The Friends of Christ
Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you. - John xv:14.
Friendship is a delightful theme. Philosophers have expatiated on it, and poets have caught its inspiration, - while multitudes, neither philosophers nor poets, have felt its soothing influence. Who, in times of joy, has not taken pleasure in communicating his joyous emotions to a friend? And who, in the hour of sorrow, has not alleviated his grief by telling his tale of sadness to a friend? Who, amid the storms of adversity, has not heard the voice of a sympathizing friend, sustaining, animating, cheering? Thus friendship increases joy and diminishes sorrow.
It is well for the happiness of mortals that there is such a thing as friendship. Fortunate are those who have secured the friendship of congenial spirits. Confidence is the basis of friendship. There must be merit to inspire confidence, and this merit must be appreciated.
There are reasons why we should be the friends of our fellow-creatures; but how much more numerous and weighty the reasons why we should be the friends of Christ. To this point let us first direct our attention.
I. Why Should we be the Friends of Christ?
Out of a multiplicity of reasons I select the following:
1. He is infinitely worthy of our friendship. - If confidence is the basis of friendship, there surely is that in Jesus Christ to justify confidence, and thus create friendship. What perfection is not his? What excellency is not exemplified in him? In his character, as a bright center, all the lines of moral glory meet. They converge to a point and shine with iutensest luster. Jesus is truly and properly divine. Everything, therefore, glorious in divinity, belongs inalienably to him. Nor is this all. The immaculate excellence of his human nature should be considered. He is truly and properly man. Yet his assumption of human nature was designedly miraculous, that he might escape its contamination. He did escape it; for as man he was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." He lived among men, disdaining a participation in their depravity, exhibiting every human excellence, and illustrating every human virtue.
"All human beauties, all divine,
In our Beloved meet and shine."
We ought to be the friends of him in whom is seen all divine and all human excellence.
2. He is our friend, and has given the strongest proof of his friendship. - He is emphatically the friend of sinners. Out of this fact arises our world's only hope. Christ has declared himself
our friend, nor has a declaration in words satisfied his benevolent heart. See what his friendship made him willing to become and to do. Though he thought it no usurpation of divine honor to claim equality with God, he voluntarily became incarnate. What a specimen of condescension is this! Nothing like it had ever been seen before - nothing like it will ever be seen again.
Having become incarnate, he submitted to poverty, disgrace, persecution, sorrow, suffering and death. How did he endure the contradiction of sinners against himself for our sakes! What agonies were his! What immitigable anguish broke his heart! How did he pour out his soul unto death, that we, saved from death eternal, might enjoy immortal life in heaven! What more could the strength of a divine friendship do! Surely such friendship ought to be reciprocated.
3. Our dignity, honor, interest and happiness are involved in friendship for Christ. - In becoming the friends of Christ we attain true dignity. There is no true dignity without friendship for him. Many impenitent sinners suppose that in becoming Christians they would compromise their dignity. How they mistake! They will never exemplify a genuine dignity unless they become the friends of Christ.
We are honored in being the friends of Christ. Enmity to him would be our disgrace. It would stamp our character with infamy. Friendship for Christ can alone secure the honor which comes
from God. He himself says, "If any man serve me, him will my Father honor."
Our interest and happiness are most effectually promoted by friendship for Christ. All that is meant by salvation and heaven, belongs to the friends of the Redeemer. They have the promise of the life that now is, and also of that which is to come. They are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ. Friendship for, involves heirship with Christ. Are not these sufficient reasons why we should be the friends of Christ?
II. Proofs of Friendship for Christ.
1. Bitter shame and sorrow that we were ever his enemies. - We were once his enemies. Our hearts rose up in opposition to him. We saw no beauty in him that we should desire him. We hated hirn. Unreasonable and gratuitous as the hatred was, we did hate him. We were unwilling to be saved by him; for the state of our, hearts was in antipathy to the plan of salvation through his blood. If we are now the friends of Christ, we are ashamed that we were not always his friends.
We feel profound sorrow that our hearts were ever destitute of love to him. Ah! how can we ever forgive ourselves for being, at any period of our lives, enemies of Christ? What painful mortification belongs to us! We were formerly inimical to infinite perfection we were blind to the charms of infinite excellence. Well may we exhibit "confusion of face" as long as we live.
If shame could enter heaven we would feel it there, that our friendship for Christ was preceded by enmity against him. Shame and sorrow that we were ever the enemies of Christ, are to be numbered among the proofs that we are now his friends.
2. A cordial willingness to be saved by him. - The confidence which friendship implies, induces this willingness. The essence of friendship for Christ consists in a cheerful acquiescence in the scheme of redemption through his death. His friends, confidently believing in his mediatorial power to save, trust in him alone for salvation. It is easy to see that unwillingness to be saved by Christ is utterly at war with friendship for him. And hence a willingness to be saved by him on the terms of the gospel, is a proof of friendship for him.
3. A resolute determination to do what he has commanded. - What says the text? "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you." He is King in Zion. His will is law - the supreme law. He is exalted to be a Prince, as well as a Savior. When Saul of Tarsus, a bitter enemy of Christ, began to feel the first pulsations of spiritual life in his soul, and the first emotions of friendship and love for Christ in his heart, he inquired, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" No proof of friendship for Christ is satisfactory in the absence of a determined purpose to do his will. And the purpose must be carried into execution. "He that hath my commandments
and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me."
This is the language of Christ himself. And he enjoined it on his apostles to teach his disciples to observe all things whatsoever he had commanded. We must do what Christ commands, and do it out of reverence for him, if we would show our friendship for him. It is not what men in councils, or conventions, or conferences, or assemblies, require - it is not what creeds and confessions make obligatory; but it is what Christ tells us to do. "Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you."
4. A willingness to bear reproach and persecution for his sake. - We are told that all who will live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suifer persecution. The days have been, when the light ascending from the martyr-fires illuminated the heavens, and the blood shed by the witnesses of Jesus discolored the waters. How cheerfully the martyred millions surrendered their lives in testimony of their friendship for Christ. The Apostles, we are told, rejoiced that "they were counted worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus." Their friendship and love had attained a moral sublimity. Once those Apostles would have rejoiced to sit with Christ, on his right hand and left, in a worldly kingdom. Now, their views are so changed, and their friendship is so ardent, that they are happy to suffer for his name! This was, indeed, a proof of friendship for Christ. Many think the times of persecution are past,
never te return. It is not so. Where is the man now whose friendship for Jesus prompts him to do just what Jesus has commanded, and to utter his protest against the substitution of any thing else in the place of what Christ has commanded, who is not persecuted? There is no such man! Those professors of religion, who escape reproach and persecution, make a compromise between truth and error. It is a strong proof of friendship for Christ, when we can cheerfully bear reproach and persecution for his name.
5. A desire to go to heaven because Christ is there. - Many wish to go to heaven on other accounts. The friends of Christ are anxious to go thither that they may see him, and enjoy hs presence. Who ever demonstrated a more exalted friendship for Christ than did Paul? And he says, "Having a desire to depart, and be with Christ, which is far better." Men may desire to die for various reasons. Christians alone desire to depart that they may be with Christ. And why do they wish to be with him? Because of their friendship for him. Hence their desire to be with him, is a proof of their friendship and love for him.
[From J. M. Pendleton, Short Sermons on Important Subjects, 1859. This book is from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary Library, Wake Forest, NC via ILL through Boone County Public Library, Burlington, KY. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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