Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. Book 1, Chapter 25: Of the zealous amendment of our whole life

Of the zealous amendment of our whole life

Be thou watchful and diligent in God’s service, and bethink thee
often why thou hast renounced the world.  Was it not that thou
mightest live to God and become a spiritual man?  Be zealous,
therefore, for thy spiritual profit, for thou shalt receive
shortly the reward of thy labours, and neither fear nor sorrow
shall come any more into thy borders.  Now shalt thou labour a
little, and thou shalt find great rest, yea everlasting joy.  If
thou shalt remain faithful and zealous in labour, doubt not that
God shall be faithful and bountiful in rewarding thee.  It is thy
duty to have a good hope that thou wilt attain the victory, but
thou must not fall into security lest thou become slothful or
lifted up.
A certain man being in anxiety of mind, continually tossed
about between hope and fear, and being on a certain day
overwhelmed with grief, cast himself down in prayer before the
altar in a church, and meditated within himself, saying, “Oh! if
I but knew that I should still persevere,” and presently heard
within him a voice from God, “And if thou didst know it, what
wouldst thou do?  Do now what thou wouldst do then, and thou
shalt be very secure.”  And straightway being comforted and
strengthened, he committed himself to the will of God and the
perturbation of spirit ceased, neither had he a mind any more to
search curiously to know what should befall him hereafter, but
studied rather to inquire what was the good and acceptable will
of God, for the beginning and perfecting of every good work.
Hope in the Lord and be doing good, saith the Prophet; dwell
in the land and thou shalt be fed with its riches. [Psalm 37:3]  One thing
there is which holdeth back many from progress and fervent
amendment, even the dread of difficulty, or the labour of the
conflict.  Nevertheless they advance above all others in virtue
who strive manfully to conquer those things which are most
grievous and contrary to them, for there a man profiteth most and
meriteth greater grace where he most overcometh himself and
mortifieth himself in spirit.
But all men have not the same passions to conquer and to
mortify, yet he who is diligent shall attain more profit,
although he have stronger passions, than another who is more
temperate of disposition, but is withal less fervent in the
pursuit of virtue.  Two things specially avail unto improvement
in holiness, namely firmness to withdraw ourselves from the sin
to which by nature we are most inclined, and earnest zeal for
that good in which we are most lacking.  And strive also very
earnestly to guard against and subdue those faults which
displease thee most frequently in others.
Gather some profit to thy soul wherever thou art, and wherever
thou seest or hearest good examples, stir thyself to follow them,
but where thou seest anything which is blameworthy, take heed
that thou do not the same; or if at any time thou hast done it,
strive quickly to amend thyself.  As thine eye observeth others,
so again are the eyes of others upon thee.  How sweet and
pleasant is it to see zealous and godly brethren temperate and of
good discipline; and how sad is it and grievous to see them
walking disorderly, not practising the duties to which they are
called. How hurtful a thing it is to neglect the purpose of their
calling, and turn their inclinations to things which are none of
their business.
Be mindful of the duties which thou hast undertaken, and set
always before thee the remembrance of the Crucified.  Truly
oughtest thou to be ashamed as thou lookest upon the life of
Jesus Christ, because thou hast not yet endeavoured to conform
thyself more unto Him, though thou hast been a long time in the
way of God.  A religious man who exercises himself seriously and
devoutly in the most holy life and passion of our Lord shall find
there abundantly all things that are profitable and necessary for
him, neither is there need that he shall seek anything better
beyond Jesus.  Oh! if Jesus crucified would come into our hearts,
how quickly, and completely should we have learned all that we
need to know!
He who is earnest receiveth and beareth well all things that
are laid upon him.  He who is careless and lukewarm hath trouble
upon trouble, and suffereth anguish upon every side, because he
is without inward consolation, and is forbidden to seek that
which is outward.  He who is living without discipline is exposed
to grievous ruin.  He who seeketh easier and lighter discipline
shall always be in distress, because one thing or another will
give him displeasure.
Oh! if no other duty lay upon us but to praise the Lord our God
with our whole heart and voice!  Oh! if thou never hadst need to
eat or drink, or sleep, but wert always able to praise God, and
to give thyself to spiritual exercises alone; then shouldst thou
be far happier than now, when for so many necessities thou must
serve the flesh.  Oh! that these necessities were not, but only
the spiritual refreshments of the soul, which alas we taste too
When a man hath come to this, that he seeketh comfort from no
created thing, then doth he perfectly begin to enjoy God, then
also will he be well contented with whatsoever shall happen unto
him.  Then will he neither rejoice for much nor be sorrowful for
little, but he committeth himself altogether and with full trust
unto God, who is all in all to him, to whom nothing perisheth nor
dieth, but all things live to Him and obey His every word
without delay.
Remember always thine end, and how the time which is lost
returneth not.  Without care and diligence thou shalt never get
virtue.  If thou beginnest to grow cold, it shall begin to go ill
with thee, but if thou givest thyself unto zeal thou shalt find
much peace, and shalt find thy labour the lighter because of the
grace of God and the love of virtue.  A zealous and diligent
man is ready for all things.  It is greater labour to resist sins
and passions than to toil in bodily labours.  He who shunneth not
small faults falleth little by little into greater.  At eventide
thou shalt always be glad if thou spend the day profitably.
Watch over thyself, stir thyself up, admonish thyself, and
howsoever it be with others, neglect not thyself. The more
violence thou dost unto thyself, the more thou shall profit.

Recommended edition: 

No comments:

Post a Comment