John_Henry_Newman_by_Sir_John_Everett_MillaisThe great thing in religion is to set off well; to resist the beginnings of sin, to flee temptation, to avoid the company of the wicked.

“Enter not into the path of the wicked … avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, pass away.”

And for this reason, first of all, because it is hardly possible to delay our flight without rendering flight impossible.

When I say, resist the beginnings of evil, I do not mean the first act merely, but the rising thought of evil.

Whatever the temptation may be, there may be no time to wait and gaze, without being caught.

[…] Directly we are made aware of the temptation, we shall, if we are wise, turn our backs upon it, without waiting to think and reason about it; we shall engage our mind in other thoughts.

[…] For consider, in the next place, what must in all cases be the consequence of allowing evil thoughts to be present to us, though we do not actually admit them into our hearts.

This: namely—we shall make ourselves familiar with them.

Now our great security against sin lies in being shocked at it. Eve gazed and reflected when she should have fled.

It is sometimes said, “Second thoughts are best.” This is true in many cases; but there are times when it is very false, and when, on the contrary, first thoughts are best.

For sin is like the serpent, which seduced our first parents. We know that some serpents have the power of what is called “fascinating.”

Their eye has the power of subduing—nay, in a strange way, of alluring—their victim, who is reduced to utter helplessness, cannot flee away, nay, rather is obliged to approach, and (as it were) deliver himself up to them; till in their own time they seize and devour him.

What a dreadful figure this is of the power of sin and the devil over our hearts!

At first our conscience tells us, in a plain straightforward way, what is right and what is wrong; but when we trifle with this warning, our reason becomes perverted, and comes in aid of our wishes, and deceives us to our ruin.

Then we begin to find, that there are arguments available in behalf of bad deeds, and we listen to these till we come to think them true; and then, if perchance better thoughts return, and we make some feeble effort to get at the truth really and sincerely, we find our minds by that time so bewildered that we do not know right from wrong.

John Henry Cardinal Newman (1801-1890): Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. 8, 5: Curiosity a Temptation to Sin.