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Remarks On The First Lecture
Thomas Smith Webb
We shall now enter on a disquisition of the different sections of the lectures appropriated to the several degrees of Masonry, giving a brief summary of the whole, and annexing to every remark the particulars to which the section alludes.
By these means the industrious Mason will be instructed in the regular arrangement of the sections in each lecture, and be enabled with more ease to acquire a knowledge of the art.
The first lecture of Masonry is divided into three sections, and each section into different clauses. Virtue is painted in the most beautiful colors, and the duties of morality are enforced. In it we are taught such useful lessons as prepare the mind for a regular advancement in the principles of knowledge and philosophy. These are imprinted on the memory by lively and sensible images, to influence our conduct in the proper discharges of the duties of social life.
The First Section
In this lecture is suited to all capacities, and may and ought to be known by every person who ranks as a Mason. It consists of general heads, which, though short and simple, carry weight with them. They not only serve as marks of distinction, but communicate useful and interesting knowledge, when they are duly investigated. They qualify us to try and examine the rights of others to our privileges, while they prove ourselves; and, as they induce us to inquire more minutely into other particulars of greater importance, they serve as an introduction to subjects more amply explained in the following sections.
Used at the Initiation of a Candidate.
It is a duty incumbent on every Master of a Lodge, before the ceremony of initiation takes place, to inform the candidate of the purpose and design of the institution; to explain the nature of his solemn engagements; and, in a manner peculiar to Masons alone, to require his cheerful acquiescence to the duties of morality and virtue, and all the sacred tenets of the Order.
Toward the close of the section is explained that peculiar ensign of Masonry,
Is an instrument made use of by operative Masons to break off the corners of rough stones, the better to fit them for the builder's use; but we, as Free and Accepted Masons, are taught to make use of it for the more noble and glorious purpose of divesting our minds and consciences of all the vices and superfluities of life, thereby fitting our bodies, as living stones, for that spiritual building - that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
The Second Section
Rationally accounts for the origin of our hieroglyphical instruction, and convinces us of the advantages which will ever accompany a faithful observance of our duty. It maintains, beyond the power of contradiction, the propriety of our rites, while it demonstrates to the most skeptical and hesitating mind their excellency and utility; it illustrates, at the same time, certain particulars, of which our ignorance might lead us into error, and which, as Masons, we are indispensably bound to know.
To make a daily progress in the art is our constant duty, and expressly required by our general laws. What end can be more noble than the pursuit of virtue? what motive more alluring than the practice of justice? or what instruction more beneficial than an accurate elucidation of symbolical mysteries which tend to embellish and adorn the mind? Every thing that strikes the eye more immediately engages the attention, and imprints on the memory serious and solemn truths: hence Masons, universally adopting this method of inculcating the tenets of their Order by typical figures and allegorical emblems, prevent their mysteries from descending into the familiar reach of inattentive and unprepared novices, from whom they might not receive due veneration.
Our records inform us that the usages and customs of Masons have ever corresponded with those of the Egyptian philosophers, to which they bear a near affinity. Unwilling to expose their mysteries to vulgar eyes, they concealed their particular tenets and principles of polity under hieroglyphical figures, and expressed their notions of government by signs and symbols, which they communicated to their Magi alone, who were bound by oath not to reveal them. The Pythagorean system seems to have been established. on a similar plan, and many Orders of a more recent date. Masonry, however, is not only the most ancient, but the most moral institution that ever subsisted; every character, figure, and emblem depicted in a Lodge has a moral tendency, and inculcates the practice of virtue.
THE BADGE OF A MASON.
EVERY candidate, at his initiation, is presented with a lamb-skin, or white leather apron.
Which is always open when the Lodge is, at work, and which is considered by Masons to be as indispensable as a
Or warrant from the Grand Lodge empowering them to work.
From east to west Freemasonry extends, and between the north and south, in every clime and nation, are Masons to be found, either on the
Of prosperity, or in the
Our institution is said to be supported by
WISDOM, STRENGTH, AND BEAUTY;
Because it is necessary that there should be wisdom to contrive, strength to support, and beauty to adorn all great and important undertakings.
Are unlimited, and
No less than a clouded canopy or a starry-decked heaven. To this object the Mason's mind is continually directed, and thither he hopes at last to arrive, by the aid of the
Which Jacob, in his vision, saw ascending from earth to heaven; the
THREE PRINCIPAL ROUNDS
Of which are denominated faith, hope, and charity, and which admonish us to have faith in God, hope in immortality, and charity to all mankind.
