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I would convince the gainsayers that masons entertain a strong sense of obligation for favours received; and show them that in the Lodge, as well as in the world, the incitements to a career of virtue do not fail to bring forth the fruits of good living, to the honour and glory of TGA O TU.
In my intercourse with mankind on the subject of Freemasonry, I have been accustomed to class its opponents under three distinct heads. 1. Those who hate masonry because it is a secret institution, without being able to assign an adequate reason for their dislike. 2. Those who live in the neighbourhood of an ill-conducted lodge, and see the evil consequences which result from carelessness on the one hand, or intemperance on the other. And 3. Those who are desirous of admission, and do not possess the requisite courage to encounter the presumed terrors of initiation.
These classes are equally destitute of the most essential virtues of the masonic order, faith, and hope, and charity. Believing nothing-hoping nothing—like the magician, Happuck, in the fairy tale, they entertain the most inveterate feelings towards Freemasonry, because it favours the cause of virtue; and against which their objections are unsupported by the slightest shadow of evidence. All argument with them is therefore useless. One of them being asked why he continued to oppose Freemasonry, when, if he would take the trouble to read the publications of the Order, his prejudices would be effectually removed, very coolly replied: "Perhaps so—but I never do read!” This puts me in mind of an anecdote of Don Pedro's private confessor, who, when exhorting the Portuguese to battle, assured them that if they should fall, they would, that very night, eat their suppers with the blessed. With this assurance they went to battle and were defeated, the holy confessor being the first to run away. One of his companions shouted to him “How is this Father? Did you not tell us that those who fell should sup in Paradise?" "Yes," said the confessor, “but I never eat suppers!”
None of the above mentioned classes have any just grounds of complaints; and their tirades against the Order are therefore gratuitous in their motive, and unjusti in their end. The divine science is perfectly unobtrusive; it is not forced on their notice; it pursues the even tenor of its way, and interferes with no other society or class of men whatever. Where, then, lies the grievance? How are they injured ? Does it monopolize any of their privileges-does it deprive them of any advantage-does it supersede any of their enjoyments ?
Nothing like it. It offers no disturbance to their habits of thought; it prevents no course of study, proscribes none of their amusements, nor defeats any of their plans, whether domestic, civil, or religious. Where, then, does the shoe pinch? This question is answered by the story of the banishment of Aristides from Athens, because his sense of honour and justice was too great to allow him to prostitute his principles at the bidding of a successful rival.
But, perhaps, they complain that if masonry, as is asserted, possesses any peculiar benefits and advantages, they ought to share in them. It is a fair presumption; but it contains a full refutation of their own arguments and objections. . For the benefits of masonry are open to their acceptance. They are refused to none who are worthy; and it will scarcely be contended that they ought to be conferred alike on the good and the bad. It would be like casting our pearls before swine; as they might thus be converted to an evil purpose, and reflect equal disgrace on the institution and themselves.
If all the professors of our noble and sublime science would endeavour to merit the character of good and worthy masons, by a regular attendance on the duties of the Lodge; by studying the peculiar principles of masonry, which I have embodied in the present Volume; and by practising in their several stations the precepts which are there inculcated, then would our opponents see and acknowledge the pre-eminent beauties of the Order, and be fully convinced that Speculative Masonry is something more than an empty name.
In order to effect this purpose, I have taken the liberty,
M. W. Grand Master,
The Officers of the Grand Lodge,
some suggestions which, it is hoped, will merit your attention; and to subscribe myself,
With great respect,
And fraternal affection,
GEO. OLIVER, D.D.,
June 1, 1849.
Lecture the First.
On the present state of the Masonic Science.
“Yn that tyme, throggh good Gemetry,
ANCIENT MASONIC MS.
“ Laws convenient, proper, and effective at the time in which they were made, have not been altered to accord with the altered circumstances of Freemasonry, and the extension of the Lodges and localities of the fraternity. Such alterations must, however, be made in Freemasonry in accordance with the landmarks of the Order, which in this as in all other cases must be kept holy and inviolate."
FREEMASONS' QUARTERLY REVIEW, 1847.
In my letters to the Earl of Aboyne, P. G. M. for the counties of Northampton and Huntingdon, on the Johannite Masonry, I threw out a hint, that, on account of the altered state of society since our present Lodge Lectures were framed by the Lodge of Reconciliation, and enjoined by authority in 1814, a new revision was become necessary, to meet the requirements of an improved mode of thought arising out of the many extraordinary and unexpected sources of information which have been thrown open to the fraternity, by the rapid strides that science is making at the present period, and the many new vehicles for the propagation of knowledge which have become accessible by means of literary and philosophical societies, reading rooms, mechanics' institutes, and the exertions of itinerant lecturers to familiarize the most abstruse scientific and philosophical subjects to the capacities of all classes of mankind, which unite their aid to enlighten the understanding, and improve the morals of the present generation.
Since the publication of these Letters, I have given my undivided attention to that particular subject, and am now fully convinced that such a revision would be attended with essential benefits to the Order. The masonic experience which I acquired during my occupation of the chair of a private Lodge for eleven years in the whole, succeeded by the sole management of a large and populous Province for nearly the same length of time, enables me to speak with some degree of confidence, on all subjects connected with the details, as well as the general principles of the Order. And having observed, with feelings of sorrow and regret, its sensible decline in my own Province since the period of my decadence from that high office, a few remarks on the above subjects may neither be unacceptable nor inappropriate.
Some years ago, the Grand Lodge of Ireland issued a paper of Queries to every private Lodge under its jurisdiction, that the general opinion of the Craft might be collected “as to the best means of improving the Order of Freemasonry.” Amongst these queries we find the following. “Is the Order improving or declining ? If declining, to what cause do you attribute its decay? What is the prevailing opinion among persons not of the Order respecting masonry? Is masonry reputable or disreputable in your neighbourhood? What measures would you recommend for improving the state of the Order ?"
If some such course were adopted by other Grand Lodges, it might lead to a very useful result; for we frequently hear the enquiry repeated by the nonmasonic world, that, in the present stirring times, while science has been so rapidly on the advance, what has Freemasonry accomplished ? This is a question which every right minded brother would rejoice, for the credit of the Order, to see triumphantly answered by a detail of the advantages which mankind have derived from its successful exertions, or the happy application of its principles to the general benefit of society.