The Imitation of Christ: Selections Annotated & Explained

This spiritual classic focuses the contemporary God-seeker on developing a vital connection with God by inviting the spirit of Jesus into our lives. Helpful commentary clarifies the work's biblical and medieval roots and its continuing significance today.

Annotation by Paul Wesley Chilcote, PhD
By Thomas à Kempis
Adapted from John Wesley's The Christian's Pattern

5½ x 8½, 224 pp | 978-1-59473-434-2

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Let Jesus’s example of holiness, humility and purity of heart be a companion on your own spiritual journey.

Next to the Bible, The Imitation of Christ is the most widely read devotional work within the Christian community. Thought to be compiled by fifteenth-century cleric Thomas à Kempis (c. 1380–1471), this spiritual classic focuses the contemporary God-seeker on a religion of the heart—a vital connection with God in our innermost being. It advocates the cultivation of virtues, like humility and purity of intention, by inviting the spirit of Jesus to dwell richly in our lives. It emphasizes the need to translate that life of love into daily action.

Now you can experience the timeless wisdom of this spiritual classic with no previous knowledge of late medieval Christianity. This SkyLight Illuminations edition, based on John Wesley’s popular 1741 abridgment, renders these meditations on the life and teachings of Jesus in a way that is accessible to the contemporary reader. A substantive introduction and facing-page commentary places the work in its original context; clarifies the text’s roots in the Bible, the early Church, and medieval mysticism; and explains its influence—spanning five hundred years—on spiritual luminaries from saints to popes and its continuing significance today.

“Shows the enduring value ... for Christians today. A tested guide to simplicity and purity in following Christ, this spiritual classic gets at the heart of the Gospel, even as it moves the hearts of its readers.”

Ann W. Astell, president, Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality, University of Notre Dame

“[A] generous and wise representation of a spiritual masterpiece.... Does not simply offer help in reading this pivotal contribution to Christian devotion. [It] encourages readers to make their own discoveries and offers them the tools needed for the effort.”

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, director of spiritual formation and Anglican studies, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University; author, What God Wants for Your Life

“A splendid edition of one of Christianity’s timeless classics.... Will be richly appreciated by readers of Christian spirituality as well as spiritual pilgrims along the Christian way.”

Dr. John R. Tyson, visiting professor of church history, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School

“[A] wonderfully accessible translation and helpful commentary ... helps us to experience why it speaks with great relevance to generation after generation, across all cultures.”

Trevor Hudson, author, Journey of the Spirit

“Words of Christ’s vision for human life are given to us in astonishing clarity: sacrifice, surrender, mystery, hospitality, grace, love, fellowship, union. If you seek to be a follower of Christ, you will find solace and guidance in this work of great generosity.”

Dwight H. Judy, PhD, professor emeritus of spiritual formation,
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary; author, Discerning Life Transitions

“Are you wondering how to cultivate your life in God? Slow soaking in Paul Chilcote’s readable version of The Imitation of Christ can guide ordinary, hungry followers into a likeness to Jesus, just as Thomas à Kempis knew by experience.”

Dr. Sharon Rowland, spiritual director; Renovaré and Ignatian Spirituality Institute alumna

“Invites the reader into a space of reflection where Christ can breathe new life into us. With his fresh inflection of this classic work, Chilcote reminds us that the practices that have sustained the people of Christ across the centuries still have the power in our own time to make us more like Jesus: not by mimicking him, but by opening ourselves fully to his presence in our lives.”

Jan Richardson, director, the Wellspring Studio; author, Sacred Journeys: A Womans Book of Daily Prayer

“Will inspire upon first reading; subsequent readings will provide new insights. Recommended for church libraries and for personal devotional use.”

Congregational Libraries Today

“Robust enough for the serious scholar and yet accessible to the hesitant seeker. It should be in the hands of all who desire to build or maintain a vital connection with God. [It] will stay on my desk with other treasured devotional classics.”

Bishop Rueben Job, retired United Methodist bishop; author, Three Simple Rules: A Wesleyan Way of Living

“This masterpiece ... enables us in those dry spells when we perceive God’s absence to reaffirm with bold faith God’s eternal presence. [It] needs to be kept ready at hand and close to our heart.”

Susan Muto, PhD, dean, Epiphany Academy of Formative Spirituality

“Will warm the reader’s heart.... Provides a great service to the church.”

Gary W. Moon, MDiv, PhD, executive director, Martin Institute and Dallas Willard Center, Westmont College; author, Apprenticeship with Jesus

“Invites [us] into a conversation between two men of God on the indispensable theme of Christlikeness. Read this book and be ‘more like the Master’ for having done so!”

Dr. Steve Harper, professor of spiritual formation, Asbury Theological Seminary


Preface xi
Introduction xv

The Life of the Soul
1. The Imitation of Christ 3
2. Humility 5
3. Truth 7
4. Prudence 9
5. Scripture 11
6. Vanity and Pride 13
7. Peace 15
8. Temptation 17
9. Works of Charity 21
10. Long-Suffering 23
11. Holy Forebears 25
12. Solitude and Silence 29
13. Discipline 31
14. Mortality 33
15. The Consequences of Sin 37
16. Transformation 39

The Interior Life
1. The Interior Life 43
2. Humble Submission 47
3. Peace and Goodness 49
4. Simplicity and Purity 51
5. Self-Understanding 53
6. A Good Conscience 55
7. Love of Jesus 57
8. Friendship with Jesus 59
9. Divine Comfort 61
10. Gratitude 65
11. The Cross of Christ 67
12. The Royal Way 69

The Comfort of the Heart
1. Christ Speaks 75
2. The Internal Voice 77
3. God's Word 79
4. Truth and Humility 81
5. Divine Love 83
6. Free Grace 87
7. God's Service 89
8. Human Desires 91
9. Entrusting All to God 93
10. Resting in God 95
11. Causes of Peace 99
12. Dangers in Self-Absorption 101
13. God�s All-Sufficiency 103
14. Freedom of Heart 105
15. Brokenness in Life 107
16. Wisdom 109
17. Eternal Life 111
18. Surrender 113
19. True Self-Knowledge 115
20. Nature and Grace 117
21. The Optimism of Grace 119
22. Self-Denial 121
23. Encouragement 123
24. Deep Mysteries 125
25. Hope and Trust in God Alone 127

The Sacrament of Holy Communion
1. Reverence for Christ 131
2. God�s Goodness and Love 135
3. Frequent Communion 139
4. A Table of Blessing 143
5. The Dignity of the Sacrament 147
6. Examination of Conscience 149
7. Sacrifice and the Meal 151
8. Offering All to God 153
9. An Essential Meal 155
10. Preparation for Communion 159
11. Union with Christ 163
12. Communion 165
13. Humility and Sacramental Devotion 167
14. Yearning for God's Grace 169
15. Fervent Love 173
Notes 176
Suggestions for Further Study 177
Comparison of Editions 178
Scripture Index 182