In sending forth this little book on the Image of our blessed Lord, and the likeness to Him to which we are called, I have only two remarks by way of preface.
The one is that no one can be more conscious than myself of the difficulty of the task I have undertaken, and its very defective execution. There were two things I had to do. The one was to draw such a portrait of the Son of God, as "in all things made like unto His brethren," as to show how, in the reality of His human life, we have indeed an exact Pattern of what the Father wants us to be. What was wanted was such a portrait as should make likeness to Him infinitely and mightily attractive, should rouse desire, awaken love, inspire hope, and strengthen faith in all who are seeking to imitate Jesus Christ. And then I had to sketch another portrait,—that of the believer as he really, with some degree of spiritual exactness, reflects this Image, and amid the trials and duties of daily life proves that likeness to Christ is no mere ideal, but through the power of the Holy Ghost a most blessed reality.
How often and how deeply I have felt, after having sought to delineate some one trait of the blessed Life, how utterly insufficient human thoughts are to grasp, or human words to express, that spiritual beauty of which one at best only has seen faint glimpses! And how often our very thoughts deceive us, as they give us some human conception in the mind of what the Word reveals, while we lack that true vision of the spiritual glory of Him who is the brightness of the Father’s glory!
The second remark I wish to make is a suggestion as to what I think is needed really to behold the glory of the blessed Image into which we are to be changed. I was very much struck some time ago, in an infant school examination, with the practice a little class in object lessons was put through. A picture was shown them, which they were told to look at carefully. They then had to shut their eyes, and take time to think and remember everything they had seen. The picture was now removed, and the little ones had to tell all they could. Again the picture was shown, and they had to try and notice what they had not observed before; again to shut their eyes and think, and again to tell what more they had noticed. And so once more, until every line of the picture had been taken in. As I looked at the keen interest with which the little eyes now gazed on the picture, and then were pressed so tightly shut as they tried to realize, and take in, and keep what they had been looking at, I felt that if our Bible reading were more of such an object-lesson, the unseen spiritual realities pictured to us in the Word would take much deeper hold of our inner life. We are too easily content with the thoughts suggested by the words of the Bible, though these are but forms of truth, without giving time for the substantial spiritual reality, which the Word as the truth of God contains, to get lodged and rooted in the heart. Let us, in meditating on the Image of God in Christ, to which we are to be conformed, remember this. When some special trait has occupied our thoughts, let us shut our eyes, and open our hearts; let us think, and pray, and believe in the working of the Holy Spirit, until we really see the blessed Master in that special light in which the Word has been setting Him before us and can carry away for that day the deep and abiding impression of that heavenly beauty in Him which we know is to be reproduced in us. Let us gaze, and gaze again, let us worship and adore; the more we see Him as He is, the liker Him we must become. To study the image of God in the man Christ Jesus, to yield and set open our inmost being for that image to take possession and live in us, and then to go forth and let the heavenly likeness reflect itself and shine out in our life among our fellow-men,—this is what we have been redeemed for, let this be what we live for.
And now I entrust the little book to the gracious care of the blessed Lord of whose glory it seeks to tell May He give us to see that there is no beauty or blessedness like that of a Christ-like life. May He teach us to believe that in union with Him the Christ-like life is indeed for us. And as each day we listen to what His Word tells us of His image, may each one of us have grace to say, "O my Father! even as Thy beloved Son lived in Thee, with Thee, for Thee on earth, even so would I also live."
P.S.—As the tone of the meditations is mostly personal, I have, at the close of the volume, added some more general thoughts. "On Preaching Christ as our Example."