WILLIAM ROUNSEVILLE ALGER 1822-1905
From Proceedings, Page 1873-364:
REV. WILLIAM ROUNSEVILLE ALGER, A.M., BOSTON. Unitarian. 1855-1856, 1863-1867.
ALGER, WILLIAM ROUNSEVILLE, clergyman and author, b. Freetown, Ms., Dec. 30, 1822. Camb. Theol. School, 1847. In that year he became minister of a Unitarian Society at Roxbury, and in 1855 exchanged for a similar charge in Boston. He now preaches at the Music Hall, Boston. He pub. A Symbolic History of the Cross of Christ, 1851; The Poetry of the East 1856. His chief work is A Critical History of the Doctrines of a Future Life, with a Complete Bibliography of the Subject, by Ezra Abbot, 1864. He also edited, with an introduction, in 1858, Studies of Christianity, by James Martineau.
— Drake's Biographies, 1872.
Bro. Alger was born at Freetown, Mass. He did not graduate at any college, but received the Honorary Degree of A.M. from Harvard University in 1850. He was initiated into Masonry in Washington Lodge, Roxbury, Mass., on the recommendation of that worthiest of men and of Masons, the late venerable Winslow Lewis, Senior; and has served as Chaplain in various branches of the Masonic Institution.
— History of Columbian Lodge, 1856.
The compiler would call the attention of the reader to the beautiful and impressive address of Brother Alger delivered at the funeral of Rev. Stephen Lovell, which will be found in connection with the notice of that Chaplain.
ADDRESS ON WASHINGTON, FEBRUARY 1853
From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XII, No. 7, May 1853, p. 204:
BROTHER ALGER'S EULOGY ON WASHINGTON. [The Rev. Br. Alger having declined the invitation of the Grand Lodge of this Commonwealth to publish the eloquent Eulogy delivered before that body on the 22d February, on the life and character of Washington, has kindly permitted us to make the following elegant extract from his manuscript, it being the conclusion of the address]:
Brethren of the Mystic Circle!
Standing here by your kind favor to-night, I should not only speak of Washington as a model man and patriot, to a company of patriotic Americans, bnt also as a free and accepted Mason to an assembly of those who in this respect, too, are of bis own spiritual kith and kin. You will not expect me to close without a brief reference to bis relationship with our cherished Order.
Brethren of the holy Tie! — In Washinoton we behold a consistent embodiment of the Masonic rule of strict Morality. The integral purity and righteousnesss of his character and conduct afford a fair specimen of the genuine fruits of Masonry, wherever its influences are received and its instructions followed. Every member of this ancient, guiding Institution, is solemnly pledged to revere, love and obey every law of right, and to abjure, and keep himself unsullied from, every element of wrong. From first to last he is thickly surrounded by the most significant and impressive symbols, ever to remind him of his Masonic obligations to observe truth and holiness in all their aspects, and to refrain from falsehood and vice in every form. The garment of the consistent Mason is innocence; the measures of his motives and deeds are the square of virtue and the plumb of rectitude; his heart is'a vase still exhaling the incense of gratitude to heaven; the contents of his hand are charitable acts; the cardinal guardians of hia soul are prudence, temperance, justice and fortitude; his monitors are the winged hour glass of rapid frailty and the pointing sword of certain retribution and the spade fast by the narrow house; his encouragers are the emblematic ladder, the starry canopy, and the resurrection sprig; and he walks over the variegated carpet of life's vicissitudes spread on the level of time, as one who knows that the All-Seeing Eye is on him. If our word be doubted and the society we honor and love be yet suspected and traduced, we reply to every calumny by pointing to Washington, its worthy representative, and asking, is it possible that he would have remained to the day of his death in full communion with an Institution any of whose fundamental, or permitted usages, or tolerated results, were treasonous, or immoral, or perilous!
Brethren of the sacred Fellowship! In Washington's connection with our society we see a fine exemplification of the Masonic law of equal Fraternity. By the traditional essential rule of our body, from primeval times till now, just as by the great ordinance of unperverted nature, we are commanded to meet on the level of a common humanity, and open warm hearts and ready hands to each others distresses, and give love for love, eschewing all hate, envy and pride. On the threshold of our temple all titular distinctions fall off, and standing within it consecrated walls, on inherent merits alone, with equal rights and sympathies, but with strict subordination of offices, man meets as the free and affectionate brother of man, the merchant Croesus clasps in mystic grasp the toil-worn hand of the penniless laborer, and the peasant is pressed to the bosom of the prince. Often at evening did Washington descend from his elevation and on the floor boards of temporary Lodges, sit on terms of close friendship and perfect equality, side by side with the humblest soldier whose weary arms through the day the heavy musket had galled, and whose naked feet had tracked the flints and the snows with blood. All who enter the guarded enclosure of Freemasonry are taught by beautiful ceremonies and touching symbols to throw their arms and hearts wide open as very brothers indeed, to all who bear the typical word and sign to whatever race they belong, Hindoo or Saxon, and wherever they meet from the equator all round to the poles. Has not our Order in this particular, a magnificent and merciful mission yet to perform in a jarring and alienated world?
Brethren of the hidden Mysteries! In the initiation of Washington to the secrets of our Institution and Fraternity, we find an impressive illustration of the Masonic spirit of reverential humility. There is a religious awe about the entrance into the asylum of our traditions and secrecy, as there is about the entrance into the invisible alluring scenes beyond the veils of time and mortality. Whoso would enter the privileged pale must come in modesty and stillness, and without pretensions. The glittering Sultan of Turkey, and the painted Indian of the Rocky Mountains must come in the same manner, with the same humble, submissive reverence. This fact is brought to our notice best by the occasion on which we are now met. One hundred years ago this night, haply at this very hour, the greatest man in the world, stripped of all insignia whereby he might be distinguished from the lowliest of his fellow-men, presented himself at the door of our sentinelled Order, and craved to be admitted to a knowledge and participation of its concealed benefits. Alone, in silence,in deep humility, he bowed before the ancient mystery and besought an entrance. The door opened, a friendly voice and hand guided him forward, the curtain which has for so many ages shrouded the secrets behind it from unworthy eyes, was lifted, and—he saw. In these ceremonies Masonry but copies the mysterious ordination, and follows the overawing spirit of all embosoming nature. Our initiation is only a miniature type, a feeble symbol of the true, the great initiation through which, and that upon impartial terms, every mortal, from the most gorgeous monarch to the most destitute slave, must, sooner or later, pass to immortality., When a fit applicant after the preliminary probation, kneels with fainting sense and pallid brow, before the veil of the unutterable unknown, and the last pulsations of his heart tap at the door of eternity, and he reverentially asks—as he cannot but do it with profoundest reverence—admission to partake in the secrets and benefits forever shrouded from the profane vision of sinful flesh, the infinite Master directs the call to be answered by Death, the speechless and solemn Steward of the Mysteries of the celestial Lodge. He comes, pushes the curtain aside, leads the awestruck initiate in, takes the blinding bandage of the body from his soul,—and straightway he receives light in the midst of that innumerable Fraternity of immortals over whom the Supreme Architect of the Universe presides.
Thus and thither, Brethren of the immortal Hope! has our Washington ascended from us. And every year as the nation goes up to mingle funereal rite and festive gratulation over his memory, among that vast company of congregated people appears a smaller and more intimate band, charged with fuller feeling, for they were bound to him by closer, dearer ties. They draw near the spot where his ashes sleep, and drop the branch of acacia upon his grave with a tear and a smile. They lift their eyes to heaven and say, "Glorious Brother, thither hast thou risen now, beyond all the interposing veils, to the innermost shrine of creation, and there we too shall come, and meet thee again!"
ADDRESS ON ELISHA KENT KANE, APRIL 1857
From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XVI, No. 8, May 1857, Page 237:
We take pleasure in laying before our readers the following extract from the report (published in the Boston Journal), of the beautiful eulogy delivered by our Rev. Brother, Wm. R. Alger, on the evening of the 28th April last, before the Masonic Brethren of Boston, on the character of the lamented Brother Dr. Kane. The eulogy was pronounced in the hall of the Tremont Temple, before an audience of not less than 2500 persons, including the ladies, and gave the highest satisfaction :—
Obedient to a fraternal call, we have gathered to-night to pay tribute to an illustrious Brother, a young man radiant with beauty, genius and moral loveliness, and redolent of the sanctity of heaven.
