Another recommendation of this method is that it is so obviously grounded on our own nature. No sooner are we told by Paul that we must act as mirrors of Christ than we recognise that nature has made us to be mirrors, that we cannot but reflect what is passing before us. You are walking along the street, and, a little child runs before a carriage; you shrink back as if you were in danger. You see a man fall from a scaffolding, crushed; your face takes on an expression of pain, reflecting what is passing in him. You go and spend an evening with a man much stronger, much purer, much saner, than yourself, and you come away knowing yourself a stronger and a better man. Why? Because you are a mirror, because in your inmost nature you have responded to and reflected the good that was in him.
Look into any family, and what do you see? You see the boy, not imitating consciously, but taking on, his father's looks and attitudes and ways; and as the boy grows up these become his own looks and attitudes and ways. He has reflected his father from one degree of proficiency unto another, from one intimacy, from one day's observation of his father to another, until he is the image of the old man over again.
"Similarly," says Paul, "live with Christ; learn to carry His image with you, learn to adore Him, learn to love Him, and infallibly, whether you will or not, by this simple method you will become, Christ over again; you will become conformed, as God means you to become conformed, to the image of His Son."
This has been tested by the experience of thousands; and it has been found to be a true method. Every one who spends but two minutes in the morning in the observation of Christ, every one who will be at the pains to let the image of Christ rise before him and to remember the purity, the unworldliness, the heavenliness, the godliness of Jesus Christ, that man is the better for this exercise. And how utterly useless is it to offer any other method of sanctification to thousands of our fellow-citizens.
How can many of our fellow-citizens secrete themselves for prayer? If you ask them to go and pray as you pray in your comfortable home, if you ask them to read the Bible before they go out at five or six o'clock in the morning, do you expect that your word will be followed? Why, the thing is impossible. But ask a man to carry Christ with him in his mind, that is a thing he can do; and if he does it once, if only once the man sees Christ before him, realizes that this living Person is with him, and remembers the character of Christ as it is written for us in the Gospels, that man knows that he has made a step in advance, knows that he is the better for it, knows that he does reflect, for a little, even though it be but for a little, the very image of the Lord Jesus Christ; and other people know it also.
Now, if that is so, there are obviously three things that we must do. We must in the first place, learn to associate with Christ. I say that even one reflection does something, but we need to reflect Christ constantly, continually, if we are to become like Him. When you pass away from before a mirror the reflection also goes. In the case of Moses the reflection stayed for a little, and that is perhaps a truer figure of what happens to the Christian who sets Christ before him and reflects him. But very often as soon as Christ is not consciously remembered you fall back to other remembrances and reflect other things. You go out in the morning with your associates, and they carry you away; you have not as yet sufficiently impressed upon yourself the image of Christ. Therefore we must learn to carry Christ with us always, as a constant Companion.
Some one may say that is impossible. No one will say it is impossible who is living in absence from anyone he loves. What happens when we are living separated from some one we love? This happens: that his image is continually in our minds. At the most unexpected times that image rises, and especially, if we are proposing to ourselves to do what that person would not approve. At once his image rises to rebuke us and to hold us back. So that it is not only possible to carry with us the image of Christ: it is absolutely certain that we shall carry that image with us if only we give Him that love and reverence which is due from every human being. Who has done for us what Christ has done? Who commands our reverence as He does? If once He gets hold of our affection, it is impossible that He should not live constantly in our hearts. And if we say that persons deeply immersed in business cannot carry Christ with them thus, remember what He Himself says: "If any man love Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and we will come unto him." So that He is most present with the busiest and with those who strive as best they can to keep His commandments.
But we must not only associate with Christ and make Him our constant company: we must, in the second place, set ourselves square with Christ. You know that if you look into a mirror obliquely, if a mirror is not set square with you, you do not see yourself, but what is at the opposite angle, something that is pleasant or something that is disagreeable to you; it matters not--you cannot see yourself. And unless we as mirrors set ourselves perfectly square with Christ, we do not reflect Him, but perhaps things that are in His sight monstrous.
And, in point of fact, that is what happens with most of us, because it is here that we are chiefly tried. All persons brought up within the Christian Church pay some attention to Christ. We too well understand His excellence and we too well understand the advantages of being Christian men not to pay some attention to Christ. But that will not make us conform to His image. In order to be conformed to the image of Christ we must be wholly His.
Suppose you enter a studio where a sculptor is working, will he hand you his hammer and chisel to finish the most difficult piece of his work or to do any part of it? Assuredly not. It is his own idea that he is working out, and none but his own hand can work it out. So with us who are to be molded by Christ. Christ cannot mold us into His image unless we are wholly His. Every stroke that is made upon us by the chisel and mallet of the world is lost to His ideal. As often as we reflect what is not purely Christian, so often do we mar the I image of Christ.
Now how is it with us? Need we ask? When we go along the street, what is it that we reflect? Do we not reflect a thousand things that Christ disapproves? What is it that our heart responds to when we are engaged in business? Is it to appeals that this world makes to us? Is it the appeal that a prospect of gain makes to us that we respond to eagerly? That is what is making us; that is what is molding and making us the men that we are destined to be. We are molded into the character that we are destined to live with for ever and ever, by our likings and dislikings, by the actual response that we are now giving day by day to the things that we have to do with in this world.
We may loathe the character of the sensualist; no language is too strong for us when we speak of him: but if we, in point of fact, respond to appeals made to the flesh rather than appeals made to the spirit, we are becoming sensual. We may loathe and despise the character of the avaricious worldly man; we may see its littleness, and pettiness, and greed, and selfishness: but do our own hearts go out in response to any offer of gain more eagerly than they go out to Christian work or to the interests of Christ's kingdom? Then we are becoming worldly and avaricious; we are becoming the very kind of men that we despise.
Of course we know this. We know that we are being made by what we respond to, and the older we grow we know it the more clearly; we see it written on our own character that we have become the kind of men that we little thought one day we should become, and we know that we have become such men by responding to certain things which are not the things of the Spirit. Never was a truer word said than that he that Soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption, and he only that soweth to the Spirit shall reap life. That is what in other terms Paul here says. He says, "If you set yourselves square with Christ, you will become like Him; that is to say, if you find your all in Him, if you can be absolutely frank and honest with Him, if you can say, 'Mold and fashion me according to Thy will; lead me according to Thy will; make me in this world what Thou wilt; do with me what Thou wilt: I put myself wholly at Thy disposal; I do not wish to crane to see past Christ's figure to some better thing beyond; I give myself wholly and freely to him'--the man that says this, the man that does this, he will certainly become like to Him. But the man who even when he prays knows that he has desires in his heart that Christ cannot gratify, the man that never goes out from his own home or never goes into his own home without knowing that he has responded to things that Christ disapproves--how can that man hope to be like Him?"
We must then associate with Christ, and we must set ourselves squarely; we must. be absolutely true in our entire and absolute devotion. Surely no man thinks that this is a hardship; that his nature and life will be restricted by giving himself wholly to Christ? It is only, as every Christian will tell you--it is only when you give yourself entirely to Christ that you know what freedom means; that you know what it is to live in this world afraid of nothing. Superior to things that before you were afraid of and anxious about, you at length learn what it is to be a child of God. Let no man think that he lames his nature and makes his life poorer by becoming entirely the possession of Christ.
But, thirdly... concluded in Part Three.
Return to Christian Life.