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ted this system among the primitive Christians by means of the discijilina arcani; taught it in the mystic schools of the Gnostics, Manichaeans, and the Ophites, in a twofold manner, viz., exoterically and esoterically; that at the last, after many migrations, and concealed in hieroglyphics, it had become the property of the Order of the Freemasons." Meaning to infer that Christianity was a system of Ophiolatreia, and preserved only in the arcane mysteries of the Freemasons; and that consequently pure Christianity was an unsubstantial vision.
As Bishop Watson said of the opponents of Christianity, I repeat of the enemies of our noble Order. "I have often wondered what could be the reason that men, not destitute of talents, should be desirous of undermining the authority of [Freemasonry], and studious in exposing, with a malignant and illiberal exultation, every little difficulty attending it, to popular animadversion and contempt. I am not willing to attribute this strange propensity to what Plato attributed the Atheism of his time—to profligacy of manners—to affectation of singularity—to gross ignorance, assuming the semblance of deep research and superior sagacity;—I had rather refer it to an impropriety of judgment respecting the manners and mental acquirements of humankind in the first ages of the world."
To place this matter on the proper basis, and to show the opinion of eminent brethren of the last century, I published the Star In The East, in which I endeavoured to show the absolute connection between Freemasonry and religion from the testimony of masonic writers; from the fact that the historical portion of the lectures bears a direct reference to Christianity; from the coincidence between the morality of masonry and that of our holy religion; and the symbolical reference of its general mechanism to the same faith.
The rapidity with which the first edition of this little work was exhausted, and the testimonies I received from intelligent brethren in every part of the United Kingdom, to its value as a standard Text Book of Masonry, convinced me that I had been correct in my opinion of the universal belief that the present system of Freemasonry is analogous to the Christian religion.
I cannot throw odium or even doubt on the cross of Christ; nor can I allow any contempt to be cast on that sacred atonement by which I trust to inherit the kingdom of heaven, either by my silence or connivance. I will admit my Hebrew brother into a mason's lodge—I will exchange with him freely all the courtesies of civil and social life; but as he will not abandon his faith at my command—neither will I. We each pursue our own path, under the consequences of our own free choice like Thalaba and his companion in the cavern of Haruth and Maruth. It is a false species of liberality which influences the feelings of many good and estimable men at the present day, and induces them to concede, out of respect to the prejudices of others, what they ought to hold most sacred. Ask your Hebrew brother to lay aside his prejudices, and eat with you—and he will reject your proposal with abhorrence. And he acts on a correct and laudable principle—for it is in accordance with the injunctions of his religion.
A writer in Sharpe's Magazine asks, "what is liberality? for this is, after all, the question. We should not perhaps greatly err in representing it as a complex idea, embracing the virtues of courtesy, beneficence, charity in judgment, and self-denial in conduct. St. Paul was the first example of it, after the only perfect example of all good. His speech before Agrippa, his Epistle to Philemon, are instances of a refined courtesy; his beneficence and self-denial are alike instanced in his laborious journeys, and his manual exertions to minister unpaid; his charity and kind judgment are the soul of all his conduct. Yet St. Paul would have gained no credit for liberality in our day; for he would have made no sacrifices to spread Judaism or Gnosticism; and further, he did his best to overturn both, while showing every kindness to the persons of those who professed them. While he commanded to do good to others, he added, specially unto those which are of the household of faith. Nothing could be more illiberal, according to the principle on which the word is received at the present day; for even if doing good unto all men were admitted on that principle, we must now add—specially unto those who are Not of the household of faith." 1
I am far from affirming, however, that the analogy of Freemasonry with Christianity is universally conceded by the fraternity. Our ranks contain many individuals, whose opinions are entitled to respect, who reject the hypothesis as an untenable proposition; and are ready to maintain that the glorious Symbol which forms the subject of this volume is alien to the system of Freemasonry. And they assign as a reason for their theory, that as Freemasonry dates its origin at a period far anterior to the revelation of the Christian scheme, its elements cannot legitimately contain any reference to that great plan for the salvation of the human race.
The argument, however, is inconclusive, because it is at variance with fact. Freemasonry, in whatever part of the globe it may at present exist, contains the emblem before us, sanctioned by all Grand Lodges, and rejected by none. And it is interpreted by a process agreeing with our own explanations; embodied in the authorized Lectures, as propounded by the united wisdom of the two great sections of the fraternity assembled in the Lodge of Eeconciliation, which was constructed for the sole purpose of placing the Order on its proper basis, by
revising the Lectures aud regulating the ceremonies on the true model of primitive observance.
Freemasonry must be interpreted according to the form in which it is actually presented to the senses, and not by any hypothetical propositions of what it was or might have been at a given period which is too remote for any records to exist that may explain its mechanism or peculiar doctrines, and respecting which our traditions are too imperfect to lead to any certain result. And the present Lectures of the Order actually contain a pointed reference to all the principal types of Christ or the Christian dispensation which are found in the Hebrew Scriptures, from the creation of the world to the actual appearance of the Messiah, when the sceptre had finally departed from Judah.
The Freemasons of 1720, in the earliest system of Lectures known, explained the masonic phrase, T Gr A O T U, to mean, "Him that was placed on the topmost pinnacle of the temple;" which applies to Jesus, and to him alone, as no other personage on record was ever placed in that inaccessible situation. The revised Lectures of Bro. Dunckerley, used up to the middle of the century, defined the Blazing Star as "representing the Star which led the wise men to Bethlehem, proclaiming to mankind the nativity of the Son of God, and here conducting our spiritual progress to the Great Author of our redemption." The Hutchinsonian Lectures, used twenty years later, explained the three lights or luminaries by "the three great stages of masonry; the knowledge and worship of the God of nature in the purity of Eden—the service under the Mosaic law, when divested of idolatry—and the Christian revelation. But most especially our Lights are typical of the holy Trinity." And in the system of Lectures which prevailed at the latter end of the century, and up to the union in 1813, the five steps of the winding staircase were represented as indicating "the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."
The authorized Text Book of the United States of America confirms this view of the design of Freemasonry; and it will be remembered that the Royal Arch is pronounced by the English Grand Lodge as the completion of the Third Degree. The account of this degree commences thus: "This degree is more august, sublime, and important, than all which precede it. It impresses on our minds a belief of the being and existence of the supreme Grand High Priest of our salvation, who is without beginning of days or end of years; and forcibly reminds us of the reverence due to his Holy Name." And that there may be no mistake in the meaning of " the supreme Grand High Priest of our salvation," the degree is opened by a passage from St. Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians,2 "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly," &c. .
Having thus laid the foundation of my proposed edifice on a solid basis, broad and deep—on the antiquity of its pretensions, and its undoubted reference to an universal religion—as I professed to write for the general information of the fraternity, I now found, as honest John Bunyan has it, that " I must not go to sleep, lest I should lose my choice things;" and, therefore, commenced the superstructure with an explanation of the elementary tenets of the Order, as a preliminary step towards a general view of its claims to a favourable consideration, which might spread throughout the length and breadth of the habitable globe.
No science can be mastered without a competent knowledge of the terms and technicalities by which it is distinguished; and Freemasonry, like Chemistry, will
» 2 Thes. iii., 6—18.