Posted by: rcottrill | May 25, 2015

More Like the Master

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Words: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel (b. Aug. 18, 1856; d. Sept. 15, 1932)
Music: Charles Hutchinson Gabriel

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org

Note: Another gospel song writer, George Stebbins, called Gabriel “the most outstanding and brilliant Christian musician of his time.” A man with a genial and kindly personality, Gabriel had many friends among the writers of sacred song. This gospel song was first published in 1906, and has been included in many hymn books since. There are, however, a couple of lines that need some careful study.

CH-1) More like the Master I would ever be,
More of His meekness, more humility;
More zeal to labour, more courage to be true,
More consecration for work He bids me do.

Take Thou my heart, I would be Thine alone;
Take Thou my heart, and make it all Thine own.
Purge me from sin, O Lord, I now implore,
Wash me and keep me Thine forevermore.

For some reason Living Hymns alters the text to “More like my Saviour I would ever be”–in the title and first line of CH-1, and the last line of CH-4. That is fine in itself, but seems unnecessary. The Lord Jesus is called “Master” in the gospels, by His disciples (cf. Lk. 5:5; 9:49), and by others (Lk. 17:13). There is even a statement by the Lord that was perhaps the inspiration for the song: “It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master” (Matt. 10:25).

One other change is made by the editors of Living Hymns. In line three of CH-2, the author prays for “More earnest effort to bring His kingdom in.” This thought perhaps is based on Second Peter 3:12 which says we should be “looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God”–the day of God refering to the consummation of all things, the ushering in of eternity.

This is the only Bible text that seems to suggest we can hurry up God’s program by being godly (vs. 11), and I’m not sure that’s so. An alternate translation of “hastening” seems preferable. It can mean earnestly desiring, or eagerly hoping for. “Eagerly looking forward to” (Weymouth New Testament); “Looking for and truly desiring” (Bible in Basic English). Living Hymns substitutes the line: “More earnest effort to lead some soul to Him,” which certainly has a stronger biblical footing.

The one line I personally question is one that no editor I’ve seen has picked up on. Line two of CH-2 speaks of “more strength to carry crosses I must bear.” But aside from the physical impossibility of carrying a bunch of crosses–the kind we see in the Gospels, the plural word is not biblical–it’s nowhere even used in the Bible. This seems to be treating our various trials and irritating circumstances, such as arthritis, or a cranky boss, as “crosses” we are to carry. But that’s not what the Lord meant.

How does Scripture use the term? “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself [i.e. say “No” to self will and a self-centred life], and take up his cross [singular], and follow Me’” (Matt. 16:24). The cross is a symbol of complete identification with Christ, and absolute surrender to the will of God, even unto death. I’d suggest the alteration of the line to: “More strength to carry the cross I’m called to bear.”

CH-2) More like the Master is my daily prayer;
More strength to carry crosses I must bear;
More earnest effort to bring His kingdom in;
More of His Spirit, the wanderer to win.

Apart from these issues, the hymn is an ardent prayer that the likeness of Christ be reproduced in us by the Holy Spirit. With that we can fully concur.

When God the Son came to earth as Man, through the miracle of the virgin birth, He was able to show us, in the most perfect way what the image of God in man was meant to be, certainly in terms of a holy character. “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9), and He “committed no sin” (I Pet. 2:22). He “was tempted in all points as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

If we are to have God’s image restored in us, it must begin with what the Bible calls a “new birth,” a spiritual birth (Jn. 1:12-13; 3:3). Through Christ and His sacrifice we are cleansed of our sins and receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 1:7). It’s then, as Christians, we are called to “walk [conduct ourselves] in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4; I Pet. 1:15).

Through our study of God’s Word, we learn what this means. We are to be “be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind, that [we] may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2). As we walk in faith and obedience toward God, He produces, more and more, the spiritual fruit of Christian character in us (Gal. 5:22-23).

CH-3) More like the Master I would live and grow;
More of His love to others I would show;
More self denial, like His in Galilee,
More like the Master I long to ever be.

Questions:
1) Is this a hymn you would use in your church? (Why? Or why not?)

2) What is the greatest hindrance to growing Christlikeness in believers today?

Links:
Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal
Hymnary.org


Responses

  1. Dear Mr. Cottrill, thank you for this post. I am a nostalgic sentimentalist and this song takes me back 40 plus years and I have loved it ever since. One of many things I appreciate about your posts is the desire to be theologically accurate and true to God’s Word. This must trump our sentimental attachments; and so I appreciated your valid observations about this song. This loyalty to the truth is also apparent in your candid and frank responses when you may happen to disagree with one of your responders. We need to speak the truth in love. Too often in our desire to be polite and nice we fail to say what needs to be said, but when we state an honest differing opinion it can promote further dialogue and hopefully help both sides arrive closer to the truth at which everybody should desire to arrive.

    • Thank you for your kind and encouraging words. The Lord knew I needed it today. Yes, I do strive to support both my writing and my preaching on the written Word of God.


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