Joseph M. Scriven


Artist Birtday : 10/09/1819 (Age 66)
Born In : Banbridge, County Down, Ireland
Genres : Gospel

Joseph Medlicott Scriven, (1819 – 1886) was an Irish poet, best known as the writer of the poem which became the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”.

Joseph Scriven was born in 1819 of prosperous parents in Banbridge, County Down, Ireland. He graduated with a degree from Trinity College, Dublin in 1842. His fiancée accidentally drowned in 1843, the night before they were to be married. In 1845, at the age of 25, left his native country and migrated to Canada, settling in Woodstock, Ontario. His reasons for leaving his country seem to be two-fold: the religious influence of the Plymouth Brethren upon his life estranging him from his family. He only remained in Canada briefly after becoming ill, but returned in 1847.

In 1855, while staying with James Sackville in Bewdley, Ontario, north of Port Hope, he received news from Ireland of his mother being terribly ill. He wrote a poem to comfort his mother called “Pray Without Ceasing”. It was later set to music and renamed by Charles Crozat Converse, becoming the hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. Scriven did not have any intentions nor dream that his poem would be for publication in the newspaper and later becoming a favorite hymn among the millions of Christians around the world.

About 1857 he moved near to Port Hope, Ontario where he again fell in love and was due to be married, but in August 1860 his fiancée suddenly fell ill of pneumonia and died.

He then devoted the rest of his life to tutoring, preaching and helping others.

In 1869 Scriven published a collection of 115 Hymns and other verses which did not include “What a friend”.

Scriven drowned in 1886 at age 66. It isn’t known if his death was an accident or a suicide, as he was in a serious depression at the time. He was buried next to his second fiancée in Bewdley.