"And I beheld, and heard the voice of one eagle flying through the midst of heaven,
saying with a loud voice: Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth....
[Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:13]

Friday, March 16, 2018

On The Dangers Of Bad Thoughts by Richard Challoner, 1807

On  The Dangers Of Bad Thoughts
by Richard Challoner, 1807
 St. Anthony of the Desert, amoung other great saints,
provides a model for us on how to overcome bad thoughts.

"Why do you think evil in your hearts?"--St. Matt, ix. 6.

What harm can there be in mere thoughts? They are only light and momentary fancies, various and fleeting as summer clouds, coming and going as if by some will of their own, quite independent of our control. Will God regard even our thoughts? Will He judge us by what we have dreamed, rather than by what we have done? 

Yes, my brethren, God does regard our thoughts. Our Lord Jesus Christ tell us that all sin has its birthplace in the heart, and is as truly in the thought as in the act. "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh," He says; and again: "The things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart, and those things defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man."

You see what a serious matter our thoughts must be in God's sight, when they are thus put in the same catalogue with such enormous sins as murder, adultery, theft, perjury, and blasphemy. St. John Chrysostom truly said: "Men's souls are not so greatly injured by the temptations which assail them from outside, as from those evil thoughts which poison them within." Evil thoughts are very dangerous things indeed. We must be constantly on guard against them. And if there are any who think that they are safe so long as they keep their bodies from evil, and allow their hearts and minds to indulge in all sorts of irregular imaginations, they are guilty of grievous sin; they may not be staining their bodies, but they are corrupting their souls.

And these evil thoughts are as the sands of the sea-shore for multitude--envious thoughts, profane thoughts, angry thoughts, discontented thoughts, greedy thoughts, unclean thoughts. They are only little thoughts, perhaps; but together they make a great host. And they come buzzing around the head and heart like a swarm of flies. You remember the plague of flies which afflicted the Egyptians in King Pharao's time. Well, I am afraid that the hearts of some of you are very much like the houses of those Egyptians--full of swarms of evil thoughts, thick as flies, making a breeding-place in your souls, and rendering them foul, festering masses of corruption. When you kneel down to pray, they come to distract you. When you are with others, they influence your conversation. When you are alone, they are there filling your mind with images and fancies. In church they disturb you. When you walk, they accompany you. When you work, they interrupt you. And, like the plague in Egypt, "the land is corrupted by this kind of flies."

Now, my brethren, it is perfectly true that we cannot help such thoughts coming in to the mind; but we can help their staying there. We can prevent our hearts and minds from being hives and nests for them to dwell in. We can drive them away, give them nothing to feed on, clear them out as pests and nuisances. They may buzz around us and vex us, and worry us never so sorely, yet they can do no harm so long as they are not given admittance.

Though evil thoughts may come to us by hundreds and thousands, and beset us over and over again, if we always banish them, and pray against them, and refuse consent to them, so far from committing sin, we gain a victory every time, and store up merit in God's sight. Sin begins only when they are consciously admitted and willingly entertained.

You know what the custom-house is. All goods coming into this country are examined there, and if anything unlawful is discovered it is promptly seized and condemned. Would it not be a good plan for us to establish spiritual customhouses at the door of our hearts, and subject all our thoughts to rigid inspection? If they are good, let them in gladly; if they are bad, seize, condemn, destroy them at once. Don't allow one to enter. There is no such thing as '' duty'' on bad thoughts; they are absolutely contraband; they must not be allowed to pass at any price.