Friendship has been oft my favorite theme, and afforded many a pleasing thought, but hitherto my experience of this blessing answers not my ideas. Perhaps they are raised too high, or it may be, this is too near akin to all other earthly pleasures which fly our wishes or disappoint our expectations.
Let me then raise my thoughts from earth and consider this amiable subject in its divine perfection, let me meditate on the friendship of the blessed Jesus, who says, henceforth I call you not servants but friends &c. Wondrous condescension! delightful assurance! infinitely more engaging than the dearest ties on earth! an interest in his friendship how desirable, how extensive the blessing! it contains every thing we need for time and eternity.
The dearest friend on earth though his heart be ours and his will ever ready, may want the power to assist us; in necessities, danger, and distresses we can have no more than his tenderest concern, his sincerest good wishes: we disclose our griefs with unavailing confidence, while friendship mourns but cannot help us. But Jesus is infinitely powerful, all power in heaven and in earth is his, he is able as well as willing to save to the uttermost: to him we may lay open all our hearts and pour out our souls without reserve; to him lament our frailties, for he alone can correct them; to him reveal our wants, he can supply them all; to him we may tell our sorrows, he can and will remove or give us strength to bear them; to him we may recount our comforts and our joys, for he is the spring from whence they flow; he only can continue and increase them.
Our friends may be so far distant in our greatest extremities, that we may be deprived even of the benefit of their kind condolence and compassionate sympathy, because they cannot be acquainted with our distress: but Jesus is ever near, ever ready to assist his beloved friends; he hears every groan and pities every sorrow, he is touched with a feeling of their infirmities, and his divine compassion and sympathizing tenderness are far beyond all that mortal friendship ever knew! Are they exposed to want, affliction, and distress, he shares in all their sufferings; and to express how intimately his affection is united to them, he ever speaks of those sufferings as his own; I was sick, I was in prison &c. and kind offices done to the least of those whom he graciously condescends to call his brethren, he rewards as done to himself; and if he hide his blissful face, yet still they dwell upon his heart, and in his own best time he will relieve them: his sovereign hand can turn afflictions into blessings, and grief shall terminate in joy.
His own soft hand shall wipe the tear
From every weeping eye. Watts.
In straits and difficulties if we apply to earthly friends for counsel, and receive the best advice they are capable of giving; they are weak short-sighted creatures like ourselves, and by following their directions, we may be led into irretrievable errors and misfortunes: but Jesus, the heavenly friend, is infinite in wisdom! he guides his favorites by his counsels, the unerring dictates of his sacred Word, makes their way plain before them, leads them by the constant care of his providence, and conducts them, through all the difficulties and embarrassments of life, to eternal safety and happiness.
Human nature is frail, and the warmest, sincerest friendship may cool and change to indifference, and though friendship is ever ready to put the most favourable construction on the behaviour, to place every action in its fairest light, and to pity and forgive the faults it cannot mend, yet as it cannot know the heart and judges only by words and actions, these are liable to misunderstandings and false representations, which may interrupt its course, and perhaps entirely dissolve those ties, which seemed too firm for time and chance to loosen.
But if the love of Jesus is unchangeable, he that made the heart knows all its inmost recesses, and can never be misinformed, can never mistake; if there is a principle of sincere love to him, though buried amid a thousand imperfections, that Love himself inspired, he approves, and will reward. The soul once his, is his for ever. Not all the powers of earth or hell, not things present nor things to come, shall be able to separate from his everlasting love.
In mortal friendships, the satisfaction a generous mind enjoys in obliging, and the sentiments of a grateful heart in being obliged, are exceedingly agreeable; but this heavenly friend engages our warmest our everlasting gratitude, and even gratitude is swallowed up in wonder, when we meditate the immeasurable extent of his divine beneficence, in what he has done, is still doing, and will do for the objects of his love. Of enemies and traitors, he has made friends and favourites! for guilty, lost, undone creatures, deserving nothing but never-ending misery and eternal death, he has purchased pardon, life and immortal happiness; and this with his own most precious blood! It would be a surprizing effect of friendship for a man to lay down his life for his friend; but Jesus freely gave his life for such as were his inveterate enemies. Stupendous love! astonishing goodness! –
At death, earthly friendships are dissolved, with the friend our comforts die, and the satisfaction we enjoyed in their society, leaves only a painful remembrance of the pleasures we have lost. – But Jesus lives for ever! lives to make intercession for his friends above, to communicate constant supplies of grace to them below, to guide them through all the scenes of mortal life, to guard them from every danger, to strengthen them in encountering their last enemy, crown them with victory, and bring them safe to his glorious presence, to live with him for ever and ever. Happy, happy souls! who have an interest in this all-sufficient, this everlasting friend! O may I never rest satisfied till I can say with a humble, yet well-grounded confidence, this is my beloved, this is my friend! Blessed Jesus! teach to know thee and to love thee more, let me hear the voice of thy sacred spirit whispering to my heart that thou art mine, assure me of my interest in thy almighty, unchangeable love! then shall I be blest indeed.
My Lord, my Saviour, my almighty friend,
O wilt thou, gracious, own the humble claim!
And let thy spirit, sacred evidence,
Confirm it to my soul with power divine!
Tell me, O tell me thou art mine indeed,
And fill my heart with gratitude and love!
But ah! how weak, how languishing and low
My strongest gratitude, my highest love.
How cold, the warmest ardors of my soul,
For blessings so divine! how poor a gift
This vile this wretched heart! and yet ’tis all
A worthless worm can offer, mean return!
Nor can I tender this without thy aid;
O help me to surrender all my heart,
Its powers and passions, to thy sovereign love!
Accept it, Lord, and make it thine entire!
Let thy abounding grace remove my guilt,
Forgive my wanderings, fix me thine for ever,
In bands which time nor death have power to loose!
Text: Text: STE 3/4, no. 6, Steele Collection, Angus Library, Regent's Park College, Oxford; Miscellaneous Pieces in Verse and Prose, 1780, pp. 174-80; also Nonconformist Women Writers, vol. 2, ed. Julia B. Griffin, pp. 228-30.