BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 24: OF JUDGMENT AND THE PUNISHMENT OF SINNERS
IN all things look to the end, and how thou wilt stand before the strict Judge, from Whom there is nothing hid; Who takes no bribes, and receives no excuses, but will judge that which is just.
O most miserable and foolish sinner, what wilt thou answer unto God, Who knoweth all thine evil deeds-----thou who art sometimes afraid of an angry man?
Why dost thou not provide thee against the day of judgment, when no man can be excused or defended by another, but each one will have enough to do to answer for himself?
Now thy labor is profitable, thy tears are acceptable, thy groans are heard, thy sorrow is satisfying and purifieth the soul.
2. The patient man hath a great and wholesome Purgatory; who, suffering wrongs, is more concerned at another's malice than at his own injury; who prays freely for his adversaries, forgiving their offenses from his heart; who delays not to ask pardon of others; who is easier moved to pity than to anger; who does frequent violence to himself, and strives to bring his flesh wholly in subjection to the spirit.
Better is it to purge away our sins, and cut off our vices now, than to keep them for purgation hereafter.
Truly we deceive ourselves, through the inordinate love we bear the flesh.
3. What else Will that fire devour but thy sins?
The more thou sparest thyself now, and followest the flesh, so much the more dearly shalt thou pay for it hereafter, and the more fuel dost thou lay up for that fire.
In what things a man hath most sinned, in those things shall he be most grievously punished.
There the slothful will be pricked with burning goads. the gluttonous tormented with extreme hunger and thirst; there the luxurious and the lovers of pleasure will have burning pitch and fetid sulfur rained upon them; and the envious, like rabid dogs, will howl for grief.
4. There will be no vice but will have its own peculiar torment.
There the proud will will be filled with all confusion, and the avaricious pinched with the most miserable want.
There one hour of punishment will be more grievous than a hundred years of the most bitter penance here.
There will be no rest, no consolation for the damned; but here we sometimes cease from labor and enjoy the consolation of our friends.
Be, therefore, now solicitous and sorrowful for thy sins, that in the day of judgment thou mayst be with the blessed; for then the just shall stand with great constancy against those that have afflicted and oppressed them.
Then will he stand up to judge who now humbly submitteth himself to the judgment of men.
Then shall the poor and humble have great confidence, and the proud will fear on every side.
5. Then will it appear that he was wise in this world, who for Christ's sake learned to be a fool and despised.
Then every tribulation borne with patience shall be pleasing, and all iniquity shall stop her mouth.
Then shall every devout person rejoice, and all the irreligious shall be sad.
Then shall the flesh that was afflicted exult more than if it had always fared in delights.
Then shall the mean habits shine, and the fine garment grow dingy.
Then shall the poor cottage be praised above the gilded palace.
Then shall enduring patience more avail than all the power of the world.
Then shall simple obedience be more highly exalted than all worldly cunning.
6. Then a pure and good conscience shall bring more joy than learned philosophy.
Then shall the contempt of riches far outweigh all the treasures of the children of earth.
Then shalt thou find more consolation in having prayed devoutly than in having feasted daintily.
Then shalt thou rejoice more in having kept silence than for having more long discourses, or talked much.
Then shall holy works be of greater value than multitudes of goodly words.
Then shall strictness of life and hard penance please more than all the delights of earth.
Learn to suffer in little things now, that then thou mayst be delivered from more grievous sufferings.
Try first here what thou canst bear hereafter.
If now thou canst endure so little, how wilt thou be able to suffer eternal torments?
If now a little suffering makes thee so impatient, what will Hell do then?
Behold assuredly, both joys thou canst not have-----to delight thyself here in this world, and afterwards to reign with Christ.
7. If up to this very day thou hadst always lived in honors and pleasures, what would it all profit thee, did it happen that thou must immediately die?
All, therefore, is vanity, except to love God and serve Him only.
For he that loveth God with his whole heart, feareth neither death, nor punishment, nor judgment, nor Hell; for perfect love giveth secure access to God. But he who still finds delight in sin, no wonder if he fear death and judgment.
It is good, however, if love as yet reclaim thee not from evil, that at least the fear of Hell do check thee.
For, indeed, he that setteth aside the fear of God will not be able to persevere long in good, but will very soon fall into the snares of the devil.
How powerfully do the fear of God's judgments and the dread of a miserable eternity act as a restraint upon our passions, arrest the sallies of temper, and oblige us to withdraw from the allurements and pleasures of sin! To what end (let us say to ourselves in time of temptation) is the
criminal pleasure of this sin of revenge, impurity, anger, injustice, or lying to afford myself a momentary gratification and should I die immediately after having yielded, without repentance, without the Sacraments (which may happen. and which does happen to thousands), where will this sinful enjoyment terminate?-----in a miserable eternity. A momentary pleasure, an eternity of pain! No, I will not expose myself to the danger of being miserable for ever, for the sake of a moment of pleasure. How true it is, according to the Wise Man, that to avoid sin, at least habitual sin, we must remember our last end. Did we frequently and seriously reflect that we must one day give an exact account of our consciences, of the conduct of our whole lives, of all our sins, to a Judge Who knoweth and remembereth all things, who would not be terrified at the apprehension of judgment, and of the terrible account we are then to give, and would not watch over himself, and endeavor to correct all his faults? Let us be convinced that the sure way to avoid condemnation in the next life, is to condemn and punish ourselves in this.
O SOVEREIGN Judge of the living and the dead! Who, at the moment of our death, will decide our eternal doom, remember that Thou art our Savior as well as our Judge, and that as much as our sins have provoked Thee to wrath, Thy sacred Wounds have inclined Thee to mercy. Look, therefore, on those Wounds inflicted on Thee for our sins, and on the Blood which Thou hast shed for their expiation, and by those precious pledges of salvation we conjure Thee to pardon our manifold transgressions. Amen.