In the government of thought-in the power to bring thought to heel lies one of our greatest moral safeguards against sin.
You have all read the words of Thomas A Kempis in that immortal book, "The Imitation of Christ."
They occur in his thirteenth chapter, Of Resisting Temptation.
How does sin reach us?
That is his question and this is his never-to-be-forgotten answer to it:
For first there cometh to the mind a bare thought of evil, then a strong imagination thereof, afterwards delight and evil motion, then consent.
First, a bare thought-that is the beginning, and it is then that the government of thought means heaven or hell.
For if a man has disciplined himself to crush that thought which may come to the purest and holiest mind-still better, if he has acquired the power to change the current and to turn his thought instantly into other and nobler channels, temptation is baffled at its very start and the man stands upon his feet victorious.
A man will never regulate his passions who has never learned to regulate his thoughts.
If we cannot master our besetting thoughts, we shall never master our besetting sins.
I think you see, then, that in the interests of morality no less than in the interests of our happiness and influence, it is supremely necessary that we all give heed to the great subject of thought discipline.