Among a great many of Paul's friends who were frightened and ashamed, and made shift to break their relationship with him, there was one upon whom he could count. The world's scorn and contempt, the probability of being thrown to a beast or covered with pitch and set on fire to illuminate the driveway of the emperor by night, never caused Onesiphorus to falter. It wasn't easy to find Paul, but he persisted in the search until he found him. There was no excuse which he could make to his conscience for not finding his old friend and ministering to him. Paul says, "He oft refreshed me"—literally, "made him cool," as if he had poured cold water on his fevered head and feet.
If Onesiphorus could have asked for an epitaph, it would have been this—"Here lies the friend of Paul!" And Paul might have said, in these lines of unknown authorship:
Timotheus, when here and there you go
Through Ephesus upon your pastoral round,
Where every street to me is hallowed ground,
I will be bold and ask you to bestow
Kindness upon one home, where long ago
A helpmate lived, whose like is seldom found;
And when the sweet spring flowers begin to blow,
Sometime, for me, lay one upon his mound.
Thus Paul, long since from out his Roman cell.
As from the past he saw a face arise—
Fit picture of the veteran who surveys
His yester years, waiting for the evening bell,
While Hesper shines within his quiet skies,
And memory fills with cheer his lonely days!
In the great hall of one of the old-time mansions of the Shenandoah Valley there hangs the portrait of a broad-shouldered cavalier, and written in his own hand are the words, "Yours to count on—J. E. B. Stuart."
It is written, "A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (Prov. 17:17.) But there are a great many friendships which are not born for adversity. Adversity is the wind or the fan which separates the chaff of flattery from the grain of solid friendship.
The Shadow once said to the Body: "Who is a friend like me? I follow you wherever you go. In sunlight or in moonlight I never forsake you."
"True," answered the Body, "you go with me in sunlight and in moonlight. But where are you when neither sun nor moon shines upon me?"
The true friend is one who is faithful in adversity and who abides with us in the darkness of the night. A man in adversity is like a ship which has been driven on the shore and wrecked. The ship needs extensive overhauling and repair before it will be ready for sea again. So is it with the friend who has met with troubles and disaster. He needs the ministry of his friends. There are two beautiful examples of that in the Bible, one in the Old Testament and one
in the New.
When David's fortunes were at the lowest ebb, when he was pursued day and night by the relentless hatred and jealousy of Saul, and when, apparently, his own hope was sinking and his faith in God declining, then that faithful friend Jonathan, whose love to him David said was "wonderful, passing the love of women," went to him at night in the wood of Ziph and strengthened hii hand in God.
Years ago in Philadelphia a prominent bank failed. Even those officers and employees who had been innocent were looked upon with suspicion. One of these men who was innocent of wrongdoing felt bitterly the new attitude of old friends toward him. But one day in the mail he received a letter which had in it just a single sheet of paper. On the paper there was drawn a man's hand, and underneath was the signature of his friend. There was a man, a friend, who was not ashamed of his chains.
In the olden days in Greece the symbol of a true friend was a young man upon whose garments were written the words "Summer and winter."
Napoleon was a man who had many courtiers but few friends. Indeed, he boasted once that he loved no one living, not even his own brothers. But he was attached in a way to one of his marshals, Duroc. In the Battle of Bautzen in 1813 Duroc received a fatal wound from a cannon ball. When the army had bivouacked, Napoleon went to see him. The duke grasped his hand and kissed him. The emperor, putting his right arm around the marshal, remained a quarter of an hour, with his head resting on his left hand, and in complete silence.
At length the marshal said, "Ah, Sire, leave me. Such a sight as this must pain you."
Whereupon the emperor left, unable to say more than these words, "Good-by, my friend."
He then returned to his tent and admitted no one that night. After the Battle of Waterloo, when he had hoped to find asylum in England, Napoleon expressed the desire to assume the name of his old friend, and be known merely as General Duroc.
You have a Friend, your friend forever, who permits you to bear his name —the name which is above every name, and the name which God delights to honor.
When Bishop Beveridge was dying, one of his closest friends said to him, "Bishop Beveridge, do you know me?"
The bishop asked, "Who are you?" And when the name was mentioned he said, "No."
Then they said to him, "Don't you know your wife?"
"What is her name?" he again asked.
His wife came forward and said, "I am your wife, do you not know me?"
"No, I did not know I had a wife."
The old man's mental machinery was breaking down. Then one knelt by him and whispered in his ear, "Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?"
At that the dying man's face lighted up, and he answered, "Yes, I have known him for the last forty years, and I can never forget him."
Ah, yes; when memory's cords are all snapping, and the mind wanders in a maze, still the name of this Friend, the name of Jesus, will sound with sweet meaning in the believer's ear. The cord of memory that binds to Christ will still hold, and along it will flash messages of cheer and strength which shall establish your soul in the last darkness.