BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 14: OF CONSIDERING THE SECRET JUDGMENTS OF GOD,
THAT WE NOT BE PUFFED UP WITH OUR OWN GOOD WORKS
THOU thunderest forth over my head Thy judgments, O Lord, and Thou shakest all my bones with fear and trembling, and my soul is terrified exceedingly.
I stand astonished, and consider that the heavens are not pure in Thy sight.
If in the Angels Thou hast found depravity, and hast not spared them, what will become of me?
Stars have fallen from Heaven; and I, dust as I am, how can I presume?
They whose works seemed praiseworthy have fallen to the very lowest; and those that did eat the Bread of Angels I have seen delighted with the husks of swine.
2. There is no sanctity, if Thou, O Lord, withdraw Thy hand.
No wisdom avails, if Thou cease to govern us.
No strength is of any help, if Thou cease to preserve us.
No chastity is secure without Thy protection.
No self-custody profits us, if Thy holy vigilance be not nigh unto us.
For left to ourselves, we sink and perish; but by Thee visited, we are raised up and live.
For we are unsteadfast, but by Thee we are strengthened; we are tepid, but by Thee we are inflamed.
3. Oh, how humbly and lowly ought I to think of myself; of how little worth, whatever good I may seem to have!
Oh, how profoundly ought I to abase myself under Thine unfathomable judgments, O Lord, where I find myself to be nothing else but nothing, and altogether nothing.
O weight immense! O sea that cannot be passed over, where I find nothing of myself but only and wholly nothing!
Where, then, is there any lurking-place for glorying? Where any confidence conceived of my own virtue?
All vainglory is swallowed up in the profundity of Thy judgments over me.
4. What is all flesh in Thy sight? Shall the clay glory against Him that formed it?
How can he be puffed up with vain talk whose heart is subjected to God in truth?
All the world will not lift him up whom the truth hath subjected to itself.
Neither will he be moved with the tongues of all that praise him, who hath settled his whole hope in God.
For even they who speak, behold, they are all nothing, for they shall pass away with the sound of their words; but the truth of the Lord remaineth forever.
THE contemplation of the holiness and purity of God, in Whose sight the heavens are not clean, and the conviction of our own sinfulness and corruption, should stifle in us every rising sentiment of pride. An Angel sins, and God cannot endure him; He rejects him, and casts him off forever. Man sins, and He bears with him; He offers him His mercy, and opens to him the gates of Heaven. In the fallen Angels we behold the horrid nature of sin, and the awful character of God's justice; in the redeeming love of Jesus we are invited to confide entirely in His tender mercy: from both we derive motives of a speedy conversion from sin, to awaken our gratitude, and to animate us to a life of holiness.
O GOD of sanctity, Who canst not endure iniquity, how canst Thou endure me, an unworthy sinner, who am committing iniquity without ceasing, and am continually displeasing Thee? O God of purity, before Whom the heavens are not clean, and Who didst discover corruption even in the Angels, why dost Thou not reject me, who am naught but defilement and sin? "Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean." I cast myself upon Thy mercy, and conjure Thee to enable me to correct and to punish all my sins and to destroy within me everything that is contrary to Thine infinite sanctity. Amen.