The Jericho Road
By W. Bion Adkins
Public Domain Books
The Imperial Virtue
Though sophists may argue, or philosophers prate, The evils of lying they can not mitigate. Our God’s law is truth! Who then dares justify A falsehood? Remember, a lie is a lie! Let this he our motto, in old age or youth: “All lying is sinful, so, stick to the truth!”
“Truth we accept as a cardinal virtue, and require its practice on the part of all the votaries of Odd-Fellowship while traveling the rugged journey of life in search of reward and rest.” Truth is above all things else, and every Odd-Fellow knows full well that his obligation binds him to speak the truth. Remember a lie is never justifiable. It does the person more harm than that he seeks to avoid by telling a falsehood would do. “What is truth?” This question of Pilate is in the air today. It is repeated on every side and in every department of intellectual pursuit. It always pays to tell the truth under all circumstances. Abraham came near bringing a whole nation into trouble in lying about his wife. Be it said to the honor of President Grant, that once a visitor called at the White House wishing to see him. The door-keeper told the servant to tell the visitor the president was not in. General Grant, who was very busy, heard what was said. He called out, “Say no such thing. I don’t lie myself, and won’t allow anyone to lie for me.” Tell the truth always. “I said in my haste all men are liars.” Psalms, cxvi, 2.
It was a very sweeping assertion that the Psalmist made, and one that incriminates us all. He probably did not mean that all men were liars in the sense that everybody always spoke untruthfully, but that the great majority of people would, under certain stress of circumstances, equivocate to suit the conditions of the occasion. If that was what he meant, he uttered a sage truth when he said very hastily one day: “All men are liars.” Though a hasty utterance, facts seem to prove its truthfulness. The greatest mischief-maker in the world today is the liar. I honestly believe that lying causes more real anguish and suffering than any other evil. It would be effort wasted to spend much time in proof of this assertion of David’s, so we will attempt to classify briefly, that each of us may know where he belongs. First, there is the deliberate lie. This species needs no particular definition. All are acquainted with it, all have met it, some have uttered it. You all know it when you see it; it is barefaced and shameless; it reeks with the mire of falsity and is foul with the slime of the pit infernal. This lie contains not an atom of truth, is tinctured not with a grain of fact, but is a full-blooded, thoroughbred, out and out lie. Then we have the campaign lie. A large, open-faced fellow, loud-voiced and blatant; bold, daring and sweeping; it claims everything, asserts everything, denies anything.
During the campaign this lie is a factor. Men buy papers to read it, and go miles to hear it. The campaign lie is the greatest worker in the canvass for votes. He pats the workman on the back and promises to fill his pail with sirloin steak and fresh salmon, when, if the other man is elected, he will have to carry liver and codfish. He grasps the merchant strongly by the hand and promises him larger sales and better profits in case his party gets into power; he enters the magnate’s office and promises him increased dividends and no strikes; he promises everything till after election, when he has no more promises to make.
There is the polite lie, too. A very gentle affair this. A very proper lie, clothed with the attire of an elegant etiquette and of graceful form. It is never harsh and never rude, but smooth as oil, as gentle as a zephyr. The number of polite lies that are told every day are legion. It would be useless to attempt to classify them, worse than useless to try to enumerate them. They are of all sizes, colors, descriptions and shapes. They have much in common, but differ widely in particular. No locality is destitute of this venerable and classic falsehood. The ancients used it, the moderns still cling to it; the poor find it handy, the rich could not keep house without it; it abounds in every clime and thrives in every latitude. The polite hostess says to the departing guest: “We have been delighted by your visit; do us the favor to come again,” when she sincerely hopes that most any catastrophe may overtake her rather than another visit from this same personage. There are the every-day expressions, ’Not at home,’ which the housemaid is instructed to give the caller; and a score of other social lies which in truth deceive nobody, nine times out of ten. Society would lose little and gain much if the polite lie could be banished, and every man say what he thought and speak as he felt.
Another lie I will notice is the business lie. The business lie is a very matter of fact lie. It sounds well. There are some genuine bankrupt sales, of course; there are a few bona fide smoke, fire and water mark-downs undoubtedly, but there are more advertised in a week than there are failures and fires in a year. Good, staple merchandise will usually bring its value, and he who advertises an unheard of bargain has generally set a trap for the unwary. One class of goods in the window marked a certain price, an inferior class on the bargain counter at the same figure. You bargain for a piece of furniture at a surprisingly low figure; when it is delivered you have every reason to suppose that it is like what you bought in appearance alone. A roll of cloth marked “all wool,” it is half cotton, and the rest shoddy. The business lie, though found so often, is never the friend of merchant or purchaser. It is the foe of all honest transactions. Office, salesroom and storehouse would be better without it; proprietor, clerk and purchaser would thrive better if rid of it.
