The Antiquity and Genius of Masonry.
Part 1
The following eloquent address was delivered by Brother, the Rev.
Thomas Somerville, A. M., chaplain to Vancouver Lodge, No.
421, on the Registry of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, and to
Victoria Lodge, No. 783, on the Registry of the Grazed Lodge of
England, at the inauguration of the new Masonic Hall, on
Government Street, Victoria, Vancouver Island, on the 25th June
Truly it is my desire that another more experienced in the
mysteries of our Order had been appointed for this duty. I have
only consented to address you that it may be shown in practice
what we assert in theory, that none may refuse the work appointed
by the Masters.
The Dedication of the Lodge is one of the most solemn ordinances
of our ancient order, and I am certain that as these holy symbols
stood unveiled in their new resting place, and your thoughts
wandered back through the corridor of ages to the scene of their
first introduction, and forward to the rich associations that will be
entwined around them in the future, thoughts deep and hallowed
could not fail to well up from the springs of your heart. Be it
simply mine, then, as one for all, to voice forth these our silent
The work completed to-day is called "The Dedication of the Lodge
to the Holy Saint John," the patron of our order. But strictly
speaking, the work has a double purpose - both dedication and
consecration. The Lodge is dedicated to virtue, in the name of the
Great Jehovah, and consecrated, separated, and set apart to the
purpose of preserving the memory of these illustrious names.
It is dedicated to virtue. True masonry is the dutiful daughter of
Heaven. The Lodge is the sacred shrine of Almighty Jehovah. By
his law every mason must be a good and true man - true to himself;
his fellows, and to the Being before whom he has bent in adoring
reverence. The, "stupid Atheist or irreligious libertine" may make
himself a false man, but never a good mason. The mason is
pledged to pious virtue. Nor let it be forgotten that virtue originally
meant valor. Among the old Romans the most valorous man was
esteemed the most virtuous; now while strength should not be all,
it must still form an important element of goodness. The good man
must ever be a strong man. Mere sentimentalism is silly; like the
vapour it appeareth for a little while and then vanisheth away. In
every "good and true man" there, must be a healthy firmness. The
feeling of desire must he yoked with the principle of right, and will
must drive them both.
Rugged strength and radiant beauty,
These were one in nature's plan;
Humble toil and Heavenward duty,
These will form the perfect man.
To virtue, strong and beautiful, is this Hall dedicated. Never, then,
let careless feet defile its pavement, nor unclean hands touch its
vessels; never let angry disputations he heard within its walls.
Conscience as a faithful Tyler must guard off the Furies of
Discord. Temper must be ever tempered, and feeling chastened. It
is that we may become better men than we meet here, and all our
labours - the charges, the rituals, the ceremonies, nay, every jewel
and ornament, every article of furniture, every emblem and
hieroglyphic, tend to this point.
But more, the Lodge is consecrated to the memory of St. John the
Baptist and St. John the Evangelist; and it is proper that we should
shortly recall to our minds their lives and labours. Right too, that
their names should have, been linked together, not that they were
like each other, but just because they were widely different in their
temperaments and teachings. They were the exponents of the two
extremes in human character - the Baptist being the representative
of fiery boldness, the Evangelist of shrinking love. The one was a
sturdy Doric column, the other a graceful Corinthian pillar. The
one was the complement of the other; united together they combine
strength and beauty.
The Baptist was a truly heroic character. The last of all the
prophets, he was the greatest of all. Of his life we get only a few
glimpses, but these show us what sort of a man he was. The first
picture is that of an ardent youth among the solitudes of Israel's
deserts. Saddened by the hollowness of life in Israel, and perplexed
with the controversies of Jerusalem - the wrangling of Sadducee
with Pharisee, of formalist with mystic, of the disciples of one
infallible Rabbi with the disciples of another infallible Rabbi, he
fled for refuge to the wilderness, to see if God could he found by
the earnest soul that sought Him alone. For thirty years he lived in
the desert; then came the time when the qualities nursed in solitude
burst forth upon the world. The people felt that a King of Men
stood before them. The desert swarmed with crowds; warriors,
profligates, publicans, the heart broken - the worldly, the
disappointed - all came. Even the King's attention is gained; he is
taken away from the simple life of the desert and placed among the
artificialities of the Royal City. And now comes the question,
"Does the stern prophet degenerate into a sweet tongued courtier."
Is the rough ashler of the forest broken into pieces in the process of
polishing? Verily no. He stands in Herod's court, the prophet of the
desert still, preaching boldly the truth. When Herod would ally
himself with his guilty mistress, he at once said, "It is not lawful
for thee to have her." Now is he struck down like an eagle in its
flight. The last picture is that of this earnest, strong man cast into a
dungeon by the guards of the King. There he wears out his restless
soul, until sacrificed to a courtesan's whim.
May his name ever remind us of courage in the hour of trial, and
inspire us with fortitude to reprove sternly all departures from
Masonic rule.
None have ever had more of the essential spirit of Masonry than
St. John the Evangelist. He was the principle of love personified.
Love was the secret of his religion, the burden of his teaching, the
substance of his life, and the promise of his heaven. Whether we
behold him leaning on his Master's breast, or wandering as a
teacher among the nations of the East, he was the living illustration
of his constant theme. His, too, was a love not easily quenched; he
was persecuted, imprisoned, banished, tortured; but his love
survived his trials. His life was love. Hear him, when old and
feeble, writing to his disciples, "He that loveth his brother abideth
in the light; he that hateth his brother walketh in darkness." Such
was the man.
