A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother.
I. HE COMES NEARER TO US THAN ANY BROTHER CAN. A human brother can draw very near to us in his knowledge of us and his brotherly sympathy with us; but not as Christ, our Divine Friend, can and does. His knowledge of us is perfect - of our hopes and fears, of our struggles and our sorrows, of our aspirations and endeavours, of all that passes within us. And his sympathy with us and his succour of us are such as man cannot render. He can pity us with a perfect tenderness of spirit, and he can touch our hearts with a sustaining and healing hand as the kindest and wisest of men cannot.
II. HE IS ALWAYS THE SAME TO US; OUR BROTHER IS NOT. We can never be quire sure that our kindest brother will be in a mood or in a position to lend us his ear or his hand. But we have not to make this qualification or enter into this consideration when we think of Christ. We know we shall not find him too occupied to hear us, or indisposed to sympathize with us, or unable to aid us. He is always the same, and ever ready to receive and bless us (Hebrews 13:8).
III. HIS PATIENCE IS INEXHAUSTIBLE; OUR BROTHER'S IS NOT. By our importunity, or by our infirmity, or by our unworthiness, we may weary the most patient human friend or brother; but we do not weary the Divine Friend; and even though we do that or be that which is evil and hurtful, which is painful and grievous in his sight, still he bears with us, and at our first moment of spiritual return he is prepared to welcome and restore us.
IV. HE EVER LIVETH; OUR BROTHER MAY BE TAKEN FROM US.
1. Seek the lasting favour and friendship of Jesus Christ.
2. Realize the honour of that friendship, and walk worthily of it.
3. Gain from it all the comfort, strength, and sanctity which a close and living friendship with him will surely yield.
4. Introduce all whom you can to him, that they may share this invaluable blessing. - C.
I. THE RELATIONSHIP OF A BROTHER. A brother does sometimes stick close. The ties of blood are the last thing which prevents us from sinking into selfish atoms, or hardening into mere machines for minting money. Each relationship in the family has its own blessed meaning and duty. Brothers feel that their descent from one stock begets mutual alliances and obligations. But sometimes the links of brotherhood are broken. A brother in blood has sometimes been unbrotherly in will and in deed.
A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly.
I. DUTIES TO THOSE WHO ARE NEIGHBOURS IN SITUATION TO ONE ANOTHER. So far as consists with the care of our own spiritual preservation and with all our engagements elsewhere, the sum of what we owe to our neighbours is to be as kind, useful, and beneficent among them as possible, strictly avoiding what may be to the hurt of any. To be courteous on all occasions of converse, and to be ready to do and return those good offices which tend to mutual protection and accommodation. We should strive to promote virtue and goodness in the places of our respective residence.
II. THE DUTIES OF FRIENDSHIP. Friendship arises from a voluntary agreement or choice of persons, in other respects independent, to cultivate a familiar correspondence together. Contracting alliances is not properly a moral obligation, but rather a matter of private convenience and pleasure. Let the first rule be, to be agreed on the terms, and neither to raise nor take up expectations beyond the just intention and import of them. The second is for a person to use his utmost endeavours to answer the confidence he has suffered another to repose in him. Fidelity must be strictly maintained. A third duty is to observe a decency and respectfulness in our own language and behaviour to them, together with a candid interpretation of their words and actions. A fourth rule is that all flattery must be banished from friendship.
III. THE DUTIES OF BROTHERS AND SISTERS. This relation is formed by nature itself. Nature, reason, and Scripture dictate that there should be a peculiar affection, with very kind effects of it, passing between those that are thus related together. Brethren should be specially careful to cultivate peace among themselves.
IV. THE DUTIES OF THE CONJUGAL RELATION. A relation which comprehends all the sweets and endearments of the strictest friendship. The duties are —
1. Love to each other's persons.
2. A strict care about maintaining peace.
3. The inviolable preservation of conjugal fidelity; a bond of equal obligation on the husband and on the wife.
4. Constant effort to promote each other's interest as one common interest. The husband's authority should be full of tenderness, condescension, and forbearance.
