BROTHERS and BUILDERS:, The Basis and Spirit of Freemasonry.
BY: JOSEPH FORT NEWTON (Litt.D.)


THE FOUNDATION.

THE basis of Freemasonry is a Faith which can neither be
demonstrated nor argued down - Faith in God the wise
Master-Builder by whose grace we live, and whose will we
must learn and obey. Upon this basis Masonry builds,
digging deep into the realities of life, using great and simple
symbols to enshrine a Truth too vast for words, seeking to
exalt men, to purify and refine their lives, to ennoble their
hopes; in short to build men and then make them Brothers
and Builders.

There is no need - nay, it were idle - to argue in behalf of this
profound and simple Faith, because any view of life which is
of value is never maintained, much less secured, by debate.
For though God, which is the name we give to the mystery
and meaning of life, may be revealed in experience He
cannot be uttered, and in a conflict of words we easily lose
the sense of the unutterable God, the Maker of Heaven and
earth and all that in them is, before whom silence is wisdom
and wonder becomes worship. It is enough to appeal to the
natural and uncorrupted sense of humanity, its right reason,
its moral intuition, its spiritual instinct. Long before logic was
born man, looking out over the rivers, the hills and the far
horizon, and into the still depths of the night sky, knew that
there was Something here before he was here; Something
which will be here when he is gone.

Happily we are not confronted by a universe which mocks
our intelligence and aspiration, and a system of things which
is interpretable as far as we can go by our minds, must itself
be the expression and embodiment of Mind. What is equally
wonderful and awful, lending divinity to our dust, is that the
Mind within and behind all the multicolored wonder of the
world is akin to our own, since the world is both intelligible by
and responsive to our thought - a mystery not an enigma.
And, if one door yields to our inquiry, and another door
opens at our knock, and another and another, it only
requires a certain daring of spirit - that is, Faith - to believe
that, if not yet by us, why, then, by those who come after us,
or, mayhap, by ourselves in some state of being in which we
shall no longer be restrained by the weaknesses of mortality,
or befogged by the illusions of time, the mind of man shall
find itself at home and unafraid in the universe of God, a son
and citizen of a City that hath foundations.

II.

What, now, precisely, does this profound faith mean to us
here? Obviously, it means that we are here in the world to do
something, to build something, to be something - not simply
to pass the time or to wear out shoes - and what we do and
build ought to express and perpetuate our personality, our
character. There is one kind of immortality which we should
earn in the world, by adding something of worth to the world,
by so building ourselves into the order of things that
whatever immortality this world may have, our life and labour
shall share in it. Once, in the south of England, I heard a little
poem which seemed to me to have in it a bit of final
philosophy-not a great poem but telling a great truth :-

"The good Lord made the earth and sky,
The rivers and the sea, and me,
He made no roads; but here am I as happy as can be.
It's just as though He'd said to me,
`John, there's the job for thee.' "

The idea in the rhyme is that in a very real sense God has
completed nothing; not because He has not the power or the
will to do so, but out of a kind of respect for men, so to put it,
offering us a share in His creative work. He makes no roads,
He builds no houses. True, he provides us with the material;
He supplies us with firm foundations - and models of every
shape of beauty - but the road and the house must be the
work of man. Our good and wise poet, Edwin Markham, was
right when he wrote:-

"We men of earth have here the stuff
Of Paradise - we have enough!
We need no other thing to build
The stairs into the Unfulfilled -
No other ivory for the doors -
No other marble for the floors -
No other cedar for the beam
And dome of man's immortal dream.
Here on the paths of everyday -
Here on the common human way -
Is all the busy gods would take
To build a heaven, to mould and make
New Edens. Ours the stuff sublime
To build Eternity in time."

Not only are we here in the world to build something, but we
are here to build upon the Will of God, in obedience to His
purpose and design. The truth of a will within and behind
everything is a truth which has far too little place in our lives;
hence our impatience, our restlessness, and our sense of
futility. Yet this truth of the Will of God as final has been the
strength and solace of man in all his great days. The first fact
of experience, if not the last truth of philosophy, is that the
world has a mind of its own, which we call the will and
purpose of God. Manifestly the only man who builds rightly is
the man who builds with due regard for the laws, forces and
conditions of the world in which he lives.

Not one of us would trust ourselves to a house which had
been built casually and haphazard. We demand of a wall
that it shall have been built with respect to the centre of
gravity of this earth, and to the position of the polar star. Our
work, if it is to be of any worth, must be in harmony with the
nature of things; and this is equally true when we think of the
House of the Spirit not built with hands, but which, none the
less, we are set to build in the midst of the years. Here also
we build wisely only when we build in harmony with the Will
of God as we believe and see it. All history enforces the truth
that there is a Will, holy and inexorable, which in the end
passes judgment upon our human undertakings. Men do not
make laws; they discover them. Faith in God advises us,
warns us, to regard the revelations of the moral, as well as
the physical, Will of God, else our proudest fabric will totter
to ruin.