Every well-governed Lodge is
With the Holy Bible, the Square, and the Compass. The Bible points out the path that leads to happiness, and is dedicated to God; the square teaches us to regulate our conduct by the principles of morality and virtue, and is dedicated to the Master; the compass teaches us to limit our desires in every station, and is dedicated to the Craft.
Is dedicated to the service of God, because it is the inestimable gift of God to man; the square to the Master, because, being the proper Masonic emblem of his office, it is constantly to remind him of the duty he owes to the Lodge over which he is appointed to preside; and the compass to the Craft, because, by a due attention to its use, they are taught to regulate their desires and keep their passions within due bounds.
Parts of a Lodge displayed in this section are, the Mosaic pavement, the indented tessel, and the blazing star. The Mosaic pavement is a representation of the ground floor of King Solomon's Temple; the indented tessel, that beautiful tesselated border or skirting which surrounded it; and the blazing star in the center is commemorative of the star which appeared to guide the wise men of the East to the place of our Savior's nativity. The Mosaic pavement is emblematic of human life, checkered with good and evil; the beautiful border which surrounds it, those blessings and comforts which surround us, and which we hope to obtain by a faithful reliance on Divine Providence, which is hieroglyphically represented by the blazing star in the center.
THE MOVABLE AND IMMOVABLE JEWELS
Also claim our attention in this section.
The rough ashler is a stone as taken from the quarry in its rude and natural state. The perfect ashler is a stone made ready by the hands of the workman, to be adjusted by the tools of the fellow-craft. The trestle-board is for the Master workman to draw his designs upon.
By the rough ashler we are reminded of our rude and imperfect state by nature; by the perfect ashler, that state of perfection at which we hope to arrive by a virtuous education, our own endeavors, and the blessing of God; and by the trestle-board we are reminded that, as the operative workman erects his temporal building agreeably to the rules and designs laid down by the Master on his trestle-board, so should we, both operative and speculative, endeavor to erect our spiritual building agreeably to the rules and designs laid down by the Supreme Architect of the Universe in the Book of Life, or the Holy Scriptures, which is our spiritual trestle-board.
In this section likewise our attention is called to those important tools of a Mason, the
SQUARE, LEVEL, AND PLUMB,
And their uses are explained.
By a recurrence to the chapter upon the dedication of Lodges, it will be perceived that, although our ancient brethren dedicated their Lodges to King Solomon, yet Masons professing Christianity dedicate theirs to St. John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist, who were eminent patrons of Masonry; and since their time there is represented in every regular and well-governed Lodge a certain
The point representing an individual brother; the circle representing the boundary line of his duty to God and man, beyond which he is never to suffer his passions, prejudices or interest to betray him on any occasion. This circle is embordered by two perpendicular parallel lines, representing St. John the Baptist, and St. John the Evangelist, who were perfect parallels in Christianity as well as Masonry; and upon the vertex rests the book of
Which points out the whole duty of man. In going round this circle, we necessarily touch upon these two lines, as well as upon the Holy Scriptures; and while a Mason keeps himself thus circumscribed, it is impossible that he should materially err.
This section, though the last in rank, is not the least considerable in importance. It strengthens those which precede, and enforces in the most engaging manner a due regard to character and behavior in public as well as in private life, in the Lodge as well as in the general commerce of society. It forcibly inculcates the most instructive lessons. Brotherly love, relief, and truth are themes on which we here expatiate.
By the exercise of brotherly love, we are taught to regard the whole human species as one family, the high and low, the rich and poor; who, as created by one Almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, support, and protect each other. On this principle Masonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.
To relieve the distressed is a duty incumbent on all men; but particularly on Masons, who are linked together by an indissoluble chain of sincere affection. To soothe the unhappy, to sympathize with their misfortunes, to compassionate their miseries, and to restore peace to their troubled minds, is the grand aim we have in view. On this basis we form our friendships and establish our connections.
Truth is a Divine attribute, and the foundation of every virtue, To be good and true is the first lesson we are taught in Masonry. On this theme we contemplate, and by its dictates endeavor to regulate our conduct; hence, while influenced by this principle, hypocrisy and deceit are unknown among us, sincerity and plain dealing distinguish us, and the heart and tongue join in promoting each other's welfare, and rejoicing in each other's prosperity.
