Our Great Saviour -J. Wilbur Chapman


Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

This hymn that praises Christ for all that He means to the believer was written by Pastor and Evangelist J. Wilbur Chapman. It was published in 1910 and is titled “Jesus, What a Friend for Sinners” in some hymnals. No one before that time had preached in as many countries as Chapman, nor had anyone experienced such a successful ministry as both pastor and evangelist for 20 years. It was estimated that he preached 50,000 sermons to 60 million people.    D. L. Moody called him the "greatest evangelist in the country” and chose him to be vice-president of the Chicago Bible Institute, whose name was later changed to Moody Bible Institute.

When he was only nineteen years old, Chapman wrote words for the tune “Hyfrydol,” which had been composed by Rowland H. Prichard in 1830. One of the best-loved Welsh tunes, “Hyfrydol’ means “tuneful or pleasant.” This meaning is certainly descriptive of the tune as the range of the entire melody lies within the first five notes of the scale, with the exception of one note in the climactic last measure. It’s easy to sing because of the narrow range and the gentle contour of the melody. It’s a very popular hymn tune and is used for as many as six different hymns in some hymnals.

The tune was harmonized by Robert Harkness, one of the finest gospel pianists of his day. Harkness was discovered when the Torrey-Alexander evangelistic team visited Australia in 1902. He toured with them for six years and later took part in Chapman’s evangelistic and Bible conference ministries. He also composed more than 2,000 gospel songs.

The words for “Our Great Saviour” came from Chapman’s own personal walk with the Lord. Before he wrote this hymn he had personally experienced many valleys as well as mountain tops. His first two wives and an infant son had died, and he’d experienced many health issues. Yet the Lord used him mightily to bring many to Christ.

The first four stanzas of “Our Great Saviour” describe what Jesus is to the believer: friend, lover of my soul, Saviour, strength, help, comfort, guide, keeper, and pilot. The last stanza is a testimony of what Jesus meant to Chapman. The refrain responds to each stanza with a triumphant “Hallelujah! What a Saviour!” and ends with the confidence that those who trust Him will be kept for all time. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen (Jude 1:24-25).

Jesus! what a friend for sinners!
Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me,
He, my Saviour, makes me whole.

Hallelujah! what a Saviour!
Hallelujah! what a friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving,
He’ll be 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 vict’ry wins.

Jesus! what a help in sorrow!
While the billows o’er me roll,
Even when my heart is breaking,
He, my comfort, helps my soul.

Jesus! what a guide and keeper!
While the tempest still is high,
Storms about me, night o’ertakes me,
He, my pilot, hears my cry.

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.


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