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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : VIII. FRIENDSHIP.

Questionable Amusements And Worthy Substitutes by J. M. Judy

VIII. FRIENDSHIP.

BONDS OF ATTACHMENT.

Each person is connected with every other person by some bond of attachment. It may be by the steel bond of brotherhood, by the silvern chain of religious fellowship, by the golden band of conjugal affection, by the flaxen cord of parental or filial love, or by the silken tie of friendship. One or more of these bonds of attachment may encircle each person, and each bond has its varying strength, and is capable of endless lengthening and contracting. Brotherhood is a general term, and as it is used here, comprises the fellow-feeling that one human being has for another, this is universal brotherhood. Brotherhood comprises the fellow-feeling that attracts persons of the same race, nation, or community, this is racial, national, or community brotherhood; also, it comprises the fellow-feeling that exists between persons of the same avocation, calling, or work, this is the brotherhood of profession; it comprises the fellow-feeling that joins persons of the same order or party, this is the brotherhood of order; it comprises the fellow-feeling that joins brothers and sisters of the same home, this is the brotherhood of family. Religious fellowship includes that spiritual intercourse which is held between persons of the same religious faith and practice. Conjugal affection comprises that feeling of mind and heart which unites husband and wife. Filial and parental love exists between parent and child. While friendship comprises that soul union which exists between persons because of similar desires, tastes, and sentiments. Each of these bonds of attachment has its characteristic mark, its essential feature. The essential feature of universal brotherhood is common origin, present struggle, and future hope; the essential feature of racial, national, or community brotherhood is patriotism; the essential feature of brotherhood of the order is mutual helpfulness; the essential feature in brotherhood of the profession is common pursuit; in brotherhood of the family, common parentage; in conjugal affection, attraction for opposite sex; in parental and filial love, love of offspring and love of parent; while in friendship the essential feature is harmony of natures.

WHAT IS FRIENDSHIP?

No human relationship can be more beautiful, nor more abiding than true friendship. It is a spiritual thing, a communion of souls, virtuously exercised. How one is impressed and pleased to see another horse just like his own, to see another dog exactly resembling his own, to meet a person who speaks, looks, and acts like some one he has known. It is a surprise, mingled with mystery and delight. But with what increased surprise and delight does one meet with a |person after his own heart.| All men have recognized the strength and beauty of right self-love. The second great law of Christ's kingdom is declared in terms of true self-love. |Love thy neighbor as thyself.| Every one loves himself, because one's self is the truest and best of other lives filtered through his own soul. When one finds in another that which perfectly answers to his own soul-likings and longings, he has found another self, he has found a friend. Friendship is the communion of such souls, although they may be absent from one another. The highest friendship may grow more perfectly when friends are separated, then it is unmixed with the alloy of imperfect thought and action. Then it is nourished by the past, for only the past buries all faults; it is encouraged by the future, for only the future veils the awkwardness and shortcomings of the present. The character of friendship is determined by the character of friends. Negative personalities wanting in taste, conviction, and virtue produce only a negative friendship. Intense personalities produce intense friendships; noble personalities, noble friendships, and spiritual personalities, spiritual friendship. In the true, spiritual sense, before one can become a friend, he must become an individual. He must stand for something in thought and purpose. If this is not true, friendship becomes a flimsy affair. For souls to commune with one another there must be harmony; unity, agreement of desires, sentiments, and tastes. Not the harmony of indifference, nor a forced agreement, but a beautiful and natural response of soul to soul. Such equipment for friendship finds its basis only in individual character. Character is conduct become habitual. If one spurns reason, and follows his impulse and passion, he becomes unreliable, and does not know the issues of his own heart and life. Who knows what such an one will do next? To make it soar well or sail well, friendship must have ballast. This ballast is worthy, individual character. It would be more exact to say there can be no true friendship without individual character. Although many elements constitute the character of the true friend, yet two elements are essential -- sincerity and tenderness. Sincerity is the soul of every virtue, while true words, simple manners, and right actions make up the body. If the soul of virtue is present one does not always demand the presence of the body, but if the body of virtue is absent, one had better take a search after the soul. If sincerity is unquestioned, words, manners, actions have great liberty; but if words, manners and actions are lacking in straight-forwardness, it is time to question sincerity. This is true in all human affairs involving motive and conduct. Especially is it true in friendship. Sincerity knows its own. By a glance it penetrates the very heart of its true friend, and leaves translucent and transparent its own. Sincerity gives steadfastness and constancy to friendship. Insincerity mars and breaks friendship. Who has not seen a soul spring into life through the love of a radiant friendship; and then following a series of hollow pretenses, insincerities, that friendship fails, and the beautiful creature stifles and dies. As one tells us, |such a death is frightful, it is the asphyxia of the soul!| Then, tenderness is an essential element in the character of a friend. Says Emerson: |Notwithstanding all the selfishness that chills like east winds the world, the whole human family is bathed with an element of love, like a fine ether.| With Emerson, we believe that every person carries about with him a certain circle of sympathy within which he, and at least one friend, may temper and sweeten life. Much of the kindness of the world is simply breathed, and yet what an aroma of good cheer it sheds in grateful lives. Tenderness possesses a sensitiveness of sympathy to an extreme degree. It shrinks from the sight of suffering. It treats others with |gentleness, delicacy, thought-fulness, and care. It enters into feelings, anticipates wants, supplies the smallest pleasure, and studies every comfort.| Says one: |It belongs to natures, refined as well as loving, and possesses that consideration of which finer dispositions only are capable.| Tenderness is a heart quality. It is the luxury of a pure and intense friendship. It tempers one's entire nature, making his whole being sympathetic with grace and favor. It is manifest in the relaxing feature, in the penetrating glance, in the mellowing voice, in the engracing manners, and in the complete obliteration of time and distance, while with one's friend. We recall the friendly visits spend with our friend, Lawrence W. Rowell, during his medical course in Rush College, Chicago, while we were in attendance at the Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois. Rowell was intellectual, spirited, gifted in conversation, highly sympathetic, informed, critical, yet charitable, a close student of human nature, a love of philosophy, of musical temperament, of noble heart, of exalted purpose. Our visits were kept up bimonthly throughout one year. We would spent Saturday evening and Sunday together. Those visits revealed to me the magnetism, intensity, and tenderness of a friend. Truly, with us time and distance were almost completely obliterated from our consciousness. I say distance, for we would walk together. Tenderness suits the amiable and gentle in disposition, but it comes with a peculiar charm from the austere nature. It is one of the stalwart virtues, and is often concealed behind a crusty exterior. Severity and tenderness adorn the greatest lives.

