And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.…
Every human being has influence, which is a part of himself, and helps to make up his personal being. And as long as he lives it goes out from him to others, for weal or for woe. Nay, more; it is not limited to time. Once having lived, it never dies. For the individual may go down to the tomb and perish; but his influence shall go on evermore.
I. WE ARE ACCOUNTABLE FOR OUR INFLUENCE. This is evident from the very nature of influence. What is it? It is power; the power of one will over another. This power and authority go forth from us to others in various ways — in speech, by action, by the glance of the eye, by the expression of feeling, by the show of passion, by the play of the countenance, by the motion of the hand, by our dress, our habits, our style of living, and our conduct. And now I ask — if I cause a man to do an act, am I not responsible, i.e., so far forth as I lead him to do it? Of course I am not to bear the entire burden of his conduct, for he is a man as well as I, and he is bound to think and judge for himself. But if I am the stronger, more controlling character, and use my influence to guide him astray, and start him on his way to ruin, surely I am responsible for what I do. But it is manifest that this principle is not one that is local, partial, or limited. It is a broad, general, universal principle; pertaining to souls under all circumstances. And see how it reaches our fellow-creatures on every side, with awful significance and tremendous power. I am responsible for my influence; I am held accountable by the Almighty for the way in which I affect and prompt the souls of my fellow-men. Then I am responsible for my influence upon you. Then you are responsible for your influence upon me; and each and every one of us is responsible for the influence we exert upon our neighbours. Then we are responsible for the channels by which our influence goes forth from us to others. And we are responsible for their outflowings; and though the influence of a man differs somewhat, in kind, from his specific acts, yet the law of Divine justice comes in here, with the same force and authority as in any outward deed.
II. THE MEASURE OF OUR RESPONSIBILITY IS PROPORTIONED TO OUR INFLUENCE. Herein lies our stewardship. We are stewards of God in the particular item of influence. A little girl is beloved by her schoolmate; and so great power has she over her, that that schoolmate will do anything she wants her to do, good or bad. She is responsible for her control over that child's soul, and to God. They are both responsible for the power they possess, the one over the other. Here is a man in a community, of such commanding power, whether through wealth, talent, or character, that everybody quotes him as authority, and aims to follow in his track. As sure as God liveth, He will hold him responsible for his popularity and his power.
III. INFLUENCE IS AN AWFUL, A PERILOUS THING WHEN IT ASSUMES THE FORM AND PROPORTIONS OF MASTERY AND CONTROL. And this is often the case. The mass of men, the world over, are governed by opinion and example. Imitation, too, is a most powerful agent in deciding the convictions and habits of men. No doubt it is God's will that certain prominent men should have authoritative influence; that is their calling; to that they are elected by the Almighty Himself, to the end that they may help to quicken inferior wills, and to decide human destinies. Thus in the family relation the words of a father or mother go with children to mature manhood, and may descend to children's children. How in our school-days our hearts have become knit "as with hooks of steel" to companions whom we have loved as Jonathan loved David, with a "love passing the love of women." I have myself seen men moving about through a nation, after whom millions of men flowed as with the mighty current of a torrent; and when they spoke, momentous questions were settled, as though decisive utterances had come forth from an oracle or a god. But the illustrations of this controlling influence of men is as common in the lowlier spheres of life as in the higher. Sometimes a grand, noble parent serves his generation and blesses it, and then sends down the crystal purity of his honour and the odour of his sanctity to children's children. Sometimes it is the reverse, and the alcoholic blood and the alcoholic breath of a drunkard triumphs over the dominion of the grave, and reaches over a whole generation of men to his descendants, poisoning the atmosphere and polluting society by the sottishness of sons and grandsons.
Parallel VersesKJV: And Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, she judged Israel at that time.