FamilyofPromise: Communication : Families with Special Needs (f)

FamilyofPromise: Communication : Families with Special Needs (e)

FamilyofPromise: Communication : Families with Special Needs (D)

FamilyofPromise: Communication : Families with Special Needs (C)

FamilyofPromise: Communication : Families with Special Needs (B)

FamilyofPromise: Communication : Families with Special Needs (B)

FamilyofPromise: Communication : Families with Special Needs (A)

Watchman Nee: "Christ's meat the will of God."

Christ's meat the will of God.

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In John iv. 34, we find described the positive aspect—that is how He did the Father's will. "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work." Here is the active choice to do. There was the choice not to seek His own will, and the choice to do the will of God. There is no trace of passivity here. Moreover, He found Divine sustenance in doing God's will; not in talking about it, but in doing it. "My meat is TO DO..." There must be the doing of God's will as well as the seeking of it, and until you have done the will of God as you know it, you cannot expect to be taken a step further in God's plan for you.

In the life of Christ you will see the exercise of His own separate will. But His will was set. We need to understand the setting of the will like the helm of a ship. As you set your will to do God's will, God can work. Your part is continually to make God's will the principle of your life. You say: "I choose God's will in this." You do not put your will aside, but on God's side, asking God to reveal His will to you. Christ's will was so set that it never lost co-operation with God's will for a moment. He perfectly and entirely did the will of God. "Lo, I come to do Thy will..." Not only was there the setting of His will to God's will, but the active use of it in that setting.

In Matt. viii. 3: "I will, be thou clean"—is an example of His vital co-operation in will with the Father's will. When the man came to Christ the Lord knew God's will, and said: "I WILL, be thou clean." God bore witness, and the man was cleansed. It was God's will manifested toward the man, through the exercise of Christ's will saying "I will, be thou..."

When the will is brought into complete co-operation with God as the principle of life, every moment the one question concerning everything is: "What is God's will?" You have no other question. Not "What do I like? What do I want?" but "God's will."

Then there will come a time, when, in the enduement of the power of the Holy Spirit, you may turn to an evil spirit in another, and say, "In the Name of Jesus Christ, I command you to come out." Under such circumstances, the Spirit of God will bear witness to what is done in faith, and it will be God's will manifested through you. This shows what the devil has to gain by making you believe you are to have no "will of your own." Understand that God works His works through you, by bringing your will into co-action with His, and enabling you to speak the word of authority over the enemy in His Name.

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Watchman Nee: ""CALL AND RESPONSE"

CALL AND RESPONSE

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THE divine activities in this age can be shown to have two great aspects, the direct work of God according to His eternal purpose, and His remedial work of redemption. In the revelation of Scripture these two interlock. We may distinguish between them, but we cannot separate them. God's work of recovery contains both a remedy for sin and a reaffirmation of His eternal purpose for man. 

Even when God is dealing with the first step of justification He has the goal always in view. That is why we are told in Galatians 3. 8 that the scripture, `foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel before hand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be blessed'. 

Abraham was the first man to receive the call of God. He was called because he was chosen; the call implies the choice. And he was chosen for no other reason than that God was pleased to choose him. 

In the Book of Genesis God makes three beginnings, with Adam and his creation, with Noah after the Flood, and with Abraham at the time of his call. Noah was sent forth into the new world which he was appointed to govern. His generation saw the beginning of organized social life, of law between man and man. God's legislation through Noah was designed to give that new world a moral character, from which, however, it turned away. 

Abraham's task was a different one. He was not called either to administer or to legislate for the nations of this world; indeed, he was to turn his back on the world. He already had a country of his own, but it was his only to leave. He had a kindred-to leave. He had a home-to leave. He looked for the city which has foundations (Hebrews 11. 10); he himself had no city. He was a pilgrim. Unlike Noah, he was to establish and to improve nothing. Noah had a task to do, to establish order and to give divine instruction to the world. Abraham in his life gave nothing to the world. He was a pilgrim, called to pass through it. His links were essentially with heaven. 

Abraham was called out of the world. `By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing whither he went' (Hebrews 11. 8). There is no call except to come out. 

