The Jericho Road
By W. Bion Adkins
Public Domain Books
Love is the key to the human heart. If we want to have power with God and man, we must cultivate love. It is love that burns truth into the hearts of people. A man may be a good lawyer without love. There may be a good surgeon without love. A man may be a good merchant without love. But a man can not be a good Odd-Fellow or Christian without love. I would rather have my heart full of love than be even a prophet. If a man is full of love, Paul says, “he is greater than a prophet.” A wife would rather live in a cabin with the love of her husband, than to live in a palace without it. If I love a man I will not cheat him or slander him or envy him. I pity people who are constantly looking out for slights. It is better to look on the bright side rather than the dark side of life. Love will lead us to look on the bright side. Some persons are always magnifying the faults of others. They use a magnifying glass in this business. If you want power with persons, speak as well as you can of them. Self-control is a great thing. This comes and stays through love. How many dwarfs there are in God’s church now. They have not grown one inch spiritually in twenty years. If our hearts are full of love, we are bound to grow. Many other graces pass away, but love is eternal. The most selfish man is the most miserable man. A man may be miserly with his money, but no man can be miserly with love. Love creates love. The more we love, the more we will be loved. Love must show itself. Love demonstrates its presence by action. Our lives, after all, are mere echoes. I speak harsh to a man, and he will speak harsh to me. If a man has bad neighbors it his own fault. If a woman has bad servants it is her own fault. If we make others happy we will be happy ourselves. If you are not happy, go and buy all the poor people near you a turkey for Christmas. “He that noticeth others shall be noticed also himself.” If you want to get your own soul above its own troubles, go and do good to some unhappy soul. If we do this work, I believe we will have to do it in this world. There will be no tears to wipe away, or sorrows to assuage, or afflictions to remedy in the other world. This work is for this world. It is a blessed work. It is the best investment a man can make. It pays an hundred fold. Labors of love demonstrate better than the church membership that we are in the Master’s service. This is the Master’s business. Though my way through life has often been through graveyards and through glooms, I have loved and I have been loved, and I know that life is worth living. Love is the fulfilling of the law; the end of the gospel commandment; the bond of perfectness. Without it, whatever be our attainments, professions or sacrifices, we are nothing. Love obliterates the differences in education, wealth, station, religion, politics and nationality. It is a promoter of peace and harmony; it cultivates the social graces; it makes friends of strangers and brothers of acquaintances; it softens the asperities of life; it worships at the shrine of piety, and recognizes the omnipotence of God and the immortality of man. It is religious not sectarian, patriotic but not partisan. It glows by the fireside, radiant with perpetual joy. It glorifies God in worship and in song. It blesses humanity in genial mirth and human sympathies. It is a perennial fountain at which the old may drink and grow strong. It is a daily benediction to its devotees, and, like “a thing of beauty, is a joy forever.” It stands like the statue of liberty, a beacon light to the tempest-tossed and wayfaring mariner and brother, pointing him the way to the haven of refuge, to the right living and right doing.
Oh love, thou mightiest gift of God; thou white-winged trust in Him who doeth all things well; thou one light over His darkest providences, lingering to cheer when all else has passed away, thy whisper upon the dull ear of night. But alas! this world was made to break hearts in, while love was sent from heaven to heal them. The precious balm, though, is so scarce that many must die for want of it. Oh, the might-have-been! What human soul has not sung that dirge? Verily, the winds come, howling it by like an invisible band of mourners from the grave of all things. Alas! is anything in this life real, or are we indeed shadows, and this world altogether a shadowy land, while the blackened skies above give us only glimpses of a far-off better home, better friends and better love? Alas! Heaven’s loudest complaint to mortals is ever for lack of love. Even He who sitteth upon the throne of thrones knoweth what it is to stretch out His arms in utter desertion of no one to love Him, no one to seek Him, and no one to fear Him–"no, not one.” Then as we may best show our love to Him by loving one another, is it not well that we commence loving those around us at once? Ah! yes, and like the ambitious vine, do thou reach out all thy tendril thoughts to what is nearest, the while aspiring to the oak or the pine of the loftier trust, even the faith of Abraham that was accounted unto him for righteousness. Would I had some new phrase for love, some new figure for hope! How lonely and weary must that life be without love, how tasteless all its joys, and how vacant every scene. If we have the spirit of love we will live for others. Auguste Comte inscribed on the first page of his work, “Politique Positive,” wherein he depicted in systematic form, life that had been forming itself throughout human history, these words: “Order and progress–live for others.” The force of this thought is, in accord with Odd-Fellowship, which teaches love of our kind, love of right, zeal for the good.
