"Chapter Five" The Star in the East 1825 : Rev. George Oliver "Chapter Five"
THIS division will consist almost solely of the morality exhibited in the lectures of Masonry; for I conjecture that the doctrines will be found so closely allied to religion, that comment will be scarcely necessary. The lectures will be quoted from publications authorized by the Grand Lodge, and can therefore he subject to no exception on the ground of authenticity.
The great characteristic of free-masonry which has excited so many unjust suspicions of its innocence, is the secrecy which has been inviolably observed respecting its peculiar mysteries, from the creation of the world to the present time. Our lectures enforce the practice by such arguments as these. “Of all the arts which masons possess, the art of secrecy particularly distinguishes them. Taciturnity is a proof of wisdom; and is allowed to be of the utmost importance in the different transactions of life. The best writers have declared it to be an art of inestimable value; and that it is agreeable to the Deity himself may be easily conceived from the glorious example which he gives, in concealing from mankind the secrets of his providence. The wisest men cannot pry into the arcana of heaven; nor can they divine today what tomorrow may bring forth.
The lectures define freemasonry to be a “science that includes all others; which inculcates human and divine knowledge, and teaches man his duty to God, his neighbor, and himself.” Here we have surely a decisive proof, in the very definition of our Order, that is founded on religion; for nothing but a religious system can inculcate this constellation of the grand and important duties.
From east to west free-masonry extends; and between the north and south in every clime and nation =are masons to be found. Our institution is said to be supported by wisdom, strength, and beauty; because it is necessary that there should be wisdom .to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings. Its dimensions are unlimited, and its covering no less than the canopy of heaven. To this objects the mason's mind is constantly directed, and thither he hopes at last to arrive by the aid of the theological ladder, which Jacob in his vision saw extending from earth to heaven; the three principal rounds of which are faith, hope, and charity; which admonish us to have faith in God, hope in immortality, and charity to all mankind."
Faith, hope, and charity, are virtues connected with religion, if any affinity can be traced between religion and morality. But charity unite, with faith and hope is pure Christianity. Faith imprints a strong sense of duty on the mind, and displays the glorious prospect of an eternal reward. Hope vigorously discharges the duty under a strong assurance that the reward is attainable. But charity surmounts all difficulties, turns duty into delight, and contributes to a final consummation in glory. Hence arises the most exalted prerogative of charity over all other gifts and perfections. Charity is the distinguishing characteristic of the Deity. All other virtues are mortal; charity alone is immortal. It will beam resplendent rays through all eternity, and like the CENTRAL STAR of heaven shall utterly extinguish all inferior lights by its unfailing lustre" Charity never faileth," says a great Christian teacher, “but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away." These gifts being adapted solely to the imperfect state of human nature, their utility will cease in a state of absolute perfection. Even the glorious habits of faith and hope, though essential qualifications in this mortal state, will have no part in the heavenly life, because they are but earthly virtues, for charity is the only step which penetrates the clouds, even to the throne of God. The time will come when, seeing the things which are now unseen, we shall not need the evidence of faith; possessing the rewards now hoped for, we shall not want the assurance of hope. But when faith and hope shall have had their perfect end and consummation, charity will exist covered with all its brilliant glories, and overshadowed with a radiance which can suffer no diminution. Hence the true mason will be transported beyond all bounds, when placed in the immediate presence of the majestic object of his former faith and hope, and in the actual enjoyment of celestial bliss. The inexpressible excellency of the divine light will continually supply him with fresh ardour of affection, with renewed sentiments of adoration. In this Grand Lodge all will be immutably perfect and happy under the influence of universal charity. As there will be no wants to relieve, no distress to pity; all in that blessed assembly will enjoy a plenitude of bliss, emanating from the sacred source of infinite -goodness, truth, and mercy. The souls of the just will form but one glorious company with the angels and archangels; possessed of one mind, and with one voice recounting the praises _of the spotless LAMB. With thoughts, capacities and powers having but one tendency, one centre, they will all unite to adore the Great I AM, in peace, harmony, and brotherly love."
