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James Wood, comp. Dictionary of Quotations. 1899.

Thomas à Kempis

All men commend patience, though few be willing to practise it.

Be not angry that you cannot make others what you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself what you wish to be.

Constantly choose rather to want less than to have more.

Faith is required at thy hands, and a sincere life, not loftiness of intellect or inquiry into the deep mysteries of God.

Few spirits are made better by the pain and languor of sickness; as few great pilgrims become eminent saints.

Fire trieth iron, and temptation a just man.

First keep thyself in peace, and then thou shalt be able to keep peace among others.

Flatter not the rich; neither do thou appear willingly before the great.

For as a ship without a helm is tossed to and fro by the waves so the man who is careless and forsaketh his purpose is many ways tempted.

Go whither thou wilt, thou shalt find no rest but in humble subjection to the government of a superior.

God deceiveth thee not.

God is able to do more than man can understand.

God is always ready to strengthen those who strive lawfully.

Grace is a light superior to Nature, which should direct and preside over it.

Grace pays its respects to true intrinsic worth, not to the mere signs and trappings of it, which often only show where it ought to be, not where it really is.

Happy he that can abandon everything by which his conscience is defiled or burdened.

He doeth much that doeth a thing well.

He doeth well that serveth the common good rather than his own will.

He is truly great who is great in charity.

He rideth easily enough whom the grace of God carrieth.

He that hath gained an entire conquest over himself will find no mighty difficulties to subdue all other opposition.

He that is discontented and troubled is tossed with divers suspicions; he is neither quiet himself, nor suffereth others to be quiet.

He that is well-ordered and disposed within himself careth not for the strange and perverse behaviour of men.

He that purposes to be happy by the affection or acquaintance of the best, the greatest man alive, will always find his mind unsettled and perplexed.

He who loves with purity considers not the gift of the lover, but the love of the giver.

Homo fervidus et diligens ad omnia paratur—The man who is earnest and diligent is prepared for all things.

How foolish and absurd, nay, how hurtful and destructive a vice is ambition, which, by undue pursuit of honour, robs us of true honour!

How should he be easy who makes other men’s cares his own?

How should thy virtue be above the shocks and shakings of temptation, when even the angels kept not their first estate, and man in Paradise so soon fell from innocence?

Humility is a virtue of so general, so exceeding good influence, that we can scarce purchase it too dear.

If all be well within,… the impertinent censures of busy, envious men will make no very deep impression.

“If the Lord tarry, yet wait for Him,” for He “will surely come” and heal thee.

If thou bear the cross cheerfully, it will bear thee.

If thou canst let others alone in their matters, they likewise will not hinder thee in thine.

If thou cast away one cross, without doubt thou shalt find another, and that perhaps more heavy.

If thou wouldst profit by thy reading, read humbly, simply, honestly, and not desiring to win a character for learning.

If we bear what we must bear with murmuring and grudging, we do but gall our shoulders with the yoke, and render that a heavy unprofitable load which might be fruitful and glorious.

If we cast off one burden, we are immediately pursued and oppressed by another.

If we fail to conquer smaller difficulties, what will become of us when assaulted by greater?

If we would endeavour like brave men to stand in the battle, surely we should feel the assistance from Heaven.

If your mind and its affections be pure, and sincere, and moderate, nothing shall have the power to enslave you.

Impertinent and lavish talking is in itself a very vicious habit.

In all straits the good behave themselves with meekness and patience.

Is a man one whit the better because he is grown great in other men’s esteem?

Is common opinion the standard of merit?

It exalteth a man from earthly things to love those that are heavenly.

It is an argument of great wisdom to do nothing rashly, nor to be obstinate and inflexible in our opinions.

It is better to be affected with a true penitent sorrow for sin than to be able to resolve the most difficult cases about it.

It is better to cleanse ourselves of our sins now, than to reserve them to be cleansed at some future time.

It is harder work to resist vices and passions, than to toil in bodily labours.

It is much safer to obey than to govern.

It is of some consequence for a man to forego his own inclinations, even in matters of no great importance.

It is proper and beneficial sometimes to be left to thyself.

Keep company with the humble, with the devout, and with the virtuous; and confer with them of things that edify.

Keep thy mind always at its own disposal.

Lay not thine heart open to every one, but treat of thy affairs with the wise and such as fear God.

Lean not upon a broken reed, which will not only let thee fall, but pierce thy arm too.

Leave the great ones of the world to manage their own concerns, and keep your eyes and observations at home.

Let go desire, and thou shalt lay hold on peace.

Let go quarrel and contention, nor embroil thyself in trouble and differences by being over-solicitous in thy own defence.

