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Imitation of Christ - Chapter 13
Of resisting temptation
So long as we live in the world, we cannot be without trouble and
trial. Wherefore it is written in Job, The life of man upon the
earth is a trial.(1) And therefore ought each of us to give heed
concerning trials and temptations, and watch unto prayer, lest
the devil find occasion to deceive; for he never sleepeth, but
goeth about seeking whom he may devour. No man is so perfect in
holiness that he hath never temptations, nor can we ever be
wholly free from them.
2. Yet, notwithstanding, temptations turn greatly unto our
profit, even though they be great and hard to bear; for through
them we are humbled, purified, instructed. All Saints have
passed through much tribulation and temptation, and have profited
thereby. And they who endured not temptation became reprobate
and fell away. There is no position so sacred, no place so
Imitation of Christ - Chapter 12
Of the uses of adversity
It is good for us that we sometimes have sorrows and adversities,
for they often make a man lay to heart that he is only a stranger
and sojourner, and may not put his trust in any worldly thing.
It is good that we sometimes endure contradictions, and are
hardly and unfairly judged, when we do and mean what is good.
For these things help us to be humble, and shield us from
vain-glory. For then we seek the more earnestly the witness of
God, when men speak evil of us falsely, and give us no credit for
2. Therefore ought a man to rest wholly upon God, so that he
needeth not seek much comfort at the hand of men. When a man who
feareth God is afflicted or tried or oppressed with evil
thoughts, then he seeth that God is the more necessary unto him,
since without God he can do no good thing. Then he is heavy of
heart, he groaneth, [...]
Why I believe . . .
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Imitation of Christ - Chapter 11
Of seeking peace of mind and of spiritual progress
We may enjoy abundance of peace if we refrain from busying
ourselves with the sayings and doings of others, and things which
concern not ourselves. How can he abide long time in peace who
occupieth himself with other men’s matters, and with things
without himself, and meanwhile payeth little or rare heed to the
self within? Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall have
abundance of peace.
2. How came it to pass that many of the Saints were so perfect,
so contemplative of Divine things? Because they steadfastly
sought to mortify themselves from all worldly desires, and so
were enabled to cling with their whole heart to God, and be free
and at leisure for the thought of Him. We are too much occupied
with our own affections, and too anxious about transitory things.
Seldom, too, do we entirely conquer [...]
Imitation of Christ - Chapter 10
Of the danger of superfluity of words
Avoid as far as thou canst the tumult of men; for talk concerning
worldly things, though it be innocently undertaken, is a
hindrance, so quickly are we led captive and defiled by vanity.
Many a time I wish that I had held my peace, and had not gone
amongst men. But why do we talk and gossip so continually,
seeing that we so rarely resume our silence without some hurt
done to our conscience? We like talking so much because we hope
by our conversations to gain some mutual comfort, and because we
seek to refresh our wearied spirits by variety of thoughts. And
we very willingly talk and think of those things which we love or
desire, or else of those which we most dislike.
2. But alas! it is often to no purpose and in vain. For this
outward consolation is no small hindrance to the inner comfort
which cometh from God. Therefore [...]
Are we Looking?
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Imitation of Christ - Chapter 9
Of obedience and subjection
It is verily a great thing to live in obedience, to be under
authority, and not to be at our own disposal. Far safer is it to
live in subjection than in a place of authority. Many are in
obedience from necessity rather than from love; these take it
amiss, and repine for small cause. Nor will they gain freedom of
spirit, unless with all their heart they submit themselves for
the love of God. Though thou run hither and thither, thou wilt
not find peace, save in humble subjection to the authority of him
who is set over thee. Fancies about places and change of them
have deceived many.
2. True it is that every man willingly followeth his own bent,
and is the more inclined to those who agree with him. But if
Christ is amongst us, then it is necessary that we sometimes
yield up our own opinion for the sake of peace. Who is so wise
as to have perfect knowledge of all things? Therefore trust not
too much to thine own opinion [...]
