“I have lived much that I have not written, but I have written nothing
that I have not lived, and the story of this book is but a plaintive
refrain wrung from the over-burdened song of my life; while the tides
of feeling, winding down the lines, had their sources in as many broken
upheavals of my own heart.” A book, like an implement, must be judged
by its adaptation to its special design, however unfit for any other
end. This volume is designed to help Odd-Fellows in their search for
the good things in life. There is need of something to break the spell
of indifference that oftentimes binds us, and to open glimpses of
better, sweeter, grander possibilities. Hence this volume, which is a
plea for that great fortune of man–his own nature. Bulwer says:
"Strive while improving your one talent to enrich your whole capital as
a man.” The present work is designed to aid in securing the result thus
recommended. We send it forth, trusting that it will find its way into
the hands of every Odd-Fellow and every Odd-Fellow’s friend and
neighbor, and that those who read it will gather from its pages lessons
which shall enable them to pluck thorns from their pathway and scatter
W. Bion Adkins.
October 1, 1899.
God give us men. A time like this demands Strong minds, great hearts, true faith, and ready hands; Men whom the lust of office does not kill; Men who possess opinions and a will; Men who have honor; Men who will not lie, Tall men, sun-crowned, who live above the fog In public duly and in private thinking. For, while the rabble, with their thumb-worn creeds, Their large professions and their little deeds, Mingle in selfish strife, lo! Freedom weeps, Wrong rules the land, and waiting Justice sleeps. God give us men!
* * In the long years liker must they grow; The man be more of woman, she of man; He gain in sweetness and in moral height, Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world; She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care– Till at the last she set herself to man, Like perfect music unto noble words; And so these twain, upon the skirts of time, Sit side by side, full summed in all their powers, Self-reverent each and reverencing each. Then reign the world’s great bridals, chaste and calm; Then springs the crowning race of human kind.
Objects and Purposes of Odd-Fellowship
The Higher Life
The Bible in Odd-Fellowship
Brother Underwood’s Dream
The Imperial Virtue
Quiet Hour Thoughts
Gems of Beauty
Husband and Father
Odd-Fellowship and the Future
On April 26, 1819, Thomas Wildey, the English carriage-spring maker, together with John Welch, John Duncan, John Cheatham and Richard Rushworth, instituted the first lodge of Odd-Fellows at the Seven Stars Tavern in Baltimore, and it was given the name of Washington Lodge No. 1. From this feeble beginning has grown the immense organization of today. The Odd-Fellows claim a venerable antiquity for their order, the most common account of its origin ascribing it to the Jewish legend under Titus, who, it is said, received from that Emperor the first chapter, written on a golden tablet. The earliest mention made of the lodge is in 1745, when one was organized in England. There were at that time several lodges independent of each other, but in a few years they formed a union. Toward the end of the century many of them were broken up by state prosecutions, on suspicion that their purposes were seditious. The name was changed from the Patriotic Order to that of the Union Order of Odd-Fellows. In Manchester, England, in 1813, some of the lodges seceded from the order, and formed the Independent Order of Odd-Fellows.
The order’s first appearance in America was in 1819. The purposes of the order were so changed by the founders here, that it is said to be almost purely an American organization. It was based on the Manchester Unity, which was really the parent institution. In 1842, this country severed its connection with that of England.
Lodges connected with either those of England or America are established in all parts of the world. The real estate held by the organization exceeds in value $20,000,000, and there is scarcely a town in the country that has not its Odd-Fellows Building. The total revenue of the order is nearly $10,000,000 per annum. Yearly relief amounts to nearly $4,000,000 a year.
“A traveler passed down the Jericho road, He carried of cash a pretty fair load (The savings of many a toilsome day), On his Jericho home a mortgage to pay.
“At a turn of the road, in a lonely place, Two villainous men met him face to face. ’Hands up!’ they cried, and they beat him sore, Then off to the desert his money they bore.
“Soon a priest came by who had a fold; He sheared his sheep of silver and gold. He saw the man lie bruised and bare, But he passed on by to his place of prayer.
“Then a Levite, temple bound, drew nigh; He saw the man, but let him lie, And clad in silk, and filled with pride, He passed him by on the other side.
“Next on the way a Samaritan came (To priest and Levite a hated name); The wounded man he would not pass, He tenderly placed him on his ass.
“He took him to an inn hard by; He dressed his wounds and bathed his eye; He paid the landlord his full score; If more was needed would pay him more.
“Ah! many travel the Jericho way, And many are robbed and beaten each day; And many there be on the way in need, Whom Priest or Levite never heed; And who to fate would yield, alas! If some Samaritan did not pass.”
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.
Human isolation is an unnatural condition. It antagonizes the highest
and best interests of the world. Its influence is never beneficent,
but always and necessarily harmful. If the truest well being of the
universe, and the supremest glory of Jehovah could have been attained
by conditions of solitude, it is not impossible that the good
All-Father would have given to every man a continent, and so have made
him monarch of all he surveyed.
Physically regarded, there is no limit to Omnipotent power. A continent, and even a world, was therefore within the pale of divine possibilities. Jehovah, however, is not only great, but he is the Greatness of Goodness. High and holy ends were to be accomplished, and happy purposes to be secured, by means of human instrumentalities, and be jointly shared by Creator and creature.
Among the earliest of Deific utterances, therefore, we have this: “It is not good that man should be alone.” I concede that, primarily, the companionship of woman is here intended. But the declaration is not only good in this, but equally so in other regards. A lifetime of solitude with no incentives to action–nothing to draw out, exercise and expand the latent powers of the soul–no interchange of thought–no clashing of opinion–no towering resolves to stimulate–no difficulties to surmount! What imagination so fertile that it could picture a more hateful or intolerable Hades than would be such a condition of affairs?
Hence, in the early days of the world’s history we discern the principle of association and co-operation, with plans and systems embodying its practical application. Organizations came into being, obedient to the summons of necessity. How well the various organizations have wrought along the pathway of centuries, and how great or small may have been the measure of their success, I am not here to discuss, much less to determine. Each has done its work in its own way, and pockets responsibility for results. Common courtesy and candor suggest that each has been largely animated by highest and worthiest of motives.
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.
More common, perhaps, than any other filed against it has been the
objection that Odd-Fellowship does its work secretly, this objection
being not unfrequently urged by persons of candor and honest impulses.
"If,” it is demanded, “the aims and purposes of the order be legitimate
and praiseworthy, why shroud them in mystery rather than give them the
broad sunlight of publicity.”
The objection is not new, nor is it urged with any increase of its original force, whatever may be the fact in the matter of vehemence. Answer might be made: The order does not choose to ascend to the house tops for the purpose of heralding its affairs to the world. But that answer would not be satisfactory, nor is any likely to be that may be presented, now or hereafter. It is nevertheless true that there are certain matters pertaining to the order and its works with which the outside world has no sort of concern, even as with those very peculiar secret societies, the individual, the family, the church and the state. If other organizations prefer to resort to the newspapers, the pulpit, the rostrum and other information conduits for the purpose of advertising their wares, their greatness and their goodness, and the vast amount of humanitarian work they are doing and purposing, such is their unquestioned privilege.
But if the preference of Odd-Fellowship be for quieter and less obtrusive methods, pray who shall fairly contest its right of choice?
And then it should be remembered that there are matters in which the right hand is prohibited the privilege of interfering with the prerogatives of the left, and the left with those of the right. Nor should the fact be forgotten that there is Divine example, if not precept, for the established “modus operandi” of the order. Upon a certain occasion the Great Teacher had performed a very humble service for one of his disciples who was sadly at loss for the why and the wherefore, and the answer, received to his inquiry was: “What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter.”
And in the grand hereafter, when the films of ignorance and the warpings of prejudice and superstition shall have melted away under the bright sunlight of Eternal Day, it is not impossible that our vexed, inquisitive, worrying opponents may be permitted to look back over the pathway this order has traversed, glance at the work that has been wrought and peradventure discover how unreasonable, as well as fruitless, has been the warfare they have been pleased to wage with such persistent fury. A long time to wait, maybe, but then good things do not come rapidly nor all at once. Meanwhile, to encourage them in their waiting, their watching and their worrying, let them take this lesson from the same Great Teacher: “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth.” Ah, no! it will not do, because you can not see and comprehend all of everything, inside as well as outside, to conclude that it must necessarily be bad. Adopt that theory, and you not only fly in the face of reason, but bump your head against almost everything in nature, in art and in science.
Secrets! yes; they are within us and without us, above us and beneath us and all about us, and “what are you going to do about it?” Well might Israel’s old and gifted poet king write: “We are fearfully and wonderfully made,” soul and body, the mortal and the immortal, the material and the immaterial, strangely and mysteriously conjoined! God’s secret, this! Will you denounce Him and withdraw allegiance from Him, for the reason that He fails to make clear to you a clear and satisfying revelation? The same old singer said thousands of years ago, “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth His handiwork.” And those heavens, with that firmament, are charged and surcharged with mightiest and profoundest secrets. We seize the telescope and “plunge into the vast profound overhead, intent upon mastering the secrets of the revolving spheres.”
We travel from star to star, from system to system, until we reach yon lonely star that appears to be performing the Guardian’s task, upon the verge of unmeasured and immeasurable space. We may descry and describe the form and outlines of those heavenly bodies, detect their movements and approximately determine their distances and dimensions. But what more? Little that is satisfying. When they had a beginning, what purposes they subserve in the sublime system of God’s stupendous universe, and when they shall have a consummation, we may not certainly know. Secrets, these, and such “Secret things belong unto God.” We would like to know these secrets, but must wait; for there, “roll those mighty worlds that gem the distant sky,” as distantly and dismally as when Chaldean and Egyptian astronomers and astrologers viewed their movements three thousand years ago, rifled meanwhile of but few of their well kept secrets. He that pencils the lily and paints the rose and gives to every blade of grass its own bright drop of dew, has been pleased to say: “Hitherto shalt thou come and no further.” And there is great unwisdom in setting up factious opposition to the fiat of Omnipotence. Possess your souls in patience, O friends! wait, as we must wait, before knowing all, or even knowing much. If you can not be Odd-Fellows, you can at least be men, with an effort.
“But, sir,” you demand, “can you tell us something more about
Odd-Fellowship, its purposes and its Work?” I can, a little. Come
with me, then, and we will look into the lodge. Ah! In the most
conspicuous place there stands an altar–upon it the open Bible, the
world’s great word of Life and Light. Upon the principles enunciated
by that Book, largely rests the great superstructure of Odd-Fellowship.
The Bible is to the order what the sun is to the material universe–its
illuminator and vivifier, even as it also is the, guide to faith and
practice. A man may neglect his closet, his church, his Bible, but
when he enters the lodge he is bound to listen to the voice of his
Maker, as it thunders from His word; and while the lodge does by no
means lay claim to the possession of religious attributes, yet has it
been the means, by the constant use of the Bible, of turning many from
the ways of wrong-doing and sin, into paths of pleasantness and peace;
and by a unique system of symbolism and a comprehensive and practical
application of its sublime truths, the faith of the believer has been
strengthened, enlarged and rendered usefully active.
