on the corner “The springs of sacred service”
By Robert Docter, Editor-In-Chief
Albert Orsborn wrote those words in his magnificent poetic language. We sing them in song 591 in the Army Song Book:
In the secret of thy presence,
Where the pure in heart may dwell,
Are the springs of sacred service
And a power that none can tell.
There my love must bring its offering
There my heart must yield its praise,
And the Lord will come, revealing
All the secrets of his ways.
In the secret of thy presence
In the hiding of thy power
Let me love thee, let me serve thee
Every consecrated hour.
Orsborn’s life was a quest for an ever closer walk with God—an intimate relationship with him—a desire to know him better, to understand him more fully, to do his will more completely.
He was born in 1886 to Salvation Army officer parents and became an officer himself in 1906. Forty years later, in 1946, the fourth High Council elected Commissioner Orsborn to be General.
The UK’s BBC referred to him as the poet General of The Salvation Army. He could really write.
Prose can paint evening and moonlight,
But it takes a poet to sing the dawn …(Meredith)
Orsborn’s words proved the truth of that. Poets reach inside us with a sweet, sweet painful pleasure that mixes metaphor and meaning. We are lifted to places of greater understanding; places denied us formerly in the whirlwind of mundane, new deeper places that combine both our thoughts and our emotions with the gentle power that true love brings.
Albert Orsborn, the sixth General of The Salvation Army, was such a man. In his poems that we sing, the dawn comes up like thunder…as mysteries unfold within us.
He led the Army during the difficult days following the end of World War II. During the war the Army suffered significant losses, not only in personnel, but also in countries as governments shut down the work in Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Yugoslavia, Latvia and Estonia. Shortly after the war, fighting broke out in Korea and many Salvationists perished.
King George VI awarded Osborn, on behalf of the Army, with the C.B.E. (Commander of the Order of the British Empire).
Orsborn’s poetry feels very personal, transparent and spread with remarkable humility. I wonder if, one time, he could have been moving through a difficult period, a series of taxing trials, possibly, very similar to those that we, ourselves face. He wrote in song 522:
Savior, if my feet have faltered
On the pathway of the cross,
If my purposes have altered
Or my gold be mixed with dross,
O forbid me not thy service,
Keep me yet in thy employ,
Pass me through a sterner cleansing
If I may but give thee joy.
Have I worked for hireling wages,
Or as one with vows to keep,
With a heart whose love engages
Life or death to save the sheep?
All is known to thee, my Master,
All is known, and that is why
I can work and wait the verdict
Of thy kind but searching eye.
We all pass through difficult periods; our faith is tempted as we begin thinking about self rather than our relationship with God, and sometimes we act. Orsborn wrote of such a situation where we stand crumpled, distant from God, separated from him, wanting to be healed. Song 647 tells us how to pray:
Wash from my hands the dust of earthly striving;
Take from my mind the stress of secret fear;
Cleanse thou the wounds from all but thee far hidden.
And when the waters flow let my healing appear.
From a hill I know,
Healing waters flow;
O rise, Immanuel’s tide.
And my soul overflow!
It was the summer of 1964. The Pasadena (Calif.) Tabernacle Band had been invited to London for bandmasters’ councils in the Royal Albert Hall. We were led by Ron Smart, and I went with them playing solo cornet and delivering a monologue—I think it was about Stephen, the first Christian to die for his beliefs. I spoke of his strong commitments, his compassion for others, his spirit of love for all mankind, and I spoke of his closing speech to the Sanhedrin. Somewhere in the monologue I used Orsborn’s chorus to song 527:
The Savior of men came to seek and to save
The souls who were lost to the good;
His Spirit was moved for the world which he loved
With the boundless compassion of God.
And still there are fields where the laborers are few,
And still there are souls without bread,
And still eyes that weep where the darkness is deep,
And still straying sheep to be led.
Except I am moved with compassion,
How dwelleth thy Spirit in me?
In word and in deed
Burning love is my need;
I know I can find this in thee.
After the program, an officer came up to me and said that General Orsborn wanted to meet me.
He was one of my heroes, and I felt almost overwhelmed. We walked up to the first balcony and the officer presented him to me. He expressed his gratitude for using his lines and I, almost tongue tied, thanked him for the opportunity to meet him and for the quality quality of love, dedication and commitment.