Imitation of Christ - Chapter 8
Of the danger of too much familiarity
Open not thine heart to every man, but deal with one who is wise
and feareth God. Be seldom with the young and with strangers. Be
not a flatterer of the rich; nor willingly seek the society of
the great. Let thy company be the humble and the simple, the
devout and the gentle, and let thy discourse be concerning things
which edify. Be not familiar with any woman, but commend all good
women alike unto God. Choose for thy companions God and His
Angels only, and flee from the notice of men.
2. We must love all men, but not make close companions of all.
It sometimes falleth out that one who is unknown to us is highly
regarded through good report of him, whose actual person is
nevertheless unpleasing to those who behold it. We sometimes
think to please others by our intimacy, and forthwith displease
them the more by the faultiness of character which they perceive
Imitation of Christ - Chapter 7
Of fleeing from vain hope and pride
Vain is the life of that man who putteth his trust in men or in
any created Thing. Be not ashamed to be the servant of others
for the love of Jesus Christ, and to be reckoned poor in this
life. Rest not upon thyself, but build thy hope in God. Do what
lieth in thy power, and God will help thy good intent. Trust not
in thy learning, nor in the cleverness of any that lives, but
rather trust in the favour of God, who resisteth the proud and
giveth grace to the humble.
2. Boast not thyself in thy riches if thou hast them, nor in thy
friends if they be powerful, but in God, who giveth all things,
and in addition to all things desireth to give even Himself. Be
not lifted up because of thy strength or beauty of body, for with
only a slight sickness it will fail and wither away. Be not vain
of thy skilfulness or ability, lest thou displease God, from
whom cometh every good gift which we have.
3. Count not thyse [...]
Imitation of Christ - Chapter 6
Of inordinate affections
Whensoever a man desireth aught above measure, immediately he
becometh restless. The proud and the avaricious* man are never
at rest; while the poor and lowly of heart abide in the
multitude of peace. The man who is not yet wholly dead to self,
is soon tempted, and is overcome in small and trifling matters.
It is hard for him who is weak in spirit, and still in part
carnal and inclined to the pleasures of sense, to withdraw
himself altogether from earthly desires. And therefore, when he
withdraweth himself from these, he is often sad, and easily
angered too if any oppose his will.
2. But if, on the other hand, he yield to his inclination,
immediately he is weighed down by the condemnation of his
conscience; for that he hath followed his own desire, and yet in
no way attained the peace which he hoped for. For true peace of
heart is to be found in resisting passion, not in yielding to it.
And therefore there is no peace in t [...]
Imitation of Christ - Chapter 5
Of the reading of Holy Scriptures
It is Truth which we must look for in Holy Writ, not cunning of
words. All Scripture ought to be read in the spirit in which it
was written. We must rather seek for what is profitable in
Scripture, than for what ministereth to subtlety in discourse.
Therefore we ought to read books which are devotional and simple,
as well as those which are deep and difficult. And let not the
weight of the writer be a stumbling-block to thee, whether he be
of little or much learning, but let the love of the pure Truth
draw thee to read. Ask not, who hath said this or that, but look
to what he says.
2. Men pass away, but the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.
Without respect of persons God speaketh to us in divers manners.
Our own curiosity often hindereth us in the reading of holy
writings, when we seek to understand and discuss, where we should
pass simply on. If thou wouldst profit by thy reading, read
humbly, simply, honestly [...]
Imitation of Christ - Chapter 4
Of prudence in action
We must not trust every word of others or feeling within
ourselves, but cautiously and patiently try the matter, whether
it be of God. Unhappily we are so weak that we find it easier to
believe and speak evil of others, rather than good. But they
that are perfect, do not give ready heed to every news-bearer,
for they know man’s weakness that it is prone to evil and
unstable in words.
