The Friends of Christ
James Smith, 1856
Friendship is the great sweetener of human life. Formed for society, we cannot be happy alone. We must have a friend, or be wretched. Yet nature, in its fallen state, cannot present the friend we need. There must be intellect, heart, and character to fit anyone to be our friend. The Lord Jesus is, therefore, presented to us as "a friend that loves at all times," and he proposes himself as our friend. He takes every believer into the closest intimacy, and engages to perform the part of a friend. He has wisdom and wealth, love and honor. He has . . .
knowledge and will impart it;
wealth and will communicate it;
love and will display it;
character and will illustrate it;
power and will exert it.
He is fitted for friendship, and crowns and dignifies it. He takes every Christian to his bosom, and wishes him to be free and intimate. Every saint, however poor, illiterate, diseased, despised, or infirm, is the friend of Christ. Let us —
First, Glance at the friends of Christ.
Look at the poor man. He labors hard, he is often tried, his path is rough; but his mind is easy, his heart is light, his face often shines. Unnoticed by his fellow-men, or despised by the rich, the learned, and the polite — yet he is happy. What makes him so? He knows Jesus. He has been taught by the Holy Spirit. He knows the Savior as a person. As one present with him, attached to him, and watching over him. He is persuaded that the Savior loves him, and he loves the Savior. He was ignorant of him once — but he has been revealed to him. He was enmity against him once — but he is reconciled to him. He was far off from him — but he has been brought near. He realizes the fact, that Jesus is his friend — and the friendship of Jesus sooths, solaces, and cheers him under all difficulties and trials.
Look at that poor cottager with a large family, low wages, many claims, and but a small pittance to meet them; he looks subdued — but not unhappy. A calm reigns in his bosom, and the sun often seems to throw a cheering light on his brow. He knows well what trouble means, and is often in great difficulty — yet he has peace. How is this? He has a Friend who can help, who has promised never to leave or forsake him, and he trusts in his Savior's Word. He is a friend of Jesus. Weaned from his fellow men, and conscious of his need of help, he reads the precious promises, exercises confidence in them, and looks to Jesus to make them good. Tempted to doubt, he struggles against unbelief. Teazed with thoughts of the future, he casts his care on his Redeemer, and refuses to believe that his Heavenly Friend will be either forgetful or unkind. He is a friend of Jesus, and proves his friendship by his trust. The confidence he exercises is honored, and the prayers he presents are answered. He lives by faith, not by sight; believing when he cannot see, and expecting when there is no present prospect.
Look at that sick and suffering one. Reduced by weakness, and often racked with pain — yet cheerful and resigned. There are proofs of poverty in the habitation — but evidences of satisfaction in the soul. The heart has one on which it can lean, the affections have an object in which they can center. Peace rules there. Pleasure is often experienced there. At times joy unspeakable and full of glory is realized there.
That sufferer is a friend of Jesus. His love has been shed abroad in that poor one's heart, and that poor heart enjoys a little Heaven in loving him in return. The sympathy of Jesus, so exquisitely tender — is a balm and a cordial, under fits of weakness and of pain. As long as that affliction has been continued, as painful as the visitation is — the sufferer views it as coming from a friend, as sent in love.
The friends of Jesus are often a poor and afflicted people. They are chosen in the furnace of affliction. They are thus purified and made white — that they may shine brighter in glory.
Look at that poor prisoner. Robbed of his liberty, confined in a gloomy dungeon, deprived of many of the comforts of life, treated more like a wild beast, than a man. Yet there is a dignity in his bearing, a brightness in his eye, and a majesty in his communications. Why is he there? Because he has confessed the Lord Jesus with his mouth. He resigned his conscience to the Son of God, to be ruled by him alone. He took the Savior's testimony for his guide, to walk by that alone. Man claimed the right to rule his conscience — but he refused to yield. Man gave him a rule contrary to Scripture, and he could not obey it. But if he will not sin — so he must suffer; and he prefers suffering to sin. He is much alone — yet he is not solitary; man converses with him little — yet he is not without society. He has a friend who can enter his prison, "the doors being shut," and who is never so indulgent, as when we suffer for his sake.
He is one of the friends of Jesus, and is on terms of intimacy with him. He has no secrets, for he tells his Savior all. Every sin he confesses with sorrow. Every need he makes known with humility. Every desire he utters with submission. He reveals his thoughts, his fears, his wishes, and woes. This relieves him, and in return his beloved Lord, who allows him to be so tried, whispers consolation, applies his own promises, imparts new strength, and gives more grace. Day by day he is renewed in the spirit of his mind; and when ready to faint, he receives some divine cordial. He is a friend of Jesus, and finds in communion with him, refreshment, comfort, and strength.
The friendship of Jesus experienced, produces submission to his will, resignation to his appointments, and at length acquiescence in his arrangements.
Look at that dying man. The death-sweat is upon his brow. Eternity opens to his view. He is in mortal agony. He is enduring the last trial. He is engaged in conflict with the last enemy. Heart and flesh are failing. But is he alarmed? No! Is he harassed with doubts? No! Does he cling to life? No! The waters come in to him, even to his soul; but peace rules and reigns in his heart. How is this?