With the clarion strain of his noble and admired adventures reverberating on our ears, we are here to weep over the broken column of his existence, and to take home to our souls the lofty lessons of his example.
In an age characterized as is the present by an insane greed of money, there are pre-eminent reasons for holding up to public attention the character and memory of Dr. Kane. His brave and unselfish career cannot but extort admiration, and induce emulation. The narrative of his deeds is so noble that no man can read it without being softened and purified. Like a strain of martial music breathing magnificent emotions, it is a thrilling rebuke to cold, self-seekers, — impressing us with the superiority of will to circumstances, of spirit to flesh. It is a trumpet in the ear of every sensualist, whose soul is bound in his body, like a dead king in a sarcophagus.
There was in him, said the speaker, that symmetry of soul which draws love and infuses life, elevating and strengthening to all that contemplate it. What he did was full of merit; what he was, of power. The memory of his soul is a fountain of inspiration. He was the brightest honor of America, the first hero of the age, the modern star of Christendom.
There is, said the speaker, an especial fitness in a Masonic tribute to Dr. Kane, for he, like the heroic Sir John Franklin, was a faithful member of our Order, a tie which endeared him to us more than any other. In generous acknowledgment of his greatness, surely our voices should be heard with no uncertain sounds. The shouts of Brother Masons accompanied his departure from New York when he started on that noble adventure ; Brother Masons watched the inanimate form returning to the fatherland of the departed hero.
Dr. Kane was the personification of the Masonic ideal — harmonious, symmetrical, and sublimely concentrative. Glorious deeds only spring from noble souls. Hare truthfulness composed the foundation and leavened the rudiments of his character. He did not, he said, claim to be accurate in any particular, but to be truthful. With him, truth was not merely a habit of speech, but of nature, filling him with its frank nobility, and robing him with its unspotted holiness.
The trait in Dr Kane which, perhaps, soonest seizes the heart, was his chivalry ; and what Mason does not know that the element of chivalry is Masonry? The cry of a widowed wife for a husband buried and starving in his prison-house of winter, reached him as he lay floating off Florida. The vision haunted his generous mind, and he must go to the rescue at all hazards. Like a generous knight scorning luxurious sports or ease when his friend was in bondage, this dauntless darling of the gods must go to the rescue of Franklin. He went, and the world will not forget it so long as consecrated valor is praised among men.
The speaker next dwelt on Dr. Kane's unimpeachable loyalty to duty — a Masonic virtue, but not an American trait. We are generally radical, rashly trampling upon enthroned authority. Kane was free from personal whims, vanity and the love of money, and always shaped the stuff of his desires in the mould of his duties.
His indomitable courage was next noticed. In this he was truly a Mason; for if there was anything that a Mason detests more than another, it was cowardice. His self-possession in great emergencies, his fortitude in suffering, and his constant cheerfulness, showed him to be unmistakably a hero. Courage with him was not a quality of iron nerve, of physical hardihood, but a principle of mind and a trait of soul. Life was but a means for the performance of duty. There is nothing in the annals of chivalry which will carry away the palm from Dr. Kane for energy, courage and fortitude. Now he goes to the hut of the Esquimaux by night, seizes a deserter from his band thrice as big as himself, and brings him in triumph to the ship. Now he harnesses the dogs to the sledges, to go forth to capture walrus-meat to save from death his crew, sick with the scurvy. In the face of disease, famine and rebellion, he maintained his courage, and even his spirits, for he knew that his death would be fatal to the whole of his companions.
He was a man of thorough culture, and, as such, there was no better example than his for the emulation of the young of our land. Every neophyte of our Order must know how, when crossing its threshold, he was introduced to the learned sciences, and the hearty admonitions he had received to enlarge his acquaintance with them. He explored nearly all of them, to some extent, and in some he excelled. He had the fine organization of the poet, and the clear head of the man of science ; and the majesty of his character, passing before the people of America, flings disgrace upon the blundering boors, who still bow to his genius, and kneel before him in the fealty of love.
His character shows the superiority of the mental over the physical qualities of mankind. What else could have urged him on to such deeds of daring — that little, puny frame, never exceeding ninety-seven pounds in weight — were it not the high intellectual and moral qualities which bore him stiffly up while others blanched by his side.
He was highly emotional; and the feelers of his heart were ever reaching out in kindly sympathy. With him, tenderness and modesty were twin flowers blooming upon the same stem, based upon the same root of chaste sensibility.
The manner in which he relates his adventures — the sympathy he felt for the benighted Esquimaux, his love for his ship—make us almost love them too for his sake. Could another Barnum bring to this country the young hunter of which Kane speaks so touchingly in his work, he would draw immensely ; for who, among the legions who are his readers, would not gladly embrace the opportunity to see anything by him commemorated.
His emotional qualities never led him into vanity or arrogance. Self-conceit or assumption were not to be found in his life or works. In his writings he seemed entirely to forget self, and related the incidents of his adventures, giving each his due, totally devoid of vanity or envy.
With the commander's decision, and the soldier's nerve, he blended the patriot's devotion and the maiden's modesty. His account of the death of Baker, one of his comrades, was touching in the extreme.
A passage in his work was alluded to, showing how the memory of home, the fragrance of green fields, and the old familiar haunts of his boyhood came to him amid the icebergs of winter's prison house.
An important feature in his character was his religious faith — faith in God, which was a chief round in the structure of Masonry. He was no hypocrite ; did not shrink even from martyrdom when it stood in the way of his duty. This, said the speaker, was what gave that sublimity to his character, which, as a distinguished clergyman remarked to me, made us pause before we decide whether to honor him most as a hero or a saint. Evidences of his true piety were remarkable in his everyday actions. He indulged in no intemperance, no profanity; and no day was allowed to pass without devotional exercises. Many a time, in moments of thankfulness, and in moments when his overcharged heart was stung with pain, he sent Up the voice of prayer to God, where, before him, no civilized being had ever been. This gave him inspiration of a peaceful strength, without the exercise of which neither he nor any of his band would ever have come forth from the frozen regions of the North alive. His prevailing cheerfulness was a great help to him in his adventures ; few men but would have lost all hope in his situation. He felt it his duty to be cheerful; and he threw down his gauntlet against famine, frost and death in strong defiance, and thus he conquered.
Some instances of his high sense of the ludicrous were mentioned; and in this particular his life has one great lesson for us all: How much we ought to be ashamed to allow ourselves to even approach towards despondency in our homes, surrounded with comforts, when we look upon the cheerfulness of Kane among the barren wastes of the domain of the Frost King. Craven must be that spirit, or very bad its condition, who would give himself up to despair fresh from the pages of this narrative.
Mr. Alger referred to Dr. Kane's journey in search of the party which started from the ship, under the command of Mr. Brooks, and who were beset by the snow among the drifts and hummocks, as one of the most remarkable scenes of the expedition, and the memory of which deserves to be perpetuated on canvass and hung in the Grand Lodge of every State of the Union, as an illustration of fortitude and courage, of self-denial and self-sacrifice, which no language could adequately describe. He pictured in glowing terms the incidents of that journey across the snow, and the providential discovery, when the searchers had almost given up hope, of the little Masonic flag which Mr. Brooks had, with thoughtful care, hoisted upon the tent where his unfortunate comrades remained. When the party reached the tent not a sound was heard, but with poetic delicacy of feeling, the men formed in silent file on each side of the door, and Dr. Kane tottered between them into the darkness, and was welcomed with the words, "We expected you, we knew you would come." Then his weakness and his gratitude overcame him, and he sank among them in a gush of tears.
