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Joseph Scriven

image of Joseph Scriven

Teacher, scholar, lay preacher, Joseph Medlicott Scriven came to Canada from Dublin, Ireland in 1845. He lived in Western Ontario before moving to Rice Lake as a tutor, residing later in Port Hope, Ontario. Scriven died in 1886, leaving behind the record of a humanitarian who was looked upon as a saint, beautified by his own performance.

But Scriven's legacy was a hymn, which found favour 100 years ago and remains a favorite throughout the world - "What a Friend We Have in Jesus". While the hymn was universally known, there was sparse knowledge about the author. Joseph Scriven died in obscurity.

The hymn was first written as a poem and published in the Port Hope Guide in 1870. Someone in New York City received a package wrapped in that edition of the paper. They found the poem so moving they took it to a New York newspaper and had it published. Music was added to the words in another interesting turn of events. A traveling music salesman kept a copy of the poem with him because the words had touched him deeply. He lost his copy of the poem while he was visiting the Converse organ factory in Pennsylvania. Owner Charles Converse was also taken with the poem. He composed the music for it on the spot. The hymn continues to comfort all who hear it.

A monument inscribed with the words of the hymn is in the northeast corner of Memorial park. Scriven is buried on the north shore of Rice Lake. To visit his burial place, follow County Road 28 north of Port Hope, past the Village of Bewdley until you come to come to Hannah Road, before the Village of Balieboro. Turn right on Hannah Road and follow down to Scriven Road. Turn left on Scriven Road and follow to the blue historic plaque in front of the graveyard. josephscriven.org


What A Friend We Have In Jesus
What a friend we have in Jesus, 
All our sins and griefs to bear! 
What a privilege to carry 
Everything to God in prayer! 
Oh, what peace we often forfeit, 
Oh, 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 very 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. 

At Right: Monument in Banbridge Northern Ireland  ©Sammy Tippit Ministries

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