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Sermons on Maconic subjects, and delivered in churches before Masonic Bodies or on Masonic festivals, are peculiar to the British and the American Freemasons. Neither the French nor German, nor, indeed, any continental literature of Freemasonry, supplies us with any examples. The first Masonic sermon of which we have any knowledge, from its publication, was "A General Charge to Masons, delivered at Christ Church, in Boston, on the 27th of December, 1749, by the Rev. Charles Brockwell, A.M., published at the request of the Grand Officers and Brethren there."
It was, however, not printed at Boston, Massachusetts, where it was delivered, but was first published in the Freemasons' Pocket Companion for 1754. Brockwell was chaplain of the English troops stationed at Boston. But in the United States of America, at least, the custom of delivering sermons on Saint John's day prevailed many years before.
In Doctor Mackey's History of Freemasonry in South Carolina (pages 1520) will be found the authentic evidence that the Lodges in Charleston attended Divine Service on December 27, 1738, and for Several years after, on each of which occasions it is to be presumed that a sermon was preached. In 1742 it is distinctly stated, from a contemporary gazette, that "both Lodges proceeded regularly, with the ensigns of their Order and music before them, to church, where they heard a very learned sermon from their Brother, the Rev. Mr. Durand."
The first Masonic sermon we have recorded here eloquently paid tribute to the virtues taught among the Craftsmen and after the centuries of years is stimulating reading- A copy of it by Brother Dudley Wright was reprinted in the New Age Magazine, October, 1924- This sermon was preached at Boston, Massachusetts, by Brother Rev. Charles Brockwell, M.A., one of the Chaplains of King George II. The sermon is entitled Brotherly Love
Recommended, and it was preached before the "Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons" in Christ Church, Boston- It was published "at the request of the Society" and on the flyleaf is the following official Minute:
In the Grand Lodge, held at the Exchange Tavern in Boston on Wednesdays 27th December 1749.
Agreed That the thanks of the Ancient and Honorable Society be given to our Brother the Rev. Mr. Charles Brockwell, For his sermon preached this day before the said society and that the Right Worshipful Brother Hugh M'Daniel, Brother Henry Price and Brother Aston request a copy of the same to be printed by the society.
Charles Pelham, Seeretary.
The sermon is dedicated to the Brethren as follows:
To the Right Worshipful Thomas Oxnard, Esquire Provincial Grand Master of North America; Mr. Hugh McDaniel, Deputy Grand Master, Mr. Benjamin Hallowel, Mr. John Box, Grand Wardens, and others, the Worshipful Brothers and Fellows of the Ancient and honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, this sermon, preached and published at your request, is dedieated by their most affectionate Brother and humble servant, Charles Brockwell.
The text chosen was First Thessalonians iv, 9: "But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you; for ye yourselves are taught of God b to love one another," and in the course of his discourse, Brother Brockwell said:
The principal intention in forming societies is undoubtedly uniting men in the stricter bonds of love, for men, considered as social creatures, must derive their happiness from each other, every man being designed by Providence to promote the good of others. The apostle displays the necessity of brotherly love from a standpoint far more noble than that of interest. Our obligations to resemble God in this favored attribute of love should be incentives to our most earnest endeavors thereafter, should infuse our love and charity by that irresistible influence of example. I have had the honor of being a member of this Aneient and Honorable Soeiety for many years, have sustained many of its offices, and can and do aver in this sacred place and before the Great Architect of the World that I never could observe aught therein but what was justifiable and commendable according to the strictest rules of society.
Thus, being founded on the rules of the Gospel, the doing the will of God, and the subduing our passions, are highly conducive to every sacred and social virtue Our very Constitutions furnish a sufficient argument to confute all gainsayers. For no combination of wicked men, for wicked purposes, ever lasted long. The want of virtue on which mutual trust and confidence is founded, soon i divides and breaks them to pieces.
Nor would men of unquestionable wisdom, known integrity, strict honor, undoubted veracity, and good sense ever continue it as all the world may see they have done and now do, or contribute towards supporting it and propagating it to prosperity. As to any objections that have been raised against this Society, they are as ridiculous as they are groundless.
For what can discover more egregious folly in any man than to attempt to villify what he knows nothing of? He might with equal justice abuse or ealumniate anything else that he is unacquainted with. But there are some peculiar customs amongst us: surely these can be liable to no censure. Has not every Society some peculiarities which are not to be revealed to men of different communities?
But some among us behave not so well as might be expected: we fear this is too true, and are heartily sorry for it. But it might be inferred by parity of reason that the misconduct of a Christian is argument against Christianity, a conclusion which, I presume no man will allow. Let us rejoice in every opportunity of serving and obliging each other, for then, and only then, are we answering the great need of our institution.
