« PreviousContinue »
of the World to the time of Enoch..
Dedication of King Solomon's Temple........ 274
The objections which have been so unceasingly urged against the institution of Free-Masonry, excited in me, some years ago, a serious desire to obviate the general and vague charges of envy and prejudice, by some formal examination of the grounds on which they are founded. Since this duty has been impressed upon my mind, I have preached and printed five Sermons in my official capacity of Provincial Grand Chaplain for the county of Lincoln, the tendency of all which has been chiefly directed towards this point. But I find, that while I confine myself to answering peeuliar objections, I am only applying a partial remedy to the evil. To stem the torrent which is opposed to us, and effectually to divert the course of its stream, is an undertaking of a more broad and extensive nature: and it is only from an exposition of the pure principles of the science, as it actually existed in the primitive ages of the world, that a correct idea of its beneficial tendency can be conveyed to the mind of those who look upon Masonry as another name for licentiousness and excess.
An ancient Manuscript, in the hand-writing of King Henry the Sixth, gives the following definition of Masonry : “ Ytt beeth the skylle of nature, the understondynge of the myghte that ys hereynne; and its sondrye werckynges, sonderlyche, the skylle of rectenynges, of waightes and metynges, and the true manere of faconnynge at thynges for mannes use; headlye, dwellynges, and buildynges of all kyndes, and al odher thynges that make gudde to manne.” The same manuscript, which is preserved in the Bodleian library, adds : “ Maçonnes havethe alweys, yn everyche tyme, from tyme to tyme, communycatedde to mankynde soche of her secrettes as generallyche myghte be usefulle; they hauethe keped backe soche alleine as shulde be harmfulle yff they comed ynn euylle haundes. Maçonnes love eidher odher myghtylye, and yt may not odherwise be : for gude menne and true, kennynge eidher odher to be soche, doeth always love the inforę as thay be more good."*
It is truly said that Masonry unites mankind in the indissoluble bonds of sincere affection, and if its nature and origin be minutely considered; :it:will produce a perfect conviction, that when its fundamental principles are strictly adhered to, it cannot possibly be otherwise. It is not simply practical or operative, but speculative or spiritual Masonry that produces this desirable consummation. Our ornaments, furniture, and jewels are all highly emblematical of some greater and more noble purpose, than the use to which they might be applied
* The whole of this MS., with annotations by our countryman the learned Mr. Locke, is published in Preston's " Illustrations of Masonry,"
as instruments of labour; and in this view it is, that though the light may shine brilliantly amidst the darkness, yet it is evident that the darkness comprehendeth
I cannot but think, (and I say it with the utmost deference, as it involves some of the most refined and honourable feelings of human nature,) that the doubts of conscientious brethren, respecting the propriety of committing Masonic investigations to writing, have tended to impede the study of Masonry; and have prevented the science from carrying that conviction which an opposite practice would have commanded.
It is true we enjoy every benefit derivable from oral communication, yet very great numbers of worthy and good Masons, residing at a distance from the metropolis, remain perfectly ignorant of the progress of Masonry in the darker ages of the world. This is an evil to which the Grand Lodge is fully empowered to apply a remedy. Annual prize essays on Masonic subjects, the establishment of a respectable periodical magazine, under the immediate auspices of the Grand Lodge, or even private encouragement or patronage to literary Masons, which our noble and royal brethren are well competent to afford, would create a stimulus in defence of the order, which might produce the most beneficial results to Masonry; and would certainly be a powerful and efficient means of removing a portion of the unmerited disrespect which is systematically cast upon us by the uninitiated.
I am by no means prepared to admit the policy of these scruples generally, which, indeed, appears to have been a matter of regret with all good Masons, whose sentiments we have any opportunity of becoming acquainted with. Dr. Anderson, who wrote the history of Masonry by the command of the Grand Lodge, and whose book was approved, both in manuscript and print, by two separate decisions of that body,* laments that several valuable manuscripts concerning the fraternity, their lodges, regulations, charges, secrets, and usages, particularly one written by Mr. Nicholas Stone, the Warden under Inigo Jones, were too hastily burnt by some scrupulous brothers, that those papers might not fall into strange hands.”+ And to this the editor of the latest edition affixes a note, approved also by the Grand Lodge, in which he says, “ the rash act above related may be ascribed to a jealousy in these over-scrupulous brethren, that committing to print any thing relating to Masonry, would be injurious to the interests of the craft : but surely such an act of felo de se could not proceed from zeal according to knowledge!"
I admit that there are many things in Masonry which require to be sedulously concealed, and even derive a superior value from such concealment; but I must contend that great advantages would accrue from placing the general truths of Masonry before the world,
* March 25, 1722, and Jan. 17, 1723.
+ Edit. 1784. p. 207.