BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 2: OF HAVING A HUMBLE OPINION OF ONE'S SELF
EVERY man naturally desireth to know; but what doth knowledge avail without the fear of God? Truly, a lowly rustic that serveth God is better than a proud philosopher who pondereth the courses of the stars, and neglecteth himself.
He that knoweth himself, becometh vile to himself, and taketh no delight in the praises of men.
If I knew all things that are in the world, and were not in charity, what would it profit me in the sight of God, Who will judge according to deeds?
2. Cease from overweening desire of knowledge; because many distractions are found there, and much delusion.
Learned men are very willing to seem wise, and to be called so.
Many are the things which it is of little or no profit to the soul to know.
And he is very unwise who attendeth more earnestly to other things than to those which may serve for his salvation.
Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life giveth ease to the mind, and a pure conscience affordeth great confidence towards God.
3. The more thou knowest, and the better, so much the heavier will thy judgment therefore be, unless thy life be also more holy.
Be not, then, lifted up for any skill or learning thou hast; but rather fear for the knowledge that is given thee.
If it seem to thee that thou knowest many things, and understandest them well enough; know for all that, the things thou art ignorant of are still more.
Be not high-minded, but rather acknowledge thine ignorance.
Why wouldst thou prefer thyself to another, when there may be found many more learned and better versed in the Law than thou!
If thou wouldst acquire knowledge and learn anything to the purpose, love to be unknown, and to be esteemed as nothing.
4. The highest and most useful lesson we can learn is this: To know truly and to look down upon ourselves.
To think nothing of ourselves, and I always to judge well and highly of others, is great wisdom and high perfection.
If thou shouldst see another openly do wrong, or commit some grievous sins, thou need est not think thyself better; for thou knowest not how long thou mayest be able to persevere in well-doing.
We are all frail; but see thou think none more frail than thyself.
THE thoughts of man, says the Scripture, are vain and useless, if, in them, he does not apply his mind to know and to love God, to forget and to hate himself. The simple and lively faith of a soul which believes all that God teaches, without examination or hesitation, and performs all that He requires for the attainment of salvation, is preferable to all Divine and human sciences, which, of themselves without such a faith, only fill the mind with pride, leave the heart dry, and avail naught for salvation.
MODERATE, O Jesus, my eagerness to know so much, and correct my negligence in doing so little for salvation; since Thou wilt not Judge me according to what I have known, but by what I have done, or neglected to do to obtain it. Can I apply my thoughts to know Thee thoroughly, and not admire and love Thee? And can I truly know myself, and not despise and hate myself? O life unknown! Life hidden in Jesus Christ, in God! What an excellent means art thou of sanctification and salvation; yet how little art thou practiced amongst Christians! Grant, O Lord, that all may know, esteem, and love it, and be directed by it. Amen.