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a proper and conscientious use of the influence we possess, from whatever source it may arise. .
Influence is of various kinds. There is scarcely a human being so low, so destitute, as not to possess influence of some species, or in some degree.
Children soon learn to know and to appreciate their influence. The darling boy who obtained such a share of my affections was perfectly conscious of the influence he possessed. An infant of the same age, endowed with equal warmth of heart, but not sensible of having any influence, might have pitied the blind beggar, whom he heard in the fields so bitterly complain of thirst, and might have wished to relieve him,—but he would not have burst through the hedge, and seized the old man's hand, and eagerly bid him come with him to where he should have drink and F 6
meat, and money to buy more for tomorrow. Blessed instance of the first ideas of influence being connected with the genial impulses of benevolence! Never, oh! never may the precious union be dissolved!
Birth, fortune, rank, talents, and virtue, have each a particular species of influence; but when they at any time happen to be united, the influence belonging separately to each is increased to an incalculable degree. Such persons are to society, not only the brightest ornament, but the most inestimable blessing. Their influence, like that of the sun, extends not merely to the surface; it penetrates into the dark and hidden places of the earth, diffusing energy and animation far beyond the situations on which it apparently shines.
As nothing can be more fatal than any degree of doubt with regard to
the the reality of virtue, instances of pure, and disinterested, and exalted virtue, especially when they occur where temptations are known to abound, are highly and universally salutary. The more intimately we are acquainted with such characters, the higher will be our conception of their real worth, and, consequently, the greater the influence of their example.
For my own share, I confess that the happiness of numbering among my friends, my steady and affectionate friends, some of those in whom all the combined sources of influence have conspicuously united, has had the most beneficial consequences upon my mind. It has proved to me, that the consciousness of high descent, and elevated rank, and splendid fortune, does not necessarily give birth to pride: no, not even where, in addition to these advantages, nature has bestowed the most transcendant talents, and the charm of every personal attraction! It has proved that when the principles of religion, truth, justice, honour, and integrity, have been early and deeply implanted in the heart, they will, in every situation, expel from it every impulse that is adverse to benevolence.
It is in such examples as these, that we behold the omnipotence of virtue. It is only where power enlarges the sphere of influence that it can be conspicuously displayed. But, alas! how seldom is it thus displayed! Nor can we wonder that it should be seldom, when we consider what little pains are taken to impress the mind with a proper sense of duty. Were the importance of the principles which I endeavour to inculcate, as seriously
attended to as they deserve, the assemblage of virtues which I have described, would, I am fully convinced, be more frequent than even the most sanguine can now suppose it to be
The influence of rank and fortune would then be exerted for other purposes than merely to promote the gratification of pride, or vanity, or selfishness. Nor would the consciousness of possessing influence, from whatever source, confer any elation of spirits, but in proportion as it was accompanied with the consciousness of employing it meritoriously.
Be it your care, then, my dearest Lady Elizabeth, to acquire betimes that steadiness of principle, which, as your influence extends, may not only give it stability and permanence, but may ensure to it a great and everlasting reward.