IV. SECRET MASTER.|
MASONRY is a succession of allegories, the mere vehicles of great lessons in
morality and philosophy. You will more fully appreciate its spirit, its object,
its purposes, as you advance in the different Degrees, which you will find to
constitute a great, complete, and harmonious system.
If you have been disappointed in the first three Degrees, as you have
received them, and if it has seemed to you that the performance has not come up
to the promise, that the lessons of morality are not new, and the scientific
instruction is but rudimentary, and the symbols are imperfectly explained,
remember that the ceremonies and lessons of those Degrees have been for ages
more and more accommodating themselves, by curtailment and sinking into
commonplace, to the often limited memory and capacity of the Master and
Instructor, and to the intellect and needs of the Pupil and Initiate; that they
have come to us from an age when symbols were used, not to reveal but to
conceal; when the commonest learning was confined to a select few, and the
simplest principles of morality seemed newly discovered truths; and that these
antique and simple Degrees now stand like the broken columns of a roofless
Druidic temple, in their rude and mutilated greatness; in many parts, also,
corrupted by time, and disfigured by modern additions and absurd
interpretations. They are but the entrance to the great Masonic Temple, the
triple columns of the portico.
You have taken the first step over its threshold, the first step toward the
inner sanctuary and heart of the temple. You are in the path that leads up the
slope of the mountain of Truth; and it depends upon your secrecy, obedience, and
fidelity, whether you will advance or remain stationary.
Imagine not that you will become indeed a Mason by learning what is commonly
called the "work," or even by becoming familiar with our traditions.
Masonry has a history, a literature, a philosophy. Its allegories and traditions
will teach you much; but much is to be sought elsewhere. The streams of learning
that now flow full and broad must be followed to their heads in the springs that
well up in the remote past, and you will there find the origin and meaning of
A few rudimentary lessons in architecture, a few universally admitted maxims
of morality, a few unimportant traditions, whose real meaning is unknown or
misunderstood, will no longer satisfy the earnest inquirer after Masonic truth.
Let whoso is content with these, seek to climb no higher. He who desires to
understand the harmonious and beautiful proportions of Freemasonry must read,
study, reflect, digest, and discriminate. The true Mason is an ardent seeker
after knowledge; and he knows that both books and the antique symbols of Masonry
are vessels which come down to us full-freighted with the intellectual riches of
the Past; and that in the lading of these argosies is much that sheds light on
the history of Masonry, and proves its claim to be acknowledged the benefactor
of mankind, born in the very cradle of the race.
Knowledge is the most genuine and real of human treasures; for it is Light,
as Ignorance is Darkness. It is the development of the human soul, and its
acquisition the growth of the soul, which at the birth of man knows nothing, and
therefore, in one sense, may be said to be nothing. It is the seed, which has in
it the power to grow, to acquire, and by acquiring to be developed, as the seed
is developed into the shoot, the plant, the tree. "We need not pause at the
common argument that by learning man excelleth man, in that wherein man
excelleth beasts; that by learning man ascendeth to the heavens and their
motions, where in body he cannot come, and the like. Let us rather regard the
dignity and excellency of knowledge and learning in that whereunto man's nature
doth most aspire, which is immortality or continuance. For to this tendeth
generation, and raising of Houses and Families; to this buildings, foundations,
and monuments; to this tendeth the desire of memory, fame, and celebration, and
in effect the strength of all other human desires." That our influences
shall survive us, and be living forces when we are in our graves; and no merely
that our names shall be remembered; but rather that our works shall be read, our
acts spoken of, our names recollected an mentioned when we are dead, as
evidences that those influences live and rule, sway and control some portion of
mankind and of the world,--this is the aspiration of the human soul. "We
see then how far the monuments of genius and learning are more durable than
monuments of power or of the hands. For have not the verses of Homer continued
twenty-five hundred years or more, without the loss of a syllable or letter,
during which time infinite palaces, temples, castles, cities, have decayed and
been demolished? It is no possible to have the true pictures or statues of
Cyrus, Alexander Caesar, no, nor of the Kings or great personages of much late
years; for the originals cannot last, and the copies cannot but lose of the life
and truth. But the images of men's genius and knowledge remain in books,
exempted from the wrong of time, and capable of perpetual renovation. Neither
are they fitly to be called images, because they generate still, and cast their
seeds in the minds of others, provoking and causing infinite actions and
opinions in succeeding ages; so that if the invention of the ship was thought so
noble, which carrieth riches and commodities from place to place, and
consociateth the most remote regions in participation of their fruits, how much
more are letters to be magnified which, as ships, pass through the vast seas of
time, and make age so distant to participate of the wisdom, illumination, and
inventions, the one of the other."
To learn, to attain knowledge, to be wise, is a necessity for ever truly
noble soul; to teach, to communicate that knowledge, to share that wisdom with
others, and not churlishly to lock up his exchequer, and place a sentinel at the
door to drive away the needy, is equally an impulse of a noble nature, and the
worthies work of man.
"There was a little city," says the Preacher, the son of David
"and few men within it; and there came a great King against it and besieged
it, and built great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise
man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same
poor man. Then said I, wisdom is better than strength nevertheless, the poor
man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard." If it should chance
to you, my brother, to do mankind good service, and be rewarded with
indifference and forgetfulness only, still be not discouraged, but remember the
further advice of the wise King. "In the morning sow the seed, and in the
evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not which shall prosper, this or
that, or whether both shall be alike good." Sow you the seed, whoever
reaps. Learn, that you may be enabled to do good; and do so because it is right,
finding in the act itself ample reward and recompense.
To attain the truth, and to serve our fellows, our country, and mankind--
this is the noblest destiny of man. Hereafter and all your life it is to be your
object. If you desire to ascend to that destiny, advance! If you have other and
less noble objects, and are contented with a lower flight, halt here ! let
others scale the heights, and Masonry fulfill her mission.
If you will advance, gird up your loins for the struggle ! for the way is
long and toilsome. Pleasure, all smiles, will beckon you on the one hand, and
Indolence will invite you to sleep among the flowers, upon the other. Prepare,
by secrecy, obedience, and fidelity, to resist the allurements of both !
Secrecy is indispensable in a Mason of whatever Degree. It is the first and
almost the only lesson taught to the Entered Apprentice. The obligations which
we have each assumed toward every Mason that lives, requiring of us the
performance of the most serious and onerous duties toward those personally
unknown to us until they demand our aid,-- duties that must be performed, even
at the risk of life, or our solemn oaths be broken and violated, and we be
branded as false Masons and faithless men, teach us how profound a folly it
would be to betray our secrets to those who, bound to us by no tie of common
obligation, might, by obtaining them, call on us in their extremity, when the
urgency of the occasion should allow us no time for inquiry, and the peremptory
mandate of our obligation compel us to do a brother's duty to a base impostor.
The secrets of our brother, when communicated to us, must be sacred, if they
be such as the law of our country warrants us to keep. We are required to keep
none other, when the law that we are called on to obey is indeed a law, by
having emanated from the only source of power, the People. Edicts which emanate
from the mere arbitrary will of a despotic power, contrary to the law of God or
the Great Law of Nature, destructive of the inherent rights of man, violative of
the right of free thought, free speech, free conscience, it is lawful to rebel
against and strive to abrogate.
For obedience to the Law does not mean submission to tyranny nor that, by a
profligate sacrifice of every noble feeling, we should offer to despotism the
homage of adulation. As every new victim falls, we may lift our voice in still
louder flattery. We may fall at the proud feet, we may beg, as a boon, the
honour of kissing that bloody hand which has been lifted against the helpless.
We may do more we may bring the altar and the sacrifice, and implore the God not
to ascend too soon to Heaven. This we may do, for this we have the sad
remembrance that beings of a human form and soul have done. But this is all we
can do. We can constrain our tongues to be false, our features to bend
themselves to the semblance of that passionate adoration which we wish to
express, our knees to fall prostrate; but our heart we cannot constrain. There
virtue must still have a voice which is not to be drowned by hymns and
acclamations; there the crimes which we laud as virtues, are crimes still, and
he whom we have made a God is the most contemptible of mankind; if, indeed, we
do not feel, perhaps, that we are ourselves still more contemptible.
But that law which is the fair expression of the will and judgment of the
people, is the enactment of the whole and of every individual. Consistent with
the law of God and the great law of nature, consistent with pure and abstract
right as tempered by necessity and the general interest, as contra-distinguished
from the private interest of individuals, it is obligatory upon all, because it
is the work of all, the will of all, the solemn judgment of all, from which
there is no appeal.
In this Degree, my brother, you are especially to learn the duty of obedience
to that law. There is one true and original law, conformable to reason and to
nature, diffused over all, invariable, eternal, which calls to the fulfillment
of duty and to abstinence from injustice, and calls with that irresistible voice
which is felt l in all its authority wherever it is heard. This law cannot be
abrogated or diminished, or its sanctions affected, by any law of man. A whole
senate, a whole people, cannot dissent from its paramount obligation. It
requires no commentator to render it distinctly intelligible nor is it one thing
at Rome, another at Athens; one thing now, and another in the ages to come; but
in all times and in all nations, it is, and has been, and will be, one and
everlasting;--one as that God, its great Author and Promulgator, who is the
Common Sovereign of all mankind, is Himself One. No man can disobey it without
flying, as it were, from his own bosom, and repudiating his nature; and in this
very act he will inflict on himself the severest of retributions, even though he
escape what is regarded as punishment.
It is our duty to obey the laws of our country, and to be careful that
prejudice or passion, fancy or affection, error and illusion, be not mistaken
for conscience. Nothing is more usual than to pretend conscience in all the
actions of man which are public and cannot be concealed. The disobedient refuse
to submit to the laws, and they also in many cases pretend conscience; and so
disobedience and rebellion become conscience, in which there is neither
knowledge nor revelation, nor truth nor charity, nor reason nor religion.
Conscience is tied to laws. Right or sure conscience is right reason reduced to
practice, and conducting moral actions, while perverse conscience is seated in
the fancy or affections--a heap of irregular principles and irregular defects--
and is the same in conscience as deformity is in the body, or peevishness in the
affections. It is not enough that the conscience be taught by nature; but it
must be taught by God, conducted by reason, made operative by discourse,
assisted by choice, instructed by laws and sober principles; and then it is
right, and it may be sure. All the general measures of justice, are the laws of
God, and therefore they constitute the general rules of government for the
conscience; but necessity also hath a large voice in the arrangement of human
affairs, and the disposal of human relations, and the dispositions of human
laws; and these general measures, like a great river into little streams, are
deduced into little rivulets and particularities, by the laws and customs, by
the sentences and agreements of men, and by the absolute despotism of necessity,
that will not allow perfect and abstract justice and equity to be the sole rule
of civil government in an imperfect world; and that must needs be law which is
for the greatest good of the greatest number.
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it. It is better thou
shouldest not vow than thou shouldest vow and not pay. Be not rash with thy
mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter anything before God for God is
in Heaven, and thou art upon earth; therefore let thy words be few. Weigh well
what it is you promise; but once the promise and pledge are given remember that
he who is false to his obligation will be false to his family, his friends, his
country, and his God.
Fides servailda est Faith plighted is ever to be kept, was a maxim and an
axiom even among pagans. The virtuous Roman said, either let not that which
seems expedient be base, or if it be base, let it not seem expedient. What is
there which that so-called expediency can bring, so valuable as that which it
takes away, if it deprives you of the name of a good man and robs you of your
integrity and honour? In all ages, he who violates his plighted word has been
held unspeakably base. The word of a Mason, like the word of a knight in the
times of chivalry, once given must be sacred; and the judgment of his brothers,
upon him who violates his pledge, should be stern as the judgments of the Roman
Censors against him who violated his oath. Good faith is revered among Masons as
it was among the Romans, who placed its statue in the capitol, next to that of
Jupiter Maximus Optimus; and we, like them, hold that calamity should always be
chosen rather than baseness; and with the knights of old, that one should always
die rather than be dishonoured.