1. The Christian guidance we need in the choice of friends and the formation of friendships.
2. The Christian test of every friendship and every affection.
3. The Christian direction how to hold and handle these friendships so that they shall bear their part and yield their fruit in the ripening of character and the eternal life of the soul.
(Bp. Huntington, D. D.)
II. THE MORE THAN BROTHERHOOD OF A BOSOM FRIEND. Probably the majority of men have friends nearer to them than blood-relations. Our kin are not always kind, whereas our friend is always our brother. There are less occasions for bickerings between friends than between brothers. Our friend is not with us constantly, and friendship loses none of its gloss by over-frequent contact. The superiority of friendship over brotherhood is due mostly to the fact that a "brother" may be a being apart, while a "friend" is a second self. Friends are one in kind, "moulded like in nature's mint." The true melodic charm of friendship lies in the devotion of both friends to the service of Christ.
III. THE FRIEND MORE THAN A BROTHER CAN BE NO OTHER THAN JESUS CHRIST. Christ alone has those elements of character which can make Him the clinging Friend.
(F. G. Collier.)
I. THE WAY TO MAKE FRIENDS. Reciprocity is the soul of friendship. No man can expect to be long cherished as a friend who does not reciprocate the feeling. At the basis of friendship must be confidence. You must place confidence in the man whom you desire to place confidence in you. Another essential ingredient of friendship is fidelity to the trust reposed in you. If you would wish others to be faithful to you, you must be faithful to them; you must never make that public which was intended to be private. Friendship involves the discharge of all the kind offices of sympathy and help. If you would wish others to sympathise with you in your troubles, you must be ever ready to sympathise with them. This is the way in which we are to make friends. We are to be to others what we wish them to be to us.
II. THE STRENGTH OF A TRUE FRIENDSHIP. The words of the text are emphatically, but not exclusively, true of Jesus Christ. They here express a fact of ordinary experience. The ties of a true friendship are stronger than the ties of the closest natural relationship. In the absence of friendship the ties of nature are often very slender.
1. This is seen in times of adversity.
2. In times of moral delinquency and degradation.
3. A friend will encounter sacrifices and sufferings from which a brother will often shrink.All that can be said about friendship when it exists between man and man is unspeakably more true when applied to Jesus Christ. We may learn from this —
1. The reason why many men are without friends. It is because they do not show themselves friendly.
2. That the best friend you can have offers you His friendship. And He makes the first advance.
3. Next to having Jesus Christ as your friend, the best friendships you can form will be with those who are in fellowship with Him. Then strive to make friends.
I. THE SAFEGUARD OF COMPANIONSHIP.
1. Indiscriminate companionships may meet with ingratitude.
2. They may involve injustice.
3. They may produce infidelity.
II. THE SATISFACTIONS OF FRIENDSHIP.
1. Friendship's inspiration is to a higher purpose than companionship's.
2. Its impulse is to a more unselfish relationship.
3. Its industry is seen in assuring a more enduring attachment.
(C. M. Jones.)
1. Generosity. Friendship abhors everything that is narrow and contracted.
2. To generosity must be added tenderness of affection. Jonathan loved David as his own soul. The friendly mind does, with great tenderness, enter into all the circumstances and sentiments of his companion; can be affected with all his cares and fears, his joys and sorrows. Everything is of importance to him that is so to his friend. And this tenderness of affection begets that strange but affecting harmony of souls, if I might term it so, like the cords of two musical instruments strained to the same key, where if one of them is touched any wise, the sound is communicated to the other. Where there is true friendship there must be an exquisite mutual feeling.
3. And when I have said that the affection must be tender, this is saying too that it must be undissembled. Sincerity in love is essential.
4. I add that there must be in friendship great openness and frankness of spirit; there must be communication of secrets, without reserve; unless that reserve necessarily arises from and is caused by friendship, for this sacred relation cannot bear any other.
