— Thomas à Kempis, book The Imitation of Christ
Book I, ch. 3; this is part of a longer passage:
A humble knowledge of oneself is a surer road to God than a deep searching of the sciences. Yet learning itself is not to be blamed, or is the simple knowledge of anything whatsoever to be despised, for true learning is good in itself and ordained by God; but a good conscience and a holy life are always to be preferred. But because many are more eager to acquire much learning than to live well, they often go astray, and bear little or no fruit. If only such people were as diligent in the uprooting of vices and the panting of virtues as they are in the debating of problems, there would not be so many evils and scandals among the people, nor such laxity in communities. At the Day of Judgement, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done; not how eloquently we have spoken, but how holily we have lived. Tell me, where are now all those Masters and Doctors whom you knew so well in their lifetime in the full flower of their learning? Other men now sit in their seats, and they are hardly ever called to mind. In their lifetime they seemed of great account, but now no one speaks of them.
[Humili tui cognitio, certior viam est ad Deum, quam profunda scientiae inquisitio. Non est culpanda scientia, aut quelibet simplex rei notitia, quae bona est in se considerata, et a Deo ordinat: sed preferenda est semper bona conscientia, et virtuosa vita. Quia vero plures magis student scire, quam bene vivere: ideo saepe errant, et pene nullum, vel modicum fructum ferunt. O si tanta adhiberent diligentiam ad extirpanda vitia, et virtute inferendas, sicuti ad movenda questiones: non fierent tanta mala et scandala in populo nec tanta dissolutio in cenobiis ! Certe, adveniente die judicii, non quaeretur a nobis: quid legimus, sed quid fecimus: nec quam bene diximus, sed quam religiose viximus. Dic mihi: Ubi sunt modo omnes illi Domini et Magistri, quos bene novisti, dum adhuc viverent et studiis florerent? Iam eorum praebendas alii possident: et nescio, utrum de eis recogitent. In vita sua aliquid esse videbantur, et modo de illis tacetur.]
Book I, ch. 3.
Original: (la) Certe adveniente die judicii, non quæretur a nobis quid legimus, sed quid fecimus; nec quam bene diximus, sed quam religiose viximus.
Source: The Imitation of Christ (c. 1418)