The Gospel of Freemasonry
SERMONS don't generally need sign-boards nor excuses to designate the wherefores for being preached. Paper-wads don't go very far nor penetrate very deep into the target, but they sometimes got us into trouble in our boyhood days.
After almost half a century of Masonic life, extending from one extreme point of the compass to the other, from the time I was initiated on a bare floor and realized the good of Masonry in sunshine and storm, including the test of my obligation to a brother in dire distress, and helping to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and bind up the wounds of the afflicted. I felt that my experiences might be an incentive to my brethren.
This is my reason for publishing these sermons in booklet form from time to time as the "spirit moves me," and inflicting them upon the craft. If any thoughts herein meet with your approval, tell me so. If not, you haven't been "touched" very hard, so "play and look pleasant."
— Bascom B. Clarke, 33°
Sermon Number One
FREEMASONRY, Ezra, consists of more than signs and passwords and mystery. The man who is no better off after he has seen the hidden mysteries of this grand old order that has lived through centuries, way back before the days of Saint John the Evangelist and Saint John the Divine, ain't got much material in him for constructing a mansion in "the house not made with hands."
Freemasonry doesn't advertise its business on bulletin boards along the railway tracks and in elevated stations excepting as the acts of its votaries tell of its helpfulness to man. Freemasonry doesn't maintain any lobbies in Congress, looking towards its own aggrandizement and how it may fasten its hold upon legislation, but by its good deeds, its upright acts toward all, Masonry grows in the hearts of mankind as it has ever grown since Solomon first wielded the gavel on Mount Moriah in the long ago.
Taking the obligations of Freemasonry, which teaches us to be good men and true, does not make us perfect Masons. You can't go through the forest without noticing many crooked trees, No matter how fine the meshes, you can't keep a "bull-head" from getting in your seine once in a while. It's not taking the obligations so much as it's living up to them that counts.
When I was a little boy I paid three dollars and a half, that I earned chopping cord-wood at six bits a cord, for book which the agent claimed would tell all about the "dark and shady deeds of Freemasonry." The man who sold me the book owned the wood-pile, Ezra, and not until I grew up did I fully understand his great interest in my welfare, but when I figured out that book-agents got forty per cent of the gross receipts, I could see how cheap I had chopped cord-wood.
Somewhere around the honey-bag in the bee's belly you'll find the sting. Whenever anyone tries to make you believe he's just honing to do you a good favor, you include hem and selvage in the shrinkage.
I didn't know a thing about Freemasonry back there, most fifty years ago, Ezra, and I wasn't in such great danger of becoming inoculated with it that I should pay three dollars and a half for being vaccinated against it. Well, I didn't read all the book, for it was tedious and sounded fishy in some ways but I got just interested enough to want to find out who lied about it, when I reached my majority. Here was this fellow going up and down the land peddling anti-Masonic tracts, and carrying a prospectus for getting subscriptions at three and a half bucks each for this "Exposition of Freemasonry." Here was his brother-in-law, with whom I had also lived, a superintendent of a shouting Methodist Sunday School. Well, the Sunday School didn't shout so much excepting in singing praise to God, but the congregation whooped her up, Lizer Jane, when the fires of religion got fanned a little. This brother in-law of the book peddler was a Mason. I showed him my purchase. After looking it over he looked at me and said, "She may be good readin', son, but that little Bible you won in Sunday School that I presented to you last summer contains lots more truth." Then he looked at me, sorter pitying like and says, "You look over this list of our lodge members and tell me if you think they'd belong to an order that would do all the things that this book has laid up against us." That set me thinking, Ezra, and I said to myself that when I was twenty-one I'd try it and if I got by I'd know who lied. That's nearly fifty years ago this month since I walked over a little bare floor in a scantily furnished lodge room and learned my first lesson. Somehow, when they asked me the first question, "In whom do you put your trust," it was natural for me to tell them "In grandmother's God," and grandmother was a Methodist, not a shouting Methodist, but one of them still alarms that Masonry teaches about in every lesson. And instead of being invited to join a "gang of horse thieves," as they had been called to me, I found good old gray haired Christian men reaching out their hands in welcome and calling me "brother." I was a little rat them days, Ezra, and two of the best old Methodist members black-balled me on my looks, not on my acts. One of them told this good friend who had taken my petition, "That boy ain't sixteen years old." I had to send way down home in Arkansas for the proofs and when they reached the lodge those two dear old friends, who had guarded the outer door, came and congratulated me and helped show me "the light."
