Across the Hudson river from West Point Academy is Constitution Island, once the home of Susan and Anna Warner. The two sisters lived most of their lives there during the 1800s producing myriad volumes of books from cook books to Christian novels. In 1860, they co-authored one such novel titled, “Say and Seal.” One of the main characters was a little boy, Johnny Fax, who was small, frail, and deathly ill. Coming from a desperate background, Johnny became attached to a teacher who gave him love and attention, Mr. Linden. When Johnny was on deaths door, Mr. Linden was summoned to help comfort and console the boy as life slipped away.
The story continues with Mr. Linden holding Johnny in his arms as he rocked him and sang a song. The verses to the song in the novel, penned by sister Anna, were so touching that they took on a life of their own with the readers. People around the country were taken by the loving sentiment of this sweet song. But in reality, it was merely a poem in the novel, “Say and Seal,” because there was no music for it and no one knew how to sing the melody.
One reader decided to do something about it. His name was William Bradbury. He was a well known writer of hymns in that time period whose breadth of work included “Sweet Hour of Prayer,” and “Just As I Am.” Bradbury’s voluminous body of work started a new wave in hymns that were much lighter in melody. By making some modification in the wording of Anna’s poem, adding a chorus, and creating a simple melody, Bradbury “instantly catapulted ‘Jesus Loves Me’ to stardom as the greatest children’s song in history.” (1.)
Few if any remember or even know all four verses but nearly everyone has heard and can sing the chorus, “yes Jesus loves me…” Why has this little song, sung by a fictitious character in a novel, become so popular for so long? It has been translated into many languages, sung in nurseries and nursing homes, versioned in numerous styles from 19th century hymns to hip hop. The key to this song’s seemingly eternal life is that it’s roots are in the truth of God’s Word. “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Deep down we all hunger for this love because this is the purpose for which we have been created, to have a loving relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ.
- From: “Jesus Loves Me This I Know,” by Robert J. Morgan, published by J. Countryman, a division of the Thomas Nelson, Inc. Nashville, TN