Imitation of Christ, Book II, Chapter 11

Of the Small Number of the Lovers of the Cross of Jesus

JESUS has now many lovers of His heavenly Kingdom but few that are willing to bear His Cross.

He has many that are desirous of comfort, but few of tribulation.

He finds many companions of His table, but few of His abstinence.

All desire to rejoice with Him, few are willing to suffer with Him.

Many follow Jesus to the breaking of bread, but few to the drinking of the chalice of His Passion. Many reverence His miracles, but few follow the ignominy of His cross.

Many love Jesus as long as they meet with no adversity. Many praise Him and bless Him as long as they receive consolation from Him.

But if Jesus hide Himself, and leave them for a little while, they either fall into complaints or excessive dejection.

2. But they that love Jesus for Jesus’ sake and not for any comfort of their own, bless Him no less in tribulation and anguish of heart than in the greatest consolation.

And if He should never give them His comfort, yet would they always praise Him and always give Him thanks.

3. Oh, how much is the pure love of Jesus able to do when it is not mixed with any self-interest or self-love.

Are not all those to be called hirelings who are always seeking consolation?

Are they not proved to be rather lovers of themselves than of Christ who are always thinking of their own profit and gain?

Where shall we find a man that is willing to serve God gratis?

4. Seldom do we find anyone so spiritual as to be stripped of all things.

For who shall be able to find the man that is truly poor in spirit and stripped of all affection to all created things? His price is from afar and from the uttermost coasts.

If a man gives his whole substance it is yet nothing.

And if he do great penance it is yet little. And if he attain to all knowledge he is far off still.

And if we have great virtue and exceeding fervent devotion, there is still much wanting to him, to wit, one thing which is chiefly necessary for him.

And what is that? That, having left all things else, he leave also himself and wholly go out of himself and retain nothing of self-love.

And when he shall have done all things which he knows should be done, let him think that he has done nothing.

5. Let him not make great account of that which may appear much to be esteemed, but let him in truth acknowledge himself to be an unprofitable servant, as Truth itself has said: “When you shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say: We are unprofitable servants.”

Then may he be truly poor and naked in spirit and may say with the Prophet: “I am alone and poor.”

Yet no one is indeed richer than such a man, none more powerful, none more free, who knows how to leave himself and all things and place himself in the very lowest place.

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