On the Imitation of Christ

"Of the imitation of Christ, and of contempt of the world and all its vanities." Chapter 1 from the classic by Thomas à Kempis.

By Published on January 14, 2016

THOMAS A KEMPIS — He who follows with me shall not walk in darkness, says the Lord. (John 8:12) These are the words of Christ; and they teach us just how far we must imitate His life and character, if we seek true illumination and deliverance from all blindness of heart. Let it be our most honest study, therefore, to dwell upon the life of Jesus Christ.

His teachings surpass all teaching of holy men, and such as have His Spirit find therein the hidden manna. (Rev. 2:17) There are many who, though they frequently hear the Gospel, yet feel but little longing after it, because they have not the mind of Christ. He therefore that will fully and with true wisdom understand the words of Christ, let him strive to conform his whole life to that mind of Christ.

What does it profit you to enter into deep discussion concerning the Holy Trinity, if you lack humility, and be thus displeasing to the Trinity? Truly it is not the words that make a man holy and upright; it is a good life which makes a man dear to God. I would rather feel contrition then be skillful in the definition of the word. If you knew the whole Bible, and the sayings of all the philosophers, what should all this profit you without the love and grace of God? Vanity of vanities, all is vanity, except to love God and Him only to serve. That is the highest wisdom, to cast the world behind us and to reach forward to the heavenly kingdom.

It is vanity then to seek after, and to trust in, the riches that shall perish. It is vanity, too, to covet honors and to lift ourselves on high. It is vanity to follow the desires of the flesh and be led by them, for this shall bring misery at the last. It is vanity to desire a long life, and to have little care for a good life. It is vanity to take thought only for the life which now is, and not to look forward to the things which shall be hereafter. It is vanity to love that which quickly passes away, and not to hasten where eternal joy provides.

Be often mindful of the saying, the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing. (Eccl. 1:8) Strive, therefore, to turn away your heart from the love of the things that are seen, and to set it upon the things that are not seen. For they who follow after their own fleshly lusts defile the conscience and destroy the grace of God.


Thomas à Kempis was an Augustinian priest who lived in Kempen, Germany from 1380 to 1421.
The book from which this is excerpted,
 The Imitation of Christ, is universally considered to be one of the all-time classics of devotional literature.
This translation by William Benham (1831-1910) has been slightly modernized for readers of
The Stream.

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