THE BEST FRIEND
By Newman Hall.
Some brothers are not friends. But the
brotherhood of Jesus is one that possesses all the qualities of truest
Friendship. The man Christ Jesus, the Elder Brother, illustrates the
word—"There is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother."
Of all the gifts of God, next to Himself, there is not one
so precious as a true friend. This is a treasure which no gold can buy, no
genius invent, no power produce. The wealthiest are poor without it, and an
empire's crown would be a worthless bauble, if, amid the crowd of courtiers
who do it homage, there are none who, for his own sake, love the wearer of it.
Friendship implies reciprocity, mutual sympathy,
respect, affection, service. It is much more than kindness shown by one
and received by another; much more than beneficence on the one hand and
gratitude on the other. There are conventional uses of the word which give a
very inadequate idea of its true meaning. A mere acquaintance, known
enough to be recognized in the street, is sometimes so designated. With more
reason we might thus speak of one who has done us some valuable service. Those
also for whom we feel compassion and sympathy, or to whom we have ourselves
shown kindness, we may regard as friends, because we have "befriended" them.
But "friendship" implies much more; there must be
corresponding communion. It is not enough that one should render and
another receive affection and service—each must love and serve the other;
kindred sympathies stretching their tendrils to intertwine each with each.
Beneficence however generous in the one, and gratitude however sincere in the
other, are not enough to secure the special charm of friendship, when the
interests, honor and happiness of both are shared.
Such true friendship gilds all pleasures, soothes all
sorrows, decorates with flowers the roughest path, and cheers with songs the
darkest night. A true friend, strong to help, wise to counsel, tender to
sympathize, unselfish, unchanging—is a priceless gift from God. Oh, then, what
must be the blessedness of those to whom Jesus, the model Friend, the
infinitely mighty, wise, tender, and faithful One, says—"YOU ARE MY FRIENDS."
These words are part of the valedictory discourse which our
Lord addressed to His disciples, when grieving because of His expected
departure. "Let not your hearts be troubled," is the tender refrain pervading
every portion of it. "Have confidence in God—in Me. My Father's house has many
mansions. If it were not so—if your hopes were vain, I would have told you. I
go to prepare a place for you, and will come again and take you to dwell with
Me always. Through Me, as the Way, you have come to the Father, and in Me you
know Him. He is what you know Me to be. He that has seen Me has seen the
Father. He loves you as I love you, and whatever you ask in My name will be
given, if for your good. Though no longer seen, I shall ever work and pray for
you. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter, to be with
you at all times. If you really love Me, obey and please Me; and My Father
will love you, and we will dwell in your hearts, and fill you with a peace
which passes understanding. All that the world could give is not equal to this
peace. I will nourish you as the trunk of the tree sustains the branches. As
branches in the vine, by faith and obedience abide in Me. I want you to be
full of joy. Therefore love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has
no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. YOU ARE MY
FRIENDS, if you do whatever I command you."
To all members of the Divine Brotherhood these words are
full of Comfort and Counsel. They speak both of Privilege and Duty. Jesus
loves us first. He is "The Sinner's Friend." He wins our hearts by unselfish
kindness, and kindles within us the fire of reciprocated affection. By the
power of His Spirit we are born again, and become His friends. Then, by the
love He shows us, and by the kindred love He produces within us, He prompts us
to loving service, which is the best evidence of true friendship and
As all true friendship is reciprocal, the statement,
"You are my friends," implies that the speaker is a friend to those whom He
thus addresses. Jesus showed that He was more than Teacher, more than Lord.
When told that His mother and brethren were waiting to speak with Him, looking
round on His disciples, He said, "Behold My mother and My brethren—for whoever
does the will of My Father who is in heaven, the same is My mother and sister
and brother." In the prayer following the discourse in which He addressed His
disciples as friends, He said, "Neither do I pray for these alone, but for all
who shall believe in Me through their word." We therefore may with them hear
our Lord addressing ourselves as Friends.