To this illustration succeeds an explanation of the four cardinal virtues - Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence, and Justice; the illustration of which virtues is accompanied with some general observations peculiar to Masons.
Is that due restraint upon our affections and passions which renders the body tame and governable, and frees the mind from the allurements of vice. This virtue should be the constant practice of every Mason, as he is thereby taught to avoid excess, or contracting any licentious or vicious habit, the indulgence of which might lead him to disclose some of those valuable secrets which he has promised to conceal and never reveal, and which would consequently subject him to the contempt and detestation of all good Masons.
Is that noble and steady purpose of the mind whereby we are enabled to undergo any pain, peril, or danger, when prudentially deemed expedient. This virtue is equally distant from rashness and cowardice, and, like the former, should be deeply impressed upon the mind of every Mason, as a safeguard or security against any illegal attack that may be made, by force or otherwise, to extort from him any of those secrets with which he has been so solemnly intrusted, and which was emblematically represented upon his first admission into the Lodge.
Teaches us to regulate our lives and actions agreeably to the dictates of reason, and is that habit by which we wisely judge and prudentially determine on all things relative to our present as well as to our future happiness. This virtue should be the peculiar characteristic of every Mason, not only for the government of his conduct while in the Lodge, but also when abroad in the world; it should be particularly attended to in all strange and mixed companies, never to let fall the least sign, token, or word whereby the secrets of Masonry might be unlawfully obtained,
Is that standard or boundary of right, which enables us to render to every man his just due, without distinction. This virtue is not only consistent with Divine and human laws, but is the very cement and support of civil society; and, as justice in a great measure constitutes the real good man, so should it be the invariable practice of every Mason never to deviate from the minutest principles thereof,
The distinguishing characteristics of the aspirant for Masonic honors should be
The exercise of these qualities will inevitably assure an appropriate and lasting reward.
Such is the arrangement of the different sections in the first lecture, which, with the forms adopted at the opening and closing of a Lodge, comprehends the whole of the first degree of Masonry. This plan has the advantage of regularity to recommend it, the support of precedent and authority, and the sanction and respect which flow from antiquity. The whole is a regular system of morality, conceived in a strain of interesting allegory, which must unfold its beauties to the candid and industrious inquirer.
BROTHER: As you are now introduced into the first principles of Masonry, I congratulate you on being accepted into this ancient and honorable Order - ancient, as having subsisted from time immemorial; and honorable, as tending, in every particular, so to render all men who will be conformable to its precepts. No institution was ever raised on a better principle or more solid foundation; nor were ever more excellent rules and useful masxims laid down than are inculcated in the several Masonic lectures. The greatest and best of men in all ages have been encouragers and promoters of the art, and have never deemed it derogatory from their dignity to level themselves with the Fraternity, extend their privileges, and patronize their assemblies.
There are three great duties, which, as a Mason, you are charged to inculcate - to God, your neighbor, and yourself. To God, in never mentioning his name but with that reverential awe which is due from a creature to his Creator; to implore his aid in all your laudable undertakings, and to esteem him as your chief good: to your neighbor, in acting upon the square, and doing unto him as you wish he should do unto you: and to yourself, in avoiding all irregularity and intemperance, which may impair your faculties, or debase the dignity of your profession. A zealous attachment to these duties will insure public and private esteem.
In the state, you are to be a quiet and peaceful subject, true to your government, and just to your country; you are not to countenance disloyalty or rebellion, but patiently submit to legal authority, and conform with cheerfulness to the government of the country in which you live.
In your outward demeanor be particularly careful to avoid censure or reproach. Let not interest, favor, or prejudice bias your integrity, or influence you to be guilty of a dishonorable action. Although your frequent appearance at our regular meetings is earnestly solicited, yet it is not meant that Masonry should interfere with your necessary vocations, for these are on no account to be neglected; neither are you to suffer your zeal for the institution to lead you into argument with those who, through ignorance, may ridicule it. At your leisure hours, that you may im-
prove in Masonic knowledge, you are to converse with well-informed brethren, who will be always as ready to give as you will be ready to receive instruction.
Finally: keep sacred and inviolable the mysteries of the Order, as these are to distinguish you from the rest of the community, and mark your consequence among Masons. If, in the circle of your acquaintance, you find a person desirous of being initiated into Masonry, be particularly attentive not to recommend him unless you are convinced he will conform to our rules; that the honor, glory, and reputation of the institution may be firmly established, and the world at large convinced of its good effects.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014