When The Christian Science Journal for January 1896 arrived in subscribers’ homes, readers discovered a special gift between its covers – a pair of brief poems from Mary Baker Eddy written especially for children. Later, Mrs. Eddy revised and published these gems in two of her books, and for well over a century now they’ve brought comfort and healing to people of all ages.
The very first item in that issue of the Journal was titled, “A Verse”:
Mother’s New Year Gift to the Little Children.
Father, Mother, God,
Guard me when I sleep,
Guide my little feet
Up to Thee.
To the Big Children.
Father, Mother, Good, lovingly
Thee I’ll seek—
In the narrow path—
All the way Thou hath
Up to Thee.
Readers’ appreciation for the poems – and news of subsequent healings they spurred – began appearing in the Journal in the months that followed.
One account tells of a little boy who had been thrown to the ground when lightning struck a nearby tree. Though dazed, he was able to get safely back inside.
“The idea that ‘All is Mind’ came to the child simultaneously with the shock,” wrote a Sunday School teacher who knew the lad. “Then he said, ‘While I was lying there on the ground, I thought of my little piece.’ The little piece referred to is the verse, ‘Mother’s New Year Gift to the Little Children,’ . . . He felt no bad effects from the shock; which proves that Truth is as quick as the lightning, and all powerful.”1
When a three-year-old girl’s foot seemed badly injured by a rocking chair, “the little one although crying with pain, refused to have the stocking taken off, or the foot ‘looked at for error.’ [She fell asleep, and] when she waked up, she jumped down and began to run around saying ‘See! my foot is all well, I said “Father, Mother, God, Loving me, Guard me when I sleep, Guide my little feet up to Thee,” and He did!’”2
Adults included themselves among the “children” who could turn to their Father-Mother God with these poetic prayers. One wrote of memorizing the verse for the big children: “Many an evil thought which tried to gain possession of me has been destroyed, with the first two lines, much of pride, jealousy, self-righteousness and irritability have gone down under the thought of patience and meekness, which guarded the path, and cleared the way.”3
The year leading up to this gift included several events in which children were central to Mrs. Eddy’s thoughts and endeavors.
On January 6, 1895, the dedication of the Original Edifice of The Mother Church included a special service for children. Among them were many of the Busy Bees, whose fundraising efforts helped build and furnish the Mother’s Room, a quiet spot set apart for Mrs. Eddy’s use.4
On April 1, Mrs. Eddy made her first visit (a private one) to the Church and to this special room.5 On May 26, after spending the previous night in the Mother’s Room, she delivered her first address in the Church.6
Easter Sunday fell on April 14 that year, in between those visits. The Mother Church offered a special children’s service at Mrs. Eddy’s direction, based on Matthew 28.7
In the fall, she took a decisive step to provide for children’s spiritual education. Up to that point, Sunday School lessons had been offered for both children and adults. Now, Sunday Schools would be reorganized for youths, Mrs. Eddy wrote in the October Journal.8
The first lessons would include the Ten Commandments; the Sermon on the Mount; and the Lord’s Prayer and its Spiritual Interpretation from the Christian Science textbook, Mary Baker Eddy’s Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. “The instruction of the children’s teachers must not deviate from the absolute Christian Science contained in their textbook,” Mrs. Eddy wrote.9
By the end of October, her love for children had taken form in this pair of verses, intended for publication in January as a New Year gift. Mrs. Eddy went on to publish revised versions of both poems in Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896 and in Poems. 11 These are the verses most familiar today. The little children’s verse changed only in punctuation, but for the big children, the words became: Father-Mother good, lovingly/ Thee I seek,–/ Patient, meek/ In the way Thou hast,–/ Be it slow or fast,/ Up to Thee.
In 1904, Mrs. Eddy directed that the verses be printed on 1,000 cards, one of four designs she asked to be created and sent to the children of The Mother Church Sunday School, who had been contributing to the building of the Extension that year.12
“Have these cards gotten up with pretty designs and have my copyright mark on them all,” she wrote that November to Joseph Armstrong, publisher of her writings and a member of the Christian Science Board of Directors.13
Just a few years later, Mrs. Eddy also gave permission for the poems to appear in The Children’s Star Magazine, founded and edited by one of her students, Elizabeth Wickersham.14
Many of Mrs. Eddy’s writings frame the start of each year as a fresh opportunity to grow closer to God, to seek His guidance with childlike expectancy. To ring in 1890, Mrs. Eddy ended a letter to Mrs. Wickersham and her husband with a question and a benediction for the New Year: “Have you been growing away from the false sense and false habitation of the flesh? Oh may our Father guide you by His testimony, spiritual Love, and every year perfect your lives and make you lights set upon a hill that cannot be hid.”14