Be faithful, therefore, to the promises you make, to the pledges you give,
and to the vows that you assume, since to break either is base and
Be faithful to your family, and perform all the duties of a good father, a
good son, a good husband, and a good brother.
Be faithful to your friends; for true friendship is of a nature not only to
survive through all the vicissitudes of life, but to continue through an endless
duration; not only to stand the shock of conflicting opinions, and the roar of a
revolution that shakes the world, but to last when the heavens are no more, and
to spring fresh from the ruins of the universe.
Be faithful to your country, and prefer its dignity and honour to any degree
of popularity and honour for yourself; consulting its interest rather than your
own, and rather than the pleasure and gratification of the people, which are
often at variance with their welfare.
Be faithful to Masonry, which is to be faithful to the best interests of
mankind. Labour, by precept and example, to elevate the standard of Masonic
character, to enlarge its sphere of influence, to popularize its teachings, and
to make all men know it for the Great Apostle of Peace, Harmony, and Good-will
on earth among men; of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.
Masonry is useful to all men to the learned, because it affords them the
opportunity of exercising their talents upon subjects eminently worthy of their
attention; to the illiterate, because it offers them important instruction; to
the young, because it presents them with salutary precepts and good examples,
and accustoms them to reflect on the proper mode of living; to the man of the
world, whom it furnishes with noble and useful recreation; to the traveller,
whom it enables to find friends and brothers in countries where else he would be
isolated and solitary; to the worthy man in misfortune, to whom it gives
assistance; to the afflicted, on whom it lavishes consolation; to the charitable
man, whom it enables to do more good, by uniting with those who are charitable
like himself; and to all who have souls capable of appreciating its importance,
and of enjoying the charms of a friendship founded on the same principles of
religion, morality, and philanthropy.
A Freemason, therefore, should be a man of honour and of conscience,
preferring his duty to everything beside, even to his life; independent in his
opinions, and of good morals, submissive to the laws, devoted to humanity, to
his country, to his family; kind and indulgent to his brethren, friend of all
virtuous men, and ready to assist his fellows by all means in his power.
Thus will you be faithful to yourself, to your fellows, and to God, and thus
will you do honour to the name and rank of SECRET MASTER; which, like other
Masonic honours, degrades if it is not deserved.
V. PERFECT MASTER.
The Master Khurum was an industrious and an honest man. What he was employed to do he did diligently, and he did it well and faithfully. He received no wages that were not his due. Industry and honesty are the virtues peculiarly inculcated in this Degree. They are common and homely virtues; but not for that beneath our notice. As the bees do not love or respect the drones, so Masonry neither loves nor respects the idle and those who live by their wits; and least of all those parasitic acari that live upon themselves. For those who are indolent are likely to become dissipated and vicious; and perfect honesty, which ought to be the common qualification of all, is more rare than diamonds. To do earnestly and steadily, and to do faithfully and honestly that which we have to do--perhaps this wants but little, when looked at from every point of view, of including the whole body of the moral law; and even in their commonest and homeliest application, these virtues belong to the character of a Perfect Master.
Idleness is the burial of a living man. For an idle person is so useless to any purposes of God and man, that he is like one who is dead, unconcerned in the changes and necessities of the world; and he only lives to spend his time, and eat the fruits of the earth. Like a vermin or a wolf, when his time comes, he dies and perishes, and in the meantime is nought. He neither ploughs nor carries burdens: all that he does is either unprofitable or mischievous.
It is a vast work that any man may do, if he never be idle: and it is a huge way that a man may go in virtue, if he never go out of his way by a vicious habit or a great crime: and he who perpetually reads good books, if his parts be answerable, will have a huge stock of knowledge.
St. Ambrose, and from his example, St. Augustine, divided every day into these tertias of employment: eight hours they spent in the necessities of nature and recreation: eight hours in charity, in doing assistance to others, dispatching their business, reconciling their enmities, reproving their vices, correcting their errors, instructing their ignorance, and in transacting the affairs of their dioceses; and the other eight hours they spent in study and prayer.
We think, at the age of twenty, that life is much too long for that which we have to learn and do; and that there is an almost fabulous distance between our age and that of our grandfather. But when, at the age of sixty, if we are fortunate enough to reach it, or unfortunate enough, as the case may be, and according as we have profitably invested or wasted our time, we halt, and look back along the way we have come, and cast up and endeavour to balance our accounts with time and opportunity, we find that we have made life much too short, and thrown away a huge portion of our time. Then we, in our mind, deduct from the sum total of our years the hours that we have needlessly passed in sleep; the working-hours each day, during which the surface of the mind's sluggish pool has not been stirred or ruffied by a single thought; the days that we have gladly got rid of, to attain some real or fancied object that lay beyond, in the way between us and which stood irksomely the intervening days; the hours worse than wasted in follies and dissipation, or misspent in useless and unprofitable studies; and we acknowledge, with a sigh, that we could have learned and done, in half a score of years well spent, more than we have done in all our forty years of manhood.
To learn and to do !--this is the soul's work here below. The soul grows as truly as an oak grows. As the tree takes the carbon of the air, the dew, the rain, and the light, and the food that the earth supplies to its roots, and by its mysterious chemistry transmutes them into sap and fibre, into wood and leaf, and flower and fruit, and colour and perfume, so the soul imbibes knowledge and by a divine alchemy changes what it learns into its own substance, and grows from within outwardly with an inherent force and power like those that lie hidden in the grain of wheat.
The soul hath its senses, like the body, that may be cultivated, enlarged, refined, as itself grows in stature and proportion; and he who cannot appreciate a fine painting or statue, a noble poem, a sweet harmony, a heroic thought, or a disinterested action, or to whom the wisdom of philosophy is but foolishness and babble, and the loftiest truths of less importance than the price of stocks or cotton, or the elevation of baseness to once, merely lives on the level of commonplace, and fitly prides himself upon that inferiority of the soul's senses, which is the inferiority and imperfect development of the soul itself.
To sleep little, and to study much; to say little, and to hear and think much; to learn, that we may be able to do, and then to do, earnestly and vigorously, whatever may be required of us by duty, and by the good of our fellows, our country, and mankind,-- these are the duties of every Mason who desires to imitate the Master Khurum.
The duty of a Mason as an honest man is plain and easy. It requires of us honesty in contracts, sincerity in arming, simplicity in bargaining, and faithfulness in performing. Lie not at all, neither in a little thing nor in a great, neither in the substance nor in the circumstance, neither in word nor deed: that is, pretend not what is false; cover not what is true; and let the measure of your affirmation or denial be the understanding of your contractor; for he who deceives the buyer or the seller by speaking what is true, in a sense not intended or understood by the other, is a liar and a thief. A Perfect Master must avoid that which deceives, equally with that which is false.
Let your prices be according to that measure of good and evil which is established in the fame and common accounts of the wisest and most merciful men, skilled in that manufacture or commodity; and the gain such, which, without scandal, is allowed to persons in all the same circumstances.
In intercourse with others, do not do all which thou mayest lawfully do; but keep something within thy power; and, because there is a latitude of gain in buying and selling, take not thou the utmost penny that is lawful, or which thou thinkest so; for although it be lawful, yet it is not safe; and he who gains all that he can gain lawfully, this year, will possibly be tempted, next year, to gain something unlawfully.
Let no man, for his own poverty, become more oppressing and cruel in his bargain; but quietly, modestly, diligently, and patiently recommend his estate to God, and follow his interest, and leave the success to Him.
Detain not the wages of the hireling; for every degree of detention of it beyond the time, is injustice and uncharitableness, and grinds his face till tears and blood come out; but pay him exactly according to covenant, or according to his needs.
Religiously keep all promises and covenants, though made to your disadvantage, though afterward you perceive you might have done better; and let not any precedent act of yours be altered by any after-accident. Let nothing make you break your promise, unless it be unlawful or impossible; that is, either out of your nature or out of your civil power, yourself being under the power of another; or that it be intolerably inconvenient to yourself, and of no advantage to another; or that you have leave expressed or reasonably presumed.
Let no man take wages or fees for a work that he cannot do, or cannot with probability undertake; or in some sense profitably, and with ease, or with advantage manage. Let no man appropriate to his own use, what God, by a special mercy, or the Republic, hath made common; for that is against both Justice and Charity.
That any man should be the worse for us, and for our direct act, and by our intention, is against the rule of equity, of justice, and of charity. We then do not that to others, which we would have done to ourselves; for we grow richer upon the ruins of their fortune.
It is not honest to receive anything from another without returning him an equivalent therefor. The gamester who wins the money of another is dishonest. There should be no such thing as bets and gaming among Masons: for no honest man should desire that for nothing which belongs to another. The merchant who sells an inferior article for a sound price, the speculator who makes the distresses and needs of others fill his exchequer are neither fair nor honest, but base, ignoble, unfit for immortality.
It should be the earnest desire of every Perfect Master so to live and deal and act, that when it comes to him to die, he may be able to say, and his conscience to adjudge, that no man on earth is poorer, because he is richer; that what he hath he has honestly earned, and no man can go before God, and claim that by the rules of equity administered in His great chancery, this house in which we die, this land we devise to our heirs this money that enriches those who survive to bear our name, is his and not ours, and we in that forum are only his trustees. For it is most certain that God is just, and will sternly enforce every such trust; and that to all whom we despoil, to all whom we defraud, to all from whom we take or win anything whatever, without fair consideration and equivalent, He will decree a full and adequate compensation.
Be careful, then, that thou receive no wages, here or elsewhere, that are not thy due ! For if thou doest, thou wrongst some one, by taking that which in God's chancery belongs to him; and whether that which thou takest thus be wealth, or rank, or influence, or reputation or affection, thou wilt surely be held to make full satisfaction.
VI. INTIMATE SECRETARY. (Confidential Secretary.)
You are especially taught in this Degree to be zealous and faithful; to be disinterested and benevolent; and to act the peacemaker, in case of dissensions, disputes, and quarrels among the brethren.
Duty is the moral magnetism which controls and guides the true Mason's course over the tumultuous seas of life. Whether the stars of honour, reputation, and reward do or do not shine, in the light of day or in the darkness of the night of trouble and adversity, in calm or storm, that unerring magnet still shows him the true course to steer, and indicates with certainty where-away lies the port which not to reach involves shipwreck and dishonour. He follows its silent bidding, as the mariner, when land is for many days not in sight, and the ocean without path or landmark spreads out all around him, follows the bidding of the needle, never doubting that it points truly to the north. To perform that duty, whether the performance be rewarded or unrewarded, is his sole care. And it doth not matter, though of this performance there may be no witnesses, and though what he does will be forever unknown to all mankind.
A little consideration will teach us that Fame has other limits than mountains and oceans; and that he who places happiness in the frequent repetition of his name, may spend his life in propagating it, without any danger of weeping for new worlds, or necessity of passing the Atlantic sea.
