“I’ve Found a Friend” was written by James G. Small, a minister in the Scottish Free Church who was well-known for his gentle character, which is evident in this hymn. Its original title was “Jesus the Friend.” It was first published in 1863 in the second series of the “Revival Hymn Book” and three years later in Small’s own “Psalms and Sacred Songs.” Small compiled two books of sacred song as well as two volumes of verse.
The best-known tune in America for this song was composed by George C. Stebbins. He was a gospel song composer and was involved in evangelistic work with D. L Moody, Ira Sankey, “Major” Whittle and others. He composed music for “I’ve Found a Friend” in 1878, and his version was published later that year in “Gospel Hymns No. 3.” During his career, which continued until he was almost one hundred, Stebbins composed music for hundreds of songs and edited several collections of hymns.
Friendship is one of the most valued of human relationships, but sometimes the closest friend can bring disappointment. In the first stanza the hymn shares how Christ knows and loves a person even before that person knows and loves Him. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). The second stanza tells that Jesus willingly bled and died so sinners could be saved from eternal damnation. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13). The final stanza emphasizes that this friendship will last throughout eternity. What better friend can there be?
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
The comforting nature of the words perfectly matched Stebbins’s gentle tune, making this a favorite hymn of many. A thoughtful reading or singing through it should produce thanksgiving in the heart of the believer, rejoicing that God has provided such a Friend.
...there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
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