In our Journey through the First Degree we meet a series of challenges. No doubt we all
remember that first challenge: "Do you feel anything?" That first incident was designed to
intimate to us that we were about to engage in something serious and solemn. We were no
sooner inside the Lodge than we were faced with the second challenge: "Are you free?"
Then, when we vowed that we were unfettered, body, mind and soul, the blessings of the
Almighty was invoked on the proceedings. Then, without a pause, came the third and
most important challenge of all: "In all cases of difficulty and danger, in whom do you put
your trust?" There is, of course, only one answer, but that answer is the confession of a
simple faith - the simple faith of Masonry. We do not enquire a candidate's religion, but
we do insist on a belief in a Supreme Being - faith in the Great Architect of the Universe
is the rock foundation on which the whole Masonic edifice is built.
Of the three theological virtues, Faith, Hope and Charity, the last is, of course, the
greatest - "chief among the blessed three", as we sing in our ode - but Faith is necessarily
the first, the starting point in any approach to God. And so we find right at the beginning
of our Masonic career a profound emphasis on a simple faith. But let us continue our
We enter the Lodge room from the West, symbolizing the gateway of life, not birth, but
the beginning of life. Being the gateway to life, it will also eventually be the gateway
from life, but that comes much later in our story. We travel down the North side, the place
of darkness, symbolizing the development of life - the time spent by the embryo in the
mother's womb, or the seed in the darkness of the earth. Then we arrive in the East, where
we receive the light, symbolizing birth.
In his circumambulation of the Lodge our candidate follows the path of the sun, which, of
course, rises in the East, reaches its zenith in the South - at least it does in the Northern
Hemisphere, where our ceremonies originate - then sets in the West, and returns to the
East through the hours of darkness.
Our candidate knocks, three times at the Junior Wardens pedestal and three times at that
of the Senior warden. These three knocks have a profound significance; they betoken the
three degrees, which in turn represent man's approach to God in each of the three phases
of nature: a physical approach, a mental or intellectual approach, and a spiritual approach.
The candidate, of course, knows nothing of this at this stage, but the pattern of our three
degrees is based on this fundamental principle.
We advance to the East by three irregular steps, symbolizing stepping into the unknown.
The first is a timid step, full of caution; the second a little bolder, indicating rising
confidence, and the third quite bold, because fear has now been dispelled. The first part
of the sign of an Entered Apprentice has the same significance - reaching into the
The predominating number of this degree is three, just as five and seven are the numbers
of the other two degrees, and so, as the candidate kneels he forms three squares: the first
with his leg, the second with his foot, and the third with his arm. His hand in this position
is an emblem of concealment - he takes a vow of concealment - and it is worthy to notice
that the words used, "hele and conceal", have the same meaning: "hele: being derived
from the Anglo-Saxon, the language in use before William the Conquerer arrived from
Normandy, and "conceal" being derived from the Norman French that he brought with
him, thus establishing a second language in England. Freemasonry here used a word fro
each language to make sure that it was not misunderstood. This might throw a little light
on the age of our ritual.
Both these words mean to "cover up", just as does our other word "heal", which was
derived from the same Anglo-Saxon word "helan". The thatchers of roofs, particularly in
Cornwall and Devon, are called "heelers" to this day, and our nurseryman use that word
when they cover the roots of a plant with earth, till they are ready to place it in the
The obligation is obviously twofold, in as much as we may neither do certain things
ourselves, nor permit them to be done by others; but the word "indite", which is not
properly understood, makes the obligation threefold. Its meaning is "to direct or dictate
what is to be uttered or written". If we may not permit a second person to direct or dictate
what is to be uttered or written to a third person, the word has a profound significance on
When God accused Cain of Abel's murder, he answered: "Am I my brother's keeper?"
