BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 13: OF RESISTING TEMPTATIONS
AS long as we live in this world, we cannot be without tribulation and temptation.
Hence it is written in Job: "Man's life on earth is a temptation."
Every one, therefore, should be solicitous about his temptations, ahd watch in prayer, lest the devil find opportunity to catch him; who never sleepeth, but goeth about, seeking whom he may devour.
No one is so perfect and holy as not sometimes to have temptations; and we never can be wholly free from them.
2. Nevertheless, temptations are often very profitable to a man, troublesome and grievous though they may be; for in them a man is humbled, purified, and instructed.
All the Saints passed through many tribulations and temptations, and profited by them.
And they that could not support temptations, became reprobate, and fell away.
There is no order so holy, nor place so retired, where there are not temptations or adversities.
3. A man is never wholly secure from temptation as long as he liveth; for there is within us the source of temptation; since we were born in concupiscence.
When one temptation or tribulation is over, another cometh on; and we shall always have something to suffer; for we have lost the advantage of our original happiness.
Many seek to fly temptations, and fall the more grievously into them.
We cannot conquer by flight alone; but by patience and true humility we become stronger than all our enemies.
4. He who only declineth them outwardly, and doth not pluck out their root, will profit little; nay, temptations will the sooner return, and he will find himself in a worse condition.
By degrees and by patience, with longanimity, thou wilt, by God's grace, better overcome them than by harshness and thine own importunity.
Take counsel the oftener in temptation, and do not deal harshly with one who is tempted; but pour in consolation, as thou wouldst wish to be done unto thyself.
5. Inconstancy of mind, and little confidence in God, is the beginning of all evil temptations.
For as a ship without a helm is driven to and fro by the waves, so the man who is negligent, and giveth up his resolution, is tempted in various ways.
Fire trieth iron, and temptation a just man.
We often know not what we are able to do, but temptation discovereth what we are.
Still we must watch, especially in the beginning of temptation; for then the enemy is more easily overcome, if he be not suffered to enter the door of the mind, but is withstood upon the threshold the very moment that he knocketh.
Whence a certain one hath said:
"Resist beginnings; all too late the cure, when ills have gathered strength by long delay."
For first there cometh into the mind a simple thought; then a strong imagination; afterwards delight, and the evil motion and consent.
And so, by little and little, the malignant foe doth gain full entrance, when he is not resisted in the beginning.
And the longer anyone hath been slothful in resisting, so much the weaker he daily becometh in himself, and the enemy so much the stronger against him.
6. Some suffer grievous temptations in the beginning of their conversion, others in the end; and some are much troubled nearly their whole life.
Some are very lightly tempted, according to the wisdom and equity of the ordinance of God, Who weigheth man's condition and merits, and preordaineth all things for the salvation of His elect.
7. We must not, therefore, despair when we are tempted, but the more fervently pray God to vouchsafe to help us in every tribulation: Who of a truth, according to the saying of St. Paul, will make such issue with the temptation, that we may be able to sustain it.
Let us, then, humble our souls under the hand of God in every temptation and tribulation; for the humble in spirit He will save and exalt.
8. In temptations and tribulations is it proved what progress a man hath made; and there also is there greater merit, and virtue is made more manifest.
Neither is it a great thing for a man to be devout and fervent while he feeleth no weight of adversity in time of trouble; but if he suffereth patiently there will be hope of great profit.
Some are preserved from great temptations, and are often overcome in daily little ones; that, thus humbled, they may never presume upon themselves in great trials, when they are so weak in such trifling occurrences.
TEMPTATIONS serve to free us from all lurking inclinations to vanity or self-love, and from at all depending upon ourselves; because they make us feel the weight of our own miseries, give us a disgust for all earthly gratifications, and oblige us to rely solely upon God. They serve also to humble us by the experience they afford us of our own weakness, and of the depth of our natural corruption. They serve, in a word, to convince us of our inability to do the least good, or to avoid the smallest sin, without the assistance of God.
I AM sensible, O Jesus, that in the time of temptation, of myself, I cannot but offend Thee, and that, carried along by my natural inclination for evil, I am in danger of ruining myself. But I know, also, that Thou canst, and Thine Apostle assures me Thou wilt, defend me against the most violent assaults of my passions. Wherefore, mistrusting myself, and relying upon Thee, I will exclaim: "Lord, save me, or I perish;" I Will stretch out my hand to Thee, as St. Peter did, and confidently hope that Thou wilt not let me perish. Amen.