by E. J. SAMUEL circa 1930
"Behold this ruin! 'Tis a skull
Once of ethereal spirit full ;
This narrow cell was Life's retreat,
This space was Thought's mysterious seat;
What beauteous visions filled this spot,
What dreams of pleasure long forgot,
Nor hope, nor joy, nor love, nor fear,
Hath left one trace of record here.
Beneath this mould'ring canopy
Once shone a bright and busy eye,
But start not at the dismal void,
If social love that eye employed,
If with no lawless fires it gleamed,
But through the dews of kindness beamed,
That eye shall be for ever bright
When sun and stars are sunk in night.
Within this hollow cavern, hung
The ready, swift and tuneful tongue;
If falsehood's honey it disdained,
And, where it could not praise, was chained;
If bold in virtue's cause it spoke
Yet gentle concord never broke,
That silent tongue will plead for thee
When Time unveils Eternity."
"So many gods, so many creeds,
So many paths that wind and wind;
When just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs."
We have been taught that the grand principles of which our Order is founded are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. Before I proceed any further, I should like you to bear with me if, while endeavouring to expound those principles, I state at the very outset that there are quite a number of us who are not Freemasons at all in the real sense of the term. Of course some of us know it very well in our hearts and realize that we are masquerading under false colours, while others imagine that no matter what a man may be, the fact of his having taken his three or more degrees has given him the right to regard himself a Freemason in the broadest sense of the term.
In some instances the fault lies with the individual whose nature happens to be so perverse that any amount of logical instruction or reasoning cannot alter. But in the majority of cases the fault lies with the masters and officers of Lodges, whose carelessness, and incompetence in working the degrees tend to create a class of Freemasons who have a lesser claim to that title than the humblest individual outside the Masonic world in whom, somehow, are inherent those qualities and principles which portray the embodiment in a perfect blend of the spiritual and the material.
I would ask you, brethren,"What is Freemasonry?" and you would give me the ritualistic answer "A peculiar system of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols." This answer would be taken to denote that the brother knows all about Freemasonry whereas it is my impression and one which has been formed by many years association with Lodges of various shades and colour, that if I were to err on the right side, I would be perfectly safe in saying that at the very least 75 per cent of the so-called Freemasons do not know what Freemasonry is.
The following definition which I have borrowed from a certain Masonic publication may give you a slightly dearer conception of "What is Freemasonry," and I trust that you will listen attentively and endeavour to grasp the real meaning of a term which you are supposed to know and which is expected to influence you in your daily pursuits:
"The fundamental idea which presided at the creation of all Masonic Lodges is a desire for moral improvement, or, in other words, the establishment of a centre where, outside the occupation of everyday life, work is carried on through study, symbols and a good understanding, with a view to the betterment of humanity, by favouring the development of the moral life of the members of the Lodges.
In all Lodges, the Ritual, the teachings, the statutes, and intercourse are founded on the principle of broadest toleration. A man is not judged according to his origin, his position, his fortune, or his religion. What is required of him as a Freemason is to be a free man, of good character, ready to favour the activity of the Lodge and the works it may create or support.
In all the Lodges an importance is attached to the rich and instructive symbolism possessed by Masonry, its high moralizing meaning is separated from it, and endeavours are made to deduce from it practical and useful teachings which will be favourable to the promotion of the moral life of its adherents.
In all the Lodges charity is cultivated. All the assemblies of Masons in all places inspire those who are present with a true love of man - of him who toils and suffers. Wherever Masonic charity is evoked, it is broad and generous, full of compassion and freed from narrowmindedness.
In all the Lodges one aspires to form men, to strengthen character, to fortify the will, to supply ,the family, the country, and society with welltempered natures which are happy to put themselves at the disposal of their fellowmen, and to further anything that honours the family, anything that adds to the glory of the country, or anything that tends to the welfare of mankind.
In all the Lodges of the whole world the spirit which presides over every action is a spirit of sincere fraternity. This fraternity, which is experienced from the very outset, presides over all the acts of Masonic life. It inspires all the speeches. It is the soul of the activity of the Brethren. It unites the members of the Craft by ties, the power of which is known to those alone who have experienced it. It envelopes, as it were, with a net, all the Masonic groups.
