My choice of the hymn of the week was inspired by the Gospel for the 6th Sunday of Easter, Year B:
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. (John 15:13-15)
First published in Olney Hymns, in later editions this hymn was entitled ‘Jesus the friend’ with the text ‘A friend that sticketh closer than a brother: Proverbs 18:24’. Originally there were six verses; the selection of verses varies from hymnal to hymnal.
John Newton’s hymn is the basis for another hymn which appears both with the same first line and as ‘One is kind above all others’. This was written by Marianne Nunn (1778-1847) to be sung to the Welsh tune AR HYD Y NOS. Although it has been described as an ‘adaptation’ or ‘version’ as far as I can see very little of Newton remains. Personally I much prefer the original.
One there is above all others
Well deserves the name of friend;
His is love beyond a brother’s,
Costly, free, and knows no end:
They who once his kindness prove,
Find it everlasting love!
Which of all our friends, to save us,
Could or would have shed their blood?
But our Jesus died to have us
Reconciled in him to God.
This was boundless love indeed.
Jesus is a friend in need.
When He lived on earth abased,
Friend of sinners was his name;
Now, above all glory raised,
He rejoices in the same:
Still he calls them brethren, friends,
And to all their wants attends.
O for grace our hearts to soften!
Teach us, Lord, at length to love;
We, alas, forget too often,
What a friend we have above:
When to heav’n our souls are brought,
We will love thee as we ought.
John Newton (1725-1807)