This book, devotional in tone, collects and concisely presents the Gospel writers' witness to the ethical example of Jesus Christ. Many books have been written about what Christ taught but here James Stalker reflects upon the Lord's recorded actions and interactions, applying the knowledge gleaned to our everyday lives. There's a great deal of rich material here, with chapter titles such as "Christ in the Home," "Christ in the State," "Christ in the Church," "Christ as a Worker," "Christ as a Sufferer," etc.
This book presents a powerful challenge to follow in the footsteps of the Saviour.
In our seminary days and first pastorates, ministers of my age will recall with what delight we welcomed certain books written by Dr. Stalker; for instance, his Life of Christ, Life of St. Paul, and especially, Imago Christi. The last-named book inspired many a sermon, revived lagging spirits, and made a host of young ministers, and older ones too, grateful debtors to one of Scotland’s illustrious scholars and preachers.
—Edgar DeWitt Jones, The Royalty of the Pulpit
IF it were permissible, I could truly describe the origin of this book in the very words of Bunyan:
When at the first I took my pen in hand
Thus for to write, I did not understand
That I at all should make a little book
In such a mode; nay, I had undertook
To make another; which, when almost done,
Before I was aware, I this begun.
Whilst writing my Life of Christ, and reading extensively on the subject, the conviction was borne in upon me that no desideratum more urgently needs to be supplied in our theology than a work on the Mind or Teaching of Christ. For several years I have been working at this task. But, as I went on, my progress was impeded by the fact that, especially in the department of ethics, Jesus seemed to teach as much by His example as by His words; whereas it was my intention to derive His teaching from His words alone. I commenced accordingly to write a little on His example, merely for the purpose of clearing the surplus material out of the way, and without any thought that it would extend beyond a chapter or two. But, as I wrote, it grew and grew, till, almost unawares, the plan of a new book shaped itself in my mind. Recurring to the quaint and pithy language of Bunyan, I may say:
Having now my method by the end,
Still, as I pulled, it came; and so I penned
It down; until it came at last to be,
For length and breadth, the bigness which you see.
The plan of this book, as it thus, so to speak, made itself, is—to divide the circle of human life into segments, each of which represents an extensive sphere of experience and duty, and then to follow our Lord through them one after another, in order to see how He conducted Himself in each and thereby learn how to conduct ourselves in the same. It is thus a kind of Christian Ethics with a practical and devotional aim. By making the segments smaller, the chapters might easily have been increased in number; but perhaps no very important part of life has been entirely overlooked.
Each chapter has been written in full view of the whole of our Lord’s behaviour, as far as it has been recorded, in the department of human life to which it refers; and it was at one time my intention to print in full, from the Gospels, all the evidence on each head. I soon found, however, that this would be impracticable, for the evidence turned out to be far more voluminous than I had any conception of; and to print it in full would have swelled the book to double its size. It has been to me a continual astonishment to find how abundant are the materials for tracing out our Lord’s example even in what may be considered the less important parts of life; and I thankfully confess that I have derived from this study a new impression of the wealth which is packed into the narrow circumference of the Four Gospels. On the flyleaf of each chapter I have noted a number of the more important passages; and this list, although in no case complete, may serve as a starting-point to those who may wish to collect the evidence for themselves.
I am persuaded that there are many at present in all the churches who are turning earnest eyes to the Example of Christ, and who desire an account, derived directly from the records, of how He lived this earthly life which we are living now. For such I have written this guide to the imitation of Christ, and I send it forth with the earnest hope that they may be able to find in it, in some degree, the authentic features of the image of the Son of man.
GLASGOW, September 22nd, 1889.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
A Second Edition being required a few weeks after the issue of the First, no changes have been introduced beyond a few trifling verbal corrections. But I gladly avail myself of this opportunity of saying what is nowhere distinctly enough stated in the text, that I have not conceived the imitation of Christ to consist in the mere literal repetition of His acts, but rather in the application of the spirit and principles of His life to the duties and problems of our own day. At the same time, the way in which I have attempted to arrive at His spirit and principles has not been by a priori reasoning from the general conception of His character, but by the close study of His actions in detail.