Friendship, Love and Truth
This is the motto of the Order. To the observance and practice of these principles the membership of the fraternity are bound. The motto is recognized and the effort is made to exemplify the principles in life. We declare this in the dressing of the Lodge room, and in the instructions given in the different parts of the mysteries of Odd Fellowship, as we unfold them. But we have inscribed this motto on our banners; seen as we unfurl them in the breezes to the gaze of the world around us. The Friendship of Odd Fellowship is friendship not only with each other but with all men. It is not that mean, sickly, counterfeit thing that would be called friendship, (but is not by any means entitled to the name,) so much practiced in the world, the native element of which is selfishness; that is truly but a name.
By "Friendship" in Odd Fellowship we mean that close attachment, those strong regards, and kind feelings, which lead to good offices Ė to the performance of kind actions - that which leads us to help each other and our fellow men in time of need.
This principle deeply planted in the Odd Fellow's breast - well rooted in the soil of his heart Ė leads him to do for a brother that he would have a brother do for him in like circumstances.
When he ears of a case of destitution he is prompted by this principle to relieve, so far as is in his power, the destitute one. He will "feed the hungry, clothe the naked." If he hears of a desperate case of sickness, a tender chord in his heart is touched which vibrates through his whole nature and he rushes to the bedside of the afflicted, and with a tender heart and soft hand he ministers.
The good Odd Fellow appears in the chamber of affliction as one governed by principle such as should move in the bosom of man; see him Ė
"Watching by the couch of pain,
Till the light of day shall wane;
Till the evening star is high,
Till the midnight shadows fly,
Silent, wakeful vigils keeping,
O'er the restless sufferer sleeping."
And when death has done his work and the clay cold form, motionless is before him, he recognizes in it an emblem of his own mortality. He knows full well that the tenement before him, fast growing icy, is all that is left for earth; of one who was born as he was born; who a little while ago lived as he now lives, but now is lost to earth. With solemn reflections he turns from the scene, and in the exercise of friendship, attends to the wants of the bereaved. He endeavors to impart consolation to them in this their dark hour. He mingles true tears with the weeping wife, mother, sister, or daughter; moves on by this principle he performs all the last sad offices which nature requires. If it be an Odd Fellow deceased, he shrouds the absent brotherís form in this last bed, the coffin, and remembers that they will never again be associated as they have been in the interesting duties of the Lodge room, and in the performance of kind actions for one another and for their fellow men. With a sad heart in company with his brethren of the order he bears the bier to the sacred depository for human dust, the grave yard, then softly lays the brother, lost to earth, in the clay-cold, narrow house, and as he does it, he looks to those about him and sees "gloom settling on each face, and sadness marking every eye."
But as the funeral services are drawing to a close, thoughts of immortality crowd into the chambers of the soul; and the lamp of the resurrection, lighted by the Lord of life, illumines the charnel house whilst each brother present casts his sprig of evergreen into the vaultÖ.
This is friendship as taught and practiced in Odd Fellowship, and the character of man thus moved to kind acts by pure friendship, looms up in grandeur and true moral magnificence, till even the wondering world admires.
Friendship as taught in Odd Fellowship gives us an exposition of the text "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." Never have your door closed against a stranger seemingly in distress, but let him enjoy your hospitality; give him a hearty welcome and so will he feel that he occupies the tent of a friend. And his character as he develops it, may exercise a very salutary influence upon you and upon your family. And, indeed, though his character be not as you wish, send him not out into the wilderness, for if the Great Father above in mercy has borne with him, surely thou shouldst. If God has permitted him to dwell for years under the circling curtain of the heavens, surely thou canst bear with him for a night, by entertaining him under thy roof. Let the stranger share thy hospitality and God the Great Father of mankind will reward thee; for he that giveth but a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple shall not lose his reward.
"Love" is the principle of action of the good Odd Fellow. It is the element in which he moves. The grand motive power to the efforts he puts forth for the promotion of good amongst his fellow man. It moves him to noble deeds of charity, to great works of benevolence.
The beauty of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows is seen in this, that it teaches and impresses upon the mind, and moves to action on it, that law of the Eternal Lawgiver that we call the law of "Universal Brotherhood." It teaches man his duty and his responsibility. It brings to mind the fact that he is by nature "in darkness and in chains." Grief has seized upon him as its victim, and passion has made him a slave. The links of the chain of sin have been entwined about him. He is led to look upon the developed goodness of him whose eye is all-seeing in man's deliverance from sin's effects, and as he looks, grateful thoughts crowd the mind, and grateful emotions swell in the soul. He is thus led to see the ground-work for love, to be practiced by him toward his benefactor. But the order of Odd Fellowship impressively teaches our obligation to "Love one another.' An Odd Fellow never said in his heart, as the murderous brother of Adamís much loved Abel said, "Am I my brotherís keeper?" He could not say it and retain his character, for the very moment he said it he would cease to be an Odd Fellow. The we are sure that Cain was not one either in principle or in practice.
