BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 7: OF CONCEALING GRACE
UNDER THE GUARDIANSHIP OF HUMILITY
MY son, it is both more advantageous and more secure for thee, to keep secret the grace of devotion, and not, therefore, to extol thyself, not to talk much about it, nor to ponder it overmuch; but rather to despise thyself the more, and to tremble as if it were given to one unworthy.
Thou must not tenaciously cleave to such affection as may quickly be changed contrariwise.
Think with thyself, when thou hast grace, how miserable and poor thou art wont to be when deprived of it.
Nor doth progress in spiritual life consist so much in having the grace of consolation, but in bearing the withdrawal of it with humility, self-abnegation, and patience; so as not then to grow remiss in the exercise of prayer, nor to suffer thyself to relax from any of thy accustomed good works, but to the best of, thy ability and understanding do willingly what lieth in thee, and do not, through any dryness or anxiety of mind which thou feelest, wholly neglect thyself.
2. For many there are who, when things succeed not well with them, presently grow impatient or slothful.
Now the way of man is not always in his own power, but it belongeth to God to give and to console when He willeth, as much as He willeth, and whom He willeth, just as it shall please Him, and no more.
Some, wanting caution, have ruined themselves by reason of the grace of devotion; because they were for doing more than they could, not weighing well the measure of their own littleness, but following rather the affection of the heart than the judgment of reason.
And as they presumptuously undertook greater things than were pleasing to God, therefore they quickly lost grace.
Needy did they become, and miserably abandoned, who had built themselves a nest in Heaven; to the end that, thus humbled and impoverished, they might learn not to fly with their own pinions, but to trust under My wings.
Such as are yet but novices, and inexperienced in the way of the Lord, unless they govern themselves by the counsel of the discreet, may easily be deceived and lost.
3. And if they will rather follow their own judgment than believe others who have more experience, their end will be perilous, should they still refuse to be withdrawn from their own conceits.
The self-wise rarely endure humbly to be ruled by others.
Better is it to have but little knowledge, with humility and a weak capacity, than great stores of learning with vain complacency.
Better is it to have little than much, whereof thou mightest be proud.
He acts not with sufficient discretion who giveth himself up wholly to joy, forgetting his former poverty, and the chaste fear of the Lord which feareth to lose grace that is proffered.
Neither is he virtuously enough wise who, in time of adversity or any tribulation whatsoever, conducteth himself too despairingly, and thinketh of and reposeth less confidingly in Me than he ought.
4. He who would be too secure in time of peace will often be found too much dejected and fearful in time of war.
If thou couldst always continue humble and little in thine own eyes, and keep thy spirit in due order and subjection, thou wouldst not fall so easily into danger and offense.
It is good counsel, that when thou hast conceived the spirit of fervor, thou shouldst meditate how it will be with thee when that light shall be withdrawn.
And when this shall happen, remember that the light may return again, which, for a caution to thee and for My glory, I have withdrawn for a time.
5. Such a trial is oftentimes more profitable than if thou wert always to have prosperity according to thy will.
For a man's merits are not to be estimated by his having many visions or consolations, or by his knowledge of Scripture, or by his being placed in a more elevated station.
But by his being grounded in true humility and replenished with Divine charity: by his seeking always, purely and entirely, the honor of God; by his esteeming himself to be nothing, and by his sincerely despising himself, and being better pleased to be despised and humbled by others than to be honored by them.
MAN in the state of innocence would have perfect love, because all within him would have submitted without difficulty to God's orders; but in the state of sin in which we now are, we cannot serve Him without continually fighting against ourselves; nor can we love Him without hating ourselves; we can do but little for Him but what we do against ourselves. Hence we should humbly submit to the dryness, disgust, and irksomeness which we frequently experience in our exercises of piety; we should enter into the designs of Almighty God, make a merit of seeking to please Him without gratifying ourselves: and willingly consent to become victims of His love, and to sacrifice all for His honor. Did the truly Christian soul know how far a state of suffering may be made a holy and sanctifying state, a state of proved and purified love for God; in a word, a state in which we neither seek nor find ourselves in anything but purely God, how would that soul esteem it! What care would it not take to profit by it-----that is, to suffer patiently, to support the Lord with courage, and to neglect nothing, whatever uneasiness might arise. Were we thoroughly persuaded of, and deeply impressed with a conviction of the continual merit of a life of dryness when supported without dejection, we should without doubt, endeavor to correspond with the designs of God, Who would thus oblige us not to seek ourselves in anything, but to endeavor to please Him, and to make a real merit of His good pleasure. We should esteem ourselves happy in sacrificing to God the gratification of our hearts, in yielding ourselves up to Him, and in doing our duty, even without the satisfaction of knowing that we please Him!
PURIFY my heart, O Lord, from the pursuits of self-love, which is never satisfied with what is done for Thee unless it also be gratified by it. Grant that, in all my exercises of piety, I may seek rather to please Thee than to gratify myself; that dying daily to the natural life of my soul, in which consists true satisfaction, I may seek no other pleasure than fidelity in Thy service and exactness in following Thy holy will in all things; that so, approaching to Thee, my God, more by faith than by sense, I may do and suffer all for Thy love, notwithstanding my natural aversion and the deprivation of all the sweetness and sensible charms of piety, persuaded of the truth of what Thou didst once say to St. Gertrude: That Thou reservest until death the consolation of all we perform without consolation during life.
Grant, therefore, that my whole employment and all my happiness may be to serve and to love Thee much more for Thyself than for my own gratification. Amen.