Every well-governed lodge is furnished with the Holy Bible, the Square, and the Compass. The Bible points out the path that leads to happiness, and is dedicated to God the square teaches to regulate our conduct by the principles of morality and virtue, and is dedicated to the master; the compass teaches to limit our desires in every station, and is dedicated to the brethren. The Bible is dedicated to the service of God, because it is the inestimable gift of God to man; the square to the master, because, being the proper masonic emblem of his office, it is constantly to remind him of the duty he owes to the lodge over which he is appointed to preside; and the compass to the craft, because, by a due attention to its use, they are taught to regulate their desires, and keep their passions within due bounds."*
The ornamental parts of a lodge are; the Mosaic pavement, the indented Tressel, and the blazing Star. The Mosaic pavement is emblematic of human life; chequered with good and evil; the beautiful border which surrounds it, those blessings and comforts which surround us, and which we hope to obtain by a faithful reliance on Divine Providence, which is hieroglyphically represented by the blazing star in the centre. The moveable and immoveable jewels are the square, the level, and the plumb-rule, the rough and perfect ashler and the tressel board. These appear to be mere instruments of labour; but the moral, to which they respectively point, renders them jewels of inestimable value. The square teaches morality and justice; the level equality, and the plumb-rule integrity. By the rough ashler we are reminded of our rude and imperfect state by nature; by the perfect ashler that state of perfection at which we hope to arrive by a virtuous education, aided by divine grace ; and the tressel board reminds us that, as the operative workman erects his temporal building agreeably to the rules and designs laid down by the master on his tressel board, so should we endeavour to erect our spiritual building agreeably to the rules and designs laid down by the supreme architect of the universe in the Holy Bible, which is a mason's spiritual tressel board. That book, which is never closed in any lodge, reveals the duties which the great master of all exacts from us ; and were we conversant therein and adherent thereto, it would bring us to a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”
These are extracts from the abundant stores of morality and religion contained in the masonic lectures. Can it then be contended, with any degree of reason, that they have no reference to religion? nay to Christianity? But, to silence- every possible objection, to remove every cavil, I shall penetrate still deeper into this mine of precious stones; assured at every step of meeting with some valuable gem. If there be any truth in a plain symbol, or any dependence on the illustration, the following extract will abundantly prove that no lodge can be esteemed perfect, which does not contain a visible and self-interpreting emblem of the Christian religion.
"In all regularly constituted lodges there is represented a certain point within a circle, the point representing an individual brother; the circle representing the boundary line of his duty to God and man; beyond which he is never to suffer his passions, prejudices, or interests, to betray him on any occasion. This circle it embordered by two perpendicular parallel lines, representing St. John the Baptist, and St. John the Evangelist, who were perfect parallels in Christianity as well as Masonry; and upon the vertex rests the book of the Holy Scriptures, which point out the whole duty of man. In going round this circle we necessarily touch upon these two lines, as well as on the Holy Scriptures; and whilst a mason keeps himself thus circumscribed, it is impossible that he should materially err."
To the Holy Scriptures the lectures frequently refer. The masonic ladder, say they, stand firmly with its foot on the Holy Bible, whilst its summit is lost amidst the clouds of heaven. Can anything be founded on the Bible and have no connexion with religion? Impossible! This ladder, by which we all hope to ascend to' the glorious arch of heaven at the final consummation of all things, is a direct type of religion; for religion is founded on the Holy Bible, and is studded with innumerable theological virtues, which point the way to everlasting bliss.
We now comer to the sixth and last section of entered apprentice Masonry, which inculcates the most instructive lessons; it expatiates on Brotherly Loved, Relief and Truth, and enforces a strict regard to the four cardinal virtues: temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice.
By the exercise of Brotherly Love we are taught to regard the whole human: race as one family; the high and low, the rich and poor; who, as children of one almighty parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support and protect each other. On this principle Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion and conciliates true friendship amongst those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance. Relief is the next tenet of our profession. To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men, particularly on masons, who are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. To soothe calamity, alleviate misfortune, to compassionate misery and to restore peace to the troubled mind, lathe grand aim of the true mason. On this basis be establishes his friendships, and forms his connexions. Truth is a divine attribute, and the foundation of every virtue. To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught. On this theme .we contemplate and by its dictates endeavour to regulate our conduct, influenced by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown; sincerity and plain dealing distinguish us, while the heart and the tongue join in promoting each other's welfare, and rejoicing in each other's prosperity."
“Without the cardinal virtues, of which Prudence is the chief, the name of mason is an empty title, and but a painted bubble. Phronaesis, the emblem of prudence, is the first and most exalted object that demands our attention in the lodge. It is placed in the centre, ever to be present to the of the mason, that his heart may be attentive to her dictates, and steadfast in her laws: for prudence is the rule of all virtues; prudence is the path which leads to every degree of propriety; prudence is the channel whence self-approbation flows forever; she leads us forth to worthy actions, and as a blazing star, enlightens us through the dreary and dark some paths of life. That Fortitude should be the characteristic of a mason we need not argue; by which, in the midst of pressing evils, he is enabled always to do that which is agreeable to the dictates of right reason. Temperance, also, must be one of his steadfast principles, and must moderate or restrain his passions, especially in sobriety and chastity. We regard Temperance under the various definitions of moralists, as constituting honesty and decency; and in all its potential parts instituting meekness, clemency, and modesty. We profess Justice, as dictating to us to do right to all, and to yield to every man what belongs to him. The cardinal virtues, Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice, bold in their train the inferior powers of peace, concord, quietness, liberty, safety, honour, felicity, piety and charity; with many others, which were adored by the ancients in those ages when they confounded mythology with the worship of the divinity. Within the starry girdle of prudence, all the virtues are enfolded. We may apply this emblem to a still more religious import: it represents the star which led the wise men to Bethlehem; proclaimed to mankind the nativity of the Son of God; and here, conducting our spiritual progress to the author of our redemption."
Such are a few detached extracts from the lectures of the first degree. They proclaim, with a conviction superior to all argument, the intimate union which subsists between Masonry and Religion, between Masonry and Christianity. They shew further, that our pursuits are neither trifling nor insignificant, for they embrace topics of general and unfading interest; topics on which the most celebrated philosophers and moralists of all ages have exercised their ingenuity, to promote equally the welfare of man and the glory of God.
The second degree is devoted to the study and illustration of human science: and to trace the greatness and majesty of the Creator, by minutely analyzing his works. The intellectual faculties expand as a desire of knowledge increases; and by the studies attached to this degree, the mind is elevated to a communion with, its Maker. What a field for moral investigation and critical research do the liberal sciences afford! The subtitles of grammar, rhetoric, and logic; the wonderful nations of arithmetic; the universal application of geometry, the delicacy of music, and the sublimity of astronomy, have such a separate charm to win the heart and point to a Creator. The organization of the human body is another sublime subject, to which the attention is particularly directed in this lecture. It embraces every branch of one of the great divisions of masonry, its operative part; and hence the disquisitions are rather minute on the five orders of architecture, the' use and application of the globes, and other important objects connected with useful science. In the second section, the creation of the world, and the divine appropriation of the seventh day for the purposes of rest and devotion, are expatiated on, as was the uniform practice of our antient brethren many thousand years ago: and the following extract will chew the object they had continually in view. “In six days God created the heavens and the earth, and rested on the seventh day; therefore our antient brethren dedicated the seventh day as a period of rest from their labours: thereby enjoying frequent opportunities to contemplate the glorious works of the creation, and to adore the great Creator."
I shall quote but little from this lecture, because the illustrations are chiefly scientific; but they all have a moral and religious tendency; and the lecture concludes with that precept; to which every point of discussion had a direct reference. It exhorts us to fear “GOD, the great geometrician of the universe; and at all times, and ,on all occasions, cheerfully to submit to his injunctions, and to obey his precepts, which are holy, just, and good."*
The third degree is the cement of the whole: it binds men together by the mystic points of fellowship, as in a chain of indissoluble affection, and teaches them to love their neighbor as themselves, as the best means of evidencing that the love of God is shed abroad in their hearts. But it does more than this, it asserts positively the resurrection of the body, and points to a future state, in which those who have endured sufferings in this world to preserve their virtue and religion from profanation, shall meet a suitable reward; while the wicked shall be cast out as unworthy of a place in the heavenly country, and receive the horrible punishment they have imprecated on themselves.