If, therefore, he who imagines the world to be filled with his actions and praises, shall subduct from the number of his encomiasts all those who are placed below the flight of fame, and who hear in the valley of life no voice but that of necessity; all those who imagine themselves too important to regard him, and consider the mention of his name as a usurpation of their time; all who are too much or too little pleased with themselves to attend to anything external; all who are attracted by pleasure, or chained down by pain to unvaried ideas; all who are withheld from attending his triumph by different pursuits; and all who slumber in universal negligence; he will find his renown straitened by nearer bounds than the rocks of Caucasus; and perceive that no man can be venerable or formidable, but to a small part of his fellow-creatures. And therefore, that we may not languish in our endeavors after excellence, it is necessary that, as Africanus counsels his descendants, we raise our eyes to higher prospects, and contemplate our future and eternal state, without giving up our hearts to the praise of crowds, or fixing our hopes on such rewards as human power can bestow.
We are not born for ourselves alone; and our country claims her share, and our friends their share of us. As all that the earth produces is created for the use of man, so men are created for the sake of men, that they may mutually do good to one another. In this we ought to take nature for our guide, and throw into the public stock the ounces of general utility, by a reciprocation of duties; sometimes by receiving, sometimes by giving, and sometimes to cement human society by arts, by industry, and by our resources.
Suffer others to be praised in thy presence, and entertain their good and glory with delight; but at no hand disparage them, or lessen the report, or make an objection; and think not the advancement of thy brother is a lessening of thy worth. Upbraid no man's weakness to him to discomfit him, neither report it to disparage him, neither delight to remember it to lessen him, or to set thyself above him; nor ever praise thyself or dispraise any man else, unless some sufficient worthy end do hallow it.
Remember that we usually disparage others upon slight grounds and little instances; and if a man be highly recommended, we think him sufficiently lessened, if we can but charge one sin of folly or inferiority in his account. We should either be more severe to ourselves, or less so to others, and consider that whatsoever good any one can think or say of us, we can tell him of many unworthy and foolish and perhaps worse actions of ours, any one of which, done by another, would be enough, with us, to destroy his reputation.
If we think the people wise and sagacious, and just and appreciative, when they praise and make idols of us, let us not call them unlearned and ignorant, and ill and stupid judges, when our neighbour is cried up by public fame and popular noises.
Every man hath in his own life sins enough, in his own mind trouble enough, in his own fortunes evil enough, and in performance of his offices failings more than enough, to entertain his own inquiry; so that curiosity after the affairs of others can not be without envy and an ill mind. The generous man will be solicitous and inquisitive into the beauty and order of a well-governed family, and after the virtues of an excellent person; but anything for which men keep locks and bars, or that blushes to see the light, or that is either shameful in manner or private in nature, this thing will not be his care and business.
It should be objection sufficient to exclude any man from the society of Masons, that he is not disinterested and generous, both in his acts, and in his opinions of men, and his constructions of their conduct. He who is selfish and grasping, or censorious and ungenerous, will not long remain within the strict limits of honesty and truth, but will shortly commit injustice. He who loves himself too much must needs love others too little; and he who habitually gives harsh judgment will not long delay to give unjust judgment.
The generous man is not careful to return no more than he receives; but prefers that the balances upon the ledgers of benefits shall be in his favour. He who hath received pay in full for all the benefits and favours that he has conferred, is like a spendthrift who has consumed his whole estate, and laments over an empty exchequer. He who requites my favours with ingratitude adds to, instead of diminishing, my wealth; and he who cannot return a favour is equally poor, whether his inability arises from poverty of spirit, sordidness of soul, or pecuniary indigence.
If he is wealthy who hath large sums invested, and the mass of whose fortune consists in obligations that bind other men to pay him money, he is still more so to whom many owe large returns of kindnesses and favours. Beyond a moderate sum each year, the wealthy man merely invests his means: and that which he never uses is still like favours unreturned and kindnesses unreciprocated, an actual and real portion of his fortune.
Generosity and a liberal spirit make men to be humane and genial, open-hearted, frank, and sincere, earnest to do good, easy and contented, and well-wishers of mankind. They protect the feeble against the strong, and the defenceless against rapacity and craft. They succour and comfort the poor, and are the guardians, under God, of his innocent and helpless wards. They value friends more than riches or fame, and gratitude more than money or power. They are noble by God's patent, and their escutcheons and quarterings are to be found in heaven's great book of heraldry. Nor can any man any more be a Mason than he can be a gentleman, unless he is generous, liberal, and disinterested. To be liberal, but only of that which is our own; to be generous, but only when we have first been just; to give, when to give deprives us of a luxury or a comfort, this is Masonry indeed.
He who is worldly, covetous, or sensual must change before he can be a good Mason. If we are governed by inclination and not by duty; if we are unkind, severe, censorious, or injurious, in the relations or intercourse of life; if we are unfaithful parents or undutiful children; if we are harsh masters or faithless servants; if we are treacherous friends or bad neighbours or bitter competitors or corrupt unprincipled politicians or overreaching dealers in business, we are wandering at a great distance from the true Masonic light.
Masons must be kind and affectionate one to another. Frequenting the same temples, kneeling at the same altars, they should feel that respect and that kindness for each other, which their common relation and common approach to one God should inspire. There needs to be much more of the spirit of the ancient fellowship among us; more tenderness for each other's faults, more forgiveness, more solicitude for each other's improvement and good fortune; somewhat of brotherly feeling, that it be not shame to use the word "brother."
Nothing should be allowed to interfere with that kindness and affection: neither the spirit of business, absorbing, eager, and overreaching, ungenerous and hard in its dealings, keen and bitter in its competitions, low and sordid in its purposes; nor that of ambition, selfish, mercenary, restless, circumventing, living only in the opinion of others, envious of the good fortune of others, miserably vain of its own success, unjust, unscrupulous, and slanderous.
He that does me a favour, hath bound me to make him a return of thankfulness. The obligation comes not by covenant, nor by his own express intention; but by the nature of the thing; and is a duty springing up within the spirit of the obliged person, to whom it is more natural to love his friend, and to do good for good, than to return evil for evil; because a man may forgive an injury, but he must never forget a good turn. He that refuses to do good to them whom he is bound to love, or to love that which did him good, is unnatural and monstrous in his affections, and thinks all the world born to minister to him; with a greediness worse than that of the sea, which, although it receives all rivers into itself, yet it furnishes the clouds and springs with a return of all they need. Our duty to those who are our benefactors is, to esteem and love their persons, to make them proportionable returns of service, or duty, or profit, according as we can, or as they need, or as opportunity presents itself; and according to the greatness of their kindnesses.
The generous man cannot but regret to see dissensions and disputes among his brethren. Only the base and ungenerous delight in discord. It is the poorest occupation of humanity to labour to make men think worse of each other, as the press, and too commonly the pulpit, changing places with the hustings and the tribune, do. The duty of the Mason is to endeavour to make man think better of his neighbour; to quiet, instead of aggravating difficulties; to bring together those who are severed or estranged; to keep friends from becoming foes, and to persuade foes to become friends. To do this, he must needs control his own passions, and be not rash and hasty, nor swift to take offence, nor easy to be angered.
For anger is a professed enemy to counsel. It is a direct storm, in which no man can be heard to speak or call from without; for if you counsel gently, you are disregarded; if you urge it and be vehement, you provoke it more. It is neither manly nor ingenuous. It makes marriage to be a necessary and unavoidable trouble; friendships and societies and familiarities, to be intolerable. It multiplies the evils of drunkenness, and makes the levities of wine to run into madness. It makes innocent jesting to be the beginning of tragedies. It turns friendship into hatred; it makes a man lose himself, and his reason and his argument, in disputation. It turns the desires of knowledge into an itch of wrangling. It adds insolency to power. It turns justice into cruelty, and judgment into oppression. It changes discipline into tediousness and hatred of liberal institution. It makes a prosperous man to be envied, and the unfortunate to be unpitied.
See, therefore, that first controlling your own temper, and governing your own passions, you fit yourself to keep peace and harmony among other men, and especially the brethren. Above all remember that Masonry is the realm of peace, and that "among Masons there must be no dissension, but only that noble emulation., which can best work and best agree." Wherever there is strife and hatred among the brethren, there is no Masonry; for Masonry is Peace, and Brotherly Love, and Concord.
Masonry is the great Peace Society of the world. Wherever it exists, it struggles to prevent international difficulties and disputes; and to bind Republics, Kingdoms, and Empires together in one great band of peace and amity. It would not so often struggle in vain, if Masons knew their power and valued their oaths.
Who can sum up the horrors and woes accumulated in a single war? Masonry is not dazzled with all its pomp and circumstance, all its glitter and glory. War comes with its bloody hand into our very dwellings. It takes from ten thousand homes those who lived there in peace and comfort, held by the tender ties of family and kindred. It drags them away, to die untended, of fever or exposure, in infectious climes; or to be hacked, torn, and mangled in the fierce fight; to fall on the gory field, to rise no more, or to be borne away, in awful agony, to noisome and horrid hospitals. The groans of the battle-field are echoed in sighs of bereavement from thousands of desolated hearths. There is a skeleton in every house, a vacant chair at every table. Returning, the soldier brings worse sorrow to his home, by the infection which he has caught, of camp-vices. The country is demoralized. The national mind is brought down, from the noble interchange of kind offices with another people, to wrath and revenge, and base pride, and the habit of measuring brute strength against brute strength, in battle. Treasures are expended, that would suffice to build ten thousand churches, hospitals, and universities, or rib and tie together a continent with rails of iron. If that treasure were sunk in the sea, it would be calamity enough; but it is put to worse use; for it is expended in cutting into the veins and arteries of human life, until the earth is deluged with a sea of blood.
Such are the lessons of this Degree. You have vowed to make them the rule, the law, and the guide of your life and conduct. If you do so, you will be entitled, because fitted, to advance in Masonry. If you do not, you have already gone too far.
VII. PROVOST AND JUDGE.
THE lesson which this Degree inculcates is JUSTICE, in decision and judgment, and in our intercourse and dealing with other men.
In a country where trial by jury is known, every intelligent man is liable to be called on to act as a judge, either of fact alone, or of fact and law mingled; and to assume the heavy responsibilities which belong to that character.
Those who are invested with the power of judgment should judge the causes of all persons uprightly and impartially, without any personal consideration of the power of the mighty, or the bribe of the rich, or the needs of the poor. That is the cardinal rule, which no one will dispute; though many fail to observe it. But they must do more. They must divest themselves of prejudice and preconception. They must hear patiently, remember accurately, and weigh carefully the facts and the arguments offered before them. They must not leap hastily to conclusions, nor form opinions before they have heard all. They must not presume crime or fraud. They must neither be ruled by stubborn pride of opinion, nor be too facile and yielding to the views and arguments of others. In deducing the motive from the proven act, they must not assign to the act either the best or the worst motives, but those which they would think it just and fair for the world to assign to it, if they themselves had done it; nor must they endeavour to make many little circumstances, that weigh nothing separately, weigh much together, to prove their own acuteness and sagacity. These are sound rules for every juror, also, to observe.
In our intercourse with others, there are two kinds of injustice: the first, of those who offer an injury; the second, of those who have it in their power to avert an injury from those to whom it is offered, and yet do it not. So active injustice may be done in two ways--by force and by fraud,--of which force is lion-like, and aud fox-like,--both utterly repugnant to social duty, but fraud the more detestable.
Every wrong done by one man to another, whether it affect his person, his property, his happiness, or his reputation, is an offense against the law of justice. The field of this Degree is therefore a wide and vast one; and Masonry seeks for the most impressive mode of enforcing the law of justice, and the most effectual means of preventing wrong and injustice.
