"Chapter Four" The Star in the East 1825 : Rev. George Oliver "Chapter Four"
THE system which is now practiced under the denomination of freemasonry was originally an intellectual pursuit, which had God and his worship for its sole object of meditation, and consequently was not by any means connected with a mechanical craft. Its name corresponded with its nature, for it was designated by a term signifying LIGHT, purity, or perfection. To trace the origin of its present appellation through all its various ramifications, amidst the gloomy days when ignorance and barbarism had overrun the world, were a forbidding and almost an useless task. We know that those ages abounded in operative architects, who, taking advantage of the inanity of the few speculative masons who continued to practice our science in its native purity, boldly pronounced themselves the sole conservators of masonry.; while the unassuming Essence were incompetent to unmask the pretenders, or to refute their confident assumption of our peculiar privileges.
The historical part of our lectures has an undoubted reference to something of a higher- and more exalted nature than the: mere construction of sumptuous edifices;: something which embraces_ the vital part of religion, and points to an exaltation from the grave of sin, and redemption from eternal death. Privileges which were wrought out by the great author and finisher of our faith, and which consequently refer to him as the object of their illustration and fulfilment.
The first great event to which our lectures refer (for I shall take them in chronological order, and not as they occur in the illustrations), is the creation of the world.* This work was performed by Jesus Christ, and therefore its reference to the Christian religion need scarcely he insisted on. Like the initiation into the first degree of masonry, there was nothing before the creation but darkness, a void space and undistinguishable confusion. But from this darkness, at the all-powerful word of Christ, sprang a light of inconceivable brightness, which illuminated the newly created universe; like the light which bursts on the aspirant's soul, when the bandages of ignorance are removed, and he beholds the first cheering ray of truth emanate from the shining light of integrity and devotion.
Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than his brother Cain." The institution of sacrifices at the fall was intended to keep alive the great sacrifice of atonement by which Jesus Christ should expiate the consequences of Adam's sin. These sacrifices were therefore ordained to be bloody, as more expressly typical of that great event. And this was the sole intention of an ordinance which, abstractedly considered, could possess no efficacy whatever. For what is there in the simple act of killing a beast, and offering certain parts of its body and blood on an altar, that is capable of appeasing the just wrath of an offended God? The sacrifice of Abel derived its merit, principally, from the expression of faith in the antitype, and obedience to the commands of God. And these, accordingly, have been essential conditions of salvation from the origin of terrestrial things; and will remain so to the end of time. Hence, at the emigrations from Shinar, we find that every tribe which colonized any other part of the globe, preserved the rite of sacrificing pure and uncontaminated with the adulterations of religion ; and thus with the type, an indistinct knowledge of the anti-type was preserved in every nation of the world; and the idea of one dying as an expiation to the Gods, was not only believed, but practiced in every system of religion which prevailed among mankind, whether Jew or Gentile ; and the only reason why Abel's sacrifice was approved and that of Cain rejected, was because the former being bloody, retained the typical reference to the great atonement, and the latter, being unbloody, was offered in disobedience to God's commands. But Abel himself was an eminent type of Christ. Abel was a shepherd; Christ styles himself the good shepherd. Righteous Abel was the first martyr for religion, and was offered to God as a pure and holy sacrifice; Christ too was offered without spot as a martyr for the sins of the world. Abel was slain through envy, so was Christ; and as the offering of Abel was acceptable to God, so also was the offering of Christ.
“Noah was a just and upright man, and obtained salvation in the ark, when all the human race perished in the flood, except himself and righteous family."
This event refers to the salvation which arises by virtue of Christ's sacrifice, and the admission to it by the rite of baptism. The punishment which God has threatened to inflict on a guilty world, may be averted by taking refuge under the meritorious atonement of Christ, as Noah avoided the deluge by entering into the ark, which floated on the waters of destruction; while they overwhelmed all the faithless and unbelieving who rejected the ark of safety which God had provided, under the deceitful expectation that his threatenings would never he executed.
The terrible nature of this judgment has induced the unbelievers of the present day to pronounce it fabulous. But there is no fact better attested, equally from the testimony of sacred and profane writers, and from the deductions of reason. Many heathen authors have recorded the circumstances of that tremendous display of God's power and justice, and St. Peter refers to it as expressly typical of our admission into the Christian covenant.* There exists a tradition of it in every nation under heaven; and the memory was preserved amongst the ancient idolaters in their mysteries; all of which bore ad undoubted reference to this fact.
“At the grand festival which Abraham gave at the weaning of his son Isaac, Sarah detected Ishmael, the son of Hagar the Egyptian bondwoman, in the act of teasing and perplexing her son. She, therefore, remonstrated with Abraham, saying, cast out this bondwoman and her son, for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac. She spake under the impulse of divine inspiration; well knowing that from Isaac's loins should issue a mighty people, who should serve the Lord with freedom, fervency, and zeal; and fearing that from too familiar an intercourse with, a person of Ishmael's slavish extraction, the pure stock set apart for the preservation of God's true worship might become contaminated with the degenerate vices of slavery."
This transaction is said by St. Paul to be allegorical of the two covenants of Judaism and Christianity. Ishmael was born after the flesh, Isaac after the spirit, by the immediate agency of God himself, which shews the superiority of the Christian over the Jewish, or any other religion the latter generate to bondage and are merely ceremonial; the former is perfectly spiritual and leads to everlasting life.
"Abraham offered his son Isaac in sacrifice, when it pleased the Lord to substitute a more agreeable victim in his stead.
As Isaac was an express type of Christ, so this event pointed out the great atonement; Isaac was named by a celestial messenger before he was born, so was Christ; Isaac carried the wood on which he was offered, and Christ bare the cross on which he was crucified; Isaac was offered on mount Moriah; Christ was offered on an adjoining mountain; Isaac was to suffer by his father's hand, and whose sword was it that pierced Christ? Isaac was redeemed from death three days after Abraham was commanded to offer him up; and Christ was raised from the dead three days after his actual crucifixion. And lastly, Isaac became the father of the Jews, as Christ is the universal father of the Christians. How can these very extraordinary coincidences be accounted for, on any other principle than type and antitype? And who can sit in a mason's lodge and hear them expatiated on, without feeling a conviction that the lectures of masonry have a clear and indissoluble connection with the sacred truths of religion?"
Jacob was the beloved son of Rebecca, the wife of Isaac, &c. &c. To escape from the fury of his brother Esau, &c. &c. he was sent by his mother into Mesopotamia, &c. Fatigued with his journey he lay down to rest, &c., and dreamed a remarkable dream. A LADDER, whose foot was planted on the earth, and whose top reached to the heavens, was filled with angelic messengers ascending and descending, and surmounted by the majesty of God, &c. &c. In this place the Lord entered into a solemn league and covenant with Jacob, &c. &c. &c."*
This ladder, which thus connected heaven and earth, had a plain reference to that religion which conveys to Mil the privilege of unrestricted communication with God, by means of prayer and meditation; and the ministration of angels, as messengers of heaven, is plainly pointed out. The angels attended our Saviour in every step of his divine mission. His incarnation was announced by an angel; his birth was carolled by choirs of angels; they 'watched with intense interest every, gradation of his great mediatorial undertaking. They were continually ascending or descending, to convey tidings or to bring consolation, while his heavenly father from the summit of the ladder beheld his conflict with the powers of darkness ; saw him lead captivity captive ; rejoiced in his transcendent victory over death and hell; and at length received him amidst the triumphant acclamations of the heavenly host Jacob wrestled with an angel, and his successful contention was crowned with a blessing for himself and his posterity."
The perseverance of Jacob in his contest with the Son of God, for the holy personage who appeared to him at Peniel, was no other than the second person in the Trinity; spews the necessity of continual application for mercies by prayer if we expect to receive an answer to our petitions; for it was to this principle that Jacob was indebted for the blessing of God."
Moses took off his shoes by the command of God, at the burning bush in Mount Horeb, that he might be ready to offer up his prayers to the Almighty; to thank him for mercies received, crave pardon for past offences, and implore his aid and protection in all future endeavours."
This extract carries with it its own interpretation. Prayer is an act of religion; our lectures recommend prayer; we practice it in every step of our proceedings; and therefore it is preposterous to argue that religion is excluded from our institution." A great and mighty wind blew, first from the east to facilitate the passage of the Israelites over the Red Sea in their escape from Egyptian bondage; and then from the opposite point of the compass, which overwhelmed Pharaoh and his host in their attempt to' follow them."
