« Prev Sermon V. The friendship of Christians between… Next »

Sermon V.

The friendship of Christians between each other.

Cant. v. 15. This is my beloved, and this is my friend,

11. THIS friendship between Christ and the true Christian lays the best foundation for union of heart, and sweet, exalted friendship with others.

Christ is the grand medium of all union and friendship in the universe. In this respect all things, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, are gathered together in One, in Christ. Christ has reconciled the angels to men, and made them, who otherwise must have been their eternal enemies, great friends to them, and willing to devote themselves to the most friendly offices and acts towards the heirs of salvation, and spend their whole time, and exert all their powers, in ads of kindness, in the most benevolent, friendly manner ministering to them. And angels and the redeemed from among men shall finally be brought by Christ to dwell together forever, united in the most friendly, loving society. And he has not only reconciled God to men, and laid a foundation for their reconciliation and union with him; but has opened a way, and made full provision, for reconciling men one to another, and uniting them in the most dear and happy union and friendship, which in many respects surpasses all that there was any 82 foundation for in man’s primitive state of innocency. Sin has broken all bonds of true union and friendship among men; has set them at variance one with another, and introduced a most unhappy and horrible jar and discord; so that the true character of man in his natural state is, “Living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.” Thus all true friendship has fled from the earth upon the apostacy of man, and that which is most directly contrary to this took place to a most awful degree. And man must have remained in this state of hatred and enmity one with another forever, had not Jesus Christ undertaken in his behalf. He has taken a most wise and effectual method to bring them to a union, love and friendship one with another, at the same time that they are united to him, and become his friends; a union and friendship which is unspeakably dear and sweet, and immensely surpasses all other friendships, except that which is between Christ and them. This friendship has its foundation in love to Christ, and union of heart to him, and is not really any thing distinct and separate from this. The believer’s love to Christ, and love and friendship to his fellow saints, or all that are united to Christ in the same love and friendship, is really one and the same undivided flame of love and affection; so that the same bond of love which Unites their hearts to Christ, does also at the same time unite them to each other t and the higher their love and friendship to Christ rises, and the stronger the exercises of it are, the more sweet and perfect is their love and friendship one to another. And this their love to each other is really love to Christ: it is the same affection, exercised and expressed in this way. This is represented in this light by Christ himself, when he tells us in what a light this matter will be set at the day of judgment; “And the King shall answer, and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, in as much as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” If the acts of love and kindness which Christians do, one towards another, are 83really done to Christ, and are acts of love to him; then the whole of the love and friendship between them, of which these outward acts are the testimony and fruit, is really the same thing with love to Christ. This is the great and peculiar happiness of this Christian friendship, and renders it a most refined, exalted and even divine friendship, and brings them into that sweet union, and peculiar oneness, for which their great Friend and Patron once prayed: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us.”

The believer’s love to Christ, in a sense of his superlative beauty, excellence and worthiness, naturally, and even necessarily, leads him to love and delight in all those who are in any degree conformed to him, and bear his image and likeness: for this is not a different thing from loving Christ himself, as this likeness or image of Christ is Christ himself formed and living in them. And this likeness to Christ will be more especially lovely and charming to the friend of Christ, if it consists summarily in love to Christ, in a high esteem of him, and true benevolence and affection to him, which is the case here: for the more any one loves and esteems Christ, the more desirous he will be that others shall love and esteem him, and the more pleased and gratified he will be with the love and esteem which others exercise towards him; and the more will he love and esteem them, and be more benevolent towards them. He whose heart is full of benevolence and good will to Christ, must be pleased with and delight in the friendly benevolence of others to him; and this will also excite a peculiar benevolence and good will to such.

