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The Story Behind What a Friend We Have in Jesus

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Joseph Scriven was born in Ireland in 1820. He was educated at Trinity College in Dublin and was engage to be married. The evening before their wedding, Scriven’s fiance drowned. This tragedy coupled with difficult family relationships, caused Joseph to begin following the practices and teaches of the Plymouth Brethren. Shortly after moving to Canada to become a teacher, Scriven became engaged to Eliza Roche. Tragedy struck again and Eliza passed away from illness shortly before marriage.

Joseph Scriven
Joseph Scriven
(10 Sept. 1819 – 10 Aug. 1886)

Joseph used the tragedies and hardships in life to empahtize with the elderly and poor. Scriven used his time to saw wood for the stoves of those who were handicapped or elderly.

Joseph wrote his famous hymn in 1855 to comfort his mother who still lived in Ireland. He did not seek to be noticed for it, and his authorship was only discovered by accident shortly before his death.

Scriven himself began to experience poor health, financial struggles and depression his last years of life. To this day, no one knows for sure if Joseph Scriven’s death was accident or suicide. He was in serious depression at the time. A friend reported, “We left him about midnight. I withdrew to an adjoining room, not to sleep, but to watch and wait. You may imagine my surprise and dismay when on visiting the room I found it empty. All search failed to find a trace of the missing man, until a little after noon the body was discovered in the water nearby, lifeless and cold in death.”

Adapted from: How Did Joseph M. Scriven Come to Drown?, Christianity.com

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