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"A card-house on a sugar loaf,
E. Why, the least puff in the world would make it tumble all to pieces.
Mr. F. No doubt it would; and perhaps the author is a little too severe. But, on the other hand, we commit as great an error, when we mistake common civility and kindness for true friendship.
T. I am sure, papa, that William Lamb is a real friend.
Mr. F. I hope that he will always prove so, Thomas; but let me tell you the tale of the merchant and his son. A rich merchant had an only son, who was about to set off on his travels. "My son," said his father, "increase your knowledge as much as you can; but be diligent in your search after a true friend, for he will be to you more than every thing else: fortune may forsake you, but death alone can deprive you of a true friend. Be diligent then in your search, for a real friend is an invaluable treasure; a friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity, Prov. xvii. 17.
M. And did he find a friend?
P. I should think he would find plenty. Mr. F. And so thought the merchant's son, for he soon returned to his father, telling him that he had found fifty friends.
P. There! I said he would find plenty.
Mr. F. "My son," said the merchant, "speak not in favour of your friends till you have tried them. As a toper sticks to his flask of wine, as long as it contains the liquor he loves, and then casts it aside; so many will court you, as long as they believe you are rich and can serve them. I have only found one friend in a long life, yet you think that you have got fifty in the days of your youth; but come, we will try them."
With this the merchant killed a sheep, and put it into a bag, smearing his son's clothes with the blood, and sending him forth at night to try the friendship of his friends. Directed by his father, the son pretended that he had killed a man, and wished to hide the dead body, lest he should be pursued by the officers of justice, and taken up as a murderer.
E. Ay! that would try his friends, how
Mr. F. The first friend said that his house was hardly big enough for the living, and that, therefore, he had no room for the dead; and some excuse of the same kind was made by the whole fifty of the young man's friends. Not one among them would help him in his trouble, or run any risk to render him a service.
M. You see, Peter, his fifty friends were not worth fifty farthings.
Mr. F. When the young man returned to his father, the latter smeared his clothes with
blood, took the bag on his own shoulders, and went directly to the house of his only friend. He was received with gladness and kindness. "My house is yours," said his friend. "I am glad of the opportunity of showing the sincerity of my friendship, and will joyfully serve you at the hazard of my life."
E. Capital! excellent! Just such a friend as I should like.
T. But was it not wicked to tell a story, in saying that he had killed a man, when he had not killed one?
Mr. F. I am glad to see, Thomas, that you have so much love for the truth, and I hope that you will always preserve it. I rather suspect that the tale about the merchant and his son is not a true one; but only made up to show, in a striking way, the difference between true and pretended friendship.
E. Well! it is a capital tale; and such a true friend as the merchant had, would be worth any thing.
Mr. F. There are three things which set forth the friendship of our friends. If I fall into trouble, and require assistance, he who remains my friend proves his friendship; if I fall into undeserved reproach, he who still continues to be my friend shows a still stronger friendship; but if, when I have really done wrong, and fallen into deserved disgrace, he stands by me still, reproving me faithfully for my errors, running all hazards of sharing my
reproach, and giving me all the help he can, to get through my difficulties and regain my reputation, this man is a real friend.
M. How should we act, papa, that we may get real friends ?
Mr. F. That is the point to which I am now coming. Every one desires a true friend, but very few go the right way to obtain one. If you wish for a real friend, the very first thing to be done is to deserve one. "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly," Prov. xviii. 24. What right have we to expect that others will be kind to us, and bear with us, and serve us, and be faithful to us under all circumstances, if we are not ready to do the same thing for them?
M. Very true. If your friend, Edward, is to go through fire and water for you; you must go through fire and water for him, you
E. I suppose I must.
Mr. F. I once heard a man say, in the presence of his friend, "Walter, in joy and in sorrow, we have stood by each other for threescore years, and we have never led one another into evil." Children, children! I trust you will not forget this. It is a great thing to be able to say to our friends, we never led one another into evil! Do not expect to find Damons and Pythiases, nor be over-anxious yourselves to act the part they did; but, in all the relations of life in which you are placed,
let your acts to your friends be marked with kindness, integrity, sincerity, and fidelity. Choose for your friend, one who fears God, and loves the Redeemer; and then serve him, and stand by him in joy and sorrow. Do every act of kindness for him that lies in your power; reprove him faithfully when he does aught that is evil; and guide and confirm him, as far as you can, in every thing that is good, and high, and holy, and heavenly. Do these things; and though you may never be called on to go through fire and water for him, or he for you, still you may prove an inestimable blessing to each other.