This song has at least two familiar titles—“No, Not One” and “There’s Not A Friend”. The words were by Johnson Oatman, Jr. and the tune was made by George C. Hugg. It has been an easy song to learn and sing for several years. I can recall singing it from the days of my childhood to the point that I could probably lead it without the hymnbook if I had too.
Johnson Oatman, Jr. (1856-1922), Lyricist
Johnson Oatman, Jr. was born April 21, 1856 near Medford, NJ. His father was a talented singer and a significant influence on his son. He received his education from Herbert’s Academy in Princetown, NJ and the New Jersey Collegiate Institute in Bordertown, NJ. He and his father operated the Johnson Oatman & Son mercantile business, but after his father’s death, Oatman worked in the insurance industry.
He was an ordained minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Some sources suggest he wrote some 3,000 hymns, other sources suggest as many as 5,000. All are agreed that a hymnbook would be incomplete without some of his songs. Some songs he wrote which are familiar to us include “Count Your Blessings”, “Sweeter Than All”, “The Last Mile of the Way”, “I’ll Be A Friend to Jesus” and others. He is credited with writing “No, Not One” in 1895.
He married Wilhelmina Reid, and they had three children: Rachel, Miriam and Charles (or Percy, his middle name). He died September 25, 1922 in Norman, OK and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Lumberton, NJ. On his tombstone are three titles of his well-loved hymns: “No, Not One”, “Count Your Blessings” and “Higher Ground”.
George Crawford Hugg (1848-1907), Composer
George Crawford Hugg was born near Haddonfield, NJ on May 23, 1848. His talent in music was apparent in that, at age 12, he was appointed choirmaster in the Presbyterian Church of Berlin, NJ. He was very prolific with some 2,000 pieces of music to his credit, plus he has published several songbooks and special books of music as well. He also served as choir director at Tabernacle Presbyterian Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia. Much of Hugg’s personal life has not been well documented. Census Records are reported to show that he was married, but not further information is available about his family. Hugg died October 13, 1907 in Philadelphia, PA and was buried in Fernwood Cemetery, Lansdowne, PA.
No, Not One
Thomas Aquinas once stated, “There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.” One of the greatest examples in the Bible of friendship between two people is David and Jonathan. Friends can make us feel better; e.g., Jonathan to David. Friends can sometimes make us feel worse; e.g., friends of Job. True is the proverb, “The righteous should choose his friends carefully, for the way of the wicked leads them astray” (Proverbs 12:26, NKJV.)
Sometimes we tend to express degrees of friendship: “my friend”, “my good friend”, or “my best friend”. There is no friend to you like Jesus. Our friends may be separated from us for a variety of reasons or causes; however, Jesus never leaves us.
One of the maxims of friendship: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24, NKJV.) We may talk about how much we do for our friends, but we should periodically assess ourselves and our friendships. We should ask ourselves “Am I in the friendships for our friend’s benefit or solely for my own?” Another self-assessment question we may ask ourselves to avoid taking a friendship for granted: “What do I bring to the friendship?” It is a valid question to reflect on to avoid our taking friends for granted and even losing the friendship. Interesting fact about friendship with Jesus, He does not need anything from us, but He still wants to be our friend. We might say “Well, that is the way friendship is supposed to be! It should not be about what our friend can get from us!” Question—how are you treating Jesus as your friend? Do you even think about Jesus as your friend?
Read some advice about not keeping certain friends unless they can help you succeed. If they are of benefit to you, then get rid of them is what some say. Imagine if Jesus had such a selfish self-centered attitude toward us? The song points out that there “No friend like Him is so high and holy.” Thankfully, Jesus views friendship with us of extreme value, but what is our attitude toward Him and friendship with Jesus?
There are those who think that Jesus makes no demands on them, that they have complete moral autonomy to do whatever they desire. They do not like restraints and rebel against authority. They may claim a friendship with Jesus but reject the notion that Jesus has commands for them; however, Jesus said “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14, NKJV.) Jesus laid His life down for His friends (John 15:3). How can one be so indifferent toward the friendship of Jesus when He has reached out His hands in love and friendship? If we are so indifferent toward Jesus today, then how will Jesus be toward us when are todays are over?
John P. Wiegand, Editor, Praise for the Lord, Nashville, TN: Praise Press, 1997.
V. E. Howard, Editor, and Broadus E. Smith, Associate Editor, Church Gospel Songs & Hymns, Texarkana, TX: Central Printers & Publishers, 1983.