The Imitation of Christ
Translated from the Latin into Modern English
by Thomas ŕ Kempis

"HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord. By these words of Christ we are advised to imitate His life and habits, if we wish to be truly enlightened and free from all blindness of heart. Let our chief effort, therefore, be to study the life of Jesus Christ. ~The Imitation of Christ

 Thomas ŕ Kempis. (b. 1379 or 1380, d. 1471).  The Imitation of Christ.

THE TREATISE “Of the Imitation of Christ” appears to have been originally written in Latin early in the fifteenth century. Its exact date and its authorship are still a matter of debate. Manuscripts of the Latin version survive in considerable numbers all over Western Europe, and they, with the vast list of translations and of printed editions, testify to its almost unparalleled popularity.

Many manuscripts scattered throughout Europe ascribe the book to Jean le Charlier de Gerson, the great Chancellor of the University of Paris, who was a leading figure in the Church in the earlier part of the fifteenth century. The most probable author, however, especially when the internal evidence is considered, is Thomas Haemmerlein, known also as Thomas ŕ Kempis, from his native town of Kempen, near the Rhine, about forty miles north of Cologne. Haemmerlein, who was born in 1379 or 1380, was a member of the order of the Brothers of Common Life, and spent the last seventy years of his life at Mount St. Agnes, a monastery of Augustinian canons in the diocese of Utrecht. Here he died on July 26, 1471, after a life spent copying manuscripts, reading, and composing, and in the peaceful routine of monastic piety.

 With the exception of the Bible, no Christian writing has had so wide a vogue or so sustained a popularity as this. Its structure it owes largely to the writings of the medieval mystics, and its ideas and phrases are a mosaic from the Bible and the Fathers of the early Church. But these elements are interwoven with such delicate skill and a religious feeling at once so ardent and so sound, that it promises to remain, what it has been for five hundred years, the supreme call and guide to spiritual aspiration.

Table of Contents

Introductory Note

Book One --  Thoughts Helpful in the Life of the Soul
Book Two  --  The Interior Life
Book Three -- Internal Consolation
Book Four  --  An Invitation to Holy Communion

Book One; Thoughts Helpful in the Life of the Soul

Book 1, Chapters 1 thru 25

(1) Imitating Christ and Despising All Vanities on Earth
(2) Having A Humble Opinion of Self
(3) The Doctrine of Truth
(4) Prudence in Action
(5) Reading the Holy Scripture
(6) Unbridled Affections
(7) Avoiding False Hope and Pride
(8) Shunning Over-Familiarity
(9) Obedience and Subjection
(10) Avoiding Idle Talk
(11) Acquiring Peace and Zeal for Perfection
(12) The Value of Adversity
(13) Resisting Temptation
(14) Avoiding Rash Judgment
(15) Works Done in Charity
(16) Bearing With the Faults of Others
(17) Monastic Life
(18) The Example Set Us by the Holy Fathers
(19) The Practices of a Good Religious
(20) The Love of Solitude and Silence
(21) Sorrow of Heart
(22) Thoughts on the Misery of Man
(23) Thoughts on Death
(24) Judgment and the Punishment of Sin
(25) Zeal in Amending Our Lives

Book Two; The Interior Life

Book 2, Chapters 1 thru 12

(1) Meditation
(2) Humility
(3) Goodness and Peace in Man
(4) Purity of Mind and Unity of Purpose
(5) Ourselves
(6) The Joy of a Good Conscience
(7) Loving Jesus Above All Things
(8) The Intimate Friendship of Jesus
(9) Wanting No Share in Comfort
(10) Appreciating God's Grace
(11) Few Love the Cross of Jesus
(12) The Royal Road of the Holy Cross

