Jesus called the children to Him and said, Luke 18:16
Let the little children come to Me.
Words: Jemima T. Luke, 1841. In the early 1930’s, one hymnologist called this the world’s
best known and most widely used Children’s Hymn.
In the year 1841 I went to the Normal Infant School in Gray’s Inn Road to obtain some knowledge of the system,writes Mrs. Luke.Mary Moffat, afterwards Mrs. Livingstone, was there at the same time, and Sarah Roby, whom Mr. and Mrs. Moffat had rescued in infancy when buried alive, and had brought up with their own children.
Among the marching pieces at Gray’s Inn Road was a Greek air, the pathos of which took my fancy, and I searched Watts and Jane Taylor and several Sunday-school hymn-books for words to suit the measure but in vain. Having been recalled home, I went one day on some missionary business to the little town of Wellington, five miles from Taunton, in a stage-coach.
It was a beautiful spring morning; it was an hour’s ride, and there was no other inside passenger. On the back of an old envelope I wrote in pencil the first two of the verses now so well known, in order to teach the tune to the village school supported by my step-mother, and which it was my province to visit. The third verse was added afterward to make it a missionary hymn.
My father superintended the Sunday-school in which we taught, and used to let the children choose the first hymn. One Sunday the children started their new hymn. My father turned to his younger daughters and said,Where did that come from? I never heard it before.
Oh, Jemima made it, they replied. Next day he asked for a copy, and sent it, without my knowledge, to ‘The Sunday-School Teachers’ Magazine.’ But for this it would probably never have appeared in print.Mrs. Luke adds regarding her composition:It was a little inspiration from above, and notin me,for I have never written other verses worthy of preservation.
Sankey, pp. 281–83
I think, when I read that sweet story of old,
When Jesus was here among men,
How He called little children as lambs to His fold,
I should like to have been with them then.
I wish that His hands had been placed on my head,
That His arms had been thrown around me,
And that I might have seen His kind look when He said,
Let the little ones come unto Me.
Yet still to His foot stool in prayer I may go;
And ask for a share in His love;
And if I thus earnestly seek Him below,
I shall see Him and hear Him above.
But thousands and thousands who wander and fall,
Never heard of that heavenly home;
I wish they could know there is room for them all,
And that Jesus has bid them to come.
In that beautiful place He has gone to prepare
For all who are washed and forgiven;
And many dear children shall be with Him there,
of such is the kingdom of heaven.
I long for the joy of that glorious time,
The sweetest and brightest and best,
When the dear little children of every clime
Shall crowd to His arms and be blest.