Imitation of Christ: Book 2

THE IMITATION OF CHRIST

By Thomas a Kempis

BOOK TWO

ADMONITIONS CONCERNING THE INNER LIFE

CHAPTER I

Of the inward life

The kingdom of God is within you,(1) saith the Lord. Turn thee
with all thine heart to the Lord and forsake this miserable
world, and thou shalt find rest unto thy soul. Learn to despise
outward things and to give thyself to things inward, and thou
shalt see the kingdom of God come within thee. For the kingdom
of God is peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, and it is not given to
the wicked. Christ will come to thee, and show thee His
consolation, if thou prepare a worthy mansion for Him within
thee. All His glory and beauty is from within, and there it
pleaseth Him to dwell. He often visiteth the inward man and
holdeth with him sweet discourse, giving him soothing
consolation, much peace, friendship exceeding wonderful.

2. Go to, faithful soul, prepare thy heart for this bridegroom
that he may vouchsafe to come to thee and dwell within thee, for
so He saith, if any man loveth me he will keep my words: and my
Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our
abode with him.(2) Give, therefore, place to Christ and refuse
entrance to all others. When thou hast Christ, thou art rich,
and hast sufficient. He shall be thy provider and faithful
watchman in all things, so that thou hast no need to trust in
men, for men soon change and swiftly pass away, but Christ
remaineth for ever and standeth by us firmly even to the end.

3. There is no great trust to be placed in a frail and mortal
man, even though he be useful and dear to us, neither should
much sorrow arise within us if sometimes he oppose and contradict
us. They who are on thy side to-day, may to-morrow be against
thee, and often are they turned round like the wind. Put thy
whole trust in God and let Him be thy fear and thy love, He will
answer for thee Himself, and will do for thee what is best. Here
hast thou no continuing city,(3) and wheresoever thou art, thou
art a stranger and a pilgrim, and thou shalt never have rest
unless thou art closely united to Christ within thee.

4. Why dost thou cast thine eyes hither and thither, since this
is not the place of thy rest? In heaven ought thy habitation to
be, and all earthly things should be looked upon as it were in
the passing by. All things pass away and thou equally with them.
Look that thou cleave not to them lest thou be taken with them
and perish. Let thy contemplation be on the Most High, and let
thy supplication be directed unto Christ without ceasing. If
thou canst not behold high and heavenly things, rest thou in the
passion of Christ and dwell willingly in His sacred wounds. For
if thou devoutly fly to the wounds of Jesus, and the precious
marks of the nails and the spear, thou shalt find great comfort
in tribulation, nor will the slights of men trouble thee much,
and thou wilt easily bear their unkind words.

5. Christ also, when He was in the world, was despised and
rejected of men, and in His greatest necessity was left by His
acquaintance and friends to bear these reproaches. Christ was
willing to suffer and be despised, and darest thou complain of
any? Christ had adversaries and gainsayers, 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 unwilling to suffer any adversity, how shalt thou be the
friend of Christ? Sustain thyself with Christ and for Christ if
thou wilt reign with Christ.

6. If thou hadst once entered into the mind of Jesus, and hadst
tasted yea even a little of his tender love, then wouldst thou
care nought for thine own convenience or inconvenience, but
wouldst rather rejoice at trouble brought upon thee, because the
love of Jesus maketh a man to despise himself. He who loveth
Jesus, and is inwardly true and free from inordinate affections,
is able to turn himself readily unto God, and to rise above
himself in spirit, and to enjoy fruitful peace.

7. He who knoweth things as they are and not as they are said or
seem to be, he truly is wise, and is taught of God more than of
men. He who knoweth how to walk from within, and to set little
value upon outward things, requireth not places nor waiteth for
seasons, for holding his intercourse with God. The inward man
quickly recollecteth himself, because he is never entirely given
up to outward things. No outward labour and no necessary
occupations stand in his way, but as events fall out, so doth he
fit himself to them. He who is rightly disposed and ordered
within careth not for the strange and perverse conduct of men. A
man is hindered and distracted in so far as he is moved by
outward things.

8. If it were well with thee, and thou wert purified from evil,
all things would work together for thy good and profiting. For
this cause do many things displease thee and often trouble thee,
that thou art not yet perfectly dead to thyself nor separated
from all earthly things. Nothing so defileth and entangleth the
heart of man as impure love towards created things. If thou
rejectest outward comfort thou wilt be able to contemplate
heavenly things and frequently to be joyful inwardly.

