Holiness Augments Our Influence For Good
It is a solemn thing to die; to leave home and friends and loved ones; to go out into the untried realities of eternity; perhaps in dying to struggle with pain and disease; to go to the Judgment; and to have our destiny forever settled. But it is a more solemn thing to live. We used to think death was the most solemn event but we have revised our opinion. It is more solemn to live.
What strange notions men have of life and death! When a child dies we weep and lament. It ought to be the reverse, for it has escaped the ills of this life. It will not be caught in the pitfalls and snares of sin (and they were never more numerous than now). The atonement of Jesus Christ covers its sinfulness. It is safe. Many a fond parent has had to lament that wayward children were not taken in infancy. We ought to rejoice that a bud has been transplanted to unfold in heaven. When a child is born, how we rejoice! How we receive the congratulations of others and congratulate ourselves. Whereas, we have good occasion for fear and trembling. We know not what awaits that child. Whether it shall so live as to make a safe run through the gauntlet of its foes and reach heaven or whether it will dwell in the regions of the lost.
Life is solemn because we are on probation for eternity. If we are saved and die today we will go safe to Abraham’s bosom. We may live a century and be lost. This life is the stage where we are acting out eternal verities. Every day we are not only working out our salvation or damnation but we are also influencing all whom we meet. Our influence is making those about us better or worse. It is a difficult thing to live and be able to exert the right kind of influence all the time. It is indeed a difficult thing to do. we may be too gay or too grave; too serious or too gay; too repellent in our daily life or too frivolous. Either extreme may turn men away from God. It is a delicate matter indeed therefore to be able always to exert the proper influence.
We need therefore to be holy in order to have the best influence of which we are capable. Here is where the reasonableness of holiness appears. Many a Christian man or woman, who loves his children, is grieved at his influence over them, because he cannot control an evil disposition, that causes his life to contradict his profession. Holiness is therefore a merciful provision to help us in this respect. It is an emergency brake to keep us from crushing our hopes for the salvation of our families and neighbors. It is a reservoir to help us out when the streams of human love fail. It is a sinking fund to keep us from spiritual bankruptcy. Consider our influence. It is threefold.
First, there is the influence of words. How mighty they are. These impulses of sounding breath modulated by the organs of speech or these arbitrary characters written by pen or pencil or typewriter, how mighty they are, because they are the expression of ideas. They communicate thought. They fall on the ear or meet the eye of others and influence them. We are giving and receiving such influence all the time. The mighty rushing wind of the tornado is eclipsed by the power of words.
Consider the power of our own words upon ourselves. St. James says of the tongue, “The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” Our own wicked words inflame our own anger. Our lustful words add fuel to our lust. Our words of unbelief increase our own unbelief. Our words of discouragement increase our own discouragement. Or our words of faith and courage increase our own faith and courage. Our tongue has much to do in its influence upon ourselves.
Then there is the influence of oratory, and the witchery of song, upon others. A poor monk in Europe visits the sepulcher of Jesus in Jerusalem. He is so grieved that it should be in the possession of the infidel Turks, that his soul rises in hot indignation, and he travels from country to country of Europe with burning words urging the rescue of Jerusalem from the Turks. All Europe is aroused and the Crusades take place. Hundreds of thousands of men and children march upon Jerusalem. Thousands perish and only after centuries does the movement stop. The Crusaders return defeated, but they bring back the arts and sciences of the East, which revolutionize the civilization of all Europe. Martin Luther stands before the Emperor, who commands him to recant. He replies, “Here on the scriptures I take my stand. I can do no otherwise.” These words produce an effect on the whole world that is indescribable. The Emperor knows not what to do. The whole world is astonished. The Pope is dumfounded. The courage of every lover of liberty is revived and the Reformation is born. The Virginian statesman declares, “Give me liberty or give me death,” and the American Revolution is born, with results as far reaching as eternity.
Oh, the power of our words! You can quench the fires of the forest, when the last tree is burned, but you cannot stop the influence of that hasty, harsh, angry word spoken yesterday. It cannot be recalled. You may obtain forgiveness of God and man, but still the influence of that word will go on, cutting, scorching the sensitive soul to whom it was spoken, and influencing character forever.
