by W.Bro the Rev. Joseph Johnson, P.A.G.Chaplain
The philosophy of Freemasonry is to prepare, educate and train its members for the higher relationships of life. In so doing it demonstrated its faith in mankind and in return invites confidence, trust and loyalty. It believes that the humblest life launched on the sea of humanity has within it the slumbering forces of noble manhood waiting only for the sympathetic touch to rouse and stimulate the innate qualities of the soul.
Masonry invites none to join its ranks but it embraces men of all creeds, colour and conditions. By the practise of the spirit of charity, the toleration of varied ofttimes opposite creeds, and by a universal bond of of brotherhood it brings and holds together men of every country and nationality, who otherwise would have remained apart, but who by means of Masonry meet on the level and separate on the square.
Masonry is not a religion in the ecclesiastical or theological sense. It creates no church, administers no ordinance and has no ministerial or sacerdotal class. It is an ally of religion, indeed the most powerful auxiliary to religion we know, but it is in no sense a substitute for it. Religion is at the foundation of Masonry and fundamentally it is spiritual. It teaches the essential spiritual truths on which all region is based - faith in God, love to man and hope of immortality. Religion builds civilisation and Masonry works on the civilisation built. The one supplements the other.
Masonry does not seek to usurp the place of the Church. It aims rather to aid and support all the ethical teachings of the Church. A man should not be less but more religious through his association with Freemasonry, for it instils and enforces the sacred duties of brotherly love, relief and truth, and inculcates all mutual duties and obligations of man to man in the relationship of life.
The vitality of Masonry is not due to exalted patronage or to social influence. It is due to the moral effect of its teaching, to sense of duty by which its members are animated and sustained in ungrudging and unwearying devotion to every good work. Masonry may be likened to a mighty stream penetrating every hill and mountain, gliding over plain and valley, bearing on its beneficent bosom the abundant waters of love and charity for the needy, and for widows and orphans of Brethren in all lands. This ever flowing stream vitalises every man who seriously participates in it, and the result is seen in men living more deeply, more bravely and consistently, and in their being drawn closer together in mutual goodwill and service. It cannot be otherwise so long as Masonry instructs its members in the active principles of universal beneficence and charity, and bids them solace to their fellow creatures in the hour of affliction.
In the shaping and moulding of character Freemasonry makes a valuable contribution to the life of the modern world. It really exists for this and when it has succeeded in implanting in its members the great cardinal virtues of friendship, morality, and brotherly love, supported by an unswerving faith in T.G.A.O.T.U. before whom all Masons must humbly bow, and sends them forth to live after this manner before their fellow men, then it has accomplished a great task and made a supreme contribution to the life of the world. He who learns these lessons will not only walk humbly before God, but will express his Masonic character in an inflexible fidelity to his country`s ideals and laws, for Freemasonry is rooted deeply in the sterling rule of patriotism; and will give himself in a ready and helpful service to his fellowmen in so far as he can do without detriment to himself and those dependent on him.
Freemasonry also makes for friendship. Friendship-fraternity is indispensable in human life. Friendship should be simple, sincere and reliable. As "iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend" are words credited to Solomon in the far distant past but they are still true and pregnant with meaning. Cicero said "They seem to take away the sun from the world who withdraw friendship from life, for we have received nothing better, nothing more delightful." One of our great English poets says:-
"The friends thou hast and their adoption tried,
Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel."
Freemasonry promotes friendship and the kind of friendship the world is craving for, a friendship that means a better spirit of concord and harmony between nations, a deeper fellowship between communities, and a more warm hearted sympathy between individuals. If there must be another war, let it be a war against ignorance, selfishness, sinful indulgence and greed, and led by spirit and teaching of Masonry, victory will be assured.
Freemasonry is a life to be lived, not a formality to be perfunctorily observed or a set of empty creeds to which lip service is given. It is a life grounded on religion, organised in mortality, mellowed by good fellowship, humanised in charity, dedicated to service, and must ever stand for the love of God, the dignity and worth of man and for realisation of true brotherhood.
The glory of our ancient landmarks can never be preserved better or be more enhanced than when we as individuals are giving ourselves in obedience to our God, in patriotic devotion to our country, and in deeds of service to our fellowmen. Let us not forget that the crowning glory of Freemasonry is not in its forms and ceremonies, but in the sterling character it seeks to implant in the lives of its members. Masonry does not measure men by the standards of knowledge, eloquence or wealth but by their character and service. It delights in the development of a fraternity of great hearts, of Brethren who are never knowingly rude, selfish, resentful, never glad when others go wrong, but always courteous, generous, eager to believe the best, ever ready with outstretched hand to lift the fallen, cheer the disheartened, and to give relief and comfort to those in distress. This is the surest way to secure "Peace on Earth" and "goodwill among men."
"We are building every day
In a good or evil way;
And in the structure as it grows
Must our inward self disclose,
Till in every arch and line
All our hidden faults outshine.
Do you ask what building this,
That can show both pain and bliss -
That can be both dark and fair?
Lo! Its name is character.
Build it well, what e`er you do!
Build it straight, and strong and true!
Build it clean, and high, and broad -
Build it for the eye of God!"