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Lecture the Chird. .
A few observations on the Lodge Lectures, with the means of
acquiring a knowledge of them.
• Bro. Lane said he had derived much pleasure and instruction from that source of knowledge which is contained in published works on Masonry. Those who know anything of the Continent, know that large collections of books exist in masonic societies there, and, that many valuable works were in this country, which the library, if established, might some day hope to possess. He had collected several rare and
costly works on Masonry, valuable, even in the places where they were published and best known, for their scarcity; these he intended to present if the library were established, and carried on under regulations that were satisfactory to him.”-Debate in Grand Lodge on the formation of a Library and Museum.
THE Lectures of Freemasonry teach—and if they taught nothing else, their value would be incalculablethat it is only by the practice of the relative and social duties of life that our present condition can be benefitted, or even maintained. The discharge of these permanent obligations, will make good masters, as well as good servants; good magistrates, as well as good subjects; kind husbands, and faithful wives; for all have duties to perform, the absence of any one of which would break the chain of social relations, and destroy the peace and happiness of those who are unfortunately placed under its influence. A vicious parent, by evil example, will demoralize the principles of his offspring; and the consequences may be transmitted for years to come; as is the case with some physical peculiarities and blemishes; whence arises the bad character which we frequently find attached to particular families; and adheres to them and their descendants, who inherit their mischievous propensities, sometimes through many generations.
The proposition will hold good when applied to a masonic lodge. If the Master be addicted to intemperance, the brethren will eagerly imitate the example, and plead it as an excuse for their own irregularities. But such a plea, though it may satisfy the conscience of an offending person, will avail him nothing in mitigation of the punishment which is due to his crime, whatever it may be, either in this world or in that which is to come. Would it be accounted a valid excuse in a court of justice, for a prisoner to urge the legality of his having committed a murder or a robbery, because others had done the same, or because they persuaded him to do it? Or will the laws of Masonry be invalidated, if an erring brother should plead—“I only imitated the example which had been set by the W. M. when I got intoxicated, or slandered a fellow creature; and therefore, he is the transgressor and not 1.” He might with equal justice blame the genial influence of the sun because it brings poisonous, as well as salutiferous, herbs to maturity.
In the Book of Constitutions this is guarded against by a series of judicious regulations which can neither be evaded nor misunderstood. Indeed, the first lesson which is taught to a candidate is, the necessity of a strict adherence to his relative and social duties. And to give this the greater effect, it is directed to be done by the Master, in a Charge which he is enjoined to deliver at every initiation. In this Charge the following beautiful passage occurs.
“ As a citizen of the world, I am next to enjoin you to be exemplary in the discharge of your civil duties, by never proposing, or at all countenancing, any act that may have a tendency to subvert the peace and good order of society; by paying due obedience to the laws of any state which may for a time become the place of your residence, or afford you its protection; and, above all, by never losing sight of the allegiance due to the sovereign of your native land; ever remembering that Nature has implanted in your breast a sacred indissoluble attachment to that country from which you derived your birth and infant nurture.” Indeed, the same Charge declares that, the practice of social and moral virtue constitutes the solid foundation on which Freemasonry rests. And this view is borne out by the general teaching of the Lodge.
A knowledge of the Lectures of Masonry is accomplished by a system of mutual instruction which en
courages and rewards industry. Indolence is, indeed, the parent of every vice.
vice. “If ask me,” says Lavater, —“if you ask me which is the real hereditary sin of human nature, do you imagine I shall answer pride, or luxury, or ambition, or egotism? No; I shall say Indolence; who conquers indolence will conquer all the
; rest.” It has been justly remarked that if the mind of man be not employed in good, it will be employed in evil. And hence spring the numerous crimes which deform society, and lead to a painful and ignominious death.
The sagacious Greeks saw this in its true light, and their legislators provided against it by the introduction of judicious laws. Solon, as well as Draco, began with childhood, and provided for the good conduct of the future citizen by assigning masters adapted to the character and talents of the children; and especial care was taken that no evil communications should contaminate their minds. A court of justice was appointed to superintend the process of education; and if any improper person obtruded himself unnecessarily into the presence of the children, he was punished with death. When arrived at maturity, the school was changed for the gymnasium; and they were still under the superintendence of the law, that the dangers of evil example might be avoided, and purity of manners secured. After this, rewards were assigned to virtue, and punishment to vice.
