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ETHICS OF FREEMASONRY.
The Progress of Freemasonry Providential.
WHEN we consider the difficulties that Freemasonry has had to contend with—the obstacles which lay in the way of its advancement—its wonderful success cannot but astonish us; and it certainly will not be deemed an extravagance to say that its progress has been providential.
Eighteen centuries ago, Christianity had to struggle long and hard with the Spirit of the Age, with the presiding Thought of the Times : it had to dethrone Selfishness, the Prince of the world, before it could gain the dominion of Souls, and establish the kingdom of Love. Masonry marches in the same path to-day. It seeks to exorcise the foul spirit of Selfishness, to make men love each other as brethren, and bear one another's burdens. But never was there an age which, in the entire of its habits of thought and life, would seem to be so directly at variance with the spirit of this Order, as this in which we live. It is the habit of the times to repudiate all associations, all forms, rites, mysteries, symbols, and reduce Life, which God has so beautifully embellished, to a cold, and barren, and most unpoetic matter of fact. “Away with your signs, and symbols, and mysteries,” says the skeptic, “and speak to me in plain words !” As if words could express the soul's highest and purest emotions ! Language, at best, is but an imperfect medium of expression. It can utter well and distinctly only what is finite and limited, but symbols shadow forth the Infinite and Everlasting! Beneath them lie the unfathomable deeps of Eternal Truth. God reveals himself to man, not through any verbal machinery or spoken speech, which addresses the reasoning faculties, but through symbols, which speak to the soul! The world, with its corollary of stars, and drapery of gold-fringed clouds, is the symbol of God, through which he speaks to human souls, and brings them into a Divine sympathy with himself.
The Spirit of the Age regards all symbols, all rites and mysteries, as useless and foolish ; but Masonry sees in them a Divine utility. Symbols are the speech of God! It sees in man a being, at the same time material and spiritual, and therefore does not disdain any instrumentalities which Nature may point out to bring into activity all his powers,
and aid him in his upward way. It speaks to his senses, to his imagination, to his heart, as well as to his reason and judgment.
The Spirit of the Age, again, seeks to disunite men; the tendency to Individualism or Selfishness has struck through the heart of modern society. Men, inspired by it, become forgetful of the ties of brotherhood, and, occupying themselves only in furthering their personal interests, are in a constant struggle with each other. But Masonry, on the contrary, seeks to restore unity and brotherly love, and asserts that human life is made up of mutual sacrifices, and that we must lend each other a helping hand, as we journey through life, to the unseen world.
This progress of Freemasonry through seas of opposition, in the midst of so many unfavorable circumstances—the suspicion of the prejudiced, the malice of the ignorant, the selfish life of the Agecannot but be providential. The hand of God is in it. It is a sweet music, swelling as a heavenly psalmody around and above us, charming away our griefs, and making us feel that we are not lone and solitary wanderers on Life's rough thoroughfare. It is a soothing voice, which comes to us from on high, as a response to the earnest cry of the soulthe deep and abiding need of the heart-for communion, sympathy, and love.
The Masonic Principle Eternal: The Xnstitution Based
What is Freemasonry ? is a question of growing importance ; and the earnestness and frequency with which it is asked, indicate that even in the midst of this cold, unpoetical, egotistic, soul-forgetting, money-loving age, there are many loveful hearts, from which the holy symbols of charity are not entirely erased. Masonry is Friendship, Love, and Integrity. It is a Friendship which rises superior to the factitious distinctions and arrangements of society, the prejudices of religion, and the pecuniary conditions of life ; it is a Love which knows no limit, nor inequality, nor decay-ever-living, everactive, to bless and to consolebaptizing all hearts which acknowledge its allegiance in the fountains of a celestial Peace ; it is a Truth, an Honor, which binds man to the eternal law of Duty, in opposition to all the calculations of Interest, and in defiance of the world's wrath, and its terrible array of chains and crosses, and sealed and soldier-guarded sepulchres. These three words, Friendship, Love, and Integrity, define, with sufficient precision, the principle which is the basis of our order, and the lofty ideal we seek to realize. Freemasonry, therefore, is no new, and it will be no ephemeral thing! It is as old as Time-perpetual as Eternity. It was writ on the heart of the first man, and was the inspiration of that birth-song which wrapped the young Creation in a celestial chorus. It was the Guiding Spirit which led the human race up from the rudeness and solitude of the primitive state, bound the solitary ones together in families, gave them cities and towns, the industrial arts, and a civilization. It was the secret of the old Hebrew prophets, and of the sages of Egypt and Greece, and the burden of all the teaching, mysteries, and revelations of antiquity.
It was the spirit that inspired the heart of the old Thracian Mystagogue, Orpheus, and was that harp of wondrous qualities with which he charmed rude men, wild beasts, and universal nature.
And when man, corrupted by luxury, enervated by the refinements of an old and excessive civilization, gave himself up to his base propensities, recognizing no law but passion, nor bond but interest, nor God but pleasure, nor love but for himself—and Love, Truth, Virtue, obscured by the pestiferous exhalations of sensuality and selfishness, seemed to have reascended to the skies, leaving the human heart dead, and entombed in its own corruption—a new and a mightier Prophet re-woke that slumber