Years afterwards when one of those old soldiers of the cross was on his death-bed I sat beside him many nights and helped care for him and received his blessing for it. He's in Heaven now, and when I cross the "Great Divide" I'm going to ask him to introduce me to both the Saints John and other members of the craft.
I had to laugh a while ago, Ezra, when I was doing, a morsel of missionary work in getting some of the brethren's autographs on the dotted lines for the Consistory. It was for the Big Jubilee class, and I was making trips in the country in an auto, for some of the brethren lived far out from the city. One of these asked me how much I got of the initiation fee for my trouble. I told him "all of it and more too," for I was paying the interest on a debt that I had owed the order for many years. I was making up for what I'd lost on that three dollar and a half book that had caused me to seek the hidden mysteries I was seventeen years old when I bought that book. I've passed the three score mark now and I'm proud of the fact that I'm a member of an order that helps good men become better men.
Just because the ignorant and intolerant say nasty things about Freemasonry, Ezra, doesn't make it true. There is no order nor church nor creed in all the world that is bigger or broader minded or more liberal. It needs no defense of mine.
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Sermon Number Two
It's mighty nice to wear Masonic jewels, Ezra. I used to think when I first inherited the right to wear the Square and Compass with that significant letter "G" in the center, that I was fortified to rub elbows with the biggest and the best of them. I wouldn't have traded my first Masonic badge, with what it meant to me, for anything short of a quarter section in glory. But badges only represent what is represented in the man who wears them!
If the brother who has been "raised" from the dead level to the living perpendicular listened well, he must have heard the beautiful lessons of the "square" and the "compasses" duly explained and every one of the twenty-four inches of the gauge representing the twenty-four hours of the day. If he heard these lessons only in routine and they made no impression on his soul, you couldn't exalt him very much by hanging as many badges and jewels on him as adorn the foreign diplomat, who comes over to this country to swap soft talk with our own crowd of statesmen, who shoot, "hit if a deer, and miss if a calf" in handing questions of state.
There's another thing, Ezra, that too many of us, who have received Masonic light entirely forget, and that's the significance of the letter "G." No Mason should ever forget the time when the Master called up the lodge and when all reverently bowed. Folks forget too soon, Ezra. The Mason who profanes God's holy name commits sin against his Lord and Master, and a sin against his order, by aiding the profane in believing that Masonry tolerates profanity. Sorter think this over and try to skip the hard words hereafter.
In the old days, when I first saw the light, we were a tolerable poor crowd, Ezra, and had to do lots of scratching to get a little picking. Somehow, some folks sorter felt that being a Mason carried with it some supernatural power of "feeding the hungry and clothing the naked." There was a dear old brother in the little lodge back there who was always in church on Sunday and did most of the praying, but he was like some folks chopping wood, he couldn't get the "slight of using the ax" as we used to say in the timber. Try as he would, it kept him guessing what the family would have for Sunday dinner. One day he took ill and died, leaving a widow, who felt that Masonic jurisprudence included bacon and cabbage, wheat bread and potatoes, coffee and sugar, and plenty of it. One day we received a little note, including a bill of fare that was no slouch, Ezra. Most of us had been hittin' on three cylinders ourselves, part of the time, and to be invited to "sit in" and decorate the mahogany according to the widow's code was asking a whole lot. The worst of it was that this supplication came in the form of an ultimatum. She wanted bacon and cabbage and she wanted it in time for dinner that day. Ezra, were you ever so poor that a twenty-five pound sack of flour looked like the whole wheat crop of the United States, ground and bolted? Well, that was my idea of the situation when the widow wanted a fifty-pound sack. Fifty pounds of flour, Ezra, seemed like reckless extravagance, and me eatting corn bread twice a day under protest! Why, the only reason I didn't pray the Lord to help me get a fifty-pound sack of flour — and me willin' to pay for it — was because I thought it was asking for too big a shake-down.
Anyhow, we held a council of war among the ten or a dozen members, and all of us together couldn't have created any flurry in Wall Street either, and we decided that having the name of being able to do the Multum in Parvo act, that it would be a shame not to maintain our reputation, so we levied an individual tax of four bits each on every able-bodied member of the lodge, and with this fund we sent a committee with the bill of fare to the last item on the list. We did more, Ezra. Realizing that if we received like demands every week or so, that the circulating medium which accelerates equine motion around the home base wouldn't stand the tension, when the widow in due course of time had put aside her mourning, and we found one of the brethren who seemed to have a corresponding disposition and who had been without a mate just long enough to have his wing down, we fulfilled our Masonic obligation of caring for the widows by boosting for the good brother in knightly style, until the twain became one flesh.