Man’s happiness consists in living as a social being, living for self in order to more truly live for others. This is summed up in the word humanity. But affection, as the true motor force of life, must have a foundation, must stir us not only to the right things, but to the right means; in other words, action must be guided by knowledge. Improvement must be the aim of social life, as it is the incentive to individual effort. It is not enough to desire the good, or to know how to achieve it, we must labor for it. Associated effort gives the opportunity for gaining grander results than centuries of divided activity. The conception of humanity has grown nobler. The good of the vast human whole is now acknowledged as the end of all social union. Humanity embodies love; the object of our activity; the source of what we have; the ruler of the life under whose span we work, and suffer and enjoy.
All religions, all social systems worthy of the name, have sought to regulate human nature and perfect the organization of society by proclaiming as their principles the cultivation of some grand social sentiments. Philosophers, moralists, preachers have united in saying: “Base your life upon a noble feeling, if you are to live aright; base the state upon a generous devotion of its members to some great ideal, if it is to prosper and be strong.” All have agreed that the difference of life could only be harmonized by placing action under the stimulus of high unselfish passion. Odd-Fellowship has grown strong under this governing law. The banner it bears aloft proclaims sentiments that are attractive to all the nations of the earth. We are strong in as far as we truly interpret, for the good of humanity, this elevated aim, this devotion to fraternal ends.
Compte defines religion as consisting of three parts–a belief, a worship, and a rule of life–of which all three are equal, and each as necessary as any other. As is truly said, “Society can not be touched without knowledge; and the knowledge of social organization of humanity is a vast and perplexing science. The race, like every one of us, is dependent on the laws of life, and the study of life is a mighty field to master.” Enthusiasm of humanity would be but shallow did it not impel us to efforts to learn how to serve–demanding the best of conduct, brain and heart. The power of Odd-Fellowship lies in its fraternity. It goes forward with irresistible magnetism when its fraternal principles are truly interpreted. It furnishes to men a strong union, where general intelligence, by attrition, is increased; it provides a high moral standard; its objective action is such as touches the common heart of humanity; and by its grand co-operative system it gives the finest means of securing those advantages that tend to the securement of material comfort and mental and spiritual peace and happiness.
Drummond says: “Love is the greatest thing in the world.” Read what Paul says about it in I Cor., xiii: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up: Doth not behave itself unseemly; Seeketh not her own. Is not easily provoked. Thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth; but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face; now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”
The more I study Odd-Fellowship, the more I become convinced that I have just crossed the threshold, and that new truths and sublime lessons await me, of which I never dreamed. Brothers, there is hidden treasure in our order for which we must dig. It must be brought to the surface. We must know more of the beauties of this great organization of ours. “The greatest thing,” says some one, “a man can do for his Heavenly Father is to be kind to some of His other children.” “I wonder why it is that we are not all kinder than we are? How much the world needs it. How easily it is done. How instantaneously it acts. How infallibly it is remembered. How super-abundantly it pays itself back–for there is no debtor in the world so honorable, so superbly honorable, as love. Love is success. Love is happiness. Love is life.” “Where love is, God is. He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God. God is love. Therefore love.” “Without distinction, without calculation, without procrastination, love. Lavish it upon the poor, where it is very easy; especially upon the rich, who often need it most; most of all upon our equals, where it is very difficult, and for whom perhaps we each do least of all. There is a difference between trying to please and giving pleasure. Give pleasure. Lose no chance of giving pleasure. For that is the ceaseless and anonymous triumph of a truly loving spirit. I shall pass through this world but once. Any good things that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again. We can be Odd-Fellows only while we act like honest men.”
Every Odd-Fellow ought to be a “gentleman.” Do you know the meaning of the word “gentleman”? “It means a gentleman–a man who does things gently, with love. And that is the whole art and mystery of it. The gentleman can not in the nature of things do an ungentle, an ungentlemanly thing.” “Love doth not behave itself unseemly.” Life is full of opportunities for learning love. Every man and woman every day has a thousand of them. There is an eternal lesson for us all, “how better we can love.” What makes a good artist, a good sculptor, a good musician? Practice. What makes a man a good man, a man of love? Practice. Nothing else. If a man does not exercise his arm he develops no biceps muscle; and if a man does not exercise his soul, he acquires no muscle in his soul, no strength of character, no vigor of moral fibre, nor beauty of spiritual growth. Love is not a thing of enthusiastic emotion. It is a rich, strong, manly, vigorous expression of the whole round Christian character–the Christ-like nature in its fullest development. And the constituents of this great character are only to be built up by ceaseless practice. To love abundantly is to live abundantly, and to love forever is to live forever. We want to live forever for the same reason that we want to live tomorrow. Why do you want to live tomorrow? It is because there is some one who loves you, and whom you want to see tomorrow, and be with, and love back. There is no other reason why we should live on than that we love and are beloved. It is when a man has no one to love him that he commits suicide. The reason why, in the nature of things, love should be the supreme thing–because it is going to last; because in the nature of things it is an eternal life. It is a thing that we are living now, not that we get when we die; that we shall have a poor chance of getting when we die unless we are living now.
No worse fate can befall a man in this world than to live and grow old alone, unloving and unloved. At any cost cultivate a loving nature. Then you will find as you look back upon your life that the moments when you have really lived are the moments when you have done things in a spirit of love. As memory scans the past, above and beyond all the transitory pleasures of life, there leap forward those supreme hours when you have been enabled to do unnoticed kindnesses to those around about you, things too trifling to speak about, but which you feel have entered into your eternal life. I have seen almost all the beautiful things God has made; I have enjoyed almost every pleasure that He has planned for man; and yet as I look back I see standing out above all the life that has gone, four or five short experiences when the love of God reflected itself in some poor imitation, some small act of love of mine, and these seem to be the things which alone of all one’s life abide. Everything else in all our lives is transitory. Every other good is visionary. But the acts of love which no man knows about, or can ever know about–they fail not.
Odd-Fellowship ought to grow. The kinship of the human race–how beautiful a thought! Without mutual aid the race would perish. Think of it. Throughout life you are dependent upon your fellow-man. Who can live without a friend? When you have no money and no home, where, brothers, will you find food and shelter? When low with fever, the tongue parched, the brain wandering, who will give you water, bathe your throbbing temples, and watch over you lest you die? See the old man. The frosts of seventy winters have whitened his head; his eye is dim; his limbs tremble; reason and memory fail; he is an infant again. He goes down to the valley of the shadow of death. Who shall lead him and comfort his weary soul? Who lay his body gently and reverently in the grave, and sod it over with green grass? So with us all. A man alone in the world, without a human being who cares whether he live or die! Not a hand to touch, nor a voice to hear, nor a smile to receive! Human affections forever sealed to him; no fireside; no home with father, mother, brothers, sisters; no little children, no son to be proud of; no daughters to caress; no “good night;” no “good morning." Who could bear it? The sun could not warm such a man. The brightest days and the greenest fields could not give him pleasure. Better chain him on a rock in mid-ocean and leave him to the vultures, than thus rob him of his kinship with the human race.
