intended for reading on Lord's Day, June 18th, 1899,
delivered by C. H. Spurgeon
at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. on Thursday evening, February 23rd, 1882.
"Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not."--Proverbs 27:10.
True friends are very scarce. We have a great many acquaintances and sometimes we call them friends, and so misuse the noble word "friendship." Peradventure in some after-day of adversity when these so-called friends have looked out for their own interests and left us to do the best we can for ourselves, that word friendship may come back to us with sad and sorrowful associations. The friend in need is the friend indeed, and such friends I say again, are scarce. When thou hast found such a man, and proved the sincerity of his friendship; when he has been faithful to thy father and to thee, grapple him to thyself with hooks of steel and never let him go. It may be that because he is a faithful friend he will sometimes vex thee and anger thee. See how Solomon puts it in this very chapter: "Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend." It takes a great deal of friendship to be able to tell a man of his faults. It is no friendship that flatters; it is small friendship that holds its tongue when it ought to speak; but it is true friendship that can speak at the right time and if need be even speak so sharply as to cause a wound. If thou art like many other foolish ones, thou wilt be angry with the man who is so much thy friend that he will tell thee the truth. If thou art unworthy of thy friend, thou wilt begin to grow weary of him when he is performing on thy behalf the most heroic act of pure charity by warning thee of thy danger, and reminding thee of thine imperfection. Solomon, in prospect of such a case, knowing that this is one of the greatest trials of friendship among such poor imperfect beings as we are, tells us not to forsake for this reason--nor indeed for any other reason--the man who has been to us and to our family a true friend: "Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not."
I do not think that I should waste your time if I were to give you a lecture upon friendship--its duties, its dangers, its rights, and its privileges; but it is not my intention to do so. There is one Friend to whom these words of Solomon are specially applicable, there is a Friend who is the chief and highest of all friends; and when I speak of him I feel that I am not spiritualizing the text in the least. He is a true and real Friend, and these words are truly and really applicable to him; and if ever the text is emphatic it is so when it is applied to him, for there was never such another friend to us and to our fathers; there is no friend to whom we ought to be so intensely attached as to him: "Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not."
I want under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to speak upon this subject thus; First here is a descriptive title which may be fitly applied to Christ by very many of us; he is our own Friend and also our father's Friend. Secondly here is suggestive advice concerning this Friend: "Forsake him not." And ere I have done I shall say a little upon a consequent resolution. I hope that we shall turn the text into a solemn resolve and say, "My own Friend, and my father's Friend, I will not forsake."
I. First then here is a descriptive title for our blessed Lord and Master.
First, he is a Friend, the Friend of man. I know that Young calls him the "great Philanthropist." I do not care to see that title used just so; it is not good enough for him, though truly the great Lover of man is Christ. Better still is the title which was given to him when he was upon earth, "the friend of sinners."
Friend of sinners, is his name.
Their Friend--thinking of them with love when no other eye pitied them and no other heart seemed to care for them. Their Friend, entering with tenderest sympathy into the case of the lost, for "the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost." Their Friend--giving them good and sound advice and wholesome counsel, for whosoever listens to the words of Christ shall find in his teaching and in his guidance the highest wisdom. Their Friend, giving far more than sympathy and mere words however-- giving a lifetime of holy service for the sake of those whose cause he had espoused, and going further even than this, doing for them the utmost that a friend can do, for what is there more than that a man should lay down his life for his friend? Friend of man, and therefore born of man, Friend of sinners, and therefore living among them and ministering to them. Friend of sinners, and therefore taking their sin upon himself and bearing it "in his own body on the tree," so fulfilling Gabriel's prophecy that he would come "to finish the transgression and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness."
Christ has done for us all that needed to be done. He has done much more than we ever could have asked him to do or expected him to do. He has done more for us than we can understand even now that he has done it, and more than you and I are likely ever to understand even when our intellect shall have been developed and enlarged to the utmost degree before the eternal throne, for even there I do not think we shall ever fully know how much we owe to the friendship of our best Friend. However self-denying and tender other fiends may be, our Lord must ever stand at the head of the list, and we will not put a second there as worthy of any comparison with him.
