|The Masonic Legend
The Sacred Name
Jealousy and Rebellion
Words of Power
The Law of Retribution
See also:Introduction to the Bible
The Sacred Name
Man's Place in the Creative Order
Overcoming Personal Difficulties
Degree XIII — Questions Set 1
Degree XIII — Questions Set 2
Degree XIII — Questions Set 3
The Masonic Legend My Brethren, this is the Legend and History of this Degree as it has come to us, partly in the Jewish writings, and partly by Masonic tradition.
Enoch, the son of Jared, was the sixth in descent from Adam, the father of the human race [Genesis, 5 — Ed]. Filled with the fear and love of God, while the world grew wicked around him, he adored and revered him, and obeyed His laws, and strove to lead men in the way of Honour and Duty. He dreamed that the Deity appeared to him in visible shape, and said to him, "Enoch, thou hast longed to know My True Name. Arise and follow me, and thou shalt learn it". Then it seemed to Enoch that he was taken up, and in an instant transported to a mountain whose summit was hid among the clouds, and seemed to reach the stars, and there he saw upon the clouds, in letters of brilliant light, the awful and mysterious name whose pronunciation he was prohibited from uttering to any man. Instantly he seemed to be transported from the mountain, and to descend perpendicularly into the earth, passing through nine subterranean apartments, one below the other, and each roofed with arches; in the ninth and lowest of which he saw, upon a triangular plate of gold, surrounded by brilliant rays of light, the same Ineffable Name which he had seen upon the mountain; and thereupon he awoke.
Enoch, accepting his dream as an inspiration, journeyed in search of the mountain which he had seen in his dream until, wearied of the search, he stopped in the land of Canaan, then already populous with the descendants of Adam; and there employing workmen, and with the help of his son Methuselah, he excavated nine apartments in the earth, one above the other, and each roofed with arches, as he had seen them in his dream, the lowest being hewed out of the solid rock. In the crown of each arch he left a narrow aperture, closed with a square stone, and over the upper one he built a modest temple, roofless, and of huge unhewn stones, to the Grand Architect of the Universe. Upon a triangular plate of gold, inlaid with many precious gems, he engraved the Ineffable Name of God, and sank the plate into one face of a cube of agate which he then placed upon a pedestal of white alabaster, in the lowest of the nine apartments. The pedestal was triangular and hollow, and into it, from a crevice in the rock, flowed a stream of inflammable air that burned continually with a brilliant light, until after it was discovered in the reign of Solomon.
None knew of his deposits of this precious treasure; and that it might remain undiscovered, and survive the flood which, it was made known to him, would soon overwhelm all the known world in one vast sea of ruin, he covered the aperture and the stone that closed it and the great ring of iron used to raise the stone, with the granite pavement of his primitive temple.
Then, fearing that all knowledge of the arts and sciences would be lost in the universal flood, he built two great columns upon a high hill, one of brass, to resist water, and one of granite, to resist fire. Upon the granite column he engraved, in the hieroglyphics which Mizraim [Gen. 10:6,13 and 1 Chron.1:8,11 — Ed.] afterwards carried into Egypt, a description of the subterranean apartments and of the treasure there deposited: and on that of brass, the rudiments of all the arts and sciences then known, and the great truths familiar to the antediluvian Masons.
The granite column was overthrown and swept away and worn to a shapeless mass by the great Deluge, and the characters upon it wholly obliterated; but that of brass, by God's Providence, stood firm, and was afterwards found by Noah, who sought in vain for that of granite, the purport of the inscription upon which he knew from Methuselah, his grandfather, but not the place of the Temple or the subterranean apartments to which that inscription would have guided him.
Thenceforward the true name of God remained unknown until He said unto Moses, in Egypt, when He ordered him to go unto Pharaoh and cause him to send forth the children of Israel out of Egypt, "I am that which was and shall be. I am the God of thy Fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob. Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel, HE WHO IS has sent me unto you. I am the Lord that appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob by my name AL_SHEDI; but my name I did not show them".
That Ineffable Name, meaning The Eternal, Self-Existent Being, Independent, Infinite, without Beginning, End or Change, the Source of all other Beings, Moses engraved upon a plate of gold and placed it in the Ark of the Covenant, where it remained for many years during the time of Joshua and unto the time of the Judges who succeeded him. Forbidden to make known its true pronunciation to the people, he communicated it to Aaron and to Joshua only; and it was afterwards made known to the Chief Priests alone. The word being composed of consonants only, so that its true pronunciation could only be communicated orally, it was wholly lost in the revolutions and disasters that ensued after the death of Joshua and his immediate successors.
But the word still remained in the Ark, engraved on the plate of gold; and in the time of Othniel, the son of Cenez, the younger brother of Caleb [Judges 3:8-10 — Ed.], in a battle against Chusan-Rasatheim, King of Syria, those who bore the ark were slain by an ambush in a forest, and the ark fell upon the ground. The enemy, attacked and defeated in their turn, were driven from the place before they had time to plunder it; and after the battle, the men of Israel searching for it were led to it by the roaring of a Lion which, couching by it, had guarded it, holding the golden key in his mouth. Upon the approach of the High priest and Levites, he laid down the key and withdrew in peace, allowing them to take away the ark, taught by the Deity Himself that the Israelites were His chosen people, entitled to the custody of that which contained His Sacred Name. Hence, upon the golden key worn by our Grand Treasurer, you see the initials of these words: In Ore Leonis Verbum Inveni: In the Lion's mouth I found the Word.
When the Philistines took the ark in the time of Samuel [1 Sam. 4 — Ed], and Ophni and Phineas, the sons of Eli, were slain defending it, those who took it melted down the plate of gold and made of it an image of Dagon; and thenceforward no man saw that Ineffable Name until the reign of Solomon, King of Israel.
Among them, as among all other nations, the conceptions of God formed by individuals varied according to their intellectual and spiritual capacities; poor and imperfect, and investing God with the commonest attributes of humanity among the ignorant and coarse, but pure and lofty among the virtuous and richly gifted. These conceptions gradually improved and became purified and ennobled as the Hebrews advanced in civilisation, being lowest in the Historical Books, amended in the Prophetic writings, and reaching their highest elevation among the Poets. Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nachor, served other gods [Jos. 24:2 — Ed.]. The Elohim, or subordinate deities, are represented in the commencement of the Book of Genesis as creating the Universe. Laban, a near relative of Abraham, and whose sister was selected as a wife for Isaac, pursued Jacob for having stolen his Gods [Gen. 31:19 — Ed.] and Jacob collected the strange Gods worshipped by his household and hid them under an oak [Gen. 35:4 — Ed.].
In the mind of Moses, an intellectual and highly educated man, versed in all the learning of the Egyptians, the conceptions of the God of Israel reached a sublime simplicity of expression; and yet he admitted the existence of other Gods, not asserting that He was the sole God, but only that He was superior to all others.
Among the People, the God of the ignorant, the God of the Priests, and the God of the Prophets were the embodiments of two very different classes of ideas. The God of Exodus and Numbers is represented as partial, unstable, revengeful and deceitful; while the ideas of Deity contained in the book of Job, the nobler Psalms, in Ezekiel and Daniel, are magnificent, simple and sublime. The idea of the One Living and True God was a plant of slow and gradual growth in the Hebrew mind; and if Moses, the Patriarchs, or the Priests had a true and adequate knowledge of Him and His attributes, they utterly failed to communicate that knowledge to the People at large. It was not until a late day in their history that the Jewish writers were heard to say, "Will God in very deed dwell on the earth? Behold, the Heaven and the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain Thee: how much less this House that I have builded? Whither shall I go from Thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy presence? ... Oh my God, Thou art very great; Thou art clothed with honour and majesty: Who coverest Thyself with light as with a garment; Who stretchest out the Heavens like a curtain; Who layeth the beams of His chambers in the waters; Who maketh the clouds His chariot; Who walketh upon the wings of the wind... I know that whatsoever God doeth, it shall be forever: nothing can be put to it, nor anything taken from it ... The Strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man that He should repent ... For the Word of the Lord is right; and all His works are done in Truth. He loveth righteousness and judgment. Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord; but they that deal truly are His delight. Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. He hath showed thee, O man, what is good: and what doth God require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God."
There is therefore a deeper meaning than appears upon the surface in the attempts of the ancient Israelites and of the initiates of Masonry to ascertain the true nature and attributes of God, their proneness to worship other deities, their low and erroneous notions of the Grand Architect of the Universe, of which all partook except a few favoured persons; for even Solomon built altars and sacrificed to Chemosh and Astarte; and the people were for many ages idolaters at heart. The True Nature of God was unknown to them, like His Name; and with the knowledge of the true pronunciation of that Name, they lost the knowledge of the Deity Himself, and worshipped the false gods of the surrounding nations.
There Solomon built the Temple. Under it he caused to be excavated a Secret Vault, the approach to which was through eight other vaults or apartments in succession, all under ground, and to which a long and narrow passage led from under the King's Palace. In the ninth apartment was placed a great column of white marble called a Pillar of Beauty, on which it was intended to place the Ark; and in this apartment he held his private conferences with King Hiram of Tyre and Hiram Abi; they only, beside himself, knowing the way by which it was approached.
