FRIENDS OF CHRIST
"You are my friends." John 15:14
How full of condescension is such a title! Friends of Christ! The gracious Savior assumes my burden and my sorrows. He raises me up from the lowest degradation. He makes me his servant and his disciple. And then he says, I will not call you servants--I will call you friends. The reason is as encouraging as the title is precious. The servant knows not what his Lord does. But all things that I have heard from my Father, I have made known unto you. There is not an angel in heaven but rejoices in the title of a friend of Christ. Well may I prize the mercy which allows me a name and a relationship so full of affection and honor. But what are the attributes of friends of Christ? And what ought to be mine as one of them?
1. Sincere AFFECTION becomes a friend. Friendship is founded there. It can only exist in this connection. A real preference, and a choice founded upon preference. If Christ is my friend, so will he stand before me. He will appear, in all his relationships to me, most valuable and desirable. I shall serve him and follow him, not from duty and obligation; not from a sense of selfishness; not for a future benefit to myself; but from sincere love for him. His commands will all appear attractive to me. His service will seem to be my highest privilege. To be allowed to serve him, is a blessing of unspeakable worth. I ought to forget all selfish interest, or hope, or fear, and with a cordial, unselfish love for him, make it my delight to do his will. This makes his friendship a constant pleasure and delight. In this spirit let me constantly endeavor to cultivate the friendship of my Savior, and to walk familiarly and confidently with him.
2. Habitual REMEMBRANCE becomes a friend. Friendship is but little without this. A loved one dwells in the heart, in the memory, in the imagination, in the anticipations. In our early friendships we understand this. We practice upon this system constantly. Such thoughts and memories constitute a great part of the happiness of life. Thus ought Christ to dwell in my heart. My affections should recall him to mind and memory. He ought habitually, frequently, to arise before me. My reasons for thinking of him are many. My reasons for desiring and valuing him are also many. Ah, he has done everything for me. He stands connected with every joy of my life. With every affection of my heart, my Savior should be united. Gratitude, desire, reverence--all combine to form my remembrance of him. How can I be his friend if I never think of him? How can I be truly his friend if I do not cultivate thoughts of him, or if I am ashamed or unwilling to speak of him? I acknowledge that I am most faithless to him, and yet I can truly say, the desire of my heart is to the remembrance of him.
3. STEADFASTNESS becomes a friend. A friend loves at all times. Neither negligence nor forgetfulness are allowed to interfere. There may be many trials of friendship. In earthly friendships there certainly are. Human infirmities frequently mix their bitterness in its cup. But in every condition, the heart must remain the same. Friendship for Christ may be proved in many conflicts. But I ought never to speak of what I must bear or suffer for Christ, as if I felt it a burden. I can never suffer anything for him, in comparison with his acts of mercy for me. Let me love him to the end, and count it a joy and privilege if I am permitted to suffer anything in his service and for his glory. He may exalt me to a noble post of sacrifice. He may give me an opportunity to bear much for him. I can never lose by him. Where he leads I would follow. And without any regard to the future benefits I may receive from him, the past deserves all my love forever. Oh may he grant that I may never forsake Him!
4. FIDELITY becomes a friend. Steadfastness regards succession of time. Fidelity regards interest and duty. Interest which may be entrusted, and duty which may be required. The Savior's interest and honor should be very dear and ever dear to me. His name, and character, and work ought to be more sacred and precious to me than my own life. True friendship for Christ will guard the welfare of his great objects with unceasing watchfulness. His truth will be inestimably precious to his friends. His glory they will never give to another. Oh let me thus prove my friendship for Christ. I would live and die for Christ. If I am offered a sacrifice for his faith, I pray that I may have grace to be faithful to the end. Thus would I prove for him, as he shall please to require it, the reality and permanency of my love. The recompense of the whole is his abiding and faithful love to me. He will own and confess me as his, in the great day of his power.
5. These are most important attributes. Am I really a friend of Christ? Then affection, remembrance, steadfastness, and fidelity will all mark my character towards him. Thus I long to appear. Let me seek for the work of his own Spirit to make me conformed to his will, and devoted to his service and glory. Soon I shall prove the value of his friendship. Soon all other friendships will be of no avail. Then if he shall be a friend to me, and own me as one of his, a friend in whom he delights, all will be well with me forever. For this, I may freely sacrifice all earthly things. I shall be an infinite gainer after all. The things which cannot be shaken will remain. I shall still possess a kingdom which cannot be removed.
Far rather would that earthly friends,
And every gift the Father sends,
Were taken from my heart, than find
You, O my Savior, prove unkind.
The greatest sorrows man can bear,
I'll welcome with a heart sincere,
If you will my companion be,
And make me closely walk with thee.