"Blameless and harmless." Philip. 2:15

The consideration of privileges leads me forward to speak of INFLUENCE. I would select a few of those Scriptural titles which describe the Christian's influence in the world. How true it is, that no man lives for himself! Probably no single act of life is wholly separated from some influence upon others. Every act will produce its specific influence upon ourselves; and thus will tend, at least, to create an influence from us upon other men. Influence seems almost as involuntary as evaporation. I cannot prevent it. I cannot even regulate or direct it wholly in its operation. What can I do? Why, I can keep the source clean and wholesome, that the influence may be of a kindred character. Thus must I do. I cannot say I will have no influence. I cannot be evil, and say my influence shall be good. But I can be myself good, and thus feel sure that the operation of my character shall be good also. One branch of Christian influence is described in the present title--negative influence. It is a very important branch. Am I one of these sons of God--without rebuke, blameless and harmless?

1. Then I must not be conformed to any known evil. There is much around me in the world that I know to be wrong. The neglect of God, the disregard of his Sabbath, the forgetfulness of his word, the contempt of his ordinances, the constant violation of his commands--I know to be wrong. I must not conform to them. I must not participate in them. They will certainly exist without me. Multitudes will rush forward in the way which they open. Perhaps I cannot help that; but I can certainly be clear from it. Circumstances cannot alter the wrong of these things. I may be in society where they are countenanced. I may be traveling where different views and habits prevail. God's commands cannot depend upon men. I must not yield. It is impossible to be blameless and harmless, and to partake of known sin. No one must be able to set my life against my principles. I may be reproached. I cannot help it. I must not do wrong to avoid it. This stand is fixed. I cannot do anything what I know and feel to be wrong.

2. Then I cannot encourage that which I do not know to be good. It is not enough that it is not immediately and positively evil; or that some other people consider it harmless; or that some apparently good people indulge in it. When I consider my influence--that which may be lawful, may not be expedient. Where will it tend? What is its direction? When its full growth, its final result, is reached, what will it be? If this will be evil, and my example or influence encourages or leads to it, how can I be blameless and harmless? I see many earthly indulgences around me to be judged by this standard. I see many habits of life to be thus considered. The best that I can say of their present aspect is, they are very doubtful. There is no doubt of the innocence or propriety of giving them up. Some hesitating person may be actually waiting to see what I shall do; encouraged in evil, or held back, by my example alone. Ah, better is any loss, than to be the pattern to a lost soul. I must know a thing is right, before I can safely touch it. I must plant nothing that I shall desire to pull up hereafter. I must yield to nothing for mere convenience or indolence, the real character of which I have reason to suspect.

3. But then I must indulge no habit of secret sin. It is impossible to make sin a secret. It is like a fire in the body. It will and must display its influence, either by positive acts of its own, or by deadening and destroying the actings of grace. I can never afford to play with a sinful thought; or to read an injurious and unsettling book; or to abide in unprofitable society. My conscience must be clear. My personal habits must be pure and holy. My most secret moments must be in the fear and remembrance of God. Ah, how often does the whole character become lifeless, injurious, worldly, perhaps worse, from the mere yielding to secret sin. Prayer neglected--the Scriptures forsaken--evil tempers indulged--unholy meditations permitted--unkind relationships allowed--temptations considered, and not instantly refused. It is as when one lets out water. If I would be blameless in influence, I must be right within. I will labor for this. Oh, that I may cultivate that secret character and dominion of real goodness, that there shall be no habitual evil in me, from which influence may proceed.

4. Then I must maintain an active habit of religion. My mind cannot be merely empty. It must be filled with something. Let me fill it with that which is right. My understanding improved--my thoughts rightly directed--my habits guarded--my time occupied--my efforts active in usefulness to others. If I am doing no good, I shall surely be doing evil. My influence must be something, upon somebody. Can I not be happy in usefulness? Whose sorrows can I alleviate? Whose comforts can I promote? It may be troublesome sometimes. But it will do good--it will do me good. It will be very hard to be blameless without being useful. To say I will do no harm, is necessarily ineffectual. Idleness, indolence, listlessness, selfishness, indifference to others, is always harm. I may not be actually without blame! If I do right, I shall not be without blame from the wicked. But I may be unjustly blamed, and be blameless in fact. That is of no consequence to me. I care little for man's unrighteous judgment. Let me give no cause of blame. But ah! what a watchful, useful life that will require! To do it I must live near to God, as a son of God. He can keep me from all evil.

5. Can I be blameless in any other way? I will not conform to known evil. I will not encourage that which I do not know to be good. I will indulge no habit of secret sin. I will maintain an active and useful life in the service of God. Thus shall I adorn the doctrine of my Savior in all things; and the world shall be ashamed hereafter, have no evil thing to say of me.

Let all my converse be sincere,
My conscience as the noon-day clear,
Think how the All-seeing God my ways
And all my secret thoughts surveys.

May I alone in God delight,
Have all day long, my God in sight,
Perform my Maker's holy will,
Oh, may I never more do ill.