GOD is the author of everything that existeth; the Eternal, the Supreme, the Living, and Awful Being; from Whom nothing in the Universe is hidden. Make of Him no idols and visible images; but rather worship Him in the deep solitudes of sequestered forests; for He is invisible, and fills the Universe as its soul, and liveth not in any Temple!
Light and Darkness are the World’s Eternal ways. God is the principle of everything that exists, and the Father of all Beings. He is eternal, immovable, and Self-Existent. There are no bounds to His power. At one glance He sees the Past, the Present, and the Future; and the procession of the builders of the Pyramids, with us and our remotest Descendants, is now passing before Him. He reads our thoughts before they are known to ourselves. He rules the movements of the Universe, and all events and revolutions are the creatures of His will. For He is the Infinite Mind and Supreme Intelligence.
In the beginning Man had the WORD, and that WORD was from God: and out of the living power which, in and by that WORD, was communicated to man, came the LIGHT of his existence. Let no man speak the WORD, for by it THE FATHER made light and darkness, the world and living creatures!
The Chaldean upon his plains worshipped me, and the sea-loving Phœnician. They builded me temples and towers, and burned sacrifices to me upon a thousand altars. Light was divine to them, and they thought me a God. But I am nothing–nothing; and LIGHT is the creature of the unseen GOD that taught the true religion to the Ancient Patriarchs: AWFUL, MYSTERIOUS, THE ABSOLUTE.
Man was created pure; and God gave him TRUTH, as He gave him LIGHT. He has lost the truth and found error. He has wandered far into darkness; and round him Sin and Shame hover evermore. The Soul that is impure, and sinful, and defiled with earthly stains, cannot again unite with God, until, by long trials and many purifications, it is finally delivered from the old calamity; and Light overcomes Darkness and dethrones it, in the Soul.
God is the First; indestructible, eternal, UNCREATED, INDIVISIBLE. Wisdom, Justice, Truth, and Mercy, with Harmony and Love, are of His essence, and Eternity and Infinitude of Extension. He is silent, and consents with MIND, and is known to Souls through MIND alone. In Him were all things originally contained, and from Him all things were evolved. For out of His Divine SILENCE and REST, after an infinitude of time, was unfolded the WORD, or the Divine POWER; and then in turn the Mighty, ever-acting, measureless INTELLECT; and from the WORD were evolved the myriads of suns and systems that make the Universe; and fire, and light, and the electric HARMONY, which is the harmony of spheres and numbers: and from the INTELLECT all Souls and intellects of men.
In the Beginning, the Universe was but ONE SOUL. HE was THE ALL, alone with TIME and SPACE, and Infinite as they.
—— HE HAD THIS THOUGHT: “I Create Worlds:” and lo! the Universe, and the laws of harmony and motion that rule it. the expression of a thought of God; and bird and beast, and every living thing but Man: and light and air, and the mysterious cur-rents, and the dominion of mysterious numbers!
—— HE HAD THIS THOUGHT: “I Create Man, whose Soul shall be my image, and he shall rule.” And lo! Man, with senses, instinct, and a reasoning mind!
—— And yet not MAN! but an animal that breathed, and saw, and thought: until an immaterial spark from God’s own
[paragraph continues] Infinite Being penetrated the brain, and became the Soul: and lo, MAN THE IMMORTAL! Thus, threefold, fruit of God’s thought, is Man; that sees and hears and feels; that thinks and reasons; that loves and is in harmony with the Universe.
Before the world grew old, the primitive Truth faded out from men’s Souls. Then man asked himself, “What am I? and how and whence am I? and whither do I go?” And the Soul, looking inward upon itself, strove to learn whether that “I” were mere matter; its thought and reason and its passions and affections mere results of material combination; or a material Being enveloping an immaterial Spirit: . . and further it strove, by self-examination, to learn whether that Spirit were an individual essence, with a separate immortal existence, or an infinitesimal portion of a Great First Principle, inter-penetrating the Universe and the infinitude of space, and undulating like light and heat: . . and so they wandered further amid the mazes of error; and imagined vain philosophies; wallowing in the sloughs of materialism and sensualism, of beating their wings vainly in the vacuum of abstractions and idealities.