The word "indite" in our obligation shows that we are our brother's keeper. The mere
passive witnessing a brother thus violating his obligation implies the violation of our
We are made a Mason in the body of a Lodge "just, perfect and regular". The word "just"
in this instance has the archaic meaning of "correct". As it does in the investiture of the
Treasurer when we use the words "just and regular accounts". What makes the Lodge
"just", what makes it "perfect", and what makes it "regular"? The Sacred Volume open on
the Master's pedestal makes it just, and complete. The number seven makes it perfect, as
we learn in the words of the First Tracing Board, with a confirmation of that in the
Second Tracing Board, as you, no doubt, remember. The warrant or charter of the United
Grand Lodge of Victoria makes it regular. Without the Sacred Volume to make the Lodge
just and complete, the presence of "seven regularly made Masons" to make it perfect, and
the warrant or charter to make it regular, no Lodge can conduct the ceremony of
After the candidate has received the light, he takes his first regular step in Freemasonry,
which he does in the for of a tau cross. When I was in India several years ago, I noticed
that they used the same words as we do regarding the placing of the candidate's feet, but
they added the words: "so as to form the letter T". This is quite right, as the English letter
T is the equivalent of the Greek letter tau, and the three emblems in the form of an
inverted letter T on the apron of an Installed Master are tau crosses. The letter tau is the
nineteenth letter of the Greek alphabet.
In its original form of a cross, it is probably the most ancient of all sacred signs. It is
depicted on the oldest monuments in Egypt, Assyria, Persia and Hindustan. According to
Mackey, Moses marked this sign on the fore head of his brother, Aaron, when he
anointed him as the first High Priest of Israel. It was this sign that Ezekiel caused to be
marked on the foreheads of the righteous, who were thereby saved from death. In India it
is the sign of the Brahma, the creator, the first of the Hindu Trinity, and used by
Brahmins, the highest caste in that religion. It was highly revered by the ancient Druids,
and is, of course, the most sacred sign of Christianity.
We form a tau cross in each of the three degrees, and when we are exalted in the Royal
Arch - which it is claimed, is not another degree, but the completion of the third - we find
the three crosses united in the "triple tau".
As the left-hand side symbolizes evil, we always take a step with the left foot, as
symbolical of putting down evil, before we make this sign. The Latin word for "left" is
sinister, which accounts for the ominous significance attributed to this English word.
The word of the degree is a Hebrew word, whose meaning gives us the key to God's
covenant with Israel, of which to name of the pillar was intended to be a constant
reminder, as we see form this paraphrasing of the covenant: "In the strength of Jehovah
shall the king rejoice, for He will establish the throne of David and his kingdom to his
seed forever". The pillar has nothing really to do with the great grandfather of David, only
inasmuch as they both bore the same name, thus the name of one serves as a reminder of
"Have you anything to give?" Here Brethren, is our fourth challenge, and, although at the
time we were prevented from accepting that challenge, now that we are Freemasons, we
are bound to accept, for we have so much to give - our time, our energy, our devotion. To
disregard this challenge is to condemn ourselves to lack of interest, which so often
becomes that fatal attitude of apathy.
The ancient Greeks had three words - eros, philia, and agape which are translated to the
same English word "love", but to the Greeks they had three distinct meanings. Eros was
the love between the sexes; philia the love of man for man - brotherly love; and the third,
agape, something far greater - the love of God for man, which, of course, knows no
bounds. The equivalent of agape in the Latin language was caritas, and it is from this
word that our word "charity" is derived, and it has the same meaning. It seems to have
been somewhat degraded in the outside world, but in Freemasonry it still has that deeper
meaning. We cannot hope to attain to such a love, but we can strive to emulate it to the
best of our ability.
Faith, as I have already mentioned, is necessarily the first step in any approach to God,
and the three degrees in Freemasonry represent our approach to God in the three phases
of our nature. We belong to God, body, mind and soul. It is Hope that enables us to take
the next step, but Charity, that sublime virtue derived from an emulation of God's love for
man, must be the greatest, and so we depict it on our Tracing Board as the top rung of the
The North-east charge is a dramatization of this great virtue; it reminds us of our
obligation to relieve the distress of our indigent brother, and this reminder is constantly
repeated at the conclusion of every meeting in the Tyler's Toast. During my Masonic
career I have heard several interpretations of the Tyler's Toast, but the following has so
appealed to me that I have forgotten the others.
