Crestwood Baptist Church


Music Ministry News

Comfort - What A Friend We Have In Jesus

Posted by Andy Harrison on

“What A Friend We Have In Jesus”, was written by Joseph Scriven (b.1819 – d. 1886) in 1855 in Canada. Joseph was wealthy, educated, had a devoted family and a good life in Ireland. His fiancé drowned the night before they were to be married. Joseph found his only comfort in his dearest friend, Jesus. After this tragic event, he made a dramatic change in his life. He immigrated to Port Hope, Canada in 1844 and dedicated his free time being a friend to others in need. He gave away his clothes and possessions to anyone who needed them and would work for anyone who needed his help without pay. As a result of his kindness he became known as, “the Good Samaritan of Port Hope.”

His mother became ill back in Ireland, so Joseph wrote her a letter of comfort with a poem that would remind her of a heavenly Friend. Later, Joseph became ill, and when a friend came by to check on him, he saw the words to the poem on scratch paper in his room. The friend asked, ‘who wrote those beautiful words?” He replied, “The Lord and I did it between us.”

The hymn first appeared in the hymnal, Spiritual Minstrel: A Collection of Hymns and Music (Boston 1865). It was also included in Horace Hasting’s, Social Hymns, Original and Selected (Boston 1865). These versions were published with a different tune than the one we know today. The tune we know today, CONVERSE, was composed in 1868 by Charles C. Converse, and was first published in, Silver Wings (Boston, 1970, No. 98).In his autobiography, Ira D. Sankey documents how the hymn came to his attention:

“Returning from England in 1875, I soon became associated with P.P. Bliss in the publication of what later became known as Gospel Hymns (No. 1). After we had given the completed compilation to our publishers I chanced to pick up a small paper-covered pamphlet of Sunday-School hymns, published at Richmond, Virginia. I discovered this and sang it through, and determined to have it appear in Gospel Hymns . As the composer of the music was my friend C.C. Converse, I withdrew from the collection one of his compositions and  substituted for it, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’  Thus the last hymn that went into the book became one of the first in favor” (334-335). 

The hymn first appeared in a Southern Baptist Hymnal in the Baptist Hymnal and Praise Book (Nashville, 1904, No. 355). “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”, echoes the truths and promises in scripture. “A man that hath friends must show himself friendly: And there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.”  (Proverbs 18:24) KJV

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?  We should never be discouraged – Take it to the Lord in prayer.  Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?Jesus knows our every weakness – Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care? Precious Savior, still our refuge – Take it to the Lord in prayer.Do thy friends despise, forsake thee? Take it to the Lord in prayer;in His arms He’ll take and shield thee – Thou wilt find a solace there.

As you pray and meditate on God’s Word read these scripture passages:  Psalm 6:9; Mark 11:24; John 15:13-16; 1 John 5:14 & 15; Luke 7