Odd-Fellowship’s plan of benefaction addresses itself to the physical as well as the moral nature, and, reaching out from its immediate subjects, permeates by natural affinity every sphere in which active sympathy may be invoked. Its mission and its results are not only active and substantial, but often so effective by its consequential or indirect influence as to penetrate entire communities. In this connection I will say Odd-Fellowship is not a religious organization. Our work pertains particularly to this life, educating the heart of man to practical beneficence, alleviating the sufferings of humanity and elevating the character of man. Odd-Fellowship was not organized for the purpose of ridding the world of all its sorrows, but to ameliorate and to soften the suffering to which the human family is heir. It is an association of men who have united themselves for the purpose of smoothing the ragged edge of want, and extending to those who are bound down by the iron bands of misfortune a helping hand. Odd-Fellowship holds no affinity with the classifications or distinctions of society, but dispenses charity to all alike. It does not array itself against the church, nor presume to arrogate its functions, or to supervise its teachings. Its lodges are not the council rooms of enmity to religious, civil, moral or social organizations. Far otherwise; all its oracles and instructions in relation to these grave subjects find their warrant and authority in the divine law, under the inspiration of which it proclaims the Golden Rule as the sublimest illustration of the law of love. Odd-Fellowship keeps a close watch over its subjects, and constantly impresses upon their minds the fact that their hearts must not foster evil, the progenitor of crime, or hatred and vice, whose evil consequences must continue to afflict mankind until the coming of that time to which hope looks forward with ardent joy, when one law shall bind all nations, tongues and kindred of the earth, and that law will be the law of ’Universal Brotherhood.” Odd-Fellowship also teaches us that we are never to judge a man by his outward appearance. A man’s form may be clothed with rags, his hands may be rough and hard, his cheeks may be browned by the rays of summer’s sun; yet underneath all this there may be an honest heart. If so, we take him by the hand and call him brother. Odd-Fellowship teaches equality; we must meet upon one common level. The brother who lives in the rough log cabin enjoys the same right and privileges as the monarch on his throne. We live, we move and have our being, and are indebted for all things to the One Great Ruler of the Universe–God. All persons are desirous of being happy, and happiness is sought for in various ways. Odd-Fellowship teaches that man is responsible for his own misery. I believe that no mere misfortune can ever call for exceeding bitter sorrow. As long as man preserves himself from contamination of that which is evil and foul, he can not reach any very low depth of woe. By his own act, by his own voluntary desertion of the true aim of life, and by that alone, is it possible that a man should drink his cup of misery to the dregs. The want of happiness, so prevalent, is thus the natural consequence of the inherent blindness of men. By it they are led to pursue eagerly the phantom of wealth, rank, power, etc., white neglecting that which alone can satisfy the wants of the soul. If men could really know what is their chief good, we should no longer hear on every hand prayers offered up for those idle accoutrements of life, which may indeed be enjoyed, but often bring only dissatisfaction, and can be dispensed with without inconvenience to mankind.
Many persons say Odd-Fellowship is contrary to the teachings of the Bible. The way such people read their Bible is just like the way that the old monks thought hedgehogs ate grapes. They rolled themselves over and over where the grapes lay on the ground. What fruit stuck to their spines they carried off and ate. So your hedgehoggy readers roll themselves over and over their Bibles and declare that whatever sticks to their spines is Scripture and that nothing else is. But you can only get the skins of the texts that way. If you want their juice you must press them in cluster. Now the clustered texts about the human heart insist as a body, not on any inherent corruption in all hearts, but on the terrific distinction between the bad and the good ones. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good, and an evil man, out of the evil treasure, bringeth forth that which is evil.”
“They on the rock are they which, in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, kept it.”
“Delight thyself in the Lord, and He shall give thee the desires of thine heart. The wicked have bent their bow that they may privily shoot at him that is upright in heart.” For all of us, the question is not at all to ascertain how much or how little corruption there is in human nature, but to ascertain whether, out of all the mass of that nature, we are the sheep or the goat breed; whether we are people of upright heart being shot at, or people of crooked heart doing the shooting.
And of all the texts bearing on the subject, this, which is a quite simple and practical order, is the one you have chiefly to hold in mind: “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
The will of God respecting us is, that we shall live by each others happiness and life; not by each others misery or death.
Men help each other by their joy, not by their sorrow. There is but one way in which man can ever help God–that is, by letting God help him.
A little boy, who had often heard his father pray for the poor, that they might be clothed and fed, interrupted him one day by saying, "Father, if you will give me the key to your corn crib and wheat bin, I will answer some of your prayers.”
Ah! my friends, always keep in mind this truth, “One hour of justice is worth seventy years of prayer.”
Call not this, then, a Godless institution, rioting in selfishness and infidelity, as it has been denominated by certain super-excellent Christians, who appear to have fully persuaded themselves that no good can possibly come from such a Nazareth. For, with the constant and unvarying light of the Holy Bible, that illuminated lexicon of the sweet Beyond, and of the approaches thereto–that trusty talisman of all hopeful hearts–that competent counselor of the wisest and the best–that inspirer of joy and satisfaction born of no other book–that precious presager of immortal life beyond the river–that divine guide to faith and practice, can by no means fail in the ultimate working out of its sublime purposes.
In the ranks of Odd-Fellowship there are many of the truest, noblest, sharpest and most holy men in the civilized world. None of these have been able to make that “Godless and selfish” discovery. This brilliant achievement is reserved for those favored mortals that never saw the inside of an Odd-Fellow’s lodge, and are entirely ignorant of its character and practical workings. The order has increased largely in wealth, power and influence. Large cities and towns, which formerly paid little or no attention to us, now eagerly welcome us to their hospitalities.
Judges and governors vie with each other in doing us honor, and well may we be proud of the position the order has attained. Just think of it a moment: when you clasp hands with an Odd-Fellow here in your own home, you are really clasping hands with one million men who have obligated themselves to stay with you through every trial and misfortune. Wonder no longer, then, at the growth and stability of this great fraternity, or that its votaries cling to it with such unshaken and unswerving fidelity. Ah! it is no light matter, no small privilege, to be admitted to membership in such an organization–so freeing one’s self from the surgings of self-seeking and selfish considerations–free from the trammels of prevailing prejudice and passion–free from the false educational influences that warp the mind and drive charity from the heart.
Our order’s emblem is the three links,
Friendship, love, truth–golden links these, that not only bind
together their obligated votaries, but that recognize and embrace,
because of worthiness and plighted faith, that behind the back as well
as face to face, have a defensive, kindly word and a brother’s generous
deed; that, amid the upheavals of communities and the crumbling of
nations, systems and governments, swerve not from their course, and are
corralled by no arbitrary bounds, and that, whatever the dialect, the
nationality or the religion of men, read upon humanity’s brow the
inscription written by the finger of infinite love–a man and a
brother, a woman and a sister.
A faithful and true friend is a living treasure, estimable in possession and deeply to be lamented when gone. Nothing is more common than to talk of a friend; nothing more difficult than to find one; nothing more rare than to improve by one as we ought.
The only reward of virtue is virtue. The only way to have a friend is to be one. Such is friendship. Next in our golden chain is Love. Love is the stepping stone to heaven. This principle teaches man his capabilities for good, enlightens his mind, enlarges the sphere of his affections and leads him to that true fraternal relation which was designed by the Great Author of his existence. Love teaches us to be self-sacrificing. For a bright instance of this we point you to Moses, the great law-giver of the Jews. He turned his back on the splendors of Pharaoh’s court and chose rather to share the wretchedness of his lowly people than serve as a king for their oppressors, finally dying in sight of that inheritance, which, though denied to him, was given to his ungrateful countrymen. How very bright on the pages of history shine such acts of love and sacrifice. This principle belongs to no one organization, party or sect. It can be made to bud and bloom as well under the fierce rays of the torrid zone, midst the icebergs of Greenland, or the everlasting snows of Caucasus. It always carries the same smile, whether in the cabin or in the palace. Following in its footsteps there is such a halo of glory, such a gentle influence, that it gathers within its sacred realm antagonistic natures, controls the elements of discord, stills the storm, soothes the spirit of passion, and directs in harmony all of man’s efforts to fraternize the world. In this strangely selfish and uncertain world none are so affluent or favorably circumstanced as not at some time and in some way to become dependent. Oh! there are emphasized essentialities that are not embraced among the commodities of the market, and in order to the realization of which money possesses no purchasing power. To relieve the pungent pinchings of penury with raiment, food and shelter, and so send the sunshine of gladness to the poor and needy, is something–indeed is much. But, ah! the delicate and intricate mechanism of mind is out of gear, a secret sorrow swells and sways the heart, and unitedly they cry: “Who will show us any good? Who remove this rankling sorrow? What good Samaritan competent to the task of affording relief to this dazed brain?” Oh! it is here that the trained votaries of the triple brotherhood bring to bear their wondrous power. If it be true “that one touch of nature makes the whole world kin,” it is equally true that the ties of brotherhood here would wield their most potent influence, and of the true Odd-Fellow well may it be said, "He hath a tear for pity, and a hand open as day for melting charity.”
TRUTH! crown jewel of the radiant sisterhood of queenly graces! She can not be crushed to earth. The eternal years of God being hers, she, no more than her author, can go down. Error may fling widely open his arsenal gates of defilement and deceit, and seek so earnestly and tirelessly the usurpation of her throne; but there she sits, as firmly and gracefully as when the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy. Such is truth, the rarest of all human virtues.
The man who is so conscious of the rectitude of his intentions, as to be willing to open his bosom to the inspection of the world, is in possession of the strongest pillars of a decided character. The course of such a man will be firm and steady, because he has nothing to fear from the world and is sure of the approbation of heaven. While he who is conscious of secret and dark designs, which, if known, would blast him, is perpetually shrinking and dodging from public observation, and is afraid of all around, and, much more, of all above him. Such a man may indeed pursue his iniquitous plans steadily; he may waste himself to a skeleton in the guilty pursuit, but it is impossible that he can pursue them with the same health-inspiring confidence and exulting alacrity with him who feels at every step that he is in pursuit of honest ends by honest means. The clear, unclouded brow, the open countenance, the brilliant eye, which can look an honest man steadfastly, yet courteously, in the face, the healthfully beating heart and the firm, elastic step, belong to him whose bosom is free from guile, and who knows that all his motives and purposes are pure and right. Why should such a man falter in his course? He may be slandered, he may be deserted by the world, but he has that within him which will keep him erect, and enable him to move onward in his course, with his eyes fixed on heaven, which he knows will not desert him.
Odd-Fellowship teaches its members to be men of honor. When I say honest, I use it in its larger sense of discharging all your duties, both public and private, both open and secret, with the most scrupulous, heaven-attesting integrity; in that sense, farther, which drives from the bosom all little, dark, crooked, sordid, debasing considerations of self, and substitutes in their place a bolder, loftier and nobler spirit, one that will dispose you to consider yourselves as born not so much for yourselves as for your country and your fellow-creatures, and which will lead you to act on every occasion sincerely, justly, generously and magnanimously. There is a morality on a larger scale, perfectly consistent with a just attention to your own affairs, which it would be folly to neglect; a generous expansion, a proud elevation and conscious greatness of character, which is the best preparation for a decided course in every situation into which you can be thrown; and it is to this high and noble tone of character that I would have you to aspire. I would not have you to resemble those weak and meagre streamlets, which lose their direction at every petty impediment that presents itself, and stop and turn back, and creep around, and search out every channel through which they may wind their feeble and sickly course. Nor yet would I have you resemble the headlong torrent that carries havoc in its mad career; but I would have you like the ocean, that noblest emblem of majestic decision, which in the calmest hour still heaves its resistless might of waters to the shore, filling the heavens day and night with the echoes of its sublime declaration of independence, and tossing and sporting on its bed with an imperial consciousness of strength that laughs at opposition. It is this depth and weight and power and purity of character that I would have you resemble; and I would have you, like the waters of the ocean, to become the purer by your own action. Men are sometimes ruined because they aim not at virtue, but only at the reputation which it brings. Odd-Fellowship teaches its members to be brave, honest and diligent. If we have these attributes, victory must surely crown our efforts. How often in the history of our country have men of humble birth come forth in time of danger, and, nobly risking all, even to death, or disgrace worse than death itself, stood between their country and defeat, and built for themselves a glorious name. Nor, alas! is the opposite case to this unknown. Some of America’s proudest sons have, by their own acts, sunk themselves into the inner-most depths of infamy and vice.
“Virtue alone is true nobility. Oh, give me inborn worth! dare to be just, Firm to your word and faithful to your trust.”
The stream which I have just described is the great river of
Odd-Fellowship, and flows into the vast ocean of eternal peace, and
such is the momentum and indestructibility of Odd-Fellowship, that,
like a great river fed from inexhaustible sources, men may come and men
may go, but it goes on forever and forever.
Brothers, these are the streams flowing from the smitten rock whose fountains you unseal.
Standing at the mouth of the Columbia River, one can hear the ocean waves moaning, surging, thundering forevermore. You can not stay the rushing tides that come and go, ebb and flow, until time shall be no more; and there the great river of the west, the mighty Columbia, pouring her floods into that vast, boundless sea, so shall Odd-Fellowship pour her deep, exhaustless stream into futurity, and all the combined forces of opposition, ignorance and fear shall have no power to stay the onward rushing, overwhelming flood. Wafted back to us from the unexplored shore across that sea–softly whispering through the rose marine spirit of the mist–intuitive knowledge reveals the throne of the Grand Lodge above, from which flows the pure river of life, on whose shores grow the trees of knowledge and of life immortal, which bear no fruit of sin, but whose leaves are for the healing of poor, suffering humanity. Brothers, build such a character as will cause Christ and the angels to rejoice when they behold it. Then, when life’s work is done, when the blessed Master calls, you will not look mournfully into the past, but will look eagerly into the mighty future just opening before you.
