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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 74

The Power of the Individual

The Power of the Individual.

Again, what a single man can do is far from insignificant. [unclear: Ne] has there been a time when the force of example was [unclear: gr] than at the present day. The eulogists of our age agree with the page 17 [unclear: factors] in the diagnosis that an exceeding sensitiveness to public opinion terms a marked characteristic of both its virtues and its vices. "Public opinion rules, "says Archbishop Ireland, "and they who form opinion for circles narrow or wide hold in their hands the destinies of fellow-beings." And lord Beaconsfield goes even further in emphasizing the special power of private life:—" Public men are not the most powerful. A public man is responsible, and a responsible man is a slave. It is private life that governs the world." For good or for evil the average man has been installed [unclear: sovereign] over large and increasing parts of our modern life, and for good [unclear: for] the action of each one of us, even though he stand alone, makes that average better or worse. The position is as absolute as that of an autocrat; [unclear: it] implies a trust from which no abdication can relieve us. What use [unclear: we] going to make of it ? "The destinies of our fellow-beings" in no [unclear: phorical] sense depend upon the answer.

As to the particular bearing of this inalienable trust upon our present [unclear: ect,] consider, on the one hand, that every penny spent on strong drink is [unclear: I] much bread taken out of the mouths of the hungry; every penny helps to [unclear: the] great wheels going that grind the faces of the poor and beat God's people [unclear: peces;] every penny makes its contribution to the paving of the way to hell for [unclear: ne] poor sinner whom you might have helped along the other path. On [unclear: positive] side, the influence of a single individual, however humble, may [unclear: cb] far and deep. Every example of unselfish abstinence makes the way [unclear: er] for others; tends to dispel the notion that abstainers are either [unclear: med] wrecks or pharisaical ascetics; tends to expose the absurdity of the misnomers "temperance" and "moderate," and to show that "charity" [unclear: ay] not be too high a substitute in the one case, nor "Laodicean" too [unclear: plimentary] in the other; tends to make drinking disreputable, to [unclear: ke] vice less tempting and virtue less difficult, and to turn the sunshine in what has home where long has been darkness and the shadow of death.