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PROVERBS XVII. 17.

“A Friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

The Proverbs of Solomon have, to an extent, become household words throughout the English speaking world. Even among worldly men they are treasured for the wealth of wisdom which they contain merely as regards the dealings of men one with another, in the every day walks of life. If then worldly men so respect these Proverbs from a natural point of view merely, how much more would the subject of grace be amazed and lost in admiration should he be given light to see beneath the mere letter of the word and behold Jesus written in every line. Every passage of Scripture from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, when rightly understood, resolves itself into this: “Jesus Christ and him crucified.” If we should interpret it to mean anything but this, we could not say with Paul, “I speak the truth in Christ and lie not.” “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” No part of the Scriptures is useless. Each part has its place in the thorough furnishing of a man of God to all good works. Equally profitable is the Proverb quoted at the beginning, when taken by the Spirit and revealed, thus awakening our understanding of heavenly things and spiritual exercises. When rightly seen, it will be in harmony with christian experience, and if not harmonious therewith, cannot be received as truth by a child of God. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

“A friend loveth at all times.” Behold a man surrounded by wealth, luxury and all that money can afford. To such a one come scores of his fellows cloaked in the garb of friendship. The word “friend “to them is but a tool to win his approbation, and to assist themselves to selfish ends. Now, see that man stripped of all his wealth, hurled into abject poverty. How many of his fellows come to him now! None. Why should they! No benefits can be obtained from one who himself is in need of beneficence. Are these men his friends? Surely not. “A friend loveth at all times.” No matter where I am, what I am, or how I am, a true friend will always follow me to strengthen me when weak, to lift when fallen, to cheer when faint and to counsel when rash. Though I be poverty-stricken, a true friend will never leave me. He is not expecting reward or benefits in return, but he loves me as his own soul; my interests are his, his welfare is mine. Though I go in the ways of the wicked and become as vile as the vilest criminal, he does not forsake me; no, he still loves me. Where I am, there is he to assist and lead me from evil. What say you? Was there ever such a friendship as this between man and man? Surely a true friend does love us at all times, but does true friendship exist between men? No. That between Jonathan and David in days of old comes nearer to the mark than any. Should I persist in evil doing until men thought me deranged, how many friends would I have! I can safely answer, none. Not a subject of grace but can remember a time when the world smiled blandly on them. Self-satisfaction reigned supreme, but one day, while drinking deep from the cup of sinful pleasures, a drop of bitterness entered the bowl. Your peace of mind was disturbed. It gradually increased until the poison had spread throughout the whole man; it grasped him body, soul and spirit; sin was reigning unto death; you were a reproach to yourself; your goodness, uprightness and chastity, where were they? Alas, search where you would, you could not find them, they were gone. Were there none to help, to rescue from this plague of sin? No, not one. Then surely we must die. You once had lots of friends in your own righteousness, your own strength, your own wisdom. Why do you not go to them now? Well, you would, but where are they? Gone. No help from that source can ever come. You see yourself as “having no hope and without God in the world.” But hark! What heavenly sounds are these! “Come unto me and I will give you rest.” Ah, here is the “friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” None other than God himself who now reveals the way of salvation to the weary and helpless, ordained for such through the merits of his only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. True friendship is found nowhere but with God himself. Where once he bestows his love, it is unto the end and throughout eternity. If I ascend to the third heaven, he is there, and if I make my bed in hell, there is he. Surely he is a friend indeed, for he “loveth at all times.”

“A brother is born for adversity.” “Adversity” directly implies “opposition,” and subsequently “poverty,” or “straitened circumstances.” In reading the eventful history of national Israel, one sees “adversity” or “opposition” written in every line. They were a stiffnecked, rebellious people, continually disobeying the commandments of God. When plagued and vexed on account of disobedience, they would be brought to repentance for a season, but only for a time. They could not remain steadfast in well doing, for their feet must slip and plunge them headlong in wickedness until the hand of the Lord laid heavily upon them would cause them to turn again, for he had declared, “I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” As he hath said, so brings he it to pass, and in the end, however far they may have strayed, Israel had always to appeal to him for deliverance, and to say, “Thou only art God, and beside thee there is no Savior.”

All this is typical of the members of spiritual Israel. Man at his best is but vanity. Every imagination of a man’s heart is only evil continually. The whole human race is in a state of “adversity” or “opposition” to God and his laws. “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” Every thought, every act, in fact all that we do, is in direct opposition (‘adversity”) to the ways of him whose ways are not our ways, and whose thoughts are not ours. They are as contrary as day and night. Only when the light of the love of God is shed abroad in the heart, can a sinner realize that he is in a state of “adversity”or “opposition” to God. Then he sees that obedience to God’s law is necessary to effect a reconciliation between himself and God. Straightway he begins to work, but instead of becoming reconciled to God, he finds he is only drifting farther and farther away, and sees more and more clearly the opposition between sin and holiness, humanity and divinity. Eternal condemnation hovers over him unless he can obey the righteous law of holiness. This, he finds at last he cannot do. Poverty-stricken in his adversity, he comes to the end of the earth, and can only stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. In such a strait as this, and only in such, God, the Almighty Friend, reveals to us the “brother born for adversity,” in the person of Christ. He becomes the Captain of our salvation. In him, “Mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” In his birth, sufferings, death and resurrection, he reconciled his people chosen in him, to God. Our adversity (opposition) is removed. No more “opposition,” but unity through the blood of Christ, our elder Brother. Various are the ways by which God makes himself known to his people. It may be as a Father, Husband, Friend, Prophet, Priest or King, yet it is always the same God viewed in different relations. Christ is the firstborn among

many brethren, and as their elder Brother, he leads them along through all the varying scenes of their earthly pilgrimage. Where necessary he imparts instruction to them from his infinite wisdom, administers reproof to the wayward, rebukes the evil doer, and visits chastisement upon the wicked. When he finds a little brother failing from sheer weakness, he makes him to lean upon his stronger arm, for he is touched with a sense of our very infirmities. Here another brother is becoming exalted above measure, and glories in his own fancied strength. Him the elder Brother suddenly deprives of assistance, and lo, he falls because his very mainstay is gone; he cannot stand alone. For this was the elder Brother born: that he might raise the fallen, cheer the faint, heal the sick, and lead the blind. What a wonderful gift to “adversity!”

Like looking along the path of a sunbeam until one beholds the dazzling brilliancy of the sun, so is this subject of the friendship of God and the brotherhood of Christ the more I pursue it, so I leave it. Finity can follow infinity no farther.

HORACE H. LEFFERTS.

Signs Of The Times
Volume 69, No. 21.
NOVEMBER 1, 1901.