The Story Behind…“Jesus Loves Me”

The Story Behind …
“Jesus Loves Me”

The hymn most closely associated with children is, of course, “Jesus Loves Me.” It was written in 1859 by Susan and Anna Warner, who were daughters of a New York lawyer. The two young women were very talented writers and in 1859 published a novel entitled, Say and Seal. It became a best seller. However, even the very best of novels remain popular for only a limited time, and Say and Seal eventually went the way of all the rest. But, as long as “Jesus Loves Me” is still sung by children, it will never be entirely forgotten. The poem, which is now an all-time favorite hymn, first appeared within the pages of the Warner girls’ novel.

In Say and Seal, two of the characters, Faith Derrick and John Endecott Linden, are greatly concerned for a very sick little fellow named Johnny Fax. Johnny’s condition becomes critical and he asks Mr. Linden, who was also the Sunday School teacher, to take him up in his strong arms and comfort him. Mr. Linden readily does so, and picking up the feverish and very sick little boy, walks slowly back and forth across the room trying to console him.

Suddenly Johnny pleads, “Sing.”

As Faith listens, she hears John Linden sing a beautiful song which neither she nor Johnny have ever heard before:

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

With this he sought to comfort the final moments of the dying lad. Indeed, a few hours later, little Johnny Fax went to be with the Lord, the One who loved him so much.

The lines of the poem came to the attention of the famous composer, William Bradbury, and in 1861 he set them to music and added the chorus:

Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
Yes, Jesus loves me,
The Bible tells me so.