WHAT KIND OF A FRIEND IS JESUS?
We see God "in the face of Jesus Christ"; that is, in His
words and actions. There are good people we would not select as friends. They
may be devout, upright, learned, wise, but yet destitute of qualities required
for intimate friendship. They may lack sympathy and tenderness; not be
considerate in regard to the circumstances and infirmities of others; or be
too much absorbed in their own pursuits. They may be emotionally cold, and in
their manner act as an iceberg. Or, if fervent in affection, they may be so
irritable as to render us uneasy lest inadvertently we may give them offence.
Or they may be exacting, and the very ardor of their love become a yoke of
bondage. Or they may be suspicious and jealous, complaining, without cause, of
diminished affection, and rendering impossible that "perfect love" which
"casts out fear."
There are others whose expression of face and tone of voice
are attractive; in whom there is such a combination of goodness, nobility and
gentleness, that their friendship is an inestimable privilege. What
qualifications for friendship did Christ's human life reveal?
His friendship was UNSELFISHNESS. Much that often passes
for friendship is only self-seeking. Invitations are sent to those from whom
similar favors are expected, and when circumstances arise to prevent such
return, the name is dropped from the list of future guests. Praise is uttered
for the echo. Business friendships are based on the expectation of trading in
return. "The rich have many friends." Selfishness hides behind the mask of
benevolence, and policy wears the cloak of affection. Such "friendship is
counterfeit," and the failure of substantial return proves such.
It was evident to His disciples that Jesus never sought
worldly advantages. With eloquence and ability to work miracles, He might,
if merely man, easily have won the favor of the great. Why select as special
friends the poor fishermen of Galilee? By His purity of life and denunciation
of all wrongdoing, He roused the enmity of those whom He might easily have
conciliated. On the ladder of His first adherents He might have climbed into
courts and palaces, and then thrown the ladder away. But he identified Himself
with the poor; was willing to be taunted as "the Friend of publicans and
sinners," and sought nothing from His followers but their love. He was
thoughtful of them when indifferent to His own comfort and safety. This was
illustrated when, advancing to meet the armed band, He asked whose name was in
their warrant? And when they replied that it was Jesus of Nazareth, He took
them at their own word, surrendered Himself, and demanded that those not
included in the summons should not be molested. "If, therefore, you seek Me,
let these go their way."
But the greatest proof was giving His life for them.
"Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his
friends. You are My friends." They could not understand the full import of
these words; but every action proved how He sought not theirs but them.
To us, no less, He is a unselfish Friend. We had
nothing to attract His regard but poverty and woe. "The good Shepherd gives
His life for the sheep." All the tribute He demands as the "firstborn of many
brethren" is our trustful obedience, which means our own salvation.
His friendship was TENDER. Generosity may be rough;
unselfishness cold; courage harsh. But when we see a brave soldier, a grave
philosopher, a renowned monarch, caressing an infant or weeping with a
mourner, the tenderness is more impressive because of the strength. The
heroism of Hector in the battle lends additional charm to the tenderness that
fondles the child.
At the word of Jesus diseases fled, the storm was hushed,
the dead arose, devils were cast out. How fearlessly He denounced the vices of
the great; and with what impartiality He laid bare the faults and hypocrisies
of those who thronged around Him, and whose anger He roused by His unflinching
fidelity! But with this preeminent strength, what preeminent
tenderness—pausing in His teaching to encourage timid women, and to fold
in His arms their little children—delaying His journey to heal the broken
heart of the widow, when He raised the young man from the dead "and delivered
him to his mother"—leading the blind man by the hand through the town to
restore his sight—not merely cleansing the leper, but gladdening the loathsome
sufferer from whom all shrank, by stretching out His hand and touching
How thoughtful for the multitude who had come from
far to listen to His teaching; unlike many who, absorbed in their theme,
sometimes forget the young and the weak and the weary; and while exerting His
power as Creator, illustrating His tenderness as a man and a friend!
