Rτle of Masonry
The Mason's Responsibility
Is Masonry Perfect?
Is Masonry Obsolete?
See also:Degree XI Questions
You are to be true unto all men.
You are to be frank and sincere in all things.
You are to be earnest in doing whatever it is your duty to do.
And no man must repent that he has relied upon your resolve, your profession, or your word.
Feeling that sympathy, it is his first Masonic duty to serve his fellow man. At his first entrance into the Order, he ceases to be isolated and becomes one of a great brotherhood, assuming new duties towards every Mason that lives, as every Mason at the same moment assumes new duties towards him.
Nor are these duties on his part confined to Masons alone. He assumes many in regard to his country, and especially towards the great, suffering inarticulate common people, for they too are his brothers. By all proper means of persuasion and influence, and otherwise if the occasion and emergency require, he is bound to defend them against oppression and tyrannical and illegal transactions.
He labours equally to defend and to improve the People. He does not flatter them to mislead them, nor fawn upon them to rule them, nor conceal his opinions to humour them, nor tell them that they can never err, and that their voice is the voice of God. He knows that the safety of every free government, and its continuance and perpetuity, depend upon the virtue and intelligence of the common People: and that, unless their liberty is of such a kind as arms can neither procure nor take away; unless it is the fruit of piety, of justice, of temperance, and unadulterated virtue; unless, being such, it has taken deep root in the minds and hearts of the people at large; there will not long be wanting those who will snatch from them by treachery what they have acquired by arms.
He knows that if, after being released from the toils of war, the people neglect the arts of peace; if their peace and liberty be a state of warfare; if war be their only virtue and the summit of their praise: they will soon find peace the most adverse to their interests. It will be only a more distressing war; and that which they imagined liberty will be the worst of slavery. For, unless by the means of knowledge and morality not frothy and loquacious, but genuine, unadulterated and sincere they clear the horizon of the mind from those mists of error and passion which arise from ignorance and vice, they will always have those who will bend their necks to the yoke as if they were brutes; who, notwithstanding all their triumphs, will put them up to the highest bidder as if they were mere booty made in war; and find an exuberant source of wealth and power in the people's ignorance, prejudices and passions.
These are the first enemies to be subdued; this constitutes the campaign of Peace; these are the triumphs difficult, indeed, but bloodless and far more honourable than those trophies which are purchased only by slaughter and rapine: and if not victors in this service, it is vain to have been victorious over the despotic enemy in the field.
For if any people thinks that it is a more grand, a more beneficial, or a more wise policy to invent subtle expedients for increasing the revenue, to multiply its naval and military force, to rival in craft the ambassadors of foreign states, to plot and plan the seizure and swallowing up of foreign territory, and to form skilful treaties and alliances than to administer unpolluted justice to the People, to relieve the condition and raise the estate of the great dumb suffering masses, to redress the injured and succour the distressed, and speedily to restore to every one his own, then that people is involved in a cloud of Error; and will too late perceive, when the illusion of those mighty benefits has vanished, that in neglecting these which it thought inferior consideration, it has only been precipitating its own ruin and despair.
For though we do not know why God has so ordered it, it seems to be unquestionably His law that even in civilised and Christian countries, the large mass of the population shall be fortunate if, during their whole life from infancy to old age, in health and sickness, they have enough of the commonest and coarsest food to keep themselves and their children from being hungry; enough of the commonest and coarsest clothing to protect themselves and their children from indecent exposure and the bitter cold; and if over their heads they have the rudest shelter.
