ASSOCIATIONS FOR BENEVOLENCE, ANCIENT AND UNIVERSAL.
TRINITY CHURCH, NEW HAVEN, SEPTEMBER 2, 1842,
THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF THE I. O. O. F.
BY REV. A. B. CHAPIN, M. A.
RECTOR OF CHRIST CHURCH, WEST HAVEN,
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012
NEW HAVEN, Sept. 5, 1842.
Rev. and Dear Sir:
The undersigned have the honor of conveying to you the enclosed Resolution, passed by the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, I. O. O. F., and beg leave personally to unite in the tender of thanks, and to hope that you will comply with the request of the Grand Lodge.
With respect, your obedient servants,
R. S. HINMAN, F. CROSWELL, A. C. HEITMANN, Committee.
To Rev. A. B. CHAPIN.
GRAND LODGE OF CONNECTICUT,
New Haven, Sept. 2d, 1842.
At a special meeting of the Grand Lodge—present, D. G. M. VIBBERT, and Representatives from Nos. 1, 2, and 5—the following Resolution was offered by G. Rep. Hinman, and unanimously adopted.
Resolved, That Brothers R. S. HINMAN, F. CROSWELL, and A. C. HEITMANN, be a Committee to wait on our Rev. Brother, A. B. CHAPIN, and tender him the thanks of this Grand Lodge for the able and interesting Discourse delivered before them this day, and request a copy of the same for publication.
A true copy of record. (Attest) A. C. HEITMANN, G. Sec'y.
NEW HAVEN, Sept. 6, 1842.
Yours of the 5th inst., enclosing a Resolution of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, has been duly received. The causes which led me to consent to preach before the Grand Lodge, on the occasion referred to, would also induce me to place the Discourse delivered on that occasion, at the disposal of the Lodge, if in the judgment of the members it is calculated to advance the principles of the Order, and the cause of benevolence. The Discourse will, therefore, be placed in your hands, so soon as a few notes and references can be added, which seem to me important, both as authorities for some of the positions taken, and also as an index to those who may desire to pursue the inquiry, in pointing out the sources of information on the subject.
Please accept for the Grand Lodge, and for yourselves, gentlemen, my thanks for your kindness,
and believe me truly,
Your obedient servant, A. B. CHAPIN.
To R. S. HINMAN, F. CROSWELL and A. C. HEITMANN, Esqrs.
1 THESSALONIANS v. 21.
"PROVE ALL THINGS; HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD."
THE chapter from which our text is taken, contains numerous precepts, designed to direct the Thessalonian Christians in the performance of their duty. In the text itself, the Apostle inculcates a most important principle, incumbent upon all men, at all times, and in all places. The pertinence of the illustration, and the force of the language, is rendered still more striking by the allusion made to the practice of testing coins, by ringing them upon a counter or touchstone. It has been debated, by commentators, whether the Apostle intended this language to apply to everything that should come before us; or whether it was intended to apply only to Christian doctrine. [Bloomfield, Com, in loco] The latter, no doubt, was the leading idea in the author's mind; but nevertheless, he lays down a principle, applicable to all cases, touching which we may be called upon to judge. We are first to prove, or to make trial of those things which claim our approbation, before receiving or rejecting them. If they stand the test, we are to approve them, and in case of moral and religious duties, to hold them fast. It is our duty, and especially may we ask it of those who are not members of the Association which has come here to worship to-day, to apply this principle on the present occasion. Prove the principles of this Society, try [3/4] their acts, and if they be found not only innocent, but praiseworthy, give them your sanction, if not your support. On the contrary, if they stand not this test, reject, renounce, anathematize them. But do not reject that which has not been tried, nor renounce that which has not been proved, nor anathematize that which has not been put to the test. And while we invite this examination, it is our duty and our pleasure to facilitate your inquiries, and to assist you in an examination. For this purpose, I propose to state briefly the principles and practices of the Society, and to put you in the road to a fair and conclusive examination of the subject. And I do this the more readily, as some have supposed that there are valid objections against it. As a fellow-citizen, as a Christian man, but above all, as a Christian minister, it is my duty to do this, that I may avoid even the appearance of evil—and that, without sacrificing principle to passion, or knowledge to prejudice.
In addressing you on this subject, I may presume, that to those who are not members of this Association, I am to speak of an institution of which they have heard and know but little. It is, therefore, reasonable to conclude, that you will at once inquire, what are the principles, practices, and benefits of this Society? To this proper and reasonable inquiry, it is my duty and design to reply. A full answer to this question will require us to consider four things.
1. The origin of the Association.
2. The objects of the same.
3. The principles upon which it is founded, and which are inculcated in it; and,
4. The benefits to be derived from a participation in its membership.
1. Concerning the origin of this Institution, there has been much debate, and no little difference of opinion. That the present name is modern, no one doubts; that its introduction into this country is recent, is granted; but that the thing is far more ancient than the name, is certain. If, then, we lay aside the name, which has been frequently changed, [4/5] and confine our attention to the substance, we shall find no difficulty in tracing the principle back to the remotest ages. The principle upon which this and all similar institutions have been founded, may be stated thus: It is good for men to associate themselves together for purposes of benevolence and mutual aid; that in an institution designed to be universal, there should be something which will serve as an universal language to all its members, and at the same time operate as a safeguard to the institution against fraud and imposition. The plan universally adopted as the best calculated to accomplish this purpose, has been, a mode of initiation, solemn and impressive, with signs and tokens by which the members should recognize each other. These, therefore, must of necessity be secret. Hence the principle upon which this and all similar institutions have been based, is, that of association for purposes of benevolence and mutual aid, with a solemn and impressive mode of initiation, and with signs and tokens of recognition, which the members are not at liberty to reveal. All else is open and free to the public. All else is freely published to the world; and the closest scrutiny invited.