And as your life goes out amidst the rustling of an angel’s wings–like a summer sea asleep upon a sandy shore–you will not regret that you practiced the principles laid down by our noble order,
THE HIGHER LIFE
Manhood, fully developed and symmetrically formed, through the various stages of the world’s history, has been the great conservative element of society, and has been in high request. Some ages, however, have seemed to make a larger demand for this element than others, and this age of ours is one which yields to none of its predecessors in its call for manliness of character–for men of the right stamp. The perils of the times are imminent, and the demand for a high grade of intelligence and great strength of moral principle never was stronger. New developments of human genius and activity, are constantly arising, and new dangers to the dearest interests of society are calling for vigilance. This is neither a stagnant nor a tame and quiet age. It is an age of activity, of enterprise, of speculation, of adventure, of philosophizing and of both real and pseudo reforms. The age eminently demands vigorous and mature manhood. Therefore, study, think, investigate, learn. Remember, however, that it is not knowledge stored up as intellectual fat which is of value, but that which is turned into intellectual muscle. Out of dull and selfish seclusion go forth. Regulate with care your basal endowments. Prove thy strength, and render it sure. Deliver thy conceptions from narrowness, thy charity from scrimpness, thy purposes from smallness. Deny thyself and take up thy cross. Do and dare, love and suffer. So shalt thou build a character that will abide all the tests which future years or ages may bring.
Bear constantly in mind that you are endlessly improvable. “It is for God and for Omnipotency to do mighty things in a moment; but degreeingly to grow to greatness is the course that He hath left for man.” To the conscious human self there belong possibilities of such moment that no one can well study them without being either thrillingly impressed or made to experience unusual emotions. The conclusion is, therefore, unavoidable, that every soul can become great. By processes of culture to which it is able to subject itself, it can perpetually increase in wisdom, in strength, and in nobleness.
The soul’s chief capabilities may, for the sake of elucidation, be represented as so many different rooms within itself, each of which can be made to have a spaciousness equaled by no material amplitude ever yet ascertained, and each of which, so long as it is kept in the process of growth, is and will be susceptible of fresh furnishing. These apartments of the minor man are too wonderful to admit being depicted either by a writer’s pen or by a painter’s brush. Their most distinguishing characteristics can, at best, only be indicated. Who can tell how much knowledge can find place in them, or what volumes of feeling they can contain? Who can declare the magnitude of the grandest traits that, in them, can have freedom to thrive and bear fruit? Who can estimate the length and breadth, the height and depth of the loftiest inspirations or the noblest joys that, in them, can be experienced? To give a full expression to the utmost intelligence, potency, amiability, purity, meritoriousness and majesty that can reside in the capability–rooms of a human soul–would be equivalent to picturing the imaginable or to portraying the infinite, and to do either the one or the other is impossible. One may be sadly indifferent to the value of his soul’s foremost capabilities, may inadequately exercise them, and may secure to them merely a dwarf-like compass; but there is never a time when they can not be made to transcend the limits of development to which they have attained. Their possessor can educate them forever. He can unceasingly add to their roominess and resource. In all time to come he can cause them to continue to exceed breadth after breadth. Oh, who can conceive how great his mental being is able to become? Who can comprehend how elevated a life it is possible for him to live? Who can be liable to overrate the vastness of the destiny for which he was created?
In the language of Hughes, “Our case is like that of a traveler on the Alps, who should fancy that the top of the next hill must end his journey because it terminates his prospect, but he no sooner arrives at it, than he sees new ground and other hills beyond it, and continues to travel on as before.” The thought of the soul’s improvability is well adapted to quicken torpid virtue and to revive drooping aspirations. It tends to scatter the gloom resulting from disappointed endeavors. Let it but have a star-like clearness in the mind, and there will spring from it an ever-new interest in life and being.
We know that the paths of usefulness and affection must sometimes be strewn with smitten leaves and faded bloom, and that the heart must sometimes be chilled by harsh changes, even as the face of nature is chilled by rude winds. We know that we are doomed to find thorns in roses, and to suffer from “thorns in the flesh.” We know that there are for us hours when the sunshine without must be darkened by shadows within; when we must be pierced by trials; when we must be humbled by afflictions. Yet, so we but duly know our mental possibilities, how much there is to animate us and to make us hopeful. Well may we go our way, with a high ambition and with good cheer. Well may we prize, as a stage of action, this old stone-ribbed earth, whereon we can behold the beauty of emerald meadows and of blossoming plants, and can hear the songs of russet-bosomed robins and the prattle of children, the voice of the vernal breeze, and the sound of the summer rain. Oh, who that ever muses on the soul’s heirship to the divine, can wish he had never been born? I am grateful for my existence. I rejoice that I have place amid the bright-robed mysteries which surround me. I glory in the shifting scenery of the seasons. No flaw do I find in the sun, the moon, or the stars. No prayer have I to make that the grass which grows at my feet may be fairer than it is, or that the mornings and evenings may be more attractive. Let me know as I may, and feel as I should, the truth that I am endlessly improvable, and I am assured that the soul of the universe will somehow sweeten every bitter allotment that falls to me, will “charm my pained steps over the burning marl" which belongs to the course of probationary experience, and will assist me joyfully to approximate the greatness of His own infinite and tranquil character. It is bliss to feel that the soul is an ever-enduring entity. Unlike the clouds and the snow-heaps, the fluids and the liquids, the rocks and the metals–unlike all the generations of living organisms–it neither wastes away nor loses its distinctiveness. Nay, it outlasts every transmuting process, and, as a self-identifying self, is endlessly living.
If we reach the high plane of a perfect manhood, we must climb. “Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter."–Rev., iv, 1. In this mystical Revelation we behold the seer, John, dreaming at the base of the celestial hill, and in his dream he hears a voice commanding him to rise to the summit of the eternities, where, standing, he shall behold all things that must be. This vision has an infinite significance, in that no small part of the felicity associated with the| idea of eternity is the thought that, with ample mind, we shall perfectly understand the mighty plan and enterprise of God, and know with perfect knowledge that which is dark and obscure now. But not only has this truth to us an infinite significance; it has also a temporal one, in that it tells us that there is an immediate relationship between elevation of life, between high thinking, living and doing, and the power to command the future. “Come up hither, and I will show thee things which must be hereafter.” That is, let us stand high and we see far and wide, let us stand high and we see deep. Elevation grants perspective and yields the possession of those years not only that are, but that are not. Now, so understood, these words have much inspiration, comfort and solace for all of us, for a very large part of man’s life is future. Indeed, the great regulative force of every human spirit is not so much the present and the past–present opportunity and past experience–as future ideality. The architectonic principle of life is not the momentum that sweeps down to us from the years that have been, but the ideal that lies deep in the years that are yet to be. This is the mysterious, occult power that moulds, forms and fashions our stature, and that is determining the greatness or the littleness of our destiny. And not only is the future architectonic, it is also an inspiration and refuge for our anxieties, defeats and inadequacy, his incompetency, how little he has achieved, realizes his inconsequence and insignificance, and he looks forward and sees triumph in tomorrow; he beholds the summit of the hill, and says, “There I shall stand victorious some future day.” Today incomplete, tomorrow complete; today imperfect, tomorrow perfect; today bound, tomorrow emancipated; today humiliated, tomorrow crowned. Hence, the future is man’s refuge, hope and strength. And in a yet more profound sense does the future exert a wonderful power over our lives, in that it holds for us the inheritance undefiled and incorruptible, the patrimony of eternity. And who can measure the influence of this belief over human character? Blot it out, and what inspiration have we to struggle on? If we are to perish as the beast of the field, wither like the grass, and vanish like the transient cloud, man has no grand, sublime impulsion in this life. But let him believe that he is the child of God, that there is an immortal soul, not only in him, but an eternal sphere awaiting him–let him believe that here he is but in the bud, that these seventy years are but the seed time, and that infinite eons lie before him for fruition and efflorescence, and you magnify his spirit, enlarge his hope, and inspire him with a zeal to conquer and achieve.
But now there is a popular philosophy that tells us that man can only know two points of time: that point of time through which he has gone–the past, and that point of time in which he is now living–the present. He may know experience and he may grasp opportunity, but he can know nothing of futurity. The future is a riddle, an unexplored continent, a terra incognita into which no human eyes have ever pried or ever may pry, sealed as it is by the counsel of God against the curious vision of His children. And to some extent I think we all must admit that this popular notion holds true. There are those to whom the future must be a blank, who peer into it and behold nothing there.
I have noticed that no great poem, no great religion, no great creation of any kind, was ever written or conceived by people who lived in the valleys, cramped by the hills. The hills narrow one’s horizon, make one insular, provincial, limited. And what is true of literature and art is true also of life. The man of low ideals never vaticinates; the man who is living down in the lower ranges of existence never prophesies. The man with a low brow has always a limited perspective; so, also, the man with a low heart or a low conscience. The sordid man can never measure the consequences of his wealth. He may know that tomorrow he will be as rich as he is today, or richer, but he can not prognosticate what his riches will mean to him tomorrow–whether he will find in them more or less felicity, whether they will be a blessing or a burden. Neither has the base man, the immoral man, any clear vision of futurity. He lives in doubts and fears, and is begirt with clouds and confusion. He half fears that there is a law of God, and half doubts it; half believes in retribution, and half doubts it; half believes in moral cause and effect, and half doubts it. He sees, with no certain sight, the inevitable penalty awaiting his wrong-doing, else he would not and dare not sin. No man would sin, could he read the future; no man would defy the Infinite, did he unerringly know that God is a just God, and that He shall visit inevitable retribution upon him who trangresses His holy law. The wicked man, like the sordid man living in the low lands, never vaticinates, and can not, not by reason of any want of talent or conscience, but by reason of want of altitude of vision. But St. John does not tell us here that all men shall know all things that must be; that all men have a sense of futurity. What he does say is that there is an intimate and indissoluble relationship between elevation and futurity; that only the man who stands upon the altitudes can command the future; for only there, when he is at his best, and when he is living on the summit of his soul, does he behold the true and perfect action of the forces and the laws of the Eternal. It is not “Stay down there and I will show thee things which must be hereafter,” but “Come up hither"–live, aspire, ascend into the altitudes of mind; ascend into the altitudes of feeling; ascend into the altitudes of conscience; live where God means you to live, and then–"I will show thee things which must be hereafter.”
And now, if you will consult your own experience or meditate on history, if you will scan the great things thought and the great things done, and the great things wrought and the great things won by man, you will see that they have been always wrought and won and done and thought upon the heights. The Muses live upon Parnassus, the Deities upon Olympus. Jehovah has his abiding place on Zion. David says, “I look unto the hills, whence cometh my help.” Not unto the meadows, or the streams, or by the forests, or the cities, or the seas, but “unto the hills, whence cometh my help.” He looks high, and his high vision grants him spiritual perspective. And Jesus speaks his great sermon, not by the Jordan, but on the mount. He is transfigured on a mount, crucified on a mount, and ascends to the right hand of His Father from a mount. Everywhere the heights play a great part in the history of human thought, feeling and faith. All great truth comes down; it does not rise up. All great religion comes down; it does not rise up. It is not the wilderness, nor the low lands, nor the level places, but Mount Carmel, Mount Horeb, Mount Zion, the Mount of the Beatitudes and the Mount of Transfiguration that are focal points of righteousness and faith. And when you look at and reflect upon men–the great men, the men who have moulded the world, who have made the massive contributions to humanity, who have dealt the Titan strokes that have redeemed the race from its servitudes and bestialities, who, like Atlas, have upheld and lifted up the world; who, like Prometheus, have brought to man precious gifts from Zeus, and so delivered him from the tyranny and dominion of his ignorance, superstitions, fears and passions–you will always find that they are men who have lived upon the lofty summits of the Spirit, and therefore have been seers of the future and have seen "those things which must be hereafter.”
