"Chapter Two" The Star in the East 1825 : Rev. George Oliver "Chapter Two"
THE observations in the preceding chapter may lend their assistance towards opening an inquiry of the greatest importance in a Christian country; no less than to refute a hypothesis which would place a popular and useful institution on a level with Anti-Christian clubs, and revolutionary associations. In this stage of the investigation it may be necessary to exonerate the authors who have professedly treated on freemasonry before me, from lending any sanction to the destructive charge, that religion is excluded from our assemblies. In doing this, I shall collect a few reputable testimonies, and place them in chronological order, with their dates prefixed, so as to produce a uniform proof of the belief which has prevailed in all ages, that the great pedestal of masonry is faith of religion.
Before the invention of printing, these testimonies are not very numerous, as few manuscripts are in existence which were produced antecedent to that period; partly owing to the losses sustained in the year 1720, when the ignorant zeal of some rash brethren, induced them to burn their manuscripts, from a dislike, probably, of having their constitutions printed. Such as remain, however, will serve to convince us that the early masons little anticipated the appearance of a day, when their art would have to combat the charges of some of its own members, avowedly urged to strip the science of its most brilliant and imperishable ornament.
About the year of our Lord 590, “the Picts and Scots," says the annalist, "continued their depredations with unrestrained vigor, till the arrival of some pious teachers from Wales and Scotland; when many of these savages being reconciled to Christianity, masonry got into repute."
The antient constitutions, charges, &c. were framed about the year 926, from manuscripts in Greek, Latin, French, and other languages, which were produced by the brethren who met at York for the purpose of forming a grand lodge in that city, pursuant to the summons of Prince Edwin. From these charges I select the following, as bearing an unequivocal relation to the point in question.
A mason is to study the moral law as contained in the sacred code; to consider it as the unerring standard of truth and justice; and to regulate his life and actions by its divine precepts. He is strictly to observe his duty to God, by never mentioning his name but with that awe and reverence which is due from a creature to his Creator; to esteem him as the chief good, and to implore his aid in all laudable undertakings" "A mason is obliged, by his tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the art, he will neither be a stupid atheist nor an irreligious libertine. But though in antient times masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves."
We now come to a manuscript in the Bodleian library, written about A.D. 1536, which is a copy of one still older, wrote by King Henry VI., about 1440. This MS. asserts that "Maçonnes techedde man-kynde relygyonne." The excellent Preston, in his comment on this passage, says " It appears to have surprised the learned annotator (Mr. Locke) that religion should he ranked among the arts taught by the fraternity; but it may be observed that religion is the only tie which can bind men; and that WHERE THERE IS NO RELIGION, THERE CAN BE NO MASONRY."
In the short reign of King James II., A.D. 1686, a MS. was written, which is now preserved in the Lodge of Antiquity. It contains the following passages:
"Every man that is a mason take good heed to these charges, we pray; that if a man find himself guilty of any of these charges, that he may amend himself; or principally for dread of God," &c. &c.
“The FIRST charge is, that ye shall be true men to God and to the holy church, and to use no error or heresy by your understanding and by wise men's teaching." And after enumerating more than twenty 'charges, it concludes thus: “These be all the charges and covenants that ought to be read at the installment of a master, or making of a freemason or freemasons. The Almighty God of Jacob, who ever have you and me in his keeping, bless us now and ever. Amen."
An ancient masonic manuscript, written about the end of the 15th century, and published in the Gentleman's Magazine for June 1815, commences in the following manner: “The might of the Father of Kings, with the wisdom of his glorious grace, through the grace of the goodness of the Holy Ghost, there bene three persons in one Godheade, be with us at our beginning, and give us grace so to governe us here in this mortall life liveing, that we may come to his kingdome that never shall have endinge."
We now come to modern times, when testimonies are much more numerous, though perhaps not of greater weight and consequence thane, the preceding, which shew so clearly the opinion of our antient brethren many centuries ago, on this important subject.
The Rev. JAMES HART, in a sermon preached at Durham, in the year 1772, says, “Masonry is founded on that sure rock, against which let the waves and billows of temporal persecution never so strongly dash, it will stand erect and secure, because that rock is Christ."
The Rev. JOHN HODGETTS, who preached a sermon at the consecration of the Harmonic Lodge in Dudley, Worcestershire, 1784, after expatiating on the general truths of masonry, adds, "but this is not all; the sacred writings confirm what I assert; the sublime part of our mystery being there to be found; nor can any Christian brother (let me speak it distinctly) be a good mason, that does not make the word of God his first and principal study."
Brother, the Rev. JAMES WRIGHT, Maybole, Scotland. 1786
“Piety towards God, the glorious master builder of the universe; and love to mankind; are the two grand immoveable pillars which support the fabric of masonry."
Brother THOMAS JEANS, M.D., Southampton. 1792
“The doctrine of freemasonry embraces all the natural, moral, and political obligations of society. It directs us to fulfil our duty to God, our king, our neighbors, and ourselves; it inculcates reverence, resignation, and gratitude to Him who made and preserves us, &c. &c."
Brother JAMES MACCONOCHIE, Liverpool
“We venerate and adore the Great First Cause of All, and we endeavor to exalt our views and conceptions of the invisible Architect, from the contemplation of his glorious works;
“To look thro' nature up to nature's God."
