“THE FRIEND DIVINE”
“…There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24)
INTRO.: A song which points out that we have a friend who sticks closer than a brother is “The Friend Divine.” The text was written by James Rowe (1865-1933). A prolific gospel song text author he produced several songs which have appeared in our books, including “After the Shadows,” “God Holds the Future in His Hands,” “He’s My King,” “Home of the Soul,” “I Choose Jesus,” “I Have Been Redeemed,” “I Walk with the King,” “Just Outside the Door,” “Looking to Thee,” “O Come to the Savior,” “Praise the King,” “Ring Out the Message,” “The Friend Divine,” “What Is He Worth to Your Soul?”, “Wonderful City,” “Wonderful Jesus,” “Won’t It Be Wonderful There,” “You Never Mentioned Him to Me,” and perhaps his best known, “Love Lifted Me.” The tune for “The Friend Divine” was composed by F. E. Farrar. In trying to find information on this composer, I located a reference to an 1886 book Solomon: His Life and Times by F. E. Farrar but further research determined that this book was actually written by Frederic William (F. W.) Farrar (1831-1903).
An English minister and theological writer, F. W. Farrar was born in Bombay, India, and educated at King William’s College on the Isle of Man, King’s College in London, and Trinity College at Cambridge. For some years he was a master at Harrow School and then Headmaster of Marlborough College. Also, he served successively as Canon of Westminster, Rector of St. Margaret’s, Archdeacon of Westminster, and Dean of Canterbury. A voluminous author, his best known works included A Life of Christ in 1874
and A Life of St. Paul in 1879. “The Friend Divine” was copyright in 1907 by the Gospel Advocate Co. and was renewed in 1931. I do not know if there is any connection between F. W. Farrar and the F. E. Farrar who composed the hymn tune, but given the fact that F. W. Farrar died in 1903 and the song was not copyrighted until 1907, it is highly unlikely that it is the same person. Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the hymn appeared in the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1) edited by L. O. Sanderson.
The song describes several situations in which we shall find that Jesus is truly a Friend.
I. Stanza 1 mentions our walk each day
“There’s gladness in this soul of mind, And sunshine on my way;
For I have found a Friend divine, Who walks with me each day.”
A. We can have gladness in our souls because of God’s blessings: Ps. 4:7
B. The sunshine on our way is the light of God: 1 Jn. 1:5
C. However, we can have this sunshine only as He walks with us each day, which in turn means that we must walk with Him in truth: 2 Jn. V. 4
II. Stanza 2 mentions our temptations
“Whene’er my enemies appear And tempt my soul to rove,
Top me my loving Friend draws near, And shields me with His love.”
A. Christians have enemies in this world, principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this age: Eph. 6:12
B. Their goal is to tempt our souls: Jas. 1:14-15
C. However, Jesus is our Friend who shields us with His love: 1 Cor. 10:13
III. Stanza 3 mentions our burdens
“He puts my every foe to fight, And shares my burdens all;
He gives me songs to sing at night, And lifts me when I fall.”
A. There are foes that we have to fight: 1 Tim. 6:12
B. Also, there are burdens that we must bear: Gal. 6:5
C. However, as our Friend, Jesus will give us songs in the night to lift our spirits: Job 35:10
IV. Stanza 4 mentions our times of loneliness
“He tells me that though friends depart, He will abide with me—
That He has given me His heart For all eternity.”
A. There are times when our friends depart from us: 2 Tim. 4:10
B. However, Jesus has promised as a Friend to abide with us as long as we abide in Him: Jn. 15:4
C. And He promises to give us eternal life: 1 Jn. 2:25
V. Stanza 5 mentions our entire lives
“O blest am I with such a Friend Beside me all the way!
I’ll cleave to Him unto the end, And praise Him night and day.”
A. Those who walk in the light of God’s countenance are truly blessed: Ps. 89:15
B. Jesus, as their Friend, has said that He will go with them even to the end of the age: Matt. 28:20
C. Therefore, it should be our desire to cleave or cling to Him to the end by being faithful till death: Rev. 2:10
CONCL.: The chorus reminds us that as a Friend Jesus walks with us each day.
“He walks with me each day, And brightens all the way;
And, O His love unto my soul Is sweeter every day.”
James Rowe produced around 19,000 hymn texts. A few of them are still quite popular, but many have fallen by the wayside to be replaced by newer songs. Not every hymn, even every good one, can be kept in current use. However, it is occasionally interesting to go back into the past and see the songs that once were used to express trust in “The Friend Divine.”