Brotherly love, relief, and truth oblige us not only to be compassionate and benevolent, but to demonstrate that relief and comfort which the compassion of any members requires and we can bestow without manifest inconvenience to ourselves. The regulations of this Society are calculated not only for the prevention of enmity wrath, and dissension; but for the promotion of love peace, and friendship.
He who neither contrives mischief against others, nor suspects any against himself, has his mind always serene and his affections composed; all the faculties rejoice in harmony and proportion: by these our society subsists and upon these depend its wisdom, strength, and beauty. What are our secrets? If a Brother in necessity seeks relief, 'tis an inviolable secret, because true charity vaunteth not itself. If an overtaken Brother be admonished, 'tis in secret, because charity is kind. If possibly little differences, feuds, or animosities should invade our peaceful walls, they are still kept secret, for charity suffereth long, is not easily provoked thinketh no evil.
These and many more are the embellishments that emblazon the Mason's escutcheons
The occasion did not pass without an attempt to burlesque in print the Masonic celebration of the day. This was done in a peculiar poem of 1750, published at Boston, Massachusetts, with the following title:
Entertainment for a Winter's Evening: Being a Full and True Account of a Very Strange and Wonderful Sight Seen in Boston on the Twenty-seventh of December at Noon-day. The Truth of Which can be Attested by a Great Number of People who Actually Saw the Same with Their Own Eyes. By Me, the Hon'ble B. B. Esq.
This article bears the imprint Boston, Printed and Sold by G. Rogers, next to the Prison in Queen Street. The poem, published in 1750, had an introduction addressed To the Reader as follows:
Courteous and Loving Reader.
I thought it necessary to aequaint thee with three things, which thou wilt, perhaps, be inquisitive about. First, Why thou hast not had the following entertainment sooner. Seeondly. Why it now appears abroad without sheltering itself under the name of some powerful patron. And, Thirdly, Why I have given myself the title I have assumed in the front of it.
As for the first article thou must know, that my great distance from the Press near one hundred miles at this difficult season of the year, made it impossible for me to convey it there sooner.
As to the second, I had fully determined to select a number of suitable patrons, but was prevented by finding all of them engaged already, not so much as one being left, under whose wings this poor sheet might retire for protection.
Thirdly, the title I have taken to myself, sourlds, I confess somewhat oddly. Nor indeed should I have ventured upon it, had I not been warranted by a Famous Society in an Example whieh they have lately set me. For though this Society is, perhaps, the only one in the world that ever gave itself those pompous epithets, yet it is allowed to be the standard of Antiquity and Honour. Of Antiquity—as it can boast an Era many years higher than that of the world. Of Honour—as it is invested with that distinguishing badge, whieh is, at this day, the glory of the greatest Potentates on earth. And lf so, I see no reason why Thou and I should not submit to it as a standard of propierty too I am, Loving Reader, with the Greatest Humility, thine,
The Hon'ble B. B. Esq.
Siste, Viator! (Stop, Traveler!) Here lies one
Whose life was whim, whose soul was pun
And if you go too near his hearse,
He'll joke you both in prose and verse.
See also Onderdonk's History of American Verse, pages 41, 42 and 168; Drake's History of Boston, page 629, a reprint of the poem by Sam Briggs of Cleveland, Ohio, with notes on the almanacs of Nathaniel Ames, and articles by Brother R. I. Clegg in the American Freemason, particularly in November, 1911. The preacher, Charles Brockwell was assistant rector of King's Chapel, inducted in 1747, he died in 1755. Drake gives several names of the participants which may be compared with the initials scattered through the poem; Buck, James Perkins, Johnson, Wethred, Captain Benjamin Hallowell, the builder of the ship mentioned in the article in this work headed Clothed, Rea—"probably Mr. John Rea, who kept in Butler's Row in 1748—he was a ship ehandler," Rowe—"John Rowe was a merchant, an importer, kept on Belcher's Warf in 1744, he lived on Essex Street in 1760."
The Latin phrase, from Horace, thirtieth line of poem, means And to know all things is not permitted.
Brother Briggs gives L-w-s as meaning Lewis Twiner, P-e as Pue, A-n for Doctor Ashton, apothecary at Boston about 1738, died in 1776 aged 74, Luke for Luke Vardy who kept the Royal Exchange Tavern at Boston in 1733, and F-k for Francis Johannot, a distiller and prominent member of the Sons of Liberty, who died in 1775. Stone's was a well-known Tavern. The various Saints mentioned in the text Antonio, Crispin, Nicholas, Catherine, are the patrons of sailors, shoemakers, barbers, and ropemakers (see also Clothed, and Regalia).
