Posted by: rcottrill | September 15, 2017

O Master, at Thy Feet

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Words: Frances Ridley Havergal (b. Dec. 14, 1836; d. June 3, 1879)
Music: (seen Note, below)

Wordwise Hymns (Frances Havergal)
The Cyber Hymnal (Frances Havergal) (none)

Note: A child prodigy, Havergal was reading by age four, and began writing verse at age seven. She learned Latin, Greek and Hebrew–eventually was fluent in six or seven modern languages too, and memorized Psalms, the book of Isaiah, and most of the New Testament. She also wrote some of our finest hymns.

Miss Havergal said “Master” was her favourite title for Christ, because it implied rule and submission. “Men,” she said, “may feel differently, but a true woman’s submission is inseparable from deep love.” (That is definitely worthy of further thought!)

The present hymn is rarely found it print. It’s unique metre ( is unusual and equally rare. One site suggests Rabboni (by Samuel Reay 1822-1905), or Inglewhite (by Ann Sheppard Mounsey Bartholomew, 1811-1891) as tunes that could be used, but neither seems to be currently available. If you have a gift for composing music, go to the Cyber Hymnal’s Tunes Needed page and submit a possibility for this one.

We have a number of expressions that describe times when, perhaps out of fear or surprise, or some other strong emotion, we’re so overwhelmed we’re can’t think of anything to say. We say we’re speechless, at a loss for words, we’re struck dumb, or words fail us. Often, when we regain our senses later, we think of all the things we could have said, or wish we’d said.

I recall a time, on a Toronto street, when heavyweight boxing champion George Chevalo walked by me. I wanted to say, “Hi champ!” but was so stunned I couldn’t get the words out. Celebrity can silence us. So can romance. Guy meets girl, or vice versa, and suddenly it’s, “Hi…uh…um…so….” Even retrieving one’s own name at the moment may seem impossible.

Being confronted by a wild animal can have a similar affect. Few could do what a friend of mine did. A senior citizen, she was sitting outside her cabin, shelling peas, when an adult bear lumbered around the corner. Getting up, and making a dismissive motion with her hands, she said sternly, “Shoo! You’re not wanted around here! Go ‘way!” And the bear did!

In Scripture, when the people of Israel noisily worshiped false gods, the prophet Habakkuk rebuked them, “Woe to him who says to wood, ‘Awake!’ To silent stone, ‘Arise! it shall teach!’ Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, yet in it there is no breath at all.” He called them instead to stand mute before the true God: “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him” (Hab. 2:19-20).

To stand before the Lord, realizing His glory and sovereign power, silences feeble comment. Even the Apostle John, as a believer, when he saw a vision of the glorified Christ, “fell at His feet as dead” (Rev. 1:17). Truly, there is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (Ecc. 3:7). A time when words are inappropriate, inadequate, or simply unnecessary.

On New Year’s Eve in 1866, as darkness fell, a young woman sat alone in a little room. There was no fire in the grate, not even a carpet on the floor. If the evening chill was creeping into her bones, she seemed to take no notice of it. She was full of love for Christ, overwhelmed by the wonder of knowing him and serving him. She wanted to write some lines of praise, but found it difficult to say how she felt.

The would-be writer was Frances Havergal. To say that on the occasion described she was utterly without words would not be accurate. But she felt that any words she could muster would be wholly inadequate to express how she felt. What did come from her pen was a little known hymn, O Master, at Thy Feet. It says, in part:

3) I have no words to bring
Worthy of Thee, my King,
And yet one anthem in Thy praise
I long, I long to raise;
The heart is full, the eye entranced above,
But words all melt away to silent awe and love.

4) How can the lip be dumb,
The hand all still and numb,
When Thee the heart doth see and own
Her Lord and God above?
Tune for Thyself the music of my days,
And open Thou my lips that I may show Thy praise.

5) Yea, let my whole life be
One anthem unto Thee,
And let the praise of lip and life
Outring all sin and strife.
O Jesus, Master! Be Thy name supreme,
For heaven and earth the one, the grand, eternal theme.

1) Have you ever found yourself so overwhelmed in prayer (for whatever reason) that it’s difficult to find the right words to express yourself?

2) Do you find yourself doing the opposite sometimes, rattling off trite phrases that seem to have lost much of their meaning? (What can be done about this?)

Wordwise Hymns (Frances Havergal)
The Cyber Hymnal (Frances Havergal) (none)


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