True Friendship
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…

(References: - 1 Samuel 19:1-5; 1 Samuel 20:1-23; 1 Samuel 23:16-18.)

1. Friendship is a mutual affection between persons of congenial minds, arising out of their esteem for each other's excellence, and expressing itself in kindly offices. Attachment to kindred is in some respects surpassed by that which is felt towards the friend "who is even as thine own soul" (Deuteronomy 13:6). In allusion to it "Abraham was called the friend of God" (2 Chronicles 20:7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23) - possibly in the first instance by God himself; and "God spake to Moses as a man to his friend" (Exodus 33:11). The Book of Proverbs abounds in statements concerning the worth and claims of friendship (Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24; Proverbs 27:6, 9, 10, 17). And Jesus said to his disciples, "I have called you friends" (John 15:15).

2. Much that is usually called friendship is not worthy of the name. "There are three things that engender friendship - profit, pleasure, virtue. The first two do not beget true friendship, for as soon as the profit or pleasure ceaseth, friendship is gone; but virtue only maketh love and friendship to continue" (Willet).

3. The true friendship which subsisted between Jonathan and David "shines for all ages an eternal type." It is "the first Biblical instance of such a dear companionship as was common in Greece, and has been since in Christendom imitated, but never surpassed, in modern works of fiction" (Stanley). The most celebrated of the instances referred to were those of Orestes and Pylades, Damon and Pythias, Nisus and Euryalus.

4. The friendship of Jonathan toward David (the formation of which is here described) was Divinely provided as a means of guarding the life of the latter from the attacks of Saul, and of preserving his loyalty to the king and his faith in God. "Thy love to me was wonderful" (2 Samuel 1:26). On the other hand, that of David toward Jonathan exerted an elevating and sanctifying influence upon him. Of true friendship observe that -

I. IT EXISTS ONLY IN NOBLE SOULS. Both Jonathan and David were virtuous, generous, and devout. They were one in "the love of virtue and the fear of God." Persons destitute of these principles can neither esteem the excellence of others nor be esteemed for their own. "We are so formed by nature that there should be a certain social tie among all; stronger, however, as each approaches each. Now friendship is nothing else than a complete union of feeling on all subjects, Divine and human, accompanied by a kindly feeling and attachment. The entire strength of friendship consists in an entire agreement of inclinations, pursuits, and sentiments" (Cicero, 'On Friendship').

"A generous friendship no cold medium knows,
Burns with one love, with one resentment glows"

(Homer) A good man in the best friend, and therefore soonest to be chosen, longest to be retained, and, indeed, never to be parted with, unless he ceases to be that for which he was chosen (Jeremiah Taylor).

II. IT IS FOUNDED UPON MUTUAL ESTEEM. When David "had made an end of speaking unto Saul," in which he doubtless said much more than is recorded, the soul of Jonathan was knit (linked or chained) with the soul of David, etc. (ver. 1). Nothing is said of Jonathan at the time of David's conflict with Goliath. He may have been absent; or, if present, not permitted to risk his life in the encounter. Perhaps his faith and courage were not strong enough. But "he loved that which went beyond his own spirit, yet was of the same heroic order. He saw in David a higher and greater Jonathan, the ideal of his own actual life, himself transfigured and perfected. What he had dreamt he might be he beheld in David" (B. Kent). He admired the faith, courage, modesty, and moral excellence which lay beneath the "outward appearance." "Now they are worthy of friendship in whom there exists a reason why they should be loved; a rare class, for in truth all that is excellent is rare" (Cicero).

III. IT CONSISTS OF DISINTERESTED AFFECTION. "Jonathan loved him as his own soul "(vers. 1, 3; 1 Samuel 20:17); with the same kind and the same measure of affection. Hence the sympathy, generosity, fidelity, and constancy which he displayed. A friend is "another self." "Though judgment must collect the materials of the goodly structure of friendship, it is affection that gives the cement" (Melmoth). "It really seems to consist in loving rather than being loved. It is the wishing a person what we think good for his sake, and not for our own, and, as far as is in our power, the exerting ourselves to procure it. And a friend is he who entertains and meets a return of this feeling" (Aristotle, 'Ethics,' 8.; 'Rhetoric,' 2). "I hope I do not break the fifth commandment if I conceive I may love my friends before the nearest of my blood, even those to whom I owe the principles of life. I have loved my friend as I do virtue, my soul, my God" (Sir T. Browne, 'Religio Medici').

IV. IT UNITES IN A STEADFAST BOND. Knit - sincerely, closely, firmly joined, grappled together "as with hooks of steel." "A friend loveth at all times," in adversity as well as in prosperity; and his friendship endures the strain caused by conflicting interests, misrepresentation, and many imperfections; it may even be said to be "one soul dwelling in two bodies." "Now the foundation of that steadfastness and constancy which we seek in friendship, is sincerity; for nothing is steadfast which is insincere" (Cicero). Friendship founded on worldly principles is natural, and, though composed of the best elements of nature, is not exempt from its mutability and frailty; but friendship founded on religion is spiritual, and therefore unchanging and imperishable" (R. Hall, 'Works,' 5.).

V. IT IS CONFIRMED BY A SOLEMN COMPACT. "And Jonathan and David made a covenant," etc. (ver. 3; 1 Samuel 20:16, 17). In it they gave and received assurance of affection, agreed to be faithful to each other under all circumstances, and called the Lord in whom they trusted to be witness between them; to it they were impelled by the strength of their love and "a loftier necessity of finding and loving in one another, if possible in a yet higher degree, the purely Divine power already felt within, and thus mutually living under its influence" (Ewald); and by it their friendship was rendered sacred and strong and permanently established. In times when "the love of many waxes cold and iniquity abounds," men of a common faith and love toward God do well to draw closely together and strengthen each other's hearts and hands by sacred vows.

VI. IT IS MANIFESTED IN GENEROUS GIFTS. "And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him," etc. (ver. 4). He gave him what best expressed the gift of himself, and what would continually remind David of his friend and increase his confidence and love. It was little that David could give him in return of an outward kind, but he gave him confidence for confidence, love for love, life for life. Friendship is practical, self-sacrificing, and helpful, and gives of its best. "David is seen in Jonathan's clothes that we may take notice he is Jonathan's second self. Our Lord Jesus Christ has thus showed his love to us, that he stripped himself to clothe us, humbled himself to enrich us. Nay, he did more than Jonathan - he clothed himself with our rags, whereas Jonathan did not put on David's" (M. Henry). Exhortation: -

1. Seek friendship only among the wise and good. If you would have a true friend, make a friend of him who is a friend of God.

2. Strive to be as worthy of the friendship of the good as David was of the friendship of Jonathan.

3. Be as sincere and faithful to your friend as Jonathan was to David.

4. Value the friendship of Christ beyond all other. - 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.

The Story of a Great Love
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