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Sermons on Maconic subjects, and delivered in churches before Masonic Bodies or on Masonic festivals, are peculiar to the British and the American Freemasons. Neither the French nor German, nor, indeed, any continental literature of Freemasonry, supplies us with any examples. The first Masonic sermon of which we have any knowledge, from its publication, was "A General Charge to Masons, delivered at Christ Church, in Boston, on the 27th of December, 1749, by the Rev. Charles Brockwell, A.M., published at the request of the Grand Officers and Brethren there." It was, however, not printed at Boston, Massachusetts, where it was delivered, but was first published in the Freemasons' Pocket Companion for 1754. Brockwell was chaplain of the English troops stationed at Boston. But in the United States of America, at least, the custom of delivering sermons on Saint John's day prevailed many years before. In Doctor Mackey's History of Freemasonry in South Carolina (pages 1520) will be found the authentic evidence that the Lodges in Charleston attended Divine Service on December 27, 1738, and for Several years after, on each of which occasions it is to be presumed that a sermon was preached. In 1742 it is distinctly stated, from a contemporary gazette, that "both Lodges proceeded regularly, with the ensigns of their Order and music before them, to church, where they heard a very learned sermon from their Brother, the Rev. Mr. Durand."
The first Masonic sermon we have recorded here eloquently paid tribute to the virtues taught among the Craftsmen and after the centuries of years is stimulating reading- A copy of it by Brother Dudley Wright was reprinted in the New Age Magazine, October, 1924- This sermon was preached at Boston, Massachusetts, by Brother Rev. Charles Brockwell, M.A., one of the Chaplains of King George II. The sermon is entitled Brotherly Love.
Recommended, and it was preached before the "Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons" in Christ Church, Boston- It was published "at the request of the Society" and on the flyleaf is the following official Minute:
In the Grand Lodge, held at the Exchange Tavern in Boston on Wednesdays 27th December 1749. Agreed That the thanks of the Ancient and Honorable Society be given to our Brother the Rev. Mr. Charles Brockwell, For his sermon preached this day before the said society and that the Right Worshipful Brother Hugh McDaniel, Brother Henry Price and Brother Aston request a copy of the same to be printed by the society. Charles Pelham, Secretary.
The sermon is dedicated to the Brethren as follows:
To the Right Worshipful Thomas Oxnard, Esquire Provincial Grand Master of North America; Mr. Hugh McDaniel, Deputy Grand Master, Mr. Benjamin Hallowel, Mr. John Box, Grand Wardens, and others, the Worshipful Brothers and Fellows of the Ancient and honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, this sermon, preached and published at your request, is dedicated by their most affectionate Brother and humble servant, Charles Brockwell.
The text chosen was First Thessalonians iv, 9: "But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you; for ye yourselves are taught of God b to love one another," and in the course of his discourse, Brother Brockwell said:
The principal intention in forming societies is undoubtedly uniting men in the stricter bonds of love, for men, considered as social creatures, must derive their happiness from each other, every man being designed by Providence to promote the good of others. The apostle displays the necessity of brotherly love from a standpoint far more noble than that of interest. Our obligations to resemble God in this favored attribute of love should be incentives to our most earnest endeavors thereafter, should infuse our love and charity by that irresistible influence of example. I have had the honor of being a member of this Aneient and Honorable Soeiety for many years, have sustained many of its offices, and can and do aver in this sacred place and before the Great Architect of the World that I never could observe aught therein but what was justifiable and commendable according to the strictest rules of society.
Thus, being founded on the rules of the Gospel, the doing the will of God, and the subduing our passions, are highly conducive to every sacred and social virtue Our very Constitutions furnish a sufficient argument to confute all gainsayers. For no combination of wicked men, for wicked purposes, ever lasted long. The want of virtue on which mutual trust and confidence is founded, soon i divides and breaks them to pieces. Nor would men of unquestionable wisdom, known integrity, strict honor, undoubted veracity, and good sense ever continue it as all the world may see they have done and now do, or contribute towards supporting it and propagating it to prosperity. As to any objections that have been raised against this Society, they are as ridiculous as they are groundless.
For what can discover more egregious folly in any man than to attempt to villify what he knows nothing of? He might with equal justice abuse or ealumniate anything else that he is unacquainted with. But there are some peculiar customs amongst us: surely these can be liable to no censure. Has not every Society some peculiarities which are not to be revealed to men of different communities?
But some among us behave not so well as might be expected: we fear this is too true, and are heartily sorry for it. But it might be inferred by parity of reason that the misconduct of a Christian is argument against Christianity, a conclusion which, I presume no man will allow. Let us rejoice in every opportunity of serving and obliging each other, for then, and only then, are we answering the great need of our institution.