Think of the influence of the words of Him, who spake “as man never spoke.” How they have influenced the centuries and are more quoted today than the words of any other man who ever lived. His word brought Lazarus from the tomb and it will call the sleeping millions from the grave.
Secondly: we have the influence of actions. It is often said that “actions speak louder than words.” This is true. Words are not always an index of character but actions are. Our actions may make our words more emphatic or they may neutralize them. Jesus said of the Pharisees, “They say and do not.” This is dissembling and hypocrisy. “”It is easier to preach than practice” is an old and true saying. We have heard of preachers, who when in the pulpit, their parishioners wished they never would come out; and when out of the pulpit the parish wished they never would again enter it. Aesop has a fable of a crab who reproved his son for walking backwards. The son replied, “Father, why do you walk backwards?”
We teach more by example than by words. During the first three years of the life of a child he learns more than in any subsequent three years of his life. He learns by watching his elders. He is a creature of imitation and when he grows to manhood, he is still influenced by example. We are all creatures of imitation. One goose drinks because another goose drinks. One man drinks whiskey because the other does. The silly fashions are in vogue because most people are too weak to resist the example of others.
When actions go with words, the power of words is wonderfully increased and intensified. When words say one thing and acts another, the one neutralizes the other. It has been well said, “Some people talk cream and live skimmed milk.”
A third kind of influence is that of ourselves. It is something besides words or even acts. It is the inner man speaking through our words and acts. It is “the man behind the gun,” the preacher projecting his spirit and inner self upon his congregation. It is beyond definition. It is the atmosphere a man carries with him. It causes people to take an inventory of their moral and spiritual quality. It is the impression of ourselves on others.
For instance, when Jesus had finished praying in a certain place, His disciples asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” There was such a sanctity, such a holy influence that proceeded from Him that the disciples wanted to learn to pray. Our silent influence is our real influence. It proceeds from us when we are off our guard and are not making strenuous effort or doing or trying to do some great act. It is the spirit that saturates our words and actions. It is the way we take slights and affronts. It is the man behind the testimony that gives it effect. We have all seen the locomotive headlight shine its rays, hundreds of yards ahead on the track. We have lamps in our houses just as large. But the lamp of the locomotive has a reflector behind it, that makes its light so effective. And so is a holy life behind a testimony to give it effect.
It is possible to advocate holiness in such an unholy manner as to destroy the effect of sound doctrine and straight testimony. One can throw a bone to a hungry dog in such a manner as to cause him to flee. On the other hand a cup of cold water may be given in the name of a disciple, with such a gracious spirit as to merit the favor of heaven and enrich both the giver and receiver.
The man himself may neutralize his best efforts, by his evil spirit. Paul says that if we could speak like angels, yet without love, it is empty sound. This is the reason that so many infidels are bred in professed Christian homes. Father and Mother failed to have a religion that sweetened their lives and in spite of their profession of religion, children did not want it. Some of the most noted infidels in America were brought up by parents who professed to be followers of Jesus Christ, whose religion did not save them from an evil disposition. Apples that grow in the shade are the sourest.
Mankind estimate men from the standpoint of their moral character, no matter how great their gifts. In reviewing the lives of the great men of the world, the estimate is always based upon their moral character. Who thinks of the military genius of Napoleon without having loom up in the background of the picture his inordinate ambition that led him to seek his own selfish interests at the price of the blood of thousands? Who thinks of the talented Henry Clay without also calling to mind his assertion, “I had rather be right than to be president”? Who can think of Daniel Webster, with his colossal intellect, without a regret at his compromise of principle in his ambition to obtain the presidency?
Such is the penetrating power of a holy man that it cannot be hid. He may be shut up in the most adverse surroundings. He may be hid away in the desert, but the world will find him out. Holy character is at a premium in this world. It is more rare than precious stones. John the Baptist was a man “filled with the Holy Ghost.” He preached in the wilderness and all the nation left the cities and went to sit at his feet and listen to his ministry.
