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OF THE

IMITATION OF CHRIST.

BOOK I.

PREPARATORY INSTRUCTIONS FOR THE

SPIRITUAL LIFE.

CHAP. I.

OF THE CONTEMPT OF WORLDLY VANITIES.

1. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of Life." These are the words of Christ; by which we are taught, that it is only by a conformity to his Life and Spirit, that we can be truly enlightened, and delivered from all blindness of heart : let it, therefore, be the principal employment of our minds, to meditate on the Life of CHRIST.

3. The doctrine of Christ infinitely transcends the doctrine of the holiest men ; and he that had the Spirit of CHRIST, would find in it “ hidden manna, the bread that came down from heaven :" but not having His Spirit, many, though they frequently hear His doctrine, yet feel no pleasure in it, no ardent de

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sire after it ; forhe only can cordially receive and tru-* ly delight in the doctrine of CHRIST, who continually endeavours to acquire the Spirit and imitate the Life of CHRIST.

3. Of what benefit are thy most subtil disquisitions into the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, if thou art destitute of humility, and, therefore, a profaner of the Trinity? It is not profound speculations, but a holy life, that makes a man righteous and good, and dear to God: I had rather feel compunction, than be able to give the most accurate definition of it. memory could retain the whole Bible, and the precepts of all the philosophers, what would it profit thee, without Charity and the Grace of God? « Vanity of vanities ! and all is vanity," except only the love of God, and an entire devotedness to His service.

4. It is the highest wisdorm, by the contempt of the world, to press forward towards the Kingdom of Hea

It is, therefore, vanity, to labour for perishing riches, and place our confidence in their possession : it is vanity, to hunt after honours, and raise ourselves to an exalted station : it is vanity, to fulfil the lusts of the flesh, and indulge desires that begin and end in torment: it is vanity, to wish that life may be long, and to have no concern whether it be good : it is vanity, to mind only the present world, and not to look forward to that which is to come; to suffer our affections to hover over a state in which ali things pass away with the swiftness of thought, and not raise them to that where true joy abideth forever.

5. Frequently recal to mind the observation of Solomon, that “the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing ;" and let it be thy continual endeavour, to withdraw thy heart from the love of

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" the things that are seen," and to turn it wholly to the things that are not seen :", for he who lives in subjection to the sensual desires of animal nature, defiles his spirit, and loses the Grace of God.

CHAP. II.

OF HUMILITY WITH RESPECT TO INTELLEC

TUAL ATTAINMENTS..,

1. EVERY man naturally desires to increase in knowledge ; but what doth knowledge profit, without the fear of the LORD ? Better is the humble peasant, that serveth God'; than the proud philosopher, who, destitute of the knowledge of himself, can describe the course of the planets. He that truly knows himself, becomes vile in his own eyes, and has no delight in the praise of man.

If I knew all that the world contains, and had not Charity, what would it avail me in the sight of God, who will judge me according to 3. The more thou knowest, and the better thou understandest, the more severe will be thy condemnation, unless thy life be proportionably more holy. Be not, therefore, exalted, for any uncommon skill in any art or science but let the superior knowledge that is given thee make thee more fearful, and more watchful over thyself. If thou supposest, that thou knowest many things, and hast perfect understanding of them, consider, how many mort things there are, which thou knowest not at all ; and, instead of being exalted with a high opinion of thy great knowledge, be rather abased by an humble sense of thy much greater ignorance. And why dost thou prefer thyself to another, since thou mayest find many who are more learned than thou art, and better instructed in the will of God?

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2. Rest from an inordinate desire of knowledge, for it is subject to much perplexity and delusion. Learned men are fond of the notice of the world, and desire to be accounted wise : but there are many things, the knowledge of which has no tendency to promote the recovery of our first Divine Life; and it is, surely, a proof of folly, to devote ourselves wholly to that, with which our supreme good has no connexion. The soul is not to be satisfied with the multitude of words ; but a holy life is a continual feast, and a pure conscience the foundation of a firm and immovable confidence in God.

4. If thou wouldst learn and know that which is truly useful, love to be unknown, and to be held in no estimation : for the highest and most profitable learning is the knowledge and contempt of ourselves; and to have no opinion of our own merit, and always to think well and highly of others, is an evidence of great wisdom and perfection. Therefore, though thou seest another openly offend, or even commit some enormous sin, yet thou must not from thence take occasion to value thyself for thy superior goodness ; for thou canst not tell how long thou wilt be able to persevere in the narrow path of virtue. All men are frail, but thou shouldst reckon none so frail as thyself.

CHAP. III.

OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH.

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1. BLESSED is the man whom ETERNAL TRUTH teacheth, not by obscure figures and transient sounds, but by a direct and full communication! The perceptions of our senses are narrow and dull, and our reasoning on those perceptions frequently misleads

To what purpose are our keenest disputations on hidden and obscure subjects, for our ignorance of which we shall not be brought into judgment at the great day of universal retribution ? How extravagant the folly, to neglect the study of the “ one thing need: ful," and wholly devote our time and faculties to that, which is not only vainly curious, but sinful, and dangerous as the state of “those that have eyes and see not .!

2. And what have redeemed souls to do with the distinctions and subtilties of logic ? He whom the ETERNAL WORD condescendeth to teach, is disengaged at once from the labyrinth of human opinions. For“ of One Word are all things ;” and all things, without voice or language, speak Him alone. He is that divine principle, which speaketh in our hearts ; and, without which, there can be neither just apprea hension, 'nor rectitude of judgment. Now he to whom all things are but this One; who comprehendeth all things in His Will, and beholdeth all things in His Light, hath “ his heart fixed,” and abideth in the peace of God.

3. O God, who art the TRUTH, make me one with Thee in everlasting love! I am often weary of reading, and weary of hearing : in Thee alone is the sum

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