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in keeping them there is a great reward. The ways of wisdom are pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. We have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies as much as in all riches." And now, O Christian, what does the Lord, thy all-sufficient Friend and Redeemer, require of thee but to say, with joy unspeakable and full of glory, “ This is my beloved, and this is my friend," and live answerable to such a high profession and character ?
17. Another advantage and peculiar happiness of this friendship is, that the friends of Christ have just as much evidence that he is their friend as they have that they are friends to him; and this evidence rises, and is clear, in proportion to the degree of exercise of love and friendship to him.
It has been observed, that it is essential to true love and friendship for any one to desire to be the object of his love, and to have him his friend on whom he has set his affections. And the more sincere and strong our friendly affection and love to another is, the more do we desire to be the objects of his love and friendship, and the greater uneasiness and pain will attend suspicions of his love to us. As it is the sweetest, happiest thing in the world, even the highest enjoyment we can imagine, to be beloved, especially by those for whom we have a high esteem and a strong and most friendly affection, so, perhaps, nothing is more disagreeable, or will give a more sensible, cutting pain, than to find ourselves neglected and quite cast off by such. And this is eminently true in the case before us. True friendship to Christ does render it above all things desirable, to him that exercises it, to be the object of Christ's love and favor. And to be cast off' by him, and be the object of his displeasure and wrath, is to such a one, above any thing else, undesirable and dreadful. In this case, above any other, “ love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, even a most vehement flame."
This has often proved a great unhappiness in human love and friendship, especially that which takes place between the sexes. Many a one has been most cruelly tortured and undone by this. They have had a vehement affection and love for another, while they have found themselves not beloved, but slighted and despised : this has proved to them an insupportable burden, spread darkness over all things under the sun, rendered them incapable of enjoying any thing, and made them weary of their own life, and has often put an end to it by a lingering, cruel death.
But the friends of Christ are, in this respect, most happy. They can no further doubt of his love to them than they question their own love and friendship to him. If they love him, and are his true friends, he is certainly their friend. Yea, if they love him in sincerity, though in never so imperfect and low a degree, they are the objects of his love, and a friendship is begun between Christ and them which will continue forever. For this Christ has given his word to all his friends. He has said, “ I love them that love me; and he that loveth me, I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him. And bim that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out.”
We want nothing, then, in order to be assured that Christ loves us with a strong and everlasting love, and is our un. changeable friend, but to know that we love him; or, in other words, we may be certain that Christ loves us, so far as we have good evidence that we sincerely desire and prize his love and friendship; and our evidence of this will be in proportion to the degree of our love to him, or the strength and constancy of our affection and friendship. This is true in all instances of love and affection to any friend; the evidence that we do love them, and are their friends, will be in proportion to the degree and constancy of the exercise of our love and friend. ship to them, and the expression of it in all proper ways. This love always evidences itself, and is attended with a consciousness that it does exist in our hearts, in proportion to the strength and constancy of its exercise; and we may love a friend to such a degree as to remove all doubt, yea, render us absolutely assured that we do love him.
So it is in this case; if we doubt whether we are true friends of Jesus Christ, it must be because we are not so, or are so in a very weak and low degree, and with great inconstancy, and there is much in our hearts and actions directly contrary to love and friendship; and as this love rises, and becomes more and more a constant, vigorous exercise and flame in the heart, the Christian will have higher evidence and greater confidence that he is a friend to Christ, and, consequently, that Christ is his friend; and nothing is wanting but a constant, vigorous exercise of this love, in order to a constant consciousness and prevailing assurance that this glorious Person is our beloved, and, consequently, that he loves us, and is our friend.
Thus we see how happy this friendship is in this respect, by which it is distinguished from all other friendships whatsoever. Full provision is made for the gratification of love to Christ in all respects. In proportion as the Christian loves Christ, he enjoys him, and his love and
friendship is gratified and pleased in a sense and evidence of Christ's love to him. So far as he prizes Christ's love, and really desires to have him his friend, from true love to him, and has a sense and evidence that he
does love him, just so far he has a sense and evidence that Christ actually is his friend and does love him ; so that this desire is gratified and answered, and turned into a degree of sweet enjoyment, in proportion to the strength and constancy of it. When the Christian, therefore, can with confidence say, “ This is my beloved,” he may with equal assurance add, « This is my friend.” For these God has joined together; and nothing, neither angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be ever able to separate them.
18. This friendship between Christ and the believer will reconcile men to death, and support and comfort them under the death of others, their Christian friends.
