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  • Shawn Thornton

My Jesus, I Love Thee

Sunday - October 10th

Scripture to Read Today: 1 John 4:13-21


We love because He first loved us.

1 John 4:19

From time to time on Sundays, I post the story behind and lyrics of a hymn or worship song. Today we consider a more than a century and a half old hymn that I love to sing to the Lord in my own devotional time: "My Jesus, I Love Thee."

The Story Behind the Hymn:

William Ralph Featherstone loved His Savior so much he penned a poem simply titled, "My Jesus, I Love Thee." On the one hand, the poem was deeply profound and, on the other hand, was incredibly simple. Remarkably, it was the heartfelt expression of love to the Lord by a teenager in Montreal in the 1860s. Featherstone would have been somewhere between twelve and sixteen years of age when he wrote the classic hymn's lyrics.

While not much more is known about William Featherstone, we know two things. He sent his poem to an aunt in Los Angeles who had the poem published in a poetry book. The second thing we know is that Featherstone died at the age of twenty-seven. It appears his aunt had the poem published after his death. While his life was short, William Featherstone left the church a wonderful gift.

Adoniram Judson Gordon (the founder of Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) wrote an accompanying melody for the poem. He included the new song in his book of hymns, and "My Jesus, I Love Thee" has blessed the church ever since.

While it might sound a bit morose, the most beautiful time I have ever heard this hymn sung was in a cemetery mausoleum. It was the funeral of the founder of the Christian college from which both Lesli and I graduated. Dr. Lester Pipkin loved this hymn. He requested it be sung at his memorial.

With a small gathering of family and friends as well as faculty, staff, and alumni of Appalachian Bible College crammed into and flowing out the door of the little mausoleum in Beckley, West Virginia, we sang this song as the closing prayer of our time together. That many people in ministry together singing such a song created a beautiful sound full of hope that more than filled the mausoleum. It seemed so fitting for Dr. Pipkin to ensure that as we honored and celebrated his life, we honored and celebrated the Savior he loved so dearly.

If the song and its tune are unfamiliar to you, simply read the poem by William Featherstone as an expression of your love to your Savior. If you know the melody, sing it to Jesus as a gift of praise to Him. You can also enjoy the YouTube video (after the lyrics) of the hymn being sung.

Here are the lyrics:

My Jesus, I Love Thee

by William Ralph Featherstone

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;

For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.

My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

I love Thee because Thou has first loved me

And purchased my pardon on Calvary's tree.

I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

I'll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,

And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;

And say when the death dew lies cold on my brow,

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,

I'll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;

I'll sing with the glittering crown on my brow;

If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, 'tis now.

We love Jesus because He first loved us.

We love others because Jesus first loved us.


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