Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. Book 1, Chapter 1: Of the imitation or following of Christ and of the despising of all vanities of the world

Of the imitation or following of Christ and of the despising of all vanities of the world

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.
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.
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 it is not deep words that
make a man holy and upright; it is a good life which maketh a man
dear to God.  I had rather feel contrition than be skilful in the
definition thereof.  If thou knewest the whole Bible, and the
sayings of all the philosophers, what should all this profit thee
without the love and grace of God?  Vanity of vanities, all is
vanity, save to love God, and Him only to serve.  That is the
highest wisdom, to cast the world behind us, and to reach forward
to the heavenly kingdom.
It is vanity then to seek after, and to trust in, the riches
that shall perish.  It is vanity, too, to covet honours, and to
lift up ourselves on high.  It is vanity to follow the desires of
the flesh and be led by them, for this shall bring misery at the
last.  It is vanity to desire a long life, and to have little
care for a good life.  It is vanity to take thought only for the
life which now is, and not to look forward to the things which
shall be hereafter.  It is vanity to love that which quickly
passeth away, and not to hasten where eternal joy abideth.
Be ofttimes mindful of the saying,(3) The eye is not satisfied
with seeing, nor the ear with hearing.  Strive, therefore, to
turn away thy heart from the love of the things that are seen,
and to set it upon the things that are not seen.  For they who
follow after their own fleshly lusts, defile the conscience, and
destroy the grace of God.
(1) John viii. 12.   (2) Revelations ii. 17.
(3) Ecclesiastes i. 8.

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