Great Texts of the Bible
I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan:
Very pleasant hast thou been unto me:
Thy love to me was wonderful,
Passing the love of women.—2 Samuel 1:26.
When the youthful David appeared before Saul after his duel with Goliath, he attracted the notice and won the heart of the king’s eldest son. As he told his story with the winning modesty of a boy who has done a really brave thing as a matter of course and dislikes talking about it, we read that “the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.” It was a sudden friendship. David was one of those divinely favoured natures that irresistibly attract every one they touch, and whose charm no one is able to withstand. The chivalrous nature of Jonathan fell at once under the spell of the heroic youth, introduced to him under circumstances so remarkable and so romantic. The sudden friendship was mutual and lasting. “Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul.”
That friendship was soon severely tested. Jonathan had to choose between his own interests and those of his friend. He did not hesitate. The covenant was renewed with the distinct understanding on his part that David might, and probably would, come between him and the throne. The friends pledged themselves to stand by one another to death, and then they parted; for Saul’s jealousy now threatened David’s life and he was a fugitive. The sacred narrative is plainly a transcript from life. The friends have arranged a meeting in a secret place, and determined on a sign to indicate whether David must fly or not. Jonathan draws his famous bow and shoots an arrow beyond the “little lad” who is with him, and as the boy runs forward to pick up the arrow, his master cries after him the words agreed upon as a message of danger, and as soon as the arrow has been recovered sends him away with his weapons. “And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the South, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded. And Jonathan said to David, Go in peace, forasmuch as we have sworn both of us in the name of the Lord, saying, The Lord shall be between me and thee, and between my seed and thy seed, for ever.”
Once more they met, and, so far as we know, only once. It was when Saul was pursuing David persistently but unsuccessfully. It is impossible to imagine a more difficult situation than that of Jonathan. Indignant at his father’s obstinate injustice, unable to restrain his violence, he yet refused to desert him, and seems to have quietly exerted himself to protect his friend. For the third time the covenant was renewed. “Jonathan, Saul’s son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth. And they two made a covenant before the Lord.” In the disastrous scene on Gilboa, Jonathan fought and fell by his father’s side, and the suggestion of that fact is borne out by the emphasis laid on the union of the two in David’s lament. Jonathan was a devoted son, as well as the most loyal of friends, and when he had to take sides in the final conflict, he stood by his misguided father. “Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant in their lives, and in their death they were not divided; … I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.”
The subject is Friendship. Let us consider—
The Marks of Friendship.
II. Its Value.
III. Its Place in Christianity.
The Marks of Friendship
1. There are not a great many friendships which have left an abiding record in human memories; but there is in legend the friendship of Theseus and Peirithous, of Orestes and Pylades, of Roland and Oliver on the borderland of legend and history; and in Jewish story this of David and Jonathan. The world’s later ages do not furnish so readily as the earlier ages examples of a friendship between men heroic enough in force and beauty to make a mark on the human mind.
Pythias was condemned to death by Dionysius the tyrant. He begged leave to go home to wish his friends good-bye and to arrange his affairs. He had a friend named Damon, who said, “Let him go, and I will remain in prison and die for him if he does not return.” Dionysius consented, and Pythias went off home, and came back just in time to meet his fate, and save the friend who had risked death for his sake. The tyrant was so struck by the nobility of heart in the two men that he pardoned Pythias, and said: “Let me be a third person in so sacred a friendship.”1 [Note: S. Gregory.]
2. Still friendship remains a great good among human goods, and it is well that we should know the secret of it, and by what care and art it can be engendered and preserved and heightened. Therefore it will not be amiss to look at this old tale of how David and Jonathan loved one the other with a love, as the poet of them says, passing the love of women, in the hope that by looking at it we may recover some portion of that lost secret—how friends are made and kept. Most of us have friends; all of us wish for them. How may we make and keep them? Three things are necessary to a genuine and lasting friendship.