You will see from this, my friends, that we can not tell what is the mode of initiation into the I. O. of O. F., nor into any similar institution, nor what are the signs and tokens by which the members recognize each other. But in regard to every thing else, the world may know, as well as its members. Consequently, we shall never be able exactly to identify the several societies of this nature, which do now, or have heretofore existed, though we may prove the existence of societies having similar objects in view, and attempting to gain the same end by similar principles.
Bearing this in mind, and I do not hesitate to say, after a most thorough historical investigation, that institutions founded on similar principles, and having similar objects in view, are as ancient as the earliest history of civilization. And I am persuaded that a careful investigation of this point, would be full of interest to the Theologian and Christian student. In Egypt, the most ancient among the ancient nations, [5/6] an institution of this kind existed from the earliest period. [Diod. Sic. LL. i. v. Jamblichus de Myst. vii. Faber, Myst. Cabin, c. 1. Rees' Encyc. Art. Eleusinian.] Of the nature of that institution we know very little. History informs us, that many benefits were supposed to be derived from a participation in the secrets of the society; that those secrets were revealed only to the initiated, and that the mode of initiation was well calculated to make a serious and abiding impression on the mind of the recipient.
Besides the Egyptian mysteries, as they are called by historians, we find scattered throughout all Europe, and a large portion of Asia, associations founded on similar principles, characterized by similar ceremonies, and having similar objects in view. [These have been known by various names, in different countries, as the mysteries of Eleusis, of Ceres, of Isis; Pythagorianism, Druidism, the rites of Thesmorphia, the Esculapian, and the like. Indeed, nearly all the worship of the ancients combined something of this kind, though commingled with many other things foreign to the subject.] Of most of these our information is scanty and imperfect; but enough is known to prove the identity of their origin and object. These were all sometimes spoken of as the Mysteries of the Cabiri; a name which is itself a mystery, and which no learning or research has yet been able satisfactorily to explain. [Faber derives it from the Hebrew Cabirim, the mighty ones. But this wants proof.]
Among all the mysteries of the ancients, those celebrated at the city of Eleusis, and hence called the Eleusian mysteries, are best known. [These are described at length in Voyage du June Anarchasis en Grèce, c. lxviii., and by Robinson, Archaelogia Graeca, B. iii. c. 19, which seems to have been mainly copied from Anarcharsis without credit.] These were copied from the Egyptian, and bore a general correspondence to all similar institutions; and hence, an account of one, is, in the main, an account of all the others. Not that all agreed in the particular detail of their practices or objects, but in their outline they agreed in holding similar principles for similar purposes. Now a careful comparison of all the ancient rites, as they existed anterior [6/7] to the promulgation of the Gospel, leads to the following conclusion. It was a leading characteristic of all the ancient rites, that they began in sorrow and gloom, but ended in light and joy [Compare Mysteries of Eleusis, (Anarcharsis and Robinson,) Pythagorianism, (Plato, L. i. e. 9 Serv. AEniad, x. 564. Jamb. L. i. c. 31. Bayle, Hist. Crit. Die. in Pythag.) Druidism, (Rees' Encyc. Art. Druid. Caesar de Bell. Gall. vi. 13. Hume, vol. i. p. 3. Walker's Mem. Irish Bards,) and Cabirianism in general, (Faber, Myst. Cabin.)]; they were all calculated to remind men of their weakness, their ignorance, their helplessness, and their sinfulness of character; of the shortness and uncertainty of life, of the ills which flesh is heir to; of the punishment of guilt, of the reward of virtue, [This is emphatically true of Eleusinianism, Arch. Gr. a. lxviii.] and the raising of the just to life eternal and immortal. [Cic. de Nat. Deorum, L. i. a. 11. Lactantius, L. i. c. 5 Jos. Adv. Appion, L. ii. Plut. Vita Numa. Rees' Encyc. Art. Druid.] In all, too, the mode of initiation was calculated to make a deep and lasting impression upon the mind of the candidate.