Some years ago in New York City, a woman lost her husband. She was exceedingly rebellious against God. Mrs. Sarah Lankford Palmer visited her and showed her that her spirit was wicked. Her heart was melted. She repented of her sins and was reclaimed from a backslidden condition. Later she was wholly sanctified and a most remarkable career followed. She was prostrated on a sick bed for over fifty years. Her holy character shone from that bed of sickness all over the world. People came to that sick room from foreign lands. Hundreds were converted at her bedside. She became the medium through whom the rich disbursed their charity to the poor. Her face in her portrait shines like the face of an angel. People found her out although her little cottage was in the poorer locality of the city, located behind a saloon, for holy character cannot be hid. She was called “The saint of Rose Hill.” The street commissioners of New York deferred the widening of the street while she lived, for it would require the destruction or removal of her humble cottage. Such is the influence of a holy life.
We knew a little, sainted woman, who lived a humble life. She obtained the blessing of a pure heart after a great struggle. From that time she shone. Everywhere she went people felt the quiet, persuasive influence of her life. It was her delight to visit the homes of the people in a great city and recommend the religion of Jesus Christ. When she died, a great city church was filled with a weeping throng of mingled Protestants, Catholics and Jews. She was not a public character, but this was the tribute to a holy life. The officiating preacher said, ‘Holiness is at premium today.” The pastor said, “I always knew she was praying for me in the pew, in the public service.” Church leaders among the laity said, “There is something more than the ordinary religious life in this woman’s experience.” Early acquaintances smote on their breast and cried, ‘She lived a saint but we are failures.” Such is the power of a holy life.
The greatest power of Jesus was not in His miracles but in His holy character. This has influenced the world more than anything that ever came to it. Francis Willard said she visited a small town in England, that was eminently moral and spiritual. An old man gave the reason for it thus: “There was a man named John Wesley, who once came to this town and it has never been the same since.” We may say in a larger sense, there was a Man, named Jesus of Nazareth, who came to this world and held up His perfect life and character and this world has never been the same since He lived here.
We see then with our threefold influence what a solemn thing it is to live. How much we need holiness of heart-not merely to help us speak and act right, but to saturate our words and acts. Without it we shall fail in cur influence upon others. With it our influence will be a savor of life in spite of our mistakes. People will overlook our blunders if they can feel the genuine sincerity of our hearts. This is a weighty reason why everyone, especially parents, should have the blessing of a holy heart.
There are five languages, four of which all of us talk. There is the language of the hands; handwriting and that spoken by the deaf and dumb and read by the blind. There is the language of the tongue. Then there is the language of the ear, of those who can understand a language who cannot speak it. Then there is the language of the eye, which takes in a language although we cannot speak it. Many an Englishman can read the French language which he cannot speak. But most important of all is the language of the inner man who speaks in our tones and gestures and gives a meaning often times entirely different from the words we use. We may be talking one thing in our words and saying an entirely different thing in our tones and facial expression. This latter language is what counts. How important then that “the hidden man of the heart” be holy, in order to glorify God!
We therefore arrive at the conclusion that we must be holy in order to have the right influence over those we love in winning (and not repelling) them to Christ. We are responsible for what we are, therefore as well as for what we say or do. If we saw a man drowning and could help him and would not, we are responsible for his life. Under the Jewish economy if a man owned an ox that was vicious and he knew it and the ox gored another man to death, the owner was held guilty of murder, and he and the ox were stoned to death. If you had a mad dog and he bit someone, who died, if you knew he was mad and did not take proper precaution, you would be guilty of murder. If you had a deadly disease and did not seek to avoid healthy people, but they took the disease and died because of your contagion, you would be guilty. If you have not been sanctified wholly you have something worse than physical disease. It is soul disease, called depravity, that has a baneful influence on those with whom you associate. It manifests itself in your spirit as well as your words and just as far as you see your privilege to get rid of it and will not, you are responsible for your influence. Tremendous thought! We are our brother’s keepers in this world. No man can properly glorify God who has in him that mortgage held by Satan. We mean the carnal mind. Therefore it is most reasonable that our religion should save us from it.