And all this is not opposed to the personal ideas of a Freemason, who has the right and is at perfect liberty to belong to the religion that suits him best, and to join any political party he pleases, without his title to Freemason being in any way interfered with: Masonry is not, nor should it be, either racial, political or religious. It cannot be incorporated with any sect or attached to any school. It rises above all discussion in order to be able to offer all the friends of truth a common platform of good will and fraternal union."
In addition to the foregoing, it might be useful if I also read out to you a leaflet designated "Information for Candidates." Incidentally I might also describe it as "useful points for the guidance of proposers and seconders," and therefore, Brethren, it is desirable that you should carefully note them.
"I. Masonry consists of a body of men banded together to preserve the secrets, customs, and ceremonials handed down to them from time immemorial, and for the purposes of mutual, intellectual, social, and moral improvement; they also endeavour to cultivate and exhibit brotherly love, relief, and truth, not only to one another, but to the world at large.
2. Masonry offers no pecuniary advantages whatever, nor does there exist any obligation nor implied understanding binding one mason to deal with another nor to support him in any way in the ordinary business relations of life.
3. Masonry teaches us to remember our common origin, but it also distinctly enjoins us to respect all social distinctions, so that while some must rule, others must obey and cheerfully accept their inferior positions.
4. Masonry has certain charities, but it is not in any sense a benefit society, nor is it based upon calculations which would render this possible. The charities are solely for those who have been in good circumstances, have been overtaken by misfortune or adversity, and they are quite insufficient to meet even these demands now made upon them.
5 Masonry distinctly teaches that a man's first duty is to himself, his wife, his family, and his connections, and no one should join the Order who cannot well afford to pay the initiation fees and subscriptions to the Lodge, as well as to the Masonic charities, and this without detriment in any way to his comfort, or to that of those who have any claim upon his support.
6. Masonry recognizes no distinctions of religion, but none should attempt to enter who have no religious belief as faith in God must be expressed before any can be initiated, and prayers to Him form a frequent part of the ritual.
7 Masonry, therefore, demands that everyone, before offering himself as a candidate, should be well-assured in his own mind :-
(a) That he sincerely desires the intellectual and moral improvement of himself and his fellow creatures, and that he is willing to devote of his time, his means, and his efforts, in the promotion of brotherly love, relief, and truth.
(b) That he seeks no commercial, social, nor pecuniary advantages.
(c) That he is able to afford the necessary expenditure without injury to himself or connections.
(d) That he is willing to enter into solemn obligations in the sight of God.
I have lately come across a little brochure entitled Must we become Masons? It embodies information which I think will enable us to judge whether we fulfil all the essential requirements of Freemasonry and can conscientiously decide mentally whether we are Freemasons or just a sham, therefore I will read this out to you :-
Do not join us out of childish curiosity; you will only be disappointed. Do not become a Mason without resolving to study the institution thoroughly. It is not unlike certain grand sights in nature, certain masterpieces of art, and the deserts of certain men, the first sight of which is disappointing and which must be seen often in order to be understood.
If, with the love of the true and good, you have not also a mind which is turned towards the poetry of life, and if your reason is not mingled with a little delicacy of feeling, do not come to us, for you would only be bored. He who has a veneration for progress and the memory of the past; he while pursuing knowledge, understands at times the charm of a venerable error; he who likes customs because they are old, old forms because they are beautiful, and even prejudices because they are the history of humanity, that man will find a field of action for archaeological emotions. But if you ask what advantage it will bring you on change or at the elections, do not join us!
If, in matters of religion, you start from the idea that your opponent is a fool or is not sincere, do not come into collision with Masonic discipline! But if you have the respect of every serene conscience, or, if, being religious, you bear with those who are not, or who are so in a different way, then join us, for no one will offend you, and you will not offend anyone!
If, in reference to God and the soul, you have a feeling of the greatness of the question, and should you be of opinion that the knowledge of certain persons does not differ much from the ignorance of others, your aspirations will at times find satisfactory nourishment.
If you are a doctor or a lawyer, a manufacturer or a merchant, an official or a clerk, and you expect to find clients or patrons, you would be disappointed. As an official, you would make the minister of your department laugh, were he a Mason, and his successor will perchance dismiss you; as a business man you would render your Masonry and your merchandise suspicious.