The first point incites us to brotherly love: that love which renders spontaneous assistant in time of pressing need, without the venal hope of receiving an equivalent, for the reward is from above. The second point inculcate universal benevolence; which must derive its satisfaction from source distinct from, and independent of human approbation: I mean the reflection that it will ensure the approbation of God, to which a reward is attached beyond the reach of calumny. This enables the benevolent mason to pursue his glorious career like the sun in the firmament, which, though temporarily intercepted by clouds which obscure his brightness, soon dispels the unsubstantial vapour, resumes his dignity, and bursts upon the world with a brightness more vivifying from the effects of his temporary obscuration. The third point teaches the duty and necessity of prayer to God, without which, as a solemn act of religion, nothing we can be engaged in can reasonably be expected to prosper. The fourth point inculcates secrecy, and points out the consequences of betraying the confidence reposed in us by a friend and brother. For masonry asks, if you envy the prosperity of a brother, and wound him in the tenderest part by revealing his secrets: if you believe and propagate the tale of defamation whispered by the slanderer to his prejudice: if you cherish and encourage the evil passions of envy, hatred, and revenge: if you refuse to forgive injuries, and blot them out from your recollection: how shall you establish the reputation either of Masonry or Christianity? The fifth point teaches us to bury in oblivion a brother's failings, and to raise his virtues from the tomb: to speak as well of him in his absence as in his presence: and if unfortunately his life be irregular, and his morals tainted with crime, to say nothing rather than defame; for masonry prefers silence to slander, as masons always pour them healing balm of consolation into the wounds which tyranny or inhumanity may have inflicted; to avert the pressure of calamity, and make the widow's heart to sing for joy.
The moral and religious precepts of the third degree, arise out of emblems peculiarly adapted to its nature and end.
“The Pot of Incensed is an emblem of a pure heart, which is always an acceptable sacrifice to the Deity; and as this glows with fervent heat, so should our hearts continually glow with gratitude to the great and beneficent Author of our existence, for the manifold blessings an comforts we enjoy."
“The Bee-hive is an emblem of industry, and recommends the practice of that virtue to all created beings, from the highest seraph in heaven to the lowest reptile in the dust, &c. &c."
“The Sword pointing to a naked Heart, demonstrates that justice will sooner or later overtake us; and although our thoughts, words and actions may be hidden from the eyes of men, yet that ALL SEEING EYE which the sun, moon, and stars -obey, and under whose watchful care even comets perform their stupendous revolutions, pervades the inmost recesses of the human heart, and will reward or punish us according to our works.”
“The Anchor and Ark are emblems of a well-rounded hope and a well spent life. They are emblematical of that divine Ark which safely bears us over this tempestuous sea of troubles; and that Anchor which shall safely moor us in a peaceful harbor, where the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest."
"The Hour-glass is an emblem of human life. Behold how swiftly the sand runs, and how; rapidly our lives are drawing to a close. We cannot without astonishment behold the little particles which are contained in this machine, pass away almost imperceptibly, and yet, to our surprise, in the short space of an hour all are exhausted. Thus wastes human life. At the end of man's short hour, death strikes the blow, and hurries him off the stage to his long and darksome resting place; for there is no escape from the piercing arrows of death.
The thick walls of the palace of a king, with the clay-built cottage of the lowly pauper, are equally pregnable to his darts. Strength or weakness, health or sickness, riches or poverty, all—all, in one indistinguishable level, fall beneath his mighty arm. Wherever he levels his bow, the mark is certain; the victim falls, the silken cord of life is cut in twain, and the mourners weep about the streets; for the re-union of soul and body, when once thus separated, exceeds all human power: such hath been man in every age of the world, such is man in his present most exalted moments, and such are each of us. To-day, perhaps, the sun of prosperity and joy shines upon our persons and our families; health and strength invigorate our own persons and those of our beloved friends, and we only feel for the sorrows of another's woe; but tomorrow some friendly heart may sigh over our own breathless corpse, alas! my brother!"