The gospel of Freemasonry, Ezra, consists in being ready and willing to strain a point, if necessary, to help those in distress. It beats all how much you can do after you think you've done all you can do. Just enter into your closet before going to bed, or if you are too tired to pray in a musty closet, why just lie down in bed — it doesn't make much difference to the Grand Architect whether you pray like a Presbyterian, standing up, or shouting like a Methodist like you thought the Lord was deaf, or whether you pray like the Arab, lying on your belly, just so you pray and mean it, old chap, — and before you begin to saw gourds for the night, sorter make a digest of the day's work and ask God to forgive you for the crooked paths and to help you plow straighter furrows next day. Pray, meaning it, and you'll sleep sounder, and feel better, and the help will come wherewith you may help others. But, Ezra, don't do like the fellow did who thought he was too busy to pray, and had the Lord's prayer printed and hung over the head of his bead, and at night, waving his hand toward the prayer said, "Lord, them's my sentiments!" Do a little stunt of originality now and then. It will help lots.
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Sermon Number Three
TAKE your Bible and turn to the "Sermon on the Mount," as recorded in the seventh chapter of Saint Matthew, and you'll find these words, Ezra: "Not every one that sayeth unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven."
I've attended lots of big meetings, Ezra, where they whooped 'em up until I have sometimes thought they'd split the shingles with supplications of prayer, and when the time came to seine the pond they'd get about all the fish excepting the minnows, but do you know they wouldn't all keep? Fish are queer creatures, Ezra. They are born into this vale of tears, orphans. are raised by the "daddy fishes" — their mothers consider their duty done when the eggs are laid. Well, human beings are like fish, and lots of Masons take the same view of the matter that the mother fish takes after depositing her eggs in the bed made ready for her. This class of Masons seem to think that paying the initiation fees and taking the obligations that entitle them to wear big jewels constitutes, creates and dubs them the whole works. It doesn't do any such thing, Ezra.
The spirit of deviltry takes possession of most of us at times, and I'm no exception to the rule. I'm not going to start in telling you what a saint I've been, and how weak the other "sisters" are. We are all human, some of us lots more so than others. I'm one of this kind. I once helped conduct a candidate through the solemn rites of the Chapter. I knew this fellow hadn't been building meetin' houses all his life, and I wondered how he slipped through the cracks, but he did. So when I got an opportunity and the Captain of the Host wasn't looking, I loaded him with burdens and told him it was according to regulations and he staggered under the load, until the Captain of the Host got wise. Then I got a lecture that was not in the ritual, but it did me a world of good, Ezra.
No obligation should be assumed lightly, certainly no Masonic obligation. If, somewhere under your rhinoceros hide the beautiful lessons don't strike the right chord, you've spent your time and money in vain and caused your friends to go to lots of needless trouble for naught. I once remarked to a Mason whom I had helped knight a Templar Mason, and in whom it did not seem to soak in according to my notion of things sublime. that a man who could pass through these solemn ceremonies without shedding tears had a mighty strong main-spring in his waterworks, but he told me that he hadn't noticed anything to cry about. Can you beat it, Ezra?
But I'm wandering away from the text. The Lord knew all about human nature and made allowances for the shouters and for the still alarms. He predicted that lots of men who had set up altars of Baal would try to get in the big show by creeping under the tent on that pica, but that it wouldn't work. There are lots of Masons who don't wear much jewelry and make but little fuss about their professions, but who go about doing the will of God and who follow the teachings of Masonry in their acts toward all mankind three hundred and sixty-five days a year. These may be scantily clad with jewels and emblems, Ezra, but they'll all have drinking cups when they come to the River of Life. It doesn't matter much where you start in the race, just so you press on, ever remembering that merit will sooner or later find its reward. Our Solomon was King of Israel, also the first Grand Master, and from the records handed down through the generations he was always ready to mingle with those who bore the burdens in building the Temple. Entered Apprentices always got as square a deal as either Hiram, King of Tyre, or Hiram the Builder, when it came to a "shake down."
I once sat at a Masonic banquet where colored men waited on the table. One of these waiters wore a Masonic jewel on his watch charm as big as the jewel of a high priest. It was adorned with a diamond most as big as a pigeon egg, and still he couldn't pass muster. It ain't the size of your jewel that counts, it's how sparkling a jewel you can become in the diadem of Masonic fame by your own good works which glorify your Father which is in heaven.
