Imitation of Christ - Chapter 11

CHAPTER XI

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 the 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 of 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 will 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

joy.

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 wouldst be

more zealous for spiritual profit.

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