Besides, in proportion to the love any one has to Christ, he will have an affection for those who are beloved by Christ; so that Christ’s love of benevolence and complacency to his people has great influence in uniting them to one another in the dearest love and affection. 84He who greatly loves a dear friend, will naturally love all that are friendly to him, and all to whom he is a friend. His being a friend to them will necessarily recommend them to him, and render them the objects of his complacency and benevolence. This takes place in the case before us, in the most happy manner, and to the highest degree. In this view and to this purpose it is that Christ proposes his own example of love to his disciples, as a motive and inducement to them to love one another, with that love and friendship which is peculiar to Christians, as he knew it would have the most powerful influence upon them: “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you.” No other society of friends have such a powerful motive to love one another as this which Christ lets before his disciples. He has loved them so as to give his life for them, and he has made their interest his own to all intents and purposes; and they are dear to him, and precious in his light, answerable to what he has done and suffered for them. If therefore they love him, if he is honourable and precious in their light, and they are friends to his interest; they certainly will love those who are so dear to him, and have such an interest in his affections. How greatly does this recommend Christians one to another, and render them dear and precious in each others’ eyes, and promote a sweet and noble friendship, which is known to no other person in the universe!

And it may be further observed, that this sweet, humble, Christian love, which is the image of Christ’s love and grace, serves further to endear Christians to each other, and increase and heighten their friendship to each other: for there is a peculiar and inexpressible sweetness and enjoyment in being beloved by those who are so amiable and honourable in our eyes, and with such an ardent, humble, sweet and pure affection as Christian love is. The Christian, who has a sensible and most pleasing idea of this love and affection, cannot feel himself embraced by others with this tender, beautiful, 85noble love and friendship, without an ineffable sensation, which fills his heart with the most sweet delight and joy, and kindles a flame in his soul of holy love and gratitude to them, in which he returns love for love, and embraces them with the arms of the most delightful, tender and heart-melting friendship. Thus the mutual love of Christians serves to sweeten and increase their affection to each other, and blows the coals and kindles up the fire of friendship to a more intense and vehement flame. The more sensible any one is that he is the object of the Christian love of another, whom he esteems highly as an amiable disciple of Christ, and the more evidences and tokens he has of this love, the more will his heart be inflamed in love to him; which again will increase and heighten the other’s love: and thus, by the influence of their mutual love and friendship, the sweet flame rises higher and higher, until they are all melted and dissolved, and turned into a most pure, active, perfect flame: like two brands on fire, which burn flow, and give but a moderate heat, when apart; but being put together, by the mutual action and influence one on the other, the heat increases into a burning flame, which soon sets them all on fire.

Again: Their being united in the belief of the same system of sweet, important truth, and engaged in the same common interest, and in the same pursuits, and having the same views, designs, temper and disposition; and being, as to substance, in the same state and circumstances; in all these respects, and many others, being alike, united and bearing a resemblance to each other, like the children of one family, united under one kind, wise friend and father; Christians being thus united, and bear in Of this likeness to each other in so many respects, is many ways a great advantage to this friendship, and greatly adds to its beauty and sweetness, and serves to increase their love, and the union of their hearts to each other.

As this is such a pleasant, delightful, as well as noble, important theme, in which every Christian has so much 86concern and experience, it is proper and pleasing to add a few words more, and descend into some particulars.

This friendship, which Christians have one with another, by virtue of their union and friendship with Christ, the greatest and best friend, and the fountain and source of all true friendship among men; this love and friendship has true humility as its foundation and basis, and its peculiar beauty and glory.

