Imitation of Christ
Thomas á Kempis (Excerpt)
Chapter 15

Book Two: Chapter One
Of the Inward Life

The Kingdom of God is within you, saith the Lord. Turn thee with thy whole heart unto the Lord, and forsake this wretched world, and thy soul shall find rest. Learn to despise outward things, and to give thyself to things inward, and thou shalt perceive the Kingdom of God to come in thee. For the Kingdom of God is peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, which is not given to the unholy. Christ will come unto thee, and show thee His consolation, if thou prepare for Him a worthy abode within thee. All His glory and beauty is from within, and there He delighteth Himself. The inward man he often visiteth; and hath with him sweet discourse, pleasant solace, much peace, familiarity exceeding wonderful.

O faithful soul! make ready thy heart for this Bridegroom, that He may vouchsafe to come unto thee and dwell within thee. For thus saith He, If any love Me, he will keep My words, and We will come unto him, and will make our abode with him.

Give therefore a place unto Christ, and deny entrance to all others. When thou hast Christ, thou art rich, and hast enough. He Himself will be thy provider and faithful steward in all things, so that thou need not to trust in men. For men soon change, and quickly fail; but Christ abideth for ever, and standeth by us firmly unto the end. There is no great trust to be put in a frail and mortal man, even though he be profitable and dear unto us: neither ought we to be much grieved if sometimes he cross and contradict us. They that to-day are with thee, to-morrow may be against thee; and often again do they turn round like the wind.

2. Put all thy trust in God, let Him be thy fear, and thy love: He Himself shall answer for thee, and will do in all things what is best for thee. Thou hast not here a continuing city, and wheresoever thou be, thou art a foreigner and pilgrim: neither shalt thou ever have rest, unless thou be most inwardly united unto Christ. Why dost thou here gaze about, since this is not the place of thy rest? In Heaven ought to be thy dwelling-place, and all earthly things are to be looked upon as it were by the way. All things are passing away, and thou together with them. Beware thou cleave not unto them, lest thou be caught and perish. Let thy meditation be on the Most High, and thy prayer for mercy directed unto Christ without ceasing.

If thou canst not contemplate high and heavenly things, rest thyself in the passion of Christ, and dwell willingly in His sacred wounds. For if thou fly devoutly unto the wounds and precious marks of the Lord Jesus, thou shalt feel great strengthening in tribulation: neither wilt thou much care for the slights of men, and wilt easily bear words of detraction. Christ was also in the world, despised of men, and in greatest necessity, forsaken by His acquaintance and friends, in the midst of slanders. Christ willed to suffer and be despised; and dost thou dare complain of any man? Christ had adversaries and backbiters; and dost thou wish to have all men thy friends and benefactors? Whence shall thy patience attain her crown, if no adversity befall thee? If thou art willing to suffer nought that is against thee, how wilt thou be the friend of Christ? Be strong with Christ, and for Christ, if thou desire to reign with Christ. If thou hadst but once perfectly entered into the secrets of the Lord Jesus, and tasted a little of His ardent love, then wouldest thou care nothing for thine own convenience, or inconvenience, but rather wouldest rejoice at slander offered thee; for the love of Jesus maketh a man despise himself.

A lover of Jesus and of the Truth, and a true inward Christian, and one free from unruly affections, can freely turn himself unto God, and lift himself above himself in spirit, and with profit remain at rest.

He to whom all things taste as they are, and not as they are said or esteemed to be, is truly wise, and taught rather of God than men. He that can live inwardly, and make small reckoning of things without, neither seeketh places, nor waiteth for times, for performing of religious exercises. A spiritual man quickly recollecteth himself, because he never poureth out himself wholly to outward things. He is not hindered by outward labour, or business which may be necessary for the time: but as things fall out, so he accommodateth himself to them. He that is well ordered and disposed within himself, careth not for the strange and perverse behaviour of men. So much is a man hindered and distracted, in proportion as he draweth outward things unto himself.

If it were well with thee, and thou wert well purified from sin, all things would fall out to thee for good, and to thy advancement in holiness. For this cause many things displease, and often trouble thee; because thou art not yet perfectly dead unto thyself, nor separated from all earthly things. Nothing so defileth and entangleth the heart of man, as the impure love of creatures. If thou refuse to be comforted from without, thou wilt be able to contemplate the things of heaven, and often to rejoice within.

Imitation of Christ, Thomas á Kempis, 1900.

To read the entire work, visit Wheaton College. They have an excellent collection of Christian philosophy online.


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