Harmony and Strength

Masonic Articles and Essays

Harmony and Strength

The Masonic Review - 1857

Date Published: 2/19/2020                        

What forms the foundation - the cornerstone -  of Freemasonry?

The theory of Masonic government is UNITY. This is not mere idea, but fact - a living, practical, influential fact, which pervades the whole system, from the corner to the capstone, and binds it into one grand whole. In the elements of our organization there are certain living principles which form the ground-work, or basis, on which the whole structure rests; and from these, as from vital germs, there grow up the bonds that unite the building as with bands of steel. No outward pressure, no fierce assaults, no storm or tempest can shake the structure so established, and so cemented with enduring bands. It is founded in right principles, which are as indestructible as the laws of the Great Architect of the Universe; its principles of unity are those which bind man to man and link humanity to its Maker for everlasting ages. Surely, then, the institution must endure, for it can only fail when the necessity for it ceases to exist, and the demands of our nature no longer require its aid.  

It has been well said that TRUTH is the foundation - the cornerstone of Masonry; and that truth is, the existence and perfections of the Deity. Not the existence of a myth, or some fancied heathen god of like passions with ourselves, living in the darkness and subsisting by the cruelty of his own nature; but Deity - the Deity of creation and providence, the Deity of Divine revelation, the "God of Jeshuron, who rideth upon the heavens in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky." This is the truth which forms the "chief corner- stone" of our mystic and moral structure. It is evident, therefore, that the corner-stone cannot be removed; there it is, a great elemental indestructible truth, firm as the rock of ages, and enduring as eternal years.  

From this single truth, as from a great root, there are others that grow up partaking of its nature and entering into all parts of the building; and while it is not in the power of any man, or body of men "to make innovations in the body of Masonry;" so, too, this living truth and its indestructible off shoots are beyond the reach of the destroyer - for this and these constitute the soul of Masonry.  

But I have not the time, even if I had the capacity, to amplify on this fact - this truth which supports the whole fabric. It would task the powers of the mightiest minds among us, and were a subject fit for the pen of the ripest scholars. What I wanted to educe from this great elementary truth is, that every part of the building, every stone and timber in it, every pillar that supports it, and every tower that flanks and guards it, must he in perfect harmony with this great truth. The eternal principles of moral rectitude which flow out of this truth must be reflected from every portion of the material which enters into the building; and every part of the sacred edifice must be instinct with vitality drawn from this truth. If this is not the case, though the cornerstone remain steadfast, immovable, indestructible, yet the building itself may be destroyed from a want of vitality, and by the absence of harmony with its foundation. If, for instance, instead of making the structure a great centre of unity, where all mooted questions on sectarian theology or political orthodoxy are ignored, and from which every element of discord is banished, we should introduce matters at variance with the foundation principles, harmony would be wanting, and consequently strength. The cohesive power of a common faith - a faith "in which all men agree" - would cease to sustain and support the building in its several parts, and the result would be a speedy and entire destruction.  

Suppose, for instance, that some members of a lodge should refuse to admit an additional member because he was not of their peculiar religious faith, or because he did not labor to sustain their political party, or echo the dogmas which they deem of highest moment; the consequences to that lodge need hardly be predicted. It would fall into speedy decay and deservedly forfeit its charter:- and all because its work was not in harmony with the great elemental principle on which the institution stands. That great truth recognizes the principle that differences will exist among men, as to detail, but that such differences are still consistent with integrity of purpose and purity of heart, and that mere shades and grades of opinion on philosophy, religion, or politics do not detract from the moral beauty of work in harmony with the great principles of truth. The book of nature, as well as that of revelation, assure us that "he that fears God and works righteousness shall be accepted;" not be that believes this or that peculiar dogma, or follows in the wake of this or that peculiar sect. God is the Maker of us all, and the only standard of morality required in our mystic temple is - obedience to the moral law, the great code of the bible. Beyond this we may not go; farther than this we may not inquire, because the elements of oar anion do not reach beyond it.  

Take another example. Our corner-stone embodies the idea of supreme and subordinate law and obedience; not elaborate and complicated laws for the regulation of human action in all its ten thousand relations, and in all its complicated duties and responsibilities; this is left to the State, and the social and municipal associations existing subordinate to it. Our laws are few - very few, else they might conflict with that duty which we owe to God, our country, or our families. With us it is simply subordination to those few and simple rules for the government of our intercourse with each other, and obedience to the law of God. But how often is it seen that some well-meaning brother wishes to go beyond this. The law - all that is forgotten; subordination to the law is resisted, its authority questioned, in fact, if not in theory, and the result is discord- the ultimate, destruction.  

