Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong. (1)
Jesus Loves Me is a popular Christian hymn written by Anna Bartlett Warner in 1860. For 152 years the simple but meaningful lyrics of this hymn has been sung in churches throughout the world and continues to endure the test of time.
From my own personal experience I became acquainted with this hymn long before I knew anything about the One who it is sung about.
I was not raised in the church and never attended Sunday School. I was not taught about God, Jesus, the Bible or its truths. However, I did learned this song. It was sung to me as a lullaby while sitting on my mother’s lap when I was very young child. And as I warmly recall the sweetness in my mothers voice, the words to Jesus Loves Me has proven to be planted seeds that culminated in a future time.
Jesus loves me this I know, As He loved so long ago. Taking children on His knee, saying, “Let them come to Me.” (2)
Most of us are familiar with the first stanza of this hymn (listed at the opening of this post), but did you know that it contains 12 stanza’s all together? And that Anna B. Warner did not originally write it as a hymn but rather as a poem written for a dying child in a fictional story?
To learn how this poem evolved into one of the most popular christian hymns we need to learn about its author, and its progression from poem to hymn.
A Little About the Author
Anna Bartlett Warner, an American author, was born August 31, 1827 on Long Island, New York. She authored several books, poems, hymns, and religious songs for children seldom under the pseudonym (a common practice in the era of her time) of Amy Lothrop.
The youngest of two daughters, Anna grew up in a wealthy and fashionable family. Her father, Henry Warner was a successful lawyer in New York city and her mother, Anna Bartlett, was from a wealthy family in New York’s Hudson Square. However, as a young child, Anna suffered the tragic lost of her mother and would be raised by her father’s sister Fanny who came to live with them shortly after her mothers death.
Although her father was a successful lawyer he lost most of his fortune in the Panic of 1837, subsequent lawsuits, and poor investments. So at the age of ten, Anna and the family had to leave their mansion on St. Mark’s Place in New York and moved to an old Revolutionary War-era farmhouse on Constitution Island, which sat directly across from West Point Academy in New York. It was here that she would enjoy the company of her uncle, who served as the Chaplain to the academy, and begin her writing career to help improve the family’s finances.
Jesus loves me when I’m good, When I do the things I should. Jesus loves me when I’m bad, though it makes Him very sad. (3)
Jesus loves me still today, walking with me on my way. Wanting as a friend to give, light and love to all who live. (4)
Anna and her sister Susan often wrote books together but Anna penned 31 novels on her own. Her most successful novel was Dollars and Cents but she is best known for Jesus Loves Me.
Anna, along with her sister Susan, became devout Christians in the late 1830s. After their conversion, they became confirmed members of the Mercer Street Presbyterian church and held Bible studies for the West Point cadets. It is said that when the cadets were on military duty, they would sing Jesus loves me and that the popularity of the song was so great that upon Anna’s death, that she was given the honor of being buried in the West Point Cemetery.
Anna died on January 21, 1915 (age 87) in her family home which is now a museum on the grounds of The United States Military Academy.
Jesus loves me! He who died. Heaven’s gate to open wide. He will wash away my sin. Let His little child come in. (5)
Jesus loves me! Loves me still, though I’m very weak and ill. That I might from sin be free, bled and died upon the tree. (6)
The Transition from poem to Hymn: Jesus Loves Me
The lyrics first appeared as a poem in a novel titled Say and Seal, written by Susan Warner. It was upon Susan’s request to her sister Anna, to write a poem to a dying child in her fictional novel. Anna agreed and penned the poem which she titled Jesus Loves Me.
In 1862 William Batchelder Bradbury, a musician and composer of many hymns, found the poem while reading the book, Say and Seal. Taken by its lyrical and meaningful words he sought permission to set it to music. Anna granted his request and the tune that we are familiar with today, along with the added chorus, “Yes, Jesus loves me, Yes, Jesus loves me, YES Jesus loves me…for the Bible tells me so” was composed and published by Bradbury that same year.
Jesus loves me! He will stay, close beside me all the way. Thou hast bled and died for me, I will henceforth live for Thee. (7)
Jesus loves me! Loves me still though I’m very weak and ill. From His shining throne on high, come to watch me where I lie. (8)
Different stanzas are often substituted or omitted in hymnals. The stanzas about illness are usually omitted to make the hymn less disturbing to children and the entirety of the poem has been shortened due to time constraints in singing the hymn. The United Church of Canada hymnal attributes the second and fourth stanza, and the last two lines of the final stanza, to David Rutherford McGuire.
Jesus loves me! He will stay close beside me all the way. If I love Him, when I die, He will take me home on high. (9)
Jesus loves me! See His grace, on the cross He took my place. There He suffered and He died, that I might be glorified. (10)
Jesus loves me! God’s own Son over sin the victory won. When I die, saved by His grace, I shall see Him face to face. (11)
Jesus loves me! He is near. He is with His Church so dear. And the Spirit He has sent, by His Word and Sacrament. (12)
Wrapping it up
There is no doubt that Anna’s poem has served to bring an awareness of the love that Christ has for each of us. And we can thank William Bradbury for setting her words to song and providing us a chorus that has brought this poem, once buried in the pages of a novel, to life.
Who would have thought that Jesus Loves Me, a poem written for a fictional dying child, would bring the message of God’s love to the very real and living world. It proves that good things about God can not be contained and hidden away. They will escape the confines of their box and grow as seed planted to bring the good news of His great and unconditional love that He has for each of us.
came through the sweet loving voice of my mother so many years ago. “Yes, Jesus loves me….yes, Jesus loves me…YES, Jesus loves me…so the Bible tells me so.