E-text prepared by Al Haines
THE JERICHO ROAD
W. BION ADKINS
Author of "Twelve Steps Toward Heaven," "The Anonymous Letter," etc.
Like the rivers, forever running yet never passed, like the winds forever going yet never gone, so is Odd-Fellowship.
WORTHY AND GENTLE BROTHERS
I DEDICATE THIS LITTLE BOOK TO THEE, SINCERELY HOPING THAT IT WILL AFFORD YOU MUCH PLEASURE AND BE THE MEANS OF INCITING YOU TO GREATER EFFORT IN BEHALF OF OUR BELOVED ORDER. MAY THY YEARS BE MANY AND THEIR SEASONS ALL GOLDEN AUTUMNS, RICH IN PURPLE CLUSTERS AND GARNERED DELIGHTS.
"I have lived much that I have not written, but I have written nothing that I have not lived, and the story of this book is but a plaintive refrain wrung from the over-burdened song of my life; while the tides of feeling, winding down the lines, had their sources in as many broken upheavals of my own heart." A book, like an implement, must be judged by its adaptation to its special design, however unfit for any other end. This volume is designed to help Odd-Fellows in their search for the good things in life. There is need of something to break the spell of indifference that oftentimes binds us, and to open glimpses of better, sweeter, grander possibilities. Hence this volume, which is a plea for that great fortune of man—his own nature. Bulwer says: "Strive while improving your one talent to enrich your whole capital as a man." The present work is designed to aid in securing the result thus recommended. We send it forth, trusting that it will find its way into the hands of every Odd-Fellow and every Odd-Fellow's friend and neighbor, and that those who read it will gather from its pages lessons which shall enable them to pluck thorns from their pathway and scatter flowers instead.
W. BION ADKINS.
October 1, 1899.
God give us men. A time like this demands Strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and ready hands; Men whom the lust of office does not kill; Men who possess opinions and a will; Men who have honor; Men who will not lie, Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog In public duly and in private thinking. For, while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds, Their large professions and their little deeds, Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps, Wrong rules the land, and waiting Justice sleeps. God give us men!
* * In the long years liker must they grow; The man be more of woman, she of man; He gain in sweetness and in moral height, Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world; She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care— Till at the last she set herself to man, Like perfect music unto noble words; And so these twain, upon the skirts of time, Sit side by side, full summed in all their powers, Self-reverent each and reverencing each. Then reign the world's great bridals, chaste and calm; Then springs the crowning race of human kind.
Objects and Purposes of Odd-Fellowship
The Higher Life
The Bible in Odd-Fellowship
Brother Underwood's Dream
The Imperial Virtue
Quiet Hour Thoughts
Gems of Beauty
Husband and Father
Odd-Fellowship and the Future
On April 26, 1819, Thomas Wildey, the English carriage-spring maker, together with John Welch, John Duncan, John Cheatham and Richard Rushworth, instituted the first lodge of Odd-Fellows at the Seven Stars Tavern in Baltimore, and it was given the name of Washington Lodge No. 1. From this feeble beginning has grown the immense organization of today. The Odd-Fellows claim a venerable antiquity for their order, the most common account of its origin ascribing it to the Jewish legend under Titus, who, it is said, received from that Emperor the first chapter, written on a golden tablet. The earliest mention made of the lodge is in 1745, when one was organized in England. There were at that time several lodges independent of each other, but in a few years they formed a union. Toward the end of the century many of them were broken up by state prosecutions, on suspicion that their purposes were seditious. The name was changed from the Patriotic Order to that of the Union Order of Odd-Fellows. In Manchester, England, in 1813, some of the lodges seceded from the order, and formed the Independent Order of Odd-Fellows.
The order's first appearance in America was in 1819. The purposes of the order were so changed by the founders here, that it is said to be almost purely an American organization. It was based on the Manchester Unity, which was really the parent institution. In 1842, this country severed its connection with that of England.
Lodges connected with either those of England or America are established in all parts of the world. The real estate held by the organization exceeds in value $20,000,000, and there is scarcely a town in the country that has not its Odd-Fellows Building. The total revenue of the order is nearly $10,000,000 per annum. Yearly relief amounts to nearly $4,000,000 a year.
THE JERICHO ROAD
"A traveler passed down the Jericho road, He carried of cash a pretty fair load (The savings of many a toilsome day), On his Jericho home a mortgage to pay.
"At a turn of the road, in a lonely place, Two villainous men met him face to face. 'Hands up!' they cried, and they beat him sore, Then off to the desert his money they bore.
"Soon a priest came by who had a fold; He sheared his sheep of silver and gold. He saw the man lie bruised and bare, But he passed on by to his place of prayer.
"Then a Levite, temple bound, drew nigh; He saw the man, but let him lie, And clad in silk, and filled with pride, He passed him by on the other side.
"Next on the way a Samaritan came (To priest and Levite a hated name); The wounded man he would not pass, He tenderly placed him on his ass.
"He took him to an inn hard by; He dressed his wounds and bathed his eye; He paid the landlord his full score; If more was needed would pay him more.
"Ah! many travel the Jericho way, And many are robbed and beaten each day; And many there be on the way in need, Whom Priest or Levite never heed; And who to fate would yield, alas! If some Samaritan did not pass."
THE OBJECTS AND PURPOSES OF ODD-FELLOWSHIP
We are taught that "God hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on the face of the earth," and when we say mutual relief and assistance is a leading office in our affiliation, and that Odd-Fellowship is systematically endeavoring to improve and elevate the character of man, to imbue him with a proper conception of his capabilities for good, to enlighten his mind, to enlarge the sphere of his affections and to redeem him from the thralldom of ignorance and prejudice, and teach him to recognize the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of men, we have epitomized the objects, purposes and basic principles of our order. Odd-Fellowship is broad and comprehensive. It is founded upon that eternal principle which teaches that all the world is one family and all mankind are brothers. Unheralded and unsung, it was born and went forth, a breath of love, a sweet song that has filled thousands of hearts with joy and gladness. To the rich and the poor, the old and the young, at all times, comes the rich, sweet melody of this song of humanity to comfort and to cheer. For eighty years the light of Odd-Fellowship has burned before the world, a beacon to the lost, a comfort to the wanderer and a protection to the thoughtless. Eighty years of work for humanity's sake; eighty years devoted to teaching men to love mankind; eighty years of earnest labor, consecrated by friendship, cemented with love and beautified by truth. In ancient times men sought glory and renown in gladiatorial combat, though the victor's laurel was wet with human blood. In modern times men seek the plaudits of the world by achievements for human good, and by striving to elevate and ennoble men. Looking back through nineteen centuries we behold a cross, and on it the crucified Christ, with nail-pierced hands, and wounded, bleeding side, but whose heart was so full of love and pity that even in His dying agonies He had compassion upon His persecutors, and cried out, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
That event was the dividing line between the ancient and the modern era; between the rule of "brute force" and the "mild dominion of love and charity." The mission of Odd-Fellowship, like that of the lowly Nazarene, is to replace the rule of might with the gentle influence of love, and to teach a universal fraternity in the family of man. To meet and satisfy and better keep alive the nobler elements of man's nature. Many orders have been instituted, but none can challenge greater admiration from men, or deserve more blessings from heaven, than the Independent Order of Odd-Fellows. Looking back along the pathway of the century behind us we behold the wrecks of many orders. The morning of their life was beautiful and full of glorious promise, but the evening came and they had perished. Rich costumes, impressive ceremonies, beautiful degrees and magnificent effects, all lie buried and forgotten. It was not because their founders lacked energy or enthusiasm, not because their members were less susceptible to the beauty and poetry of tradition and ceremony, but because success and perpetuity come not from human effort, but are the outgrowth of a life-giving principle. The sculptor fashions from the marble a form of surpassing loveliness, its lines are those of grace and beauty. We stand before it charmed, whispering our admiration, but the impression on the heart is only passing. The poet sings of home, of mother and of love; the meter may be faulty and the words may charm not, but the sentiment is true and touches our hearts. The experience it recites is common to humanity, and wherever its sweet tones are heard it softens men's natures and makes them better, truer and nobler. Who among us would be willing to exchange the influence of the immortal song "Home Sweet Home," or be willing to forget the Christian's "Nearer My God to Thee," for all the inanimate beauty of art? One charms the eye, the other touches and calls to life the best and sweetest emotions of the human heart. So it is with fraternal societies. Flashing swords, glittering helmets, jeweled regalias and beautiful degrees may touch the vanity and excite the admiration, but to win the heart we must satisfy its longings, feed its hopes and lift it above the narrowness and selfishness of its daily experience. Odd-Fellowship strives to touch the heart and better feelings, rather than feed the vanity of man or arouse his admiration for gorgeous displays. Its work is an exemplification of the living, practical Christianity of today. In almost every state in this fair land of ours can be found Odd-Fellows' homes, within whose walls the orphan is no longer motherless. For each and every little one within these homes, one million Odd-Fellows feel a father's love and pledge a parent's care.