Bartimaeus could never have forced his way through the marching crowd, and his
cry would have been vain, had not the Son of David stopped and commanded him
to be brought to Him.
Jesus did not, in His own approaching sufferings, forget
the grief of His friends. With what varied arguments and consolations He
strove to allay their trouble of heart! On His way to crucifixion, He said to
the lamenting women, "Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves." When enduring
the intense physical agony of the cross, and when darkness was allowed to
brood over His spirit; when offering up the Great Sacrifice for the sins of
the world—He was not so absorbed as to be unmindful of the weeping woman
beneath His cross.
Not only did He feel for the sorrowful, but He felt
with them. This is true sympathy. Those tears at the grave of Lazarus
were not shed because the friend He loved was dead. He had purposed to awake
him out of sleep. But when He saw the friends and the sisters weeping, He wept
too. And looking all down the ages and seeing the multitudes who would weep
beside opened graves, in tender sympathy with all His friends in all time,
Nor was this tenderness confined to the period of His
humiliation. When He arose triumphant over the grave, His very first word was
to a weeping friend, whose tears affected the risen Christ—"Woman, why are you
weeping?" He called her by the old familiar name—"Mary!" And on the same
evening of the Resurrection day, with the laurels of the conqueror's crown
fresh on His brow and all heaven jubilant, He had leisure of heart to comfort
His friends. He joined two of them as they walked to Emmaus. Familiar with
sorrow's features and tone, He kindly inquired, "What are you so sad about?"
And then, with painstaking tenderness, He corrected their misapprehensions,
calmed their fears and gladdened their hearts.
We know but a very small part of what our Lord did and said
to His friends. But if in the brief record we possess there are so many
illustrations of His tenderness, how many more must there have been which are
unrecorded! Those disciples must have felt that He who, as a Friend,
claimed their friendship, was, above all others, tender as well as strong.
He is still as tender and sympathizing to His friends. The
heart that has never been lacerated by grief, cannot understand the bitterness
of our tears. He who has never known the fierceness of the conflict is not the
best suited to encourage us when fainting on the battlefield. But "the Man of
Sorrows" retains amid the glory of heaven the memory of human woes. He has
Himself felt weariness and loneliness, hunger and thirst, pain and depression.
He knows how strong are human instincts, how violent the assaults of the
devil, how terrible the struggles of the soul resolved to press on through
foes to God. He is "touched with the feeling of our infirmities, in all points
tempted like as we are." Having suffered as we suffer, He is able to support
the tempted, and not only helps us, but feels for us and with us.
But He is Faithful in His tenderness; not so blinded
by affection as not to see or censure our faults. He often rebuked the
disciples He so tenderly loved. And He loves us too well to let us go more and
more astray without warning. To affectionate commendation He adds,
"Nevertheless, I have something against you."
APPRECIATION OF TRIFLES is an important element in
friendship. Some people are more impressed by the occasional favor of a
stranger than the uniform kindness of a friend. They appreciate great services
on critical occasions, but pass by the multitude of minor actions which
chiefly illustrate friendship and make up the substance of life. Alas, how
much love seems wasted! What a scene of happiness would many a home now
overshadowed with discontent present if little services were
appreciated. The daisy offered by tiny fingers to father when he comes
home from work; oh, that he would smile, and kiss the dimpling cheek that has
been all day desiring only this reward! The tidy hearth, the clean apron, the
carefully prepared if frugal supper for the eagerly expected husband; oh, that
he would only notice her thoughtfulness of him in absence, and the tender
welcome by her—his affection to whom would turn the poor cottage to a palace!
The expression of true friendship does not need sudden
perils, unexpected reverses, extraordinary calamities. The ordinary routine of
uneventful daily life may serve as well and better. The mere excitement of
some unusual occurrence or special trouble may rouse the most selfish and
sluggish to occasional and fitful kindness—but true friendship shows itself
most in those constantly occurring opportunities which have nothing
extraordinary to secure notice.
