BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 40: THAT MAN HATH NO GOOD OF HIMSELF,
AND THAT HE CANNOT GLORY IN ANYTHING
LORD, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him; or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? What hath man deserved, that Thou shouldst give him Thy grace?
Lord, what cause have I to complain, if Thou forsake me? or what can I justly allege, if what I petition Thou shalt not grant?
This most assuredly I may truly think and say: "Lord, I am nothing, I can do nothing, I have nothing of myself that is good; but I am in all things defective and ever tend to nothing."
And unless I am assisted and interiorly instructed by Thee, I become wholly tepid and relaxed.
2. But Thou, O Lord, art always the same, and endurest unto eternity; ever good, just, and holy; doing all things well, justly, and holily, and disposing them in wisdom.
But I, who am more inclined to go back than to go forward, continue not always in one state; for seven different times are changed over me.
Yet it quickly becometh better when it pleaseth Thee, and Thou stretchest out Thy helping hand; for Thou alone without man's aid canst assist and so strengthen me, that my countenance shall be no more diversely changed; but my heart be converted, and find its rest in Thee alone.
3. Wherefore, did I but know well how to cast from me all human comfort, either for the sake of devotion, or through the necessity by which I am compelled to seek Thee, because there is no man that can comfort me, then might I deservedly hope in Thy favor, and rejoice in the gift of new consolation.
4. Thanks be to Thee, from Whom all proceedeth, as often as it happeneth well to me.
I, indeed, am but vanity, and nothing in Thy sight, an inconstant and weak man.
Whence, therefore, can I glory, or for what do I desire to be thought highly of?
Forsooth, of my very nothingness; and this is most vain.
Truly vainglory is an evil plague, the greatest vanity; because it draweth away from true glory, and robbeth us of heavenly grace.
For whilst a man taketh complacency in himself, he displeaseth Thee; whilst he panteth after human applause, he is deprived of true virtues.
5. But true glory and holy exultation is to glory in Thee, and not in one's self; to rejoice in Thy Name, not in one's own strength; to find pleasure in no creature, save only for Thy sake.
Let Thy Name be praised, not mine; let Thy work be magnified, not mine; let Thy holy Name be blessed, but let nothing be attributed to me of the praises of men.
Thou art my glory, Thou art the exultation of my heart.
In Thee will I glory and rejoice all the day; but for myself, I will glory in nothing but in my infirmities.
6. Let the Jews seek glory of another; I will seek that which is from God alone.
All human glory, all temporal honor, all worldly grandeur, compared to Thine eternal glory, is but vanity and folly.
O my truth and my mercy! my God! O blessed Trinity! to Thee alone be all praise, honor, power, and glory, for endless ages of ages.
I AM sensible of my natural corruption, which renders me incapable of all supernatural good, and prone to all evil; but I cast myself on the mercies of a God Who can bring much out of little, as He produced all things out of nothing: since it is not sufficient for me to know my own nothingness, and that I ought to glory in nothing, save only in my infirmities; I should also (for this is most important) be guided by a humble diffidence in myself, and a firm confidence in God, to Whom nothing is impossible. When I find no consolation in man, then it is I feel, indeed, the happy necessity of having recourse to God, and of depending upon Him: happy that, all being wanting to me without Thee, O Lord, I should find my all in Thee! Well might holy Job thus express himself: "Thine eyes are upon me, and I shall be no more." For when I think of Thee, my God! I feel within me an ardent desire of pleasing Thee; and everything disappears from before me, when Thou dost present Thyself to my soul.
Do Thou, O God, reign absolutely over my soul, and may all that it contains yield and be immolated to Thee! Grant that, by corresponding with Thy holy grace, I may be enabled to suffer the loss of all human and natural satisfaction, to seek in Thee alone my consolation, and to sacrifice my whole self to Thee. O great God! Who knowest my condition, Who art able and willing to assist me, have compassion on the excess of my miseries! Withdraw me from myself, raise me above all visible things, grant that, quitting and renouncing myself, I may desire and seek only Thee. Amen.