This was a great picture, said the speaker. History could not afford one so worthy to be commemorated. Let it be painted ; let it be hung in every Grand Lodge in the world ; let it be floated in the breeze, until it shall crumble in dust. And now, my friends, what would you give to see this same Masonic banner which saved the lives of the noble band? It has been presented to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. And though it has not yet reached us, we can imagine that we see it already ; and we see it unhurt by the cannon shot, unsoiled by blood, as when it was taken from the fair hands of her who embroidered it, by the hero who bore it so bravely afterwards. And we shall ever preserve it and proudly show it unto strangers and pilgrims, until every rag of it is dust.
A Brother was lost in the barriers of ice in the Arctic Sea; a voice came from his devoted household ; and the youthful champion advanced towards the dread domain of the winter; he stood beneath the rocky towers of the pole ; and hurled down his gage against the glaciers and dared them to do their worst. He left the pleasures of civilization and the enticements of a luxurious age, to advance into the spectral gloom and terror of the Arctic regions, where, at every step, courage was met by peril, and tempests roll their ceaseless thunders against its hoary battlements.
His life exemplifies the superiority of mind over matter — the difference between smiling man and lowering fortune. In the regions of night and famine and death, mock seas and Northern lights, hideous apparitions of an unfinished world — when we see a cultivated, generous man encounter all this to save a lost Brother, we are wonder-stricken at his sacrifice and devotion — then this whole region becomes a rough frame and background to hold the brightest picture of human virtue. It gives a sublime idea of the unity of human affairs and the community of human weal.
He returned no ensanguined soldier from a victorious battle; no great statesman, crowned with diplomatic honors, but a young man whose virtues had reached a poetic height, and whose enterprise demanded our admiration.
Since then, from all parts of the earth his earnest admirers had hung in breathless suspense over the dying couch. Could the world's wishes have prevailed, he would still be with us; but the decrees of Omnipotence are unchangeable. His last words were, "I hold that man in slight esteem who is afraid to die."
He had with him in his last hours the three greatest boons that man could have — his friend, his mother, and his Bible.
His funeral dirge thrilled the heart of the nation, and soon his lifeless body rested beneath the consecrated dome of Independence Hall, at the foot of the marble statue of Washington, with a sword and the Masonic symbol resting over it.
Let us not say his death was unkind. The Lord's appointment is the creature's hour. As his grasp closed upon the laurel wreath, death sent his dart and his eyes closed upon the scenes of earth. He has found the true weary man's rest. No more will he launch the frail boat of mortality among the ills that beset us in this life. Henceforth the name of Kane is precious to Masonry and America.
In conclusion, the speaker asked — Who would not be willing to risk his life in exploring the hidden mysteries of that Northern region, if only to plant there two flags, the Masonic banner which Solomon bore, and that other, the stars and stripes which Washington unfurled?
BEFORE THE COUNCIL OF DELIBERATION, DECEMBER 1879
From Liberal Freemason, Vol. III, No. 11, February 1880, Page 324, and
From Liberal Freemason, Vol. III, No. 12, March 1880, Page 357:
HUMAN LIFE AND DUTY IN MASONIC SYMBOLISM
At the Annual Session of the Massachusetts Council 0f Deliberation, A. and A. Scottish Rite, held in Boston on June 27th, 1879.
In the language of emblems, tilings are made to carry meanings additional to the significance which intrinsically belongs to them. A symbol is an object used as the vehicle of a thought or a sentiment not originally lodged there by nature, but placed there by tin-experience and poetic genius of man. Every form of emblem or symbol is a result of the associative action of our faculties, reason, imagination, and memory, fusing things which have been connected in our experience; so that thenceforth one suggests the others, the part represents the whole. Thus a coffin and a sarcophagus has a meaning, or represents a use, and exerts an influence, quite different from any other box or casket. All the imagery and ideas and emotions associated with the subject of death and burial are concentrated in this material form. In this way it comes to preach its tacit morals more forcibly than any set of words can. A flag vividly typifies to the imagination of the beholder the whole personality. history, authority, life, and hope of the nation whose political and moral ensign it is. So an altar denotes all the reverence, worship, sacrifice, aspiration, which are identified with the religion whose central figure the altar is. In whatever degree any object or action becomes imaginatively associated with mental and moral meanings beyond its own intrinsic purport, so that, on easy recognition of it, it spontaneously suggests those meanings with their proper appeals to our thought and feeling, just in that degree it is emblematic and symbolic. The use and value of this artificial language clearly consist in the multiplied and intensified power of suggestion and impression thereby gained. The abstract words, "patriotism," "altar," "coffin," "flag," addressed to the thinking reason, are immeasurably less effective than the concrete objects themselves placed before our living senses.
Now, in all ages and lands, all institutions which seek to teach or to govern men have availed themselves of this efficacious instrument. And the specific genius of each of the great corporations of the world is nowhere else so plainly unveiled .is in the character of the symbols by which they have sought to guide and constrain their disciples. Of all the bodies of this kind, the most conspicuous and important, perhaps, are the Roman Catholic Church and Freemasonry. Politically and socially these are enemies, unlike in their leading doctrines, and essentially hostile in their inmost spirit. Both have a central aim, and both have incarnated in a symbolic ritual a method for attaining their aims. An analytic exposition of the emblematic meanings of the ceremonies of the Church and oi those of Masonry, as they appear in the offering of the Mass and in the reception of the Candidate, would show; that Catholic Symbolism represents the aristocratic, or priestly kingly tradition of the world; while Masonic Symbolism represents the plebeian. or democratic-royal tradition. That embodies the genius of a governing caste; this the genius of humanity. The essence of the ecclesiastic scheme is a claim to the exclusive possession of a preternatural deposit of sacramental grace, which it exploiters through arbitrary forms to bring all mankind in obedience at its feet: the Masonic scheme, on the contrary, rests on the wise and fair working of the laws of justice and industry, the more gifted and accomplished guiding and instructing the others for the common harmony and good of all; every office of trust and honor always open to the fittest. In the former the ruler is a magician empowered to work miracles: in the latter the ruler is simply the one who is exalted because he is the worthiest to lead. There is betrayed the regime of the fixed despots with their superstitious art of sway, self-will everywhere cunningly disguised as the will of God, selfish tyranny and abject submission face to face, the private backbone always lifted up above the public brain, — a system of class domination: here stands apparent the regime of the workers with their natural sovereigns, whom they elect freely from their own numbers on the principle of fitness, — a system of universal industry organized by-justice and sympathy. That ultimates in the eucharist wafer, which the superstitious votary eats to escape death and hell, and gain paradise and immortality: this ultimates in the transformation of the rude workman into the polished master, fitting the one formless and useless block of nature, now shaped and inscribed and adorned, into affectional loveliness to adorn, all great and important undertakings. Our ancient Brethren, who were practical Masons, while we are but theoretical, it must be confessed, were more faithful to their (Unit's than we are to ours. For they proceeded with the utmost solicitude to erect their temporal buildings exactly according to the rules and designs laid down by the Master on his Trestle-Board, or book of models; but we, carelessly overlooking the symbolic directions of our Order, fail to erect our spiritual buildings as we ought, agreeably to the rules and designs laid down by the Supreme Architect of the Universe in that great volume of nature and revelation which is our moral Trestle Board, or book of patterns. The true Masonic Trestle Board for each individual workman, whether in the quarry of business, at the furnace of politics, or on the structure of character, is his own mind; and every Mason, at an early stage of his initialing journey, is warned to copy into it all the plans of his life only in strict accordance with the rules of the four cardinal virtues stationed at the four quarters of the moral compass. Although our ancient Brethren wrought in operative, we in speculative Masonry, yet we must not save the moral principles, the everlasting duties and virtues of our Order, as mere speculations, but must carefully reduce them to practice. The old proverb does not attribute beauty to mere looks, much less to empty profession: but, with the powerful emphasis of truth, it says, "Handsome is that handsome does." Let me illustrate this proverb by a little story.