What friendships have been lost by lack of appreciation
of little things! How many a household, now a wilderness, might but for
this have rejoiced and blossomed as the rose! If the oversight of apparent
trifles may be excused in any, it is in the case of those who are engaged in
some great work for humanity. It may be pleaded that they are so much occupied
with important schemes and practical exertions for the happiness of others,
that they are unable to take notice of little tokens of respect and
gratitude. If ever there was one for whom this might be pleaded, it would
surely be for the great Teacher, Emancipator, Savior of mankind. Was He too
great to take notice of little things? He took notice of them because He was
Standing opposite the treasury, He saw the wealthy people
putting in their great gifts. But He took special notice of the poor widow
and her two mites, and said that she had put in more than all the rest.
When Mary brought the alabaster box and the precious ointment, though all the
spices of Arabia and all the treasures of the everlasting hills were His own,
He designated for everlasting remembrance this tribute of affection. At the
great day of judgment, the smallest acts of service will be remembered.
"Verily I say unto you, a cup of cold water given in the name of a
disciple shall not lose its reward." How precious the privilege of being
friends of one so appreciative!
Friends are very often lost by lack of PATIENCE. When Jesus
beheld the city which was about to be the scene of His murder, He wept over
it. When He hung on the cross, surrounded by His enemies, who mocked and
derided Him, He prayed for them. If He could thus bear with His foes,
what forbearance might we not expect Him to show towards His friends?
It was customary on the arrival of a guest to supply water
for the feet, and oil for the head. The host also saluted the guest with a
kiss. These ordinary marks of courtesy were neglected by the rich man who
invited Jesus to a feast. No notice was taken of it at the time; but
afterwards, not in retaliation for the insult, but in defense of the despised
penitent, Jesus said, "Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your
home, you didn't offer me water to wash the dust from my feet, but she has
washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn't give me a
kiss of greeting, but she has kissed my feet again and again from the time I
first came in. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head, but
she has anointed my feet with rare perfume." Our Lord's forbearance with the
discourtesy of the rich man was as conspicuous as His appreciation of the poor
woman's grateful homage.
The disciples continually put His forbearance to the test
by dullness of understanding and lack of faith. But He was always patient with
them, taking pains to explain what they had failed to comprehend, and allaying
their fears by repeated proofs of His watchful care. There was one occasion
when any failure on their part might justly have been resented. On the night
of His great agony, taking three disciples apart from the rest, He admitted
them into the inner chamber of His sorrow, as chosen friends on whom He might
lean in this hour of darkness. On their constancy He had special claims. They
had been with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, and they had beheld the
glory of His countenance, and had heard the voice of God saying, "This is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." James, so resolute and strong; Peter,
who had avowed his readiness to die for his Lord; John, who had just been
leaning on His breast at supper—might not Jesus expect that such friends would
not fail Him now? Would not love and sympathy for Him in this hour of agony be
enough to banish sleep? If He honored them by selecting them to watch and pray
with Him, might He not be sure that He would find them ready for any service
He might need?
Oh, what an opportunity they lost! Their failure added
another pang to the sensitive heart of the Man of Sorrows. "What! could
you not watch with Me one hour?" But this appeal, the utterance of wounded
affection, rather than of reproof, was at once followed by words of kind
forbearance. He did not wait for their excuses. He anticipated their apology.
He provided a balm for the wound their own neglect had caused. He was anxious
to comfort them in the sorrow He knew they would afterwards feel. "The spirit
truly is willing, but the flesh is weak."
Even after this warning, Peter failed Him again. Surely
when Jesus stood alone before the Jewish rulers on that eventful night, bound,
smitten, maligned by false witnesses, condemned as deserving death—surely then
Peter might have been expected to come forward and vindicate his Lord! When
instead of this he basely denied all knowledge of Him, Jesus might well have
been indignant. But "He turned and looked upon Peter." That was all. It
was a look of wounded affection, pity and forgiveness. "And Peter went
out and wept bitterly."