Abraham was at home in the world with its established order, its advanced culture, its justifiable pride of attainment, and he was called to come out of that world to fulfil the purpose of God. That is the divine calling. There had been nothing wrong with Noah's way of dealing directly with the world in order to improve it; it had been God's appointed way for Noah. But when it led nowhere, and when accordingly God set Himself to His long term task of recovery, He began with the call to Abraham, not now to improve the world but to come out of it. 

Today God's principle of working is that of Abraham, not of Noah. At Ur of the Chaldees it was not that God had forgotten the world but that He was going to deal with it through Abraham, and no longer directly. Through this one man He would deal with the whole world. Abraham was the vessel into which God's wisdom and power and grace were now deposited, in order that through him God might open the door of blessing to all men. 

How then, we may ask ourselves, should one chosen as God's vessel for so great a task know His God? For the responsibility resting upon this one man was tremendous. To use man's finite way of speaking, the whole plan of God, the whole divine will and purpose for man, depended on Abraham. It stood or fell with him. Need we wonder, then, that Abraham had to go through so much trial and testing in order to bring him to know God, so that men could speak of `the God of Abraham', and so that God could call Himself by that name without moral violation? 

Abraham, we saw, is the father of all them that believe. This is an interesting expression, for it shows us that all spiritual principle is based on birth, not on preaching. Men are not changed by listening to some doctrine or by following a course of instructive teaching. They are changed by birth. First God chose one man who believed, and from him were born the many. When you meet a man who believes and who is saved, you become aware that he has something you have not got. That something is not just information; it is life. He has been born again. God has planted living seed in the soil of his heart. Have we this living seed in us? If we have, then we must give birth to others. Paul spoke of his sons in the faith. He was their spiritual father, not merely their preacher or counsellor. 

The nations are blessed through Abraham, not because they hear a new doctrine but because they have received a new life. The new Jerusalem will witness the perfection of that blessing of the nations. It was Abraham's privilege to begin it. 

Abraham's story falls naturally into two parts: his call (Genesis 11-14) in which the land is the central theme; and his posterity (Genesis 15-24) in which of course Isaac figures predominantly. We begin with the first of these. 

We shall best understand the call of Abraham if we see it in its proper setting. `The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran' (Acts 7. 2). Nimrod the mighty rebel had established his kingdom in Babel. His subjects had set up their great tower in the land of Shinar, and they had been scattered. The nations everywhere had not only forgotten God but, as we have seen, were idolaters. The whole world worshipped false gods, and Abraham's family was no exception. In this Abraham was very different from Abel and Enoch and Noah. They seem to have been men of backbone, strikingly different from all those around them. They stood out against the stream and refused to be dragged along by it. Not so Abraham. He was indistinguishable from those around him. Were they idolaters? So was he. Why, after all, should he be any different? 

The work of God started with such a man. Clearly then it was not in him, in his upright character or in his moral determination that lay the source of his choice, but in God. Of His own will God chose him. Abraham learnt the meaning of the fatherhood of God. This was a vital lesson. If Abraham had not been just the same as all the rest, then after his call he could have looked back and based his new circumstances on some fundamental difference in himself. But he was not different. The difference lay in God, not in Abraham. 

Learn to recognize God's sovereignty. Learn to rejoice in God's pleasure. This was Abraham's first lesson, namely that God, not himself, was the Source. Our salvation is entirely from God; there is no reason in us at all why He should save us. And if this is true of our salvation it is true of all that follows from it. If the source of our life is in God, so also is everything else. Nothing starts from us. 

From Acts chapter 7 we learn that Abraham was called by God while he was yet in Ur of the Chaldees, before he came to Haran. In his first words before the Jews' council Stephen begins from this fact. `Brethren and fathers, hearken. The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham. Then came he . . . and dwelt in Haran.' That was enough. The .man who sees that glory knows he must respond. He cannot do otherwise. Stephen himself was in a tight corner when he said these words; but at the end of his terrible experience we are told (verse 55) that being full of the Holy Ghost he looked up stedfastly into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God. He who appeared to Abraham at the beginning and He whom Stephen saw at the end were one and the same God of glory. In the final issue, what is an extra stone or two to one who sees the glory of God? 

Both the call of Abraham and the reason for his response lay in God. Once behold the God of glory and you must believe, you cannot do otherwise. Thus it was by faith - faith in the God of glory - that Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out. 

