Each Sunday I hope to publish an extract from one of the Christian Classics. The Imitation of Christ is one of my favourites and so it will be my starting point for the next few weeks - I hope it might become a favourite of yours, too!
This Christian classic was most probably written by the Medieval monk Thomas à Kempis in the fifteenth century. Originally written in Latin, it was first translated into French and German, before being translated into English in 1502. It is a devotional book, written for a monastic audience and encouraging a holy and prayerful lifestyle. Some parts feel strange to our twenty-first century ears, but it has remained a favourite of Christians of all traditions through the centuries.
I hope that you will enjoy meditating on this spiritual gem. This translation comes from The Cyber Library but I have taken the liberty of inserting the Biblical references into the text to make it a smoother read.
The Imitation of Christ
Book One - Thoughts Helpful in the Life of the Soul
From Chapter 1 - Imitating Christ and Despising All Vanities on Earth
He who follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord.[John 8:12] 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 teaching of Christ is more excellent than all the advice of the saints, and he who has His spirit will find in it a hidden manna. Now, there are many who hear the Gospel often but care little for it because they have not the spirit of Christ. Yet whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.
What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity? Indeed it is not learning that makes a man holy and just, but a virtuous life makes him pleasing to God.
This is the greatest wisdom - to seek the kingdom of heaven through contempt of the world. It is vanity, therefore, to seek and trust in riches that perish. It is vanity also to court honor and to be puffed up with pride. It is vanity to follow the lusts of the body and to desire things for which severe punishment later must come. It is vanity to wish for long life and to care little about a well-spent life. It is vanity to be concerned with the present only and not to make provision for things to come. It is vanity to love what passes quickly and not to look ahead where eternal joy abides.
Wise words never date, do they?
Which part spoke most clearly to your heart?