(1) Spontaneousness.—The love of Jonathan for David was a case of love at first sight. Jonathan had watched, as all Israel did, the unequal combat between the mailed giant and the shepherd; and he doubtless took a prominent part in the slaughter of the Philistines which followed the discomfiture of their champion. He was standing by, afterwards, when David, with modesty equal to his merit, gave Saul an account of his experience of God’s faithfulness; and was so impressed by what he saw and heard that “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.”
You are to find something in your friend which will be complementary to your own nature. His tastes, his aptitudes, his thoughts, so dissimilar from your own, will all help to contribute to your wealth. His point of view will reveal many things you have failed to observe from yours. His habits of mind will pleasantly and helpfully react upon your own. If there is genuine equality of friendship and neither of you requires that the other should merge his individuality or sink his convictions in your own, the friendship cannot easily fail to be a blessing to you both. You remember the canto of In Memoriam which Tennyson addressed to his brother. He had said that his friend, Henry Hallam, was more to him than his brothers were; and then he wrote those beautiful verses—
“More than my brothers are to me,”—
Let this not vex thee, noble heart!
I know thee of what force thou art
To hold the costliest love in fee.
But thou and I are one in kind,
As moulded like in Nature’s mint;
And hill and wood and field did print
The same sweet forms in either mind.
For us the same cold streamlet curl’d
Thro’ all his eddying coves; the same
All winds that roam the twilight came
In whispers of the beauteous world.
At one dear knee we proffer’d vows,
One lesson from one book we learn’d
Ere childhood’s flaxen ringlet turn’d
To black and brown on kindred brows.
And so my wealth resembles thine,
But he was rich where I was poor,
And he supplied my want the more
As his unlikeness fitted mine.
So it is, I think, in all the best friendships. David sought and found his closest friendship outside his own family; in one from whom he was severed by antagonism, and conflicting interests; and such friendship was true and unbroken.1 [Note: C. Silvester Horne, Relationships of Life, 133.]
(2) Disinterestedness.—Jonathan was heir-apparent to the throne, but David had been anointed king by Samuel. The kingdom was to be taken from the house of Saul, and given to the house of David. Very naturally, the young prince Jonathan might have felt first envy, and then hatred of David, who was to supplant him; but instead of that, he said to him one day, very touchingly, “Thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee.” He meant to be his friend, and his helper, taking joy in seeing David wear the crown which might have adorned his own brow.
Contrast Jonathan’s love with Eliab’s suspicion and envy. Smarting under a consciousness of his inferiority in faith and courage to his young brother, Eliab taunted him with forsaking his duty, and coming away from the farm to enjoy the excitement of camp life. “I know thy pride, and the naughtiness of thine heart; for thou art come down that thou mightest see the battle.” That is how his own mother’s son greeted David. But the king’s son loved him as his own soul.
I have no great expectations of the permanence of a friendship that is sought definitely and distinctly for purposes of gain. Friendship that lasts is nearly always, I think, in its origin, disinterested. It is a spontaneous outgoing of the affection and sympathy towards some other personality. And I want you to remember that there are few burdens heavier to bear than the burden of thoughts, desires, hopes, sorrows, intentions, ideals, which we can share with no one because we have no friend in life to share them with. Lord Bacon warned us, in his striking way, against being “cannibals of our own hearts.”2 [Note: C. Silvester Horne.]
Friendship by its very nature consists in loving rather than in being loved. In other words, friendship consists in being a friend, not in having a friend.3 [Note: H. Clay Trumbull.]
“If I have not succeeded in my friendships,” Thoreau says in his journal, “it was because I demanded more of them, and did not put up with what I could get; and I got no more partly because I gave so little.1 [Note: Henry David Thoreau, 113.]
By entering fully into the lives of others he freed himself from much of that painful self-consciousness which is the curse of a sensitive character. In proportion as his friendship was deep was his imagination penetrative into the characters of his friends, and that to such a degree that he took their lives into his own. And for all in whom he became interested, he was untiring in effort. He invented new plans for their lives, new interests, new pursuits. He sought ceaselessly for remedies for their trials, and means of escape from their perplexities. There never lived a truer friend.2 [Note: S. A. Brooke, Life and Letters of Frederick W. Robertson, 187.]