5. But although a friend must be ingenuous and open-hearted, a man of simplicity, and whose very heart, if I might use the expression, is transparent to his friend, yet he must be discreet and prudent; capable of concealing from others what ought to be concealed; capable of managing, in anything that is committed to his care, with wisdom. Men must not be put to the blush, they must not suffer by their friends' disingenuity; unfaithfulness is the very worst thing that can happen in friendship; and, next to that, weakness and imprudence, which, though they do not speak so bad a mind, yet may be the cause of as great mischief, and make it impossible for friendship to subsist.
6. Again, it is necessary to the character of a friend that he should be of a constant temper, directed by reason, and acting unchangeably according to its direction. A true friend is always the same; that is, his sentiments and conduct never change but when there is reason for it.
7. But there is one particular in which the firmness of a friendly mind is as much tried as in any other, and that is in resisting any solicitation to do a thing that may be in itself bad or indiscreet, or hurtful to him that desires it. What is right and fit must always be our rule, and we ought to observe it inviolably, not only because the obligation to this is superior to all the obligations of friendship, but also from principles of kindness and benevolence. Next to the firmness that ought to be maintained in denying what is hurtful, there ought to be a resolution in animadverting upon faults. This is the most friendly and useful office imaginable, and an office to which an affectionate mind does with difficulty bring itself. To admonish and rebuke is to put one to great pain, and whatever gives pain to a friend is gone about with reluctance and aversion: yet there is no true faithfulness when this is not done; and it is one of the noblest ends of friendship. Nor can anything give more satisfaction to an ingenuous mind than to be thus intimately related to one who, he knows, will use faithful freedom with him, and prudently animadvert upon all his weaknesses. But though strict virtue is necessary as the foundation of true friendship, and great freedom ought to be used in animadverting upon faults, yet intimate friendship does not bear any rigid severity, any haughty stiffness of manners. It expects sweetness, and gentleness, and condescendency, so far as innocence and virtue will allow.
8. Again, friendship abhors all jealousy — a disposition to be suspicious, where there is no just cause given. The temper of one that is fit to be a friend is frank and open; conscious of no ungenerous cunning in itself, it does not suspect it in others. And if any circumstance appears less favourable than one would desire, yet it puts the most candid interpretation upon it that may be; and will not entertain a bad opinion of a friend, nor break with him, without manifest proof of his doing what renders him unworthy that relation.
9. Lastly, there can be no fast friendship where there is not a disposition to bear with unavoidable infirmities and to forgive faults. There may be infirmities and culpable defects in characters which in general are good and worthy, and very capable of intimate and fast friendship; yet this cannot be without that generosity which overlooks little infirmities, and can fix upon excellent and amicable qualities (though blended with the others) as the objects of its esteem and friendship. This generosity we ought by all means to cultivate in ourselves, considering how much we need it in others, and how much we expect it. Seeing, then, that so many shining qualities are necessary to make a perfect friend, they must be very few who are perfectly qualified for that relation, and men should be very cautious in their choice — careful not to run into intimacies all of a sudden, intimacies fit to be used only in the highest friendship; not to run into them, I say, with persons who are not capable of friendship at all. As there cannot be too great caution in choosing an intimate friend, so there cannot be too great firmness in cleaving to him when well chosen. Providence gives nothing in mortal life more valuable than such a friend, and happy they who enjoy this blessing! But, to conclude the whole, let it be ever remembered that true friendship, this glorious union of spirits, is founded in virtue; in virtue, I say, in that only. It is this that begets a likeness in the most important dispositions, sentiments, business, and designs of life; it is this in which the attracting and cementing power consists, which we admire for its own sake, and love for itself; it is this only that will make friendships firm, and constant, and reputable; it is this only that will make present friendship truly gainful, and the remembrance of past intimacies pleasing. And as virtue must lie at the foundation of friendship, so all friendship ought to be considered and improved as a means of confirming and exalting our virtue.
(Jas. Duchal, D. D.)I. THERE IS SUCH A THING, AS FRIENDSHIP AND HUMAN AFFECTION.