But, you say, my faith is too small. I could never have faith like Abraham's! 

This is where Genesis chapter 11 comes to our help. If it were not for Stephen's words in Acts we should never know that God had called Abraham while he was still in Ur of the Chaldees. If we only had the account given to us in Genesis we would get a different impression. In Genesis 11.31 we read: `And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.' It seems clear that the events described in this verse follow after the call spoken of in Acts 7.2 and Hebrews 11. 8. He had heard the call and believedyet Terah, we are told, took him out. That was the size of Abraham's faith at the beginning. He left his country, but he only left part of his kindred and none of his father's house. It was his father who led him forth. We do not know how it happened, but the one who was not called became the one who led out, and the one called out became the follower. 

Noah took his family into the ark with him, his wife, his sons and his sons' wives, all of them. He was told to do so; and what he did was right, for the situation there was different. The ark typifies salvation, and salvation is designed to embrace every individual man. The more there are who come into Christ by faith, the happier we ought to be. But Abraham's bringing with him (or accompanying) his parents and their grandson Lot, was wrong. For here it was not a matter of amassing individuals for salvation. Abraham was called to be himself a chosen vessel in relation to God's purpose, a purpose designed to bring blessing to all the families of the earth. There was no way of taking with him into this purpose others who were not so chosen. Abraham believed, but his understanding was faulty and therefore his faith was deficient. In other words, he was not an exceptional believer; he was just like us! 

In the event Abraham was taken by his father only a part of the way to Canaan; then the movement stopped. `They came unto Haran, and dwelt there.' He had heard God's call, but he did not appreciate the goal to which that call was leading, and so he saw no reason to pay such a price of loneliness. This explains why we murmur when God deals with us. Remember again, this is not the history of how a man was saved but how he became a vessel unto honour. A valuable vessel or a well-finished tool cannot be created without a high price being paid. Only poor quality goods can be produced cheaply. Let us not misunderstand God's dealings with us. Through Abraham God wanted to introduce a whole new economy in His relations with man, but Abraham did not yet appreciate this fact. Nor do we know what God wants to do with us. If He uses special trials and testings it is surely for a special purpose. If our hope is truly in God, there is no need for us to ask why. 

So Abraham `came out of the land of the Chaldeans and dwelt in Haran'. He thought it quite sufficient to go only half-way. Yet the time in Haran was time wasted. Terah means `delay', `duration'. The years of Terah's life ran out and they were years in which God did nothing. 

Then, when Abraham was already seventy-five years old, there came to him God's second call. `Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's. house, unto the land that I will show thee' (Genesis 12. I). Abraham had shown himself less than thorough in his obedience so far, but God, praise His name! did not let go His hold upon this man. `From thence, when his father was dead, God removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell' (Acts 7. 4). With tears we thank God for that. In Haran everything comes to a standstill, but nothing is more precious than the divine persistence. That is why we are Christians today; that is why we continue. God's patient persistence with Abraham brought him to Canaan. Do not let us be ashamed to admit that in this life of call and response, nothing is of ourselves, all is of God. We would stay on in Haran for ever, but the divine perseverance would not let go of us. What amazing grace, that Abraham could still become `the father of all them that believe', even after the wasted years at Haran! 

`And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother's son, and all their substance that they had gathered, and the souls that they had gotten in Haran; and they went forth to go into the land of Canaan; and into the land of Canaan they came' (Genesis 12. 5). God had said, `Come into the land which I shall shew thee' (Acts 7. 3), and now at last he arrived. Abraham's coming into the land was of great significance. It was not a question of his owning a piece of territory, for in fact he owned none, but of the power of God taking possession of the whole land of Canaan. And where God's power took possession, there Abraham had his inheritance. 

And so it is with us today; for this is the point, that our inheritance is the ground we take and hold for God now. We are called of God to a given situation, to maintain there the sovereign rule of heaven, and where the kingdom of heaven is thus effective, there is our inheritance. This is the sorrow of our day, that God's people do not know how to maintain God's power on the earth. They know individual salvation, but they do not know the government of God. And yet our inheritance is bound up with this; we cannot separate our inheritance from God's power. Unless God's rule is established and His enemies are overthrown, we have no inheritance. Remember Samson's riddle: `Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness' (Judges 14. 14). It is when the lion is slain that we discover the honey. 