(3) Loyalty.—Jonathan clung to David through good report and through evil report. It might be alleged that when David had, at one bound, leaped into the first place in the affections of the people, it was politic for Jonathan to pose as his friend; or it might be urged that Jonathan allowed himself to be carried away by a rush of emotion, and that that was why he abdicated so readily in favour of David. But Jonathan loved David equally when he was in adversity. When king Saul had turned against David and was hunting him as a partridge on the mountains, then it was Jonathan’s loyalty and courage that kept David from despairing. This is forcibly brought out in the incident at Keilah. David had done great things for the men of Keilah; for in obedience to God’s command, but in defiance of all counsels of prudence, David had attacked the Philistines and delivered Keilah out of their hands. Before long, however, Saul came to take David prisoner, and the men of Keilah had agreed to give up their champion, and deliver him into the hands of Saul. So David fled and took refuge in the wilderness of Ziph. It was a time of sore darkness and trial, and David’s faith was in danger of giving way. Now if David’s faith had failed, Jonathan might have regained the succession to the throne. What, then, did Jonathan do? He went to visit his friend in adversity, and strengthened his hands in God. “Fear not, thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee.” So on another occasion: “Whatsoever thy soul desireth, I will even do it for thee.” Jonathan was loyal to the core.
He that wrongs his friend
Wrongs himself more, and ever bears about
A silent court of justice in his breast,
Himself the judge and jury, and himself
The prisoner at the bar, ever condemned.1 [Note: Tennyson.]
Robertson of Brighton in one of his letters (Life and Letters, 447) tells how a friend of his had, through cowardice or carelessness, missed an opportunity of putting him right on a point with which he was charged, and so left him defenceless against a slander. With his native sweetness of soul, he contents himself with the exclamation, “How rare is it to have a friend who will defend you thoroughly and boldly! “Yet that is just one of the loyal things a friend can do, sometimes when it would be impossible for a man himself to do himself justice with others. Some things, needful to be said or done under certain circumstances, cannot be undertaken without indelicacy by the person concerned, and the keen instinct of a friend should tell him that he is needed. A little thoughtfulness would often suggest things that could be done for our friends, that would make them feel that the tie which binds us to them is a real one.2 [Note: Hugh Black, Friendship, 66.]
Brother and friend, the world is wide,
But I care not whether there be
The soothing song of a summer tide
Or the thrash of a wintry sea,
If but through shimmer and storm you bide
Brother and friend to me.
Brother and friend, the dear home days
Lie low on a fading shore;
But with buried fault and garnered praise
We look to the days before,
And bear in our hands o’er all life’s ways
The best of the fruit they bore.
And never alone have I had to stand
To face what the fates might send,
Nor leaned for help in a weary land
On a reed that the winds might bend;
For my hand reached out till it grasped your hand
And held it—brother and friend.
So, as we tread life’s hills of pain,
Its levels of common need,
Face its worst and beat, find its loss and gain,
Let this stand in our creed:
We are each the other’s—heart, hand, and brain—
By the love that is love indeed.
Brother and friend, the world is wide,
But I care not whether there be
The soothing song of a summer tide
Or the thrash of a wintry sea,
If but through shimmer and storm you bide
Brother and friend to me.1 [Note: Percy C. Ainsworth, Poems and Sonnets, 26.]
The Value of Friendship
Lord Bacon reckons up the value of friendship in this way.
(1) It brings Comfort.—A friend may play the part of a confessor and bring the relief and moral strength which belong to that character. “No receipt openeth the heart but a true friend; to whom you may impart griefs, joys, fears, hopes, suspicions, counsels, and whatsoever lieth upon the heart, to oppress it, in a kind of civil shrift or confession.”
And then, dear friend, I thought of thee so lowly,
So unassuming, and so gently kind,
And lo! a peace, a calm serene and holy
Settled upon my mind.
