Hymn History: “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know”

2 min

Mr. Linden’s student was deathly ill and had called for his beloved schoolteacher. Responding quickly, the teacher came to the boy’s home. Entering the dimly lit bedroom, the teacher tenderly lifted the young boy into his arms and began pacing back and forth. Little Johnny Fax, sickly and pale, gazed gratefully at Mr. Linden’s face and faintly whispered, “Sing.” The gentleman began singing softly:

Jesus loves me, this I know;
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong. 

The original stanzas closed with this final verse: 

Jesus loves me, He will stay
Close beside me all the way;
Then His little child He’ll take
Up to heaven for His dear sake. 

The above story and poem are from the Victorian novel Say and Seal. The book introduced the poem that affirms the heartwarming truth that “Jesus Loves Me.” 

The book, co-authored by sisters Anna and Susan Warner, was published in 1860, and it quickly became a bestseller. The poem penned by Miss Anna resonated with many readers. 

Miss Warner and her sister had become writers due to what seemed a terrible misfortune to human eyes. Their widowed father lost his wealth in the financial Panic of 1837. As a result, the ladies were plunged into poverty. They sold their fine home and moved into the family’s historic summer home on Constitution Island near West Point Military Academy.

To support themselves, the two sisters began writing books and experienced success in this endeavor. Through the years, they trusted the truth of God’s Word. As strong believers, the sisters taught Sunday School classes for the West Point cadets for forty years. Following their deaths, the Academy honored the ladies’ steadfast, Godly influence on the young men. Anna and Susan Warner were buried with full military honors in the military cemetery at West Point—the only two civilians to ever receive that honor. 

Within a year after the sisters’ novel Say and Seal was published, the noted hymn writer William Bradbury read Miss Warner’s poem. He decided this literary treasure needed a melody. 

Mr. Bradbury endeavored to write music for children’s hymns so that they could understand the truths of God’s Word. How can children know that Jesus loves them? Miss Warner’s poem declares that they can know because the Bible says so! The Bible is God’s Word—the infallible, reliable foundation of truth. 

Mr. Bradbury added a chorus, set all the words to music, and published the hymn. Soon children all over the country were singing it. Christian missionaries carried it overseas. Since 1861, people of many nations have sung this truth: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!”

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