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The Imitation of Christ by Thomas A Kempis





The First Chapter


THE kingdom of God is within you,” says the Lord. [9]

Turn, then, to God with all your heart. Forsake this wretched world and your
soul shall find rest. Learn to despise external things, to devote yourself
to those that are within, and you will see the kingdom of God come unto you,
that kingdom which is peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, gifts not given to
the impious.

Christ will come to you offering His consolation, if you prepare a fit
dwelling for Him in your heart, whose beauty and glory, wherein He takes
delight, are all from within. His visits with the inward man are frequent,
His communion sweet and full of consolation, His peace great, and His
intimacy wonderful indeed.

Therefore, faithful soul, prepare your heart for this Bridegroom that He may
come and dwell within you; He Himself says: “If any one love Me, he will
keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and will
make Our abode with him.” [10]

Give place, then, to Christ, but deny entrance to all others, for when you
have Christ you are rich and He is sufficient for you. He will provide for
you. He will supply your every want, so that you need not trust in frail,
changeable men. Christ remains forever, standing firmly with us to the end.

Do not place much confidence in weak and mortal man, helpful and friendly
though he be; and do not grieve too much if he sometimes opposes and
contradicts you. Those who are with us today may be against us tomorrow, and
vice versa, for men change with the wind. Place all your trust in God; let
Him be your fear and your love. He will answer for you; He will do what is
best for you.

You have here no lasting home. You are a stranger and a pilgrim wherever you
may be, and you shall have no rest until you are wholly united with Christ.

Why do you look about here when this is not the place of your repose? Dwell
rather upon heaven and give but a passing glance to all earthly things. They
all pass away, and you together with them. Take care, then, that you do not
cling to them lest you be entrapped and perish. Fix your mind on the Most
High, and pray unceasingly to Christ.

If you do not know how to meditate on heavenly things, direct your thoughts
to Christ’s passion and willingly behold His sacred wounds. If you turn
devoutly to the wounds and precious stigmata of Christ, you will find great
comfort in suffering, you will mind but little the scorn of men, and you
will easily bear their slanderous talk.

When Christ was in the world, He was despised by men; in the hour of need He
was forsaken by acquaintances and left by friends to the depths of scorn. He
was willing to suffer and to be despised; do you dare to complain of
anything? He had enemies and defamers; do you want everyone to be your
friend, your benefactor? How can your patience be rewarded if no adversity
test it? How can you be a friend of Christ if you are not willing to suffer
any hardship? Suffer with Christ and for Christ if you wish to reign with

Had you but once entered into perfect communion with Jesus or tasted a
little of His ardent love, you would care nothing at all for your own
comfort or discomfort but would rejoice in the reproach you suffer; for love
of Him makes a man despise himself.

A man who is a lover of Jesus and of truth, a truly interior man who is free
from uncontrolled affections, can turn to God at will and rise above himself
to enjoy spiritual peace.

He who tastes life as it really is, not as men say or think it is, is indeed
wise with the wisdom of God rather than of men.

He who learns to live the interior life and to take little account of
outward things, does not seek special places or times to perform devout
exercises. A spiritual man quickly recollects himself because he has never
wasted his attention upon externals. No outside work, no business that
cannot wait stands in his way. He adjusts himself to things as they happen.
He whose disposition is well ordered cares nothing about the strange,
perverse behavior of others, for a man is upset and distracted only in
proportion as he engrosses himself in externals.

If all were well with you, therefore, and if you were purified from all sin,
everything would tend to your good and be to your profit. But because you
are as yet neither entirely dead to self nor free from all earthly
affection, there is much that often displeases and disturbs you. Nothing so
mars and defiles the heart of man as impure attachment to created things.
But if you refuse external consolation, you will be able to contemplate
heavenly things and often to experience interior joy.


[9] Luke 17:21.

[10] John 14:23.


The Second Chapter


BE NOT troubled about those who are with you or against you, but take care
that God be with you in everything you do. Keep your conscience clear and
God will protect you, for the malice of man cannot harm one whom God wishes
to help. If you know how to suffer in silence, you will undoubtedly
experience God’s help. He knows when and how to deliver you; therefore,
place yourself in His hands, for it is a divine prerogative to help men and
free them from all distress.

It is often good for us to have others know our faults and rebuke them, for
it gives us greater humility. When a man humbles himself because of his
faults, he easily placates those about him and readily appeases those who
are angry with him.

It is the humble man whom God protects and liberates; it is the humble whom
He loves and consoles. To the humble He turns and upon them bestows great
grace, that after their humiliation He may raise them up to glory. He
reveals His secrets to the humble, and with kind invitation bids them come
to Him. Thus, the humble man enjoys peace in the midst of many vexations,
because his trust is in God, not in the world. Hence, you must not think
that you have made any progress until you look upon yourself as inferior to
all others.


The Third Chapter

Goodness and Peace in Man

FIRST keep peace with yourself; then you will be able to bring peace to
others. A peaceful man does more good than a learned man. Whereas a
passionate man turns even good to evil and is quick to believe evil, the
peaceful man, being good himself, turns all things to good.

The man who is at perfect ease is never suspicious, but the disturbed and
discontented spirit is upset by many a suspicion. He neither rests himself
nor permits others to do so. He often says what ought not to be said and
leaves undone what ought to be done. He is concerned with the duties of
others but neglects his own.

Direct your zeal, therefore, first upon yourself; then you may with justice
exercise it upon those about you. You are well versed in coloring your own
actions with excuses which you will not accept from others, though it would
be more just to accuse yourself and excuse your brother. If you wish men to
bear with you, you must bear with them. Behold, how far you are from true
charity and humility which does not know how to be angry with anyone, or to
be indignant save only against self!

