BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 58: OF NOT SEARCHING INTO HIGH MATTERS,
NOR SCRUTINIZING THE SECRET JUDGMENTS OF GOD
SON, beware of disputing about high matters and of the hidden judgments of God: why this man is so forsaken, and that other raised to so great grace: or why this person is so much afflicted, and that so highly exalted.
Such things exceed all human comprehension, nor is any reason or disputation competent to investigate the Divine judgments.
When, therefore, the enemy suggesteth such to thee, or certain curious men inquire into them, answer thou with the Prophet: "Thou art just, O Lord, and Thy judgment is right." And again: "The judgments of the Lord are true, justified in themselves."
My judgments are to be feared, not to be discussed, because they are incomprehensible to human understanding.
2. In like manner, do not be inquisitive or dispute concerning the merits of the Saints: who is more holy than another, or who greater in the Kingdom of Heaven?
Such oftentimes breed strifes and unprofitable contention, and nourish also pride and vainglory; whence arise envies and dissensions, while one man proudly prefers this Saint, and another that.
Now, to wish to know and to search into such matters is of no profit, but rather displeaseth the Saints; for I am not the God of dissension, but of peace, which peace consisteth rather in true humility than in self-exaltation.
3. Some by zeal of preference are attracted with greater affection towards these or those Saints: but this affection is rather human than Divine.
I am He Who made all the Saints; I gave them grace, I have granted them glory.
I know the merits of each; I prevented them with the blessings of My sweetness.
I foreknew My beloved ones before all ages.
I chose them out of the world; they did not first choose Me.
I called them by grace, I attracted them by mercy; I brought them safe through many temptations; I poured into them abundant consolations; I gave them perseverance; I have crowned their patience.
4. I know the first and the last; I embrace all with an inestimable love.
I am to be praised in all My Saints; I am to be blessed above all, and to be honored in each, whom I have so gloriously magnified and predestinated, without any foregoing merits of their own.
He, therefore, that despiseth one of the least of My Saints, honoreth not the greatest; for I have made both little and great.
And he that derogateth from any one of the Saints, derogateth also from Me, and from all others in the kingdom of Heaven.
They are all one through the bond of love, they have the same thoughts, the same will, and all love themselves each in the other.
5. And moreover, what is more exalted still, they love Me more than themselves, and their own merits.
For, rapt above themselves, and drawn away altogether from love of self, they live absorbed in the love of Me, in Whom also they rest by a happy fruition.
Nor is there anything that can turn them away or depress them; for they who are full of the eternal truth burn with the fire of unquenchable charity.
Therefore let carnal and animal men, who know not how to love anything but their own selfish gratification, forbear to dispute of the state of the Saints. They take away and add according to their own inclination, not as it pleaseth the eternal truth.
6. In many it is ignorance, more especially on the part of such as, being but little enlightened, seldom know how to love anyone with a perfect spiritual love.
They are as yet much inclined to such or such by a natural affection and human friendship; and as they are habituated with regard to things below, so they conceive the like imaginations of the things of Heaven.
But the distance is incomparable between the notions which the imperfect conceive and those which the illuminated behold through revelation from above.
7. Take heed, therefore, son, of treating too curiously of those things which exceed thy knowledge; but make it rather thy business and aim, that thou mayst be found, though even the least, in the kingdom of God.
And if anyone could know who were the holier or the greater in the kingdom of Heaven, what would this knowledge profit him, unless he should from this knowledge humble himself in My sight, and rise to the greater praise of My Name?
That man is much more acceptable to God, who thinketh of the greatness of his own sins, how little he is advanced in virtue, and at how great a distance he is from the perfection of the Saints than he who disputeth which of them is the greater, which the less.
It is better to supplicate the Saints in devout prayers and tears, and with a humble mind to implore their glorious suffrages, than by a vain inquisitiveness to search into their secrets.
8. They are well and perfectly contented, if men would but be contented, and bridle their vain discourses.
They glory not in their own merits; for they ascribe nothing of goodness to themselves, but all to Me, because gave all to them out of My infinite charity.
They are filled with so great a love of God, and with joy so overflowing, that there is nothing wanting to their glory, nor can anything be wanting to their felicity.
All the Saints, the higher they are in glory, the more humble they are in themselves, the nearer to Me, and the more beloved by Me.
And therefore thou hast it written, that they cast down their crowns before God, and fell on their faces before the Lamb, and adored Him that liveth forever and ever.
9. Many inquire who is the greater in the kingdom of God, who themselves know not whether they shall be worthy to be numbered among the least.
It is a great thing to be even the least in Heaven, where all are great; because all shall be called, and shall be the children of God.
The least shall be as a thousand, and the sinner of a hundred years shall die.
For when the disciples asked who was the greatest in the kingdom of Heaven, they received this answer: Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
Whosoever, therefore, shall humble himself as this little one, he is the greater in the kingdom of Heaven.
10. Woe to them who disdain to humble themselves willingly with the children; for the lowly gate of the heavenly kingdom will not admit them to enter.
Woe also to the rich, who have their consolation here.
For when the poor enter into the kingdom of God, they shall stand lamenting without.
Rejoice, ye humble, and be glad, ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God-----if, at least you walk in the truth.
IF we would honor the Saints as they deserve, we should invoke and imitate them, rather than dispute about their degrees of heavenly glory. We should endeavor to copy their bright example; for this is really to honor the Saints, to become Saints like themselves.
God hath formed all the Saints upon the model of His Son, the Word incarnate; so that we cannot become the objects of God's love, if we make not Jesus Christ the object of our imitation. He has willed, said St. Cyprian, that there should be Saints in all states and conditions of life, to make known to all men that each one in his own state may sanctify his soul, and obtain salvation, by living a holy and Christian life. He has constituted Saints for our protectors and our models, that we may gain Heaven by walking in their footsteps; they hear our prayers, and being secure of their own happiness, are solicitous only for ours.
Let us then endeavor to live and to suffer with them here, that we may live and reign with them hereafter; and let us remember that, according to the Gospel, there is but one way of arriving at the happy term which they have reached, which is the way of penance, mortification, and disengagement from the world; every other way leads to perdition.
THOU desirest, O Lord, our sanctification and our salvation, and Thou givest us the most efficacious means of attaining them, but we have hitherto miserably neglected them. Grant that henceforth we may really honor the Saints by forming ourselves upon their example, and rendering ourselves worthy of the eternal happiness which they possess, by copying their endeavors to obtain it. Suffer us not to be idle admirers of their felicity, but doers of these good deeds by which they obtained it, that thus we may be assured that ours also shall be the kingdom of Heaven. Amen.