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THE RISE AND PROGRESS OF MASONRY
THE MASONIC REVIEW - 1854
In the history of mankind there is nothing more remarkable than that Masonry and civilization, like twin sisters, have gone hand in hand together. The orders of architecture mark their growth and progress; dark, dreary, and comfortless were those tunes when Masonry had not laid her line, nor extended her compass. The race of man in full possession of wild and savage liberty, sullen and solitary, mutually offending and afraid of each other, hid themselves in thickets of the woods, or dens and caves of the earth. In these murky recesses, these sombrous solitudes, the Almighty Architect directed Masonry to find them out; and pitying their forlorn and destitute condition, instructed them to build houses for convenience, defence, and comfort. The habitations they then built were of the Rustic or Tuscan order which, as a prototype of their manners, was an artless imitation of coarse and simple nature. Yet rude and inelegant as they were, they had this happy effect, that by aggregating mankind they prepared the way for improvement. The hardest bodies will polish by collision, and the roughest manners by communion and intercourse. Thus by degrees they lost their asperity and ruggedness, and became insensibly mild and gentle. Masonry beheld and gloried in the change, and, as their minds softened and expanded, she showed them new lights, and conducted them to new improvements.
The Tuscan mansions please no more. In the Doric order they aimed at something more high and noble; and taking their idea of symmetry from the human form divine, adopted that as their model. At that era their buildings, though simple and natural, were proportioned in the exactest manner, and admirably calculated for strength and convenience.
It can be no matter of astonishment, that men who had formed their original plan from nature, should resort to nature for their lessons of ornament and proportion, to complete their labors. The eye that was charmed with the fair sex, the heart that was conscious of woman's elegance and beauty, would instantly catch the idea from thence, and transpose the lovely form in perfect symmetry, to complete the column he was then studying. Accordingly, the Ionic order was formed after the model of a beautiful young woman, with loose disheveled hair, of an easy, elegant, flowing shape.
Thus human genius, which we have seen in the bud, the leaf, the flower, ripened to perfection, and produced the fairest, richest fruit; every ingenious art, every liberal science, every moral and social virtue, that could delight, exalt, refine, adorn, edify, or improve mankind.
Now it was that Masonry put on her richest robes, her most gorgeous apparel, and in the Corinthian displayed a profusion of ornaments, the principal parts of which were eminently conspicuous in Israel's holy temple. She displayed the torch and enlightened the whole circle of arts and sciences. Commerce flew to her on canvas wings, fraught with the treasures and produce of the universe. Painting and sculpture exerted every nerve to decorate the building she had raised, and the curious hand of design contrived the furniture and tapestry - Geometry, Music, Astronomy - Virtue, Honor, Mercy, with an infinite variety of masonic emblems were wrought thereon; but none shone more conspicuous than MORALITY, CHARITY, and BROTHERLY LOVE.
Were I to take a general survey of the order of Freemasonry, a field of unbounded space would open to the view; replete with more beauties than the most fanciful pencil can delineate, or poet describe, assisted by all the flowers of metaphor. But time will not perms me to investigate the ground plan of the fabric. I shall, therefore, take an allegorical view of the building and mode of introduction.
Virtue, crowned with a wreath of laurel, dressed in a robe of palest sapphire, girt round her waist by an azure zone, on which peculiar emblems were richly embroidered in blue, purple, and crimson, formed the mosaic work, or ground plan of the building.
Wisdom, Justice, Truth, Mercy, and Benevolence, as pillars of the purest marble, supported the portal, over which, on a magnificent dome of a quadrangular form, the principles of the establishment were delineated by Religion and Morality; together with certain hieroglyphics descriptive of the order.
The entrance was guarded by two sentinels, who had something in their looks so awful, that strangers recoiled at the sight of them. Their names were Temperance and Fortitude, the former held a bridle, the latter a spear. Notwithstanding their aspect was so forbidding, yet when a candidate approached, conducted by Honor and Perseverance, their countenance was softened by affability to serene courtesy.
