BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 54: OF THE DIFFERENT MOTIONS OF NATURE AND GRACE
SON, observe diligently the motions of nature and grace; for they move with great contrariety and subtlety, and can hardly be distinguished but by a spiritual man, and one that is inwardly illuminated.
All men indeed desire good, and pretend to something good in what they say and do; therefore, under the appearance of good, many are deceived.
2. Nature is crafty and draweth away many, ensnareth them and deceiveth them, and always proposeth self as her end.
But grace walketh in simplicity, turneth aside from all appearance of evil, offereth no deceits, and doth all things purely for God, in Whom also it resteth as its last end.
3. Nature is neither willing to be mortified, to be restrained, to be overcome, nor to be subject, neither of its own accord to be brought under obedience.
But grace studieth the mortification of self, resisteth sensuality, seeketh to be subject, coveteth to be overcome, aimeth not at enjoying its own liberty, loveth to be kept under discipline, and desireth not to have the command over anyone; but under God ever to live, stand, and be, and for God's sake is ever ready humbly to bow down unto every human creature.
4. Nature laboreth for its own interest, and considereth what gain it may derive from another.
But grace considereth not what maybe advantageous and profitable to self, but rather what may be beneficial to many.
5. Nature willingly receiveth honor and respect.
But grace faithfully attributeth honor and glory to God.
6. Nature is afraid of shame and contempt.
But grace is glad to suffer reproach for the Name of Jesus.
7. Nature loveth ease and bodily repose.
But grace cannot be idle, and willingly embraceth labor.
8. Nature seeketh to have things that are curious and beautiful, and abhorreth such as are cheap and coarse.
But grace delighteth in that which is plain and humble, rejecteth not coarse things, nor refuseth to be clad in old garments.
9. Nature hath regard to temporal things, rejoiceth at earthly gains, is troubled at losses, and is irritated at every slight injurious word.
But grace attendeth to things eternal, and cleaveth not to temporal things; neither is disturbed at the loss of things, nor exasperated with hard words, for it placeth its treasure and its joy in Heaven, where nothing perisheth.
10. Nature is covetous, and liketh rather to take than to give, and loveth to have things exclusive and private.
But grace is kind and open-hearted, shunneth private interest, is contented with little, and judgeth it more blessed to give than to receive.
11. Nature inclineth a man to creatures, to his own body, to vanities, and to running to and fro.
But grace draweth to God and to all virtues, renounceth creatures, flieth the world, hateth the desires of the flesh, restraineth wanderings, blusheth to appear in public.
12. Nature willingly receiveth some exterior comfort, in which the senses may be gratified.
But grace seeketh to be comforted in God alone, and beyond all things visible to be delighted in the Sovereign Good.
13. Nature doth all for her own gain and interest; she can do nothing gratis; but hopeth to gain something equal or better for her good deeds, or else praise or favor; and coveteth to have her actions and gifts and sayings highly estimated.
But grace seeketh nothing temporal, nor requireth any other recompense but God alone for its reward; nor desireth anything more of the necessaries of this life than may serve her to obtain things eternal.
14. Nature rejoiceth in a multitude of friends and kindred, glorieth in noble place and descent, smileth on them that are in power, flattereth the rich, and applaudeth such as are like itself.
But grace loveth even enemies, and is not puffed up with having a great many friends, nor hath any value for rank or birth, unless when joined with greater virtue; rather favoreth the poor than the rich; sympathizing more with the innocent than with the powerful; rejoiceth with him that loveth the truth, and not with the deceitful; ever exhorteth the good to be zealous for better gifts, and by the exercise of virtues to become like to the Son of God.
15. Nature easily complaineth of want and of trouble.
Grace beareth poverty with constancy.
16. Nature turneth all things to self, and contendeth and disputeth for self.
But grace referreth all things to God, from Whom they originally proceed; attributeth no good to self, nor doth she arrogantly presume.
Grace doth not contend, nor prefer her own opinion to others; but in every feeling and understanding submitteth herself to the eternal Wisdom and to the Divine scrutiny.
