ENID, Okla. —
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – to know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Very inspiring ... This is he most wonderful story of how one of the most popular children’s hymns came to be.
Anna and Susan Warner lived in a lovely townhouse in New York City where their father, Henry Whiting Warner, was a successful lawyer. But the “Panic of 1837” wrecked the family’s finances, forcing them to move into a ramshackle Revolutionary War-era home on Constitution Island on the Hudson, right across from the Military Academy at West Point.
Needing to contribute to the family income, Anna and Susan began writing poems and stories for publication. Ann wrote “Robinson Crusoe’s Farmyard,” and Susan wrote, “The Wide, Wide World.” The girls thus launched parallel literary careers, which resulted in 106 publications, 18 of them co-authored. One of their most successful joint projects was a novel titled “Say and Seal” in which a little boy named Johnny Fox is dying.
His Sunday school teacher, John Linden, comforts him by taking him in his arms, rocking him, and making up a little song: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so ...”
The novel became a best-seller, second only to “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”; and when hymn writer William Bradbury read the words of John Linden’s little song (written by Anna), he composed a childlike, musical score to go along with them. “Jesus Loves Me” soon became the best-known children’s hymn on earth.
Despite their success, the Warner sisters never seemed able to recover from the staggering financial reverses of 1836.
Years later a friend wrote, “One day when sitting with Miss Anna in the old living room, she took from one of the cases a shell so delicate that it looked like lace work, and holding it in her hand, with eyes dimmed wit tears, she said, ‘There was a time when I was very perplexed, bills were unpaid, necessities must be had, and someone sent me this exquisite thing. As I held it I realized that if God could make this beautiful home for a little creature, He would take care of me.’”
For 40 years, Susan and Anna conducted Bible classes for cadets at West Point, and both were buried with full military honors. They are the only civilians buried in the military cemetery at West Point. To this day, their home on Constitution Island is maintained by West Point as a museum to their memory.
Sometimes, all we need is a little something, like a delicate little sea shell, to remind us that Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.
Keep the faith and worship somewhere today.
Sorrels is News & Eagle editorial assistant and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (580) 548-8140.