Thomas Kempis: of the danger of superfluity of words

I was blessed by these thoughts this morning and hope that you will find them edifying as well.    It’s a simple reminder, but we all need to hear it often.


Avoid as far as thou canst the tumult of men; for talk concerning worldly things, though it be innocently undertaken, is a hindrance, so quickly are we led captive and defiled by vanity.  Many a time I wish that I had held my peace, and had not gone amongst men.  But why do we talk and gossip so continually, seeing that we so rarely resume our silence without some hurt done to our conscience?  We like talking so much because we hope by our conversations to gain some mutual comfort, and because we seek to refresh our wearied spirits by variety of thoughts.  And we very willingly talk and think of those things which we love or desire, or else of those which we most dislike.


2. But alas! It is so often to no purpose and in vain.   For this outward consolation is no small hindrance to the inner comfort which cometh from God.  Therefore must we watch and pray that time pass not idly away.   If it be right and desirable for thee to speak, speak things which are to edification.  Evil custom and neglect of our real profit tend much to make us heedless of watching over our lips.  Nevertheless, devout conversation on spiritual things helpeth not a little to spiritual progress, most of all where those of kindred mind and spirit find their ground of fellowship in God.


Taken from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas A Kempis Chapter X


The above shouldn’t be interpreted as meaning that we can never talk about anything that isn’t deep and spiritual; only that we should give up talking or communicating (through talking, emailing, text messaging, etc) for the sake of talking and particularly shouldn’t talk about “vain things” just because that’s what everybody else is doing.   We should always be looking to avoid vain things and embrace profitable things even – perhaps especially – in our speech and we need to learn to do this at an early age in order that our young years be not wasted on idle vain things. 


Some related thoughts from Mr. Kempis, in Chapter XI of “The Imitation of Christ” (chapter XI is titled “Of Seeking Peace of Mind and Spiritual Progress“):


How came it to pass that many of the Saints were so perfect, so contemplative of Divine things?  Because they steadfastly sought to mortify themselves from all worldly desires, and so were enabled to cling with their whole heart to God, and be free and at leisure for the thought of Him.  We are too much occupied with our own affections, and too anxious about transitory things.  Seldom too, do we conquer even a single fault, nor are we zealous for daily growth in grace.  And so we remain lukewarm and unspiritual.


If we cannot conquer even the smallest thoughts thoughts we shouldn’t be thinking, what hope do we have of conquering the strong temptations?    Any who think small hard things are not important set themselves up to fall.   


God bless and veritas supra omnis!   

Edit: Leonard Ravenhill recommends the following scriptures for our consideration on this subject.

Psalm 12:3-4
Psalm 34:13
Psalm 37:30
Psalm 39:1,3
Psalm 120:2-3
Proverbs 20:15
Eccl. 5:6
Romans 3:4,13-14
II Cor. 12:20
James 3:2


You can read more of Mr. Ravenhill’s thoughts here…


One Response

  1. “Because they steadfastly sought to mortify themselves from all worldly desires, and so were enabled to cling with their whole heart to God, and be free and at leisure for the thought of Him.”

    “To mortify themselves from all worldly desires” Wow I had never thought of it in that way. Mortify, the word gives off a sense of horror, shame, or humiliation. How all to often I revel in worldly desires…
    A challenge, and a worthy one at that.

    Thank you for posting these thoughts.

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