"Ye are the salt of the earth; but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted" (Matt. 5: 13).
How simple, yet how instructive is the teaching of the Lord Jesus! How readily does the simplest mind grasp His meaning in the parable of the "salt." We are at once reminded of how tasteless and repulsive food is without this all-important factor.
We have here in this subject a very impressive lesson on Christian influence. It is to be remembered that every man and woman, boy or girl, upon earth is wielding an influence over some one else, that is either lifting him to heaven or dragging him to hell. Every one of us (figuratively speaking) is like an engine with a long string of cars; we are all pulling a long train of human souls to heaven or hell. O brother, friend! what way is your train headed
Let us notice a few points of interest regarding influence.
The first is its growth. "Away in the Alleghanies there is a spring so small that a single ox could drink it dry on a summer day. It steals its unobserved way among hills until it spreads out into the beautiful Ohio River, thence it stretches away a thousand miles." So it is with influence; it is made up of the small unobserved acts of life, both good and bad, which continue their ceaseless flow until they girdle the globe a thousand times and empty into the great ocean-Eternity.
The next point of interest is the power of influence. One has well said, "The two greatest powers on earth are ill example and ill advice." Think of a single act affecting heaven, earth and hell; think of Eve's one act of unbelief in Eden, robbing heaven of its best jewel, girdling earth with unbelief, and peopling hell with billions of her sons and daughters! Think of the influence gone out from Cain's one act of murder! See the long stream of blood that girdles our earth to-day! There is either a secret or public murderer in fifty per cent of our American homes. When we think of the wholesale destruction of unborn infants that is carried on in our land to-day, it should send us upon our faces in the dust.
The next point that deserves attention is the absolute necessity of a good influence, in the Christian work. The Bible clearly teaches this thought in many places. A man might as well go to battle without a weapon as to go forth in Christian work with an ill influence. The more intently he labors, the more harm he will do to the cause of God.
Another interesting feature about influence is its duration. We must remember that our influence does not stop when they lay our body away to rest beneath the weeping willow, but it rushes on from age to age, affecting and impressing our sons and daughters and grandsons and granddaughters, until Jesus comes.
The next thought that impresses us is the irredeemableness of a lost influence. Lost money may be replaced, lost health may be restored, lost friendships may be regained, but lost influence can never be fully redeemed; it may be repaired but can never be fully restored on this side of eternity. It is like so many small feathers strewn to the wind; they can never be gathered. If you have crippled your brother's influence, you have given him an incurable wound that will cause him to go halting to the grave; therefore we should be very careful how we treat the influence of our brother and sister. Many a good man's or woman's influence has been buried at the breakfast, dinner or supper table, by the remark of a thoughtless parent, before the children, never to rise again. O reader, are you guilty of this diabolical crime
The next point of interest is, how to preserve influence. Now it is possible for us, by not being watchful, to cripple our own influence. The following are a few hints on how to preserve our influence:
1. Carefully avoid all questionable conduct; flee from the very appearance of sin; take no time to reason with the tempter; his dainties may have a pleasing appearance, but they lead to endless woe.
2. Be a man or woman of your word, as far as lieth in your power; endeavor always to do as you promised, and should you fall short, and not be able to do so, go to the individual and explain yourself at your earliest convenience.
3. Be careful to live all you testify to, both at home and abroad; for if one should hear you testify to one thing and see you live another, he would brand you as a hypocrite, which would be true.
4. Say nothing, nor do anything, at any time or place, that you would not be willing for every man, woman, boy or girl to follow your example.