The Imitation of Christ

The Imitation of Christ

4.5 39
by Thomas à Kempis

View All Available Formats & Editions

"Religion's second-best seller." -- Walter Elwell, describing The Imitation of Christ as second only to the Bible in sales and popularity among religious readers.

Through its realistic delineation of the complexities of human existence, and in its soul-building optimism about the benefits of aspiring to a Christ-shaped life, The Imitation of Christ…  See more details below


"Religion's second-best seller." -- Walter Elwell, describing The Imitation of Christ as second only to the Bible in sales and popularity among religious readers.

Through its realistic delineation of the complexities of human existence, and in its soul-building optimism about the benefits of aspiring to a Christ-shaped life, The Imitation of Christ clearly deserves the accolade of "Spiritual Classic." Although they were written early in the fifteenth century, the number of short meditations that comprise this work remain strikingly fresh and relevant for modern readers.

About the Author
Thomas a' Kempis (1380-1471), or Thomas Hammerken, was born in Kempen, near Dusseldorf, Germany. He left home at the age of thirteen and traveled to Deventer, in the Netherlands, where his service among the Brethren of the Common Life provided both the impetus and the shape for this, his most famous work. In 1406 Thomas professed a call to religious life, and at the age of thirty-three he entered the priesthood. He spent the balance of his life as a Canon of St. Augustine, at the monastery of St. Agnes in Zwolle.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Thomas A Kempis's four-part treatise The Imitation of Christ is presented in a lovely illustrated edition in The Imitation of Christ: Illustrated with Illuminated Manuscripts. This full-color gift book pairs 40 passages from the 15th-century text with details from one of the British Library's illuminated manuscripts, including the Sherborne Missal, the Luttrell Psalter and the Bedford Hours. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This classic of theology, written in 1441 is cited in BCL3. William C. Creasy has newly translated the work from the Latin autograph manuscript. He has crafted the language and style of his translation for modern readers, while retaining the fervor and power of the original text; his work will undoubtedly attract a new generation of readers who will appreciate the access he has provided. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Revised Edition
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.16(w) x 7.94(h) x 0.59(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1


"Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness," says the Lord. These are Christ's own words by which He exhorts us to imitate His life and His ways, if we truly desire to be enlightened and free of all blindness of heart. Let it then be our main concern to meditate on the life of Jesus Christ.

2. Christ's teaching surpasses that of all the saints, and whoever has His spirit will find in His teaching hidden manna. But it happens that many are little affected, even after a frequent hearing of His Gospel. This is because they do not have the spirit of Christ. If you want to understand Christ's words and relish them fully, you must strive to conform your entire life to His.

3. What good does it do you to be able to give a learned discourse on the Trinity, while you are without humility and, thus, are displeasing to the Trinity? Esoteric words neither make us holy nor righteous; only a virtuous life makes us beloved of God. I would rather experience repentance in my soul than know how to define it.

If you knew the entire Bible inside out and all the maxims of the philosophers, what good would it do you if you were, at the same time, without God's love and grace? Vanity of vanities! All is vanity, except our loving God and serving only Him. This is the highest wisdom: to despise the world and seek the kingdom of heaven.

4. It is vanity to seek riches that are sure to perish and to put your hope in them.

It is vanity to pursue honors and to set yourself up on a pedestal.

It is vanity to follow the desires of the flesh and to crave the things which will eventually bring you heavy punishment.

It is vanity to wish for a long life and to care little about leading a good life.

It is vanity to give thought only to this present life and not to think of the one that is to come.

It is vanity to love what is transitory and not to hasten to where everlasting joy abides.

5. Keep this proverb often in mind: The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. Therefore, withdraw your heart from the love of things visible and turn yourself to things invisible. Those who yield to their sensual nature dishonor their conscience and forfeit God's grace.

Chapter 2


Everyone has a natural desire for knowledge but what good is knowledge without the fear of God? Surely a humble peasant who serves God is better than the proud astronomer who knows how to chart the heavens' stars but lacks all knowledge of himself.

If I truly knew myself I would look upon myself as insignificant and would not find joy in hearing others praise me. If I knew everything in the world and were still without charity, what advantage would I have in the eyes of God who is to judge me according to my deeds?

2. Curb all undue desire for knowledge, for in it you will find many distractions and much delusion. Those who are learned strive to give the appearance of being wise and desire to be recognized as such; but there is much knowledge that is of little or no benefit to the soul.

