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Morals and Dogma
We no longer expect to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem. To us it has become but a symbol. To us the whole world is God's Temple, as is every upright heart. To establish all over the world the New Law and Reign of Love, Peace, Charity, and Toleration, is to build that Temple, most acceptable to God, in erecting which Masonry is now engaged. No longer needing to repair to Jerusalem to worship, nor to offer up sacrifices and shed blood to propitiate the Deity, man may make the woods and mountains his Churches and Temples, and worship God with a devout gratitude, and with works of charity and beneficence to his fellow-men. Wherever the humble and contrite heart silently offers up its adoration, under the overarching trees, in the open, level meadows, on the hill-side, in the glen, or in the city's swarming streets; there is God's House and the New Jerusalem.
The Princes of Jerusalem no longer sit as magistrates to judge between the people; nor is their number limited to five. But their duties still remain substantially the same, and their insignia and symbols retain their old significance. Justice and Equity are still their characteristics. To reconcile disputes and heal dissensions, to restore amity and peace, to soothe dislikes and soften prejudices, are their peculiar duties; and they know that the peacemakers are blessed.
Their emblems have been already explained. They are part of the language of Masonry; the same now as it was when Moses learned it from the Egyptian Hierophants.
Still we observe the spirit of the Divine law, as thus enunciated to our ancient brethren, when the Temple was rebuilt, and the book of the law again opened:
"Execute true judgment; and show mercy and compassion every man to his brother. Oppress not the widow nor the fatherless, the stranger nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in his heart. Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of Truth and Peace in your gates; and love no false oath; for all these I hate, saith the Lord.
"Let those who have power rule in righteousness, and Princes in judgment. And let him that is a judge be as an hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place; as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land. Then the vile person shall no more be called liberal; nor the churl bountiful; and the work of justice shall be peace; and the effect of justice, quiet and security; and wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of the times. Walk ye righteously and speak uprightly; despise the gains of oppression, shake from your hands the contamination of bribes; stop not your ears against the cries of the oppressed, nor shut your eyes that you may not see the crimes of the great; and you shall dwell on high, and your place of defence be like munitions of rocks."
Forget not these precepts of the old Law; and especially do not forget, as you advance, that every Mason, however humble, is your brother, and the laboring man your peer! Remember always that all Masonry is work, and that the trowel is an emblem of the Degrees in this Council. Labor, when rightly understood, is both noble and ennobling, and intended to develop man's moral and spiritual nature, and not to be deemed a disgrace or a misfortune.
Everything around us is, in its bearings and influences, moral. The serene and bright morning, when we recover our conscious existence from the embraces of sleep; when, from that image of Death God calls us to a new life, and again gives us existence, and His mercies visit us in every bright ray and glad thought, and call for gratitude and content; the silence of that early dawn, the hushed silence, as it were, of expectation; the holy eventide, its cooling breeze, its lengthening shadows, its falling shades, its still and sober hour; the sultry noontide and the stern and solemn midnight; and Spring-time, and chastening Autumn; and Summer, that unbars our gates, and carries us forth amidst the ever-renewed wonders of the world; and Winter, that gathers us around the evening hearth:--all these, as they pass, touch by turns the springs of the spiritual life in us, and are conducting that life to good or evil. The idle watch-hand often points to something within us; and the shadow of the gnomon on the dial often falls upon the conscience.
A life of labor is not a state of inferiority or degradation. The Almighty has not cast man's lot beneath the quiet shades, and amid glad groves and lovely hills, with no task to perform; with nothing to do but to rise up and eat, and to lie clown and rest. He has ordained that Work shall be done, in all the dwellings of life, in every productive field, in every busy city, and on every wave of every ocean. And this He has done, because it has pleased Him to give man a nature destined to higher ends than indolent repose and irresponsible profitless indulgence; and because, for developing the energies of such a nature, work was the necessary and proper element. We might as well ask why He could not make two and two be six, as why He could not develop these energies without the instrumentality of work. They are equally impossibilities.