If you are ambitious and have abilities which equal your ambition, join us. Many people will make your acquaintance. But if you expect to find stepping-stones, do not join us, and that for the same reason.
If you are a politician, do not imagine you can win over followers in a Lodge. You will only have those you have already, and you will perhaps lose those who will reproach you with having introduced discord. Your success will not be long.
If you have opinions which possess you rather than that you possess them, if you have propensities which are too strong to make you the censor of others, or if you have not for yourself the pride of your independence in all that concerns your own character, the education of your children, the action of your religious, civil, and family life, you will never have the character of a Freemason nor will you understand those who have.
If you are entirely absorbed by your profession, by your work, and by your position in the world, do not join us. Why should you undertake assiduous duties which would be a burden to you?
If you owe all your time and all your resources to your family, you must in no wise shun a duty which is the highest of all. The Lodge means expense. You would regret not being able to do as the others do, or you would violate the statute by spending on your pleasures what does not belong to them.
If you are a hypochondriac, do not join us. But if you like a good honest laugh, come to us.
I will now read out to you a short treatise entitled The Masonic Spirit and I can assure you brethren that if you will endeavour to cultivate the spirit defined therein you might confidently feel that you are genuine Freemasons even though your rank in a Lodge be not higher than just that of a M.M. holding no office at all.
It is incontestable that Freernasonry modifies the habitual state of mind of its members and also their conception of things. This change, of course, is not produced all at once; it may even be said that these modifications of ideas do not manifest themselves in all Freemasons. There are brethren in whom Masonry produces no transformation of heart and mind. But the men who have earnestly and perseveringly cultivated Masonic symbolism, studied the history of the association, and practised the Masonic life with faithfulness, perceive at a given moment that their horizon has been widened, that their heart has grown, and that their ideas have been modified to advantage.
It can be definitely asserted that attendance at the Lodges, the reading of Masonic authors, the examination of the symbols, of the history, and of the principles of Masonry make an impression on the faithful Mason, communicate to him concerning life, work, humanity, society, the object of existence, and generally about himself and the world that surrounds him new ideas - one may say a state of mind absolutely new.
Masonry destroys in the true Mason his prejudices about man and men. It disposes the Mason to be charitable, rids him of preconceived ideas and of bias in reference to others. It heals him of hasty judgments. By making him modest it produces within him sympathy for men and disposes him to defend them when they are attacked, to speak well of them when others slander them, and to show himself full of kindness towards those who are treated with malice and violence. The spirit of Masonry is the spirit of charity which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."
Masonry suggests to a genuine Mason the thought that all men have a right to the same esteem and the same sympathy whatever their social position may be. Rank, fortune, race, name, origin and religion have no part in the appreciation of a man's worth. It is their moral life and the wisdom of their existence that guide a Mason in the esteem which he owes to other men. Henceforth a genuine Mason does not allow either religion, race, fortune or social rank to alter his opinions about men, whether to or against their advantage. A genuine Mason cannot be an anti-Semite, or an anti- Christian! for him there is neither barbarian, Jew, black or white. The Masonic spirit is above all a spirit of tolerance, that is to say, of respect for one's fellow citizens and for their religious or political convictions.
Masonry imparts to a genuine Mason a very great love for all human beings, for it teaches that nothing is more disastrous for the happiness of humanity than hatred, anger, vengeance, misunderstanding, enmity, and jealousy. He loves all men, desires and wishes their general well-being and engages earnestly in everything that lifts up human society, strengthens it and improves it in every respect, because the Masonic spirit is above all not a spirit of selfishness and a searching after oneself, but a spirit of love for and devotedness to others.
By its marvellous symbolism Masonry teaches its adepts to live as Brethren, and to recognize one another as such, whatever may be the place where they meet, the Lodges to which they belong, or the Rites they practise. The chain of union embraces the world, and from the day when an outsider becomes a Freemason, he is united as an ally with all Masons spread over the world, who have now become his brethren. The World's Masons, therefore, form one family, and wherever one is not ready to recognize and admit this, the Masonic spirit is wanting: in such cases they are not, nor can they be genuine Masons animated by charity, tolerance, love and fraternity.
By virtue of the above principles Masonry is an enemy of war between nations; it necessarily teaches its adherents to be pacifists and adversaries of everything on this earth that injures friendly relations between the peoples. The true Mason is inevitably a man of peace, to whom war is odious, because it appears to him to be not only unmeaning but also high treason against humanity.