Whoever sets his mind on anything other than what serves his salvation is a senseless fool. A barrage of words does not make the soul happy, but a good life gladdens the mind and a pure conscience generates a bountiful confidence in God.

3. The more things you know and the better you know them, the more severe will your judgment be, unless you have also lived a holier life. Do not boast about the learning and skills that are yours; rather, be cautious since you do possess such knowledge.

4. If it seems to you that you know many things and thoroughly understand them all, realize that there are countless other things of which you are ignorant. Be not haughty, but admit your ignorance. Why should you prefer yourself to another, when there are many who are more learned and better trained in God's law than you are? If you are looking for knowledge and a learning that is useful to you, then love to be unknown and be esteemed as nothing.

5. This is the most important and most salutary lesson: to know and to despise ourselves. It is great wisdom and perfection to consider ourselves as nothing and always to judge well and highly of others. If you should see someone commit a sin or some grievous wrong, do not think of yourself as someone better, for you know not how long you will remain in your good state.

We are all frail; but think of yourself as one who is more frail than others.

Chapter 3


Happy is the individual whom Truth instructs, not by means of obscure figures and fleeting words, but as it truly is in itself.

Our way of thinking and perceiving often misleads us and teaches us very little. What good is there in arguing about obscure and recondite matters, when our ignorance of such things will not be in question on the Day of Judgment? It is utter absurdity for us to neglect the things that are useful and necessary, and needlessly occupy ourselves with those that are merely curious and perhaps harmful. We have eyes, but we do not see.

2. Why should we concern ourselves with such philosophical words as genera and species? He whom the eternal Word teaches is set free from a multitude of theories. From this one Word all things come into being; all things speak this one Word, and this Word, who is the beginning, also speaks to us. Without this Word no one can understand or judge correctly. He for whom all things are in the One, and who refers all things to the One, and sees all things in the One, can remain steadfast in heart and abide in God's peace.

O God my Truth, make me one with You in eternal love. Often I become weary with reading and hearing many things. You are all that I want and desire. Let all teachers be mute and all creation keep silence before You. Speak to me, You, and You alone.

3. The more we are united to You and become inwardly simple, the more we can, and effortlessly too, understand sublime things about You, for we receive light and understanding from above.

He who has a pure, simple, and constant spirit is not distracted by the many things he does, because he does all for the honor of God and endeavors to remain inwardly free of all seeking of himself. What greater hindrance or annoyance is there than our heart's uncontrolled passions?

The good and devout person first inwardly plans the works that he will outwardly do, and does not allow himself to be drawn by any unworthy inclination, but, on the contrary, he accomplishes these works in accordance with the dictates of right reason.

No one undergoes a stronger struggle than the man who tries to subdue himself. This should be our chief employment: strive to overcome ourselves and gain such a mastery that we daily grow stronger and better.

4. All perfection in this life has some imperfection mixed with it, and all speculative thought involves a certain amount of fuzziness. A humble knowledge of yourself is a surer way to God than any deep scientific inquiry.

Neither learning in general nor knowledge of even simple things ought to be condemned, since they are something good in themselves and ordained by God; but a good conscience and a virtuous life are always to be preferred. Because many people spend more time and effort in becoming educated than in living properly, it happens that many, therefore, go astray and bear little or no fruit.

5. If we were as diligent in uprooting vices and planting virtues as we are in debating abstruse questions, there would not be so many evils or scandals among us nor such laxity in monastic communities. Certainly, when Judgment Day comes we shall not be asked what books we have read, but what deeds we have done; we shall not be asked how well we have debated, but how devoutly we have lived.

Tell me, where now are all those professors and doctors with whom you were once so well acquainted when they were alive, and who were famous for their learning? Others hold their positions today and I wonder whether these ever think of their predecessors. While they were alive they appeared to be men of influence, but today no one even mentions their names.

6. O, how quickly the glory of the world evanesces! Would that their living had been equal to their learning; then they would have studied and lectured to good purpose.

How many perish in the world because of useless learning and for caring little about the service of God! Because they prefer to be famous rather than humble, they lose themselves in intellectual acrobatics and come to nothing.

He is truly great who has abundant charity. He is truly great who is unimportant in his own eyes and considers the greatest of honors a mere nothing. He is truly wise who esteems all earthly things as dung so that he may gain Christ. Finally, he who does God's will and abandons his own is truly the most learned.

