DELIVERED IN THE
SUBLIME GRAND LODGE
OF SOUTH-CAROLINA, IN CHARLESTON,
ON THE 21ST OF MARCH, A. L. 5807,
A. D. 1803,
Before the Members of that Lodge, the Symbolic
Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons,
And a considerable number of
And Published at their request,
TO WHICH IS ADDED
Containing an historical inquiry into the origin of the
difference of Ancient and Modern Masons, usually
so called; &c. &c.
BROTHER FREDERICK DALCHO,
Inspector General, and Grand Master of the Sublime
Grand Lodge of South-Carolina.
Magna est Veritas et pravalebit
PRINTED BY T. B. BOWEN,
NO. 3, BEDON’S ALLEY.
SUBLIME GRAND LODGE
March 21st, A. L. 5807.
On Motion, Resolved, That the Grand Secretary do wait on Brother Frederick Dalcho, Sublime Grand Master, and request a Copy of his Oration for Publication.
Extract from the Minutes.
JOHN P. PROYS,
S. Grand Secretary.
FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS.
March 28, 5807.
The Grand Officers and Members of the Incorporated Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, in South-Carolina, who were present at the delivery of the Oration, by Brother Doctor Frederick Dalcho, in the sublime Grand Lodge of South-Carolina, joined in the request to have the said Oration published.
By Order of
Dr. JAMES LINAH,
Right Worshipful Grand Master.
WHEN the following Sheets were written, it was not supposed that they would be given to the press, as they contained many passages, relating to the Masonic system, which could not, consistently with the rules of our Order, be laid before the Public. In consequence, however, of the request of the bodies before whom it was delivered, and also of a number of respectable visiting Brethren, to have it published, it has been arranged in such a way, as to admit of it. The blanks, which occur in many places, contained, passages which none but the initiated should ever know. In the Appendix, Note D. these passages are given in hieroglyphics, for the use of the Sublime Masons. This is not done in all copies, as they would be of no use, to any, below the 18th degree.
The history of the difference between the Ancient and Modern Masons, usually so called, I confess to have been unacquainted with until very lately; And the more I inquired about the subject, the more I was surprised, that the knowledge of it had not been before, obtained by the Masons of this country. But when I became Grand Master of the Lodge of perfection, I considered it as my duty to ascertain the origin of the different Symbolic bodies; and the result of my inquiries is given in the appendix, Note B.
In the Circular Report of the Inspectors, which is re-printed in the Appendix, some errors are corrected which escaped observation at the time it was published.
Many errors, I doubt not, will be found in the following Oration. But as the subject is important and yet but little trodden; my aim truth, and the time allotted me to compose it, and prepare it for the press, was short, I hope they will be excused. I have placed my spes et solatium in the candor and indulgence of my Brethren.
ANOTHER year has revolved since I had the honor of addressing you, agreeable to our Constitution, it again becomes my duty to impress upon your minds the great truths of the mystic union, the high advantages attending our fraternal compact, and the ineffable delight from societies, founded on the exercise of virtue and benevolence.
When the sun enters into the signs of Aries and Libra, the days and nights are equally divided throughout the two hemispheres. Upon this circumstances is founded the immemorial custom, in the Sublime Grand Lodges, of delivering Orations, on the principals of the mystic union, on the days of the equinoxes. This season is emblematically of the equality, which should reign among Masons. Without distinction of country or nation, without prejudice to religion or sect, without regard to riches or poverty, a Mason should view the great mystic family, as united to him by the bonds of affection. He should feel an interest in all their wants, should sympathize with them in all their distresses, and offer to their necessities such relief, as the bounteous hand of providence has enabled him to bestow. The honest peasant, nursed in the lowly cot, and by hard labour procuring his scanty meal, should be viewed with as much interest as he who proudly boasts a long line of illustrious predecessors, and who, pampered in the lap of fortune, has all his wants and all his wishes anticipated by a crowd of flattering minions.
What sight can be more acceptable in the eyes of the God whom we adore? What object more gratifying to the feelings of humanity than an extensive society of benevolent men, established for the great purpose of relieving the distresses of their fellow-creatures, of softening the sorrows of the widowed heart, and of offering protection and support to the helpless orphan, rocking in the cradle of poverty and woe, of breaking asunder the iron bands of the prisoner, and cheering his sight with the blaze of the noon-tide sun, of exchanging the cell of his loath some dungeon for the possesion of liberty, that choicest blessing in heaven’s gift, and, in short, established for the purpose of confirming man in his worship of the Deity, and of offering, to the ripening youth of our country, a living example of virtue, science, and benevolence.
Such, my respectable Brethren, are the purposes for which the societies of FreeMasons were formed, and such are the principles, which should govern the professors of the mystic science.
It is highly flattering to our order, to see the avidity with which the youth of our country seek for initiation into our mysteries. The names of FreeMason engage the attention of all, but the mysteries with which our actions are enveloped, procure for us, from the invidious and ignorant, ridicule and calumny.