The lie of gossip. If by some power, human or divine, the gossiping tongue could be silenced and the tattling mouth effectually closed, half of the evil of this world would already be stopped, and the other would commence to languish for want of patronage. The lie of gossip is the blackest of them all. The blackest of all the black horde, the very worst of the whole evil troop; insinuating, sly and crafty, it creeps around with a serpent’s stealth, and carries beneath its tongue the deadly poison of ten thousand adders. The venom can be extracted from the cobra’s fangs, but no power on earth can tame the tongue of an unprincipled gossip. Some lies you can kill, but the lie of gossip is imperishable. You may clip its wings, but its flight is unhindered; you may cut off its head, but two will grow out in its place; you may crush it to earth beneath the heel of denial. Let it alone and possibly the dirty, contemptible, infamous thing will die; touch it not and it may droop and languish; do not chase it and it may grow weak for want of exercise.
Oh, my dear reader, above all things, don’t have your life a lie, your career a falsehood. Be no hypocrite, live no lie, and the God of all truth will see something in you to admire if you live truthfully and honestly before all men. Truth is a sure pledge not impaired, a shield never pierced, a flower that never dieth, a state that feareth no fortune, and a port that yields no danger. We can not build a manly character unless we are in possession of the imperial virtue, truth. Ah! truth is the diamond for which the candid mind ever seeks. It is the sanction of every appeal that is made for the good and the right. It may be crushed to earth, it may be long in achieving victory, but it is omnipotent and must triumph at last. Christ brought truth into the world. Truth, then, is a personal, experimental and practical thing. It is a thing of the heart, and not mere outward forms; a living principle in the soul, influencing the mind, employing the affections, guiding the will, and directing as well as enlightening the conscience. It is a supreme, not a subordinate matter, demanding and obtaining the throne of the soul-giving law to the whole character, and requiring the whole man and all his conduct to be in subordination. Truth blends with every occupation. It is noble and lofty, not abject, servile and groveling; it communes with God, with holiness, with Heaven, with eternity and infinity. Truth is a happy, and not a melancholy thing, giving a peace that passeth understanding, and a joy that is unspeakable and full of glory. And it is durable, not a transient thing, passing with us through life, lying down with us on the pillow of death, rising with us at the last day, and dwelling in our souls in Heaven as the very element of eternal life. Such is truth, the sublimest thing in our world, sent down to be our comforter and ministering angel on earth.
It is plainly God’s intention, as in nature and in history, that our human life should grow better and more joyous as it advances, and that the best shall not be at the first, but shall wait until we are ready for it. The highest and largest blessings can come to men only when the men are fitted to hold and to use them. If you are going to give a man a purse or a diamond you can thrust it into his hand in his youth, or on the street, even when he is asleep; but if you would give to him a great truth or virtue, if you would make him a noble character, you must wait upon the man’s growth, and be content if after many years you see only a flash of what you would give him appearing. Step by step, through all the gradations, we travel, and if faithful to truth, Christ will make in us a perfect manhood, and of us a perfect society. His gift is so great, vital and complex, that He can not bestow it all in the beginning. He would make our life an increasingly joyous life, and give us the best of its wine at the last of its feast. Christ would have us always increasingly hopeful and joyous, and never of sad countenance. All our faculties were designed to minister to our joy. All the great world of life below is a happy world. The children of the air and the water are all baptized into joy. Even the solitary creatures that carry their narrow houses with them have their joys, which are well known to their intimate acquaintances. So in the world of adult man we find the joy of life disproportionate to condition and faculty. In the faces of the men we meet on the streets we see many scars and dark lines of storm and care; only seldom do the faces we meet there wear the rainbow. Men are without joy because they have violated the laws of nature, they have subordinated their manly powers, reason and conscience to their animal instincts; they have lived by wrong theories and wrong methods, and for unmanly ends, and thus have exhausted the joy of life’s banquet.