Let it not be grievous to thee to humble and submit thyself to the capricious humours of men with whom thou conversest in this world, but rather … endure patiently whatever they shall, but should not, do to thee.

Let not the remembrance of thy former trials discourage thee.

Let the thing we do be what it will, it is the principle upon which we do it that must recommend it.

Let vain men pursue vanity; leave them to their own methods.

Love is eternally awake, never tired with labour, nor oppressed with affliction, nor discouraged by fear.

Love is swift, sincere, pious, pleasant, gentle, strong, patient, faithful, prudent, long-suffering, manly, and never seeking her own.

Man’s own judgment is the proper rule and measure of his actions.

Many deceive themselves, imagining to find happiness in change.

Many men involve themselves deeper in temptations by being too solicitous to decline them.

Melius est peccata cavere quam mortem fugere—It is better to avoid sin than to fly from death.

Men are much more prone (the greater is the pity) both to speak and believe ill than well of their neighbours.

Men might live quiet and easy enough, if they would be careful not to give themselves trouble, and forbear meddling with what other people do and say, in which they are in no way concerned.

Men who form their judgment upon sense often err.

Mistake not, man; the devil never sleeps.

Mortality is beset on every side with crosses, and exposed to suffering every moment.

Nature builds upon a false bottom, seeks herself what she values in others, and is oftentimes deceived and disappointed. Grace reposes her whole hope and love in God, and is never mistaken, never deluded by false expectations.

Nemo impetrare potest a papa bullam nunquam moriendi—No man can ever obtain from the Pope a dispensation from death.

No conflict is so severe as his who labours to subdue himself.

No man doth safely appear abroad but he who can abide at home.

No man doth safely rule but he that hath learned gladly to obey.

No man doth safely speak but he who is glad to hold his peace.

No man is so happy as never to give offence.

No man is so sufficient as never to need assistance.

No man is without his load of trouble.

No one is qualified to converse in public who is not highly contented without such conversation.

No one is qualified to entertain, or receive entertainment from others, who cannot entertain himself alone with satisfaction.

No order or profession of men is so sacred, no place so remote or solitary, but that temptations and troubles will find them out and intrude upon them.

No, not even faith, or hope, or any other virtue, is accepted by God without charity and grace.

Nobody can continue easy in his own mind who does not endeavour to become least of all and servant of all.

None so wise but the advice of others may, at some time or other, be useful and necessary for him.

Nor can either thy own resentment of misfortunes within, or the violence of any calamity without, give thee sufficient grounds, from the terrible face thy present circumstances wear, to pronounce that all hope of escape and better days are past.

Nothing is more common than to express exceeding zeal in amending our neighbours,… while at the same time we neglect the beginning at home.

Observe this short but certain aphorism, “Forsake all, and thou shalt find all.”

Occasions do not make a man frail, but they show what he is.

Oh! the dulness and the hardness of the heart of man, which contemplates only the present, and does not rather provide for the future.

Order all thy actions, so as readily and meekly to comply with the commands of thy superiors, the desires of thy equals, the requests of thy inferiors; so to do for all what thou lawfully mayest.

Our charity indeed should be universal, and extend to all mankind; but it is by no means convenient that our friendships and familiarities should do so too.

Out of sight out of mind.

Pass no rash censure upon other people’s words or actions.

Praise is indeed the consequence and encouragement of virtue; but it is sometimes so unseasonably applied as to become its bane and corruption too.

Private affection bereaves us easily of a right judgment.

Purity and simplicity are the two wings with which man soars above the earth and all temporary nature. Simplicity is in the intention, purity in the affection; simplicity turns to God; purity unites with and enjoys Him.

Quicken yourself up to duty by the remembrance of your station, who you are, and what you have obliged yourself to be.

Quicquid agas, prudenter agas, et respice finem—Whatever you do, do it with intelligence, and keep the end in view.

Quit thyself manfully; banish impatience and distrust.

Regard not much who is for thee or who against thee; but give all thy care to this, that God be with thee in everything thou doest.

Remember that the time once yours can never be so again.

Remember thy prerogative is to govern, and not to serve, the things of this world.

Repose and happiness is what thou covetest, but these are only to be obtained by labour.

Rest and undisturbed content have now no place on earth, nor can the greatest affluence of worldly good procure them,… they are peculiar to the love and fruition of God alone.

Run here or there, thou wilt find no rest, but in humble subjection to the government of a superior.

Scruples, temptations, and fears, and cutting perplexities of heart, are frequently the lot of the most excellent persons.

Seek one good, one end, so zealously, that nothing else may come into competition or partnership with it.

Simplicity is in the intention, purity in the affection; simplicity turns to God, purity unites with and enjoys him.