No sooner had Jesus risen from the grave, than the angel
was commissioned to send the penitent disciple a special message. He alone was
mentioned by name among all the disciples, for he most needed an assurance
that his Lord did not repudiate him. "Tell His disciples and Peter that
He goes before you into Galilee."
All the disciples had shared in some measure in his fault;
for "they all forsook Him and fled." He had anticipated this with
sorrow—"You shall leave Me alone." When He first met them after this
desertion, He might have justly rebuked them. But He knew that their own
hearts sufficiently accused them. He would not deepen, but heal the
wound. The joy of meeting again should not be marred by reminding them of
their faults. And so when, on the evening of the Resurrection, He appeared
among them in the upper room, His first word was, "Peace be among you."
It was strange that Thomas would not believe the
various testimonies that Jesus was still alive. Unseen, Jesus was present when
Thomas declared he would not believe unless he placed his finger on the print
of the nails. When Jesus appeared again to His disciples, Thomas being among
them, with what exceeding gentleness did He reprove the doubting disciple, and
with what kind purpose to remove his unbelief He said, "Reach here your
finger, and behold My hands; and reach here your hand, and thrust it into My
side and do not be faithless, but believing." How great the privilege of those
whom One so forbearing designated as His friends!
He is an INDIVIDUALIZING and APPRECIATIVE Friend. He does
not simply love His people as a great company. He knows them one by
one. The Shepherd "calls His own sheep by name." With discriminating affection
He says, "I know them." As each child in a family elicits a special
love, and has a separate place in the parent's heart, so Jesus knows and loves
every one of us. And as the beauties of feature or character in each child are
dear to the parent, and every proof of filial affection is distinctly noticed
and prized, so our heavenly Friend appreciates all in us that reflects His own
beauty. He sees every little trivial service we render. He knows and
loves every kind thought we cherish.
Capacity for STRONG ATTACHMENT to individuals is an
important qualification. There are some people whose benevolence is widely
diffusive but has no special preferences. All mankind are embraced by it, and
none are loved more than others. Such people may be eminent as
philanthropists, but are not desirable as friends. Love seeks to have a
special and separate place in the thoughts and affections of the person loved.
He who cares for everybody in general and for no one in particular, has
generally no one in particular who cares for his friendship.
Jesus was the chief of all philanthropists. He loved the
whole world, and died to save mankind. The vilest of the vile were not
excluded. But if His benevolence had been only of this universal character,
there would have been, to the disciples, no special value in His
assurance—"You are My friends." But, with the most diffusive benevolence, He
cherished strong personal attachments. Disregarding any charge of
partiality which some might allege, He reciprocated the pleasures of
special friendship. He had a home at Bethany where He found sympathy and
rest in reverential affection. "Now Jesus loved Martha and Mary
and Lazarus." When the brother was seized with dangerous illness, the
message sent to the Master was—"He whom You love is sick." When He
stood weeping beside the grave, the Jews bore witness to this when they
said—"Behold how He loved him!"
Jesus loved all the disciples; but His human heart was
drawn towards John with especial tenderness. This was obvious to all,
and spoken of without resentment, insomuch that John was designated as "the
disciple whom Jesus loved." On that most solemn occasion when the Lord
instituted the Holy Supper, this disciple was allowed to recline his head on
the breast of Jesus. It was evident to the disciples that their Lord was
capable of, and that He felt Himself free to indulge in, strong personal
attachments. If this were so, they might every one hope to enjoy
increasingly His special love. Already His friends in a far higher
sense than the world outside, there was no limit to the growth of that
friendship. How great a privilege was it when One, so capable of the strongest
affection, said to them—"You are my friends."
We value a friend, not only for his love to us, but for his
desire to be loved in return; not simply because of his readiness to help us,
but for his dependence on us, and the value he puts on our love or service.