17. Nature coveteth to know secrets, and to hear news; desireth to appear abroad, and to have experience of many things by the senses; longeth to be taken notice of, and to do those things which may procure praise and admiration.
But grace careth not for the hearing of things new or curious, because all this springeth from the old corruption, since nothing is new or lasting upon earth.
Grace teacheth, therefore, to restrain the senses, to avoid vain complacency and ostentation, humbly to hide those things which are worthy of praise and admiration; and from everything, and in every knowledge, to seek the fruit of utility, and the praise and honor of God.
She desireth not to have self, or what belongeth to self, exalted; but wisheth that God may be blessed in His gifts, Who bestoweth all things through mere love.
18. This grace is a supernatural light, and a certain special gift of God, the proper mark of the elect, and pledge of eternal salvation; which elevateth a man from earthly things to love such as are heavenly, and from carnal maketh him spiritual.
Wherefore, as nature is the more kept down and subdued, with so much the greater abundance is grace infused; and every day by new visitations the interior man is reformed according to the image of God.
WHAT is it to repose in God as in our v last end? It is to desire, to seek, and to love only Him; it is to do and to suffer all things for His sake; it is to acquiesce without any reserve in His holy designs; it is to will only what He wills; it is never to go astray, nor turn aside from the way of His ordinances; it is, in fine, to place our whole happiness in pleasing Him, and in not gratifying ourselves. But to do this is contrary to nature; grace alone can accomplish it.
I. Nature has always for its object self-satisfaction; but grace leads us to do violence to ourselves-----that is, to deny and renounce ourselves in all things.
II. Nature is unwilling to die, to captivate itself, or to be made subject; but grace captivates the soul, restrains and subjects it to what is most hard and contrary to its inclinations; so that it gives up its own liberty on all occasions, fights against its own humors, and yields itself to God; and to honor His sovereign dominion, it rejoices in humiliations, restraint, and subjection.
III. Nature ever wishes to rule over others; but grace humbles us under the all-powerful hand of God, and makes us obedient for His love to those whom He has appointed in His place over us.
IV. Nature labors always for its own interest, to please and to establish itself; but grace labors only for God's sake, and watches incessantly over the motions of the heart to preserve it from sin, and to enable it to seek only establishment in Jesus Christ.
V. Nature is pleased with the esteem and praises of men, presuming on its own deserts; but grace makes us think ourselves unworthy of them, and refers all honor to God, and is so nice on this head that it will not permit the humble and faithful soul to make the least voluntary reference of vanity towards itself, lest it should take some degree of complacency in the good which it performs.
VI. Nature is afraid of disappointments, and flies from contempt; but grace receives these, and willingly endures them as justly inflicted upon us as sinners, and even makes us grateful to Jesus Christ for allowing us to share with Him what was wont to be the delight of His Heart.
VII. Nature loves the repose of a soft, indolent, and useless life; but grace seeks only labor; she dreads and avoids all useless thoughts, words, and actions; and not being able to endure indolence, either of the heart or mind, she leads the one to be impressed with a sense of the presence of God, and the other to live for His love.
VIII. Nature is attracted by everything that is great, beautiful, splendid, or commodious; but grace despises and shuns all these, and thinks nothing great but what is Divine, supernatural, and eternal.
The more, however, nature is repressed, the more abundantly does grace communicate itself to the soul, renew it in the interior spirit, and establish it perfectly in God.
IT is time, O Lord, I should cast myself on Thy mercy, to obtain the pardon of my sins, and on Thy love, to follow all its attractions. Support me, O Lord, and strengthen me by Thy grace against the inclinations of nature and self-love; for of myself it is impossible to resist and conquer the motions of corrupt nature, which is ever seeking its own gratification, in direct opposition to Thy holy will. Grant us Thy grace to rise superior to nature, to correspond faithfully with the inspirations of the Holy Spirit, to conquer and renounce ourselves, that we may be renewed and established in the possession of Thy love. Amen.