To this end it teaches this great and momentous truth: that wrong and injustice once done cannot be undone; but are eternal in their consequences; once committed, are numbered with the irrevocable Past; that the wrong that is done contains its own retributive penalty as surely and as naturally as the acorn contains the oak. Its consequences are its punishment; it needs no other, and can have no heavier; they are involved in its commission, and cannot be separated from it. A wrong done to another is an injury done to our own Nature, an offence against our own souls, a disfiguring of the image of the Beautiful and Good. Punishment is not the execution of a sentence, but the occurrence of an effect. It is ordained to follow guilt, not by the decree of God as a judge, but by a law enacted by Him as the Creator and Legislator of the Universe. It is not an arbitrary and artificial annexation, but an ordinary and logical consequence; and therefore must be borne by the wrong-doer, and through him may flow on to others. It is the decision of the infinite justice of God, in the form of law.
There can be no interference with, or remittance of, or protection from, the natural effects of our wrongful acts. God will not interpose between the cause and its consequence; and in that sense there can be no forgiveness of sins. The act which has debased our soul may be repented of, may be turned from; but the injury is done. The debasement may be redeemed by after-efforts, the stain obliterated by bitterer struggles and severer sufferings; but the efforts and the endurance which might have raised the soul to the loftiest heights are now exhausted in merely regaining what it has lost. There must always be a wide difference between him who only ceases to do evil, and him who has always done well.
He will certainly be a far more scrupulous watcher over his conduct, and far more careful of his deeds, who believes that those deeds will inevitably bear their natural consequences, exempt from after intervention, than he who believes that penitence and pardon will at any time unlink the chain of sequences. Surely we shall do less wrong and injustice, if the conviction is fixed and embedded in our souls that everything done is done irrevocably, that even the Omnipotence of God cannot uncommit a deed, cannot make that undone which has been done; that every act of ours must bear its allotted fruit, according to the everlasting laws, --must remain forever ineffaceably inscribed on the tablets of Universal Nature.
If you have wronged another, you may grieve, repent, and resolutely determine against any such weakness in future. You may, so far as it is possible, make reparation. It is well. The injured party may forgive you, according to the meaning of human language; but the deed is done; and all the powers of Nature, were they to conspire in your behalf, could not make it undone; the consequences to the body, the consequences to the soul, though no man may perceive them, are there, are written in the annals of the Past, and must reverberate throughout all time.
Repentance for a wrong done, bears, like every other act, its own fruit, the fruit of purifying the heart and amending the Future, but not of effacing the Past. The commission of the wrong is an irrevocable act; but it does not incapacitate the soul to do right for the future. Its consequences cannot be expunged; but its course need not be pursued. Wrong and evil perpetrated, though ineffaceable, call for no despair, but for efforts more energetic than before. Repentance is still as valid as ever; but it is valid to secure the Future, not to obliterate the Past.
Even the pulsations of the air, once set in motion by the human voice, cease not to exist with the sounds to which they gave rise. Their quickly-attenuated force soon becomes inaudible to human ears. But the waves of air thus raised perambulate the surface of earth and ocean, and in less than twenty hours, every atom of the atmosphere takes up the altered movement due to that infinitesimal portion of primitive motion which has been conveyed to it through countless channels, and which must continue to influence its path throughout its future existence. The air is one vast library, on whose pages is forever written all that man has ever said or even whispered. There, in their mutable, but unerring characters, mixed with the earliest, as well as the latest signs of mortality, stand forever recorded, vows unredeemed, promises unfulfilled; perpetuating, in the movements of each particle, all in unison, the testimony of man's changeful will. God reads that book, though we cannot.
So earth, air, and ocean are the eternal witnesses of the acts that we have done. No motion impressed by natural causes or by human agency is ever obliterated. The track of every keel which has ever disturbed the surface of the ocean remains forever registered in the future movements of all succeeding particles which may occupy its place. Every criminal is by the laws of the Almighty irrevocably chained to the testimony of his crime; for every atom of his mortal frame, through whatever changes its particles may migrate, will still retain, adhering to it through every combination, some movement derived from that very muscular effort by which the crime itself was perpetrated.
What if our faculties should be so enhanced in a future life as to enable us to perceive and trace the ineffaceable consequences of our idle words and evil deeds, and render our remorse and grief as eternal as those consequences themselves? No more fearful punishment to a superior intelligence can be conceived, than to see still in action, with the consciousness that it must continue in action forever, a cause of wrong put in motion by itself ages before.
Masonry, by its teachings, endeavours to restrain men from the commission of injustice and acts of wrong and outrage. Though it does not endeavour to usurp the place of religion, still its code of morals proceeds upon other principles than the municipal law; and it condemns and punishes offences which neither that law punishes nor public opinion condemns. In the Masonic law, to cheat and overreach in trade, at the bar, in politics, are deemed no more venial than theft; nor a deliberate lie than perjury; nor slander than robbery; nor seduction than murder.
Especially it condemns those wrongs of which the doer induces another to partake. He may repent; he may, after agonizing struggles, regain the path of virtue; his spirit may reachieve its purity through much anguish, after many strifes; but the weaker fellow-creature whom he led astray, whom he made a sharer in his guilt, but whom he cannot make a sharer in his repentance and amendment, whose downward course (the first step of which he taught) he cannot check, but is compelled to witness,-- what forgiveness of sins can avail him there? There is his perpetual, his inevitable punishment, which no repentance can alleviate, and no mercy can remit.
Let us be just, also, in judging of other men's motives. We know but little of the real merits or demerits of any fellow creature. We can rarely say with certainty that this man is more guilty than that, or even that this man is very good or very wicked. Often the basest men leave behind them excellent reputations. There is scarcely one of us who has not, at some time in his life, been on the edge of the commission of a crime. Every one of us can look back, and shuddering see the time when our feet stood upon the slippery crags that overhung the abyss of guilt; and when, if temptation had been a little more urgent, or a little longer continued, if penury had pressed us a little harder, or a little more wine had further disturbed our intellect, dethroned our judgment, and aroused our passions, our feet would have slipped, and we should have fallen, never to rise again.
We may be able to say--"This man has lied, has pilfered, has forged, has embezzled moneys intrusted to him; and that man has gone through life with clean hands." But we cannot say that the former has not struggled long, though unsuccessfully, against temptations under which the second would have succumbed without an effort. We can say which has the cleanest hands before man; but not which has the cleanest soul before God. We may be able to say, this man has committed adultery, and that man has been ever chaste; but we cannot tell but that the innocence of one may have been due to the coldness of his heart, to the absence of a motive, to the presence of a fear, to the slight degree of the temptation; nor but that the fall of the other may have been preceded by the most vehement self-contest, caused by the most over-mastering frenzy, and atoned for by the most hallowing repentance. Generosity as well as niggardliness may be a mere yielding to native temperament; and in the eye of Heaven, a long life of beneficence in one man may have cost less effort, and may indicate less virtue and less sacrifice of interest, than a few rare hidden acts of kindness wrung by duty out of the reluctant and unsympathizing nature of the other. There may be more real merit, more self-sacrificing effort, more of the noblest elements of moral grandeur, in a life of failure, sin, and shame, than in a career, to our eyes, of stainless integrity.
When we condemn or pity the fallen, how do we know that, tempted like him, we should not have fallen like him, as soon, and perhaps with less resistance ? How can we know what we should do if we were out of employment, famine crouching, gaunt, and hungry, on our fireless hearth, and our children wailing for bread ? We fall not because we are not enough tempted! He that hath fallen may be at heart as honest as we. How do we know that our daughter, sister, wife, could resist the abandonment, the desolation, the distress, the temptation, that sacrificed the virtue of their poor abandoned sister of shame? Perhaps they also have not fallen, because they have not been sorely tempted! Wisely are we directed to pray that we may not be exposed to temptation.
Human justice must be ever uncertain. How many judicial murders have been committed through ignorance of the phenomena of insanity ! How many men hung for murder who were no more murderers at heart than the jury that tried and the judge that sentenced them! It may well be doubted whether the administration of human laws, in every country, is not one gigantic mass of injustice and wrong. God seeth not as man seeth; and the most abandoned criminal, black as he is before the world, may yet have continued to keep some little light burning in a corner of his soul, which would long since have gone out in that of those who walk proudly in the sunshine of immaculate fame, if they had been tried and tempted like the poor outcast.
We do not know even the outside life of men. We are not competent to pronounce even on their deeds. We do not know half the acts of wickedness or virtue, even of our most immediate fellows. We cannot say, with certainty, even of our nearest friend, that he has not committed a particular sin, and broken a particular commandment. Let each man ask his own heart ! Of how many of our best and of our worst acts and qualities are our most intimate associates utterly unconscious ! How many virtues does not the world give us credit for, that we do not possess; or vices condemn us for, of which we are not the slaves ! It is but a small portion of our evil deeds and thoughts that ever comes to light; and of our few redeeming goodnesses, the largest portion is known to God alone.
We shall, therefore, be just in judging of other men, only when we are charitable; and we should assume the prerogative of judging others only when the duty is forced upon us; since we are so almost certain to err, and the consequences of error are so serious. No man need covet the office of judge; for in assuming it he assumes the gravest and most oppressive responsibility. Yet you have assumed it; we all assume it; for man is ever ready to judge, and ever ready to condemn his neighbour, while upon the same state of case he acquits himself See, therefore, that you exercise your once cautiously and charitably, lest, in passing judgment upon the criminal, you commit a greater wrong than that for which you condemn him, and the consequences of which must be eternal.
The faults and crimes and follies of other men are not unimportant to us; but form a part of our moral discipline. War and bloodshed at a distance, and frauds which do not affect our pecuniary interest, yet touch us in our feelings, and concern our moral welfare. They have much to do with all thoughtful hearts. The public eye may look unconcernedly on the miserable victim of vice, and that shattered wreck of a man may move the multitude to laughter or to scorn. But to the Mason, it is the form of sacred humanity that is before him; it is an erring fellow-being; a desolate, forlorn, forsaken soul; and his thoughts, enfolding the poor wretch, will be far deeper than those of indifference, ridicule, or contempt. All human offences, the whole system of dishonesty, evasion, circumventing, forbidden indulgence, and intriguing ambition, in which men are struggling with each other, will be looked upon by a thoughtful Mason, not merely as a scene of mean toils and strifes, but as the solemn conflicts of immortal minds, for ends vast and momentous as their own being. It is a sad and unworthy strife, and may well be viewed with indignation; but that indignation must melt into pity. For the stakes for which these gamesters play are not those which they imagine, not those which are in sight. For example, this man plays for a petty once, and gains it; but the real stake he gains is sycophancy, uncharitableness, slander, and deceit.
Good men are too proud of their goodness. They are respectable; dishonour comes not near them; their countenance has weight and influence; their robes are unstained; the poisonous breath of calumny as never been breathed upon their fair name. How easy it is for them to look down with scorn upon the poor degraded offender; to pass him by with a lofty step; to draw up the folds of their garment around them, that they may not be soiled by his touch ! Yet the Great Master of Virtue did not so; but descended to familiar intercourse with publicans and sinners, with the Samaritan woman, with the outcasts and the Pariahs of the Hebrew world.
Many men think themselves better, in proportion as they can detect sin in others! When they go over the catalogue of their neighbour's unhappy derelictions of temper or conduct, they often, amidst much apparent concern, feel a secret exultation, that destroys all their own pretensions to wisdom and moderation, and even to virtue. Many even take actual pleasure in the sins of others; and this is the case with every one whose thoughts are often employed in agreeable comparisons of his own virtues with his neighbours' faults.
The power of gentleness is too little seen in the world; the subduing influences of pity, the might of love, the control of mildness over passion, the commanding majesty of that perfect character which mingles grave displeasure with grief and pity for the offender. So it is that a Mason should treat his brethren who go astray. Not with bitterness; nor yet with good-natured easiness, nor with worldly indifference, nor with the philosophic coldness, nor with a laxity of conscience, that accounts everything well, that passes under the seal of public opinion; but with charity, with pitying loving-kindness.
