Posted by: rcottrill | October 17, 2014

Bring Them In

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Words: Alexcenah Thomas (1857 – circa 1910)
Music: William Augustine Ogden (b. Oct. 10, 1841; d. Oct. 14, 1897)

Wordwise Hymns (William Ogden)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Alexenah Thomas was Supervisor of Drawing in the local public schools of Atlantic City, New Jersey. As you can see on the Cyber Hymnal note, she wrote many gospel songs, but this is the only one that seems to be found in most hymn books today. It was published in 1885.

Of the author of the text, we know almost nothing. One reviewer refers to Alexcena as a man, but the name seems feminine. (Alexina is definitely a girl’s name.) Miss (or Mrs.) Thomas also wrote a Christmas carol (“Hail, hail, hail, the blessed Christmas morn!”), published in 1889, which gives us an approximate time frame for when she lived, but it’s likely we’ll never know more, this side of heaven.

If you look at the early publication of the hymn on, you will see that some changes have been made. It was clearly written to urge an outreach to children. The “sheep who’ve gone astray were “lambs” in the original. The second stanza begins:

Who’ll go and help this Shepherd kind,
Help Him the little lambs to find?

The refrain, instead of finishing with the words, “Bring the wandering ones to Jesus,” as it does now, used to end, “Bring the little ones to Jesus.” In the large collection posted by, it’s not until 1907 that the song was revised to use the more inclusive word “sheep.”

As to presenting the gospel to children. I certainly believe in it. The gospel of grace can be understood by quite young children. I was only seven years old when I realized that I was a sinner, and that Jesus died to take sin’s punishment for me. I trusted Him as my Saviour, literally at my mother’s knee.

Annie Johnson Flint (1866-1932) was one of America’s greatest devotional poets. Two of her poems, God Hath Not Promised, and He Giveth More Grace have become beloved hymns. She lost both her parents before the age of six, and was committed to the care of a childless couple named Flint. During those years, and while still a small child, she trusted Christ as her Saviour at a Methodist revival meeting. In adulthood Annie Johnson Flint would strongly disagree with any who said a child cannot grasp spiritual truths. She knew they could, from her own experience.

That is not to say child evangelism is without its unique problems. Though the gospel message is simple (cf. Acts 16:30-31), we must not oversimplify it to the point that we leave a child with false assumptions.

Nor must we pressure children to make a decision, or expose them to peer pressure. An example of this would be saying in a children’s meeting, “Everyone who wants to become a Christian, raise your hand.” Either to please the adult leader, or to win the favour of friends who are there, the child may act without understanding. It’s better to say, “If you’d like to learn more about what it means to become a Christian, please speak to me afterwards.”

These things being said, we know the Lord loves and cares for the welfare of the young. In the Gospels that parents brought their children to the Lord Jesus that He might bless them (Matt. 19:13-14). The disciples tried to discourage it, but the Lord welcomed them. Old or young, what a privilege and a blessing to bring folks to Jesus! All, like sheep have gone astray, but Christ has borne the penalty for our sin (Isa. 53:6; I Jn. 2:2).

CH-1) Hark! ’tis the Shepherd’s voice I hear
Out in the desert dark and drear,
Calling the sheep who’ve gone astray
Far from the Shepherd’s fold away.

Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring them in from the fields of sin;
Bring them in, bring them in,
Bring the wand’ring ones to Jesus.

The proclamation of the gospel of grace involves both seeking and bringing. In some circles, this is construed to mean bring them to church. That, of course, has its place. But Alexcena Thomas wasn’t referring to bringing people to the house of God, but bringing them to the Saviour, and in so-doing bringing them into the fold or family of God.

While it’s possible to bring a friend to church, this seeking and bringing ministry can be carried on in our homes, over the backyard fence, in a coffee shop, or wherever folks in need are to be found. On behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ, Christians are to seek out those in spiritual need and bring them to the Saviour. That is, we’re to introduce them to Him, and invite them to trust in Him.

CH-2) Who’ll go and help this Shepherd kind,
Help Him the wand’ring ones to find?
Who’ll bring the lost ones to the fold,
Where they’ll be sheltered from the cold?

1) Do you believe in presenting the gospel to children? If so, what precautions do you take?

2) What have you found to be an effective approach in personal evangelism (either to young or old)?

Wordwise Hymns (William Ogden)
The Cyber Hymnal


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