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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter XXII. Virtue must never be given up for the sake of a friend. If, however, one has to bear witness against a friend, it must be done with caution. Between friends what candour is needed in opening the heart, what magnanimity in suffering, what freedom in finding fault! Friendship is the guardian of virtues, which are not to be found but in men of like character. It must be mild in rebuking and averse to seeking its own advantage; whence it happens that true friends are scarce among the rich. What is the dignity of friendship? The treachery of a friend, as it is worse, so it is also more hateful than another's, as is recognized from the example of Judas and of Job's friends.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXII.

Virtue must never be given up for the sake of a friend. If, however, one has to bear witness against a friend, it must be done with caution. Between friends what candour is needed in opening the heart, what magnanimity in suffering, what freedom in finding fault! Friendship is the guardian of virtues, which are not to be found but in men of like character. It must be mild in rebuking and averse to seeking its own advantage; whence it happens that true friends are scarce among the rich. What is the dignity of friendship? The treachery of a friend, as it is worse, so it is also more hateful than another’s, as is recognized from the example of Judas and of Job’s friends.

125. Nothing, then, must be set before p. 88 virtue; and that it may never be set aside by the desire for friendship, Scripture also gives us a warning on the subject of friendship. There are, indeed various questions raised among philosophers; 755 for instance whether a man ought for the sake of a friend to plot against his country or not, so as to serve his friend? Whether it is right to break one’s faith, and so aid and maintain a friend’s advantage?

126. And Scripture also says: “A maul, and a sword, and a sharp arrow, so is a man that beareth false witness against his friend.” 756 But note what it adds. It blames not witness given against a friend, but false witness. For what if the cause of God or of one’s country compels one to give witness? Ought friendship to take a higher place than our religion, or our love for our fellow-citizens? In these matters, however, true witness is required so that a friend may not be assailed by the treachery of a friend, by whose good faith he ought to be acquitted. A man, then, ought never to please a friend who desires evil, or to plot against one who is innocent.

127. Certainly, if it is necessary to give witness, then, when one knows of any fault in a friend, one ought to rebuke him secretly—if he does not listen, one must do it openly. For rebukes are good, 757 and often better than a silent friendship. Even if a friend thinks himself hurt, still rebuke him; and if the bitterness of the correction wounds his mind, still rebuke him and fear not. “The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of flatterers.” 758 Rebuke, then, thy erring friend; forsake not an innocent one. For friendship ought to be steadfast 759 and to rest firm in true affection. We ought not to change our friends in childish fashion at some idle fancy.

128. Open thy breast to a friend that he may be faithful to thee, and that thou mayest receive from him the delight of thy life. “For a faithful friend is the medicine of life and the grace of immortality.” 760 Give way to a friend as to an equal, and be not ashamed to be beforehand with thy friend in doing kindly duties. For friendship knows nothing of pride. So the wise man says: “Do not blush to greet a friend.” 761 Do not desert a friend in time of need, nor forsake him nor fail him, for friendship is the support of life. Let us then bear our burdens as the Apostle has taught: 762 for he spoke to those whom the charity of the same one body had embraced together. If friends in prosperity help friends, why do they not also in times of adversity offer their support? Let us aid by giving counsel, let us offer our best endeavours, let us sympathize with them with all our heart.

129. If necessary, let us endure for a friend even hardship. Often enmity has to be borne for the sake of a friend’s innocence; oftentimes revilings, if one defends and answers for a friend who is found fault with and accused. Do not be afraid of such displeasure, for the voice of the just says: “Though evil come upon me, I will endure it for a friend’s sake.” 763 In adversity, too, a friend is proved, for in prosperity all seem to be friends. But as in adversity patience and endurance are needed, so in prosperity strong influence is wanted to check and confute the arrogance of a friend who becomes overbearing.

130. How nobly Job when he was in adversity said: “Pity me, my friends, pity me.” 764 That is not a cry as it were of misery, but rather one of blame. For when he was unjustly reproached by his friends, he answered: “Pity me, my friends,” that is, ye ought to show pity, but instead ye assail and overwhelm a man with whose sufferings ye ought to show sympathy for friendship’s sake.

131. Preserve, then, my sons, that friendship ye have begun with your brethren, for nothing in the world is more beautiful than that. It is indeed a comfort in this life to have one to whom thou canst open thy heart, 765 with whom thou canst share confidences, and to whom thou canst entrust the secrets of thy heart. It is a comfort to have a trusty man by thy side, who will rejoice with thee in prosperity, sympathize in troubles, encourage in persecution. What good friends those Hebrew children were whom the flames of the fiery furnace did not separate from their love of each other! 766 Of them we have already spoken. Holy David says well: “Saul and Jonathan were lovely and pleasant, inseparable in their life, in death they were not divided.” 767

132. This is the fruit of friendship; and so faith 768 may not be put aside for the sake of friendship. He cannot be a friend to a man who has been unfaithful to God. Friendship is the guardian of pity and the teacher of equality, so as to make the superior equal to the inferior, and the inferior p. 89 to the superior. 769 For there can be no friendship between diverse characters, 770 and so the good-will of either ought to be mutually suited to the other. Let not authority be wanting to the inferior if the matter demands it, nor humility to the superior. Let him listen to the other as though he were of like position—an equal, and let the other warn and reprove like a friend, not from a desire to show off, but with a deep feeling of love.