Pride is most contrary to true friendship, and always interrupts and spoils the exercises and enjoyments of it, so far as it takes place. Every one’s observation and experience will bear an incontestible testimony to this, and shews that true friendship is found no where but among the meek and humble. Now Christians, by virtue of their love and union to Christ, and the friendship with him which has been described, are become humble, meek and lowly, so are in a peculiar manner formed for true and sweet friendship with each other; a friendship which far surpasses that of any other creatures in the universe. Their native state and circumstances, sinful, lost, enemies to God and the Saviour, infinitely miserable, guilty, odious and ill-deserving, lays a foundation for self abasement and humility, when truly discerned and understood, which cannot take place to the same degree in any other circumstances. And their absolute and exceeding dependence on Christ, and his rich, sovereign grace, for righteousness and strength, and every good thing, serves to set them low, and abase them forever, in their own eyes. And the wonderful, amazing humility of Christ their beloved friend, which he exercised in his astonishing stoop and low abasement for their sakes, by which he in a sense became the least in the kingdom of God, strikes their minds with a peculiar energy, and conspires with the above mentioned circumstances to humble them and lay them very low. The friends of Christ are therefore in this sense little ones; little in their own sight, and in true humility: they have taken Christ’s yoke upon them, and have learned of him, who is, above all others, meek and lowly of 87heart. And as they have, under the teachings of Christ, a clear and affecting view of their own character, as sinners, in all its meanness, contemptibleness and odious deformity, which they cannot have of others, their fellow Christians, they naturally have a much meaner thought of themselves than of others. Therefore, in the exercise of this true friendship, they are not disposed to exalt themselves, and be jealous of their own honour and prerogatives, and be displeased because others do not love, esteem, respect and honour them so much as they desire, and they think they ought to do. No! but directly the reverse of this; they are ready to think others their Christian friends have too high an esteem of them, and a love and friendship for them of which they are altogether unworthy. Thus Christians are always disposed to abase and humble themselves, and, in the exercise of this love and friendship, are preferring others, and setting them above themselves: and thus they are “kindly affectioned one to another,” in the strongest and sweetest friendship, “with brotherly love, in honour preferring one another.” Nothing is done through strife, or vain glory; but, in lowliness of mind, each esteems others better than themselves. And, as the chosen, holy, beloved friends of Christ, they have “put on bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, long suffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, even as Christ has loved and forgiven them. As by pride and an haughty spirit cometh contention, so the meekness and humility of mind, which is essential to every true lover of Christ, prepares true Christians for a sweet, holy and intimate friendship one with another, which no other persons are capable of, and in which there is a truly noble enjoyment and pleasure, which the world can neither give nor take away, and which cannot be told to him who has never tasted it.

Moreover, the uprightness and faithfulness of which every one is possessed, who is a friend to Christ, and which is peculiar to them, adds a great degree of excellence 88and happiness to Christian friendship, which can be enjoyed in no other union and connection. Sincerity, truth and faithfulness come into the very essence of true friendship; and the more there is of these, the more safe and happy are persons in their friendship. When it may be said of any, what is said of the wicked in general, even all that are not friends to Christ, “that there is no faithfulness in their mouth; their inward part is very wickedness; their throat is an open sepulchre; they flatter with their tongue; “they are not capable of true friendship, whatever may pass between them that may be called by that name. They may have a sort of love and union to one another, on some occasions and in certain cases, as a company of pirates or banditti may have a sort of union and friendship, grounded wholly upon self love and interest. But this is a very low, mean thing at best; it cannot give the enjoyments of true friendship; and, such as it is, there can be no dependence upon it, that it will continue. It being built on no liable principle, it shifts and changes, flourishes or dies, according to external changes, and the shifting of humours, interests and circumstances. They may be great friends one day, and the next be at swords’ points, hating and opposing each other more than any body else; improving all their former intimacy, and the confidence they had put in each other, as an advantage put into their hands of betraying and injuring one another to the utmost of their power. There are so many instances of this every where among mankind, that every observing person must: have abundant evidence of the justice of this remark.

