Monday, August 4, 2014

The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis. Book 1, Chapter 21: Of compunction of heart

Of compunction of heart

If thou wilt make any progress, keep thyself in the fear of God,
and long not to be too free, but restrain all thy senses under
discipline and give not thyself up to senseless mirth.  Give
thyself to compunction of heart and thou shalt find devotion.
Compunction openeth the way for many good things, which
dissoluteness is wont quickly to lose.  It is wonderful that any
man can ever rejoice heartily in this life who considereth and
weigheth his banishment, and the manifold dangers which beset his
Through lightness of heart and neglect of our shortcomings we
feel not the sorrows of our soul, but often vainly laugh when we
have good cause to weep.  There is no true liberty nor real joy,
save in the fear of God with a good conscience.  Happy is he who
can cast away every cause of distraction and bring himself to the
one purpose of holy compunction.  Happy is he who putteth away
from him whatsoever may stain or burden his conscience.  Strive
manfully; custom is overcome by custom.  If thou knowest how to
let men alone, they will gladly let thee alone to do thine own
Busy not thyself with the affairs of others, nor entangle
thyself with the business of great men.  Keep always thine eye
upon thyself first of all, and give advice to thyself specially
before all thy dearest friends.  If thou hast not the favour of
men, be not thereby cast down, but let thy concern be that thou
holdest not thyself so well and circumspectly, as becometh a
servant of God and a devout monk.  It is often better and safer
for a man not to have many comforts in this life, especially
those which concern the flesh.  But that we lack divine comforts
or feel them rarely is to our own blame, because we seek not
compunction of heart, nor utterly cast away those comforts which
are vain and worldly.
Know thyself to be unworthy of divine consolation, and worthy
rather of much tribulation.  When a man hath perfect compunction,
then all the world is burdensome and bitter to him.  A good man
will find sufficient cause for mourning and weeping; for whether
he considereth himself, or pondereth concerning his neighbour, he
knoweth that no man liveth here without tribulation, and the more
thoroughly he considereth himself, the more thoroughly he grieveth.
Grounds for just grief and inward compunction there are in our
sins and vices, wherein we lie so entangled that we are but
seldom able to contemplate heavenly things.
If thou thoughtest upon thy death more often than how long thy
life should be, thou wouldest doubtless strive more earnestly to
improve.  And if thou didst seriously consider the future pains
of hell, I believe thou wouldest willingly endure toil or pain
and fear not discipline.  But because these things reach not the
heart, and we still love pleasant things, therefore we remain
cold and miserably indifferent.
Oftentimes it is from poverty of spirit that the wretched body
is so easily led to complain.  Pray therefore humbly unto the
Lord that He will give thee the spirit of compunction and say in
the language of the prophet, Feed me, O Lord, with bread of
tears, and give me plenteousness of tears to drink.
 [Psalm 75:5]

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