Next, it is a very blessed thing to have the Lord Jesus Christ as having been our father's friend. There are some of us to whom this has been literally true for many generations. I suppose that there is some pride in being the fourteenth earl, or the tenth duke, or having a certain rank among men; but sometimes quietly to myself I glory in my pedigree, because I can trace the line of spiritual grace back as far as I can go to men who loved the Lord, and who, many of them, have preached his Word. Many of you I know in this church and in other churches have a glorious heraldry in the line of the Lord's nobles. It is true that some of you have had the great mercy of being taken like trees out of the desert and planted in the courts of our God, for which you may well be glad; but others of you are slips from vines that in their turn were slips from other vines, loved and cared for by the great Husbandman. You cannot tell how long this blessed succession has continued; your fathers and your fathers' fathers as far back as you can trace them were friends of Christ. Happy Ephraim, whose father Joseph had God with him! Happy Joseph, whose father Jacob saw God at Bethel! Happy Jacob, whose father Isaac walked in the fields and meditated in communion with Jehovah! Happy Isaac, whose father Abraham had spoken with God and was called "the friend of God." God has a habit of loving families; David said "The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; to such as keep his covenant and to those that remember his commandments to do them." Grace does not run in the blood, but often the stream of divine mercy has run side by side with it, and instead of the fathers have been the children whom the Lord has made to be princes in the earth.
Some of you perhaps have fathers and mothers still living whose example you may fitly follow; I charge you never forsake your father's God, or what is tenderer still, the God of your mother. Others of you have parents in heaven; well, they are still yours; that sacred relationship is not broken. You remember your mother's last grasp of your hand when she bade you follow her to heaven; you recollect your father's appeals to you in his long sickness when he pleaded with you to take heed to your ways and not neglect the things of God but seek him in the days of your youth. Well, did you ever hear your father say anything against his God? Did your mother ever in her confiding moments whisper in your ear, "Mary, do not trust in God for he has betrayed your mother's confidence"? No, I know they did not talk like that, for he was their best friend; and he who was such a Friend to the dear old man whom you can never forget, he who cheered the heart of that gracious matron whose sweet face rises before you now--oh, I beseech you, forsake him not! "Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not."
Still, the sweetest part of the text lies in these words, "Thine own friend." I do not think that I can preach on those words; I can take them in my mouth and they are like honey for sweetness, but they must be personally enjoyed to be fully appreciated. There are some precious lines we sometimes sing,--
The health is of my countenance, Yes, mine own God is he;--
which exactly describes the blessedness of "thine own friend."
Now if it be true that Christ is thine own Friend then thou hast spoken with him, thou hast held sweet converse with him, thou hast placed thy confidence in him, thou hast told him thy lost estate and sinfulness, and thou hast reposed in him as thine own Savior. Thou hast put thy cause into his hands, and thou hast left it there. If he be indeed thine own Friend, then he has helped thee. Thou wast a stranger and he has taken thee in; thou wast naked and he has clothed thee; thou wast spiritually sick and in prison and he came to thee and healed thee. Yea, and he wore thy chains and bade thee go free; and he took thy sicknesses and bade thee take his health, and so he made thee whole. Ay, and he restored thee even from the grave, and went into that grave himself, that by his death thou mightest live. Thou knowest that it is so, and day by day thou dost keep up communion with him; thou couldst not live without him, for he is such a Friend to thee, and thou dost rest on him with all thy weight as thou comest up from the wilderness with him, leaning on thy Beloved, "thine own friend."