Therefore we are here in the world to build upon the Will of
God with the help of God, invoking His help in words of
prayer and worship, but also in our efforts and acts of
obedience, and proving ourselves worthy of that help, and
retaining it, by keeping in the midst of it by humble fidelity. A
wise man, especially a Freemason - if he knows his art - will
rebuke himself and recall himself from any vagrant lapse or
prolonged neglect, lest he go too far. Here is a matter which
even the best of us too often forget. God no more wishes us
to live without His aid than He wishes us to live without air.
He is the breath of our spirit. Truly has it been said that the
final truth about man is not that way down in the depths he is
alone; but that in the depths he is face to face with God.

Long ago it was said: "Except the Lord build the house they
labour in vain that build it." What the Psalmist means is that
the great things in the world are not accomplished by man,
either by his anxieties or by his ingenuities. By these lower,
lesser faculties by cunning, by cleverness - we may achieve
small and passing things. The truth is, rather, that the great
things, the enduring things, are accomplished - not, indeed,
apart from us, and yet not wholly as the result of our efforts -
by One wiser than ourselves by whom we are employed in
the fulfilment of a design larger than we have planned and
nobler than we have dreamed. Those of our race who have
wrought the most beautiful and enduring works confess
themselves to have been used by a Hand and a Will other
than their own, as if caught up into the rhythm of "one vast
life that moves and cannot die. "

Here is no abstract and unreal platitude, but a truth, a fact, a
source to which we may apply a daily test, and which we
need to invoke if we are to face the difficulties and
embarrassments - aye, the tragedies - of these our days and
years. Even the strongest of us need such resource the
better to confront the issues of the day, as well as to face the
vaster problems and mysteries which lie on all the horizons
of our life.

III.

Such is the foundation of Freemasonry, and the faith by
which it makes us builders upon the Will of God and by His
help, and brothers one of another. Upon this foundation is
erected an elaborate allegory of human life in all its varied
aspects: the Lodge a symbol of the world in which man lives,
moves and goes forth to his labour; initiation our birth into a
world in which we are to learn morality and charity; if
counted worthy passing out of youth into manhood with its
wider knowledge and heavier responsibilities; and finally, if
we have integrity and courage, the discovery that we are
citizens of Eternity in time: an ideal world ruled by love,
wisdom, strength and beauty. It is a great day for a young
man when Masonry reveals its meaning to him, unveiling its
plan of life, its purpose, and its prophecy of a Temple of
Brotherhood.

A great Freemason of Scotland, who recently climbed ahead
to work up in the dome of the Temple, left us a legacy of
inspiration and instruction in a book which is at once a
mentor and a memorial: "Speculative Masonry," by A. S.
MacBride, Lodge Progress, Glasgow. Even now it is a
classic of our literature, a light to lead his Brethren toward
the truth after he has vanished from among us. The book is
wise rather than clever, beautiful rather than brilliant; but
there is hardly a page that does not yield some insight to
illumine, some epigram to haunt the mind. The beauty of the
book is inwrought, not decorative; in the build of its thought
even more than in the turn of its sentences, and still more in
its spirit in which spiritual vision and practical wisdom are
blended. There are passages of singular nobility, as witness
this one on the Great Landmark:-

"Why is Masonry here, in this world of selfishness and strife?
Wherefore has it been developed, amid war and incessant
conflict, along the lines of peace and love; and so
marvelously moulded and developed that in every land it is
now known and by every race made welcome? Has all this
been done that it may live for itself alone? No, there, on its
Trestleboard is the Plan of the Great Architect and its
mission is to work out that plan. Out of the rough hard
quarries of a quarrelling humanity it has to build a Temple of
Brotherhood and Peace. This Temple is the Great Landmark
- the highest and grandest ideal of Masonry. To build,
strengthen and beautify it, we must bring in the aid of all the
arts and sciences, apply every resource that civilization and
progress can give us, and exercise all the powers and gifts
with which we have been endowed.

"'What nobler work can we be engaged in, Brethren ? Yet,
how far we are, as a rule, from understanding it. We seem to
be groping in the dark. Yet, it is ignorance more than
unwillingness that hinders the work. Like the ingenious
craftsman at the building of the Temple at Jerusalem, we
appear to be without plan and instruction, while, in reality,
our plan and instruction lie in the work itself. Then, like him,
we shall some day have our reward, and will gratefully
exclaim: Thank God, I have marked well."
 

 

         

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