The true friends and disciples of Christ are of a different character: they are sincere, upright, true, and faithful. Therefore they are commonly characterized by this in scripture—the upright, the just, the faithful; by which they are distinguished from all others. They are of a sincere, upright and faithful spirit, which is peculiar to them. This, therefore, prepares them for a 89 union and friendship with each other, which can be found no where else. They may open their hearts and divulge their secrets to each other, without danger of being betrayed, and trust and rely on one another with a great degree of confidence and safety: and there is a proper foundation for a lasting and growing friendship, whatever changes there may be in external circumstances. Thus they have the character of Solomon’s true friend, who “loveth at all times.” They love without dissimulation. In obeying the truth, through the Spirit, their souls are purified unto unfeigned love of the brethren; and they love one another with a pure heart, fervently. He who is possessed of Christian sincerity, integrity and faithfulness, has a pleasing idea, of which they who are not of this character have no true conception; and his heart is united to, and delights in, those who appear to be of this character, With a peculiar love and affection. And the love of such to each other is not built on any worldly circumstances and connections, or self interest. It is a more noble, exalted, sincere affection, and is built on more steady, lasting principles, of which the poor, if they are the disciples of Christ, are as much the objects as the rich: and it goes forth as freely and strongly to those who are overlooked and despised by the men of the world, as to the great and honourable. How much has such a friendship the advantage of all others! and how greatly happy must such friends be in each other! Every thing that is called love and friendship, in this world, is not worthy the name, when compared with this.

And the friends of Christ, who are most acquainted with each other, do naturally enter more and more into a near, intimate and tender friendship. As their acquaintance increases, the higher does their love arise. And their mutual kindness and acts of love and helpfulness one to another, and constant, earnest prayers for each other, tend to keep up and increase their friendship, and render it more and more perfect, sweet, delightful and profitable.

90

Thus, by virtue and in consequence of Christians’ union to Christ, and friendship with him, a peculiar, dear love and friendship takes place between them, which is the most sincere, exalted, noble and ravishingly sweet exercise and enjoyment that can take place among creatures. Their souls are united and knit together with the bands of the most; pure, strong and Lifting friendship, as the soul of Jonathan was to David, when he loved him as his own soul. And as the love and friendship between them was, so is that between the friends of Christ; even wonderful, passing the love of women. It is unspeakably more pure, strong, fervent, sweet, noble, steady and durable, than any affection and friendship which takes place between the sexes, or any persons whatsoever, which is founded only in instinct, or the principles of nature.

This love and friendship is indeed very imperfe6f in this state, through the great imperfection and deficiency of their love to Christ, and their holiness; and by reason of that ignorance of each other which takes place in a great degree, which prevents their certainly knowing who are true friends to Christ, and who are not, and having a full and adequate idea of what is truly excellent in them, and their having so much about them which is contrary to true friendship, as is all their remaining corruption and sinfulness of heart. And this friendship is also imperfect in this state, and often, if not always, is the occasion of some uneasiness and pain, in the midst of all the sweets of it, by reason of external circumstances. They are often banished from each others’ presence, and obliged to live at a distance, by which their acquaintance and intercourse is in a great measure interrupted. But if this is not the case, and they have much opportunity to be together, and have friendly intercourse, they are liable to misunderstand each other, and are often unable to communicate the sentiments and friendly exercises of their souls to their friends so clearly as would be necessary in order fully to gratify their love and friendship. And, besides, Christian 91friends in this state are liable to, and are actually the subjects of, many calamities and distresses of body and mind. Now, the more love and benevolence we have for our friends, the higher sympathy shall we have with them under their troubles, and their burdens and calamities will necessarily become ours in some measure; so that the higher degree of love and friendship we have for them, the more shall we suffer with them when they are in trouble. And though there is a pleasure even in this pain; yet, according to the supposition, pain there is, and necessarily will be, in such a situation.

This view of the matter shews us that perfect love and friendship does not take place in this state; nor can it exist to the best advantage, unless in a state of perfection.

