“The Master Hath Come”

“THE MASTER HATH COME”

“The Master is come, and calleth for thee” (Jn. 11.28)

     INTRO.: A song which points out that just as Jesus called for Mary following the death of Lazarus He also calls for us today to follow Him is “The Master Hath Come.” The text was written by Sarah Doudney, who was born on Jan. 15, 1841, at Portsmouth, England. Her family moved to a remote village in Hampshire when she was very young. One of her first literary efforts was the poem “The Lessons of the Water-Mill,” which was penned at the age of 15 and became a popular song in America. Known to the reading public mainly through her stories, such as A Woman’s Glory, Stepping Stones, and others, she also made contributions of fiction, secular poems, and hymns to the Sunday Magazine, Good Words, and other periodicals. A total of twelve hymns have been credited to her.  Houlston published her Psalms of Life in 1871, which included ” The Master Hath Come.” Her death occurred on Dec. 15, 1926, at Oxford, England. 

     The tune (Ash Grove) to which this hymn is usually set, and perhaps for which the words were written, is a traditional Welsh melody known as “The Ash Grove.” The words of the original folk song are as follows:

1. “Down yonder green valley where streamlets meander

When twilight is fading I pensively rove,

Or at the bright noontide in solitude wander

Amid the dark shades of the lonely ash grove.

‘Twas there while the blackbird was cheerfully singing

I first met that dear one, the joy of my heart.

Around us for gladness the bluebells were ringing.

Ah! then little thought I how soon we should part.”

2. “Still glows the bright sunshine o’er valley and mountain,

Still warbles the blackbird its note from the tree;

Still trembles the moonbeam on streamlet and fountain,

But what are the beauties of nature to me?

With sorrow, deep sorrow, my bosom is laden,

All day I go mourning in search of my love!

Ye echoes! Oh, tell me, where is the sweet maiden?

‘She sleeps ‘neath the green turf down by the ash grove.'”

     This song was once very popular with men’s glee clubs, but the words were thought to be a little morose, so a new set of stanzas was provided by John Oxenfordd:

1. “The ash grove, how graceful, how plainly ’tis speaking;

The wind through it playing has language for me.

Whenever the light through its branches is breaking,

A host of kind faces is gazing on me.

The friends of my childhood again are before me,

Each step wakes a memory as freely I roam.

With soft whispers laden its leaves rustle o’er me,

The ash grove, the ash grove again is my home.”

2. “My laughter is over, my step loses lightness;

Old countryside measures steal soft on my ear.

I only remember the past and its brightness;

The dear ones I mourn for again gather here.

From out of the shadows their loving looks greet me,

And wistfully searching the leafy green dome,

I find other faces fond bending to meet me.

The ash grove, the ash grove alone is my home.”

3. “My lips smile no more, my heart loses lightness,

No dream of my future my spirit can cheer.

I only can brood on the past and its brightness;

The dead I have mourned are again living here.

From every dark nook they press forward to meet me;

I lift up my eyes to the broad leafy dome,

And others are there looking downward to greet me.

The ash grove, the ash grove alone is my home.”

     I remember the Welsh song from an old school music book that we used when I was in sixth grade, accompanying our singing classes on piano, but I first saw Doudney’s hymn in a book, Christian Praise, which was published in 1964, by Broadman Publishing Co. Since then, I have also found it in an 1989 Mennonite book, entitled The Anabaptist Hymnal edited by Clarence Y. Fretz, that surveys the kinds of hymns that have been used by the Anabaptists through the years. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, it has not appeared and is not found in any to my knowledge.

     The song reminds us that Jesus wants us to follow Him.

I. Stanza 1 says that He calls us to follow in His footprints

“The Master hath come, and He calls us to follow

The track of the footprints He leaves on our way;

Far over the mountain and through the deep hollow,

The path leads us on to the kingdom of day.

The Master hath called us, the children who fear Him,

Who march ‘neath Christ’s banner, His own little band;

We love Him and seek Him, we long to be near Him,

And rest in the light of His beautiful land.”

 A. The path that Jesus wants us to follow was marked out by His own footprints as He lived on earth: 1 Pet. 21

 B. Those who follow in this path are the children whom God has given Him: Heb. 2.10-14

 C. As they journey in this pathway, they strive to draw near to Him: Jas. 4.8

II. Stanza 2 says that He calls us to follow even in danger, temptation, and tribulation

“The Master hath called us; the road may be dreary,

And dangers and sorrows are strewn on the track.

But God’s Holy Spirit shall comfort the weary;

We follow the Savior and cannot turn back.

The Master hath called us, though doubt and temptation

May compass our journey, we cheerfully sing:

‘Press onward, look upward,’ through much tribulation;

The children of Zion must follow their King.”

 A. As God’s people journey on the path that Jesus laid before us, there will be much danger, sorrow, doubt, temptation, and tribulation, but we must not allow these things to cause us to turn back: Lk. 9.61-62

 B. To help us continue on our journey we cheerfully sing: Col. 3.16

 C. This singing encourages us to press onward and look upward, as did Paul: Phil. 3.13-14

III. Stanza 3 says that He calls us to follow Him to the kingdom above

“The Master hath called us, in life’s early morning,

With spirits as fresh as the dew on the sod;

We turn from the world, with its smiles and its scorning,

To cast in our lot with the people of God.

The Master hath called us, His sons and His daughters;

We plead for His blessing and trust in His love.

And through the green pastures, beside the still waters,

He’ll lead us at last to His kingdom above.”

 A. The Master would like for us to begin following Him in life’s early morning because it is good to remember our Creator in the days of our youth: Eccl. 12.1

 B. To do so, we must cast in our lot with the people of God by turning from the world and being transformed: Rom. 12.-12

 C. As God’s sons and daughters, we can follow our Master as He leads us at last to the everlasting kingdom above: 2 Pet. 1.11

     CONCL.: If you have ever heard “The Ash Grove” sung, especially by a men’s chorus, you know that it is a lovely and stirring melody, even if the words are a little on the sad side. Sarah Doudney’s words make a perfect complement for those who wish to sanctify the melody for the praise and honor of God by teaching and admonishing others in spiritual song. The prophet Jeremiah reminds us that the way of man is not in himself so that we cannot direct our own pathway. Therefore, as we journey through life with the desire to have a home in heaven, it is good to know that “The Master Hath Come.”

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One thought on ““The Master Hath Come”

  1. The tune for “The Ash Grove” was first recorded in “The Bardic Museum: Musical and Poetical Relics of the Welsh Bards, Vol. 2” published in 1802 by Edward Jones (1752 – 1824). Two stanzas of Doudney’s hymn (#s 1 and 3) appear in the 2012 “Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs” edited by Steve Wolfgang et. al., with an arrangement of this music by Katherine K. Davis.

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