For these purposes, striking exhibitions of the consequences of sin, and the pleasures of virtue, were presented for consideration, in sudden and striking contrast, [Virg. AEn. vi. 255, and Warb. Div. Leg. B. ii. Sec. 4. Fab. Cab. c. v. p. 232. Cic. Tusc. Disc. L. i cc. 12, 13. Chrys. Orat. 12. Schol. Arist. Plut. Anar. c. lxviii. and note.] and every thing was designed to impress the candidate with a lively sense of what was thus represented. To these we add some other things, in which the ancient mysteries did in effect agree, though only hinted at, or slightly alluded to, in some; while in others they were distinctly and clearly set forth. First among these, was the doctrine of a new birth, or, as it was sometimes called, a wonderful regeneration. [Compare the rites of the Tauribolum and Criobolum, in Prudentius, apud Ban. Mythol. vol. i. p. 274, sometimes called a baptism of blood, and an inscription in Jul. Firm. de Error, Prof. Rel. p. 56.] What was signified by this, has been the subject of much debate. Some have supposed that these regeneratory sacrifices denoted a deep conviction pervading the pagan world, that man had [7/8] fallen from his original purity; and that they were symbolical of that new birth, which alone can fit us for heaven. [Maurice, Ind. Antiq. in Faber, vol. ii. c. viii. p. 351, from which it appears that this doctrine is recognized in various places in the Institutes of Menu. There is abundant evidence that the corruption of human nature was admitted by the ancient, as it is by the modern heathen. But there is one source of evidence hitherto overlooked, which is so curious and pertinent, that it must not be omitted. A single specimen in this place must suffice. In the Anglo-Saxon language, god signifies both GOD and good; that is, GOD is emphatically the good; while on the other hand, man denotes both man and sin. Hence, GOD is good, but man is sin.] Others, however, suppose that they contain no allusion to this, but are merely corrupted copies of an original religious ceremony, kept in commemoration of the saving of Noah and his family in the ark. [Faber, in his Horae Mosaicae, (vol. ii. p. 107,) adopted the same opinion as Mr. Maurice, and many others, but retracted it in his Dissertation on the Cabiri, (vol. ii, p. 351,) and adopted the one last mentioned, and the new birth was, in his opinion, a mythological account of the deliverance of Noah from the Ark. The symbol of this was different among different nations. Among the Egyptians, it was "an infant sitting upon the lotus." (Jam. de Myst c. vii. Plut. de Isid.) Similar representations are found in all the ancient rites, as will be observed in another note.]
In my judgment, both are partly right and partly wrong. That the ancient mysteries were copies, in many instances corrupted copies, but still, copies of a highly primitive rite, reaching back nearly to the time of Noah, and celebrating his deliverance in the Ark, has been satisfactorily proved by learned men. [Reland, Diss. de Cabiri. Maurice, Indian Antiquities, vol. iv. Cooke, Inquiry into the Patriarchal and Druidical Religions. Cudworth, Intellectual System. Horsley's Tracts, p. 44, Ed. 1789. These authors agree as to the antiquity, though not as to the object, of the ancient rites.] Now we have the testimony of an Apostle, that the Ark of Noah, in which he was saved from the flood, was a symbol of that salvation, which was signified by Christian Baptism. [1 Peter iii. 20, 21. The same view is taken in the Baptismal Office of the Anglican Liturgy, and by the Christian fathers universally.] If, then, the mysteries of the ancients were copies, however corrupted, of such an ancient and primitive rite, then they must also have had reference, at the beginning, to that spiritual birth, signified in baptism, of which the salvation of Noah in the Ark, was also a sign and symbol.
I am very far, however, from supposing that this idea was [8/9] retained in all the mysteries of the ancients. On the contrary, I do not find evidence that it was generally thought of. Upon a review of all the evidence on the subject, I am led to the conclusion, that every form of religion which does now exist, or ever has existed, was copied from an original divine institution; [That is, the leading facts, so to speak, upon which all else depends, were so copied. Now such a fact, in the Christian religion, is the atonement, made by the death of CHRIST. And the death, by which this atonement was made, is set forth in the Eucharist, and this death is shown forth, until his coming again. And this same death was shadowed forth, by the sacrifices in the Jewish and Patriarchal churches. Now these sacrifices were of divine institution, reaching back to the days of our first parents, and there is not a religion known to exist, among any nation upon earth, in which there is not some sort of sacrifice. And these sacrifices, which constitute so large a share, which are in fact the leading characteristics of all pagan religions, are believed by those who practice them, to be of divine original; for every man supposes his religion to be from heaven. Now all sacrifices were copied in the first instance, from the sacrifices of the Patriarchal Church, and consequently were of divine institution. See these points clearly and fully proved in Magee, On the Atonement and Sacrifice. Disc. ii. and Nos. xl.-xlii. See also Justin Martyr's first Apology, where he attempts to prove, that all the leading facts of the heathen religions were corrupted copies of a divine original.] and that every form of the ancient mysteries was copied from some primitive and religious rite. [The origin of all these seems to have been, a primitive religious rite, kept in commemoration of the deliverance of Noah from the Ark, variously understood, in subsequent times, and variously modified among different nations, and upon which various superstitions have been engrafted. This point is curious, and deeply interesting, but we can add only a few of the more obvious and striking coincidences. The principal things symbolized in all the ancient rites, are, the Ark, with Noah and his family. These were subsequently symbolized with the heavenly bodies, and finally deified, and under various names, misunderstood and misapprehended when adopted into foreign languages, furnish nearly all the material for the ancient mythology. In many of the ancient rites, an Ark was carried in procession, (Fab. Cab. vol. i. p. 215,) and even their temples were often built in form of ships, as in Egypt, (Diod. Sic. Bib. L i. p. 52,) Ireland, (Vallancy, Collect. de Reb. Hib. vol. iii. p. 199, etc., vol. iv. p. 29, etc.,) Scandinavia, (Snorro's Edda, Fab. 21,) and the ancient nations generally, (Fab. Cab. vol. ii. p. 216, etc.) Noah's entombment, in the Ark, so to speak, and his deliverance from it, are also commemorated in most of the rites, (Julius Firm. de Error, Prof. Rel. p. 45. Jamb. de Myst. Sec. vi. c. 51. Fab. Cab. vol. ii. p. 354, etc.) The fabled metempsychosis seems also to have come from this source. (Apoll. Argon. L. i. ver. 641. Fab Cab. vol. ii. 355.] It is true, that the former were very greatly corrupted, and the meaning [9/10] of the latter, lost sight of; but this does not affect the question of their origin. And I must express my most thorough conviction, that there was enough retained in these symbols, even among the most corrupted, to lead the mind of a devout and reflecting man, away from their outward meaning, to their original and spiritual signification. [Does not this view of the subject, afford a clue to the solution of that difficult question, the Salvability of the Heathen?]