Every high-minded man has always lived in the future. Take the sovereign prophet of the ancient faith. The world about him is dark and desolate; Israel’s powers are at the ebb; the great faith that she has inherited is degraded, sensualized, formalized, buried under a debris of priestcraft, infidelity, idolatry and corruption; and yet this prophet stands upon the hills and dreams–dreams against the present, dreams through all the darkness environing him–and sees the day when the faith of Israel shall be the faith of the world; when the law of Israel shall dominate the conscience of the world; when the Savior of Israel shall be the Savior of the world, and when the Jehovah of Israel shall be the Jehovah of the world. Standing high, his soul soaring, thinking lofty thoughts, he beholds Israel in glorious perspective as the nation that shall lead man from bondage to liberty, from darkness to light. Or think again of the life, the history, the hope of Jesus, and behold in Him a perfect illustration of this truth; this truth that there is an intimate relationship between high living and high thinking, high doing, high willing and the vision of the future. What right had Christ to hope at all? What right had He to think of a Kingdom of God that was going steadily to conquer and take possession of this earth? What right had He to think that His Gospel would come to be the regnant gospel over the minds of men? What right had He to think that His own beautiful spirit would prevail over the perverse and rebellious will of society? What right had he to think that the world would ever come to accept His marvelous beatitudes as truth? What right had He to believe that the cross would ever be a universal symbol of salvation? Judged from the near point of view, by immediate results, by the facts that were right before His eyes, history records no more conspicuous and terrible failure than the life of Jesus. A Savior, and yet disbelieved in by the people; a Savior, and yet scorned by the multitude; a Savior, and yet called a “wine bibber” and a “glutton;” a Savior, and yet humiliated and degraded; a Savior, and yet dying ignominiously upon the cross. Where is there any ample redemption, any glorious assertion of the mind, in these sad, gloomy, hopeless facts? And yet He said, “I, if I be lifted up, shall draw all men unto Me.” How did He dare make such a prophecy as that? How did He dare arrogate to himself such a dominion as that? Why, simply because, living in the altitudes, he had vision of things that must be. He knew that He had righteousness in His heart, and that righteousness must at last be established. He knew that His spirit was a spirit of peace and good will towards men, and that peace and good will towards men must ultimately prevail. He lived on the heights, and He saw those things that were to be. And now, what is true of these great men may be true of every one of us, according to the loftiness of our living. Every one of us may command the future–may, in a measure, prophesy and weigh the consequences, and calculate the issues of our own life; and every one of us can live a far larger, fuller and richer life, in the years that are to be than we can live in the past or in the time that is now.
And first, let me say to you that the man that lives upon the altitudes of his spirit beholds with sure vision the issuance of his life in triumph. We speak of life habitually as being a complicated and intricate thing, and no doubt it is, upon its lower ranges. A man is prosperous today, sweeping, with sails full set, before the breeze, his bark leaping gladly, mounting buoyantly upon the waves; but no man can tell what the morrow will bring forth to him. Prosperity is not a matter of certitude, security or permanency. An ill wind comes, and the vessel is swept to disaster; on the shoals or rocks, rushing to destruction against some Scylla or swallowed up by some Charybdis. And what is true of prosperity is true of power. Today a man is the idol of the people, flattered, honored, extolled and crowned by them. They gather round him and intoxicate him with their plaudits. He is the man of the people, the great man of his day, but who can tell how long this will rule enthroned? An unfortunate speech, an error of conduct, a moment of indecision, a failure to appeal to the demagogic instincts of the race, and he is ruthlessly bereaved of his honor and his glory gone. The idols of yesterday are the broken statues of today; the heroes of yesterday are the “have-beens” of today. So capricious, so ephemeral, so mutable, so mercurial, so impermanent are the whims of humanity, and so unstable its idolatries and adorations.
And as the mighty fall, so the obscure rises. Names that were unknown ten years ago are blazoned almost on the skies. The insignificant come up and take the scepter in their hand. The poor man of a little while ago is the rich merchant or the successful lawyer of today. This is his hour, this the moment of his power. Strange, is it not? There seems to be no method, no system in those lower planes of life. The rich become poor and the poor rich, the strong weak and the weak strong; the ruler becomes the ruled and the ruled the ruler; the master becomes the servant and the servant the master. No order, no system, no method anywhere in mundane things, and therefore no power of vision and vaticination.
But now in the higher things there is none of this impermanence and instability. Everything is in order here. When man is living in the fulness of his nature, when he is living on the heaven-kissing pinnacles of his spirit, when his whole being is harmonious with the great and glorious laws of God, his future is assured; it is bound to be a great and beautiful success. No possibility of failure upon the heights; every possibility of failure upon the level; every possibility of disaster down there, but upon the peaks there can be no disaster, no mistake, no accident, no dethronement; there must be inevitable and unconditional achievement. Of course, I do not mean popular achievement–achievement as men usually count achievement, or success as men ordinarily rate success. So measured, every great man’s life has been a dismal failure. Paul’s life was not a popular success, nor was Isaiah’s, nor was Augustine’s, nor was Savanarola’s, nor was Socrates’, nor was Christ’s life a popular success. Measured by terrestrial standards, measured by the low ideals of humanity, these lives were all ignominious failures, every one of them; but measured by the Divine standard, by the mind and will of God, they are triumphant victories.
And now I say that every man whose point of view is high, who is standing upon the very highest reaches of his own being, seeking sincerely to be true to all that is heroic and great in his heaven-endowed nature, that man is bound to be, by the decree of the Eternal, an ultimately successful man. He is bound, just so surely as God’s sun is bound to come tomorrow, he is bound to be crowned, not only with a celestial but with a terrestrial success–success as God measures success. He may feel pain; he may feel the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune; he may experience neglect; he may contend against a host of untoward circumstances; he may groan under the pressure and weight of many woes; he may weep bitter, burning, scalding tears of sorrow and grief, but still he must triumph, for God is just and will crown with a perfect equity His faithful children.
And so, my friends, the central truth that I deliver to you is this, that life, life upon the summit of the soul, is the supreme, resplendent luminary. Not argument, not philosophy, not the elaborate, logical processes of the intellect, not the Bible, not the church, but life; this is the great infallible interpreter. Live and ye shall see. "Do my will,” says Christ, “and ye shall know.” Stand high and firm on the summit of your soul and ye shall see the things that must be hereafter–a victorious righteousness, a triumphant life, and the redeemed hosts swathed and folded in the light of Him who is everlasting, omnipotent and all-loving.
Brethren, be merciful in your judgment of others.
Every temptation promptly resisted strengthens the will.
There is a sad want of thoughtful mercy among us all.
Every step we take on the ladder upwards helps to a higher.
If we are true Odd-Fellows we will put away all bitterness and malice.
Brothers, remember the moral harvest comes to all perfection; not one grain is lost.
As Odd-Fellows there are loads we can help others to carry, and thus learn sympathy.
The test of truthfulness is true dealing with ourselves when we do wrong and true dealing with the brethren when they fall.
It is a serious reflection that even our secret thoughts influence those around us.
The Brotherhood has a Father watching over it, “who is the same yesterday, today and forever.”
Man alone is responsible for the eternal condition of his soul. We make our own heaven or hell, not by the final act of life, but by life itself.
Truth supplies us with the only true and perfect standard by which to test the value of things, and so corrects the one-sided, materialistic standard of business.
If an Odd-Fellow begins right I can not tell how many tears he may wipe away, how many burdens he may lift, how many orphans he may comfort, how many outcasts he may reclaim.
Love edifies; that is, it builds up perfectly the whole man, secures an entire and harmonious and proportionate development of his nature. It does so by casting out the selfishness in man which always leads to a diseased and one-sided growth of his nature.
No two souls are endowed in an exactly similar way. And for the difference of endowment there is a reason in the Divine mind, for each soul in its generation has its appointed work to do, and is endowed with suitable grace for its performance.
We are not Odd-Fellows in the true sense unless we put away all bitterness, malice and selfishness. Common sense of mankind is quite right when it says a man’s religion is not worth much if it does not make him good. Have goodness first–out of goodness good works will come.
Every good work requires every good principle. A man with very prominent and striking characteristics will always be a perfect man. A perfect man has such harmonies that he scarcely has a characteristic. To be fruitful in every good work you must have in your heart the germs and seeds, the springs and sources of all Christian virtue.
We are all greater dupes to our weakness than to the skill of others; and the successes gained over us by the designing are usually nothing more than the prey taken from those very snares we have laid ourselves. One man falls by his ambition, another by his perfidy, a third by his avarice, and a fourth by his lust; what are these but so many nets, watched indeed by the fowler, but woven by the victim?
Sorrow is not an accident–occurring now and then–it is the very woof which is woven into the warp of life, and he who has not discerned the divine sacredness of sorrow, and the profound meaning which is concealed in pain, has yet to learn what life is. The cross manifested as the necessity of the highest life alone interprets it.
Equity–An eternal rule of right, implanted in the heart. What it asks for itself it is willing to grant to others. It not only forbids us to do wrong to the meanest of God’s creatures, but it teaches us to observe the golden rule, “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do you even so to them.” There is no greater injunction–no better rule to practice.
Don’t rely on friends–don’t rely on the name of your ancestors. Thousands have spent the prime of life in the vain hope of help from those whom they called friends, and many thousands have starved because they have rich fathers. Rely upon the good name which is made by your own exertions, and know that better than the best friend you can have is unquestionable determination, united with decision of character.
How little is known of what is in the bosom of those around us! We might explain many a coldness could we look into the heart concealed from us; we should often pity where we hate, love when we curl the lip with scorn and indignation. To judge without reserve of any human action is a culpable temerity, of all our sins the most unfeeling and frequent.
How a common sorrow or calamity spans the widest social differences and welds all, the rich and poor, in one common bond of sympathy, which, begetting charity and all her train, softens the hardest heart and banishes the sturdiest feeling of superiority! Over the lifeless body of the departed, enemies and friend can weep together, and, burying strife and differences with their common loss, feel a kinship which unites them, and which all humanity shares.
Don’t be exacting.–An exacting temper is one against which to guard both one’s heart and the nature of those who are under our control and influence. To give and to allow, to suffer and to bear, are the graces more to the purpose of a noble life than cold, exacting selfishness, which must have, let who will go without, which will not yield, let who will break. It is a disastrous quality wherewith to go through the world; for it receives as much pain as it inflicts, and creates the discomfort it deprecates.
Verily, good works constitute a refreshing stream in this world, wherever they are found flowing. It is a pity that they are too often like oriental torrents, “waters that fail” in times of greatest need. When we meet the stream actually flowing and refreshing the land, we trace it upward, in order to discover the fountain whence it springs. Threading our way upward, guided by the river, we have found at length the placid lake from which the river runs. Behind all genuine good works and above them, love will, sooner or later, certainly be found. It is never good alone; uniformly, in fact, and necessarily in the nature of things, we find the two constituents existing as a complex whole, “love and good works,” the fountain and the flowing stream.
Never give up old friends for new ones. Make new ones if you like, and when you have learned that you can trust them, love them if you will, but remember the old ones still. Do not forget they have been merry with you in time of pleasure, and when sorrow came to you they sorrowed also. No matter if they have gone down in social scale and you up; no matter if poverty and misfortune have come to them while prosperity came to you; are they any less true for that? Are not their hearts as warm and tender if they do beat beneath homespun instead of velvet? Yes, kind reader, they are as true, loving and tender; don’t forget old friends.
Young men! Let the nobleness of your mind impel you to its improvement; you are too strong to be defeated, save by yourselves. Refuse to live merely to sleep and eat. Brutes can do this; but you are men. Act the part of men. Prepare yourselves to endure toil. Resolve to rise–you have but to resolve. Nothing can hinder your success if you determine to succeed. Do not waste your time by wishing and dreaming, but go earnestly to work. Let nothing discourage you. If you have no books, borrow them; if you have no teachers, teach yourself; if your early education has been neglected, by the greater diligence repair the defect. Let not a craven heart or a love of ease rob you of the inestimable benefit of self-culture.