(1) Luke xvii. 21. (2) John xiv. 23. (3) Hebrews xiii. 14.
CHAPTER II

Of lowly submission

Make no great account who is for thee or against thee, but mind
only the present duty and take care that God be with thee in
whatsoever thou doest. Have a good conscience and God will defend
thee, for he whom God will help no man’s perverseness shall be
able to hurt. If thou knowest how to hold thy peace and to
suffer, without doubt thou shalt see the help of the Lord. He
knoweth the time and the way to deliver thee, therefore must thou
resign thyself to Him. To God it belongeth to help and to
deliver from all confusion. Oftentimes it is very profitable for
keeping us in greater humility, that others know and rebuke our
faults.

2. When a man humbleth himself for his defects, he then easily
pacifieth others and quickly satisfieth those that are angered
against him. God protecteth and delivereth the humble man, He
loveth and comforteth the humble man, to the humble man He
inclineth Himself, on the humble He bestoweth great grace, and
when he is cast down He raiseth him to glory: to the humble He
revealeth His secrets, and sweetly draweth and inviteth him to
Himself. The humble man having received reproach, is yet in
sufficient peace, because he resteth on God and not on the world.
Reckon not thyself to have profited in anywise unless thou feel
thyself to be inferior to all.
CHAPTER III

Of the good, peaceable man

First keep thyself in peace, and then shalt thou be able to be a
peacemaker towards others. A peaceable man doth more good than a
well-learned. A passionate man turneth even good into evil and
easily believeth evil; a good, peaceable man converteth all
things into good. He who dwelleth in peace is suspicious of
none, but he who is discontented and restless is tossed with many
suspicions, and is neither quiet himself nor suffereth others to
be quiet. He often saith what he ought not to say, and omitteth
what it were more expedient for him to do. He considereth to
what duties others are bound, and neglecteth those to which he is
bound himself. Therefore be zealous first over thyself, and then
mayest thou righteously be zealous concerning thy neighbour.

2. Thou knowest well how to excuse and to colour thine own deeds,
but thou wilt not accept the excuses of others. It would be more
just to accuse thyself and excuse thy brother. If thou wilt that
others bear with thee, bear thou with others. Behold how far
thou art as yet from the true charity and humility which knows
not how to be angry or indignant against any save self alone.
It is no great thing to mingle with the good and the meek, for
this is naturally pleasing to all, and every one of us willingly
enjoyeth peace and liketh best those who think with us: but to
be able to live peaceably with the hard and perverse, or with the
disorderly, or those who oppose us, this is a great grace and a
thing much to be commended and most worthy of a man.

3. There are who keep themselves in peace and keep peace also
with others, and there are who neither have peace nor suffer
others to have peace; they are troublesome to others, but always
more troublesome to themselves. And there are who hold
themselves in peace, and study to bring others unto peace;
nevertheless, all our peace in this sad life lieth in humble
suffering rather than in not feeling adversities. He who best
knoweth how to suffer shall possess the most peace; that man is
conqueror of himself and lord of the world, the friend of Christ,
and the inheritor of heaven.

CHAPTER IV

Of a pure mind and simple intention

By two wings is man lifted above earthly things, even by
simplicity and purity. Simplicity ought to be in the intention,
purity in the affection. Simplicity reacheth towards God, purity
apprehendeth Him and tasteth Him. No good action will be
distasteful to thee if thou be free within from inordinate
affection. If thou reachest after and seekest, nothing but the
will of God and the benefit of thy neighbour, thou wilt entirely
enjoy inward liberty. If thine heart were right, then should
every creature be a mirror of life and a book of holy doctrine.
There is no creature so small and vile but that it showeth us the
goodness of God.

2. If thou wert good and pure within, then wouldst thou look upon
all things without hurt and understand them aright. A pure heart
seeth the very depths of heaven and hell. Such as each one is
inwardly, so judgeth he outwardly. If there is any joy in the
world surely the man of pure heart possesseth it, and if there is
anywhere tribulation and anguish, the evil conscience knoweth it
best. As iron cast into the fire loseth rust and is made
altogether glowing, so the man who turneth himself altogether
unto God is freed from slothfulness and changed into a new man.