Ah, friend, my friend! one true heart fond and tender,
That understands our troubles and our needs,
Brings us more near to God than all the splendour
And pomp of seeming worship and vain creeds.2 [Note: Ella Wheeler Wilcox.]
(2) It gives Counsel.—While friendship is balm to the wounded heart, it may also be light to the darkened understanding, and that not merely because a friend can give honest and wise counsel, but also because the mere act of talking to him clears up mental confusions, and gives clearness and consistence to thought. Friendship is the best antidote for self-conceit; for “there is no such flatterer as is a man’s self; and there is no such remedy against flattery of a man’s self, as the liberty of a friend.”
The candid friend has a proverbially evil name. But in such cases there is perhaps more candour than friendship. A true friend will not, if necessary, shrink from warning. “Any man,” said Gladstone, “can stand up to his opponents: give me the man who can stand up to his friends.” Such occasions, however, are happily rare. But friendship should certainly be a support to virtue, not an encouragement to vice.1 [Note: Lord Avebury, Peace and Happiness, 182.]
It was Mr. Hamerton who said that the great loss of women is that they never hear the truth from men. Sir Arthur Helps has a passage to the same effect in his essay on “The Art of Living with Others.” He comments on the evils caused by chivalry. He says that, however great the unreason which women talk out of doors, nobody could be brutal enough to tell them that it is nonsense. He thinks the intellect of women has been injured because it has been “petted.” And he adds that if you put people on a pedestal and do a great deal of worship around them, the atmosphere is of insincerity and unreality. Now there is, undoubtedly, a large measure of truth in this; and we have to add that most women have come to demand admiration, not to say adulation, and that sort of artificial regard and deference which becomes an atmosphere in which the truth cannot live. I should be the last to deny the faults on the other side. Men too often regard the society of ladies as simply the opportunity for those light and graceful insincerities which cannot by any abuse of language be held to represent their real opinions. The idea seems to be that it would not be chivalrous to offend delicate sensibilities, and that to contradict a lady would be an offence against good form. Hence this species of feigned agreement—no genuine homage of the truth, but a very unworthy condescension to untruth. In this respect I do venture to think that we are mending our ways; and I suggest to you young men and women that you will be doing something well worth the doing if the men among you make a point of treating the intelligence of women with equal respect, and if the women among you take care to let it be known that you value friendship as an opportunity for an exchange of real thoughts and sincere sentiments, and that you demand no judgment for your own opinions but the honest, candid, open judgment of clear intelligence.2 [Note: C. Silvester Horne.]
(3) It provides Comradeship.—A friend is the best of all comrades in the work and warfare of life, the most serviceable, the most trustworthy, the least likely to be deluded by irrelevant considerations. “A man cannot speak to his son, but as a father; to his wife, but as a husband; to his enemy, but upon terms; whereas a friend may speak, as the case requires, and not as it sorteth with the person.”
Bacon’s shrewd insight into average human life leads him in these concluding words to fall below the nobility of his theme. The father and the husband may add the character of the friend, and though this, perhaps, is not commonly attained, yet neither fatherhood nor the married state reaches its true altitude otherwise. Jeremy Taylor raised the question, “whether a friend may be more than a husband or wife,” and he answered with equal truth and decision: “It can never be reasonable or just, prudent or lawful, but the reason is, because marriage is the queen of friendship, in which there is a communication of all that can be communicated by friendship; and it being made sacred by vows and love, by bodies and souls, by interest and custom, by religion and by laws, by common counsels and common fortunes; it is the principal in the kind of friendship, and the measure of all the rest.”1 [Note: H. H. Henson.]
What is the best a friend can be
To any soul, to you or me?
Not only shelter, comfort, rest—
In most refreshment unexpressed;
Not only a beloved guide
To thread life’s labyrinth at our side,
Or, with love’s torch lead on before;
Though these be much, there yet is more.
The best friend is an atmosphere,
Warm with all inspirations dear,
Wherein we breathe the large free breath
Of life that has no taint of death.