According to this interpretation the Tyler's Toast is meant to remind us of the time, when
we stood on the North-east corner of the Lodge, and listened for the first time to these
words "... it cannot be denied that we have many members of rank and opulence amongst
us; neither can it be concealed that among the thousands who range under its banner,
there are some who, perhaps from circumstances of unavoidable calamity and misfortune,
are reduced to the lowest ebb of poverty and distress. On their behalf it is our usual
custom to awaken the sympathy of every newly initiated Brother, by making such a claim,
etc." The charge concludes with the words: "...should you, at any future time, meet a
Brother in distress who might solicit your assistance, you will remember those peculiar
moments when you were admitted into Freemasonry ... and cheerfully embrace to
opportunity of practicing towards him that virtue that you now profess to admire."
When we honour this toast to our distressed Brethren we think of them as being dispersed
to the four points of the compass over the surface of land and water, and so we point, but
not to the South, for, symbolically speaking, we are standing in the South, but we point to
the other three - straight ahead to the North, left to the West, and right to the East. We do
this three times in allusion to the three degrees, which in turn allude to the triple nature of
man - body, mind, and soul - for man must dedicate himself to God in each of the three
phases of his nature, and in each of the three degrees to represent our approach to God in
that particular phase of our being.
When we find ourselves face to face with the distressed Brother, what might we be called
upon to do in order to carry out this obligation?
Well first of all, we may have to thrust our hands into our pockets where we keep our
money. However, financial aid may not be his greatest need; perhaps he is depressed,
downcast, discouraged, and our sympathy, counsel, or encouragement could give him
renewed strength to fight life's battle. He may have all the money he needs, and yet be
destitute of faith, of hope, and of course, it is our duty to share our faith, our hope, and
our courage with him. Our aid to this distressed Brother could take yet a third form;
perhaps he is aged, invalid, blind, or otherwise handicapped, and so unable to something
that we could do for him - some physical task that we could do for him with these hands.
Yes, our aid will come from our pockets, from our hearts, or from our hands, and so we
indicate each in turn. And we do it three times for the same reason that we pointed three
times: body, mind and soul; hand, head and heart; north, west and east. And in silence,
because whatever aid we render to our distressed Brother will forever remain a secret
between the giver and the receiver.
"To our next merry meeting" we say with the hands in this position. The hand in this
position always symbolizes concealment, as it was thus that we took our obligation. This
time it is a double concealment, representing concealment in two places. It is not only
what occurred in the Lodge Room, but also what occurred here at the festive board,
where we honour this toast, that is not to be divulged to the outside world.
We call our place of refreshment "the South", because the cathedral builders always
erected their lodge on the sunny side of the construction, which in the Northern
Hemisphere is the south. It was here that our ancient Brethren took their refreshment, and
so the place of refreshment came to be called the "South".
It has been well said:
"Faith is lost in sight, Hope ends in fruition, but Charity extends beyond the grave through
the boundless realms of eternity".
This sounds like a riddle, but it is profound truth, because faith is the assurance of things
not seen, and when we finally see, then we believe through sight, and no longer through
faith - "Faith is lost in sight". As hope exists only in the expectation of possession it must
necessarily cease, when the thing desired is at last enjoyed:
"Hope ends in fruition; but Charity, exercised here on earth in acts of mutual kindness and
forbearance, is still to be found in the world to come in its most sublime form as God's
mercy to His erring creatures".
In the Reasons for Preparation we are told that our right arm was made bare in token of
our sincerity, and to show that we are able and willing to work. This, Brethren, is yet
another challenge, similar to "give", because unless we are prepared to work diligently in
gaining knowledge and carrying out the teachings of the Craft, we are sentencing
ourselves to the same fate as those who do not give. The important point is that both
"give" and "work" imply involvement.
Again in the Reasons we are told: "There was not heard the sound of a hammer or any
other implement of iron". To my knowledge there are four references to this in the Sacred
Volume. The first is a warning, which is given in Exodus 20:25, where we read:
"And if thou wilt make me an altar of stone, thou shalt build it of hewn stone, for if thou
lift up thine tool upon it, thou hast polluted it".
The second is an instruction, which is given in Deuteronomy 27:5, where we read:
"And there shalt thou build an altar unto the Lord thy God, an altar of stones; thou shalt
not lift up any iron tool upon them".
We know that the command was carried out, because it is recorded in Joshua 8:30-31:
"Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal, as Moses the
servant of the Lord commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the
law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron".
