O for a Closer Walk with God
by William Cowper (1731-1800)
O for a closer walk with God,
A calm and heavenly frame,
A light to shine upon the road
That leads me to the Lamb!
Where is the blessedness I knew,
When first I saw the Lord?
Where is the soul refreshing view
Of Jesus, and His Word?
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill.
Return, O holy Dove, return,
Sweet messenger of rest;
I hate the sins that made Thee mourn
And drove Thee from my breast.
The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be
Help me to tear it from Thy throne,
And worship only Thee.
So shall my walk be close with God,
Calm and serene my frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads me to the Lamb.
Notes on the Hymn
William Cowper was a leading18th-century English poet. A chance meeting with John Newton, curate of the Anglican congregation at Olney, led to a deepening of his faith. As a result, Cowper wrote 68 hymns for a collection known as the Olney Hymns, which he published jointly with Newton. Fittingly, “O for a Closer Walk with God appeared in this collection, which brought evangelical hymns into Anglican services. “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood” and “God Moves in a Mysterious Way” are two other notable Cowper hymns from this collection.
John Newton wrote over 200 hymns himself, including the autobiographical "Amazing Grace." Cowper and Newton also worked together on Newton’s campaign to end the slave trade in England. Newton was outgoing; Cowper was sensitive and withdrawn, but the two worked together effectively. Their friendship lasted until Cowper’s death in 1800.