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 The Imitation of Christ by à Kempis Thomas

CHAPTER XII

Of the royal way of the Holy Cross

That seemeth a hard saying to many, If any man will come after
Me, let him deny himself and take up his Cross and follow Me.(1)
But it will be much harder to hear that last sentence, Depart
from me, ye wicked, into eternal fire.(2) For they who now
willingly hear the word of the Cross and follow it, shall not
then fear the hearing of eternal damnation. This sign of the
Cross shall be in heaven when the Lord cometh to Judgment. Then
all servants of the Cross, who in life have conformed themselves
to the Crucified, shall draw nigh unto Christ the Judge with
great boldness.

2. Why fearest thou then to take up the cross which leadeth to a
kingdom? In the Cross is health, in the Cross is life, in the
Cross is protection from enemies, in the Cross is heavenly
sweetness, in the Cross strength of mind, in the Cross joy of
the spirit, in the Cross the height of virtue, in the Cross
perfection of holiness. There is no health of the soul, no hope
of eternal life, save in the Cross. Take up therefore, thy cross
and follow Jesus and thou shalt go into eternal life. He went
before thee bearing His Cross and died for thee upon the Cross,
that thou also mayest bear thy cross and mayest love to be
crucified upon it. For if thou be dead with Him, thou shalt also
live with Him, and if thou be a partaker of His sufferings thou
shalt be also of His glory.

3. Behold everything dependeth upon the Cross, and everything
lieth in dying; and there is none other way unto life and to true
inward peace, except the way of the Holy Cross and of daily
mortification. Go where thou wilt, seek whatsoever thou wilt,
and thou shalt find no higher way above nor safer way below, than
the way of the Holy Cross. Dispose and order all things
according to thine own will and judgment, and thou shalt ever
find something to suffer either willingly or unwillingly, and
thus thou shalt ever find thy cross. For thou shalt either feel
pain of body, or tribulation of spirit within thy soul.

4. Sometimes thou wilt be forsaken of God, sometimes thou wilt be
tried by thy neighbour, and which is more, thou wilt often be
wearisome to thyself. And still thou canst not be delivered nor
eased by any remedy or consolation, but must bear so long as God
will. For God will have thee learn to suffer tribulation without
consolation, and to submit thyself fully to it, and by
tribulation be made more humble. No man understandeth the
Passion of Christ in his heart so well as he who hath had
somewhat of the like suffering himself. The Cross therefore is
always ready, and every where waiteth for thee. Thou canst not
flee from it whithersoever thou hurriest, for whithersoever thou
comest, thou bearest thyself with thee, and shalt ever find
thyself. Turn thee above, turn thee below, turn thee without,
turn thee within, and in them all thou shalt find the Cross; and
needful is it that thou everywhere possess patience if thou wilt
have internal peace and gain the everlasting crown.

5. If thou willingly bear the Cross, it will bear thee, and will
bring thee to the end which thou seekest, even where there shall
be the end of suffering; though it shall not be here. If thou
bear it unwillingly, thou makest a burden for thyself and greatly
increaseth thy load, and yet thou must bear it. If thou cast
away one cross, without doubt thou shalt find another and
perchance a heavier.

6. Thinketh thou to escape what no mortal hath been able to
avoid? Which of the saints in the world hath been without the
cross and tribulation? For not even Jesus Christ our Lord was
one hour without the anguish of His Passion, so long as He lived.
It behooved, He said, Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead,
and so enter into his glory.(3) And how dost thou seek another
way than this royal way, which is the way of the Holy Cross?

7. The whole life of Christ was a cross and martyrdom, and dost
thou seek for thyself rest and joy? Thou art wrong, thou art
wrong, if thou seekest aught but to suffer tribulations, for this
whole mortal life is full of miseries, and set round with
crosses. And the higher a man hath advanced in the spirit, the
heavier crosses he will often find, because the sorrow of his
banishment increaseth with the strength of his love.