The fourth reference shows us that this law was observed in the erection of King
Solomon's Temple, for in the First Book of Kings 6:7, we read:
"And the house, when it was in building, was built of stones made ready, before they
were brought hither; so that there was neither hammer nor axe nor any tool of iron heard
in the house, while it was in building".
I will mention but two things in the Tracing Board, and the first of these is a pair of
things, the Rough and Perfect Ashlars. Both of these ashlars are reminders of the
necessity for moral behaviour and the importance of developing the intellectual faculty. In
the ritual we are told: "The Rough Ashlar is a stone, rough and unhewn as taken from the
quarry until, by the industry and ingenuity of the workmen, it is modelled, wrought into
due form, and rendered fit for the hands of the more expert craftsman; this represents man
in his infant or primitive stage, rough and unpolished as that stone, until by the kind care
and attention of his parents or guardians by giving a liberal and virtuous education, his
mind becomes cultivated, and he is thereby rendered a fit member of civilized society.
The Perfect Ashlar is a stone of true die or square, fit to be tried by the S. and C.s; this
represents man in the decline of years, after a regular well-spent life in acts of piety and
virtue, which cannot otherwise be tried and approved than by the S. of God's word, and
the C.s of his own self-convincing conscience.
Dr Mackey (Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its kindred Sciences) presents the same
idea in these words:
"The Rough Ashlar, or stone in its rude and unpolished conditions, is emblematical of
man in his natural state - ignorant, uncultivated, and vicious. But when education has
exercised its wholesome influence in expanding his intellect, restraining his passions, and
activating his mind, he is then represented by the Perfect Ashlar, which, under the skilful
hand of the expert Craftsman, has been smoothed and squared and fitted for its place in
Dr. Joseph Fort Newton (The Builders) clothes the idea in these beautiful words:
"Freemasonry insists that its members shall be men, free men of adult age and of good
report; as the stones of King Solomon's Temple were hewn and chiselled and shaped and
polished, far away, so that without the sound of axe or hammer, they might be softly,
silently set in the place that awaited them; so in the Lodges of freemasonry the characters
of its members are silently, secretly smoothed and shaped, until the rough stone becomes
the Perfect Ashlar, the long pilgrimage is over, the working tools are laid down, and the
finished stone finds its last resting place in the great temple of humanity, which the Great
Architect has been building since the world began:.
Now let me add the thought contained in the last verse of that poem by Lawrence
Greenleaf, entitled "Temple of Living Stones":
"Although our past achievements we with honest pride review,
As long as there's Rough Ashlars there is work for us to do;
We still must shape the living stones with instruments of love,
For that eternal mansion in the paradise above;
Toil as we've toiled in ages past to carry out the plan;
'Tis this: the Fatherhood of God, and the Brotherhood of man".
In ordinary everyday life, when we speak of a "rude or "Polished" mind, of an "upright"
man, who is a "pillar" of society, of meeting on the "level", and acting on the "square", we
are using words that found their origin in our Masonic Craft; and when we speak of
putting someone through the Third Degree, we are thinking of an ordeal, and our Masonic
ordeal teaches us that we cannot rely on our own worth, no matter how virtuous, nor yet
on all the science and accumulated knowledge of mankind, but only on the sure grip of
faith; all else will prove a slip and fail us in the hour of trial.
Which brings us back to the point where we stared our journey, and where we answered
that most important challenge: "In all cases of difficulty and danger, in whom do you put
your trust?" Our answer, "In God", is a confession of faith, the simple faith of Masonry is
its very cornerstone, its first and greatest landmark, the basis of its plan, its purpose, its
promise. There is no other foundation - upon faith in God, Freemasonry builds its temple
of Brotherly love, Relief and Truth.
As he has for most things, Dr. Newton (The Builders) has something apt to say about the
simple faith; and so I will conclude this chapter with his words:
'Out of this simple faith grows by inevitable logic the philosophy which Freemasonry
teaches in signs and symbols, in pictures and parables. Stated briefly, stated vividly, it is
that behind the pageant of nature, in it and over it, there is a Supreme Being, who
initiates, impels and controls all; that behind the life of man and his pathetic story in
history, there is a righteous will, the intelligent conscience of the Most High. In short, that
the last thing in the universe is mind, that the highest and deepest thing is conscience, and
that the final reality is the absoluteness of love; higher than his faith cannot fly, and
deeper than his thought cannot dig".
