History Of Hymn What A Friend We Have In Jesus

History of Hymns: ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’

Written by C. Michael Hawn Joseph Scriven is a fictional character created by author Joseph Scriven. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” says the author. Written by Joseph Scriven The United Methodist Hymnal has 526 hymns. What a Friend we have in Jesus, who bears all of our sins and sorrows with us! What an honor it is to bring everything before God in prayer! O what serenity we frequently sacrifice, O what needless suffering we endure—all because we do not bring all to God in prayer, we are doing a grave sin.

Joseph Medlicott Scriven (1819–1886) was born in Seapatrick, Ireland (now Northern Ireland) and died in Ontario, Canada.

Upon completing his studies at Trinity College, Dublin, he decided to pursue a military career, in which he was trained for duty in India.

He returned to Trinity and received his bachelor’s degree in 1842.

Scriven’s Life

Scriven’s life has been filled with sorrow. His Irish fiancée drowned accidentally the night before their wedding, prompting his relocation to Woodstock, Canada West (now Ontario), where he headed a Plymouth Brethren congregation and lectured. Scriven founded a private school in Brantford in 1850 and also preached throughout the surrounding region. Some historians think that Scriven may have written the first draft of “What a Friend” around this time period, according to their research. In 1855, after settling near Clinton in Huron County, he began reading the Bible to railway construction workers who were working on the Grand Trunk Railway, which was being built across Canada West.

  1. Tragic events befell him once more when his second fiancée, Eliza Catherine Roach, Pengelly’s niece, died suddenly of an illness just weeks before their wedding in 1860.
  2. According to hymnologist Albert Bailey, Scriven was known as “the guy who saws wood for destitute widows and sick persons who are unable to pay” because of his altruistic character (Bailey, 1950, p.
  3. The following is a description of what we know about the circumstances surrounding Scriven’s death in October 1886, according to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography: Severe ill-health and melancholy accompanied him in his final days.
  4. Scriven left his bed without disturbing anyone one hot night in 1866, most likely to drink from a nearby spring; he was found dead in the spillway of Sackville’s grist-mill, just a few feet from the spring, some hours later, presumably having fainted or fallen.
  5. Scriven was buried at the Pengelly burial-ground in an unmarked tomb between Eliza Roach and Commander Pengelly (Macpherson, “Scriven,” n.d.).
  6. Sackville saw the unhappy Scriven “prostrate in mind and body” a few days before his death, and overheard him remark, “I pray the Lord would take me home” (Cleland, 1895, p.
  7. It was never determined if his death was the result of an accident or a suicide.

Friends and neighbors eventually placed a monument over his gravestone to commemorate his life. The historical monument for Joseph Medlicott Scriven was unveiled in Otanabee-South Monaghan, Ontario, Canada, to commemorate his homestead and burial site.

Origins of ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’

Hymns and Other Verses was a collection of Scriven’s poetic works that included seventy-one hymns “intended to be sung in assemblies of the children of God on the first day of the week and on other occasions when two or three are met together in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” These were followed by thirty-four scriptural paraphrases “not to be sung in the assembly, but to express truth, as well as convey comfort, instruction, or reproof to our hearts (Scriven, 1869, Preface).

  • The song for which he is most known, “What a Friend,” does not feature in the collection, though.
  • Some commentators have speculated that the song was composed for his mother, who was unwell at the time of its composition.
  • Sankey (1840–1908) (as reported in Bailey, 1950, pp.
  • This assumption, on the other hand, is difficult to verify.
  • Sackville, near Rice Lake.
  • Sackville, whom the elderly woman, who is now over eighty years old, cherishes.
  • 13).

If this is the case, The personal first-person plural perspective of this hymn is in contrast to the author’s other songs.

Carl Daw Jr.


Packard’s Spiritual Minstrel: A Collection of Hymns and Music(1857), however this is incorrect (See Fenner, 2020, n.p.).

Charles Converse (1832–1918), a New England composer and church musician, incorporated the words in hisSilver Wings(1870), which he published with his own melody under the pen name Karl Reden, which is a Germanization of his given name (“reden” meaning “to talk” or “converse”).

There does not appear to be a copy of this hymnal in existence.