While they were yet undetermined whom to choose, Solomon proposed to erect a public edifice for the administration of justice upon the site of the ancient Temple of Enoch; and to that end directed that the fallen columns and the rubbish should be removed. Adonhiram the Chief architect, with Joabert and Stolkin, two of the Intendants of the Building, were directed to go thither and survey the ground and lay off the foundations for the proposed building. In doing so, they removed some of the shattered fragments of the columns and of the old broken pavement, and discovered a large ring attached to a square slab of granite, raising which by their united strength, an aperture was disclosed like a deep well sunk in the earth. Joabert offered to explore it, and furnishing himself with a torch, was lowered into the opening by his Companions. After descending for some distance he came to a floor, and discovered in the centre of it a slab of granite with an iron ring, like that above, and raising the slab he saw another aperture through which he descended to another floor, and thence in like manner to another. Weary by his long suspension, and his torch nearly extinguished, he made known to his companions by shaking the rope that he desired to be drawn up. Arriving at the surface, he informed them of his discoveries, and his belief that there were other apartments still below.
Stolkin then offered to descend; and reaching the third floor, discovered a similar stone and ring, and afterwards two others in succession, and reaching the sixth floor, wearied with his exertion and his torch almost failing, he gave to signal to ascend, and was drawn up, without discovering that there were still other apartments below the sixth.
Adonhiram then descended, and passing through three more openings, reached the ninth apartment. As he reached it, his companions dislodged some rubbish above which falling upon him bruised him and extinguished his torch; and he then discovered in the centre of the apartment a luminous triangular pedestal of white alabaster, hollow, and lighted by an undying fire within; and upon which sat a cube of agate into one face of which was sunk a plate of gold thickly encrusted with precious gems that glittered in the light; and enamelled on the plate the Ineffable name of Deity, as the same had been placed there by Enoch the Patriarch.
Since the time of Samuel, that word had not been written in the copies of the law of Moses; but whenever it occurred, the word ADONAI has been substituted. Thus Adonhiram knew not the meaning of the word but, struck with admiration at the sight; astonished at the perpetual light fed by no human hand for many centuries, and which seemed to him to indicate the immediate presence of the Deity; and penetrated with gratitude to God for allowing him to make so wonderful a discovery, he fell upon one knee, and raising his hands uttered his thanks to God whom he yet knew only by His name ADONAI or AL-SHEDI, by which only He was known by the Patriarchs; and then, without rising, placed his right hand behind him, and seizing the rope, gave his companions the signal, and was drawn by them to the surface.
After informing his companions of that which he had seen and discovered, Adonhiram proposed that they should procure ladders of rope and descend together into the vault on the ensuing day. To this they gladly assented; and making known to no one what they had discovered, they procured ladders and, returning the next morning, descended together to the ninth apartment. At the sight of the luminous pedestal and Cube of Agate, Joabert and Stolkin, affected like Adonhiram with astonishment, awe, and gratitude, fell, as he also did again, upon their knees, and raising their hands to Heaven, thanked God for all His mercies, and especially for allowing them to discover these marvels.
Adonhiram and Stolkin first arose, and seeing Joabert, who was a Phoenician and originally a Stone Mason from the city of Gebal, still upon his knees, they placed their hands under his arms and assisted him to rise, Adonhiram saying to him, in consequence of their great friendship, Hamalek Kheblim, meaning "Chief of the United Brotherhood". Then examining the Cube of Agate, and not knowing the meaning of the Word upon it, they resolved to carry it to King Solomon and Hiram King of Tyre, who had then consummated their new and closer alliance, thinking that they might know the meaning of the mysterious Word.
Ascending therefore, with the Cube of Agate, they closed the entrance carefully and repaired to the Palace, where they found the two Kings conferring together. King Solomon, immediately on beholding the Cube and the inscription upon it, exclaimed to the King of Tyre, "My Brother, behold the True and Ineffable Name of the Eternal, Self-Existent and Almighty God, the Grand Architect of the Universe"; and he and King Hiram both fell upon their knees, raised their hands to Heaven, and thanked God for all His mercies, and especially for again allowing them to see his Ineffable name.
Then rising, King Solomon inquired of the three Brethren whence came the marvellous stone; and they thereupon recounted to him their whole adventure, even to the words spoken by Adonhiram, upon raising Joabert from his knees. Then Solomon, reflecting for a time, said:
"My Brother of Tyre, I remember well to have heard from my father David a tradition that the Patriarch Enoch, inspired by a dream in which he saw this Sacred Name, and knowing that the world was shortly to be overwhelmed by a flood, made such a vault as this that hath been discovered, and there deposited upon a plate of gold set in a great Agate the Ineffable Name of God; and afterwards engraved upon a granite column which the flood swept away and ground to a shapeless mass, directions in the Sacred Characters how to discover the place in which the Ineffable Name was so deposited. None were ever enabled to discover it; but it hath now most certainly been found, and we may make the Word known to those whose eminent merits shall entitle them to receive it, for it is the True Word of a Mason and the True Name of the Great Architect of the Universe, known to thee and me, and to our deceased Brother Hiram Abi."