However, even in this state of weakness and imperfection, where there is so much remaining darkness and sin in the best Christian, and there are so many disadvantages to friendship, true Christian friendship affords the most sweet, refined, noble enjoyment that can be had in this life. It surpasses all other friendships, in this respect, more than the brightness of the meridian sun exceeds the shining of the meanest glow-worm. They are by far the happiest persons on earth, who, being friends to Jesus Christ, are, by virtue of this, formed for true love and friendship to each other, and are brought into a union and oneness of heart and affection, by which they delight in, embrace and enjoy each other in the arms of the most pure and ardent love. A society of such friends and lovers is the most blessed society on earth, whatever their worldly circumstances are. All earthly good, all the riches, honours and pleasures of this world, are not to be compared with this; yea, they are utterly to be despised and contemned, in comparison with this. And all other unions and friendships that take place among men, which are not founded on love and friendship to Christ, are insipid, mean and worthless, compared with this Christian friendship, which has infinitely the advantage of them so many 91ways. This the christless person may disbelieve; and it may be impossible to convince him of it, as he has really no true idea of the thing. But he who has tasted the sweetness of this friendship, is a witness of the refined, superlative pleasures of it, and prefers it to all other friendships, unspeakably more than he who is athirst prefers the pure, living, crystal stream, to a warm, dirty, putrid puddle. Well may the words of the Royal Singer be applied to this noble and happy union and friendship: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, that went down to the skirts of his garments.”

There has been comparatively little of this Christian friendship, we have reason to believe, in the world, hitherto; but few who have known the pleasures of this sacred union; and most of those who have felt and exercised a degree of this divine friendship, have had but a very imperfect and low degree of it; so that it has never had advantage to appear in its true beauty, and happy, glorious effects. This pure, soul-exalting and refreshing love to Christ, and union and friendship to each other, has yet been a great stranger in this world: but the time is coming when the world shall be full of it; when all nations shall become the friends and servants of Christ, and that in the exercise of a high degree of love to him. And their love and friendship one to another will bear a proportion to this. Each one will find himself surrounded with those who give satisfying and abundant evidence of their love to Christ, and beautiful, growing conformity to him, and of their peculiar benevolence to, and delight in, all the disciples of Him whom they so ardently love—will therefore see himself loved and embraced by them, with the tenderest and mi oft pleasing affection and friendship. And how will his heart glow with ardent love to, and sweet delight in them, while he associates and converses with them with the most dear and unreserved intimacy! yea, 93their hearts will burn with the fire of this sacred love and friendship, whenever they see, or even think of, one another. Then every breast shall swell with a degree of pleasure and joy, which yet has been but little known; and a happiness, which has yet been hardly tailed in this world, shall spread itself like a mighty, pure river of delight, over the face of the earth. But this friendship will not come to its full perfection and glory in this state. We cannot therefore have the most profitable, or even a just idea of it, unless we raise our thoughts to that world, and glorious kingdom, into which all the friends of Christ will be shortly gathered, and united in one most amiable and happy society, in the presence of their common, most kind, excellent and exalted friend, in the best circumstances, and every way under the highest possible advantages to exercise and enjoy the sweetest and most perfect mutual love and friendship with Christ and one another. All that precedes this is very imperfect, and only preparatory and an introduction to this most perfect and happy union and friendship, where the most pure and exalted love will be exercised to the highest pitch, without any restraint, and so as to give the highest possible enjoyment.

There their love to Christ will be perfect; they will be all turned into a pure and most vehement flame of love to him; and his love will be shed abroad, and poured out on them, as most plentiful, refreshing floods of water upon the parched ground; which they will drink in with the highest relish, and most sacred, ravishing, delight. And they will each one appear in the perfect and most amiable image of Christ, perfectly excellent, beautiful and lovely, and full of the most sweet and lively affection to each other. The more they love Christ, and the greater assurance and sense they have of his love to them, the more love will they have to each other. They will have the greatest esteem of, and complacency in, one another. They will have as free intercourse and as great intimacy with each other as they can desire: 94there will be nothing to keep them at the least distance. They will be perfectly acquainted with each other, and have the most happy and easy way of communicating their thoughts, and pouring out their whole hearts and souls into each others’ bosoms, and expressing their love to and delight in each other. If the intimacy Christian friends have with each other here is so pleasant, and it is so sweet to be beloved by them; what will it be to be embraced with such strong, constant love, and enjoy a familiarity and intimacy, in which they will mingle souls, without any reserve or restraint, and which will inconceivably exceed the greatest intimacy, and most tender embraces, of the dearest friends in this world! How happy must they be whose love is made perfect, and flows out to each other, without any restraint, in a most rapid torrent, and is gratified every way to the highest possible degree! And there will be nothing to cloy or abate this love; it will never fail or change, unless it be to grow more ardent and strong. The longer they live together, and the more they are acquainted with each other, the higher will their love and friendship rise. And their benevolence to each other will be pleased and gratified to the highest degree; for their friends, to whom they wish so well, are in the most happy circumstances, are as happy as they can possibly wish and desire: so that all their good will to each other will be exercised and expressed in the greatest satisfaction and joy in their happiness. And what kind offices, may we suppose, these friends will be constantly doing for each other, by which they will gratify and promote the happiness of one another!

