579. What a Friend We Have in Jesus
Tune Information |
||A. Royce Eckhardt (1972)|
||87 87 D|
||Harmonization © 1972, Covenant Press|Text Information:
st. 1 = John 15:15, Eph.6:18, 1 Thess. 5: 17
st. 3 = Matt. 11:28-30
Joseph M. Scriven (b. Seapatrick, County Down, Ireland, 1819; d. Bewdley, Rice Lake, ON, Canada, 1886), an Irish immigrant to Canada, wrote this text near Port Hope, Ontario, in 1855. Because his life was filled with grief and trials, Scriven often needed the solace of the Lord as described in his famous hymn.
Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland, he enrolled in a military college to prepare for an army career. However, poor health forced him to give up that ambition. Soon after came a second blow–his fiancee died in a drowning accident on the eve of their wedding in 1844. Later that year he moved to Ontario, where he taught school in Woodstock and Brantford. His plans for marriage were dashed again when his new bride-to-be died after a short illness in 1855. Following this calamity Scriven seldom had a regular income, and he was forced to live in the homes of others. He also experienced mistrust from neighbors who did not appreciate his eccentricities or his work with the underprivileged. A member of the Plymouth Brethren, he tried to live according to the Sermon on the Mount as literally as possible, giving and sharing all he had and often doing menial tasks for the poor and physically disabled. Because Scriven suffered from depression, no one knew if his death by drowning in Rice Lake was suicide or an accident.
Scriven wrote "What a Friend" to comfort his sick mother in Dublin, possibly right after the death of his second fiancee. When asked by a neighbor about his writing of the text, Scriven modestly commented, “The Lord and I did it between us.” The text was published anonymously in Horace Hastings's Social Hymns, Original and Selected (1865), but Scriven was given proper credit in Hastings's Songs of Pilgrimage (1886). Ira D. Sankey (PHH 73) included the text, set to the familiar tune by Charles C. Converse, in his various hymnals (from 1875 on).
Scriven's text clearly arises from his own experiences in life. Although not great poetry, the text has spiritual appeal and an effective repeated phrase, "take it to the Lord in prayer." Because of its simple encouragement to "pray without ceasing," the text is much loved in many circles of Christendom. A collection of his poetry was published in Hymns and Other Verses (1869).
As a hymn of encouragement to pray amid the "sins and griefs" we encounter on our journey of life.
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook
British hymnals have set Scriven's text to various tunes, including BLAENWERN (416), a fine alternate choice. The choice of BEACH SPRING represents a change from the text's traditional association in North America with CONVERSE, a tune written in 1868 for "What a Friend" by Charles C. Converse. Although that combination is also found in previous editions of the Psalter Hymnal, the revision committee decided to use BEACH SPRING for this text.
BEACH SPRING was first published in The Sacred Harp (1844) as a setting for Joseph Hart's "Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched" (534). The tune appears in The Sacred Harp (1844) with note values almost identical to those in the Psalter Hymnal but barred in duple rather than triple meter.
Benjamin F. White (b. Spartanburg, SC, 1800; d. Atlanta, GA, 1879), coeditor of The Sacred Harp (1844), was listed as the composer. The tune is named after the Beach Spring Baptist Church in Harris County, Georgia, where White lived. He came from a family of fourteen children and was largely self-taught. Eventually White became a popular singing-school teacher and editor of the weekly Harris County newspaper.
BEACH SPRING is a strong, pentatonic tune cast into a rounded bar form (AABA). A. Royce Eckhardt (b. Scottsbluff, Nebraska, 1937) wrote the harmonization, which was first published in The Covenant Hymnal. A graduate of North Park College, Chicago, Illinois, and the University of Hartford in Connecticut, Eckhardt has served as minister of music in Covenant Church congregations in Washington, Connecticut, and Illinois. He has also taught at North Park Theological Seminary in Chicago and was music editor of the Covenant Hymnal (1973) .
--Psalter Hymnal Handbook