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Book One

by Thomas a Kempis
Translated by Rev. William Benham


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.  One scribe attributes it to St. Bernard

of Clairvaux; but the fact that is contains a quotation from St.

Francis of Assisi, who was born thirty years after the death of

St. Bernard, disposes of this theory.  In England there exist

many manuscripts of the first three books, called "Musica

Ecclesiastica," frequently ascribed to the English mystic Walter

Hilton.  But Hilton seems to have died in 1395, and there is no

evidence of the existence of the work before 1400.  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 a 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 an uneventful life spent in 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.  And yet,

in one sense, it is hardly an original work at all.  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.





Of the imitation of Christ, and of contempt of the world and all

its vanities

He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness(1), saith the

Lord.  There are the words of Christ; and they teach us 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 earnest study, therefore, to dwell upon the life

of Jesus Christ.

2. His teaching surpasseth all teaching of holy men, and such as

have His Spirit find therein the hidden manna.(2)  But 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.

3. What doth it profit thee to enter into deep discussion

concerning the Holy Trinity, if thou lack humility, and be thus

displeasing to the Trinity?  For verily it is not deep words that

make a man holy and upright; it is a good life which maketh a man

dear to God.  I had rather feel contrition than be skilful in the

definition thereof.  If thou knowest the whole Bible, and the

sayings of all the philosophers, what should all this profit thee

without the love and grace of God?  Vanity of vanities, all is

vanity, save 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.

4. It is vanity then to seek after, and to trust in, the riches

that shall perish.  It is vanity, too, to covet honours, and to

lift up 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

passeth away, and not to hasten where eternal joy abideth.

5. Be ofttimes mindful of the saying,(3) The eye is not satified

with seeing, nor the ear with hearing.  Strive, therefore, to

turn away thy 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.

(1) John viii. 12.   (2) Revelations ii. 17.

(3) Ecclesiastes i. 8.


Of thinking humbly of oneself

There is naturally in every man a desire to know, but what

profiteth knowledge without the fear of God?  Better of a surety

is a lowly peasant who serveth God, than a proud philosopher who

watcheth the stars and neglecteth the knowledge of himself.  He

who knoweth himself well is vile in his own sight; neither

regardeth he the praises of men.  If I knew all the things that

are in the world, and were not in charity, what should it help me

before God, who is to judge me according to my deeds?

2. Rest from inordinate desire of knowledge, for therein is found

much distraction and deceit.  Those who have knowledge desire to

appear learned, and to be called wise.  Many things there are to

know which profiteth little or nothing to the soul.  And foolish

out of measure in he who attendeth upon other things rather than

those which serve to his soul's health.  Many words satisfy not

the soul, but a good life refresheth the mind, and a pure

conscience giveth great confidence towards God.

3. The greater and more complete thy knowledge, the more severely

shalt thou be judged, unless thou hast lived holily.  Therefore

be not lifted up by any skill or knowledge that thou hast; but

rather fear concerning the knowledge which is given to thee.  If

it seemeth to thee that thou knowest many things, and

understandest them well, know also that there are many more

things which thou knowest not.  Be not high-minded, but rather

confess thine ignorance.  Why desirest thou to lift thyself above

another, when there are found many more learned and more skilled

in the Scripture than thou?  If thou wilt know and learn anything

with profit, love to be thyself unknown and to be counted for


4. That is the highest and most profitable lesson, when a man

truly knoweth and judgeth lowly of himself.  To account nothing

of one's self, and to think always kindly and highly of others,

this is great and perfect wisdom.  Even shouldest thou see thy

neighbor sin openly and grievously, yet thou oughtest not to

reckon thyself better than he, for thou knowest not how long

thou shalt keep thine integrity.  All of us are weak and frail;

hold thou no man more frail than thyself.


Of the knowledge of truth

Happy is the man whom Truth by itself doth teach, not by figures

and transient words, but as it is in itself.(1)  Our own

judgement and feelings often deceive us, and we discern but

little of the truth.  What doth it profit to argue about hidden

and dark things, concerning which we shall not be even reproved

in the judgement, because we knew them not?  Oh, grievous folly,

to neglect the things which are profitable and necessary, and to

give our minds to things which are curious and hurtful!  Having

eyes, we see not.

2. And what have we to do with talk about genus and species!  

He to whom the Eternal Word speaketh is free from multiplied

questionings.  From this One Word are all things, and all things

speak of Him; and this is the Beginning which also speaketh to

us.(2)  No man without Him understandeth or rightly judgeth.  The

man to whom all things are one, who bringeth all things to one,

who seeth all things in one, he is able to remain steadfast of

spirit, and at rest in God.  O God, who art the Truth, make me

one with Thee in everlasting love.  It wearieth me oftentimes to

read and listen to many things; in Thee is all that I wish for

and desire.  Let all the doctors hold their peace; let all

creation keep silence before Thee: speak Thou alone to me.

3. The more a man hath unity and simplicity in himself, the more

things and the deeper things he understandeth; and that without

labour, because he receiveth the light of understanding from

above.  The spirit which is pure, sincere, and steadfast, is not

distracted though it hath many works to do, because it doth all

things to the honour of God, and striveth to be free from all

thoughts of self-seeking.  Who is so full of hindrance and

annoyance to thee as thine own undisciplined heart?  A man who is

good and devout arrangeth beforehand within his own heart the

works which he hath to do abroad; and so is not drawn away by the

desires of his evil will, but subjecteth everything to the

judgement of right reason.  Who hath a harder battle to fight

than he who striveth for self-mastery?  And this should be our

endeavour, even to master self, and thus daily to grow stronger

than self, and go on unto perfection.

4. All perfection hath some imperfection joined to it in this

life, and all our power of sight is not without some darkness.  A

lowly knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than the deep

searching of man's learning.  Not that learning is to be blamed,

nor the taking account of anything that is good; but a good

conscience and a holy life is better than all.  And because many

seek knowledge rather than good living, therefore they go astray,

and bear little or no fruit.

5. O if they would give that diligence to the rooting out of vice

and the planting of virtue which they give unto vain

questionings; there had not been so many evil doings and

stumbling-blocks among the laity, nor such ill living among

houses of religion.  Of a surety, at the Day of Judgement it will

be demanded of us, not what we have read, but what we have done;

not how well we have spoken, but how holily we have lived.  Tell

me, where now are all those masters and teachers, whom thou

knowest well, whilst they were yet with you, and flourished in

learning?  Their stalls are now filled by others, who perhaps

never have one thought concerning them.  Whilst they lived they

seemed to be somewhat, but now no one speaks of them.

6. Oh how quickly passeth the glory of the world away!  Would

that their life and knowledge had agreed together!  For then

would they have read and inquired unto good purpose.  How many

perish through empty learning in this world, who care little for

serving God.  And because they love to be great more than to be

humble, therefore they "have become vain in their imaginations."

He only is truly great, who hath great charity.  He is truly

great who deemeth himself small, and counteth all height of

honour as nothing.  He is the truly wise man, who counteth all

earthly things as dung that he may win Christ.  And he is the

truly learned man, who doeth the will of God, and forsaketh his

own will.

(1) Psalm xciv. 12; Numbers xii. 8.   (2) John viii. 25 (Vulg.).