... ... ...
There have been many Cains in our world since the first one. And much, very much, innocent blood has flowed since Abelís blood stained the hillside in the pasturage near Eden. Many a good father has fallen by the hand of the assassin. Many a good husband has thus been suddenly snatched from the embrace of her whom he fondly loved and was proud to claim as his first earthly friend. And she as been left in the humble home to weep alone, while her little children unable to realize their loss, or understand the cause of their motherís sorrow have played in her presence with some sacred memento of their murdered father.
The principles of Odd Fellowship carry help to the needy and distressed of every clime and circumstance. Love to man as inculcated, teaches us to look upon every man as a brother. ...It tells us in all our actions toward them to keep in view the "Golden Rule;" "Whatsoever ye would that others would do to you, do you even so to them."
Truth is also a cardinal virtue, a standing, important principle with us. The good Odd Fellow possesses truth in the "inward parts," and his aim is continually to possess and practice it. He wants it graven upon the tablets of his heart as "with an iron pen," made permanent as the heavy impression stamped in everlasting rock. For if the foundation is pure he knows that the waters issuing therefrom will be pure. With a right heart, he will be able in his constant conduct to exhibit "truth." Like the never varying needle under the influence of the loadstone he will be always pointing in the right direction, which will be to the encampment above, and he will be wending his way to a position there.
The Odd Fellow remembers well when the world was shut out from him for the first time in the Odd Fellow's Hall. The impressive ceremonies of initiation are fresh in his mind and he feels glad that the obligations of the order are on him. There is satisfaction to him in the thought that with many thousands he stands pledged to the practice of "Friendship, Love and Truth.' The promises he has made he will hold sacred; no consideration that could be offered would induce him to prove recreant to this trust.
But the good Odd Fellow is faithful in helping a brother to stand the storms of life. If he sees danger before him to whom he is fraternally bound like the virtuous and manly Jonathan when with his lad he went within an arrow's shot of the stone Ezel to inform his covenanted friend of his imminent peril; he will inform his brother of the danger and so help, and that help will be given as none but a brother can give it. Ah! And if some dark providence overtakes him by a casualty such as frequently happens, on the waves of old ocean, or on the waters of our navigable streams, in the burning or in some other way destruction, of the vessel, he is ready if possible to help. Let him but see the evidence a brother can give in distress and he will raise both hands aloft and fly to the rescue.
Odd Fellowship teaches us to imitate the conduct of those ancient worthies who had "faith in God," from righteous Abel, the record of whose death is the firs line carved on the gravestone of the world, to the latest prophets, who sealed the truth of their teachings with their blood.
But it tells us why we are to have "faith in God;" viz. that we may find repose for the soul beyond the boundary line of time. For there is no real rest on earth. From the period when Time's lap receives us until the earth in a grave gives the body a resting place, toil and trouble and sorrow is the lot. The path of live is a narrow path and dangers are all around, obstacles continually crowd our way. We pass through dense forests at times when storms are raging, thick darkness presses about us relieved only by rapid lightening gleam for a moment, which leads us more sensibly to realize the absence of light. And to this is added the threatening voice of a seeming angry God in the rolling thunder. The principles of Odd Fellowship lead us -
To see in the author of the storm
An everlasting friend,
Benignly looking at our faith.
Sometimes the sun will light our path shedding down his mellow beams, will infuse a vigor not known in time of trial. The grass is green and flowers are opening their lovely petals to the eyes, and sending out the pleasant fragrance on the air. Earth unrolls her canvas and spreads out before the eye her untold beauties. Then her voice comes on the passing breeze to our ears and hearts "come, enjoy me." Odd Fellowship says, be careful, for in the green grass and amongst those highly colored flower plants at your feet and along your pathway, poisonous serpents may be coiled in ambush.
Be not carried away by the "voice of the charmer though he charm never so wisely." Look out for dangers till they journey ends. Shun the snare of the fowler until his hunting day is past.
"Trust in God" and thou shall come unto Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to the innumerable company of angles; to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in Heaven, and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of "just men made perfect." At the banquet of Heaven the faithful shall sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, clothed with the pure robe, they shall recline at the board with other honored guests at the great supper of the Lamb and shall tune their harps in harmony with the melody of Heaven.
How much better the world would be then it is, if the banner of Odd Fellowship was unfurled to every breeze. If Friendship, Love and Truth was practiced everywhere, and all mankind were reposing under the wide-spread branches of our tree. If all were united in one glorious principle, one law would bind all nations, kindreds and tongues of the earth. The would wretchedness and disgrace soon lose its subject.
The Brotherhood: Being a Presentation of the Principles of Odd Fellowship, Rev. Thomas G. Beharrell, pp. 62-71 (Brotherhood Publishing Co.; Indianapolis, IN: 1875)