The essence of the ψυχικοὶ [psuchikoi] is disruption into multiplicity, manifoldness; which, however, is subordinate to a higher unity, by which it allows itself to be guided, first unconsciously, then consciously.
The essence of the ὑλικοὶ [Hulikoi] (of whom Satan is the head), is the direct opposite to all unity; disruption and disunion in itself, without the least sympathy, without any point of coalescence whatever for unity; together with an effort to destroy all unity, to extend its own inherent disunion to everything, and to rend everything asunder. This principle has no power to posit anything; but only to negative: it is unable to create, to produce, to form, but only to destroy, to decompose.
By Marcus, the disciple of Valentinus, the idea of a Λογος του οντος [Logos Tou Ontos], of a WORD, manifesting the hidden Divine Essence, in the Creation, was spun out into the most subtle details–the entire creation being, in his view, a continuous utterance of the Ineffable. The way in which the germs of divine life [the σπέρματα πνευματικὰ . . spermata pneumatika], which lie shut up in the Eons, continually unfold and individualize themselves more and more, is represented as a spontaneous analysis of the several names of the Ineffable, into their several sounds. An echo of the Ple_roma falls down into the ὕλη [Hule_], and becomes the forming of a new but lower creation.
One formula of the pneumatical baptism among the Gnostics ran thus: “In the NAME which is hidden from all the Divinities and Powers” [of the Demiurge], “The Name of Truth” [the Αλήθεια [Aletheia], self-manifestation of the Buthos], which Jesus of Nazareth has put on in the light-zones of Christ, the living Christ, through the Holy Ghost, for the redemption of the angels,–the Name by which all things attain to Perfection.” The candidate then said: “I am established and redeemed; I am redeemed in my soul from this world, and from all that belongs to it, by the name of ו ?Y?H?W?H, who has redeemed the Soul of Jesus by the living Christ.” The assembly then said: “Peace (or Salvation) to all on whom this name rests!”
The boy Dionusos, torn in pieces, according to the Bacchic Mysteries, by the Titans, was considered by the Manicheans as simply representing the Soul, swallowed up by the powers of darkness,–the
divine life rent into fragments by matter:–that part of the luminous essence of the primitive man [the πρῶτος ἄνθρωπος [Protos Anthropos] of Mani, the πράων ἄνθρωπος [Prao_n Anthro_pos] of the Valentinians, the Adam Kadmon of the Kabalah; and the Kaiomorts of the Zendavesta], swallowed up by the powers of darkness; the Mundane Soul, mixed with matter–the seed of divine life, which had fallen into matter, and had thence to undergo a process of purification and development.
The Γνῶσις [Gnosis] of Carpocrates and his son Epiphanes consisted in the knowledge of one Supreme Original being, the highest unity, from whom all existence has emanated, and to whom it strives to return. The finite spirits that rule over the several portions of the Earth, seek to counteract this universal tendency to unity; and from their influence, their laws, and arrangements, proceeds all that checks, disturbs, or limits the original communion, which is the basis of nature, as the outward manifestation of that highest Unity. These spirits, moreover, seek to retain under their dominion the souls which, emanating from the highest Unity, and still partaking of its nature, have lapsed into the corporeal world, and have there been imprisoned in bodies, in order, under their dominion, to be kept within the cycle of migration. From these finite spirits, the popular religions of different nations derive their origin. But the souls which, from a reminiscence of their former condition, soar upward to the contemplation of that higher Unity, reach to such perfect freedom and repose, as nothing afterward can disturb or limit, and rise superior to the popular deities and religions. As examples of this sort, they named Pythagoras, Plato, Aristotle, and Christ. They made no distinction between the latter and the wise and good men of every nation. They taught that any other soul which could soar to the same height of contemplation, might be regarded as equal with Him.
Baptism was one of their most important ceremonies; and the Basilideans celebrated the 10th of January, as the anniversary of the day on which Christ was baptized in Jordan.