If, now, we follow down the history of these ancient mysteries, until the religion of the Cross had been proclaimed throughout the world, we shall find them essentially changed in their religious character; no longer professing to convey religious blessings or spiritual privileges; but holding out promises of such advantages and benefits as men can afford to their fellow-men, but still inculcating virtue by the highest and strongest sanctions. We might, would time permit, follow down the history of these associations to the present time, and should thus find, that from the earliest ages to the present day, there have been similar associations, founded upon the same general principles, with similar rites and ceremonies, and with similar objects in view. ["The secret discipline of the Primitive Church," forms the connecting link between the ancient and modern rites. (Secr. Discp. Anct. Ecc. Hist. 12mo. 1833. See Clem. Alex. Strom. i. pp. 320, 324, 327. Oxon. ii. p. 434, vii. p. 520. Tert. Apol. cc. 3, 7. Origin, Cont, Cels. L. i. 7. Min. Felix, Sect. ix. p. 90. Cyril Jerus. Cat. vi. 16. Basil De Spirit. Sanc. tom. ii. p. 352, Epis. 371. Greg. Naz. Orat. 40, 42. Ambros. de Abrah. L. i. c. 5, n. 38. Aug. Serm. i. Neoph. Chryst. Hom. 40. 1 Cor. xv. 29. Hom. xvii. in 2 Cor. See also a Discourse on the History of the Secret Principle, by the present author, Cov. Feb. 1842.)] Yet the rites and ceremonies have not been the same; for membership in one, would not introduce a person into any other. Such an investigation, also, would show us, that these rites and ceremonies were originally of a religious character, copied in the first instance from a divine institution, and that for ages they were mighty agents in preserving and perpetuating a knowledge of the truth, both as regards GOD and man. Such, brethren and friends, is a brief statement of facts, in regard to the history of the principle on which this Society is based, and out of which it originated.
2.  This leads us to consider the object of this Institution, which must be familiar to all its members, and perhaps to some others. Yet it is a part of my object and duty, to devote a few moments to a consideration of this point. And here we must notice a striking point of difference between the ancient and modern associations. Persons initiated into the ancient mysteries, were believed to live in a state of greater happiness and security than other men, and to be more immediately under the protection of the gods; to enjoy more distinguished places in the Elysian fields; to enjoy a purer light, and live more emphatically in the bosom of the Deity. But nothing of this kind is expected or promised in any of the modern associations. They promise only such things as man can perform. Their object is, to do what man can accomplish, for the relief of human misery, suffering, and want. This Society, therefore, is a vast institution, spread far and wide over the habitable globe, the main object of which is, the relief of human suffering. I say "the main object," for while it is doing this, it aims also to inculcate the highest and soundest principles of virtue and morality.
A brief account of the origin and progress of the Order in this country, falls appropriately into this place, as illustrating the view I have taken. The first Associations were organized in this country about twenty-three years ago, from which time the progress of the Institution has been constant. It has, however, increased more rapidly within a few years, than before. In other words, it has spread the most rapidly, where it is best known. At present, there is scarcely a State or Territory in the country, where there are not many societies and associations of the Order. The number at present, I am unable to give. Something of the extent of its operations may be inferred from the fact, that during the year ending September, 1841, the various associations in Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Ohio, and Kentucky, paid out over $18,550, for the relief of the sick, the education of orphan children, and in other charities. Of the other States, I have not the means of speaking. During the same [11/12] year, the sums expended for the same objects in England, were over $1,000,000. It is now three years since the first Lodge was organized in Connecticut, and we number about 800 members, of which near 500 are in the city of New Haven.
3. We proceed to consider the principles of this Institution. These are the genuine principles of the most expanded benevolence. The lessons inculcated in all the teaching of the Order, are in accordance with the maxims upon which it is based—"Friendship, Love, and Truth." It teaches us that we are all brethren of the same great family,—that we are bone of the same bone, and flesh of the same flesh,—sons of the same father,—children of the same mother,—and travelers through the same world of trouble, and misery, and woe, alike needing the sympathies and aid of our brethren. It reminds us, that the bounties of Providence were not given to be squandered in riotous living, or in idle extravagance, but for the general good of all mankind; that it is inconsistent with humanity, as well as a sin against our fellow-beings, for the more favored to pass the needy, without heeding their cry. It reminds us, too, that man is but the steward of GOD'S bounty, and that for the faithful execution of that stewardship, he must, ere long, render a strict and impartial account.