Of prudence in action

We must not trust every word of others or feeling within

ourselves, but cautiously and patiently try the matter, whether

it be of God.  Unhappily we are so weak that we find it easier to

believe and speak evil of others, rather than good.  But they

that are perfect, do not give ready heed to every news-bearer,

for they know man's weakness that it is prone to evil and

unstable in words.

2. This is great wisdom, not to be hasty in action, or stubborn

in our own opinions.  A part of this wisdom also is not to

believe every word we hear, nor to tell others all that we hear,

even though we believe it.  Take counsel with a man who is wise

and of a good conscience; and seek to be instructed by one better

than thyself, rather than follow thine own inventions.  A good

life maketh a man wise toward God, and giveth him experience in

many things.  The more humble a man is in himself, and the more

obedient towards God, the wiser will he be in all things, and the

more shall his soul be at peace.


Of the reading of Holy Scriptures

It is Truth which we must look for in Holy Writ, not cunning of

words.  All Scripture ought to be read in the spirit in which it

was written.  We must rather seek for what is profitable in

Scripture, than for what ministereth to subtlety in discourse.

Therefore we ought to read books which are devotional and simple,

as well as those which are deep and difficult.  And let not the

weight of the writer be a stumbling-block to thee, whether he be

of little or much learning, but let the love of the pure Truth

draw thee to read.  Ask not, who hath said this or that but look

to what he says.

2. Men pass away, but the truth of the Lord endureth for ever.

Without respect of persons God speaketh to us in divers manners.

Our own curiosity often hindereth us in the readings of holy

writings, when we seek to understand and discuss, where we should

pass simply on.  If thou wouldst profit by thy reading, read

humbly, simply, honestly, and not desiring to win a character for

learning.  Ask freely, and hear in silence the words of holy men;

nor be displeased at the hard sayings of older men than thou, for

they are not uttered without cause.


Of inordinate affections

Whensoever a man desireth aught above measure, immediately he

becometh restless.  The proud and the avaricious man are never

at rest; while the poor and lowly of heart abide in the

multitude of peace.  The man who is not yet wholly dead to self,

is soon tempted, and is overcome in small and trifling matters.

It is hard for him who is weak in spirit, and still in part

carnal and inclined to the pleasures of sense, to withdraw

himself altogether from earthly desires.  And therefore, when he

withdraweth himself from these, he is often sad, and easily

angered too if any oppose his will.

2. But if, on the other hand, he yield to his inclination,

immediately he is weighed down by the condemnation of his

conscience; for that he hath followed his own desire, and yet in

no way attained the peace which he hoped for.  For true peace of

heart is to be found in resisting passion, not in yielding to it.

And therefore there is no peace in the heart of a man who is

carnal, nor in him who is given up to the things that are without

him, but only in him who is fervent towards God and living the

life of the Spirit.


Of fleeing from vain hope and pride

Vain is the life of that man who putteth his trust in men or in

any created Thing.  Be not ashamed to be the servant of others

for the love of Jesus Christ, and to be reckoned poor in this

life.  Rest not upon thyself, but build thy hope in God.  Do what

lieth in thy power, and God will help thy good intent. Trust not

in thy learning, nor in the cleverness of any that lives, but

rather trust in the favour of God, who resisteth the proud and

giveth grace to the humble.

2. Boast not thyself in thy riches if thou hast them, nor in thy

friends if they be powerful, but in God, who giveth all things,

and in addition to all things desireth to give even Himself.  Be

not lifted up because of thy strength or beauty of body, for with

only a slight sickness it will fail and wither away.  Be not vain

of thy skilfulness or ability, lest thou displease God, from

whom cometh every good gift which we have.

3. Count not thyself better than others, lest perchance thou

appear worse in the sight of God, who knoweth what is in man.  Be

not proud of thy good works, for God's judgments are of another

sort than the judgments of man, and what pleaseth man is ofttimes

displeasing to Him.  If thou hast any good, believe that others

have more, and so thou mayest preserve thy humility. It is no

harm to thee if thou place thyself below all others; but it is

great harm if thou place thyself above even one.  Peace is ever

with the humble man, but in the heart of the proud there is

envy and continual wrath.


Of the danger of too much familiarity

Open not thine heart to every man, but deal with one who is wise

and feareth God. Be seldom with the young and with strangers.  Be

not a flatterer of the rich; nor willingly seek the society of

the great.  Let thy company be the humble and simple, the devout

and the gentle, and let thy discourse be concerning things which

edify.  Be not familiar with any woman, but commend all good

women alike unto God.  Choose for thy companions God and His

Angels only, and flee from the notice of men.

2. We must love all men, but not make close companions of all.

It sometimes falleth out that one who is unknown to us is highly

regarded through good report of him, whose actual person is

nevertheless unpleasing to those who behold it.  We sometimes

think to please others by our intimacy, and forthwith displease

them the more by the faultiness of character which they perceive

in us.


Of obedience and subjection

It is verily a great thing to live in obedience, to be under

authority, and not to be at our own disposal.  Far safer is it to

live in subjection than in a place of authority.  Many are in

obedience from necessity rather than from love; these take it

amiss, and repine for small cause.  Nor will they gain freedom of

spirit, unless with all their heart they submit themselves for

the love of God.  Though thou run hither and thither, thou wilt

not find peace, save in humble subjection to the authority of him

who is set over thee.  Fancies about places and change of them

have deceived many.

2. True it is that every man willingly followeth his own bent,

and is the more inclined to those who agree with him.  But if

Christ is amongst us, then it is necessary that we sometimes

yield up our own opinion for the sake of peace.  Who is so wise

as to have perfect knowledge of all things?  Therefore trust not

too much to thine own opinion, but be ready also to hear the

opinions of others.  Though thine own opinion be good, yet if for

the love of God thou foregoest it, and followest that of another,

thou shalt the more profit thereby.

3. Ofttimes I have heard that it is safer to hearken and to

receive counsel than to give it.  It may also come to pass that

each opinion may be good; but to refuse to hearken to others when

reason or occasion requireth it, is a mark of pride or



Of the danger of superfluity of words

Avoid as far as thou canst the tumult of men; for talk concerning

worldly things, though it be innocently undertaken, is a

hindrance, so quickly are we led captive and defiled by vanity.

Many a time I wish that I had held my peace, and had not gone

amongst men.  But why do we talk and gossip so continually,

seeing that we so rarely resume our silence without some hurt

done to our conscience?  We like talking so much because we hope

by our conversations to gain some mutual comfort, and because we

seek to refresh our wearied spirits by variety of thoughts.  And

we very willingly talk and think of those things which we love or

desire, or else of those which we most dislike.

2. But alas! it is often to no purpose and in vain.  For this

outward consolation is no small hindrance to the inner comfort

which cometh from God.  Therefore must we watch and pray that

time pass not idly away.  If it be right and desirable for thee

to speak, speak things which are to edification.  Evil custom and

neglect of our real profit tend much to make us heedless of

watching over our lips.  Nevertheless, devout conversation on

spiritual things helpeth not a little to spiritual progress, most

of all where those of kindred mind and spirit find their ground

of fellowship in God.


Of seeking peace of mind and of spiritual progress

We may enjoy abundance of peace if we refrain from busying

ourselves with the sayings and doings of others, and things which

concern not ourselves.  How can he abide long time in peace who

occupieth himself with other men's matters, and with things

without himself, and meanwhile payeth little or rare heed to the

self within?  Blessed are the single-hearted, for they shall have

abundance of peace.

