By Beverly Carradine
The sentence above is scriptural, and was spoken of Abraham. Such was his character and life that James says "he was called the friend of God." One could hardly conceive of a nobler epitaph on a tombstone than this. Nor could any one desire a more blessed sentence to fall from the lips of the Judge at the Great Day than the words "He was the friend of God."
No one can look at the moral conflict going on in the world without seeing that God needs friends. such is the struggle taking place between heaven and hell on the middle ground of earth, that the forces of Nature are out of the question, and man is used in deciding the momentous questions of truth and error, sin and salvation. That the cause of God may triumph, hearts and lives devoted to God are needed; in a word, friends. It would be impossible to estimate what Abraham was to God as he moved in his heaven honoring life through observant heathen nations. Like Enoch, he will convict his generation at the judgment bar of God. They were and will be condemned again because of his faithfulness and godliness in the midst of their wickedness.
When God found another friend, Paul, it is wonderful how he used him, how he swung from land to land, from sea to shore, and from dungeon to Caesar' palace. He had need of his words and life. He had a pair of lips upon which He could count. He had heart that was true to Him under every circumstance, and a spirit that no man could intimidate or divert from a divinely imposed duty. So God swept him around. Doubtless Paul wondered why he was thus cast about, but has long ago understood it in heaven. The Lord had a friend and was using him for all he was worth in the years he had to live. That Paul was perfectly content and even joyful over this use is evident from his language when he said he gladly suffered the loss of all things.
Paul is dead, the conflict is still on, and God still needs friends. Where will He find them, and what will such a friend be when found? Let it be understood that the idea is not that of being friendly to God. Many are friendly to Christianity who are not the friends of God. It means something to be a friend.
We doubt not if the reader follows faithfully the definition of friendship and applies it to the Christian life that he will get under conviction.
One attribute or feature of friendship is love. There can be no friendship without it. But a man with a variable and imperfect love does not measure up to what is in the word friend.
In like manner to be a friend of God there must be love. This love is not natural to the heart, but is the result of regeneration or the new birth. That this love is defective is taught by the Bible and proved by experience. The Methodist church speaks of the blessing of perfect love coming after conversion; and the Scripture is clear in the statement that the Lord will circumcise the heart that we many love Him with all the mind, and all the strength, and all the heart. This is perfect love. And now as it requires a perfect love to make a perfect friend, we see that the friend of God becomes such upon the accomplishment of a second work of grace.
A second feature of friendship is that of trust. It must be a perfect confidence to measure up to the requirements of a true friend. A man calling himself one's friend who is affected by every evil report and by changes in time of trouble and misfortune, does not deserve the name of friend. We have seen earthly friends grow cold under the breath of calumny, and drop away because of distance and time. They were poor friends.
The friend of God clings to Him in the face of general disloyalty, in spite of dark providences, and unexplainable withdrawings of the divine presence.
We once had a friend against whom some fearful slanders were uttered. Not only tongues took the matter up, but so did the papers. When the facts reached the writer in a distant city a thousand miles away, he sent a telegram flying over the wires to the sufferer in the words: "I still believe in you." This is just what the friend of God will do, no matter what men say against the Bible, against Christ, and against the Divine Providence, "I still love you and believe in you." Indeed Job sent a marvelously similar telegram through the skies to the Throne. Under the permissive providence of God his children had been killed, his flocks destroyed and stolen, and his health wrecked. From the very ashes in which he sat he sent this message to heaven: ''Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him."
A father was leaving his home to be gone for months on a long trip. His little boy, a prattler of five or six years old, said: "Good by. I love you three days and a hundred miles." His little girl, somewhat older, was at first silent as she watched with filling eyes the retreating form of her father, and then cried out with a choking voice, Good by, papa. I love you all the miles and all the days."
This is what the friend of God will say. No matter what happens, and what comes, and what goes, Lord, I will love you and trust you through all.
A third feature of friendship is that of sensitiveness to the name and honor of a friend. If assaulted in our presence you will either speak out in his defence or walk away from the company of such detractors.