It is the conduct and character of the members of our society, which stamp impressions on the public mind, but from our intercourse with society they judge of the advantages, which we derive from our association. If they see the boisterous passions of the human heart, quelled into tranquillity, if they see the rude austerity of an headstrong man, softened into urbanity, if they see the votaries of vice and debauchery reclaimed to the paths of virtue, if they see heart of the miser melt at the tale of woe, and the liberties shocked at the recital of the distresses which he has heaped on his victims, and the coxcomb forsake the adornment of his person to improve the faculties of his mind, they will rejoice in the establishment, and the name of Free-Mason will be hallowed among men, it will then be viewed as the school of virtue, and those who are unacquainted with the mysteries of our profession, will be viewed as deficient in an important branch of education.
Where is the Mason whose heart is not alive to that exquisite satisfaction, which may be derived from our institution? No societies that ever did, or ever will exist, can be of such unbounded advantage to the community as those of FreeMasons. Spread over the surface of both hemispheres, they could diffuse virtue and science through all the world, like the glorious orb of day, whose benign influence enlivens every part of animated nature.
Flattering, my respectable Brethren, as this picture is, it nevertheless combines a just view of the principles of our Society. That our associations are not attended with happy advantages I have here described, is attributable, not to the profession, but to the professors. A listless indifference about principles is as criminal as depravity. We have it in our power to become every thing that is great and good, but, unfortunately, many, I fear, when their curiosity is gratified by initiation think every thing is attained, and give themselves no further concern, than that of procuring the decorations of the Order. Pleased with the sound title of Free and Accepted Mason, they neglect to study those sublime and important truths, which form its basis, and remain as ignorant of the principles of the order, and the derivation of the symbols, as if they had never been initiated.
Too many of the Masons of the present day, I fear, are the subject to this remark, for no one can with more truth, be called a Free-Mason, merely by passing through a few, unimportant, ceremonies, than he can be called a Mathematician who is ignorant of the science of numbers and magnitude, or than that man, who is unacquainted with Tactics can be termed a General, merely because he wears the uniform of the army. Unremitted study and application to the arts and sciences must qualify a man to become a good Mason. The great truths of nature are open to all, but the ignorant pass them by without improvement or satisfaction!
I have no doubt but that our Society was originally formed by the votaries of religion and science, for the purpose of concentrating the wisdom of the times, and securing and perpetuating to future ages, the fruits of their ingenuity and labour. In the rude age in which they lived, the rays of science were few and imperfect, and the gloom of barbarism overspread most of the nations of the earth. The few emanations of science, were viewed by the ignorant multitude, with an eye of jealously and distrust, and, who, conferred on them, the epithets of Magicians and Conjurors, and ascribed those works to witchcraft, which were the natural results of just reasoning, deduced from the operation of the laws of nature.
The ignorant multitude, in every age and clime, are always ready to ascribe to supernatural agency, every phenomenon of nature and art, which is placed beyond the reach of their understanding. In the thunder they hear the voices of God, and bow their heads with terror and dismay. In the lightning they see the glittering of his spears, and shrink from the electric flame. When the troubled earth shakes with convulsive action from central fires, or the sun is eclipsed by the intervention of the resplendent orb of night, they fall on their faces with belief, that the organization of nature is about to be dissolved. But the Philosopher, accustomed to the trace effects it their causes, stands firm and collected amidst the crash of contending elements, * and view the angry storm which bursts over his head and in warps, as it were, the world in flames, but as the effect of the approximation of electric and non-electric clouds, restoring equilibrium to the atmosphere. When the trembling earth shakes beneath his feet, his mind recurs to the sciences of Chemistry, and finds in the expansion of gases an explanation of the phenomenon. When the mid-day sun is enshrouded in darkness, and the earth is plunged into the depth and gloom of the night, the science of Astronomy has prepared him for the event, and the revolutions of the planetary system explain the appearance.
*Si fractus llabatur orbis
Impavidum erient runae.
Hor. Od. 3, 1 3, v7
There are, my Brethren, a multitude of other occurrences in the physical world, which admit of easy and just explanation by the lights of science, and which have, for ages, been viewed by the illiterate, as the effects of a supernatural cause.
To secure their labour from interruption and themselves from calumny and reproach, the primitive philosophers associated together for the cultivation of the arts and sciences. Enveloped with the veil of mystery, and secure from vulgar eyes, they were occupied with reasoning on the wonderful operations of nature, and the divine attributes of nature’s God. Experiments were instituted to establish data, and as operations and effects were multiplied, causes were developed, and the sciences and fine arts were established on unpreishable principles. Emerging from the ignorance and blindness in which they had been overwhelmed, they traced the divinity through the walks of his power, and his mighty deeds. Contemplation, at first, went forth admiring, but yet without comprehension from whence all things had their existence, Contemplation returned, glowing with conviction, that one, great, original, of infinite power, of infinite intelligence, and of benevolence without bounds, was the master of all. They beheld him in his works, they read his majesty in the heavens, and discovered his miracles in the deep, every plant that painted the face of nature, and every thing having the breath of life, described his presence and his power.
The opposition which was given by idolatrous nations to the religion of the most high God, and the persecutions and barbarous sufferings which his worshippers received from the hands of the infidels, were, most probably, other powerful reasons for the establishment of secret societies, wherein they could profess themselves, to be worshippers in that temple, whose bounds were from the distant quarters of the universe, whose height was no otherwise limited than by the heavens, and whose depth was founded on that axis, on which the revolutions of the starry zodiac were performed, and where they could adore, the author of the or being, without fear and without danger.
It has been generally reported and as generally believed that our society was instituted, for architectural purpose, by handicraftsmen. What gave rise to this idea, I am at a loss to determine, as the blue degrees have no written records to explain the difficulty, and tradition is too lame to give satisfaction to a scientific mind.
It is evident to all, that, from the earliest ages, there have been builders of temples, cities, and towers, but there is not the smallest reason for believing that they were formed into a body of artificers, professing architectural mysteries which were hidden from the world, nor indeed does the utility of such a mystic fraternity appear reasonable, as their buildings were erected in open day, and the principles of the mechanic art of being plain and intelligible, they were comprehensible to every capacity. *
That our adorable Creator was the Grand Architect of heaven and earth, none but madmen can doubt, but that our primordial parent was a Free-Mason because he sewed two or three fig leaves together, is too insignificant a supposition to require a serious refutation. No, my respectable Brethren, we degrade ourselves and our illustrious society by advocating such untenable doctrines, and those voluminous plodders of Masonic history, who make Masons of every man of note, from Adam to Nimrod, and from Nimrod to Solomon, down to the present day, certainly deserve much credit for their industry, but none for their talents. Indeed we have incontestable proofs, that many of the number whom they enumerate, were perfectly ignorant of the mystic institution.
These proofs are contained in the archives of the sublime institutions. These archives are not founded on speculative opinions of ingenious or prejudiced individuals, nor on the doubtful evidence of oral tradition. They are records of very ancient date, and contain, besides the evidence of the origin of Masonry, many of the great and important principles of science. Here are data for the mind to rest upon, and here is subject matter fir for the contemplation of an enlightened genius. In these archives are contained the evidences of truth, and the unbiased mind of an enterprising inquirer, will view with unequalled satisfaction, the fair fabric of science and religion, which was erected by his forefathers to the name of the only true and living God.
Yes, my respectable Brethren, I speak from the evidence of my own judgement. I speak from the feelings of an heart warm with attachment to our illustrious society, that I shall ever hold in grateful recollection, the suffrages of my brethren which opened to me the rich treasures of the most sacred place in the earth, and gave me the knowledge as they before had done the name of a Mason. They dispelled many doubts from my mind, and elucidated, to my satisfaction, the origin and principles of that society, into which I had been admitted. My eager mind, thirsting for information, received with rapture the instructions, which were given me. It was then, indeed, I felt the force of the old age, "that a considerable degree of information is necessary before we become convinced that we know nothing." I had before been pursuing an aerial form, which eluded my gasp, an ignis fatuus, which blazed, but to vanish, a vision which gave, "music to the ear but nothing to the heart."
But here the subject was addressed to my judgement, in a form capable of being investigated; I could view the system as a philosopher, and acknowledge the importance of the institution with pride and with truth.
The circular report which has lately been transmitted to all the governing Lodges, throughout the two hemispheres, by the Supreme Council of Grand Inspectors General, explaining the origin of the Sublime degrees of Masonry, and their establishment in this State, renders it unnecessary, for me, to repeat it. It gives an elucidation of a variety of facts, which is of important, to every Mason, to be aquatinted with. One part of it, however, I deem worthy of notice in this place, it is as follows:
In the ***** degree we are informed that, in consequence of death of ** the Master’s word was lost, and that a new one, which was not known before the building of the temple, was substituted in its place. If Masonry, as is generally believed, an as many of our ancient records import, took its rise from the creation, and flourished in the first ages of man, they were in possession of a secret word, of word, of which the Masons under Solomon had no knowledge. Here then, was an innovation of one of the fundamental principles of the craft, and a removal of one of the ancient Land Marks; this however, we are unwilling to allow. It is well known to the Blue Master, that king Solomon and his royal visitor, were in possession of the real and pristine word, but of which he must remain ignorant, unless initiated into the Sublime degrees. The authenticity of this mystic word, as known to us, and for which our much-respected master died, is proven to the most septic mind, from the scared pages of Holy Writ, and the Jewish history from the earliest period of time. Doctor Priestly, in his letters to the Jews, has the following remarkable passage, when speaking of the miracles of Christ. "And it has since been said by your writers, that he performed his miracles by means of some ineffable name of God, which he stole out of the temple. * Notwithstanding the symbolic Masons profess their societies to have originated in the first ages of the world, and date from the creation, yet in their degrees, nothing is taught them but occurrences which took place at the building of the first Temple, (an inconsiderable period of about seven years,) 2992 years after the creation. The history of their order, previously to that period, and the extensive and important improvement in the art, both before and since, they are unacquainted with.
*Amer. Ed. P. 20.
In another part of the report it is declared that "much irregularity has unfortunately crept into the Blue degrees, in consequences of the want of Masonic knowledge in many of those who preside over their meetings, and it is particularly so with those, who are unacquainted with the Hebrew language, in which all the Words and Pass-Words are given. So essentially necessary is it for a man of science to preside over a Lodge, that much injury may arise from the smallest deviation in the ceremony of initiation, or in the Lectures of instruction. We read in the book of Judges, that the transposition of a single point over the Sheen, in consequence of a national defect among the Ephraimites, designated the Cowans, and led to the slaughter of forty-two thousand. The Sublime figure of the Divinity formed in the Fellow-Crafts degree, can be elegantly illustrated, only, by those who possess some knowledge of the Talmud."
These observations, which have been reported by the Inspectors, I make no doubt, have occurred to the minds of many of my respectable Brethren in the Blue degrees. There are a number of contradictory circumstances, which cannot be brought as charges against those degrees, but which are the natural results of the mode of their delivery. The various translations which they have undergone, and the different arrangements which have been made in them, from a variety of causes, have altered them very materially from what they were originally. At their first formation I believe them to have been a perfect and a uniform system; but from the causes enumerated, they have suffered a very great debasement.
If you visit the symbolic Lodges in the different countries of Europe, or even in the different States of America, you will see, in all, some difference from each other. If the presiding Officer is a man of talents, he adds such embellishments as his genius points out to him. Should he, on the contrary, be a man, whose mental faculties do not rise above mediocrity, and who does not feel much enthusiasm in a system, whose beauty he does not comprehend; he reduces the subject to a level with his own genius; thus alternations are produced, which, being copied by their successors, ultimately establish a mode of working, differing widely, from that contemplated by the first institution. But it is not so with the Sublime Degrees. Neither the towering flights of unrivalled genius, nor the shallow intellects of ignorant and illiterate men, can alter or corrupt them. Throughout the continent of Europe, the West Indies, and those parts of America, where they are known, they are given without the smallest variation in the "ceremonies of initiation, or in the lectures of instruction." One uniform system pervades the whole society, Governed by the same laws, connected by the same interests, united in the same compact, throughout the two hemispheres, they form a universal band of brotherhood.
How is it possible, my respectable brethren, that the Antediluvians could have been acquainted with our mystic system, when the Temple of Jerusalem was unthought of? In answer to this, it has been said, that there were no Master-Masons until the time of King Solomon and it is further advanced by others, that the third degree was not known until after the establishment of Christianity and that many of the arrangements and decorations of a Master Lodge, are emblematically of the Trinity. In support of this doctrine they appeal to the dedication of our Lodges to the holy St. John; while the Masons under Solomon, addressed their labour, only, to Almighty God, which is practiced in the Hebrew Lodges at this day.
If none were in possession of the secrets of the Master’s degree before the dedication of the Temple, but the three Grand Master’s, how came the assassin in the cave to make use of the penalty of the Master-mason’s obligation?
There is another circumstance, my brethren, which demands our attention. If Lodges of Free Masons existed in the early ages of the world, in the form in which we see them at this time, (and we are taught in our Lodges to believe, that no alteration of a Land-mark has taken place) a question naturally arises, from whence are derived the names of *
That fabric, because, that building was unthought of, until the time of King David. They must then have been derived from some other source than that we teach in our Lodges. In all the buildings, both sacred and profane, which were erected antecedent to the Temple, no mention is made of them.+
+ Vide Appendix, Note, D 1.
+ Vide Appendix, Note, D 2.
I believe, at the time of the Temple, which was 2992 years after the creation, from whence, it is usual with Masons to date the origin of their Society.
From the observations which have been made, it must either be conceded, that the present system of Free-Masonry, taught in the Blue degrees, was established at the building of the Temple, for the purpose of classing the workmen according to their talents, as all the ceremonies and words import, and consequently to date from the creation, to be wrong; or that the Society, before the time of Solomon, was supported on different principles and ceremonies than it is, at present, generally believed to be.
I candidly confess, my brethren, these are contrarieties, which I am unable to reconcile, and can only account for them by supposing with the Inspectors, that "much irregularity has unfortunately crept into the Blue degrees, in consequence of the want of Masonic knowledge, in many of those who preside over our meetings."
[The paragraph which is omitted here, was a quotation from Josephus relating to a very important circumstance, and on which the difference of Free and Accepted, and Ancient Masons is said to be founded, which, wholly destroys those reasons which the latter give for their difference. *]
*Vide Appendix, D 3.
The authority of Josephus is unquestionable; he is always referred to by writers on the history of the Jews, as an author of integrity and learning. He published the work, from which the above is an extract, 75 years after the birth of Christ.
As this Oration is intended to communicate such information, as I am permitted, on the subject of our mysteries, you will therefore, my respectable brethren, bear with me patiently, while I point out to you, some other circumstances, which are of important to be known by a Symbolic Mason. They are all connected with that irregularity derived from the causes, which have, already, been expressed.
The present Master’s Word of the Ancient Mason, is to be found in no language that ever was used. It is, in fact, not a word, but merely a jumble of letters forming a sound without meaning. The manner in which the pristine Word was lost, and the particular situation in which another was substituted, is too well known to you for me to repeat. The first expressions of the Fellow-Craft’s, according to the system of the Ancient Masons, were two Hebrew words highly significant and appropriate, to the melancholy occasion. From the corruption of these, the present Word is formed, not from design, because its means nothing, but from ignorance and inattention.
The Word of the Free and Accepted Masons is nearly in the same situation. Like the Ancient Masons, it is a word without meaning. It is the initials, or acrostic, of a Hebrew sentence, which is elegantly illustrative of the discovery which, was made by the Fellow-Crafts.
In the _______ degree, there is another inconsistency. The Candidate is told that he represents **, a man of the greatest Masonic knowledge, and from whom no secret of the Craft was hid. Yet, a word is demanded of him, of which he has no knowledge. The person whom he represents had this mystic Word, but how can the candidate give what he never had? It certainly is an insult to his feelings, as it makes him appear ridiculous, for it sometimes happens, that he blunders upon one, which excites laughter, and the solemnity of the occasion, is thereby destroyed.
In the ________ degree, the ceremonies of initiation are designed to represent the circumstances, which took place in the temple when our much respected Master*
*Vide Appendix, Note, D 4
[The paragraph which is omitted here, related to a ridiculous and highly improper ceremony, universally observed at the initiation of a Blue Master, and for which the most trifling reasons are given.]
The first names of the three Fellow-Crafts, * are well known to you all. But this is only half the information, which is necessary to relate the occurrence correctly: for they had, beside these, surnames, which must be known to identify their persons.
The names, also, of the Brethren who + are unknown to the Blue Master.
What became of the Master’s jewel, which adorned ** at the time +? The Sublime Masons can give the answer.
We are also taught in the _______ degree, § in the S. S. of the Temple. This, my Brethren, could not be the case. It is well known, that a very rigid purification was enjoined, by the Almighty, to all those, whose duties led them into the courts of the tabernacle. None who were wounded, or were otherwise imperfect in their bodies, or had any blemish, could enter; even those persons who touched a dead body, and all in the house in which the person died, were unclean for seven days, and were obliged to absent themselves from the congregation, and purify themselves according to the manner which God had ordained. * †
S. S. a place, specially devoted to the service of the Almighty, and where he resided and delivered his oracles from the mercy seat of the ark, under the wings of the Cherubim?
In the historical part of the _________ degree, it is generally said, that they ‡
*At the time when * * went into the Holy of the Holies of the Temple, to offer up his orisons to his God, the Ark of the Covenant had not yet been removed thither. This took place at the dedication. When it was placed there, none were permitted to enter, but the High Priest, and he only once a year, on the great day of Atonement, at which time he had a string or belt around his waist, which extended into the Courts of the Tabernacle, whereby he might be drawn from out of the S. S. if death should arrest him while officiating there.
† Vide Appendix, Note D 9. +10.
* * placed themselves at the East, West, and South Gates of the Temple, and that, there was no door on the North for reasons which are given.
This, my Brethren is another error: There was a Gate on the North side of the Temple, but none on the West, because the S. S. was built there.
Another circumstance, my Brethren, I beg leave to recall to your recollection. It is the spring of Cassia, as it is generally termed in our Lodges, where we speak of its strong scent, &c. Cassia, my Brethren, did not grow about Jerusalem. It is an alteration of the word Acasia, the Mimosa Nilotica of Linnæus, belonging to the 23d class and 1sr order, Polygamia Monæcia, of his system. This shrub grew there in abundance, and from the habit arising from an indispensable custom among the Hebrews, a branch was broken off from a neighboring bush, and placed where the Fellow-Crafts fond it, who, perceiving it to be withered, when all around flourished in perfection, they were led to draw those conclusions which we teach in our Lodges. *
*These customs among the Hebrews arouse from this circumstance. Agreeably to their laws, no dead bodies were allowed to be interred within the walls of the City; and as the Cohens, or Priests, were prohibited from crossing a grave, it is necessary to place marks thereon, that they might avoid them. For this purpose the Acasia was used. This affords another reason why the
It is further mentioned in the report of the Inspectors, that some knowledge of the Talmud is necessary to enable us to understand some of our ceremonies. It is so, my respectable Brethren, and to which they might have added, some knowledge, also, of the mysteries of the Cabala. That expressive mystic figure, of the Divinity, formed in the Fellow-Craft’s degree, constitutes, in the Hebrew language, the word Shaday, Omnipotent. In the Sublime degrees, it is elegantly illustrated. *
From these, and many other, errors which have unfortunately crept into the Blue degrees, it must be evident, that it is necessary, that a man of science should preside over a Lodge, that the true ceremonies and principles of the mystic Craft, may be taught in language, which will bear the test of criticism.
† In the Holy of Holies.
* That some knowledge of the Talmud is necessary may be readily conceived from this circumstance, that there, only, is to be found the account of ‡
The Bible is silent on the subject, and as is forms an interesting and important part of the _______ degree, it is necessary we should be acquainted with its truth.
† Vide Appendix, Note D, 11. ‡ 12.
In such of the sublime degrees of Masonry, as relate to the first Temple, are recorded every circumstance connected to the death of our illustrious and much lamented Chief. A variety of occurrences are brought into view, which are, not only highly interesting to an inquisitive mind, but highly important to every Mason, who wishes to understand the origin and principles of his profession. The real words of the symbolic degrees are given, and the meaning and the cause of their adoption is explained. The place of the interment of * * is clearly ascertained, and the ceremonies adopted on that melancholy occasion, are handsomely related. A variety of arrangements are recorded, which necessarily took place at the Temple, after the death of the Master Builder. The important recovery of the lost Word, and the wise precautions adopted by Solomon for preventing a similar accident, is given in a solemn and impressive manner. In short, all the errors which have unfortunately crept into the Blue degrees, through ignorance of the Hebrew language and the Jewish ceremonies, are pointed out to the candidate, and the pristine purity and elegance of the system, demonstrated. A perfect knowledge of the origin and principles of the three first degrees must prepare the candidate for the reception of our more important mysteries.
The brethren of the first three degrees are called Blue Masons, From the color of their decorations; and Symbolic Masons, from the persuasion that their mysteries are, at this time, preparatory to the superior degrees. The Sublime Masons view the symbolic system with reverence, as forming a test of the character and capacity of the Initiated. They are bound by their laws to support and cherish the original principle of that institution; and they watch, with a jealous eye, all who appear disposed to profane it. It is the door of their sacred Temple, through which all must pass to arrive at perfection. They are equally interested in the splendid establishment of those degrees, and in the union and happiness of their members.
Both societies derive honor in the eyes of the world, and advantage to themselves, from the respectability of their members. "Let neither interest sway nor friendship blind you." Let neither the pride of family nor the wealth, nor the dignity of rank, induce you to give your suffrage to a candidate, from his talents, be an ornament to our society, and from his virtue, be a strict observer of the excellent principles of our institution. The father of Solomon has declared, in the following Psalm, the principles which a candidate, for initiation, should possess.
"Lord, who shall abide in thy Tabernacle?
Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?
He that walketh uprightly and worketh right
eousness, and speaketh the truth in his hearth.
He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor
doeth evil to his neighbor, nor tasketh up a re-
proach against his neighbor.
In whose eyes a vile person is contemned;
But he honoureth them that fear the Lord; he
that sweareth to his own hurt and changeth not.
He that putteth not out his money to usury,
Nor taketh reward against the innocent. He
That doeth these things shall never be moved."*
Another circumstance of the highest importance to the whole fraternity, is that of secrecy. Too often do we hear disclosures made out of doors, which should have been carefully locked up in the bosoms of the members. The character of an applicant is to be held sacred by the Craft, and should he even be deemed to be unfit for admittance, the knowledge of his unfitness is to be hid from all Masons. You are to make a scrupulous investigation into his character, and to reject him without hesitation, if found unworthy of participation of our sacred mysteries. This is a solemn duty you owe to the Craft; but it is a solemn duty you owe to the Craft; but it is also a duty you owe to the applicant, to let the knowledge of it rest with yourself. Nothing can justify your injuring him in the opinion of the world, or in holding him up to society as a mark for suspicion to rest upon. There are many traits in a man’s character, which may render him unfit for our society, which do not detract from his conduct as a good citizen. He may be hasty and impetuous in his temper, and take offence here none was meant; yet he may possess an honest and upright heart; but as an irascible disposition would disturb the harmony of a society, where friendship and love should reign, he would be deemed an unwelcome companion. On the other hand, he may be a man of mild deportment, and yet want capacity to understand the beauties of the mystic profession. Application and perseverance in every art and science, and in every branch of literature and I can hardly think, that any man can be really pleased with the Masonic system, whose knowledge of it extends no farther than the ceremonies and symbols; and a man who is not pleased with the profession of which he is a member, will be bad society for those who are. Such a man had better not be initiated, although his rank and conduct in society are irreproachable.
It is to be lamented, that to the suggestions of some weak minds among our fraternity, the prejudices of the world against our invaluable institution, are in a great measure allegories of ancient wisdom, they assert that the rites of Masonry are futile, and doctrines in efficient. To this assertion, indeed, they give, by their own conduct, a semblance of truth, as we fail to discern that they are made wiser or better men, by their admission to our mysteries. Nature alone can implant the seeds of wisdom, but Masonry will teach and enable us to cultivate the soil, and to foster and strengthen the plant in its growth.
The utmost caution is also necessary to prevent a disclosure of our mysteries to the knowledge of the profane. The principles of our excellent institution should only be made known to the world by the works of charity and benevolence; for although the society was originally instituted for the purposes of religion and science, yet it is now practiced on the principles of brotherly love. As the great family of the mystic compact is spread over the surface of the two hemispheres, it would be impossible to distinguish the members of it, without some peculiar mark, by which they become known. The Signs, Words, and Tokens, form the medium of communication between Brethren of all nations and tongues, by which they become intelligible to each other, and by which they can communicate their wants and necessities in a manner not to be misunderstood.
To betray the watch-word, which should keep the enemy from the walls of our citadel, in order to open our strong-holds to robbers and deceivers, is as great a moral crime, as to shew the common thief the weakness and secret places of our neighbors dwelling houses, that he may pillage their goods. Nay, it is still greater, for it is like aiding the sacrilegious robber to ransack the holy places, and steal the sacred vessels and consecrated elements, devoted to the most sacred rites of religion. It is snatching from the divine hand of Charity, the balm which she holds forth to heal the distresses of her children; the cordial cup of consolation, which she offers to the lip of calamity, and the sustenance her fainting infants should receive from the bosom of her celestial love.
As this then is the importance of the Mason’s secrecy, wherefore should the world wonder that the utmost caution is used to prevent its disclosure? The sport would be too criminal to afford delight even to the wickedest of mankind; for it must be wantonness, only, which could induce any man to divulge it, as no profit could arise therefrom nor selfish views be gratified. What man is there of you, whom if his son ask for bread, will give him a stone; or if he ask a fish will you give him a serpent? Then can there be a man so iniquitous among Masons, as to guide the thief to steal from a sick brother the medicine, which should restore his health? The balsam which should close the wounds? The cloathing which should shield his trembling limbs from the severity of the winter? The drink which should moisten his fainting lip? The bread which should save his soul alive?
Such is the importance of our secrecy, were no other ties upon our affections or consciences, than merely the sense of the injury we should do to the poor and the wretched, by a transgression of this rule, we are persuaded it would be sufficient to lock up the tongue of every man who professeth himself to be a MASON.
Set a Watch, O Lord, before my mouth, keep thou the door of my lips.
Although, by the Masonic Constitutions, we are prohibited from engaging in political discussions in the Lodge, yet it must not be inferred therefrom, that we are taught to be indifferent about those concerns. In the sublime degrees, we are solemnly bound by our obligations and our constitutions, to support the government of the nation in which we live, to give the constitutional code of our country an honest interpretation, and with all our talents and energies to preserve it from profanation.
The claims of Religion upon the Sublime Masons are also imperious. We are bound not to change our religion for the allurement of wealth or rank, but to worship the Almighty God, in the manner and firm, which we conscientiously believe, to be most acceptable in his sight.
In the Oration, the Attributes of Masonry were treated of at large; I shall, therefore, but briefly mention some of them here.
Morality denotes conformity in all things and actions to those unalterable obligations, which result from the nature of our existence, and the necessary relations of life, whether to God as our Creator, or to mankind as fellow-creatures.
Morality, in another word, is virtue and the perfection of virtue in the human mind is in proportion to its resemblance or participation of divine perfection, and consequently, in being filled with the same principles of benevolence which influence all the actions of the Deity.
Faith is one of the grand theological virtues. Faith in God denotes such a conviction of his being, perfection, character and government as produces love, truth, worship, obedience and resignation.
Hope is another grand theological virtue, it is expectation, trust, affiance in, and dependence on God and man, a kind of vital heat to the soul, that cheers and gladdens when we do not attend to it, and gives habitual serenity and good humor, it makes pain easy and labor pleasant.
Religious hope will always revive a dying man, and fill his mind not only with secret comfort and refreshment, but with rapture and transport.
Another grand theological virtue is Charity, and is that Brotherly affection which we ought to bear one another, the rule and standard by which we ought to examine and regulate this virtue, is that love we bear ourselves, and the general happiness of our Craft: to enlarge on this, to you my Brethren, would be unnecessary, particularly as it was so fully discussed on a former occasion.
Before I conclude, permit me, my respectable Brethren, to address, to those among you who preside over the Symbolic Lodges, a few words from an ancient charge. For a pattern of imitation consider the great luminary of nature, which, rising in the East, regularly diffuses light and luster to all within its circle. In like manner, it is your province to communicate and spread light and instruction to the Brethren of the Lodge. Forcibly impress upon them the dignity and high importance of Masonry; seriously admonish them never to disgrace it. Charge them to practice out of the Lodge those duties, which they have taught in it; and, by amiable discreet, and virtuous conduct, to convince mankind of the goodness of the institution. So that when any one is said to be a member of it, the world may know that he is one to whom the burthened heart may pour out its sorrow, and not be betrayed, to whom distress may prefer its suit and not be rejected, whom bigotry has never prevented from being the friend of virtuous men of all professions, whose hand is guided by justice, and heart expanded by benevolence, who listens to the admonitions of temperance, and the modest voice of humility in a word, one whose life demonstrates his love of God, and regard for men. Tell them, that whatever eloquence they may exert in speaking of the excellence of their order, it is their example only, which can recommend and do service to it.
I have now, my respectable Brethren, gone through the arrangement of my subject, according to the plan which I had purposed. Should it ever fall to my lot to have the honor of addressing you again on this floor, I should select, for that occasion, an historical inquiry into the origin and progress of the difference between the Ancient and Free and Accepted Masons. *
*Vide Appendix, Note B.
I have delivered to you, such reflections as have occurred to me on the principles of the Masonic degrees. I have called in question a number of circumstances, the validity of which I could not establish satisfactorily to my own mind, and in exposing them to your view, I have been governed by no other principle, than the wish, to point out the elegance of the system, when it was first established, and to deprecate the cause of its alteration. The road to truth, particularly to subjects connected with antiquity, is generally choaked with fable and error, which we must remove, by application and perseverance, before we can promise to ourselves any satisfaction in our progress. Because a story has been related, in one way, for an hundred years past, is not, alone, sufficient to stamp it with truth, it must carry, on the face of it, the appearance of probability, and of it is a subject, which can be tried by the evidence of authentic history, and by just reasoning from established data, it will never be received by an enlighten mind, on the ipse dixit of any one.
I candidly confess, my respectable Brethren, that I feel a very great degree of embarrassment, while I am relating, to a minister of God’s holy word, or to any other gentleman of science, a story, founded on the grossest errors of accumulated ages. Errors, which they can prove to me to be such, from the sacred pages of Holy Writ, and from profane history, written by men of integrity and talents, and that too, in a minute after I have solemnly pronounced them to be undeniable truths, even by that very Bible on which I have received their obligation. *
*The Author was Master of the Symbolic Lodge, No. 3, when this Oration was delivered.
Masonry is a subject for which I feel the highest veneration. I have bestowed on it much attention and time, and from the correct information, which I have obtained from the Sublime degrees, my labors have been amply rewarded. As well might we believe that the sun travels round the earth, instead of the earth round the sun, as to believe in all incongruities which have been taught to Masons in the Symbolic degrees. † No mind on which the beams of science ever glowed will rest contented on a subject when the demonstration of it is within its reach. No Brother who now politely honors me with his attention, would implicitly believe me, if I was to assert, that at the moment I am now addressing you, a blazing meteor is passing through the air above Ashley river. No, my Brethren, you would immediately go, and satisfy yourselves by the unerring test of observation and experiment, and you would appreciate my understanding by the issue. So it is in Masonry.
† Nil fuit unquam
Tam dispar sibi.
Hor. Sat. 3, 1. 1, v. 18
In this Sublime Grand Lodge, which bears the motto, :Deo Devotum," in the place in which I have now the honor to stand, is delivered the laws of truth and science, of religion and of virtue. Can error be taught with impunity in a house consecrated to the Eternal God, the source of infinite truth and wisdom? Can the sanctuary of the most High be profaned by offering incense at the shrine of confusion" No my Brethren, we work under the threatened punishment denounced by God himself, "cursed be he that maketh the blind go out of their way, and cursed be he that perverteth the judgement of a stranger."
I am well aware, my respectable Brethren, that it is not in our power to alter any part of the Blue Degrees, and to restore them to their pristine excellence. * But it is a source of infinite satisfaction to us, that we are enabled, in the Sublime degrees, to arrive at the knowledge of the original system, and there to view, with unceasing delight, the development of those circumstances on which Symbolic Masonry was established. They add dignity, strength, and beauty to those degrees, and prove them to have been, originally, elegantly contrived, and founded on facts worthy of our contemplation.
*This could be done by a General Convention, formed of deputies from the different Symbolic Grand Lodges throughout the world.
From this view of the principles of the sublime degrees, it will cease to be matter of astonishment, that we feel so sincere an attachment to our Illustrious Order, and that we view the possession of them, of the highest importance to every Mason, who is desirous of obtaining correct information on Masonic subjects. One of the most enlightened monarchs that ever reigned presided over our order. The most distinguished characters in Europe, men of the greatest power and dignity, the Ministers of God’s Holy Religion and the lovers of Science, have been enrolled in our Society, and have encouraged and protected it by their power and influences. * Founded on the principles of Religion and Science, and cultivating charity and brotherly Love, we view with contempt the important efforts of envy and ignorance, however sanctified the garb, or dignified the title they may assume.
*Frederick II, King of Prussia, Charles, Duke of Sudermania, &c. His Royal Highness Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, the Duc de Choisenl, the Cardinal Prince and Bishop de Rohan, &c.
The professors of the Sublime Mystic Union have been branded with Illuminatism, by a few, vicious individuals, without talents and without integrity. It argues the utmost depravity of the human heart, to call in question the propriety of doctrines, of which they are utterly ignorant. It is a villainous assassination of character, to brand with opprobrium a Society, which has stood the test of ages, as being founded on immutable laws and teaching the principles of religion and science. Hell has not friends more infamous than such characters, who attempt to destroy the reputation of a brotherhood, who they know, cannot by their laws, submit their degrees to the examination of the public. I have had the honor of receiving all the Masonic degrees which are known, and which are, in number, 33, and I pledge, to you, my honor as a Mason, that in none of them, are contained such diabolical principles, as have been insinuated. Many, who now hear me, have received the highest degrees in the world, and can bear evidence to the truth of my declaration. *
*A very handsome refutation of the charge of Illuminism, which has been brought against the Free-Masons, will be found in Professor Ebeling’s work on the subject, in Preston’s Illustrations, and in Jone’s Masonic Miscellanies.
I have before mentioned to you, that in the sublime degrees, we are bound to be true and faithful to the Government of the country in which we live. Nay, more, we are sworn to discover to the lawful authority any knowledge which we may possess of the establishment of a conspiracy against it.
In this country, as yet, neither insanity nor bigotry have charged us with designs unfriendly to Religion or Government. *
*Vide Appendix, Note C.
In referring to the most distinguished of those who have written against Free-Masonry, it will be found, that the intellects of the one were deranged, and the bigotry of the other rendered him a fit instrument, in the hands of intolerance, to attempt the destruction of a Society, against which the whole artillery of the Inquisition has been discharged, and discharged in vain. For, in proportion as the lights of science and truth beam upon the world, the minds of men became enlarged and liberal; and they burst asunder those shackles with which bigotry and Fanaticism had bound them. Each individual of our Society, follows the dictates of his own heart on religious subjects, and leaves to God the judgement of right and wrong.
You all know that an Atheist cannot be received into our Society; but we heed not the sect to which principles have attached him. A man of known immorality and libertinism will be excluded; for good order and government, are essentially necessary to our rites.
If, to acknowledge and adore that supreme and eternal God, to whom all nature bends. If, to obey with cheerfulness, the laws of our country. If, to stretch forth the hand of relief to the unfortunate. If, to enlighten the mind by the bright principles of science. If, to cultivate peace and good-will with all mankind are acts of criminality, then indeed are we deeply culpable, for these principles are the ground work of our edifice, and long, very long, may the superstructure raised upon this unperishable foundation, continue to proclaim to all the people of the Earth, that virtue, science and religion are the happy cements of the Mystic Institution. Then Hail, thou glorious Craft, bright transcript of all that is amiable! Hail, thou blest moral science, which so beautifully exemplifies virtue! Welcome ye delightful mansions, where all enjoy the pleasures of a serene and tranquil life! Welcome, ye blest retreats, where smiling friendship ever blooms, and from her throne dispenses pleasure with unbounded liberality! Welcome, sacred habitations, where peace and innocence dwell forever.
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