It is no great thing to associate with the good and gentle, for such
association is naturally pleasing. Everyone enjoys a peaceful life and
prefers persons of congenial habits. But to be able to live at peace with
harsh and perverse men, or with the undisciplined and those who irritate us,
is a great grace, a praiseworthy and manly thing.

Some people live at peace with themselves and with their fellow men, but
others are never at peace with themselves nor do they bring it to anyone
else. These latter are a burden to everyone, but they are more of a burden
to themselves. A few, finally, live at peace with themselves and try to
restore it to others.

Now, all our peace in this miserable life is found in humbly enduring
suffering rather than in being free from it. He who knows best how to suffer
will enjoy the greater peace, because he is the conqueror of himself, the
master of the world, a friend of Christ, and an heir of heaven.


The Fourth Chapter

Purity of Mind and Unity of Purpose

A MAN is raised up from the earth by two wings—simplicity and purity. There
must be simplicity in his intention and purity in his desires. Simplicity
leads to God, purity embraces and enjoys Him.

If your heart is free from ill-ordered affection, no good deed will be
difficult for you. If you aim at and seek after nothing but the pleasure of
God and the welfare of your neighbor, you will enjoy freedom within.

If your heart were right, then every created thing would be a mirror of life
for you and a book of holy teaching, for there is no creature so small and
worthless that it does not show forth the goodness of God. If inwardly you
were good and pure, you would see all things clearly and understand them
rightly, for a pure heart penetrates to heaven and hell, and as a man is
within, so he judges what is without. If there be joy in the world, the pure
of heart certainly possess it; and if there be anguish and affliction
anywhere, an evil conscience knows it too well.

As iron cast into fire loses its rust and becomes glowing white, so he who
turns completely to God is stripped of his sluggishness and changed into a
new man. When a man begins to grow lax, he fears a little toil and welcomes
external comfort, but when he begins perfectly to conquer himself and to
walk bravely in the ways of God, then he thinks those things less difficult
which he thought so hard before.


The Fifth Chapter


WE MUST not rely too much upon ourselves, for grace and understanding are
often lacking in us. We have but little inborn light, and this we quickly
lose through negligence. Often we are not aware that we are so blind in
heart. Meanwhile we do wrong, and then do worse in excusing it. At times we
are moved by passion, and we think it zeal. We take others to task for small
mistakes, and overlook greater ones in ourselves. We are quick enough to
feel and brood over the things we suffer from others, but we think nothing
of how much others suffer from us. If a man would weigh his own deeds fully
and rightly, he would find little cause to pass severe judgment on others.

The interior man puts the care of himself before all other concerns, and he
who attends to himself carefully does not find it hard to hold his tongue
about others. You will never be devout of heart unless you are thus silent
about the affairs of others and pay particular attention to yourself. If you
attend wholly to God and yourself, you will be little disturbed by what you
see about you.

Where are your thoughts when they are not upon yourself? And after attending
to various things, what have you gained if you have neglected self? If you
wish to have true peace of mind and unity of purpose, you must cast all else
aside and keep only yourself before your eyes.

You will make great progress if you keep yourself free from all temporal
cares, for to value anything that is temporal is a great mistake. Consider
nothing great, nothing high, nothing pleasing, nothing acceptable, except
God Himself or that which is of God. Consider the consolations of creatures
as vanity, for the soul that loves God scorns all things that are inferior
to Him. God alone, the eternal and infinite, satisfies all, bringing comfort
to the soul and true joy to the body.


The Sixth Chapter

The Joy of a Good Conscience

THE glory of a good man is the testimony of a good conscience. Therefore,
keep your conscience good and you will always enjoy happiness, for a good
conscience can bear a great deal and can bring joy even in the midst of
adversity. But an evil conscience is ever restive and fearful.

Sweet shall be your rest if your heart does not reproach you.

Do not rejoice unless you have done well. Sinners never experience true
interior joy or peace, for “there is no peace to the wicked,” says the Lord.
[11] Even if they say: “We are at peace, no evil shall befall us and no one
dares to hurt us,” do not believe them; for the wrath of God will arise
quickly, and their deeds will be brought to naught and their thoughts will

To glory in adversity is not hard for the man who loves, for this is to
glory in the cross of the Lord. But the glory given or received of men is
short lived, and the glory of the world is ever companioned by sorrow. The
glory of the good, however, is in their conscience and not in the lips of
men, for the joy of the just is from God and in God, and their gladness is
founded on truth.

The man who longs for the true, eternal glory does not care for that of
time; and he who seeks passing fame or does not in his heart despise it,
undoubtedly cares little for the glory of heaven.

He who minds neither praise nor blame possesses great peace of heart and, if
his conscience is good, he will easily be contented and at peace.

Praise adds nothing to your holiness, nor does blame take anything from it.
You are what you are, and you cannot be said to be better than you are in
God’s sight. If you consider well what you are within, you will not care
what men say about you. They look to appearances but God looks to the heart.
They consider the deed but God weighs the motive.

It is characteristic of a humble soul always to do good and to think little
of itself. It is a mark of great purity and deep faith to look for no
consolation in created things. The man who desires no justification from
without has clearly entrusted himself to God: “For not he who commendeth
himself is approved,” says St. Paul, “but he whom God commendeth.” [12]

To walk with God interiorly, to be free from any external affection—this is
the state of the inward man.


[11] Isa. 48:22.

[12] 2 Cor. 10:18.



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