Brotherly love, relief, and truth oblige us not only to be compassionate and benevolent, but to demonstrate that relief and comfort which the compassion of any members requires and we can bestow without manifest inconvenience to ourselves. The regulations of this Society are calculated not only for the prevention of enmity wrath, and dissension; but for the promotion of love peace, and friendship.
He who neither contrives mischief against others, nor suspects any against himself, has his mind always serene and his affections composed; all the faculties rejoice in harmony and proportion: by these our society subsists and upon these depend its wisdom, strength, and beauty. What are our secrets? If a Brother in necessity seeks relief, 'tis an inviolable secret, because true charity vaunteth not itself. If an overtaken Brother be admonished, 'tis in secret, because charity is kind. If possibly little differences, feuds, or animosities should invade our peaceful walls, they are still kept secret, for charity suffereth long, is not easily provoked thinketh no evil.
These and many more are the embellishments that emblazon the Mason's escutcheons.
The occasion did not pass without an attempt to burlesque in print the Masonic celebration of the day. This was done in a peculiar poem of 1750, published at Boston, Massachusetts, with the following title: Entertainment for a Winter's Evening: Being a Full and True Account of a Very Strange and Wonderful Sight Seen in Boston on the Twenty-seventh of December at Noon-day. The Truth of Which can be Attested by a Great Number of People who Actually Saw the Same with Their Own Eyes. By Me, the Hon'ble B. B. Esq.
This article bears the imprint Boston, Printed and Sold by G. Rogers, next to the Prison in Queen Street. The poem, published in 1750, had an introduction addressed To the Reader as follows: Courteous and Loving Reader. I thought it necessary to aequaint thee with three things, which thou wilt, perhaps, be inquisitive about. First, Why thou hast not had the following entertainment sooner. Seeondly. Why it now appears abroad without sheltering itself under the name of some powerful patron. And, Thirdly, Why I have given myself the title I have assumed in the front of it.
As for the first article thou must know, that my great distance from the Press near one hundred miles at this difficult season of the year, made it impossible for me to convey it there sooner. As to the second, I had fully determined to select a number of suitable patrons, but was prevented by finding all of them engaged already, not so much as one being left, under whose wings this poor sheet might retire for protection.
Thirdly, the title I have taken to myself, sourlds, I confess somewhat oddly. Nor indeed should I have ventured upon it, had I not been warranted by a Famous Society in an Example whieh they have lately set me. For though this Society is, perhaps, the only one in the world that ever gave itself those pompous epithets, yet it is allowed to be the standard of Antiquity and Honour. Of Antiquity--as it can boast an Era many years higher than that of the world. Of Honour--as it is invested with that distinguishing badge, whieh is, at this day, the glory of the greatest Potentates on earth. And lf so, I see no reason why Thou and I should not submit to it as a standard of propierty too I am, Loving Reader, with the Greatest Humility, thine, The Hon'ble B. B. Esq.
The full text of this quaint and interesting old poem follows:
Oh Muse, renowned for story-telling Fair Clio leave thy airy dwelling. Now while the streams like marble stand Held fast by winter's icy hand; Now, while the hills are clothed in snow; Now while the keen north west winds blow From the bleak fields and chilling air Unto the wormer hearth repair; Where friends in cheerful circle meet, In social conversation sit. Come, Goddess, and our ears regale With a diverting Christmas tale. Oh come, and in thy verse declare Who were the men, and what they were, And what their names, and what their fame And what the cause for which they came To house of God from house of ale, And how the parson told his tale; How they returned, in manner odd, To house of ale from house of God. Free Masons, so the story goes, Have two saints for their patrons chose, And both Saint Johns, one the Baptist, The other the Evangelist. The Baptist had the Lodge which stood Whilom by Jordan's ancient flood. But for what seeret cause the other Has been adopted for a Brother, They cannot, and I will not say, Nee seire fas est omnia. The Masons by procession Having already honored one, (Thou, to perpetuate their glory, Clio, did'st then relate the story.) To show the world they mean fair play, And that each saint should have his day, Now ordered store of belly-timber 'Gainst twenty-seventh of December. For that's the day of Saint John's feast Fixst by the holy Roman priest They then in mode religious chose Their Brother of the roll and rose The sermon to commence: He from the sacred eminence Must first explain and then apply The duties of Free Masonry. At length in scarlet