Chapter 4


We ought not to be too ready to believe every word or item of gossip, but we ought to weigh each carefully and unhurriedly before God. Alas! Our weakness is such that we are often more readily inclined to believe and speak ill of someone than that which is good. But those who are perfect do not easily give credence to every tale they hear, for they know that human nature is prone to evil and that the human tongue can be treacherous.

2. It is a mark of great wisdom neither to be hasty in our actions nor stubbornly maintain our private opinions. It is also a part of wisdom neither to believe everything we hear, nor to pour it immediately into another's ear.

Seek counsel from one who is wise and honest and ask instruction from one you esteem; do not follow your own devices. A good life makes us wise in the eyes of God and makes us knowledgeable in many things. The more humble you are in heart and the more you submit yourself to God, the wiser will you be in everything, and greater peace will be yours.

Chapter 5


In Holy Scripture we seek truth and not eloquence. All Sacred Scripture should be read in the spirit with which it was written.

We should search the Scriptures for what is to our profit, rather than for niceties of language. You should read the simple and devout books as eagerly as those that are lofty and profound. The authority of the author, whether he be of great or little learning, ought not to influence you, but let the love of pure truth draw you to read them. Do not inquire about who is the one saying this, but pay attention to what he is saying.

2. Men enter and pass out of this world, but the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. God speaks to all of us in a variety of ways and is no respecter of persons. Our curiosity proves a hindrance to us, for while reading the Scriptures we sometimes want to stop to debate and discuss, when we should simply read on.

If you wish to derive profit from your reading of Scripture, do it with humility, simplicity, and faith; at no time use it to gain a reputation for being one who is learned. Eagerly ask yourself questions and listen in silence to the words of the saints, and do not let the riddles of the ancients baffle you. They were written down for a definite purpose.

Chapter 6


Whenever you desire anything inordinately, you immediately find that you grow dissatisfied with yourself. Those who are proud and avaricious never arrive at contentment; it is the poor and the humble in spirit who live in great peace.

Anyone who is not totally dead to himself will soon find that he is tempted and overcome by piddling and frivolous things. Whoever is weak in spirit, given to the flesh, and inclined to sensual things can, but only with great difficulty, drag himself away from his earthly desires. Therefore, he is often gloomy and sad when he is trying to pull himself from them and easily gives in to anger should someone attempt to oppose him.

2. If he has given in to his inclinations and has yielded to his passions, he is then immediately afflicted with a guilty conscience. In no way do such yieldings help him to find the peace he seeks. It is by resisting our passions and not by being slaves to them that true peace of heart is to be found.

There is no peace, therefore, in the heart of the man who is given to the flesh, nor in the man who is attached to worldly things. Peace is found only in one who is fervent and spiritual.

Chapter 7


A fool is he who puts his trust in men or created things. Do not be ashamed to serve others for the love of Jesus Christ and to be reckoned as a poor man in this world.

Do not rely on yourself, but place your trust in God. Do whatever lies in your power and God will assist your good intentions. Trust neither in your own knowledge nor in the cleverness of any human being; rather, trust in God's grace, for it is He who supports the humble and humbles the overconfident.

2. Glory neither in wealth, if you have any, nor in friends, if they are powerful, but boast in God, the giver of all good things, who desires, above all, to bestow Himself on you.

Do not boast about your good looks nor your body's strength, which a slight illness can mar and disfigure. Do not take pride in your skills and talents lest you offend God, to whom you owe these very gifts and endowments.

3. Do not esteem yourself as someone better than others lest, perhaps, you be accounted for worse in the eyes of God, who knows what is in men's hearts. Take no pride in your good accomplishments for God judges differently than men and it often happens that what is pleasing to men is actually displeasing to God.