Moody (1837–1899)’s revival performances.


Over the years, the text has remained extraordinarily stable, with just a few minor editing modifications.

It was written in four quatrains, the first three of which are well-known to readers.

For more information, please see the text at Fenner, 2020, n.p.

First and foremost, Stanza 1 establishes the fact that Jesus is a friend who is capable of bearing our sins and responsibilities.

The hymnwriters of the nineteenth century are particularly well-known for expressing their personal connection with Jesus.

Stead (1882), “I Must Tell Jesus All of My Trials” by Elisha A.


The second verse raises two rhetorical questions—rhetorical since, indeed, all people face “trials and temptations” and see “trouble.” The answer becomes a short refrain: “Take it to the Lord in prayer.” A third rhetorical question asks, “Can we find a buddy so faithful.?” The intimate friendship with the one who “knows our every weakness” is the source of solace.

  1. Do your friends despise, forsake you?
  2. The two most known are Fanny Crosby’s “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” (1868) and Elisha Hoffman’s “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” (1887).
  3. Hymnologist Fred Gealy found an additional stanza published in Hastings’Songs of Pilgrimage: A Hymnal for the Churches of Christ(Boston, 1886; Second Ed.
  4. Soon in glory, bright, unclouded,There will be no need for prayer;Rapture, praise, and endless worshipShall be our sweet portion there.
  5. Albert Bailey notes correctly that Scriven’s poetry is of relatively low quality with monotonous rhymes (Scriven uses five words to rhyme with “prayer”—some multiple times) and trite language.
  6. Any unlettered person can understand it; the humblest saint can take its admonitions to heart, practice prayer, find his load more bearable andspiritual life deepened” (Bailey, 1950, p.
  7. (Bailey, 1950, p.

Paul Westermeyer offers a critique from a Lutheran perspective, noting:It has been a source of comfort for many who have sung it, though paradoxically it has also been a part of a Protestantism that denies its own heritage by turning prayer into work to control God’s grace.

comfort, and forfeiting peace or suffering pain “All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer” suggests our capacity to save ourselves by the work of our prayer (Westermeyer, 2010, p.

(Westermeyer, 2010, p.

Carl Daw offers a different analysis: “As a hymn of assurance, it has served as an effective reminder of the centrality of prayer in a well-rounded spirituality.



Carlton Young suggests that CONVERSE is reminiscent of Stephen Foster tunes of the era and provides a perfect musical vehicle for this prayerful text.


The range of recording artists who have sung this song is staggering from long-established white performers Pat Boone ( feature=emb title), Rosemary Clooney, Loretta Lynn, Barbara Mandrell, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton to African American gospel artists Ella Fitzgerald, Aretha Franklin, and Ike and Tina Turner ( feature=emb title).

  1. Baloche’s improvisatory coda bridges the nineteenth century with the twenty-first.
  2. The simple language becomes a virtue in translation, and the folk-like melody easily transcends cultures around the world.
  3. There are few hymns that I have heard more regularly around the world.
  4. 5–6).

A modest poem, written in Canada as a private meditation for the author’s mother in Ireland, has found its way into many hearts worldwide and, undoubtedly, has been a source of comfort for millions of Christians for more than one hundred fifty years.


Albert E. Bailey’s The Gospel in Hymns (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1950) is a collection of hymns written by Albert E. Bailey. What a Friend We Have in Jesus and Other Poems by Joseph Scriven with a Sketch of the Author (Port Hope: W. Williamson, Publishers, 1895): December 27, 2020. James Cleland, What a Friend We Have in Jesus and Other Poems by Joseph Scriven with a Sketch of the Author (Port Hope: W. Williamson, Publishers, 1895): December 27, 2020. Glory to God: A Companion to the Book of Psalms by Carl P.

  • (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2016) .
  • Chris Fenner, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” Hymnology Archive (February 2020), December 26, 2020.
  • Margaret Leask, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Hugh D.
  • Hugh D.
  • “Scriven, Joseph Medlicott,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography (Vol XI (1881–1890), December 26, 2020).
  • Hymns and Other Verses (Peterborough: James Stephens, 1869): December 26, 2020).
  • Hymnal Companion: Evangelical Lutheran Worship (Paul Westermeyer, Hymnal Companion: Evangelical Lutheran Worship) (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress Press, 2010).
  • Young’s Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal is a must-have for every hymnophile (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1993).
  • Michael Hawn, D.M.A., F.H.S., is University Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Church Music and Adjunct Professor at Southern Methodist University’s Perkins School of Theology, as well as the Director of the Doctor of Pastoral Music Program at the university.

Contact Us for Help

To request further assistance, go through the personnel by program area.


While suffering, many hymn authors were able to find consolation in the arms of Jesus, and through their music, they were able to guide others to this source of unshakeable pleasure. Discover more about the tragedy that inspired the hymn writer to draft these lyrics by reading a tale from Carl Price’s One Hundred and One Hymn Stories. One of the most useful hymns now in general usage is Joseph Scriven’s song about the friendship of Jesus, the comforter and burden-bearer, which is sung to the tune of “The Friendship of Jesus.” Scriven was born in 1820 in Dublin, Ireland, and died in 1886.

See also:  Who Is Jesus To Me Essay?

He received his bachelor’s degree from Trinity College in his hometown.

At the time of his engagement, he had known and loved the lady for quite some time and had always wanted to marry her.

However, only a few days before the wedding, his promised fiancée was unintentionally drowned, and he was plunged into the depths of the most terrible grief.

His strong feeling of dependency on Christ, as well as the tremendous truth so beautifully articulated in his verses, resulted from this tragic experience:

What a Friend we have in Jesus,All our sins and griefs to bear!

He penned the song to console his mother in her own sadness as a result of this incident, which he sent to her in Ireland as a result of the strong compassion engendered in his heart by it. It is unclear how it got to be published for the first time, as he had not meant it for wide distribution. Indeed, for a period of time following its publication, its authorship remained a mystery, with Dr. Horatius Bonar’s name being occasionally given wrongly as the author. After Scriven’s death, however, he was officially acknowledged as the author of the song that has benefited tens of thousands of Christians worldwide since its publication.

The Lyrics to “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

What a buddy we have in Jesus, who bears all of our sins and sorrows with us! What an honor it is to bring everything before God in prayer! It is amazing how much serenity we often sacrifice, how much unnecessary suffering we endure, just because we do not bring all to God in prayer. Have we faced difficulties and temptations? Is there any difficulty in any part of the world? We should never give up; instead, we should take our concerns to the Lord in prayer. Is it possible to have a buddy who is so loyal that he will share all of our misfortunes with us?

Are we weakened and burdened with a tremendous burden of responsibility?

Do your friends detest you and abandon you?

He will take thee into his arms and shelter thee; thou shalt find comfort in his embrace.

Listen toWhat A Friend We Have In Jesus

Hymn 79 on page 87 of Carl F. Price’s One Hundred and One Hymn Stories, which is adapted from the hymn.

  • The Story of the Hymn: Jesus, Lover of My Soul
  • Story of the Hymn: “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” Story of the Hymn: Praise God, from Whom all blessings abound
  • Story of the Hymn: Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me
  • Story of the Hymn: “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus!” What a Friend We Have in Jesus, according to the hymn. When I look at the wondrous Cross, I am filled with awe. Jesus Paid it All: A Song of Thanksgiving
  • America’s Favorite Hymns – The Most Popular Hymns From 1737 to 1960
  • America’s Favorite Songs

Subscribe to ReasonableTheology.org

Subscribe to get our weekly newsletters, as well as access to the free digital theological library, on a regular basis. Thank you very much! Please check your inbox to ensure that your subscription has been confirmed. Something went wrong, unfortunately. We value your privacy and take the protection of your information very seriously.

Story behind the song: ‘What a Friend we Have in Jesus’

  • “That appears to be a sober individual
  • I believe I will engage him to cut wood for me.” While walking through the streets of Lake Rice, Canada, with a wood saw and a sawhorse in his hands, a guy was accosted by onlookers. The response from a man in the neighborhood was, “That’s Joseph Scriven on the line. He wouldn’t cut wood for you since he knows you can afford to get someone else to do it. He exclusively chops wood for individuals who do not have the financial means to pay for it.” The ideology and attitude of Scriven, a devout member of the Plymouth Brethren Church, appeared to be the same as his actions. A genuine desire to assist individuals who were actually needy compelled him to take action. Joseph was born on September 10, 1819, in the country of Ireland. Fortunately for him, his parents had the financial ability to provide him with an excellent educational experience. He studied in Trinity College in Dublin, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1989. Through this young guy, Ireland had the opportunity to develop into a wonderful citizen with lofty objectives and remarkable ambitions. He became head over heels in love with a young girl who was willing to spend the rest of her life with him. However, on the day before their wedding, she was riding her horse across a bridge over the River Bann when she became disoriented and plunged into the river below. She perished. Joseph stood on the opposite side of the room, powerless as he watched. In an attempt to cope with his grief, he set out on a long journey. By the time he was 25, his adventures had brought him to a region near Port Hope, Canada. The residents of that region grew to view him as a highly respected individual. He helped some of the local youngsters with their schoolwork by tutoring them. It was then that he met a charming young girl named Elisa Roche, with whom he fell in love for the second time. Marriage was on their agenda, and they were looking forward to it. However, tragedy struck once more, and she passed away from illness before they could tie the knot. It has already been mentioned that he worked at Port Hope among destitute widows and ailing people previously in this chapter. He frequently worked for little or no compensation, and he even shared his clothing with others less fortunate than himself. In one instance, while Joseph was sick, a friend who was visiting him noticed a poem by his bed and inquired as to who had written it. “It was between the Lord and myself,” Scriven explained. He hoped that by writing the poem, he might be able to provide some spiritual solace to his mother, who still resided in Ireland. Scriven had not intended for anybody else to see what he had written. Scriven’s body was discovered floating in a body of water near Bewdly, Ontario, on August 10, 1886. To commemorate him, two memorials have been constructed. Each of them has the first verse of his song inscribed on the back of his guitar. The musical setting was written by Charles Converse, an attorney and musician, and is still in use today. What a buddy we have in Jesus, who is willing to suffer all of our sins and sorrows! What an honor it is to bring everything before God in prayer! Oh, what serenity we frequently sacrifice, Oh, what unnecessary suffering we endure, All because we fail to bring everything to God in prayer. “We therefore, who are strong, must bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” – Romans 15:1
  • Romans 15:2

What a Friend We Have in Jesus; The Story behind the Hymn –

The tale behind the hymn is one I’ve written multiple times over the years, but I somehow missed this one! What a Friend We Have in Jesus, without a doubt. is a song that we have all listened to at some time in our lives and related to. If we grew up listening to church or gospel music, it’s likely that we can at least sing the chorus. Joseph Scriven was born in the Irish capital of Dublin in 1819. He earned his education and a degree from Trinity College in Dublin, and he went on to work as a teacher.

  • Unfortunately, his prospective wife perished in the ocean the day before their wedding.
  • There, he met and fell in love with Eliza Rice for the second time, and he made plans to marry her once more.
  • Joseph was just 25 years old.
  • Joseph took a vow of poverty and proceeded to assist the destitute and crippled in whatever way he could.
  • Ten years ago, he made himself accessible to individuals in need, and he found comfort and meaning in doing so.
  • Then, unbelievably, the pain would strike once more!
  • He wrote the lyrics to this poem just for her, and it has since soothed, encouraged, and elevated countless others!

All of our faults and sorrows to bearWhat a gift it is to bring everything to God in prayerOh, what peace we so frequently forgo in the process!

We’ve been through hardships and temptations.

We should never give up on ourselves.

Is it possible to meet a buddy that is so dependable?

Jesus is aware of every flaw in our character.

Are we weakened and burdened with a tremendous burden of responsibility?

Take it to the throne of grace in prayer.

Take it to the throne of grace in prayer.

There will be comfort for thee there.

Despite this, people from all around the world are getting together to remind one another and to reach out to those who have not yet heard that Jesus is still close by.

He has not abandoned us, and he will never abandon us.

Because we have so much faith in our God, so much hope for our eternal destiny, and so much hope right now that we will see Jesus intervene in our lives and respond to incredible requests, there is a lot of hope in our God.