They had the ceremony of laying on of hands, by way of purification; and that of the mystic banquet, emblem of that to which they believed the Heavenly Wisdom would one day admit them, in the fullness of things [Πλήρωμα].
Their ceremonies were much more like those of the Christians than those of Greece; but they mingled with them much that was borrowed from the Orient and Egypt: and taught the primitive truths, mixed with a multitude of fantastic errors and fictions.
The discipline of the secret was the concealment (occultatio) of certain tenets and ceremonies. So says Clemens of Alexandria.
To avoid persecution, the early Christians were compelled to use great precaution, and to hold meetings of the Faithful [of the Household of Faith] in private places, under concealment by darkness. They assembled in the night, and they guarded against the intrusion of false brethren and profane persons, spies who might cause their arrest. They conversed together figuratively, and by the use of symbols, lest cowans and eavesdroppers might overhear: and there existed among them a favored class, or Order, who were initiated into certain Mysteries which they were bound by solemn promise not to disclose, or even converse about, except with such as had received them under the same sanction. They were called Brethren, the Faithful, Stewards of the Mysteries, Superintendents, Devotees of the Secret, and ARCHITECTS.
In the Hierarchiæ, attributed to St. Dionysius the Areopagite, the first Bishop of Athens, the tradition of the sacrament is said to have been divided into three Degrees, or grades, purification, initiation, and accomplishment or perfection; and it mentions also, as part of the ceremony, the bringing to sight.
The Apostolic Constitutions, attributed to Clemens, Bishop of Rome, describe the early church, and say: “These regulations must on no account be communicated to all sorts of persons, because of the Mysteries contained in them.” They speak of the Deacon’s duty to keep the doors, that none uninitiated should enter at the oblation. Ostiarii, or doorkeepers, kept guard, and gave notice of the time of prayer and church-assemblies; and also by private
signal, in times of persecution, gave notice to those within, to en-able them to avoid danger. The Mysteries were open to the Fideles or Faithful only; and no spectators were allowed at the communion.
Tertullian, who died about A. D. 216, says in his Apology: “None are admitted to the religious Mysteries without an oath of secrecy. We appeal to your Thracian and Eleusinian Mysteries; and we are especially bound to this caution, because if we prove faithless, we should not only provoke Heaven, but draw upon our heads the utmost rigor of human displeasure. And should strangers betray us? They know nothing but by report and hearsay. Far hence, ye Profane! is the prohibition from all holy Mysteries.”
Clemens, Bishop of Alexandria, born about A. D. 191, says, in his Stromata, that he cannot explain the Mysteries, because he should thereby, according to the old proverb, put a sword into the hands of a child. He frequently compares the Discipline of the Secret with the heathen Mysteries, as to their internal and recondite wisdom.
Whenever the early Christians happened to be in company with strangers, more properly termed the Profane, they never spoke of their sacraments, but indicated to one another what they meant by means of symbols and secret watchwords, disguisedly, and as by direct communication of mind with mind, and by enigmas.
Origen, born A. D. 134 or 135, answering Celsus, who had objected that the Christians had a concealed doctrine said: “Inasmuch as the essential and important doctrines and principles of Christianity are openly taught, it is foolish to object that there are other things that are recondite; for this is common to Christian discipline with that of those philosophers in whose teaching some things were exoteric and some esoteric: and it is enough to say that it was so with some of the disciples of Pythagoras.”
WHILE you were veiled in darkness, you heard repeated by the Voice of the Great Past its most ancient doctrines. None has the right to object, if the Christian Mason sees foreshadowed in Chrishna and Sosiosch, in Mithras and Osiris, the Divine WORD that, as he believes, became Man, and died upon the cross to redeem a fallen race. Nor can he object if others see reproduced, in the WORD of the beloved Disciple, that was in the beginning with God, and that was God, and by Whom everything was made, only the LOGOS of Plato, and the WORD or Uttered THOUGHT or first Emanation of LIGHT, Or the Perfect REASON of the Great, Silent, Supreme, Uncreated Deity, believed in and adored by all.
