Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. Book 1, Chapter 2: Against vain secular learning and of a meek knowing of ourselves

Against vain secular learning and of a meek knowing of ourselves

There is naturally in every man a desire to know, but what
profiteth knowledge without the fear of God?  Better of a surety
is a lowly peasant who serveth God, than a proud philosopher who
watcheth the stars and neglecteth the knowledge of himself.  He
who knoweth himself well is vile in his own sight; neither
regardeth he the praises of men.  If I knew all the things that
are in the world, and were not in charity, what should it help me
before God, who is to judge me according to my deeds?
Rest from inordinate desire of knowledge, for therein is found
much distraction and deceit.  Those who have knowledge desire to
appear learned, and to be called wise.  Many things there are to
know which profiteth little or nothing to the soul.  And foolish
out of measure is he who attendeth upon other things rather than
those which serve to his soul’s health.  Many words satisfy not
the soul, but a good life refresheth the mind, and a pure
conscience giveth great confidence towards God.
The greater and more complete thy knowledge, the more severely
shalt thou be judged, unless thou hast lived holily.  Therefore
be not lifted up by any skill or knowledge that thou hast; but
rather fear concerning the knowledge which is given to thee.  If
it seemeth to thee that thou knowest many things, and
understandest them well, know also that there are many more
things which thou knowest not.  Be not high-minded, but rather
confess thine ignorance.  Why desirest thou to lift thyself above
another, when there are found many more learned and more skilled
in the Scripture than thou?  If thou wilt know and learn anything
with profit, love to be thyself unknown and to be counted for
That is the highest and most profitable lesson, when a man
truly knoweth and judgeth lowly of himself.  To account nothing
of one’s self, and to think always kindly and highly of others,
this is great and perfect wisdom.  Even shouldest thou see thy
neighbor sin openly or grievously, yet thou oughtest not to
reckon thyself better than he, for thou knowest not how long
thou shalt keep thine integrity.  All of us are weak and frail;
hold thou no man more frail than thyself.

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