And their acquaintance and special connections in this world, and especially the good they have been the instruments of doing to each other here, will greatly serve to increase and sweeten their love and friendship in heaven. With what unspeakable delight will these things be remembered and recounted to each other there! With what ineffable love and gratitude will the converted and saved embrace those who have been the happy 95instruments of this; while they, on the other hand, shall be to such the occasion of their peculiar joy, and their crown of rejoicing forever, and be embraced by them with inexpressible tenderness, love and delight.—And, Oh, how wall they that have been most intimately acquainted here, and united in love, and have most abounded in ads of kindness and friendship to each other, and have been greatly instrumental many ways of promoting the spiritual good and salvation of each other; how will such, however they may be parted by death for a while, meet, with peculiar and unspeakable joy, in that world, and love and embrace each other forever in the arms of the most tender, sweet, exalted, growing friendship! In a word, there shall be no sinful mixtures in their love and friendship, and no defects, as there always are here; but it will be most pure and untainted. The more they love one another, not the less, but the more, will they love Jesus, their common friend: there will be no need of caution and restraint; no danger of running to excess. There will be the most perfect, refined pleasure, without the least pain, which unavoidably attends the most exalted friendship in this world. All the tears their friendship has occasioned here shall be forever wiped from their eyes. There shall be nothing but the most perfect, sweet union and harmony; nothing in the way of their expressing their love, and enjoying each other, without the least danger or fear of having it interrupted, or of their being parted from the friendly embraces of each other, to all eternity. What a world of love and friendship will this be! Though all who enter into the school of Christ have some experience of the sweets and happiness of this friendship, yet how low and childish are our thoughts and conceptions of this matter. Surely eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of any of the saints, the things which Christ has laid up for them that love him, and have entered into this divine friendship with him, and with each other,

96

A little of this friendship, in this world, naturally, and even necessarily, leads these Christian friends, while they feel the imperfections, impediments and interruptions of this love and friendship here, to look forward to, and long for, that perfect state, where this divine affection shall be exercised and gratified to the highest degree, and they shall eternally swim in a boundless ocean of love. The more this friendship flourishes in their breasts now, the more weaned are they from earth, and all its enjoyments; the more are their hearts fixed on heaven, and the higher and stronger are their longings for the enjoyment of the society and friendship of that world of love; and the greater is their hope and assurance of enjoying it forever.

And who can be willing to live and die a stranger to this Christian love and friendship, and so miss of that world of happiness in which it shall issue, and where it shall flourish forever! Who can be content to give up his heart to that love and those friendships only, which are attended with certain disappointment, and only serve to perplex and torture the mind, and will assuredly issue in darkness, horror, and eternal hatred and discord!

Blessed, unspeakably blessed, are they in whose hearts this love and friendship is begun; who, because they love Christ, love his people also; and know that they love Christ, and have passed from death to life, because they love the brethren.

Let us then love one another, not in word, neither in tongue only, but in deed and in truth; that hereby we may know that we are of the truth, and assure our hearts before God. For this is his commandment, that we believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another.

97
« Prev Sermon V. The friendship of Christians between… Next »



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |