The Jericho Road
By W. Bion Adkins
Public Domain Books
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.
Its language all people can understand, its spirit all minds can grasp, its moral laws all people can obey, its truths appeal not only to the lowly and simple, but also to the highest intellect, they win the spontaneous approval, not only of the pious, but also of the most skeptical. At a literary gathering at the house of the Baron von Holbach, where the most celebrated atheists of the age used to assemble, the gentlemen present were one day commenting on the absurd and foolish things with which the Bible abounds. The French encyclopedist, Diderat, a materialist himself, startled his friends by his little speech: “But it is wonderful, gentlemen, it is wonderful. I know of no man who can speak or write with such ability. I do not believe that any of you could compose such narratives, or could have laid down such sublime moral laws, so simple, yet so elevating, exerting so wide an influence for good, and awakening such deep and such reverential feelings, as does the Bible.” Diderat spoke the truth. Place the most celebrated systems of philosophies or the most famous code of ethics, into the hands of the masses, and see whether the subtleties of their learning, the elegance of their diction will touch their hearts as deeply as does the Bible. All the genius and learning of the ancient world, all the penetration of the profoundest philosophers, have never been able to produce a book that was as widely read, as voluminously commented on, as dearly loved, as this book, neither have all the law-givers of all the lands, and of all ages, been able to produce a code of law and ethics that was universally and as implicitly followed as that of the law-giver, Moses.
The Bible is an emblem of Odd-Fellowship, because it is the Odd-Fellows’ text-book. Here we get our doctrines for faith and our rules for practice in all the relations of life. As Odd-Fellows, we believe the Bible is the word of God, because in their enmity humanity has never been able to destroy it or rob it of its power; nor have any who reject it given us a book to take its place. The intellect and culture of our day can not improve the teachings of Christ, nor set before us a nobler ideal life. As Odd-Fellows, we believe in this beautiful emblem, because our hearts attest its truth. We need not be told that the landscape is beautiful, or that the song of birds is sweet. When we see the one and hear the other, we know it. As the eye discerns the beautiful, and the ear discerns sweet sounds, so the heart of man discerns the divineness of the Bible teachings and sets its seal to their truth. As Odd-Fellows, we believe in the scriptures, because the experiences of all true believers, of whatever name, or age, or country, prove it to be the “bread of life” and the “water of life” to a needy and suffering world. Age by age the evidence of experience is accumulating, and growing stronger, and for a soul to distrust the revelations made unto it, and the divine leading of the human race, is as though the eye should disbelieve in the sun shining at mid-day. We recognize the Bible as a precious boon to man, the gift of the Great Father above. It is a “light to our feet and a lamp to our path.” It is a compass whose never-failing needle directs us safely across the desert sands of life, and through the dark labyrinths of an evil world, and its precious promises gives us comfort while we bear the burdens and endure the sorrows, pain and anguish incident to human life.
Since our organization is founded on the Bible, we should, as Odd-Fellows, become more conversant with it. Many evils creep into our lodges that could be avoided if we used the Bible more in our talks for the good of the order. Intemperance is an evil that does us much harm. What does the Bible say in regard to it? Proverbs, xx, 1, says: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs, xxi, 17: “He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man; he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich.” Ah me! what dead courage, what piles of bleached bones that was once the concentration of all that was great and lofty and true. What aspirations, ambitions, enterprise and resolutions–what genius, integrity and all that belongs to true manhood–have been swept from the tablets of time into oblivion by King Alcohol and his horrid half brothers, the gambling hell and the brothel.
A few years ago a noted wild-beast tamer gave a performance with his pets in one of the leading theatres. He put his lions, tigers, leopards and hyenas through their part of the entertainment, awing the audience by his awful nerve and his control over them. As a closing act to the performance, he was to introduce an enormous boa-constrictor, thirty feet long. He had bought it when it was only two days old, and for twenty years he handled it daily, so that it was considered perfectly harmless and completely under his control. He had seen it grow from a tiny reptile, which he often carried in his bosom, into a fearful monster. The curtain rose upon an Indian woodland scene. The wild, weird strains of an oriental band steal through the trees. A rustling noise is heard, and a huge serpent is seen winding its way through the undergrowth. It stops. Its head is erect. Its bright eyes sparkle. Its whole body seems animated. A man emerges from the heavy foliage. Their eyes meet. The serpent quails before the man–man is victor. The serpent is under control of a master. Under his guidance and direction it performs a series of fearful feats. At a signal from the man it slowly approaches him and begins to coil its heavy folds around him. Higher and higher do they rise, until man and serpent seem blended into one. Its hideous head is reared above the mass. The man gives a little scream, and the audience unite in a thunderous burst of applause, but it freezes upon their lips. The trainer’s scream was a wail of death agony. Those cold, slimy folds had embraced him for the last time. They crushed the life out of him, and the horror-stricken audience heard bone after bone crack as those powerful folds tightened upon him. Man’s playful thing had become his master. His slave for twenty years had now enslaved him.
The following is a will left by a drunkard of Oswego, New York State: “I leave to society a ruined character and a wretched example. I leave to my parents as much sorrow as they can, in their feeble state, bear. I leave to my brothers and sisters as much shame and mortification as I could bring on them. I leave to my wife, a broken heart–a life of shame. I leave to each of my children, poverty, ignorance, a low character, and the remembrance that their father filled a drunkard’s grave.” It behooves us as Odd-Fellows to ponder well the lessons taught by our order. Unless the principles that are laid down are fully carried out, we can never be Odd-Fellows in spirit and in truth. Today is our opportunity; act now. Have you ever seen those marble statues fashioned into a fountain, with the clear water flowing out from the marble lips or the hand, on and on forever? The marble stands there, passive, cold, making no effort to arrest the gliding water. So it is that time flows through the hands of men, swift, never pausing until it has run itself out, and the man seems petrified into a marble sleep, not feeling what it is that is passing away forever. And the destiny of nine men out of ten accomplishes itself before they realize it slipping away from them, aimless, useless, until it is too late. “Be such a man, live such a life, that if every man were such as you, and every life a life like yours, this earth would be God’s Paradise.”
Remember that no good the humblest of us has wrought ever dies. There is one long, unerring memory in the universe, out of which nothing dies. A chill autumn wind, blowing over a sterile plain, bore within its arms a little seed, torn with ruthless force from its matrix on a lofty tree, and dropped the seed upon the sand to perish. A bright winged beetle, weary with flight and languid with the chilly air, rested for a moment on the arid plain. The little seed dropped Aeolus served to satisfy the hunger of the beetle, which presently winged its flight to the margin of a swift running stream that had sprung from the mountain side, and cleaving a bed through rocks of granite, went gaily laughing upon its cheery way down to the ever rolling sea. Sipping a drop of the crystal flood, the beetle crawled within a protecting ledge, and, folding its wings, lay down to pleasant dreams. The Ice King passed along and touched the insect in its sleep. Its mission was fulfilled; but the conflict of the seasons continued until the white destroyer melted in the breath of balmy spring. And then a sunbeam sped to the chink wherein the body of the insect lay, and searching for the little seed entombed, but not destroyed, invited it to “join the Jubilee of returning life and hope.” Under the soft wooing of the peopled ray, the little seed began to swell with joy, tiny rootlets were developed within the body of the protecting beetle, a minute stem shot out of its gaping mouth, and lo! a mighty tree had been carried from the desert, saved from the frosts of winter, nurtured and started upon its mission of life and usefulness by an humble insect that had perished with the flowers. The agent had passed away, but, building better than he knew, the wide-spreading tree remained by the margin of the life-giving stream, a shelter and a rest to the weary traveler upon life’s great highway through many fretful centuries.
A child abandoned by its mother to perish in an Egyptian marsh may become the instrument to deliver a nation from bondage, and an unostentatious man, unknown to fortune and to fame, may become the agent of a mighty work destined to benefit the human race as long as it may last upon the earth. George Eliot says, “Our deeds are like children that are born to us; they live and act apart from our own will. Nay, children may be strangled, but deeds never; they have an indestructible life, both in and out of our consciousness.”
No man has come to true greatness who has not felt in some degree that his life belongs to his race, and that what God gives him he gives him for mankind. The different degrees of consciousness are really what make the different degrees of greatness in men.
While Odd-Fellowship does not claim to be a religious institution, yet so closely is it allied to Christianity that we deem it proper to discuss these questions. I quote from Dr. Lyman Abbott’s lecture on “Christianity and Orientalism,” as follows: “Religion as a thought has four questions to answer: First, What is God? Second, What is man? Third, What is the relation between God and man? Fourth, What is the life which man is to live when he understands and enters into that relation? There is no other question; there is nothing left. What is God? What is man? And how are men to live when they have entered into that relationship? Now, Christianity has its answer to each one of those four questions. God–one true, righteous, loving, helpful Father of the whole human race. God–love. And love, what is that? Such a life as Jesus Christ lived on the earth. What is man? Man is in the image of God. If he is not, if he fails in that, he fails being a man. He is in the image of God, and not until he has come to be in the image, of God will he be a man. What is a statue? I can see a nose, a mouth, appearing out of the marble block. No, it is not a statue, it is a half-done statue. Wait until the sculptor is through, then you will see the statue. Not till God is done will you see a man, and you never saw one except as you saw him in Jesus of Nazareth. And what is the relation between this God and this man? It is the relationship of the most intimate fellowship that the human soul can conceive; one life dwelling in the other life, and filling the other life full of His own fullness. You can not get any closer relationship to God than that. When this fullness has been realized, when you and I have the fullness of God in us, when God has finished, the man life will result. Just such a life as Christ lived, with all the splendor of self-sacrifice, with all the glory of service, with all the magnificent heroism, with all the enduring patience.”