(Book I, ch.2)          Having a Humble Opinion of One's Self

"Do not feel haughty" (Rom. XI, 20)

    All men naturally desire to know, but what does knowledge avail without the fear of God?  Indeed an humble husbandman that serves God is better than a proud philosopher, who, neglecting himself, considers the course of the heavens (Ecclus. 19,21).  

    He who knows himself well is mean in his own eyes and is not delighted with being praised by men.  If I should know all things that are in the world and should not be in charity (Rom. 13,8; 1Cor.13,3), what would it avail me in the sight of God, who will judge me by my deeds?

    Leave off that excessive desire of knowing: because there is found therein much distraction and deceit.  They who are learned are desirous to appear and to be called wise.  There are many things, the knowledge of which is of little or no profit to the soul.  And he is very unwise who attends to other things than what may serve to his salvation.  

    Many words do not satisfy the soul; but a good life gives ease to the mind;  and a pure conscience affords a great confidence in God (Tim. 3,9).  The more and better thou knowest the more heavy will be thy judgment unless thy life be also more holy.  Be not, therefore, puffed up with any art or science: but rather fear because of the knowledge which is given thee.  If it seems to thee that thou knowest many things and understandest them well enough, know at the same time that there are many more things of which thou art ignorant.  "Do not feel haughty" (Rom. 11,20), but rather acknowledge thy ignorance.  Why wouldst thou prefer thyself to any one, since there are many more learned and skillful in the law than thyself?  

    If thou wouldst know and learn anything to the purpose, love to be unknown and esteemed as nothing.  This is the highest science and most profitable lesson, truly to know and despise ourselves.  To have no opinion of ourselves and to think always well and commendably of others, is great wisdom and high perfection.  

    If thou shoudst see another openly sin or commit some heinous crime, yet thou oughtst not to esteem thyself better: because thou knowest not how long thou mayst remain in a good state.  We are all frail; but see thou think no one more frail than thyself.