3. When a man beginneth to grow lukewarm, then he feareth a
little labour, and willingly accepteth outward consolation; but
when he beginneth perfectly to conquer himself and to walk
manfully in the way of God, then he counteth as nothing those
things which aforetime seemed to be so grievous unto him.
CHAPTER V

Of self-esteem

We cannot place too little confidence in ourselves, because grace
and understanding are often lacking to us. Little light is there
within us, and what we have we quickly lose by negligence.
Oftentimes we perceive not how great is our inward blindness. We
often do ill and excuse it worse. Sometimes we are moved by
passion and count it zeal; we blame little faults in others and
pass over great faults in ourselves. Quickly enough we feel and
reckon up what we bear at the hands of others, but we reflect not
how much others are bearing from us. He who would weigh well and
rightly his own doings would not be the man to judge severely of
another.

2. The spiritually-minded man putteth care of himself before all
cares; and he who diligently attendeth to himself easily keepeth
silence concerning others. Thou wilt never be spiritually minded
and godly unless thou art silent concerning other men’s matters
and take full heed to thyself. If thou think wholly upon thyself
and upon God, what thou seest out of doors shall move thee
little. Where art thou when thou art not present to thyself? and
when thou hast overrun all things, what hath it profited thee,
thyself being neglected? If thou wouldst have peace and true
unity, thou must put aside all other things, and gaze only upon
thyself.

3. Then thou shalt make great progress if thou keep thyself free
from all temporal care. Thou shalt lamentably fall away if thou
set a value upon any worldly thing. Let nothing be great,
nothing high, nothing pleasing, nothing acceptable unto thee,
save God Himself or the things of God. Reckon as altogether vain
whatsoever consolation comes to thee from a creature. The soul
that loveth God looketh not to anything that is beneath God. God
alone is eternal and incomprehensible, filling all things, the
solace of the soul, and the true joy of the heart.
CHAPTER VI

Of the joy of a good conscience

The testimony of a good conscience is the glory of a good man.
Have a good conscience and thou shalt ever have joy. A good
conscience is able to bear exceeding much, and is exceeding
joyful in the midst of adversities; an evil conscience is ever
fearful and unquiet. Thou shalt rest sweetly if thy heart
condemn thee not. Never rejoice unless when thou hast done well.
The wicked have never true joy, nor feel internal peace, for
there is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.(1) And if they
say “we are in peace, there shall no harm happen unto us, and who
shall dare to do us hurt?” believe them not, for suddenly shall
the wrath of God rise up against them, and their deeds shall be
brought to nought, and their thoughts shall perish.

2. To glory in tribulation is not grievous to him who loveth; for
such glorying is glorying in the Cross of Christ. Brief is the
glory which is given and received of men. Sadness always goeth
hand in hand with the glory of the world. The glory of the good
is in their conscience, and not in the report of men. The joy of
the upright is from God and in God, and their joy is in the
truth. He who desireth true and eternal glory careth not for
that which is temporal; and he who seeketh temporal glory, or who
despiseth it from his heart, is proved to bear little love for
that which is heavenly. He who careth for neither praises nor
reproaches hath great tranquillity of heart.

3. He will easily be contented and filled with peace, whose
conscience is pure. Thou art none the holier if thou art
praised, nor the viler if thou art reproached. Thou art what
thou art; and thou canst not be better than God pronounceth thee
to be. If thou considerest well what thou art inwardly, thou
wilt not care what men will say to thee. Man looketh on the
outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart:(2) man
looketh on the deed, but God considereth the intent. It is the
token of a humble spirit always to do well, and to set little by
oneself. Not to look for consolation from any created thing is a
sign of great purity and inward faithfulness.

4. He that seeketh no outward witness on his own behalf, showeth
plainly that he hath committed himself wholly to God. For not he
that commendeth himself is approved, as St. Paul saith, but whom
the Lord commendeth.(3) To walk inwardly with God, and not to be
held by any outer affections, is the state of a spiritual man.

(1) Isaiah lvii. 21. (2) 1 Samuel xvi. 7.
(3) 2 Corinthians x. 18.
CHAPTER VII

Of loving Jesus above all things

Blessed is he who understandeth what it is to love Jesus, and to
despise himself for Jesus’ sake. He must give up all that he
loveth for his Beloved, for Jesus will be loved alone above all
things. The love of created things is deceiving and unstable,
but the love of Jesus is faithful and lasting. He who cleaveth
to created things will fall with their slipperiness; but he who
embraceth Jesus will stand upright for ever. Love Him and hold
Him for thy friend, for He will not forsake thee when all depart
from thee, nor will he suffer thee to perish at the last. Thou
must one day be separated from all, whether thou wilt or wilt
not.

