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The Crucifixion, by Lucas Cranach (the Elder) (15th c.) [Public Domain Image]
The Crucifixion, by Lucas Cranach (the Elder) (15th c.) [Public Domain Image]

The Imitation of Christ

by Thomas a Kempis

tr. by William Benham


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The 15th century treatise Of the Imitation of Christ is one of the most popular Christian books of all time. Although its authorship was disputed for a long time, it is generally now regarded as the product of Thomas a Kempis. The work is a manual of devotion assisting the soul in its pursuit of holiness and communion with God. Written as it was for the monastic life, it presents a high standard for spiritual life, and an ideal for devout Christians to aspire to. --J.B. Hare

Title Page
Introductory Note

First Book

Chapter I. Of the Imitation of Christ, and of Contempt of the World and All Its Vanities
Chapter II. Of Thinking Humbly of Oneself
Chapter III. Of the Knowledge of Truth
Chapter IV. Of Prudence in Action
Chapter V. Of the Reading of Holy Scriptures
Chapter VI. Of Inordinate Affections
Chapter VII. Of Fleeing From Vain Hope And Pride
Chapter VIII. Of The Danger Of Too Much Familiarity
Chapter IX. Of Obedience And Subjection
Chapter X. Of The Danger Of Superfluity Of Words
Chapter XI. Of Seeking Peace Of Mind And Of Spiritual Progress
Chapter XII. Of The Uses Of Adversity
Chapter XIII. Of Resisting Temptation
Chapter XIV. On Avoiding Rash Judgment
Chapter XV. Of Works Of Charity
Chapter XVI. Of Bearing With The Faults Of Others
Chapter XVII. Of A Religious Life
Chapter XVIII. Of The Example Of The Holy Fathers
Chapter XIX. Of The Exercises Of A Religious Man
Chapter XX. Of The Love Of Solitude And Silence
Chapter XXI. Of Compunction Of Heart
Chapter XXII. On The Contemplation Of Human Misery
Chapter XXIII. Of Meditation Upon Death
Chapter XXIV. Of The Judgment And Punishment Of The Wicked
Chapter XXV. Of The Zealous Amendment Of Our Whole Life

Second Book

Chapter I. Of The Inward Life
Chapter II. Of Lowly Submission
Chapter III. Of The Good, Peaceable Man
Chapter IV. Of A Pure Mind And Simple Intention
Chapter V. Of Self-Esteem
Chapter VI. Of The Joy Of A Good Conscience
Chapter VII. Of Loving Jesus Above All Things
Chapter VIII. Of The Intimate Love Of Jesus
Chapter IX. Of The Lack Of All Comfort
Chapter X. Of Gratitude For The Grace Of God
Chapter XI. Of The Fewness Of Those Who Love The Cross Of Jesus
Chapter XII. Of The Royal Way Of The Holy Cross