1. God has implanted in our nature a social principle.
2. There are certain qualifications, distinctions, and relations that give scope to this principle.
3. There have been surprising instances of friendship among mankind.
II. THE WISDOM AND GOODNESS OF PROVIDENCE IN THUS ORDERING THINGS.
1. It keeps society together.
2. The pleasures that attend its exercise.
3. It makes us in a humble degree like God.
4. It is suited to our state both in this world and another.
III. THIS FRIENDSHIP IS IMPERFECT.
1. Peculiarities of natural temper.
2. Clashing of interests.
3. Incapacity to help.
4. Want of religion.
6. Short duration.Conclusion:
1. What reason to admire the Divine wisdom and goodness!
2. It is a duty we owe to our Maker and our fellow-creatures to cultivate this.
3. Let us not depend on human friendship.
(T. N. Toller.)
There is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother
I. THE LOVE OF OUR BEST FRIEND IS DISINTERESTED. All love, according to some, is a thing of interest. But there certainly is friendship which loves, not for what one can get out of the other, but which loves the other for his own sake. There are friends who live in each other. And surely we may say that the love of Jesus is a disinterested one. He left the world in which lie is, and was, God over all, not to seek His own happiness, but ours. His friendship for us would have been noble and disinterested had His mission involved in it no humiliation and no suffering. Whatever God does for man must be spontaneous and disinterested, springing from a will which nothing can coerce, and from a benevolence which finds its highest joy in the holiness and happiness of those whom it seeks to bless. The recompense which Christ sought was not His own exaltation, but the joy of seeing others rescued, redeemed, purified, glorified.
II. IT IS AN INTELLIGENT FRIENDSHIP. It is based on knowledge, a complete knowledge of us. The foundation of many friendships is not the rock of knowledge, but the sand of ignorance. They are the creations of a mere impulse, the result of a casual meeting in circumstances which revealed neither friend in his real character. But Christ does not throw around us a glamour of fancy in which we seem better than we are. He knows what is in man. He knows the worst of us. It is a friendship in which there is every conceivable disparity, and yet He sticketh closer than a brother.
III. THE FRIENDSHIP OF CHRIST IS MARKED BY ITS FIDELITY. And what is a friendship worth that does not possess this property? If friendship has its pleasures, it has also its obligations, which must be fulfilled if friendship is not to degenerate into a soft and contemptible acquaintanceship without nobleness or true advantage. The only bond of certain friends seems to be one of mutual flattery. To love one's friend means far more than to love his comfort and self-complaisance. To tell men of their faults is the luxury of enemies but the duty of friends. Now, the friendship of Christ is one which never neglects this essential duty. Many of the deepest and most sorrowful mysteries of your life may some day be explained by a single word — the faithfulness of Christ.
IV. HIS FRIENDSHIP IS MARKED BY ITS CONSTANCY. Few friendships have sufficient vitality in them to extend from youth to old age. Many friendships are but summer friendships. The friendship of Christ is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. He does not break off from us because we are not all we should be to Him. There is a limit to all our earthly friendships, a limit to their power, a limit to their help. If we need friendship on this side of the grave, how much more shall we need it on the other side. So we say, "Seek not friends that die, or whom you must leave, but seek for One who never dies, and whom you can never leave."
(Enoch Mellor,D. D.)
1. In His incarnation, and in His death for us. He is a brother born for adversity, the adversity that comes through sin.
2. By tendering to us the means of grace.
3. By protecting us and providing for us so long. He is "a very present help in our time of trouble." In temptation He has opened a way of escape, and in affliction He has sent a Divine Comforter.
(J. W. Reeve, M. A.)
1. He is an ancient Friend. Who can declare the antiquity of this friendship? Is it ancient as the incarnation? Is it ancient as His baptism? Is it ancient as the prophetical or patriarchal age? Nay, it is older than time itself. It is from everlasting.
2. He is a careful Friend. It was the psalmist's complaint, "No man careth for my soul." But the Christian has a Friend who cares for him.
3. He is a prudent Friend. Our best earthly friends may err through ignorance or mistake; but this Friend "abounds in all wisdom and prudence."
4. He is a faithful Friend. Friends frequently prove false, and sad indeed it is when they prove like a brook in summer. Some men are not to be trusted. Those in whom you confide most will be ready to betray you soonest. But Christ is faithful in all His promises.