THE TEST OF FRIENDSHIP.

What is the uncertain mark of a friend? Have I a friend? How many friends have I? I can invoice my stock, my goods, my land, my money, can I invoice my friends? One may not always know the actual worth of a friend, but he knows who are his friends, quite as well as he knows who are his nephews and cousins. |A friend is one whom you need and who needs you.| Has one a bit of good news, he flies to his friend, he wants to share it. Has one a sorrow, he seeks his friend who will gladly share that. Does one meet with a defeat or victory, instantly he thinks of his friend and of how it will effect him. Friends need one another, as truly as the child needs its mother, or the mother her child. Is one tempted to commit a wrong in thought or action, his friend, though absent, appears at his side and begs him not to do it. If one is in doubt or uncertainty, he summons his friend, who become a patient reasoner, and an impartial judge. Who does not find himself, daily, looking through other people's glasses, weighing on other people's scales, sounding other people's voices? It is a habit that friends have with one another. You can not deprive friends of one another, any more than you can lovers. Ah, true friends are lovers of the heaven-born sort; for their agreement is grounded in nature. They are not chosen, they are discovered. Or, as Emerson says, they are |self-elected.|

|Friendship's an abstract of love's noble flame,
'Tis love refined, and purged from all its dross,
'Tis next to angel's love, if not the same,
As strong as passion in, though not so gross.|

Thus writes Catherine Phillips.

FRUITS OF FRIENDSHIP.

True friendship gives ease to the heart, light to the mind, and aid to the carrying out of one's life-purposes. First, ease to the heart. The presence of a friend is a beam of genial sunshine which lights up the house by his very appearance. He warms the atmosphere and dispels the gloom. The presence of a true friend for a day, a night, a week, lifts one out of himself, links him with new purposes, and immerses him in new joys. Friends breathe free with one another. They inspire sighs of relief. Embarrassment disappears; liberty reigns supreme. Hearts are like steam boilers, occasionally, they must give vent to what is in them, or they will burst. This is the true mission of friends, to become to one another reserve reservoirs of |griefs, joys, fears, hopes, suspicions, counsels, and whatever lieth upon the heart to oppress it,| or elate it. You recall those familiar lines of Bacon: |This communicating of a man's self to his friends works two contrary effects; for it redoubles joys and cutteth griefs in halves; for there is no man that imparteth his joys to his friend, but he joyeth the more; and no man that imparteth his griefs to his friends, but he grieveth the less.| The following selected lines, slightly changed, set forth this first fruit of friendship.

|A true friend is an atmosphere
Warm with all inspirations dear,
Wherein we breathe the large free breath
Of life that hath no taint of death.
A true friend's an unconscious part
Of every true beat of our heart;
A strength, a growth, whence we derive
Soul-rest, that keeps the world alive.|