Some people are prompt to show kindness, but seen independent of the kindness
of others. They are benefactors rather than friends. But true friendship
yearns for a return of love, for an interchange of service. It not only feeds,
but needs to be fed; it not only sustains, but it leans; it not only gives
pleasure, but receives it.
If so, it may be asked whether friendship is altogether
unselfish? Yes—for it makes no sordid bargain. It loves and it serves and
it blesses by the impulse of love itself. But this love, by its very nature,
hungers and thirsts for love in return, and without this, though
benevolence may survive, friendship will die. It does not demand
equivalent benefit, but it yearns for and must have reciprocity of affection.
There is no mercenary contract, no preliminary stipulation concerning giving
and receiving. But there is in the very nature of friendship a necessity
for mutual love. It seeks more than mere gifts from the beloved one. It
desires, not merely his, but him. It cannot be content with loving; it must be
If any case of friendship might be regarded as exceptional,
it would be that of Jesus. He was Divine, and in that aspect self-sufficing.
The disciples relied on Him as their Preserver and Benefactor, but what
could He need from them? He was Man; yet such a man that He might seem
independent of help. Had He not wisdom which required no advice from
friends so ignorant? miraculous powers which made Him superior to aid
by friends so feeble? heroic courage which required no support from
friends so timid? Yet if He had not been in some sense dependent on His
fellow-men, He had been less qualified to be a Friend.
His farewell discourse not merely contains the advice of a
teacher and the orders of a superior, but is the utterance of Love seeking
response, desiring a home in the hearts of others, yearning for affectionate
remembrance when the inevitable separation should come. If He was necessary to
them as the Vine to the branches, they were necessary to Him as the branches
to the Vine. He sought a mutual indwelling. "Abide in Me and I in you." If
without Him they could do nothing, so also, without their fruit-bearing, He
would not be glorified. It was not enough that as the Father loved Him, so He
loved them; He needed their response. "Continue you in My love." He proclaimed
Himself Friend to them, but He desired them as friends to Himself. "Henceforth
I call you not servants, but I have called you friends. You are my friends if
you do whatever I command you."
In the garden of Gethsemane this dependence of the human
heart of Jesus was emphatically exhibited. He was about to seek help from
His Father, but He also longed for the help of His friends. Three of them He
selected to be specially near to Him. He went a short distance from them, and
with strong crying and tears appealed to God. Again and again He poured out
His soul in an agony of prayer, but again and again He went back to His
There are some who speak as though, if they have God, they
are independent of all other help. This may seem very godly, but it is not
very human. Christ was perfect Man, and needed human support as well as
Divine. He needed to feel the grasp of a brother's hand, the mingling of a
brother's tears, the assurance of a brother's love.
With this desire the Holy Supper is forever blended.
Superstition has done its utmost to disguise the beauty of this simple
sacrament. Sacramentalism has made it an occasion for asserting vain
pretensions, and concealing the true High Priest of the Church. Intolerance
has made it a test of heresy, and wrested it into an engine of persecution.
Ignorance has resorted to it as a sedative to conscience and a passport to
heaven. But to those who study its true meaning in the pages of the sacred
history, the love of the Divine Friend of man will ever be seen shining above
that sacred table as the Shekinah of God. Still we hear the tender words—"Do
this in remembrance of Me."
Jesus knew that when His bodily presence was no longer
enjoyed, His disciples might be apt to forget Him. Friends whom distance
removes from our sight sometimes fade from our memory. He did not wish to be
forgotten. He yearned to live in their remembrance. He wanted to have a home
in the loving hearts of all His friends in all future years. And so He
appointed the broken bread to remind them of His body given for them, and the
wine poured forth was to be an emblem of His blood shed for their salvation.