The other reference I wish to make to the Tracing Board is not to two things like the
Ashlars, but to three things, the pillars. They warrant a chapter on their own.
THE THREE GREAT PILLARS
The column of office of the Junior Warden is the pillar of the Corinthian Order. It is an
emblem of beauty, and points out that he is to adorn the work with all his powers of
genius and active industry, to promote regularity among the Brethren by his precept and
example, and the discriminating encouragement of merit.
The outstanding feature of the Corinthian Order is the acanthus leaf, the introduction of
which is attributed to Callimachus, the celebrated architect of ancient Greece. Long
before the Christian era a Corinthian maiden, who was betrothed, took ill and died before
the time for the appointed marriage. Her faithful and grieving nurse placed on her tomb a
basket containing many of her toys and covered it with a flat tile. It so happened that the
basket was placed immediately on top of an acanthus root, which then grew up and
around the basket, and curled around the weighty resistance of the tile, exhibiting a form
of foliage, which was, on being seen by the architect, perceived as a potential form of
architecture. He adopted it as a model for the capital of a new order of architecture,
perpetuating in marble this story of affection.
It is the most elaborate of the three Greek orders, the other two of which are the Ionic and
the Doric. It gained great favour with the Romans, who tried to improve on it with the
Composite, but the Corinthian has steadily maintained its popularity. The finest Greek
example is the choragic monument of Lysicrates in Athens. The Roman examples include
the Temple of mars at Ultor, The temple of Vespasian, the third range of the Colosseum,
and the Pantheon.
Emblematically, this column is female, and its distinguishing characteristics are lightness
and beauty. In proportion its length is nine to eleven times its diameter, and in
Freemasonry it represents Hiram Abif.
When Hiram, King of Tyre, which was the chief city of Phoenicia, accepted King
Solomon's invitation to support him with men and materials for the building of the
Temple, he sent his outstanding man to take charge of the construction. This is recorded
in the First Book of Kings 7:13, where we read:
"And Solomon sent and brought Hiram out of Tyre. He was the son of a widow of the
tribe Napthali, and his father was a man of Tyre."
His father , therefore, was a Phoenician, but his mother was an Israelite. Some Masonic
scholars contend that this man of tyre was his step-father, and that his real father, his
mother's first husband was a man of the tribe of Dan, making him fully an Israelite by
birth. The history of Tyre goes back to the fifteenth century B.C. (The City of Tyre was
about one hundred and sixty kilometres from Jerusalem.)
Hiram Abif, or being translated, Father Hiram, was a very talented man, as we can see
from the passages of scripture. The first records:
"Hiram was a worker in bronze, and he was full of wisdom, understanding and skill for
making any manner of work in bronze. He came to King Solomon and did all his work."
And the other passage (The Second Book of Chronicles 2:14) records the words of
Hiram, King of Tyre, in describing the man he was sending:
"He is trained to work in gold, silver, bronze, iron, stone, and wood; and in purple, blue
and crimson fabrics and fine linen, and to do all, sorts of engraving, and to execute any
design that may be assigned to him with your craftsmen, the craftsmen of my Lord David,
His skill as a Mason is certified by the famous archaeologist, Professor Smythe, who tells
us that there were stones as large as 11.81 metres long, 2.13 metres high, and 2.44 metres
wide, and that these were formed so as to fit and rest on the natural rock foundation, and
that the joints between these stones were so perfect that the blade of a knife could not be
inserted between them.
A stone of these dimensions would weigh about 140 tonne, and had to be moved into
position without the aid of any kind of machinery, for this was before the invention of
even the system of pulleys mentioned in the first Tracing Board. This enormous mass had
to be dragged along an first conceived by King David, but for several reasons this mighty
warlike King could not commence the work, although he did discuss the matter with
Hiram, King of Tyre. It was left to his son, Solomon, upon his ascent to the throne to
make a treaty with that monarch, who was to support him so ably with men and materials.