We do not undervalue the importance of any Truth. We utter no word that can be deemed irreverent by any one of any faith. We do not tell the Moslem that it is only important for him to believe that there is but one God, and wholly unessential whether Mahomet was His prophet. We do not tell the Hebrew that the Messiah whom he expects was born in Bethlehem nearly two thousand years ago; and that he is a heretic because he will not so believe. And as little do we tell the sincere Christian that Jesus of Nazareth was but a man like us, or His history but the unreal revival of an older legend. To do either is beyond our jurisdiction. Masonry, of no one age, belongs to all time; of no one religion, it finds its great truths in all.
To every Mason, there is a GOD; ONE, Supreme, Infinite in Goodness, Wisdom, Foresight, Justice, and Benevolence; Creator, Disposer, and Preserver of all things. How, or by what intermediates He creates and acts, and in what way He unfolds and manifests Himself, Masonry leaves to creeds and Religions to inquire.
To every Mason, the soul of man is immortal. Whether it
emanates from and will return to God, and what its continued mode of existence hereafter, each judges for himself. Masonry was not made to settle that.
To every Mason, WISDOM or INTELLIGENCE, FORCE or STRENGTH, and HARMONY, or FITNESS and BEAUTY, are the Trinity of the attributes of God. With the subtleties of Philosophy concerning them Masonry does not meddle, nor decide as to the reality of the supposed Existences which are their Personifications: nor whether the Christian Trinity be such a personification, or a Reality of the gravest import and significance.
To every Mason, the Infinite Justice and Benevolence of God give ample assurance that Evil will ultimately be dethroned, and the Good, the True, and the Beautiful reign triumphant and eternal. It teaches, as it feels and knows, that Evil, and Pain, and Sorrow exist as part of a wise and beneficent plan, all the parts of which work together under God’s eye to a result which shall be perfection. Whether the existence of evil is rightly explained in this creed or in that, by Typhon the Great Serpent, by Ahriman and his Armies of Wicked Spirits, by the Giants and Titans that war against Heaven, by the two co-existent Principles of Good and Evil, by Satan’s temptation and the fall of Man, by Lok and the Serpent Fenris, it is beyond the domain of Masonry to decide, nor does it need to inquire. Nor is it within its Province to determine how the ultimate triumph of Light and Truth and Good, over Darkness and Error and Evil, is to be achieved; nor whether the Redeemer, looked and longed for by all nations, hath appeared in Judea, or is yet to come.
It reverences all the great reformers. It sees in Moses, the Lawgiver of the Jews, in Confucius and Zoroaster, in Jesus of Nazareth, and in the Arabian Iconoclast, Great Teachers of Morality, and Eminent Reformers, if no more: and allows every brother of the Order to assign to each such higher and even Divine Character as his Creed and Truth require.
Thus Masonry disbelieves no truth, and teaches unbelief in no creed, except so far as such creed may lower its lofty estimate of the Deity, degrade Him to the level of the passions of humanity, deny the high destiny of man, impugn the goodness and benevolence of the Supreme God, strike at those great columns of Masonry, Faith, Hope, and Charity, or inculcate immorality, and disregard of the active duties of the Order.
THE true Mason labors for the benefit of those who are to come after him, and for the advancement and improvement of his race. That is a poor ambition which contents itself within the limits of a single life. All men who deserve to live, desire to survive their funerals, and to live afterward in the good that they have done mankind, rather than in the fading characters written in men’s memories. Most men desire to leave some work behind them that may outlast their own day and brief generation. That is an instinctive impulse, given by God, and often found in the rudest human heart; the surest proof of the soul’s immortality, and of the fundamental difference between man and the wisest brutes. To plant the trees that, after we are dead, shall shelter our children, is as natural as to love the shade of those our fathers planted. The rudest unlettered husbandman, painfully conscious of his own inferiority, the poorest widowed mother, giving her life-blood to those who pay only for the work of her needle, will toil and stint themselves to educate their child, that he may take a higher station in the world than they;–and of such are the world’s greatest benefactors.
In his influences that survive him, man becomes immortal, before the general resurrection. The Spartan mother, who, giving her son his shield, said, “WITH IT, OR UPON IT!” afterward shared the government of Lacedæmon with the legislation of Lycurgus; for she too made a law, that lived after her; and she inspired the Spartan soldiery that afterward demolished the walls of Athens, and aided Alexander to conquer the Orient. The widow who gave Marion the fiery arrows to burn her own house, that it might no longer shelter the enemies of her infant country, the house where she had lain upon her husband’s bosom, and where her children had been born, legislated more effectually for her State than Locke or Shaftesbury, or than many a Legislature has done, since that State won its freedom.
It was of slight importance to the Kings of Egypt and the
[paragraph continues] Monarchs of Assyria and Phœnicia, that the son of a Jewish woman, a foundling, adopted by the daughter of Sesostris Ramses, slew an Egyptian that oppressed a Hebrew slave, and fled into the desert, to remain there forty years. But Moses, who might other-wise have become Regent of Lower Egypt, known to us only by a tablet on a tomb or monument, became the deliverer of the Jews, and led them forth from Egypt to the frontiers of Palestine, and made for them a law, out of which grew the Christian faith; and so has shaped the destinies of the world. He and the old Roman lawyers, with Alfred of England, the Saxon Thanes and Norman Barons, the old judges and chancellors, and the makers of the canons, lost in the mists and shadows of the Past, these are our legislators; and we obey the laws that they enacted.
Napoleon died upon the barren rock of his exile. His bones, borne to France by the son of a King, rest in the Hôpital des Invalides, in the great city on the Seine. His Thoughts still govern France. He, and not the People, dethroned the Bourbon, and drove the last King of the House of Orleans into exile. He, in his coffin, and not the People, voted the crown to the Third Napoleon; and he, and not the Generals of France and England, led their united forces against the grim Northern Despotism.
Mahomet announced to the Arabian idolaters the new creed, “There is but one God, and Mahomet, like Moses and Christ, is His Apostle.” For many years unaided, then with the help of his family and a few friends, then with many disciples, and last of all with an army, he taught and preached the Koran. The religion of the wild Arabian enthusiast converting the fiery Tribes of the Great Desert, spread over Asia, built up the Saracenic dynasties, conquered Persia and India, the Greek Empire, Northern Africa, and Spain, and dashed the surges of its fierce soldiery against the battlements of Northern Christendom. The law of Mahomet still governs a fourth of the human race; and Turk and Arab, Moor and Persian and Hindu, still obey the Prophet, and pray with their faces turned toward Mecca; and he, and not the living, rules and reigns in the fairest portions of the Orient.
What other immortality than one of selfishness could this creature enjoy? Of what other is it capable? Must not immortality commence here and is not life a part of it? How shall death change the base nature of the base soul? Why have not those other animals that only faintly imitate the wanton, savage, human cruelty and thirst for blood, the same right as man has, to expect a resurrection and an Eternity of existence, or a Heaven of Love?
The world improves. Man ceases to persecute,–when the persecuted become too numerous and strong, longer to submit to it. That source of pleasure closed, men exercise the ingenuities of their cruelty on the animals and other living things below them. To deprive other creatures of the life which God gave them, and this not only that we may eat their flesh for food, but out of mere savage wantonness, is the agreeable employment and amusement of man, who prides himself on being the Lord of Creation, and a little lower than the Angels. If he can no longer use the rack, the gibbet, the pincers, and the stake, he can hate, and slander, and delight in the thought that he will, hereafter, luxuriously enjoying the sensual beatitudes of Heaven, see with pleasure the writhing agonies of those justly damned for daring to hold opinions contrary to his own, upon subjects totally beyond the comprehension both of them and him.
Where the armies of the despots cease to slay and ravage, the armies of “Freedom” take their place, and, the black and white commingled, slaughter and burn and ravish. Each age re-enacts the crimes as well as the follies of its predecessors, and still war licenses outrage and turns fruitful lands into deserts, and God is thanked in the Churches for bloody butcheries, and the remorseless devastators, even when swollen by plunder, are crowned with laurels and receive ovations.
Of the whole of mankind, not one in ten thousand has any aspirations beyond the daily needs of the gross animal life. In this age and in all others, all men except a few, in most countries, are born to be mere beasts of burden, co-laborers with the horse and the ox. Profoundly ignorant, even in “civilized” lands, they think and reason like the animals by the side of which they toil. For them, God, Soul, Spirit, immortality, are mere words, without any real meaning. The God of nineteen-twentieths of the Christian
world is only Bel, Moloch, Zeus, or at best Osiris, Mithras, or Adonaï, under another name, worshipped with the old Pagan ceremonies and ritualistic formulas. it is the Statue of Olympian Jove, worshipped as the Father, in the Christian Church that was a Pagan Temple; it is the Statue of Venus, become the Virgin Mary. For the most part, men do not in their hearts believe that God is either just or merciful. They fear and shrink from His lightnings and dread his wrath. For the most part, they only think they believe that there is another life, a judgment, and a punishment for sin. Yet they will none the less persecute as Infidels and Atheists those who do not believe what they themselves imagine they believe, and which yet they do not believe, because it is incomprehensible to them in their ignorance and want of intellect. To the vast majority of mankind, God is but the reflected image, in infinite space, of the earthly Tyrant on his Throne, only more powerful, more inscrutable, and more implacable. To curse Humanity, the Despot need only be, what the popular mind has, in every age, imagined God.
In the great cities, the lower strata of the populace are equally without faith and without hope. The others have, for the most part, a mere blind faith, imposed by education and circumstances, and not as productive of moral excellence or even common honesty as Mohammedanism. “Your property will be safe here,” said the Moslem; “There are no Christians here.” The philosophical and scientific world becomes daily more and more unbelieving. Faith and Reason are not opposites, in equilibrium; but antagonistic and hostile to each other; the result being the darkness and despair of scepticism, avowed, or half-veiled as rationalism.
EACH of us makes such applications to his own faith and creed, of the symbols and ceremonies of this Degree, as seems to him proper. With these special interpretations we have here nothing to do. Like the legend of the Master Khu_ru_m, in which some see figured the condemnation and sufferings of Christ; others those of the unfortunate Grand Master of the Templars; others those of the first Charles, King of England; and others still the annual descent of the Sun at the winter Solstice to the regions of darkness, the basis of many an ancient legend; so the ceremonies of this Degree receive different explanations; each interpreting them for himself, and being offended at the interpretation of no other.
In no other way could Masonry possess its character of Universality; that character which has ever been peculiar to it from its origin; and which enables two Kings, worshippers of different Deities, to sit together as Masters, while the walls of the first temple arose; and the men of Gebal, bowing down to the Phœnician Gods, to work by the side of the Hebrews to whom those Gods were abomination; and to sit with them in the same Lodge as brethren.
You have already learned that these ceremonies have one general significance, to every one, of every faith, who believes in God, and the soul’s immortality.
The primitive men met in no Temples made with human hands. “God,” said Stephen, the first Martyr, “dwelleth not in Temples made with hands.” In the open air, under the overarching mysterious sky, in the great World-Temple, they uttered their vows and thanksgivings, and adored the God of Light; of that Light that was to them the type of Good, as darkness was the type of Evil.
All antiquity solved the enigma of the existence of Evil, by supposing the existence of a Principle of Evil, of Demons, fallen Angels, an Ahriman, a Typhon, a Siva, a Lok, or a Satan, that, first falling themselves, and plunged in misery and darkness, tempted man to his fall, and brought sin into the world. All believed in a future life, to be attained by purification and trials; in a state or successive states of reward and punishment; and in a Mediator or Redeemer, by whom the Evil Principle was to be overcome, and the Supreme Deity reconciled to His creatures. The belief was general, that He was to be born of a Virgin, and suffer a painful death. The Indians called him Chrishna; the Chinese, Kioun-tse; the Persians, Sosiosch; the Chaldeans, Dhouvanai; the Egyptians, Har-Oeri; Plato, Love; and the Scandinavians, Balder.