See also:  Where Exactly Was Jesus Christ Crucified?

Are we burdened by an excessive amount of responsibility?

We will bring it to Him in prayer, join together to encourage and pray for one another, and continue to offer amazing online worship opportunities, which have been a joy to so many.

Nevertheless, if we bring our troubles to Him in prayer, He will meet us in our despair and we will receive solace or comfort in His presence.

This teaches me that if we have His Spirit, we have all we need to be salt and light in this world right now and to convey hope to people who are in need of encouragement.

Please see earlier postings about hymns and their roots for more information!

Jesus, the Lover of my Soul, I will follow Him wherever He leads me, Stand Up for Jesus, America the Beautiful, I will follow Him wherever He leads me, Pray for Peace, People All Over the World, O Little Town of Bethlehem, O Holy Night, and for the world.

History Behind the Hymn: “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

It is through moments of grief and loneliness that we come to a deep understanding of God, as expressed in the wonderful song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Originally from Dublin, Ireland, a man by the name of Joseph Scriven wrote the lyrics for the song (1820-1886). This is an important aspect of his story. As a recent graduate of Trinity College, he was looking forward to the day when he and his long-term partner would tie the knot together. She had been his childhood sweetheart, and he had made all of the necessary arrangements for their wedding.

  • She was thrown into the neighboring river when her horse was frightened by something while she was riding toward him to greet him.
  • In the aftermath of this devastating loss, Joseph was upset by the sight of his family’s house in Ireland, and he fled for Ontario, Canada, where he spent the remainder of his days in the town of Port Hope.
  • Finally, he began instructing the children of a local businessman and became smitten with his employer’s niece, Eliza, as a result of his tutoring work.
  • Once again, tragedy intervened in Joseph Scriven’s life when the long-awaited wedding day failed to materialize.
  • He first sent the words to his mother in a letter, with the intention that she would be the only one to read them.
  • His remarks serve as a reminder that, even though life is difficult and terrible at times, we have someone with us who is a dearer friend than any human could ever be, supporting us and sticking near to us through it all, no matter what.


What a buddy we have in Jesus, who is willing to suffer all of our sins and sorrows! I count it a great honor to bring everything before God in prayer! How much serenity we frequently sacrifice, and how much unnecessarily painful suffering we endure, just because we do not bring all to God in prayer!

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

The following two tabs alter the content of the section below. Aria is in charge of content at KidTunz and enjoys putting individuals in touch with resources that can help them achieve their objectives more quickly.

Aside from attending community events and writing about effective NGOs, her hobbies include painting birds, hip-hop dancing, and meeting new people over a cup of coffee.

The Story Behind “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

Pastor Brian’s Blog – Wednesday, June 3, 2020 The famous American preacher Dwight L. Moody used the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in his sermons, publications, and teachings, and it has become a standard in Christian music. Many people were led to assume that the song was an American hymn as a result of this. That is not the case. Originally from Ireland, it was composed by a transplanted Irishman living in Canada. Joseph Scriven grew up in a wealthy household with a good education and a loving family, and he led a nice life in his home Ireland.

  • After getting his bachelor’s degree from Trinity Institution in London, he went on to study at a military college to prepare for a military career in the United Kingdom.
  • When Joseph returned to his hometown, he rapidly established himself as a teacher, fell in love, and made plans to live there.
  • Scriven’s fiancée perished the night before the wedding, which was set for the following day.
  • Scriven left Ireland shortly after that and settled in Canada to start a new life.
  • A few weeks before her wedding to Joseph Scriven, she was taken ill by a mysterious illness.
  • Scriven, who had been broken, resorted to the only thing that had held him together throughout his life: his religion.
  • Scriven, who was twenty-five years old at the time, made a significant adjustment in his way of life.

He sold all of his worldly goods and made a promise to devote his life to those who were physically disabled and financially needy.

Scriven was dubbed “The Good Samaritan of Port Hope” because of his actions.

“Now there’s a man who’s content with his position in life,” one of the merchants observed.

“Perhaps I can persuade him to chop some wood for my winter supplies.” “I’m familiar with that individual,” the other merchant responded.

He solely chops wood for the financially impoverished and physically disabled who are unable to cut their own firewood,” says the author.