Phoenicia was a buffer state between Egypt, Assyria and Babylon, and, except for brief
periods of independence, was politically overlorded in turn by these three great powers,
but as a trading, seafaring nation, the Phoenicians never completely lost their
independence. They were the outstanding financiers and money-lenders of their day, and
had extensive overseas resources - Carthage, the great rival of Rome, was started as a
colony of Phoenicia. Tyrian ships visited what is now known as the British Isles, and it
has been established that their country actually operated the tin mines in Cornwall, which
are still yielding tin today. It was this tin that was mixed with copper to make the bronze
pillars, the great laver, and the many ornaments of the Temple.
Not only did Hiram, King of Tyre, supply Solomon with the architect himself, Hiram
Abif, but with many thousands of menatzchin, or prefects, or more familiarly speaking
overseers, who were the artificers or skilled tradesmen. They were to oversee the vast
number of unskilled labourers, who were drawn mainly from the satellite peoples of
Israel, such as the Moabites, and other indigenous tribes. These unskilled labourers
loaded timber from the forests of Lebanon onto the ships that were to transport it to
Joppa, from where it was transported to Jerusalem. The Phoenicians supervised the
preparation of the stones in the quarries, and their placement in the building, after the
unskilled labourers had transported them there, again under the skilled workers of Tyre.
The metal work was cast in the Plain of Jordan, in the clayground between Succoth and
Zeredatha under the supervision of Hiram Abif and his skilled artificers.
It took seven and a half years to complete the Temple, and then only by working the
unskilled labour at ten thousand a shift, thanks to the wonderful support of Hiram, King of
Tyre, whose honesty and integrity were bywords in his day. Of course, he was not doing
this for nothing. His was a trading nation, and he wanted his caravan routes kept open,
and in this way Solomon was able to repay him, besides supplying him with goods that
Tyre itself could not produce.
Hiram came to the throne at the early age of nineteen years, and he reigned for thirty-four
years, dying at the age of fifty-three. He is mentioned only twice in our ritual. The first
time is in the First Tracing Board in that part which is repeated in our installation
ceremony as the Address to the Pillars, where we are told that he is represented by the
Doric column of the Senior Warden. The second reference is even less specific: in the
rather negative statement, that he was one of the three Grand masters who bore sway at
the building of the Temple at Jerusalem. His importance would seem to warrant a more
He was the king of a country which, although it has left us no record of its achievements,
is credited with doing much towards the improvement of the art of writing and, by some,
even with the invention of the alphabet and the system of ciphers that we use today.
Thanks to Flavius Josephus, the Jewish historian, and to Herodotus, the Greek historian,
we are enabled to know as much as we do.
The original inhabitants of Phoenicia were the Canaanites with an admixture of Amorite
and Hittite, and unlike the ancient peoples were not primarily farmers but a nation of
artificers, sailors and merchants. They are credited with the discovery of Polaris, the Pole
Star, and are recognised as the first to chart their course by the stars. They are also
credited with the invention of glass. The country was for many years under the
domination of Egypt.
We were told in a lecture ("Hiram and His Kingdom of Tyre") given in the Lodge of
Research by Wor. Bro. McConnell, that alone of all the Tyrian Kings the name of Hiram
is attached by popular tradition to a still existing monument - a great weather-beaten
sarcophagus of unknown antiquity, raised aloft on three huge rocky pillars of stone, and
looking down from the hills above Tyre, over the ruins of the city and harbour, and still
called the "Tomb of Hiram". Bro. Senior warden has the honour and privilege of
representing Hiram, King of Tyre.
The column of the Worshipful Master is the pillar of the Ionic order, a style of
architecture that is 3,200 years old. It is part Egyptian and part Assyrian, and combines
the strength of the Doric with the beauty of the Corinthian order. It is an emblem of
wisdom and points out that the Master is to combine wisdom with strength and firmness
of mind and beauty of persuasive eloquence in the government of the Lodge. This pillar
represents Solomon, King of Israel, who was renowned for his wisdom.