2. How came it to pass that many of the Saints were so perfect,

so contemplative of Divine things?  Because they steadfastly

sought to mortify themselves from all worldly desires, and so

were enabled to cling with their whole heart to God, and be free

and at leisure for the thought of Him.  We are too much occupied

with our own affections, and too anxious about transitory things.

Seldom, too, do we entirely conquer even a single fault, nor are

we zealous for daily growth in grace.  And so we remain lukewarm

and unspiritual.

3. Were we fully watchful of ourselves, and not bound in spirit

to outward things, then might we be wise unto salvation, and make

progress in Divine contemplation.  Our great and grievous

stumbling-block is that, not being freed from our affections and

desires, we strive not to enter into the perfect way of the

Saints.  And when even a little trouble befalleth us, too quickly

are we cast down, and fly to the world to give us comfort.

4. If we would quit ourselves like men, and strive to stand firm

in battle, then should we see the Lord helping us from Heaven.

For He Himself is alway ready to help those who strive and who

trust in Him; yea, He provideth for us occasions for striving, to

the end that we may win the victory.  If we look upon our

progress in religion as a progress only in outward observances

and forms, our devoutness wll soon come to an end.  But let us

lay the axe to the very root of our life, that, being cleansed

from affections, we may possess our souls in peace.

5. If each year should see one fault rooted out from us, we

should go quickly on to perfection.  But on the contrary, we

often feel that we were better and holier in the beginning of our

conversion than after many years of profession.  Zeal and

progress ought to increase day by day; yet now it seemeth a great

thing if one is able to retain some portion of his first ardour.

If we would put some slight stress on ourselves at the beginning,

then afterwards we should be able to do all things with ease and


6. It is a hard thing to break through a habit, and a yet harder

thing to go contrary to our own will.  Yet if thou overcome not

slight and easy obstacles, how shalt thou overcome greater ones?

Withstand thy will at the beginning, and unlearn an evil habit,

lest it lead thee little by little into worse difficulties.  Oh,

if thou knewest what peace to thyself thy holy life should bring

to thyself, and what joy to others, methinketh thou wouldest be

more zealous for spiritual profit.


Of the uses of adversity

It is good for us that we sometimes have sorrows and adversities,

for they often make a man lay to heart that he is only a stranger

and sojourner, and may not put his trust in any worldly thing.

It is good that we sometimes endure contradictions, and are

hardly and unfairly judged, when we do and mean what is good.

For these things help us to be humble, and shield us from

vain-glory.  For then we seek the more earnestly the witness of

God, when men speak evil of us falsely, and give us no credit for


2. Therefore ought a man to rest wholly upon God, so that he

needeth not seek much comfort at the hand of men.  When a man who

feareth God is afflicted or tried or oppressed with evil

thoughts, then he seeth that God is the more necessary unto him,

since without God he can do no good thing.  Then he is heavy of

heart, he groaneth, he crieth out for the very disquietness of

his heart.  Then he groweth weary of life, and would fain depart

and be with Christ.  By all this he is taught that in the world

there can be no perfect security or fulness of peace.


Of resisting temptation

So long as we live in the world, we canot be without trouble and

trial.  Wherefore it is written in Job, The life of man upon the

earth is a trial.(1)  And therefore ought each of us to give heed

concerning trials and temptations, and watch unto prayer, lest

the devil find occasion to deceive; for he never sleepeth, but

goeth about seeking whom he may devour.  No man is so perfect in

holiness that he hath never temptations, nor can we ever be

wholly free from them.

2. Yet, notwithstanding, temptations turn greatly unto our

profit, even though they be great and hard to bear; for through

them we are humbled, purified, and instructed.  All Saints have

passed through much tribulation and temptation, and have profited

thereby.  And they who endured not temptation became reprobate

and fell away.  There is no position so sacred, no place so

secret, that it is without temptations and adversities.

3. There is no man wholly free from temptations so long as he

liveth, because we have the root of temptation within ourselves,

in that we are born in concupiscence.  One temptation or sorrow

passeth away, and another cometh; and always we shall have

somewhat to suffer, for we have fallen from perfect happiness.

Many who seek to fly from temptations fall yet more deeply into

them.  By flight alone we cannot overcome, but by endurance and

true humility we are made stronger than all our enemies.

4. He who only resisteth outwardly and pulleth not up by the

root, shall profit little; nay, rather temptations will return to

him the more quickly, and will be the more terrible.  Little by

little, through patience and longsuffering, thou shalt conquer by

the help of God, rather than by violence and thine own strength

of will.  In the midst of temptation often seek counsel; and deal

not hardly with one who is tempted, but comfort and strengthen

him as thou wouldest have done unto thyself.

5. The beginning of all temptations to evil is instability of

temper and want of trust in God; for even as a ship without a

helm is tossed about by the waves, so is a man who is careless

and infirm of purpose tempted, now on this side, now on that.

As fire testeth iron, so doth temptation the upright man.

Oftentimes we know not what strength we have; but temptation

revealeth to us what we are.  Nevertheless, we must watch,

especially in the beginnings of temptation; for then is the foe

the more easily mastered, when he is not suffered to enter within

the mind, but is met outside the door as soon as he hath knocked.

Wherefore one saith,

   Check the beginnings; once thou might'st have cured,

   But now 'tis past thy skill, too long hath it endured.

For first cometh to the mind the simple suggestion, then the

strong imagination, afterwards pleasure, evil affection, assent.

And so little by little the enemy entereth in altogether, because

he was not resisted at the beginning.  And the longer a man

delayeth his resistance, the weaker he groweth, and the stronger

groweth the enemy against him.

6. Some men suffer their most grievous temptations in the

beginning of their conversion, some at the end.  Some are sorely

tried their whole life long.  Some there are who are tempted but

lightly, according to the wisdom and justice of the ordering of

God, who knoweth the character and circumstances of men, and

ordereth all things for the welfare of His elect.

7. Therefore we ought not to despair when we are tempted, but the

more fervently should cry unto God, that He will vouchsafe to

help us in all our tribulation; and that He will, as St. Paul

saith, with the temptation make a way to escape that we may be

able to bear it.(2)  Let us therefore humble ourselves under the

mighty hand of God in all temptation and trouble, for He will

save and exult such as are of an humble spirit.

8. In temptations and troubles a man is proved, what progress he

hath made, and therein is his reward the greater, and his virtue

doth the more appear.  Nor is it a great thing if a man be devout

and zealous so long as he suffereth no affliction; but if he

behave himself patiently in the time of adversity, then there is

hope of great progress.  Some are kept safe from great

temptations, but are overtaken in those which are little and

common, that the humiliation may teach them not to trust to

themselves in great things, being weak in small things.

(1) Job vii. I (Vulg.).   (2) I Corinthians x. 13.


