( Originally Published 1879 )
PURE, disinterested friendship, is a bright flame, emitting none of the smoke of selfishness, and seldom deigns to tabernacle among men. Its origin is divine, its operations heavenly, and its results enrapturing to the soul. It is because it is the perfection of earthly bliss that the world has ever been flooded with base counterfeits, many so thickly coated with the pure metal, that nothing but time can detect the base interior and ulterior designs of bogus friends. Deception is a propensity deeply rooted inhuman nature, and the hobby horse on which some ride through life. The heart is deceitful above all things; who can know it?
Caution has been termed the parent of safety, but has often been baffled by a Judas kiss. The most cautious have been the dupes and victims of the basest deceivers. We should be extremely careful who we confide in, and then we will often find ourselves mistaken. Let adversity come, then we may know more of our friends. Many will probably show that they were sunshine friends, and will escape as for their lives, like rats from a barn in flames! Ten to one, those who have enjoyed the most sunshine will. be the first to forsake, censure and reproach. Friendship, based entirely on self, ends in desertion the moment the selfish ends are accomplished or frustrated.
"Disguise so near the truth doth seem to run,
Friendship is a flower that blooms in all seasons; it may be seen flourishing on the snow-capped mountains of Northern Russia, as well as in more favored valleys of sunny Italy, everywhere cheering us by its exquisite and indescribable charms. No surveyed chart, no national boundary line, no rugged mountain or steep declining vale put a limit to its growth. Wherever it is watered with the dews of kindness and affection, there you may be sure to find it. Allied in closest companionship with its twin-sister, charity, it enters the abode of sorrow and wretchedness, and causes happiness and peace. It knocks at the lonely and disconsolate heart, and speaks words of encouragement and joy. Its all-powerful influence hovers over contending armies and unites the deadly foes in the closest bonds of sympathy and kindness. Its eternal and universal fragrance dispels every poisoned thought of envy, and purifies the mind with a holy and priceless contentment which all the pomp and power of earth could not bestow. In vain do we look for this heavenly flower in the cold, calculating worldling; the poor, deluded wretch is dead to every feeling of its ennobling virtue. In vain do we look for it in the actions of the proud and aristocratic votaries of fashion; the love of self-display and of the false and fleeting pleasures of the world, has banished it forever from their hearts. In vain do we look for it in the thoughtless and practical throng, who with loud laugh and extended open hands, proclaim obedience to its laws—while at the same time the canker of malice and envy and detraction is enthroned in their hearts and active on their tongues. Friendship, true friendship, can only be found to bloom in the soil of a noble and self-sacrificing heart; there it has a perennial summer, a never-ending season of felicity and joy to its happy possessor, casting a thousand rays of love and hope and peace to all around.
No one can be happy without a friend, and no one can know what friends he has until he is unhappy.
It has been observed, that a real friend is somewhat like a ghost or apparition ; much talked of, but hardly ever seen. Though this may not be exactly true, it must, however, be confessed, that a friend does not appear every day, and that he who in reality has found one, ought to value the boon, and be thankful.
Where persons are united by the bonds of genuine friendship, there is nothing, perhaps, more conducive to felicity. It supports and strengthens the mind, alleviates the pain of life, and renders the present state, at least, somewhat comfortable. "Sorrows," says Lord Verulam, "by being communicated, grow less, and joys greater." "And indeed," observes another, "sorrow, like a stream, loses itself in many channels ; while joy, like a ray of the sun, reflects with a greater ardor and quickness when it rebounds upon a man from the breast of his friend."
The friendship which is founded upon good tastes and congenial habits, apart from piety, is permitted by the benignity of Providence to embellish a world, which, with all its magnificence and beauty, will shortly pass away ; that which has religion for its basis will ere long P> be transplanted in order to adorn the paradise of God.
There is true enjoyment in that friendship which has its source in the innocence and uprightness of a true heart. Such pleasures do greatly sweeten life, easing it from many a bitter burden. A sympathizing heart finds an echo in sympathizing bosoms that bring back cheering music to the spirit of the loveliest. Be all honor, then, to true friendship, and may it gather yet more fragrant blossoms from the dew-bathed meadows of social intercourse, to spread their aroma along the toil-worn road of life. What a blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly upon any subject ; with whom one's deepest thoughts come simply and safely. O, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort, of feeling safe with a person—having neither to weigh the thoughts nor measure the words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them ; keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.
If any form an intimacy merely for what they can gain by it, this is not true friendship in such a person. It must be free from any such selfish view, and only design mutual benefit as each may require. Again, it must be unreserved. It is true indeed that friends are not bound to reveal to each other all their family concerns, but they should be ever ready to disclose what may in any point of view concern each other. Lastly, it is benevolent. Friends must study to please and oblige each other in the most delicate, kind, and liberal manner ; and that in poverty and trouble, as well as in riches or prosperity. The benevolence of friends is also manifested in overlooking each other's faults, and, in the most tender manner, admonishing each other when they do amiss. Upon the whole, the purse, the heart, and the house ought to be open to a friend, and in no case can we shut out either of them, unless upon clear proofs of treachery, immorality, or some other great crime.
The first law of friendship is sincerity ; and he who violates this law, will soon find himself destitute of what he so erringly seeks to gain ; for the deceitful heart of such an one will soon betray itself, and feel the contempt due to insincerity. The world is so full of selfishness, that true friendship is seldom found ; yet it is often sought for paltry gain by the base and designing. Behold that toiling miser, with his ill-got and worthless treasures ; his soul is never moved by the hallowed influence of the sacred boon of friendship, which renews again on earth lost Eden's faded bloom, and flings hope's halcyon halo over the wastes of life. The envious man he, too, seeks to gain the applause of others for an unholy usage, by which he may usurp a seat of pre-eminence for himself. Self-love, the spring of motion, acts upon his soul. All are fond of praise, and many are dishonest in the use of means to obtain it ; hence it is often difficult to distinguish between true and false friendship.