5°- PERFECT MASTER
Morals and Dogma
The Master Khurum was an industrious and an honest man. What he was employed to
do he did diligently, and he did it well and faithfully. He received no wages
that were not his due. Industry and honesty are the virtues peculiarly
inculcated in this Degree. They are common and homely virtues; but not for that
beneath our notice. As the bees do not love or respect the drones, so Masonry
neither loves nor respects the idle and those who live by their wits; and least
of all those parasitic acari that live upon themselves. For those who are
indolent are likely to become dissipated and vicious; and perfect honesty, which
ought to be the common qualification of all, is more rare than diamonds. To do
earnestly and steadily, and to do faithfully and honestly that which we have to
do--perhaps this wants but little, when looked at from every point of view, of
including the whole body of the moral law; and even in their commonest and
homeliest application, these virtues belong to the character of a Perfect
Idleness is the burial of a living man. For an idle person is so useless to any
purposes of God and man, that he is like one who is dead, unconcerned in the
changes and necessities of the world; and he only lives to spend his time, and
eat the fruits of the earth. Like a vermin or a wolf, when his time comes, he
dies and perishes, and in the meantime is nought. He neither ploughs nor carries
burdens: all that he does is either unprofitable or mischievous.
It is a vast work that any man may do, if he never be idle: and it is a huge way
that a man may go in virtue, if he never go out of his way by a vicious habit or
a great crime: and he who perpetually reads good books, if his parts be
answerable, will have a huge stock of knowledge.
St. Ambrose, and from his example, St. Augustine, divided every day into these
tertias of employment: eight hours they spent in the necessities of nature and
recreation: eight hours in charity, in doing assistance to others, dispatching
their business, reconciling their enmities, reproving their vices, correcting
their errors, instructing their ignorance, and in transacting the affairs of
their dioceses; and the other eight hours they spent in study and prayer.
We think, at the age of twenty, that life is much too long for that which we
have to learn and do; and that there is an almost fabulous distance between our
age and that of our grandfather. But when, at the age of sixty, if we are
fortunate enough to reach it, or unfortunate enough, as the case may be, and
according as we have profitably invested or wasted our time, we halt, and look
back along the way we have come, and cast up and endeavour to balance our
accounts with time and opportunity, we find that we have made life much too
short, and thrown away a huge portion of our time. Then we, in our mind, deduct
from the sum total of our years the hours that we have needlessly passed in
sleep; the working-hours each day, during which the surface of the mind's
sluggish pool has not been stirred or ruffied by a single thought; the days that
we have gladly got rid of, to attain some real or fancied object that lay
beyond, in the way between us and which stood irksomely the intervening days;
the hours worse than wasted in follies and dissipation, or misspent in useless
and unprofitable studies; and we acknowledge, with a sigh, that we could have
learned and done, in half a score of years well spent, more than we have done in
all our forty years of manhood.
To learn and to do !--this is the soul's work here below. The soul grows as
truly as an oak grows. As the tree takes the carbon of the air, the dew, the
rain, and the light, and the food that the earth supplies to its roots, and by
its mysterious chemistry transmutes them into sap and fibre, into wood and leaf,
and flower and fruit, and colour and perfume, so the soul imbibes knowledge and
by a divine alchemy changes what it learns into its own substance, and grows
from within outwardly with an inherent force and power like those that lie
hidden in the grain of wheat.
The soul hath its senses, like the body, that may be cultivated, enlarged,
refined, as itself grows in stature and proportion; and he who cannot appreciate
a fine painting or statue, a noble poem, a sweet harmony, a heroic thought, or a
disinterested action, or to whom the wisdom of philosophy is but foolishness and
babble, and the loftiest truths of less importance than the price of stocks or
cotton, or the elevation of baseness to once, merely lives on the level of
commonplace, and fitly prides himself upon that inferiority of the soul's
senses, which is the inferiority and imperfect development of the soul itself.
