FREEMASONRY - AN INSTITUTION OF PRACTICAL VIRTUES

THE MASONIC REVIEW - 1851

The following beautiful article we take from an address

delivered before Western Star Lodge, No. 2, at Little Rock,

Ark,, on St. John's day, in June last, by Bro. E. H. English. In

its description of the practical virtues of Masonry, and in the

argument raised on that feature in our Order, it meets our

most cordial approval; and we transfer it to our pages, that

others may have the benefit of its perusal.

Masonry is an institution of practical virtues, taught by

pleasing ceremonies, and impressed upon the mind by

beautiful and appropriate emblems; and to the fact that it is

an institution of practical virtues, and not of mere abstract or

speculative faith, it owes the preservation of its unity for so

many centuries. - About matters of faith which lie far beyond

the visual ken - which appertain to another and an unseen

world - men are prone to speculate and conjecture, and must

necessarily differ; and this difference of opinion becoming

animated, as it always does, leads first to disputation, then to

strife, and finally to separation. Hence the cause of the

numerous and distinct organizations of religious bodies. Men

readily agree upon cardinal virtues, but are prone to differ

and disunite upon questions of speculative faith: far

example:

Suppose we summon all the reverend Bishops, Fathers,

Elders, and Doctors of Divinity from every tribe, kindred and

association of men into one great conclave: Suppose a

Mason to propound the following questions to the august

Assembly: Most reverend Sirs, should man offer up his daily

devotions to the true and ever living God, and pursue with

industry the designs marked out upon the moral trestle-

board? Should he act upon the square and keep a tongue of

good report? Should he be just, merciful, prudent, frugal,

discreet and temperate in all things? Should he do no wrong

to the person, the property or the reputation of his neighbor?

Should he wipe the tear from the eye of sorrow, and fill the

hungering mouth with bread? Should he minister like a

guardian Angel at the bed-side of an afflicted brother, and if

the cold hand of death is laid upon him, follow him to the

silent resting place of the dead, see that he is decently

interred, and take care that his widow and his orphan are not

reduced to penury and want? - The whole Assembly would

respond, with one voice and one heart: - Yea, verily! all

these things should men do and perform, and in no wise

omit!

But suppose the Mason to be a little curious, and to ask

further: But tell me reverend fathers, does God exist in

"Trinity" or "Unity"? - What are the "eternal decrees" of

Heaven, and how far do they affect the individual destinies of

men? In the kingdom of Satan, are the lost really punished

by material fire, brimstone and molten lead, or does the dark

pall of a guilty conscience torment them in their dreary and

hopeless abode? Is there a Purgatory? To whom did Peter

bequeath the keys of the celestial kingdom on his demise,

through what succession have they been transmitted, and

who has them now? Did Philip plunge the Treasurer of the

Ethiopian queen head and ears into the water, or dip up the

emblematical element in a ram's horn and pour it on his

head, or sprinkle the sparkling spray in his face, and thereby

cause the rainbow of immortal hope to arch his brow? Tell

me of Heaven. Where is it? How many Angels are there?

When, and of what were they made? Do they eat and drink,

or merely live upon the air of Heaven? Were all the souls of

men made at one, or at different times?

Are they sparks from the Divine Essence, or of what were

they formed? These questions would fall like so many fire-

brands into the grave Assembly; a war of words would ensue

among contending Doctors, the conference would adjourn,

sine die, in confusion, and each man would betake himself to

his peculiar organization, and cling more closely to his own

faith.

Think not that I design by this illustration to disparage

Christianity - the purest and best of all institutions - far from

it. If these divisions of men in reference to matters of

Speculative faith are wrong - if they were not designed by

Providence for wise and useful purposes - then the fault is in

man and not in Christianity. Prompted by an overreaching

curiosity peculiar to our nature, we are not content to believe

and follow that which is clearly revealed to us, but are prone

to launch out upon an unknown sea, and attempt to fathom

unrevealed mysteries, which the mind of man can never

comprehend until the clouds of mortality are rifted from its

vision, and the soul makes a nearer approach to the

illuminating fountain of Divine Wisdom!

I repeat, therefore, that masonry owes the preservation of its

unity to the fact that it is an Institution of practical virtues,

and not of abstract or speculative faith.

But it is by no means to be inferred that Masonry is destitute

of faith. She believes in a sublime Lodge above, where the

Supreme Architect of the Universe presides; and where all

good Masons hope to arrive at last by the aid of the

theological ladder which Jacob in his vision saw, ascending

from earth to Heaven, the three principal rounds of which are

faith, hope and charity - that is to say, faith in God, hope in

immortality, and charity toward all mankind. And in this faith,

the fraternity, of every people and religion, harmoniously

agree. Masonry is not designed, however, to stand in the

place of Christianity, but merely to serve as a beautiful hand-

maiden to her.

 

         

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