2. Cleave thou to Jesus in life and death, and commit thyself
unto His faithfulness, who, when all men fail thee, is alone able
to help thee. Thy Beloved is such, by nature, that He will
suffer no rival, but alone will possess thy heart, and as a king
will sit upon His own throne. If thou wouldst learn to put away
from thee every created thing, Jesus would freely take up His
abode with thee. Thou wilt find all trust little better than
lost which thou hast placed in men, and not in Jesus. Trust not
nor lean upon a reed shaken with the wind, because all flesh is
grass, and the goodliness thereof falleth as the flower of the
field.(1)

3. Thou wilt be quickly deceived if thou lookest only upon the
outward appearance of men, for if thou seekest thy comfort and
profit in others, thou shalt too often experience loss. If thou
seekest Jesus in all things thou shalt verily find Jesus, but if
thou seekest thyself thou shalt also find thyself, but to thine
own hurt. For if a man seeketh not Jesus he is more hurtful to
himself than all the world and all his adversaries.

(1) Isaiah xl. 6.
CHAPTER VIII

Of the intimate love of Jesus

When Jesus is present all is well and nothing seemeth hard, but
when Jesus is not present everything is hard. When Jesus
speaketh not within, our comfort is nothing worth, but if Jesus
speaketh but a single word great is the comfort we experience.
Did not Mary Magdalene rise up quickly from the place where she
wept when Martha said to her, The Master is come and calleth for
thee?(1) Happy hour when Jesus calleth thee from tears to the
joy of the spirit! How dry and hard art thou without Jesus! How
senseless and vain if thou desirest aught beyond Jesus! Is not
this greater loss than if thou shouldst lose the whole world?

2. What can the world profit thee without Jesus? To be without
Jesus is the nethermost hell, and to be with Jesus is sweet
paradise. If Jesus were with thee no enemy could hurt thee. He
who findeth Jesus findeth a good treasure, yea, good above all
good; and he who loseth Jesus loseth exceeding much, yea, more
than the whole world. Most poor is he who liveth without Jesus,
and most rich is he who is much with Jesus.

3. It is great skill to know how to live with Jesus, and to know
how to hold Jesus is great wisdom. Be thou humble and peaceable
and Jesus shall be with thee. Be godly and quiet, and Jesus will
remain with thee. Thou canst quickly drive away Jesus and lose
His favour if thou wilt turn away to the outer things. And if
thou hast put Him to flight and lost Him, to whom wilt thou flee,
and whom then wilt thou seek for a friend? Without a friend thou
canst not live long, and if Jesus be not thy friend above all
thou shalt be very sad and desolate. Madly therefore doest thou
if thou trusteth or findest joy in any other. It is preferable
to have the whole world against thee, than Jesus offended with
thee. Therefore of all that are dear to thee, let Jesus be
specially loved.

4. Let all be loved for Jesus’ sake, but Jesus for His own.
Jesus Christ alone is to be specially loved, for He alone is
found good and faithful above all friends. For His sake and in
Him let both enemies and friends be dear to thee, and pray for
them all that they may all know and love Him. Never desire to be
specially praised or loved, because this belongeth to God alone,
who hath none like unto Himself. Nor wish thou that any one set
his heart on thee, nor do thou give thyself up to the love of
any, but let Jesus be in thee and in every good man.

5. Be pure and free within thyself, and be not entangled by any
created thing. Thou oughtest to bring a bare and clean heart to
God, if thou desirest to be ready to see how gracious the Lord
is. And in truth, unless thou be prevented and drawn on by His
grace, thou wilt not attain to this, that having cast out and
dismissed all else, thou alone art united to God. For when the
grace of God cometh to a man, then he becometh able to do all
things, and when it departeth then he will be poor and weak and
given up unto troubles. In these thou art not to be cast down
nor to despair, but to rest with calm mind on the will of God,
and to bear all things which come upon thee unto the praise of
Jesus Christ; for after winter cometh summer, after night
returneth day, after the tempest a great calm.

(1) John xi. 28.
CHAPTER IX

Of the lack of all comfort

It is no hard thing to despise human comfort when divine is
present. It is a great thing, yea very great, to be able to bear
the loss both of human and divine comfort; and for the love of
God willingly to bear exile of heart, and in nought to seek
oneself, nor to look to one’s own merit. What great matter is
it, if thou be cheerful of heart and devout when favour cometh to
thee? That is an hour wherein all rejoice. Pleasantly enough
doth he ride whom the grace of God carrieth. And what marvel, if
he feeleth no burden who is carried by the Almighty, and is led
onwards by the Guide from on high?