Nor is the friendship all on one side, though thy side is a very little one. Thou wouldst make it greater if it were in thy power, for thou hast confessed his name, thou hast united thyself with his people, thou lovest to join with them in prayer and praise. Thou art not ashamed to be called by Christ's name as a Christian, or to speak well of that name, and thou desirest to consecrate to him all that thou hast. Better than all this, while thou dost call him Friend he also calls thee friend, as he said to his disciples, "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you." Dare I say the words, yet dare I doubt the truth of the words--Jesus is my Friend? There is one we read of in the Bible who was David's captain of the host, and there was another who was David's counselor, but there was one man whom we always call "David's friend, Jonathan;" and I envy him such a title. Yet Jesus gives this name to all those who come and put their trust in him, and so find him to be their Friend.
Now inasmuch as the Lord Jesus is "thine own friend and thy father's friend," the injunction of the text comes to thee with peculiar force: "Forsake him not." Canst thou forsake him? Look at his face all red with bloody sweat for thee; nor his face alone, for he is covered all over with that gory robe wherein he wrought out thy redemption. He that works for bread must sweat, but he that worked for thine eternal life did sweat great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Canst thou forsake him? He stands at Pilate's bar, he is mocked by Herod's men of war, he is scourged by Pilate, and all for thee; and canst thou forsake him? He goes up to the cross of Calvary and the cruel iron is driven through his hands and feet, and there he makes expiation for thy guilt; he is thy Friend even to the ignominy of a felon's death, and canst thou forsake him? He lays his pierced hand on thee and he says, "Wilt thou also go away?" or as he worded it to the twelve, "Ye also will not go away, will you?" So it might be read: "Many of my supposed friends have gone, and so have proved themselves to be not friends but traitors; but ye also will not go away, will you?" And he seems to make an appeal to them with those tearful tender eyes of his--"as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set,"-- "Ye also will not go away, will you?"
And when you turn your eye another way and think not merely of the shame your Friend endured for you, but recollect what is an equal proof of his love, that he is not ashamed of you now that he is in his glory; that amidst the throng of angels and cherubim and seraphim that frequent his courts above, he does not disdain to know that he is the brother of these poor earth-worms down below, for even there he wears the body which proves him to be our next of kin--ay, and wears the scars which proved that for us he endured the death-penalty itself, and even now he is not ashamed to call us brethren;--as you think of all this can you forsake him? Because you are somewhat better off than you once were, will you leave the little gathering of poor folk with whom you used to worship so happily, and will you go to some more fashionable place where there is music, but little of the music of the name of Jesus--where there is gorgeous architecture it may be, and masquerading, and mummery, and I know not what, but little of the sweet savor of his presence and the dropping of that dew which he always brings with him wherever he comes? Oh, it is a pity, it is a sorrowful pity, it is a meanness that would disgrace a mere worldling, when a man who once confessed Christ and followed him must needs turn his back upon his Lord because his own coat is made of better material than it used to be, and his balance at the bank is heavier! I had almost said--Then let the Judas go, be his own place what it may --it were almost a dishonor to Christ to wish the traitor back. Oh, will ye go away either from the Crucified or from the Glorified, for if ye will forsake this Friend, "Behold, he cometh!" Every hour brings him nearer; the chariots of his glory have glowing axles, and you may almost hear them as they speed toward us; and then what will you do when you have forsaken your own Friend and your father's Friend and you hear him say, "I never knew you; I never knew you"? God grant that it may never be the lot of any of us here present to hear those awful words!
II. Now I pass on to our second head as the Holy Spirit may help me; it is suggested advice: "Thine own friend, and thy father's friend, forsake not."
There is to me in the text a suggestion which the text itself does not suggest; that is to say, it suggests something by not suggesting it. The text does not suggest to me that my own Friend and my father's Friend will ever forsake me. It seems to hint that I may forsake him, but it does not suggest that he will ever forsake me and he never will do so. If the Lord had ever meant to forsake me he has had so many good reasons for doing it that he would have done it long ago. The apostle says of those who are journeying to the better country, that "if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned," and certainly our blessed Lord and Master, if he had desired to leave us to perish, had many an opportunity to return to heaven before he died; and since then he has had many occasions when he might have said "I really must withdraw my friendship from you," if he had ever wished to do so. But his love is constant to its line: "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end." His is a friendship which never changes. You shall never fall back on him and find that he has withdrawn the arm with which he formerly upheld you. You shall find in life and in death that "there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." Let us be cheered by the assurance that he will never forsake us.