On avoiding rash judgement

Look well unto thyself, and beware that thou judge not the doings

of others.  In judging others a man laboureth in vain; he often

erreth, and easily falleth into sin; but in judging and examining

himself he always laboureth to good purpose.  According as a

matter toucheth our fancy, so oftentimes do we judge of it; for

easily do we fail of true judgement because of our own personal

feeling.  If God were always the sole object of our desire, we

should the less easily be troubled by the erring judgement of our


2. But often some secret thought lurking within us, or even some

outward circumstance, turneth us aside.  Many are secretly

seeking their own ends in what they do, yet know it not.  They

seem to live in good peace of mind so long as things go well with

them, and according to their desires, but if their desires be

frustrated and broken, immediately they are shaken and

displeased.  Diversity of feelings and opinions very often brings

about dissensions between friends, between countrymen, between

religious and godly men.

3. Established custom is not easily relinquished, and no man is

very easily led to see with the eyes of another.  If thou rest

more upon thy own reason or experience than upon the power of

Jesus Christ, thy light shall come slowly and hardly; for God

willeth us to be perfectly subject unto Himself, and all our

reason to be exalted by abundant love towards Him.


Of works of charity

For no worldly good whatsoever, and for the love of no man, must

anything be done which is evil, but for the help of the suffering

a good work must sometimes be postponed, or be changed for a

better; for herein a good work is not destroyed, but improved.

Without charity no work profiteth, but whatsoever is done in

charity, however small and of no reputation it be, bringeth forth

good fruit; for God verily considereth what a man is able to do,

more than the greatness of what he doth.

2. He doth much who loveth much.  He doth much who doth well.  He

doth well who ministereth to the public good rather than his own.

Oftentimes that seemeth to be charity which is rather carnality,

because it springeth from natural inclination, self-will, hope of

repayment, desire of gain.

3. He who hath true and perfect charity, in no wise seeketh his

own good, but desireth that God alone be altogether glorified.

He envieth none, because he longeth for no selfish joy; nor doth

he desire to rejoice in himself, but longeth to be blessed in God

as the highest good.  He ascribeth good to none save to God only,

the Fountain whence all good proceedeth, and the End, the Peace,

the joy of all Saints.  Oh, he who hath but a spark of true

charity, hath verily learned that all worldly things are full of



Of bearing with the faults of others

Those things which a man cannot amend in himself or in others, he

ought patiently to bear, until God shall otherwise ordain.

Bethink thee that perhaps it is better for thy trial and

patience, without which our merits are but little worth.

Nevertheless thou oughtest, when thou findeth such impediments,

to beseech God that He would vouchsafe to sustain thee, that thou

be able to bear them with a good will.

2. If one who is once or twice admonished refuse to hearken,

strive not with him, but commit all to God, that His will may be

done and His honour shown in His servants, for He knoweth well

how to convert the evil unto good.  Endeavour to be patient in

bearing with other men's faults and infirmities whatsoever they

be, for thou thyself also hast many things which have need to be

borne with by others.  If thou canst not make thine own self what

thou desireth, how shalt thou be able to fashion another to thine

own liking.  We are ready to see others made perfect, and yet we

do not amend our own shortcomings.

3. We will that others be straitly corrected, but we will not be

corrected ourselves.  The freedom of others displeaseth us, but

we are dissatisfied that our own wishes shall be denied us.  We

desire rules to be made restraining others, but by no means will

we suffer ourselves to be restrained.  Thus therefore doth it

plainly appear how seldom we weigh our neighbour in the same

balance with ourselves. If all men were perfect, what then should

we have to suffer from others for God?

4. But now hath God thus ordained, that we may learn to bear one

another's burdens, because none is without defect, none without a

burden, none sufficient of himself, none wise enough of himself;

but it behoveth us to bear with one another, to comfort one

another, to help, instruct, admonish one another.  How much

strength each man hath is best proved by occasions of adversity;

for such occasions do not make a man frail, but show of what

temper he is.


Of a religious life

It behoveth thee to learn to mortify thyself in many things, if

thou wilt live in amity and concord with other men.  It is no

small thing to dwell in a religious community or congregation,

and to live there without complaint, and therein to remain

faithful even unto death.  Blessed is he who hath lived a good

life in such a body, and brought it to a happy end.  If thou wilt

stand fast and wilt profit as thou oughtest, hold thyself as an

exile and a pilgrim upon the earth.  Thou wilt have to be counted

as a fool for Christ, if thou wilt lead a religious life.

2. The clothing and outward appearance are of small account; it

is change of character and entire mortification of the affections

which make a truly religious man.  He who seeketh aught save God

and the health of his soul, shall find only tribulation and

sorrow.  Now can he stand long in peace, who striveth not to be

least of all and servant of all.

3. Thou art called to endure and to labour, not to a life of ease

and trifling talk.  Here therefore are men tried as gold in the

furnance.  No man can stand, unless with all his heart he will

humble himself for God's sake.


Of the example of the Holy Fathers

Consider now the lively examples of the holy fathers, in whom

shone forth real perfectness and religion, and thou shalt see how

little, even as nothing, is all that we do.  Ah! What is our life

when compared to theirs?  They, saints and friends of Christ as

they were, served the Lord in hunger and thrist, in cold and

nakedness, in labour and weariness, in watchings and fastings, in

prayer and holy meditations, in persecutions and much rebuke.

2. O how many and grievous tribulations did the Apostles,

Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins, endure; and all others who would

walk in the footsteps of Christ. For they hated their souls in

this world that they might keep them unto life eternal.  O how

strict and retired a life was that of the holy fathers who dwelt

in the desert!  what long and grievous temptations they did

suffer!  how often were they assaulted by the enemy!  what

frequent and fervid prayers did they offer unto God!  what strict

fasts did they endure!  what fervent zeal and desire after

spiritual profit did they manifest!  how bravely did they fight

that their vices might not gain the mastery!  how entirely and

steadfastly did they reach after God!  By day they laboured, and

at night they gave themselves ofttimes unto prayer; yea, even

when they were labouring they ceased not from mental prayer.

3. They spent their whole time profitably; every hour seemed

short for retirement with God; and through the great sweetness of

contemplation, even the need of bodily refreshment was forgotten.

They renounced all riches, dignities, honours, friends, kinsmen;

they desired nothing from the world; they ate the bare

necessities of life; they were unwilling to minister to the body

even in necessity.  Thus were they poor in earthly things, but

rich above measure in grace and virtue.  Though poor to the outer

eye, within they were filled with grace and heavenly


4. They were strangers to the world, but unto God they were as

kinsmen and friends.  They seemed unto themselves as of no

reputation, and in the world's eyes contemptible; but in the

sight of God they were precious and beloved.  They stood fast in

true humility, they lived in simple obedience, they walked in

love and patience; and thus they waxed strong in spirit, and

obtained great favour before God.  To all religious men they were

given as an example, and they ought more to provoke us unto good

livings than the number of the lukewarm tempteth to 

carelessness of life.

5. O how great was the love of all religious persons at the

beginning of this sacred institution!  O what devoutness of

prayer!  what rivalry in holiness!  what strict discipline was

observed!  what reverence and obedience under the rule of the

master showed they in all things!  The traces of them that remain

until now testify that they were truly holy and perfect men, who

fighting so bravely trod the world underfoot.  Now a man is

counted great if only he be not a transgressor, and if he can

only endure with patience what he hath undertaken.

6. O the coldness and negligence of our times, that we so quickly

decline from the former love, and it is become a weariness to

live, because of sloth and lukewarmness.  May progress in

holiness not wholly fall asleep in thee, who many times hast seen

so many examples of devout men!