2. We are willing to accept anything for comfort, and it is
difficult for a man to be freed from himself. The holy martyr
Laurence overcame the love of the world and even of his priestly
master, because he despised everything in the world which seemed
to be pleasant; and for the love of Christ he calmly suffered
even God’s chief priest, Sixtus, whom he dearly loved, to be
taken from him. Thus by the love of the Creator he overcame the
love of man, and instead of human comfort he chose rather God’s
good pleasure. So also learn thou to resign any near and beloved
friend for the love of God. Nor take it amiss when thou hast
been deserted by a friend, knowing that we must all be parted
from one another at last.

3. Mightily and long must a man strive within himself before he
learn altogether to overcome himself, and to draw his whole
affection towards God. When a man resteth upon himself, he
easily slippeth away unto human comforts. But a true lover of
Christ, and a diligent seeker after virtue, falleth not back upon
those comforts, nor seeketh such sweetness as may be tasted and
handled, but desireth rather hard exercises, and to undertake
severe labours for Christ.

4. When, therefore, spiritual comfort is given by God, receive it
with giving of thanks, and know that it is the gift of God, not
thy desert. Be not lifted up, rejoice not overmuch nor foolishly
presume, but rather be more humble for the gift, more wary and
more careful in all thy doings; for that hour will pass away, and
temptation will follow. When comfort is taken from thee, do not
straightway despair, but wait for the heavenly visitation with
humility and patience, for God is able to give thee back greater
favour and consolation. This is not new nor strange to those who
have made trial of the way of God, for with the great saints and
the ancient prophets there was often this manner of change.

5. Wherefore one said when the favour of God was present with
him, I said in my prosperity I shall never be moved,(1) but he
goeth on to say what he felt within himself when the favour
departed: Thou didst turn Thy face from me, and I was troubled.
In spite whereof he in no wise despaireth, but the more instantly
entreateth God, and saith, Unto Thee, O Lord, will I cry, and
will pray unto my God; and then he receiveth the fruit of his
prayer, and testifieth how he hath been heard, saying, The Lord
heard me and had mercy upon me, the Lord was my helper. But
wherein? Thou hast turned my heaviness into joy, Thou hast put
off my sackcloth and girded me with gladness. If it was thus
with the great saints, we who are poor and needy ought not to
despair if we are sometimes in the warmth and sometimes in the
cold, for the Spirit cometh and goeth according to the good
pleasure of His will. Wherefore holy Job saith, Thou dost visit
him in the morning, and suddenly Thou dost prove him.(2)

6. Whereupon then can I hope, or wherein may I trust, save only
in the great mercy of God, and the hope of heavenly grace? For
whether good men are with me, godly brethren or faithful friends,
whether holy books or beautiful discourses, whether sweet hymns
and songs, all these help but little, and have but little savour
when I am deserted by God’s favour and left to mine own poverty.
There is no better remedy, then, than patience and denial of
self, and an abiding in the will of God.

7. I have never found any man so religious and godly, but that he
felt sometimes a withdrawal of the divine favour, and lack of
fervour. No saint was ever so filled with rapture, so
enlightened, but that sooner or later he was tempted. For he is
not worthy of the great vision of God, who, for God’s sake, hath
not been exercised by some temptation. For temptation is wont
to go before as a sign of the comfort which shall follow, and
heavenly comfort is promised to those who are proved by
temptation. As it is written, To him that overcometh I will
give to eat of the tree of life.(3)

8. Divine comfort is given that a man may be stronger to bear
adversities. And temptation followeth, lest he be lifted up
because of the benefit. The devil sleepeth not; thy flesh is not
yet dead; therefore, cease thou not to make thyself ready unto
the battle, for enemies stand on thy right hand and on thy left,
and they are never at rest.

(1) Psalm xxx. 6. (2) Job vii. 18. (3) Revelation ii. 7.
CHAPTER X

Of gratitude for the Grace of God

Why seekest thou rest when thou art born to labour? Prepare
thyself for patience more than for comforts, and for bearing the
cross more than for joy. For who among the men of this world
would not gladly receive consolation and spiritual joy if he
might always have it? For spiritual comforts exceed all the
delights of the world, and all the pleasures of the flesh. For
all worldly delights are either empty or unclean, whilst
spiritual delights alone are pleasant and honourable, the
offspring of virtue, and poured forth by God into pure minds.
But no man can always enjoy these divine comforts at his own
will, because the season of temptation ceaseth not for long.