A man can have deep and continuous joy only if his life is continuously rational and progressively manly. He must put away childish things and live for truth and right, for love and immortal virtue. If our hearts sadden as our years increase and our thoughts widen, it is because there has been a defect in our vision and a sophistry in the logic of our conduct. If the growing corn comes only to the blade and to the ear, and not to the full golden corn in the ear, we may be sure it is because there has been something wrong in our gardening. Christ comes into our wasting life to give us a new, a higher and a better joy; to give us new truth, new faith, new arguments, new motives, new impulses and new joys. Christ gives us the Heavenly Father, and thus lifts us into the dignity and beatitude of a divine nature, relationship and destiny. Man is a child of the skies, and can not find rest complete and joy abiding in anything less or lower. Bearing now the image of the earthly, we must go on to bear the image of the heavenly. To have our manly joy ever increasing we must keep the heavenly in sight and take our way from it.
Christ brings us into the living alliance with forces and personalities that are spiritual, and thus makes us strong to resist all animal temptations and those impulses toward greed and wrong which, if indulged, drain our life of its manly felicities. He would have us lift our manly cups to God, and make their rims to touch the heavens. Christ would have us to live for other’s welfare and to know the joy of duty and of sacrifice. It is the man who is living for wife, and child, and neighbor, who has flung himself with all his might into the carrying forward of some great cause that blesses his fellow-men, who knows the true and increasing joy of the manly life. The happiest woman in the world is the mother who is living for her child. It is in working out the salvation of other people that we find the true joy of our own. It is this joy that carries the martyr through his fiery tasks with a song and a shout. To be able at the end of our days to look up to God and say, “I have finished the work thou gavest me to do,” is to have the best wine at the last of our feast. We must have joy; it is indispensable. It makes us healthy and strong and enables us to be of some use in the world. It is so necessary to our best becoming and doing that we must put away everything that increases it. We must have the joy of truth and virtue, of duty and sacrifice, of hope and love, which is the joy of the eternal life. Christ thus holds out to us a joy that lasts, and one that satisfies forever.
Jesus was no cynic, no ascetic, and no fanatic. He loved the great outward world, and was the friend of all men. He was hated only by the Pharisees, if to these He spoke sharply, His words to the children were sweet as a mother’s, and in His words about the birds and the flowers you hear the tones of a lover. He loved the lakes of sweet Galilee, her hills, her fields and her olive groves; and among them often took His disciples apart to rest awhile. Adopt Christ’s views of God; of the future; Christianize your opinions, your character and your conduct, and you will have manly joy even in the midst of sorrow. Christ lived much in communion with God. He lived much out of doors, in the fields and among trees, the birds and the flowers.
We must come back to nature. Happy the man who owns a piece of ground in the country and lives on it betimes, where he can hear the robins singing their hymns and the winds chanting their litanies; where he can see the sun rise and feel the hush of the hills; where the spirit that is in the beautiful world can touch and bless him as it did the blessed Christ.
Brothers, I wish you great joy. Live in the constant sense of the Heavenly Father’s loving presence, and of nature’s veracity and friendly intention. Distrust all doctrines, all opinions and all ways of living that destroy manly joyousness. Never lose sight of the fact that a noble life is a truthful life. Truth is a trust. He who has discovered any portion of useful truth has something in trust for mankind. God is the author of truth, and when man seeks this imperial virtue and acquires it, he is in possession of great power.
This brings us to the final practical thought. This power must be appropriated. The cable car that is unattached to the cable will make no progress and stand still forever, even though the engines in the power house glow with heat, and the cable, gliding along in the center of the track not two feet away, is laden down with power. The cable car must close its grappling iron and grip the cable before progress can be made. It must come in contact with the power. An electric lamp will swing dark and unlighted while all the other lamps about it send forth enlightening rays, and all the dynamos in the world may be revolving in the engine house, sending a surging current within a few inches of the isolated lamp, and all in vain unless it come in contact with the power. You must turn the switch and let the current flow in, and then the lamp will itself shine and will illumine its surroundings like the rest. So, in like manner, if we are to make progress in this life, we must lay hold of the cable. We must come in contact with the Divine. If we do not, the power of God is of no avail to us. If we would be lights in the world, we must come in contact with the Divine spirit, we must unbar the doors to our hearts and let the current of divine power and love flow into our lives and illumine them.