This world is beautiful, and it is full of priceless sympathies. All creation is glorious with melody. The morning stars, saith the Bible, sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy when it was made. The universe of stars, and suns, and planets and globes, swing harmoniously through space. Not a sparrow falleth to the ground without our Father’s notice; not a soul yearns, or sorrows, or rejoices, but He knoweth it. He hath made of one blood all nations of men to dwell together on the face of the earth. We are bound to each other by indissoluble ties. It is a law of nature that we must all work for each other. Though ten thousand miles apart; though oceans roll between us and continents divide us, we labor not for ourselves alone. You plow the furrow in California and sow the wheat for your brother in Louisiana, while he plants the cane and cotton for you. The good Siberian is this day roaming over snows and ice, hunting the otter and gathering furs, that you may be warm. Men are diving in the Persian gulf for pearls to grace your wives and daughters. The silkworm of India and China may have spun the threads of your dress, the Frenchman may have woven it; the hardy mariner braved the seas to bring it here. Truly, we are brothers. A common Father brought us all into this world, and to a common Father we all go. Let us, then, help one another, in money (if need be), in education, in sympathy.
There is one feature of the order we desire to emphasize, and that is its full sympathy with those that labor and toil. No reference would do justice to the order that did not emphasize this fact. It is its pride and glory. It is from this class its membership is chiefly drawn. It was with this class it originated, the first lodge in the United States having been organized by half a dozen humble mechanics; Thomas Wildey, their leader, was a blacksmith. You see it had no aristocratic origin, and its broad and catholic sympathy, its popularity with this class is explained. They know its value, and have seen its active charity and experienced its beneficence. A man who has no sympathy with the humble and the lowly, a man of mean and narrow heart, will find no congenial dwelling place in our lodges. The true Odd-Fellow is a man of heart; his hand is open to every worthy appeal of the needy, and he is honest and upright in his life. It enforces no religious or political tests; in these every member is free; but it does teach and urge its members to be grateful to their Creator and loyal to their country. In conclusion, let me urge upon the living, fidelity to the teachings of Odd-Fellowship. If these are respected it will make you better citizens, better husbands, better fathers, better men. It is a cultivation of the heart and the better feelings, and expands our humanity. If you are poor, it will come to you, or your family, sometimes as a benefaction. If you are rich, you can afford to give, and with a good Odd-Fellow that is more blessed than to receive.
I want to say here what I have often said in the lodge-room. I love Odd-Fellowship, above all, for the heart there is in it. For its display on the street and its pageantry I care but little. I shrink from it rather than follow it. But its benevolence, its active charity, and its mission of good will, I admire. When death’s unwelcome presence rests within our portals, and obedient to his call a loved one has gone hence, we should give the mortal remains of the departed brother a decent sepulture; fondly cherish the remembrance of his virtues, and bury his frailties “beneath the clods which rest upon his bosom.” We should then direct our thoughts and cares to the desolate home, where the widow, clad in the robes of grief, her heart cords broken and bleeding, is weeping over earth’s only idol, now lost to earth forever. Then, too, should we extend the helping hand to the fatherless children, and endeavor to so direct their steps that their paths may be paths of usefulness and honor. These are the imperative duties. But our ministrations of charity and benevolence should by no means be confined exclusively within the pale of the order. This crowded world, with its eager millions, maddened with ambition’s unquenchable fires, trampling under foot and well-nigh smothering each other in the great rush of competitive strife, is full of poor unfortunates, daily appealing for generous sympathy and assistance.
Though not members, it may be, of our peculiar family, yet the poorest, the humblest, the most wretched, is a human being–"the master-piece of His handiwork"–and, as such, demands our aid and comfort as far as practicable. Life has been compared to a river. Aye, and beneath its murky waters lurk countless reefs and shoals. Many a beautiful bark, sailing, seemingly, under the very star of hope, dashes upon them, and is lost. All along its shores are scattered the wrecks of stranded vessels, once laden with joyous hopes and brilliant prospects. Odd-Fellowship renders the passage of this river safe by a bridge of mystic form,
“On one side is friendship planted– Truth upon the other shore; Love, the arch that spans the current, Bears each brother safely o’er.”