Our friend is an unconscious part
Of every true beat of our heart;
A strength, a growth, whence we derive
God’s health that keeps the world alive.
Can friend lose friend? Believe it not!
The tissue whereof life is wrought,
Weaving the separate into one,
No end hath, nor beginning; spun
From subtle threads of destiny
Finer than thought of man can see.
God takes not back His gifts divine;
While thy God lives, thy friend is thine.1 [Note: Lucy Larcom.]
Walt Whitman is the poet of comrades, and sings the song of companionship more than any other theme. He ever comes back to the lifelong love of comrades. The mystery and the beauty of it impressed him.
O tan-faced prairie-boy,
Before you came to camp came many a welcome gift,
Praises and presents came and nourishing food, till at last among the recruits
You came, taciturn, with nothing to give—we but looked on each other,
When lo! more than all the gifts of the world you gave me.
The Place of Friendship in Christianity
The accusation has not rarely been urged against the New Testament that it contains no precepts for the guidance of friends—nay, that friendship does not seem to be recognized by the sacred writers.
The truth is that friendship, the marriage of souls, is one of the ultimate facts of life, connected with an integral element of human nature itself, and that Christianity, the religion of the Incarnation, takes it for granted, and pours into it a wonderful treasure of purity, purpose, and permanence. Certainly we ought not to be astonished if we discover outside the Christian sphere splendid examples of all those virtues which are properly described as natural—conjugal love, patriotism, courage, friendship. What would be astonishing, and ought (did it indeed exist) to move in us the most profound perplexity and searching of heart, would be the absence or degradation within the Christian sphere of these natural virtues. Whatever is truly natural is necessarily Christian, the very witness of the Incarnation prohibits the notion that any natural excellence can be excluded from perfected humanity.
1. What was the secret which kept alive the friendship of David and Jonathan, in defiance of all that difficulty and danger, and family affection and duty, and most urgent self-interest could do to destroy it? The mere mutual liking of two gallant and generous young men, who had the same manly tastes and chivalrous sentiments, is not enough to explain it. The unsolderable spell which cemented this union of hearts was of no such stuff as that. The same passage which reminds us of what there was to imperil their friendship reveals also the secret of its safe keeping. Jonathan “arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.” What is “strengthening his hand in God”? The expression is obscure, but its most natural meaning is that Jonathan heartened David in his danger and exile by reminding him of God’s promise, and by declaring his own faith in it. That touches the true bond of this friendship. What bound these two together was not natural and congenial temper, but the sympathy of a common faith. Each saw in the other one priceless virtue—devotion to a holy ideal; each knew that the other lived faithful to a sacred purpose, an ambition which was pure. If Jonathan loved David, it was because David was true to a divinely appointed destiny and followed it unshaken through peril and pain and discouragements. If, in turn, David loved Jonathan, it was because he, too, saw in his friend a lofty and pathetic obedience to a fate which was a fate of deprivation and endurance and humiliation, but yet was the fate which God had chosen for him. They loved each other so well, and with such steadfastness, because they loved God yet more: their “loves in higher love endured.” The glory that gathered upon their earthly affection was the glory which breathed upon it from a spiritual faith.
Jonathan is a pious man as well as a righteous one. He believes the Lord’s messages that He has chosen David to be king, and he submits; seeing that it is just and right, and that David is worthy of the honour, though it be to the hurt of himself and of his children after him. It is the Lord’s will; and he, instead of repining against it, must carry it out as far as he is concerned. Yes; those who are most true to their fellow-men are always those who are true to God; for the same spirit of God which makes them fear God makes them also love their neighbour.1 [Note: C. Kingsley.]
Love is the only permanent relationship among men, and the permanence is not an accident of it, but is of its very essence. When released from the mere magnetism of sense, instead of ceasing to exist, it only then truly comes into its largest life. If our life were more a life in the spirit, we would be sure that death can be at the worst but the eclipse of friendship. Tennyson felt this truth in his own experience, and expressed it in noble form again and again in In Memoriam—
Sweet human hand and lips and eye,
Dear heavenly friend that canst not die;
Strange friend, past, present, and to be;
Loved deeplier, darklier understood;
Behold, I dream a dream of good,
And mingle all the world with thee.