Slander and detraction can have no influence, can make no impression, upon the righteous Judge above. None to thy prejudice, but a sad and fatal one to their own.

Speak not peace to thyself when beset on every side with numerous and restless enemies.

Stain (blemish) not thy innocence by too deep resentment, nor take off from the brightness of thy crown by anger and impatience and eagerness to right thyself.

Stand up bravely to afflictions, and quit thyself like a man.

Study to be quiet; contain yourself within your own business, and let the prying, censorious, the vain and intriguing world follow their own devices.

Such as every one is inwardly, so he judgeth outwardly.

Suffer no hour to slide by without its due improvement.

That intention which fixes upon God as its only end will keep men steady in their purposes, and deliver them from being the jest and scorn of fortune.

That learning which thou gettest by thy own observation and experience is far beyond that which thou gettest by precept; as the knowledge of a traveller exceeds that which is got by reading.

The acknowledgment of our weakness is the first step towards repairing our loss.

The beginning of all temptations and wickedness is the fickleness of our own minds and want of trust in God.

The better you understand yourself, the less cause you will find to love yourself.

The chancre of a man’s self is a very laborious undertaking.

The enemy is more easily repulsed if we never suffer him to get within us, but, upon the very first approach, draw up our forces and fight him without the gate.

The highest in God’s esteem are meanest in their own.

The joy of a peaceful conscience is sown in tears.

The kingdom of God does not lie in elegance of speech or fineness of parts, but in innocence of life and good works.

The loftier the building the deeper must the foundation be laid.

The Lord bestoweth his blessings where he findeth the vessels empty.

The nobler the virtue is, the more eager and generous resolution do thou express of attaining to it.

The opinions of men are as many and as different as their persons; the greatest diligence and most prudent conduct can never please them all.

The true original ground of all disquiet is within.

The way to heaven is set with briars and thorns; and they who arrive at the kingdom travel over craggy rocks and comfortless deserts.

The wealth of both the Indies cannot redeem one single opportunity which you have once let slip.

There can come no harm of supposing every other man better than yourself; but the supposing any man worse than yourself may be attended with very ill consequences.

They who accuse and blacken thee wrongfully are much the greatest sufferers by their own malice and injustice.

They who sustain their cross shall likewise be sustained by it in return.

Things fasten upon thee only according as the degree of thy own love and inclination for them gives opportunity and advantage.

Thou art ignorant of what thou art, and much more ignorant of what is fit for thee.

Thou canst not be entirely free till thou hast attained to such a mastery as entirely to subdue and deny thyself.

Thou must learn to break thine own will in many things if thou wilt have peace and concord with others.

Though peace be in every man’s wishes, yet the qualifications and predispositions necessary for procuring and preserving it are the care of very few.

’Tis certainly much easier for a man to restrain himself from talking at all, than to enter into discourse without saying more than becomes him.

’Tis rashness to conclude affairs in a lost condition because some crosses have baulked your expectations.

To be ill thought of is sometimes for thy good,… if thou seek not thy own glory, but His that sent thee, the affliction will not be very grievous to be borne.

To be provoked with every slanderous word argues a littleness of soul, a want of due regard to God.

Too many instances there are of daring men, who by presuming to sound the deep things of religion, have cavilled and argued themselves out of all religion.

True quietness of heart is gotten by resisting our passions, not by obeying them.

Upon every occasion, be sure to make a conscience of what you do or say.

We are all best affected to them who are of the same opinion as ourselves.

We are all frail; but esteem none more frail than thyself.

We know not oftentimes what we are able to do, but temptations shows us what we are.

We must not suppose ourselves always to have conquered a temptation when we have fled from it.

We must sometimes cease to adhere to our own opinion for the sake of peace.

We should be sparing in our intimacies; because it so very often happens that the more perfectly men are understood, the less they are esteemed.

We take a pleasure in being severe upon others, but cannot endure to hear of our own faults.

We will have others severely corrected, and will not be corrected ourselves.

What are words but empty sounds, that break and scatter in the air, and make no real impression?

What is more at ease, more abstracted from the world, than a true single-hearted honesty?

When you find yourselves tempted, be sure to ask advice; and when you see another so, deal with him gently.

Whensoever a man desireth anything inordinately, he is presently disquieted in himself.

Wheresoever a man seeketh his own, there he falleth from love.

Who hath a greater combat than he that laboureth to overcome himself?

Why should thy satisfaction be placed upon a thing which makes thee not one whit the better or the worse?

Without the way there is no going; without the truth, no knowing; without the life, no living.

Would we but quit ourselves like men, and resolutely stand our ground, we should not fail of succours from above.

Your own soul is the thing you ought to look after.

Your own words and actions are the only things you will be called to account for.