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H. C. G. Moule
Christ and Sanctification
Ch. 5, The Divine Friend
The Lord as Friend is our present topic. Our two previous chapters stand in close connection with this. We saw that the Lord as Keeper was an idea in deepest union with that of the Lord as Master. So now with this other. The divine Friendship of Christ Jesus is a thing revealed to the soul which He owns and keeps. He who would know Him as Friend, in all the depth and reality of the blessed character, must be him who has put his neck beneath the Master’s yoke, and committed himself into the Possessor’s custody; that blissful captivity in which the soul recognizes that it is ever the prisoner of the Lord, and rejoices to know not only that He has clasped its hand in love with a clasp that is returned, but that the two hands are chained together with the strong bond of a real, a lawful, an absolute, an acknowledged, conquest and custody.
Happy we, if we are learning what it is to move about day by day in thought, word, and act, alone, or in the circle, or in the throng, conscious that we are thus attached to the never-sleeping Keeper of the soul; really bound, and not wishing to be free.
But now, not for a moment leaving these facts behind, taking them with us, weaving them into all that is to follow, we pass on to the view of the Divine Friend.
Remember, then, ﬁrst, the assurances in the Word of God of the fact that such the Lord is. ‘I say unto you My friends’; ‘I call you not slaves, I call you friends.’ And, in less direct but profoundly signiﬁcant phrases, ‘I will come unto him, and make My abode with him’; ‘I will sup with him, and he with Me’; ‘I will manifest Myself to him’; ‘Our fellowship,’ our share of thought, and view, and sympathy, ‘is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.’
Remember again what these and the like Scriptures imply in the idea of the friendship of the Lord. It is an idea, not merely of patronage and benevolence on His part, as when a Christian philanthropist is said to be the friend, the best friend, of the outcast, the falling, or the fallen. It is that of intimacy, of reciprocity, of holy interchange of thought and feeling. ‘I will sup with him,’ as well as, ‘he with Me’; ‘We have fellowship one with another’; ‘The slave knoweth not what his lord doeth; but all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known to you.’
And how closely the Lord connects this with the obedience of the faithful soul. ‘Ye are My friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you’; ‘He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me, and I will love him, and will manifest Myself to him’; ‘If a man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto Him, and make Our abode with him.’
And this reminds us, if we need it, of the special character of this wonderful mutual intimacy. It is the friendship of truly sympathetic persons; capable, marvelously capable, of mutual intuitions and responses of thought and will. But then it is a case where always, and in deepest realization, one is subject, the other King; one is slave, the other Master. For we said above, that when the Lord says: ‘I call you not slaves’ the absolute words have a relative bearing. In the very same conversation He says: ‘Ye call Me Lord, and ye do well, for so I am.’ He prompts His loved ones to glory in the life-long title: ‘slave of Jesus Christ! He claims the entire disposal of their lives: ‘What is that to thee? Follow thou Me.’ Nevertheless, I call you not slaves, in the hard sense of mere slavery. You are slave-friends, friend-slaves. Your position is unaltered and unalterable, but your attitude in it is divinely and blissfully modiﬁed thus, that in the depths of your recognition that you are my property, bought with a price and branded with my stigma, you are entitled, welcomed, to look into your worshipped Master’s face with eyes of true intuition into His heart, into His will, into Himself; and to welcome back, undazzled, His deep fraternal gaze into your inmost being. In the very act of claiming and taking your all in self-surrender, and of telling you all day long what to do as His conscious implements, He assures you that He knows your souls, never for a moment forgets your innermost emotions, understands you with a boundless sympathy, loves you with an indescribable affection, is not ashamed to call you brethren, tells the confessed and proclaimed slave that he is not such, but a friend.
Such is the self-surrendered believer’s attitude towards the Lord, such the Lord’s towards him. Profoundest reverence will look full into the eyes of unalterable sovereignty. But the gaze will be the gaze of friendship, of common understanding, of heart-embracing fellow-feeling, none the less. They have fellowship one with another.
But now what will be the spiritual effect of such a friendship on the inferior, when the superior is my Lord Jesus Christ, ‘my King who saved me’? Add to the precious views of my intense connection with Him, as His property, His implement, His vassal, the fact that I am His friend and He mine; that He admits me to His mind and heart, and is pleased to enter the recesses of my own, not only as the Autocrat, which He is, but as the inﬁnitely perfect Friend. He claims to own me and to use me as despotically as if I were inanimate; and let me remember this always, let me remember it now. But He comes down into my soul with the large and loving assurance that He sees in me all the while His conscious friend, and gives Himself to me for mine. He invites me to the utmost conﬁdence I care to place in Him, requests, yes, He requests admission into the deepest of my own, I enter His presence-chamber ere I go out to my work in His ﬁeld, or when I return from it; or I look up in the midst of it, and see standing by me the Lord; and He invites me not only to clasp His feet, but to grasp His hand; nay, in the hour of need, whensoever I will, to lean upon my Master, to lay my head upon His shoulder, to tell Him all. He lets me know that He knows my sorrows. He reminds me that before I was, He is; that in my remotest memories, unutterably precious and tender, He was present, and still knows them all; that in my present toil, while in His blessed despotism He allots the task, He also perfectly understands every experience of the worker in it, and can meet them all with His sufﬁcient grace. And in the hour of temptation it is to Him that I can conﬁde literally everything-the least thing, the greatest, the worst. The insight of any other eye into my soul’s recesses soon reaches its limit; the insight of His eye goes through the centre of my being, and He reserves it to Himself to deal with that. Am I conscious of failure, then? I come to Him direct, and without a moment’s delay. I show Him my weakest point at its weakest moment without a veil. Wonderful to say, He can make me strongest just there.
This is to put Jesus Christ’s friendship to the proof; this is to ﬁnd Him closer than a brother.
And if He is this to Me, I shall care often to be alone with Him; and when alone, to speak with Him. It has been well said: ‘If you walk with God, you must talk with God, or you will soon cease to walk with God.’ But let not the intercourse be one-sided. Listen as well as pray. ‘He that hath an ear, let him hear.’
For He on His part will let me look into His heart and His work. He will tell me of His thoughts of me long ago, even before the Universe began. He will explain to me the Plan and way by which He made me actually His own, His property, His instrument. He will talk freely to me about the yoke, and the cross, and the thorn, as well as bid me bear them; explaining, opening up, with a friend’s generous conﬁdence, what their bearing is upon my eternal future life with Him and for Him. He will lead me out far beyond myself in His gracious expositions of His thoughts. He will talk to me about His Father, and His Father’s covenant, and His Father’s kingdom; about His Father’s love for the world, and His Father’s love for the Son, and for the Bride of His Son.
I work on the while. I submit myself with deepening simplicity to my Master. I am more than ever content to do all day long what I am told. For the bonds of absolute obligation become, in this wonderful reality of a daily intercourse, conductors of the living power of an eternal friendship. I would not for a moment be free, an independent agent, choosing work and bargaining for pay. I have no rights; I make no conditions. I am a chattel that lives. But, ah! with it, and in it, and through it, I am my Master’s friend; the more consciously and delightfully such, the more I own myself, ﬁrst and always, His property and His slave.
“One there is above all others
Well deserves the name of friend;
Costly, free, and knows no end;
They who once His kindness prove
Find it everlasting love.”
Heavenly Master, I am Thine, and Thou art mine. Show me evermore Thy heart of love, the secret of the Lord. Let nothing ever overcast this sacred friendship, to which Thou hast called me. Everywhere, always, keep me abiding in Thy love; according to the working whereby Thou art able to subdue all things to Thyself. Amen.