BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 55: OF THE CORRUPTION OF NATURE AND OF
THE EFFICACY OF DIVINE GRACE
O LORD, my God, Who hast created me to Thine Own image and likeness, grant me this grace, which Thou hast shown to be so great, and so necessary to salvation, that I may overcome my most corrupt nature which draweth me to sin and to perdition.
For I perceive in my flesh the law of sin contradicting the law of my mind, and leading me captive to obey sensuality in many things.
Neither can I resist the passion thereof, unless Thy most holy grace, infused with fervor into my heart, assist me.
2. I stand in need or Thy grace and of great grace, in order to overcome nature, always prone to evil from its youth.
For fallen as it is through the first man Adam, and corrupted by sin, the punishment of that stain hath descended upon all mankind; so that nature itself, which by Thee was created good and right, is now taken for vice and the infirmity of corrupt nature; because the motion thereof, left to itself, draweth to evil and to things below.
For the little strength which remaineth is but as a little spark hidden under ashes.
This is the self-same natural reason, encompassed with much darkness, having yet the judgment of good and evil, and the discernment of truth and falsehood; though it be unable to fulfill all that it approves; neither doth it now enjoy the full light of truth, nor the former healthfulness of its affections.
3. Hence it is, O my God, that according to the inward man, I am delighted with Thy law, knowing Thy command to be good, just, and holy, both for the reproval of all evil and for the avoiding of sin.
And yet in the flesh I serve the law of sin, while I obey sensuality rather than reason.
Hence it is, that to will that which is good is present with me, but how to accomplish it I find not.
Hence I often make many good purposes, but because grace is wanting to help my weakness, through a light resistance I recoil and fall off.
Hence cometh it to pass, that I know the way of perfection, and see clearly enough what I ought to do, but pressed down with the weight of my own corruption, I rise not to the things that are more perfect.
4. Oh, how supremely necessary for me, O Lord, is Thy grace, to begin that which is good, to go forward with it, and accomplish it.
For without it I can do nothing; but I can do all things in Thee, when grace strengtheneth me.
Oh, grace truly celestial, without which our own merits are nothing, neither are the gifts of nature to be esteemed!
No arts, nor riches, nor beauty or strength, no genius, no eloquence avail aught in Thy sight, O Lord, without grace.
For the gifts of nature are common to the good and to the bad; but grace or Divine love is the proper gift of the elect, with which they that are adorned are esteemed worthy of eternal life.
This grace is so excellent, that neither the gift of prophecy, nor the working of miracles, nor any speculation, how sublime soever, is of any value without it.
No, not even faith, nor hope, nor any other virtues, are acceptable to Thee, without charity and grace.
5. Oh, most blessed grace, which maketh the poor in spirit rich in virtues, and renderest him who is rich in many good things humble of heart, come, descend upon me, replenish me early with thy consolation, lest my soul faint through weariness and dryness of mind.
I beseech Thee, O Lord, that I may find grace in Thine eyes; for sufficient for me is Thy grace, though I obtain none of those things which nature desires.
If I be tempted and afflicted with many tribulations, I will fear no evils whilst Thy grace is with me.
This alone is my strength, this alone giveth counsel and help.
This is more mighty than all my enemies, and wiser than all the wise.
6. Thy grace is the mistress of truth, the teacher of discipline, the light of the heart, the consoler of anguish, the banisher of sorrow, the expeller of fear, the nurse of devotion, the producer of tears.
What am I without this but a withered branch and a useless trunk, meet only to be cast away?
Therefore, O Lord, let Thy grace always go before and follow me, and make me ever intent upon good works, through Jesus Christ Thy Son. Amen.
WE do justice to ourselves when we mistrust our own strength, and to God, when we confide in the assistance of His grace. This is never wanting to us; but we are often wanting in our correspondence with it, though the only means of insuring salvation is to be faithful to its attractions, for they would lead us to the practice of every virtue. Human nature having been corrupted by the first man's sin, the effect of this corruption, as well as the stain of sin, descended to all mankind; hence are we constrained to fight incessantly against the motions of nature, and to follow those of grace. Without offering this holy violence to ourselves, by which we subdue and renounce our own inclinations, it would be impossible to be saved. In the state of innocence, all in man being orderly and subject to God, on account of original justice, the passions did not revolt against reason; but in our present state of sin, concupiscence continually rebels against the soul; this we must never cease to resist, until we cease to live.
WHEN, O God, shall Thy grace reign in our hearts, and subject them to the influence of Thy love? He who knows how to estimate the value and excellence of Thy grace, O Lord, which is a participation of Thy Divine nature, and a holy infusion of Thy goodness into our souls, will suffer the loss of all things else, rather than be deprived of such a treasure, and will not hesitate to make any sacrifice however great, to preserve it.
When I consider, O Lord, that those graces which l reject, or neglect, have been purchased for me at the price of Thy suffering and precious Blood, how am I covered with confusion, for having made so bad a use of them, and for having preferred even trifles before them. Well may the account I must one day give of all the inspirations which I have neglected, as of so many drops of Thy sacred Blood dissipated or profaned, fill me with alarm and terror, and induce me henceforth to correspond with them most faithfully, that I may not forfeit my salvation. Amen.