Of the exercises of a religious man

The life of a Christian ought to be adorned with all virtues,

that he may be inwardly what he outwardly appeareth unto men.

And verily it should be yet better within than without, for God

is a discerner of our heart, Whom we must reverence with all our

hearts wheresoever we are, and walk pure in His presence as do

the angels.  We ought daily to renew our vows, and to kindle our

hearts to zeal, as if each day were the first day of our

conversion, and to say, "Help me, O God, in my good resolutions,

and in Thy holy service, and grant that this day I may make a

good beginning, for hitherto I have done nothing!"

2. According to our resolution so is the rate of our progress,

and much diligence is needful for him who would make good

progress.  For if he who resolveth bravely oftentimes falleth

short, how shall it be with him who resolveth rarely or feebly?

But manifold causes bring about abandonment of our resolution,

yet a trivial omission of holy exercises can hardly be made

without some loss to us.  The resolution of the righteous

dependeth more upon the grace of God than upon their own wisdom;

for in Him they always put their trust, whatsoever they take in

hand.  For man proposeth, but God disposeth; and the way of a

man is not in himself.(1)

3. If a holy exercise be sometimes omitted for the sake of some

act of piety, or of some brotherly kindnesss, it can easily be

taken up afterwards; but if it be neglected through distaste or

slothfulness, then is it sinful, and the mischief will be felt.

Strive as earnestly as we may, we shall still fall short in many

things.  Always should some distinct resolution be made by us;

and, most of all, we must strive against those sins which most

easily beset us.  Both our outer and inner life should be

straitly examined and ruled by us, because both have to do with

our progress.

4. If thou canst not be always examining thyself, thou canst at

certain seasons, and at least twice in the day, at evening and at

morning.  In the morning make thy resolves, and in the evening

inquire into thy life, how thou hast sped to-day in word, deed,

and thought; for in these ways thou hast often perchance offended

God and thy neighbour.  Gird up thy lions like a man against the

assaults of the devil; bridle thine appetite, and thou wilt soon

be able to bridle every inclination of the flesh.  Be thou never

without something to do; be reading, or writing, or praying, or

meditating, or doing something that is useful to the community.

Bodily exercises, however, must be undertaken with discretion,

nor are they to be used by all alike.

5. The duties which are not common to all must not be done

openly, but are safest carried on in secret.  But take heed that

thou be not careless in the common duties, and more devout in the

secret; but faithfully and honestly discharge the duties and

commands which lie upon thee, then afterwards, if thou hast still

leisure, give thyself to thyself as thy devotion leadeth thee.

All cannot have one exercise, but one suiteth better to this man,

and another to that.  Even for the diversity of season different

exercises are needed, some suit better for feasts, some for

fasts.  We need one kind in time of temptations, and others in

time of peace and quietness. Some are suitable to our times of

sadness, and others when we are joyful in the Lord.

6. When we draw near the time of the great feasts, good exercises

should be renewed, and the prayers of holy men more fervently

besought.  We ought to make our resolutions from one Feast to

another, as if each were the period of our departure from this

world, and of entering into the eternal feast.  So ought we to

prepare ourselves earnestly at solemn seasons, and the more

solemnly to live, and to keep straightest watch upon each holy

observance, as though we were soon to receive the reward of our

labours at the hand of God.

7. And if this be deferred, let us believe ourselves to be as yet

ill-prepared, and unworthy as yet of the glory which shall be

revealed in us at the appointed season; and let us study to

prepare ourselves the better for our end.  Blessed is that

servant, as the Evangelist Luke hath it, whom, when the Lord

cometh He shall find watching.  Verily I say unto you He will

make him ruler over all that He hath.(2)

(1) Jeremiah x. 23.   (2) Luke xii. 43, 44.


Of the love of solitude and silence

Seek a suitable time for thy meditation, and think frequently of

the mercies of God to thee.  Leave curious questions.  Study such

matters as bring thee sorrow for sin rather than amusement.  If

thou withdraw thyself from trifling conversation and idle goings

about, as well as from novelties and gossip, thou shalt find thy

time sufficient and apt for good meditation.  The greatest saints

used to avoid as far as they could the company of men, and chose

to live in secret with God.

2. One hath said, "As oft as I have gone among men, so oft have I

returned less a man."  This is what we often experience when we

have been long time in conversation.  For it is easier to be

altogether silent than it is not to exceed in word.  It is easier

to remain hidden at home than to keep sufficient guard upon

thyself out of doors.  He, therefore, that seeketh to reach that

which is hidden and spiritual, must go with Jesus "apart from the

multitude."  No man safely goeth abroad who loveth not to rest at

home.  No man safely talketh but he who loveth to hold his peace.

No man safely ruleth but he who loveth to be subject.  No man

safely commandeth but he who loveth to obey.

3. No man safely rejoiceth but he who hath the testimony of a

good conscience within himself.  The boldness of the Saints was

always full of the fear of God.  Nor were they the less earnest

and humble in themselves, because they shone forth with great

virtues and grace.  But the boldness of wicked men springeth from

pride and presumption, and at the last turneth to their own

confusion.  Never promise thyself security in this life,

howsoever good a monk or devout a solitary thou seemest.

4. Often those who stand highest in the esteem of men, fall the

more grievously because of their over great confidence.

Wherefore it is very profitable unto many that they should not be

without inward temptation, but should be frequently assaulted,

lest they be over confident, lest they be indeed lifted up into

pride, or else lean too freely upon the consolations of the

world.  O how good a conscience should that man keep, who never

sought a joy that passeth away, who never became entangled with

the world!  O how great peace and quiet should he possess, who

would cast off all vain care, and think only of healthful and

divine things, and build his whole hope upon God!

5. No man is worthy of heavenly consolation but he who hath

diligently exercised himself in holy compunction.  If thou wilt

feel compunction within thy heart, enter into thy chamber and

shut out the tumults of the world, as it is written, Commune with

your own heart in your own chamber and be still.(1)  In

retirement thou shalt find what often thou wilt lose abroad.

Retirement, if thou continue therein, groweth sweet, but if thou

keep not in it, begetteth weariness.  If in the beginning of thy

conversion thou dwell in it and keep it well, it shall afterwards

be to thee a dear friend, and a most pleasant solace.

6. In silence and quiet the devout soul goeth forward and

learneth the hidden things of the Scriptures.  Therein findeth

she a fountain of tears, wherein to wash and cleanse herself each

night, that she may grow the more dear to her Maker as she

dwelleth the further from all worldly distraction.  To him who

withdraweth himself from his acquaintance and friends God with

his holy angels will draw nigh.  It is better to be unknown and

take heed to oneself than to neglect oneself and work wonders.

It is praiseworthy for a religious man to go seldom abroad, to

fly from being seen, to have no desire to see men.

7. Why wouldest thou see what thou mayest not have?  The world

passeth away and the lust thereof.  The desires of sensuality

draw thee abroad, but when an hour is past, what does thou bring

home, but a weight upon thy conscience and distraction of heart?

A merry going forth bringeth often a sorrowful return, and a

merry evening maketh a sad morning?  So doth all carnal joy

begin pleasantly, but in the end it gnaweth away and destroyeth.

What canst thou see abroad which thou seest not at home?  Behold

the heaven and the earth and the elements, for out of these are

all things made.