Because of his vow of poverty, Joseph did not have the financial means to return home to assist with her care.

When Joseph Scriven himself fell ill, a friend who came to see him happened to notice a duplicate of the lines scrawled on a scrap of paper beside his bed, and she immediately recognized them as belonging to him.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, who bears all of our sins and sorrows with us!

Because we do not bring everything to God in prayer, how much serenity we frequently sacrifice, how much unnecessary suffering we endure!

Is there any difficulty in any part of the world?

Is it possible to have a buddy who is so loyal that he will share all of our misfortunes with us?

Bring it to the Lord in prayer.

We must take it to the Lord in prayer, Precious Savior, who is still our refuge; Do thy friends disdain and leave thee?

There, you will find comfort.

In his short life, he could never have anticipated that his song would be performed in every country on the planet, or that we would be talking about him and those scrawled lyrics today.

In fact, Jesus is so in love with you that he demonstrated his feelings for you by dying for you. No one has shown greater love than he has shown his friends by laying down his life for them. 15:13 (John 15:13) May this song direct your attention to the most important buddy you’ve ever had.

What A Friend We Have in Jesus

JOSEPH SCRIEVEN WAS THE HYMN WRITER THE HISTORY OF THE HYMN: Joseph M. Scriven (1819-1896) was a 25-year-old Irish-born man who was in love and about to get married. Their fiance was tragically drowned in a drowning accident the day before his wedding. Heartbroken, Joseph embarked on a journey to Canada in order to begin a new life there. While working as a teacher in Canada, he rekindled his romance with Eliza Roche, a relative of one of his students, and the two were engaged shortly after. When Eliza fell ill and died before the wedding could take place, Joseph’s aspirations and goals were dashed once more, and he was devastated.

  1. Joseph joined the Plymouth Brethren shortly after Eliza’s death and began preaching for a Baptist church not long after.
  2. It was at the same time that Eliza passed away that Joseph received word from Ireland that his mother was sick.
  3. Many years later, Joseph was in a critical condition and a friend was sitting with him.
  4. This visit resulted in Joseph’s poetry being published in a collection called Hymns and Other Verses, which was released over 30 years after his letter of consolation to his mother was written.
  5. Converse (1834-1918) not long afterward.
  6. VERSE FROM THE BIBLE: In Philippians 4:6, Paul writes, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, bring your requests to God.” LYRICS TO THE HYMN: What a wonderful Friend we have in Jesus, despite all of our faults and sorrows!
  7. Because we do not bring everything to God in prayer, how much serenity we often sacrifice, how much unnecessary suffering we endure.
  8. Is there any difficulty in any part of the world?
  9. Is it possible to meet a friend who is as loyal as we are and who would share all of our misfortunes with us?
  10. Afraid that we are weak and burdened with a great load of responsibility?

Take it to the Lord in prayer, oh precious Savior, who is still our shelter. Do your buddies dislike you and abandon you? Pray about it and bring it to the Lord! He will take you into His arms and shelter you from harm; you will find comfort in His embrace.

What a friend we have in Jesus — Hymnology Archive

I. Original Manuscripts Joseph Scriven (1819–1886) is credited with writing this song of prayer. At least four manuscript copies of the hymn, according to legend, were dispersed among those in Scriven’s circle of influence at one time. These clues assist in determining the historical context of the hymn’s composition. According to biographer Foster M. Russell, Scriven obtained the inspiration for the song while on a journey to Damascus in 1846 and had sent a copy of it back to Dublin. Unfortunately, Russell did not present any evidence to support his claim, and he was mistaken regarding the invention of the music by Charles Converse, which he did not mention (more on this below).

  1. Despite the fact that Russell’s assertion is speculative, it cannot be disregarded outright.
  2. Caswell inCanadian Singers and Their Songs (1919 |
  3. 1), which is a collection of songs by Canadian singers.
  4. A.M.
  5. It is believed that the author gave this little paper-bound book, which contains 10 pages of poems written by his own hand, to Mrs.
  6. Scriven was then a resident of that city, where he ran a private school for children for a period of time, and Mrs.
  7. It should be noted that the hymn as reprinted here not only changes in some of the lines from the version now in use, but it also lacks eight lines from the later version as well.
See also:  What Zodiac Was Jesus

It is highly deserving of a spot in this collection because it is, without a doubt, the most widely-known work of Canadian literature.