It tends to make death desirable and sweet. Friends have been so united in this world, and had such a love for each other, that if one must die, the other would choose to die with him; and so the death of one has made death desirable to the other. But the friendship of which I am speaking has a much more powerful influence this way, in many respects. When a friend to Christ, with his heart full of love to him, looks into the
grave, and considers that there his dearest Lord and Friend once lay, this will sweeten the grave, to him, and make the thought of laying his head in the dust pleasant, and he will be ready to say with one of his friends of old, “ Let me die with him." Besides, friendship to Christ reconciles to death, and renders it desirable, and the thought of it sweet, as it is the only way to the full enjoyment of Christ, and a dwelling with him in his holy and glorious kingdom. The friend of Christ longs to be delivered from all contrariety to him, as what is most odious, and the greatest burden, and to get rid of all ignorance, and coldness, and indifference towards him, and be turned into a perfect, pure flame of love to him; to dwell in his presence, and honor, praise, and serve him day and night; and when he sees death to be the only way to this, he is not only reconciled to it, but is ready to long for it; and when he sees that his almighty Friend has conquered death, and taken away the sting of it, with what courage and joy can he look it in the face! while with him who was one of Christ's great friends on earth seventeen hundred years ago, and is now with him in heaven, he desires to depart and be with Christ, which to him is far the best of any thing he can conceive of or wish for.
Again: this friendship with Christ gives the best support under the death of dear Christian friends, and lays a foundation even for comfort in it. Herein it has the advantage of all other friendships. The more strongly they take place, the VOL. II.
more is death dreaded; because this puts an utter end to the friendship, and cuts off all hopes of ever seeing and enjoying one another again. It is in this view that St. Paul speaks of the sorrow and mourning of those that were no Christians, on the death of their dear friends, as those who have no hope. They are left quite disconsolate on the death of their friends, because they have no hope of ever seeing and enjoying them again. But Christians have no reason to mourn so. They may part with each other here with high hopes and full assurance of meeting again in a short time, and enjoying each other, to a much higher degree and in a better manner, than ever they did before, in the presence of Christ, in his glorious kingdom.
When our dear Christian friends are torn from our fond embraces, and we are deprived of their sweet company, and know we shall see them no more on earth, the more we love Christ, and the greater is our benevolence to them, the more comfort and joy shall we have in the thought that they have ceased from sin, yea, from all their labors and troubles, and are gone to be with Christ, our great and common Friend, and enjoy the benefits of this friendship to an immensely higher degree than we can here; that they will soon be restored to us, with great advantage, and we shall see them in Christ's kingdom, unspeakably inore loving and lovely than they were here; and, in a much more noble and perfect friendship, shall reap the happy consequence, and all the advantages of our acquaintance and friendship here, and be forever with the Lord, our glorious Friend and Redeemer. Surely Christians may well, under the loss of their dearest friends, comfort one another with these words.
19. Christ will bring his friends to the nearest enjoyment of himself, and communion with him, where they shall taste the growing sweets of his love and friendship forever.
This is one peculiar excellency and privilege of this friendship, and, what crowns all, that, with all its superior excellence and sweetness, and with every other advantage and desirable circumstance, it will never come to an end, but will continue, flourish, and increase forever. The many and great disadvantages and imperfections that attend it in this state shall soon wholly cease, and every thing desirable, and that can possibly advance it in any respect and degree, shall take place, and that unspeakably beyond the highest flights of the warmest and brightest imagination. This has been repeatedly brought into view, and in several particulars that have been mentioned ; but it is so important an article of this friendship, that it seems to deserve our more particular attention.
This friendship is, in this world, very sweet, and exceeds all others, both in its excellency and in the enjoyment it gives. But this is but a low beginning of something immensely more exalted and happy; and it is only preparatory to that which shall be most perfect and everlasting. This friendship is exceeding imperfect in this state, has many interruptions and hinderances, and is attended with numerous inconveniences, which often occasion great pain and distress, which is peculiar to the friends of Christ, and is many times very keen, and even overwhelming. Their remaining degrees of unfriendliness and opposition of heart to Christ, their blindness, stupidity, ingratitude, their great degree of alienation from Christ, their unfruitfulness, and the ill returns they make to him, and their want of a sense of his love and favor, are a most heavy burden to them, under which they often go mourning all the day long. For these things their souls are bowed down and greatly disquieted within them. And their love to Christ, and concern for his interest in the world, is often the occasion of great concern and trouble, while they live in such a wicked world as this, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, where there are so many enemies to Christ, and his cause is in so many ways opposed and run down. These things often cause them to hang their harps on the willows in this strange land, and to sit down and weep when they remember Zion and the interest of their Friend and Redeemer; and rivers of water run down their eyes, because men keep not his law, but dishonor him. And the higher their love and friendship to Christ rises, the more affecting and painful will these things be to them — like the dear friends of Christ, the holy women who followed him weeping when he went to the cross, surrounded by an insulting crowd of cruel enemies. Their love to Christ, their dearest friend, filled their hearts with the keenest twinges of the most cutting pain, which, as a dreadful sword, pierced their souls through and through.
But it is wisely and kindly ordered that this friendship should begin in such a state as this, and in these circumstances; and this will all turn to its great advantage in the issue, and prepare the way for a higher enjoyment than if they had never taken place. Christ, their great friend and patron, superintends, and is in this way disciplining them, and in the best manner training them up for the near enjoyment of him in the most perfect state of friendship and happiness. They are espoused to him, though they are in an enemy's country; and he is preparing them for the happy nuptials, when they shall be brought into his presence and kind embraces, never to part again. And all their pain and sorrow in this world which they have suffered on his account, and all they