8. But yet the man who is thus in so many wise afflicted, is not
without refreshment of consolation, because he feeleth abundant
fruit to be growing within him out of the bearing of his cross.
For whilst he willingly submitteth himself to it, every burden of
tribulation is turned into an assurance of divine comfort, and
the more the flesh is wasted by affliction, the more is the
spirit strengthened mightily by inward grace. And ofttimes so
greatly is he comforted by the desire for tribulation and
adversity, through love of conformity to the Cross of Christ,
that he would not be without sorrow and tribulation; for he
believeth that he shall be the more acceptable to God, the more
and the heavier burdens he is able to bear for His sake. This is
not the virtue of man, but the grace of Christ which hath such
power and energy in the weak flesh, that what it naturally hateth
and fleeth from, this it draweth to and loveth through fervour of
spirit.

9. It is not in the nature of man to bear the cross, to love the
cross, to keep under the body and to bring it into subjection, to
fly from honours, to bear reproaches meekly, to despise self and
desire to be despised, to bear all adversities and losses, and to
desire no prosperity in this world. If thou lookest to thyself,
thou wilt of thyself be able to do none of this; but if thou
trustest in the Lord, endurance shall be given thee from heaven,
and the world and the flesh shall be made subject to thy command.
Yea, thou shalt not even fear thine adversary the devil, if thou
be armed with faith and signed with the Cross of Christ.

10. Set thyself, therefore, like a good and faithful servant of
Christ, to the manful bearing of the Cross of thy Lord, who out
of love was crucified for thee. Prepare thyself for the bearing
many adversities and manifold troubles in this wretched life;
because so it shall be with thee wheresoever thou art, and so in
very deed thou shalt find it, wherever thou hide thyself. This
it must be; and there is no means of escaping from tribulation
and sorrow, except to bear them patiently. Drink thou lovingly
thy Lord's cup if thou desirest to be His friend and to have thy
lot with Him. Leave consolations to God, let Him do as seemeth
best to Him concerning them. But do thou set thyself to endure
tribulations, and reckon them the best consolations; for the
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared
with the glory which shall be revealed in us,(4) nor would they
be even if thou wert to endure them all.

11. When thou hast come to this, that tribulation is sweet and
pleasant to thee for Christ's sake, then reckon that it is well
with thee, because thou hast found paradise on earth. So long as
it is hard to thee to suffer and thou desirest to escape, so long
it will not be well with thee, and tribulations will follow thee
everywhere.

12. If thou settest thyself to that thou oughtest, namely, to
suffer and to die, it shall soon go better with thee, and thou
shalt find peace. Though thou shouldest be caught up with Paul
unto the third heaven,(5) thou art not on that account secure
from suffering evil. I will show him, saith Jesus, what great
things he must suffer for My Name's sake.(6) It remaineth,
therefore, to thee to suffer, if thou wilt love Jesus and serve
Him continually.

13. Oh that thou wert worthy to suffer something for the name of
Jesus, how great glory should await thee, what rejoicing among
all the saints of God, what bright example also to thy neighbour!
For all men commend patience, although few be willing to practise
it. Thou oughtest surely to suffer a little for Christ when many
suffer heavier things for the world.

14. Know thou of a surety that thou oughtest to lead the life of
a dying man. And the more a man dieth to himself, the more he
beginneth to live towards God. None is fit for the understanding
of heavenly things, unless he hath submitted himself to bearing
adversities for Christ. Nothing more acceptable to God, nothing
more healthful for thyself in this world, than to suffer
willingly for Christ. And if it were thine to choose, thou
oughtest rather to wish to suffer adversities for Christ, than to
be refreshed with manifold consolations, for thou wouldest be
more like Christ and more conformed to all saints. For our
worthiness and growth in grace lieth not in many delights and
consolations, but rather in bearing many troubles and
adversities.

15. If indeed there had been anything better and more profitable
to the health of men than to suffer, Christ would surely have
shown it by word and example. For both the disciples who
followed Him, and all who desire to follow Him, He plainly
exhorteth to bear their cross, and saith, If any man will come
after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and follow
Me.(7) So now that we have thoroughly read and studied all
things, let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. We must
through much tribulation enter into the kingdom of God.(8)

(1) Matthew xvi. 24. (2) Matthew xxv. 41. (3) Luke xxiv. 46.
(4) Romans viii. 18. (5) 2 Corinthians xii. 2.
(6) Acts ix. 16. (7) Luke ix. 23. (8) Acts xiv. 21.




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