But the means of the Society are not as universal, as human misery and want are extensive. Hence, in the distribution of its alms, it follows the sound policy of assisting its members and their families first, and then, if their means allow, of granting aid to others. But this requires funds, and these can be collected only of its members. Accordingly, every member is required to pay an annual tax, amounting to less than forty cents per month, which goes into the general fund of the Society. This fund is devoted to the sole and exclusive purpose of assisting the sick and afflicted. But, unlike most other institutions of the kind, it is not given as a mere charity; nor is the amount dependent upon the opinion, caprice, or favor of any individual. It is determined by the rules of the Order, and is designed to be sufficient to support the individual, and pay the expenses of an ordinary sickness. [12/13] This sum is generally fixed at four dollars per week, to which every member is entitled, so long as he is unable to pursue his ordinary avocations. Under this aspect, this Society is, in fact, one vast Mutual Aid Society, differing from other mutual aid societies, in its universality, in the perfection of its organization, and in the fact, that benevolence is inculcated at every step. It enables a man, by paying a small sum during health, to draw four dollars a week during sickness. It insures him, too, of attention and assistance during his sickness, and watchers when needed, without any trouble on the part of his friends, and it is constantly moving him to deeds of charity, by the lessons it teaches.
It also inculcates morality, by the most impressive lessons, and requires an upright and moral life, as a condition of membership. It banishes, too, from the Lodge room, every temptation to evil, allowing nothing but the appropriate duties and business of the Lodge to be carried on at any of its meetings. It bands together a large number of the most active and energetic of our citizens, for general benevolence, for mutual aid, assistance, comfort, and consolation.
But it has not, as some suppose, the ability to act on the offensive. It can not make war upon any other institution, nor upon any of the customs of society. It can exert no political power, nor be brought to bear upon any sect or creed. It is wholly and entirely an organization for the relief of human suffering and want; and every thing which does not tend to promote these objects, is excluded by the constitution of the Society.
4. I need not, after detailing the principles of this Society, occupy much time on the benefits to be derived from membership. These are so apparent, that they must be obvious to every one. Still, some may not have reflected upon the subject, and I will, therefore, take the liberty of suggesting some, that now call for more particular notice. The first benefit I shall mention, is, the pecuniary aid it furnishes the sick. This point is one that can not be too well considered, especially by the young man who is just setting out in life, more particularly, [13/14] if he has a family dependent on him for support, and is obliged to rely upon his labor for his maintenance. To such persons, the tax of four or five dollars a year, when in health, is of no consequence; but to them, an income of four dollars a week, when sick, would be of incalculable benefit. Who of you, my hearers, have not seen the industrious and prudent man, whose labor, in health, yielded no more than a comfortable support to his numerous family—who has not seen such a man droop, fall sick, and for months lie stretched on a bed of languishing? He has lived, and his family have, some how, been provided for. No complaint has been heard in public; but if you could have seen, and some of you no doubt have seen, the internal regulations of such a family, you would have seen that which would have caused your hearts to bleed. Oh! how has that sick man's spirit fainted within him, and how have the hot tears blistered his burning cheek, as he saw his loved ones going half fed, or, perhaps, quite supperless to bed! And how has the term of his sickness been lengthened out, by the anguish of mind, caused by the condition of his family! Now had such a man been a member of this Order, he would have drawn his weekly stipend, during the whole term of his sickness, as regularly as he drew his pay for his labor, when in health. How much this would have alleviated the anguish of his soul, and relieved the wants of his family, you can all easily imagine. To such a family, this Society comes a most welcome blessing. It comes, not with the stinted, uncertain hand of a cold-hearted charity,—nor with the reflection, that the stream may dry up at any moment,—but it comes as a band of brothers, who have treasured up for him the spare pennies of the brotherhood, and who now take pleasure in dispensing to him that which, though it be a charity, is still a right.
Second. It ensures the sick the attention of friends, when needed, without the trouble to which families are often put. And here, too, the young man, just setting out in life, will find a very important aid. He comes to the city, perhaps, to pursue his trade, unknowing and unknown. He falls sick. But [14/15] there is no kind father near, no tender mother, or watchful sister, to bend over him in love, to bathe his burning temples, or fan his feverish frame. He is alone, in the solitary chamber of the stranger's sick bed. But if he be a member of this Order, all will be done, that man can do, to alleviate his suffering, and supply his wants. Night after night, unbidden and uncalled for, his brethren gather round his bed, and watch over him with a brother's care. Think ye, that this would be a matter of small moment, to such a man? Would he not willingly give the labor of months, instead of the small contribution he is called upon to make, in order to secure it? But suppose the same man to be thus a stranger, with a young family around him. His wife knows not where to seek for aid, and her bosom is ready to burst with anguish for the present, and with dread for the future. With what delight would she hail the existence of such an Institution as this—an Institution that does all man can do, to supply the lack of friends, and the want of means. Such, my friends, is but a brief picture of some of the advantages that may arise from this Society, in this point of view; and I might add others, quite as important, and quite as moving. But these must be amply sufficient to satisfy every reflecting mind.