I have a friend - a cherished friend - whom I wish to introduce into the Order. I entertain a very high personal regard for him, and this very feeling serves to hide all his defects from my sight. Another sees him from a different stand-point, or through a different medium, and defects, prominent and glaring, are discovered, which are sufficient in his estimation to exclude him from our mystic fraternity. Seeing him in this light, and acting under this conviction, it is his duty to prevent his admission. He does so, and what is the consequence? I immediately demand the reason of this indignity offered to my friend; a storm ensues; ill feelings are engendered; the bond of unity is severed; the elementary laws of the Order violated, and the consequences I need not atop to describe. Harmony is at once destroyed, or driven from the halls of its adoption; unity is severed in all its bands of love and fraternal friendship, and that which constitutes the strength and support of all institutions, and especially ours, is wantonly sacrificed! Can we wonder that such a lodge loses its vigor and ceases to prosper? It would be a greater wonder if it survived at all; and I am satisfied the Grand Master would but discharge a duty he owes to the craft, if, in all such cases, he would promptly arrest the charter. Would any Grand Lodge grant a charter to a body of Masons thus inharmonious in sentiment and action - thus insubordinate to well settled Masonic usage? Certainly not; and therefore, whenever such a condition of things is found to obtain, the charter should be taken away.  

Every Master of a lodge knows how easily discord may creep in among the members of a lodge, unless guarded against with a tireless zeal. A difference of opinion on some minor subject, if once introduced, may be "the beginning of the end;" for, though it may easily gain access, if unwatched, it is extremely difficult to eject it. Of fair face and plausible pretensions, it more easily gains admittance because of its seeming innocency.  

I have a firm faith in the Deity, and fully recognize the claims of His moral law as revealed in "the sacred code." In so far, I am in harmony with my brethren. We agree entirely in this, and no one should be admitted, whatever his other qualities or pretensions, who does not harmonize in sentiment with us in this behalf. This is essential to our enjoyment, and the prosperity and usefulness of our lodge; if more were required it might defeat its own object. But, in addition to my faith in Deity and my recognition of the moral law, I have certain religious opinions that are my own, and which do not interfere with others. These I never should intrude upon my brethren, or make them the standard by which to judge others. Such a course would be destructive of harmony; and while no brother should attempt their introduction to the lodge-room, if it should be attempted, the W. Master should promptly prevent it.  

Again: I believe it is incumbent upon me, both as a citizen and a Mason, to be "true to my government and just to my country, to discountenance disloyalty and rebellion, and strictly conform to the laws of the country in which I reside." This, also, is an elementary law in Masonry, and must enter into the political creed of every brother. But, then, I have other articles in my creed; on all great issues I have my party affinities, and I have a right to, for I believe the purposes and aims of one party are better calculated to preserve the liberties of the country, than are those of another party. My brother cannot agree with me in this, and here is an honest difference of opinion. But these adverse opinions must not be brought into the lodge; they are not required in any of the objects or labors of our institution; and, besides, their introduction are strictly forbidden by the fundamental laws of the Order. Those laws are paramount - we have promised to observe and obey them, and we must do it. The introduction of private opinions, on matters non-essential to the existence and purposes of Masonry, would bring along with them the fiend of discord, and while harmony would be destroyed the ruin of the lodge would be secured.  

In conclusion, allow me to say, that I regard that man as an enemy to the Order who introduces discord into our lodges. He should be dealt with at once; for if the evil is permitted to take root and grow, it will very soon work the ruin of an institution so dear to every genuine Mason, and which may be made such an instrument of good to our poor suffering humanity. In this matter, much depends upon the Master. He holds the key by which every thing is admitted, and can refuse at his pleasure. He may think it a great responsibility, but he has accepted the office with all that pertains to it. Let him carefully study the Royal Art, as well as the rights, prerogatives, and responsibilities of the Chair, and then do right. His lodge will sustain him in such a course, his conscience will approve his conduct, and his grand lodge will say, "well done."  

Every good Mason, too, should be careful to avoid censure in this behalf; but should he step beyond the line of duty, through forgetfulness or misapprehension (and no good and true Mason will intentionally transgress), he should receive with becoming meekness the admonitions of his Master. Even if the Master should err, it is better to submit until "the storm be past." Harmony is of the first importance: that must be maintained, and every good Mason should make it his first object to perpetuate it. Harmony is our strength - if that is destroyed we "become weak like other men."

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