134. Let not thy warning be harsh, nor thy rebuke bitter, 771 for as friendship ought to avoid flattery, so, too, ought it to be free from arrogance. For what is a friend but a partner in love, 772 to whom thou unitest and attachest thy soul, and with whom thou blendest so as to desire from being two to become one; to whom thou entrustest thyself as to a second self, from whom thou fearest nothing, and from whom thou demandest nothing dishonourable for the sake of thine own advantage. Friendship is not meant as a source of revenue, 773 but is full of seemliness, full of grace. Friendship is a virtue, not a way of making money. It is produced, not by money, but by esteem; not by the offer of rewards, but by a mutual rivalry in doing kindnesses.

134. Lastly, the friendships of the poor are generally better than those of the rich, 774 and often the rich are without friends, whilst the poor have many. For true friendship cannot exist where there is lying flattery. Many try fawningly to please the rich, but no one cares to make pretence to a poor man. Whatsoever is stated to a poor man is true, his friendship is free from envy.

135. What is more precious than friendship which is shared alike by angels and by men? Wherefore the Lord Jesus says: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that they may receive you into eternal habitations.” 775 God Himself makes us friends instead of servants, as He Himself says: “Ye are My friends if ye do whatsoever I command you.” 776 He gave us a pattern of friendship to follow. We are to fulfil the wish of a friend, to unfold to him our secrets which we hold in our own hearts, and are not to disregard his confidences. Let us show him our heart and he will open his to us. Therefore He says: “I have called you friends, for I have made known unto you all things whatsoever I have heard of My Father.” 777 A friend, then, if he is a true one, hides nothing; he pours forth his soul as the Lord Jesus poured forth the mysteries of His Father.

136. So he who does the will of God is His friend and is honoured with this name. He who is of one mind with Him, he too is His friend. For there is unity of mind in friends, and no one is more hateful than the man that injures friendship. Hence in the traitor the Lord found this the worst point on which to condemn his treachery, namely, that he gave no sign of gratitude and had mingled the poison of malice at the table of friendship. So He says: “It was thou, a man of like mind, My guide and Mine acquaintance, who ever didst take pleasant meals with Me.” 778 That is: it could not be endured, for thou didst fall upon Him Who granted grace to thee. “For if My enemy had reproached Me I could have borne it, 779 and I would have hid Myself from him who hated Me.” An enemy can be avoided; a friend cannot, if he desires to lay a plot. Let us guard against him to whom we do not entrust our plans; we cannot guard against him to whom we have already entrusted them. And so to show up all the hatefulness of the sin He did not say: Thou, My servant, My apostle; but thou, a man of like mind with Me; that is: thou art not My but thy own betrayer, for thou didst betray a man of like mind with thyself.

137. The Lord Himself, when He was displeased with the three princes who had not deferred to holy Job, wished to pardon them through their friend, so that the prayer of friendship might win remission of sins. Therefore Job asked and God pardoned. Friendship helped them whom arrogance had harmed. 780

138. These things I have left with you, my children, that you may guard them in your minds—you yourselves will prove whether they will be of any advantage. Meanwhile they offer you a large number of examples, for almost all the examples drawn from our forefathers, and also many a word of theirs, are included within these three books; so that, although the language may not be graceful, yet a succession of old-time examples set down in such small compass may offer much instruction.


Footnotes

88:755

Cic. de Off. III. 10.

88:756

Prov. xxv. 18.

88:757

Cic. de Off. I. 17.

88:758

Prov. xxvii. 6.

88:759

Cic. de Amic. 19, § 67.

88:760

Ecclesiasticus 6.16.

88:761

Ecclesiasticus 22.25.

88:762

Gal. vi. 2.

88:763

Ecclesiasticus 22.26.

88:764

Job xix. 21.

88:765

Cic. de Amic. 6, § 22.

88:766

Dan. iii. 16 ff.

88:767

2 Sam. 1.23.

88:768

Cic. de Off. III. 10, § 44.

89:769

Cic. de Amic. 19, § 69.

89:770

Cic. de Amic. 14, § 50.

89:771

Cic. de Off. I. 38, § 137.

89:772

Cic. de Amic. 21, § 80.

89:773

Cic. de Amic. 15, § 51.

89:774

Cic. Lact. 15, § 53.

89:775

S. Luke xvi. 9.

89:776

S. John xv. 14.

89:777

S. John xv. 15.

89:778

Ps. 54:13, 14.

89:779

Psa. 54.12.

89:780

Job 42:7, 8.


Next: On the Holy Spirit.

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