The kingdom of heaven means that, on the one hand, God is King. Despite all appearance to the contrary, He has dominion on the earth. And on the other hand it means that He is ours. This God is our God for ever and ever. Do we know what it is to affirm this fact today, by faith, here in the place where He has set us? 

`And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Shechem, unto the oak of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land' (12. 6). These place-names are interesting. Shechem means `a shoulder', and may contain the idea of obedience. Moreh means `a teacher' and suggests understanding and knowledge. How striking it is that these two ideas should be brought together here in the record, for Jesus Himself said, `If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know' (John 7. 17). All knowledge is the outcome of obedience; everything else is just information. It is when we do His will that we see His will. Abraham had arrived in the land, and now he began to know why. 

For here the Lord appeared to him, assuring him that he was on the right road. `Unto thy seed will I give this land,' He said. This entire land, no less, was his inheritance. Now for the first time we are told that Abraham sacrificed, building an altar to the Lord who had appeared to him. These altars are altars of burnt offering, not of sin offering. They represent Abraham's- total committal of himself to God. A man cannot do that until he has first seen Him. But as was true of Abraham, to see Him once is enough. It draws out from us everything we have. 

Abraham did not come to rest at Shechem. `He removed from thence unto the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, having Bethel on the west and Ai on the east: and there he builded an altar unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord' (12. 8). Here is a second altar. Abraham built the first on his arrival in Canaan, when he saw God, understood, and gave himself. The second he built in the place where he pitched his tent, the place which he made his dwelling place. In doing so he confessed that God had brought him to rest here. 

After his visit to Egypt he came back to this second altar. This was the place where God wanted him to be. It was a token of the eventual accomplishment of all God's purpose. 

His tent was pitched between Bethel and Ai. Again the two place-names are significant. Bethel means `the house of God'; Ai means `a heap of ruins'. His dwelling lay between them, with Bethel to the west and Ai to the east. Remember that later on in Israel's history the tabernacle of the testimony opened eastwards, so that a man entering it faced west. Here at Abraham's dwelling place if a man faced towards the house of God his back was towards a heap of ruins. 

This has a lesson for us. Ai reminds us that the old creation is under judgment. Bethel, not Ai, is the place where Abraham dwells (13. 3), the place where through him the power of God will be felt throughout the land. And Bethel is the house of God, or in New Testament terms, the Church, the Body of Christ. Individuals cannot bring to bear upon the earth the sovereign rule of heaven; only the Body, the fellowship of believers in Christ, can do this. But to come to this we must leave behind us that heap of ruins! We bring the kingdom of heaven into this earth only when our natural strength has been brought to nought at the Cross and we are living by the common life of the one new man in Christ. This is the witness of Canaan.

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Imitation of Christ: BOOK ONE "THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL"

The Imitation of Christ
Thomas à Kempis

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BOOK ONE

THOUGHTS HELPFUL IN THE LIFE OF THE SOUL

 

 

The First Chapter

IMITATING CHRIST AND DESPISING ALL VANITIES ON EARTH

HE WHO follows Me, walks not in darkness," says the Lord.[1] 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. I would rather feel contrition than know how to define it. For what would it profit us to know the whole Bible by heart and the principles of all the philosophers if we live without grace and the love of God? Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone.

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.

Often recall the proverb: "The eye is not satisfied with seeing nor the ear filled with hearing."[2] Try, moreover, to turn your heart from the love of things visible and bring yourself to things invisible. For they who follow their own evil passions stain their consciences and lose the grace of God.

 

The Second Chapter

HAVING A HUMBLE OPINION OF SELF

EVERY man naturally desires knowledge; but what good is knowledge without fear of God? Indeed a humble rustic who serves God is better than a proud intellectual who neglects his soul to study the course of the stars. He who knows himself well becomes mean in his own eyes and is not happy when praised by men.

If I knew all things in the world and had not charity, what would it profit me before God Who will judge me by my deeds?

Shun too great a desire for knowledge, for in it there is much fretting and delusion. Intellectuals like to appear learned and to be called wise. Yet there are many things the knowledge of which does little or no good to the soul, and he who concerns himself about other things than those which lead to salvation is very unwise.

Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life eases the mind and a clean conscience inspires great trust in God.

The more you know and the better you understand, the more severely will you be judged, unless your life is also the more holy. Do not be proud, therefore, because of your learning or skill. Rather, fear because of the talent given you. If you think you know many things and understand them well enough, realize at the same time that there is much you do not know. Hence, do not affect wisdom, but admit your ignorance. Why prefer yourself to anyone else when many are more learned, more cultured than you?

If you wish to learn and appreciate something worth while, then love to be unknown and considered as nothing. Truly to know and despise self is the best and most perfect counsel. To think of oneself as nothing, and always to think well and highly of others is the best and most perfect wisdom. Wherefore, if you see another sin openly or commit a serious crime, do not consider yourself better, for you do not know how long you can remain in good estate. All men are frail, but you must admit that none is more frail than yourself.

 

The Third Chapter

THE DOCTRINE OF TRUTH

HAPPY is he to whom truth manifests itself, not in signs and words that fade, but as it actually is. Our opinions, our senses often deceive us and we discern very little.

What good is much discussion of involved and obscure matters when our ignorance of them will not be held against us on Judgment Day? Neglect of things which are profitable and necessary and undue concern with those which are irrelevant and harmful, are great folly.

We have eyes and do not see.

What, therefore, have we to do with questions of philosophy? He to whom the Eternal Word speaks is free from theorizing. For from this Word are all things and of Him all things speak -- the Beginning Who also speaks to us. Without this Word no man understands or judges aright. He to whom it becomes everything, who traces all things to it and who sees all things in it, may ease his heart and remain at peace with God.

O God, You Who are the truth, make me one with You in love everlasting. I am often wearied by the many things I hear and read, but in You is all that I long for. Let the learned be still, let all creatures be silent before You; You alone speak to me.

The more recollected a man is, and the more simple of heart he becomes, the easier he understands sublime things, for he receives the light of knowledge from above. The pure, simple, and steadfast spirit is not distracted by many labors, for he does them all for the honor of God. And since he enjoys interior peace he seeks no selfish end in anything. What, indeed, gives more trouble and affliction than uncontrolled desires of the heart?

A good and devout man arranges in his mind the things he has to do, not according to the whims of evil inclination but according to the dictates of right reason. Who is forced to struggle more than he who tries to master himself? This ought to be our purpose, then: to conquer self, to become stronger each day, to advance in virtue.

Every perfection in this life has some imperfection mixed with it and no learning of ours is without some darkness. Humble knowledge of self is a surer path to God than the ardent pursuit of learning. Not that learning is to be considered evil, or knowledge, which is good in itself and so ordained by God; but a clean conscience and virtuous life ought always to be preferred. Many often err and accomplish little or nothing because they try to become learned rather than to live well.

If men used as much care in uprooting vices and implanting virtues as they do in discussing problems, there would not be so much evil and scandal in the world, or such laxity in religious organizations. On the day of judgment, surely, we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done; not how well we have spoken but how well we have lived.

Tell me, where now are all the masters and teachers whom you knew so well in life and who were famous for their learning? Others have already taken their places and I know not whether they ever think of their predecessors. During life they seemed to be something; now they are seldom remembered. How quickly the glory of the world passes away! If only their lives had kept pace with their learning, then their study and reading would have been worth while.

How many there are who perish because of vain worldly knowledge and too little care for serving God. They became vain in their own conceits because they chose to be great rather than humble.

He is truly great who has great charity. He is truly great who is little in his own eyes and makes nothing of the highest honor. He is truly wise who looks upon all earthly things as folly that he may gain Christ. He who does God's will and renounces his own is truly very learned.

 

The Fourth Chapter

PRUDENCE IN ACTION

DO NOT yield to every impulse and suggestion but consider things carefully and patiently in the light of God's will. For very often, sad to say, we are so weak that we believe and speak evil of others rather than good. Perfect men, however, do not readily believe every talebearer, because they know that human frailty is prone to evil and is likely to appear in speech.

Not to act rashly or to cling obstinately to one's opinion, not to believe everything people say or to spread abroad the gossip one has heard, is great wisdom.

Take counsel with a wise and conscientious man. Seek the advice of your betters in preference to following your own inclinations.

