Imitation of Christ, Book I, Chapter 25, 1-5

Fervent Amendment of our Life

Be Vigilant and diligent in God’s service, and often think of why you left the world and came here. Was it not that you might live in God and become a spiritual man?

Be fervent, therefore, in your spiritual progress, for you shall soon receive the reward of your labors; and then grief and fear shall no more come near you.

You shall labor now a little and you shall find great rest; yea, everlasting you.

If you continue faithful and fervent in working, God will doubtless be faithful and liberal in rewarding.

You must preserve a good and firm hope of winning the victory; but must not think yourself secure, lest you grow negligent or proud.

2. When a certain person in anxiety of mind was often wavering between hope and fear, and, on a time, being overwhelmed with grief, had prostrated himself in prayer in the church before a certain altar, he revolved these things within himself saying, “If I did but know that I should still persevere”; and presently he heard within himself this answer from God: “And if you did know this what would you do? Do now what you would then do, and you shall be very secure.”

And immediately, being comforted and strengthened, he committed himself to the divine will, and his anxious wavering ceased.

Neither had he a mind anymore to search curiously, to know what should befall him hereafter; but rather studied to inquire what was the will of God, “well pleasing and perfect” (Rom 12:2), for the beginning and accomplishment of every good work.

3. “Trust in the Lord, and do good,” said the Prophet, “and dwell in the land, and you shall be fed with its riches.” (Ps 36:3)

There is one thing which keeps many back from spiritual progress and fervent amendment of life: and that is, dread of difficulty, or the labor which must be gone through in the conflict.

And they indeed advance most of all others in virtue, who strive manfully to overcome those things which they find more troublesome or contrary to them.

For there a man makes greater progress and merits greater grace where he overcomes himself more and mortifies himself in spirit.

4. But all men have not equal difficulties to overcome and mortify.

Yet he that is diligent and zealous, although he may have more passions to fight against, will be able to make a greater progress than another who has fewer passions but is withal less fervent in the pursuit of virtue.

Two things particularly conduce to a great amendment: these are, forcibly to withdraw one’s self from that to which nature is viciously inclined, and earnestly to labor for that good which one wants most.

Study likewise to fly more carefully and to overcome those faults which most frequently displease you in others.

5. Turn all occasions to your spiritual profit: so that if you see or hear any good examples you may be spurred on to imitate them.

But if you observe anything that is reprehensible take heed you commit not the same; or if you at any time have done it, labor to amend it quickly.

As your eye observes others so art you also observed by others.

Oh, how sweet and comfortable is it to see brethren fervent and devout, regular and well disciplined! (Ps 132:1)

How sad a thing and how afflicting to see them walk disorderly, and practice nothing of what they are called to!

How hurtful it is to neglect the intent of our vocation and turn our minds to things that are not our business.

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