A similar plan is pursued in a mason's lodge. The system of lecturing which is there used, if industriously and faithfully pursued, will produce the same effect, by extinguishing idleness, and promoting a spirit of enquiry and thought. Every person becomes desirous of excelling; and this induces an earnest attention and applica
5 tion to the business in hand. The offices of the lodge are open to none but such as, by diligent reflection, have formed their minds to a habit of reasoning, which is the forerunner of knowledge, and enables them to exchange the character of pupils for that of teachers. The judicious division of the Lectures into sections and clauses, affords ample facilities for improvement; and by acquiring a competent knowledge of the parts; by conquering the graduated steps in detail ; the tyro soon becomes master of the whole ; and the excellency to which
he thus visibly approaches, recommends him to the notice and applause of the brethren.
The knowledge thus acquired is a species of wealth which is endurable, and cannot be taken away. When the city of Megara was captured by Demetrius, and the soldiers were about to plunder it, the Athenians, by a strong intercession, prevailed on the general to be satisfied with the expulsion of the garrison. There was residing in the city at that time a celebrated philosopher whose name was Stilpo. Demetrius sought him out, and asked him if the soldiers had taken anything from him. He answered, “no, none of them wanted to steal my knowledge."
A habit of systematic regularity being once attained by the practice of the lodge, it soon becomes characteristic of the man ; and this principle, judiciously exercised, will lead him to eminence, whatever may be the station which he occupies in the world. A heathen poet could tell us that idleness is the prolific parent of all vice.
Quæritur Ægystus quare sit factus adulter ;
On the other hand, perseverance is always successful; for that which is attributed to misfortune, may often be the effect of imprudence or inattention. How frequently do we hear complaints from indolent men, that their time is so fully occupied in providing for the necessities of their families, that they have no leisure for speculative pursuits, when in fact there are more hours wasted in frivolities by such men than would serve to make them masters of all the arts and sciences, if they were properly applied. When Philip, King of Macedon, invited Diónysius the younger to dine with him at Corinth, he felt an inclination to deride the father of his royal guest, because he had blended the characters of prince and poet, and had employed his leisure in writing odes and tragedies. "How could the King find leisure,” said Philip, “ to write these trifles ?” Dionysius answered, " in those hours which you and I spend in drunkenness and debauchery.”
By the practice of industry, even during the short period employed by the master in delivering his periodical instructions, any Brother may improve his mind by acquiring a competent knowledge of the Lodge Lectures ; and they will abundantly reward his labours, by leading him to regard the works of creation not merely with the eye of a philosopher, but with' that of a Christian. They will teach him to look from Nature up to Nature's God, as displayed in his glorious works in the starry firmament, which every mason who is desirous of becoming perfect in the art should study with attention, as they display the wonders of his handy work. The canopy of the Lodge is an open book where he may read the tokens of power and magnificence which display the absolute perfection of T GA OTU. The annual recurrence of vegetation and decay affords striking indications of his powerful Hand, but the beauties with which he hath decorated the heavens, are evident manifestations of his supremacy, still more sublimely apparent. They harmonize with his Holy Word, and contain incontrovertible proofs of its truth; and the Master of a Lodge who omits to draw the attention of the brethren to these august phenoinena, is deficient in his duties, and fails to inake the science of Freemasonry subservient to the great end for which it is principally designed the glory of God and the welfare of man.
The true mason will look with sentiments of awe and veneration on these and other great works which are open to his observation, although not, perhaps, specifically mentioned in the lectures. I refer to the treasures as well as the terrors which the earth contains within its bowels; minerals and metals; boiling springs and burning mountains; earthquakes and simoons, pestilence and famine. All these, if judiciously introduced as an illustration of certain portions of the lectures, will prove highly interesting to the brethren, and enable the intelligent Master to refer them severally to the power of the Most High. “For it is the Lord that commandeth the waters; it is the glorious God that maketh the thunder; it is the Lord that ruleth the sea ; the voice of Jehovah is mighty in operation; the voice of Jehovah is a glorious voice. It breaketh the cedar trees; yea, it breaketh the cedars of Libanus. He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Libanus also, and Sirion, like a young unicorn.
The voice of Jehovah divideth the