Now let us go on to what the text does suggest in so many words: it suggests to us the question, in what sense can we forsake Christ? Well, there is more than one sense in which a man may forsake Christ. Two passages rise to my mind at this moment: "Then all the disciples forsook him and fled." That was one sort of forsaking; they were all afraid and ran away from their Lord in the hour of his betrayal into the hands of sinners; but it is quite another kind of forsaking when we read: "From that time many of his disciples went back and walked no more with him." The first forsaking was the result of a sudden fear, much to be deplored and very blameworthy, but still only temporary in its effects; the other was the deliberate act of those who in cool blood refused to accept Jesus Christ's doctrine or to follow him any farther, and so turned back and walked no more with him. This last forsaking is incurable. The former one was cured almost as soon as the sudden fear that caused it was removed, for we find John and even Peter following the Master to the judgment hall, and the whole of the disciples soon gathered around him after his resurrection. I would say to you dear friend, "Thine own friend, and thy father's friend forsake not" in any sense at all. Forsake him not even in thy moments of alarm. Pray God then that thou mayest play the man and not forsake him and flee. And then in the other sense, let no quarrel ever arise between you and Christ's most precious truth, so as to lead you deliberately to leave him, for this is the worst of all kinds of forsaking. If we never forsake him in any sense at all, then it is quite certain that we shall never forsake him in the worst sense. I remember a little merriment I had with a good Wesleyan brother, the clerk of the works, when the Tabernacle was being built. He wanted me to go up a ladder right into those lantern lights, and I said "No, thank you, I would rather not." "But" he replied, "I thought you had no fear of falling." "Yes" I answered, "that is quite true, I have no fear of finally falling away; but the belief that the Lord will preserve me does not exercise any evil influence over me, for it keeps me from running unnecessary risks by climbing up ladders; but you good brethren who are so afraid of falling do not seem to show it practically in your conduct, for you go up and down the ladders as nimbly as possible." I have sometimes met with persons who think that if we believe that we shall never fall so as to perish, we are apt to become presumptuous; but we do not, dear brethren. There are other truths that come in to balance this one, so that what they think might come of it is by God's good grace prevented; and I am not quite sure that those who think that they may finally fall and perish are sufficiently impressed with that belief so as to be always careful. The fact is that your carefulness of walk does not depend merely upon your view of this doctrine or that; but it depends upon your state of heart and a great many other things besides, so that you have no reason to judge what you might do if you believed such-and-such a truth, because if you did believe it perhaps you would at the same time be a better man, and the possibility that appears to linger around the doctrine would vanish so far as you are concerned. Let this be the language of all of us who love the Lord as we look up confidently and reverently to him,--
We have no fear that thou shouldst lose One whom eternal love could choose; But we would ne'er this grace abuse, Let us not fall, Let us not fall.
I know that if we are truly the Lord's he will not suffer us to forsake him; but I must have a wholesome fear lest I should forsake him, for who am I that I should be sure that I have not deceived myself? And I may have done so; and after all, may forsake him after the loudest professions and even after the greatest apparent sincerity in avowing that I never will turn away from him.
