An Holy Nation and The Influence of Thought!!!

Phil. 4:8.---' Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.'

According to the Apostle, and there is no greater authority on the interior life of man, it is what a man thinks about that decides the kind of man he is and will be. As a simple matter of fact, a man soon rises or falls to the level of the things that he thinks about. The thoughts, feelings, interests which he allows to invade and occupy his mind, and to hang about him like an atmosphere, begin to eat into his life, into the very fiber of his moral character. Indeed, we become what we are continually thinking about. So true and inevitable is this that keen eyes can often read the private character of a person from his face. What we continue to think about, that we gradually become, as a dyer's hand is discolored by the stuff in which it works.

In his remarkable MEDITATIONS, composed in moments snatched from the toilsome labors of the camp, Marcus Aurelius has inscribed this sentence: "As are thy habitual thoughts, so will be the character of thy mind, for the soul is dyed the color of its thought."

A well-known painter once declared that he dared not look upon a bad picture, because for days afterwards it influenced him so tremendously that he could not paint well. And someone has said that men act out dramas in the theatre of the mind which would horrify them if they were transposed to the theatre of conduct. Perhaps a feeling of horror might come to them if they could realize that they are directly responsible for the things they imagine and that, as a general rule, 'that which is imagined, afterwards becomes.'

It is vital that we should have the mastery of our thoughts. And there is no harder task in all the world than that of bringing our thoughts into subjection to our will. It is very difficult to regulate our actions. It is supremely difficult to order our speech rightly, yet speech is restrained and checked by countless barriers. Every time we act and every time we speak we come into direct contact with society, and prudence and self-love and reputation and business interests admonish us instantly to walk with caution. But thought is free---at least we think it is. It is transacted in a world where none but One observes it. The law of man cannot reach us for unclean imaginations. Think how we will of a man he cannot charge us with libel. All the prudential safeguards which God has set on speech, and all the deterrent motives which surround our deeds, are lacking when we enter the silent halls of thought. It is that which makes the management of thought so difficult. It is the secrecy, the absence of restraint, the imagined freedom of the world within. And yet in the whole circle of self-mastery there is nothing more vital than the mastery of thought.

Think, for example, how much of OUR COMMON HAPPINESS depends on thought. We begin by imagining it depends on outward things; but we all grow to be wiser by and by. "There's nothing either good or bad," says Shakespeare, "but thinking makes it so." Now, of course, that is only half a truth. There ARE things that in themselves are for ever good: and there are other things that are eternally and everywhere are bad. Never let us be juggled out of these moral certainties. But still there lies a whole world of life and of experience which depends almost entirely upon thought. Our common happiness does not hang on what we view, but on our point of view. There are men who can think themselves any day into a paradise, and others who think themselves into a fever. Have we not known or read of men and women who seemed to have everything this world could give, yet only to look at their faces or their portraits was to read the story of fret and discontent? But St. Francis of Assisi, sitting down to dine by the roadside on a few crusts of bread, was so exquisitely and radiantly happy that he could not find words enough for thankfulness. That, then, is an integral part of happiness---the discipline and the government of our thoughts.

Each life memorable for goodness and nobility has for its motive power some noble thought. Here is that universal spirit, John Milton. In his loneliness and blindness his mind was his kingdom. He loved to think of things true and pure and of good report. Often at midnight upon the poet's ear there fell the sound of celestial music, which he afterwards transposed into his PARADISE REGAINED. Dying, it was given him to say proudly: "I am not one of those who have disgraced beauty of sentiment by deformity of conduct, nor the maxims of the freeman by the actions of the slave, but by the grace of God I have kept my soul unsullied."

Again, how much of OUR UNCONSCIOUS INFLUENCE lies in our thoughts. Not only by what we do and what we say, but by the kind of thoughts we are cherishing in secret, do we impress ourselves upon others, and help or hinder the little world we move in. Maeterlinck, that very suggestive and spiritual writer, puts the matter in his own poetic way. He says, "Though you assume the face of a saint, a hero, or a martyr, the eye of the passing child will not greet you with the same unapproachable smile, if there lurk within you an evil thought." There is, of course, exaggeration there. The totality of saintly character is too great to be overborne by the intrusion of one shadow of the devil. But this is certain that, by the thoughts we harbor and let ourselves dwell upon and cherish in the dark, we touch and turn and influence our world when we never dream that we are doing it. There is nothing hidden that shall not be revealed---what a depth there is in that one word of Jesus! He is not merely thinking of God's judgment bar tomorrow. He is thinking of the undetected revelation of today. Christ recognized that the kind of thing we brood on, the kind of thought we allow ourselves to think, though it never utter itself in actual words, or clothe itself in the flesh and blood of deeds, encompasses and affects the life of others like a poisonous vapor or like a breath of spring. Our secret is not such a secret as we think. Why is it sometimes we instinctively shrink from people in the very first hour that we meet them? It is because the heart[spirit]---more powerful than any gamma ray---deciphers for itself the secret story: brushes past speech and deed into the hidden place, and apprehends the existence that is there. To think base thoughts is a sin against our neighbor as surely as it is a sin against ourselves.

Then there is the power of thought in OUR TEMPTATIONS. We speak of sin taking hold suddenly of someone. We have seen a life pursuing a steady and honorable course, and then suddenly going down under some sin. We are shocked and saddened and at a loss, and in our human sympathy we try to explain the evil thing away so as to save the good name of the man. Yet we must face the fact that one can do only what it was in one's heart to do. The truth must be that some thoughts were allowed to hang about the man's mind. They were never summoned peremptorily before the man's own conscience, and rebuked and dismissed. They were permitted. And so those thoughts which the man was aware of as injurious and dangerous, but which he did not condemn, began to work within him, dulling his moral sensitiveness and preparing him by a great many private disloyalties to himself to yield to the first sudden occasion to sin. That is the secret history of every sin. If we cannot master our besetting thoughts, we shall never master our besetting sins. Another example of the T-shirt syndrome in my life. BTDTGTTS

A heart is not safe from evil until it is occupied and possessed by good, by God. We need not be the victims every day and hour of those evil suggestions which are in the very atmosphere of the world. There is a positive step we must take in order to feel safe: we must invite and beseech Jesus Christ to occupy our soul, and thereafter we must do all that is right by Him who orders our life from within.

This principle is somewhat quaintly stated by Brother Juniper, the Franciscan. "When carnal desire come, I occupy myself with holy meditations and holy desires, and so, when the carnal suggestion knocks at the door of my heart, I say to it, 'Begone, for the home is already full, and there is no room for any more guests!"'

I will not apologize for the length of my postings. I have been praying that modern man can get back his attention span.

In Christ, timothy. maranatha