He has faith in his Savior's Word. Every now and then he catches a glimpse of the promised land. He feels his long known and faithful friend near him. He enjoys the thought, that though he will change his place — he will not change his company. He is a friend of Jesus, and he is going where his friendship will be perfected, and his friendship will be interrupted no more.
In a word, everyone, wherever situated, or however circumstanced, who knows Jesus, as the Son of God — who trusts in Jesus, as the only Savior — who loves Jesus, as the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his Father's person — who communes with Jesus day by day, as a man communes with his friend — who expects to dwell forever with Jesus, and looks to this as his highest Heaven — is a friend of Christ. Reader, are you one? Search and look, for it is of the greatest importance that you be so. Let us observe —
Secondly, How we should conduct ourselves towards the friends of Jesus.
We should receive them as such. Persuaded that the root of the matter is in them, however poor, however illiterate, however infirm — we should receive them as friends of Jesus. Never let us forget that Jesus has said of his friends, "He who receives you — receives me; and he who receives me — receives him that sent me." Some professors judge by appearances, and if a man is well-dressed, well-informed, or a little respectable, according to the world's estimation — he is received with a cordiality, and embraced with an affection, which is withheld from a poor, illiterate, hard-working Christian.
If I ever receive Christ — then I must receive Christ's friends; and if they have his marks upon them, I must receive them. We should regard them as such. If I pass by a poor believer's cottage, I should say to myself, "A friend of Christ lives there!" If I pass by where one lies afflicted, I should say, "One of Christ's friends lies suffering there!" If I know of a Christian in need, I should say, "One of Christ's friends is in need!" If this was practiced, would the Lord's poor be passed by their wealthier brethren without the nod of recognition? Would the Lord's sick ones lie and suffer without being visited and comforted? Would the Lord's poor be allowed to pine in poverty, unpitied, and unprovided for?
Brethren, if we acknowledge a man to be a Christian, let us remember he is one of Christ's friends, and Jesus expects us to regard him as such. We should treat them as such. In all ranks of society, in all changes of human life — we should treat Christians as friends of Jesus; remembering that he takes what is done to them — as done to him.
Do you overcharge a Christian, or beat him down when dealing with him? You do it to Christ himself! Do you give him wages upon which he cannot live, or require of him a degree of labor he cannot perform? You do it to Christ himself! Some rich professors treat their pets with the utmost kindness, feeding them on the best they have — and let the friends of Jesus half starve almost within sight of their dwelling.
Remember, Christian lady, Jesus compares your treatment of your lap-dog — with your treatment of his friends! Remember, wealthy professor, Jesus compares your treatment of your favorite pets, be they what they may — with your treatment of his friends, his brothers, his sisters. Oh, that we could always remember that the Christian, every Christian, the poorest, the lowest, the believer most compassed with infirmities — is the friend of Christ. So that if we speak to them — we may speak to them as to our Savior's friends; if we deal with them — we may deal with them as the friends of Jesus.
May I put in a word for the Lord's poor. Prices are high, wages are low, winter has come — and many of the Lord's poor friends will be sharply pinched. Clothing, food, and fuel will be needed by many. Christians in comfortable circumstances, remember your brethren in the cheerless tenements of poverty. Send them blankets for the bed, coals for the hearth, and food for the table. Act towards them — as if you deeply felt, and powerfully realized the fact — that they are the friends of Jesus.
If any man will not work — then he ought not to be encouraged; but if he would work but has no employment — if he does work and is poorly paid — or if he cannot work because disabled by age, disease, or weakness — then he ought to be pitied, visited, and assisted. Let every believer who has the means, so act this winter, as to be able to say with Job, "All who heard me praised me. All who saw me spoke well of me. For I assisted the poor in their need and the orphans who required help. I helped those without hope, and they blessed me. And I caused the widows' hearts to sing for joy. I served as eyes for the blind and feet for the lame. I was a father to the poor and assisted strangers who needed help." (Job 29).
"Have I refused to help the poor, or crushed the hopes of widows? Have I been stingy with my food and refused to share it with orphans? No, from childhood I have cared for orphans like a father, and all my life I have cared for widows. Whenever I saw the homeless without clothes and the needy with nothing to wear, did they not praise me for providing wool clothing to keep them warm? (Job 31:16-20)
Friends of Jesus, whom he has favored by his providence, he demands your sympathy for his friends in sickness, in poverty, and in old age. He assures you he will not forget, or fail to reward the cup of cold water given to one of his little ones, when there was nothing better to impart. Let it never be said that you treated your pets with kindness and consideration — and left the friends of your Lord and Savior to pine in poverty and privation without pity and relief.
Poor, weak, and worthless, though I am,
I have a rich almighty Friend;
Jesus, the Savior, is his name:
He freely loves, and without end!
He ransomed me from Hell with blood;
And by his power my foes controlled;
He found me wandering far from God,
And brought home to his chosen fold!
He cheers my heart, my want supplies,
And says that I shall shortly be
Enthroned with him above the skies;
Oh! what a Friend is Christ to me!