Have the courage to face a difficulty, lest it kick you harder than you bargained for. Difficulties, like thieves, often disappear at a glance. Have the courage to leave a convivial party at the proper hour for doing so, however great the sacrifice; and to stay away from one upon the slightest grounds for objection, however great the temptation to go. Have the courage to do without that which you do not need, however much you may admire it. Have the courage to speak your mind when it is necessary that you should do so, and hold your tongue when it is better you should be silent. Have the courage to speak to a poor friend in a seedy coat, even in the street, and when a rich one is nigh. The effort is less than many people take it to be, and the act is worthy of a king. Have the courage to admit that you have been in the wrong, and you will remove the fact in the mind of others, putting a desirable impression in the place of an unfavorable one. Have the courage to adhere to the first resolution when you can not change it for a better, and abandon it at the eleventh hour upon conviction.
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.”
Being invited some time since to deliver an address before a benevolent
institution, and being pressed amid the daily business cares which
surrounded, I was fearful I should not be able to command sufficient
time for preparation of the task. Returning home, I retired to my bed,
my thoughts still keeping themselves in active motion in their endeavor
to “think out” what I should say. In this state of mind I fell asleep,
and soon was in dreamland. I dreamed that death had taken place, and
as I approached the gates of the unseen world, I was met by an angel,
who kindly tendered his services in escorting me through the realms of
Heaven. Being a stranger there, I gladly and gracefully accepted his
kind invitation. Proceeding along the pearly streets, enraptured with
the beauties which surrounded me, I saw a multitude of people, the
number of whom figures fail to compute; but I noticed there were
dividing lines, and they were gathered in companies. Observing a
beautiful body of water in the distance, and a gathering of one company
by its banks, I inquired of my escort who they were. He replied they
were Baptists, and said “they always keep near the water’s edge.” Just
beyond was another company, which my faithful attendant informed me was
a Presbyterian band, and that their infant baptism views still clinging
to them was one of the causes of their “corralling” together. Just
then we heard loud and prolonged shouting and singing of the hymn
"Shall we gather at the river,” and, pointing to the spot from whence
it came, near a beautiful stream not far off, the angel said: “Those
are the Methodists. They never cease shouting, and so loud are they at
times that they annoy the Episcopalians, whom you see on the opposite
side of the stream, in their discussion of the doctrine of apostolic
succession.” Seeing still other gatherings farther on, I was anxious
to go thither and mingle with them; but my guide remonstrated, saying:
"You can see from this standpoint the representatives of all churches.
There, said he, are the Catholics and the Jews, the Universalists and
the Congregationalists, the Unitarians and the Moravians, all with
their varied ’creeds,’ and if you go that way you will be surrounded by
them, each trying to prove that you got to Heaven through their
peculiar doctrine or faith.”
Turning to the right, we moved on, only to pass to more gorgeous and beautiful apartments, where the streets were golden. Here I observed another multitude, but it was one body. “This,” said the angel, “is the gathering of the various priests and pastors, rectors and rabbis, and the ministers and the elders who are trying to unite on some common ground upon which their congregations (which we had passed) might stand, where there would be but ’One Lord, one faith, one baptism.’" Gal., iv, 5. For, said the angel, until then, they go not up with their churches and creeds to higher seats above, for “neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision.” Gal., v, 6.
Proceeding on our way we approached a magnificent archway, over the lintels of which was inscribed, “The Christian’s Home in Glory.” The grandeur of this new apartment exceeded all the rest, a description of which lies beyond the power of words, “For eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I Cor., ii, 9. This I found to be the abode of the apostles, martyrs and Christians of all ages. Here was Paul and Peter, and the prophets, the thief on the cross and Bunyan, Lazarus and Baxter, Stephen and Father Abraham, Martha and Mary and the widow who gave her two mites. Pausing, I beheld, with banners above, an innumerable number “marching on,” with Lincoln and Lovejoy, Lyman, Beecher and John Brown in the advance, and on the banners was inscribed, “These are they which came out of great tribulation.” Rev., viii, 14. The angel said: “That is the multitude of poor slaves from the cotton fields of earth, doing homage to their deliverers.” “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.” Rev., vii, 16. Here I also found Watts and Wesley singing, while Bliss (who had but lately been translated from earth to heaven by way of Ashtabula bridge), catching the inspiration, was setting the songs of Heaven to the music of earth. Gazing on the many thrones and crowns, there were some of peculiar brightness. I looked on one, and what was the inscription? Was it, I was a Methodist? No. I was immersed? No. I was a Jew? No. But rather this: “Because I delivered the poor that cried and fatherless, and him that had none to help him, the blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me, and I caused the widow’s heart to sing with joy.” Job, xxix, 12, 14. And this was the crown of Job. And there was another just beyond, and I read the inscription. Was it, I was a Presbyterian? No. I prayed by quantity? No. I was a Universalist? No. But “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” James, i, 27. And while the memory and name of Peabody, the philanthropist, is and shall be honored and loved for ages to come in two hemispheres, his crown of glory in heaven is second to none. But there was still another. It was worn by one of queenly beauty, and she sat upon her throne; the splendor of her robe and the brilliancy of her apparel dimmed my vision. I read her inscription, set, as it was, in Heaven’s choicest diamonds. Was it, I was an Episcopalian? No. I was baptized? No. I was a Catholic? No. But thus: “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in; naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.” Matt., xxv, 35, 36. And before her throne stood thousands who had come up from the battle fields of the Crimea, and the widows and orphans, the lame and the halt, the blind and the deaf from the streets and alleys of London, and as they shouted their hallelujahs before her, they carried banners on which were emblazoned these words: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matt., xxv, 40. And the crown of Florence Nightingale glistens brightly in Heaven. Passing on, and observing a large number of vacant thrones and crowns, I naturally asked, for whom are these? The angel replied: “For the Christians of earth; the managers of the ’homes’ for the friendless, the widows and the orphans, and those who, regardless of their respective church creeds and doctrines, like their Master when he was on earth, go about doing good.” The angel vanished, and I awoke.
MORAL.–Brethren, in our tenacity for church creeds, let us not fail in the practice of a little daily Christianity. “Finally, brethren, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things." Gal., iv, 8.
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!”
Genuine love and sympathy are what wins the hearts of our fellows.
A Christian ought always to wake up in the morning in a good humor.
Remember that sorrow and pain soften the heart and sweeten the temper.
The young man who sees no beauty in a flower will make a mean husband.
If you love young people’s work you will prove it by laboring and sacrificing for it.
Begin active work in your society at once, and do not fail to see that each one has something to do.
The fact that God gives any consideration to mere mites of humanity scattered about the surface of this little world of ours is conclusive proof of His infinity.
What a blessing it is that we can not always do what we wish to do, or have everything our own way.
Many words are no more an indication of depth of feeling and heart than are boiling bubbles in a frying pan.
There are some people who would scorn to keep bad company, but who think the worst kind of thoughts by the hour.
Do not wait for somebody else to put your society on the roll of honor. If you want a thing well done, do it yourself.
If the very hairs of our head are numbered, then why should we not consult the Father in regard to all our temporal affairs?
How the heart of God must yearn for the record of lives devoted to humanity. He asks no higher service of man than this.
The truly great man is that one who is satisfied if he is doing to the utmost limit of his capacity the thing which he has at hand.
God would never make the mistake of helping any young man or young woman who did not make every possible effort to help himself.
Do not make the mistake of thinking you are the biggest man in your society. Bigger men than you have died and have not been missed after forty-eight hours.
The girl who is caught by gold-headed canes, carried by heads with no brains on the inside and only pasted hair on the outside, has a pitiable future before her.
No pain, no privation, no sacrifice endured for Christ is a loss, but is rather a gain. Christ will not forget those who suffered for Him when He comes to make up His jewels.
Sunday manners are just like Sunday clothes; everybody can tell that you put them on for the occasion only, and know that you are not used to wearing them through the week.
The devil led the Prodigal Son away from a good home into the gay society of the world, and amused him with the pleasures of sin till he got him down, then he fed him on husks. That is the way he works.
A good many church members do not like to have it known how much they give for missions. They remind us of the man who said, when asked about the amount he gave, “What I give is nothing to nobody.”
The reason why some people do not want the preacher to preach on personal sins, is because they are afraid he might say something against them.
When we see a man going to get water at his neighbor’s well, we naturally suppose his own is dry. So when we see a Christian seeking the pleasures of the world, we suppose he no longer finds pleasure in religion.
To know which way a stream of water is flowing, you must not look at the little eddy, but at the main current, and to know which way a life is tending, you must not look at a single act, but at the whole trend of the life.
Satan likes to discourage people, to hinder them in the performance of their Christian duties, but remember that Christ has said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” Go steadily forward in the line of duty and success will crown your efforts.
The light of a candle can not be seen very far in the light of a noon-day sun, but at night it may be seen for a long distance and may be a guiding star to some poor wanderer. And so, God sometimes darkens our way that we may shine.
The man who prays for the conversion of the heathen, and then spends a great deal more for tobacco than he gives to missions, is certainly not very consistent in his praying and giving.
Thomas Hood once wrote to his wife: “I never was anything, dearest, till I knew you; and I have been a better, happier, and more prosperous man ever since. Lay by that truth in lavender, sweetest, and remind me of it when I fail.”
“I believe one reason why such numerous instances of erudition occur among the lower ranks is, that with the same powers of mind the poor student is limited to a narrower circle for indulging his passion for books, and must necessarily make himself master of the few he possesses before he can acquire more."–Walter Scott.
Christians should not forget that God uses human agency in the work of salvation. The only reason that there are not more saved, is because the people of God do not put themselves at his disposal for the work. The Lord wants all to be saved, but they will not be saved until the people of God are willing to let the Lord use them to bring the lost unto Himself.
Deceit and falsehood, whatever conveniences they may for a time promise or produce, are, in the sum of life, obstacles to happiness. Those who profit by the cheat distrust the deceiver; and the act by which kindness was sought puts an end to confidence.
The judges of the election can not tell the difference, when they are counting the votes, between the one cast by the minister of the gospel and the one cast by the saloon-keeper, when it has been cast for the same party. Vote for principle rather than for party.
“Let every man,” said Sydney Smith, “be occupied in the highest employment of which his nature is capable, and die with the consciousness that he has done his best.” If the highest employment is not to be found in our avocations, let us seek it in our leisure.
Beware of anger of the tongue; control the tongue. Beware of anger of the mind; control the mind. Practice virtue with thy tongue and with thy mind. By reflection, by restraint and control, a wise man can make himself an island which no floods can overwhelm. He who conquers himself is greater than he who in battle conquers a thousand men. He who is tolerant with the intolerant, mild with the fault-finders, and free from passion with the passionate, him I call indeed a wise man.
Brothers, keep posted in what your lodge is doing; knowing who is sick; inquire if there is not some widow in need of help; some poor orphan that should be clothed and provided with a home and sent to school. Remember that the widow was your brother’s wife, and the children your brother’s. Be a brother to the widow, and a kind uncle to your brother’s children. There is plenty of work for you, and you agreed to do it. Cheer up the care-worn traveler on his pilgrimage–help the weak and weary, the lonely and sad ones. Time is passing by, and we have none too much of it in which to do our work. Remember that if we expect to complete our labor, now is the time; soon all will be over with us, and then all that we shall leave behind, by which to be remembered, will be the good or evil we have done. If we have done good it will be emblazoned on many hearts, and our names will be spoken of with reverence and love; but if we have done evil, our names will be blotted out of the memory of the good and true, and we despised.
“How is’t the sons of men are sad, Oppressed with grief and care? How is’t that some of this world’s goods, Have such a scanty share? Why should the orphan’s piercing cry, Assail so oft our ear, And thousands find the world to be All desolate and drear?
“We do not solve the mystery Of woes, the lot of man, But in the lodge we all unite To do the good we can. ’Tis there we learn the pleasing task To soothe the troubled breast, To educate the orphan child, And succor the distressed.
“Our motto–Friendship, Love and Truth– These e’er shall be our guide, Our aim shall be, of misery To stop the running tide.”
We ask not what’s a brother’s faith, What country gave him birth; But open the door to every creed And nation of the earth.
Hail, Charity! Odd-Fellows all Bow down before thy shrine; They raise no altar, make no vow, That is not wholly thine.
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.”
More hopeful than all wisdom is one draught of human pity that will not
Laughing is one of the products of civilization. In the uncivilized tribes laughter is entirely unknown.
Let him who neglects to raise the fallen fear lest, when he falls, no one will stretch out his hand to lift him up.
Time is a species of wealth which it is impossible for us to hoard, but which we may spend to good advantage.
Character is the eternal temple that each one begins to rear, yet death can only complete it. The finer the architecture, the more fit for the indwelling of angels.
It is only by labor that thought can be made healthy, and only by thought that labor can be made happy; and the two can not be separated with impunity.–John Ruskin.
Don’t moralize to a man who is on his back. Help him up, set him firmly on his feet, and then give him advice and means.
There is a pleasure in contemplating good; there is a greater pleasure in receiving good; but the greatest pleasure of all is in doing good, which comprehends the rest.
Morality without religion is only a kind of dead reckoning–an endeavor to navigate a cloudy sea by measuring the distance we have to run, but without observation of the heavenly bodies.
Most people keep too strong a hold of their personality to be able to forget themselves in their subject; they carry an unacknowledged self-consciousness along with them. If to be single-minded is to have an undivided interest in things, they are not single-minded.
Real affection is independent. A woman may passionately love a man who does not care for her, and men have gone mad for the sake of women who were indifferent to them. That affection which survives coldness or even contempt on the part of the subject is a stronger proof of its strength than jealousy, however well founded.
To have a respect for ourselves guides our morals, and to have a deference for others governs our manners.
If you want to be miserable, think about yourself, about what you want, what you like, what respect people pay you, and what people think of you.
One great impediment to the rapid dissemination of new truths is that a knowledge of them would convict many sage professors of having long promulgated error.
The leaves that give out the sweetest fragrance are those that are the most cruelly crushed; so the hearts of those who have suffered most can feel for others’ woes.
Each of us can so believe in humanity in general as to contribute to that pressure which constantly levers up the race; can surround ourselves with an atmosphere optimistic rather than the contrary.–Selected.
He who has more knowledge than good works is like a tree with many branches and few roots, which the first wind throws on its face; while he who does more than he says is like a tree with strong roots and few branches, which all the winds can not uproot.–Talmud.
If we waited until it was perfectly convenient, half of the good actions of life would never be accomplished, and very few of its successes.
A helping word to one in trouble is often like a switch on a railroad track, but one inch between wreck and smooth rolling prosperity.
Prayer is the key of day and lock of the night; and we should every day begin and end, bid ourselves good morrow and good night, with prayer.
In order to love mankind, expect but little from them; in order to view their faults without bitterness, pardon them. The wisest men have always been the most indulgent.
There are souls which fall from heaven like flowers, but ere the pure and fresh buds can open they are trodden in the dust of the earth, and lie soiled and crushed under the foul tread of some brutal hoof.
Many of the men we calmly set down as failures may have been doing as much as those who have made ten times as much noise in the world. A great deal of the best work in the world is anonymous, if we do not confine the term to writing.
To a man of brave sentiments midnight is as bright as noonday, for the illumination is within.
That man who lives in vain lives worse than vain. He who lives to no purpose lives to a bad purpose.–Nevins.
Labor is the law of the world, and he who lives by other men’s means is of less value to the world than the buzzing, busy insect.
Deep is the sea, and deep is hell, but pride runneth deeper; it is coiled as a poisonous worm about the foundation of the soul.–Tupper.
The integrity of the heart, when it is strengthened by reason, is the principal source of justice and wit; an honest man thinks nearly always justly.
Be firm, but be not too hasty to decide; weigh well before you act, but, having weighed, act promptly, and abide the result. This is the test of judgment.
Wit loses its respect with the good when seen in company with malice; and to smile at the jest which plants a thorn in another’s breast is to become a principal in the mischief.
Success never did, never will come to that young man who knows everything–in his own opinion.
In love, as in everything else, truth is the strongest of all things, and frankness is but another name for truth.
Frequent disappointment teaches us to mistrust our own inclination, and shrink even from vows our hearts may prompt.
For children there is no leave-taking, for they acknowledge no past, only the present, that to them is full of the future.
To love, in order to be loved in return, is man, but to love for the pure sake of loving, is almost the characteristic of an angel.
Fond as a man is of sight-seeing, life is the great show for every man–the show always wonderful and new to the thoughtful.
The sweetest book in all the world, if properly read, is the Bible. Its leaves are as fragrant as a bed of violets in full bloom.
Pity gilds mortality with rays of immortal light, and through faith enables its possessor to triumph over sin, sorrow, tribulation and death.
If we can not live so as to be happy, let us at least live so as to deserve happiness.–Fichte.
Little by little fortunes are accumulated; little by little knowledge is gained; little by little character and reputation are achieved.
Don’t rely for success upon empty praise. The swimmer upon the stream of life must be able to keep afloat without the aid of bladders.
Industry–In seeking a situation, remember that the right kind of men are always in demand, and that industry and capacity rarely go empty-handed.
Frankness is the child of honesty and courage. Say just what you mean to do on every occasion, and take it for granted that you mean to do what is right.
To be always intending to lead a new life, but never to find time to set about it, is as if a man should put off eating from one day to another till he is starved.
A man loved by a beautiful and virtuous woman carries a talisman that renders him invulnerable; every one feels that such a one’s life has a higher value than that of others.
The great beauty of charity is privacy; there is a sweet force, even in an anonymous penny.
Every heart has its secret sorrows, and oftentimes we call a man cold when he was only sad.
A promise should be given with caution, and kept with care; it should be made with the heart and kept with the head.
“The mind of a young creature,” says Berkely, “can not remain empty; if you do not put into it that which is good, it will be sure to use even that which is bad.”
We all see at sunset the beautiful colors streaming all over the western sky, but no eyes can behold the hand that overturns the urns whence these streams are poured.
We often live under a cloud, and it is well for us that we should do so. Uninterrupted sunshine would parch our hearts. We want shade and rain to cool and refresh them.
Poverty is very terrible to you, and kills the soul in you sometimes; but it is the north wind that lashed men into vikings; it is the soft, luscious south wind that lulls to lotus dreams.
There is nothing so valuable, and yet so cheap, as civility; you can almost buy land with it.
It has been justly said nothing in man is so Godlike as doing good to our fellows.–Selected.
Contentment swells a mite into a talent, and makes even the poor richer than the Indies.–Addison.
Never was a sincere word utterly lost, never a magnanimity fell to the ground; there is some heart always to greet and accept it unexpectedly.
There are people who often talk of the humbleness of their origin, when they are really ashamed of it, though vain of the talent which enabled them to emerge from it.
A witty old deacon put it thus: “Now, brethren, let us get up a supper and eat ourselves rich. Buy your food, then give it to the church; then go and buy it back again; then eat it up, and your church debt is paid.”
Self-sacrifice is the essential mark of the Christian, and the absence of it is sufficient at once to condemn the man who calls himself by that name and yet has it not, and to declare that he has no right to it.–Bolton.
There are many comfortable people in the world, but to call any man perfectly happy is an insult.
Women often make light of ruin. Give them but the beloved objects, and poverty is but a trifling sorrow to bear.–Thackeray,
Independence is a name for what no man possesses; nothing in the animate or inanimate world is more dependent than man.
Wealth is to be used only as an instrument of action, not as the representative of civil honors and moral excellence.–Jane Porter.
There is nothing purer, nothing warmer than our first friendship, our first love, our first striving after truth, our first feeling for nature.–Jean Paul Richter.
Shakespeare is as much out of the category of eminent authors as he is out of the crowd. He is inconceivably wise; the others conceivably.–Representative Men.
A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner. Neither do uninterrupted prosperity and success qualify a man for usefulness and happiness. The storms of adversity, like the storms of the ocean, arouse the faculties and excite the invention, prudence, skill and fortitude of the voyager.
It is not work that hurts men. It is the corrosion of uncertainty; it is the anticipation of trouble; it is living in a state of painful apprehension. Therefore we should endeavor to rise out of the atmosphere of gloomy forebodings. The man who is lifted above fear and its whole brood of mischief can go through twice as much trouble as a man who is subject to its influence.
He that looks out upon life from a sour or severe disposition, with hard and stringent notions, is ill prepared to meet the experiences of the world; but he who has the sweetness of hope, he who has an imagination lit up with cheerfulness, he who has the sense of humor which softens all things–he who has this atmosphere of the mind–has made himself superior to accident. As the angel described by Milton, who was smitten by the sword, and whose wounds healed as soon as the sword was withdrawn, so ought man to be; and when he receives a spear thrust in life, no sooner should the spear be withdrawn than his flesh ought to “close and be itself again.”
A married man falling into misfortune is more apt to retrieve his situation in the world than a single one, chiefly because his spirits are soothed and retrieved by domestic endearments, and his self-respect kept alive by finding that, although all abroad is darkness and humiliation, yet there is a little world of love at home over which he is monarch.
Miss Frances Power Cobb is right, and she is wrong, when she says: “It
is a woman, and only a woman–a woman all by herself, if she likes, and
without any man to help her–who can turn a house into a home.” She is
unquestionably right in her judgment, that it is a woman who can, if
she will, turn a house into a home, but she is much in the wrong in her
assertion that it is a woman all by herself, without any man to help
her, who can effect such a beneficial transformation. Woman possesses
magical powers in the way of building up a home; but home naturally
implies the presence and protection of man–and it is man himself, if
he likes, and without any woman to help him, who can give that home a
semblance of that place where, as some people believe, the wicked
suffer after they have “shuffled off this mortal coil.” The husband
can never make the home, but he can succeed most admirably, if so he
choose, to unmake it, to banish its happiness and comfort, to exile
from it its ministering angels of peace and content, to shatter woman’s
sweet and blessed work to its very foundation. Let the wife
concentrate, all day long, all her care and ingenuity and love upon
building up her little paradise at home, let her hands be ever so busy
in strewing fresh flowers around the domestic hearth, let her heart be
ever so happy throughout the day in the discharge of her domestic
duties, let her countenance be ever so beaming in her sweet
anticipation of the happy smile of appreciation, of the kind word of
sympathy and encouragement, which shall be her reward when her husband
returns; and then see this star in her domestic firmament enter,
sulking and surly, blind to all that her busy hands have so lovingly
prepared, grim and gruff to her and the little ones, who have been
fitted up in their neatest and cleanest, in which to welcome their
father’s return, and then see whether you can agree with Miss Cobb’s
assertion “that it is a woman, and only a woman–a woman all by
herself, if she likes, and without any man to help her–who can turn a
house into a home.” See how her heart sinks, how her voice, full of
mirth and glee and music before his coming, dies in her throat, how the
little ones, full of merriment all day long, tremblingly hide in the
corner, or withdraw from the room; see how the intrusion of this grim
spectre of malcontent shuts the door upon domestic peace and happiness,
and withers every pious resolve to make home the dearest, sweetest,
most contented and most sacred spot on earth, and then calculate how
long, under such disheartening surroundings, woman will be able all by
herself, and without any man to help her, to prevent her house from
becoming anything and everything except a home.
While studying language, I observed that most of my mistakes in grammar occurred in the feminine gender, and thinking over the cause of it, it dawned upon me that, belonging to the masculine sex, I was in the habit of thinking in that gender, and that my teachers were men, and that my text-books and grammars had been written by men, and that the masculine gender predominated so strongly in the exercises, that it was but natural for me to make the greatest number of mistakes in the gender to which the least attention had been given. When dealing with the social and domestic question, the unbiased among us can not but observe a similar failing. Many a serious mistake has been made by man when speaking or writing concerning women, because our speakers and writers and preachers and teachers belonged from the very beginning of civilization, almost exclusively to the masculine sex, a sex which has never tired in exalting itself at the expense of the weaker sex, in emphasizing woman’s inferiority to man, in asserting its rights, and in complaining about its wrongs, and as woman did not write or speak for herself, we have heard but little of her side of the story, know next to nothing of her just rights and of her grievous wrongs, seldom dream that she, too, has rights that must be respected, and suffers wrongs that must be corrected.