Brockwell's, however, is the first of these early sermons which has had the good fortune to be embalmed in type. But though first printed, it was not the first delivered. In 1750, John Entick, afterward the editor of an edition of Anderson's Constitutions, delivered a sermon at Walbrook, England, entitled The free and Accepted Mason Described. The text on this occasion was from Aets xxviu, 22, and had some significance in reference to the popular eharaeter of the Order. "But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against." Entiek preached several other sermons, which were printed.
From that time, both in England and the United States of America, the sermon became a very usual part of the public celebration of a Masonic festival. One preached at Neweastle-upon-Tyne, in 1775, is in its very title a sermon of itself: "The Basis of Freemasonry displayed; or, an Attempt to show that the general Prineiples of true Religion, genuine Virtue, and sound Morality are the noble Foundations on which this renowned Soeiety is established: Being a Sermon preached in Neweastle, on the Festival of Saint John the Evangelist, 1775, by Brother Robert Green."
In 1799, the Rev. Jethro Inwood published a volume of Sermons, in which are expressed and enforced the religious, moral, and political virtues of Freemasonry, preached u pon several occasions bed ore the Provincial Grand Officers and other Brethren in the Counties of Kent and Essez. In 1849 Brother Speneer published an edition of this work, enriched by the valuable notes of Doetor Oliver.
In 1801 the Rev. Thaddeus Mason Harris, Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, published at Charlestown, Massachusetts, a volume of Discourses delivered on Public Occasions, illustrating the Principles, displaying the Tendency, and vindicating the Design of Freenssonr1y. This work has also been annotated in a new edition by Doctor Oliver, and republished in his Golden Remains of Early Masonic Writers. During this nineteenth eentury there has been an abundance of single sermons preached and published, but for a long period no other collected volume of any by one and the same author has been given to the public since those of Doctor Harris. Yet the fact that annually in Great Britain and America hundreds of sermons in praise or in defense of Freemasonry are delivered frorrx Christian pulpits, is a valuable testimony given by the clergy to the purity of the Institution.
There is a famous medal in existence bearing a message of such dignity and force that it has well been called a Masonie sermon and is known by that name on the Continent of Europe. A splendid specimen of this medal with its forty-one beautiful lines of engraving is in the possession of Brother Thomas T. Thorp of Leieester, England, where it was examined for the purpose of description here.
This is a bronze medal representing on one side a serpent biting a file and having around the border the words La Mac. . vivra, Dieu le veut. Gr. . or. . de Belgique 5838, meaning Masonry will live, God wills it. Grand Orient of Belgium, 5838. This medal was struck in consequence of an interdict pronounced against the Masonic Order by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Mechlin in December, 1838, which however had no effect unless to increase the prosperity of the Fraternity and to revive the loyalty of those whose interest had waned.
The inscription on the reverse of this medal is known as the Masonic Sermon. Here it is:
Masonic conduct is to adore the Grand Arehiteet of the Universe .
Love thy neighbor: do no evil: do good: suffer man to speak:
The worship most acceptable to the Grand Architecet of the Universe consists of good morals and to the practice of all the virtues
Do good for the love of goodness itself alone:
Ever keep thy soul in a state so pure as to appear worthily before the presence of the Grand Arehiteet, who is God:
Love the good, succor the weak, fly from the wicked, but hate no one:
Speak seriously with the great, and prudentlv with thy equals, sincerely with thy friends, pleasantly with the little ones, tender with the poor:
Do not flatter thy Brother, that is treason:
If thy Brother flatter thee, beware that he doth not corrupt thee:
Listen always to the voice of conscience
Be a father to the poor: each sigh drawn from them by thy hard-heartedness will increase the number of maledictions which will fall upon thy head:
Respect the stranger on his journey and assist him: his person is sacred to thee:
Avoid quarrels, forestall insults:
Ever keep the right on thy side:
Respect Woman, never abuse her weakness:
die rather than dishonor her:
If the Grand Architect hath given thee a son, be thankful, but tremble at the trust He hath confided to thee:
be to that Child the image of Divinity:
until he is ten years old let him fear thee:
until he is twenty let him love thee and until death let him respect thee:
until he is ten years old be his master, until twenty his father and until death his friend:
aim to give him good principles rather than elegant manners, that he mav hare enlightened rectitude, and not a frivolous elegance:
make of him an honest man rather than a man of dress:
If thou blushes at thy condition it is pride:
Consider that it is not the position which honors or degrades thee, but the manner in which thou dost fill it:
Read and profit, see and imitate, reflect and labor:
Do all for the benefit of thy Brethren, that is w orking for thyself:
Be Content in all places, at all times, and with all things:
Rejoice in justice, despise iniquity, suffer without murmuring:
Judge not lightly the conduct of men, blame little, and praise still less:
It is for the Grand Arehiteet of the Universe who seawhes the heart to value His work.
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