2. Great is the difference between a visitation from above and
false liberty of spirit and great confidence in self. God doeth
well in giving us the grace of comfort, but man doeth ill in not
immediately giving God thanks thereof. And thus the gifts of
grace are not able to flow unto us, because we are ungrateful to
the Author of them, and return them not wholly to the Fountain
whence they flow. For grace ever becometh the portion of him who
is grateful and that is taken away from the proud, which is wont
to be given to the humble.

3. I desire no consolation which taketh away from me compunction,
I love no contemplation which leadeth to pride. For all that is
high is not holy, nor is everything that is sweet good; every
desire is not pure; nor is everything that is dear to us pleasing
unto God. Willingly do I accept that grace whereby I am made
humbler and more wary and more ready to renounce myself. He who
is made learned by the gift of grace and taught wisdom by the
stroke of the withdrawal thereof, will not dare to claim any good
thing for himself, but will rather confess that he is poor and
needy. Give unto God the thing which is God’s,(1) and ascribe to
thyself that which is thine; that is, give thanks unto God for
His grace, but for thyself alone confess thy fault, and that thy
punishment is deserved for thy fault.

4. Sit thou down always in the lowest room and thou shalt be
given the highest place.(2) For the highest cannot be without
the lowest. For the highest saints of God are least in their own
sight, and the more glorious they are, so much the lowlier are
they in themselves; full of grace and heavenly glory, they are
not desirous of vain-glory; resting on God and strong in His
might, they cannot be lifted up in any wise. And they who
ascribe unto God all the good which they have received, “seek not
glory one of another, but the glory which cometh from God only,”
and they desire that God shall be praised in Himself and in all
His Saints above all things, and they are always striving for
this very thing.

5. Be thankful, therefore, for the least benefit and thou shalt
be worthy to receive greater. Let the least be unto thee even as
the greatest, and let that which is of little account be unto
thee as a special gift. If the majesty of the Giver be
considered, nothing that is given shall seem small and of no
worth, for that is not a small thing which is given by the Most
High God. Yea, though He gave punishment and stripes, we ought
to be thankful, because He ever doth for our profit whatever He
suffereth to come upon us. He who seeketh to retain the favour
of God, let him be thankful for the favour which is given, and
patient in respect of that which is taken away. Let him pray
that it may return; let him be wary and humble that he lose it
not.

(1) Matthew xxii. 21. (2) Luke xiv. 10.
CHAPTER XI

Of the fewness of those who love the Cross of Jesus

Jesus hath many lovers of His heavenly kingdom, but few bearers of
His Cross. He hath many seekers of comfort, but few of
tribulation. He findeth many companions of His table, but few of
His fasting. All desire to rejoice with Him, few are willing to
undergo anything for His sake. Many follow Jesus that they may
eat of His loaves, but few that they may drink of the cup of His
passion. Many are astonished at His Miracles, few follow after
the shame of His Cross. Many love Jesus so long as no
adversities happen to them. Many praise Him and bless Him, so
long as they receive any comforts from Him. But if Jesus hide
Himself and withdraw from them a little while, they fall either
into complaining or into too great dejection of mind.

2. But they who love Jesus for Jesus’ sake, and not for any
consolation of their own, bless Him in all tribulation and
anguish of heart as in the highest consolation. And if He should
never give them consolation, nevertheless they would always
praise Him and always give Him thanks.

3. Oh what power hath the pure love of Jesus, unmixed with any
gain or love of self! Should not all they be called mercenary
who are always seeking consolations? Do they not prove
themselves lovers of self more than of Christ who are always
seeking their own gain and advantage? Where shall be found one
who is willing to serve God altogether for nought?

4. Rarely is any one found so spiritual as to be stripped of all
selfish thoughts, for who shall find a man truly poor in spirit
and free of all created things? “His value is from afar, yea
from the ends of the earth.” A man may give away all his goods,
yet that is nothing; and if he do many deeds of penitence, yet
that is a small thing; and though he understand all knowledge,
yet that is afar off; and if he have great virtue and zealous
devotion, yet much is lacking unto him, yea, one thing which is
the most necessary to him of all. What is it then? That having
given up all things besides, he give up himself and go forth from
himself utterly, and retain nothing of self-love; and having done
all things which he knoweth to be his duty to do, that he feel
that he hath done nothing. Let him not reckon that much which
might be much esteemed, but let him pronounce himself to be in
truth an unprofitable servant, as the Truth Himself saith, When
ye have done all things that are commanded you, say, we are
unprofitable servants.(1) Then may he be truly poor and naked in
spirit, and be able to say with the Prophet, As for me, I am poor
and needy.(2) Nevertheless, no man is richer than he, no man
stronger, no man freer. For he knoweth both how to give up
himself and all things, and how to be lowly in his own eyes.