Then King Solomon said to the three Brethren: "My brethren, the Great Architect of the Universe has bestowed upon you a signal mark of His favour by selecting you to be the discoverers of the precious treasures of Masonry. I rejoice with you upon this your great good fortune. Wear henceforth the title of Masons of the Ninth or Royal Arch, as a high honour and order of Nobility. I make it a degree in Masonry into which my Brother Hiram and myself will seek to be admitted, and which shall hereafter be conferred only at your pleasure, and as a high mark of distinction for eminent services rendered to the State or to Masonry. I have fixed upon a place in which to deposit this sacred treasure; and when it is so deposited, you shall be present and shall then learn the pronunciation of this Great and Ineffable Word, and the profound mysteries which it involves."
King Solomon then fixed upon the Signs, Token, and Password of the Degree: the signs imitating the actions of the three brethren upon first seeing the luminous Pedestal and Cube; the token representing the mode in which Adonhiram and Stolkin raised Joabert; and the password being the expression of affection and friendship addressed by Adonhiram to him in doing so. And he then said: "The Sacred Word of this Degree shall be the Great Ineffable Name: but in this degree it shall never be pronounced. I received it orally from my father David, and made it known to my Brother Hiram the King and my brother Hiram Abi. We agreed never to communicate it unless when we were all present. The Illustrious Hiram Abi died rather than divulge it. Long disused, and the name ADONAI substituted for it in the Sacred books, its true characters once again greet our eyes, and we shall perhaps be authorised to communicate it to others. In this Degree, it shall be communicated only by its letters, and that only in the presence of three Brethren: and I so communicate it to you."
Then he repeated to them the letters of which the word is composed, as you have already received them: and he also made known to them the nine names of Deity in different languages, which are the covering words of this degree, and to be used instead of the Ineffable Name.
Afterwards the two Kings, with Adonhiram, Joabert and Stolkin, deposited the cube of agate in the place prepared for its reception; and the degree of Grand, Elect, Perfect and Sublime Mason was then created and established, and received by them as the first five members of the degree of Perfection: and Adonhiram, Joabert and Stolkin then received the true pronunciation and explanation of the Sacred name, and learned the true nature and attributes of the Deity; to Whom, until that time, they had ascribed exaggerated human attributes and a nature assimilated to that of man.
After the Temple had been completed and dedicated, King Solomon selected the Twelve Princes Ameth, the nine most eminent Illustrious Elect of Fifteen, and Zerbal, who succeeded Adonhiram as Grand Master Architect; all of them Masons eminently distinguished by their talents and their virtues; and conferred upon them first the degree of Royal Arch, and then that of Perfection, and assigned them special duties. There were thus 27 Grand, Elect, Perfect and Sublime Masons.
One of the Deputation, not satisfied with this mild and gentle answer but giving way to his anger, insolently replied, "We are Master Masons, and do not need to receive the higher degrees created for the King's favourites. We know how the Word has been changed: and we will travel as Masters, and as such earn and receive our wages". The King, astonished at this intemperate response, but not moved to anger, mildly answered: "Those for whom the sublime degree of Perfection was first created had deserved it by descending into the bowels of the earth, and bringing thence a treasure inestimable to Masons, and which alone was needed to complete the Temple of the living God. Go in peace. Do as those Brothers did. Let your services in the cause of Masonry be as valuable, and your zeal and devotedness as great as theirs; and I, in my justice, will reward you as amply as you shall deserve".
The Deputies, returning, reported to those who sent them the responses of the King. Most of the Masons were satisfied and acknowledged his justice and strove by the strict performance of their duty to merit his favour and to attain to the degree of Perfection. But a small number, vain, jealous, and haughty men, resolved to explore the ruins where they understood the treasure had been found, in the hope of discovering other treasures; and intending, if they found any, to escape with them into foreign countries.
Accordingly, some twenty or more in number, they went to the ruins and at daybreak readily discovered an iron ring and near it the ladders by which the three discoverers had descended. They raised the stone while some of their companions, who in vain endeavoured to dissuade them from their purpose, remained at a distance watching them, and then they, one after the other, descended into the vault. A short time only elapsed when those who followed them and remained at a distance saw a flame of fire leap into the air from the aperture, and the roar of an explosion followed that shook the earth all around, and was heard even in the city, and all the arches were shattered and fell in, crushing and burying those who had descended; and thus their haughty insolence received its due reward. It was supposed that, finding in the ninth vault the luminous pedestal, and supposing it to contain valuable treasures, they had broken it to pieces, and that the flame had flashed out and filled the vault and thus produced the explosion. Nothing remained of the nine apartments except a chasm in the earth nearly filled with rubbish, which was afterwards filled up by order of King Solomon, and the proposed building erected over it.
It is true that, before the Masoretic prints were used, the pronunciation of a word in the Hebrew language could not be known from the characters in which it was written. It was therefore easy for that of the Name of the Deity to be forgotten and lost. It is certain its true pronunciation is not at all represented by the word JEHOVAH; and therefore that it is not the true name of Deity, nor the Ineffable Word. The pronunciation of the Word, and the Word itself, would be lost when the knowledge of the true nature and attributes of God faded out of the minds of the Jewish people and they adopted as their Gods Bel, Chemosh, Amun, Astarte, and other deities worshipped by the different nations by which they were successively subjugated. When they lost that knowledge, and then only, would they or could they forget the name of God. So long as they worshipped the True God, they would undoubtedly recollect His Name.
Among all the ancient nations, those who were enlightened and intelligent and educated had one faith and one idea of the Deity while the common people had another. To this rule, the Hebrews were no exception. JEHOVAH, to the mass of the people, was like the Gods of the nations round about, except that He was the peculiar God, first of the family of Abraham, of that of Isaac, and of that of Jacob, and afterwards the national God; and, as they believed, more powerful than the other Gods of the same nature worshipped by their neighbours.
Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, said to him [Exod. 18:11]: "Now I know that God is greater than all the Elohim; for in the very matter wherein they prided themselves, He proved Himself their superior".
So it is said [Exod. 22:28], "Thou shalt not revile the Elohim; nor curse the Ruler of thy People". So [Psalms 97: 7] "Worship Him, all ye Elohim". And the Witch of Endor said to Saul, "I saw Elohim ascending out of the Earth".
The Deity of the early Jews talked to Adam and Eve in the garden; He conversed with Cain; He sat with Abraham in his tent; that patriarch required a visible token before he would believe in His positive promise; He allowed Himself to be expostulated with and His determination in regard to Sodom changed, by Abraham; He showed Moses His person, though not His face; He is represented as dictating the minutest police regulations to the Israelites; He required and delighted in sacrifice and burnt offerings; He was angry, jealous and revengeful as well as wavering and irresolute; He allowed Moses to reason Him out of His fixed resolution to destroy the Israelites entirely; He commanded the performance of the most horrid and shocking acts of cruelty and barbarity, the murder of men and women, and the violation of innocent virgins. Such were the popular notions of the Deity; and no more unworthy and degraded ideas of God's nature were entertained by any people of antiquity. Either the priests took little trouble to correct these notions; or else the popular interest was not sufficiently enlarged to enable them to entertain any loftier conceptions of the Almighty.
The Supreme, Self-Existent, Eternal, All-Wise, All-Powerful, Infinitely Good, Beneficent and Merciful Creator of the Universe was the same, by whatever name He was called, to the intellectual and enlightened men of all nations. To communicate true and correct ideas in regard to Him was the object of the Mysteries. There Hiram the King of Tyre and Hiram Abi obtained their knowledge of Him and His nature. There it was taught to Moses and Pythagoras.
Hence many Masons regard the Legend of this Degree as but an allegory, representing the perpetuation of the knowledge of the True God by means of the Mysteries. By the subterranean vault they understand the place of initiation, which in the ancient ceremonies was generally underground. The Temple itself presented a symbolic image of the Universe, and resembled in its arrangements all the Temples of such of the ancient nations as practised the mysteries. The system of numbers was intimately connected with their religions and worship, and has come down to us in Masonry, though the esoteric meaning with which the numbers used by us are pregnant is scarcely known to most of those who use them. Those numbers were especially employed that had a reference to the Deity, represented His attributes, or figured in the framework of the world in time and space, and formed more or less the basis of that framework. These numbers were universally regarded as sacred, being the expression of Order and Intelligence, the utterances of Divinity Himself.
Within the Temple, all the arrangements were mystically and symbolically connected with the same system. The vault or ceiling, starred like the firmament, was supported by twelve columns representing the twelve months of the year. The border that ran around the columns represented the Zodiac, and one of the twelve celestial signs was appropriated to each column. The brazen sea was supported by twelve oxen, three looking to each cardinal point of the compass.
And so in our day every Masonic Lodge represents the Universe. Each extends, we are told, from the rising to the setting sun, from the South to the North, from the surface of the Earth to the Heavens, and from the same to the centre of the globe. In it are represented the sun, moon and stars; three great torches in the East, West and South, forming a triangle, give it light, and like the Delta or Triangle suspended in the East, and enclosing the Ineffable Name, indicate, by the mathematical equality of the angles and sides, the beautiful and harmonious proportions which govern in the aggregate and details of the Universe; while those sides and angles represent, by their number, the Trinity of Power, Wisdom and Harmony which presided at the building of this marvellous work. These three great lights also represent the great mystery of the three principles of creation, dissolution or destruction, and reproduction or regeneration, consecrated by all creeds in their numerous Trinities.
The luminous pedestal, lighted by the perpetual and undying flame within, is a symbol of that light of Reason, given by God to man, by which he is enabled to read in the book of Nature the record and revelation of the attributes and essence of the Deity.
The three Masters, Adonhiram, Joabert and Stolkin, are types of the true Mason, who seeks for knowledge from pure motives, and that he may be the better enabled to serve and benefit his fellow-men; while the discontented and presumptuous Masters who were buried in the ruins of the arches represent those who strive to acquire it for unholy purposes, to subjugate their fellows, and to gratify their pride, their vanity, or their ambition.
The Lion that guarded the Ark and held in his mouth the key wherewith to open it, figuratively represents Solomon, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who preserved and communicated the key to the true knowledge of God, of His laws, and of the profound mysteries of the moral and physical Universe.
The column of brass, erected by Enoch, and which survived the flood, allegorically represents the Mysteries and Masonry, from the earliest times the custodians and depositories of the great moral and religious truths unknown to the world at large, and handed down from age to age by an unbroken current of tradition embodied in symbols, emblems, and allegories.
Thus, my Brethren, do we interpret the Legend of this Degree. How it may have been founded is, after all, of little importance. To us its value consists in the lessons which it inculcates and the duties which it prescribes to those who receive it and assume its obligations.
For there is a religion of toil. It is not at all drudgery, a mere stretching of limbs and straining of the sinews to tasks. It has a meaning and an intent. A living heart pours life-blood into the toiling arm, and warm affections inspire and mingle with man's labours. They are the home affections. Labour toils a-field, or plies its tasks in cities, or urges the keels of commerce over wide oceans; but home is its centre; and thither it ever goes with its earnings, with the means of support and comfort for others; offerings sacred to the thought of every true man, as a sacrifice at a golden shrine. Many faults there are amidst the toils of life; many harsh and hasty words are uttered; but still the toils go on, weary and hard and exasperating as they often are. For in that home is age, or sickness, or helpless infancy, or gentle childhood, or feeble woman, that must not want. If man had no other than mere selfish impulses, the scene of labour which we behold around us would not exist.
The advocate who fairly and honestly presents his case with a feeling of true self-respect, honour, and conscience, to help the tribunal on towards the right conclusion with a feeling that God's justice reigns there, is acting a religious part, leading that day a religious life; or else right and justice are no part of religion. Whether, during all that day, he has once appealed, in form or in terms, to his conscience, or not; whether he has once spoken of religion and God, or not; if there has been the inward purpose, the conscious intent and desire, that sacred justice should triumph, he has that day led a good and religious life and made a most essential contribution to that religion of life and of society, the cause of equity between man and man, and of truth and right action in the world.
Books, to be of religious tendency in the Masonic sense, need not be books of sermons, of pious exercises, or of prayers. Whatever inculcates pure, noble and patriotic sentiments, or touches the heart with the beauty of virtue and the excellence of an upright life, accords with the religion of Masonry, and is the Gospel of literature and art. That Gospel is preached from many a wall and book, from many a poem and fiction, Review and Newspaper; and it is a painful error and miserable narrowness not to recognise these widespread agencies of Heaven's providing, not to see and welcome these many-handed coadjutors to the great and good cause.
There is also a religion of society. In business, there is much more than sale, exchange, price, payment: for there is the sacred faith of man in man. When we repose perfect confidence in the integrity of another; when we feel that he will not swerve from the right, frank, straight-forward, conscientious course for any temptation, his integrity and conscientiousness are the image of God to us; and when we believe in it, it is as great and generous an act as when we believe in the rectitude of the Deity.
In gay assemblies for amusement, the good affections of life gush and mingle. If they did not go up to these gathering-places, they would be as dreary and repulsive as the caves and dens of outlaws and robbers. When friends meet and hands are warmly pressed and the eye kindles and the countenance is suffused with gladness, there is a religion between their hearts; and each loves and worships the True and Good that is in the other. It is not policy that spreads such a charm around that meeting but the halo of bright and beautiful affection.
The same splendour of kindly liking and affectionate regard shines like the soft over-arching sky over all the world; over all places where men meet and walk or toil together — not over lovers' bowers and marriage-altars alone, not over the homes of purity and tenderness alone; but over all tilled fields and busy workshops and dusty highways and paved streets. There is not a worn stone upon the sidewalks but has been the altar of such offerings of mutual kindness: nor a wooden pillar or iron railing against which hearts beating with affection have not leaned. How many soever other elements there are in the stream of life that is flowing through these channels, that is surely here and everywhere honest, heartfelt, disinterested, inexpressible affection.
So every Masonic Lodge is a Temple of Religion; its officers, ministers of religion; its teachings, instructions in religion. For here we inculcate charity, hope, faith, disinterestedness, affection, toleration, patriotism, devotedness, and all the virtues. Here we meet as brothers, and learn to know and love each other. Here we greet each other with joy, are lenient to each other's faults, regardful of each other's feelings, ready to aid each other's wants. And that is the true religion revealed to the ancient Patriarchs, which Masonry taught many centuries ago, and which it will teach as long as Time endures. If unworthy passions and selfish, bitter or revengeful feelings, contempt, dislike, hatred, enter here, they are intruders, and most unwelcome: strangers, and not guests.
Certainly there are many evils and bad passions and much hate and contempt and unkindness everywhere in the world. We can not refuse to see the evil that is in life. But all is not evil. We still see God in the world. There is good amidst the evil. The hand of Mercy leads wealth to the hovels of poverty and sorrow. Truth and simplicity live amid many wiles and sophistries. There are good hearts beneath gay robes and beneath tattered garments also. Love clasps the hand of love amid all the envyings and distortions of showy competition; and fidelity, piety, sympathy hold the long night-watch by the bedside of the suffering neighbour amidst all surrounding poverty and misery. Noble and large-hearted men and women go from city to city to nurse those who are prostrated by the awful pestilence that depopulates; and poor lost women join them in this pious duty and risk their lives for strangers with the most unselfish heroism. Masonry still binds together its great brotherhood and, with the Odd-Fellowship and other kindred Orders, makes men love each other, feeds the hungry, clothes the naked, relieves the destitute, watches with the sick, and buries the dead. God bless the kindly office, the pitying thought, the loving heart, wherever they are! And they are everywhere.
There is an element of good in all men's lawful pursuits and a divine breathing in all their lawful affections. The ground on which they tread is holy ground. There is a natural religion of life, answering, with however many a broken bone, to the religion of Nature. There is a beauty and glory in Humanity, in man, answering, with however many a mingling shade, to the loveliness of soft landscapes and swelling hills, and the wondrous glory of the starry heavens.
Men may be virtuous, self-improving, and religious in their employments. Precisely for that, those employments were made. All their social relations, friendship, love, the ties of family, were made to be holy. They may be religious: not by a kind of protest and resistance against their several vocations, but by conformity to their true spirit. Those vocations do not exclude religion, but demand it, for their own perfection. They may be religious labourers, whether in field or factory: religious physicians, lawyers, sculptors, poets, painters, and musicians. They may be religious in all the toils and in all the amusements of life. Their life may be a religion, the broad earth its altar, its incense the very breath of life, its fires ever kindled by the brightness of Heaven.
Everything within us and without us is entitled to stir our minds to admiration and wonder. We are a mystery encompassed with mysteries. The connection of mind with matter is a mystery — that wonderful telegraphic communication between the brain and every part of the body. How does the nerve in the finger know of the will that moves it? What is that will; and how does its commanding act originate? It is all mystery. Within this folding veil of flesh, within these dark channels, every instant's action is a history of miracles. Every familiar step is more than a story in a land of enchantment. If a marble statue were suddenly endowed with our self-moving power, it would be intrinsically no more than is the action of every being around us.
The infinite variety of the human countenance is a wonder; and every familiar face around us bears mysteries and marvels in every look. What is it that holds together and secures on its firm foundation the very house we dwell in? Joint to joint, beam to beam, every post to its socket, is swathed and fastened by the same mighty bands that hold millions of worlds in their orbits. All active motion and all seeming rest are determined by unnumbered, nicely balanced, immeasurable influences and attractions. Universal harmony springs from infinite complication. The momentum of every step we take in our dwelling contributes its part to the order of the Universe.
We live in a system of things, and dwell in a palace whose dome is spread out in the boundless skies whose lights are hung in the wide arches of Heaven whose foundations are longer than the earth and broader than the sea: and yet we are connected by ties of thought, and even of matter, with its whole boundless extent; and every stamp of our foot has its influence upon the motion of that Universe. We are borne onward among the celestial spheres; rolling worlds are around us; bright, starry abodes fill all the coasts and skies of Heaven; we are borne on and kept by powers, silent and unperceived indeed, but real and boundless as the immeasurable Universe.
Nor is the small and finite less mysterious than the infinite. The humblest object beneath our eye as completely defies our scrutiny as the economy of the most distant star. Every blade of grass holds within itself secrets which no human penetration ever fathomed. Its internal organisation, its channels for the vital juices to flow in, its instruments to secrete the nutriment flowing upward from the soul and gathered from the atmosphere, its whole mechanism more curious than any ever framed by the ingenuity of man, present us questions which the profoundest philosopher cannot answer. No man can tell what is the principle of Life without which, though the whole organisation remains, the plant dies. None knows what is that wonderful power of secretion. There are inscrutable mysteries wrapped up in the foldings of that humble spire of grass.
You take your pen and sit down to spread out your account of the insignificance of human life. First, pause, and tell us how that pen was formed with which you would write and the table on which your paper lies. You can tell neither. The very instruments you use to record your thoughts startle you into astonishment. Wherever we place our hand, we lay it on the locked bosom of mystery. Step where we will, we tread upon a land of wonder. The furrows of the field, the clods of the valley, the dull beaten path, the insensible rock, are traced over and in every direction with this handwriting more significant and sublime than all the frowning ruins and all the overthrown or buried cities that past generations have left upon the earth. It is the handwriting of the Almighty.
The history of the humblest human life is a tale of marvels. There is no dull or unmeaning thing in existence did we but understand it. There is not one of our employments or of our states of mind that is not, if we could but interpret it, as significant, though not as instructive, as Holy Writ. Experience, sensation, feeling, suffering, rejoicing: a world of meaning and of wonder lies in the modes and changes, strugglings and soarings, of the life in which these are bound up.
There is a vision like that of Eliphaz [See the Book of Job, esp. chapters 4, 5, 15 and 22 — Ed] stealing upon us, if we would mark it, through the veils of every evening's shadows, or coming in the morning with the mysterious revival of thought and consciousness. There is a message whispering in the stirred leaves or starting beneath the clods of the field in the life that is everywhere bursting from its bosom. Every thing around us images a spiritual life in all forms, modes, processes, and changes. A Mason's great business with life is so to read the book of its teaching as to find that life is not the doing of drudgeries but the hearing of oracles. The old mythology is but a leaf in that book, for it peopled the world with spiritual natures; and science, many-leaved, still spreads before us the same tale of wonder.
The law of retribution presses upon every man, whether he thinks of it or not. It pursues him through all the courses of life with a step that never falters nor tires and with an eye that never sleeps nor slumbers. If it were not so, God's government would not be impartial; there would be no discrimination, no moral dominion, no light shed upon the mysteries of Providence.
Whatsoever a man soweth, that, and not something else, shall he reap. That which we are doing, good or evil, grave or gay; that which we do do today and shall do tomorrow; each thought, each feeling, each action, each event; every passing hour, every breathing moment: all are contributing to form the character according to which we are to be judged. Every particle of influence that goes to form that aggregate which is our character will, in that future scrutiny, be sifted out from the mass and, particle by particle, with ages perhaps intervening, fall a distinct contribution to the sum of our joys or woes. Thus every idle word and idle hour will give answer in the judgment.
Let us take care, therefore, what we sow. An evil temptation comes upon us — the opportunity of unrighteous gain or of unhallowed indulgence, either in the sphere of business or of pleasure, of society or solitude. We yield, and plant a seed of bitterness and sorrow. Tomorrow it will threaten discovery. Agitated and alarmed, we cover the sin and bury it deep in falsehood and hypocrisy. In the bosom where it lies concealed, in the fertile soil of kindred vices, that sin dies not, but thrives and grows; and other and still other germs of evil gather around the accursed root until, from that single seed of corruption, there springs up in the soul all that is horrible in habitual lying, knavery or vice. Loathingly, often, we take each downward step; but a frightful power urges us onward; and the hell of doubt, disease, ignominy or remorse gathers its shadows around our steps even on earth and are yet but the beginnings of sorrows. The evil deed may be done in a single moment; but conscience never dies, memory never sleeps; guilt never can become innocence; and remorse can never whisper peace.
Beware then, you who are tempted to evil; beware what you lay up for the future! Beware what you lay up in the Archives of Eternity! Wrong not your neighbour, lest the thought of him you injure and who suffers by your act be to you a pang which long years will not deprive of its bitterness. Break not into the house of innocence to rifle it of its treasure lest, when many years have passed, the moan of its distress may not have died away from your ear. Build not the desolate throne of ambition in your heart nor be busy with devices and circumventings and selfish schemings lest desolation and loneliness be on your path as it stretches into the long futurity. Live not a negligent and irreligious life: for, bound up with that life, is the immutable principle of an endless retribution and elements of God's creating which shall never spend their force but shall continue ever to unfold with the ages of Eternity. Be not deceived! God has formed your nature thus to answer to the future. His law can never be abrogated nor His justice eluded; and for ever and ever it will be true that "whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" [Gal. 6:7 — Ed].