Posted by: rcottrill | September 10, 2010

Today in 1791 – James Edmeston Born

James Edmeston was an English architect and surveyor by profession. He also served as the church warden at St. Barnabas, Homerton, and he strongly supported the London Orphan Asylum, visiting it frequently. It is said he wrote 2,000 hymns, one each Sunday for many years. Few remain in use. But one that is found in many hymnals is the beautiful evening hymn, Saviour, Breathe and Evening Blessing, written when he was 19 years old. You can see allusions to both Ps. 91:5 and 139:12 in these lines. (For information on the writing of the tune, see the second item under Today in 1773.)

Saviour, breathe an evening blessing
Ere repose our spirits seal;
Sin and want we come confessing:
Thou canst save, and Thou canst heal.

Though destruction walk around us,
Though the arrow past us fly,
Angel guards from Thee surround us;
We are safe if Thou art nigh.

Though the night be dark and dreary,
Darkness cannot hide from Thee;
Thou art He who, never weary,
Watchest where Thy people be.

(2) Today in 1819 – Joseph Scriven Born
Joseph Medlicott Scriven was born in Ireland. He emigrated to Canada in 1846 after his fiancee was drowned the night before they were to be married. He settled in Port Hope, Ontario, and lived there for Graphic Joseph Scriventhe remainder of his life.

As a poem to comfort his mother who was sick back in Ireland, Scriven wrote What a Friend We Have in Jesus, in 1855. It was originally published anonymously, and Scriven did not receive credit for it for about 30 years. When asked if he wrote it, Mr. Scriven replied, “The Lord and I did it between us.”

Joseph Scriven belonged to the Plymouth Brethren, and was known in his community for his many deeds of charity. The single hymn for which he is now recognized has become one of the most popular in the English language, a great and continued blessing to tens of thousands.

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do thy friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee; thou wilt find a solace there.


  1. thanks for the comment on my blog! i didn’t even know that “how great Thou art” was written by a sweedish guy. i have a sweedish ancestory. 🙂 that’s cool.

    • Yes, it is a Swedish hymn. It’s surprising how many think it’s a fairly new English hymn, dating from the early part of the 20th century.

  2. […] more about Joseph Scriven here at my Dad’s blog, and many more hymnwriters as well.  My Dad’s book on Christmas carols, Discovering the […]

  3. Thanks for today’s mention of Joseph Scriven and for reminding me of pleasant memories associated with this hymn. He was born at Banbridge, Co. Down, very close to where I lived as a child in Northern Ireland – I’ve referred to him in “Singing on the Journey Home.” Last year while my husband and I were on the island of Crete, one Sunday morning we heard beautiful singing coming from a basement on the street where we were walking. We discovered that it was the congregation of the International Church of Chania – singing “What a Friend we Have in Jesus” – in English. It really warmed my heart to hear them – and naturally we joined with them in worship that Sunday morning.

    • What a lovely story. And thanks for the Ireland connection of Mr. Scriven. My wife and I have stood before the memorial in Port Hope, and thought about this humble man who has made such an impact all over the world, by God’s grace. Speaking of which, have you ever clicked on the little “Visitor information” map on my blog. (From there you can also click on continent by continent maps.) I’m utterly amazed at how folks all over the world come to call, sometimes from remote towns, or tiny islands in the midst of the sea. There are hymn lovers everywhere, as your story illustrates. 🙂

  4. […] Wordwise Hymns The Cyber […]

  5. […] Wordwise Hymns (James Edmeston and George Stebbins) The Cyber […]


%d bloggers like this: