The Jericho Road
By W. Bion Adkins
Public Domain Books
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,