apron drest, Forth rushed the n orning of the fest, And now the bells in steeple play, Hark, ding, dong, bell, they chime away, Until, with solemn toll and steady, The great bell tolls--the parson's ready. Masons at ehureh! Strange auditory! And yet we have as strange a story, For saints, as history attests, Have preached to fishes, birds and beasts, Yea stones so hard: tho' strange, 'tis true, Have sometimes been their hearers too, So good Saint Franeis, man of grace, Himself preached to the braying rnee, And further, as the story passes, Addressed them thus--" My brother asses." Just so old British Wereburga As ecclesiastic writers say Harangued the keener both far and wide; Just so the geese were edified. The crowds attending gaze around, And awful silence reigns profound, Till from the seat which he'd sat an--on Uprose and thus began the parson. Rhite Worshipful, at your command Obedient I in Rostra stand; It proper is and fit to show ' Unto the crowds that gape below and wonder much, and well they may, What on this occasion I can say, Why in the church are met together, Especially so in such cold weather, Such folk as never did appear So overfond of being there. Know then, my friends without more pother That these are Masons I'm a Brother, Masons, said I?--Yes Masons Free, Their deeds and title both agree. While other sects fall out and fight About a trifling mode or rite We firm on Love cemented stand, 'Tis Love unites us heart and hand, Love to a party not confined A love embracing all mankind, Both Catholiek and Protestant, The Scots and eke New England saint, Antonio's followers, and those Who've Crispin for their patron chose, And they who to their idol goose Oft sacrifice the blood of louse. Oh Pine Salubrious! From thy veins Distils the cure of human pains. Hail Sacred Tree! To thee I owe This freedom from a world of woe My heart though grateful, weak my strain, To show thy worth I strive in vain. Could Thracian Orpheus but impart Sit tuneful Iyre and matchless art, And would propitious fates decree Old Nestor's length of days to me That Iyre, that art, that length of days I'd spend in sounding forth thy praise. Still thou shalt never want my blessing;-- But to return from this digressing. Those who with razor bright and keen, And careful hand, each morn are seen Devoting to Saint Nicholas The manly honors of the face Him too who works, Ah! cruel deed, The fatal, tough Muscovian weed! And twists the suffocating string In which devoted wretches swing (And, oh my gracious Heaven defend The Brethren from dishonest end.) Her cauldron's smoke with juice of Pine An offering to Saint Catherine. Rhode-Island's differing, motly tribes, Far more than Alec. Ross describes, And light that's new and light that's old, We in our friendly arms enfold, Free, generous and unconfined To outward shape or inward mind. The high and low and great and small. F. s P. as short and A- n tall F. n. n as bulky as a house, And W-. d smaller than a louse, The grave and merry, dull and witty; The fair and brown, deformed and pretty, We all agree, both wet and dry From drunken L to sober I, And Hugh- . But hark, methinks I hear One assuredly whisper in my ear: "Pray, parson, don't affirm but prove; Do they all meet and part in love? Quarrels ofttirmes don't they delight in And now and then a little fighting? Did there not (for the Secret's out) In the last Lodge arise a route? M- with a fist of brass Laid T-. 's nose level with his face, And scarcely had he let his hand go When he received from T-.a d--d blow Now parson, when a nose is broken, Pray, is it friendly sign or tokens 'Tis true--but trifling is the objection. Oft from themselves the best men vary Humanum enim est errare. But what I've said I'll say again, And what I say I will maintain, 'Tis Love, pure Love cements the whole, Love--of the Bottle and the Bowl. But 'tis nigh time to let you go Where you had rather be, I know; And by proceeding I delay The weightier business of the day; For it solid sense affords, Whilst nonsense lurks in many words. Doubting does oft arise from thinking, But truth is only found in drinking-- Thus having said, the reverend vicar Dismissed them to their food and liquor. From church to Stones they go to eat; In order walking through the street, But no Right Worshipful was there Pallas forbade him to appear, For, foreseeing that the job Would from all parts collect a mob He wisely cought a cold and stayed At home, at least, if not in bed So when the Greeks 'gainst the Trojans went, Achilles tarry'd in his tent Ashamed he hides himself, nor draws A conquering sword in harlot's cause. See B- k before the aproned throng Marches with sword and book along; The stately ram with courage bold, So stalks before the fleecy fold And so the gander, on the brink Of river, leads his geese to drink And so the geese descend, from gabbling On the dry land, in stream to dab'ling. Three with their white sticks next are seen, One on each side and one between Plump L-W- marches on the right Round as a hoop, as bottle tight, With face full orbed and rosy too So ruddy Cynthia oft we view, When she, from tippling eastern streams, First throws about her evening beams 'Tis he the Brethren all admire, Him for their Steward they require. 