5. He is a loving Friend. Friendship without love is like religion without love; a friendless and inconsistent — a cold, unmeaning, and impossible thing. Christ's love is said to surpass the love of women.
6. He is a constant and unchangeable Friend. His compassions fail not. Our Friend is a Friend for ever. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." "Having loved His own, He loveth them to the end." If Christ is our Friend, we may rest satisfied. All things will work together for our good.
(D. McIndoe.)I. REASONS WHY IT IS MOST DESIRABLE THAT THE YOUNG SHOULD SECURE THE FRIENDSHIP OF JESUS. —
1. His great knowledge about us and all future events makes His friendship most desirable.
2. His extraordinary power.
3. His vast undying love. I do not care for that friendship which is based upon selfishness, or which tries to secure mere personal ends. The love of Jesus is the root, the foundation, of His friendship. Love is the most sacrificing principle in the world. No one ever yet saw all the spirit of sacrifice there was in the love of Christ, and how He ever sought our good, our pardon, our happiness, our heaven, our glory. Love is not only the sweetest and most lovely power, but also the strongest in the universe.
4. His truth to His engagements.
5. Sad consequences must arise if the friendship of Jesus be not secured.
II. HOW SHOULD WE ACT IN REFERENCE TO SUCH A FRIEND?
1. We must do what will please Him. The little word "do" must be written in good, fair characters in our hearts, in our efforts, and in our lives.
2. We must on all suitable occasions acknowledge His friendship.
3. We must go direct to this Friend in all our troubles, as well as with all our joys.
4. We must faithfully look after His interests. Solomon says that this Friend "sticketh closer than a brother"; and they are the wisest who resolve to stick the most closely to Jesus, through sunshine and through shower, through life and through death.
I. CHRIST IS A FRIEND THAT STICKETH CLOSER THAN A BROTHER.
II. THE REASONS WHY WE MAY DEPEND UPON CHRIST AS BEING A FAITHFUL FRIEND.
1. True friendship can only be made between true men, whose hearts are the soul of honour.
2. Faithfulness to us in our faults is a certain sign of fidelity in a friend.
3. There are some things in His friendship which render us sure of not being deceived when we put our confidence in Him.
4. The friendship that will last does not take its rise in the chambers of mirth, nor is it fed and fattened there.
5. A friend acquired by folly is never a faithful friend.
6. Friendship and love, to be real, must not lie in words, but in deeds.
7. A purchased friend will never last long.
III. AN INFERENCE TO BE DERIVED FROM THIS. Lavater says, "The qualities of your friends will be those of your enemies; cold friends, cold enemies; half friends, half enemies; fervid enemies, warm friends." Then we infer that, if Christ sticks close, and is our Friend, then our enemies will stick close, and never leave us till we die.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)I. THE VALUE OF THE FRIENDSHIP OF CHRIST.
1. He is a Friend to His people, and does for them more than what the strongest earthly friendship can dictate.(1) To a kind and constant friend we can freely unfold the secrets of our heart, and look for counsel and direction in every perplexing circumstance. With far greater freedom may the humble Christian apply for direction to the wonderful Counsellor and Prince of Peace.(2) From a kind and generous friend we expect compassion in our troubles and sympathy in our affliction. The merciful High Priest, and the Friend of His people, is touched with a feeling of their infirmities.(3) From a constant and kind friend we expect protection when injured and in danger. This also the gracious Friend of sinners willingly imparts to all who, in the exercise of faith, humility, and trust, betake themselves to Him.(4) From firm, constant, and generous friends, we receive such supplies of good things as they can bestow, when we stand in need of them. But what are all the bounties of the creature when compared with the bounty and benevolence of our gracious Lord?