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Imitation of Christ 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 39 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As Msgr. Ronald Knox once said, if you find 'The Imitation' an 'easy read' then you're probably not getting much out of it. It's a tough book and it took me a long time to appreciate it. But at some point Thomas a Kempis' approach really hit home and became a source of joyful and profound meditation. I've sampled numerous versions of 'The Imitation,' but I prefer the Penguin edition for its readability and scholarliness.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an incredibly rare gem of spiritual knowledge. It is not just words, but a guide on how to live life spirituality. It shouldn't be left simply as words on a page, but this book should be lived by the reader who is really seeking the spiritual, and they will see these words come alive inside them. I gave this book as Christmas gifts for all those I thought would benefit. My favorite review from a friend was "Thunderous! Its just thunderous!" For anyone who feels bound by their anger, guilt, hurt or pain, I also recommend "When God Stopped Keeping Score." I thought that the book was just about forgiveness, I soon learned, it was about so much more than that. I was about how you should deal with friends, family and yourself and more importantly, how to keep these relationships strong when things go wrong. Having read it, I feel like a better person. Maybe because this book spoke to me and not down to me. I have read a lot of books that was written like I didn't know anything. What the author of "When God Stopped Keeping Score" does is talk to you like a friend. I needed that. You will understand why when you read it.
William5371 More than 1 year ago
A very readable translation of a book that is second only to the Bible. Highly recommended!
thirsting_for_knowledge More than 1 year ago
this book is so spiritual, so motivating, and very inspirational. it is worth the read. if there is anyone out there that wants to see a great book telling you how God wants you to live your life, this is the book, only second to the Bible of course.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This timeless classic is revelant today as it was when Thomas A' Kempis wrote. I find that it is a great companion to the Liturgy of the Hours. I have included the reading of a chapter at the end of my day with evening prayers. I highly recommend this as an essential book in your spiritual library.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'This book is one of the great classics of Christian faith. Thomas A. Kempis is one of those philosphical greats who, like so many in his day believed that faith was best renedered through sacrifice. 'A monk who believed in solitude, solidarity, and that the inner life was what neccesitated a Christian's development to the full potential that Christ offered,' Thomas A. Kempis challenges the reader to get out of themselves by inner offerings of sacrifice to Christ by dying daily to themselves through fasting,prayer, and humility of oneslf....(through which we can experience an intimate relationship with Christ,) and thereby proffer from the richness of life that only He can offer. This book is a classic, to say the least!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This translation is worth buying for its introduction and preface, as well as enjoyable reading. However, BEFORE you buy any translation, you should 1. Read and print the FREE excerpts and comments by others for the other translations. Print with largest type. 2. Compare all excerpts. What you prefer is largely a matter of personal taste. Each has its good points, none have bad points. 3. Buy more than one translation, unless you are positive you like one much more than all the rest. Each has its own strengths. The one I prefer at a particular time depends on my mood, and you probably will be the same. We bought this one and three othes. 4. Think in terms of buying many more later. Sound crazy? You will be wanting to send them to your friends for whatever occasion (don't wait for Christmas), including to non-Christians. Yes, it is Christian oriented, but NO, the content is NOT only for Christians any more than it is only for monks (for which I believe it was originally written). Remember that Ghandi's favorite book was the bible (he was Hindu). You may find yourself sending this book to some friends, and another translation to othes, depending on what you GUESS their tastes are. Make this book (and one or two other translations if you are inclined) a regular activity. Read it, give it to others.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Comparing the Latin text to the Penguin and Vintage translations, one finds in the 'vanity' section of chapter 1 that the Penguin actually leaves out the first sentence! The Vintage renders it 'It is vanity to seek riches that are sure to perish and put your hope in them.' The Penguin goes straight to the vanity of soliciting/pursuing honors. If the Penguin omits an entire sentence from the 1st paragraph, what else is wrong with it? Yikes. Try the Vintage Spiritual Classics edition (tr. Tylenda).
Guest More than 1 year ago
Dr. Joseph Tylenda, S.J., Director of the Theology Center at Georgetown University has provided the most excellent translation of this wonderful classic, The Imitation of Christ. Rev. Joseph Tylenda, SJ earned his Doctorate in Rome. But more than this, Joseph Tylenda's work is that of true Christian. I highly recommend his translation. His English translation brings this timeless classic to life. It has a beautiful cover, and makes a great gift. The Scriptures are in cleverly placed in italics with complete Bible references where Thomas A. Kempis used the Scriptures. If you are a reader of Classic Works, this translation is a must. But even if you are not, this translation will truly inspire you. Dr. Joseph Tylenda, S.J. provides the history as well. All of his work is elloquent and reader friendly. He gives complete dates with very well written readable explanations! Very unique. He demonstrates that he is not only a skillful Dr. of Theology, but also a modern genius of English, History, and Latin. All Christians should own a copy of this book which is among the world's most famous devotionals. So when you have the time, take a look for yourself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, which inspired John Newton to write Amazing Grace along with the Bible, is the perfect companion to the Bible. God tells us what to do, Kempis helps us know HOW to do it. Though this is a Catholic title, it applies to every Christian in most ways, especially in how to escape the corruption in the world, caused by evil desires..I'm ordering more to give away.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book has helped me learn that no situation in life is permanent just like life itself so we can only be assured of eternal life if we do all things with Christ in mind, even scratching !!