Aza, an Icelandic maiden, had two lovers, Kyvind and Azmtuid. In the spring of the year she promised, that, when autumn came, she would accept the one that showed the fairest hands. Kyvind amediately put on gloves, did no work, took the greatest pains to rard his hands from every spot or hurt. But Azmund swung his axe upon the trees, rowed his boat on the sea, fought the battles of lis country, until his hands were tough, wrinkled, and calloused in the extreme. At last the summer ended, and the decision came. As Aza looked on Eyvind's white and delicate fingers, she said. "Well cared for those hands have been; little tugging have they done." Then Azmund exposed his hands, rough, dark, and hard but, as he stripped up the sleeve of his kirtle, there hung — taken from his enemies in battle — one ring of gold after another all the way up to the shoulder. Then Aza said, "These hands are the fairest!" There is no beauty in the world like the beauty of performance, no glory like the glory of fidelity culminating in success.
When we see at the door of the Lodge an armed sentinel, who allows none in pass or repass, save such as win permission, it tells us, that at the gate of every choice privilege, at the gate of every holy institution, at the gate of Paradise itself there are guardians to keep off all cowards, spies and thieves, and let none but the worthy enter. Furthermore, it advises us to set sentinels at the door of the heart, the lips, the ears, who shall permit no hateful feeling, impure word, false thought, or evil thing, to go in or out, but shall keep our soul's fortress with the virtues of silence, caution, and a vigilant fortitude.
When in blinding darkness we approach the veiled secrets of Masonry, ignorant of all that waits to be unfolded before us, anxious, helpless, slowly advancing, the lessons of implicit trust, safety, and dawning brightness impressed upon us, teach the true frame of mind in which we should meet the great mysteries of life and death, putting our full trust in God, and following the guidance of providence, fearing no evil, assured that out of darkness light will finally spring up, and that, after risks and toils, a glorious reward will ever be given. It is a beautiful and a magnificent feature in this institution, that over its door and upon its roof, on its sill and its altar, is painted the emblematic Level. Here sink and hide themselves the vanities and prides of titular rank, riches, and power. On the level of a common spirit of modesty, faith, docility, and allegiance to the same overarching realities; on the level of a common nature, in whose souls the same attributes reside, and whose aspirations the same possible destinies solicit, high and low. learned and ignorant, peasant and noble, meet, with no haughty etiquette or graded barriers between.
Here is a perpetual sabbath and a universal church, where the galling distinctions and alienations of classes shall disappear, and no respect of persons be known. Masonry never regards any man for his gorgeous apparel or exalted station. Before its purely moral standard all are outwardly equal. The presumptuous and the timid, the gay and the sad, the rich and the poor, shall meet here as brothers, and know on the level of truth that God is equally the maker of them all. The weary and penniless pilgrim sits in sharing friendship side by side with the favored millionaire; the delicate fingers of aristocracy interlace the brawny hands of labor; and, bosom touching bosom, the throbs of the beggar's heart beneath the coarse serge-cloth keep mingling time with the beating of the king's under the ermine.
In every regular Lodge there is represented a point within a circle, bordered by two perpendicular parallel lines, which symbolize the pattern lines of St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist. Upon the top of the circle rests a book containing the Rules of the Order. The point denotes an individual Brother; the circle, the boundary line of his duty. In going round this circle he necessarily touches on the parallel lines, as well as on the book of rules; and, while a Mason keeps himself thus circumscribed, it is impossible that he should fail to be a good man, and to lead a useful life.
On first approaching the Masonic altar, the Apprentice beholds a Compass, by a due attention to the use of which he is instructed to regulate every desire, and keep his passions within proper bounds with all mankind.
The Plumb always admonishes him to walk uprightly before God, not bending to temptation, nor leaning to iniquity.
The Square reminds him that he must deal honestly with his fellow-men, suppressing the sharp angles of selfish passion, avoiding all double action, all torturous motives and crooked deeds, by scrupulous virtue squaring every deed with exact justice.
The Twenty-four Inch Gauge, for measuring work, shows him a noble and more glorious kind of measure; namely, how to divide his daily time into three equal parts, so as to secure eight hours for his worldly avocations, eight hours for the service of God and humanity, and eight hours lor refreshment and sleep. How happy mankind would be if they all accurately observed this law!
Whosoever, with a critical eye. turns to examine the archives and insignia of Masonry, soon descries, prominently portrayed among them, a Beehive, and is taught that it is an emblem of industry, steadily recommending to him the practice of that great virtue. It tells him that there is much to be done, and but little time to do it in ; that it is honorable above all things for each one to do his part of the work of the world, and despicable beneath all things to be a drone in the social hive.
The Scythe, too, inculcates a kindred moral; for it is significant of time, which cuts the brittle threads of opportunity, and makes sad havoc among mortal plans.
Its exhortation from the Masonic wall where it hangs, is, Be prompt and energetic, and see that your work is finished ere the fatal stroke reaches your roots.
Among the other signs which would stimulate us to thoughtful-ness and diligence also occurs the Hour-glass. Behold that pathetic image of human life, and be wise. Noticing with what silent swiftness its particles glide away, and our lives reach their limits, who can help being sober and earnest, preparing for the time when this fragile vase of flesh shall be emptied and broken, that, as the poor day-sands of labor slip through the glass of time, they may be gathered as priceless treasure on the floor of eternity?
The eye grows brighter, and the heart grows warmer, as we turn to the next symbol, two clasped Hands; for this denotes Masonic friendship. True blue is the color of our first banner, the sign of friendship, instructing us, that, in the mind of a Mason, that virtue should be as expansive as the blue arch of heaven. The cordial grasp of two honest hands;— well may we hold that emblem dear; for it betokens the union of generous hearts in the glow of a fraternal love, and under the seal of a holy vow. If there be one spot on earth where disguises may be laid aside, and suspicions be cast away, while the full currents of warm hearts flow trustingly together in sympathies unchilled, and a confidence that ingenuously embraces all, and never betrays any, surely it is within the pole of our mystic fellowship. Let other hearts grow cold, and prove false to us, these will never. Let other faces darken, and turn askance from us, these will ever meet our gaze with the same endearing smiles that blessed us in earlier days, and that greet us now. Let the lights that glow elsewhere waver and go out; but here the holy light on friendship's altar will burn steady as the pole star, through the night of adversity and of age, still brightly shining when the grosser fires of ambition have waned, and all the marsh meteors of lust are quenched. Ever welcome, then, to our eyes, and thrice dear to our hearts, be that symbol of the two clasped hands, which reminds us of the sacred friendship of Masons! — welcome as a haven to the mariner tossed on the cruel sea of life; welcome as a well to the pilgrim perishing in the selfish desert of the world.
When he who has been taught to decipher the hieroglyphics of the Masonic Fraternity beholds the picture of a vase filled with burning incense, he remembers that a pure heart is an acceptable sacrifice to God, and that the fervent gratitude with which it should glow ascends as a pleasing incense into the courts of heaven.
Adjoining the previous symbol, we see the Book of Constitutions guarded by the Tyler's Sword. What could be more heavily freighted with morality than this solemn token of the law and its penalty? It commands obedience to law, and denounces punishment on its violation. The laws in the Constitution of the Lodge must be observed, or the penalty will not slumber. The laws in the constitution of the country must be observed, or it will be found that, the public authority does not bear the sword in vain. And the laws in the constitution of the universe must be observed, or the avenging malediction of justice will soon follow.
For next comes the sterner tpye of a more appalling truth, — an Unsheathed Dagger pointing at a Naked Heart. The meaning of this is, that inevitable retribution pursues crime. Spurn the commands of God, trample on the rights of man, and sooner or later, in some way or other, you shall expiate it in woe. Flee, — the retributive dagger is after you, and your heart is naked before it. Flee, — you cannot avoid it, for it travels with wings of lightning: in an instant it traverses the universe of space, and sweeps the eternity of time. Mount a King's throne, it trembles over your head, suspended by a hair; crouch in an anchorite's hovel, held in an invisible hand it darts at your throat; ascend up into heaven, or make your bed in hell, even there shall the lash scourge your soul, and the sting pierce your conscience. Sin cannot escape suffering;
"For there is no sequestered grot,
Lone mountain tarn, or isle forgot,
But justice, journeying in the sphere,
Doth daily stoop to harbor there."