Such are the duties which our Order teaches us, and Masonry (the heavenly genius!) seems now thus to address us :
"The Order I have established in every part of it shows consummate wisdom founded on moral and social virtue, it is supported by strength; it is adorned by beauty, for everything is found in it that can make society agreeable. In the more striking manner I teach you to act with propriety in every station of life. The tools and implements of architecture, and everything about you, I have contrived to be most expressive symbols to convey you the strongest moral truths. Let your improvement be proportionable to your instruction. Be not contented with the name of Freemasons. Invested with my ancient and honourable badge, be Masons indeed.
Think not that it is to be so to meet together, and to go through the ceremonies which I have appointed; these ceremonies, in such an Order as mine, are necessary, but they are the most immaterial part of it, and there are weightier matters- which you must not omit. To be Masons indeed, is to put in practice the lessons of wisdom which I teach you. With reverential gratitude, therefore, cheerfully worship the Eternal Providence; bow down yourselves in filial and submissive obedience to the unerring direction of the Mighty Builder; work by His perfect plans, and your edifices shall be beautiful and everlasting.
I command you to love your neighbour; stretch forth the hand of relief to him if he be in necessity; if he be in danger, run to his assistance; tell him the truth if he be deceived; if he be unjustly reproached and neglected, comfort his soul, and soothe it to tranquillity. You cannot show your gratitude to your Creator in a more amiable light, than in your mutual regard for each other.
Taught as you are by me to root out bigoted notions, have charity for the religious sentiments of all mankind; nor think the mercies of the Father of all the families of earth, of that Being whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain, are confined within the narrow limits of any particular sect or - religion.
Pride not yourselves upon your birth - it is of no consequence of what parents any man is born provided he be a man of merit; nor your honours, they are the objects of envy and impertinence, and must ere long be laid in the dust; nor your riches, they cannot gratify the wants they create; but be meek and lowly of heart. I reduce all conditions to a pleasing and rational equality; pride was not made for man, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
I am not gloomy and austere. I am a preacher of morality, but not a gloomy and severe one; for I strive to render it lovely to you by the charms of pleasure which leave no sting behind; by moral music, rational joy, and harmless gaiety. I bid you not to abstain from the pleasures of society or innocent enjoyments; to abstain from them is to frustrate the intentions of Providence.
I enjoin you not to consecrate your hours to solitude. Society is the true sphere of human virtue; and no life can be pleasing to God but what is useful to man. On every festival, in which well-pleased, my sons, I see you assembled to honour me, be happy. Let no pensive look profane the general joy; let sorrow cease; let none be wretched; and let pleasure and her bosom friends, attend this social board. Pleasure is a stranger to every malignant and unsocial passion, and is formed to expand, to exhilirate, to humanize the heart.
But he is not to be met with at the table of turbulent festivity; he disclaims all connections with indecency and extremes, and declines the society of riot roaring in the jollity of his heart. A sense of dignity of human nature always accompanies him, and he admits not of anything that degrades it. Temperance and cheerfulness are his bosom friends; and at the social board, where he never refuses his presence, these friends are always placed on his right hand and on his left; during the time he generally addresses himself to cheerfulness, till temperance demands his attention.
On your festivals, I say, be happy; but remember now, and always remember, you are Masons, and act in such a manner that the eyes of the censorious, ever fixed upon you, may see nothing in your conduct worthy of reproof; the tongue of the slanderer, always ready to revile you, may be put to silence. Be models of virtue to mankind. Examples profit more than precept. Lead uncorrupt lives, do the thing which is right and speak the truths from your hearts.
Slander not your neighbour, and do no other evil unto him; and let your good actions convince the world of the wisdom and advantages of my institution. The unworthiness of some of those who have been initiated into my Order, but who have not made themselves acquainted with me, and who, because I am a friend to rational gaiety, have ignorantly thought excesses might be indulged in, has been disgraceful to themselves and discreditable to me."
Such, surely, is teaching, alike simple, consistent and true, creditable to Freemasonry and beneficial to mankind. Beautifully has the poet described our Masonic charity:
"Pure is her aim, and in her temper mild,
Her wisdom seems the weakness of a child;
She makes excuses when she might condemn,
Reviled by those who hate her, prays for them!
Suspicion lurks not in her artless breast;
The worst suggested she believes the best;
Not soon provoked, however stung and teas'd,
And if perhaps made angry, soon appeased:
She rather waives than will dispute her right,
And injured, makes forgiveness her delight."
"Such a creed needs neither priest or prelate to interpret; no learned criticism to explain; no profound erudition, hunting up far-fetched meanings for his words. The way to it does not lie through the dark, turbulent disturbed streams of religious controversy. The words mean just what they say - they are short; scarcely as many letters as other creeds have volumes. Is not this a religion?
If you define religion to be the close, technical following of some particular theory or dogma, cut out and grooved, and fitted together by human hands, it is not religion. If it consists in a mind and heart imbued with a love for God and for man, is it not religion?"
Rowland Hill writes-
"I would not give a farthing for a man's religion if his dog and cat are not the better for it."
Or to quote Sismondi-
"Whenever we cease to hate, to despise, and, to persecute those who think differently from ourselves, whenever we look upon them calmly, we find among them men of pure hearts and unbiassed judgments, who, reasoning on the same data with ourselves, have arrived at different conclusions on the subject of the spiritual world.
As the poet writes-
In men whom men condemn as ill I find so much of goodness still ;
In men whom men pronounce divine I find so much of sin and blot,
I hesitate to draw a line
Between the two, where God has not.
or, borrowing the words of a certain writer - "Whether the world is blue or rosy depends on the kind of spectacles we wear. It's our glasses, not the world, that need attention."
Lavater tells us-
"The most eloquent speaker, the most ingenious writer, and the most accomplished statesman, cannot affect so much as the mere presence of the man who tempers his wisdom and his vigour with humanity."
It should be borne in mind, brethren, that the principal characteristic of a Freemason is tolerance, which also means charity. You must be entirely free of prejudices of caste, colour and creed, and in your daily walks in life to practise and be guided by the Golden Rule as enunciated by Confucius-
"Do unto another what you would he should do unto you; and do not unto another what you would not should be done unto you. Thou only needest this law alone, it is the foundation and principle of the rest."
Remember, brethren, that the worst enemy of man is an overbearing temper. To quote a certain writer-
"Nothing shows a greater abjectness of spirit than an overbearing temper appearing in a person's behaviour to inferiors. To insult or abuse those, who dare not answer again, is as sure a mark of cowardice, as it would be to attack with a drawn sword a woman or a child. And wherever you see a person given to insult his inferiors, you may assure yourself he will creep to his superiors; for the same baseness of mind will lead him to act the part of a bully to those who cannot resist, and of a coward to those who can.
But though servants and other dependents may not have it in their power to retort, in the same taste, the injurious usage they receive from their superiors, they are sure to be even with them by the contempt they themselves have for them, and the character they spread abroad of them through the world. Upon the whole, the proper behaviour to inferiors is, to treat them with generosity and humanity; but by no means with familiarity on one hand, or insolence on the other."
It would be appropriate to introduce here the lines from Milton-
He that has light within his own clear breast, May sit in the centre and enjoy bright day; But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts, Benighted walks under the mid-day sun; Himself his own dungeon.
As Hume tells us-
He is happy whose circumstances suit his temper; but he is most excellent who can suit his temper to any circumstances.
Consider, brethren, how well these lines depict the mentality of different individuals :-
"Two men looked out through prison bats; One saw mud; the other, stars."
Referring to toleration, Abernethy tells us-
If the peculiarities of our feelings and faculties, be the effect of variety of excitement through a diversity of organization, it should tend to produce in us mutual forbearance and toleration. We should perceive how nearly impossible it is that persons should feel and think exactly alike upon any subject. We should not arrogantly pride ourselves upon our virtues and knowledge, nor condemn the errors and weakness of others, since they may depend upon causes which we can neither produce nor readily counteract. No one, judging from his own feelings and powers, can be aware of the kind or degree of temptation or terror, or the seeming incapacity to resist them, which may induce others to deviate.
Consider these beautiful lines-
"Think kindly of the erring!
Ye know not of the power
With which the dark temptation came
In some unguarded hour;
Ye may not know how earnestly
They struggled, or how well,
Until the hour of weakness came,
And sadly then they fell.
"Think kindly of the erring!
Oh I do not thou forget
However darkly stained by sin,
He is thy brother yet.
Heir of the selfsame heritage,
Child of the selfsame God,
He has but stumbled in the path,
Thou hast in weakness trod.
"Speak gently to the erring!
For is it not enough
That happiness and peace are gone
Without the censure rough?
It sure must be a weary lot
The sin crushed soul to bear,
And they who have a happier lot
Their chiding well may spare.
"Speak gently to the erring!
And thou may'st lead them back,
With holy words and tones of love
From misery's thorny track.
Forget not thou hast often sinned,
And sinning yet may be.
Deal gently with the erring one,
As He has dealt with thee." - Bates.
"Look thou with pity on a brother's fall,
But dwell not with stern anger on his fault;
The grace of God alone holds thee, holds all ;
Were that withdrawn, thou too would'st swerve and halt." -Edmeston.
Always remember that no mortal can be infallible and that the faults which you may notice today in others may some day spring up in yourself or in your near and dear ones, and that in judging others, it is desirable to carry yourself away for a moment to the thought that if you were the actual offender, what judgment would you consider to be equitable in order to make you realize your faults and to afford you the opportunity of making amends.
"In estimating the degree of blame which should be attached to wrong doing, charity demands that due weight should be given to the conditions under which the fault has been committed. To do this justly is so difficult that it has been said, "judge not, that ye be not judged."
A certain writer has said "Turn thine eyes unto thyself, and beware thou judge not the deeds of other men. In judging of others a man laboureth in vain, often erreth, and easily sinneth; but in judging and examining himself, he always laboureth fruitfully."
"The seeds of good and evil are in all men. 'Look unto thine own heart' is a wise and kindly injunction. The inscription 'Know Thyself', placed on the portal of the Oracle at Delphi is radiant with significance. The Tau Teh King of Lao-tsze says, `He who knows others is wise, but he who knows himself is enlightened.' No man is entirely good, nor, even in the most depraved, is the divine spark utterly extinguished. The sweet singer of Israel, whose deeds of blood and crime precluded him from building the Temple, was described as a man after God's own heart. It was a saint who called himself the chief of sinners. It was a divine who, on seeing a culprit dragged to the place of execution, exclaimed, 'There but by the Grace of God go I.'
The poet, (Burns) who above all others voiced in golden verse the lessons of the Craft he loved so well, tells us:
"Then gently scan your brother man,
Still gentlier sister woman;
Though they may gang a kennin' wrang,
To step aside is human;
One point must still be greatly dark,
The moving why they do it :
And just as lamely can ye mark
How far perhaps they rue it.
"Who made the heart, 'tis He alone
Decidedly can try us,
He knows each chord, its various tone,
Each spring its various bias;
Then at the balance let's be mute,
We never can adjust it;
What's done we partly may compute,
But know not what's resisted."
In these lines we glean the essence of true philosophy which another writer defines in the following words :-
What are the practical lessons which this subject should teach us all? You know how the human character is formed, and how the faults and vices which degrade it, and which affiict the world are generated. Pity their unhappy victims; treat them with mercy; pour, if it be possible, the light of knowledge on their minds, and infuse, by obliging them to witness its excellence in your own disposition, the love of goodness into their hearts. In the family, and in the world, be what your views of philosophy and religion ought to make you, forbearing, generous, just; the intrepid defender of others rights; the uniform observer of your own duties ; the master of yourself, the servant of all. Endeavour, at all seasons and by all means, to diffuse the blessings of knowledge; deem no labour too protracted or too severe which may terminate in the removal of an error.
Let no calumny or invective excite in you a spirit of resentment, or force from your lips a hard expression. Make those whom you strive to enlighten feel that you wish them to embrace your views, only that they may be inspired with the same cheerful, amiable, and benignant spirit of which your heart is fqIl; rejoice in the good that is; live but to labour to increase it; believe that every event is so arranged by infinite wisdom and almighty power, as to perform its necessary measure in securing its ultimate and universal triumph. This is the true philosophy; this is the way to live happiest, to die happiest, and to prepare best for glory, honour and immortality.
How eloquent are the lines by Ella Wheeler Wilcox-
Let those who have failed take courage,
Though the enemy seemed to have won;
Though his rank be strong, if he be in the wrong,
The battle is not yet done.
For sure as the morning follows
The darkest hour of night,
No question is ever settled
Until it is settled right.
"Masonry bids us drop a tear of sympathy over the failings of a brother, for we know not the strength of the temptation to which he may have been exposed. The prayer of H. A., when kneeling at the Altar in the Drama still enacted in operative Masonry, pleads for a charitable construction on the besetting sins of rich and poor alike."
"Remove from me Vanity and Lies,
Give me neither poverty nor ricbes,
Feed me with food convenient for me,
Lest I be full and deny Thee and say
Who is the Lord?
Or lest I be poor and steal and take the name of my God in vain."
A well-known writer warns us against hasty opinions of others in the following words :-
There are numbers of circumstances which attend every action of a man's life, which can never come to the knowledge of the world, yet ought to be known and well-weighed before sentence, with any justice, can be passed upon him. A man may have different views and a different sense of things from which his judges have; and what he understands and feels, and what passes within him, may be a secret treasured up deeply there for ever.
A man through bodily infirmity, or some complectional defect, which, perhaps, is not in his power to correct, may be subject to inadvertencies, to starts, and unhappy turns of temper; he may lay open to snares he is not always aware of; or, through ignorance, and want of information, and proper helps, he may labour in the dark; in all which cases he may do many things which are wrong in themselves, and yet be innocent - at least an object rather to be pitied than censured with severity and ill-will. These are difficulties which stand in everyone's way in forming a judgment of the character of others.
Tolerance may be said to be an indication of true wisdom which is conciliatory. According to Xenophon-
Whoever applies himself to the study of wisdom in hopes of becoming one day capable of directing his fellow citizens, will not indulge, but rather take pains to subdue, whatever he finds in his temper of turbulent and impetuous; knowing that enmity and danger are the attendants of force, while the path of persuasion is all security and goodwill: for they who are compelled, hate whover compels them, supposing they have been injured; whereas we conciliate the affections of those we gain by persuasion; while they consider it as a kindness to be applied to in such a manner.
Therefore it is only for those to employ force, who possess strength without judgment, but the well advised will have recourse to other means. Besides, he who pretends to carry by force hath need of many associates: but the man who can persuade, knows that he is himself sufficient for the purpose; neither can such a one be supposed forward to shed blood; for, who is there would choose to destroy a fellow citizen, rather than make a good friend of him by mildness and persuasion.
In giving advice, we must consult the gentlest manner and softest reasons of address; our advice must not fall like a violent storm, bearing down, and making that to droop which it was meant to cherish and refresh; it must descend as the dew upon the tender herb, or like melting flakes of snow; the softer it falls, the longer it dwells upon the deeper it sinks into the mind.
If there are few who have the humility to receive advice as they ought, it is often because there are few who have the discretion to convey it in a proper vehicle, and to qualify the harshness and bitterness of reproof, against which nature is apt to revolt, by an artful mixture of sweetening and agreeable ingredients.
Dr. John Moore tells us that "the utmost that severity can do is to make men hypocrites, it can never make them converts," - while another writer points out in the following convincing lines that mercy is even enforced by the doctrine of necessity :-
Should we be less merciful to our fellow creatures than to our domestic animals? Before we deliver them to be killed or weigh their services against their inconveniences. On the foundation of policy (when we have no better) let us erect the trophies of humanity; let us consider that educated in the same manner, and situated in the same position, we ourselves might have acted as reprovably. Abolish that for ever, which must else for ever generate abuses; and attribute the faults of the man to the of!ice, not the faults of the office to the man.
Borrowing a passage from the Life of S. Francis de Sales-
"He pointed out that while in truth those who are in authority have a solemn duty to perform in correcting evil, still it is equally a duty to administer all such corrections so lovingly, and with so simple a desire for God's glory and the real good of the person corrected, as to take away the sting of reproof. He went so far as to say that it is better to withhold a deserved rebuke than to administer it ungraciously, and that judicious silence was far preferable to the truth roughly told.
You will catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than with a whole barrel of vinegar,' he used to say. He also used to say "If you would fall into any extreme, let it be on the side of gentleness. The human mind is so constructed, that it resists vigour and yields to softness."
Jean Ingelow tells us- "Even a punishment may become unjust unless it is administered in the spirit of love."
While Ellice Hopkins writes-
"To speak the truth in love,' to reprove wisely and tenderly, is a lesson which it may take a lifetime to learn; but it must be striven after if we would keep the balance true between wisdom and feeling. Let us not have sympathy at the expense of sound common sense, or we shall do more harm than good."
How inspiring are these lines from Burton -:
Have you had a kindness shown ?
Pass it on.
'Twas not given to you alone!
Pass it on.
Let it travel down the years,
Let it wipe another's tears,
Till in heaven the deed appears;
Pass it on.
"Freemasonry brings to fruition all the kindly impulses of human nature which in the struggle for existence often lie dormant or are suppressed. It is a religion of love to God and man. As a fountain throws its living water heavenwards to descend in fertilizing showers upon the earth, so does a Mason's adoration of the Most High find its full fruition in scattering blessings among his fellow-men."
Dickinson writes :-
If I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain,
If I can ease one life the aching, Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin Into his nest again
I shall not live in vain.
Another writer says: "Make one person happy each day and in forty years you have made fourteen thousand six hundred human beings happy for a little time at least."
Robert Browning tells us- "Desire joy and thank God for it. Renounce it, if need be, for others sake. That's joy beyond joy.
"It is by ministering to the wants of our brethren that faith in the Father of All is best shewn. For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he 'love God whom he hath not seen?"
Consider these beautiful lines by Leigh Hunt -
"Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase I)
Awoke one night from a great dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight of his room,
Making it rich and like a lily in bloom,
An Angel, writing in a book of gold.
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
So to the Presence in the room he said:
`What writest thou?'
The Vision raised his head,
And in a voice made of all sweet accord,
Answered: 'The names of those who love the Lord I'
'And is mine one?' said Abou.
'Nay, not so,' Replied the Angel.
Abou spake more low
But cheerily still, and said, 'I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow-men.'
The Angel wrote and vanished.
The next night He came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the souls whom love of God had blest,
And lo! - Ben Adhem's name led all the rest!"
"The definition of 'Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father,' is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world." Hence Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth, signify Love to the Brethren, relief to the distressed, and reverence to the God of Truth.
How necessary it is for us to practise the spirit of tolerance may be conceived from" a touching story of a humble and ignorant worshipper as told about, seven hundred years ago by the great Sufi poet of Persia, Jallalu'd-Din. Moses, in his wanderings in the wilderness came upon a shepherd who was praying to God in the fervour of his soul, and saying:
'Oh, my Master, my Lord, would that I knew where I might find Thee and become Thy servant. Would that I might tie Thy shoe latchet and comb Thy hair, and wash Thy robes, and kiss Thy beautiful feet, and sweep Thy chamber, and serve the milk of my goats to Thee, for whom my heart crieth out!' And the anger of Moses was kindled, and he said to the shepherd: 'Thou blasphemest. The Most High has no body, and no need of clothing, nor of nourishment nor of a chamber, nor of a domestic. Thou art an infidel.' And the heart of the shepherd was darkened, for he could make to himself no image of one without bodily form and corporeal wants; and he gave himself up to despair and ceased to serve God. And God spake unto Moses and said: 'Why hast thou driven my servant away from me? Every man has received from Me his mode of being, his way of speech. What is evil in thee is good in another. What is poison to thee is honey to him. Words are nothing to Me, I regard the heart. The compass serves only to direct the prayers of those who are without the Ka`ba. Within, no one has need of it!"
This narrative, brethren, clearly depicts the necessity for our exercising an all-round spirit of tolerance, and it also confirms the truth of the saying -
"God does not weigh criminality in our scales. His measure is the heart of the offender."
Or in the words of Thomas a Kempis "man considereth the deeds, but God weigheth the intentions."
Brethren, in the light of what I have read out to you, how many of us can conscientiously profess to be genuine Freemasons. And yet, brethren, if you will give the matter a little thought, you will realize that it is not so very difficult for us to fulfil those requirements which would qualify us as real, true and honest Freemasons.
"Four things a man must learn to do
If he would make his record true:
To think without confusion clearly;
To love his fellow-men sincerely:
To act from honest motives purely;
To trust in God and heaven securely."