JESUS, WHAT A FRIEND FOR SINNERS                                  written in 1910

The Story

J. Wilbur Chapman (1859-1918) knew something about what he wrote when he wrote this hymn.

By the time the 51-year old Wilbur was writing this hymn, he had experienced his share of heartache, but had also felt happiness and satisfaction many times over. His first 2 wives and an infant son died in the space of 21 years, leaving this widower with 4 children in 1907. Yet, his evangelism focus and partnership with others in the early 20th century throughout North America and Asia converted thousands to Christianity. His collaboration and leadership with dozens of evangelism teams in Philadelphia reportedly brought some 8,000 people to God. What a contrast in experience for him – deaths so close to his heart, but also the exhilaration of seeing thousands reborn!

It was in this period following the death of his second wife in 1907, as Wilbur prepared to marry for a third time, he wrote this hymn about his friend Jesus. What must it have been like, to look back over 51 years, and see valleys and mountaintops, to reflect upon travels from one end of the globe to the other?

The Song

            Read this hymn, and – today – enjoy the friendship of Jesus.

Jesus! What a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul;
friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole.


Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.

Jesus! What a Strength in weakness! Let me hide myself in Him.
tempted, tried, and sometimes failing, He, my Strength, my victory wins. (Refrain)

Jesus! What a Help in sorrow! While the billows over me roll,
even when my heart is breaking, He, my Comfort, helps my soul. (Refrain)

Jesus! What a Guide and Keeper! While the tempest still is high,
storms about me, night overtakes me, He, my Pilot, hears my cry. (Refrain)

Jesus! I do now receive Him, more than all in Him I find.
He hath granted me forgiveness, I am His, and He is mine. (Refrain)

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