May his name inspire us with his spirit, so that our labours in the
Lodge below may prepare us for the rest in the temple above.
Brethren, the service in which we have this day engaged, and the
symbols upon which we have gazed, must have brought vividly to
mind the high antiquity of our Order. And this thought let us
cherish; it will add dignity and lustre to our pursuits. It is
impossible not to feel the spell of long prescription in some degree.
The Jew cannot but feel proud that the blood which fired
Abraham's bosom still runs in his veins; the Greek, wandering
among the beautiful groves of his native land, cannot but reflect
with pleasure on the time when the fathers of philosophy
assembled there their pupils, and the poet's song waked rapturous
applause in the neighbouring theatres; the modern denizen of
Rome, when he sees the eager strangers throng its streets and spoil
its temples, feels the emotion of pride as he reflects that the time
was, when the queenly city, seated securely on her seven hills,
gave laws to their barbarous forefathers; the representative of
Great Britain, gazing upon his country's flag in the land of the
stranger, feels it all the dearer to his heart when he remembers that
for a thousand years it has braved the battle and the breeze, and
numbers up the many hard fought battles over which it has floated;
the worshipper in an ancient church has all the more attachment to
it, when he considers that the walls of its cathedrals are now gray
with years, and that for centuries has gone up to the Most High the
same sacred song; and if any cherish this feeling, surely may we,
when we search the records of Masonry, and look back upon its
existence even beyond the period of these records. "The sources of
the noblest rivers which spread fertility over continents, and bear
richly laden vessels to the sea, are to be sought for in wild and
barren tracts, incorrectly laid down in maps, and rarely explored by
travellers." Far back in the dim and hoary past, beyond the period
of authentic history, lies the origin of Masonry. We do, indeed,
catch glimpses of it as it rolls along near to the fountain head, yet
when we first clearly behold it, it bursts upon our eyes as a broad,
deep river, well defined and beautiful. There can be little doubt
that long before the Christian era, the mountains of Judea, the
plains of Syria, the deserts of India, and the valley of the Nile were
cheered by its presence and fertilized by its current. Nearly three
thousand years ago there were in Asia the Dionysian architects, a
great corporation who undertook and even monopolized the
building of temples, stadiums and theatres, recognized each other
by signs and tokens, were possessed of certain esoteric doctrines,
and called all other men profane who were not admitted to these
mysteries. Of these were the cunning workmen sent by Hiram,
King of Tyre, to aid in the erection of the temple, 1000 years
before the Christian era. Here it is that Masonry first meets us in
strength and beauty. In the construction of this magnificent edifice,
113,000 men were engaged under 300 overseers, and its building
occupied seven years. And surely that day when the first temple
was completed, must rise vividly before the minds of us assembled
within the last consecrated. It was a great and joyous day in
Jerusalem. Wearily had they waited whilst it gradually rose up
towards the skies, and now the capstone was brought forth with
shoutings. The multitude of the people thronged the courts and
stretched away down the streets to the very walls of the city.
Attracting every eye, crowning the summit of Mount Moriah;
stood the temple with its lofty columns, and beauteous towers and
guilded roof; sparkling in the pure sunlight of heaven - the chosen
dwelling place of Jehovah - the joy of the whole earth, and the
visible symbol of that other not made with hands. Within it were
placed the brazen altar, and the golden altar, and the other vessels
that had been in the tabernacle. In the Holy of Holies placed they
the mercy seat and the ark, and within that the moral law written
on the tables of stone and delivered long before to Moses amid the
thunderings of Sinai. Then, as it has been said, "did Masonry go
forth bearing upon her brow the name of Jehovah, in her bosom a
jewel of living radiance, and in her hand the key that unlocked the
gates of immortality. For more than 2000 years has she been telling
man of a Being brighter than the stars, and endless as eternity."
Before the victorious son of Philip marched his phalanxes, or ever
Romulis walked by Tiber's stream, had she been telling man how
to live and how to die. Oh! surely it is something to boast of, that
her language has rolled from so many tongues - that her altar fires
have been kindled for so many centuries - that her beneficent
works have been performed by so many hands. To remove her
landmarks and her handmarks, the ancient buildings and the
cathedrals, those chefs d'oeuvres of the middle age must be razed
to the ground even to the last stone; for everywhere in the floor, the
pavements, the columns, the mouldings, and the roofs, the masons,
the sculptors, and the architects have left their marks. Thus high
and honourable is the prescription in her favor. Old she is, but
there appear not yet the signs of senility. Mighty her works in the
past, but there gather not the manifestations of weakness or
weariness. Time has written no wrinkle on her spotless brow. In
the virtues of her children she ever renews her youth. In her
purification from profane appendages, she ever strengthens her
stakes. In the distribution of the civilized races she ever lengthens
her cords. Her lessons and her precepts - those grand moral flora of
the universe - are of perennial growth. As they bloomed in
Palestine, they bloom in this, the farthest west. As they were with
Solomon and our fathers, so are they with us; and as with us, so
shall they be with our children's children.
The prosperity of Masonry as a means of strengthening our religion and
propagating true brotherly love, is one of the dearest wishes of my heart,
which, I trust, will be gratified by the help of the Grand Architect of the
George Helmer FPS
PM Norwood #90 GRA
PZ Norwood #18 RAM