2. This is great wisdom, not to be hasty in action, or stubborn
in our own opinions. A part of this wisdom also is not to
believe every word we hear, nor to tell others all that we hear,
even though we believe it. Take counsel with a man who is wise
and of a good conscience; and seek to be instructed by one better
than thyself, rather than to follow thine own inventions. A good
life maketh a man wise toward God, and giveth him experience in
many things. The more humble a man is in himself, and the more
obedient towards God, the wiser will [...]
Imitation of Christ - Chapter 3
Of the knowledge of truth
Happy is the man whom Truth by itself doth teach, not by figures
and transient words, but as it is in itself.(1) Our own
judgment and feelings often deceive us, and we discern but
little of the truth. What doth it profit to argue about hidden
and dark things, concerning which we shall not be even reproved
in the judgment, because we knew them not? Oh, grievous folly,
to neglect the things which are profitable and necessary, and to
give our minds to things which are curious and hurtful! Having
eyes, we see not.
2. And what have we to do with talk about genus and species!
He to whom the Eternal Word speaketh is free from multiplied
questionings. From this One Word are all things, and all things
speak of Him; and this is the Beginning which also speaketh unto
us.(2) No man without Him understandeth or rightly judgeth. The
man to whom all things are one, who bringeth all things to one,
who seeth all things in one, he is a [...]
Imitation of Christ - Chapter 2
Of thinking humbly of oneself
There is naturally in every man a desire to know, but what
profiteth knowledge without the fear of God? Better of a surety
is a lowly peasant who serveth God, than a proud philosopher who
watcheth the stars and neglecteth the knowledge of himself. He
who knoweth himself well is vile in his own sight; neither
regardeth he the praises of men. If I knew all the things that
are in the world, and were not in charity, what should it help me
before God, who is to judge me according to my deeds?
2. Rest from inordinate desire of knowledge, for therein is found
much distraction and deceit. Those who have knowledge desire to
appear learned, and to be called wise. Many things there are to
know which profiteth little or nothing to the soul. And foolish
out of measure is he who attendeth upon other things rather than
those which serve to his soul’s health. Many words satisfy not
the soul, but a good life refresheth the mi [...]
Imitation of Christ - Chapter 1
Of the imitation of Christ, and of contempt of the world and all
He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness,(1) saith the
Lord. These are the words of Christ; and they teach us how far
we must imitate His life and character, if we seek true
illumination, and deliverance from all blindness of heart. Let
it be our most earnest study, therefore, to dwell upon the life
of Jesus Christ.
2. His teaching surpasseth all teaching of holy men, and such as
have His Spirit find therein the hidden manna.(2) But there are
many who, though they frequently hear the Gospel, yet feel but
little longing after it, because they have not the mind of
Christ. He, therefore, that will fully and with true wisdom
understand the words of Christ, let him strive to conform his
whole life to that mind of Christ.
3. What doth it profit thee to enter into deep discussion
concerning the Holy Trinity, if thou lack humility, and be thus
displeasing to the Trinity? For verily [...]
Imitation of Christ - Intro
The treatise “Of the Imitation of Christ” appears to have been
originally written in Latin early in the fifteenth century. Its
exact date and its authorship are still a matter of debate.
Manuscripts of the Latin version survive in considerable numbers
all over Western Europe, and they, with the vast list of
translations and of printed editions, testify to its almost
unparalleled popularity. One scribe attributes it to St. Bernard
of Clairvaux; but the fact that it contains a quotation from St.
Francis of Assisi, who was born thirty years after the death of
St. Bernard, disposes of this theory. In England there exist
many manuscripts of the first three books, called “Musica
Ecclesiastica,” frequently ascribed to the English mystic Walter
Hilton. But Hilton seems to have died in 1395, and there is no
evidence of the existence of the work before 1400. Many
manuscripts scattered throughout Europe ascribe the book to Jean
le Charlier de Gerson, the great Chan [...]
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