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The Power of Friendship, Part Two

“The best mirror is an old friend.” –George Herbert

Amid increasing anxiety and approaching suffering, Jesus called his disciples by a new name, “friend.” (Luke 22:41-45; John 13:21; 15:12-15) The word signaled intimacy, sacrifice, and an understanding that the secret counsels of God would not be hidden from them. (Exodus 33:11; Job 29:4; John 15:15-16) The Puritans understood the power of a “special bosom friend,” and Richard Baxter even offered twenty qualifications to consider when choosing such a friend![1] The list included some expected characteristics such as: sincerity and single-heartedness, not addicted to loquacity (talkativeness), zeal in religion, and not impatient. And some that might be surprising: “he must not much differ from you in riches,” and, “it must not be a person of a different sex, unless in case of marriage.”[2]

Mature Christian friendships were central to the development of a Puritan’s emotional and spiritual life.[3] Why was this so? Christian friends were not afraid to engage in conference with one another. They demonstrated their love for each other by not tolerating sin in the other. Ralph Venning wrote, “He can be no true friend to you that is a friend to your faults, and you can be no true friend to yourself if you be an enemy to him that tells you of your faults.”[4] Of course, conference with a Christian friend is much more than pointing out someone else’s faults. Believing friends should frequently discuss how the mercies of God led them to salvation, their recent answers to prayer, and how God demonstrates daily his faithfulness to them. Please answer the following questions and we will see some of you on Sunday.

Love in Christ,

Pastor Dale

  1. “How does friendship help Christians become mature in Christ?”[5]
  1. Richard Sibbes noted that “Godly friends are walking sermons.”[6] Is that the way you would characterize your closest friends? Is that the way they would characterize you?
  1. Ask a close friend the following question: “When was the last time I told you about God’s faithfulness to me or a specific answer to prayer that I received?” (Psalm 40:10; 89:1; Isaiah 38:19) If they cannot give you a clear and specific answer then take a moment and tell them, in as much detail as you can, of a particular blessing that God has recently given you.

[1] See Richard Baxter, “What qualifications should direct us in the choice of a special bosom friend?” The Christian Directory, in The Practical Works, 6:462-465.
[2] Ibid, 464-465.
[3] See Nathaniel Warne, “Emotions and the Development of Virtue in Puritan Thought: An Investigation of Puritan Friendship,” in Alec Ryrie and Tom Schwanda, eds. Puritanism and Emotion in the Early Modern World. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
[4] Ralph Venning, Canaan’s Flowings. Or, Milk and Honey. Being a Collation of…Christian Experiences, Sayings, Sentences, etc. London: printed for T. C. for John Rothwel, 1658, 76.
[5] Joel R. Beeke, Living for God’s Glory, 170.
[6] Richard Sibbes cited in Beeke and Pederson, Meet the Puritans, 535.