Their partaking of it was a token of their spiritual reception of Him, and the
strength and joy He gives. Their partaking of it together was an emblem of
their fellowship with Him and with each other—a Holy Communion, a bond of
They were thus to bear constant testimony to the world of
His sufferings and glory. They were to show forth His death until He came
again. They were to set Him before the eyes of their faith, to listen to His
voice, to feel His Presence, to cherish loving thoughts of Him. Though He was
about to ascend to heaven, where He would receive the homage of innumerable
angels, He still needed the loving memory of His friends. It was as if He
would not enjoy His crown apart from them. "Do this in remembrance of Me."
Such qualities and actions as these illustrated the
character of Jesus as a Friend, and won responsive affection. The disciples
not merely reverenced Him as Master and Lord; they loved Him as Friend,
with a deep personal affection which prompted them to forsake all that they
had to follow Him. Though ascended to His throne, He is "the same Jesus"—"The
same yesterday, today, and forever." Whatever of tenderness, forbearance,
and unselfishness was seen in His communion with them when on
earth, He still possesses, now that He is in heaven.
Jesus is an EVER PRESENT FRIEND. Seldom can earthly friends
enjoy each other's society without interruption. Wide continents may
intervene, and circumstances of various kinds interpose their barriers.
Seasons of fellowship may be measured by minutes, seasons of
separation by long and weary years. How many hearts yearn in vain for the
society of a friend dearer than life! But Jesus is always near, and we may
always enjoy His society. We may always open to Him our heart and lay our head
upon His bosom, and when all other friends must part from us, Jesus still is
with us. He is with us amid the waves of Jordan to uphold us, and on the other
shore to welcome us!
Jesus is an UNCHANGING, EVERLASTING FRIEND. Earthly friends
sometimes grow weary with continued claims on their sympathy and support.
Their love is too much taxed. It may be a mere cistern—the supply may
cease, and the thirsty one may hold out a vessel into which falls not a
straggling drop. But the friendship of Jesus is a fountain of living
waters. Having loved His own, He loves them to the end. No reverse of
circumstances can change His affection; the more we need Him the nearer and
dearer we shall find Him, "a very present help in trouble." "Can a
mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she
has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!"
And when we see Him on the throne of judgment, it
will be "the same Jesus." He will recognize us as His friends; He will receive
us to Himself; we shall share His glory—we shall dwell with Him forever. His
love will be our heaven. "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend."
What Jesus is as Friend to us, is the MODEL of what we
should be as friends to Him. "He that has friends must show himself friendly."
"You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you." Is then the perfect
obedience of a servant to precede and secure the privileges of a
friend? Can we act as only friends of Christ can act before we become
His friends? Life must precede service. As branches we first abide in Him and
then bear fruit; but the bearing fruit is evidence of being branches. It is
not that our love first causes Him to love us as friends, but "We love Him
because He first loved us."
"Herein is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit:
so shall you be My disciples." Thus disciples will be manifested. The love of
God is revealed to us in Jesus; and love to Him is the great motive of
obedience, the fire which moves the whole machinery of righteousness. "Faith
works by love." "The love of Christ constrains us."
Christ's friends CHERISH LOVING THOUGHTS OF HIM. If this is
so of earthly friends, how much more of Him who died for us and intercedes,
who counsels, comforts, saves. We shall think, not only of His gifts,
but of Himself—His character displayed on earth, His glorious majesty
in heaven. In our hearts and lives we shall praise Him, and glorify Him "for
His great glory!"
CONFIDENCE. A friend loves to be relied on for sympathy and
support; to be fully believed. Thus we prove our friendship to the Friend of
friends; "casting all our cares on Him." When we do not understand His
method, we shall trust His faithfulness. He is pleased when in the
storm our fears subside, as He says—"It is I."
COMMUNION. Without desire for this no friendship is worthy
of the name. The duty of praying always is the privilege of habitually
enjoying the society of our Heavenly Friend. We should make Him our
life-companion, telling Him our joys and sorrows, our conflicts and sins,
expressing our affection, and never being weary of receiving the assurances of
His love. Let us not remain in the outer court when we may enter the
inner chamber where He spreads His choicest banquet. Let us embrace the
offered privileges of the inner circle of His friends.
