cannot literally touch the hem of Christ’s garment as did people who were sick when He lived on earth, nor do we expect the Lord to reach down out of heaven and physically touch us. But we can easily understand how that through our submission to the terms of God as revealed in the gospel we can receive the benefits of Christ’s love as symbolized by “The Master’s Touch.”