The Imitation of Christ, III.4-6
Thomas À Kempis (1380-1471)
4. All perfection in this life hath some imperfection mixed with it; and no knowledge of ours is without some darkness.
A humble knowledge of thyself is a surer way to God than a deep search after learning.
Yet learning is not to be blamed, not the mere knowledge of any thing whatsoever, for that is good in itself, and ordained by God; but a good conscience and a virtuous life are always to be preferred before it.
But because many endeavour rather to get knowledge than to live well; therefore they are often deceived, and reap either none or but little fruit.
5. O, if men bestowed as much labour in the rooting out of vices, and the planting of virtues, as they do in the moving of questions, neither would so many evils be done, not so great scandal be given in the world.
Truly, at the day of judgment we shall not be examined as to what we have read, but as to what we have done [Matt xxv]; not as to how well we have spoken, but as to how religiously we have lived.
Tell me, where are all those Doctors and Masters, with whom thou wast well acquainted, whilst they lived and flourished in learning?
Others occupy their places and perhaps do scarce ever think of those who went before them. In their lifetime they seemed something, but now they are not spoken of.
6. O, how quickly doth the glory of the world pass away [Eccl. ii.11]! Would that their life had been answerable to their learning! Then had their study and reading been to good purpose.
How many perish by reason of vain learning [Titus i.10] of this world, who take little care of the serving of God.
And because they rather choose to be great than humble, therefore they become vain in their imaginations [Rom i.21].
He is truly great who has great love.
He is truly great that is little in himself, and that maketh no account of any height of honour [Matt xviii.4; xxiii.11]
He is truly wise, that accounteth all earthly things as dung, that he may win Christ [Phil iii.8].
And he is truly learned, that doeth the will of God, and forsaketh his own will.