8. What canst thou see anywhere which can continue long under the

sun?  Thou believest perchance thou shalt be satisfied, but thou

wilt never be able to attain unto this.  If thou shouldest see

all things before thee at once, what would it be but a vain

vision?  Lift up thine eyes to God on high, and pray that thy

sins and negligences may be forgiven.  Leave vain things to vain

men, and mind thou the things which God hath commanded thee.

Shut thy door upon thee, and call unto thyself Jesus thy beloved.

Remain with Him in thy chamber, for thou shalt not elsewhere find

so great peace.  If thou hadst not gone forth nor listened to

vain talk, thou hadst better kept thyself in good peace.  But

because it sometimes delighteth thee to hear new things, thou

must therefore suffer trouble of heart.

(1) Psalm iv. 4.


Of compunction of heart

If thou wilt make any progress keep thyself in the fear of God,

and long not to be too free, but restrain all thy senses under

discipline and give not thyself up to senseless mirth.  Give

thyself to compunction of heart and thou shalt find devotion.

Compunction openeth the way for many good things, which

dissoluteness is wont quickly to lose.  It is wonderful that any

man can ever rejoice heartily in this life who considereth and

weigheth his banishment, and the manifold dangers which beset his


2. Through lightness of heart and neglect of our shortcomings we

feel not the sorrows of our soul, but often vainly laugh when we

have good cause to weep.  There is no true liberty nor real joy,

save in the fear of God with a good conscience.  Happy is he who

can cast away every cause of distraction and bring himself to the

one purpose of holy compunction.  Happy is he who putteth away

from him whatsoever may stain or burden his conscience.  Strive

manfully; custom is overcome by custom.  If thou knowest how to

let men alone, they will gladly let thee alone to do thine own


3. Busy not thyself with the affairs of others, nor entangle

thyself with the business of great men.  Keep always thine eye

upon thyself first of all, and give advice to thyself specially

before all thy dearest friends.  If thou hast not the favour of

men, be not thereby cast down, but let thy concern be that thou

holdest not thyself so well and circumspectly, as becometh a

servant of God and a devout monk.  It is often better and safer

for a man not to have many comforts in this life, especially

those which concern the flesh.  But that we lack divine comforts

or feel them rarely is to our own blame, because we seek not

compunction of heart, not utterly cast away those comforts which

are vain and worldly.

4. Know thyself to be unworthy of divine consolation, and worthy

rather of much tribulation.  When a man hath perfect compunction,

then all the world is burdensome and bitter to him.  A good man

will find sufficient cause for mourning and weeping; for whether

he considereth himself, or pondereth concerning his neighbour, he

knoweth that no man liveth here without tribulation, and the more

throughly he considereth himself, the more throughly he grieveth.

Grounds for just grief and inward compunction there are in our

sins and vices, wherein we lie so entangled that we are but

seldom able to contemplate heavenly things.

5. If thou thoughtest upon thy death more often than how long thy

life should be, thou wouldest doubtless strive more earnestly to

improve.  And if thou didst seriously consider the future pains

of hell, I believe thou wouldest willingly endure toil or pain

and fear not discipline.  But because these things reach not the

heart, and we still love pleasant things, therefore we remain

cold and miserably indifferent.

6. Oftentimes it is from poverty of spirit that the wretched body

is so easily led to complain.  Pray therefore humbly unto the

Lord that He will give thee the spirit of compunction and say in

the language of the prophet, Feed me, O Lord, with bread of

tears, and give me plenteousness of tears to drink.(1)

(1) Psalm lxxv. 5.


On the contemplation of human misery

Thou art miserable wheresoever thou art, and whithersoever thou

turnest, unless thou turn thee to God.  Why art thou disquieted

because it happeneth not to thee according to thy wishes and

desires?  Who is he that hath everything according to his will?

Neither I, nor thou, nor any man upon the earth.  There is no man

in the world free from trouble or anguish, though he were King or

Pope.  Who is he who hath the happiest lot?  Even he who is

strong to suffer somewhat for God.

2. There are many foolish and unstable men who say, "See what a

prosperous life that man hath, how rich and how great he is, how

powerful, how exalted."  But lift up thine eyes to the good

things of heaven, and thou shalt see that all these worldly

things are nothing, they are utterly uncertain, yea, they are

wearisome, because they are never possessed without care and

fear.  The happiness of man lieth not in the abundance of

temporal things but a moderate portion sufficeth him.  Our life

upon the earth is verily wretchedness.  The more a man desireth

to be spiritual, the more bitter doth the present life become to

him; because he the better understandeth and seeth the defects of

human corruption.  For to eat, to drink, to watch, to sleep, to

rest, to labour, and to be subject to the other necessities of

nature, is truly a great wretchedness and affliction to a devout

man, who would fain be released and free from all sin.

3. For the inner man is heavily burdened with the necessities of

the body in this world.  Wherefore the prophet devoutly prayeth

to be freed from them, saying, Deliver me from my necessities, O

Lord.(1)  But woe to those who know not their own misery, and yet

greater woe to those who love this miserable and corruptible

life.  For to such a degree do some cling to it (even though by

labouring or begging they scarce procure what is necessary for

subsistence) that if they might live here always, they would care

nothing for the Kingdom of God.

4. Oh foolish and faithless of heart, who lie buried so deep in

worldly things, that they relish nothing save the things of the

flesh!  Miserable ones!  they will too sadly find out at the

last, how vile and worthless was that which they loved.  The

saints of God and all loyal friends of Christ held as nothing the

things which pleased the flesh, or those which flourished in

this life, but their whole hope and affection aspired to the

things which are above.  Their whole desire was borne upwards to

everlasting and invisible things, lest they should be drawn

downwards by the love of things visible.

5. Lose not, brother, thy loyal desire of progress to things

spiritual.  There is yet time, the hour is not past.  Why wilt

thou put off thy resolution?  Arise, begin this very moment, and

say, "Now is the time to do: now is the time to fight, now is the

proper time for amendment."  When thou art ill at ease and

troubled, then is the time when thou art nearest unto blessing.

Thou must go through fire and water that God may bring thee into

a wealthy place.  Unless thou put force upon thyself, thou wilt

not conquer thy faults.  So long as we carry about with us this

frail body, we cannot be without sin, we cannot live without

weariness and trouble.  Gladly would we have rest from all

misery; but because through sin we have lost innocence, we have

lost also the true happiness.  Therefore must we be patient, and

wait for the mercy of God, until this tyranny be overpast,

and this mortality be swallowed up of life.

6. O how great is the frailty of man, which is ever prone to

evil!  To-day thou confessest thy sins, and to-morrow thou

committest again the sins thou didst confess.  Now dost thou

resolve to avoid a fault, and within an hour thou behavest

thyself as if thou hadst never resolved at all.  Good cause have

we therefore to humble ourselves, and never to think highly of

ourselves, seeing that we are so frail and unstable.  And quickly

may that be lost by our negligence, which by much labour was

hardly attained through grace.

7. What shall become of us at the end, if at the beginning we are

lukewarm and idle?  Woe unto us, if we choose to rest, as though

it were a time of peace and security, while as yet no sign

appeareth in our life of true holiness.  Rather had we need that

we might begin yet afresh, like good novices, to be instructed

unto good living, if haply there might be hope of some future

amendment and greater spiritual increase.