I'm afraid there'll be lots of disappointments about meeting friends up yonder. We'll have friends in both climates, but the question that concerns us most is which climate we're booked for, Ezra.
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Sermon Number Four
Masonry teaches us to not only love the good among our brethren, but also the evil among them. Masonry was founded on common sense Ezra, and long before then I had become atoms in the world of thought or action, Masonry realized that most of us were human and some of us very human.
I've had considerable Masonic experience one way or another. It's not a bad place to pick up stones for the building of character, either, Ezra.
We think we keep the seine stretched well across the Masonic mill pond, with the meshes so fine that the dog-fish can't get by, but you've noticed that in the best screened sleepin' porches mosquitoers somehow do get through and nip you once in a while. It's so with men in every walk of life, and Masonry doesn't claim any supernatural powers or special charms that enable us to read human nature before its been tested in the crucible. We do our best, Ezra, and angels can't do more. You just turn back through the leaves of the New Testament, that Grand Old Book, that's mighty helpful to a man who is seeking the real old Simon Pure electric light of Masonic goodness, you just turn to any of the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, and you ll find out that even Jesus had a Judas in selecting the twelve. When you get to masticating these facts, don't feel especially called on to throw stones at those who may not have inherited your particular brand of hallelujah religion. For my part, Ezra, I m strong on the Methodist way of praying. I have always felt somehow that the Lord couldn't help hearing a Methodist when he's hittin' on all six cylinders and using the right kind of gasoline. Still, just because I was raised on the "Upper C" kind of praying and preaching is no reason that a Quaker couldn't get a look-in because he uses the still alarm signals I once had a dear old Quaker friend who taught me my first lessons in selling machinery, and gave me the first real foothold in the business world. He visited me once, oh, he visited me several times for that matter, Ezra, but the first time I'll never forget how he acted when I nudged him to ask the blessing, 'way back there in that humble little cottage that I could justly call my own first home. I was taught to "read on my plate" or to have somebody intimate to the Lord that the menu was satisfactory and that our share was appreciated, ever since I can remember, and I'm glad of it.
I have a little grandson, Ezra, that folks say looks like me, and has leanin's my way. I taught him to thank God for every meal when his little lips could just lisp the words, and I'm strong on being thankful to God for his many blessings and mercies, and to all others to whom these presents come greeting small favors thankfully received and big ones in proportion. So when this good old Quaker at my table, I didn't just know how to go about mixing Methodism and Quakerism, but I knew that Quakers were generally very thankful for a good helpin' and this old boy was no exception. So I asked him to "open the religious jack-pot." He bowed his head and never said a word, but I kept my finger on the trigger until he raised his head, Ezra, and I knew he was through. I never felt that God had heard a blessing more plainly than he heard that which I did not hear, but which, like a drink of cool, refreshing lemonade on a sultry day, I felt clear down to my solar plexus.
As I said before, we think we keep the Masonic gearing well oiled, and the screens fairly tight, but once in a while we let a dog-fish in. Did you ever do much fishing Ezra? Well, there's something about it that appeals to me. The first dog-fish I ever catch bit little a yellow bass. He was a game old sport, to the manner born, and I enjoyed the tussle to the fullness, thinking that I had a great big yellow bass, but I was humiliated when I saw his nasty, slimy head as I reeled him in. To all intents and purposes he was a good candidate, and played his part well. He proved all that I could ask of a real game-fish, but he wasn't fit to cat. Do you follow me, Ezra?
Then, there s many a good Mason built out of what you might call ship-lap, in the lumber business. Why, I look back over all these years to when a good friend, "whom I afterwards found to be a brother," took my petition, and I have often wondered why. He's in Heaven now with that good old Quaker, and when I put out the fire and call the dog for the last time, Ezra, I'm going to visit them both and ask lots of questions. I thought it was because they needed the money. They had a square and compass cut out of sheet-iron, a borrowed Bible, that a dear old Methodist brother loaned them in the lodge, and the floor was as bare as a young bird's back in pokeberry time. But, Ezra, it was there that I learned lessons of friendship and the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man that sank down deep into my soul, and which have helped me grow in Masonic grace, and in turn I have led others "by ways they knew not, and in paths that they had not known" and taught them the lessons at the "burning bush" where God told Moses to "Draw not nigh, hither, put off the shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground."
As I said before, I've had considerable Masonic experience in my day, and I'll tell you some of it now and then, maybe, if the hamstring of life doesn't break to soon I've heard the mystic words, Ezra, that cause men to fly over mountains and cross seas to render aid, and I've thanked God for this great privilege and for the associations with a craft that has shed the sweet fragrance of its helpfulness around the world, which has stood the sneers and falsehoods of the ignorant and of those before whom Masonry refuses to bend its knee or bow to their dominating will, and which has grown bigger and better all the way, despite these oppositions. I love this grand old fraternity that makes better men of those who were not so good when they crossed its portals, and which always makes better men out of good men. Selah!
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Sermon Number Five
Did you ever do any Masonic business on another man's credit, Ezra? It's not strictly accordin' to the code, but I once had the honor, if you could call it honor, of getting into a Masonic lodge on another man's credit. Well, it wasn't quite that bad, but the man who was with me was admitted on his brother's credit, and he could, of course, vouch for me, for I was Junior Warden when he heard the gavel fall the first time.
It was this way, Ezra. We were members in good standing of Plumb Lodge No. 472, Colfax, Indiana, and we visited Thomtown Lodge No. 113, located at Thomtown, Indiana. Now this brother who accompanied me was not only a brother, he was also a brother-in-law, and he resembled a brother of his so much that when we asked for a committee to investigate our Masonic standing and subject us to the "test," the chairman of the committee reached out his hand to my companion and said, "Why, you don't need to be examined, I can vouch for you." My friend quickly realized the mistake but concluded to have some fun, so he says, "Then I can vouch for Brother Sile," and here we went right into a lodge room packed with Masons, for there were three candidates to be "raised" that evening. We were invited to help confer one of the degrees, which we cheerfully consented to do. When we had finished eating fried chicken and other good things, my friend was called on to talk to the "boys." There's where the cat got out of the bag, Ezra. This "old boy" was no speaker in public, and his brother was, but I gave him the nudge to deal me a hand. After excusing himself and stammering around a while, he waved a hand my and told the Worshipful Master that I was some "taffyslinger," and, of course, they had to let me in on the deal. I had the cinch on 'em all right, and after criticising them on their style of tiling, told them that two men whom none present had ever met in lodge before had passed the portals of the lodge without a test or a voucher, excepting by one not qualified to vouch for their worthiness. Well, they were no slouches at old Thorntown No 113, Ezra, and it required proofs to make the claim good. Then I told them the joke, and we all had a good laugh but no other fellow ever got by on his brother's credit in that lodge.
Then I had another rather strange experience years ago in Winnipeg. A dear friend and brother, whom I had helped conduct all the way from the Entered Apprentice degree to that of Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret, lived in Winnipeg when I visited him. Another good friend of mine from the States was taking his Red Cross degree the night I arrived in Canada, but this other friend could not attend the "Priory" that evening, so I strolled over alone, thinking that I might somehow convince them of my right to "sit in." I greeted the sentinel and told him who I was and where from. To my surprise, Ezra, the Eminent Commander greeted me most cordially and said, "You are just the man we need. We are short of workers. Could you act as Junior Warden for us this evening?" Could I, Ezra? and me Junior Warden of Old Robert McCoy that very year? I could. I told them so and in less time than I'm telling it, I was inside of a uniform and we did the work creditably. After the ball was over, Ezra, I asked them how I got in, and they answered by asking me the same question. There was no brother or brother-in-law that trip to help me out. But as I have said before and am about to say again, I've squeezed through some narrow places while pushing through this sheet-iron world, Ezra.
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Sermon Number Six
"Set a watch, Oh, Jehovah, before my mouth, and keep thou the door of my lips," from speaking aught against my brother, or against any man, even as far as it is possible to do. Think twice before speaking once, and if angry or provoked at another, think three times, and then say nothing for the time being.
THERE was once a man named Zerubbabel, who was chief of the tribe of the fathers in Israel. Masonic history informs us that when Jerusalem was made desolate by the Chaldcans, and Nebuzaradan, Captain of the host of Babylon, besieged the Holy City and wrought havoc with the Temple of Solomon and carried away the captives, Zerubbabel was among them. This grand old man must have had a worse time keeping the children of Israel in line during their captivity than Moses had with them in the wilderness during his forty years of wanderings.
Folks always find fault with their best friends, Ezra, when things go wrong at home and when trouble comes to overwhelm them. When you come to think about it, it's more of their way of entering a general complaint than of finding fault, but it's the time of bellyaches and no mistake. Here were the Jews, scourged and beaten, most of their men-folks killed off, the women outraged and their temple, the wonder of the world, that marvelous piece of architecture, laid in ruins; aye, more, the holy vessels of the Temple carried away and used by the profane on occasions of hilarity for feasting and debauchery.
