More on Friendship, Love and Truth
Marin Odd Fellows

About Odd Fellowship

To the Uninitiated

A Unique Institution

Friendship Love Truth

More on FLT

Initiation Fulfills

Truth in Jest

Favorite Links

True-Hearted Fellows


Of Friendship

...The parable of Pythagoras is dark but true: "Cor ne edito," eat not the heart. Certainly, if a man would give it a hard phrase, those that want friends to open themselves unto are cannibals of their own hearts. But one thing is most admirable (wherewith I will conclude this first-fruit of friendship), which is, that this communicating of a man's self to his friend works two contrary effects: for it redoubleth joys, and cutteth griefs in halves. For there is no man that imparteth his joys to his friend, but he joyeth the more; and no man that imparteth his griefs to his friend, but he grieveth the less. So that it is, in truth, of operation upon a man's mind, of like virtue as the alchemists used to attribute to their stone for man's body, that it worketh all contrary effects, but still to the good and benefit of nature....

After these two noble fruits of friendship (peace in the affections, and support of the judgment) followeth the last fruit, which is like the pomegranate, full of many kernels: I mean aid, and bearing a part in all actions and occasions. Here, the best way to represent to life the manifold use of friendship, is to cast and see how many things there are which a man cannot do himself; and then it will appear that it was a sparing speech of the ancients to say, "That a friend is another himself;" for that a friend is far more than himself. Men have their time, and die many times in desire of some things which they principally take to heart, - the bestowing of a child, the finishing of a work, or the like. If a man have a true friend, he may rest almost secure that the care of those things will continue after him. So that a man hath, as it were, two lives in his desires. A man hath a body, and that body is confined to a place; but where friendship is, all offices of life are, as it were granted to him and his deputy, for he may exercise them by his friend.

Essays or Counsels Civil and Moral, XXVII "Of Friendship," Sir Francis Bacon

Of Love

...There is in man's nature a secret inclination and motion towards love of others, which, if it be not spent upon some one or a few, doth naturally spread itself towards many, and maketh men become humane and charitable, as it is seen sometime in friars. Nuptial love maketh mankind, friendly love perfecteth it, but wanton love corrupteth and embaseh it.

Essays or Counsels Civil and Moral, X "Of Love," Sir Francis Bacon

Of Truth

...But howsoever these things are thus in men's depraved judgments and affections, yet truth, which only doth judge itself, teacheth that the inquiry of truth, which is love-making or wooing of it; the knowledge of truth, which is the enjoying of it - is the sovereign good of human nature. The first creature of God, in the works of the days, was the light of the sense; the last was the light of reason; and his Sabbath work ever since is the illumination of his Spirit. First he breathed light upon the face of the matter, or chaos; then he breathed light into the face of man; and still he breatheth and inspireth light into the face of his chosen. The poet that beautified the sect that was otherwise inferior to the rest, saith yet excellently well: "It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tossed upon the sea; a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle, and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to the standing upon the vantage ground of truth" (a hill not to be commanded, and where the air is always clear and serene) "and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below:" so always, that this prospect be with pity, and not with swelling or pride. Certainly, it is heaven upon earth to have a man’s mind move in charity, rest in providence, and turn upon the poles of truth....

Essays or Counsels Civil and Moral, I “Of Truth,” Sir Francis Bacon

The Three Links of the I.O.O.F.

First, Fellowship. – There is implanted in the human heart a desire for fellowship. Life is absolutely lonely without it. Joy is always multiplied by sharing it, and trouble is always lightened by dividing the burden. As the tear drops in a child’s eyes are hung with rainbows by kind words, so in the life of manhood, where larger feelings meet. No man has mourned for a hermit's life. Such a life is absolutely unnatural. Every one of us is absolutely a creature of society. There is to every man a solace in even the presence of a human being. In the long hours of the watcher's night, when the clock ticks louder than ever before, and the wind sobs around the house in minor tones, and the dog howls, and the hectic flush is on the cheek of the sufferer whom we watch, there is the solitary step of a passer-by upon the sidewalk. You know that the man depends in large measure upon his neighbors. There is no such thing as an independent ship upon life's high seas. Every man looks ahead once in a while, for tomorrow's sunrise is tinted in the sunset colors of today. The very star that pins the curtains of the night together whispers of the coming morning, when these same curtains shall be drawn apart. Knowing that tomorrow will come just as surely as today is here, every man anxiously scans his horizon. In its shadowy outlines he reads very great possibilities in life. He knows that a time of trial is coming in his life when he will need human sympathy. Trials are a part of life's experiences. With a struggle we came into the world, and with a struggle we will go out of the world. Life is a battle absolutely from start to finish, and that man who succeeds more than his fellows is more of a general, knows better how to mass his forces.

