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A Teenage Love Song

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

So begins one of my favorite hymns of devotion to Jesus. It is a simple and rich hymn that has put words and melody to one of Christianity’s most intimate sentiments for over 140 years.

The hymn reached its first wide audience when it was included in the published hymnal of Adoniram Judson Gordon. This isn’t the Adoniram Judson of missionary fame, but the founder of Gordon College and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. It was a hymn that so captured the attention of Gordon that he went back and wrote a second melody for it after becoming convinced that his first composition wasn’t adequate for the rich truths in the lyrics.

I’m glad he put in the extra effort. The final tune perfectly suits the text and is able to capture the quiet tenderness of personal devotion as well as the triumphant declarations of ultimate glory. It is certainly among the finest and most popular hymns in Gordon’s hymnal, but he didn’t write it.

The man who actually wrote the text of the hymn would never live to see its publication. In fact, it was not written to be a hymn, but a poem. And it was not written by a learned scholar, theologian or pastor, but by a young teenager, no more than 16 years old. His name is William Featherston. This young man captured with insightful sincerity the point of his conversion to Christ. It is likely that had he not mailed the poem to an aunt in Los Angeles who sought its publication, the words would have been lost to history. I am grateful they were not. They are a gift to the Church.

Several themes are immediately apparent in the hymn; most obvious is that of love. It is mentioned 10 times. It is hard to miss the repeated last line of each stanza: “If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus ‘tis now.” But notice also that the third line in the second through fourth verses all end in “brow.” We see the brow of Christ in His suffering, the brow of William at his imagined deathbed, and the brow of a resurrected and triumphant William in the endless delights of heaven.

Sadly for those who knew him, the death dew lay cold on William’s brow at the young age of 27, only about a decade after writing this hymn. But his own words give comfort and remind us of his current happiness. May these words of a young teenager, now enjoying his eternal reward, be a challenge to us all in every season of life. The time to love Jesus is always now.

My Jesus, I Love Thee

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.

Words by William R. Featherston, 1864
Music by Adoniram J. Gordon, 1876
Public Domain

Comment(1)

  1. Reply
    Ginni Siblerud says

    Hi Chris,

    I too have loved this song for many years!! Let’s sing it more often during worship!!

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