The universities, colleges and all great institutions of learning of this and other lands refused, until quite recently, to recognize woman as a human being possessing a mind in need of training, and therefore excluded her from their privileges, and the order of Odd-Fellows partook of the same spirit and excluded the better half of the human race from its lodge-rooms. Man had ever been a selfish, conceited, cowardly tyrant from the day in which our father Adam disgraced his sex by taking without question the forbidden fruit; and, after eating it, crying with selfish, pusillanimous cowardice: “The woman thou gavest to be with me gave me of the tree and I did eat,” and he has always sought to make and keep woman an inferior, dependent, submissive slave. To this end he has striven to keep her in ignorance, exclude her from all the avenues of knowledge, and then, because she did not possess the knowledge that he had forbidden her, proclaimed throughout the world that she was mentally inferior to man, and in consequence unfit to be admitted to the various institutions and associations in which men sought to improve their minds.
The object of Odd-Fellowship is to improve and elevate the character of man, to enlighten his mind and enlarge the sphere of his affections, and of course woman, as being mentally weak and naturally inferior to man, was excluded from its sacred precincts. Now, however, things are changed; nearly all educational institutions worthy of mention admit women, and the Rebekah of today, emulating the Rebekah of old, will be hand in hand with her brothers in all good works. She will accompany him on his errands of mercy, watch beside the bedside of anguish, foregoing pleasure to follow in the path of duty.
I would have every man know–who has a wife–that “mutual benefit from harmonious partnership work” is an axiom in as full a sense as “in union there is strength.”
There are two sides to every question, and in this article I shall deal with the woman’s side. I want to present especially the wife’s side of the question to every Odd-Fellow, hoping that it will be of lasting benefit in many ways. I know full well that only one accustomed to deal with high and holy things, one whose glance is ever at sacred things, one who, as it were, administers the treasures of the kingdom of God, can fittingly touch this subject. It would be easy for me to be a cheap wit, to rake up the old scandal of Mother Eve, to even declaim with windy volubility that a woman betrayed the capital, that a woman lost Mark Anthony the world and left old Troy in ashes. But far be it from me! Rather would I assume a loftier mood; rather would I strike a loftier note, and, with blind Homer, beg for an unwearied tongue to chant the praise of woman. It is true Eve lost us Eden, but in that garden of monotonous delight, had we been born there, we would never have truly known what woman is. O, Felix Culpa! O, happy fault! that has shown the world the mines of rich affection of woman’s heart, that else would never have been discovered. O, happy fault, that has shown the world a wealth of woman’s nature, her capability for love, the radiance of her tenderness, her infinite pity, her unswerving devotion, the solace of her presence in sickness and sorrow, the depth and sweetness of her mercy.
A river of pure delight flowed through paradise, but blind Adam never saw it, never dreamed of it until the flaming sword cut him off forever; but he has since drank of it, and so has every man who has ever tasted the sacramental wine of woman’s true affection. The seamy side of life has been laid bare to me. Its sorrows and its anguishes have I often witnessed, but into that pool of Bethesida of the world’s anguish, with healing do I see ever come an angel, a pitying woman. The influence of wife and mother is ever near me; their faces are the most lovely; their hearts the most tender of all in this world–my mother and my wife. And for their sake, and for the sake of all the mothers, wives, sisters and daughters, whom I daily meet doing good, I long and I earnestly yearn for the eloquence and grace to half express the thoughts that rise within me of what the world owes woman.
To me every good woman is the fair fulfillment of dreamed delight. She is the first at the cross and the last at the grave. All that is highest and best in the world is nurtured and fed by the milk of her nobility. The Christ of all greatness and hope was born of a woman. The noble women of the world! O, would that the days of chivalry were not past, that I might unsheath a lance in their name, for their glory! But in our more prosaic days, what can I do but let the will suffice for the deed, and say to the woman, “God bless you.” I propose to let her speak for herself today. I propose to accept her invitation to accompany her through the various spheres of her domestic life, and see whether she alone is responsible for that vice and crime and misfortune which moralists and superintendents of penal and charity institutes trace back to neglects at home; whether it is always the wife and mother that is responsible for unhappiness in marriage and for the increase of divorces; whether the husbands and fathers are always the saints and martyrs, or whether they are not very, very often the root of the whole evil themselves.
We retrace our steps and begin with our observations of the husband and father a few months prior to that solemn day, on which he plighted his vows of protection and faithfulness, on which he took into his care and trust a woman’s life and happiness, on which he sacredly promised, in the name of God, and in the presence of witnesses, to love her, to honor and cherish her, to provide for her, to be faithful to her in all his obligations as husband, in youth and in old age, in sunshine and in darkness, in prosperity and in adversity. We make first his acquaintance in the happy days of his courtship. He is burning with love. He is the facsimile of Shakespeare’s lover, “sighing like a furnace.” Her praises are on his lips always. He avows himself her slave and worships her as a goddess. It is in her company alone that he can find happiness. Whether at home or in society, he is always at her side. Life is dreary where she is not. He wonders how he could have lived so long, or how he could continue existence, without her. How regular and how punctual he is in his calls, and how he scowls at the clock for running away with time so fast! Not a wish does she express, no matter how unreasonable and extravagant, but he eagerly gratifies it. How numerous his little attentions and his kind remembrances! How thoughtful of her birthday, and how lavish in floral tributes and costly presents! How numerous and how lengthy his letters when separated! How sweet their moonlight walks and talks! How bright her future, which he maps out! How many the pledges which he breathes forth between his ardent kisses; never a harsh word shall break on her ear, never a wish of hers shall be ungratified, never a trouble shall mar her happiness; such a love as his has never been before, and will never be again; he only lives for her happiness; his affection will never cool, he will be a lover all his life; their whole wedded life will be one never-waning honeymoon.
In the drama the plot usually ends with marriage. At the instant when it is reached, when all obstacles are removed, the curtain falls, and the young people have no further existence for us. But in the practical world the play goes on. The curtain rises again, the same personages reappear, only they frequently play different parts, and what was before a comedy or a melo-drama often changes into a tragedy. Sad and tearful scenes are often enacted by them. The misery and pain are no longer inflicted by their former enemy, but by their own hands. He, who prior to marriage overcame almost insurmountable obstacles to make his lady fair his happy wife, now moves heaven and earth to make that wife as miserable as possible.
A number of years have passed since last we observed the lover. He is husband and father now, but what a change these few years have wrought in him! Forgotten are the lover’s vows. She that once his goddess was, is now his slave. The fulsome flatterer of former times has degenerated into a chronic fault-finder. With the change of her name has begun his change of treatment of her. Cast aside are the many courtesies and expressions of endearment that marked his conduct to her prior to marriage, and which were the thousand golden threads that day by day throughout their courtship wove their hearts closely into one. No bouquets and no costly gifts any more. The anniversary of her birth and of their wedding day passes by unnoticed by him. His former efforts to entertain her, to make himself agreeable to her, have altogether ceased. Rarer, and ever rarer, become his parting and his coming kiss, his “good-bye, dear,” and his “good evening, darling." Fewer and fewer become his words of praise. Irksome becomes the task of staying at home. He, who once upon a time found life dreary where she was not, who vowed that in her company alone he found happiness, who could not await the evening that would bring him to her, who declared that his affection would never cool, and their whole wedded life would be one continuous honeymoon, now finds her company tedious, her home unattractive. He looks upon his home as his boarding and lodging-house, upon his wife as the kitchen scullion, or as the nurse of his children, for which services he generally allows her so many dollars a week. At the breakfast table his face is buried in the morning paper. He rises without interchanging a word with wife and child. Absent from home all day long, he is absent still, even when home in the evening. No sooner has he swallowed his meal, when he buries himself in the newspaper for the rest of the evening, or dozes on the sofa till bedtime, or he has an important business engagement down town, or some meeting to attend, or an important engagement brings other husbands to his house, where they transact any amount of business in the exchange of diamonds for hearts, and clubs for spades.
All day long she has been toiling hard in her home, toiling with hand and brain. She has been preacher and teacher, physician and druggist, provider and manager, cook and laundress. The children had to be attended to, purchases had to be made, the meals had to be provided, the servants to be looked after, the house to be gotten in order; there was mending and sewing and baking and cleaning and scrubbing and scouring, which had to be done; there were the children’s lessons, and practicings that had to be looked after; there were the children’s ailments that had to be cured, and there were the hundred other things the husband never dreams of, and which tax a woman’s nerves and strength as much, and often more, than his occupation taxes him. But not a word of appreciation, not a look of sympathy and encouragement from him, who never tired to sing her praises before they were married, who vowed that never a harsh word should remotely break on her ear, never a trouble should mar her happiness. On the contrary, he has no end of faults to find, and she is doomed to listen to the same old harangue on economy and saving. She has been saving and stinting until she can save and stint no more. She has patched and mended and turned and altered until she could patch and mend and alter no more, and still the same complaints; the table costs too much, the dry goods store bills are too long, the seamstress comes into the house too often, the physician is consulted too much, and of such as these many more. Not a word does he say about the expensive cigars he smokes, the wines he drinks; about his frequent visits to the sample-room, and about the liberality with which he treats his friends there; about the sumptuous dinners he takes at noon in the down-town restaurant, while wife and children content themselves at home with a frugal lunch; about the money he loses at the card table, or in his bets on the games and races and politics. And of the children he takes but little notice. He has not seen them all day long, and he is too tired to be bothered with them in the evening. He must have his rest and quiet. The mother worried with them all day long, she may worry with them in the evening, too. It is enough for him to supply her with the means wherewith to care for their wants, further obligations he has none; these are a mother’s duties, but not a father’s.
They tell a story of a learned preacher who had isolated himself from his children on account of his dislike to their noise. One day, while taking a walk, he was attracted by the beauty and wonderful intelligence of a little boy. Inquiring of the nurse whose child it was, she answered, much astonished: “Your own, reverend sir, your own." Judging from the attention that some fathers bestow on their children, I am inclined to believe that this learned preacher has many an imitator among his sex, for whom not even the inexcusable excuse of absorption in studies can be set up. I have read of a business man, who one day thanked God that a commercial crisis had thrown him into bankruptcy. He said it afforded him an opportunity to stay at home for awhile, and get acquainted with his own family, and that for the first time he learned to know the true worth of his wife, and that he found his children the sweetest and dearest creatures that ever lived, and not for all the business of the world would he again deprive himself of their sweet association. Prior to his misfortune, or rather good fortune, his business had so absorbed him that he had altogether forgotten that there were sacred claims at home that demanded his interest and his service.
Not all our orphaned children are in our orphan asylums, or under the supervision of “The Orphans’ Guardians.” There are more of them at home with their fathers and mothers, and especially among our well-to-do families. There are children growing up who scarcely know anything else of their father except that he is referred to during the day by their mother when they are bad, as that dread personage who would inflict a severe chastisement on them when he returns, or whose presence silences their fun and makes their own absence agreeable. He makes no effort to entertain them, takes no interest in their pleasures, in their progress at school. He is simply their punisher, but not their friend, and it is not at all surprising to see children growing up with a conception of their father such as that little boy had, who, when told by a minister of heaven, and of the meeting of the departed there, asked: “And will father be there?” On being told that "of course he would be there,” he at once replied, “Then I don’t want to go.” Occasionally wife and husband spend an evening out, or they entertain company at home, and oh, what a transformation she observes in him. In other people’s homes, or when other people are present, his stock of material for conversation is unlimited. Then and there he is full of fun, bright and cheerful; when alone with his wife he has scarcely a word to say; he moves about the house with the lofty indifference of a lord, and with a heartless disregard of every member of the household. At home he is cold and cross and boorish, in other women’s parlors he is polite and considerate and engaging. He has a smile and a compliment for other women, none for his wife. If they attend an evening reception, he brings his wife there, and he takes her home; during the interval she has little, if any, of his company. She may be shy, she may be a stranger, she may not be much accustomed to society life, she may feel herself out of place in the gay assemblage, she may be unentertained or bored or annoyed, it matters not to him as long as he is having a good time with the boys, or is encircled by the ladies fair, who unanimously think him the most gallant of men, unrivaled in his wit and wisdom and conversational powers, and who secretly sigh if but their husbands were like him.
To such an extent is this wife-neglect carried on that a lady not long ago made a wager that, in nine cases out of ten, she would distinguish between married and unmarried couples. She won the wager. When asked to explain her method of discrimination, she said: “When you see a gentleman and a lady walking in silence side by side, it is a married couple; when their conversation is continuous and animated, and smile-and-laugh-provoking, they are single. When a gentleman sits next to a lady in the theatre, and never keeps his opera glass away from the boxes and galleries and stage, he is her husband; when his eyes rest more on her than on the stage, it is her lover. When a lady, who sits at the side of a gentleman, drops her glove, and she stoops to hunt it, it is a married couple; if he stoops quickly to pick it up it is an unmarried couple. When a lady plays, and a gentleman stands near her, and does not turn for her the pages of the music book, it is her husband; when you see his fingers in eager readiness to turn the leaf, it is not her husband.”
