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BRETHREN OF THE ORDER AND FRIENDS OF BENEVOLENCE
In being called to the honor of addressing you on the present occasion, it will not be expected of me that I shall enter upon a detailed history of the rise of Odd-Fellowship, which at this day is unnecessary, nor pronounce an inflated eulogium upon the graces of the Order, which is uncalled for, and would be altogether unjust.
The great and paramount object that should be entertained, in connection with occasions like the present, is neither to build upon
the romantic interest, which mystery is so well calculated to inspire in the breasts of the curious, a false superstructure, nor at the expense of sacred truth, laud society's acts.
All of essential good that belongs to earth, may be said emphatically, to be rather relative than positive in its nature, and is but the borrowed reflection of a superior principle which, emanating from the Throne of Deity, governs us below.
The queen of night, arrayed in silver splendor, rejoices to run her course and light up nature's gloomy hour with her peculiar beauty ; yet, is there no polished ray that glances from der majestic brow, that is not the golden reflex of the God of day. As in the natural, so in the moral universe. In the power, and in the person of the Son of God, lives and breathes all of uncreated good; and every excellence in man, whether it be of the moral, the physical, ur the intellectual, must be found to derive
* Delivered before the Indeperuent Order of Odd-Fellows, at Frankfort, Kentucky, on the 21st October, 1843
itself from this great parent source. Therefore, whatever may be said of the virtues of human organizations or practices, however excellent in construction, happy in adaptation, or noble in operation, it never should be lost sight of, that as relative, and not positive, is the presentation made.
The abstract virtues, Friendship, Lore and Truth, as they are found to exist in our holy religion, form unitedly, the grand platform upon which is displayed every excellence that belongs to the Order of Odd Fellowship.
From this sacred foundation, with god-like proportions, rises the glorious superstructure of active benerolence, hailed by every true Odd-Fellow as the shrine of his devotion, the rule of his faith and practice, and the prominent characteristic of his beloved Order.
With the entertainment of views like these, upon the standard of Friendship, let us unfurl the banner of Truth, while Love, that heavenly seraph with golden wand, shall point us the way to the enjoyment of
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," is the first great command of Deity; and the second is like the first—"Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” “Love is the fulfilling of the law,” says the scripture historian, while the response of Odd-Fellowship is heard from the hills, and echoes through the vale-while gratitude's breeze upon its zephyr wings, bears the soft anthem "from the rivers to the ends of the earth”-love is the bond of our fraternal union.
God so loved the world that he shared himself with the world—dividing to the lost and ruined sons of earth, his well beloved, his only begotten son, as their portion forever. With imitative virtue, the Odd Fellow, if he be faithful to his vow, so loves his brother that he is ready and willing to divide unto his necessities, his whole heart and his last shilling. The first is spiritual, it is true, while the last is but temporal, but just as far as temporal things may represent the things of the spirit in the offices of feeling charity, man becomes the representative of his God. The first is of God, the second is of man, but both are of love, for “God is love," and it is the reflection of God in the heart; therefore, in the exercise (amalgamate in the principle) both are joined together, the spirit of God becomes the spirit of man, and love to God and love to man, which in its perfect state formed in the first man the moral image of his Creator, for the moment fills the soul of the creature.
The philosophy of this mystery who can understand? . "Great is the mystery of godliness,” says one of old-great is the mystery of that love which could bring the second person of the adorable Trinity from the realm of bright glory, and present him in the flesh, very God and very man, a Saviour for our fallen world.
I cannot understand this says Infidelity—therefore be its effects ever so great and good, because i do not fully comprehend the philosophy of the cause, I unhesitatingly, with unblushing arrogance, condemn the effect. Thus at one "fell swoop” the glorious system of the world's redemption is consigned to the “moles and ints," while man, Lucifer-like, triumphs in the veil that dims the glory of Gurl.
Great is the mystery of Odd Fellowship, says modern scepticism, the very heart of which is but the heart of in delity to God. I will oppose christianity because of its mystery, says the lutidel; the same declaration lives in the mind of him, who because he is unacquainted with all the
machinery of the Lodge room, is ready to suspect and pronounce as evil, the very good he beholds--thus distrusting his own eyes, and declaring inferentially from the predisposed baseness of his own wicked heart.
If this dark principle were permitted to govern in all things that are difficult to be understood, few of the blessings of providence but would be condemned as worthless and base.
Incredulity is a distinctive feature of the human mind; and to doubt the truth of that, which we do not wish to believe, is the first born child of temptation. The first act of Lucifer in the prosecution of his fell design upon the human race, was to accuse God of uttering an untruth, and persuade man to disbelieve his Creator's word
Ye shall not surely dic.” The seed of sin thus early sown in the soil of the heart, has produced from generation to generation, a full return of dark depravity, o'ershadowing immortal mind with its withering influence, and like the fire breath of Zamiel, swift-winged with sure destruction.
All societies or associations, formed for the amelioration and relief of human suffering and human woe, have been, from time's earliest record, the objects of peculiar hatred of this dark principle. Abel was hated of Cain, because of his gentleness of love, which he had not-therefore, Cain slew his brother. Here was ignorance in the first place, of the very principle which lived in the breast of Abel; and in the second place, envy as its concomitant. From these two, wrath was born, and gaunt murder, its offspring, blood-robed and hideous, stalked forth upon the trembling earth.
If the principle bestow the title and not the title give birth to the principle, then might the first martyr be called an Odd-Fellow-for in all the essential virtues of the Order, Abel must have been pre-eminent.
We have no disposition, however, to claim high antiquity for the organic structure of Odd Fellowship; on the contrary, we are inclined to believe there is more of romance than reality in the appropriation of some ancient terms and names found on history's page, which some, in their over-earnest zeal for the distinction of venerable age, have tortured into the significants of the Order. But her principles are coeval with deity; before the hills were formed or the earth called forth from chaos, they lived with Jehovah. When God said "let there be light and there was light;" then beamed forth from heaven, glancing from the very throne of God, onc of the prominent features of our sacred system-Truth, omnipotent, eternal, undying truth.
In the christian system, which owns the same origin, whose benign influence has so extended itself to the hearts of non-professors, as to create in the breasts of thousands, a respect and admiration for its self-denials, its acts of charity, its sympathy for the distressed, and its active benevolence towards friends and foes, we find the magic centre of all minor influences. And whether it be acknowledged by the world or not, we hazard nothing by the declaration, that all of intellectual and moral, excellence, as well as of spiritual comfort, in whatever form it may present itself, is in some way traceable to the church of Christ.
In the list of its sufferings it hath been paramount, as in the list of its graces-first from heaven, first on earth,--the Supreme Grand Lodge, thus to speak, where every virtue is a personified member, where the eternal
spirit of God seals perfection upon every attribute. From a supreme principle alone, can flow supreme delights; such is the religion of Jesus Christ -such is to be found in the church of God.
But as the stars glitter brightly in the presence of the moon, and by some are deemed more glorious than even pale Cynthia herself
, so may the lesser light of Odd-Fellowship, as christianity's handmaid, burn brightly still, as the first star in the moral firmament of heaven, to go out no more forever; the principles of whose light are from eternity past, the bright reflection of which shall be in eternity to come.
That such a system should meet with foes is no way strange, for the world still loveth its own, "preferring darkness rather than light, because its deeds are evil.” But 'tis passing strange, that some have been found to oppose the Order who have been christians. Alas! as our Saviour said to his persecutors, they act in ignorance, not knowing what they do. As well might the charioteer of day say to the luminary of night, as he rolls in golden glory through the heavens, my golden beams are stronger than thy silver light, therefore the world hath no need of thy pale presence. Such is the prevailing spirit of darkness, that the world has use for all, and more than all
, to wage successful combat against the mighty Goliah of active evil which pervades the earth.
Societies, therefore, instituted for the promotion of moral and intellectual virtue, as steps to the more exalted place of spiritual excellence, should receive the unqualified encouragement, and not the condemnation of all good christians. Such is the institution of Odd-Fellowship.
That there are secret signs, tokens and passwords by which Odd-Fellows are known to each other, should form no objection, since they are in no way connected with either the motives or acts of their confederation. Their doings are as open to the scrutiny of all, as the beaming light of the morning sun.
Secrets are the lawful property of all creatures and things, both of nature and grace. Great nature hath never yet opened to man her vast storehouse of internal wisdom, while nature's God makes mystery his very dwelling place. And until man becomes wise and good enough, eaglelike to gaze upon the uncreated splendor of another and a better world, he must remain, to a great extent, a profound mystery even to himself. Then would we repeat to all cavillers, the golden maxim of the Persian god
“Man, first know thyself.” There are many secrets connected with our holy religion, whose revelation is impossible, known only to the individual and his God. The bible tells us of some peculiarly favored of God, who received a little white stone, with a name written therein which no man could read save him that received it. This is christianity, not Odd-Fellowship, unless indeed christianity and Odd Fellowship should be found to be more nearly allied than many are willing to admit.
Here we have the token, the sign, and the password-yet they are so bestowed by the Supreme Majesty of heaven, that none can know and understand them save he that receives them. Nor can he communicate them to others, without the assistance of the Holy Ghost. Like him who is incommunicable in his nature, without his special agency, they cannot be given nor received.
As the tokens, signs and passwords of Odd-Fellowship are all emblematical, and have their special significations, so in reference to the mystical scripture just referred to. The white stone is in the first place, holiness; being while, it is the emblem of purity; next, its hardness (being stone,) represents a fixedness of purpose, against which nothing should prevail; the two conjoined, prefigure forth the regenerate human heart, holy, white and clean—the "token" of man's acceptance with God. The "sign” is outward righteousness, the necessary manifestation of the inward principle--" by their fruits ye shall know them, saith the Lord." The "password,” the name written mystically by the hand of the spirit, is " Christ formed in the heart; the hope of glory.”
Such are the significants of our holy faith, without which no one will ever be able to gain admission to the presence of the Eternal Grand Master, whose Lodge is in the centre of ineffable light; in whose presence lives glory forever, and at whose right hand are "pleasures evermore;” but with which, every son and daughter of the human race (for the ladies are admitted to the higher and more blessed privileges) may "work their way” to the most lofty heights of supernal joy, and dwell forever amidst the glorious beatitudes of endless day.
Thus it would plainly appear, that while as christians we rejoice in the glorious mysteries which belong to the great plan of spiritual redemption, we should be glaringly inconsistent with ourselves, should we sceptically object to the lesser mysteries which appertain to human institutions, devised for the amelioration of mankind, and set up for the alleviation of the sorrows of the distressed. For God hath said of our temporal bodies, while he declared our spirits to be the heirs of heaven and joint-heirs with the Lord Jesus Christ, “Know ye not that ye are the temples of the Holy Ghost?"
It matters but little how good is done, provided the motive be right before God. Of this we cannot be umpires; 'tis the Eternal alone, who is the discerner of the thoughts of the mind, who trieth the reins and sitteth in judgment on the motives of the heart. We may not decide, for the great lesson of our Saviour is, "judge not.”
Just so far, therefore, as the developments of Odd Fellowship are found to be in harmony with the institutes of religion, the two may join hands together, and arm in arm traverse earth's vast and gloomy wilderness, for the happiness of man and the glory of God. How far this will be found to be consistent will appear in the examination. What is required of the true and faithful christian? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, with all thy mind, with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself.” This is the ground plan" of our holy christianity; from this soil, germinate and grow into life and beauty, all the plants, buds, and blossoms of religious hope; and man but insults his God, when he dares to stand up before the world and in presence of high heaven, and claim to be a christian, destitute of these. Of the Odd-Fellow is required profound respect for the former, and a cheerful practice of the latter of this obligation. The golden rule, “do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you," is his law. No one may claim to be a faithful member of our Fraternity who is destitute of this requisite, the necessary qualification of every true Odd Fellow.
A warm and active benevolence is, therefore, the most prominent fea