It should be the most pleasing duty of Odd-Fellows to point our fellow-travelers to this beautiful and stately arch; to lead thitherward their weary steps. Such would be assistance more permanent than can be rendered by silver or gold. The time is certain to come when every young man is thrown back upon himself–must leave the tranquil security of the parental home, and seek a refuge among strangers. When beyond the reach of family influence–beyond the reach of that tender providence which so carefully guarded him from vice, and soothed his griefs and sympathized with all his youthful aspirations and pleasures–when this influence ceases to surround him, what will continue its ministry of love? What will be to him father, mother, brother, sister–home? Will society? No! Society to its deepest core is selfish, corrupt, unnatural and unloving? Society will not, and can not. He is in the great world–allurements and temptations are rife around him–he is sick and in distress, and must suffer alone, with no one to console him with a word of comfort, sympathy, or love; he has no attention but such as money will purchase–he dies, and the cold eyes of strangers only look upon the grave, if, indeed, a grave he has. This is a life picture, and it is at this point the beauty and utility of Odd-Fellowship is seen, for the order is a vast family circle, spread throughout the community; always powerful and efficient to preserve those who are brought within the sphere of its influence. He who is a member of this fraternity may go where his father’s counsel and his mother’s care can not reach him, but he can not go beyond the reach of that larger family to which he belongs! Silently and invisibly, yet with unslumbering assiduity, Odd-Fellowship watches over him, and by its wise counsels, its tender sympathies and rational restraints, saves him from the ways of vice.
Mythic story tells us that the ancient gods invisibly and secretly followed their favorites in all their wanderings, and when exposed to danger, or threatened with destruction, would unveil themselves in their awful beauty and power, and stand forth to preserve them from harm or to avenge their wrongs. Odd-Fellowship realizes this myth of the pagan gods; she surrounds all her children with her preserving presence, and reveals herself always in the hour of peril, sickness or distress. Nowhere in our country can a true Odd-Fellow feel himself alone, friendless or forsaken. The invisible, but helpful arms of our order surround him wherever he may be. And should he be overtaken by illness or misfortune, be he in any part of the country, and never so poor, he will, if he makes his wants known, receive as a right the necessary assistance, and friends to watch over him with fraternal solicitude. And should he fall a victim to disease, the brothers of charity will be there to close his eyes, and with solemn, yet hopeful, heaven-born rites, consign his body to the repose of the silent tomb. Odd-Fellowship is an embodiment of family love and affection, and is the only substitute for home influence, and the only green spot in the dreary waste of life which binds these brothers to the tender practice of every virtue–guides in prosperity and health, and as a ministering angel bends over them with tenderest pity in their chamber of suffering. True, there are sorrows which it can not reach–there are griefs which it can not remove; notwithstanding, it still pursues its way, imparts its healthful influence, and accomplishes its beautiful and holy ministry of benevolence and charity. If it can not heal the wounds of misfortune, it administers the balm of sympathy, friendship and love. My dear reader, learn to give encouragement to those around you.
