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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Of the Desire of Eternal Life
By Thomas à Kempis (1380–1471)
 
And How Great are the Benefits Promised to them that Fight

From the ‘Imitation of Christ

1. SON, when thou perceivest the desire of eternal bliss to be infused into thee from above, and thou wouldst fain go out of the tabernacle of this body, that thou mightest contemplate My brightness without any shadow of change,—enlarge thy heart, and receive this holy inspiration with thy whole desire.  1
  Return the greatest thanks to the Supreme Goodness, which dealeth so condescendingly with thee, mercifully visiteth thee, ardently inciteth thee, and powerfully raiseth thee up, lest by thy own weight thou fall down to the things of earth.  2
  For it is not by thy own thoughtfulness or endeavor that thou receivest this, but by the mere condescension of heavenly grace and Divine regard; that so thou mayest advance in virtues and greater humility, and prepare thyself for future conflicts, and labor with the whole affection of thy heart to keep close to Me, and serve Me with a fervent will.  3
  2. Son, the fire often burneth, but the flame ascendeth not without smoke.  4
  And so the desires of some are on fire after heavenly things, and yet they are not free from the temptation of carnal affection.  5
  Therefore is it not altogether purely for God’s honor that they act, when they so earnestly petition Him.  6
  Such also is oftentimes thy desire, which thou hast professed to be so importunate.  7
  For that is not pure and perfect which is alloyed with self-interest.  8
  3. Ask not that which is pleasant and convenient, but that which is acceptable to Me and for My honor; for if thou judgest rightly, thou oughtest to prefer and to follow My appointment rather than thine own desire or any other desirable thing.  9
  I know thy desire, and I have often heard thy groanings.  10
  Thou wouldst wish to be already in the liberty of the glory of the children of God.  11
  Now doth the eternal dwelling, and the heavenly country full of festivity, delight thee.  12
  But that hour is not yet come; for there is yet another time, a time of war, a time of labor and of probation.  13
  Thou desirest to be filled with the Sovereign Good, but thou canst not at present attain to it.  14
  I am He: wait for Me, saith the Lord, until the kingdom of God come.  15
  4. Thou hast yet to be tried upon earth and exercised in many things.  16
  Consolation shall sometimes be given thee, but abundant satiety shall not be granted thee.  17
  Take courage, therefore, and be valiant, as well in doing as in suffering things repugnant to nature.  18
  Thou must put on the new man, and be changed into another person.  19
  That which thou wouldst not, thou must oftentimes do; and that which thou wouldst, thou must leave undone.  20
  What pleaseth others shall prosper, what is pleasing to thee shall not succeed.  21
  What others say shall be hearkened to; what thou sayest shall be reckoned as naught.  22
  Others shall ask, and shall receive; thou shalt ask, and not obtain.  23
  5. Others shall be great in the esteem of men; about thee nothing shall be said.  24
  To others this or that shall be committed; but thou shalt be accounted as of no use.  25
  At this, nature will sometimes repine, and it will be a great matter if thou bear it with silence.  26
  In these, and many such-like things, the faithful servant of the Lord is wont to be tried how far he can deny and break himself in all things.  27
  There is scarce anything in which thou standest so much in need of dying to thyself as in seeing and suffering things that are contrary to thy will, and more especially when those things are commanded which seem to thee inconvenient and of little use.  28
  And because, being under authority, thou darest not resist the higher power, therefore it seemeth to thee hard to walk at the beck of another, and wholly to give up thy own opinion.  29
  6. But consider, son, the fruit of these labors, their speedy termination, and their reward exceeding great; and thou wilt not hence derive affliction, but the most strengthening consolation in thy suffering.  30
  For in regard to that little of thy will which thou now willingly forsakest, thou shalt forever have thy will in heaven.  31
  For there thou shalt find all that thou willest, all that thou canst desire.  32
  There shall be to thee the possession of every good, without fear of losing it.  33
  There thy will, always one with Me, shall not covet any extraneous or private thing. There no one shall resist thee, no one complain of thee, no one obstruct thee, nothing shall stand in thy way; but every desirable good shall be present at the same moment, shall replenish all thy affections and satiate them to the full.  34
  There I will give thee glory for the contumely thou hast suffered; a garment of praise for thy sorrow; and for having been seated here in the lowest place, the throne of My kingdom forever.  35
  There will the fruit of obedience appear, there will the labor of penance rejoice, and humble subjection shall be gloriously crowned.  36
  Now, therefore, bow thyself down humbly under the hands of all, and heed not who it was that said or commanded this.  37
  But let it be thy great care, that whether thy superior or inferior or equal require anything of thee, or hint at anything, thou take all in good part, and labor with a sincere will to perform it.  38
  Let one seek this, another that; let this man glory in this thing, another in that, and be praised a thousand thousand times: but thou, for thy part, rejoice neither in this nor in that, but in the contempt of thyself, and in My good pleasure and honor alone.  39
  This is what thou hast to wish for, that whether in life or in death, God may be always glorified in thee.  40
 
 
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