There is in every true woman a spark of divinity, which glows in her heart, and blazes into a most luminous light when a husband’s love and respect and sympathy and appreciation and encouragement fan that spark into activity. But woe to the home where cruel hands quench that flame. The sun is the heater and illuminator of our whole solar system. The vast supplies which it sends forth daily must be compensated, or else it would soon expend itself, and our world would go to ruin. Nature, therefore, hurls millions of meteors every second into the sun’s fiery furnace to keep up the supply of heat and light. The wife is the sun of the household. Her womanly attributes give the light and warmth and happiness of the home to all who cluster around her. But a wife’s love and self-sacrifice for her home are not infinite. They soon exhaust themselves, where love is unreturned, where a husband is a tyrant, where self-sacrifice is unappreciated, where faithful and prudent industry is accepted as a labor of duty, and not as a labor of love, where she is simply regarded as his housekeeper, and not as his devoted helpmate, where his presence alone is sufficient to cast gloom and fear over the entire household. Woman was made to bless mankind, but also to be blessed in return; to make society better for forming a part thereof, but also to receive some recognition for her work.
Endurance is woman’s prerogative. Suffering is her heirloom. Disasters, which would crush the spirit of man, often turn her heart to steel, and she performs deeds grand and heroic. Disheartened by continuous neglect, she will make heroic efforts to throw her influence all the more affectionately over her home. Wounded deeper and ever deeper, she will toil on, hiding from the world the pangs of wounded affection, “as the wounded dove will clasp its wings to its side and cover and conceal the arrow that is preying on its vitals.” But the shafts of continuous neglect will pierce her heart at last–a husband’s continuous neglect extinguish, at last, the sacred flame upon the domestic hearth. She, too, finds home irksome. She, too, learns to find more pleasure abroad than in her home. She, too, thinks light of liberties and indiscretions. The grown children learn to emulate their parents’ example, and seek their pleasures also abroad. The little children are left to servants to finish the corruption begun by parents. And so the home, the very spot designed by God to become the chief school of human virtue, the seminary of social affections, the keystone of the whole fabric of society, the germ-cell of civilization, becomes a hotbed of corruption, and almost as often on account of a husband’s neglect and sins, as on account of a wife’s ignorance or frailties or failings. Our stock of advice to wives and mothers seems inexhaustible. Almost every one of the stronger sex has his fling at woman, and his remedy to offer, which, if immediately followed, will at once eradicate unhappiness in marriage, decrease the number of divorces, and lessen vice and crime in society.
Might not a little advice be also profitable to man? Is there not room for improvement in the stronger sex as well as in the weaker? Reform in the one sex will be of little benefit unless there is reform in the other sex as well. Our husbands and our fathers, too, need reforming, and that reform must begin very early in their lives, before yet they enter into marriage, before yet they enter upon the days of their courtship. Our young men need curbing. Youthful precocity must be checked. ’Cito maturum cito putridum_” says the Latin, “soon ripe, soon rotten.” We allow our young men, some of them exceedingly young, too many liberties. We allow them to sow too many wild oats. If their intention is some day to take unto their care and keeping a woman’s life and happiness, to pluck from out a comfortable and contented home, and from the embrace of devoted parents, a pure and happy and trusting young woman, who has never felt the wrench and shock of life’s storms, nor the cold shoulder of neglect, nor the gnawing tooth of want, then let them see to it in time that they may bring to her a heart as pure and mind as uncorrupted, and character as unpolluted as they expect from her.
The law of heredity, of transmission of ancestral poison, is as operative in the male sex as in the female. A pure and healthy offspring must be preceded by a pure and healthy parentage. A rottening tree never produces luscious fruit. “Like begets like.” An enfeebled father means not only feebleness in the next generation, but also perpetuated misery and vice and crime. Marriage is sacred and necessary and obligatory, but not all marriages are so. There are some marriages from which woman should recoil as much as she would from death itself. Rather that death would woo her than a man–if I may be permitted to honor him with that name–whose constitution is undermined, whose strength is sapped, and whose marrow and blood are poisoned. Rather an old maid than a profligate’s nurse. Rather a life of single blessedness than the housekeeper of a wreck of a husband. Rather single and happy and stainless and conscience-free than a mother of an unfortunate offspring, that have the sins of their father visited upon them, and that shall one day curse their parents for having given existence to them. Another remedy for unhappy marriages will be found in the cessation, of the anxiety on the part of so many parents to get their daughters married off. It is but natural that this constant anxiety should make the daughter feel that she would like to lessen her parents’ dread, and cease being a trouble to them, especially when there are younger sisters crowding fast upon her, and so she says "Yes,” even when the word almost chokes in her throat, even though she knows in her heart that he is not her ideal, nor the man that will make her happy. It is not true that any husband, who can support a wife, is better than no husband. Marriage means more to a sensible woman than an alliance with a husband for the sake of being clothed and fed and housed. She has a heart and soul and mind that have their wants, and if they be starved, unhappy marriage, if nothing worse, is the result.
Mothers and fathers! Have you watched over your daughter from the day of her birth; have you guarded her from infancy to girlhood, and from girlhood to womanhood; have you suffered for her sake; have you surrendered comforts and sacrificed pleasures for her sake; have you toiled and stinted and saved for her sake; have you afforded her the best education and all the pleasures and opportunities that your means will allow, and all to wish yourselves rid of her; to think that any husband, who can support your daughter–sometimes not even so much is expected from him–no matter how old, how uncultured, how unsuitable to her tastes and wants, is better than no husband? A father’s personal attention to the training of his children will in time reduce materially unhappy marriages, and greatly lessen the miseries and vices of society. He owes his children more than support and chastisement. Society holds him responsible for their character. The duties of training devolve upon the father as much as on the mother. A father’s wider experience and worldly wisdom prove valuable contributions to the mother’s simpler knowledge in the raising of their children. A father’s continuous absence, or neglects, or severity, or unkindness, or heartlessness, has made more reprobates and scamps and criminals in this world than all the failings of women combined. Think less of your dignity and more of your duty. Rather that your child should love you than fear you. You can maintain your authority and dignity by love and gentleness as well as by frowns and threats and chastisements. You may walk and talk and study and play with them, and yet have their full respect. The great and warlike Agesilaus did not think it beneath him to entertain his children during his leisure hours, to join them in all their merry sports, and permit himself to crawl on his fours with his little child upon his back. If you would raise good children let your example at home be accordingly. As you will teach them so they will act. If you are a devil they will scarcely be angels. Children are keen observers. An old proverb says that a father is a looking-glass by which children dress themselves. See to it, fathers, that the glass be clean, so that your children’s morals may be pure.
A little more memory on the part of the husband will prove a powerful remedy for the eradication of unhappy marriages and for the lessening of divorces. She is the same woman after marriage that she was during the days of your courtship, and a good deal better. Why so forgetful of all the sacred vows and solemn pledges which you plighted then? Why so constant then and so inconstant now? Why so affable and faithful and loving and attentive then, and why so inattentive and bitter and sullen and neglectful now? Why such a profuseness then in your courtesies and smiles and flowers and gifts and kisses, and why such a lack of them now? Is it because of wrinkles? Is it because of her faded beauty? She has lost it in your service. She has come honestly by her wrinkles. She got them in the sick-bed, in the kitchen, in the nursery, by the bed of your sick children, by the grave of your child, by painful night-watches and overtaxing day toils, by your harsh words, and by your heartless treatment. This is all she has in return for her beauty and youth and cheerful mind and happy disposition, which she laid at your feet when you asked her to join her destiny with yours. A little courtesy, a kind attention, a bouquet of flowers, a small token, a word of appreciation and of encouragement is not much to you, but it is a world to your wife. Your smile is all the reward she craves. Her heart thirsts for it, and when given, its effect upon her soul is as the refreshing dew upon the withered grass. It is a mistake to believe that she can draw in her married life on your love-deposits during courtship. If love is to prosper, the supply must be ever fresh. The love of the past will never satisfy the need of the present. Love constantly and carefully cultivated will increase its blessings as fruit trees double their bearing under the hand of the gardener. It will be killed, as will the fruit tree, if the gardener’s hand grows neglectful and noxious influences are permitted to impede its growth. Let your wife be your helpmate and not your housekeeper. She shares your sorrows, your defeats, let her also share your thoughts and plans. Unbosom your thoughts to her. Lay open to her your heart and soul. Trust her with your confidence, she trusts you with hers. The men who succeed are those who make confidants of their wives. The marriages that are happy are those where husbands and wives have no thoughts apart. The children that are well raised are those that have had the example of loving and confiding parents before them. Proud of your confidence, she will labor to deserve it. She will study to please you. In your prosperity she will be your delight; your stay and comfort in your adversity. She will return your confidence and affection in full measure. Gloom will vanish from the hearth, and happiness will hold dominion within the home. “Her children will rise up before her and call her happy; and her husband will sing aloud her praises.”
Marriage is, perhaps, the only game of chance ever invented at which it is possible for both players to lose. Too often, after many sugar-coated words, and several premeditated misdeals on both sides, one draws a blank and the other a booby. After patiently angling in the matrimonial pool, one draws a sunfish and the other a minnow. One expects to capture a demigod, who hits the earth only in high places, but when she has thoroughly analyzed him, she finds nothing genuine, only a wilted chrysanthemum and a pair of patent leather shoes, while he in return expected to wed a wingless angel who would make his Edenic bower one long drawn out sigh of aesthetic bliss. The result is very often that he is tied to a slattern, who slouches around the house with her hair in tins, a dime novel in her hand, with a temper like aqua fortis and a voice like a cat fight–a voice that would make a cub wolf climb a tree; a fashionable butterfly, whose heart is in her finery and her feathers; who neglects her home to train with a lot of intellectual birds; whose glory is small talk; who saves her sweetest smiles for society and her ill temper for her family altar. If I were tied to such a female as that, do you know what I would do? You don’t, eh? Well, neither do I. There was a time, we are told, when to be a Roman was to be greater than to be a king; yet there came a time when to be a Roman was to be a vassal or a slave. Change is the order of the universe, and nothing stands. We must go forward, or we must go backward. We must press on to grander heights, to greater glory, or see the laurels already won turned to ashes upon our brow. We may sometimes slip; shadows may obscure our paths; the boulders may bruise our feet; there may be months of mourning and days of agony; but however dark the night, hope, a poising eagle, will ever burn above the unrisen tomorrow. Trials we may have, and tribulations sore, but I say unto you, O, brothers mine, that while God reigns and the human family endures, this nation, born of our father’s blood, and sanctified by our mother’s tears, shall not pass away, and under heaven, for this great boon, this great blessing, we’ll be indebted to the women of America–God bless them. Finally, brethren, be serious while I impart this concluding lesson: “She–was–a–good–wife–to–me. A good wife, God bless her!” The words were spoken in trembling accents over a coffin-lid. The woman asleep there had borne the heat and burden of life’s long day, and no one had ever heard her murmur; her hand was quick to reach out in helping grasp to those who fell by the wayside, and her feet were swift on errands of mercy; the heart of her husband had trusted in her; he had left her to long hours of solitude, while he amused himself in scenes in which she had no part. When boon companions deserted him, when fickle affection selfishly departed, when pleasure palled, he went home and found her waiting for him.
“Come from your long, long roving, On life’s sea so bleak and rough; Come to me tender and loving, And I shall be blest enough.”
“We have careful thoughts for the stranger, And smiles for the sometime guest, But oft for own, The bitter tone, Though we love our own the best.”
There is infinite and perennial fascination in the contemplation of the
future. The past is a fixed province, the finished result of an
ever-moving present. The future is the province of the poet, the
prophet and the seer. The past is adamant, the future is plastic clay.
The past is with God alone; the future is with God and man. We toil
for it; dream of it; look to it; and all seek so to
* * * “Forecast the years, As find in loss a gain to match, Or reach a hand through time to catch The far-off interest of tears.”