And He seems to have enacted this law, which no human community has yet found the means to abrogate, that when a country becomes populous, capital shall tend to concentrate in the hands of a limited number of persons, and labour shall become more and more dependent and more and more at the mercy of capital; until mere manual labour virtually ceases, in every populous country, to command more than a bare subsistence; and in great cities and large sections of country, it ceases to command even that, and goes about starving and begging for employment. While every ox and horse can find work and is worth being fed, it is not always so with man. To be employed, to have a chance to work at anything like fair wages, becomes the great engrossing object of a man's life. The capitalist can live without employing the labourer, and discharges him whenever that labour ceases to be profitable. At the moment when the weather is most inclement, provisions dearest, and rents highest, he turns him off to starve. If the day-labourer is taken sick, his wages stop. When old, he has no pension to retire upon. His children cannot be sent to school: for before their bones are hardened they must get to work lest they starve. The man, strong and able-bodied, works for a shilling or two a day: and the woman, shivering over her little pan of coals when the mercury drops far below zero after her hungry children have wailed themselves to sleep, sews by the dim light of her lonely candle for a bare pittance, selling her life to him who bargained only for the work of her needle.
Fathers and mothers slay their children to have the burial fees, that with the price of one child's life they may continue life in those that survive. Little girls with bare feet sweep the street crossings when the winter wind pinches them, and beg piteously for pennies of those who wear warm furs. Children grow up in squalid misery and brutal ignorance; want compels virgin and wife to prostitute themselves; women starve and freeze, and lean up against the walls of workhouses like bundles of foul rags all night long and night after night, when the cold rain falls and there chances to be no room for them within: and hundreds of families are crowded into a single building rife with horrors and teeming with foul air and pestilence; where men, women and children huddle together in their filth, of all ages and colours sleeping indiscriminately together: while, in a great, free, Republican State, in the full vigour of its youth and strength, one person in every seventeen is a pauper receiving charity.
How to deal with this apparently inevitable evil and mortal disease is the most important of all social problems. What is to be done with pauperism and superabundance of labour? How is the Country to be preserved if Brutality and Ignorance are by their votes to fill our offices and control our Government? Are turbulence and low vice, rather than wisdom and authority, to exalt the vilest miscreants from tavern and brothel to the rank and dignity of Senators?
For it is true now, as it always was and always will be, that to be free is the same thing as to be pious, to be wise, to be temperate and just, to be frugal and abstinent, to be magnanimous and brave. To be the opposite of all these is to be a slave: and it usually happens, by the appointment and, as it were, retributive justice of the Deity, that people who cannot govern themselves and moderate their passions, but crouch under the slavery of their lusts and vices, are delivered up to the sway of those whom they abhor and made to submit to an involuntary servitude.
And it is also sanctioned by the dictates of justice and by the constitution of Nature that he who, from the imbecility or derangement of his intellect, is incapable of governing himself, should, like a minor, be committed to the government of another.
Above all things let us never forget that mankind constitutes one great brotherhood all born to encounter suffering and sorrow, and therefore bound to sympathise with each other.
For no tower of Pride was ever yet high enough to lift its possessor above the trials and fears and frailties of humanity. No human hand ever built the wall, nor ever shall, that will keep out affliction, pain and infirmity. Sickness and sorrow, trouble and death, are dispensations that level everything. They know none high or low. The chief wants of life, the great and grave necessities of the human soul, give exemption to none. They make all poor, all weak. They put supplication in the mouth of every human being as truly as in that of the meanest beggar.
Virtue is the truest liberty. He is not free that stoops to passions; nor is he in bondage that serves a noble master. Examples are the best and most lasting lectures; virtue the best example. He that has in sincerity done good deeds and set good precedents is happy. Time shall not outlive his worth. He lives truly after death whose good deeds are his pillars of remembrance, and no day but adds some grains to his heap of glory. Good works are seeds that, after sowing, return us a continual harvest; and the memory of noble actions is more enduring than monuments of marble.
Life is a school. The world is neither prison nor penitentiary, nor a palace of ease, nor an amphitheatre for games and spectacles: it is a place of instruction and a school. Life is given for moral and spiritual learning, and the entire course of the great school of life is an education for virtue, happiness, and a future existence. The Periods of Life are its terms; all human conditions, its forms; all human employments, its lessons. Families are the primary departments of this moral education; the various circles of society, its advanced stages; Kingdoms and Republics, are its universities.
