What is self-control? It is that which makes a man a man, for until a man controls himself he is a man only in name. Self-mastery is shown when a good act is done instead of a bad act. Thoughts are acts, and he who thinks purely and righteously has command of himself. If anyone would become his own master he must needs think only of right things and pure things. Instead of dwelling on sordid thoughts that he creates within himself, his eyes must be averted: he must say with sincerity to himself "These thoughts are wrong: I am above such base things," and then, thinking no more about them, he must fix his eyes on that which is good, for most certainly evil thoughts make a man evil, and good thoughts make a man good.
Among some recently discovered sayings Jesus are these words—"And the Kingdom of Heaven is within you, and he that knoweth himself shall find it." A man knows not himself until he tries to control himself. When a man gives way to anger he forgets what he is. He knows not what he is nor what he does who acts wrongly. All evil acts are the result of ignorance.
To attain that peace of mind or Heaven to which self-control is the ladder one needs not deep learning. A man has only to search within himself where hidden riches are abundant, to find Heaven. Humility, purity, self-control, or Love is Heaven's key and Heaven itself. Where is he that is not able to control himself? Only those of unsound mind are incapable, and how much, then, are we to blame?
Thus wrote Emerson—"When a man lives with God his voice shall be as sweet as the murmur of the brook, and the rustle of the corn." And why? Because he is living naturally. When a man realizes himself then it is that God becomes a reality. What matters it if one is not acquainted with this poet or that scientist? When a man is his own master he has become wise.
A self-controlled man is above injury. Nothing can hurt him unless he lets it. 'The world is what we make it," says an old poet, and so it is that whatever happens depends on us to make it either good or ill. All trials are priceless: they give occasion for being gentle: they develop the soul. Therefore, we are greatly indebted to those who try us. That disappointment was in- valuable, for we were able to exercise our self-control: that person who spoke roughly to us is an angel in disguise, for he gave us cause to act gently: that little brother or sister who interrupted our reading is also an angel, for we were enabled to be unselfish.
Because his riches consist not of earthly things, a self-controlled man cannot be robbed. The reason law courts are required is that all have not self-control. If a man takes my money why should I sue him? Rather let me work to get more. If my coat is taken can I not get another? If my head is bruised shall I return the blow? No; for then two bruises would exist, which would neither remedy my bruise nor do good to anyone. Rather let me cure my ill by going to a doctor. If a stone bruise me shall I hate it? If a man bruise me shall I hate him? Actions are what we make them. When lies or slanders abound the way to meet them is to give them no attention, and by so doing a lie becomes naught.
Nothing can harm the self-mastered man. Why is such an ideal state not more recognized? Because oneself is hard to tame. It is a narrow road, "and few there be that find it." It is not found because the broad way of custom is so easily trod. It is a custom to be holy on the Sabbath, but to the self-controlled man all days are Sabbaths: every minute is holy. It is a custom to attend Church on Sunday, but the man of self-control is always in church. He daily acts rightly. And how can one become self-controlled? Only by trying, and having tried, by trying again. One has but to open one's eyes to see one's faults. Everyone must be his own judge.
Every event that happens can be made to produce good, for "All is law, and all is love." Were this more recognized we should see an abundance of happy faces. Men are disconcerted by the loss of their money, of their wives, of their relatives, but if they reflected that by being sorrowful they are doing harm, and "all is love," their black clothes and sad faces would speedily disappear.
The self-mastered man has no fear of the future. The present demands his closest attention. For the man of self-control the future and the past do not exist. When what is called the future comes it is the present, and as the self-controlled man lives in the present he is prepared for anything. "My children," said an old man to his boys who were scared by a figure in a dark doorway, "my children, you will never see anything worse than yourselves." And so when a man has mastered himself he has nothing to fear. Why are men afraid of death? The instinct of self-preservation is strong in all, but chiefly in those selfishly inclined. Therefore, as one grows more unselfish or more self-controlled death is regarded with indifference. "Who am I? Would the world cease to revolve if I were dead?" thinks the self-controlled man.
And this is the sum of that I have written:—that all base, selfish passions should be eradicated: that we should be perfect, for perfection is attainable.