Book Three; Internal Consolation

Book 3 Part 1, Chapters 1 thru 26

(1) The Inward Conversation of Christ with the Faithful Soul
(2) Truth Speaks Inwardly without the Sound of Words
(3) Listen Humbly to the Words of God. Many Do Not Heed Them
(4) We Must Walk Before God in Humility and Truth
(5) The Wonderful Effect of Divine Love
(6) The Proving of a True Lover
(7) Grace Must Be Hidden Under the Mantle of Humility
(8) Self-Abasement in the Sight of God
(9) All Things Should be Referred to God as their Last End
(10) To Despise the World and Serve God is Sweet
(11) The Longings of Our Hearts Must Be Examined and Moderated
(12) Acquiring Patience in the Fight against Concupiscence
(13) The Obedience of One Humbly Subject to the Example of Jesus Christ
(14) Consider the Hidden Judgments of God Lest You Become Proud of Your Own Good Deeds
(15) How One Should Feel and Speak on Every Desirable Thing
(16) True Comfort is to be Sought in God Alone
(17) All Our Care is to be Placed in God
(18) Temporal Sufferings Should be Borne Patiently, After the Example of Christ
(19) True Patience in Suffering
(20) Confessing Our Weakness in the Miseries of Life
(21) Above All Goods and All Gifts We Must Rest in God
(22) Remember the Innumerable Gifts of God
(23) Four Things Which Bring Great Peace
(24) Avoiding Curious Inquiry About the Lives of Others
(25) The Basis of Firm Peace of Heart and True Progress
(26) The Excellence of a Free Mind, Gained Through Prayer Rather Than by Study

Book Three; Part 2 Internal Consolation

Book 3; Part 2, Chapters 27 thru 59

(27) Self-Love is the Greatest Hindrance to the Highest Good
(28) Strength Against Slander
(29) How We Must Call Upon and Bless the Lord When Trouble Presses
(30) The Quest of Divine Help and Confidence in Regaining Grace
(31) To Find the Creator, Forsake All Creatures
(32) Self-Denial and the Renunciation of Evil Appetites
(33) Restlessness of Soul -- Directing Our Final Intention Toward God
(34) God is Sweet Above All Things and in All Things to Those Who Love Him
(35) There is No Security from Temptation in This Life
(36) The Vain Judgments of Men
(37) Pure and Entire Resignation of Self to Obtain Freedom of Heart
(38) The Right Ordering of External Affairs; Recourse to God in Dangers
(39) A Man Should Not be Unduly Solicitous about his Affairs
(40) Man Has No Good in Himself and Can Glory in Nothing
(41) Contempt for All Earthly Honor
(42) Peace is not to be Placed in Men
(43) Beware Vain and Worldly Knowledge
(44) Do Not be Concerned About Outward Things
(45) All Men Are Not To Be Believed, For It is Easy To Err in Speech
(46) Trust in God Against Slander
(47) Every Trial Must Be Borne for the Sake of Eternal Life
(48) The Day of Eternity and the Distresses of this Life
(49) The Desire of Eternal Life; The Great Rewards Promised to Those Who Struggle
(50) How a Desolate Person Ought to Commit Himself into the Hands of God
(51) When We Cannot Attain to the Highest, We Must Practice the Humble Works
(52) A Man Ought Not to Consider Himself Worthy of Consolation, But Rather Deserving of Chastisement
(53) God's Grace Is Not Given to the Earthly Minded
(54) The Different Motions of Nature and Grace
(55) The Corruption of Nature and the Efficacy of Divine Grace
(56) We Ought to Deny Ourselves and Imitate Christ Through Bearing the Cross
(57) A Man Should Not Be Too Downcast When He Falls Into Defects
(58) High Matters and the Hidden Judgments of God Are Not To Be Scrutinized
(59) All Hope and Trust Are To Be Fixed in God Alone

Book Four; An Invitation to the Holy Communion

Book 4, Chapters 1 thru 18

(1) The Great Reverence With Which We Should Receive Christ
(2) God's Great Goodness and Love is Shown to Man in This Sacrament
(3) It Is Profitable To Receive Communion Often
(4) Many Blessings Are Given Those Who Receive Communion Worthily
(5) The Dignity of the Sacrament and of the Priesthood
(6) An Inquiry on the Proper Thing to do Before Communion
(7) The Examination of Conscience and the Resolution to Amend
(8) The Offering of Christ on the Cross; Our Offering
(9) We Should Offer Ourselves and All That We Have to God, Praying for All
(10) Do Not Lightly Forego Holy Communion
(11) The Body of Christ and Sacred Scripture Are Most Necessary to a Faithful Soul
(12) The Communicant Should Prepare Himself for Christ with Great Care
(13) With All Her Heart the Devout Soul Should Desire Union with Christ in the Sacrament
(14) The Ardent Longing of Devout Men for the Body of Christ
(15) The Grace of Devotion is Acquired Through Humility and Self-Denial
(16) We Should Show Our Needs to Christ and Ask His Grace
(17) The Burning Love and Strong Desire to Receive Christ
(18) Man Should Not Scrutinize This Sacrament in Curiosity, But Humbly Imitate Christ and Submit Reason to Holy Faith

Index Book 1 Book 2 Book 3/1 Book 3/2 Book 4

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