A good life makes a man wise according to God and gives him experience in many things, for the more humble he is and the more subject to God, the wiser and the more at peace he will be in all things.

 

The Fifth Chapter

READING THE HOLY SCRIPTURE

TRUTH, not eloquence, is to be sought in reading the Holy Scriptures; and every part must be read in the spirit in which it was written. For in the Scriptures we ought to seek profit rather than polished diction.

Likewise we ought to read simple and devout books as willingly as learned and profound ones. We ought not to be swayed by the authority of the writer, whether he be a great literary light or an insignificant person, but by the love of simple truth. We ought not to ask who is speaking, but mark what is said. Men pass away, but the truth of the Lord remains forever. God speaks to us in many ways without regard for persons.

Our curiosity often impedes our reading of the Scriptures, when we wish to understand and mull over what we ought simply to read and pass by.

If you would profit from it, therefore, read with humility, simplicity, and faith, and never seek a reputation for being learned. Seek willingly and listen attentively to the words of the saints; do not be displeased with the sayings of the ancients, for they were not made without purpose.

 

The Sixth Chapter

UNBRIDLED AFFECTIONS

WHEN a man desires a thing too much, he at once becomes ill at ease. A proud and avaricious man never rests, whereas he who is poor and humble of heart lives in a world of peace. An unmortified man is quickly tempted and overcome in small, trifling evils; his spirit is weak, in a measure carnal and inclined to sensual things; he can hardly abstain from earthly desires. Hence it makes him sad to forego them; he is quick to anger if reproved. Yet if he satisfies his desires, remorse of conscience overwhelms him because he followed his passions and they did not lead to the peace he sought.

True peace of heart, then, is found in resisting passions, not in satisfying them. There is no peace in the carnal man, in the man given to vain attractions, but there is peace in the fervent and spiritual man.

 

The Seventh Chapter

AVOIDING FALSE HOPE AND PRIDE

VAIN is the man who puts his trust in men, in created things.

Do not be ashamed to serve others for the love of Jesus Christ and to seem poor in this world. Do not be self-sufficient but place your trust in God. Do what lies in your power and God will aid your good will. Put no trust in your own learning nor in the cunning of any man, but rather in the grace of God Who helps the humble and humbles the proud.

If you have wealth, do not glory in it, nor in friends because they are powerful, but in God Who gives all things and Who desires above all to give Himself. Do not boast of personal stature or of physical beauty, qualities which are marred and destroyed by a little sickness. Do not take pride in your talent or ability, lest you displease God to Whom belongs all the natural gifts that you have.

Do not think yourself better than others lest, perhaps, you be accounted worse before God Who knows what is in man. Do not take pride in your good deeds, for God's judgments differ from those of men and what pleases them often displeases Him. If there is good in you, see more good in others, so that you may remain humble. It does no harm to esteem yourself less than anyone else, but it is very harmful to think yourself better than even one. The humble live in continuous peace, while in the hearts of the proud are envy and frequent anger.

 

The Eighth Chapter

SHUNNING OVER-FAMILIARITY

DO NOT open your heart to every man, but discuss your affairs with one who is wise and who fears God. Do not keep company with young people and strangers. Do not fawn upon the rich, and do not be fond of mingling with the great. Associate with the humble and the simple, with the devout and virtuous, and with them speak of edifying things. Be not intimate with any woman, but generally commend all good women to God. Seek only the intimacy of God and of His angels, and avoid the notice of men.

We ought to have charity for all men but familiarity with all is not expedient. Sometimes it happens that a person enjoys a good reputation among those who do not know him, but at the same time is held in slight regard by those who do. Frequently we think we are pleasing others by our presence and we begin rather to displease them by the faults they find in us.

 

The Ninth Chapter

OBEDIENCE AND SUBJECTION

IT IS a very great thing to obey, to live under a superior and not to be one's own master, for it is much safer to be subject than it is to command. Many live in obedience more from necessity than from love. Such become discontented and dejected on the slightest pretext; they will never gain peace of mind unless they subject themselves wholeheartedly for the love of God.

Go where you may, you will find no rest except in humble obedience to the rule of authority. Dreams of happiness expected from change and different places have deceived many.