So I ask again--in what sense can we forsake our Lord? Well, there are many senses, but perhaps you will see better what I mean if I describe a general process of forsaking a friend. I hope that you have never had to undergo it; I do not know that I ever had; but still I can imagine that it is something like this. The old gentleman was your father's friend, he also had been your own friend and has done you many a good turn; but at last he has said something which has provoked you to anger, or he has done something which you have misunderstood or misinterpreted; and now you feel very cool towards him when you meet. You pass the time of day and perhaps say very much the same things which you used to say, but they are said in a very different fashion. Now that is how we begin to forsake our God; we may keep up the appearance of friendship with Christ, but it is a very cool affair. We go to a place of worship but there is no enjoyment, no enthusiasm, no earnestness. Then the next thing is that you do not call to see your friend as frequently as you used to do. It has not come to an open rupture between you, so you do look in at certain set times when you are expected, but there are none of those little flying visits and that popping in upon him unawares, just to get a look at his face as you used to do. And on his part he does not come to see you much. And that is how our forsaking of Christ generally continues. We do not go to talk with him as we once did, and when we do go to his house we find that he is not at home. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" Then by-and-by perhaps there is a sharp word spoken, and your friend feels that you do not want him. You have said something that cuts him to the quick and grieves him. It was not anything so very bad if it had been spoken to a stranger; but to be said to him who was your father's friend, to him whom you always expected to come in and whom you loved to see--to say it to him was very hard and he naturally took umbrage at it. That is how it comes to pass between Christ and professors. There is something done which might not be of so much account in the case of nonprofessors or the openly ungodly; but it is very bad in one who professed to have Christ for his Friend. And do you know what happens by-and-by when your friend is being discarded? At last he does not call at all and you do not go to see him. Perhaps the breach is still further widened and little presents are sent back or treated with contempt. There is that oil painting which your father would have, though he could scarcely afford it, because he loved his friend so much, and which he hung up in so conspicuous a place in his house; well, the other day the string broke and you did not buy a fresh piece of cord to hang it up again; in fact, you put the picture away in the lumber-room and you really do not care what becomes of it. The little tokens of past affection are all put away for there is an open rupture now; and when somebody spoke to you about him lately you said, "Oh, pray don't mention him to me! He is no friend of mine now. I used to be on intimate terms with him once, but I have altered my opinion about him altogether." So do some professors act towards the Lord Jesus Christ. Those little tokens of love which they thought they had from him they send back. They do not remain in fellowship with his Church. They do all that they possibly can to disown him. In the meanwhile the blessed Lord of love is obliged to disown them too; and his Church disowns them; and by-and-by the rupture has become complete. May that never be the portion of any of you!
"No," says one, "it never will be." My dear friend, if you are so confident as that you are the person about whom I am most afraid. I recollect one who used to pray among us but we had to put him out of the church for evil living; and there was one of our members who said that night, "If that man is not a child of God I am not one myself." I said "My dear brother, do not talk like that. I would not pit my soul against the soul of any man, for I do know a little of myself, but I do not know other men as well as I know myself." I am very much afraid that neither of the two men I have mentioned was a child of God; by their speech they seemed to be Christians, but their acts were not like those of God's people. It does not do for us to talk as that man did but to pray to the Lord, "Hold thou me up and I shall be safe." That is the proper prayer for us; or else it may happen even to us as happened to them, and we may forsake our own Friend and our father's Friend.
Now what reasons can we possibly have for forsaking Christ? We ought to do nothing for which we cannot give good reasons. I have known persons very properly forsake their former friends because they have themselves become new creatures in Christ Jesus, and they have rightly and wisely given up the acquaintances with whom they used to sin. They cannot go now to the house where everything is contrary to their feelings. But it is not so with Christ. Some so called friends drag a man down, lower him, injure him, impose upon him, and at last he is obliged to let them go; but we cannot say that of Christ. His friendship has drawn us up, helped us, sanctified us, elevated us; we owe everything to that friendship. We cannot have a reason therefore for forsaking this Friend. I have known some to outgrow an acquaintance or friend. They really have not been able to continue to have common views and sympathies, for while their friend has remained in the mire they have risen into quite different men by reason of education and other influences; but we can never outgrow Christ. That is not possible; and the more we grow in a right sense, the more we shall become like him. A man who has been the friend of our father and of ourselves is the very man to have still as a friend, because he probably understands all about the family difficulties and the family troubles, and he also understands us. Why, he nursed us when we were children and therefore he knows most about us. I remember that when lying sore sick, I had a letter from a kind old gentleman who said that he had that day celebrated his eightieth birthday, and the choicest friend he had at his dinner table was the old family doctor. He said, "He has attended to me so long that he thoroughly knows my constitution, he is nearly as old as myself; but the first time I was ill I had him, and he has attended me now for forty years. Once" he said, "when I had a severe attack of gout, I was tempted to try some very famous man who very nearly killed me; and until I got back to my old friend I never was really well again." So he wrote to advise me to get some really good physician, and let him know my constitution, and to stick to him and never go off to any of the patent medicines or the quacks of the day. Oh, but there is a great deal of truth in that in a spiritual sense! With the utmost reverence we may say that the Lord Jesus Christ has been our family Physician. Did he not attend my father in all his sicknesses, and my grandfather too? And he knows the ins and outs of my constitution;--he knows my ways good and bad, and all my sorrows; and therefore I do not go to anyone else for relief; and I advise you also to keep to Jesus Christ, do not forsake him. If you ever are tempted to go aside even for a little while, I pray that you may have grace enough to come back quickly, and to commit yourself again to him, and never go astray again. There is the blessing of having one who is wise, one who is tried, one whose sympathy has been tested, one who has become, as it were, one of your family, one who has taken your whole household to his heart and made it part and parcel of himself. Such a Friend to your own soul and to your father's soul forsake not.