(1) Psalm xxv. 17.


Very quickly will there be an end of thee here; take heed

therefore how it will be with thee in another world.  Today man

is, and to-morrow he will be seen no more.  And being removed out

of sight, quickly also he is out of mind.  O the dulness and

hardness of man's heart, which thinketh only of the present, and

looketh not forward to the future.  Thou oughtest in every deed

and thought so to order thyself, as if thou wert to die this day.

If thou hadst a good conscience thou wouldst not greatly fear

death.  It were better for thee to watch against sin, than to fly

from death.  If to-day thou art not ready, how shalt thou be

ready to-morrow?  To-morrow is an uncertain day; and how knowest

thou that thou shalt have a to-morrow?

2. What doth it profit to live long, when we amend so little?

Ah!  long life doth not always amend, but often the more

increaseth guilt.  Oh that we might spend a single day in this

world as it ought to be spent!  Many there are who reckon the

years since they were converted, and yet oftentimes how little is

the fruit thereof.  If it is a fearful thing to die, it may be

perchance a yet more fearful thing to live long.  Happy is the

man who hath the hour of his death always before his eyes, and

daily prepareth himself to die.  If thou hast ever seen one die,

consider that thou also shalt pass away by the same road.

3. When it is morning reflect that it may be thou shalt not see

the evening, and at eventide dare not to boast thyself of the

morrow.  Always be thou prepared, and so live that death may

never find thee unprepared.  Many die suddenly and unexpectedly.

For at such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.(1)

When that last hour shall come, thou wilt begin to think very

differently of thy whole life past, and wilt mourn bitterly that

thou hast been so negligent and slothful.

4. Happy and wise is he who now striveth to be such in life as he

would fain be found in death!  For a perfect contempt of the

world, a fervent desire to excel in virtue, the love of

discipline, the painfulness of repentance, readiness to obey,

denial of self, submission to any adversity for love of Christ;

these are the things which shall give great confidence of a happy

death.  Whilst thou art in health thou hast many opportunities of

good works; but when thou are in sickness I know not how much

thou wilt be able to do.  Few are made better by infirmity: even

as they who wander much abroad seldom become holy.

5. Trust not thy friends and kinsfolk, nor put off the work of

thy salvation to the future, for men will forget thee sooner than

thou thinkest.  It is better for thee now to provide in time, and

to send some good before thee, than to trust to the help of

others.  If thou art not anxious for thyself now, who, thinkest

thou, will be anxious for thee afterwards?  Now the time is most

precious.  Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.

But alas!  that thou spendest not well this time, wherein thou

mightest lay up treasure which should profit thee everlastingly.

The hour will come when thou shalt desire one day, yea, one hour,

for amendment of life, and I know not whether thou shalt obtain.

6. Oh, dearly beloved, from what danger thou mightest free

thyself, from what great fear, if only thou wouldst always live

in fear, and in expectation of death!  Strive now to live in such

wise that in the hour of death thou mayest rather rejoice than

fear.  Learn now to die to the world, so shalt thou begin to live

with Christ.  Learn now to contemn all earthly things, and then

mayest thou freely go unto Christ.  Keep under thy body by

penitence, and then shalt thou be able to have a sure confidence.

7. Ah, foolish one!  why thinkest thou that thou shalt live long,

when thou art not sure of a single day?  How many have been

deceived, and suddenly have been snatched away from the body!

How many times hast thou heard how one was slain by the sword,

another was drowned, another falling from on high broke his neck,

another died at the table, another whilst at play! One died by

fire, another by the sword, another by the pestilence, another by

the robber.  Thus cometh death to all, and the life of men

swiftly passeth away like a shadow.

8. Who will remember thee after thy death?  And who will entreat

for thee?  Work, work now, oh dearly beloved, work all that thou

canst.  For thou knowest not when thou shalt die, not what shall

happen unto thee after death.  While thou hast time, lay up for

thyself undying riches.  Think of nought but of thy salvation;

care only for the things of God.  Make to thyself friends, by

venerating the saints of God and walking in their steps, that

when thou failest, thou mayest be received into everlasting


9. Keep thyself as a stranger and a pilgrim upon the earth, to

whom the things of the world appertain not.  Keep thine heart

free, and lifted up towards God, for here have we no continuing

city.(3)  To Him direct thy daily prayers with crying and tears,

that thy spirit may be found worthy to pass happily after death

unto its Lord.  Amen.

(1) Matthew xxiv. 44.   (2) Luke xvi. 9.   (3) Hebrews xiii. 14.


Of the judgment and punishment of the wicked

In all that thou doest, remember the end, and how thou wilt stand

before a strict judge, from whom nothing is hid, who is not

bribed with gifts, nor accepteth excuses, but will judge

righteous judgment.  O most miserable and foolish sinner, who art

sometimes in fear of the countenance of an angry man, what wilt

thou answer to God, who knoweth all thy misdeeds?  Why dost thou

not provide for thyself against the day of judgment, when no man

shall be able to be excused or defended by means of another, but

each one shall bear his burden himself alone?  Now doth thy

labour bring forth fruit, now is thy weeping acceptable, thy

groaning heard, thy sorrow well pleasing to God, and cleansing to

thy soul.

2. Even here on earth the patient man findeth great occasion for

purifying his soul.  When suffering injuries he grieveth more for

the other's malice than for his own wrong; when he prayeth

heartily for those that despitefully use him, and forgiveth them

from his heart; when he is not slow to ask pardon from others;

when he is swifter to pity than to anger; when he frequently

denieth himself and striveth altogether to subdue the flesh to

the spirit.  Better is it now to purify the soul from sin, than

to cling to sins from which we must be purged hereafter.  Truly

we deceive ourselves by the inordinate love which we bear towards

the flesh.

3. What is it which that fire shall devour, save thy sins?  The

more thou sparest thyself and followest the flesh, the more heavy

shall thy punishment be, and the more fuel art thou heaping up

for the burning.  For wherein a man hath sinned, therein shall he

be the more heavily punished.  There shall the slothful be

pricked forward with burning goads, and the gluttons be tormented

with intolerable hunger and thrist.  There shall the luxurious

and the lovers of pleasure be plunged into burning pitch and

stinking brimstone, and the envious shall howl like mad dogs for

very grief.

4. No sin will there be which shall not be visited with its own

proper punishment. The proud shall be filled with utter

confusion, and the covetous shall be pinched with miserable

poverty.  An hour's pain there shall be more grievous than a

hundred years here of the bitterest penitence.  No quiet shall be

there, no comfort for the lost, though here sometimes there is

respite from pain, and enjoyment of the solace of friends.  Be

thou anxious now and sorrowful for thy sins, that in the day of

judgment thou mayest have boldness with the blessed.  For then

shall the righteous man stand in great boldness before the face

of such as have afflicted him and made no account of his

labours.(1)  Then shall he stand up to judge, he who now

submitteth himself in humility to the judgments of men.  Then

shall the poor and humble man have great confidence, while the

proud is taken with fear on every side.