Third. Another advantage to the young man, is the fact, that the principles of this Society lead him away from many temptations to evil. Man is a social being, and will have society. Now the young are imminently exposed to temptation from this very source. They are ever liable to be led away into scenes where hilarity leads to dissipation, and dissipation to intemperance. But here every avenue to such things is cut off, by the total and entire exclusion of every thing that can intoxicate, from all the Lodge rooms, and all their appurtenances, throughout the whole country. In this particular, this Society stands pre-eminent and alone. Although it does not lay down minute rules for the regulation of the conduct of its members away from the Lodge room, there all must be total abstinence men, and he who should presume [15/16] to infringe upon this regulation of the Order, would be visited with immediate expulsion.
Fourth. Another benefit to be derived from this Society, and to those who may ever be called to take part in public life, the knowledge of public business which is there acquired, is of no inconsiderable advantage. There is scarce a man of respectability, that has arrived at middle life, that has not been called upon to address some public body, or preside over some public meeting. And who has not been pained and mortified, at the blunders and mistakes that men make under such circumstances? Now all the business of the Lodge room is conducted strictly upon parliamentary principles, as it is called, and the man who has gone through a regular gradation of offices in this Institution, (and the frequent change of officers enables all to do so,) will be prepared to preside over almost any public body, with honor to himself, and to the satisfaction of those who called him to the post.
Fifth. Another benefit to be derived from this Institution, arises from its universality. If a member of this Society were to travel in Europe, as well as in America, or should be reduced to want, or be overtaken by sickness, in London or Paris, or even in the smaller towns of Europe, as well as here at home, he would find the same brotherhood, bound by the same ties, ready to administer to his wants, to attend him in his distress, and, if need were, to bear his expenses home to his family. And not a few, yea, perhaps some who hear me, have experienced the beneficial results of such an institution.
Sixth. There is still another benefit which results to the family, rather than to the individual himself; I mean the allowance made to the widow, and the provision for her fatherless children. From the very nature of the case, this must depend upon the circumstances of the family, and consequently no determinate sum can be fixed upon. But there is, beside an allowance of thirty dollars at the time of the decease, a fund created especially for the relief of the indigent widow, and her dependent children. And many, many are [16/17] the voices, throughout this wide domain, that are now sending forth notes of gratitude, for being thus rescued from suffering, and want, and the alms-house, and placed in situations where they may become a comfort to themselves and friends, and an honor to their country.
Thus, my friends, have I detailed to you, as briefly as I could, some of the benefits of this Institution, and some of the claims it has upon, or rather, I should say, some of the advantages it offers to our citizens, and especially the younger portion of them. And here I might leave my task. But my duty would be but partly discharged, did I not allude to a few of the objections made to the Society, and thus endeavor to remove some of the unfounded prejudices that may exist in the minds of some who are not members of the Order.
I. The first objection to which I shall allude, is, that it is a secret Society. This is true in one sense of the word, but not in the proper sense of the term. The existence of the Society is certainly not a secret, as its attendance here this day, and its operations from time to time, must show. Nor are the times and places of its meetings secret, as these are settled by the By-Laws, which all can have access to that desire, and are also frequently advertised in the papers. Nor are the objects of the Society secret, as these are detailed in the Constitution and By-Laws, and in hundreds of Discourses and Addresses in every part of the country. Nor are the names of the members, nor the names of the officers, secret, as the former appear frequently before you, wearing the badge of their membership, and the latter are annually published in the doings of the Society. What, then, is the extent of secrecy attaching to this Society? The existence and objects of the Society are known, its Constitution and By-Laws are public, the times and places of its meetings and the names of its officers and members, are known. The only things, therefore, which are not known, are the mode of initiation, and the signs and tokens by which members recognize each other. And these are kept secret, simply because the security of the Order requires it. It must have some safeguard [17/18] against imposition and fraud, and no other arrangement would answer the end so effectually, as this. The objections, therefore, against this Institution, as a secret Society, are without foundation.
2. But, second, this objection often presents itself under a different form, and while it is granted that the view we have taken of the subject, is sustained by the testimony of all its members, still, it is claimed, that as they are members, and therefore interested, their testimony must be received with great allowance. To this principle no objection is made, but to the mode of its application we demur. The members all confess their interest in this matter, and tell you just how, and how far, they are interested, and are quite willing you should make all due allowance. But the ground of complaint is, that men claiming to be candid and judicious, should, because the members are interested to a certain extent, pretend to believe, not, that they are incompetent witnesses, but that they are false witnesses; and that, although they have the assurance of the Constitution and By-Laws of the Society, and the unanimous declarations of multitudes of men of unimpeachable veracity, that it is most strictly a moral and benevolent Institution—men, I say, who pretend to believe, in direct contradiction of all this, that it is the reverse of what is pretended. Such persons we must regard as unreasonable in their opinions, as they are frequently abusive in their denunciations. They sin against the light and knowledge they have, or might have, and do their friends and neighbors the most cruel injustice. They deal with us precisely as the pagans of antiquity dealt with the primitive Christians.
3. A third objection that is sometimes made, is, that this Institution withdraws money from other benevolent objects, of a more general character, or having a more beneficial influence. To this we only reply,—the objection assumes that to be a fact, which we do not believe is true; one that never has been, and never can be proved. Besides, the duty of benevolence being constantly inculcated here at every step, the general principle must of necessity be benefitted.