This deliverance, which was preceded by the sacrifice of the Passover, prefigured the deliverance of mankind from' sin by Jesus Christ, denoted by the sacrifice of the immaculate paschal lamb, of which a bone was forbids to be broken. The passage through the Red Sea refers to baptism ; for, as the Israelites were obliged to pass through the water before they could receive possession of the promised land, so it is necessary for Christians to be ' purified with the waters of baptism before they can obtain a title to the kingdom of heaven."
The pillar of a cloud and 'of fire are. thus represented in a mason's lodge.***** They were a light and a guide to the Israelites in their escape from the protracted oppression of Egypt; and also preceded Pharaoh and his host to destruction in the Red Sea."
The Israelites who followed this pillar of a cloud by day, and of fire by night, represent the whole community of Christians following Jesus, the captain of their salvation; and were they to forsake the path which he has marked out for them, they would soon be left to the uncertain guidance of their own inventions; and like Pharaoh and his host, would perish in the sea of destruction.
"The Israelites were a rebellious and disobedient people ; and were sentenced to wander in the wilderness forty years. Here they were miraculously sustained by the mighty power of God. Bread was given to them from heaven, and water issued from the dry rock at the word of Moses, &c. &c."*
The chequered scenes of good and evil to which Christians are subject in this probationary state are aptly compared to the miseries and fluctuations of the Israelites during their sojournings in the wilderness; and should make us anxious for a better country, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The manna pointed to Jesus the true bread of life; the rock from which water was extracted by the agency of the miraculous rod of Moses, had a reference to that fountain of living waters, of which he who drinks shall thirst no more; the stretching out of Moses' arms while the Amalekites were subdued, was an emblem of the conquest of sin and Satan, by the extension of Christ's arms upon the cross ; the brazen serpent elevated on a pole that the Israelites might look thereon and be healed, was symbolical of Christ's body exposed on the cross for the salvation of sinners ; and the blood of the sacrifices signified the blood of Christ, the seal of the covenant, by which our sins and iniquities are purged and done away.
“Moses caused a tabernacle to be erected in the wilderness as a repository for the tables of the law, as well as a place for the solemnization of divine worship, &c. &c."*
The erection of the tabernacle, as well as the services of Jewish worship, having already been explained as typical of Christianity, I pass on to the building of the temple by Solomon.
On the spot of ground where this famous edifice was afterwards erected " King David coffered up his prayers-to God, who was pleased to put a -stop to the pestilence which then raged amongst his people, as a punishment for his own imprudence, in having ordered them to be numbered; and gave him a TOKEN of reconciliation," &c. &c.
This is an undoubted act of genuine religion; and as-it forms one fundamental basis of our Lodge's consecration, it holds out something more than an equivocal proof of the existence of religion within ours walls; it shews that our illustrations have a tendency to elevate the heart to chat sublime object who bath raised us from the grave of sin by the sacred points of Christian fellowship; bath instructed us in the terms of reconciliation; and given us the glorious Gospel, which points out the resurrection from the dead, and everlasting life in the paradise of God."
There was neither axe, hammer nor metal tool used at the building of King Solomon's temple, so that nothing was heard among the workmen of Zion, save harmony and peace."*
This arrangement of the Most High, emblematically pointed out that peace, harmony, and brotherly love, were to be characteristic signs of the gospel dispensation. The temple was built on Mount Moorish, one of the hills of Zion, which is the name given to the Christian church, and Christ is the foundation stone on which it is erected."
“The stones were carved, marked, and numbered in the quarry from whence they were hewn; the timber was prepared and marked in the forest; and, when brought to Jerusalem and put together, each part fitted with such perfect exactness, as made it appear rather the work of the great architect of the universe, than an exertion of human skill."
Every Christian is a stone in this spiritual edifice, which, when properly modelled and polished by the exercise of religion, and the practice of morality, and fitted for translation to a celestial building, be is cemented with his perfected brethren, by charity, into a beautiful temple prepared on earth, and put together in heaven.I might notice many other particulars, in this division of the lectures, which point out the intimate connection between masonry and religion; but enough has been said to prove the truth of the proposition, that the historical part of masonry consists purely of unmixed religion; and contains a regular series of undoubted references to Christianity.