Behind the Hymn: A Child of the King
This is a song I’ve always loved. Daddy and I performed this song together several times.
Harriett Buell wrote the song one Sunday morning walking home from the church service at her local Methodist church.
Harriett Eugenia Peck Buell was born in 1834 Cazenovia, New York. She contributed numerous poems to the Northern Christian Advocate. She died February 6, 1910 in Washington, DC.
She then sent the text to Northern Christian Advocate, and it was printed in the February 1, 1877 issue.
The poem was titled “The Child of a King.”
John Sumner had been praying for a Gospel song to write. This song would replace the one his friend, Philip Bliss, had promised to write before his untimely death.
John Bunnell Sumner was born in 1838 Pennsylvania. He attended Wyoming Seminary in Pennsylvania. He served as minister in Methodist churches in Pennsylvania and New York, as well as being a well-known traveling singing teacher. He formed the Wyoming Conference Trio in the 1880s. He died on May 10, 1918 in Johnson City, New York.
When Sumner saw these words in the publication, he knew his prayer had been answered. He set a melody to the poem.
Evangelist Peter P. Bilhorn, recounts the following story from 1883: “We had started up the Missouri River for Bismarck, and on Sunday we stopped at a new town, named Blunt, to unload some freight. A crowd of men and boys came down to the wharf. I took my little organ, went on the wharf-boat, and sang a few songs—among others the glorious hymn, ‘I’m a child of of a King.’ I thought nothing more of the occasion until long afterward, when I sang the same song in Mr. Moody’s church in Chicago [Illinois]. Then a man in the back part of the house arose, and said in a trembling voice: ’Two years ago I heard that song at Blunt, Dakota; I was then an unsaved man, but that song set me to thinking, and I decided to accept Christ, and I am now studying for the ministry.’”
The song reminds us that we are all God’s children, regardless of who we are or what we have done.