I strongly recommend Thomas a Kempis’ book “Imitation of Christ” as a devotional book and I feel it should be in every serious Christian’s library. The only caution I have is to keep in mind that this book was written by a Roman Catholic monk and he refers to purgatory in some chapters. Also, in the fourth book concerning communion you will find references to the Papal teaching of transubstantiation.
Other than that, you need to have your holiness glasses on when you read – as in a number of places he refers to the Christian sinning as normal and you should read that as faults – not sins – for “whosoever is born of God sinneth not” (1Joh 3:8). In numerous books I have read, I have found it common for even deeply spiritual people to refer to the unlawful desires of their flesh and their many faults as sin. Regarding such, I like the definition that John Wesley uses.
The following is a quote from each chapter so you that you get an idea of the quality of writing. This is not a book to be read and then laid down but a book that you can read and read again – and you should spend time meditating on the principles laid out in the book.
I hope you can get as much good out of this book as I have!
Quotes From Book Three Part 1/2 — Internal Consolation:
1. The Inward Conversation of Christ with the Faithful Soul — Blessed indeed are the ears that listen, not to the voice which sounds without, but to the truth which teaches within.
2. Truth Speaks Inwardly without the Sound of Words — They, indeed, utter fine words, but they cannot impart the spirit. They do indeed speak beautifully, but if You remain silent they cannot inflame the heart.
3. Listen Humbly to the Words of God. Many Do Not Heed Them — Most men listen more willingly to the world than to God. They are more ready to follow the appetite of their flesh than the good pleasure of God.
4. We Must Walk Before God in Humility and Truth — Hence, let none of the things you do seem great to you. Let nothing seem important or precious or desirable except that which is everlasting.
5. The Wonderful Effect of Divine Love — Free me from evil passions and cleanse my heart of all disorderly affection so that, healed and purified within, I may be fit to love, strong to suffer, and firm to persevere.
6. The Proving of a True Lover — The wise lover regards not so much the gift of Him Who loves as the love of Him Who gives.
7. Grace Must Be Hidden Under the Mantle of Humility — It is better and safer for you to conceal the grace of devotion, not to be elated by it, not to speak or think much of it, and instead to humble yourself and fear lest it is being given to one unworthy of it.
8. Self-Abasement in the Sight of God — It is Your love that does this, graciously upholding me, supporting me in so many necessities, guarding me from so many grave dangers, and snatching me, as I may truly say, from evils without number.
9. All Things Should be Referred to God as their Last End — For if you seek yourself in anything, you immediately fail interiorly and become dry of heart.
10. To Despise the World and Serve God is Sweet — O sweet and joyful service of God, which makes man truly free and holy! O sacred state of religious bondage which makes man equal to the angels, pleasing to God, terrible to the demons, and worthy of the commendation of all the faithful!
11. The Longings of Our Hearts Must Be Examined and Moderated — You must pay no attention to what the flesh does or does not desire, taking pains that it be subjected, even by force, to the spirit.
12. Acquiring Patience in the Fight against Concupiscence — How brief, how false, how unreasonable and shameful all these pleasures are! Yet in their drunken blindness men do not understand this, but like brute beasts incur death of soul for the miserly enjoyment of a corruptible life.
13. The Obedience of One Humbly Subject to the Example of Jesus Christ — Learn to obey, you who are but dust! Learn to humble yourself, you who are but earth and clay, and bow down under the foot of every man! Learn to break your own will, to submit to all subjection!
14. Consider the Hidden Judgments of God Lest You Become Proud of Your Own Good Deeds — There is no holiness, then, if You withdraw Your hand, Lord. There is no wisdom if You cease to guide, no courage if You cease to defend. No chastity is secure if You do not guard it.
15. How One Should Feel and Speak on Every Desirable Thing — Lord, if You see that it is expedient and profitable for me, then grant that I may use it to Your honor. But if You know that it will be harmful to me, and of no good benefit to the welfare of my soul, then take this desire away from me.
16. True Comfort is to be Sought in God Alone — If you desire these present things too much, you will lose those which are everlasting and heavenly. Use temporal things but desire eternal things.
17. All Our Care is to be Placed in God — You should be as ready to suffer as to enjoy. You should as willingly be destitute and poor as rich and satisfied.
18. Temporal Sufferings Should be Borne Patiently, After the Example of Christ — Disgrace and reviling I bore with patience. For My blessings I received ingratitude, for My miracles blasphemies, and for My teaching scorn.
19. True Patience in Suffering — The man who will suffer only as much as seems good to him, who will accept suffering only from those from whom he is pleased to accept it, is not truly patient.
20. Confessing Our Weakness in the Miseries of Life — Vicious pleasure overcomes the soul that is given to the world. She thinks that there are delights beneath these thorns, because she has never seen or tasted the sweetness of God or the internal delight of virtue.
21. Above All Goods and All Gifts We Must Rest in God — Therefore, whatever You give me besides Yourself, whatever You reveal to me concerning Yourself, and whatever You promise, is too small and insufficient when I do not see and fully enjoy You alone.
22. Remember the Innumerable Gifts of God — You know what is good for each of us; and why one should receive less and another more is not for us to judge, but for You Who have marked every man’s merits.
23. Four Things Which Bring Great Peace — Seek, child, to do the will of others rather than your own. Always choose to have less rather than more. Look always for the last place and seek to be beneath all others.
24. Avoiding Curious Inquiry About the Lives of Others — Do not trouble yourself with idle cares. What matters this or that to you? Follow Me.
25. The Basis of Firm Peace of Heart and True Progress — All men desire peace but all do not care for the things that go to make true peace. My peace is with the humble and meek of heart: your peace will be in much patience.
26. The Excellence of a Free Mind, Gained Through Prayer Rather Than by Study — It is the mark of a perfect man, Lord, never to let his mind relax in attention to heavenly things, and to pass through many cares as though he had none;
27. Self-Love is the Greatest Hindrance to the Highest Good — If your love is pure, simple, and well ordered, you will not be a slave to anything. Do not covet what you may not have. Do not possess anything that can hinder you or rob you of freedom.
28. Strength Against Slander — It is no small prudence to remain silent in evil times, to turn inwardly to Me, and not to be disturbed by human opinions.
29. How We Must Call Upon and Bless the Lord When Trouble Presses — Blessed be Your name forever, O Lord, Who have willed that this temptation and trouble come upon me. I cannot escape it, yet I must fly to You that You may help me and turn it to my good.
30. The Quest of Divine Help and Confidence in Regaining Grace — Your tardiness in turning to prayer is the greatest obstacle to heavenly consolation, for before you pray earnestly to Me you first seek many comforts and take pleasure in outward things.