1: A diagram of the human body.

Caswell, Canadian Singers and Their Songs) (Toronto: McCellandStewart, 1919).

The last quatrain has a few of noteworthy lines, including “Are we frigid and unbelieving?” and “Here the Lord is still our refuge,” among others.

Scriven began his teaching career in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, in the early 1850s, before relocating to Clinton, Ontario, the following year.

His father, John Scriven, had passed away on December 21, 1850, according to tradition.

While there, he met and proposed to Pengelly’s niece, Eliza Catherine Roach, who tragically died of an illness before the couple could be united in marriage.

During the later years of his life, Scriven resided at the house of James Sackville, which was located near Rice Lake and Port Hope, Ontario.

He mailed one copy to his own mother and sent another copy to my mother around the year 1855; and until very recently, even his closest friends were unaware that he was the creator of it.

One manuscript was remained in the ownership of the Sackville family as late as 1903, according to historical records.

Unknown is the exact whereabouts of the Sackville text at this time.

The very first printing The hymn was supposedly originally printed in Dublin, based on the copy Scriven provided to his mother, according to some accounts.

The hymn is frequently mistakenly attributed to J.B.

The hymn’s earliest documented published appearance was in H.L.

Hastings, 1865 |

2), where it was unattributed and presented in three stanzas of eight lines each, with no accompanying musical accompaniment.

(Boston: H.L.


In 1870, the hymn was originally published in Silver Wings (Boston: Oliver DitsonCo., 1870 |

3), which was composed by Charles Converse (1834–1918), who wrote the most well-known music for it.

In this publishing, the composer was identified as “Karl Reden,” a nickname Converse employed to refer to himself in German (the word “Reden” literally translates as “to talk”).

The Silver Wings (Figure 3) (Boston: Oliver DitsonCo., 1870).

Russell, believes Converse learnt about Scriven’s hymn while conversing with a salesperson who happened to be visiting the Burdette Organ Company in Erie, Pennsylvania, where Converse was employed.

Even if this fantastic story were true (and the sounds came out of the air, as though Beethoven were deaf, and Scriven’s words had touched him to the core of musicology), Converse’s tune would be compelling if it were true—except that Converse was living in New York in 1870 when his tune was first published, he credited his source for the text in that collection, and he did not move to Erie until 1875.

  1. The third and final stanza H.L.
  2. During the same year that Scriven passed away, he was also the first to publish a fourth stanza in Songs of Pilgrimage (Boston: H.L.
  3. Fig.
  4. Hastings attributed the hymn to “Joseph Scriven, circa 1855,” which would seem to indicate that the additional stanza was written as early as 1855 rather than being a newly composed piece.
  5. Unfortunately, due to the unavailability and/or loss of Scriven’s original manuscripts, it is not feasible to establish his authorship.
  6. Music for the Pilgrimage (Figure 4) (Boston: H.L.
  7. 4.


Bliss and published by BiglowMain in Chicago in 1875.

Following the publication of their songbook, Bonar claimed that he had not written the hymn, and his name was thus deleted from later versions.

5 by John Rutter (1887).

The hymn initially appeared in the Later Songs and Solos collection of this songbook series, which is published in the United Kingdom.

296–297, Sankey presented an unusual description of his encounter with the hymn: “It was a wonderful experience.” Prior to his death, it was not recognized that he possessed an exceptional poetic aptitude.

Scriven about it, he stated that he had penned it for his mother, in order to console her during a period of tremendous sadness, and that he had not intended for anybody else to see it.

Bliss shortly after returning from England in 1875, and we quickly became involved in the printing of what would eventually become known as Gospel Hymns No.

I happened to pick up a tiny paper-covered brochure of Sunday-school songs that had been published in Richmond, Virginia, just after we had delivered the full compilation to our publishers.

Taking into consideration that the music was composed by my buddy C.C.

As a result, the final hymn to be included in the collection became one of the first to gain popularity.

