Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. Book 1, Chapter 24: Of the judgment and punishment of the wicked

Of the judgment and punishment of the wicked
In all that thou doest, remember the end, and how thou wilt stand
before a strict judge, from whom nothing is hid, who is not
bribed with gifts, nor accepteth excuses, but will judge
righteous judgment.  O most miserable and foolish sinner, who art
sometimes in fear of the countenance of an angry man, what wilt
thou answer to God, who knoweth all thy misdeeds?  Why dost thou
not provide for thyself against the day of judgment, when no man
shall be able to be excused or defended by means of another, but
each one shall bear his burden himself alone?  Now doth thy
labour bring forth fruit, now is thy weeping acceptable, thy
groaning heard, thy sorrow well pleasing to God, and cleansing to
thy soul.
Even here on earth the patient man findeth great occasion of
purifying his soul.  When suffering injuries he grieveth more for
the other’s malice than for his own wrong; when he prayeth
heartily for those that despitefully use him, and forgiveth them
from his heart; when he is not slow to ask pardon from others;
when he is swifter to pity than to anger; when he frequently
denieth himself and striveth altogether to subdue the flesh to
the spirit.  Better is it now to purify the soul from sin, than
to cling to sins from which we must be purged hereafter.  Truly
we deceive ourselves by the inordinate love which we bear towards
the flesh.
What is it which that fire shall devour, save thy sins?  The
more thou sparest thyself and followest the flesh, the more heavy
shall thy punishment be, and the more fuel art thou heaping up
for the burning.  For wherein a man hath sinned, therein shall he
be the more heavily punished.  There shall the slothful be
pricked forward with burning goads, and the gluttons be tormented
with intolerable hunger and thirst.  There shall the luxurious
and the lovers of pleasure be plunged into burning pitch and
stinking brimstone, and the envious shall howl like mad dogs for
very grief.
No sin will there be which shall not be visited with its own
proper punishment. The proud shall be filled with utter
confusion, and the covetous shall be pinched with miserable
poverty.  An hour’s pain there shall be more grievous than a
hundred years here of the bitterest penitence.  No quiet shall be
there, no comfort for the lost, though here sometimes there is
respite from pain, and enjoyment of the solace of friends.  Be
thou anxious now and sorrowful for thy sins, that in the day of
judgment thou mayest have boldness with the blessed.  For then
shall the righteous man stand in great boldness before the face
of such as have afflicted him and made no account of his
labours. Then shall he stand up to judge, he who now
submitteth himself in humility to the judgments of men.  Then
shall the poor and humble man have great confidence, while the
proud is taken with fear on every side.
Then shall it be seen that he was the wise man in this world
who learned to be a fool and despised for Christ.  Then shall all
tribulation patiently borne delight us, while the mouth of the
ungodly shall be stopped.  Then shall every godly man rejoice,
and every profane man shall mourn.  Then the afflicted flesh
shall more rejoice than if it had been alway nourished in
delights.  Then the humble garment shall put on beauty, and the
precious robe shall hide itself as vile.  Then the little poor
cottage shall be more commended than the gilded palace.  Then
enduring patience shall have more might than all the power of the
world.  Then simple obedience shall be more highly exalted than
all worldly wisdom.
Then a pure and good conscience shall more rejoice than
learned philosophy.  Then contempt of riches shall have more
weight than all the treasure of the children of this world.  Then
shalt thou find more comfort in having prayed devoutly than in
having fared sumptuously.  Then thou wilt rather rejoice in
having kept silence than in having made long speech.  Then holy
deeds shall be far stronger than many fine words.  Then a strict
life and sincere penitence shall bring deeper pleasure than all
earthly delight.  Learn now to suffer a little, that then thou
mayest be enabled to escape heavier sufferings.  Prove first
here, what thou art able to endure hereafter.  If now thou art
able to bear so little, how wilt thou be able to endure eternal
torments?  If now a little suffering maketh thee so impatient,
what shall hell-fire do then? Behold of a surety thou art not
able to have two Paradises, to take thy fill or delight here in
this world, and to reign with Christ hereafter.
If even unto this day thou hadst ever lived in honours and
pleasures, what would the whole profit thee if now death came to
thee in an instant?  All therefore is vanity, save to love God
and to serve Him only.  For he who loveth God with all his heart
feareth not death, nor punishment, nor judgment, nor hell,
because perfect love giveth sure access to God.  But he who still
delighteth in sin, no marvel if he is afraid of death and
judgment.  Nevertheless it is a good thing, if love as yet cannot
restrain thee from evil, that at least the fear of hell should
hold thee back.  But he who putteth aside the fear of God cannot
long continue in good, but shall quickly fall into the snares of
the devil.

Recommended edition: 

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