Add to all this great work the little deeds of love, the little acts of kindness that make life beautiful; add kind words of cheer and friendly help and tender consolation, and add again the benefit of union, the strength that comes from hearts united in God's work among mankind, and you have caught a glimpse of the life-giving principle that has made Odd-Fellowship one of the grandest fraternal and beneficiary institutions the world has ever known. The work it has done can not be fully estimated until the record is read in the bright light of eternity. In that glad day the tears that have been wiped away will become jewels in somebody's crown, and the sobs that have been hushed will be heard again in hosannas of welcome.
Onward! is the ringing, pregnant watchword of the world. The vast, complicated, ponderous machinery of life is kept in motion by tireless and irresistible forces. The multiform and magnificent affairs of men and of nations are all impelled forward with an energy and a velocity as wonderful as glorious to behold.
Not retrogressive, but progressive—not enervating, but energizing—not ephemeral, but substantial—not from bad to worse, but from the imperfect to the consummate, are the characteristics by which are so prominently distinguished the tidal waves of the world's progress today.
Activity and achievement came with creation, and constitute an inflexible, irrepealable law of the universe. In stir and push we have light and life, but in idleness, and superstitious clinging to fossilized ideas and bygones, we have demoralization, decay and death.
Fortunately for the world, and agreeably with infinite design, man plods his way in harmony with the law alluded to. Not all men, but the great masses of them, wherever "The true light shineth," especially when accompanied by rays and helps from one of the noblest and grandest of confraternities our world has known, "The Independent Order of Odd-Fellows." When the huge planet which we call our world had been tossed into being from the furnace fires of Omnipotence, and the maternal lullaby began to gather force on hill top and in valley, the discovery was naturally enough made that association and co-operation were preferable to isolation and unrelieved dependence; and from that hour forward, this principle has been interwoven into the very framework of human society. The purpose has been the elevation and improvement of mankind. For, though the first product was pronounced "good," it quickly degenerated; and there came an emphasized demand for reform.
Human isolation is an unnatural condition. It antagonizes the highest and best interests of the world. Its influence is never beneficent, but always and necessarily harmful. If the truest well being of the universe, and the supremest glory of Jehovah could have been attained by conditions of solitude, it is not impossible that the good All-Father would have given to every man a continent, and so have made him monarch of all he surveyed.
Physically regarded, there is no limit to Omnipotent power. A continent, and even a world, was therefore within the pale of divine possibilities. Jehovah, however, is not only great, but he is the Greatness of Goodness. High and holy ends were to be accomplished, and happy purposes to be secured, by means of human instrumentalities, and be jointly shared by Creator and creature.
Among the earliest of Deific utterances, therefore, we have this: "It is not good that man should be alone." I concede that, primarily, the companionship of woman is here intended. But the declaration is not only good in this, but equally so in other regards. A lifetime of solitude with no incentives to action—nothing to draw out, exercise and expand the latent powers of the soul—no interchange of thought—no clashing of opinion—no towering resolves to stimulate—no difficulties to surmount! What imagination so fertile that it could picture a more hateful or intolerable Hades than would be such a condition of affairs?
Hence, in the early days of the world's history we discern the principle of association and co-operation, with plans and systems embodying its practical application. Organizations came into being, obedient to the summons of necessity. How well the various organizations have wrought along the pathway of centuries, and how great or small may have been the measure of their success, I am not here to discuss, much less to determine. Each has done its work in its own way, and pockets responsibility for results. Common courtesy and candor suggest that each has been largely animated by highest and worthiest of motives.
Reared upon the broad catholic principle of brotherhood, extending its helpful hand from nation to nation, and from continent to continent, linking its votaries together with the golden triple chain of Friendship, Love and Truth, can afford to be friendly with each, and have a kindly word for all societies that reach down after and raise up a fallen brother, and if possible make him wiser, better and happier. Should a like courtesy be extended to this order, while it would certainly constitute a new departure, it would prove none the less gratifying. But, from certain sources, the order has been the recipient of a peculiar kind of consideration, so long that "the memory of man scarce runneth to the contrary." Inflamed appeals and bristling denunciations have gone out against it, "while great, swelling words"—swollen with hatred, bigotry, prejudice and superstition—have assailed it relentlessly and almost uninterruptedly. Mainly, these assaults have been met with the terse and pointed invocation, "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do."
That this great and potent brotherhood may not, in all its parts and jurisdictions, have so deported itself, and so carried forward its work, as to be justly free from unfavorable criticism and merited censure, is probably true. As with organizations, there is sometimes too much haste displayed in gathering, and too little discrimination exercised in selecting, the materials that are brought as component parts of the great superstructure of Odd-Fellowship. Too much daubing with untempered mortar—too great a desire for the exhibition of numerical force, and the multiplication of lodges—too much regard for the outward trappings and paraphernalia, and too little regard for the internal qualities of those seeking membership in the fraternity. Such deplorable departures, as well from the primary as the ultimate objects had in view, are not fairly attributable to anything that may be reasonably considered as an outgrowth of the order, but come despite its constant teachings and warnings. Bad work they of course make, and so at times and to a limited extent bring the fraternity under the ban of popular displeasure, but shall the world predicate unfavorable judgment upon a few and unfair tests? If so, and the principle logically becomes general, pray who shall be appointed administrator of the effects of other social and moral organizations, and even of the church itself? For in these regards all offend, if offense it be. When the principles of Odd-Fellowship are carefully studied it is apparent to every candid mind that it is founded upon that eternal principle which recognizes man as a constituent of one universal brotherhood, and teaches him that as he came from the hand of a common parent, he is in duty bound to cherish and protect his fellow-man. Viewed in this light, Odd-Fellowship becomes one of the noblest institutions organized by man in the world. If the beauty and grandeur of universal brotherhood could be impressed upon the minds of all the people, how very different from the past would the future history of the world read. What a delightful place this old stone-ribbed earth would be if men would look upon each other as brothers, members of one common family; enjoying the many comforts of one home; trusting to the guidance and protection of one Father—God. We are more nearly related than we think. Running through all humanity there is a link of relationship and a bond of sympathy that can not be exterminated. The principle of brotherly love is so great and broad that all mankind could unite in offices of human benefaction. Brother. Oh, how sacred and how sweet when spoken by a true heart! Whether it be in the home circle, lodge-room, or in some distant land, it sends the same soothing thrill of joy to the heart. Let us pause just a moment to think of the time and place when we first learned to call each other brother. Ah! Methinks no Odd-Fellow will ever forget his first lesson. He will always remember how quickly he was changed from the haughty disposition manifested by that one of old, who, when he prayed, went to the public square, or climbed to the house top, and thanked God that he was not like other men, to the humble attitude of that one who stood afar off and bowed his face in the dust, crying aloud, "O Lord! Be merciful unto me a sinner." How very much like this ancient boaster are thousands of the human family today. Sitting in high places, surrounded by wealth and power, they see nothing beyond the narrow circle in which they move. They are deaf to the low, sad wail of sorrow that comes from some breaking heart. Seated by their own comfortable fireside they give no thought to the lonely widow standing outside in the cold. It distresses them not that the keen, wintry blast sends its icy chill to the already broken heart. No thought, no feeling, for this poor creature that must now fight the fierce battles incident to human life, all alone. How sadly these tender duties to suffering humanity are neglected when left to the cold charity of the world.
Odd-Fellowship seeks to lessen sorrow and suffering. It supplies temporal wants; gives encouragement; aids and comforts those who are in distress. In sickness we watch by their bedside and administer to their wants. If death calls, Odd-Fellowship forsakes not its follower, but hovers near, listening attentively to the last words and parting instruction of the dying one. Brothers and friends, let me admonish you to do all the good you can while in health and strength, for at most life is short and we know not how soon the Angel of Death will unfold his broad, shadowy wings over our path and call us to give an account of our stewardship; then all that will remain of us on earth will be the good or evil we have done.
Odd-Fellowship is full of sacred teachings and sublime warnings. It teaches us that we are in a world full of temptations, sin and sorrow. We see the emblems of decay all around us. The strong man of today may stand forth, nerved for toil, with all the bloom of health mantling cheek and brow, seemingly as strong and vigorous as the mighty oak, and yet tomorrow he will fade as the autumn leaf. Then he realizes how foolish it is to be vain; thinks of the instability of wealth and power, and the certain decay of all earthly greatness. Odd-Fellowship teaches us that charity springs from the heart, is not puffed up, seeks not its own. It makes us strong, and encourages us to push on through life, even though we are beset on every side with toil, danger and strife. Brothers, let nothing cause you to turn back or away from the principles of our noble order. Cling closer and closer each day to honesty and truth, and bear in mind that be the road ever so rough and untraveled, narrow and dark, if you follow truth you will find light at the end of the journey.
THE SECRESY OBJECTION.
More common, perhaps, than any other filed against it has been the objection that Odd-Fellowship does its work secretly, this objection being not unfrequently urged by persons of candor and honest impulses. "If," it is demanded, "the aims and purposes of the order be legitimate and praiseworthy, why shroud them in mystery rather than give them the broad sunlight of publicity."
The objection is not new, nor is it urged with any increase of its original force, whatever may be the fact in the matter of vehemence. Answer might be made: The order does not choose to ascend to the house tops for the purpose of heralding its affairs to the world. But that answer would not be satisfactory, nor is any likely to be that may be presented, now or hereafter. It is nevertheless true that there are certain matters pertaining to the order and its works with which the outside world has no sort of concern, even as with those very peculiar secret societies, the individual, the family, the church and the state. If other organizations prefer to resort to the newspapers, the pulpit, the rostrum and other information conduits for the purpose of advertising their wares, their greatness and their goodness, and the vast amount of humanitarian work they are doing and purposing, such is their unquestioned privilege.
But if the preference of Odd-Fellowship be for quieter and less obtrusive methods, pray who shall fairly contest its right of choice?
And then it should be remembered that there are matters in which the right hand is prohibited the privilege of interfering with the prerogatives of the left, and the left with those of the right. Nor should the fact be forgotten that there is Divine example, if not precept, for the established "modus operandi" of the order. Upon a certain occasion the Great Teacher had performed a very humble service for one of his disciples who was sadly at loss for the why and the wherefore, and the answer, received to his inquiry was: "What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter."
And in the grand hereafter, when the films of ignorance and the warpings of prejudice and superstition shall have melted away under the bright sunlight of Eternal Day, it is not impossible that our vexed, inquisitive, worrying opponents may be permitted to look back over the pathway this order has traversed, glance at the work that has been wrought and peradventure discover how unreasonable, as well as fruitless, has been the warfare they have been pleased to wage with such persistent fury. A long time to wait, maybe, but then good things do not come rapidly nor all at once. Meanwhile, to encourage them in their waiting, their watching and their worrying, let them take this lesson from the same Great Teacher: "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth." Ah, no! it will not do, because you can not see and comprehend all of everything, inside as well as outside, to conclude that it must necessarily be bad. Adopt that theory, and you not only fly in the face of reason, but bump your head against almost everything in nature, in art and in science.
Secrets! yes; they are within us and without us, above us and beneath us and all about us, and "what are you going to do about it?" Well might Israel's old and gifted poet king write: "We are fearfully and wonderfully made," soul and body, the mortal and the immortal, the material and the immaterial, strangely and mysteriously conjoined! God's secret, this! Will you denounce Him and withdraw allegiance from Him, for the reason that He fails to make clear to you a clear and satisfying revelation? The same old singer said thousands of years ago, "The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork." And those heavens, with that firmament, are charged and surcharged with mightiest and profoundest secrets. We seize the telescope and "plunge into the vast profound overhead, intent upon mastering the secrets of the revolving spheres."
We travel from star to star, from system to system, until we reach yon lonely star that appears to be performing the Guardian's task, upon the verge of unmeasured and immeasurable space. We may descry and describe the form and outlines of those heavenly bodies, detect their movements and approximately determine their distances and dimensions. But what more? Little that is satisfying. When they had a beginning, what purposes they subserve in the sublime system of God's stupendous universe, and when they shall have a consummation, we may not certainly know. Secrets, these, and such "Secret things belong unto God." We would like to know these secrets, but must wait; for there, "roll those mighty worlds that gem the distant sky," as distantly and dismally as when Chaldean and Egyptian astronomers and astrologers viewed their movements three thousand years ago, rifled meanwhile of but few of their well kept secrets. He that pencils the lily and paints the rose and gives to every blade of grass its own bright drop of dew, has been pleased to say: "Hitherto shalt thou come and no further." And there is great unwisdom in setting up factious opposition to the fiat of Omnipotence. Possess your souls in patience, O friends! wait, as we must wait, before knowing all, or even knowing much. If you can not be Odd-Fellows, you can at least be men, with an effort.
WHAT IS ODD-FELLOWSHIP?
"But, sir," you demand, "can you tell us something more about Odd-Fellowship, its purposes and its Work?" I can, a little. Come with me, then, and we will look into the lodge. Ah! In the most conspicuous place there stands an altar—upon it the open Bible, the world's great word of Life and Light. Upon the principles enunciated by that Book, largely rests the great superstructure of Odd-Fellowship. The Bible is to the order what the sun is to the material universe—its illuminator and vivifier, even as it also is the, guide to faith and practice. A man may neglect his closet, his church, his Bible, but when he enters the lodge he is bound to listen to the voice of his Maker, as it thunders from His word; and while the lodge does by no means lay claim to the possession of religious attributes, yet has it been the means, by the constant use of the Bible, of turning many from the ways of wrong-doing and sin, into paths of pleasantness and peace; and by a unique system of symbolism and a comprehensive and practical application of its sublime truths, the faith of the believer has been strengthened, enlarged and rendered usefully active.
Odd-Fellowship's plan of benefaction addresses itself to the physical as well as the moral nature, and, reaching out from its immediate subjects, permeates by natural affinity every sphere in which active sympathy may be invoked. Its mission and its results are not only active and substantial, but often so effective by its consequential or indirect influence as to penetrate entire communities. In this connection I will say Odd-Fellowship is not a religious organization. Our work pertains particularly to this life, educating the heart of man to practical beneficence, alleviating the sufferings of humanity and elevating the character of man. Odd-Fellowship was not organized for the purpose of ridding the world of all its sorrows, but to ameliorate and to soften the suffering to which the human family is heir. It is an association of men who have united themselves for the purpose of smoothing the ragged edge of want, and extending to those who are bound down by the iron bands of misfortune a helping hand. Odd-Fellowship holds no affinity with the classifications or distinctions of society, but dispenses charity to all alike. It does not array itself against the church, nor presume to arrogate its functions, or to supervise its teachings. Its lodges are not the council rooms of enmity to religious, civil, moral or social organizations. Far otherwise; all its oracles and instructions in relation to these grave subjects find their warrant and authority in the divine law, under the inspiration of which it proclaims the Golden Rule as the sublimest illustration of the law of love. Odd-Fellowship keeps a close watch over its subjects, and constantly impresses upon their minds the fact that their hearts must not foster evil, the progenitor of crime, or hatred and vice, whose evil consequences must continue to afflict mankind until the coming of that time to which hope looks forward with ardent joy, when one law shall bind all nations, tongues and kindred of the earth, and that law will be the law of "Universal Brotherhood." Odd-Fellowship also teaches us that we are never to judge a man by his outward appearance. A man's form may be clothed with rags, his hands may be rough and hard, his cheeks may be browned by the rays of summer's sun; yet underneath all this there may be an honest heart. If so, we take him by the hand and call him brother. Odd-Fellowship teaches equality; we must meet upon one common level. The brother who lives in the rough log cabin enjoys the same right and privileges as the monarch on his throne. We live, we move and have our being, and are indebted for all things to the One Great Ruler of the Universe—God. All persons are desirous of being happy, and happiness is sought for in various ways. Odd-Fellowship teaches that man is responsible for his own misery. I believe that no mere misfortune can ever call for exceeding bitter sorrow. As long as man preserves himself from contamination of that which is evil and foul, he can not reach any very low depth of woe. By his own act, by his own voluntary desertion of the true aim of life, and by that alone, is it possible that a man should drink his cup of misery to the dregs. The want of happiness, so prevalent, is thus the natural consequence of the inherent blindness of men. By it they are led to pursue eagerly the phantom of wealth, rank, power, etc., white neglecting that which alone can satisfy the wants of the soul. If men could really know what is their chief good, we should no longer hear on every hand prayers offered up for those idle accoutrements of life, which may indeed be enjoyed, but often bring only dissatisfaction, and can be dispensed with without inconvenience to mankind.
Many persons say Odd-Fellowship is contrary to the teachings of the Bible. The way such people read their Bible is just like the way that the old monks thought hedgehogs ate grapes. They rolled themselves over and over where the grapes lay on the ground. What fruit stuck to their spines they carried off and ate. So your hedgehoggy readers roll themselves over and over their Bibles and declare that whatever sticks to their spines is Scripture and that nothing else is. But you can only get the skins of the texts that way. If you want their juice you must press them in cluster. Now the clustered texts about the human heart insist as a body, not on any inherent corruption in all hearts, but on the terrific distinction between the bad and the good ones. "A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good, and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth that which is evil."
"They on the rock are they which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, kept it."
"Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. The wicked have bent their bow that they may privily shoot at him that is upright in heart." For all of us, the question is not at all to ascertain how much or how little corruption there is in human nature, but to ascertain whether, out of all the mass of that nature, we are the sheep or the goat breed; whether we are people of upright heart being shot at, or people of crooked heart doing the shooting.
And of all the texts bearing on the subject, this, which is a quite simple and practical order, is the one you have chiefly to hold in mind: "Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life."
The will of God respecting us is, that we shall live by each others happiness and life; not by each others misery or death.
Men help each other by their joy, not by their sorrow. There is but one way in which man can ever help God—that is, by letting God help him.
A little boy, who had often heard his father pray for the poor, that they might be clothed and fed, interrupted him one day by saying, "Father, if you will give me the key to your corn crib and wheat bin, I will answer some of your prayers."
Ah! my friends, always keep in mind this truth, "One hour of justice is worth seventy years of prayer."
Call not this, then, a Godless institution, rioting in selfishness and infidelity, as it has been denominated by certain super-excellent Christians, who appear to have fully persuaded themselves that no good can possibly come from such a Nazareth. For, with the constant and unvarying light of the Holy Bible, that illuminated lexicon of the sweet Beyond, and of the approaches thereto—that trusty talisman of all hopeful hearts—that competent counselor of the wisest and the best—that inspirer of joy and satisfaction born of no other book—that precious presager of immortal life beyond the river—that divine guide to faith and practice, can by no means fail in the ultimate working out of its sublime purposes.
In the ranks of Odd-Fellowship there are many of the truest, noblest, sharpest and most holy men in the civilized world. None of these have been able to make that "Godless and selfish" discovery. This brilliant achievement is reserved for those favored mortals that never saw the inside of an Odd-Fellow's lodge, and are entirely ignorant of its character and practical workings. The order has increased largely in wealth, power and influence. Large cities and towns, which formerly paid little or no attention to us, now eagerly welcome us to their hospitalities.
Judges and governors vie with each other in doing us honor, and well may we be proud of the position the order has attained. Just think of it a moment: when you clasp hands with an Odd-Fellow here in your own home, you are really clasping hands with one million men who have obligated themselves to stay with you through every trial and misfortune. Wonder no longer, then, at the growth and stability of this great fraternity, or that its votaries cling to it with such unshaken and unswerving fidelity. Ah! it is no light matter, no small privilege, to be admitted to membership in such an organization—so freeing one's self from the surgings of self-seeking and selfish considerations—free from the trammels of prevailing prejudice and passion—free from the false educational influences that warp the mind and drive charity from the heart.
Our order's emblem is the three links,
FRIENDSHIP, LOVE AND TRUTH.
Friendship, love, truth—golden links these, that not only bind together their obligated votaries, but that recognize and embrace, because of worthiness and plighted faith, that behind the back as well as face to face, have a defensive, kindly word and a brother's generous deed; that, amid the upheavals of communities and the crumbling of nations, systems and governments, swerve not from their course, and are corralled by no arbitrary bounds, and that, whatever the dialect, the nationality or the religion of men, read upon humanity's brow the inscription written by the finger of infinite love—a man and a brother, a woman and a sister.
A faithful and true friend is a living treasure, estimable in possession and deeply to be lamented when gone. Nothing is more common than to talk of a friend; nothing more difficult than to find one; nothing more rare than to improve by one as we ought.
The only reward of virtue is virtue. The only way to have a friend is to be one. Such is friendship. Next in our golden chain is Love. Love is the stepping stone to heaven. This principle teaches man his capabilities for good, enlightens his mind, enlarges the sphere of his affections and leads him to that true fraternal relation which was designed by the Great Author of his existence. Love teaches us to be self-sacrificing. For a bright instance of this we point you to Moses, the great law-giver of the Jews. He turned his back on the splendors of Pharaoh's court and chose rather to share the wretchedness of his lowly people than serve as a king for their oppressors, finally dying in sight of that inheritance, which, though denied to him, was given to his ungrateful countrymen. How very bright on the pages of history shine such acts of love and sacrifice. This principle belongs to no one organization, party or sect. It can be made to bud and bloom as well under the fierce rays of the torrid zone, midst the icebergs of Greenland, or the everlasting snows of Caucasus. It always carries the same smile, whether in the cabin or in the palace. Following in its footsteps there is such a halo of glory, such a gentle influence, that it gathers within its sacred realm antagonistic natures, controls the elements of discord, stills the storm, soothes the spirit of passion, and directs in harmony all of man's efforts to fraternize the world. In this strangely selfish and uncertain world none are so affluent or favorably circumstanced as not at some time and in some way to become dependent. Oh! there are emphasized essentialities that are not embraced among the commodities of the market, and in order to the realization of which money possesses no purchasing power. To relieve the pungent pinchings of penury with raiment, food and shelter, and so send the sunshine of gladness to the poor and needy, is something—indeed is much. But, ah! the delicate and intricate mechanism of mind is out of gear, a secret sorrow swells and sways the heart, and unitedly they cry: "Who will show us any good? Who remove this rankling sorrow? What good Samaritan competent to the task of affording relief to this dazed brain?" Oh! it is here that the trained votaries of the triple brotherhood bring to bear their wondrous power. If it be true "that one touch of nature makes the whole world kin," it is equally true that the ties of brotherhood here would wield their most potent influence, and of the true Odd-Fellow well may it be said, "He hath a tear for pity, and a hand open as day for melting charity."
TRUTH! crown jewel of the radiant sisterhood of queenly graces! She can not be crushed to earth. The eternal years of God being hers, she, no more than her author, can go down. Error may fling widely open his arsenal gates of defilement and deceit, and seek so earnestly and tirelessly the usurpation of her throne; but there she sits, as firmly and gracefully as when the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy. Such is truth, the rarest of all human virtues.
The man who is so conscious of the rectitude of his intentions, as to be willing to open his bosom to the inspection of the world, is in possession of the strongest pillars of a decided character. The course of such a man will be firm and steady, because he has nothing to fear from the world and is sure of the approbation of heaven. While he who is conscious of secret and dark designs, which, if known, would blast him, is perpetually shrinking and dodging from public observation, and is afraid of all around, and, much more, of all above him. Such a man may indeed pursue his iniquitous plans steadily; he may waste himself to a skeleton in the guilty pursuit, but it is impossible that he can pursue them with the same health-inspiring confidence and exulting alacrity with him who feels at every step that he is in pursuit of honest ends by honest means. The clear, unclouded brow, the open countenance, the brilliant eye, which can look an honest man steadfastly, yet courteously, in the face, the healthfully beating heart and the firm, elastic step, belong to him whose bosom is free from guile, and who knows that all his motives and purposes are pure and right. Why should such a man falter in his course? He may be slandered, he may be deserted by the world, but he has that within him which will keep him erect, and enable him to move onward in his course, with his eyes fixed on heaven, which he knows will not desert him.
Odd-Fellowship teaches its members to be men of honor. When I say honest, I use it in its larger sense of discharging all your duties, both public and private, both open and secret, with the most scrupulous, heaven-attesting integrity; in that sense, farther, which drives from the bosom all little, dark, crooked, sordid, debasing considerations of self, and substitutes in their place a bolder, loftier and nobler spirit, one that will dispose you to consider yourselves as born not so much for yourselves as for your country and your fellow-creatures, and which will lead you to act on every occasion sincerely, justly, generously and magnanimously. There is a morality on a larger scale, perfectly consistent with a just attention to your own affairs, which it would be folly to neglect; a generous expansion, a proud elevation and conscious greatness of character, which is the best preparation for a decided course in every situation into which you can be thrown; and it is to this high and noble tone of character that I would have you to aspire. I would not have you to resemble those weak and meagre streamlets, which lose their direction at every petty impediment that presents itself, and stop and turn back, and creep around, and search out every channel through which they may wind their feeble and sickly course. Nor yet would I have you resemble the headlong torrent that carries havoc in its mad career; but I would have you like the ocean, that noblest emblem of majestic decision, which in the calmest hour still heaves its resistless might of waters to the shore, filling the heavens day and night with the echoes of its sublime declaration of independence, and tossing and sporting on its bed with an imperial consciousness of strength that laughs at opposition. It is this depth and weight and power and purity of character that I would have you resemble; and I would have you, like the waters of the ocean, to become the purer by your own action. Men are sometimes ruined because they aim not at virtue, but only at the reputation which it brings. Odd-Fellowship teaches its members to be brave, honest and diligent. If we have these attributes, victory must surely crown our efforts. How often in the history of our country have men of humble birth come forth in time of danger, and, nobly risking all, even to death, or disgrace worse than death itself, stood between their country and defeat, and built for themselves a glorious name. Nor, alas! is the opposite case to this unknown. Some of America's proudest sons have, by their own acts, sunk themselves into the inner-most depths of infamy and vice.
"Virtue alone is true nobility. Oh, give me inborn worth! dare to be just, Firm to your word and faithful to your trust."
Knowledge is a mighty rock in a weary land, and to you, brothers, 'tis permitted to smite this rock, and from it gushes fountains of living waters, which form rivers of wisdom, flowing to the uttermost parts of the earth, carrying the proper idea of life to the souls of men. The river of science flows in a deep, straight course, searching out the hidden mysteries, and demonstrating facts, while Truth builds her defenses on its shores, and Love rears her fair palaces and calmly enjoys the result of labor and research. History, with its broad stream bringing knowledge down through the vanished centuries, revealing many a lost art, which avails us much in these later days. Mysteries which magicians have left behind them—secrets for ages undusted—that we may read the records of the past.
Experience builds citadels upon these heights. Flowing parallel to history is the great, turbid stream of politics. Its crimson billows cast wrecks upon the strand, and the moaning waves strangely blend the tones of grand martial music with the discords of despair and disappointment, for it is a treacherous tide. Along its winding shores war builds her forts, and there are fields of carnage and blood, and dark fortresses of envy, from which fly the poisoned shafts of malice, falsehood and revenge, and there are many graves in which lie ambition, glory and renown, with all their brilliant dreams. Opposite to this from the rock of knowledge gush the sweet fountains of poetry and music, singing on their way through fair, secluded dells, where there are moss-covered rocks, clinging vines, fragrant flowers and ferns and singing birds. In their shining waves of light are mirrored the azure sky, golden sunshine and fleecy clouds, while youth, beauty, laughter and joy stray along the verdant shores, keeping time to the music of the merry spray and weaving garlands to crown their radiant brows.
Not far from the rock of true knowledge flows a deep stream, calm, clear and beautiful. Majestically it sweeps through stately forests, extended plains and lofty mountains; and the fair cities of honesty, temperance and truth are built upon its shores. This wonderful stream is fed by the ever-living fountains of honor, morality, justice, mercy and divine love. The music of its waves sends forth hymns of true patriotism, love of country and of home; and the sweet songs of faith and immortality float upward like strong, white wings, bearing the soul away on pure melody above this world of longing and of hope, until it rises to meet the world of glory and fulfillment. Upon these shores faith, hope, charity and security have reared their white temples, which shall ever represent a living institution, bearing on its banner as a motto these beautiful words:
FRIENDSHIP, LOVE AND TRUTH.
The stream which I have just described is the great river of Odd-Fellowship, and flows into the vast ocean of eternal peace, and such is the momentum and indestructibility of Odd-Fellowship, that, like a great river fed from inexhaustible sources, men may come and men may go, but it goes on forever and forever.
Brothers, these are the streams flowing from the smitten rock whose fountains you unseal.
Standing at the mouth of the Columbia River, one can hear the ocean waves moaning, surging, thundering forevermore. You can not stay the rushing tides that come and go, ebb and flow, until time shall be no more; and there the great river of the west, the mighty Columbia, pouring her floods into that vast, boundless sea, so shall Odd-Fellowship pour her deep, exhaustless stream into futurity, and all the combined forces of opposition, ignorance and fear shall have no power to stay the onward rushing, overwhelming flood. Wafted back to us from the unexplored shore across that sea—softly whispering through the rose marine spirit of the mist—intuitive knowledge reveals the throne of the Grand Lodge above, from which flows the pure river of life, on whose shores grow the trees of knowledge and of life immortal, which bear no fruit of sin, but whose leaves are for the healing of poor, suffering humanity. Brothers, build such a character as will cause Christ and the angels to rejoice when they behold it. Then, when life's work is done, when the blessed Master calls, you will not look mournfully into the past, but will look eagerly into the mighty future just opening before you.
And as your life goes out amidst the rustling of an angel's wings—like a summer sea asleep upon a sandy shore—you will not regret that you practiced the principles laid down by our noble order,
FRIENDSHIP, LOVE AND TRUTH.
THE HIGHER LIFE
Manhood, fully developed and symmetrically formed, through the various stages of the world's history, has been the great conservative element of society, and has been in high request. Some ages, however, have seemed to make a larger demand for this element than others, and this age of ours is one which yields to none of its predecessors in its call for manliness of character—for men of the right stamp. The perils of the times are imminent, and the demand for a high grade of intelligence and great strength of moral principle never was stronger. New developments of human genius and activity, are constantly arising, and new dangers to the dearest interests of society are calling for vigilance. This is neither a stagnant nor a tame and quiet age. It is an age of activity, of enterprise, of speculation, of adventure, of philosophizing and of both real and pseudo reforms. The age eminently demands vigorous and mature manhood. Therefore, study, think, investigate, learn. Remember, however, that it is not knowledge stored up as intellectual fat which is of value, but that which is turned into intellectual muscle. Out of dull and selfish seclusion go forth. Regulate with care your basal endowments. Prove thy strength, and render it sure. Deliver thy conceptions from narrowness, thy charity from scrimpness, thy purposes from smallness. Deny thyself and take up thy cross. Do and dare, love and suffer. So shalt thou build a character that will abide all the tests which future years or ages may bring.
Bear constantly in mind that you are endlessly improvable. "It is for God and for Omnipotency to do mighty things in a moment; but degreeingly to grow to greatness is the course that He hath left for man." To the conscious human self there belong possibilities of such moment that no one can well study them without being either thrillingly impressed or made to experience unusual emotions. The conclusion is, therefore, unavoidable, that every soul can become great. By processes of culture to which it is able to subject itself, it can perpetually increase in wisdom, in strength, and in nobleness.
The soul's chief capabilities may, for the sake of elucidation, be represented as so many different rooms within itself, each of which can be made to have a spaciousness equaled by no material amplitude ever yet ascertained, and each of which, so long as it is kept in the process of growth, is and will be susceptible of fresh furnishing. These apartments of the minor man are too wonderful to admit being depicted either by a writer's pen or by a painter's brush. Their most distinguishing characteristics can, at best, only be indicated. Who can tell how much knowledge can find place in them, or what volumes of feeling they can contain? Who can declare the magnitude of the grandest traits that, in them, can have freedom to thrive and bear fruit? Who can estimate the length and breadth, the height and depth of the loftiest inspirations or the noblest joys that, in them, can be experienced? To give a full expression to the utmost intelligence, potency, amiability, purity, meritoriousness and majesty that can reside in the capability—rooms of a human soul—would be equivalent to picturing the imaginable or to portraying the infinite, and to do either the one or the other is impossible. One may be sadly indifferent to the value of his soul's foremost capabilities, may inadequately exercise them, and may secure to them merely a dwarf-like compass; but there is never a time when they can not be made to transcend the limits of development to which they have attained. Their possessor can educate them forever. He can unceasingly add to their roominess and resource. In all time to come he can cause them to continue to exceed breadth after breadth. Oh, who can conceive how great his mental being is able to become? Who can comprehend how elevated a life it is possible for him to live? Who can be liable to overrate the vastness of the destiny for which he was created?
In the language of Hughes, "Our case is like that of a traveler on the Alps, who should fancy that the top of the next hill must end his journey because it terminates his prospect, but he no sooner arrives at it, than he sees new ground and other hills beyond it, and continues to travel on as before." The thought of the soul's improvability is well adapted to quicken torpid virtue and to revive drooping aspirations. It tends to scatter the gloom resulting from disappointed endeavors. Let it but have a star-like clearness in the mind, and there will spring from it an ever-new interest in life and being.
We know that the paths of usefulness and affection must sometimes be strewn with smitten leaves and faded bloom, and that the heart must sometimes be chilled by harsh changes, even as the face of nature is chilled by rude winds. We know that we are doomed to find thorns in roses, and to suffer from "thorns in the flesh." We know that there are for us hours when the sunshine without must be darkened by shadows within; when we must be pierced by trials; when we must be humbled by afflictions. Yet, so we but duly know our mental possibilities, how much there is to animate us and to make us hopeful. Well may we go our way, with a high ambition and with good cheer. Well may we prize, as a stage of action, this old stone-ribbed earth, whereon we can behold the beauty of emerald meadows and of blossoming plants, and can hear the songs of russet-bosomed robins and the prattle of children, the voice of the vernal breeze, and the sound of the summer rain. Oh, who that ever muses on the soul's heirship to the divine, can wish he had never been born? I am grateful for my existence. I rejoice that I have place amid the bright-robed mysteries which surround me. I glory in the shifting scenery of the seasons. No flaw do I find in the sun, the moon, or the stars. No prayer have I to make that the grass which grows at my feet may be fairer than it is, or that the mornings and evenings may be more attractive. Let me know as I may, and feel as I should, the truth that I am endlessly improvable, and I am assured that the soul of the universe will somehow sweeten every bitter allotment that falls to me, will "charm my pained steps over the burning marl" which belongs to the course of probationary experience, and will assist me joyfully to approximate the greatness of His own infinite and tranquil character. It is bliss to feel that the soul is an ever-enduring entity. Unlike the clouds and the snow-heaps, the fluids and the liquids, the rocks and the metals—unlike all the generations of living organisms—it neither wastes away nor loses its distinctiveness. Nay, it outlasts every transmuting process, and, as a self-identifying self, is endlessly living.
If we reach the high plane of a perfect manhood, we must climb. "Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter." Rev., iv, 1. In this mystical Revelation we behold the seer, John, dreaming at the base of the celestial hill, and in his dream he hears a voice commanding him to rise to the summit of the eternities, where, standing, he shall behold all things that must be. This vision has an infinite significance, in that no small part of the felicity associated with the idea of eternity is the thought that, with ample mind, we shall perfectly understand the mighty plan and enterprise of God, and know with perfect knowledge that which is dark and obscure now. But not only has this truth to us an infinite significance; it has also a temporal one, in that it tells us that there is an immediate relationship between elevation of life, between high thinking, living and doing, and the power to command the future. "Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter." That is, let us stand high and we see far and wide, let us stand high and we see deep. Elevation grants perspective and yields the possession of those years not only that are, but that are not. Now, so understood, these words have much inspiration, comfort and solace for all of us, for a very large part of man's life is future. Indeed, the great regulative force of every human spirit is not so much the present and the past present opportunity and past experience as future ideality. The architectonic principle of life is not the momentum that sweeps down to us from the years that have been, but the ideal that lies deep in the years that are yet to be. This is the mysterious, occult power that moulds, forms and fashions our stature, and that is determining the greatness or the littleness of our destiny. And not only is the future architectonic, it is also an inspiration and refuge for our anxieties, defeats and inadequacy, his incompetency, how little he has achieved, realizes his inconsequence and insignificance, and he looks forward and sees triumph in tomorrow; he beholds the summit of the hill, and says, "There I shall stand victorious some future day." Today incomplete, tomorrow complete; today imperfect, tomorrow perfect; today bound, tomorrow emancipated; today humiliated, tomorrow crowned. Hence, the future is man's refuge, hope and strength. And in a yet more profound sense does the future exert a wonderful power over our lives, in that it holds for us the inheritance undefiled and incorruptible, the patrimony of eternity. And who can measure the influence of this belief over human character? Blot it out, and what inspiration have we to struggle on? If we are to perish as the beast of the field, wither like the grass, and vanish like the transient cloud, man has no grand, sublime impulsion in this life. But let him believe that he is the child of God, that there is an immortal soul, not only in him, but an eternal sphere awaiting him let him believe that here he is but in the bud, that these seventy years are but the seed time, and that infinite eons lie before him for fruition and efflorescence, and you magnify his spirit, enlarge his hope, and inspire him with a zeal to conquer and achieve.
But now there is a popular philosophy that tells us that man can only know two points of time: that point of time through which he has gone—the past, and that point of time in which he is now living—the present. He may know experience and he may grasp opportunity, but he can know nothing of futurity. The future is a riddle, an unexplored continent, a terra incognita into which no human eyes have ever pried or ever may pry, sealed as it is by the counsel of God against the curious vision of His children. And to some extent I think we all must admit that this popular notion holds true. There are those to whom the future must be a blank, who peer into it and behold nothing there.
I have noticed that no great poem, no great religion, no great creation of any kind, was ever written or conceived by people who lived in the valleys, cramped by the hills. The hills narrow one's horizon, make one insular, provincial, limited. And what is true of literature and art is true also of life. The man of low ideals never vaticinates; the man who is living down in the lower ranges of existence never prophesies. The man with a low brow has always a limited perspective; so, also, the man with a low heart or a low conscience. The sordid man can never measure the consequences of his wealth. He may know that tomorrow he will be as rich as he is today, or richer, but he can not prognosticate what his riches will mean to him tomorrow—whether he will find in them more or less felicity, whether they will be a blessing or a burden. Neither has the base man, the immoral man, any clear vision of futurity. He lives in doubts and fears, and is begirt with clouds and confusion. He half fears that there is a law of God, and half doubts it; half believes in retribution, and half doubts it; half believes in moral cause and effect, and half doubts it. He sees, with no certain sight, the inevitable penalty awaiting his wrong-doing, else he would not and dare not sin. No man would sin, could he read the future; no man would defy the Infinite, did he unerringly know that God is a just God, and that He shall visit inevitable retribution upon him who trangresses His holy law. The wicked man, like the sordid man living in the low lands, never vaticinates, and can not, not by reason of any want of talent or conscience, but by reason of want of altitude of vision. But St. John does not tell us here that all men shall know all things that must be; that all men have a sense of futurity. What he does say is that there is an intimate and indissoluble relationship between elevation and futurity; that only the man who stands upon the altitudes can command the future; for only there, when he is at his best, and when he is living on the summit of his soul, does he behold the true and perfect action of the forces and the laws of the Eternal. It is not "Stay down there and I will show thee things which must be hereafter," but "Come up hither"—live, aspire, ascend into the altitudes of mind; ascend into the altitudes of feeling; ascend into the altitudes of conscience; live where God means you to live, and then—"I will show thee things which must be hereafter."
And now, if you will consult your own experience or meditate on history, if you will scan the great things thought and the great things done, and the great things wrought and the great things won by man, you will see that they have been always wrought and won and done and thought upon the heights. The Muses live upon Parnassus, the Deities upon Olympus. Jehovah has his abiding place on Zion. David says, "I look unto the hills, whence cometh my help." Not unto the meadows, or the streams, or by the forests, or the cities, or the seas, but "unto the hills, whence cometh my help." He looks high, and his high vision grants him spiritual perspective. And Jesus speaks his great sermon, not by the Jordan, but on the mount. He is transfigured on a mount, crucified on a mount, and ascends to the right hand of His Father from a mount. Everywhere the heights play a great part in the history of human thought, feeling and faith. All great truth comes down; it does not rise up. All great religion comes down; it does not rise up. It is not the wilderness, nor the low lands, nor the level places, but Mount Carmel, Mount Horeb, Mount Zion, the Mount of the Beatitudes and the Mount of Transfiguration that are focal points of righteousness and faith. And when you look at and reflect upon men—the great men, the men who have moulded the world, who have made the massive contributions to humanity, who have dealt the Titan strokes that have redeemed the race from its servitudes and bestialities, who, like Atlas, have upheld and lifted up the world; who, like Prometheus, have brought to man precious gifts from Zeus, and so delivered him from the tyranny and dominion of his ignorance, superstitions, fears and passions—you will always find that they are men who have lived upon the lofty summits of the Spirit, and therefore have been seers of the future and have seen "those things which must be hereafter."
Every high-minded man has always lived in the future. Take the sovereign prophet of the ancient faith. The world about him is dark and desolate; Israel's powers are at the ebb; the great faith that she has inherited is degraded, sensualized, formalized, buried under a debris of priestcraft, infidelity, idolatry and corruption; and yet this prophet stands upon the hills and dreams—dreams against the present, dreams through all the darkness environing him—and sees the day when the faith of Israel shall be the faith of the world; when the law of Israel shall dominate the conscience of the world; when the Savior of Israel shall be the Savior of the world, and when the Jehovah of Israel shall be the Jehovah of the world. Standing high, his soul soaring, thinking lofty thoughts, he beholds Israel in glorious perspective as the nation that shall lead man from bondage to liberty, from darkness to light. Or think again of the life, the history, the hope of Jesus, and behold in Him a perfect illustration of this truth; this truth that there is an intimate relationship between high living and high thinking, high doing, high willing and the vision of the future. What right had Christ to hope at all? What right had He to think of a Kingdom of God that was going steadily to conquer and take possession of this earth? What right had He to think that His Gospel would come to be the regnant gospel over the minds of men? What right had He to think that His own beautiful spirit would prevail over the perverse and rebellious will of society? What right had he to think that the world would ever come to accept His marvelous beatitudes as truth? What right had He to believe that the cross would ever be a universal symbol of salvation? Judged from the near point of view, by immediate results, by the facts that were right before His eyes, history records no more conspicuous and terrible failure than the life of Jesus. A Savior, and yet disbelieved in by the people; a Savior, and yet scorned by the multitude; a Savior, and yet called a "wine bibber" and a "glutton;" a Savior, and yet humiliated and degraded; a Savior, and yet dying ignominiously upon the cross. Where is there any ample redemption, any glorious assertion of the mind, in these sad, gloomy, hopeless facts? And yet He said, "I, if I be lifted up, shall draw all men unto Me." How did He dare make such a prophecy as that? How did He dare arrogate to himself such a dominion as that? Why, simply because, living in the altitudes, he had vision of things that must be. He knew that He had righteousness in His heart, and that righteousness must at last be established. He knew that His spirit was a spirit of peace and good will towards men, and that peace and good will towards men must ultimately prevail. He lived on the heights, and He saw those things that were to be. And now, what is true of these great men may be true of every one of us, according to the loftiness of our living. Every one of us may command the future—may, in a measure, prophesy and weigh the consequences, and calculate the issues of our own life; and every one of us can live a far larger, fuller and richer life, in the years that are to be than we can live in the past or in the time that is now.
And first, let me say to you that the man that lives upon the altitudes of his spirit beholds with sure vision the issuance of his life in triumph. We speak of life habitually as being a complicated and intricate thing, and no doubt it is, upon its lower ranges. A man is prosperous today, sweeping, with sails full set, before the breeze, his bark leaping gladly, mounting buoyantly upon the waves; but no man can tell what the morrow will bring forth to him. Prosperity is not a matter of certitude, security or permanency. An ill wind comes, and the vessel is swept to disaster; on the shoals or rocks, rushing to destruction against some Scylla or swallowed up by some Charybdis. And what is true of prosperity is true of power. Today a man is the idol of the people, flattered, honored, extolled and crowned by them. They gather round him and intoxicate him with their plaudits. He is the man of the people, the great man of his day, but who can tell how long this will rule enthroned? An unfortunate speech, an error of conduct, a moment of indecision, a failure to appeal to the demagogic instincts of the race, and he is ruthlessly bereaved of his honor and his glory gone. The idols of yesterday are the broken statues of today; the heroes of yesterday are the "have-beens" of today. So capricious, so ephemeral, so mutable, so mercurial, so impermanent are the whims of humanity, and so unstable its idolatries and adorations.
And as the mighty fall, so the obscure rises. Names that were unknown ten years ago are blazoned almost on the skies. The insignificant come up and take the scepter in their hand. The poor man of a little while ago is the rich merchant or the successful lawyer of today. This is his hour, this the moment of his power. Strange, is it not? There seems to be no method, no system in those lower planes of life. The rich become poor and the poor rich, the strong weak and the weak strong; the ruler becomes the ruled and the ruled the ruler; the master becomes the servant and the servant the master. No order, no system, no method anywhere in mundane things, and therefore no power of vision and vaticination.
But now in the higher things there is none of this impermanence and instability. Everything is in order here. When man is living in the fulness of his nature, when he is living on the heaven-kissing pinnacles of his spirit, when his whole being is harmonious with the great and glorious laws of God, his future is assured; it is bound to be a great and beautiful success. No possibility of failure upon the heights; every possibility of failure upon the level; every possibility of disaster down there, but upon the peaks there can be no disaster, no mistake, no accident, no dethronement; there must be inevitable and unconditional achievement. Of course, I do not mean popular achievement—achievement as men usually count achievement, or success as men ordinarily rate success. So measured, every great man's life has been a dismal failure. Paul's life was not a popular success, nor was Isaiah's, nor was Augustine's, nor was Savanarola's, nor was Socrates', nor was Christ's life a popular success. Measured by terrestrial standards, measured by the low ideals of humanity, these lives were all ignominious failures, every one of them; but measured by the Divine standard, by the mind and will of God, they are triumphant victories.
And now I say that every man whose point of view is high, who is standing upon the very highest reaches of his own being, seeking sincerely to be true to all that is heroic and great in his heaven-endowed nature, that man is bound to be, by the decree of the Eternal, an ultimately successful man. He is bound, just so surely as God's sun is bound to come tomorrow, he is bound to be crowned, not only with a celestial but with a terrestrial success—success as God measures success. He may feel pain; he may feel the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; he may experience neglect; he may contend against a host of untoward circumstances; he may groan under the pressure and weight of many woes; he may weep bitter, burning, scalding tears of sorrow and grief, but still he must triumph, for God is just and will crown with a perfect equity His faithful children.
And so, my friends, the central truth that I deliver to you is this, that life, life upon the summit of the soul, is the supreme, resplendent luminary. Not argument, not philosophy, not the elaborate, logical processes of the intellect, not the Bible, not the church, but life; this is the great infallible interpreter. Live and ye shall see. "Do my will," says Christ, "and ye shall know." Stand high and firm on the summit of your soul and ye shall see the things that must be hereafter—a victorious righteousness, a triumphant life, and the redeemed hosts swathed and folded in the light of Him who is everlasting, omnipotent and all-loving.
Brethren, be merciful in your judgment of others.
Every temptation promptly resisted strengthens the will.
There is a sad want of thoughtful mercy among us all.
Every step we take on the ladder upwards helps to a higher.
If we are true Odd-Fellows we will put away all bitterness and malice.
Brothers, remember the moral harvest comes to all perfection; not one grain is lost.
As Odd-Fellows there are loads we can help others to carry, and thus learn sympathy.
The test of truthfulness is true dealing with ourselves when we do wrong and true dealing with the brethren when they fall.
It is a serious reflection that even our secret thoughts influence those around us.
The Brotherhood has a Father watching over it, "who is the same yesterday, today and forever."
Man alone is responsible for the eternal condition of his soul. We make our own heaven or hell, not by the final act of life, but by life itself.
Truth supplies us with the only true and perfect standard by which to test the value of things, and so corrects the one-sided, materialistic standard of business.
If an Odd-Fellow begins right I can not tell how many tears he may wipe away, how many burdens he may lift, how many orphans he may comfort, how many outcasts he may reclaim.
Love edifies; that is, it builds up perfectly the whole man, secures an entire and harmonious and proportionate development of his nature. It does so by casting out the selfishness in man which always leads to a diseased and one-sided growth of his nature.
No two souls are endowed in an exactly similar way. And for the difference of endowment there is a reason in the Divine mind, for each soul in its generation has its appointed work to do, and is endowed with suitable grace for its performance.
We are not Odd-Fellows in the true sense unless we put away all bitterness, malice and selfishness. Common sense of mankind is quite right when it says a man's religion is not worth much if it does not make him good. Have goodness first—out of goodness good works will come.
Every good work requires every good principle. A man with very prominent and striking characteristics will always be a perfect man. A perfect man has such harmonies that he scarcely has a characteristic. To be fruitful in every good work you must have in your heart the germs and seeds, the springs and sources of all Christian virtue.
We are all greater dupes to our weakness than to the skill of others; and the successes gained over us by the designing are usually nothing more than the prey taken from those very snares we have laid ourselves. One man falls by his ambition, another by his perfidy, a third by his avarice, and a fourth by his lust; what are these but so many nets, watched indeed by the fowler, but woven by the victim?
Sorrow is not an accident—occurring now and then—it is the very woof which is woven into the warp of life, and he who has not discerned the divine sacredness of sorrow, and the profound meaning which is concealed in pain, has yet to learn what life is. The cross manifested as the necessity of the highest life alone interprets it.
Equity—An eternal rule of right, implanted in the heart. What it asks for itself it is willing to grant to others. It not only forbids us to do wrong to the meanest of God's creatures, but it teaches us to observe the golden rule, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do you even so to them." There is no greater injunction—no better rule to practice.
Don't rely on friends—don't rely on the name of your ancestors. Thousands have spent the prime of life in the vain hope of help from those whom they called friends, and many thousands have starved because they have rich fathers. Rely upon the good name which is made by your own exertions, and know that better than the best friend you can have is unquestionable determination, united with decision of character.
How little is known of what is in the bosom of those around us! We might explain many a coldness could we look into the heart concealed from us; we should often pity where we hate, love when we curl the lip with scorn and indignation. To judge without reserve of any human action is a culpable temerity, of all our sins the most unfeeling and frequent.
How a common sorrow or calamity spans the widest social differences and welds all, the rich and poor, in one common bond of sympathy, which, begetting charity and all her train, softens the hardest heart and banishes the sturdiest feeling of superiority! Over the lifeless body of the departed, enemies and friend can weep together, and, burying strife and differences with their common loss, feel a kinship which unites them, and which all humanity shares.
Don't be exacting.—An exacting temper is one against which to guard both one's heart and the nature of those who are under our control and influence. To give and to allow, to suffer and to bear, are the graces more to the purpose of a noble life than cold, exacting selfishness, which must have, let who will go without, which will not yield, let who will break. It is a disastrous quality wherewith to go through the world; for it receives as much pain as it inflicts, and creates the discomfort it deprecates.
Verily, good works constitute a refreshing stream in this world, wherever they are found flowing. It is a pity that they are too often like oriental torrents, "waters that fail" in times of greatest need. When we meet the stream actually flowing and refreshing the land, we trace it upward, in order to discover the fountain whence it springs. Threading our way upward, guided by the river, we have found at length the placid lake from which the river runs. Behind all genuine good works and above them, love will, sooner or later, certainly be found. It is never good alone; uniformly, in fact, and necessarily in the nature of things, we find the two constituents existing as a complex whole, "love and good works," the fountain and the flowing stream.
Never give up old friends for new ones. Make new ones if you like, and when you have learned that you can trust them, love them if you will, but remember the old ones still. Do not forget they have been merry with you in time of pleasure, and when sorrow came to you they sorrowed also. No matter if they have gone down in social scale and you up; no matter if poverty and misfortune have come to them while prosperity came to you; are they any less true for that? Are not their hearts as warm and tender if they do beat beneath homespun instead of velvet? Yes, kind reader, they are as true, loving and tender; don't forget old friends.
Young men! Let the nobleness of your mind impel you to its improvement; you are too strong to be defeated, save by yourselves. Refuse to live merely to sleep and eat. Brutes can do this; but you are men. Act the part of men. Prepare yourselves to endure toil. Resolve to rise—you have but to resolve. Nothing can hinder your success if you determine to succeed. Do not waste your time by wishing and dreaming, but go earnestly to work. Let nothing discourage you. If you have no books, borrow them; if you have no teachers, teach yourself; if your early education has been neglected, by the greater diligence repair the defect. Let not a craven heart or a love of ease rob you of the inestimable benefit of self-culture.
Have the courage to face a difficulty, lest it kick you harder than you bargained for. Difficulties, like thieves, often disappear at a glance. Have the courage to leave a convivial party at the proper hour for doing so, however great the sacrifice; and to stay away from one upon the slightest grounds for objection, however great the temptation to go. Have the courage to do without that which you do not need, however much you may admire it. Have the courage to speak your mind when it is necessary that you should do so, and hold your tongue when it is better you should be silent. Have the courage to speak to a poor friend in a seedy coat, even in the street, and when a rich one is nigh. The effort is less than many people take it to be, and the act is worthy of a king. Have the courage to admit that you have been in the wrong, and you will remove the fact in the mind of others, putting a desirable impression in the place of an unfavorable one. Have the courage to adhere to the first resolution when you can not change it for a better, and abandon it at the eleventh hour upon conviction.