We have often wondered how a Christian could stand by and hear God's name profaned. We do not believe that the true friend of God can do it. Either he will gently and firmly reprove, or show by his manner that he is grieved and shocked, or leave the company of such people.
Once in a large gathering of delegates to a convention things were going hard against an absent member. For a while it looked as if he would be cast overboard. Just at that critical moment a delegate arose and addressing the chair said, "Mr. President, I wish it understood that I am this man's friend," and then followed such a noble and true defence of the absentee as to produce a complete revulsion of feeling in the audience, and sent the man's stock as high as it had been previously low.
How we wish that God had such friends. The followers and adherents of the devil make themselves instantly known on boat, car and in hotel. Why should Christians have to be fished up and pulled forward? Why should not our very presence cause certain forms of sin to slink away abashed under our protesting tongues or solemn, rebuking gaze?
A fourth feature is devotion to a friend's interests.
How coolly and unconcernedly a man will view the rifling of a stranger's store. But let the property be that of a friend and he dashes in at once with a cry and shout to scatter the marauders.
It is impossible for a friend of God to see the Lord's cause droop and suffer and do nothing for its relief. Not only time and energy, but his money will cheerfully flow for the help of the cause of Christ.
In a camp-meeting in a certain State the finances are so run that the public pay all the expenses, and the Christian tent holders not only escape from a taxation usual in other campgrounds, but are even delivered from the cost of a ticket of admission upon the grounds. We were not surprised to find a notable absence of joy and liberty among these people, and that others seemed to be more blessed.
A fifth feature of friendship is that of fondness for the company of the one beloved. The trouble is not in coming but in staying away. A law is asserting itself. Words of affection are drawing, and you feel you must see the friend and that frequently.
The friend of God loves to be in His presence. He not only cultivates that presence in the street, but gladly leaves the company of friends, and even the family circle, to go off alone to be with and commune with Him. Private prayer is not a burden; the night season not dreary; the closet of devotion not lonely; because there the smile and whisper of God are sought and blessedly realized in the soul. Hours thus spent go by quickly and delightfully to the friend of God. Intolerable and impossible to others, it is a joy and privilege to him. It is here he gets the deep, rested look, happy smile and shining face that so impress outsiders. Here he learns blessed and beautiful things, which afterward sparkle in prayer and conversation, and he stays so long in his trysting place under the Tree of Life that when he rises and goes back to the walks of men he shakes off the very dew of heaven upon those who come near him.
A sixth feature of God's friend is that he knoweth what his Lord doeth.
This is Christ's own statement, who divides His followers into servants and friends. The servant knows some things, and not all. The friend in a nearer relation, in a closer companionship, sweeps far ahead of the mere servant.
A final feature of God's friend is his perfect obedience to any and every command of Heaven.
Christ said: "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you." This is the divine rule by which we are to measure ourselves and see who and what we are. It is not profession here, nor experience, nor visions. Obedience is the test and declaration of our friendship to God.
This is where and how Abraham earned the title, "the friend of God." He did everything that God told him. Commanded to go out into a strange country which he had never beheld, yet he went, "not knowing whither he went." Directed to offer up Isaac as a sacrifice on an altar, he never hesitated, but took the lad, laid him on the pile of wood and drawing his knife was about to bury it in the breast of his only son, when God arrested his hand, and told him it was enough. He had obeyed the divine word and proved that he was the friend of God.
In like manner we are to prove our devotion to the Lord. According to Christ's definition we have no right to say we are God's friends if we are disobedient. But thanks be to His name, if we keep His statutes, walk in His commandments and hearken faithfully and obediently to His voice, we have the right to attach to our names the four words, "the friend of God." It is far better and more to be desired than any title that a literary or theological college can give us. It is the choicest degree of heaven. It will greet us in the resurrection, meet us at the judgment, follow us into heaven, and flash and blaze through eternity, while the poor honors, titles and dignities of this