Hymn History: “I Would Be True”

2 min

While teaching English in faraway Japan, the twenty-three-year-old American professor sat at his desk one day, intently writing a letter to his mother. Howard Walter wanted to encourage her with the vision statement he had written for his life. His mother had influenced him greatly by the habits of dependability and service she had instilled in him as a young child.

Weeks later in America, his mother eagerly opened his letter. Enclosed was his poem of three stanzas, titled “My Creed.” She rejoiced as she read the poem which stated her son’s strong convictions! The proud mother promptly sent a copy of her son’s poem to Harper’s Magazine. “My Creed” was published in the May 1909 issue.

I would be true, for there are those who trust me;
I would be pure, for there are those who care.
I would be strong, for there is much to suffer;
I would be brave, for there is much to dare.

Who was the young man behind these penned affirmations? Howard Walter was born in 1883. He graduated from Princeton University, then journeyed to Tokyo to teach English at Waseda University. Fulfilling his one-year commitment there, Mr. Walter came home, attended seminary, and afterward served as an assistant minister for three years. In 1913, he traveled to India to preach and teach.

Reverend Walter’s creed included the guiding principles he sought to live his life by—principles for daily living that he learned as a young child. His creed affirmed his desire to be someone God and others could count on. Dependability is “fulfilling what I consented to do even if it means unexpected sacrifice.” Reverend Walter lived with the assurance that God would enable him to be “true,” “pure,” “strong,” and “brave.” He firmly believed that, as he depended on God to work in his life and help him live by his creed, he could fulfill the tasks he consented to do, and others could depend upon him. 

Reverend Walter also realized that as he followed Christ, he would encounter difficulties. However, he knew the trials would be worth their pain because his gaze was intent on pleasing his Savior, Jesus Christ. His work in India involved outreach to Muslim students. In 1918 a severe flu epidemic raged in that foreign land. The dedicated preacher succumbed to the disease, dying at the young age of thirty-five. Reverend Walter could have left India and served elsewhere, but he remained true to his calling from God and proved himself dependable to His Master. He was willing to sacrifice his life in order to present the Gospel to those who did not know Christ.

His radiant legacy and dynamic example live on in his creed. Will you take up the challenge to be dependable and complete the tasks God calls you to do, no matter the cost?

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