If any Mason be at any time tempted to any crime, let him pause, and remember the Unsheathed Dagger pointing at the Naked Heart.
On the floor of the Lodge is a Mosaic pavement, denoting the surface of human life so checkered with good and evil. The pavement is skirted with a beautiful Indented Tessel, corresponding to the manifold blessings and comforts that surround us; and it is pierced in the centre with a Blazing Star, which represents the benignant providence of God. So rich and impressive is this group of symbolism, that surely no -one can appreciatively look on it, and not be seized with thoughtfulness, and filled with profound emotion.
Three-quarters of the heaven, corresponding to the three chief divisions of the clay, are likewise represented in a Lodge. At sunrise the Master opens the Lodge in the east; at noon the Junior Warden calls the craft from labor to refreshment in the south; and at sunset the Senior Warden closes the Lodge in the west, seeing to it that all the Brethren are in harmony, and that none departs dissatisfied. This is a close type of man's mortal career. In childhood innocence gilds the eastern portals, and he goes forth in fresh hope and joy to the enterprises and promises of the morning. In maturity he pauses at the meridian of his powers, in the zenith of his attainments, and looking around the extended horizon, re-estimates the prospects of past experience and future expectation from the high stand-point of the noon. In his later years he fades and sinks; his sun lingers low in the western'sky, and finally, accompanied by the mild evening splendors that gather around the close of a virtuous course to glorify its setting, disappears in the grave of the night.
A similar thought is expressed perhaps still more strikingly in the Three Steps delineated on the Master's Carpet. These designate the principal stages of our existence, and would persuade us in youth as Entered Apprentices, to be industriously equipping ourselves with theoretical knowledge and practical skill; in manhood, as Fellow-Craftsmen, earnestly to exercise our abilities in the discharge of every duty ; so that in age, as Master Masons, we may enjoy the happy reflections purchased by a well-spent life, and die in the hope of a glorious immortality.
One of the sublimest symbols ever revealed to the imagination of man is that of the All-seeing Eye. This is often placed on the vertex of the covering of the Lodge, which is painted to represent the dome of heaven, lieneath the omniscient inspection of that Eye sun and moons, stars and comets, perform their wondrous revolutions; and the profoundest recesses of our hearts are unveiled before its glances. Shall we dare to sin, with the eye of God, that never slumbers nor#sleeps, looking full upon us? Can we expect to escape, if we do ? Beneath that awful gaze of serenity, wisdom, and 'power, all things occur,—we tread our petty round of sports and tears; our generations flourish and pass away. Let us be of good cheer ; for, while the All seeing Eye beholds, certainly every one shall be rewarded according to his deserts, and all things at last be made right. There is another world to complete what is imperfect, and to compensate what is ill in this. What we see not here we shall see there, and nothing wrong shall endure; for is not the eye of God.
Thus we obtain a firm hold on the succeeding symbo1, the truth of that Theological Ladder which Jacob saw in his dream. In the wilderness of the perishable objects of sense, sleeping with our head on the stony pillow of tradition, does not this celestial vision sometimes visit us all, — the angelic bridge scaling the heights of paradise? Its foot rests on the ground; its summit is lost in the cloudy canopv of the star-decked heaven, whither every good Mason expects to climb by means of the three principal rounds, — faith, hope, and charity; faith in Cod, hope in immortality, charity towards all mankind. Spiritually discerned, the clays of men here below compose a kind of Jacob's vision, thronged with angels commercing between earth and heaven.
"Like a ladder, still enlarging,
Year by year our life is given;
One step fixed on earth's green margin,
One ascending high in heaven.
Some with gold the steps environ,—
Cloth-of-gold that seems sublime;
Some ascend o'er steps of iron,
Wet with tears, and hard to climb.
Let our souls, the steps attending,
Keep good deeds in daily store,
Still ascending and descending
Like good angels evermore,—
Deeds that make the future gladder,
Lend a blessing to the hours.
And the last step of life's ladder
Crown with God's immortal flowers!"
There are in our life times of bitter disappointment and misfortune, times of exhausting trial and sorrow, when, as we think over the instructive emblems of our Order, we must deem it a hallowed, privilege to recall the Ark and Anchor, typical to our fancy of that divine support which shall waft us over this tempestuous sea of troubles, and moor us in a harbor where the wicked cease from annoying, and the weary are at rest.
But there are other seasons, frequently recurring, when the blood is hot, and the world is on us, when evil suggestions throng the brain. and envious passions gnaw at the heart-strings ; seasons when it is well for us to ponder the lesson of the sombrest of the Masonic symbols, — the Spade and the Coffin, the narrow house which shall one day hold us very still, and the shroud which shall cover our mouldering clay with earthly mould.
It is well sometimes meditatively to face these grim monitors till the dread visage of death frowns back the rebel hosts of pride, and the chill breath of the grave freezes down the unclean swarms of lust. It will make us purer, wiser, and stronger. Verily, would it not check the excesses, would it not sober the thoughts, and chasten the plans, of any man, if he were occasionally to pause in the headlong chase of worldly follies, und reflect on the certainty and the irrevoca. bleness of death? Yea, let him take in his hand that tremendous symbol of one of the higher degrees of the Order, a Human Skull, and thoughtfully soliloquize over it thus, gathering up its immense morals: "This skull was once as full of busy fancies and all the brood of life as mine is ; but now (be very worm disdains to use its shattered cells as her retreat."
"Look on its broken arch, its ruined wall,
Its chambers desolate, and portals foul;
Yes, this was once ambition's airy hall.
The dome of thought, the palace of the soul.
Behold through each lackdustre, eyeless hole,
The gay recess of wisdom and of wit,
And passion's host, that never brooked control:
Can all saint, sage, or sophist, ever writ,
People this lonely tower, this tenement refit?"
And then one more emblem will occur to him, — the Sprig of Cassia that will bloom by the headstone of his grave when he is gone. This emblem in the hour of death will be dearer than all the vanishing world; for in its pure fragrance breathes the everlasting memory of virtue, and from its green leaves speaks the immortality of the soul. Concentrated in this little signal of remembrance and of resurrection, the gathered traditions and hopes of his race assure him, that, when this life ends, there awaits him elsewhere another and a better state of being, where God will sustain and guide him forever in the pursuit of endless prizes.
Thus have we seen that the chief hopes and duties of a man are effectively presented in the teaching symbols of a Mason. Be the lessons of these symbols understood, remembered, and obeyed by all within the circumambient walls of the Order; at every sight of the outward emblems, be their inward meanings present to the consciousness; then will the soul be so armed with the miraculous defences of virtue, that, if any viper of evil fasten on it, it shall be shaken off as harmlessly as a dew-drop is shaken from a lion's mane, or even as Paul shook the venomous reptile off from his hand into the fire to the astonishment of the barbarians of Melita.
And now a word in close with regard to the wholesome and auspicious character of Masonic symbolism as contrasted with the sinister and morbid symbolism of the Roman Catholic Church. The one is a system for regulating the industries of men, and setting them free to act and re-act amidst the laws of intrinsic justice and friendship with their appropriate penalties and rewards : the other is a system of doctrines and rites for strictly subordinating the human world to the priesthood.
The Church teaches the superstition that she has exclusive possession of means inaccessible to reason for saving men from perdition: for the application of these means all men must come in utter submission to her. The arrogance and insolence of her pretension, which is self-will masked, and thrust forward as the will of God, is seen in her ritual, where, — with reference to that sublime passage oi Scripture in which it is declared to Moses that no man can see God in his personal face, but only in the train of his effects in the universe, — the priest assumes physically to represent God; and, turning his insufferable face from the people, the acolyte lifts the rear of his robe to expose his basest and hindmost part to the vulgar gaze. Cud revealed to the eyes of the laity in the buttocks of the priest is what Papal symbolism goes out in. The very essence or innermost animus of the system is by a mechanical administration of doctrine and ceremony to compel mankind to obey the Church, instead of teaching them truth that they may freely obey it. Put Masonry relegates men directly to their educated consciousness of the inspection of the All-seeing Eye, and would teach them all known truth in the methods of service as joined their labor in righteousness and love, and make the immediate experience of life itself in its outer work and inner sentiment an inherent ritual of universal worship.
