« PreviousContinue »
friend. When he whom we call our friend is worthy of that name, when we are assured that he deserves our full confidence, we have a pleasure in telling him our joys and sorrows, our hopes and fears, and in unbosoming our whole soul. It is with great truth, therefore, that the Roman moralist says, “If you think any one your friend in whom you do not put the same confidence as in yourself, you know not the real power of friendship. Consider long, whether the individual whom you view with regard is worthy of being admitted to your bosom ; but when you have judged and found him truly worthy, admit him to your very heart. You should so live, indeed, as to trust nothing to your conscience, which you would not trust to your enemy; but at least, to your friend, let all be open.
He will be the more faithful, as your confidence in his fidelity is more complete.”
III. Our interest in the happiness of our friends should be sufficiently deep to produce in us a readiness and a pleasure to serve them, when it is in our power to do so.
The genuineness of our friendship must be shewn, not by words and professions merely, but by deeds of substantial kindness. If it be our duty, should the providence of God call us to it, to lay down our lives for the brethren; it cannot be doubted that we are bound to comfort them in affliction, and, should their circumstances require it, and ours afford it, to give them pecuniary assistance. If we expect when we are in distress to hear the soothing voice of friendship,—that voice which it gives us pleasure to hear, even when our friend cannot relieve us,-affection will teach us to express our sympathy with him, and
willingly to give our influence or property, as he may require it, to promote his well-being.
IV. We owe our friends also a lively interest in their moral and religious improvement. This is indeed the chief of the duties, and perhaps the most difficult to discharge, of any involved in a virtuous friendship. But to Christians, who consider their being as commencing when this fleeting life has passed away, and who hope to enjoy that nobler being where all imperfection shall be unknown, the value of friendship is enhanced, as it promises to survive this perishable existence. Its bonds become
. firmer just as we can look with humble confidence beyond this passing scene, to the regions into which distrust and suspicion never enter, where love and friendship hold an eternal sway.
With the wish that our friendship may thus be immortal, it must be our duty, not merely to correct the faults of our friend, but to aim by such means as affection will suggest, at cherishing his virtues, and increasing the sum of those moral excellences which are the object of our love. Do we hesitate in the discharge of this duty from the fear of offending ? “ He whom we truly offend by such gentle admonitions as friendship dictates, is not worthy of the friendship which we have wasted on him; and if we thus lose his friendship, we are delivered from one who could not be sincere in his past professions of regard, and whose mockery, therefore, we might afterwards have had reason to lament, If he be worthy of us, he will not love us less, but love us more; he will feel that we have done that which it was our duty to do; and we shall have the double gratification, of witnessing the amendment which we desired, and of knowing that we have contributed to an effect, which was almost like the removal of a vice from ourselves, or a virtue added to our own moral character *."
V. The dissolution of friendship involves the discharge of certain duties. Should it cease in any particular case before death, we are bound, even when we have discovered the worthlessness of the object to which we had given our esteem and affection, to remain faithful to whatever trust was reposed in us while our friendship lasted. Nor is there any dispensation from this obligation, unless it be when our character is attacked by the person whose secret we keep, and when in our own defence and vindication we are forced to make a disclosure.
Should our friendship be dissolved by death, there are still duties which devolve upon us who survive. Our friend is removed from us; but his removal makes it our duty to cherish his memory, and to hope for a renewal of our friendship, where there is no more sorrow, nor pain, nor separation, nor death. “ The name of our friends," as an eloquent French writer remarks, “ their family, have still claims on our affection, which it would be guilt not to feel. They should live still in our heart, by the emotions which subsist there,—on our memory, by our frequent remembrance of them,-in our voice, by our eulogiums, in our conduct, by our imitation of their virtues.”
Mutual confidence is never for a moment to be interrupted between friends, whether in jest or in earnest ; for nothing can heal the wounds which are made
• Brown's Lectures, vol. iv. p. 341
by deceit. A friend must never be forsaken in adversity ; nor for any infirmity in human nature, excepting only invincible depravity.
The love of his country, and of its institutions, is as natural to man, as is the love of those who are endeared to him by his earliest, his most pleasing, and most permanent, associations. He impresses something of himself, of his joys and sorrows, his hopes and fears, on the objects, whether animate or inanimate, which surround his youth, or with which he holds intercourse in maturer years. Nor is it possible for him, at a more advanced period of life, to behold the house, the glen, the rocks, the woods, that “met his earliest view," without experiencing the freshness of new existence, from the vivid reflection of the images of his former self*.
It has been alleged by unbelievers, as a defect in the morality of the gospel, that it neglects to inculcate patriotism and friendship. In regard to the first of these, it seems a sufficient reply, that though an attachment to our country as such, is not expressly enjoined in the New Testament, the duties which result from the relation in which Christians stand to their rulers, are prescribed with great perspicuity, and enforced by very solemn sanctions; and if the reciprocal duties of princes and magistrates are not enjoined with equal explicitness (as could not be expected in writings where they are not addressed) the design of their appointment is defined in such a manner, as leaves them at no loss to perceive what it is they owe to the community. But where these duties are faithfully discharged by each party, the benefits derived from the social compact are so justly appreciated, and so deeply felt, that the love of country is less liable to defect than to excess. In all well-ordered polities, if we may judge from the experience of past ages, the attachment of men to their country is in danger of becoming an absorbing principle, inducing not merely a forget
The house of our earlier years, the field over which we walked with a friend, the mountain's brow which we have climbed with those we love, the tree whose branches shaded us from the sun, the spot on which we heard a parent pronounce his parting blessing, are objects which can never afterwards be witnessed without emotion. It is to the influence which, in consequence of the principle of association, such objects and scenes have on the human mind, that I chiefly ascribe the desire which all who have been called away to other climes, feel sometime to revisit their native land.
In all my wand'rings round this world of care,
Here to return,-and die at home at last. We are also sensibly affected by scenes that have been distinguished by the residence of persons whose fulness of private interest, but of the immutable claims of humanity and justice. In the most virtuous times of the Roman republic, their country was the idol, at whose shrine her greatest patriots were at all times prepared to offer whole hecatombs of human victims: the interest of other nations were no further regarded, than as they could be rendered subservient to the gratification of her ambition ; and mankind at large were considered as possessing no rights, but such as might with the utmost propriety be merged in that devouring vortex. With all their talents and their grandeur, they were unprincipled oppressors, leagued in a determined conspiracy against the liberty and independence of mankind. In the eyes of an enlightened philanthropist, patriotism, pampered to such an excess, loses the name of virtue ; it is the bond and cement of a guilty confederation. It was worthy of the wisdom of our great legislator to decline the express inculcation of a principle so liable to degenerate into excess, and to content himself with prescribing the virtues which are sure to develop it, as far as is consistent with the dictates of universal benévolence. (A Sermon occasioned by the death of the Rev. John Ryland, D.D., by Robert Hall, M.A.)