2. His Divine friendship is free from those imperfections which lessen the comfort of human intimacy and attachment.(1) A friend and a brother may withdraw their regard, and prove inconstant. Some real or imaginary offence, some impropriety of conduct, the injurious misrepresentations of the malicious, or some scheme of self-interest, may make those whom we have loved and esteemed avert their countenances from us, withdraw their intercourse, and prove false in their friendship; but this Beloved of the soul continues steadfast in His love — "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever."(2) The best of friends or brothers on earth may not be able to administer that Divine assistance or support which circumstances may require; they may be ignorant what course should be taken; they may be oppressed with poverty, or laid on beds of languishing, or borne down with a succession of griefs. But the compassionate Redeemer is a brother born for adversity.(3) The best of friends and brothers may be called to stations of work and usefulness in places of the world to which we can have but little access, so that, after years of happy intimacy, distance of place may interrupt the sweetest friendship and all the joys of mutual intercourse. But it is not thus with that best Friend whom the text extols. Wherever His people are, He is there to bless them, and to do them good.(4) Death dissolves the sweetest friendships. But Jesus, our Redeemer and Friend, is immortal and unchangeable.
II. I AM TO RECOMMEND THE SAVIOUR TO YOUR ATTENTION, ADMIRATION, AND ACCEPTANCE.
1. The personal excellences He inherits.
2. The unspeakable blessings He bestows.
III. Let us now direct you to the IMPROVEMENT of what has been said.
1. This subject suggests important directions to believers in Jesus.(1) He that has friends must show himself friendly. Beware of whatever may offend your heavenly Friend, or cause Him to withdraw the manifestations of His presence.(2) Testify the sincerity and ardour of your friendship, by regard for those who are the friends of Christ.(3) Testify your friendship to the Saviour, by warm concern for His interests in the world.(4) Maintain daily and delightful fellowship with your heavenly Friend, that thus you may cultivate the sense of His friendship, and may guard against all distance, coldness, and reserve.(5) Ye friends of the heavenly Bridegroom long for the coming of your Lord, and for the full enjoyment of His immediate presence in heaven.
2. I shall now conclude with addressing men in different situations.(1) This Friend demands the affection of the young by motives the most engaging and tender.(2) Are you afflicted? Be entreated to seek your support and consolation in the friendship of Christ.(3) Are you indifferent and careless about religion, but pursuing the enjoyments of sense with the whole bent of a corrupted mind? Yield to the entreaties of a dying Saviour; fly to Him; make the Judge your friend, and know for your comfort, that in receiving Christ Jesus the Lord, you become through faith in Him the children of God, and are made joint heirs with Christ, that best of friends, who sticketh closer than a brother.
I. HOW ARE WE TO HOLD OUR FRIENDS? Friendliness preserves friendship. But what is friendliness?
1. A friendly man is a sincere man. True, trustworthy, transparent in character. Mocking and deceitful men, like Mr. Facing-both-Ways, are never loved and trusted. By their duplicity and insincerity the Stuarts lost a kingdom, and King George I, who succeeded them, and prospered and won the affection of the great English people, was once heard to say, "My maxim is, never to abandon my friends, to do justice to all, and to fear no man."
2. A friendly man is frank and generous. A story is told of Demetrius, one of the conquerers of Athens, that shows the power of generosity in making friends. After the glorious victory Demetrius did not harass and humiliate the inhabitants of the beautiful city, but treated them generously. Commanding his soldiers to fill the empty houses of the citizens with provisions, they wondered at his goodness, and fear grew into love.
II. WHO IS THE NOBLEST FRIEND? — "There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." What a faithful friend was Jonathan to David!
1. In Jesus we have a royal Friend, possessing treasures, and crowns, and kingdoms such as no earthly monarch owns.
2. In Jesus we have a generous Friend.
3. Jesus is a constant Friend. Some people use their friends as shipwrecked sailors use their rafts, as masons use scaffolding, as gardeners use clay in grafting trees. They neglect them or fling them away whenever they have served their selfish purposes. But Jesus is a steady Friend, "Ever faithful, ever true." He will never leave us nor forsake us. After bidding farewell to all his relations, President Edwards, when dying, said, "Now, where is Jesus of Nazareth, my true and never-failing Friend?" And immediately the "Friend born for adversity" came and led him through the valley of the shadow, and gave him a place among "the shining ones" in our heavenly Father's home.
(J. Moffat Scott.)
(H. W. Beecher.)
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