4.  Another objection is, that the funds of the Society are distributed only to its members. This is true in part, though not universally. But even when true, it results from our necessities, not our will. But is this a valid objection? Do not all mutual aid associations do the same? Do men deposit money in a bank, unless they expect to receive it in return themselves? Now one may make a deposit of money in a bank, or he may join a mutual aid society, that confines its operations to a single neighborhood or town; or he may get his life insured, or purchase an annuity thereon, and no one finds fault. Nay, men applaud his prudence. Why, then, may we not join a mutual aid association, that is universal in its operations, and which inculcates brotherly love, and general benevolence along with it? If there are any preferences, they are in favor of the Order, whose claims we are now considering.
5. Another, and the last objection to which I shall allude, is, that it employs a large amount of time that ought to be devoted to something else. This objection may be true in some instances, though it is not so necessarily in any case. Indeed, there is no necessity that it ever should be true. But even were it true, to some extent, do not the benefits that may be derived, more than counterbalance the expenditure of time? Where can any good be obtained in this world, without expenditure? Who ever became rich without labor, or wise without study? Go visit the counting-room of the merchant, or the library of the student, and see whether they do not spend time, to gain their ends. Go the rounds of life; visit the clergyman's study, the lawyer's office, and follow the physician in his routine of duty, and see if anywhere in this world good can be procured without effort. If every thing else, then, costs time and money, can this Society be an exception? And is it reasonable to suppose that all the benefits we have enumerated, can be procured without labor and without cost?
But it is said that it withdraws men from the bosoms of their families, and alienates the confidence of friends. That [19/20] it takes the husband and the father from home occasionally, is true. But it never should do so, when he is needed there. It is one of the points upon which the members are charged at their initiation, that they are never to neglect their families or their business for the Lodge room. If, therefore, any one does this, it is in violation of his duty as a member of this Society, as well as that of a husband or a father. Indeed, so well is the organization of this Society contrived, that it can never bring duty into conflict with duty.
So, also, if it ever alienates the confidence of friends, or sows the seeds of discord in families, it is because one is unreasonable, or another imprudent. This, I am aware, is a delicate, perhaps a difficult point. It is natural and proper that the wife should be the participant of all the husband's joys and sorrows, and the confidant of the husband's secrets; yet there are many things it is not proper for him tell, even to his wife. That lawyer who should communicate the secrets of his clients, even to his wife, would violate the oath of his office. Or that physician, who should detail all the particulars of every case of all his patients, even to her, would be deemed unworthy the confidence of the public. And even there may be confessions made to the ear of a clergyman, by those who wish religious direction, or spiritual comfort and consolation, that it would be highly improper for him to mention to any one. So, too, it would be a violation of trust, for an agent or clerk to reveal to any one, under ordinary circumstances, the situation or condition of his employer's affairs. If, then, there are so many situations in life, where the wife does not expect to be made the confidant of facts within her husband's knowledge, because sound policy forbids it, may not sound policy also require of the husband, in this particular, that he shall not reveal to any one, not even to his wife, those things which the successful operation of the Society require should not be revealed? And is it not unreasonable to require that, in this instance, which would be yielded as a matter of course in a great variety of other cases? The wife knows, or may know, the object and principles of [20/21] the Institution, the time, and object and place of its meetings. Indeed, she may know all the husband knows, but the mode of initiation, and the tokens by which stranger members recognize each other—things which could be of no possible benefit to honest men, but which might enable rogues to practice fraud and imposition upon the Society?
The Society, be it remembered, is quite as much for the benefit of the wife and family, as for the husband himself. It is as much for her comfort, that her sick and suffering husband, and her darling little ones, should be provided for, as it is for his comfort to be attended to. And it is for her fatherless children, when the husband is cold in the grave, that the benefit and aid of the Institution are especially timely. It is then, that the voice of benevolence cheers her heart, and lightens her toil, and thus adds new sweetness and charms to the hum of voices about her.
But I will pause. Already I must have wearied your patience, and trespassed upon your good nature. But my apology must be my subject. It is no labored eulogy I have aimed to give you, but a plain, straight forward statement of facts and reasons, and I only ask that these may be candidly weighed, and impartially judged. The origin of this Society you know—its objects and principles have been proclaimed—its members are before you, known and seen of all who wish, and their acts in the face of the world. Try these objects and principles by the most rigid rules of right, and by the highest and purest principles of benevolence, and if they stand the test, will you not say, as I may now say, ESTO PERPETUA.
But I have a word of exhortation to the members of the Institution. And first, it becomes you to take heed to your ways, for you are watched. The fact that there is something not known to the public, causes many to watch you. Besides, the name of the Society is not calculated to commend it to popular favor. Men dread to be accounted odd; and many a man has fallen a victim to sin, rather than incur the suspicion of singularity. You are put, therefore, by your very name, upon your good behavior. See to it, then, that [21/22] your life and conduct is in conformity with the principles you profess; so shall the world see, that your singularity consists in your "Friendship, Love, and Truth."