Chrishna, the Hindoo Redeemer, was cradled and educated among Shepherds. A Tyrant, at the time of his birth, ordered all the male children to be slain. He performed miracles, say his legends, even raising the dead. He washed the feet of the Brahmins, and was meek and lowly of spirit. He was born of a Virgin; descended to Hell, rose again, ascended to Heaven, charged his disciples to teach his doctrines, and gave them the gift of miracles.
The first Masonic Legislator whose memory is preserved to us by history, was Buddha, who, about a thousand years before the Christian era, reformed the religion of Manous. He called to the Priesthood all men, without distinction of caste, who felt themselves inspired by God to instruct men. Those who so associated themselves formed a Society of Prophets under the name of Samaneans. They recognized the existence of a single uncreated God, in whose bosom everything grows, is developed and transformed.
[paragraph continues] The worship of this God reposed upon the obedience of all the beings He created. His feasts were those of the Solstices. The doctrines of Buddha pervaded India, China, and Japan. The Priests of Brahma, professing a dark and bloody creed, brutalized by Superstition, united together against Buddhism, and with the aid of Despotism, exterminated its followers. But their blood fertilized the new doctrine, which produced a new Society under the name of Gymnosophists; and a large number, fleeing to Ireland, planted their doctrines there, and there erected the round towers, some of which still stand, solid and unshaken as at first, visible monuments of the remotest ages.
the publicans, justice, equity, and fair dealing; the soldiery, peace, truth, and contentment; to do violence to none, accuse none falsely, and be content with their pay. He inculcated the necessity of a virtuous life, and the folly of trusting to their descent from Abraham.
He denounced both Pharisees and Sadducees as a generation of vipers, threatened with the anger of God. He baptized those who confessed their sins. He preached in the desert; and therefore in the country where the Essenes lived, professing the same doctrines. He was imprisoned before Christ began to preach. Matthew mentions him without preface or explanation; as if, apparently, his history was too well known to need any. “In those days,” he says, “came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.” His disciples frequently fasted; for we find them with the Pharisees coming to Jesus to inquire why His Disciples did not fast as often as they; and He did not denounce them, as His habit was to denounce the Pharisees; but answered them kindly and gently.
From his prison, John sent two of his disciples to inquire of Christ: “Art thou he that is to come, or do we look for another?” Christ referred them to his miracles as an answer; and declared to the people that John was a prophet, and more than a prophet, and that no greater man had ever been born; but that the humblest Christian was his superior. He declared him to be Elias, who was to come.
John had denounced to Herod his marriage with his brother’s wife as unlawful; and for this he was imprisoned, and finally executed to gratify her. His disciples buried him; and Herod and others thought he had risen from the dead and appeared again in the person of Christ. The people all regarded John as a prophet; and Christ silenced the Priests and Elders by asking them whether he was inspired. They feared to excite the anger of the people by saying that he was not. Christ declared that he came “in the way of righteousness”; and that the lower classes believed him, though the Priests and Pharisees did not.
Thus John, who was often consulted by Herod, and to whom that monarch showed great deference, and was often governed by his advice; whose doctrine prevailed very extensively among the people and the publicans, taught some creed older than Christianity. That is plain: and it is equally plain, that the very large
body of the Jews that adopted his doctrines, were neither Pharisees nor Sadducees, but the humble, common people. They must, therefore, have been Essenes. It is plain, too, that Christ applied for baptism as a sacred rite, well known and long practiced. It was becoming to him, he said, to fulfill all righteousness.
In the 18th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles we read thus: “And a certain Jew, named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord, and, being fervent in spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John; and he began to speak boldly in the synagogue; whom, when Aquilla and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly.”
