Scripture Verse

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


Jemima T. Luke (1813–1906)

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 (1816–1868)

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.