You owe it, too, to the Society of which you are a member, to do this. The principles you have been taught in its halls and Lodge rooms, are those of the most inflexible virtue and the most expanded benevolence. It becomes you, then, as faithful members, to carry out those principles in your daily walk and conversation. Though you are bound more closely to the brethren than before, your duty to the rest of mankind is in no degree lessened. You owe them the same duties now as before, and are bound to them by the same ties as formerly. The tightening of one bond may not be permitted to loosen another. Nay, rather, it should bind us more closely to all. And what is done as a matter of right to one, should be done as a duty to all.
But, second, you owe it to GOD to do this. The principles upon which this Society are based, whether they have come down to us through a long line of unbroken tradition, or were copied immediately from His holy book, came originally from the same divine Being, and their obligation rests upon His Almighty word. We owe it, therefore, to Him, to carry out the principles of the Association. By these, the fall and sinfulness of man are set forth,—the punishment of sin and the rewards of virtue are presented, and men are reminded that their salvation comes alone from GOD. And your presence in this consecrated temple to-day, to offer the sacrifice of prayer and thanksgiving unto his Divine Majesty,—to confess your sins unto Him, and to pray for pardon and forgiveness, are evidence of your acknowledgment of the truth of these principles. Remember, then, that you are under an obligation higher, and holier, and weightier, than any bonds and ties that man can create, to obey the divine command. It was GOD that created and sustains us—it was He that so framed all around us, that every thing should contribute to the happiness of a virtuous race of mortals. And it was He, too, when man had fallen from his high estate, that sent his Son to die, that we might live. And it was He, too, when sin had made [22/23] this world a lazar-house for man—a charnel-house of all his hopes—that raised, as it were, a portion of that veil which hides eternity from our view, and revealed to us the dreadful consequences of sin, and the glorious rewards of virtue. It was His word that enabled us to catch a glimpse of that gulf, which yawns in the pathway of our being,—that disclosed the fearful, rolling, fiery surges that lave the base of the precipice, over which we are every moment liable to plunge,—and it was that, too, that informed us of a celestial world, beyond and above, where gloom shall be exchanged for light, sorrow for joy, pain for happiness, hope for certain fruition, and death itself for a life in the world to come. And though we are unable to do more than here and there to catch a glimpse, as from some distant mountain's top, and see here and there an opening glade, through the thick mists and murky clouds that hang around this lower world, these are sufficient to disclose to us a kingdom of most transcendent glories, and a world of indescribable beauty and grandeur.
Let me remind you, too, that these blessings must be secured here in this world of probation,—that now is the accepted time, that now is the day of salvation. And surely I need not remind you how important it is, that it be done without delay. Though you may be now in the glory of your strength, though health may mantle on your brow, and vigor beat in every pulse, all before you is uncertain. Soon 't will be, that flash of fire, or wave of flood, or gripe of sword, or flight of dart, or ills of age, shall, in the twinkling of an eye, darken and destroy you. Then shall you lie down in the cold grave, silent and alone. Then no earthly brother's help can aught avail you. Then none but Him who made us sons of GOD, and who himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, can act a brother's part, or soothe a brother's woe. But if we put our trust in Him, even in that hour of conflict and dismay, we shall not want for a brother's aid. Though death may clasp the body, and conquer our clay, JESUS will bear our souls above, forever to dwell in the presence of Him, whose character is, and ever shall be, "FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, and TRUTH."
WRITTEN FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE
THIRD ANNIVERSARY OF THE I. O. O. F. OF CONNECTICUT,
DR. JAMES G. PERCIVAL,
AND SUNG BY BRO. J. H. PHOEBUS, ON LEAVING THE TABLE.
AIR—Brave old Oak.
Odd Fellows we are, in this cold iron world,
For our hearts glow with charity bright;
Odd Fellows indeed, for to help those in need
Is our first and our chiefest delight.
The mourner we comfort, the sick we attend,
We lift up the poor and down trod;
Every brother shall find, in his brother, a friend,
And isn't that, too, very odd
Then a health to Odd Fellows! long life to Odd Fellows!
Our Order forever shall stand:
A health to Odd Fellows! long life to Odd Fellows!
Gie's a clasp of a brotherly hand!
The Odd Fellow watches the bed of his friend,
When he lingers in sickness and pain,
Nor ever is weary his pillow to tend,
Till health shall renew him again.
But if in the cold grave his friend shall be laid,
He visits the children of sorrow;
By the Odd Fellow's kindness, the orphan is made
To forget the dark fears of to-morrow.
Then a health, &c.
Then just for a moment look into our school,
Where the little Odd Fellows are learning;
You must be more than odd, if you then can keep cool,
When each Odd Fellow's bosom is yearning:
We are all of us odd enough then to allow,
That the sight can extract from us tears;
Indeed it is odd, and we can not tell how,
But that sight, though it saddens us, cheers.
Then a health, &c.
We can say when three of us together are met,
We are odd, and yet we three agree;
And when two by two we together are set,
Though even, Odd Fellows are we.
Then let us rejoice in the name of Odd Fellow!
We can't find a worthier name;
Whenever 'tis spoken, the hard heart grows mellow,
And charity lights up her flame.
Then a health to Odd Fellows! long life to Odd Fellows!
Our Order forever shall stand:
A health to Odd Fellows! long life to Odd Fellows!
Gie's a clasp of a brotherly hand!