Posted by: rcottrill | February 11, 2010

Today in 1836 – Washington Gladden Born

Washington Gladden was a Congregational pastor, editor of a couple of publications, and the author of 32 books. He also wrote the hymn, O Master, Let Me Walk with Thee, memorable to me personally because it is the first hymn I ever sang as a solo, many years ago.

A fine speaker, and an influential churchman though he was, Gladden did not fully believe the Bible he preached! For him, it was a book of religious teachings, but not the inspired Word of the living God–which it certainly declares itself to be (II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:21).

The prime period of Gladden’s  ministry came just after the American Civil War, when the nation was experiencing both the progress and the problems of the industrial revolution. Pastor Gladden embroiled himself in labour negotiations with the Telegraphers Strike (1883), and the Hocking Valley Coal Strike (1884). He fought against the organization of the infamous “Boss Tweed,” in New York City, and was largely responsible for seeing the corrupt politician put in prison.

The man was much criticized for such activities in some quarters. Not that these efforts at social justice were wrong or unnecessary. But one could argue that a man of God has a higher calling to attend to. Washington Gladden was an early proponent of the social gospel, and he seemed less concerned for people’s spiritual need and eternal salvation than for their social and economic welfare. Nonetheless, Pastor Gladden has given us a lovely hymn about the believer’s need to walk with the Lord.

Gladden did not actually write his lines of verse as a hymn, but simply as a poem. Some lines omitted from the hymn show the passion of the man. See how he lashes out against his critics–though perhaps, in hindsight, he needed to pay more attention to what at least some of them were saying!

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 Thy 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.

Dr. Gladden’s hymn, as it appears in our hymn books, has merit as a challenge to practical Christian service. It begins:

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.

Help me the slow of heart to move
By some clear, winning word of love;
Teach me the wayward feet to stay,
And guide them in the homeward way.

Here is a pipe organ meditation, variations on the tune of this hymn.

(2) Today in 1888 – James Small Died
Scotsman James Grindlay Small attended the University of Edinburgh and, following a study of theology under Dr. Thomas Chalmers, he joined the Free Church of Scotland. It is said that certain peculiarities of speech and manner prevented his advancement into pastoral ministry, but those who knew him admired his godly character. Though he wrote and compiled several volumes of verse, he has given us a single hymn, I’ve Found a Friend.

I’ve found a Friend, O such a Friend! He loved me ere I knew Him;
He drew me with the cords of love, and thus He bound me to Him;
And round my heart still closely twine those ties which naught can sever,
For I am His, and He is mine, forever and forever.

I’ve found a Friend, O such a Friend! He bled, He died to save me;
And not alone the gift of life, but His own self He gave me!
Naught that I have mine own I call, I’ll hold it for the Giver,
My heart, my strength, my life, my all are His, and His forever.


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