Human Sympathy. – In times of trial there is nothing quite like human sympathy that touches a brother's hand and has in it a magnetism that stirs the most tender chord of the human heart. Looking along the horizon, we know that maybe there is a coming time of financial perplexity in our lives. Riches take wings and fly away. There is not anything in the universe quite so unstable.

When want pinches we instinctively look about for a helper in time of trouble. Poverty is not a poem; poverty is a grim reality. Poverty is not a song. Very few friends you can count upon in a pinch. The friendships of the masses of men, after all, are based upon reciprocity, and that is true in the mother's case, and we use the mother as the very height of the simplicity of love. She looks down into the face of her sleeping babe, and fancy pictures a time in the future when her footsteps falter and her form is bent and her eyes are dim and the frosts of winter have colored her hair, when she can lean upon that baby's arm, and he, in turn, will lead her in the decline of life. When a time comes when we are unable to reciprocate, friendships fly out of the window, and hence, in the vigor of manhood, every man seeks to bind friends to him with chains that cannot be broken. He knows there is a time coming when he must fall asleep and forget to wake up, and his wife and children will be left to the untempered winds of the world, and this thought worries every devoted husband and father. He does not care for himself half so much as for those whom he loves, and hence he makes preparations for this contingency. Even if he is poor, he strives, if possible, to carry life insurance. I want to say right here that a sound policy in a sound company is one of the most religious acts of a man's life, and I do not represent any company, either. He knows that those whom he loves will be remembered by his Lodge, for it is one of the tenets of the institution to let brotherly love extend to a man and embrace his family when he is gone.

For these reasons men organize, and among the organizations the Odd Fellows stand among the first. The Order is founded upon Friendship, Love, and Truth, a trinity of forces which makes a chain hard to break.

True friendship always shines brighter in trouble, and this is its test. Trouble is to a friendship what acid is to the gold. Are you aware of the fact that true friendships do much toward building up the character? It is a rare thing in the journey of life that a man climbs to a summit of fame without willing hands to help him up.

A word from an acquaintance weighs an ounce, while a word from a friend weighs a ton. A true friend advises and helps. He not only relieves human weakness, but he aids in removing it. And now this Order of ours aims to make better men. Ah, friends, there is a grandeur in assisting in the moral elevation of the race.

The Second Link. – You will recall the familiar story of the sculptor whose touch seemed endowed with magic, and who, when a little girl marveled at the beauty of an angel he had wrought, and referred to it as having been carved by him, declared that the angel was already in the marble, and that he had only cut away the stone around it, allowing it to escape.

Happy is that man in an organization who looks to men all around and discovers the angel of their nature, for every man has a better angel; and happy that Order, no matter what it is, that cuts away the marble and lets the angel out of the man. It is the grandest work in all the world.

You not only have the financial interest, but the entire interest of your brother at heart. You will not think me harsh if I say today that he is not a good Odd Fellow who looks to the financial benefits that accrue from the Order, and forgets the moral obligations that bind him to a brother. After all, money is the easiest thing to give. Many a man can give a dollar toward the alleviation of human suffering who has not a word of kindness on his lips. After all, the most precious thing that was ever offered to humanity is human heart.

And he is not worthy of the name of Odd Fellow who simply enters into it as an insurance organization. True men look to the moral obligations accruing from such an organization, rather than anything else.

Love is embraced in friendship. Ah, what a power is love! Love puts a new face upon this old world of ours. Do you know that to love the object is always beautiful? There comes down these aisles this morning an old, old woman. Her brow has been plowed by time for eighty years. Her hair is white, she leans upon the top of her staff, and with palsied hands waits to be shown a seat, and when she is there she sits with her ear-trumpet in her ear. There comes down this other aisle a maiden with the hues of health on her cheek, the sparkle of genius in her eye. Do you know, after all, if you were to ask me the handsomest one in the house, I would point to that old woman with the ear-trumpet and say: "She is the most beautiful being God Almighty ever made, for she is my mother!" She is not beautiful to you, but don't you know love puts rainbows in the eyes, and when love does that, the object of love is always beautiful?

Ah, would you let me insist on it that in our communion with men we need more love! What a rosy world this would be if love obtained! There would be no anarchism in it, there would be no assassin’s bullet in it, there would be no weeping nation over the untimely taking off of the Chief Magistrate. If love ruled in the world, the world would be heaven, for heaven is a place where love is the atmosphere. Love makes even a rough landscape sparkle.

The Third Link. – But I want to dwell more extensively on that third link in the chain – Truth. Do you know it is our business as charitable men and women to learn the truth? We have got to learn the weaknesses of men to love them. Every man has his weakness. Every man has his element of strength. There never was a perfect man that walked God's green earth but one – the man Jesus of Nazareth. And now it is our business to learn the truth about the weakness of men. That is charitable. We are most uncharitable, my friends, along the line of our excellences. If I ride the horse of honesty until the horse is jaded, I cannot tolerate dishonesty in a man. I would punish a child if he was dishonest. If a ride the hobby of virtue – and it is a magnificent horse to ride – I cannot tolerate any radical weakness along that line in any man. Here is a man who never drank a drop of whisky in his life. He does not know anything bout the charms of intoxication. He says: "I cannot tolerate any man that touches it in any form." He is radically uncharitable, because he does not know anything about the weaknesses of other men in that direction. Ah, if he had ever fallen, if the slime had ever fallen on the floors of his house, that man would have a warm heart for the beggar within his touch, with bloodshot eyes and liquor-sodden breath.

Men are weak. If we knew the environment and the conditions surrounding a brother, our hearts would be strangely tender toward him. Harsh personal criticism never does any good. If you ever win a man on earth it will be by playing on the goodness in him, and not by harping on the evil within him. Those men who have been soul-winners, most successful in life, have been those who knew how to dig for gold and let it sparkle when they found it.

Jesus said once: "How many loaves have you?" and while they had a few loaves and small fishes, He took the remnant and made them into a feast. And the thing for a rational man to do is to say: "How many loaves have you?" and take the good in human nature and let God multiply it into a sufficiency.

Here is a piano that has its key of G all right, but all the others are out of tune. Some day I start to play a piece of music, a charming thing, a carol of the skies that some man caught as it was flitting by and pinned it down on paper. So I sit down to that instrument, and I find that the key of G is not large enough, has not compass enough, to take in that magnificent piece, and there is a horrid discord when I strike the other keys. I do not wait fifteen minutes until I get that piano tuned. So a man tries to play a divine harmony on the harp of his nature, and that that is in tune in him is not big enough to circumscribe the beauty of the divine carol, and he wakes up to the fact that he is all out of tune, and he goes to the Divine Master of the universe, who refits him and refills him and gets him in absolute harmony. Is that not true? But he would never have waked up to the fact that he was out of tune if he had not had a key in him that was in tune.

We are to learn the truth about the grandeur of man on the other side. There is something grand even in the wreck of a man. Oh, I thank God, my brothers, that no man ever gets so low in the journey of life, so prostitutes his manhood, that all the fires go out, that all the stars forget to shine. Just like that there is something grand in the ruins of an old ship that lies out there on the beach. She has made many a voyage, she has landed many a passenger, she has been a mighty Argosy, that, like a bird, spread her wings and flew from shore to shore and from land to land. We ought to get wonderfully charitable with man, when we remember the weakness in him and the wonderful grandeur. But I think the most serious thought that ever comes to the human race is man’s responsibility to God. A man asked Daniel Webster one time what was the most serious thought that ever occupied his mind. This was his answer: "My personal responsibility to God." And it is our business as Odd Fellows to learn the truth about God and the great hereafter.

