BY THOMAS A KEMPIS
Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur, 1941
CHAPTER 8: OF THE MEAN ESTIMATION
OF ONE'S SELF IN THE EYES OF GOD
I WILL speak to my Lord, whereas I am but dust and ashes.
If I repute myself greater than this, behold, Thou standest against me; and my sins bear a true testimony, and I cannot contradict it.
But if I abase myself, and bring myself down to very nothingness, and divest myself of all self-esteem, and reduce myself, as I really am, to mere dust, Thy grace will be favorable to me, and Thy light will draw nigh to my heart; and all self-estimation, how small soever, will be sunk in the depth of my own nothingness, and there lose itself forever.
It is there Thou showest me to myself, what I am, what I have been, and to what I am come; for I am nothing, and I knew it not.
If I am left to myself, behold, I am nothing, and all weakness; but if Thou suddenly look upon me, I presently become strong, and am replenished with new joy.
And truly wonderful it is that I am so quickly raised up and so graciously embraced by Thee; I who, by my own weight, am always sinking down to the lowest depths.
2. It is Thy love that effects this, gratuitously preventing and assisting me in so many necessities, preserving me also from grievous dangers, and, as I may truly say, rescuing me from innumerable evils.
For, by a perverse loving of myself, J have lost myself; and by seeking Thee alone, and purely loving Thee, I have found both myself and Thee; and by this love more profoundly annihilated myself.
Because Thou, O most sweet Lord, dost deal with me above all desert, and above all that I dare hope or ask for.
3. Blessed be Thou, O my God; for though I am unworthy of all good, yet Thy generosity and infinite goodness never cease to do good even to those that are ungrateful, and that are turned far away from Thee.
Oh, convert us unto Thee, that we may be humble, thankful, and devout; for Thou art our salvation, our courage, and our strength.
WHEN we perceive within ourselves any feelings of vanity or self-complacency, we need but consider for one moment, the unfathomable depth of our corruption, and descend into the abyss of our miseries, to stifle them in their very birth. For how can we represent to ourselves that universal incapacity which we experience for supernatural good; our inclination for evil; how violently we are carried towards wickedness; the blindness of our understanding; the malice of our hearts; and the fury of our passions, which are always revolting against reason; in a word, how can we consider what we really are, and not despise and humble ourselves beneath all creatures? And if we consider ourselves with reference to God; if we reflect what He is and what we are in His sight, a mere nothing, sinners, but sinners loaded with the numberless crimes we have committed, not knowing whether they have ever been pardoned; creatures so weak and feeble, so inconstant in good, and so constant in evil; alas! perhaps in the sight of God, living and dying in the state of sin, and worthy only of His eternal hatred; how, in the midst of such reflections, can we possibly consent to the least thought of vanity? How true it is that to esteem ourselves is not to know, but to forget what we are.
SUFFER not pride, O Lord, to deprive us of the sight and conviction of our manifold miseries. Oblige us to do justice to ourselves and to Thee, by referring the glory of all things to Thee, to Whom alone it belongs; and by giving to ourselves nothing put contempt, which is truly our desert and appropriate portion. How does a Christian who knows that he is all Thine, my Savior-----and that he carries within himself an inexhaustible source of malice and corruption-----give Thee alone the honor of all the good he may do by the help of Thy grace? Attributing nothing to himself but the evil which he commits, since without Thee he is incapable of doing anything but sin! Fill my heart with this true humility, without which it is impossible ever to become worthy of Thy love. Amen.