The Power of Influence (part 1)

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I love brilliant, inspired minds. One of my all-time favorite Christian writers, Henry Drummond, wrote an essay back in the late nineteenth century titled “The Changed Life” wherein he speaks about becoming sanctified—or holy—like our Savior. I wish to quote it at length for you…

“Reflect the character of Christ, and you will become like Christ. All men are mirrors—that is the first law upon which this formula [of sanctification] is based….No man can meet another on the street without making some mark upon him. We say we exchange words when we meet; what we exchange is souls. And when [association] is very close and very frequent, so complete is this exchange that recognizable bits of the one soul begin to show in the other’s nature….Who has not watched some old couple come down life’s pilgrimage hand in hand with such gentle trust and joy in one another that their very faces wore the self-same look? These were not two souls; it was a composite soul….Half a century’s reflecting had told upon them: they were changed into the same image. It is the Law of Influence that we become like those whom we habitually admire: these had become like because they habitually admired. Through all the range of literature, of history, and biography this law presides. Men are all mosaics of other men….[Even] Jean Valjean, in the masterpiece [Les Misérables] of Victor Hugo, is [like] Bishop Bienvenu risen from the dead….

“[The Apostle] Paul….himself was a changed man: he knew exactly what had done it; it was Christ. On the Damascus road they met, and from that hour his life was absorbed in His. The effect could not but follow—on words, on deeds, on career, on creed….He became like Him whom he habitually loved. ‘So we all,’ he writes, ‘reflecting as a mirror the glory of Christ are changed into the same image.’

“….Since we are what we are by the impacts of those who surround us, those who surround themselves with the highest will be those who change into the highest. There are some men and some women in whose company we are always at our best. While with them we cannot think mean thoughts or speak ungenerous words. Their mere presence is elevation….All the best [traits] in our nature are drawn out by their [association], and we find a music in our souls that was never there before.”

I break here to give an example…I had the wonderful pleasure and honor of associating with the apostle Neal A. Maxwell on a few occasions…and in a private, rather than public setting. It was tangible to me, the effect his presence—character, goodness, interaction—had upon my mind and heart. It made me better…or at the least, I acted better, and wanted to be better. This was not imaginary, but very real…and I felt that exalting influence for a number of days after each encounter. This is only one of a number of examples I’ve personally experienced over the course of my life that gives credence to what Henry Drummond is here teaching. When we are in the presence of good souls whom we admire, all the best that’s in us makes itself manifest because of that association. Continuing with Drummond’s words…

“Suppose even that influence prolonged through a month, a year, a lifetime, and what could not life become? Here, even on the common plane of life, talking our language, walking our streets, working side by side, are sanctifiers of souls….[And] If to live with men, diluted to the millionth degree with the virtue of the Highest, can exalt and purify [our] nature, what bounds can be set to the influence of Christ? To live with Socrates….must have made one wise; with….Francis of Assisi must have made one gentle….But to have lived with Christ? To have lived with Christ must have made one like Christ; that is to say, A Christian [in the highest sense].

“As a matter of fact, to live with Christ did produce this effect. It produced it in the case of Paul. And during Christ’s lifetime the experiment was tried in an even more startling form. A few raw…uninspiring men, were admitted to the inner circle of His friendship. The change began at once. Day by day we can almost see the first disciples grow. First there steals over them the faintest possible [hint] of His character, and occasionally, very occasionally, they do a thing, or say a thing that they could not have done or said had they not been living there. Slowly the spell of His Life deepens….Their manners soften, their words become more gentle, their conduct more unselfish….their starved humanity bursts into a fuller life. They do not know how it is, but they are different men. One day they find themselves like their Master, going about and doing good. To themselves it is unaccountable, but they cannot do otherwise. They were not told to do it, it came to them to do it. But the people who watch them know well how to account for it—‘They have been,’ they whisper, ‘with Jesus.’…Unparalleled phenomenon, that these poor fishermen should remind other men of Christ! Stupendous victory…that mortal men should suggest to the world, God!

(to be continued)

One Response to The Power of Influence (part 1)

  1. Lynda Clarke

    So true! There are a few people, that by our simple association, make me want to be better. You are one of those Kenneth. Of course the ultimate is to have the Savior so close to us that we take is image in our countenances. Thanks for posting this beautiful message.

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