This, Masonry teaches, as a great Truth; a great moral land-mark, that ought to guide the course of all mankind. It teaches its toiling children that the scene of their daily life is all spiritual, that the very implements of their toil, the fabrics they weave, the merchandise they barter, are designed for spiritual ends; that so believing, their daily lot may be to them a sphere for the noblest improvement. That which we do in our intervals of relaxation, our church-going, and our book-reading, are especially designed to prepare our minds for the action of Life. We are to hear and read and meditate, that we may act well; and the action of Life is itself the great field for spiritual improvement. There is no task of industry or business, in field or forest, on the wharf or the ship's deck, in the office or the exchange, but has spiritual ends. There is no care or cross of our daily labor, but was especially ordained to nurture in us patience, calmness, resolution, perseverance, gentleness, disinterestedness, magnanimity. Nor is there any tool or implement of toil, but is a part of the great spiritual instrumentality.
All the relations of life, those of parent, child, brother, sister, friend, associate, lover and beloved, husband, wife, are moral, throughout every living tie and thrilling nerve that bind them together. They cannot subsist a day nor an hour without putting the mind to a trial of its truth, fidelity, forbearance, and disinterestedness.
A great city is one extended scene of moral action. There is no blow struck in it but has a purpose, ultimately good or bad, and therefore moral. There is no action performed, but has a motive; and motives are the special jurisdiction of morality. Equipages, houses, and furniture are symbols of what is moral, and they in a thousand ways minister to right or wrong feeling. Everything that belongs to us, ministering to our comfort or luxury, awakens in us emotions of pride or gratitude, of selfishness or vanity; thoughts of self-indulgence, or merciful remembrances of the needy and the destitute.
Everything acts upon and influences us. God's great law of sympathy and harmony is potent and inflexible as His law of gravitation. A sentence embodying a noble thought stirs our blood; a noise made by a child frets and exasperates us, and influences our actions.
A world of spiritual objects, influences, and relations lies around us all. We all vaguely deem it to be so; but he only lives a charmed life, like that of genius and poetic inspiration, who communes with the spiritual scene around him, hears the voice of the spirit in every sound, sees its signs in every passing form of things, and feels its impulse in all action, passion, and being. Very near to us lies the mines of wisdom; unsuspected they lie all around us. There is a secret In the simplest things, a wonder in the plainest, a charm in the dullest.
We are all naturally seekers of wonders. We travel far to see the majesty of old ruins, the venerable forms of the hoary mountains, great water-falls, and galleries of art. And yet the world-wonder is all around us; the wonder of setting suns, and evening stars, of the magic spring-time, the blossoming of the trees, the strange transformations of the moth; the wonder of the Infinite Divinity and of His boundless revelation. There is no splendor beyond that which sets its morning throne in the golden East; no. dome sublime as that of Heaven; no beauty so fair as that of the verdant, blossoming earth; no place, however invested with the sanctities of old time, like that home which is hushed and folded within the embrace of the humblest wall and roof.
And all these are but the symbols of things far greater and higher. All is but the clothing of the spirit. In this vesture of time is wrapped the immortal nature: in this show of circumstance and form stands revealed the stupendous reality. Let man but be, as he is, a living soul, communing with himself and with God, and his vision becomes eternity; his abode, infinity; his home, the bosom of all-embracing love.
The great problem of Humanity is wrought out in the humblest abodes; no more than this is done in the highest. A human heart throbs beneath the beggar's gabardine; and that and no more stirs with its beating the Prince's mantle. The beauty of Love, the charm of friendship, the sacredness of Sorrow, the heroism of Patience, the noble Self-sacrifice, these and their like, alone, make life to be life indeed, and are its grandeur and its power. They are the priceless treasures and glory of humanity; and they are not things of condition. All places and all scenes are alike clothed with the grandeur and charm of virtues such as these.
The million occasions will come to us all, in the ordinary paths of our life, in our homes, and by our firesides, wherein we may act as nobly, as if, all our life long, we led armies, sat in senates, or visited beds of sickness and pain. Varying every hour, the million occasions will come in which we may restrain our passions, subdue our hearts to gentleness and patience, resign our own interest for another's advantage, speak words of kindness and wisdom, raise the fallen, cheer the fainting and sick in spirit, and soften and assuage the weariness and bitterness of their mortal lot. To every Mason there will be opportunity enough for these. They cannot be written on his tomb; but they will be written deep in the hearts of men, of friends, of children, of kindred all around him, in the book of the great account, and, in their eternal influences, on the great pages of the Universe.
To such a destiny, at least, my Brethren, let us all aspire! These laws of Masonry let us all strive to obey! And so may our hearts become true temples of the Living God! And may He encourage our zeal, sustain our hopes, and assure us of success!
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Last modified: March 22, 2014