Twas thus, when the yoke of tyranny had rested upon these forlorn people for "ten weeks of years." All this time Zerubbabel had been their staff and comfort. He was one of the faithful, one of the true blue, who flees not in the face of death, pestilence or disease, but who stands firm and by his example teaches others to do likewise. During his younger days, Zerubbabel was the friend and companion of Darius, the king's son, who made a vow that if he ever ascended the Persian throne he would set the captives free and restore all the holy vessels carried away to Babylon from the Temple in Jerusalem.
So it happened, Ezra, that when Darius had been proclaimed king, after their ten weeks of years of captivity, the children of the captivity prevailed upon Zerubbabel to undertake the hazardous journey of crossing the confines of the Persian Dominion and appear at the foot of the throne, in behalf of his people. This he did, having to fight his way part of the time and finally was captured and brought before the king in the garb of a slave, where, after some of the most trying tests ever given to man, he won by his strength of mind and unfaltering integrity the king s friendship and the freedom of his people, and by his brilliant address before the court of Darius he succeeded in placing woman above wine or kings and establishing the force of truth.
The point I want to make, Ezra, is that when we get in a hole, when trouble comes and overwhelms us, it pays always and forevermore to stand firmly and squarely by the truth. There are too many of us jumping cogs when the test comes. I've watched em with my own eyes, when the cider-press was squeezing the juice of truth out and Ieaving the pomace in the discard. I've watched 'em under the test and heard them "hittin on three, over facts that they knew as well as they knew their own names, and yet for fear of disgrace by telling the truth, they would take the other road, Ezra, and compound a felony by adding another to hide the real truth. The man entitled to wear Zerubbabel's signet, the signet of truth, should never lie but always tell the truth and shame the devil. You can squirm and dodge and beat around the bush, Ezra, and kid yourself that you've got through the bars, but that "All-seeing Eye" that looks down into the innermost researches of the soul, and which even the sun, moon and stars obey, knows when you are Iying. And that isn't all. Around you are friends and neighbors who know your nature and your habits. Is it not better to have them say that you told the truth, even though it humiliated you to a certain extent, than to go away and say that you lied when the test of truth was applied? Sorter think these things over, Ezra.
I have always loved the example Zerubbabel set before the king when shown the treasures of the palace, the great bags of gold offered in exchange for honor, and finally the holy vessels of the Temple of Jehovah, carried away and profaned by wicked hands, even these treasures, including the Ark of the Covenant, how, when all these had been offered him in return for honor, he poured out his heart to God between the wings of the Cherubims for strength to withstand the great temptation and how God indeed sustained him. Suppose he had accepted the princely offers of the king and betrayed his people and his trust? He would have been scorned by the king and hated by his own, instead of returning to them honored above all others for his fidelity and made the "king's cousin.
You know it pays to play the game square, Ezra. When you are invited to "sit in" and invest some of your substance in a few "seeds" that are hazarded in the draw, you always feel safer when you know that the little finger of the man who deals is invested with the signet of truth. Somehow, I'd rather lose my beans with a square man in an honest game than to pile 'em up at the expense of a gang of crooks. That may sound a little fishy. Perhaps it does to the man who "renigs" on a square question honestly stated by saying he can't remember, but it will go at par with all who play the game and pitch the ball squarely over the plate just as Zerubbabel did in the days of old.
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Sermon Number Seven
The spirit of Freemasonry emblazons the pathway of its votaries with kindness and wherever you find kindness and humility, where you'll find forgiveness stamped upon the brow of every true believer in the teachings of Freemasonry and in the practices of Christian virtues.
ONE of the first mottoes that Solomon dictated to his stenographer was "Mind your own business. Masonry has kept that motto stuck in its hat ever since, Ezra. Masonry plods along down the highway of life welcoming to its tents the Braham, the Jew, the Mohammedan, the Catholic, the Protestant and all the who are good men and true, to have and receive a part of its rights, lights and benefits, just so they are willing to be as broad-minded towards others as its teachings enjoin, whether they received their teachings from Confucius, Moses, Mohamet or the Founder of the Christian religion.
It's a mighty safe way of handling the human problem, Ezra. Why, if we were to publish every sign, grip and pass-word, and tell everything that there is to be told about Masonry, the world wouldn't be any better off and Masonry would continue to be the power for good that it has ever been. Folks have pretended to tell its secrets, or pretended that others have told it all, but the God s truth about it is, that if every word was told few would believe it. Still, there are human beings who would give all they possess to just take their can-openers and pry the lid off and expose everything about Masonry, from its Bible to its billie-goat. I once knew one of this class, Ezra. You know that everything that has mystery about it is in some way by some folks connected with the supernatural. That s the case with Freemasonry.