"The Scythe is an emblem of time, which cuts the brittle thread of life, and launched us into eternity. What havoc does the scythe of Time make among the human race! If by chance we escape the numerous evils incident to childhood and youth, and arrive in perfect health and strength at the years of vigorous manhood; yet decrepit old age will soon follow, and we must be cut down by the all-devouring scythe of Time, and be gathered into the laud where our fathers are gone before us.”
“The Coffin with the Skull and Cross Bones are emblems of mortality, and cry out with a voice almost more than mortal, prepare to meet thy God. Infancy or youth, manhood or old age—all must pass to the embrace of corruption. "How often do we see the tear of sorrow moistening the cheek of venerable age, while hanging over the corpse of a beloved son or daughter, snatched from life in the bloom of youth and beauty! How often do we see the strong features of manhood distorted or broken by unaffected grief, while hanging over the grave of a beloved wife, or even of an infant child! How often do we drop a tear when we behold the disconsolate widow, leading her trembling orphans from the grave of their departed father; and before she could leave the hallowed ground, turn round to heave the farewell sigh, when her sorrows are, too great to weep."
“The three Steps usually delineated upon a master's carpet, are emblematical of the three principal stages of human life, youth, manhood, and old age. In youth, as entered apprentices, we ought industriously to occupy our minds in the attainment of useful knowledge; in manhood, as fellow crafts, we should apply our knowledge to the discharge of our respective duties to God, our neighbour and ourselves; that so in old age, as, master masons, we may enjoy the, happy reflections consequent on a well-spent life, and die in the, hope of a glorious, immortality."
"The Sprig of Acacia points to that state of moral obscurity to which the world was reduced previously to the appearance of Christ upon earth: when the reverence and adoration due to the Divinity was buried in the filth and rubbish of the world, when religion sat mourning in Israel in sackcloth and ashes, and morality was scattered to the four winds of heaven. In order that mankind might be preserved front this deplorable estate of darkness and destruction; and as the old law was dead and become rottenness, a new doctrine and new precepts were wanting to give the key to salvation, in the language of which we might touch the ear of an offended Deity and bring forth hope for eternity. True religion was fled; those who sought her through the wisdom of the antients were not able to raise her; she eluded the grasp, and their polluted hands were stretched forth in vain for her restoration. Those who sought her by the old law were frustrated, for death had stepped between, and corruption had defiled the embrace; sin had beset her steps, and the vices of the world had overwhelmed her. The Great Father of all, commiserating the miseries of the world, sent his only Son, who was innocence (mama) itself, to teach the doctrine of salvation : by whom nuns was RAISED from the death of sin unto a fife off righteous-ness from the tom of corruption unto the chambers of hope; from the darkness of despair to the celestial beams of fait; and not only Dorking for us this redemption, but making with us the covenant of regeneration, whence we become the Children of God and inheritors of the realms of heaven."*
Here, then, shall closed my extracts from the Lectures of Masonry. If they do not refer to religion, they hate no meaning whatever : and I will submit to the inference which may then he deduced, that masonry is A trifling and unimportant pursuit. All the general truths of religion, as they are received among Christians, are here brought into a lucid points of view, and their practice enforced from a consideration of the awful doctrine of future retribution.
I decline entering, in this place, on the Royal Arch Degree, for reasons which will be obvious to the considerate mason. It is so intimately blended with all that is dear to us in another state of existence, and divine and human affairs are interwoven so awfully and minutely in all its disquisitions that it would be almost impossible to enlarge upon the subject without rending the veil which conceals the most sublime mysteries which can engage the attention of man; sufficed it to say, that the degree is founded on the name of JEHOVAH, as Christianity is founded on the name of Jesus Christ: virtue is its aim, the glory of God its object, and the eternal welfare of man is considered in every point, part, or letter of its ineffable mysteries.