The Rev. Dr. Jacob Chamberlain, who for many years has been working among the Hindus, writes as follows regarding this hymn, long one of the most popular children’s songs in the world: “Many years ago I translated into Telegu the children’s hymn, ‘Jesus loves me’ and taught it to the children of our day-school.
Scarcely a week later, as I was going through the narrow streets of the native town on horseback, I heard singing that sounded natural, down a side street. I stopped to listen, cautiously drawing up to the corner, where unobserved I could look down the street and see and hear.
And there was a little heathen boy, with heathen men and women standing around him, singing away at the top of his voice: ‘Jesus loves me this I know…’ As he completed the verse some one asked the question: ‘Sonny, where did you learn that song?’ ‘Over at the Missionary School,’ was the answer.
‘Who is that Jesus, and what is the Bible?’ ‘Oh! the Bible is the book from God, they say, to teach us how to get to heaven, and Jesus is the name of the divine Redeemer that came into the world to save us from our sins; that is what the missionaries say.’ ‘Well, the song is a nice one. Come, sing us some more.’
And so the little boy went on—a heathen himself, and singing to the heathen—about Jesus and his love.
‘That is preaching the Gospel by proxy,’ I said to myself, as I turned my pony and rode away, well satisfied to leave my little proxy to tell his interested audience all he himself knew, and sing to them over and over that sweet song of salvation.”
Sankey, pp. 179–80
In 1891, when my grandfather, Rev. Harutune S. Jenanyan, took his wife and little daughter on a perilous and dangerous missionary journey from Tarsus, Asia Minor, the city of St. Paul, to Sivas in Armenia [now Turkey], they travelled on horse-back through robber-infested country for fourteen days.
Two of the leading robber chiefs on that territory were Chollo, whose
name cast terror on every side since he had successfully evaded pursuing Government forces for many months, and Kara Agha, a famous Koorish chief, whose name caused even the fearsome Chollo to tremble.
Harutune took his small party directly into the heart of Kara Agha’s country, telling those he met enroute that he was going to be Agha’s guest in his own village.
When they reached the brigand’s head-quarters, the missionary asked that they be received as guests for the night.
The surprised robber chief gave them accommodations, entertaining Harutune in his own spacious tent while his wife, Helene, and their little daughter, Grace were cared for in another tent by the women of the village.
The next morning, before taking their leave, the missionary asked for permission to read a portion of the Holy Scripture, and then offered a prayer.
Seeing that the chief was somewhat affected, he then said,
Do you wish to have the little child sing for you? The chief replied,
Oh yes; can she?
Then little Grace, only three-and-a-half years old, came forward and stood before the tall old man and sang two songs she had recently learned in the Sunday School in Tarsus, singing them in the native tongue,
Jesus loves me, this I know and
I want to be an angel.
The chief was so deeply touched, that he sent his own son, Bekkeer Agha, mounted on a handsome Arabian steed, to lead the small missionary party through the rest of his territory.
Emurian, p. 61