Imitation of Christ - Chapter 13

CHAPTER XIII

Of resisting temptation

So long as we live in the world, we cannot 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, 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, 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 exalt 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 is there

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. 1 (Vulg.).   (2) 1 Corinthians x. 13.

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