The human heart will not bow willingly to what is infirm and wrong in human nature. If it yields to us, it must yield to what is divine in us. The wickedness of my neighbour cannot submit to my wickedness; his sensuality, for instance, to my anger against his vices. My faults are not the instruments that are to arrest his faults. And therefore impatient reformers, and denouncing preachers, and hasty reprovers, and angry parents, and irritable relatives generally fail, in their several departments, to reclaim the erring.
A moral offence is sickness, pain, loss, dishonour, in the immortal part of man. It is guilt, and misery added to guilt. It is itself calamity; and brings upon itself, in addition, the calamity of God's disapproval, the abhorrence of all virtuous men, and the soul's own abhorrence. Deal faithfully, but patiently and tenderly, with this evil ! It is no matter for petty provocation, nor for personal strife, nor for selfish irritation.
Speak kindly to your erring brother ! God pities him: Christ has died for him: Providence waits for him: Heaven's mercy yearns toward him; and Heaven's spirits are ready to welcome him back with joy. Let your voice be in unison with all those powers that God is using for his recovery!
If one defrauds you, and exults at it, he is the most to be pitied of human beings. He has done himself a far deeper injury than he has done you. It is he, and not you, whom God regards with mingled displeasure and compassion; and His judgment should be your law. Among all the benedictions of the Holy Mount there is not one for this man; but for the merciful, the peacemakers, and the persecuted they are poured out freely.
We are all men of like passions, propensities, and exposures. There are elements in us all, which might have been perverted, through the successive processes of moral deterioration, to the worst of crimes. The wretch whom the execration of the thronging crowd pursues to the scaffold, is not worse than any one of that multitude might have become under similar circumstances. He is to be condemned indeed, but also deeply to be pitied.
It does not become the frail and sinful to be vindictive toward even the worst criminals. We owe much to the good Providence of God, ordaining for us a lot more favourable to virtue. We all had that within us, that might have been pushed to the same excess: Perhaps we should have fallen as he did, with less temptation. Perhaps we have done acts, that, in proportion to the temptation or provocation, were less excusable than his great crime. Silent pity and sorrow for the victim should mingle with our detestation of the guilt. Even the pirate who murders in cold blood on the high seas, is such a man as you or I might have been. Orphanage in childhood, or base and dissolute and abandoned parents; an unfriended youth; evil companions; ignorance and want of moral cultivation; the temptations of sinful pleasure or grinding poverty; familiarity with vice; a scorned and blighted name; seared and crushed affections; desperate fortunes; these are steps that might have led any one among us to unfurl upon the high seas the bloody flag of universal defiance; to wage war with our kind; to live the life and die the death of the reckless and remorseless free-booter. Many affecting relationships of humanity plead with us to pity him. His head once rested on a mother's bosom. He was once the object of sisterly love and domestic endearment. Perhaps his hand, since often red with blood, once clasped another little loving hand at the altar. Pity him then; his blighted hopes and his crushed heart! It is proper that frail and erring creatures like us should do so; should feel the crime, but feel it as weak, tempted, and rescued creatures should. It may be that when God weighs men's crimes, He will take into consideration the temptations and the adverse circumstances that led to them, and the opportunities for moral culture of the offender; and it may be that our own offences will weigh heavier than we think, and the murderer's lighter than according to man's judgment.
On all accounts, therefore, let the true Mason never forget the solemn injunction, necessary to be observed at almost every moment of a busy life: 'JUDGE NOT, LEST YOU YOURSELVES BE JUDGED FOR WHATSOEVER JUDGMENT YOU MEASURE UNTO OTHERS, THE SAME SHALL IN TURN BE MEASURED UNTO YOU. Such is the lesson taught the Provost and Judge.
VIII. INTENDANT OF THE BUILDING.
IN this Degree you have been taught the important lesson, that none are entitled to advance in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, who have not by study and application made themselves familiar with Masonic learning and jurisprudence. The Degrees of this Rite are not for those who are content with the mere work and ceremonies, and do not seek to explore the mines of wisdom that lie buried beneath the surface. You still advance toward the Light, toward that star, blazing in the distance, which is an emblem of the Divine Truth, given by God to the first men, and preserved amid all the vicissitudes of ages in the traditions and teachings of Masonry. How far you will advance, depends upon yourself alone. Here, as everywhere in the world, Darkness struggles with Light, and clouds and shadows intervene between you and the Truth.
When you shall have become imbued with the morality of Masonry, with which you yet are, and for some time will be exclusively occupied,--when you shall have learned to practice all the virtues which it inculcates; when they become familiar to you as your Household Gods; then will you be prepared to receive its lofty philosophical instruction, and to scale the heights upon whose summit Light and Truth sit enthroned. Step by step men must advance toward Perfection; and each Masonic Degree is meant to be one of those steps. Each is a development of a particular duty; and in the present you are taught charity and benevolence; to be to your brethren an example of virtue; to correct your own faults; and to endeavour to correct those of your brethren.
Here, as in all the degrees, you meet with the emblems and the names of Deity, the true knowledge of whose character and attributes it has ever been a chief object of Masonry to perpetuate. To appreciate His infinite greatness and goodness, to rely implicitly upon His Providence, to revere and venerate Him as the Supreme Architect, Creator, and Legislator of the universe, is the first of Masonic duties.
The Battery of this Degree, and the five circuits which you made around the Lodge, allude to the five points of fellowship, and are intended to recall them vividly to your mind. To go upon a brother's errand or to his relief, even barefoot and upon flinty ground; to remember him in your supplications to the Deity; to clasp him to your heart, and protect him against malice and evil speaking; to uphold him when about to stumble and fall; and to give him prudent, honest, and friendly counsel, are duties plainly written upon the pages of God's great code of law, and first among the ordinances of Masonry.
The first sign of the Degree is expressive of the diffidence and humility with which we inquire into the nature and attributes of the Deity; the second, of the profound awe and reverence with which we contemplate His glories; and the third, of the sorrow with which we reflect upon our insufficient observance of our duties, and our imperfect compliance with His statutes.
The distinguishing property of man is to search for and follow after truth. Therefore, when relaxed from our necessary cares and concerns, we then covet to see, to hear, and to learn somewhat; and we esteem knowledge of things, either obscure or wonderful, to be the indispensable means of living happily. Truth, Simplicity, and Candor are most agreeable to the nature of mankind. Whatever is virtuous consists either in Sagacity, and the perception of Truth; or in the preservation of Human Society, by giving to every man his due, and observing the faith of contracts; or in the greatness and firmness of an elevated and unsubdued mind; or in observing order and regularity in all our words and in all our actions; in which consist Moderation and Temperance.
Masonry has in all times religiously preserved that enlightened faith from which flow sublime Devotedness, the sentiment of Fraternity fruitful of good works, the spirit of indulgence and peace, of sweet hopes and effectual consolations; and inflexibility in the accomplishment of the most painful and arduous duties. It has always propagated it with ardor and perseverance; and therefore it labours at the present day more zealously than ever. Scarcely a Masonic discourse is pronounced, that does not demonstrate the necessity and advantages of this faith, and especially recall the two constitutive principles of religion, that make all religion,-- love of God, and love of neighbour. Masons carry these principles into the bosoms of their families and of society. While the Sectarians of former times enfeebled the religious spirit, Masonry, forming one great People over the whole globe, and marching under the great banner of Charity and Benevolence, preserves that religious feeling, strengthens it, extends it in its purity and simplicity, as it has always existed in the depths of the human heart, as it existed even under the dominion of the most ancient forms of worship, but where gross and debasing superstitions forbade its recognition.
A Masonic Lodge should resemble a bee-hive, in which all the members work together with ardor for the common good. Masonry is not made for cold souls and narrow minds, that do not comprehend its lofty mission and sublime apostolate. Here the anathema against lukewarm souls applies. To comfort misfortunes to popularize knowledge, to teach whatever is true and pure in religion and philosophy, to accustom men to respect order and the proprieties of life, to point out the way to genuine happiness, to prepare for that fortunate period, when all the factions of the Human Family, united by the bonds of Toleration and Fraternity, shall be but one household,--these are labours that may well excite zeal and even enthusiasm.
We do not now enlarge upon or elaborate these ideas. We but utter them to you briefly, as hints, upon which you may at your leisure reflect. Hereafter, if you continue to advance, they will be unfolded, explained, and developed.
Masonry utters no impracticable and extravagant precepts, certain, because they are so, to be disregarded. It asks of its initiates nothing that it is not possible and even easy for them to perform. Its teachings are eminently practical; and its statutes can be obeyed by every just, upright, and honest man, no matter what his faith or creed. Its object is to attain the greatest practical good, without seeking to make men perfect. It does not meddle with the domain of religion, nor inquire into the mysteries of regeneration. It teaches those truths that are written by the finger of God upon the heart of man, those views of duty which have been brought out by the meditations of the studious, confirmed by the allegiance of the good and wise, and stamped as sterling by the response they find in every uncorrupted mind. It does not dogmatize, nor vainly imagine dogmatic certainty to be attainable.
Masonry does not occupy itself with crying down this world, with its splendid beauty, its thrilling interests, its glorious works, its noble and holy affections; nor exhort us to detach our hearts from this earthly life, as empty, fleeting, and unworthy, and fix them upon Heaven, as the only sphere deserving the love of the loving or the meditation of the wise. It teaches that man has high duties to perform, and a high destiny to fulfill, on this earth; that this world is not merely the portal to another; and that this life, though not our only one, is an integral one, and the particular one with which we are here meant to be concerned; that the Present is our scene of action, and the Future for speculation and for trust; that man was sent upon the earth to live in it, to enjoy it, to study it, to love it, to embellish it, to make the most of it. It is his country, on which he should lavish his affections and his efforts. It is here his influences are to operate. It is his house, and not a tent; his home, and not merely a school. He is sent into this world, not to be constantly hankering after, dreaming of, preparing for another; but to do his duty and fulfill his destiny on this earth; to do all that lies in his power to improve it, to render it a scene of elevated happiness to himself, to those around him, to those who are to come after him. His life here is part of his immortality; and this world, also, is among the stars.
And thus, Masonry teaches us, will man best prepare for that Future which he hopes for. The Unseen cannot hold a higher place in our affections than the Seen and the Familiar. The law of our being is Love of Life, and its interests and adornments; love of the world in which our lot is cast, engrossment with the interests and affections of earth. Not a low or sensual love, not love of wealth, of fame, of ease, of power, of splendour. Not low worldliness; but the love of Earth as the garden on which the Creator has lavished such miracles of beauty; as the habitation of humanity, the arena of its conflicts, the scene of its illimitable progress, the dwelling-place of the wise, the good, the active, the loving, and the dear; the place of opportunity for the development by means of sin and suffering and sorrow, of the noblest passions the loftiest virtues, and the tenderest sympathies.
They take very unprofitable pains, who endeavour to persuade men that they are obliged wholly to despise this world, and all that is in it, even whilst they themselves live here. God hath not taken all that pains in forming and framing and furnishing and adorning the world, that they who were made by Him to live in it should despise it. It will be enough, if they do not love it too immoderately. It is useless to attempt to extinguish all those affections and passions which are and always will be inseparable from human nature. As long as he world lasts, and honour and virtue and industry have reputation in the world, there will be ambition and emulation and appetite in the best and most accomplished men in it; and if there were not, more barbarity and vice and wickedness would cover every nation of the world, than it now suffers under.
Those only who feel a deep interest in, and affection for, this world, will work resolutely for its amelioration. Those who undervalue this rife, naturally become querulous and discontented, and lose their interest in the welfare of their fellows. To serve them, and so to do our duty as Masons, we must feel that the object is worth the exertion; and be content with this world in which God has placed us, until He permits us to remove to a better one. He is here with us, and does not deem this an unworthy world.
It a serious thing to defame and belie a whole world; to speak of it as the abode of a poor, toiling, drudging, ignorant, contemptible race. You would not so discredit your family, your friendly circle, your village, your city, your country. The world is not a wretched and a worthless one; nor is it a misfortune, but a thing to be thankful for, to be a man. If life is worthless, so also is immortality.
In society itself, in that living mechanism of human relationships that spreads itself over the world, there is a finer essence within, that as truly moves it, as any power, heavy or expansive, moves the sounding manufactory or the swift-flying car. The man-machine hurries to and fro upon the earth, stretches out its hands on every side, to toil, to barter, to unnumbered labours and enterprises; and almost always the motive, that which moves it, is something that takes hold of the comforts, affections, and hopes of social existence. True, the mechanism often works with difficulty, drags heavily, grates and screams with harsh collision. True, the essence of finer motive, becoming intermixed with baser and coarser ingredients, often clogs, obstructs, jars, and deranges the free and noble action of social life. But he is neither grateful nor wise, who looks cynically on all this, and loses the fine sense of social good in its perversions. That I can be a friend, that I can have a friend, though it were but one in the world; that fact, that wondrous good fortune, we may set against all the sufferings of our social nature. That there is such a place on earth as a home, that resort and sanctuary of in-walled and shielded joy, we may set against all the surrounding desolations of life. That one can be a true, social man, can speak his true thoughts, amidst all the Tanglings of controversy and the warring of opinions; that fact from within, outweighs all facts from without.
In the visible aspect and action of society, often repulsive and annoying, we are apt to lose the due sense of its invisible blessings. As in Nature it is not the coarse and palpable, not soils and rains, nor even fields and flowers, that are so beautiful, as the invisible spirit of wisdom and beauty that pervades it; so in society, it is the invisible, and therefore unobserved, that is most beautiful.
What nerves the arm of toil? If man minded himself alone, he would fling down the spade and axe, and rush to the desert; or roam through the world as a wilderness, and make that world a desert. His home, which he sees not, perhaps, but once or twice in a day, is the invisible bond of the world. It is the good, strong, and noble faith that men have in each other, which gives the loftiest character to business, trade, and commerce. Fraud occurs in the rush of business; but it is the exception. Honesty is the rule; and all the frauds in the world cannot tear the great bond of human confidence. If they could, commerce would furl its sails on every sea, and all the cities of the world would crumble into ruins. The bare character of a man on the other side of the world, whom you never saw, whom you never will see, you hold good for a bond of thousands. The most striking feature of the political state is not governments, nor constitutions, nor laws, nor enactments, nor the judicial power, nor the police; but the universal will of the people to be governed by the common weal. Take off that restraint, and no government on earth could stand for an hour.
Of the many teachings of Masonry, one of the most valuable is, that we should not depreciate this life. It does not hold, that when we reflect on the destiny that awaits man on earth, we ought to bedew his cradle with our tears; but, like the Hebrews, it hails the birth of a child with joy, and holds that his birthday should be a festival.
It has no sympathy with those who profess to have proved this life, and found it little worth; who have deliberately made up their minds that it is far more miserable than happy; because its employments are tedious, and their schemes often baffled, their friendships broken, or their friends dead, its pleasures palled, and its honours faded, and its paths beaten, familiar, and dull.
Masonry deems it no mark of great piety toward God to disparage, if not despise, the state that He has ordained for us. It does not absurdly set up the claims of another world, not in comparison merely, but in competition, with the claims of this. It looks upon both as parts of one system. It holds that a man may make the best of this world and of another at the same time. It does not teach its initiates to think better of other works and dispensations of God, by thinking meanly of these. It does not look upon life as so much time lost; nor regard its employments as trifles unworthy of immortal beings; nor tell its followers to fold their arms, as if in disdain of their state and species; but it looks soberly and cheerfully upon the world, as a theatre of worthy action, of exalted usefulness, and of rational and innocent enjoyment.
It holds that, with all its evils, life is a blessing. To deny that is to destroy the basis of all religion, natural and revealed. The very foundation of all religion is laid on the firm belief that God is good; and if this life is an evil and a curse, no such belief can be rationally entertained. To level our satire at humanity and human existence, as mean and contemptible; to look on this world as the habitation of a miserable race, fit only for mockery and scorn; to consider this earth as a dungeon or a prison, which has no blessing to offer but escape from it, is to extinguish the primal light of faith and hope and happiness, to destroy the basis of religion, and Truth's foundation in the goodness of God. If it indeed be so, then it matters not what else is true or not true; speculation is vain and faith is vain; and all that belongs to man's highest being is buried in the ruins of misanthropy, melancholy, and despair.
Our love of life; the tenacity with which, in sorrow and suffering, we cling to it; our attachment to our home, to the spot that gave us birth, to any place, however rude, unsightly, or barren, on which the history of our years has been written, all show how dear are the ties of kindred and society. Misery makes a greater impression upon us than happiness; because the former is not the habit of our minds. It is a strange, unusual guest, and we are more conscious of its presence. Happiness lives with us, and we forget it. It does not excite us, nor disturb the order and course of our thoughts. A great agony is an epoch in our life. We remember our afflictions, as we do the storm and earthquake, because they are out of the common course of things. They are like disastrous events, recorded because extraordinary; and with whole and unnoticed periods of prosperity between. We mark and signalize the times of calamity; but many happy days and unnoted periods of enjoyment pass, that are unrecorded either in the book of memory, or in the scanty annals of our thanksgiving. We are little disposed and less able to call up from the dim remembrances of our past years, the peaceful moments, the easy sensations, the bright thoughts, the quiet reveries, the throngs of kind affections in which life flowed on, bearing us almost unconsciously upon its bosom, because it bore us calmly and gently.
Life is not only good; but it has been glorious in the experience of millions. The glory of all human virtue clothes it. The splendours of devotedness, beneficence, and heroism are upon it; the crown of a thousand martyrdoms is upon its brow. The brightness of the soul shines through this visible and sometimes darkened life; through all its surrounding cares and labours. The humblest life may feel its connection with its Infinite Source. There is something mighty in the frail inner man; something of immortality in this momentary and transient being. The mind stretches away, on every side, into infinity. Its thoughts flash abroad, far into the boundless, the immeasurable, the infinite; far into the great, dark, teeming future; and become powers and influences in other ages. To know its wonderful Author, to bring down wisdom from the Eternal Stars, to bear upward its homage, gratitude, and love, to the Ruler of all worlds, to be immortal in our influences projected far into the slow-approaching Future, makes life most worthy and most glorious.
Life is the wonderful creation of God. It is light, sprung from void darkness; power, waked from inertness and impotence; being created from nothing; and the contrast may well enkindle wonder and delight. It is a rill from the infinite, overflowing goodness; and from the moment when it first gushes up into the light, to that when it mingles with the ocean of Eternity, that Goodness attends it and ministers to it. It is a great and glorious gift. There is gladness in its infant voices; joy in the buoyant step of its youth; deep satisfaction in its strong maturity; and peace in its quiet age. There is good for the good; virtue for the faithful; and victory for the valiant. There is, even in this humble life, an infinity for those whose desires are boundless. There are blessings upon its birth; there is hope in its death; and eternity in its prospect. Thus earth, which binds many in chains, is to the Mason both the starting-place and goal of immortality, Many it buries in the rubbish of dull cares and wearying vanities; but to the Mason it is the lofty mount of meditation, where Heaven, and Infinity and Eternity are spread before him and around him. To the lofty-minded, the pure, and the virtuous, this life is the beginning of Heaven, and a part of immortality.
God hath appointed one remedy for all the evils in the world; and that is a contented spirit. We may be reconciled to poverty and a low fortune, if we suffer contentedness and equanimity to make the proportions. No man is poor who doth not think himself so; but if, in a full fortune, with impatience he desires more, he proclaims his wants and his beggarly condition. This virtue of contentedness was the sum of all the old moral philosophy, and is of most universal use in the whole course of our lives, and the only instrument to ease the burdens of the world and the enmities of sad chances. It is the great reasonableness of complying with the Divine Providence, which governs all the world, and hath so ordered us in the administration of His great family. It is fit that God should dispense His gifts as He pleases; and if we murmur here, we may, at the next melancholy, be troubled that He did not make us to be angels or stars.
We ourselves make our fortunes good or bad; and when God lets loose a Tyrant upon us, or a sickness, or scorn, or a lessened fortune, if we fear to die, or know not how to be patient, or are proud, or covetous, then the calamity sits heavy on us. But if we know how to manage a noble principle, and fear not death so much as a dishonest action, and think impatience a worse evil than a fever, and pride to be the greatest disgrace as well as the greatest folly, and poverty far preferable to the torments of avarice, we may still bear an even mind and smile at the reverses of fortune and the ill-nature of Fate.
If thou hast lost thy land, do not also lose thy constancy; and if thou must die sooner than others, or than thou didst expect, yet do not die impatiently. For no chance is evil to him who is content, and to a man nothing is miserable unless it be unreasonable. No man can make another man to be his slave, unless that other hath first enslaved himself to life and death, to pleasure or pain, to hope or fear; command these passions, and you are freer than the Parthian Kings.
When an enemy reproaches us, let us look on him as an impartial relator of our faults; for he will tell us truer than our fondest friend will, and we may forgive his anger, whilst we make use of the plainness of his declamation. The ox, when he is weary, treads truest; and if there be nothing else in abuse, but that it makes us to walk warily, and tread sure for fear of our enemies, that is better than to be flattered into pride and carelessness.
If thou fallest from thy employment in public, take sanctuary in an honest retirement, being indifferent to thy gain abroad, or thy safety at home. When the north wind blows hard, and it rains sadly, we do not sit down in it and cry; but defend ourselves against it with a warm garment, or a good fire and a dry roof. So when the storm of a sad mischance beats upon our spirits, we may turn it into something that is good, if we resolve to make it so; and with equanimity and patience may shelter ourselves from its inclement pitiless pelting. If it develop our patience, and give occasion for heroic endurance, it hath done us good enough to recompense us sufficiently for all the temporal affliction; for so a wise man shall overrule his stars; and have a greater influence upon his own content, than all the constellations and planets of the firmament.
Compare not thy condition with the few above thee, but to secure thy content, look upon those thousands with whom thou wouldst not, for any interest, change thy fortune and condition. A soldier must not think himself unprosperous, if he be not successful as Alexander or Wellington; nor any man deem himself unfortunate that he hath not the wealth of Rothschild; but rather let the former rejoice that he is not lessened like the many generals who went down horse and man before Napoleon, and the latter that he is not the beggar who, bareheaded in the bleak winter wind holds out his tattered hat for charity. There may be many who are richer and more fortunate; but many thousands who are very miserable, compared to thee.
After the worst assaults of Fortune, there will be something left to us,--a merry countenance, a cheerful spirit, and a good conscience, the Providence of God, our hopes of Heaven, our charity for those who have injured us; perhaps a loving wife, and many friends to pity, and some to relieve us; and light and air, and all the beauties of Nature; we can read, discourse, and meditate; and having still these blessings, we should be much in love with sorrow and peevishness to lose them all, and prefer to sit down on our little handful of thorns.