Brother the Rev. JAMES WATSON, Lancaster. 1794
“Masonry has the Omnipotent Architect of the Universe for the object of its adoration and imitation ; his great and wonderful works for its pattern and prototype ; and the wisest and best of men of all ages, nations, and languages, for its patrons and professors. But though masonry primarily inculcates morals and the religion of nature, it has caught an additional spark from the light of revelation and the SON OF RIGHTEOUSNESS. And though masonry continues to burn with subordinate lustre, it lights the human traveller on the same road; it breathes a concordant spirit of universal benevolence lence and brotherly love; adds one thread more to the silken cord of evangelical charity which binds man to man, and crowns the cardinal virtues with CHRISTIAN graces." “The three degrees of masonry seem to have an odious and apt coincidence with the three progressive stages of mankind, from the creation to the end of time. The first is emblematical of man's state of nature, from his first disobedience to the tittle of God's covenant with Abraham, and the establishment of the Jewish economy. The second, from that period, to the area of the last, full, and perfect revelation from Heaven to mankind, made by our GREAT REDEEMER. The third, comprehending the glorious interval of the Christian dispensation down to the consummation of all things."
Brother WILLIAM PRESTON 1796
“Speculative masonry is so far interwoven with religion, as to lay us under the strongest obligations to pay that rational homage to the Deity, which at once constitutes our duty and happiness. It leads the contemplative to view with reverence and admiration the glorious works of creation, and Inspires them with the most exalted ideas of the perfections of the divine Creator. At opening the lodge, a reverential awe for the Deity is inculcated, and the eye fixed on that object from whose radiant beams LIGHT only can he derived. Hence, in this ceremony we are taught to adore the God of Heaven, and to supplicate his protection on our well-meant endeavours. In the diligent pursuit of knowledge great discoveries are made, and the intellectual faculties are employed in promoting the glory of God, and the good of man. SUCH IS THE TENDNECY OF EVERY ILLUSTRATION IN MASONRY. Reverence for the Deity, and gratitude for the blessings of heaven, are inculcated in every degree."
Brother STEPHEN JONES 1796
“The solemnity of our rites, which, embracing the whole system of morality, cannot fail to include the first principles of religion, from which morality is best derived, necessarily calls our attention to the great architect of the universe, the Creator of us all. The masonic system exhibits a stupendous and beautiful fabric founded on universal piety. To rule and direct our passions; to have faith and hope in God, and charity towards man, I consider as the objects of what is termed speculative masonry."
Brother the Rev, JETHRO INWOOD, Deptford. 1799
“Masonry is truly the sister of religion; for she boasts her efficacy in all its native influence; and is continually the assistant promoter of like principles and of like actions. The central point of all her innumerable lines, squares and circles, is the love of God. And upon this central point she builds her faith; from it she derives her hope of glory here and hereafter; and by it she squares her conduct in strict justice and universal charity. The central point of all true Christianity and of all true Masonry is, the love of God," “Masonry is dedicated only to the Gospel. It has nothing in its institution but what both the law of Moses and of Christ will fully allow and universally sanction. To be masonic is to be truly religious in both its parts; first seeking and cherishing in our hearts the true fear of God, and then from this principle bringing forth all the amiable fruits of righteousness, which are the praise and glory of God."
Brother ALEXANDER LAURIE, 1804
"In all ages It has been the object of freemasonry, not only to inform the minds of its members, by instructing them in the sciences and useful arts, but to better their hearts by enforcing the precepts of religion and morality. In the course of the ceremonies of initiation, brotherly love, loyalty and other virtues are inculcated in hieroglyphic symbols, and the candidate is soften reminded that there is an eye above which observeth the workings of his heart, and is ever fixed upon the thoughts and actions of men,"
The author of an anonymous pamphlet printed in the year 1804, entitled MASONIC UNION, says, “Masonry annihilates all parties, conciliates all private opinions, and renders those, who, by their Almighty Father, were made of one blood, to be also of one heart and one mind; brethren bound, firmly hound together by that indissoluble tie, the love of their God, and the love of their kind."
Encyclopedia Britannica 1814
“The structure of the Lodge is a pattern of the universe; and the first entry of a mason represents the first worship of the true God." The sun and moon are emblems of God's power, eternity, omnipresence, and benevolence. The ethereal mansions of the blessed, for possession of which all men hope, are typified by seven stars."
Brother WILLIAM HUTCHINSON Edition 1814
“In forming this society, which is at once religious and civil, great regard has been given to the first knowledge of the God of nature, and that acceptable service wherewith he is well pleased. This was the first and corner stone on which our originals thought it expedient to place the foundation of masonry. They had experienced that by religion all civil ties and obligations were compacted, and that thence proceeded all the bonds which could unite mankind in social intercourse; thence it was that they laid the foundation of the edifice on the bosom of religion. It is not to be presumed that we are a set of men professing religious principles contrary to the revelations and doctrines of the Son of God, reverencing a deity by the denomination of the God of nature, and denying that mediation which is graciously offered to all true believers. The members of our society at this day, in the third stage of masonry, confess themselves to be CHRISTIANS; the veil of the temple is rent, the builder is smitten, and we are raised from the tomb of transgression, The master mason represents a man under the Christian doctrine, saved from the grave of iniquity, and raised to the faith of salvation.".