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“What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

This is definitely one of my favorite boyhood memories. I remember standing in
Church at Boy’s Brigade Bible Studies, on Sunday afternoons, singing this old hymn and
thinking about the fact that Jesus really does care about boys like me – what greater
‘care’ could there be than to have The Son of God come to this earth and give His life
to save those like myself whose lives were bound for a lost eternity!
The man who wrote this hymn, Joseph Scriven, a young Northern Ireland man, lived in
Banbridge, a town in county Down, a county in which my family and I lived for some
years. He completed his college education in 1844 having spent some four years at
Trinity College in Dublin, Southern Ireland. He returned home to marry his sweetheart,
but upon his arrival home he was told that his fiancé had just died in a tragic accident.
Later on Scriven went to Canada and, while there, he fell in love again. But almost
unbelievably she too became dangerously ill and died just weeks before their marriage!
Stricken with grief, but standing firm in his faith in Jesus, Scriven wrote home to his mother
in Ireland describing this second tragedy. In that letter he wrote of how his deep faith
in Jesus had helped him get through the loss of his two loved ones.
One biographer wrote, ‘Instead of believing God was punishing him, Scriven
clung to God – his Solid Rock’. In that same letter to his mother Scriven included a
poem he had written. He titled it, ‘Pray Without Ceasing’. That poem was published
anonymously under that same title in a local newspaper in Northern Ireland. Some
years later, in 1868, an attorney named Charles Converse set the words of Scriven’s poem to
music, changing the title to ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’.
Joseph Medlicott Scriven, settled in Ontario, Canada in a town called Bewdley,
situated near to Rice Lake, where he preached and taught, writing also some 115
more hymns. Sadly, on August 10th, 1886, Scriven drowned while swimming in that
same Lake Rice he had swum in many times before. However, that hymn, along with
the memory of its writer, still lives on, being sung until this very day in churches all
across the world.