God And Man
( Originally Published 1896 )
There is not much resemblance to God in some men. They bear the image of the earthly, sensual and devilish. Christ's image is often cast now in a counterfeit mould. Scipio Africanus had a son, a profligate young man, who wore on his finger a ring with the image of his father engraved upon it. So disgusted were the Roman censors at seeing this degenerate son wearing upon his person the picture of his great and noble parent that they insisted on his taking the ring off his finger. They said that by his wearing it he was not honoring, but insulting his father. Thus will the Almighty Father regard his degenerate offspring who wear his name without conformity to his image. Alexander the Great had a soldier in his army who bore his own name of Alexander, but he was a great coward. And one day the great general said to him, "Either change your name, or learn to honor it."
How, then, shall we bring the divine into our lives? By preserving a fresh and overwhelming consciousness of the constant presence of God, by carrying with us the thought of God in every employment, whether in walking or riding, reading or studying, or working with the hands, by "always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,"- this is to walk with God, this is to bear His image.
Men become very much like the object they worship. As idolatry, image-worship, and low ideals are degrading in many ways to the worshipers of false gods, so on the other hand, the pure worship of the true God is ennobling and transforming into the Christ image. To become God-like we must become accustomed to meditate much upon God's exalted nature-his moral perfections and attributes. Noble thoughts ennoble a man. Great ideas have an overmastering power. Is not the mind enlarged and elevated in the contemplation of 'God's eternity? Does it not exalt the soul to think of God's infinite nature, his omnipresence, his absolute holiness, his infinite love, mercy and tenderness? How do men learn wisdom, love, holiness? By contemplation of God in whom these attributes transcendently shine.
In the art galleries of the old countries we saw artists from all over the civilized world copying the master-pieces, and so perfect were some of these imitations that we thought these modern artists had fairly caught the spirit of the old masters. So by looking to Jesus, the Master, by meditating upon God's exalted character, by contemplating his divine attributes, the Christian may imbibe God's spirit and begin even here to breathe the very atmosphere of heaven. You cannot prayerfnlly contemplate God's love without becoming yourself more amiable and benevolent. You cannot dwell upon God's holiness and purity and spiritual nature without becoming more holy and pure and spiritual. " If your eye is on the Eternal," says Emerson, your intellect will grow, and your opinions and actions have a beauty which no learning or combined advantages of other men can rival.
Communion with God in prayer has much to do in fashioning great and good lives, "giving to them some-what of the dignity of their associations. All the belittling things of life are obscured and hidden under the august conceptions that engross the mind when it is holding fellowship with God."
High and holy character depends upon our thinking upon exalted and worthy objects. If a man would be pure and honest and lovely in character, he must heed the Apostle's command to "think" upon whatsoever things are pure, honest, lovely, and of good report. " They that walk after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh." Let us walk after the Spirit, yea, walk in the light of God.
An object bathed in a green, red, or blue light-will take the color of the light. So if we would reflect the light of the Godhead, we must walk in that light. If we would be like God, we must think of God. The very thought of God inspires, and it is a. law that we approach the likeness of the object of our contemplation. Love begets love, hate begets hate,kindness produces kindness. The beauty of the Divine character can be seen only by those who have been made partakers of it. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
Painting on porcelain and fine china is at present a popular and beautiful art; but to make the colors and figures permanent, the work of the artist must be burned in. So when the image of Christ is carefully drawn upon the soul, the fires of the Holy Ghost must pass upon it, burning up the impurities of our nature and bringing out clearly the lovely outlines and rich graces of the Spirit and transforming us into the image of the Divine.
A conscience enlightened by the Bible and regenerated by the Holy Spirit is that which impels us to be like Christ, to have his moral image, even righteousness and true holiness. Our only correct views of God are obtained from the Scriptures which tell of Jesus and his love.
There is a story of Raphael, the greatest of painters. "Raphael had undertaken to paint a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, which was to be his masterpiece, the chief work of his life. His best energies were to be devoted to it. But how was it to be done? Only by learning the story of the man Christ Jesus for himself. But in order to do this he must needs have accesss to the New Testamemt, which alone gives an infallible testimony regarding him. In Raphael's day and in the church of Rome, it was no easy matter to get an opportunity of thus studying the Divine portrait of Jesus which is drawn by the four evangelists; but Raphael was able to secure a copy of the Bible and began to read. There before him the canvas was spread. The brush was in his hand, and the open Bible at his side.
Bending over its hallowed pages sat the artist. Every feature of that fine countenance was riveted. Every thought was deeply absorbed. Thus he had sat for hours.
"Suddenly the features relaxed. The brush fell from his grasp and falling upon his knees, he clasped his hands together, and exclaimed, `My Lord and my God !'
"He had been laboring to imprint that countenance on the canvas; God had written it on his heart. What a revolution had passed within his soul during those solemn moments ! What a mighty change ! He rose up a new man in Christ Jesus. Henceforth that life became a new life - with new aims, new emotions, new hopes."
Let us keep our hearts turned towards the Son of righteousness, till his own glorions image is printed there. What we want is to open our hearts to his sweet influences as the photographer exposes the sensitive plate to receive impressions. If we keep looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, His likeness will become our likeness, His Spirit will become -our spirit and His strength our strength.
As the horse is the emblem of majesty and strength, so the name "Christian" should be the synonym of all that is grand and noble, all that is strong and beautiful in character. Yet the very ideal of the Christian life seems to have been dwarfed in this age to a poor, low, and conventional standard. What is wanted to-day is more swarthiness and power, more moral muscle in Christian character. We have plenty of repetitious, sanctimonious talk, sweet lullaby singing, unctious smiling, parlor piety, and green-house religion, and not enough practical, sturdy, out-of-doors, robust Christianity. The devil has his own way in many communities because good people are too indifferent and soft and cowardly to unite and rise in their might and drive him out. The American saloon would soon be a thing of the past if all Christians would march forward in a solid phalanx to stamp the hell-born and hell-bound curse out of existence. Too many Christians pray " Thy kingdom come," and vote for the reign of, the devil. What is morally wrong is not politically right. It is useless to try to be a good Christian and bad citizen.