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Thomas A'Kempis 5
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THOMAS A’KEMPIS, a German religious writer, was born at Kempen, from which he took his name, about 1380; died at the monastery of Mount St. Agnes, in The Netherlands, in 1471. He entered a monastery and passed through various offices, finally attaining that of sub-prior.
He wrote many religious works, but the one that gave him enduring fame was his “Imitation of Christ.” It has held its place for four centuries, and has been more read than any other book, with the sole exception of the Bible; and has been translated into almost every tongue.
THE WAY OF THE HOLY CROSS
(From the “Imitation of Christ")
many this seemeth a hard speech, “Deny thyself, take up thy cross, and follow Jesus.” But much harder will it be to hear that last word, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.”
For they who now willingly hear and follow the word of the cross, shall not then fear to hear the sentence of everlasting damnation.
This sign of the cross shall be in the heaven, when the Lord shall come to judgment.
Then all the servants of the cross, who in their lifetime conformed themselves unto Christ crucified, shall draw near unto Christ the judge with great confidence.
2. Why, therefore, fearest thou to take up the cross which leadeth thee to a kingdom? In the cross is salvation, in the cross is life, in the
cross is protection against our enemies, in the cross is infusion of heavenly sweetness, in the cross is strength of mind, in the cross joy of spirit, in the cross the height of virtue, in the cross the perfection of sanctity.
There is no salvation of the soul, nor hope of everlasting life, but in the cross.
Take up, therefore, thy cross and follow JESUS, and thou shalt go into life everlasting. He went before, bearing His cross, and died for thee on the cross; that thou mightest also bear thy cross and desire to die on the cross with Him.
For if thou be dead with Him, thou shalt also live with Him. And if thou be His companion in punishment, thou shalt be partaker with Him also in glory.
3. Behold! in the cross all doth consist, and all lieth in our dying thereon; for there is no other way unto life, and unto true inward peace, but the way of the holy cross, and of daily mortification.
Go where thou wilt, seek whatsover thou wilt, thou shalt not find a higher way above, nor a safer way below, than the way of the holy cross.
Dispose and order all things according to thy will and judgment; yet thou shalt ever find, that of necessity thou must suffer somewhat, either willingly or against thy will, and so thou shalt ever find the
For either thou shalt feel pain in thy body, or in thy soul thou shalt suffer tribulation.
4. Sometimes thou shalt be forsaken of God, sometimes thou shalt be troubled by thy neighbors; and, what is more, oftentimes thou shalt be wearisome to thyself.
Neither canst thou be delivered or eased by any remedy or comfort; but so long as it pleaseth God, thou must bear it.
For God will have thee learn to suffer tribulation without comfort; and that thou subject thyself wholly to Him, and by tribulation become more humble.
No man hath so in his heart a sympathy with the passion of Christ as he who hath suffered the like himself.
The cross, therefore, is always ready, and everywhere waits for thee.
Thou canst not escape it whithersoever thou runnest; for wheresoever thou goest, thou carriest thyself with thee, and shalt ever find thyself.
Both above and below, without and within, which way soever thou dost turn thee everywhere thou shalt find the cross; and everywhere of necessity thou must hold fast patience, if thou wilt have inward peace, and enjoy an everlasting crown.
5. If thou bear the cross cheerfully, it will bear thee, and lead thee to the desired end, namely, where there shall be an end of suffering, though here there shall not be.
If thou bear it unwillingly, thou makest for thyself a burden, and increasest thy load, which yet notwithstanding thou must bear.
If thou cast away one cross, without doubt thou shalt find another, and that perhaps more heavy.
6. Thinkest thou to escape that which no mortal man could ever avoid? Which of the saints in the world was without crosses and tribulation.
For not even our Lord Jesus Christ was ever one hour without the anguish of His Passion, so long as He lived. “ Christ" (saith He) “must needs suffer, and rise again from the dead, and so enter into His glory.” And how dost thou seek any other way than this royal way, which is the way of the holy cross.
7. Christ's whole life was a cross and martyrdom: and dost thou seek rest and joy for thyself?
Thou art deceived, thou art deceived if thou seek any other thing than to suffer tribulations; for this whole mortal life is full of miseries, and marked on every side with crosses.
And the higher a person hath advanced in the Spirit, so much the heavier crosses he oftentimes findeth; because the grief of his banishment increaseth with his love to God.
8. Nevertheless this man, though so many ways afflicted, is not without refreshing comfort, for that he perceiveth very much benefit to accrue unto him by the bearing of his own cross.
For whilst he willingly putteth himself under it, all the burden of tribulation is turned into the confidence of divine comfort.
And the more the flesh is wasted by affliction, so much the more is the spirit strengthened by inward grace.
And sometimes he is so comforted with the desire of tribulation and adversity, for the love of conformity to the cross of Christ, that he would not wish to be without grief and tribulation; because he believes that he shall be unto God so much the more acceptable, the more and the more grievous things he is permitted to suffer for Him.
This is not the power of man, but it is the grace of Christ, which can and doth so much in frail flesh; so that what naturally it always abhors and flees from, that through fervor of spirit it encounters and loves.
9. It is not according to man's inclination to bear the cross, to love the cross, to chastise the body and bring it into subjection, to flee honors, willingly to suffer contumelies, to despise one's self and to wish to be despised, to endure all adversities and losses, and to desire no prosperity in this world.
If thou look to thyself, thou shalt be able of thyself to accomplish nothing of this kind.
But if thou trust in the Lord, strength shall be given thee from heaven, and the world and the flesh shall be made subject to thy command.