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overwhelming, that the mind with difficulty grasps the mighty subject. Freemasonry defines the three principal staves or rounds, leaving the innumerable intermediate ones unnoticed, and applies them to those eminent Theological Virtues which no religion but Christianity considers to be imperative on the worshippers of the TGAOTU.
A disquisition on these sublime graces, as applied to the system of Freemasonry, forms the subject of the following Lecture, which is gratefully inscribed to you by
GEO. OLIVER, D.D., Hon. Member of the St. Peter's Lodge.
Lecture the Eighth.
On the Theological Virtues, and their application to Free
“When constant Faith, and holy HOPE shall die,
One lost in certainty, and one in joy;
“More ancient than the golden fleece,
More dignified than star
Whose ministers we are.
And friendship's holy flame;
Of the Theological Virtues it may be truly said, as we have already predicated of the staves or rounds of the Masonic Ladder, that they are innumerable, although Freemasonry classes them under three principal heads, as the generic parents of them all. I have already observed in a previous lecture, that as these virtues have been introduced into Masonry, it will be impossible to treat on them perspicuously without a reference to the Christian system ; although I am inclined to think that those who invented the symbol had an eye to the life of man in its three main divisions, youth, manhood, and old age ; or in other words it was considered to be typical of the beginning, middle and end of our existence, prefigured by the three degrees of Masonry. These stages, however, on a careful examination, will be found to correspond with the three great virtues which mark the pilgrim's course from this world to the next.
The ancient philosophers, arguing from the universal progress of generation, increase, and decay, held as a general principle, that all things have a beginning, middle, and end; and that the wise man who has begun well, like the gradual process which converts the rough into a perfect ashlar, will pass his life in acts of piety and virtue, till he receives his reward with God, who is all in all; the beginning, middle, and end of every thing just. This reasoning is of universal obligation, and will be found equally applicable to all religions, as well as to the system of Freemasonry.
1. In the Spurious Freemasonry initiation was thought to convey a spiritual regeneration, somewhat similar to that which takes place at the baptism of an infant, according to the ritual of the Church of England. Hence the first initiation was frequently made at a very early period, which was significantly called “the beginning of life," and water was profusely used as the exterior symbol of the new birth. This was a period of innocence; and the candidate was clothed in white robes as the badge of his acquired purity, because white was considered to be the colour most acceptable to the gods. And before he could be further enlightened in the mysterious doctrines of the orgies, it was necessary that he should prepare himself by penance and mortification, and entertain a steadfast faith in the efficacy of the institution to enable him to lead a life of piety and virtue, that he might be prepared, at the close of his existence, to ascend to Elysium, the sacred abode of the celestial deities.
M. Portal says, in his valuable Essay on Symbolical colours, printed in Weale's Architecture, “ Christianity reproduces the doctrines taught in the mysteries. Jesus said, unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. The symbol of regeneration was the rebirth of nature in the spring-time, the vegetation of plants, of trees, and the verdure of the fields. The Messiah, going to execution, consecrated this symbol, as he had already established it by the parable of the sower. Bearing his Cross, he said to those who followed him, if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done
in the dry? The green tree designates the regenerated man, as the dry tree is the image of the profane, dead to spiritual life.”
White robes were common to the neophyte in every ancient system of religion throughout the whole habitable globe. Even amongst the Jews a similar practice prevailed. The musicians and singers in the services of the Temple, were clothed in white; as are a similar description of men at the present day in our Cathedral and Collegiate Churches. King Solomon, that Great Master of Masonry in Israel, directed his subjects to clothe themselves in white garments, and to let their actions display a corresponding degree of purity and holiness. White is the symbol of truth, and black is the symbol of
White reflects all luminous rays, which are an emanation from the Deity; while black is the negation of light, and was attributed to the author of evil. The former being the symbol of Truth, and the latter of falsehood. The book of Genesis, as well as the heathen cosmogonies mention the antagonism of light and darkness. The form of this fable varies according to each nation, but the foundation is everywhere the same;under the symbol of the creation of the world, or the springing of light out of darkness, it presents the picture of initiation and regeneration.”
The beginning of life, or infancy, is still characterized, in every class of society, by white robes or ribbons, to denote the sinless innocence of the new-born babe after baptism has washed away the stains of original sin. And the Divinity has promised that every Christian, who should preserve his purity by overcoming the temptations of the world, shall be rewarded with a white stone as a passport into the regions which lie beyond the cloudy canopy; for in that holy place this colour is particularly distinguished. Those who are admitted are clothed in white raiment, ride on white horses, and are seated on white thrones.4
Supported and encouraged by these authorities, the early Christians invested the catechumens with a white
11 Chron. xv., 27.
2 Eccles, ix., 8. 3
See Weale's Archit., Part. v., p. 23. • Rev. ii., 17, iii., 5-21, vii., 14, vi., 11, xix., 14, xx., 11.
robe, accompanied by this solemn charge: “Receive the white and undefiled garment, and produce it without spot at the great tribunal, that you may obtain eternal life." At the initiation of a candidate into Masonry, the same ceremony is used to characterize his newly acquired purity, and to display the advantages which are now placed within his reach, if he seek after them with diligence, zeal, and a steady faith in their efficacy. He is invested with a lamb's skin or white leather apron, which is the distinguishing badge of a Mason, more ancient and honourable than any existing order, being the badge of innocence and bond of friendship; and he is strongly exhorted that if he never disgrace that glorious symbol of his profession, it will never disgrace him. And at the conclusion of the ceremonies, “FIDELITY" is particularly recommended to his notice; and he is told that if this be his constant practice throughout the chequered scenes of life, “God will assuredly be with
This spirit of unwavering Fidelity, says a talented transatlantic Brother, “never shrinks from the declaration of truth, nor cowardly abandons duty in warning & brother of approaching danger, or labouring with affectionate zeal to reclaim his erring footsteps. It teaches us to walk circumspectly ourselves, and to deal kindly and faithfully with each other under all circumstances in life. If a brother is exposed to temptations, we must succour him, and, if need be, throw around him all the safeguards of moral restraint a benevolent heart can devise. Such fidelity, on the part of masonic brethren, would cure many of the evils, and avert many of the misfortunes incident to the weakness and frailties of human nature. It would dry up many a fountain of sorrow, and wipe off many a reproach cast on this ancient Order of men. Such fidelity and tender regard, such zeal and brotherly love, would be strictly in character with masonic principles, a proper discharge of explicit obligations, and a direct approach to the broad line of duty fixed by the ancient landmarks of the Order."'5
At the beginning of life youth is carefully instructed in the chief truths of his religion, which are the pillar