True love yearns for close intimacy. This will increase
reverence. The most intimate of the twelve was the disciple who adored most
profoundly the Eternal Word incarnate. The more we love, the better we
shall know, and the more we know Divine Love, the more profound will be
our homage. Let us not fear irreverence in a love which will result
from feelings which prompt us to say with Newton—
"How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear;
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear."
Or with Doddridge—
"Jesus, I love Your charming name,
'Tis music to mine ear;
Fain would I sound it out so loud
That earth and heaven should hear."
Or with Bernard—
"Jesus! the very thought is sweet;
In that dear name all heart-joys meet;
But sweeter than sweet honey far
The glimpses of His presence are."
Or with Wesley—
"O that I could forever sit
With Mary at the Master's feet;
Be this my happy choice
My only care, delight, and bliss,
My joy, my heaven on earth be this
To hear the Bridegroom's voice."
Or with Peter—
"Whom having not seen you love, in whom, though now you see
Him not, yet believing, You rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory."
ENDEAVORS TO PLEASE. Love is sensitive. True friends of
Jesus avoid grieving Him, by disregard to His wishes, by
indifference to His society, by neglect of His interests, by
unkindness to His friends. "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God."
True friends not merely avoid grieving, but try to give
pleasure. How wonderful that we can do this to One enthroned amid the joys
of heaven! If He were now on earth, how we would seek opportunities to show
our love! We can do this still. Loving service to His friends He accepts as
rendered to Himself—"You did it unto Me." The poorest, weakest, youngest of
His friends may give Him pleasure, and thus crown the humblest lot with honor
ZEAL FOR HIS GLORY. We promote the interests of a friend,
vindicate his character, aid him in the purpose of his heart. And so the
friends of Jesus desire that all men should know how great, how good He is.
They are zealous to extend the kingdom which He has left especially in their
charge. "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."
Friends of Jesus are bound to work and witness for Him, and to try to bring
all the world to honor and love their Friend.
PREPARATION FOR HIS RETURN. If we expect a friend after
long absence, we are diligent in preparation to welcome him. So we shall be
"looking for that blessed hope," "lest, coming suddenly, He find us sleeping."
We shall joyfully do the work and bear the trials He has allotted here; but
when He calls or comes—O the bliss of knowing that "to be with Christ is far
better!" This hope will be an "anchor of the soul sure and steadfast."
Matthew forsook his tables of money, and the sons of
Zebedee their boats and nets. O that we may forsake all that is inconsistent
with His service! The sisters of Bethany, with reverent love, sheltered Him in
their home; so may we receive Him daily into our hearts. Martha served; so let
us with unwearied zeal work for Him. Mary sat at His feet; so may we with
thoughtful affection ponder His words. John leaned on His breast; so let us
repose on His unchanging love. With Peter may we say—"You know all things; You
know that I love You." With the Apostles let us rejoice if "counted worthy to
suffer for His Name."
What friends has Jesus! His love has kindled human hearts
with an enthusiasm which has scorned reproaches, losses, agony, and death. A
noble army of martyrs in all ages have testified their friendship! What
friends He has at this moment all over the world! Among the myriads round His
throne are dear ones with whom our hearts are linked with imperishable cords,
now beholding His face, and listening to His voice. With what zeal they serve,
with what rapture they rejoice in Him! We also are the friends of Jesus. O let
us walk worthy of the vocation with which we are called, and so verify the
title which His love confers—"YOU ARE MY FRIENDS."
Such Friendship with Jesus is Brotherhood with men. Every
individual who is linked by such close and ever-enduring bonds with the Head
must be linked in love with all the members of the Brotherhood. Let this be
practically recognized, and sectarian exclusiveness will be banished from the
Church, selfishness from society, and strife from the world.