'Tis he they view with wondering eyes, 'Tis he their utmost art defies, For though with nicest skill they work all, None of 'em e'er could square his circle Next B- r with M-l paces Though Brothers, how unlike their faces So limners better representing By artful contrast, what they paint. Who's he comes next?--'Tis P. e by name P- e, bv his nose well known to fame These, when the generous choose recruits, Around the brighter radiance shoots. So, on some promontory's height For Neptune's sons the signal light Shines fair, and bed by unctuous stream Sends off to sea a livelier beam. But see the crowds, with what amaze That on the apothecary gaze! 'Tis he, when belly suffers twitch Caused by too retentive breech Adjusts with finger nice and thumb, The ivory tube to patient's bum. A-n high rising offer the rest With tall head and ample chest; So towering stands the tree of Jove And proud o'erlooks the neighboring grove. Where's honest L-ke, that cook from London. For without L-ke the Lodge is undone 'Twas he who oft dispelled their sadness, And filled the Brothers' hearts with gladness For them his ample bowls o'erftowed, His table groaned beneath its load For them he stretched his utmost art Their honors grateful they impart, L-ke in return is made a Brother As good and true as any other, And still, tho' broke with age and wine Preserves the token and the sign. But still I see a numerous train Shall they, alas, unsung remain? Sage H. I of public soul And laughing F- k, friend to the bowl, Meek R- half smothered in the crowd, And R- who sings at church so loud Tall de la R- of Gallic city, Short B- who trips along so pretty, B- d so truss, with gut well fed, He to the hungry deals out bread. And twenty more crowd on my fancy All Brothers--and that's all you can say. Whene'er, for aiding nature frail, Poor bawd must follow the cart's-tail As through fair London's streets she goes The mob, like fame, by moving grows, They shouldering close, press, stink and shove, Scarcely can the procession move. Just sueh a street-eolleeted throng Guarded the brotherhood along Just such a noise, just such a roar, Heard from behind and from before. Till lodged at Stones nor from pursued, The mob with three huzzas conclude. And now, withdrawn from public view, What did the Brethren say and do? Had I the force of Stentor's lungs, A voice of brass, a hundred tongues My tongues and voice and lungs would fail E'er I had finished half my tale, E'er I had told their names and nation Their virtue, arts and occupation, Or in fit strains had half made known What words were spoke, what deeds were done, Clio, 'tis thou alone canst show 'em, For thou'rt a Goddess and must know 'em. But now suppress thy further rhyme And tell the rest another time. Once more, perhaps, the aproned train Hereafter may invite thy strain Then Clio, with descending wing, Shall downward fly again and sing.
The few following comments may be added: The Honorable B. B. Esq. is the pen name of Joseph Green, born in Boston, Massachusetts, 1706, was a graduate of Harvard University, 1726, he became a merchant, espoused the Royalist cause, was exiled, and in 1780 died in England. He had a great reputation as a wit. This epitaph was written by a friend for his tombstone long before his death:
Siste, Viator! (Stop, Traveler!) Here lies one Whose life was whim, whose soul was pun And if you go too near his hearse, He'll joke you both in prose and verse.
See also Onderdonk's History of American Verse, pages 41, 42 and 168; Drake's History of Boston, page 629, a reprint of the poem by Sam Briggs of Cleveland, Ohio, with notes on the almanacs of Nathaniel Ames, and articles by Brother R. I. Clegg in the American Freemason, particularly in November, 1911. The preacher, Charles Brockwell was assistant rector of King's Chapel, inducted in 1747, he died in 1755. Drake gives several names of the participants which may be compared with the initials scattered through the poem; Buck, James Perkins, Johnson, Wethred, Captain Benjamin Hallowell, the builder of the ship mentioned in the article in this work headed Clothed, Rea--"probably Mr. John Rea, who kept in Butler's Row in 1748--he was a ship handler," Rowe--"John Rowe was a merchant, an importer, kept on Belcher's Warf in 1744, he lived on Essex Street in 1760."
The Latin phrase, from Horace, thirtieth line of poem, means And to know all things is not permitted.
Brother Briggs gives L-w-s as meaning Lewis Twiner, P-e as Pue, A-n for Doctor Ashton, apothecary at Boston about 1738, died in 1776 aged 74, Luke for Luke Vardy who kept the Royal Exchange Tavern at Boston in 1733, and F-k for Francis Johannot, a distiller and prominent member of the Sons of Liberty, who died in 1775. Stone's was a well-known Tavern. The various Saints mentioned in the text Antonio, Crispin, Nicholas, Catherine, are the patrons of sailors, shoemakers, barbers, and ropemakers (see also Clothed, and Regalia).
