What A Friend We Have In Jesus
Joseph Scriven watched in shock as the body of his fiancee was pulled from the lake. Their wedding had been planned for the next day. Reeling from the tragedy, he made up his mind to immigrate to America. Packing up his belongings in Dublin, Ireland, he sailed for Canada, leaving his mother behind. He was about 25 years old.
Ten years later, in 1855, he received word that his mother was facing a crisis. Joseph wrote this poem and sent it to her. Mrs. Scriven evidently gave a copy to a friend who had it published anonymously and it quickly became a popular hymn, though no one knew who had written it.
Ira Sankey later wrote:
Until a short time before his death it was not known that he had a poetic gift. A neighbor, sitting up with him in his illness, happened upon a manuscript copy of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Reading it with great delight and questioning Mr. Scriven about it, he said he had composed it for his mother, to comfort her in a time of special sorrow, not intending that anyone else should see it. Some time later, when another Port Hope neighbor asked him if it was true he composed the hymn, his reply was, “The Lord and I did it between us.”