To sleep little, and to study much; to say little, and to hear and think much;
to learn, that we may be able to do, and then to do, earnestly and vigorously,
whatever may be required of us by duty, and by the good of our fellows, our
country, and mankind,-- these are the duties of every Mason who desires to
imitate the Master Khurum.
The duty of a Mason as an honest man is plain and easy. It requires of us
honesty in contracts, sincerity in arming, simplicity in bargaining, and
faithfulness in performing. Lie not at all, neither in a little thing nor in a
great, neither in the substance nor in the circumstance, neither in word nor
deed: that is, pretend not what is false; cover not what is true; and let the
measure of your affirmation or denial be the understanding of your contractor;
for he who deceives the buyer or the seller by speaking what is true, in a sense
not intended or understood by the other, is a liar and a thief. A Perfect Master
must avoid that which deceives, equally with that which is false.
Let your prices be according to that measure of good and evil which is
established in the fame and common accounts of the wisest and most merciful men,
skilled in that manufacture or commodity; and the gain such, which, without
scandal, is allowed to persons in all the same circumstances.
In intercourse with others, do not do all which thou mayest lawfully do; but
keep something within thy power; and, because there is a latitude of gain in
buying and selling, take not thou the utmost penny that is lawful, or which thou
thinkest so; for although it be lawful, yet it is not safe; and he who gains all
that he can gain lawfully, this year, will possibly be tempted, next year, to
gain something unlawfully.
Let no man, for his own poverty, become more oppressing and cruel in his
bargain; but quietly, modestly, diligently, and patiently recommend his estate
to God, and follow his interest, and leave the success to Him.
Detain not the wages of the hireling; for every degree of detention of it beyond
the time, is injustice and uncharitableness, and grinds his face till tears and
blood come out; but pay him exactly according to covenant, or according to his
Religiously keep all promises and covenants, though made to your disadvantage,
though afterward you perceive you might have done better; and let not any
precedent act of yours be altered by any after-accident. Let nothing make you
break your promise, unless it be unlawful or impossible; that is, either out of
your nature or out of your civil power, yourself being under the power of
another; or that it be intolerably inconvenient to yourself, and of no advantage
to another; or that you have leave expressed or reasonably presumed.
Let no man take wages or fees for a work that he cannot do, or cannot with
probability undertake; or in some sense profitably, and with ease, or with
advantage manage. Let no man appropriate to his own use, what God, by a special
mercy, or the Republic, hath made common; for that is against both Justice and
That any man should be the worse for us, and for our direct act, and by our
intention, is against the rule of equity, of justice, and of charity. We then do
not that to others, which we would have done to ourselves; for we grow richer
upon the ruins of their fortune.
It is not honest to receive anything from another without returning him an
equivalent therefor. The gamester who wins the money of another is dishonest.
There should be no such thing as bets and gaming among Masons: for no honest man
should desire that for nothing which belongs to another. The merchant who sells
an inferior article for a sound price, the speculator who makes the distresses
and needs of others fill his exchequer are neither fair nor honest, but base,
ignoble, unfit for immortality.
It should be the earnest desire of every Perfect Master so to live and deal and
act, that when it comes to him to die, he may be able to say, and his conscience
to adjudge, that no man on earth is poorer, because he is richer; that what he
hath he has honestly earned, and no man can go before God, and claim that by the
rules of equity administered in His great chancery, this house in which we die,
this land we devise to our heirs this money that enriches those who survive to
bear our name, is his and not ours, and we in that forum are only his trustees.
For it is most certain that God is just, and will sternly enforce every such
trust; and that to all whom we despoil, to all whom we defraud, to all from whom
we take or win anything whatever, without fair consideration and equivalent, He
will decree a full and adequate compensation.
Be careful, then, that thou receive no wages, here or elsewhere, that are not
thy due ! For if thou doest, thou wrongst some one, by taking that which in
God's chancery belongs to him; and whether that which thou takest thus be
wealth, or rank, or influence, or reputation or affection, thou wilt surely be
held to make full satisfaction.
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