Andrew Murray’s imitation of Thomas à Kempis who imitated Mother Mary


“The Imitation of Christ,” the best seller ever written after the Bible, is not the only devotion Thomas à Kempis’ wrote on the experience of imitation. One of his lesser-known books, “The Imitation of Mary,” which boldly declares, “Blessed the person who imitates our Lady, for in imitating her he imitates Jesus,” was hidden for many years from so many souls.[1]


The following excerpts are from Chapter 1 of “The Imitation of Mary” by Thomas à Kempis.

Mary. It is upon her that I wish to dwell for a moment; I pray, therefore, that I may be made worthy of doing so, since I dare not approach her without first being given permission I am well aware that due to my unworthiness, I ought not present myself before this supremely worthy woman whom even the Angels admire and venerate while exclaiming: “Who is this that arises from the desert of the world and overflows with the delights of paradise?”

Who allegedly grants the permission to approach Mary when Christ Himself shed his precious blood to give saints the boldness to enter into the holiest in heaven, any second of any day, anywhere without any fear that he or she will not be granted his permission? (Hebrews 10:19).

It cannot possibly be God the Father or God the Holy Spirit who refuse permission because neither one would ever supersede the blood of Christ with something or someone else to approach God in the holiest of holies in heaven.

Consequently, the one who gave Thomas à Kempis permission to approach Mary, which, by definition, is blasphemous and outright idolatry, must have been Satan and his hordes because they alone could think of such a heinous plan to malign the cross and the blood of Christ.

It again begs the question: For what reason did Andrew Murray, celebrated and honoured as one of the greatest men of God in South Africa, quoting Thomas à Kempis so extensively in some of his books? (viz. “Like Christ: Crucified with Him”).

Assuredly, Andrew Murray must have known of Thomas à Kempis’ adoration of Mary in his book “The Imitation of Mary” and of his resolve that the imitation of Mary is the only true litmus test for the correct and proper imitation of Jesus.

No one can deny that Murray’s books are biblically sound in matters of the cross and the blood of Christ.

However, even to this day, mystics are known for their flair to present the truth but deliberately quote other mystics to undergird their double agenda and so-called hidden secrets of the truth.

Paul succinctly calls it to “hold the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18).

Paul expands on this phenomenon in his epistle to the Galatians when he rebukes them for holding to a false gospel — of works plus faith.

May we assume that the efforts to imitate Christ are really a system of works?

The Bible never advises us to imitate Christ. Imitation requires one to copy an example someone else sets forth in life and not the essence of the person per se.

Please remember what Murray himself said:

“. . . it is not easy to define what mysticism is.

It is not a system of doctrine. It is found in all religious systems, in heathenism and pantheism, as well as in Christianity.

With the Church of Christ, it is not a sect or party; every Church has its representatives.

In every complete Christian character, there is an element of mysticism.

It is the outgrowth of a certain disposition or temperament, which ever seeks for the deepest ground or root of spiritual things.”

If mysticism is not so easy to define and is not a system of doctrine, it follows that the element in every complete or perfect Christian character must be something else than doctrine.

The only opposite element to doctrine is works (efforts, rituals, practices, silence, solitude, service).

In fact, all these things are indispensable elements in mysticism.

Without them mysticism means nothing. Thomas à Kempis wrote, “At the Day of Judgement we shall not be asked what we have read but what we have done.[2] (Matthew 7:21-23).

Thomas Merton who said, “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity . . . I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can,”[3] listed the reading of “The Imitation of Christ” as one of the steps to his conversion to Rome, the grandest epitome of a system of works[4]

We need to ask why Murray had such a strange affinity for Thomas à Kempis.

Therefore, dearest Mary, it is unseemly that I should dare to dwell on the thought of your beauty and your greatness, for I am but dust and ashes and am even the vilest creature on earth since I am a sinner and inclined to every kind of perverse act.

You, however, have been made higher than the heavens; you have the world beneath your feet and are worthy of honor and reverence because of the exalted state of your Son.

Your ineffable kindness, which transcends every imagination, enchants me and draws my affections to you, for you are the comfort of the afflicted and always ready to help wretched sinners.

Mary, made to be higher than the heavens? Really?

We know from Scripture that there are three heavens, of which the third was the heaven whereunto Paul of Tarsus was raptured (“harpazo”). (2 Corinthians 12:2).

The third heaven is God’s eternal abode. (Hebrews 8:1). The impudence to grant Mary a much higher and loftier position than the heavens is to elevate her above Jesus Christ and his Father. (Philippians 2:9). Islam does the exact same thing when they cry out “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest; the highest).

Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, the highest place of the heavens. He is no longer a helpless babe in the arms of a false Roman Catholic Mother Mary, and neither is He nailed to a cross any longer.

He is risen and exalted above all else at the right hand of God.

Yet again, we need to ask why Murray had such a strange affinity for Thomas à Kempis.

I am very much in need of great consolation and especially of your Son’s grace, because I am utterly unable to help myself.

But if you, most merciful Mother, condescend to look upon my littleness, you can in many ways help and strengthen me with abundant consolations.

Therefore, as soon as I feel burdened with difficulties and temptations, I shall have immediate recourse to you, for where grace abounds, mercy is more at hand.

True to his robust Romanism, Thomas à Kempis took refuge in Mary when he needed consolation and strength rather than in her Son.

He never denied that he had recourse to Jesus Christ when he needed grace but experienced the immediacy of his recourse to Mary more satisfactory, even to the extent that he could attribute to Mary something that God alone can do, i.e. “. . . where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” (Romans 5:20).

Yet again, we need to ask why Murray had such a strange affinity for Thomas à Kempis and other mystics.

If, then, I would attempt to grasp your exceptional glory and greet you in a worthy way from the depths of my heart, I must advance with a very pure spirit, for those who presume to approach your door without due reverence obtain not glory but a justified disgrace.

Anyone approaching you must proceed with the greatest reverence and humility, but also with great hope of being admitted in virtue of your mercy and clemency.

No one else, except God, can forgive sins to the point of the complete purging of all transgressions. (Isaiah 44:22; Romans 8:1).

In complete contrast to the Bible, the great hope of being admitted into the presence of Mary and approaching her with the greatest of reverence and humility is contingent on her virtue of mercy and clemency.

God’s readiness to forgive sinners is wholly contingent on faith in the shed blood of Christ which gives us the boldness to approach Him with due reverence and humility, knowing with absolute certainty that He would never turn believers away. (Hebrews 10:19-23).

With Mary, who has allegedly been made higher than the heavens, the fear of being turned away in justified disgrace when her followers approach her without a very pure spirit (perfection), is a real threat.

Yet again, we need to ask why Murray had such a strange affinity for Thomas à Kempis and other mystics?

I come to you, therefore, with humility and reverence, with devotion and confidence, and with the greeting of Gabriel on my lips—a greeting that I joyously repeat with head bowed in respect and with hands open in deep devotion.

I pray that this greeting may be repeated a hundred, a thousand, and even more times on my behalf by all the heavenly spirits. Indeed, I do not know anything dearer and more worthy I can offer you than this greeting.

Listen now to one most enamored of your name: “Heaven rejoices and earth is amazed when I say Hail, Mary! Satan flees, hell trembles when I say: Hail, Mary!

The world becomes contemptible, the flesh foul, when I say Hail, Mary! Sadness disappears and joy returns when I say. Hail, Mary!

“Tepidity vanishes and the heart is inflamed with love when I say: Hail, Mary! Devotion grows, compunction is hope intensifies, and consolation is increased when I say Hail, Mary! The soul is renewed and the inclination to good is strengthened when I say Hail, Mary!”

So intense is the sweetness of this blessed greeting that it cannot be expressed in human words.

It remains forever loftier and more profound than any creature can grasp. Therefore, I kneel again before you, Most Holy Virgin Mary, and say “Hail, Mary! full of grace.”

The centrality of the angel Gabriel’s greeting “Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” is not the greeting itself and neither is it Mary.

Notwithstanding Gabriel’s precise and unmistakably clear-cut message that she would conceive in [her] womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end,” the greeting itself is wrapped in a cloud of mystical aura by Thomas à Kempis, imagining that the greeting “Hail Mary” makes Satan to flee and hell to tremble.

Where is Jesus who overcame Satan and “was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” in this imaginative scenario? (1 John 3:8).

Yet again, we need to ask why Murray had such a strange affinity for Thomas à Kempis and other mystics.

[1] Introduction to “The Imitation of Mary” by Romolo Sbrocchi.

[2] Thomas A KempisThe Imitation of Christ

[3] David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).  


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Tom Lessing (Discerning the World)

Tom Lessing is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

1 Response

  1. Marthina Fourie says:

    Yes…. why did Andrew Murray had such a strange affinity for Thomas à Kempis and other mystics…?
    It is clear when one studies the mystery Babilon religion you would discover the connection between the roman catholicism/ virgin mary and Nimrod, Semiramus, and the “Mystery Religion of Babylon”. Mysticism is deeply rooted in this.
    These articles were a great read. Thank You Tom for taking the time in writing this up. Also, it helps when you break it up in parts.

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