The Church would mark out and obliterate the peculiarities of each person, and bring all to one uniform type of conformity to the ecclesiastical ideal. None can be saved except in the one prescribed pattern of submission to priestly authority, and reception of sacramental exorcism and grace : but to the true Masonic adept every object, every law, every good, is a sacrament; that is, a finite token of an infinite mystery, a perceptible sign of an unperceived reality, an operative manifestation of the Divinity. Thus morality and religion, instead of being the revealed deposit of a caste, are inherent in our human experience of the universe. And so the deserts and destiny of every one depends on his quality and behavior; but with Catholicism the question covering any one is, "Has he the seal of the Church on him?" With Masonry, on the contrary, every man has his own particular mark whereby he and his work are known. There is no concern about external conditions and accidental qualities; all the inquiry is as to his intrinsic worth and the real rank of his work. Every one is required, while dealing justly with all others, to make diligent use of the Common Gavel; first, to shape and perfect whatever material thing he makes, in accordance with the best patterns; and then for the more exalted and beautiful purpose of ridding himself of all vices, deformities, and superfluities of mind and conscience and conduct, that he may transform the Rough Ashler of his rude natural man into the Perfect Ashler of a finished character and life, and so fit his soul to be a living stone in that spiritual temple of a united and redeemed Humanity which God will one day make the breathing organ of his experience in this world. Realize on a universal scale the priestly ideal of dogmatic belief and ceremonial conformity, and it would result only in the monotonous enforcement of a discord with nature; but realize on a universal scale the Masonic ideal of co-ordinated industry in a hierarchy of intrinsic ranks with spontaneous love and justice, and human society would become as harmonious as angelic society, and the weary earth at last be as happy as heaven.
BEFORE THE COUNCIL OF DELIBERATION, DECEMBER 1880
From Liberal Freemason, Vol. IV, No. 9, December 1880, Page 260, and
From Liberal Freemason, Vol. IV, No. 10, January 1881, Page 292:
THE GENIUS OF FREEMASONRY
Before the Massachusetts Council of Deliberation.
Freemasonry is a series of traditions orally preserved and dramatically enacted; it is a body of mystic science growing out of the very roots of the creation; and it is a system of morality,,inculcating on its disciples, in the guise of emblems and allegories, the duties they owe to their God, their fellows, and themselves. Grasped in its inmost genius it wears a triple aspect, at once scientific, religious, and ethical ; for it seeks to unfold the mysteries of nature and art in precise form and measure and number, and to train its votaries to an intelligent fulfillment of their destiny in the light of the great principles which preside over the origin, method, and end of all things. It teaches that the objects, relations and motions of the universe, both of matter and mind, are manifestations of the attributes and purposes of the Creator, and that the direct interpretation and obedience of his will as thus recorded is the true religion for universal man, free from the assumptions of arbitrary king or priest. Earth and moon and sun and comet and star, gravitation, and cohesion, and magnetism, and light, and heat, and sound, point, and line, and surface, and solid, square, and compass, and gauge, and level, and plumb, are didactically scientific when proving the exact relationships of nature, profoundly moral in their application to the duties of man, unutterably mystic and religious as instant revelations of the presence and power of God ; and it is not in any mere signals of fraternity, or claims for help, as the vulgar suppose, but it is in a knowledge of the constituent laws and cabalistic secrets of the creation, that the chief dignity and significance of our ancient craft reside.
The real genius of Freemasonry, hidden far beyond the intention of its founders, or the consciousness of its members, is to be gathered by a clear comprehension, not so much of any of its special tenets or ceremonies, as of its general scope as a whole, and the ultimate aim implied in all its procedures. This scope and aim, when the institution is thoroughly studied, will be found to be co-operative industry, inspired by loss, and regulated by justice, and resulting in the fraternal harmony of the world. It would remove wrong and sham, fraud and friction, by the co-ordination of honest labor in a hierarchy of ranks, all wisely overseen, spontaneously agreeing, and fairly rewarded; the distributed products supplying every want and insuring universal contentment and happiness, with no other rivalry than as to who can best work and best agree. It would not hold any in abject slavery and misery that others might live in cruel luxury at their expense, as the king and the priest thus far always have. It would arrange the entire order of society, from the bottom to the top of the scale, in free service and just use, by means of the level, the plumb, the compass, and the square, under the inspection of the All-Seeing Eye.
Is there a single intelligent initiate of our craft in the world who will not instantly recognize this as the genuine genius of Freemasonry? Its requirement is nothing less than the ideal of humanity, an individually incarnated character of wisdom, holiness, and beneficence ; and the union of such to regenerate the race, and secure a paradisal experience on a redeemed earth. Although intrinsically authoritative and conservative, it is, therefore, in an accidental and temporary sense, revolutionary: and it is not strange that the despotic monarch and prelate have always instinctively thought it to be their deadliest foe. The true king and the true priest the wise and helpful guides and teachers of the people — may be very fittest of Masons; but no selfish tyrant, whether secular spiritual, who claims a divine right to prey on his subjects, can belong to the Order without stultifying and rebuking himself at every step.
The genius of Freemasonry makes four preliminary qualifications indispensable for every one who would be a proper member of its guild. Its first mark is worshipfulness. The aspirant, therefore, must be no scoffer, but a man of reverential spirit. Shadows of mystery brood all around its guarded sanctuary, and the venerableness of divine truth invests its rites. The awful name of God and the solemn weal of man are invoked; the breath of ancient legends is on the air; the sigh of pity, the vow of relief, and the sound of prayer, are heard. An irreverent spirit is utterly out of keeping with everything in the place, the service, and the motive.
Its next quality is mystical instruction. The aspirant, therefore, must be no dry proser, but a man of a living imagination. The initiative hall is hung with symbols and pictured with analogies. At every step the neophyte is saluted with emblematic lessons touching the chief phenomena of nature and the leading duties of life. On every side significant allegories address him. To appreciate these he needs some of that poetic imagination which delights in the language of types and parables. Endowed with a breathing fancy, he will derive pleasure and profit from those monitory rites which without it will prove but wearisome and unmeaning.
Its third characteristic is a spirit of the broadest liberality and freedom. The aspirant, therefore, must be no bigot, but a man of a tolerant mind. The ruling temper of this society is a principle of unlimited charity in regard to sectarian and party differences. On its peaceful threshold drops every political badge, every partisan tie; and no alienating shibboleth is heard there. United on truths of the widest scope, with maxims of the rarest magnanimity, the Brethren rise superior to the invidious distinctions of sets and cliques. Thus no narrow bickerings are possible, and any bigot-mind would be strangely out of his element among them.
And then its fourth and most central attribute is vital and expansive affection. The aspirant, therefore, must be no selfish worldling, but a man of a generous heart. The institution draws its life-blood from the best sympathies of humanity, limited to no race or clime. It rests on the warm heart of faith, friendship, and philanthropy; and its circulating vitality is the good-fellowship of brethren who hold each other dear, and seek to promote each others' welfare. There is no room in it for him whose sensibilities are shriveled or soured. No one whose breast does not readily ring the echoes of generous sentiments should ever come into it. Even the north-east corner, where its humblest member stands, is loo holy ground to be profaned by the presence of a cold, base heart.
He who in his secret breast wants these four qualifications, can never be prepared in any outer form to be made a true Mason. Though he should pass through all its official gradations, from Entered Apprentice to Supreme Council, and can repeat every syllable of its lecture forward and backward, without hesitation or uptake, still he is no genuine Mason. But he, who has, in their purity and fulness, a reverential spirit, a fresh imagination, a liberal mind, and a generous heart, whatever badge he wears or soil he treads, he, according to the essence and final purport of the institution, is a true brother and fellow, and will be so accepted by the worthy the world over, even though he has never crossed the technical threshold of a Lodge to behold the Worshipful Master approaching from the East.