Riches and Poverty, Gaieties and Sorrows, marriages and funerals, the ties of life bound or broken, fit and fortunate or untoward and painful, are all lessons. Events are not blindly and carelessly flung together. Providence does not school one man and screen another from the fiery trial of its lessons. It has neither rich favourites nor poor victims. One event happens to all. One end and one design concern and urge all men.
The prosperous man has been at school. Perhaps he has thought that it was a great thing, and he a great personage; but he has been merely a pupil. He thought, perhaps, that he was Master, and had nothing to do but direct and command: but there was ever a Master above him, the Master of Life. He looks not at our splendid state, nor our many pretensions, nor at the aids and appliances of our learning: but at our learning itself. He puts the poor and the rich upon the same form, and knows no difference between them but their progress.
If from prosperity we have learned moderation, temperance, candour, modesty, gratitude to God, and generosity to man, then we are entitled to be honoured and rewarded. If we have learned selfishness, self-indulgence, wrong-doing and vice, to forget and overlook our less fortunate brother, and to scoff at the providence of God, then we are unworthy and dishonoured though we have been nursed with affluence or taken our degrees from the lineage of an hundred noble descents: as truly so, in the eye of Heaven and all right-thinking men as though we lay, victims of beggary and disease, in the hospital, by the hedge, or on the dung-hill. The most ordinary human equity looks not at the school but at the scholar; and the equity of Heaven will not look beneath that mark.
The poor man is also at school. Let him take care that he learn, rather than complain. Let him keep his integrity, his candour, and his kindness of heart. Let him beware of envy, and of bondage, and keep his self-respect. The body's toil is nothing. Let him beware of the mind's drudgery and degradation. While he betters his condition if he can, let him be more anxious to better his soul. Let him be willing, while poor, and even if always poor, to learn poverty's great lessons: fortitude, cheerfulness, contentment, and implicit confidence in God's Providence. With these, and patience, calmness, self-command, disinterestedness, and affectionate kindness, the humble dwelling may be hallowed and made more dear and noble than the loftiest palace. Let him, above all things, see that he lose not his independence. Let him not cast himself, a creature poorer than the poor, an indolent, helpless, despised beggar, on the kindness of others. Every man should choose to have God for his Master rather than men; and escape not from this school, either by dishonesty or alms-taking, lest he fall into that state, worse than disgrace, where he can have no respect for himself.
The ties of Society teach us to love one another. That is a miserable society where the absence of affectionate kindness is sought to be supplied by punctilious decorum, graceful urbanity, and polished insincerity; where ambition, jealousy and distrust rule in place of simplicity, confidence, and kindness.
So, too, the social state teaches modesty and gentleness. From neglect, notice unworthily bestowed on others, injustice, the world's failure to appreciate us, we learn patience and quietness, to be superior to society's opinion not cynical and bitter but gentle, candid, and affectionate still.
Death is the great Teacher: stern, cold, inexorable, irresistible, whom the collected might of the world cannot stay or ward off. The breath that, parting from the lips of King or Beggar, scarcely stirs the hushed air, cannot be bought or brought back for a moment with the wealth of Empires. What a lesson is this, teaching our frailty and feebleness and an Infinite Power beyond Us! It is a fearful lesson, that never becomes familiar. It walks through the earth in dread mystery, and lays its hands upon all. It is a universal lesson that is read everywhere and by all men. Its message comes every year and every day. The past years are crowded with its sad and solemn mementoes, and Death's finger traces its handwriting upon the walls of every human habitation.
It teaches us Duty; to act our part well; to fulfil the work assigned to us. When one is dying and after he is dead, there is but one question: Has he lived well? There is no evil in death but that which life makes.
There are hard lessons in the school of God's Providence: and yet the school of Life is carefully adjusted, nor is anything done for the sake of present effect. The whole course of human life is a conflict with difficulties and, if rightly conducted, a progress in improvement. It is never too late for man to learn. Not part only, but the whole of life, is a school. There never comes a time, even amidst the decays of age, when it is fit to lay aside the eagerness of acquisition or the cheerfulness of endeavour. Man walks, all through the course of life, in patience and strife and sometimes in darkness: from patience is to come perfection; from strife, triumph is to issue; from the cloud of darkness, the lightning is to flash that shall open the way to eternity.
There are springs of crystal nectar
Ever welling out of stone;
There are purple buds and golden
Hidden, crushed and overgrown.
God who counts by souls, not dresses,
Loves and prospers you and me:
While He values thrones the highest
But as bubbles on the sea.
Man, upraised above his fellows,
Oft forgets his fellows then;
Masters rulers lords, remember
That your meanest hands are men!
Men of labour, men of feeling,
Men by thought and men by fame,
Claiming equal rights to sunshine
In a man's ennobling name.
There are foam-embroidered oceans,
There are little weed-clad rills,
There are feeble inch-high saplings,
There are cedars on the hills;
God, who counts by souls, not stations,
Loves and prospers you and me;
For to Him all vain distinctions
Are as bubbles on the sea.
Toiling hands alone are builders
Of a nation's wealth and fame;
Titled laziness is pensioned,
Fed and fattened on the same;
By the sweat of other's forehead,
Living only to rejoice
While the poor man's outraged freedom
Vainly lifteth up its voice.
Truth and justice are eternal,
Born with loveliness and light;
Secret wrong shall never prosper
While there is a starry night.
God, whose world-heard voice is singing
Boundless love to you and me,
Bursts oppression with its titles
As the bubbles on the sea.
Nor are the other duties inculcated in this degree of less importance. Truth, a Mason is early told, is a Divine attribute and the foundation of every virtue; and frankness, reliability, sincerity, straight-forwardness, and plain-dealing are but different modes in which Truth develops itself. No Mason will willingly deceive the dead, the absent, the innocent, and those that trust him. To all these he owes a nobler justice, in that they are the most certain trials of human Equity. Only the most abandoned of men, said Cicero, will deceive him who would have remained uninjured had he not trusted. All the noble deeds that have beat their marches through succeeding ages have all proceeded from men of truth and genuine courage. The man that is always true is both virtuous and wise, and thus possesses the greatest guards of safety: for the law has not power to strike the virtuous, nor can fortune subvert the wise.
The bases of Masonry being morality and virtue, it is by studying one and practising the other that the conduct of a Mason becomes irreproachable. The good of Humanity being its principal object, disinterestedness is one of the first virtues that it requires of its members, for it is the source of justice and beneficence.
To pity the misfortunes of others; to be humble but without meanness; to abjure every sentiment of hatred and revenge; to show himself magnanimous and liberal without ostentation and without profusion; to be the enemy of vice; to pay homage to wisdom and virtue; to respect innocence; to be constant and patient in adversity and modest in prosperity; to avoid every irregularity which stains the soul and distempers the body: it is by following these precepts that a Mason will become a good citizen, a faithful husband, a tender father, an obedient son, and a true brother; will honour friendship and fulfil with ardour the duties which virtue and the social relations impose upon him.
It is because Masonry imposes upon us these duties that it is properly and significantly styled work: and he who imagines that he becomes a Mason by merely taking the two or three first degrees and that he may, having leisurely stepped upon that small elevation, thenceforward worthily wear the honours of Masonry without labour or exertion, and that there is nothing to be done in Masonry, is most strangely deceived.
Does one brother no longer proceed by law against another Brother of his Lodge in regard to matters that could be easily settled within the Masonic family circle?
Has the duel, that hideous heritage of barbarism, interdicted among Brethren by our fundamental laws, and denounced by the municipal code, yet disappeared from the soil we inhabit? Do Masons of high rank religiously refrain from it; or do they not, bowing to a corrupt public opinion, submit to its arbitrament, despite the scandal which it occasions to the Order and in violation of the feeble restraint of their oath?
Do Masons no longer form uncharitable opinions of their Brethren, enter harsh judgments against them, and judge themselves by one rule and their Brethren by another?
Has Masonry any well-regulated system of charity? Has it done that which it should not have done for the cause of education? Where are its schools, its academies, its colleges, its hospitals and infirmaries?
Are political controversies now conducted with no violence or bitterness?
Do Masons refrain from defaming and denouncing their Brethren who differ from them in religious or political opinions?
What grand social problems or useful projects engage our attention at our communications? Where in our Lodges are lectures habitually delivered for the real instruction of the Brethren? Do not our sessions pass in the discussion of minor matters of business, the settlement of points of order, questions of mere administration, and the admission and advancement of Candidates whom after their admission we take no pains to instruct?
In what Lodge are our ceremonies explained and elucidated, corrupted as they are by time until their true features can scarcely be distinguished; and where are those great primitive truths of revelation taught which Masonry has preserved to the world?
We have high dignities and sounding titles. Do their possessors qualify themselves to enlighten the world in respect to the aims and objects of Masonry? Descendants of those Initiates who governed empires, does your influence enter into practical life and operate efficiently in behalf of well regulated and constitutional liberty?
Your debates should be but friendly conversations. You need concord, union, and peace. Why then do you retain among you men who excite rivalries and jealousies? Why permit great and violent controversy and ambitious pretensions? How do your own words and acts agree? If your Masonry is a nullity, how can you exercise any influence on others?
Continually you praise each other and utter elaborate and high-wrought eulogies upon the Order. Everywhere you assume that you are what you should be, and nowhere do you look upon yourselves as you are. Is it true that all our actions are so many acts of homage to virtue? Explore the recesses of your hearts: let us examine ourselves with an impartial eye, and make answer to our own questioning. Can we bear to ourselves the consoling testimony that we always rigidly perform our duties?
Let us away with this odious self-flattery! Let us be men, if we cannot be sages! The laws of Masonry, above others excellent, cannot wholly change men's natures. They enlighten them; they point out the true way: but they can lead them in it only by repressing the fire of their passions. Alas, these often conquer, and Masonry is forgotten.
After praising each other all our lives, there are always excellent Brothers who, over our coffins, shower unlimited eulogies. Every one of us who dies has been a model of all the virtues, a very child of the celestial light. In Egypt, among our old Masters, where Masonry was more cultivated than vanity, no one could gain admittance to the sacred asylum of the tomb until he had passed under the most solemn judgment. A grave Tribunal sat in judgment upon all, even the kings. They said to the dead, "Whoever thou art, give account to thy country of thine actions. What hast thou done with thy time and life? The law interrogates thee, thy country hears thee, Truth sits in judgment on thee." Princes came there to be judged, escorted only by their virtues and their vices. A public accuser recounted the history of the dead man's life, and threw the blaze of the torch of truth on all his actions. If it were adjudged that the deceased had led an evil life, his memory was condemned in the presence of the nation, and his body was denied the honours of sepulture. Lo, what a lesson the old Masonry gave to the sons of the People!
Is freedom yet universal? Have ignorance and prejudice disappeared from the earth? Are there no longer enmities among men? Do cupidity and falsehood no longer exist? Do toleration and harmony prevail among sects religious and political?
There are yet left for Masonry to accomplish works greater than the twelve labours of Hercules: to advance ever, resolutely and steadily; to enlighten the minds of the people; to reconstruct society; to reform the laws; to improve the public morals. The eternity in front of it is as infinite as the one behind. And it cannot cease to labour in the cause of social progress without ceasing to be true to itself without ceasing to be Masonry.