The story of King Solomon begins with the story of Ruth, one of the many beautiful
stories in the Sacred Volume. Because of famine in the land of Palestine, a certain man of
Bethlehem, Elimelech by name, went with his wife Naomi, and their two sons to live in
the land of Moab. There the two sons grew to manhood, and took to themselves wives
from among the daughters of the people of Moab. When Elimelech died, Naomi was left
in the care of the two sons; but when the two sons died, Naomi decided to return to her
own country. Both the daughters-in-law would have returned with her to Bethlehem, had
not Naomi succeeded in persuading one of them to remain with her own Moabitish
people, but the other who was called Ruth, insisted on returning with her, saying: "Your
people shall be my people, and whithersoever thou goest, there I go also." And so Ruth
travelled with Naomi to Palestine.
Back in Bethlehem, Naomi sent Ruth to glean corn in the field of her kinsman, Boaz, as
was the custom in those days. When Boaz saw Ruth gleaning in his field, he asked his
men who the woman was and when told that she was the daughter-in-law of his
kinswoman, Naomi, he went forth and spoke with Ruth, inviting her to glean in all his
fields. He then instructed his men not to disturb Ruth, but to let fall full ears of corn, that
she might go away well laden.
This story fills the four chapters of the Book of Ruth, but suffice it to say that Boaz fell in
love with Ruth and married her. Their son, Obed, was the father of Jesse, and therefore
the grandfather of David, making Boaz the great grandfather of David, who was, of
course, a prince and ruler in Israel.
Although a man of war, David led a singularly blameless life till he fell in love with
Bathsheba, the wive of Uriah, the Hittite, a captain in David's army. David seduced
Bathsheba, and when he found her with child he called Uriah before him, made a full
confession of his guilt, offering to marry her; but Uriah refused to divorce her. Shortly
afterwards Uriah was killed in battle. David was accused by Nathan the prophet of being
implicated in the death of Uriah by assigning him to a mission of danger and it is recorded
that David made no attempt to deny it.
This and the numbering of people were David's two sins, but they were fully atoned, for
the Almighty thought fit to punish David in the same manner as was punished that other
great servant of the Almighty, Moses, for his sin, by the denying of the realization of his
life's ambition. Moses, who led the Israelites out of their Egyptian bondage, and through
the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, dreamed of the day when he would lead
them into the promised land. Moses died knowing that the following day they would cross
the border under the leadership of his successor, Joshua. David, who had devoted his
whole life to the service of God, dreamed and planned of building a magnificent temple to
the glory of the Lord God of Israel, but died when those plans were almost ready and
arrangements completed, leaving the execution of the beloved task to his son, Solomon,
who followed him into the throne of Israel.
Bathsheba, whom David later married, bore him that son who became the most famous
and illustrious of all Kings of Israel, and who gained such fame for his wisdom that his
name has been a byword for at least three thousand years.
As an illustration of the wisdom of Solomon, a story is told of two women, who came
before him, both claiming to be the mother of the same child. After listening to their story,
Solomon ordered that that the baby be cut in half with a sword, and half of the body be
given to each claimant. One of the women was quite willing for this to be done, but the
other became violently agitated, and falling to her knees before the King, begged and
pleaded for the life of the baby, renouncing all claim to be its mother. The King smiled
kindly on the wretched women, and said: "Arise, woman and take the living child and
depart in peace, for you who would not have it slain, are obviously the mother."
To Solomon's lot fell the great honour of fulfilling his father's cherished ambition, and it is
upon the circumstances surrounding the erection of that magnificent temple, that our
Masonic art is founded. Claims that its regal splendour and unparalleled lustre far
transcend our ideas are not exaggerated, for the gold and silver alone on present day
values would be worth thousands of millions of dollars.
Solomon wrote many of the wise sayings in the Book of Proverbs, he wrote the Song of
Solomon, and the Book of Ecclesiastes, the last chapter of which is one of the gems of
literature, and had he written nothing else, the philosophy of life contained in that chapter
would have been enough to immortalize the name of Solomon.
Solomon was a wise and capable ruler, a mighty prince, whose reign was filled with
prosperity and peace. The First temple at Jerusalem will always be known as King
Solomon's Temple, and the Master's seat in the Freemasons' Lodge will always be known
as King Solomon's Chair. May the story of King Solomon never end.
The master of the Freemasons' Lodge is thereby the worthy representative of King
Solomon, and as such we salute him.