Guest More than 1 year ago
After the Bible this is the all-time favorite book of Catholics world wide, and with good cause. This a truely concise instruction on the spititual life and 'its basic theme is that, since Jesus Christ is true God and true man, by imitating Christ as man, the Christian becomes more and more like Christ who is God.' (Fr. John Hardon, S.J.) If you want to obtain true holiness then this book is a must have for your library!
BookReader12FA More than 1 year ago
Great book. An all time classic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a powerful book that will dramatically help bring the Bible to life for you and is the ideal companion to Scripture. If you are a Protestant and enjoy Chambers' Utmost for His Highest, you will really appreciate this devotional that is as timely today as it was in the Fifteenth Century. I just ordered a dozen copies to give to men in my Businessmen's Bible Study. BN also has a leather bound bound Wellsprings of Faith that includes Imitation of Christ, The Dark Night of the Soul and The Interior Castle. It is a wonderful volume to own, but is a large (but beautiful) book. The Dover Thrift edition is good for tucking into your briefcase along with your Bible or keeping by the night stand. If you are serious about doing God's will rather than your own or man's, then this is a book that will put you on the path to Heavan. If you are serious about your faith and have graduated from the feel-good, sugary, prosperity theology of the day that gives you a quick, brief high, but leaves your spirit weak and unfullfilled, then I highly recommend The Imitation of Christ. "There is a great difference between the wisdom of an illuminated and devout man, and the knowledge of a learned and studious clerk. Far more noble is that learning which floweth from above, from the divine out-pouring, than that which is painfully acquired by the wit of man." (Book III, Chapter XXXI) This is a book for those who yearn for devotion and illumination . . . for closeness to their creator and Savior.
awalkerinca More than 1 year ago
It is by far the second-best book I have ever read. I highly recommend it to people of all faith persuasions. It contains such pertinent advice for dealing with a multitude of human conditions. It is quite practical and yet deeply spiritual.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
D1e9n5n6 More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding Book, the chapters are short but very useful and spiritual for the person seeking a relationship with our Lord and Saviour. It is the Best self help book for this world.
iaijohn More than 1 year ago
The Imitation of Christ This book is a meditation on Biblical texts. It is an abridged, updated version of the original text first printed in 1472 shortly after Gutenberg's movable type spurred printing. The Nook version "contents" is not a table, it is a long sequence of chapter numbers and titles. This is visually confusing. The chapter titles are links but there are no underlines to identify hyperlinks. The Imitation of Christ is divided into three "books." The first book is titled Admonitions Profitable for the Spiritual Life. The second book is Admonitions Concerning the Inner Life and the third book is On Inward Consolation. The "book" are meant to be read together so are more like sections of the whole book. The first book, Admonitions Profitable for the Spiritual Life tells us what to leave behind. The beginning of book one is a plea to forsake not only the flesh but also knowledge in order to master the "self." This spiritual concept sets the tone for the whole work. This reminds me of the Eastern philosophy popular during those tumultuous days of the 1960's. As well the Beatles "Magical Mystery Tour" and J. D. Salinger comes to mind. The writer, Thomas A. Kempis, says a learned man does the will of God. He notes that the path to God is the way to happiness now and forever. The book is all about how to find God. But some thoughts are quite practical such as "don't be hasty in action or stubborn of opinion." An exploration of the "inner life" is the subject of book two, Admonitions Concerning the Inner Life. Using Biblical stories the author explains why we need to be Christ-like. Relevant events and discussions lead the reader through a journey towards inner life. The stories give the reader much to mediate upon. The "Inward Consolation," book three, has many brief and contemplative chapters. Again much of the wisdom here is both spiritual and personal. "The wise lover considers not the gift of the lover so much as the love of the giver," may be applied to the sacred or the profane. How timely and Zen-like is, "...people often strive passionately after things they desire, but when they have obtained them they begin to change their mind about them, because their affections toward them are not lasting but rather rush from one thing to another." Sounds like something many of us are experiencing today. Some blame advertising but perhaps we need to raise ourselves above the noise. The Imitation of Christ will help you do it. Mediate on one of the 56 chapters each day for cycle spiritual of learning. "Many men have opinions, and therefore little trust is to be placed in them. Moreover it is impossible to please them all." That was written over 500 years ago. Doesn't this sound like good advice today. That is why this gem from the past still sparkles with wisdom today.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bill7 More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book about the lord jesus christ.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago