THE GENIUS OF MASONRY

BY A ROYAL ARCH  MASON

THE MASONIC REVIEW  - 1855



OUR object in this article will be to show not only what is
peculiar to Masonry, but in what respects it differs from all
other associations of a kindred character. Many have grossly
misjudged of Masonry, by regarding it in the light of a Divine
institution. By thus investing it with a sanctity which never
belonged to it, and to which it never made any claims, the
members of the fraternity have been held responsible for a
purity of life and an integrity of deportment even greater than
that which has been required of professors of religion.
Though it has its altar and its priests, its rites and its
ceremonies, yet it does not invade the sanctuary of religion,
nor assume an organization based upon the recognition of a
religious creed, requiring faith therein as a condition of
membership.

It requires no religious tests, save a belief in God and his
revealed will, of any who enter its hallowed courts. Founded
in a belief of the existence of God the great Jehovah, the
supreme Architect and Ruler of the Universe, a firm and
unwavering trust in his goodness and mercy, united with a
belief in the Revelation which he has made to man, as
contained in the Holy Scriptures, it leaves intact the right of
private judgment, thus bringing all men of all creeds upon
one common platform of faith, and uniting them together in a
pure spiritual worship. In the Masonic fraternity an Atheist is
a monster, for whom there can be found no name or place in
all her records.

We can only discuss the principles of Masonry in the light of
a human institution, subjecting those principles to the
common and universal standard of morality. It is only in
contrast, or rather we should say, in comparison with
institutions of a similar character that we can judge of its
peculiarity in respect to all those things which pertain to
man's happiness in the moral and social state. In all matters
pertaining to Church and State regulations concerning man's
faith or politics, the Order stands entirely aloof, exhibiting its
genius only in whatever bears a relation to his moral and
social life. While it embraces the idea of a universal liberty, a
universal equality, and a universal fraternity, it at the same
time wisely guards these greatest of earthly blessings, and
by an ordination peculiar to the Craft, prevents them from
degenerating into an unbridled licentiousness on the one
hand, a wild anarchy on the other, and infidel socialism on
the third. It takes men as they are, in their rude, native,
depraved state - as rough, misshapen blocks from the quarry
of nature - and by the application of those great rules of
social and moral life, upon which the institution is founded,
reduces the human character to a symmetry and beauty of
form such as will make them pillars in the fabric of society. It
claims to "improve the manners and to mend the heart," not,
however, by a divine or superhuman agency, but by the
inculcation of a rule of life drawn from the holy Scriptures,
most beautifully and impressively symbolized by the plumb,
the level, and the square. Human actions are not left to the
guidance and control of a naked faith, but are reduced to a
science, at once purifying and ennobling.

This is Masonry, and whoever teaches to the contrary does
not deserve to be dignified with the title of an apprentice to
an art whose characteristics are wisdom, strength, beauty,
temperance, prudence, justice and truth.

But it may be asked, in what respect does Masonry differ
from other institutions of a social character? and this brings
us to a consideration of the genius of the Order. In reply to
this, we remark that the Masonic Institution differs from all
other human institutions both in its letter and in its spirit. Its
peculiarity, in regard to the letter, consists in, and is
exhibited by its ancient constitutions and landmarks. It has
outlived all other human constitutions, and as it regards its
landmarks, though thousands of centuries have passed
away, during which empires and nations have risen,
flourished, fallen, and passed away from the memory of
man, or at most, only live upon the page of history, it may be
said in reference to every thing essential to the integrity of
the institution, that they have not been removed, but remain
unchanged and unchangeable. Other institutions that have
come down from antiquity, through the ever varying progress
of human events, have lost their original character, and been
merged into the spirit of the age, assuming new forms as the
genius of the times have dictated; but Masonry, like the
granite pyramids, with base deeply imbedded in the plain,
and apex pointing to heaven, has stood the shock of
centuries, and towers sublimely over the wrecks of time. The
effacing fingers of decay have not swept one line of beauty
from its calm, benignant features; pediment and plinth and
shaft and capital, arch and key-stone, corner-stone and cap-
stone, remain as entire as when first placed by the architect,
and no symptoms of decay or dissolution are to be found in
the whole temple of the mystic art.

But what were the temple without the presiding genius?
What were the body without the soul? As the temple of
Solomon, on Mount Moriah without the Divine Shekina,
whose glory illumined, and whose presence inspired its
priests and prophets, was drear and desolate, so the temple
of Masonry, though standing in all its strength and beauty -

"With cornice and frieze and lofty sculptures graven,"

would be like the rock excavated temples of Petra, "a
habitation for dragons, and a court for owls." If over the wide
arched gateway was not inscribed in letters of light,
"Brotherly love, Relief and Truth," if a masonic faith, a
masonic hope, and a masonic charity did not pervade the
minds and hearts of those who entered and dwelt in her
courts, then would the order exist only in name, a solemn
mockery, a hiss and a bye-word, provoking only the
contempt of the world and the reprobation of heaven.

The love of others may fail, but a Mason's is lasting as life
and stronger than death. In the day of prosperity multitudes
will flit and flutter around, like the light winged insects of a
summer's day, but no sooner does the dark, stormy hour of
adversity come, than they disappear, and leave the
unfortunate to sadness and despair. The fidelity of others
may fail, and the most solemn asseverations may prove to
have been falsehoods, designed to deceive; but truth, the
foundation of every virtue, is the guiding star of every upright
Mason, and no fear or fraud or favor will for a moment cause
him to swerve from the unerring line.

The faith of others may falter and their trust in God be
shaken by the waywardness of the world, the uncertainty of
earthly events, and the assaults of infidelity; but the firm
foundations of a Mason's faith can never be moved; founded
upon the "rock of ages," the powers of destruction shall not
prevail against it.

The hopes of others in the dark and trying hour, may yield,
and the heart, sickened by a sad delay, may turn
distrustingly away from the object of its pursuit, but the hope
of a Mason is like an anchor to the soul amid the storms of
life, secured by which he outrides the tempest, and glides
peacefully into that harbor, "where the wicked cease to
trouble, and the weary are forever at rest."

The charity of others may fail, and the tongue of slander may
blast with its sirocco breath the fairest fame; but a Mason's
charity faileth never. "It believeth all things, hopeth all things,
endureth all things;" and when the storm of execration and
hate would come, and with merciless violence sweep away
the last redeeming remnant of good, it casts its broad mantle
over the vices and follies of the erring, and though it justifieth
not, in the midst of wrath, it remembers mercy, and refers to
the decisions of the last day.

While the tongue of detraction would invade the sanctuary of
home, and ruthlessly disturb even the aches of the dead, by
dragging forth its victim to the floating gaze of the vulgar
crowd, outraging all the principles of a common humanity,
the spirit of Masonry forbids the invasion, and points its
anathema against such cowardly acts; dictating a
forbearance and charity which leaves the departed to his
God, and shielding the innocent from the coarse and vulgar
taunts of monsters in the form of men.

Such is the genius of Masonry. Over all the departments of
life it casts a bright and genial sunshine, seeking with its
kindly, voice to sooth the sorrows and mitigate the woes of
mortals. By its soft hand it wipes away the tear from the
helpless widow, takes the distressed and unprotected
orphan into its fold, and wherever misery lifts its voice of
sadness, hies on rapid wings to its relief. Under its banners
may we live, possessed by its spirit may we die, and with its
generations past, may we be gathered to our fathers, - softly
and gently as the night winds fall to the earth may we pass
away.

 

         

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