For the core of Freemasonry, when stripped of its formalities, is simply that divine tie of fellowship which binds together the true and the good of all lands in one great fraternity, who.se mind is truth, whose heart is friendship, whose hand is justice, and whose anion is beneficence. Its public end is the removal of vice and crime, and poverty, and woe, and every shape of oppression. Infilling the world with the harmonious ranks of happy industry, each one faithful in his place, and all crowned with an abundance of everything that is desirable, Its private rites are the inculcations of every natural virtue, and the interchanges of every beautiful sentiment. The chosen works which it would foster are the production of the goods of life, the building of temples, the embellishment of society, the relief of suffering, and the diffusion of blessings. Its secret signs are the tokens whereby select spirits recognize their kindred, and spontaneously unite, pulse throbbing with pulse. Those signs are the frank smile, the cordial word, the clear brow, the warm embrace, a tear of pity gleaming in the gentle eye, a blush of modesty suffusing the ingenuous cheek, a thrill of noble emotion shooting through the chivalrous breast. Those who can rightly give these signs show beyond a question that God has initiated them into the secrets of that celestial Freemasonry which is the sacred ritual in the open Lodge of Human Life, where every day the advancing light in the East summons the busy throngs of workmen to labor, the meridian South calls them to rest and refresh ment at noon, and evening, halting in the weary West, dismisses them to sleep. These moral realities of mystery and insight, blameless industry and just pay, recreation and love, death and immortality, are the inward substance on which our outward organization reposes. To these holy and transcendent verities it constantly refers in all its services and symbols. Separated from these it would be but a selfish conspiracy and a hollow mummery.
Thus we have seen the nobility of the genius of Freemasonry as revealed by a consideration of its intrinsic ingredients. It is shown quite as strikingly in another way. For one of the principal benefits conferred by the Order on every worthy member is that, through the profound attraction and the vast extent of its interests, he is lofted out of his own narrow personality into high and commanding thoughts and sympathies. He becomes intimately concerned in whatever concerns this ancient, extensive, and enduring community. An effective blow is in this way struck at that egotistical individuality which is so fatal a feature in these headlong times. It is a precious blessing for any man to have some grand object outside of himself to break into his cold or sensitive solitude, and enlist his hearty regards. So often as he reverts to it, he is purified and ennobled ; taken from himself, as it were, and given to humanity. The meanness of exclusive devotion to self disappears in the grandeur of a disinterested object. Now, to the researches, communion, and hopes of every Mason is opened a boundless field in past, present, and future, leaving him without excuse for absorption merely in his own affairs.
Only a little way back into the past reaches the line of our individual days. but within the tiled recesses of a Masonic Lodge everything is loaded with suggestions of departed ages, everything is vocal with the solemn and touching memories of an elder time. The armed warder, the throne, the regular posts, the mystic symbols, the significant costumes, the antique rites and language, the voices of ancestral tradition, the silent order and seclusion with the bustling world shut out afar,— all seem full of venerable age, and bear the musing fancy back in plaintive reverence and sympathy over the bygone. While we sit there and meditate, the ghosts of forgotten generations seem to rise from the dusty tombs of a buried world, and glide before us among the noiseless shadows. I distrust the purity and the depth of that man's feelings who can pause there, and contemplate the old ways and forms thus brought before him,— ways and forms over which the tide of time, the tide of human affections has flowed,— and not find his heart profoundly moved within him. Along the cloistered avenues of our Order the mind reverts from the familiar round of to-day, by the Knights of Malta and the Templars whose deeds of valor dazzled the nations and filled the earth with the lame; by the wandering architects of the Middle Age, builders of the cathedrals, beside whose altars the prayers and tears of saints have flowed, and the ashes of martyrs been enshrined, and from whose aisles and vaults the worship of ages has stolen to heaven; by the walls of Jerusalem, and the hill of Moriah. studded with its matchless temple; by the triple masterhood, Hebrew Solomon, Tyrian Hiram, and that other Hiram, who though only a poor widow's son, w;is in spiritual greatness nowise overshadowed by the regal (wain; by the dim growing traditions of ages unstoried else, till we are lost in the dense shadow of antiquity. And so with a realizing interest the mysterious past is thrown open to our inspection.
Only a little way around us in the present reaches the circle of our individual interests. But within the pale of Masonic fellowship it at once receives an immense enlargement. Wherever the principles of our society, the eternal rules of liberty, justice, progress, are challenged by hoary institutions of wrong, or struck down afresh by living tyrants, wherever a fellow-craftsman struggles under a wrong, or flings his gauntlet at the foot of a successful traitor, our souls are with him, on fire and throbbing for the triumph of the right. On first entering a Lodge, we see two globes surmounting two columns, which denotes the universality of the Order, and tell us that nothing smaller than heaven and earth could circumscribe our sympathies; and all that follows is in full tune with this sublime scale of ideality and duty. The Mason's thoughts go out over every sea and land, finding objects of special interest in all climes, and responding to sacred invocations from all societies under the sky. By our ties as affiliated in this body, the enterprises in which we feel a personal stake are wonderfully multiplied, and the living relationships of our hearts extended far beyond every selfish claim.
We had a personal stake where beneath the Stars and Stripes Elisha Kane led his daring Yankee hearts among the inhospitable desolations of Arctic ice, the forlorn search for England's lost mariner; for he was our Brother who bore that flag on its errand under the shimmering aurora. When Hungary fell, we had a personal stake where waited watchfully, biding his hour, the noblest of exiles and the king of orators, his form robed in the sable garb of mourning, the fascination of love's own light shining in his unfathomable blue eyes, and the very genius of romance throned on his pensive brow; for Kossuth was our Brother. When the Sicilian Liberator marched from victory to victory, hoisting the standard of justice and freedom, avenging wrongs, expelling despots, our spirits thrilled and burned in exulting consent with his own; for Garibaldi was our Brother. When the most eloquent pen of the nineteenth century put an indelible brand on the forehead of the great traitor of France, dissolved his empire, and brought back the republic, distance took nothing from the electrifying power of the feat on American hearts; for Victor Hugo was our Brother. If Italy summons up the glorious memories of a thousand years and wrenches at her papal chain; if Poland lifts her pale face from the tomb, and seizes her broken lance with a cry of resurrection; if Crete in the gallant struggle against Turkish thraldom rallies the invincible phalanx of her mountaineers; if Russia, whose adolescent millions seem capable of better things and half prescient already of a disenthralled future, heaves rebelliously under the incubus of a besotted autocracy,—- we feel the intensest personal interest, because we have Brothers there, receiving the same traditions, performing the same rites, loyal to the same principles, vibrating to the same sympathies with ourselves. Thus Masonry leads us out of our selfish cares into a splendid brotherhood of interests covering the entire globe.
Only a little way forward into the future reaches the length of our individual lives. But on becoming Masons we join ourselves to an institution which will survive the flight of a thousand generations, and still be flourishing more perfectly than ever when every vestige of our names and every echo of our memories shall be utterly lost forever. Say what we may, sad thoughts will sometimes steal over us. and our buoyant spirits sink in gloom when we remember how soon our mortal days will be told, and we shall tread the common road into darkness, and the places that have known us shall know us no more, no more. We shall run our brief careers, and go down into silence and oblivion. When the transient bubbles which our sinking made have vanished, still the stream will flow on; and soon there will none be left to take thought of us any further. The sun in all his course will not find us, and we shall be forgotten for ever and ever, When we think thus, and feel the natural depression consequent on the thought, it is a great comfort to link and identify ourselves with things that will always remain, and in whose continuance we seem ourselves to survive, our personality transfused into an impersonal immortality. It is indeed a most precious solace to know that when we pass away, the country, the institutions, the principles, the rites, the aims, to which we have given our allegiance, will not cease nor fall. Do we not in a certain ideal and real manner live anew in the successive generations of those who rise to take our places and perform our deeds? The Mason enjoys this satisfaction in a twice pre-eminent degree: for he more than all gives his heart to this, his favorite institution ; and he more than all knows that it will defy the mutations of-time, and flourish coeval with the race of man. It is based only on universal and eternal truths and wants. It is constituted of the virtues, fellowships, charities, and insights necessary to society. Its life is the intrinsic symbolism of the universe, revelatory of the working ideas and breathing presence of the God who made and makes the universe. It has withstood the gnawings of envy and treachery, the whirlwinds of revolution, the thunder and fire of persecution, tyrants in the old world, and fanatics in the new, and it will win attention and respect everywhere more and more until its work is done ; and its work will outlast the world. For,—
"As Wisdom inspired the great institution,
So Strength shall support it till nature expire;
And when the creation doth sink into ruin,
Its Beauty shall soar through the midst of the fire!"
