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