Thy voice is on the rolling air;
I hear thee where the waters run;
Thou standest in the rising sun,
And in the setting thou art fair.
It is not loss, but a momentary eclipse, and the final issue is a clearer perception of immortal love, and a deeper consciousness of eternal life.2 [Note: Hugh Black, Friendship, 113.]
2. Friendship was one of the noblest features of ancient life, and there are no worthier chapters of classical literature than those which record and discuss it; but will any thoughtful student of that literature deny that in two important particulars classic friendship tended to failure? It lacked security against sensual passion on the one hand, and on the other it lacked the moral exaltation which comes from the conviction of personal immortality.
Once let friendship be given that is born of God, nor time nor circumstance can change it to a lessening; it must be mutual growth, increasing trust, widening faith, enduring patience, forgiving love, unselfish ambition—an affection built before the Throne, that will bear the test of time and trial.1 [Note: Allan Throckmorton.]
David Lyall, in The Land o’ the Leal, referring to the long and healthful influence of the old schoolmaster, so dear to the whole countryside, talks in this strain: “God grant, then, that Adam Fairweather be long spared, for on the day that we carry him down the brae to the kirkyard, a sweet savour will be lost to Faulds, which could never be restored.” I should be very sorry to quarrel with so sweet a soul, so choice a spirit as David Lyall. Happily there is no cause. Still, I want to propound a doctrine that is to me a source of unfailing comfort. It may be variously stated and illustrated. First, there are those, God increase their number! whom no man, no army of men, could carry “down the brae to the kirkyard.” Next, “a sweet savour” cannot be lost: it abides to cheer, to solace, to sustain. Thus is it with the lamp of friendship: the lamp may be broken, yet the light shines on undimmed. Yes, it shines with even greater lustre when distance separates or death divides. Separation should not interfere with the shining of this lamp. Especially does this hold good of our crowned and glorified friends. I was going to say I had a friend, rather let me say I have a friend, even though he has passed beyond the veil. He is not now in the flesh, but his influence abides, and, as the days roll by, grows in power. In the old days his thoughts inspired, his words charmed, and his actions allured into nobler paths; but to-day, in the absorbing now, he is still a force in my life. I have not yet seen the sexton that could dig a grave deep enough to bury him. Such an one continues to live, and to yield the sweet aroma of his influence, and so enlarges our indebtedness.2 [Note: I. O. Stalberg.]
There is no friend of mine
Laid in the grave to sleep;
No grave, or green, or heaped afresh,
By which I stand and weep.
Who died! What means that word
Of men so much abhorred?
Caught up in clouds of heaven, to be
For ever with the Lord.
Thank God! for all my loved,
That out of pain and care
Have safely reached the heavenly heights,
And stay to meet me there.
3. Our Divine Master Himself stands in the historic category of friendship. Nothing less than friendship, in the deep, hallowed, exclusive sense which we are wont to give the word, could authorize, as nothing less could satisfy, the sublimely simple description of himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” by which, in his Gospel, St. John at once conceals his name and confesses his identity. Our Master also felt drawn to some men more than to others, though He loved all. Of that young ruler who ran to Him with eager impulsiveness to offer allegiance, and yet made the great refusal when the stern conditions of allegiance were disclosed, we read that “Jesus looking upon him loved him”; and it is on record elsewhere in the Gospel that “Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.”
Cardinal Newman, in his beautiful sermon on “Love of Relations and Friends,” remarks on the apparent strangeness of the fact that the Son of God should have thus “had a private friend.” “This shows us,” he says, “first, how entirely He was a man, as much as any of us, in His wants and feelings; and next, that there is nothing contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, nothing inconsistent with the fulness of Christian love, in having our affections directed in an especial way towards certain objects, towards those whom the circumstances of our past life, or some peculiarities of character, have endeared to us.”
