Posted by: rcottrill | September 24, 2012

I’ve Found a Friend

Words: James Gridlay Small (b. Feb. 6, 1817; d. Feb. 11, 1888)
Music: Friend, by George Coles Stebbins (b. Feb. 26, 1846; d. Oct. 6, 1945)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: There is another gospel song by John Prentice Schofield (1882-1972) that begins, “I’ve found a Friend who is all to me,” but its usual title is Saved, Saved. The song under discussion here was written nearly fifty years earlier.

James Small was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, where he attended university, studying theology under the learned and godly Dr. Thomas Chalmers. Small later served as pastor of a church, but it is said that certain peculiarities of speech and manner in the pulpit kept him from being a success there. However, he was a gentle and godly man. Other clergymen recognized his sincerity and ability, and he was made clerk of the presbytery. He also published two volumes of poetry.

It’s of interest to note that the word “friend” (at least as far as the biblical record goes) is only used of the Lord Jesus by His enemies, and then in a mocking and critical way.

“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber [a drunkard], a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Matt. 11:19).

Christ’s friendship with tax collectors (despised because they worked for the hated Roman government), and “sinners.” irked the Jewish leaders. The latter term may, of course, have included genuine sinners, since we all are such (Rom. 3:23). However, to the self-righteous Pharisees, these were any whose lifestyle or labours made them ceremonially unclean, or they were individuals who did not keep all of the traditional rules that had been added to the Jewish Law. To be a “friend” of such, they thought, showed a lack of spiritual discernment, and it meant Jesus was contaminated by the association.

The Lord did, however, use that term of His followers (Lk. 12:4; Jn. 11:11). And if they were His friends, by implication He was theirs. They (and we) show “friendship” to the Lord Jesus Christ when we do His will (Jn. 15:14). And He shows friendship toward us in a couple of ways: by giving His life to save us (Jn. 15:13), and by sharing intimate spiritual secrets with us (vs. 15). These are conveyed to us, today, in the inspired Word of God.

James Small reminds us of an important truth: that before we loved Christ, He loved us. Before we even knew Him, or knew about Him, He loved us. “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins….We love Him because He first loved us” (I Jn. 4:10, 19; cf. Eph. 2:4-5).

CH-1) I’ve found a Friend, O such a Friend! He loved me ere I knew Him;
He drew me with the cords of love, and thus He bound me to Him;
And round my heart still closely twine those ties which naught can sever,
For I am His, and He is mine, forever and forever.

Another great truth is expressed in CH-2. “Not alone the gift of life, but His own self He gave me!” Eternal life is more than endless life, it is a life in fellowship with our Friend. The Lord told His followers that His purpose was to “come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:3). That same purpose was voiced in His high priestly prayer to His heavenly Father: “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with me where I am” (Jn. 17:24).

CH-2) I’ve found a Friend, O such a Friend! He bled, He died to save me;
And not alone the gift of life, but His own self He gave me!
Naught that I have mine own I call, I’ll hold it for the Giver,
My heart, my strength, my life, my all are His, and His forever.

The hymn writer concludes with an exclamation that echoes that of Paul in Romans Chapter 8, to the effect that there is nothing that can separate us from our Friend.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35, 38-39).

And if we are joined to Him by a bond of eternal love, it stands to reason that the Lord will do everything necessary to guide and protect us, in order to deliver us safely into our eternal home.

CH-4) I’ve found a Friend, O such a Friend! So kind and true and tender,
So wise a Counselor and Guide, so mighty a Defender!
From Him who loves me now so well what power my soul can sever?
Shall life or death, shall earth or hell? No! I am His forever.

1) What are the qualities of a true friend that you see reflected in the Lord’s friendship with believers?

2) What are the qualities of Christ’s friendship with the outcasts of society, while He was on earth, that we can emulate today? (And how can we do so?)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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