The Jericho Road
By W. Bion Adkins
Public Domain Books
Reared upon the broad catholic principle of brotherhood, extending its helpful hand from nation to nation, and from continent to continent, linking its votaries together with the golden triple chain of Friendship, Love and Truth, can afford to be friendly with each, and have a kindly word for all societies that reach down after and raise up a fallen brother, and if possible make him wiser, better and happier. Should a like courtesy be extended to this order, while it would certainly constitute a new departure, it would prove none the less gratifying. But, from certain sources, the order has been the recipient of a peculiar kind of consideration, so long that “the memory of man scarce runneth to the contrary.” Inflamed appeals and bristling denunciations have gone out against it, “while great, swelling words"–swollen with hatred, bigotry, prejudice and superstition–have assailed it relentlessly and almost uninterruptedly. Mainly, these assaults have been met with the terse and pointed invocation, “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.”
That this great and potent brotherhood may not, in all its parts and jurisdictions, have so deported itself, and so carried forward its work, as to be justly free from unfavorable criticism and merited censure, is probably true. As with organizations, there is sometimes too much haste displayed in gathering, and too little discrimination exercised in selecting, the materials that are brought as component parts of the great superstructure of Odd-Fellowship. Too much daubing with untempered mortar–too great a desire for the exhibition of numerical force, and the multiplication of lodges–too much regard for the outward trappings and paraphernalia, and too little regard for the internal qualities of those seeking membership in the fraternity. Such deplorable departures, as well from the primary as the ultimate objects had in view, are not fairly attributable to anything that may be reasonably considered as an outgrowth of the order, but come despite its constant teachings and warnings. Bad work they of course make, and so at times and to a limited extent bring the fraternity under the ban of popular displeasure, but shall the world predicate unfavorable judgment upon a few and unfair tests? If so, and the principle logically becomes general, pray who shall be appointed administrator of the effects of other social and moral organizations, and even of the church itself? For in these regards all offend, if offense it be. When the principles of Odd-Fellowship are carefully studied it is apparent to every candid mind that it is founded upon that eternal principle which recognizes man as a constituent of one universal brotherhood, and teaches him that as he came from the hand of a common parent, he is in duty bound to cherish and protect his fellow-man. Viewed in this light, Odd-Fellowship becomes one of the noblest institutions organized by man in the world. If the beauty and grandeur of universal brotherhood could be impressed upon the minds of all the people, how very different from the past would the future history of the world read. What a delightful place this old stone-ribbed earth would be if men would look upon each other as brothers, members of one common family; enjoying the many comforts of one home; trusting to the guidance and protection of one Father–God. We are more nearly related than we think. Running through all humanity there is a link of relationship and a bond of sympathy that can not be exterminated. The principle of brotherly love is so great and broad that all mankind could unite in offices of human benefaction. Brother. Oh, how sacred and how sweet when spoken by a true heart! Whether it be in the home circle, lodge-room, or in some distant land, it sends the same soothing thrill of joy to the heart. Let us pause just a moment to think of the time and place when we first learned to call each other brother. Ah! Methinks no Odd-Fellow will ever forget his first lesson. He will always remember how quickly he was changed from the haughty disposition manifested by that one of old, who, when he prayed, went to the public square, or climbed to the house top, and thanked God that he was not like other men, to the humble attitude of that one who stood afar off and bowed his face in the dust, crying aloud, “O Lord! Be merciful unto me a sinner.” How very much like this ancient boaster are thousands of the human family today. Sitting in high places, surrounded by wealth and power, they see nothing beyond the narrow circle in which they move. They are deaf to the low, sad wail of sorrow that comes from some breaking heart. Seated by their own comfortable fireside they give no thought to the lonely widow standing outside in the cold. It distresses them not that the keen, wintry blast sends its icy chill to the already broken heart. No thought, no feeling, for this poor creature that must now fight the fierce battles incident to human life, all alone. How sadly these tender duties to suffering humanity are neglected when left to the cold charity of the world.
Odd-Fellowship seeks to lessen sorrow and suffering. It supplies temporal wants; gives encouragement; aids and comforts those who are in distress. In sickness we watch by their bedside and administer to their wants. If death calls, Odd-Fellowship forsakes not its follower, but hovers near, listening attentively to the last words and parting instruction of the dying one. Brothers and friends, let me admonish you to do all the good you can while in health and strength, for at most life is short and we know not how soon the Angel of Death will unfold his broad, shadowy wings over our path and call us to give an account of our stewardship; then all that will remain of us on earth will be the good or evil we have done.
Odd-Fellowship is full of sacred teachings and sublime warnings. It teaches us that we are in a world full of temptations, sin and sorrow. We see the emblems of decay all around us. The strong man of today may stand forth, nerved for toil, with all the bloom of health mantling cheek and brow, seemingly as strong and vigorous as the mighty oak, and yet tomorrow he will fade as the autumn leaf. Then he realizes how foolish it is to be vain; thinks of the instability of wealth and power, and the certain decay of all earthly greatness. Odd-Fellowship teaches us that charity springs from the heart, is not puffed up, seeks not its own. It makes us strong, and encourages us to push on through life, even though we are beset on every side with toil, danger and strife. Brothers, let nothing cause you to turn back or away from the principles of our noble order. Cling closer and closer each day to honesty and truth, and bear in mind that be the road ever so rough and untraveled, narrow and dark, if you follow truth you will find light at the end of the journey.