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For more than half a century, until his death in 1918, the name of Washington Gladden was known throughout the length of the country as one of America’s most distinguished clergymen. A prolific writer, his books and his magazine contributions were widely read by the American people.

Like most literary productions, however, his books and pamphlets have already been largely forgotten. It is only a little hymn, written on a moment’s inspiration, that seems destined to preserve Gladden’s name for posterity. That hymn is “O Master, let me walk with Thee.”

The author was born in Pottsgrove, Pa., February 11, 1836. After his graduation from Williams College in 1859, he was called as pastor to a Congregational church in Brooklyn. In 1882 he removed to Columbus, O., where he remained as pastor until 1914, a period of thirty-two years.

During these years he exerted a profound influence, not only over the city of Columbus, but in much wider circles. Gladden was deeply interested in social service, believing that it is the duty of the Christian Church to elevate the masses not only spiritually and morally, but in a social and economic sense as well. By sermons, lectures and by his writings, he was ever trying to bring about more cordial relationship between employer and employee.

Gladden was often the center of a storm of criticism on 450 the part of those who charged him with liberalism. His beautiful hymn, written in 1879, seems to be in part an answer to his critics. It originally consisted of three stanzas of eight lines each. The second stanza, which was omitted when the poem was first published as a hymn, indicates how keenly Gladden felt the condemnation of his opponents:

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 dulness of the multitude,

Who dimly guess that Thou art good.

Dr. Gladden always insisted that he was nothing but a preacher, and he gloried in his high calling. In spite of busy pastorates, however, he always found time to give expression to his literary talent. At one time he was a member of the editorial staff of the New York Independent. Later he was an editor of the “Sunday Afternoon,” a weekly magazine. It was in this magazine that “O Master, let me walk with Thee” was first published.

The writer had no idea of composing a hymn when it was written, and no one was more surprised than he at its popularity. He himself agreed that the second stanza quoted above was not suitable for hymn purposes.

Whatever judgment may be passed on Dr. Gladden’s liberalistic views, it will be agreed that he looked upon Christianity as an intensely practical thing; and, if he underestimated the value of Christian dogma, it was because he emphasized so strongly the necessity of Christian life and practice.


He was always buoyed up by a hopeful spirit, and he believed implicitly that the Kingdom of Light was gradually overcoming the forces of evil. In one of his last sermons, he said:

“I have never doubted that the Kingdom I have always prayed for is coming; that the gospel I have preached is true. I believe ... that the nation is being saved.”

Something of his optimism may be seen reflected in the words of his hymn.

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