(1) Luke xvii. 10. (2) Psalm xxv. 16.
CHAPTER XII

Of the royal way of the Holy Cross

That seemeth a hard saying to many, If any man will come after
Me, let him deny himself and take up his Cross and follow Me.(1)
But it will be much harder to hear that last sentence, Depart
from me, ye wicked, into eternal fire.(2) For they who now
willingly hear the word of the Cross and follow it, shall not
then fear the hearing of eternal damnation. This sign of the
Cross shall be in heaven when the Lord cometh to Judgment. Then
all servants of the Cross, who in life have conformed themselves
to the Crucified, shall draw nigh unto Christ the Judge with
great boldness.

2. Why fearest thou then to take up the cross which leadeth to a
kingdom? In the Cross is health, in the Cross is life, in the
Cross is protection from enemies, in the Cross is heavenly
sweetness, in the Cross strength of mind, in the Cross joy of
the spirit, in the Cross the height of virtue, in the Cross
perfection of holiness. There is no health of the soul, no hope
of eternal life, save in the Cross. Take up therefore, thy cross
and follow Jesus and thou shalt go into eternal life. He went
before thee bearing His Cross and died for thee upon the Cross,
that thou also mayest bear thy cross and mayest love to be
crucified upon it. For if thou be dead with Him, thou shalt also
live with Him, and if thou be a partaker of His sufferings thou
shalt be also of His glory.

3. Behold everything dependeth upon the Cross, and everything
lieth in dying; and there is none other way unto life and to true
inward peace, except the way of the Holy Cross and of daily
mortification. Go where thou wilt, seek whatsoever thou wilt,
and thou shalt find no higher way above nor safer way below, than
the way of the Holy Cross. Dispose and order all things
according to thine own will and judgment, and thou shalt ever
find something to suffer either willingly or unwillingly, and
thus thou shalt ever find thy cross. For thou shalt either feel
pain of body, or tribulation of spirit within thy soul.

4. Sometimes thou wilt be forsaken of God, sometimes thou wilt be
tried by thy neighbour, and which is more, thou wilt often be
wearisome to thyself. And still thou canst not be delivered nor
eased by any remedy or consolation, but must bear so long as God
will. For God will have thee learn to suffer tribulation without
consolation, and to submit thyself fully to it, and by
tribulation be made more humble. No man understandeth the
Passion of Christ in his heart so well as he who hath had
somewhat of the like suffering himself. The Cross therefore is
always ready, and every where waiteth for thee. Thou canst not
flee from it whithersoever thou hurriest, for whithersoever thou
comest, thou bearest thyself with thee, and shalt ever find
thyself. Turn thee above, turn thee below, turn thee without,
turn thee within, and in them all thou shalt find the Cross; and
needful is it that thou everywhere possess patience if thou wilt
have internal peace and gain the everlasting crown.

5. If thou willingly bear the Cross, it will bear thee, and will
bring thee to the end which thou seekest, even where there shall
be the end of suffering; though it shall not be here. If thou
bear it unwillingly, thou makest a burden for thyself and greatly
increaseth thy load, and yet thou must bear it. If thou cast
away one cross, without doubt thou shalt find another and
perchance a heavier.

6. Thinketh thou to escape what no mortal hath been able to
avoid? Which of the saints in the world hath been without the
cross and tribulation? For not even Jesus Christ our Lord was
one hour without the anguish of His Passion, so long as He lived.
It behooved, He said, Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead,
and so enter into his glory.(3) And how dost thou seek another
way than this royal way, which is the way of the Holy Cross?

7. The whole life of Christ was a cross and martyrdom, and dost
thou seek for thyself rest and joy? Thou art wrong, thou art
wrong, if thou seekest aught but to suffer tribulations, for this
whole mortal life is full of miseries, and set round with
crosses. And the higher a man hath advanced in the spirit, the
heavier crosses he will often find, because the sorrow of his
banishment increaseth with the strength of his love.

