Jonathan the Friend
1 Samuel 18:1-4
And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David…

The absence of friends makes the busiest place a solitude; nor is there any vacuum Nature abhors more than that. She teaches us to seek a heart that beats in unison with our own; looks of sympathy and kindness; a bosom into which we can pour the secrets of our souls; when burdens press heavy, an arm to lean on; when our back is at the wall, an ally to stand fighting by our side; in our difficulties a counsellor to advise with; in our sorrows one to divine, and in our joys one to double them. This is so natural, and to possess such a friend is both so delightful and profitable, that, whether his home be a castle or a cabin, and he himself a king or a beggar, oven though he was rich with the wealth of banks, and filled the earth with his fame, for a man to want friends, true friends, according to Lord Bacon, is to find this world a wilderness. The value which all ages and countries have set on friendship may be estimated by the honours they have paid to it, and the care they have taken to embalm the memory of those whose lives have afforded remarkable illustrations of what friendships could dare, and bear, and do. We have an example of this in the beautiful story of Damon and Pythias, where we see how it has filled the worst of men with admiration, disarming the hand and quenching the rage of tyrants. The first, a Pythagorean philosopher, was condemned to death by Dionysius; the execution of the sentence, however, being suspended in consequence of his obtaining leave to go home to settle his domestic affairs — a favour which the tyrant granted on condition of his returning by a stated day to suffer the penalty of death. The promise was given, but not reckoned sufficient. He dies on the spot, unless he finds a hostage — a friend who will pledge himself to die in his room. At this juncture Pythias steps forward; and delivering himself up to the hands of the tyrant, becomes Damon's surety — to wait his friend's return, or suffer in his stead. At length the day arrives and the hour; but no Damon. Pythias must be his substitute; and he is ready. Thanking the gods for the adverse winds that retarded the ship in which Damon sailed, he prepares to die, a sacrifice on the altar of friendship. And had fallen, but that before the blow descends, Damon rushes panting on the scene. Now the strange and friendly strife begins. Each is eager to die for the other; and each, appealing to Dionysius, claims the bloody sword as his right and privilege. Though inured to scenes of cruelty, the tyrant cannot look unmoved on such a scene as this. Touched by this rare exhibition of affection, be is melted: nor only remits the punishment, but entreats them to permit him hereafter to share their friendship and enjoy their confidence. What an honour it were to the Gospel were there many instances of such friendship among its professors! Why should there not? Has not Jesus laid this injunction on us all, "Love one another, even as I have loved you?" There is another, and almost equally remarkable, example of friendship told of such as never heard of Him who is the friend of sinners. It is so remarkable indeed that it procured Divine honours to Orestes and Pylades from the Scythians — a race so bloody, rude, and savage that they are said to have fed on human flesh, and made drinking cups of their enemies' skulls. Engaged in an arduous enterprise, Orestes and Pylades, two sworn friends, landed on the shores of the Chersonesus to find themselves in the dominions and power of a king whose practice was to seize on all strangers and sacrifice them at the shrine of Diana. The travellers were arrested. They were carried before the tyrant; and, doomed to death, were delivered over to Iphigenia, who, as priestess of Diana's temple, had to immolate the victims. Her knife is buried in their bosoms, but that she learns before the blow is struck that they are Greeks — natives of her own native country. Anxious to open up a communication with the land of her birth, she offers to spare one of the two, on condition that the survivor will become her messenger, and carry a letter to her friends in Greece. But which shall live, and which shall die? That is the question. The friendship which had endured for years, in travels, and courts, end battlefields is now put to a strain it never bore before. And nobly it bears it. Neither will accept the office of messenger, leaving his fellow to the stroke of death. Each implores the priestess to select him for the sacrifice; and let the other go. While they contend for the pleasure and honour of dying, Iphigenia discovers in one of them her own brother. She embraces him; and sparing both flees with them from that cruel shore. Both are saved; and the story, borne on the wings of fame, flies abroad, fills the world with wonder, and carried to distant regions, excited such admiration among the barbarous Scythians, that they paid Divine honours to Orestes and Pylades, and deifying these heroes, erected temples to their worship. But to illustrate what a friend has been, and friends should be, we haves yet brighter example and more certainly truthful story in that of Jonathan — at once so touching and so tragic. It finds its type in those rivers, the Rhine and Rhone for instance, which, fed by exhaustless snows, and springing into light in lofty regions, high above the sea to whose distant shores their waters wend, are rivers at their birth; bursting from the icy caverns of Alpine glaciers in full, impetuous flood. It has its origin in a very memorable event, and on one of the most notable days in the whole history of Israel.

