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phrases, that flow trippingly from the tongue, and fall soothingly upon the ears of the hearers, lulling them into a self-satisfying repose. But I shall speak words of truth and soberness, which, though they may be clothed in rough and homely garb, I hope will be of benefit to all of
And I pray that, if my words should cause any brother to feel that he has been derelict in duty and has failed to do any of those things, which, as a Mason, he is bound to do, I most earnestly pray that, for his own sake, and for the sake of our beloved Institution, he may be stirred up to a more faithful and energetic performance of his duties. If we have not, thus far, lived in accordance with our professions, we should at once commence a new life. It is folly and madness for us to say that we cannot so reform our lives as to make ourselves “good men and true," for every one can and does, to a great degree, make himself what he is. It cannot be denied that we are in a measure biased by prejudicc, and warped by our own peculiar dispositions. But every one can, if he will, 80 far overcome his prejudices and predilections—the evil effects of habit and association, and the defects of early education and fallacies and falsities of more mature life—as to keep them in subjection; and having done this, he stands forth as a man—the last, the noblest, grandest and best work of creation-only “ a little lower than the angels."
It requires much care and painful trial so to keep under control and subjection the evil aspirations and impure desires of the human heart, that the gross and sensual shall not preponderate over the pure and noble; but it can be done. We have the power in ourselves to do this. There is much truth in Iago’s words, “Our bodies
are our gardens, to the which our wills are gardeners; so that if we will plant nettles, or sow lettuce, set hyssop, and weed up thyme; supply it with one gender of herbs, or distract it with many; either to have it sterile with idleness, or manured with industry; why, the power and corrigible authority of this lies in our wills. If the balance of our lives had not one scale of reason to poise another of sensuality, the blood and baseness of our natures would lead us to most preposterous conclusions.”
We should also carefully consider what may be the influence of our words and actions upon others, for we know that
“Evil is wrought, by want of thought,
As well as want of heart;" and what is said and done without any hurtful intention, may be productive of great harm. A word once spoken, a thought once expressed, an act once performed, has gained an existence which can never be annihilated-it has become a part of us. Words are but air; but they possess an irresistible power, in comparison with which the avalanche is weak. Who of us would not live differently, in some respects, were he to be allowed the privilege of going over his life again; if, at the same time, he should have the knowledge he has gained by experience ? But the railroad of life, can be traveled but once; we start · from the birth-station, and receive a through ticket to the death-depot there are no stopping-places on this line. What we do can be done but once, and it behooves us to see to it that we do nothing unless it be sanctioned by the laws of right and justice, else we must suffer for it.
I am no censor or law-giver, but I wish to speak of those faults of which many of us are guilty, with a view to our reformation; and in doing so, I wish to disclaim utterly and entirely having any intention to refer to any particular brother or brethren. We all need to be urged on to a more active exercise of those principles and tenets by which we profess to be governed. We all are blameworthy, for “no man liveth and sinneth not;" and when the faults and short-comings of Free Masons are brought in review, all of us will be found to have come far short of having fulfilled the obligations which rest upon us. And my only object in making these plain remarks, is that you and I, and all of us, may be induced to give more evident proof, in our daily walk and conversation, that we are in deed and in heart Free Masons, and that we practice out of the Lodge what we profess in it.
An absolutely essential and preliminary qualification to being made a Mason is, that the candidate be a man of good moral character, and that he have and declare a belief in the existence of a Supreme Being; this is an ancient landmark, which we in nowise dare violate. One of the ancient charges declares that “a Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law, and, if he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious libertine.” Even if an atheist were to become a member of a Masonic Lodge, (which never should be allowed to occur, and which never can occur unless he be guilty of falsehood and deception,) he would not, because he could not, become a Mason; for he could not understand Masonry, neither would he enjoy it. Those principles to which all true Masons acknowledge allegiance, and which lie at the very foundation of our Institution, could not be received or acknowledged by such an one; and to him our ritual and ceremonies would be an unmeaning jargon. Denying the premises from which the principles of our Order are evolved, the conclusions drawn therefrom would also be. rejected by him. And moreover, we dare not trust such a man; for he who, in the clear light of nature and revelation, would deny the existence of a God, must be a fool or a knave—and such a man is unfit to affiliate and commune with us.
Such being the moral qualifications necessary for admission, we should be careful that we are not recreant to our vows, by introducing, or allowing to be introduced, into our Fraternity, such as are unworthy of affiliation with us, and who would bring discredit upon our Order. Let us not be influenced by motives of personal friendship or self-interest, to such an extent as to permit the entrance of any one whose blemishes of character would unfit him to merit the respect, confidence and esteem of all good men. Unless the character of a candidate is good and his reputation above suspicion, it is our duty to exclude him, however dear he may be to us. We cannot, consistently with our duty, admit any one to fellowship with us for the sole purpose of benefiting and purifying him. However praiseworthy the motive might be that would prompt such a course, the experiment is too dangerous—he must be a good man before his admission-he must be one who can give, as well as receive, benefit. Our society is not a moral reform association, for reclaiming the depraved and dissolute; for by admitting such we would be endangering the interests of the whole craft. Unless the blocks presented for our inspection be of good work and sound material, we must reject them as unworthy; for we want no unsound timber or misshapen blocks, that would mar the beauty and symmetry of our holy temple.
The homely adage that “one crooked stick will make the whole pile crooked,” is particularly applicable to our Institution. While the principles of Free Masonry are such that the practice of them will improve and purify all who obey their teachings, yet we dare not trust ourselves to impart our valuable secrets to any who are not already good men and true, for we must have a solid foundation whereon to build our Masonic superstructure; and if we admit the imperfect and unworthy, we will thereby inflict incalculable injury upon the whole Fraternity. Therefore, it behooves us all to guard well the outer door, lest the sacred precincts of our holy temple be defiled by unhallowed feet. Masonry requires not to be bolstered up by numbers, and we need no missionaries to gain us proselytes. Our doors are always open to the good and worthy, and we want no others.
Our Institution at this day occupies a position of prosperity and popularity unparalleled in the annals of history; and we have a sacred duty to perform to the whole craft, wherever dispersed around the globe; which duty is to see to it that we do not-either by carelessness or thoughtlessness, by false feelings of charity, or a desire to gratify our personal friends and acquaintances-permit any to become united with us, but such as are worthy and well qualified to have our honors bestowed upon them, and who will carefully preserve and duly transmit the principles of our Order, and our esoteric rites and ceremonies, in unadulterated purity to their successors.
Masonry is not religion, but it is a very close approximation to it; and it is so far interwoven with it, as to lay us under the most solemn obligations to pay homage and reverence to that Almighty Being whose wisdom guides,