Do not forsake him, dear friends, because I almost tremble to say it--you will want him some day. Even if you would never need him in the future, you ought not to forsake him. I do not quite like that verse of the hymn at the end of our hymn-book--
Ashamed of Jesus! yes, I may, When I've no guilt to wash away; No tear to wipe, no good to crave, No fears to quell, no soul to save.
No, I may not; when all my guilt is gone I shall not be ashamed of Jesus. When I am in heaven and need no more the pardon of sin, I certainly shall not be ashamed of him who brought me there; no, but I shall glory in him more than ever. Your friendship to Christ, and mine, ought not to depend upon what we are going to get out of him. We must love him now for what he is, for all that he has already done, and for his own blessed person and personal beauties which every day should hold fast our love and bind us in chains of affection to him.
But suppose you do think of forsaking Christ, where are you going to get another friend to take his place? You must have a friend of some sort; who is going to sit in Christ's chair? Whose portrait is to be hung up in the old familiar place when the old Friend is discarded? To whom are you going to tell your griefs, and from whom will you expect to receive help in time of need? Who will be with you in sickness? Who will be with you in the hour of death? Ah! there is no other who can ever fill the vacuum which the absence of Christ would make. Therefore, never forsake him.
III. Now I must close with the consequent resolve about which I can say very little, as my time has gone.
Let this be your resolve by his grace, instead of forsaking him you will cling to him more closely than ever; you will own him when it brings you dishonor to do so; you will trust him when he wounds you, for "faithful are the wounds of a friend;" you will serve him when it is costly to do it, when it involves self-denial; resolved that by the help of his ever-blessed Spirit without whom you can do nothing, you will never in any sort of company conceal the fact that you are a Christian. Never under any possible circumstances wish to be otherwise than a servant of such a Master, a friend of such a Lord. Come now dear young friends who are getting cool towards Christ, and elder friends to whom religion is becoming monotonous, come to your Lord once more and ask him to bind you with cords, even with cords to the horns of the altar. You have had time to count the cost of all Egypt's treasure; forego it and forswear it once for all. But the riches of Christ you can never count; so come and take him again to be your All-in-all.
Those about to be baptized will feel I trust--as we shall when we look on--and say each man and woman for himself or herself--
Tis done! The great transaction's done: I am my Lord's, and he is mine.
Nail your colors to the mast. Bear in your body the marks of the Lord Jesus. Ay, let everyone of us who has been baptized into Christ feel that our whole body bears the water-mark, for we have been "buried with him by baptism into death." It was not for the putting off of the filthiness of the flesh, but as a declaration that we were dead to the world and quickened into newness of life in Christ Jesus our Savior. So let it be with you too, dear friends, as you follow your Lord through the water; cling to him, cleave to him: "Thine own friend and thy father's friend, forsake not." May God add his blessing for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake! Amen.