Are you aware that a man is only great as he appropriates what God has provided for him? A butterfly came into my study one day and bathed its wings in the sunshine, and then lighted on the Word of God on my desk, spread its wings, fluttered a while, walked across the page, and then flew out of the window forever. And the thought struck me that I am greater than that butterfly. A world of wisdom was under its feet, a world of revelation was beneath it, and it did not see it; but I do understand it, I do appropriate it to myself. That brilliant flower is brilliant, simply because it appropriates to itself the brilliant colors that are around it. That bird sings sweeter than that other bird on the top of the tree, simply because it appropriates the music; and he is greatest in the journey of life who appropriates to himself what God Almighty has provided for us. We are to learn to love Him and serve Him, and we are to learn one more lesson, and that is the lesson of help.

I should be strangely derelict in my duty if I did not tell you that vast message - the overwhelming majority of men in the higher walks of life are godly men. You run along the lives of men who have filled the Executive chair of the nation. See how they lived; see how they died! Men have got to learn to appropriate God’s help, and what a helper He is!

There was a venerable painter whose genius had such a powerful hold upon him that he could not lay aside his palette and brushes even in his declining years. The aged man would work the livelong day upon a picture, and in the evening would gaze upon it, and with a sigh declare that his cunning was deserting him. His son, a brilliant young artist, would kindly tell the aged man to retire to rest, and that in the morning when his sight was clearer maybe the picture would take on a better appearance. In the night time the son would work upon the painting until he made it reflect the handiwork of genius, and the next morning the old painter would take on fresh hope from what he believed to be his own work. Do you know that is just the way the great God helps man? I paint my picture with trembling hand, and when I sleep God brings out the high lights and beauty of it: and if any man has ever made a masterpiece if life, it is the Heavenly Father’s teaching that has made it that way. Oh, I would impress on you the beauty of that, how the Father doeth! Let us remember the great hereafter, throbbing with its deathless issues. Let us be men in that particular.

Friends, there is nothing that endears us to our fellowmen like the practice of the virtues of Friendship, Love, and Truth; and that great man, William McKinley, who so sweetly sleeps today after the severe trials of the past few years, won his way to the hearts of his countrymen by his unaffected affection and loyalty to his fellow man as he never could have won it in any other way. While his statesmanship was of the finest quality, and his mental poise one of rare greatness, and these will of themselves embalm him forever in the hearts of his countrymen, his unaffected simplicity, his genuine manhood, based upon love and truth, play upon the heart-strings with master hand, and cause strange and tender chords to sound which other virtues could not, in the nature of things awaken.

Mr. McKinley found, as we shall all find, that the lesson I have preached you this morning, if carried out in life, will make a death bed a place of coronation. With his will bowing sweetly to the will of God, whom he loved and who is Himself the essence of love, what more natural than that he should, like a weary child, desire to be enfolded in his Father’s arms, where is security and peace forever more? No wonder he tried to sing, falteringly, "Nearer, My God, to Thee." So shall our last song be of that Father whom we best learn when we learn the truth; and so shall we be enfolded in His arms, and experience that thrill of ecstasy which means heaven to a weary soul.

Gradually all these years has this old Order pursued her way. The blessings of hundreds of windows and orphans have been heaped upon her. "If every blessing were a flower, she would be hidden from sight beneath a wilderness of blossoms." - (Ingersoll.) Her cheeks are ruddy with the hues of health, her eyes are limpid with love, and her stalwart form cheerfully bears the burden she so cheerfully assumes.

May you be Odd Fellows indeed! Odd to those who are sinful and worldly, odd to the stingy and mean, odd to all that is depraved and unholy and material, but thoroughly in harmony with God and with your brethren dwelling in tents down here and in the place of the King hereafter.

[Address by Rev. Virgil W. Teves delivered before the Sovereign Grand Lodge, IOOF, at Meridian Street M.E. Church, Indianapolis, Ind., at the September 15, 1901, quoted in Thoughts for the Occasion: Fraternal and Benevolent Orders, Franklin Noble, DD, ed. , pp. 97-101 (E.B. Treat & Company, New York, 1905)