8. But yet the man who is thus in so many wise afflicted, is not
without refreshment of consolation, because he feeleth abundant
fruit to be growing within him out of the bearing of his cross.
For whilst he willingly submitteth himself to it, every burden of
tribulation is turned into an assurance of divine comfort, and
the more the flesh is wasted by affliction, the more is the
spirit strengthened mightily by inward grace. And ofttimes so
greatly is he comforted by the desire for tribulation and
adversity, through love of conformity to the Cross of Christ,
that he would not be without sorrow and tribulation; for he
believeth that he shall be the more acceptable to God, the more
and the heavier burdens he is able to bear for His sake. This is
not the virtue of man, but the grace of Christ which hath such
power and energy in the weak flesh, that what it naturally hateth
and fleeth from, this it draweth to and loveth through fervour of
spirit.

9. It is not in the nature of man to bear the cross, to love the
cross, to keep under the body and to bring it into subjection, to
fly from honours, to bear reproaches meekly, to despise self and
desire to be despised, to bear all adversities and losses, and to
desire no prosperity in this world. If thou lookest to thyself,
thou wilt of thyself be able to do none of this; but if thou
trustest in the Lord, endurance shall be given thee from heaven,
and the world and the flesh shall be made subject to thy command.
Yea, thou shalt not even fear thine adversary the devil, if thou
be armed with faith and signed with the Cross of Christ.

10. Set thyself, therefore, like a good and faithful servant of
Christ, to the manful bearing of the Cross of thy Lord, who out
of love was crucified for thee. Prepare thyself for the bearing
many adversities and manifold troubles in this wretched life;
because so it shall be with thee wheresoever thou art, and so in
very deed thou shalt find it, wherever thou hide thyself. This
it must be; and there is no means of escaping from tribulation
and sorrow, except to bear them patiently. Drink thou lovingly
thy Lord’s cup if thou desirest to be His friend and to have thy
lot with Him. Leave consolations to God, let Him do as seemeth
best to Him concerning them. But do thou set thyself to endure
tribulations, and reckon them the best consolations; for the
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared
with the glory which shall be revealed in us,(4) nor would they
be even if thou wert to endure them all.

11. When thou hast come to this, that tribulation is sweet and
pleasant to thee for Christ’s sake, then reckon that it is well
with thee, because thou hast found paradise on earth. So long as
it is hard to thee to suffer and thou desirest to escape, so long
it will not be well with thee, and tribulations will follow thee
everywhere.

12. If thou settest thyself to that thou oughtest, namely, to
suffer and to die, it shall soon go better with thee, and thou
shalt find peace. Though thou shouldest be caught up with Paul
unto the third heaven,(5) thou art not on that account secure
from suffering evil. I will show him, saith Jesus, what great
things he must suffer for My Name’s sake.(6) It remaineth,
therefore, to thee to suffer, if thou wilt love Jesus and serve
Him continually.

13. Oh that thou wert worthy to suffer something for the name of
Jesus, how great glory should await thee, what rejoicing among
all the saints of God, what bright example also to thy neighbour!
For all men commend patience, although few be willing to practise
it. Thou oughtest surely to suffer a little for Christ when many
suffer heavier things for the world.

14. Know thou of a surety that thou oughtest to lead the life of
a dying man. And the more a man dieth to himself, the more he
beginneth to live towards God. None is fit for the understanding
of heavenly things, unless he hath submitted himself to bearing
adversities for Christ. Nothing more acceptable to God, nothing
more healthful for thyself in this world, than to suffer
willingly for Christ. And if it were thine to choose, thou
oughtest rather to wish to suffer adversities for Christ, than to
be refreshed with manifold consolations, for thou wouldest be
more like Christ and more conformed to all saints. For our
worthiness and growth in grace lieth not in many delights and
consolations, but rather in bearing many troubles and
adversities.

15. If indeed there had been anything better and more profitable
to the health of men than to suffer, Christ would surely have
shown it by word and example. For both the disciples who
followed Him, and all who desire to follow Him, He plainly
exhorteth to bear their cross, and saith, If any man will come
after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow
Me.(7) So now that we have thoroughly read and studied all
things, let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. We must
through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.(8)

(1) Matthew xvi. 24. (2) Matthew xxv. 41. (3) Luke xxiv. 46.
(4) Romans viii. 18. (5) 2 Corinthians xii. 2.
(6) Acts ix. 16. (7) Luke ix. 23. (8) Acts xiv. 21.

This concludes Book 2 of the Imitation of Christ. Click on the following link to go to Book 3.