Having passed the sentinels and entered the building, Honor end Perseverance presented him to Brotherly-love, who after discharging the duties of his office, led him to a beautiful transparent arch, descriptive of the six days' work of the creation; on the right side of the arch stood Charity, her eyes were blue, beautiful, and piercing; in one hand she held a chalice of wrought gold, m the other a censer of incense. On the left stood Contemplation; her looks were directed towards heaven; a large folio book lay open in the center, on the back of which was written in letters of gold, THE HOLY BIBLE. Here Brotherly-love delivered him to the care of Faith, Humility, and Hope. The former had her head invested with a circle of rays, which threw a bright lustre on all around her; she bore a shield of divine workmanship, and went foremost. Humility clothed in a venture of a dark sober hue, which trailed the ground, walked slowly by her side. Hope had in her hand an opening bud, fresh and fragrant as the morning rose: by those he was conducted to an elderly personage, who still appeared fresh and rigorous ; she had a meek and contented aspect, having a staff in her hand on which she sometimes leaned. Her name wad Prudence, from whom he received peculiar instructions respecting the institution.
Leaving her, they ascended, by easy steps, towards the GRAND HALL; near the entrance, on an elevated throne, sat a comely matron in her bloom, well dressed, but without art, and crowned after a very beautiful manner: her name was Happiness, to whom he was presented by Hope. She received him most cheerfully, and introduced him to the Liberal Arts and Sciences, by whom he was led into the hall, and after being regularly initiated, he was invested by Innocence with the ensign of the Order.
Sacred and profane history concur with respect to this institution, and allow it to be co-eval with human society. In all ages, and in all countries, we find men of the most exalted situations in life, as well as those of the most enlightened characters, have been anxious to be invested with the badge of innocence, and to have their names enrolled as brethren of the Order. Always considering the society of FREEMASONS as the safeguard of the state, the defence of the country, the welfare of the nation.
Having slightly touched on the origin of the institution, and mode of introduction, the principles may be conveyed to you in a few words, BROTHERLY-LOVE, RELIEF, and TRUTH. Were I to take a retrospective view of those principles, it would only be recapitulating a subject with which you are well acquainted. Allow me, however, to call your attention to the excellence and utility of FREEMASONRY from that all- informing science, on which it is founded, - GEOMETRY, and bring to your recollection a figure which is generally delineated on the master's tracing board, namely, the 47th proposition of the first book of Euclid, proving that the square subtending a right angle is equal to the squares on the sides that form the right angle: from the construction of the figure it is evident, that the triangles within the squares are reciprocally equal, and also, that the squares on the sides forming the right angle are equal to the squares subtending the right angle. Pythagoras, the inventor of this proposition, which is the foundation of geometry, in grateful testimony for the happy discovery, is said to have sacrificed an hecatomb to the muses.
But Freemasons consider geometry as a natural logic; for as truth is ever consistent, invariable, and uniform, all truths may and ought to be investigated in the same manner. Moral and religious definitions, axioms, and proportions, have as regular and certain a dependence upon each other as any in physics or the mathematics.
As the figure abovementioned depends on the connexion of the several lines, angles, and triangles which form the whole; so Freemasonry depends on the unanimity and integrity of its members, the inflexibility of their charitable pursuits, and the immutability of the principles upon which the society is established. The position is clear, and, therefore, in a synthetical sense we demonstrate, that some of our brethren from their exalted situation in life, rolling in their chariots at ease, and enjoying every luxury, pleasure, and comfort, may with strict propriety be considered as standing on the basis of earthly bliss, emblematic of the greater square, which subtends the right angle. Others whom Providence hath blessed with means to tread on the flowery mends of affluence; are descriptive of the squares which stand on the sides which form the right angle. The several triangles inscribed within the squares, are applicable to those happy beings, who enjoy every social comfort, and never exceed the bounds of mediocrity. Those, who by application to peculiar arts, manufactures and commerce, from their several productions not only add to the wealth of the nation, and to the happiness of the exalted, but have the heart-felt, satisfaction of administering to the wants of the indigent and industrious, may, with strict justice, be compared to the angles which surround and support the figure, whilst the lines which form it, remind us of those unfortunate brethren, who, by a series of inevitable events, are incapable of providing the common necessaries of life, until aided by our cheerful and ever-ready assistance.
Hence from the corollary we draw an axiom in Masonry; for by connecting the several lines together, and bringing the unfortunate and industrious into compact with the affluent and exalted, we form a figure descriptive of the true basis on which our ancient brethren raised the superstructure of FREEMASONRY. A basis which no mortal power can shake; THE BOSOM of ALL GENTLE CHARITY; that heaven-born virtue, is the attribute divine of GOD OMNIPOTENT: a sublime emotion, that fully demonstrates the existence of our spiritual being, and animates us to the glorious certainty of immortality.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014