BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 3: OF THE DOCTRINE OF TRUTH
HAPPY is he whom truth teacheth by itself, not by figures and passing sounds, but as it is in itself.
Our own way of thinking and our sense often deceive us, and see but a little way. What signifies making a great dispute about hidden and obscure things which for having been ignorant of we shall not be reproved in the judgment?
Wonderful folly! that, neglecting the things that are useful and necessary, we give our attention unbidden to such as are curious and mischievous! Having eyes, we see not.
2. And what matter is it to us of genera and species? He to whom the Eternal Word speaketh is delivered from a multitude of opinions.
From the One Word are all things, and all things speak this One; and this is the Beginning which also speaketh to us.
Without Him no man understandeth, or rightly judgeth.
He to whom all things are one, who referreth all things to one, and seeth all things in one, may be steadfast in heart, and abide in God at peace.
O Truth! my God! make me one with Thee in everlasting charity.
I am oftentimes wearied with the many things I read and hear; in Thee is all I wish or long for.
Let all teachers hold their peace, and all created things keep silence in Thy presence; do Thou alone speak to me.
3. The more a man is united within himself, and interiorly simple, so much the more and deeper things doth he understand without labor, for he receiveth the light of understanding from on high.
A pure, simple, and steadfast spirit is not distracted by the multitude of things he hath to do; for he doeth all for the honor of God, and striveth within himself to be free from all self-seeking.
Who doth more hinder thee, and give thee more trouble than thine own heart's unmortified affection?
A good and devout man first arrangeth interiorly the works he hath to do exteriorly; and they lead him not to the desires of an evil inclination, but he bendeth them to the judgment of right reason.
Who hath a stronger conflict than he who striveth to overcome himself?
And this ought to be our business, namely: To overcome ourselves; and every day to get more the mastery over ourselves; and to make progress for the better.
4. All perfection in this life is attended by some imperfection, and all our far-seeing is not without a certain obscurity.
The humble knowledge of one's self is a surer way to God than deep researches after science.
Knowledge is not to be blamed, nor simple acquaintance with things, good in itself and ordained by God; but a good conscience and a virtuous life are always to be preferred.
But because many take more pains to be learned than to lead good lives, therefore they often go astray, and bear no fruit at all, or but little.
5. Oh, if men would be as diligent in the rooting out of vices and grafting in of virtues as they are in mooting questions, there would not be so many evils and scandals among the people, nor such laxity in monasteries!
Truly, when the day of judgment cometh, it will not be asked of us, what we have read, but what we have done; not what fine discourses we have made, but how like religious we have lived.
Tell me where now are all those doctors and masters with whom thou wast well acquainted while they were yet alive and in the glory of their learning?
Others now hold their preferments, and I know not whether they ever think of them.
In their lifetime they seemed to be something, and now they are not spoken of.
6. Oh, how quickly passeth away the glory of the world! Oh, that their life had been in keeping with their learning! Then would they have studied and lectured to good purpose.
How many who take little care in serving God are ruined through vain learning in the world.
And because they love rather to be great than humble, therefore they are lost in their own imaginings.
He is truly great who hath great charity.
He is truly great who is little in his own eyes, and counteth for nothing all the heights of honor.
He is truly prudent who esteemeth all earthly things as dung, that he may win Christ.
And he is truly most learned who doth the will of God and forsaketh his own will.
To study the truths of religion, not so much to know, as to practice them; to listen to the Divine Word, which speaks more to the heart than to the understanding; to know and to do what is necessary for salvation, is the true science of a Christian. I am weary of speculative knowledge, which does not change nor move my heart, but only flatters the curiosity of my mind; I am tired of knowing and saying so much concerning eternal truths and salvation, and yet doing so little to obtain it.
O JESUS! Who hast taught us that not all those who say Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven, but only such as do the will of Thy Father, whose lives correspond with their belief: grant us a truly Christian spirit, a Christian heart, and guide us in the paths of a Christian life. Grant that I may become detached from all things, and in all things seek Thee alone. Grant that I may direct all my knowledge, my whole capacity, all my happiness, and all my exertions to please Thee, to love Thee, and to obtain Thy love for time and eternity. Amen.