Then, friendship sheds light in the mind. |He who has made the acquisition of a judicious and sympathetic friend,| says Robert Hall, |may be said to have doubled his mental resources.| No man is wise enough to be his own counselor, for he inclineth too much to leniency toward himself. |It is a well-known rule that flattery is food for the fool.| Therefore no man should be his own counselor since no one is so apt to flatter another as he is himself. A wise man never flatters himself, neither does a friend flatter. As a wise man sees his own faults and seeks to correct them, so a true friend sees the faults of his friend and labors faithfully to banish them. The one who flatters you despises you, and degrades both you and himself. An enemy will tell you the whole truth about yourself, especially your faults, and at times that both weaken and hurt you. A friend will tell you the whole truth about yourself, especially your neglected virtues, but at a time to both strengthen and help you. The highest service a friend can render is that of giving counsel. The highest honor one can bestow upon his friend is to make him his counselor. It is no mark of weakness to rely upon counsel. God, Himself, needed a counselor, so he chose His Son. |His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.| Isa. ix, 6. Counsel, says Solomon, is the key to stability. |Every purpose is established by Counsel.| Prov. Xx, 18. Who despiseth counsel shall reap the reward of folly. A friend is safe in counsel, according to his wisdom, for he never seeks his own good, but the good of his friend. It is a saying, |If some one asks you for advice, if you would be followed, first find out what kind of advice is wanted, then give that.| But this is not the way of a friend. He has in mind the welfare of the friend and the cause his friend serves. Honor does not require that one shall follow the advise of his friend, rather liberty in this is a mark of freedom and trust between friends.

A friend aids one in the carrying out of his life purposes. Who is it that helps one to places of honor and usefulness? It is his friend. Who is it that recognizes one's true worth, extols his virtues, and gives tone and quality to the diligent services of months and years? It is his friend. Who is it, when one ends his life in the midst of an unfinished book, or with loose ends of continued research in philosophy or science all about him; who is it that gathers up these loose ends and puts in order the unfinished work? It is his friend. Who is it that stands by the open tomb of that fallen saint or hero and relates to the world his deeds of sacrifice and courage which spurn others on to nobler living and thereby perpetuates his goodness and valor? Who does this, if it is done? It is his friend. A friend thus becomes not only a completion of one's soul as he is by virtue of being a friend, but also he becomes a completion of one's life. Then, one's relation to his fellowmen is a limited relationship. He may speak, but upon certain subjects, on certain occasions, and to certain persons. As Francis Bacon says, |A man can not speak to his son but as a father; to his wife but as a husband; to his enemy but upon terms; whereas a friend may speak as the case requires, and not as it sorteth with the person....I have given the rule,| says he, |where a man can not fitly play his own part, if he have not a friend, he may quit the stage.|

HOW TO GET AND KEEP A FRIEND.

A real friend is discovered, or made. First, discovered. Two persons notice an attraction for one another. They see that their desires are similar, they have the same sentiments, they agree in tastes. A feeling of attachment becomes conscious with each of them, slight association fosters this feeling, it increases. New associations but reveal a broader agreement, a closer union, a perfecter harmony. The signs of friendship appear. Heart and mind of each respond to the other, they are friends. This is the noblest friendship. It has its origin in nature. It is, as H. Clay Trumbull says: |Love without compact or condition; it never pivots on an equivalent return of service or of affection. Its whole sweep is away from self and toward the loved one. Its desire is for the friend's welfare; its joy is in the friend's prosperity; its sorrows and trials are in the friend's misfortunes and griefs; its pride is in the friend's attainments and successes; its constant purpose is in doing and enduring for the friend.|

Then, friends are made. Two persons do not especially attract one another. But, through growth of character, modification of nature, or change in desires, sentiments, and tastes, they become attracted to each other. Or in spite of natural disagreements or differences, through the force of circumstances they become welded together in friendship. Montaigne describes such an attachment, in which the souls mix and work themselves into one piece with so perfect a mixture that there is no more sign of a seam by which they were first conjoined. Says Euripedes:

|A friend
Wedded into our life is more to us
Than twice five thousand kinsman one in blood.|

Such was the friendship of Ruth and Naomi. Orpha loved Naomi, kissed her, and returned satisfied to her early home; but Ruth cleaved unto her, saying:

|Entreat me not to leave thee,
And to return from following after thee:
For whither thou goest, I will go;
Where thou lodgest, I will lodge:
Thy people shall be my people,
And thy God my God:
Where thou diest, will I die,
And there will I be buried:
The Lord do so to me, and more also,
If aught but death part thee and me.|

The keeping of a friend like the keeping of a fortune, lies in the getting, although in friendship much depends upon circumstances of association. However subtle may be the circumstances which bring friends together, or whatever natural agreement may exist between their natures, still there is always a conscious choosing of friends. In this choosing lies the secret of abiding friendship. Young says:

|First on thy friend deliberate with thyself;
Pause, ponder, sift: not eager in the choice,
Nor jealous of the chosen; fixing fix;
Judge before friendship, then confide till death.|

Steadfastness and constancy such as this seldom loses a friend.

Last of all, abiding friendship is grounded in virtue. Says a famed writer on Friendship: |There is a pernicious error in those who think that a free indulgence in all lusts and sins is extended in friendship. Friendship was given us by nature as the handmaid of virtues and not as the companion of our vices. It is virtue, virtue I say... that both wins friendship and preserves it.| And closing his remarks on this immortal subject, Cicero causes Laelius to say: |I exhort you to lay the foundations of virtue, without which friendship can not exist, in such a manner, that with this one exception, you may consider that nothing in the world is more excellent than friendship.|

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