The whole subject of friendship makes clear to us the relationship we should hold to Jesus Christ. The only perfect friendship is a friendship that is inward and spiritual; but in imperfect and feeble natures like ours the varieties and degrees of friendship are endless. There is only one Being on whose love we may count without fail. It is not every one with whom we can hold fellowship. There are minds and lives with which we cannot have any free and intimate intercourse. There seems to be nothing in common between them and us. They are too high, too self-absorbed, they move in an orbit far removed from the range of our small careers. It is only a certain order of mind that can have close friendship with men like Plato and Spinoza and Hegel. The world in which these wise men live is not the same as that in which the majority of us think and toil. It is only trained scientific minds that can keep company with Newton and Darwin and Kelvin. We read Cromwell’s letters, and Wellington’s dispatches, but, somehow, while we feel these men are human like ourselves, their dealings are mainly with politicians and administrators and military leaders. Dante and Shakespeare and Milton are for imaginative natures; Gibbon and Macaulay and Lecky and Mommsen for those whose interest lies in tracing the rise and fall and growth and power of nationalities. These great minds are not companions for every one. They have their circle and school. Their empire does not cover humanity. There is only one, Jesus Christ, who offers His heart to all, be they what they may. With Him all may be in friendship.1 [Note: W. Watson, A Young Man’s Ideal, 63.]
The last words of President Edwards, after bidding his weeping relatives good-bye, were: “Now where is Jesus of Nazareth, my true and never-failing Friend?” So saying he fell asleep.
4. We must, as Christians, bring our friendships under the yoke of Christ, and make them instruments of righteousness; we may not safely indulge the merely natural attraction which drew us first together. There must follow the “covenant” of mutual service and sacrifice. When the generous prince felt his heart go out to the young hero standing before his father’s throne, and when he gave place to his love and bound himself by the eager vows and protestations of friendship in its first enthusiasm, he little guessed the demands which that friendship would make on him, he little thought that his love for David would have to stand the strain of so many strange and disastrous contingencies. But from the first it was a consecrated thing between the young men, and at every fresh crisis of trouble, they renewed their “covenant before the Lord.” And even now, across those dim wastes of time, we can see how that consecrated friendship blessed them both. Jonathan, the bold, eager, heroic warrior, was softened and hallowed by his love for David, and grew into the noblest and most winning heroism of history by the discipline of that stern, exacting obligation which he had taken on himself in youth; and David, the gay, all-prospering, ambitious man, was lifted into chivalry and melted into tenderness by the spectacle of so much generosity, and such enduring love.
What might be done if men were wise—
What glorious deeds, my suffering brother,
Would they unite
In love and right,
And cease their scorn of one another.
Oppression’s heart might be imbued
With kindling drops of loving-kindness,
And knowledge pour
From shore to shore
Light on the eyes of mental blindness.
All slavery, warfare, lies, and wrongs,
All vice and crime might die together,
And wine and corn
To each man born
Be free as warmth in summer weather.
The meanest wretch that ever trod,
The deepest sunk in sin and sorrow,
Might stand erect
And share the teeming world to-morrow.
What might be done? This might be done,
And more than this—my suffering brother!
More than the tongue
E’er said or sung,
If men were wise, and loved each other!
Belfrage (H.), Sacramental Addresses, 23.
Henson (H. H.), Preaching to the Times, 146.
Hutton (R. E.), The Crown of Christ, ii. 253.
Kingsley (C.), The Gospel of the Pentateuch, 299, 313.
Mackenzie (W. L.), Pure Religion, 63.
Skrine (J. H.), The Mountain Mother, 17.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Evening by Evening, 32.
Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xxxix. (1893), No. 2336.
Stalberg (I. O.), The Lamp of Friendship, 9.
Webster (F. S.), My Lord and I, 52.
Church of England Pulpit, lii. 134 (Cooper).
Churchman’s Pulpit: Sixth Sunday after Trinity, x. 347, 351 (Kingsley); Sermons to the Young, xvi. 310 (Gregory).