Translating this from the symbolic and figurative language into the true ordinary sense of the Greek text, it reads thus: “And a certain Jew, named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, and of extensive learning, came to Ephesus. He had learned in the mysteries the true doctrine in regard to God; and, being a zealous enthusiast, he spoke and taught diligently the truths in regard to the Deity, having received no other baptism than that of John.” He knew nothing in regard to Christianity; for he had resided in Alexandria, and had just then come to Ephesus; being, probably, a disciple of Philo, and a Therapeut.
“That, in all times,” says St. Augustine, “is the Christian religion, which to know and follow is the most sure and certain health, called according to that name, but not according to the thing itself, of which it is the name; for the thing itself, which is now called the Christian religion, really was known to the Ancients, nor was wanting at any time from the beginning of the human race, until the time when Christ came in the flesh; from whence the true religion, which had previously existed, began to be called Christian; and this in our days is the Christian religion, not as having been wanting in former times, but as having, in later times, received this name.” The disciples were first called “Christians,” at Antioch, when Barnabas and Paul began to preach there.
[Knight of the East, of the Sword, or of the Eagle.]
THIS Degree, like all others in Masonry, is symbolical. Based upon historical truth and authentic tradition, it is still an allegory. The leading lesson of this Degree is Fidelity to obligation, and Constancy and Perseverance under difficulties and discouragement.
Masonry is engaged in her crusade, against ignorance, intolerance, fanaticism, superstition, uncharitableness, and error. She does not sail with the trade-winds, upon a smooth sea, with a steady free breeze, fair for a welcoming harbor; but meets and must overcome many opposing currents, baffling winds, and dead calms.
The chief obstacles to her success are the apathy and faithlessness of her own selfish children, and the supine indifference of the world. In the roar and crush and hurry of life and business, and the tumult and uproar of politics, the quiet voice of Masonry is unheard and unheeded. The first lesson which one learns, who engages in any great work of reform or beneficence, is, that men are essentially careless, lukewarm, and indifferent as to everything that does not concern their own personal and immediate
welfare. It is to single men, and not to the united efforts of many, that all the great works of man, struggling toward perfection, are owing. The enthusiast, who imagines that he can inspire with his own enthusiasm the multitude that eddies around him, or even the few who have associated themselves with him as co-workers, is grievously mistaken; and most often the conviction of his own mistake is followed by discouragement and disgust. To do all, to pay all, and to suffer all, and then, when despite all obstacles and hindrances, success is accomplished, and a great work done, to see those who opposed or looked coldly on it, claim and reap all the praise and reward, is the common and almost universal lot of the benefactor of his kind.
He who endeavors to serve, to benefit, and improve the world, is like a swimmer, who struggles against a rapid current, in a river lashed into angry waves by the winds. Often they roar over his head, often they beat him back and baffle him. Most men yield to the stress of the current, and float with it to the shore, or are swept over the rapids; and only here and there the stout, strong heart and vigorous arms struggle on toward ultimate success.
It is the motionless and stationary that most frets and impedes the current of progress; the solid rock or stupid dead tree, rested firmly on the bottom; and around which the river whirls and eddies: the Masons that doubt and hesitate and are discouraged; that disbelieve in the capability of man to improve; that are not disposed to toil and labor for the interest and well-being of general humanity; that expect others to do all, even of that which they do not oppose or ridicule; while they sit, applauding and doing nothing, or perhaps prognosticating failure.
There were many such at the rebuilding of the Temple. There were prophets of evil and misfortune–the lukewarm and the in-different and the apathetic; those who stood by and sneered; and those who thought they did God service enough if they now and then faintly applauded. There were ravens croaking ill omen, and murmurers who preached the folly and futility of the attempt. The world is made up of such; and they were as abundant then as they are now.
But gloomy and discouraging as was the prospect, with lukewarmness within and bitter opposition without, our ancient brethren persevered. Let us leave them engaged in the good work, and whenever to us, as to them, success is uncertain, remote, and
contingent, let us still remember that the only question for us to ask, as true men and Masons, is, what does duty require; and not what will be the result and our reward if we do our duty. Work on, with the Sword in one hand, and the Trowel in the other!