Everyone, it is true, wishes to do as he pleases and is attracted to those who agree with him. But if God be among us, we must at times give up our opinions for the blessings of peace.

Furthermore, who is so wise that he can have full knowledge of everything? Do not trust too much in your own opinions, but be willing to listen to those of others. If, though your own be good, you accept another's opinion for love of God, you will gain much more merit; for I have often heard that it is safer to listen to advice and take it than to give it. It may happen, too, that while one's own opinion may be good, refusal to agree with others when reason and occasion demand it, is a sign of pride and obstinacy.

 

The Tenth Chapter

AVOIDING IDLE TALK

SHUN the gossip of men as much as possible, for discussion of worldly affairs, even though sincere, is a great distraction inasmuch as we are quickly ensnared and captivated by vanity.

Many a time I wish that I had held my peace and had not associated with men. Why, indeed, do we converse and gossip among ourselves when we so seldom part without a troubled conscience? We do so because we seek comfort from one another's conversation and wish to ease the mind wearied by diverse thoughts. Hence, we talk and think quite fondly of things we like very much or of things we dislike intensely. But, sad to say, we often talk vainly and to no purpose; for this external pleasure effectively bars inward and divine consolation.

Therefore we must watch and pray lest time pass idly.

When the right and opportune moment comes for speaking, say something that will edify.

Bad habits and indifference to spiritual progress do much to remove the guard from the tongue. Devout conversation on spiritual matters, on the contrary, is a great aid to spiritual progress, especially when persons of the same mind and spirit associate together in God.

 

 

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Imitation of Christ: Foreword

The Imitation of Christ
Thomas à Kempis

Next Section Table of Contents

TRANSLATED FROM THE LATIN INTO MODERN ENGLISH

 

Digitized by Harry Plantinga, whp@wheaton.edu, 1994.
This etext is in the public domain.

FOREWORD

IN PREPARING this edition of The Imitation of Christ, the aim was to achieve a simple, readable text which would ring true to those who are already lovers of this incomparable book and would attract others to it. For this reason we have attempted to render the text into English as it is spoken today rather than the cloudy, archaic terminology that encumbers so many translations of Christian classics. The result, we feel, has achieved a directness and conciseness which will meet the approval of modern readers. In the second place, we have made use of the familiar paragraph form, doing away with the simple statement or verse form of the original and of many translations. This was done in the interest of easier reading, and in order to bring out more clearly the connection between the single statements.

No claim of literary excellence over the many English versions now extant is here advanced, nor any attempt to solve in further confusion the problem of the book's authorship.

Theories most popular at the moment ascribe the Imitation to two or three men, members of the Brethren of the Common Life, an association of priests organized in the Netherlands in the latter half of the fourteenth century. That Thomas Hemerken of Kempen, or Thomas À Kempis as he is now known, later translated a composite of their writings, essentially a spiritual diary, from the original Netherlandish into Latin is generally admitted by scholars. This Thomas, born about the year 1380, was educated by the Brethren of the Common Life, was moved to join their community, and was ordained priest. His career thereafter was devoted to practicing the counsels of spiritual perfection and to copying books for the schools. From both pursuits evolved The Imitation of Christ. As editor and translator he was not without faults, but thanks to him the Imitation became and has remained, after the Bible, the most widely read book in the world. It is his edition that is here rendered into English, without deletion of chapters or parts of them because doubts exist as to their authorship, or because of variants in style, or for any of the other more or less valid reasons.

There is but one major change. The treatise on Holy Communion, which À Kempis places as Book Three, is here titled Book Four. The move makes the order of the whole more logical and agrees with the thought of most editors.

 

THE TRANSLATORS
Aloysius Croft 
Harold Bolton

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Imitation of Christ: Contents

THE IMITATION OF CHRIST

Thomas à Kempis

For five hundred years, this gentle book, filled with the spirit of the love of God, has brought understanding and comfort to millions of readers in over fifty languages, and provided them with a source of heart-felt personal prayer. These meditations on the life and teachings of Jesus, written in times even more troubled and dangerous than our own, have become second only to the Bible as a guide and inspiration.

 

It is now available in a MODERN TRANSLATION that retains the flavor of the traditional English translation.

Table of Contents

Foreward
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

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

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

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
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

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

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