Horatius Bonar, despite the fact that he was not the author.


It was not until six or eight years after the hymn initially appeared in our collection that we were able to discover who the true author was.

Thompson Baird, 1872), which was co-edited by Converse (Karl Reden), and in which “What a friend we have in Jesus” appeared at no.


Thompson Baird, 1872), which was co-edited by Alternate Tune (Part III) Some hymnals, particularly in England and Ireland, make use of the tune MANOR HOUSE, which was produced by Frederick G.

6); the tune was made specifically for that compilation.


The hymn’s text is thought to be a reflection of some of Scriven’s life experiences, according to some scholars.

The terrible death of his fiancée, Eliza Catherine Roach, occurred while he was still living in Ireland.

Despite the fact that Scriven’s song does not directly mention any specific Scripture chapter, it contains numerous scriptural concepts.

1) is “Pray without ceasing,” which is a passage from 1 Thessalonians 5:17 in the Bible.

4) quotes this verse (KJV).

Watson cited Psalm 55:22, “Cast thy weight upon the Lord, and he will sustain thee: he will never permit the righteous to be disturbed,” and 1 Peter 3:12, “For the eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their petitions” (KJV).

it’s a piece that may be classified as doggerel.

Our objection is rendered insignificant by the enormous service that the hymn has provided.

The editors of the Companion to Church Hymnal(2000) identified the following advantages and disadvantages: In some quarters, the hymn has been criticized for being overly self-centered and for saying little about Jesus other than the fact that he is a faithful and sympathetic friend of mine.

One possible explanation is the emphasis placed on the need of prayer in times of affliction; the admonition “take it to the Lord in prayer” appears no fewer than four times.

Young stated the following about the tune CONVERSE: “Converse’s gem of simplicity is arranged for ease of remembering in bar-formaabaand is further reinforced by the quasi-antiphon ‘Take it to the Lord in prayer.'” by CHRIS FENNER for the Hymnology Archive, published on July 25, 2019 and revised on March 11, 2021


  1. “The authorship of a popular hymn,”The Pacific, San Francisco, CA (29 October 1903), p. 18
  2. Foster Meharry Russell, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,”What a Friend We Have in Jesus(Belleville, ON: Mika Publishing Company, 1981), pp. 37–38
  3. Edward S. Caswell, “Canadian Singers and Their Songs(1919), pp. 9–10
  4. Charles NutterWilbur Tillett, “

Related Resources:

“The authorship of a well-known song,” says the author. Pacific, San Francisco, California (29 October 1903), p. 18: Google Books My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns(1906), pp. 295–297:Archive.org. Ira Sankey, “What a friend we have in Jesus,” My Life and the Story of the Gospel Hymns(1906), pp. 295–297:Archive.org. Charles Nutter is a politician in the United Kingdom. What a friend we have in Jesus, Wilbur Tillett, The Hymns and Hymn Writers of the Church (New York: EatonMain, 1911), pp.

Caswell’s Canadian Singers and Their Songs (Toronto: McCellandStewart, 1919).

“What a friend we have in Jesus,” The 1940 Hymnal Companion, 3rd rev.

(New York: Church Hymnal Corp., 1962), p.

“What a friend we have in Jesus,” The 1940 Hymnal Companion, 3rd rev.

Foster What a Friend We Have in Jesus, says Meharry Russell (Belleville ON: Mika Publishing Company, 1981).

“What a friend we have in Jesus,” Companion to Hymns and Psalms (Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House, 1988), pp.

Kenneth Trickett, “What a friend we have in Jesus,” Companion to Hymns and Psalms (Peterborough: Methodist Publishing House, 1988), pp.

Scotty A friend in Jesus is what we have in Wayne Gray’s “What a friend we have in Jesus,” in Handbook to the Baptist Hymnal (Nashville: Convention Press, 1992), pages 269–270.


Young, “What a friend we have in Jesus,” Companion to the United Methodist Hymnal (Nashville: Abingdon, 1993), pp.

Edward Darling is a fictional character created by author Edward Darling.



Daw, Jr., “What a friend we have in Jesus,” Glorify God: A Companion (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2016), pp.

“What a wonderful companion we have in Jesus,” says the author.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.