The great design of Odd-Fellowship is to improve the morals and manners of men, to promote their interest, well being and happiness. Great prudence is demanded in our daily life and conversation. We should be actuated by a realizing sense of our position, and by example, action and generous thought, recommend our cause to the consideration of others. We should persevere for the attainment of every commendable virtue, to raise the mind from the degrading haunts of intemperance and folly; we should be distinguished for usefulness to society and the community at large. A good Odd-Fellow must necessarily be an upright and useful member of the community. The precepts inculcated are calculated to stimulate to the faithful performance of every moral and relative duty; and an individual who holds a standing with us, and is careless and negligent of these things, is a reproach to the Order–they wear the livery, and bow before the same shrine, but in the heart and practice they belie their profession. Profanity, intemperance and every species of immorality are rigidly discountenanced. We have pledged ourselves to aid in diffusing the principles of brotherly love throughout the world. We have assumed the office of guarding the holy flame which burns on the altar of benevolence, and we are bound to cherish its principles. That brother is recreant to every honorable feeling who can trifle with the solemn pledge he has taken.
A duty we owe to the community is to cultivate the principle of virtue, to lend holy serenity to the mind, and shed around a halo of light and glory to direct the steps of others in virtue, to happiness and greatness. The man who treads only in virtue’s ways, when every act is honest, acquires the confidence and friendship of others, thus benefiting others, and thus benefiting the community, which, also, the center of another circle, continues this influence to those that surround it, purifying the thought, emboldening the idea and elevating the man. How grand is the position Odd-Fellowship now occupies–a world of honesty in a world of deceit, with a character strictly virtuous and solely dependent upon its members for the perpetuity of that character.
It depends upon the brethren to be virtuous, upright, honest and benevolent, thus sustaining in its purity the noble reputation it now enjoys, which will continue a bright and shining star in the constellation until time shall be no more, when it will be perpetuated in the glorious light of eternity. Amid the wrecks of institutions and powerful interests that were a short time since thought to be impregnable against all assaults, the Independent Order of Odd-Fellows still maintains its vantage ground, and bears its banners proudly up. With its doors thrown so widely open to applicants for admission, composed as it is of nearly every shade of thought or educational influence, whether of sect or party, with all the infirmities incident to human nature, modifying by their weakness its true purposes, or retarding its advancement, its unity and moral force, its stability and progress are truly wonderful. Its bond of cohesion, so frail and yet so potent, is seemingly inexplicable. It is the recognition of the principles of brotherhood and fraternity, and the practice of their resultant virtues. To appreciate and practice is to attain strength. We are weak and frail. Odd-Fellowship is strong, and its principles are as eternal as the stars. The history of the past is little but a record of the domination of physical force. The law of might was the law of right. Violence and strife, outrages and wrong, have been for ages the common heritage of the race. Man has been the sport and victim of human passions, and notwithstanding the culture and the progress of the race, the earth yet resounds with the tread of armed combatants. Weary, sad-eyed toilers groan under the burden of war, countless millions are squandered upon the maintenance of non-producing, destructive hosts.
Widows and orphans, nay, the very angels in heaven, if they are permitted to look down upon us from their bright abodes in bliss, must mourn over the sad result of man’s semi-barbarism, and his worship of the world’s materialism. Long ere this mind should have been the controlling force in all nations claiming to be civilized. Pure intellect and its struggles, its aspirations for light and truth, should have relegated to the regions of barbarism and darkness mere animal contests. Not only so, but intellectual supremacy should have been in its turn subordinated, or crowned by true spiritual life. “God is a spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Man would occupy a higher and happier position than he at present fills if he had earnestly co-operated with good agencies for the unfolding and development of his better nature.
The special mission of Odd-Fellowship is to incite and stimulate the dormant moral energies to action, to rouse the lethargic, encourage the timid, and to strengthen the aspirations for a nobler and a better life. Reaching out its helpful hand to the needy and distressed upon the one hand, and with the other battling with selfishness, intolerance and vice–with all that dwarfs man’s moral nature–it appeals to something within us, to be earnest advocates of its principles, by making them a living faith and illustrating its beneficent purposes. If we make one man purer and better, and that man one’s own self, we have done something toward the betterment of the world. The voices of the past and of the present all speak to us today. Men and brethren, let us hearken unto them, and putting our trust in God, let us march onward, side by side together, until the standards of our order are planted upon the highest summit of achievement, and as their glorious folds are illuminated by the Sun of Righteousness, may the simple yet the sublime legend emblazoned thereon be seen and acknowledged by the nations, as with uplifted eyes and reverent hearts they read, “God is our Father, and we are all brothers.”