Scripture Verse

Jesus called the children to Him and said, Let the little children come to Me. Luke 18:16


Jemima T. Luke

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.

Music: Ar­ranged by Will­iam B. Brad­bu­ry from a Greek folk song, 1859 (🔊 pdf nwc).

Alternate Tune:

  • East Horn­don, tra­di­tion­al tune, in The Eng­lish Hym­nal (Lon­don: Ox­ford Un­i­ver­si­ty Press, 1906), num­ber 595 (🔊 pdf nwc)
William B. Bradbury

Origin of the 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 not in 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,
For 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.