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THINK OF GOOD THINGS, NOT OF BAD
“ 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 . . . think of these things.”
better to look at truth than at falsehood; at what is noble than at what is mean; at purity, and not at impurity; at the beautiful, and not at the deformed; at goodness, not at wickedness.
The reason of this is obvious. It is a law of human nature that men are influenced by their environment. Mr. Brace takes boys from the streets of New York, who, if they grew up there, would inevitably furnish a large addition to the vicious and criminal classes. He sends them out to farms in Illinois and Iowa, and they become useful citizens. These boys are many of them the children of vicious people and criminals. But environment is too strong for heredity. The bad tendencies in
their blood are overcome by the purer influences around them.
But beside the outward environment of good or bad influences which go to educate us, there is an inner environment which is much more powerful. This consists of our own thoughts, our mental habits, our intellectual associations. That which we love to think about reacts on our character, and surrounds the soul with a sort of Chinese wall which other influences can with difficulty break through.
You must have noticed that within the last year or two we have had many accounts of little bands of juvenile robbers, – of children who have procured revolvers and have set up as brigands. What can be the cause of this but the pernicious dime novels describing boy brigands, and making heroes of young fellows who have run away from home and have tried to be bandits ? These children may have been surrounded by good influences at home and at school, but their hearts and thoughts came under the power of these silly and evil stories.
The Bible says, very wisely, “ As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he." That is, a man's character is formed by what he loves to think about. There are matters which we think about because we must,
matters of business, daily duty,— but into which, often, we do not put our hearts; matters which we do mechanically and automatically. There are other subjects to which our thoughts turn of themselves, as the compass needle which you have
moved from the north with your finger immediately trembles back when you let it go.
Now, it is what we think in our hearts, what we love to think about, which forms our character. What is a miser but a man who has devoted his thoughts for years to making and saving money, till at last it becomes impossible for him to think of anything else ? He would be glad to use his money, to enjoy it, to give, but he cannot; his thoughts have worn so deep a rut of habit that he is unable to get out of it. As he thinks in his heart, so is he.
We talk about the education which comes from books, the culture which is given by study, by schools, by lectures; but the deepest and strongest of all education comes from the atmosphere of thought with which we surround our souls. Therefore the Apostle says, Think of what is true, noble, beautiful, good; not of what is false, base, and mean. To think of good things, good men, noble actions, elevates the soul; to think of base and mean things draws it down.
There is a kind of captious criticism which devotes itself to finding errors and falsehoods. In theology this method of work has been made a special department; it is called Polemic theology, - that is, warlike theology. You will find some religious periodicals full of it. They fill their columns with attacks on other sects, with severe remarks upon heresy and heretics, and think that