Enjoy the blessings of this day, if God sends them, and the evils of it bear patiently and calmly; for this day only is ours: we are dead to yesterday, and we are not yet born to the morrow. When our fortunes are violently changed, our spirits are unchanged, if they always stood in the suburbs and expectation of sorrows and reverses. The blessings of immunity, safeguard, liberty, and integrity deserve the thanksgiving of a whole life. We are quit from a thousand calamities, every one of which, if it were upon us, would make us insensible of our present sorrow, and glad to receive it in exchange for that other greater affliction.
Measure your desires by your fortune and condition, not your fortunes by your desires: be governed by your needs, not by your fancy; by nature, not by evil customs and ambitious principles. It is no evil to be poor, but to be vicious and impatient. Is that beast better, that hath two or three mountains to graze on, than the little bee that feeds on dew or manna, and lives upon what falls every morning from the store-houses of Heaven, clouds and Providence ?
There are some instances of fortune and a fair condition that cannot stand with some others; but if you desire this, you must lose that, and unless you be content with one, you lose the comfort of both. If you covet learning, you must have leisure and a retired life; if honours of State and political distinctions, you must be ever abroad in public, and get experience, and do all men's business, and keep all company, and have no leisure at all. If you will be rich, you must be frugal; if you will be popular, you must be bountiful; if a philosopher, you must despise riches. If you would be famous as Epaminondas, accept also his poverty, for it added lustre to his person, and envy to his fortune, and his virtue without it could not have been so excellent. If you would have the reputation of a martyr, you must needs accept his persecution; if of a benefactor of the world, the world's injustice; if truly great, you must expect to see the mob prefer lesser men to yourself.
God esteems it one of His glories, that He brings good out of evil; and therefore it were but reason we should trust Him to govern His own world as He pleases; and that we should patiently wait until the change cometh, or the reason is discovered.
A Mason's contentedness must by no means be a mere contented selfishness, like his who, comfortable himself, is indifferent to the discomfort of others. There will always be in this world wrongs to forgive, suffering to alleviate, sorrow asking for sympathy, necessities and destitution to relieve, and ample occasion for the exercise of active charity and beneficence. And he who sits unconcerned amidst it all, perhaps enjoying his own comforts and luxuries the more, by contrasting them with the hungry and ragged destitution and shivering misery of his fellows, is not contented, but selfish and unfeeling.
It is the saddest of all sights upon this earth, that of a man lazy and luxurious, or hard and penurious, to whom want appeals in vain, and suffering cries in an unknown tongue. The man whose hasty anger hurries him into violence and crime is not half so unworthy to live. He is the faithless steward, that embezzles what God has given him in trust for the impoverished and suffering among his brethren. The true Mason must be and must have a right to be content with himself; and he can be so only when he lives not for himself alone, but for others also, who need his assistance and have a claim upon his sympathy.
"Charity is the great channel," it has been well said, "through which God passes all His mercy upon mankind. For we receive absolution of our sins in proportion to our forgiving our brother. This is the rule of our hopes and the measure of our desire in this world; and on the day of death and judgment, the great sentence upon mankind shall be transacted according to our alms, which is the other part of charity. God himself is love; and very degree of charity that dwells in us is the participation of the divine nature."
These principles Masonry reduces to practice. By them it expects you to be hereafter guided and governed. It especially inculcates them upon him who employs the labour of others, forbidding him to discharge them, when to want employment is to starve; or to contract for the labour of man or woman at so low a price that by over-exertion they must sell him their blood and life at the same time with the labour of their hands.
These Degrees are also intended to teach more than morals. The symbols and ceremonies of Masonry have more than one meaning. They rather conceal than disclose the Truth. They hint it only, at least; and their varied meanings are only to be discovered by reflection and study. Truth is not only symbolized by Light, but as the ray of light is separable into rays of different colours, so is truth separable into kinds. It is the province of Masonry to teach all truths--not moral truth alone, but political and philosophical, and even religious truth, so far as concerns the great and essential principles of each. The sphynx was a symbol. To whom has it disclosed its inmost meaning? Who knows the symbolic meaning of the pyramids?
You will hereafter learn who are the chief foes of human liberty symbolized by the assassins of the Master Khurum; and in their fate you may see foreshadowed that which we earnestly hope will hereafter overtake those enemies of humanity, against whom Masonry has struggled so long.
IX. ELECT OF THE NINE.
[Elu of the Nine.]
ORIGINALLY created to reward fidelity, obedience, and devotion, this Degree was consecrated to bravery, devotedness, and patriotism; and your obligation has made known to you the duties which you have assumed. They are summed up in the simple mandate, "Protect the oppressed against the oppressor; and devote yourself to the honour and interests of your Country."
Masonry is not "speculative," nor theoretical, but experimental; not sentimental, but practical. It requires self-renunciation and self-control. It wears a stern face toward men's vices, and interferes with many of our pursuits and our fancied pleasures. It penetrates beyond the region of vague sentiment; beyond the regions where moralizers and philosophers have woven their fine theories and elaborated their beautiful maxims, to the very depths of the heart, rebuking our littlenesses and meannesses, arraigning our prejudices and passions, and warring against the armies of our vices.
It wars against the passions that spring out of the bosom of a world of fine sentiments, a world of admirable sayings and foul practices, of good maxims and bad deeds; whose darker passions are not only restrained by custom and ceremony, but hidden even from itself by a veil of beautiful sentiments. This terrible solecism has existed in all ages. Romish sentimentalism has often covered infidelity and vice; Protestant straightness often lauds spirituality and faith, and neglects homely truth, candor, and generosity; and ultra-liberal Rationalistic refinement sometimes soars to heaven in its dreams, and wallows in the mire of earth in its deeds.
There may be a world of Masonic sentiment; and yet a world of little or no Masonry. In many minds there is a vague and general sentiment of Masonic charity, generosity, and disinterestedness, but no practical, active virtue, nor habitual kindness, self sacrifice, or liberality. Masonry plays about them like the cold though brilliant lights that flush and eddy over Northern skies. There are occasional flashes of generous and manly feeling, transitory splendours, and momentary gleams of just and noble thought, and transient coruscations, that light the Heaven of their imagination; but there is no vital warmth in the heart; and it remains as cold and sterile as the Arctic or Antarctic regions. They do nothing; they gain no victories over themselves; they make no progress; they are still in the Northeast corner of the Lodge, as when they first stood there as Apprentices; and they do not cultivate Masonry, with a cultivation, determined, resolute, and regular, like their cultivation of their estate, profession, or knowledge. Their Masonry takes its chance in general and inefficient sentiment, mournfully barren of results; in words and formulas and fine professions.
Most men have sentiments, but not principles. The former are temporary sensations, the latter permanent and controlling impressions of goodness and virtue. The former are general and involuntary, and do not rise to the character of virtue. Every one feels them. They flash up spontaneously in every heart. The latter are rules of action, and shape and control our conduct; and it is these that Masonry insists upon.
We approve the right; but pursue the wrong. It is the old story of human deficiency. No one abets or praises injustice, fraud, oppression, covetousness, revenge, envy or slander; and yet how many who condemn these things, are themselves guilty of them. It is no rare thing for him whose indignation is kindled at a tale of wicked injustice, cruel oppression base slander, or misery inflicted by unbridled indulgence; whose anger flames in behalf of the injured and ruined victims of wrong; to be in some relation unjust, or oppressive, or envious, or self-indulgent, or a careless talker of others. How wonderfully indignant the penurious man often is, at the avarice or want of public spirit of another!
A great Preacher well said, "Therefore thou art inexcusable. O Man, whosoever thou art, that judgest; for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself: for thou that judgest, doest the same things." It is amazing to see how men can talk of virtue and honour, whose life denies both. It is curious to see with what a marvellous facility many bad men quote Scripture. It seems to comfort their evil consciences, to use good words; and to gloze over bad deeds with holy texts, wrested to their purpose. Often, the more a man talks about Charity and Toleration, the less he has of either; the more he talks about Virtue, the smaller stock he has of it. The mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart; but often the very reverse of what the man practises. And the vicious and sensual often express, and in a sense feel, strong disgust at vice and sensuality. Hypocrisy is not so common as is imagined.
Here, in the Lodge, virtue and vice are matters of reflection and feeling only. There is little opportunity here, for the practice of either; and Masons yield to the argument here, with facility and readiness; because nothing is to follow. It is easy, and safe, here, too feel upon these matters. But to-morrow, when they breathe the atmosphere of worldly gains and competitions, and the passions are again stirred at the opportunities of unlawful pleasure, all their fine emotions about virtue, all their generous abhorrence of selfishness and sensuality, melt away like a morning cloud.
For the time, their emotions and sentiments are sincere and real. Men may be really, in a certain way, interested in Masonry, while fatally deficient in virtue. It is not always hypocrisy. Men pray most fervently and sincerely, and yet are constantly guilty of acts so bad and base, so ungenerous and unrighteous, that the crimes that crowd the dockets of our courts are scarcely worse.
A man may be a good sort of man in general, and yet a very bad man in particular: good in the Lodge and bad in the world; good in public, and bad in his family; good at home, and bad on a journey or in a strange city. Many a man earnestly desires to be a good Mason. He says so, and is sincere. But if you require him to resist a certain passion, to sacrifice a certain indulgence, to control his appetite at a particular feast, or to keep his temper in a dispute, you will find that he does not wish to be a good Mason, in that particular case; or, wishing, is not able to resist his worst impulses.
The duties of life are more than life. The law imposeth it upon every citizen, that he prefer the urgent service of his country before the safety of his life. If a man be commanded, saith a great writer, to bring ordnance or munition to relieve any of the King's towns that are distressed, then he cannot for any danger of tempest justify the throwing of them overboard; for there it holdeth which was spoken by the Roman, when the same necessity of weather was alleged to hold him from embarking: "Necesse est ut eam, non ut vivam :" it needs that I go: it is not necessary I should live.
How ungratefully he slinks away, who dies, and does nothing to reflect a glory to Heaven ! How barren a tree he is, who lives, and spreads, and cumbers the ground, yet leaves not one seed, not one good work to generate another after him ! All cannot leave alike; yet all may leave something, answering their proportions and their kinds. Those are dead and withered grains of corn, out of which there will not one ear spring. He will hardly find the way to Heaven, who desires to go thither alone.
Industry is never wholly unfruitful. If it bring not joy with the incoming profit, it will yet banish mischief from thy busied gates. There is a kind of good angel waiting upon Diligence that ever carries a laurel in his hand to crown her. How unworthy was that man of the world who never did aught, but only lived and died! That we have liberty to do anything, we should account it a gift from the favouring Heavens; that we have minds sometimes inclining us to use that liberty well, is a great bounty of the Deity.
Masonry is action, and not inertness. It requires its Initiates to WORK, actively and earnestly, for the benefit of their brethren, their country, and mankind. It is the patron of the oppressed, as it is the comforter and consoler of the unfortunate and wretched. It seems to it a worthier honour to be the instrument of advancement and reform, than to enjoy all that rank and office and lofty titles can bestow. It is the advocate of the common people in those things which concern the best interests of mankind. It hates insolent power and impudent usurpation. It pities the poor, the sorrowing, the disconsolate; it endeavours to raise and improve the ignorant, the sunken, and the degraded.