1. The friendships are few that survive years of separation; the shock of conflicting interests; the drain made on our old affections by new claims; the trials they are put to by infirmities of temper, by plain dealing with faults, by a manly independence, by requests refused, by favours unrequited, by the rivalries of business, by the partisanship that springs from creeds or politics, and by a thousand other nameless circumstances. Fragile as the flowers the winter frost traces on our windows, there are friendships that a breath will melt away. It may be very wrong and very pitiful, but, as the wise man says, "a whisper separateth chief friends;" and who lives long lives to see so many, like leaves the frost has nipped, fall off, and the ties which friendship had formed, so often and sometimes so easily dissolved, that he comes to read with little astonishment, and no great sense of exaggeration, the words of one who, describing his relationships, said, "Though the church would not hold my acquaintances, the pulpit is large enough to bold all my friends." Happily, there are friendships that stand the test of time and the severest strain; but among these, what poet or panegyrist has recorded with glowing pen one to be compared with Jonathan's? It is quite unique; remarkable as his father's stature. The words of the poet may be justly applied to Jonathan —None but himself could be his parallel.For example, men will praise their friends, but how few are generous enough without jealousy to hear others praise them, at their expense, in eulogiums they feel to be disparaging to themselves.

2. Then see what severe trials this friendship endured; and enduring, triumphed over. Saul's gloomy eye fixed on David, the javelin he hurled to pin him to the wall, the cry of his soldiers echoing from the rocks as they hunted the fugitive from cave to cave, and hill to hill, not more illustrating the words, "Jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire," than the friendship of Jonathan did those which follow, "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it." The reed that bends its head to a breath of wind, and the old grey rock which withstands the hurricane that strews the plain with trees and the foaming shore with wrecks, are not more unlike than Jonathan where his own interests, and the same Jonathan where David's interests were concerned. Such was the depth and power of his affection for his friend. Here neither Saul's entreaties, nor anger, nor violence could move him. He would part with life to please his father, but not with his love for David.

3. If piety is shown by a regard to God and a Child-like submission to His sovereign will, by taking up our cross and denying ourselves daily that we may follow Christ, by saying, like Jesus Himself, as He book the bitter cup of our sorrows from His Father's hand, "Father, not My wilt, but Thine be done," what finer example of this grace than Jonathan? David is to supplant him; David is to enter on the honours and fortune he expected to enjoy; and out of the ruins of Saul's house, David is to build his own; yet Jonathan ceases not to regard him with unabated and the tenderest affection. Tender as a woman, and yet true as steel, overflowing with generous kindness, utterly devoid of selfishness, trusting as much as he wad trusted, with a heart that reflected David's as face answereth to face in water, Jonathan was the paragon and perfect pattern of a friend.

4. To make some practical use of this matter, I remark —

(1). Everyone should seek and cultivate friendships. Man has no room in his heart to accommodate many friends; but, as God said in Eden, it is not good that man should be alone. Isolation breeds selfishness, moroseness; and these are apt to run into misanthropy. So necessary, however, is it for the happiness of man and the complete development of his nature, that kings, who are often required by policy to stand aloof on their cold, unenviable elevation from their highest nobles, have raised servants into favourites, and sought the pleasures of friendship in the confidence and company of menials. There is a touching story of a captive, cut off from human society and long immured in a lonely dungeon of the Bastille, whose heart, craving some object of friendship, found it in a spider be had tamed, and which his brutal jailer cruelly destroyed.

(2) In choosing friends, we should select such as promise, by the tone of their conversation, and by their moral and religious character, to prove friends indeed — such as we can trust in the hour of adversity, and would like to see by our dying bed. Acquaintances are one thing, but friends another.

(3) We should seek a friend in Jesus Christ — the best, truest, kindest, surest friend man ever had. Everliving, everloving, and everlasting. Like summer birds which come and go with the sun, like our shadow which deserts us when his face is clouded, like fair flowers that close their leaves as soon as rain begins to fall or cold winds to blow, earthly friends may desert us when we most need their sympathy and support — at the time, and in the circumstances, expressed in the well-known adage, "A friend in need is a friend indeed." But such a friend is Jesus Christ. One of the old Fathers tells a parable, which, with a slight alteration, illustrates this subject; and, in view of an hour of death, and a day of judgment, may well recommend to our acceptance and confidence and peace and joy the friendship of the Friend of sinners. A man summoned to answer for his crimes, and called in question for his life, sought help of three friends he had. The first agreed to bear him company for a part of the way; the second would lend him some money for his journey; while the third undertook to go all the way with him, to appear in court, and plead his cause. So runs the story. In this man, the representative of a lost and guilty race, we see ourselves: and in the three friends whose help he sought, we see the flesh, or our fellow creatures, the world with its wealth, and Christ, the sinner's Friend.

(T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

WEB: It happened, when he had made an end of speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.

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