And then, beyond that, far on for evermore, the three immaterial attributes of wisdom, strength, and beauty, in their imperishable ideality, are the unconquerable supports for the personal immortality of the soul when it shall have left the body, and this whole phantasmal show of outward nature has floated past and disappeared, like a bubble of corruption on the crystalline sea of eternity.
Surely it is no mean privilege to belong to a society which thus strikes at the root of egotism and unbelief, and takes us forth into magnanimous memories, sympathies, and aspirations of tradition, life, and hope. But Masonry not only lifts a man out of his own poor selfishness, teaching him to conquer the belittling bias of his personality by entering with a fervent fellow-feeling into all the interests of the vast family of Brothers to which he belongs : it also helps him to be in himself what he ought to be, constantly reminding him through its numerous symbolic admonitions of his chief duties, while on probation here below. Jf we ask what these duties are, and how he is incited to their performance, we shall acquire a third and final illustration of the distinctive genius of Freemasonry; an illustration even more emphatic and brilliant than either of the previous ones. Let us, then, carefully inspect it, and weigh its value.
After the lapse of so long a time from its crude beginnings, almost as early as history itself,— with its essential landmarks and tenets undestroyed,— Freemasonry yet keeps the light of ancestral traditions burning on its altars, and shelters the multitudes of its children in every clime, with finger uplifted and eyes gazing beyond the veil. They bear its instructions in their minds, and hold its symbols in view, where the Sacramento rolls over California; where the walrus bleats on the icebergs of Spitzbergen; where the memory of Confucius lingers at Pekin; where the wind-shaken bells tinkle the praise of Buddha on the temples of Siam; where the Arab pitches his tent in the shadow of the pyramids; where the ghost of imperial Rome holds watch over the glories of a bygone world; where the Turk kneels in the mosques of Constantinople; where the Siberian exiles groan in the frozen mines; and where the Australian adventurers toil on the scorching sands; in short, wherever there is a civilized community, from Quebec to Jerusalem, from Brazil to Liberia, from Norway to the Cape of Good Hope.
And wherever it exists it is an instrumentality of power and of benefit. Great outcry has repeatedly been raised against it as a secret society. With the objections urged against secret societies in general, in a free country, every fearless and open-souled man will naturally sympathize. But these objections scarcely apply to Masonry since this is a society for the exclusive cultivation of symbolic science, friendship, and morality, with the explicit forbiddal of everything partisan or sectarian. The loudest clamorer against Masonry as a secret body, is itself the worst of all secret societies,— the society of the Jesuits, whose method is absolute intolerance, whose end the remorseless conquest and government of the world. The reason plainly is that these equivocators crave a monopoly of the advantages of secrecy and drill. If partisanship or sectarianism be admitted into Masonry, the institution will go to pieces ; and so long as these are excluded, there is in it little room for evil, though great room for good.
Whether good men, consistent citizens, have reason to fear or to trust, to oppose or to befriend Masonry, will appear clearly enough from a glimpse at the capital characteristics impersonated in its worthy disciples; for those characteristics conspicuously exhibit its genius. What then, are the leading characteristics of our brotherhood? We have already seen the qualities demanded of the candidate for initiation, the four traits fitting one to enter; but what are the attributes of the advanced member or mature representative? Nothing else can so well reveal the interior spirit and nature of the organization.
In the first place, every true Mason is a pilgrim, travelling from the West to the East in search of light. Through this solemn wilderness of time, on the common level trodden by all, he is plodding towards the goal of his destiny. He is ever warned to test the rectitude of his doings by standards of perfect precision, from the horizontal to the perpendicular, assured that no deviating tricks will be winked at by the God who has made everything in his creation by exact number and weight and measure. He wears the weeds of a stranger and a sojourner, as all his fathers did, and as all his brethren do. With sandals, scrip and staff, he trudges forward, from day to day, towards the mountains of the Promised Land. In every Lodge he finds a wayside altar set up, and refreshments provided, and receives instructions how best te> journey unto eternal life.
Every true Mason, secondly, is a warrior, fighting for innocence and charity, for the oppressed and friendless, for every form of virtue, against injustice and tyranny, against all shapes of vice and all powers of evil. Chivalrous prowess burns in his heart, a sword of infrangible temper gleams in his hand, and honor floats before his eyes as a brilliant star. Whenever he enters a Lodge he draws fresh equipments from an armory of celestial weapons, and is renewedly stimulated to heroic feats by listening to the recital of such examples as that which was exhibited by the Grand Master who died at his post rather than betray a secret.
Thirdly, every true Mason is a patriot, bound to love and serve his native land, pledged to revere her laws and promote her weal. Our country, in the days of the Revolution, had no better patriots than the honored members of this Order; home-bred Putnam, in whose daring breast the soul of Leonidas lived again; classic Warren, whose blood too early w«t the turf of Bunker Hill; wise Franklin, the Socrates of modern times; august Washington, the features of whose majestic countenance, to every American imagination, blend with the outlines of the eagle engraved on our flag, wherever the national ensign waves above our soil. These, and a host of others who rallied around the youthful form of American Liberty in that stormy time, were but fair specimens of the patriotic spirit of Masonry. And, this clay, I believe that from no audience which can be gathered, would the sentiment of devotion to native land be more sure of enthusiastic applause than from an assembly of Free and Accepted Masons. And have we not much for which to love our native land ? Is she not beautiful as she laves her forest locks in the basin of the northern lakes, and dips her amber feet in the bath of the southern gulf, holds in her left hand the merchant ship of New York, and in her right hand poises the golden cup of San Francisco, bearing in her prairied bosom forty millions of freemen, with ample room and food for twenty times as many more? Is she not that giant young Republic in the West, the pride and joy of the whole earth, the last great experiment of democratic institutions, toward which the eyes and the hearts of all the oppressed people are turning ? O Land for which our fathers died! O Land in which the ashes of our mothers sleep! O Land of our hearts, our children, and our hopes! God remove every cause of strife from thy borders, and gfve thee a goodly fulfilment of all thy promise!
Finally, every true Mason is a spiritual architect, required to build an indestructible house of character out of the rude materials of his being. Among the traditions of the Order are accounts of three unrivalled structures, three divine buildings : The house of creation, or the Temple of the Lord; the famous fabric in Jerusalem, or the Temple of Solomon ; and the character of a man, or the Temple of the Soul. The universe is the first temple, its foundation the expanse of space, its walls the receding horizon, its roof the awful dome of heaven, and the stars its pale-browed priesthood standing on the blue floor of the sky, swinging their golden censers forever. God hung its chambers with curtains of morning light, and dedicated it with an inaugural smile, while all his sons shouted in chorus. The next temple is that wondrous edifice reared by the Hebrew monarch, who lavished imperial treasures on it, and consecrated it in the presence of a nation of worshippers; a gleaming wilderness of marble crowned with gold, a frozen mountain of snow capped with the flashing summits of the sun. But the last temple, fairest and sublimest of all, because it lives and grows and is conscious, and shall shine eternally before God, is the structure of character. This temple the Mason is taught that every man must rear for himself. It is to be built out of faith, knowledge, and virtue, the blessings of Providence and the disciplines of life. The heart is its altar, to bum with the incense of gratitude, overshadowed by cherubic wings of wonder, and fanned with the living breath of divinity. When the spirit-fabric is complete, death tears down the scaffolding of flesh and bones that surrounded it, and the pure soul mounts to God, a perfect and unde-fcaying temple, not made with hands.
Such being the genius of Freemasonry, is it any wonder that its children love and revere it, rally around it, and swear to shield and perpetuate it. and make it coextensive with the whole earth?