Its fidelity to its mission will be accurately evidenced, by the extent of the efforts it employs, and the means it sets on foot, to improve the people at large and to better their condition; chiefest of which, within its reach, is to aid in the education of the children of the poor. An intelligent people, informed of its rights, will soon come to know its power, and cannot long be oppressed; but if there be not a sound and virtuous populace, the elaborate ornaments at the top of the pyramid of society will be a wretched compensation for the want of solidity at the base. It is never safe for a nation to repose on the lap of ignorance: and if there ever was a time when public tranquillity was insured by the absence of knowledge, that season is past. Unthinking stupidity cannot sleep, without being appalled by phantoms and shaken by terrors. The improvement of the mass of the people is the grand security for popular liberty; in the neglect of which, the politeness, refinement, and knowledge accumulated in the higher orders and wealthier classes will some day perish like dry grass in the hot fire of popular fury.
It is not the mission of Masonry to engage in plots and conspiracies against the civil government. It is not the fanatical propagandist of any creed or theory; nor does it proclaim itself the enemy of kings. It is the apostle of liberty, equality, and fraternity; but it is no more the high-priest of republicanism than of constitutional monarchy. It contracts no entangling alliances with any sect of theorists, dreamers, or philosophers. It does not know those as its Initiates who assail the civil order and all lawful authority, at the same time that they propose to deprive the dying of the consolations of religion. It sits apart from all sects and creeds, in its own calm and simple dignity, the same under every government. It is still that which it was in the cradle of the human race, when no human foot had trodden the soil of Assyria and Egypt, and no colonies had crossed the Himalayas into Southern India, Media, or Etruria.
It gives no countenance to anarchy and licentiousness; and no illusion of glory, or extravagant emulation of the ancients inflames it with an unnatural thirst for ideal and Utopian liberty. It teaches that in rectitude of life and sobriety of habits is the only sure guarantee for the continuance of political freedom, and it is chiefly the soldier of the sanctity of the laws and the rights of conscience.
It recognizes it as a truth, that necessity, as well as abstract right and ideal justice, must have its part in the making of laws, the administration of affairs, and the regulation of relations in society. It sees, indeed, that necessity rules in all the affairs of man. It knows that where any man, or any number or race of men, are so imbecile of intellect, so degraded, so incapable of self control, so inferior in the scale of humanity, as to be unfit to be intrusted with the highest prerogatives of citizenship, the great law of necessity, for the peace and safety of the community and country, requires them to remain under the control of those of larger intellect and superior wisdom. It trusts and believes that God will, in his own good time, work out his own great and wise purposes; and it is willing to wait, where it does not see its own way clear to some certain good.
It hopes and longs for the day when all the races of men, even the lowest, will be elevated, and become fitted for political freedom; when, like all other evils that afflict the earth, pauperism, and bondage or abject dependence, shall cease and disappear. But it does not preach revolution to those who are fond of kings, nor rebellion that can end only in disaster and defeat, or in substituting one tyrant for another, or a multitude of despots for one.
Wherever a people is fit to be free and to govern itself, and generously strives to be so, there go all its sympathies. It detests the tyrant, the lawless oppressor, the military usurper, and him who abuses a lawful power. It frowns upon cruelty, and a wanton disregard of the rights of humanity. It abhors the selfish employer, and exerts its influence to lighten the burdens which want and dependence impose upon the workman, and to foster that humanity and kindness which man owes to even the poorest and most unfortunate brother.
It can never be employed, in any country under Heaven, to teach a toleration for cruelty, to weaken moral hatred for guilt, or to deprave and brutalize the human mind. The dread of punishment will never make a Mason an accomplice in so corrupting his countrymen, and a teacher of depravity and barbarity. If anywhere, as has heretofore happened, a tyrant should send a satirist on his tyranny to be convicted and punished as a libeller, in a court of justice, a Mason, if a juror in such a case, though in sight of the scaffold streaming with the blood of the innocent, and within hearing of the clash of the bayonets meant to overawe the court, would rescue the intrepid satirist from the tyrant's fangs, and send his officers out from the court with defeat and disgrace.
Even if all law and liberty were trampled under the feet of Jacobinical demagogues or a military banditti, and great crimes were perpetrated with a high hand against all who were deservedly the objects of public veneration; if the people, overthrowing law, roared like a sea around the courts of justice, and demanded the blood of those who, during the temporary fit of insanity and drunken delirium, had chanced to become odious to it, for true words manfully spoken, or unpopular acts bravely done, the Masonic juror, unawed alike by the single or the many-headed tyrant, would consult the dictates of duty alone, and stand with a noble firmness between the human tigers and their coveted prey.
The Mason would much rather pass his life hidden in the recesses of the deepest obscurity, feeding his mind even with the visions and imaginations of good deeds and noble actions, than to be placed on the most splendid throne of the universe, tantalized with a denial of the practice of all which can make the greatest situation any other than the greatest curse. And if he has been enabled to lend the slightest step to any great and laudable designs; if he has had any share in any measure giving quiet to private property and to private conscience, making lighter the yoke of poverty and dependence, or relieving deserving men from oppression; if he has aided in securing to his countrymen that best possession, peace; if he has joined in reconciling the different sections of his own country to each other, and the people to the government of their own creating; and in teaching the citizen to look for his protection to the laws of his country, and for his comfort to the good-will of his countrymen; if he has thus taken his part with the best of men in the best of their actions, he may well shut the book, even if he might wish to read a page or two more. It is enough for his measure. He has not lived in vain.
Masonry teaches that all power is delegated for the good, and not for the injury of the People; and that, when it is perverted from the original purpose, the compact is broken, and the right ought to be resumed; that resistance to power usurped is not merely a duty which man owes to himself and to his neighbour, but a duty which he owes to his God, in asserting and maintaining the rank which He gave him in the creation. This principle neither the rudeness of ignorance can stifle nor the enervation of refinement extinguish. It makes it base for a man to suffer when he ought to act; and, tending to preserve to him the original destinations of Providence, spurns at the arrogant assumptions of tyrants and vindicates the independent quality of the race of which we are a part.
The wise and well-informed Mason will not fail to be the votary of Liberty and Justice. He will be ready to exert himself in their defence, wherever they exist. It cannot be a matter of indifference to him when, his own liberty and that of other men, with whose merits and capacities he is acquainted, are involved in the event of the struggle to be made; but his attachment will be to the cause, as the cause of man; and not merely to the country. Wherever there is a people that understands the value of political justice, and is prepared to assert it, that is his country; wherever he can most contribute to the diffusion of these principles and the real happiness of mankind, that is his country. Nor does he desire for any country any other benefit than justice.
The true Mason identifies the honour of his country with his own. Nothing more conduces to the beauty and glory of one's country than the preservation against all enemies of its civil and religious liberty. The world will never willingly let die the names of those patriots who in her different ages have received upon their own breasts the blows aimed by insolent enemies at the bosom of their country.
But also it conduces, and in no small measure, to the beauty and glory of one's country, that justice should always be administered there to all alike, and neither denied, sold, nor delayed to any one; that the interest of the poor should be looked to, and none starve or be houseless, or clamor in vain for work; that the child and the feeble woman should not be overworked, or even the apprentice or slave be stinted of food or overtasked or mercilessly scourged; and that God's great laws of mercy, humanity, and compassion should be everywhere enforced, not only by the statutes, but also by the power of public opinion. And he who labours, often against reproach and obloquy, and oftener against indifference and apathy, to bring about that fortunate condition of things when that great code of divine law shall be everywhere and punctually obeyed, is no less a patriot than he who bares his bosom to the hostile steel in the ranks of his country's soldiery.
For fortitude is not only seen resplendent on the field of battle and amid the clash of arms, but he displays its energy under every difficulty and against every assailant. He who wars against cruelty, oppression, and hoary abuses, fights for his country's honour, which these things soil; and her honour is as important as her existence. Often, indeed, the warfare against those abuses which disgrace one's country is quite as hazardous and more discouraging than that against her enemies in the field; and merits equal, if not greater reward.
For those Greeks and Romans who are the objects of our admiration employed hardly any other virtue in the extirpation of tyrants, than that love of liberty, which made them prompt in seizing the sword, and gave them strength to use it. With facility they accomplish the undertaking, amid the general shout of praise and joy; nor did they engage in the attempt so much as an enterprise of perilous and doubtful issue, as a contest the most glorious in which virtue could be signalized; which infallibly led to present recompense; which bound their brows with wreaths of laurel, and consigned their memories to immortal fame.
But he who assails hoary abuses, regarded perhaps with a superstitious reverence, and around which old laws stand as ramparts and bastions to defend them; who denounces acts of cruelty and outrage on humanity which make every perpetrator thereof his personal enemy, and perhaps make him looked upon with suspicion by the people among whom he lives, as the assailant of an established order of things of which he assails only the abuses, and of laws of which he attacks only the violations,--he can scarcely look for present recompense, nor that his living brows will be wreathed with laurel. And if, contending against a dark array of long-received opinions, superstitions, obloquy, and fears, which most men dread more than they do an army terrible with banners, the Mason overcomes, and emerges from the contest victorious; or if he does not conquer, but is borne down and swept away by the mighty current of prejudice, passion, and interest; in either case, the loftiness of spirit which he displays merits for him more than a mediocrity of fame.
e has already lived too long who has survived the ruin of his country; and he who can enjoy life after such an event deserves not to have lived at all. Nor does he any more deserve to live who looks contentedly upon abuses that disgrace, and cruelties that dishonour, and scenes of misery and destitution and brutalization that disfigure his country; or sordid meanness and ignoble revenges that make her a by-word and a scoff among all generous nations; and does not endeavour to remedy or prevent either.
Not often is a country at war; nor can every one be allowed the privilege of offering his heart to the enemy's bullets. But in these patriotic labours of peace, in preventing, remedying, and reforming evils, oppressions, wrongs, cruelties, and outrages, every Mason can unite; and every one can effect something, and share the honour and glory of the result.
For the cardinal names in the history of the human mind are few and easily to be counted up; but thousands and tens of thousands spend their days in the preparations which are to speed the predestined change, in gathering and amassing the materials which are to kindle and give light and warmth, when the fire from heaven shall have descended on them. Numberless are the sutlers and pioneers, the engineers and artisans, who attend the march of intellect. Many move forward in detachments, and level the way over which the chariot is to pass, and cut down the obstacles that would impede its progress; and these too have their reward. If they labour diligently and faithfully in their calling, not only will they enjoy that calm contentment which diligence in the lowliest task never fails to win; not only will the sweat of their brows be sweet, and the sweetener of the rest that follows; but, when the victory is at last achieved, they will come in for a share in the glory; even as the meanest soldier who fought at Marathon or at King's Mountain became a sharer in the glory of those saving days; and within his own household circle, the approbation of which approaches the nearest to that of an approving conscience, was looked upon as the representative of all his brother-heroes; and could tell such tales as made the tear glisten on the cheek of his wife, and ]it up his boy'.s eyes with an unwonted sparkling eagerness. Or, if he fell in the fight, and his place by the fireside and at the table at home was thereafter vacant, that place was sacred; and he was often talked of there in the long winter evenings; and his family was deemed fortunate in the neighbourhood, because it had had a hero in it, who had fallen in defence of his country.
Remember that life's length is not measured by its hours and days but by that which we have done therein for our country and kind. A useless life is short. if it last a century; but that of Alexander was long as the life of the oak, though he died at thirty-five. We may do much in a few years, and we may nothing in a lifetime. If we but eat and drink and sleep, and everything go on around us as it pleases; or if we live but amass wealth or gain office or wear titles, we might as well not have lived at all; nor have we any right to expect immortality.
Forget not, therefore, to what you have devoted yourself in this Degree: defend weakness against strength, the friendless against the great, the oppressed against the oppressor ! Be ever vigilant and watchful of the interests and honour of your country! and may the Grand Architect of the Universe give you that strength and wisdom which shall enable you well and faithfully to perform these high duties!