Brockwell's, however, is the first of these early sermons which has had the good fortune to be embalmed in type. But though first printed, it was not the first delivered. In 1750, John Entick, afterward the editor of an edition of Anderson's Constitutions, delivered a sermon at Walbrook, England, entitled The free and Accepted Mason Described. The text on this occasion was from Acts xxviu, 22, and had some significance in reference to the popular character of the Order. "But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against." Entiek preached several other sermons, which were printed.
From that time, both in England and the United States of America, the sermon became a very usual part of the public celebration of a Masonic festival. One preached at Neweastle-upon- Tyne, in 1775, is in its very title a sermon of itself: "The Basis of Freemasonry displayed; or, an Attempt to show that the general Principles of true Religion, genuine Virtue, and sound Morality are the noble Foundations on which this renowned Society is established: Being a Sermon preached in Newcastle, on the Festival of Saint John the Evangelist, 1775, by Brother Robert Green."
In 1799, the Rev. Jethro Inwood published a volume of Sermons, in which are expressed and enforced the religious, moral, and political virtues of Freemasonry, preached upon several occasions bed ore the Provincial Grand Officers and other Brethren in the Counties of Kent and Essez. In 1849 Brother Spencer published an edition of this work, enriched by the valuable notes of Doctor Oliver.
In 1801 the Rev. Thaddeus Mason Harris, Grand Chaplain of the Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, published at Charlestown, Massachusetts, a volume of Discourses delivered on Public Occasions, illustrating the Principles, displaying the Tendency, and vindicating the Design of Freenssonr1y. This work has also been annotated in a new edition by Doctor Oliver, and republished in his Golden Remains of Early Masonic Writers. During this nineteenth century there has been an abundance of single sermons preached and published, but for a long period no other collected volume of any by one and the same author has been given to the public since those of Doctor Harris. Yet the fact that annually in Great Britain and America hundreds of sermons in praise or in defense of Freemasonry are delivered from Christian pulpits, is a valuable testimony given by the clergy to the purity of the Institution.
There is a famous medal in existence bearing a message of such dignity and force that it has well been called a Masonic sermon and is known by that name on the Continent of Europe. A splendid specimen of this medal with its forty-one beautiful lines of engraving is in the possession of Brother Thomas T. Thorp of Leicester, England, where it was examined for the purpose of description here.
This is a bronze medal representing on one side a serpent biting a file and having around the border the words La Mac vivra, Dieu le veut. Gr. . or. . de Belgique 5838, meaning Masonry will live, God wills it. Grand Orient of Belgium, 5838. This medal was struck in consequence of an interdict pronounced against the Masonic Order by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Mechlin in December, 1838, which however had no effect unless to increase the prosperity of the Fraternity and to revive the loyalty of those whose interest had waned.
The inscription on the reverse of this medal is known as the Masonic Sermon. Here it is:
Masonic conduct is to adore the Grand Architect of the Universe . Love thy neighbor: do no evil: do good: suffer man to speak:
The worship most acceptable to the Grand Architect of the Universe consists of good morals and to the practice of all the virtues Do good for the love of goodness itself alone:
Ever keep thy soul in a state so pure as to appear worthily before the presence of the Grand Architect, who is God: Love the good, succor the weak, fly from the wicked, but hate no one:
Speak seriously with the great, and prudently with thy equals, sincerely with thy friends, pleasantly with the little ones, tender with the poor: Do not flatter thy Brother, that is treason: If thy Brother flatter thee, beware that he doth not corrupt thee:
Listen always to the voice of conscience Be a father to the poor: each sigh drawn from them by thy hard-heartedness will increase the number of maledictions which will fall upon thy head: Respect the stranger on his journey and assist him: his person is sacred to thee: Avoid quarrels, forestall insults: Ever keep the right on thy side: Respect Woman, never abuse her weakness: die rather than dishonor her: If the Grand Architect hath given thee a son, be thankful, but tremble at the trust He hath confided to thee: be to that Child the image of Divinity: until he is ten years old let him fear thee: until he is twenty let him love thee and until death let him respect thee: until he is ten years old be his master, until twenty his father and until death his friend: aim to give him good principles rather than elegant manners, that he may hare enlightened rectitude, and not a frivolous elegance: make of him an honest man rather than a man of dress: If thou blushes at thy condition it is pride: Consider that it is not the position which honors or degrades thee, but the manner in which thou dost fill it: Read and profit, see and imitate, reflect and labor: Do all for the benefit of thy Brethren, that is working for thyself: Be Content in all places, at all times, and with all things: Rejoice in justice, despise iniquity, suffer without murmuring: Judge not lightly the conduct of men, blame little, and praise still less: It is for the Grand Architect of the Universe who sews the heart to value His work.
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