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Words: Matilda Barbara Betham Edwards (b. Mar. 4, 1836; d. Jan. 4, 1919)
Music: Capel, a traditional melody
Note: Matilda Edwards was an English novelist and poet who also wrote several hymns. This lovely little hymn has been sung to a number of different tunes over the years. It is in what’s called Common Metre (220.127.116.11), so there are many tunes to choose from. Beatitudo, to which we often sing O for a Closer Walk with God, is a fine one. And if you are puzzled by how to use the hymn’s metre to change a tune, check out the article About That Metrical Index.
Over the centuries, and in different cultures, views of children have varied greatly. Some have seen them as a nuisance to be tolerated, or a resource to be exploited. Others have seen them as a precious gift from God, a treasure to be protected, with their gifts to be encouraged and nurtured.
Many have made thoughtful comments about childhood that are worth pondering. Social reformer Frederick Douglass said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” U.S. President John F. Kennedy said, “Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.” Boxing champion Muhammad Ali said, “Children make you want to start life over.” Most of us, following through on Ali’s comment, might want to add, “without the painful times, and the mistakes I’ve made.” But that’s not how life works.
The Bible has a great deal to say about children, starting with the realization that they are a stewardship from the Lord, and He needs to be involved in their upbringing.
“Unless the LORD builds the house, They labour in vain who build it….Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward” (Ps. 127:1-3).
The Lord Jesus valued children, setting the example for us in that.
“Then they brought little children to Him, that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God….And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them” (Mk. 10:13-16).
There are also a number of children in Bible times who became prominent individuals, either in their youth, or in later years. The Hebrew slave girl, whose master had leprosy, trusted in the power of God, telling him to go to the prophet Elisha. He went, and was healed (I Kg. 5:1-14). Paul’s nephew overhead a plot to kill him, and reported it to the Romans, saving his uncle’s life (Acts 23:12-24). Joseph, David, Samuel, and Daniel are examples of those who showed their faith early on, and lived to do great exploits for God.
We know only a little about the childhood of Jesus, but we learn that “ the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him” (Lk. 2:14). Concerning young Timothy we are told of the influence of his godly mother and grandmother (II Tim. 1:5), and “that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 3:15).
It is appropriate that our hymn writers have written songs for children, both to instruct them, and help them give expression to their faith. Many of these songs can be sung in church by whole families, because they have a message for all of us. A few examples:
God Sees the Little Sparrow Fall
I’ll Be a Sunbeam
I Think When I Read That Sweet Story of Old
Jesus Bids Us Shine
Jesus Loves Me
When Mothers of Salem
You’ll notice how often these songs speak of being a light for the Lord Jesus, in a dark world. It’s common imagery in the Scriptures. Light is used as a symbol of purity and truth, as well as of sharing the gospel, and the love of Christ. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Following the theme of shining for Jesus Mrs. Edwards wrote a hymn in 1873.
CH-1) God make my life a little light
Within the world to glow;
A little flame that burneth bright,
Wherever I may go.
CH-2) God make my life a little flower
That giveth joy to all,
Content to bloom in native bower,
Although the place be small.
CH-3) God make my life a little song
That comforteth the sad
That helpeth others to be strong,
And makes the singer glad.
1) Can you think of other word pictures that could be used to teach children how they can live for the Lord?
2) What are your favourite children’s hymns?