THE BIBLE IN ODD-FELLOWSHIP
The Bible is a book for the understanding; but much more it is a book for the spirit and for the heart. Many other kinds of learning are found in the Bible. It is a manual of Eastern antiquities, a handbook of political experiences, a collection of moral wisdom as applied to personal conduct, a mine of poetry, a choice field for the study of languages. The Bible is the book of God, and therefore it is the book of the future, the book of hope. It pierces the veil between this and another life, pointing us on to the realms of light. In sorrow, in sin, and in death we may, if we will, find in the Holy Bible patience, consolation and hope. The Bible opens the widest, freest outlook for the mind into the eternal, enlarging a man's range of spiritual sight, and enabling him to judge of all things in both worlds in their true proportion. The Bible gets into life because it first came out of life. It was born of life at its best. Its writers were the tallest white angels literature has known. No other literature has five names equal to these: Moses, David, Isaiah, Paul and John. These men and the others wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. The messages of the Bible are the loftiest in the range of human thought. There have been many magnificent periods like the age of Elizabeth, the time of the Renaissance and the age of Victoria, but no other single century has ever done anything equal to the production of the New Testament in the first century. The Bible has a sound psychology. It seeks to influence the whole man. It pours white light into the intellect. It grapples with the great themes upon which thinkers stretch their minds. John Fiske's three subjects are all familiar themes to the readers of the Bible. Its style is incomparable in grandeur and variety. It approaches the intellect with every form of literary style. It is the supreme intellectual force in the life of the common people. It has been teacher and school for the millions. The Puritans, for example, used it as a poem, story book, history, law and philosophy. Out of it New England was born. It has been the chief representative of the English language at its best. Anglo-Saxon life and learning are saturated with it. The literature of England and America is full of the Bible. Shakespeare and Tennyson are specimens. Each of these authors quote from nearly every book in the Bible, and each of them refers to the Bible not less than five hundred times. Herbert Spencer admits that it is the greatest educator. It is winning its place in school and college. No education is complete without a knowledge of this literature. It is the privilege of Odd-Fellowship to enthrone the Bible in the lodge-room, and in the home. It teaches the intellectual life from above and lifts it to the Bible's own level.
Dean Stanley was visiting the great scholar, Ewald, in Dresden, and in the course of the conversation, Ewald snatched up a copy of the New Testament and said, in his impulsive and enthusiastic way, "In this little book is contained all the wisdom of the world." There is a sense in which this statement is not extravagant. The book contains the highest and fullest revelation of truth the world has known. The greatest themes man's mind can ponder are here presented. The most profound problems with which the human intellect has ever grappled are here discussed. We maintain that a mastery of the contents of this book will in itself provide an intellectual discipline no other book can give. Refinement of character, refinement of thought, refinement of speech, all of the essential characteristics of the intellectual as well as of the spiritual life, have been found in our own church from the beginning, among those whose only advantages have been a personal religious experience and the consequent love and continuous study of God's word as well as among those who have had all the advantages of the schools. No man need be afraid of exhausting the truth in the Bible. No man can ever flatter himself that he has got beyond it. Whatever his intellectual attainments may be, the Bible will still have further message for him.
There was a very suggestive spectacle on the streets of London one day, just after Elizabeth had become England's Queen. As she was riding by the little conduit at the upper end of Cheapside an old man came out of it, carrying a scythe and bearing a pair of wings. He represented Father Time coming out of his dark cave to greet the young Queen. He led by the hand a young girl clad in flowing robes of white silk, and she was his daughter, Truth. Truth held in her hands an English Bible, on which was written "Verbum Veritatis," and which she presented to the Queen. It was a pageant prepared for the occasion but suggestive for this occasion as well. Truth is the daughter of Time. Our backs may be bent and our hair may be gray before we can lead Bible truth forth by the hand. We may be old before we know much; our intellectual life may be matured in fullest measure and we still can know more; we must grow a pair of wings before we know it all—even if we do then.
The Bible is the conquering book. It has already dominated English literature, so that almost the whole of its text from Genesis to Revelation might, if all the copies of the Bible were suddenly lost from the world, be restored in piecemeal fragments gathered out of the books in which the Book has been quoted, Then, besides, there are the Bible thoughts that have indirectly, we might almost say insidiously, permeated the literature of Europe and America. More than that, the Bible has been industriously for years securing its own translation into hundreds of tongues and dialects of the globe. The Koran does not take pains to translate itself, and, indeed, refuses to be translated; but in contradistinction with such apathy of false faiths, the Bible courts transcription into foreign tongues, loses nothing in the process, but thereby gains for itself the homage of multitudes who, on reading it for the first time, cry, "This is the book we long have sought, that finds us out in the deepest recesses of our being and satisfies the profoundest cravings of our souls." The Bible is the comforting book. There is no volume like it for consolation. It is the only sure and steady staff for pilgrim spirits to lean upon, and the only book that is quoted at the bedside of the sick. It is a book to wear next the heart in life, and upon which to pillow the head in death. No other so-called "scriptures" of the world say the things that the Bible says, or supply the hopes that its promises afford. The Bible is not simply a book; it is The Book. It is the best book of any kind that we have. We can not do without it, either here or hereafter. There are many books in the world, but there is only one book. The Bible is unique. It is in a class by itself. It seeks to control everything, but it co-ordinates itself with nothing. It sets forth imitable examples of character, but it is not itself imitable. No one has ever written or ever will write a second Bible. The very phrase which every one uses, "The Bible," signifies the uniqueness of this book. It is a whole library in itself, and yet it is more than a simple collection of books. There is a homogeneity and consistency to the whole which lead us to speak of scripture as being a single story, not many revelations. The Bible is the exhaustless book. It may sometimes prove exhausting to its light-minded readers, but it never exhausts itself. "It is the wonder of the Bible," observes Dr. Joseph Parker, who has preached more than twenty-five volumes of sermons upon scriptural subjects, "that you never get through it. You get through all other books, but you never get through the Bible." On the basis of a rationalistic criticism, this quality of exhaustlessness is really inexplicable. And when we come to realize that, after all has been said as to scrolls and tablets and styluses and human factors and copyists, God wrote the Bible, we understand why it is that scripture is so rich in treasures of wisdom. We see that we can not exhaust the Bible because we can not exhaust God. The Bible wields an influence that can not be estimated. The spoken word is powerful, the printed word surpasses it. The one is temporal, the other is eternal; the one is circumscribed, the other is unlimited. The spoken sermon of today is forgotten tomorrow; the written word of thousands of years ago still sways the masses of today.
The whole civilized world bows down with reverence before the book of all books, the Bible. The Roman sword, the Grecian palette and chisel, have indeed rendered noble service to the cause of civilization, yet even their proudest claims dwindle into insignificance when compared with the benefits which the Bible has wrought. It has penetrated into realms where the names of Greece and Rome have never resounded. It has illumined empires and ennobled peoples, which Roman war and Grecian art had left dark and barbarous. Where one man is charmed by the Odyssey, tens and hundreds of thousands are delighted by the Pentateuch; where one man is enthused by the Philippics of Demosthenes, millions are enthused by the orations of Isaiah; where one man is inspired by the valor of Horatious, tens of millions are inspired by the bravery of David; where one man's life is ennobled by the art in the Parthenon, scores of millions of lives are ennobled by the art in the sanctuary: where one man's life is guided by the moral maxims of Marcus Aurelius, hundreds of millions find their law of right and their rule for action in the Bible. It is read in more than two hundred and fifty languages, by four hundred millions of people living in every clime and zone of the globe. It constitutes the only literature, the only code of law and ethics, of many peoples and tribes. For thousands of years it has gone hand in hand with civilization, has led the way towards the moral and intellectual development of human kind, and despite the hatred of its enemies and the still more dangerous misinterpretations of its friends, its moral law still maintains its firm hold upon the hearts and minds of the people, its power is still supreme for kindling a love of right and duty, of justice and morality, within the hearts of the overwhelming masses. Were it possible to annihilate the Bible, and with it all the influence it has exercised, the pillars upon which civilization rests would be knocked from under it, and, as if with one thrust of the fatal knife, we would deal the death blow to our morality, to our domestic happiness, to our commercial integrity, to our peaceful relationships, to our educational and chart-table institutions.
There are wives and mothers, who stand with lacerated hearts at the open grave and see the light of their life extinguished beneath the cruel clods, and yet, they bear up bravely, resting their bent forms and supporting their tottering feet on the staff of hope and trust which the Bible affords. Take that solace from them, and you may soon have occasion to bury the wife next to her husband, and the mother next to her child. There are husbands who, when sitting lonely, dependent, in the circle of their motherless, weeping children, find the good old Book the only comforter; take it from them and you drive them to the madhouse or to suicide. There are maidens grieving, pining, their hearts broken, their lives blighted, their career irretrievably blasted; take the solace from them which this book breathes into their withered hearts, the solace that suffering innocence will be recompensed, that a God of justice rules, take that solace from them and you have taken all that makes life bearable. There are millions of people pining in bondage, toiling in obscurity, suffering physically and mentally for no crime of their own, sick and hungry, friendless and hopeless; take the book from them that teaches them the lesson of patient endurance, and you may write the word Finis, and close the records of civilization forevermore. It is the one book that has a balm for every wound, a comfort for every tear, a ray of light for every darkness.