Everybody feels the need of encouragement, from the humblest artisan to the king on his throne. We hear of the choice spirits who have been the world’s idols, how they came up through terrible trials alone and almost unaided, setting aside obstacles that would have crushed others, and fighting their way to the very pinnacle of fame. Aye! but great as they were, they needed and received encouragement. In some part of their poor home they saw the smile that spoke the hearty appreciation of the genius, though, perhaps, the lips said nothing. Even West left on record, “my mother’s smile made me a painter.” The encouragement of a little child will send the blood more warmly to the heart, and even the appreciation of a poor dumb brute is worth its gaining. Give encouragement. Everybody needs it–men, women and even children. Oh! how many a dear little heart has been chilled into ice when the coarse laugh has greeted its rude hieroglyphics in the first attempt to portray its ideal. The child sees warm visions of sunlight and beauty in those uncouth angles. Whole minds of thought lie concealed under those strange shapes. To the young mind’s eye they are wonders, and the tiny fingers have built monuments that deserve not to be thrown down so rudely, when a smile that costs nothing would have left them standing to be finished into finer shape and more classical proportions in the years that are to come. You do a positive injury to the dullest child when you reward his little efforts with contempt. It is a wrong that can never be repaired, for the disheartment that strikes the happy spirit, flushed with the consciousness of having achieved something new and great, comes up in after time with the very same vividness at every trivial disappointment. Give encouragement. You men of business, who know so well what a good, hearty “go ahead,” coupled with a frank, merry face, will do in your own case–give encouragement to the young beginner, who starts nervously at the bottom of the race, and who, though he may put a bold outside on, quakes at the center of his being with the dread that among so many competitors he shall always be left in the rear. Hold out your hand to him as if you thought the world was really large enough for two, and bid him God-speed. Tell him to come to you if he feels the need of a friend to advise with him. Don’t emulate your sign in overshadowing him. Out upon these mean, cringing souls who would grudge God’s sunlight if it shone upon a piece of merchandise as good as their own. They are poor, barren wretches, who plow furrows only in their own cheeks, and plant wrinkles on their brows. Above all things, if you have any tenderness or compassion, encourage your pastor, your physician, and your editor. Suppose, once in a while, they do, in expressing their own honest views, say something that conflicts a little with your own starved or plethoric notions. Suppose they do dare to tell you the truth sometimes in a way that makes you cringe, and you say to yourself, “he has no business to be personal,” when the poor man never thought that his homely coats would fit; don’t grow cold, and cast sheep’s eyes, and nudge somebody’s elbow in a corner, and whisper all around, and say complacently, “Yes, Brother A. is a good man–but–”
Those “buts” and “ifs” ought to be christened intellectual revolvers, for they kill more reputations than any other two words in the English language. We have known instances where pastors and editors and others have felt weary of living, from having to encounter the spirit of discouragement among their brethren; and oh! how many wives, husbands and children, are dying deaths daily from this same prolific source of suffering. Give encouragement, then, wherever and whenever you can, and you will find that you have not lived in vain. If God blesses those who offer but a cup of cold water in charity, how much more will He regard the kind heart that has refreshed a weary spirit fainting by the way. Death quickens recollections painfully. The grave can not hide the white faces of those who sleep. The coffin and the green mound are cruel magnets. They draw us farther than we would go. They force us to remember. A man never sees so far into human life as when he looks over a wife’s or mother’s grave. His eyes get wondrous clear then, and he sees as never before what it is to love and to be loved; what it is to injure the feelings of the loved.
Let us deal gently with those around us. Remember every day a flower is plucked from some sunny home; a breach made in some happy circle; a jewel stolen from some treasury of love; each day from summer fields of life some harvester disappears–yea, every hour some sentinel falls from his post and is thrown from the ramparts of time into the surging waters of eternity. Even as I write, the funeral of one who died yesterday winds like a winter shadow along some silent street. Daily, when we rise from the bivouac to stand at our posts, we miss some brother soldier whose cheering cry in the sieges and struggles of the past has been as fire from heaven upon our hearts. Each day some pearl drops from the jeweled thread of friendship–some harp to which we have listened has been hushed forever. Love, however, annihilates death even; blots away all record of time and creates the world it lives in; conjures back arms to embrace, lips to kiss, and eyes to smile, whispers its own praises and breathes its own names of endearment. Thus, love maketh the light to our dreams and planteth hope in the midst of our sorrow. In darkness and in danger, too, love cometh to us ever, ever, now warning, now chiding, now blessing, and always safely guarding. Love lightens labor, shortens distance and quickens time. Love teaches us to forgive, helps us to forget and whitens the memory of all things. Love paints every hope, brightens every scene and maketh beautiful whatsoever it shines on. Love is wisdom. Love is high. Love is holy. Love is God. Love gloweth in the hearts of the angels, wreathes the smiles on their brows and melts the kisses on their lips. Love is the light of the beautiful beyond.