Third Book

Chapter I. Of The Inward Voice Of Christ To The Faithful Soul
Chapter II. What The Truth Saith Inwardly Without Noise Of Words
Chapter III. How All The Words Of God Are To Be Heard With Humility, And How Many Consider Them Not
Chapter IV. How We Must Walk In Truth And Humility Before God
Chapter V. Of The Wonderful Power Of The Divine Love
Chapter VI. Of The Proving Of The True Lover
Chapter VII. Of Hiding Our Grace Under The Guard Of Humility
Chapter VIII. Of A Low Estimation Of Self In The Sight Of God
Chapter IX. That All Things Are To Be Referred To God, As The Final End
Chapter X. That It Is Sweet To Despise The World And To Serve God
Chapter XI. That The Desires Of The Heart Are To Be Examined And Governed
Chapter XII. Of The Inward Growth Of Patience, And Of The Struggle Against Evil Desires
Chapter XIII. Of The Obedience Of One In Lowly Subjection After The Example Of Jesus Christ
Chapter XIV. Of Meditation Upon The Hidden Judgments Of God, That We May Not Be Lifted Up Because Of Our Well-Doing
Chapter XV. How We Must Stand And Speak, In Everything That We Desire
Chapter XVI. That True Solace Is To Be Sought In God Alone
Chapter XVII. That All Care Is To Be Cast Upon God
Chapter XVIII. That Temporal Miseries Are To Be Borne Patiently After The Example Of Christ
Chapter XIX. Of Bearing Injuries, And Who Shall Be Approved As Truly Patient
Chapter XX. Of Confession Of Our Infirmity And Of The Miseries Of This Life
Chapter XXI. That We Must Rest In God Above All Goods And Gifts
Chapter XXII. Of The Recollection Of God's Manifold Benefits
Chapter XXIII. Of Four Things Which Bring Great Peace
Chapter XXIV. Of Avoiding Of Curious Inquiry Into The Life Of Another
Chapter XXV. Wherein Firm Peace Of Heart And True Profit Consist
Chapter XXVI. Of The Exaltation Of A Free Spirit, Which Humble Prayer More Deserveth Than Doth Frequent Reading
Chapter XXVII. That Personal Love Greatly Hindereth From The Highest Good
Chapter XXVIII. Against The Tongues Of Detractors
Chapter XXIX. How When Tribulation Cometh We Must Call Upon And Bless God
Chapter XXX. Of Seeking Divine Help, And The Confidence Of Obtaining Grace
Chapter XXXI. Of The Neglect Of Every Creature, That The Creator May Be Found
Chapter XXXII. Of Self-Denial And The Casting Away All Selfishness
Chapter XXXIII. Of Instability Of The Heart, And Of Directing The Aim Towards God
Chapter XXXIV. That To Him Who Loveth God Is Sweet Above All Things And In All Things
Chapter XXXV. That There Is No Security Against Temptation In This Life
Chapter XXXVI. Against Vain Judgments Of Men
Chapter XXXVII. Of Pure And Entire Resignation Of Self, For The Obtaining Liberty Of Heart
Chapter XXXVIII. Of A Good Government In External Things, And Of Having Recourse To God In Dangers
Chapter XXXIX. That Man Must Not Be Immersed In Business
Chapter XL. That Man Hath No Good In Himself, And Nothing Whereof To Glory
Chapter XLI. Of Contempt Of All Temporal Honour
Chapter XLII. That Our Peace Is Not To Be Placed In Men
Chapter XLIII. Against Vain And Worldly Knowledge
Chapter XLIV. Of Not Troubling Ourselves About Outward Things
Chapter XLV. That We Must Not Believe Everyone, And That We Are Prone To Fall In Our Words
Chapter XLVI. Of Having Confidence In God When Evil Words Are Cast At Us
Chapter XLVII. That All Troubles Are To Be Endured For The Sake Of Eternal Life
Chapter XLVIII. Of The Day Of Eternity And Of The Straitnesses Of This Life
Chapter XLIX. Of The Desire After Eternal Life, And How Great Blessings Are Promised To Those Who Strive
Chapter L. How A Desolate Man Ought To Commit Himself Into The Hands Of God
Chapter LI. That We Must Give Ourselves To Humble Works When We Are Unequal To Those That Are Lofty
Chapter LII. That A Man Ought Not To Reckon Himself Worthy Of Consolation, But More Worthy Of Chastisement
Chapter LIII. That The Grace Of God Doth Not Join Itself To Those Who Mind Earthly Things
Chapter LIV. Of The Diverse Motions Of Nature And Of Grace
Chapter LV. Of The Corruption Of Nature And The Efficacy Of Divine Grace
Chapter LVI. That We Ought To Deny Ourselves, And To Imitate Christ By Means Of The Cross
Chapter LVII. That A Man Must Not Be Too Much Cast Down When He Falleth Into Some Faults
Chapter LVIII. Of Deeper Matters, And God's Hidden Judgments Which Are Not To Be Inquired Into
Chapter LIX. That All Hope And Trust Is To Be Fixed In God Alone

Fourth Book

A Devout Exhortation To The Holy Communion
Chapter I. With How Great Reverence Christ Must Be Received
Chapter II. That The Greatness And Charity Of God Is Shown To Men In The Sacrament
Chapter III. That It Is Profitable To Communicate Often
Chapter IV. That Many Good Gifts Are Bestowed Upon Those Who Communicate Devoutly
Chapter V. Of The Dignity Of This Sacrament, And Of The Office Of The Priest
Chapter VI. An Inquiry Concerning Preparation For Communion
Chapter VII. Of The Examination Of Conscience, And Purpose Of Amendment
Chapter VIII. Of The Oblation Of Christ Upon The Cross, And Of Resignation Of Self
Chapter IX. That We Ought To Offer Ourselves And All That Is Ours To God, And To Pray For All
Chapter X. That Holy Communion Is Not Lightly To Be Omitted
Chapter XI. That The Body And Blood Of Christ And The Holy Scriptures Are Most Necessary To A Faithful Soul
Chapter XII. That He Who Is About To Communicate With Christ Ought To Prepare Himself With Great Diligence
Chapter XIII. That The Devout Soul Ought With The Whole Heart To Yearn After Union With Christ In The Sacrament
Chapter XIV. Of The Fervent Desire Of Certain Devout Persons To Receive The Body And Blood Of Christ
Chapter XV. That The Grace Of Devotion Is Acquired By Humility And Self-Denial
Chapter XVI. That We Ought To Lay Open Our Necessities To Christ And To Require His Grace
Chapter XVII. Of Fervent Love And Vehement Desire Of Receiving Christ
Chapter XVIII. That A Man Should Not Be A Curious Searcher Of The Sacrament, But A Humble Imitator Of Christ, Submitting His Sense To Holy Faith