5. Then shall it be seen that he was the wise man in this world

who learned to be a fool and despised for Christ.  Then shall all

tribulation patiently borne delight us, while the mouth of the

ungodly shall be stopped.  Then shall every godly man rejoice,

and every profane man shall mourn.  Then the afflicted flesh

shall more rejoice than if it had been always nourished in

delights.  Then the humble garment shall put on beauty, and the

precious robe shall hide itself as vile.  Then the little poor

cottage shall be more commended than the gilded palace.  Then

enduring patience shall have more might than all the power of the

world.  Then simple obedience shall be more highly exalted than

all worldly wisdom.

6. Then a pure and good conscience shall more rejoice than

learned philosophy.  Then contempt of riches shall have more

weight than all the treasure of the children of this world.  Then

shalt thou find more comfort in having prayed devoutly than in

having fared sumptuously.  Then thou wilt rather rejoice in

having kept silence than in having made long speech.  Then holy

deeds shall be far stronger than many fine words.  Then a strict

life and sincere penitence shall bring deeper pleasure than all

earthly delight.  Learn now to suffer a little, that then thou

mayest be enabled to escape heavier sufferings.  Prove first

here, what thou art able to endure hereafter.  If now thou art

able to bear so little, how wilt thou be able to endure eternal

torments?  If now a little suffering maketh thee so impatient,

what shall hell-fire do then? Behold of a surety thou art not

able to have two Paradises, to take thy fill or delight here in

this world, and to reign with Christ hereafter.

7. If even unto this day thou hadst ever lived in honours and

pleasures, what would the whole profit thee if now death came to

thee in an instant?  All therefore is vanity, save to love God

and to serve Him only.  For he who loveth God with all his heart

feareth not death, nor punishment, nor judgment, nor hell,

because perfect love giveth sure access to God.  But he who still

delighteth in sin, no marvel if he is afraid of death and

judgment.  Nevertheless it is a good thing, if love as yet cannot

restrain thee from evil, that at least the fear of hell should

hold thee back.  But he who putteth aside the fear of God cannot

long continue in good, but shall quickly fall into the snares of

the devil.


Of the zealous amendment of our whole life

Be thou watchful and diligent in God's service, and bethink thee

often why thou hast renounced the world.  Was it not that thou

mightest live to God and become a spirtual man?  Be zealous,

therefore, for thy spiritual profit, for thou shalt receive

shortly the reward of thy labours, and neither fear nor sorrow

shall come any more into thy borders.  Now shalt thou labour a

little, and thou shalt find great rest, yea everlasting joy.  If

thou shalt remain faithful and zealous in labour, doubt not that

God shall be faithful and bountiful in rewarding thee.  It is thy

duty to have a good hope that thou wilt attain the victory, but

thou must not fall into security lest thou become slothful or

lifted up.

2. A certain man being in anxiety of mind, continually tossed

about between hope and fear, and being on a certain day

overwhelmed with grief, cast himself down in prayer before the

altar in church, and meditated within himself, saying, "Oh! if I

but knew that I should still persevere," and presently heard

within him a voice from God, "And if thou didst know it, what

wouldst thou do?  Do now what thou wouldst do then, and thou

shalt be very secure."  And straightway being comforted and

strengthened, he committed himself to the will of God and the

perturbation of spirit ceased, neither had he a mind any more to

search curiously to know what should befall him hereafter, but

studied rather to inquire what was the good and acceptable will

of God, for the beginning and perfecting of every good work.

3. Hope in the Lord and be doing good, saith the Prophet; dwell

in the land and thou shalt be fed(1) with its riches.  One thing

there is which holdeth back many from progress and fervent

amendment, even the dread of difficulty, or the labour of the

conflict.  Nevertheless they advance above all others in virtue

who strive manfully to conquer those things which are most

grievous and contrary to them, for there a man profiteth most and

meriteth greater grace where he most overcometh himself and

mortifieth himself in spirit.

4. But all men have not the same passions to conquer and to

mortify, yet he who is diligent shall attain more profit,

although he have stronger passions, than another who is more

temperate of disposition, but is withal less fervent in the

pursuit of virtue.  Two things specifically avail unto

improvement in holiness, namely firmness to withdraw ourselves

from the sin to which by nature we are most inclined, and earnest

zeal for that good in that which we are most lacking.  And strive

also very earnestly to guard against and subdue those faults

which displease thee most frequently in others.

5. Gather some profit to thy soul wherever thou art, and wherever

thou seest or hearest good examples, stir thyself to follow them,

but where thou seest anything which is blameworthy, take heed

that thou do not the same; or if at any time thou hast done it,

strive quickly to amend thyself.  As thine eye observeth others,

so again are the eyes of others upon thee.  How sweet and

pleasant is it to see zealous and godly brethren temperate and of

good discipline; and how sad it is to see them walking

disorderly, not practising the duties to which they are called.

How hurtful a thing it is to neglect the purpose of their

calling, and turn their inclinations to things which are none of

their business.

6. Be mindful of the duties which thou hast undertaken, and set

always before thee the remembrance of the Crucified.  Truly

oughtest thou to be ashamed as thou lookest upon the life of

Jesus Christ, because thou hast not yet endeavoured to conform

thyself more unto Him, though thou hast been a long time in the

way of God.  A religious man who exercises himself seriously and

devoutly in the most holy life and passion of our Lord shall find

there abundantly all things that are profitable and necessary for

him, neither is there need that he shall seek anything better

beyond Jesus.  Oh! if Jesus crucified would come into our hearts,

how quickly, and completely should we have learned all that we

need to know!

7. He who is earnest receiveth and beareth well all things that

are laid upon him.  He who is careless and lukewarm hath trouble

upon trouble, and suffereth anguish upon every side, because he

is without inward consolation, and is forbidden to seek that

which is outward.  He who is living without discipline is exposed

to grievous ruin.  He who seeketh easier and lighter discipline

shall always be in distress, because one thing or another gives

him displeasure.

8. O! if no other duty lay upon us but to praise the Lord our God

with our whole heart and voice!  Oh! if thou never hadst need to

eat or drink, or sleep, but wert always able to praise God, and

to give thyself to spiritual exercises alone; then shouldest thou

be far happier than now, when for so many necessities thou must

serve the flesh.  O! that these necessities were not, but only

the spiritual refreshment of the soul, which alas we taste too


9. When a man hath come to this, that he seeketh comfort from no

created thing, then doth he perfectly begin to enjoy God, then

also will he be well contented with whatsoever shall happen unto

him.  Then will he neither rejoice for much nor be sorrowful for

little, but he committeth himself altogether and with full trust

unto God, who is all in all to him, to whom nothing perisheth nor

dieth, but all things live to Him and obey His every word

without delay.

10. Remember always thine end, and how the time which is lost

returneth not.  Without care and diligence thou shalt never get

virtue.  If thou beginnest to grow cold, it shall begin to go ill

with thee, but if thou givest thyself unto zeal thou shalt find

much peace, and shalt find thy labour the lighter because of the

grace of God and the love of virtue.  A zealous and diligent

man is ready for all things.  It is greater labour to resist sins

and passions than to toil in bodily labours.  He who shunneth not

small faults falleth little by little into greater.  At eventide

thou shalt always be glad if thou spend the day profitably.

Watch over thyself, stir thyself up, admonish thyself, and

howsoever it be with others, neglect not thyself. The more

violence thou dost unto thyself, the more thou shall profit.


(1) Psalm xxxvii. 3.

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