There was a fellow living in the little village where I first saw Masonic light, who had what my good friend Mike Barry, of Phillips, once upon a time in the Kadosh, called a "yearning desire" for gathering in the secrets of the craft. The use of the lodge room was donated by a worthy brother, until such a time as the lodge could afford to pay rent, for we were working "U.D." and hittin' on three for lack of financial juice. In the ante-room was stored half a carload of hardware, pitchforks and shovels, long and short handled. The fellow with a bump of inquisitiveness as big as a goose egg confided to one of the craft, whom he did not know as a Mason, that he intended hiding in this pile of farm utensils and gain the secrets of the lodge. He further said that he knew they kept a goat, for he had heard it bleat, and he was going to watch the performance. Well, you know it doesn't pay to disappoint folks with a honing, Ezra, so when the word had been duly passed around among the faithful, we held what you might call a "clandestine meeting. By the aid and connivance of the brother who was hep to the game, we managed to get this "Cowan" properly hid in the "rubbish of the temple" at a meeting where no one in particular presided. We furthermore smuggled a bellicose and unruly goat into the lodge room beforehand and hid him in the other end of the hall. Now, this goat would as soon fight in a Masonic lodge as on the green sward, Ezra, as we had reasons to know. We pestered him until he was ready to take a header at whatever showed up. Then we called the meeting to order, but when we come to tile the lodge, the culprit was discovered as per arrangement. We held a mock trial, and concluded that he must suffer the penalty of the eavesdropper. Then things began to get serious, Ezra. The fellow began to realize that he was in a tight place. After much pleading and promising on his part, we blindfolded him to convey him from the lodge room without allowing him to detect our secrets. That s what we told him, but the facts were, Ezra, we wanted him to meet our goat. He did, he met him from behind, and if we had been using the finder and sighting for him, the goat couldn t have hit the bull's eye better. I've heard lots of cries for help in my day, Ezra. I've attended some mighty funny shows and helped exemplify some warn "side degrees in the days of old, but I never laughed quite so loud or long as when that old goat hit Mr. Eavesdropper amidships. He plead for his life, which was finally granted on condition that he run for it, which he did. But our timer was still working, and he reached the door just as the goat did, and they both went down the stairs together in a catch-as-catch can mix-up, while all the crowd who had been armed with pitchforks and shovels hammered them together, creating pandemoniurn indeed. Talk about a circus in the Shrine, Ezra, we weren't shootin' at clay pigeons that time. Our inquisitive friend left town next day, for he said the Masons had him marked for death!
I suppose if we were to allow this kind of "carrying on" in a Masonic lodge today, we'd get churched for it, Ezra, but it was worth the risk, and not even the owner of the "billie-goat knew that he had taken part in the initiation. When folks get overly anxious to pry into other peoples' affairs, and want to learn secrets in a clandestine manner, Ezra, it's a mighty good plan to accommodate them.
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Sermon Number Eight
I have learned the lesson of tolerance well in greeting Masons of many faiths because they were big enough and broad enough to exemplify the words of the text: Whoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother and my sister and my mother.
THE profane call us clannish, Ezra. Maybe we are, but somehow, in some way, I've always thought that Freemasonry was tolerably broad in its scope. You can always tell a man who has attended a big revival; he'll show it in his conversation and in his acts. If we could have a perpetual Masonic revival, lots of us would be saved. Those of us who have been dubbed and created as Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret, who have reached the summit of Mount Moriah, excepting the chosen few who are permitted to become Sovereign Grand Inspectors General of the Thirty-third and last degree, after the week of feasting upon the spiritual bread of life, after having been lifted higher and higher into the rose colored ether of the spirit world, when we have been permitted to hear the words of wisdom and of truth from the Great Sages and Holy Men of the past, from Confucius, Zoroaster, Moses, Mohamet and from the "Great Captain of Our Salvation," the "Prince of Peace," when we have had the beautiful lessons deeply indented upon the trestleboards of our hearts and witnessed those panorarnas of pictures painted upon the canvas of our immortal souls, we come away filled with the "Gospel of Freemasonry, with hearts more tender towards the world and towards all mankind. But, somehow, it's human to allow the picture to fade, Ezra. I've sometimes wondered if it didn't pay to backslide, just to feel so gloriously good when we had renewed our covenants with God.
The Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man always sounds good to me, Ezra. If every man could fed when he took another man by the hand that he was a friend and brother, and if he could somehow make the other man feel the same way, we wouldn't have much use for jails and policemen, for standing armies and battle ships and cannon with which to kill and wound. We wouldn't have to take our boys from home and keep them on the Mexican border even for political purposes.
There are a lot of our boys down on the border now, some of whom are brethren of the craft. I had a letter from one of these, Brother and Sergeant Harry B. L. Gorman, of Company G. First Wisconsin Infantry. He's climbed the Masonic ladder all the way to the degree of Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret. He was on guard for Uncle Sam. During the meeting of the Consistory in San Antonio, Texas, wearing the uniform of his country, he sat with many other soldiers in the gallery on the opening day. Down on the rostrum, standing erect as a knight of old, was Judge William Seat Fly, 33d. Judge Fly, like your Uncle Silas's father and brother, fought on the wrong side in the war of Rebellion, Ezra, but he's one of the most loyal and devoted patriots living to-day, ready to fight for Old Glory if need be. With his hawk-like eye, Brother Fly swept the galleries of the Consistory, and seeing these brethren in uniform, he said, I want all you men in uniform to leave the gallery and come right down here and occupy these seats," referring to the seats reserved for the Patriarchs." You've got to give it to the Southerner, Ezra, that his hospitality is only exceeded by his willingness to fight for his country's flag any time, anywhere. Maybe we are clannish, Ezra, but if it had been in any other place, and where it had been consistent with the order of things, that same proof of hospitality would have been accorded to every man wearing the uniform whether he was Jew or Gentile, Catholic or Protestant, because he was a soldier and an American. Thank God for that kind of clannishness, Ezra.
You show me a good Mason, one that has had it soaked in well, and who has the real old Simon Pure spirit of Freemasonry in his soul, and I ll show you a man who measures up to the standard of manhood in every way. If there is trouble or danger or disease to face you'll find him right in the front ranks, whether that trouble or danger or disease threatens a Mason or any of the rest of mankind. Show me a cause that is just and I'll show you the men who will stand for it, whether those in danger are Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias or Knights of Columbus, even though some of these faiths look upon us as "Spirits of Darkness." The true Mason is a true man, big brained, big hearted and always ready to lend a helping hand to uplift his fellow man.
Masonry carries on its good deeds in secret, because it believes in the still alarm. It used to be whenever there was a fire, the fire department began ringing bells and blowing whistles, and making more noise than a foot-ball game, but in these modern times the "still alarm" is substituted. Why wake up the whole city and get the people all worked up, just because somebody's oil stove has caught fire, when a silent alarm will bring out the squirt-gun quietly, orderly and do the work? Listen to this gospel, Ezra: "Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward. But, when thou doest alms, let not they left hand know what thy right hand doeth, that thy alms may be in secrets and thy Father, which seeth in secret, Himself shall reward thee openly."
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Sermon Number Nine
There's another thing that Freemasonry teaches that's mighty good doctrine, Ezra. The true Mason's word is just as good or a little better than his bond. Masonry teaches its votaries to be good, upright, just and true, not only in the letter but in the spirit of the understanding in dealing with all mankind.
IT doesn't matter much who you are or where you are going, Masonically speaking, just so you re a man, Ezra. You've got to be "Eleven feet high and walk in the middle of the road," son, that's all.
Masonry doesn't give a rip whether you're a Hindu or a Hottentot, where you come from or who your daddy was, just so you can stand the Bertillion measurements of manhood, all the way from the crown of your head to the soles of your feet. When Solomon, King of Israel, entered into a compact with Hiram, King of Tyre, and with the "Widow's Son" it was one of the few gentlemen's agreements written across the pages of history that has stood the storms and the sunshine of centuries, that has outlived its enemies, that has swept the world for humanity and for God.
There may be — there are those who don't love us, who say all manner of evil against us, who accuse us of crimes and of being law-breakers, of being horse thieves and scoundrels, and why? For the same reason what a Methodist looks with contempt upon the devoted Catholic, that kneels in worship before her images. We of the Methodist faith were not taught that in bending the knee before the image of the "Blessed Virgin" it was but proof of faith in the Son of Mary, and of love for the Mother of Jesus. On the other hand, the Catholic, with his ritualistic dogma, smiles with pitying scorn when the Methodist stands up and with tears streaming down his cheeks confesses to having failed to follow the teachings of the same Christ which both Catholic and Methodist acknowledge as their Savior. It's the same reason that causes a Jew to sneer at Jesus being the Christ, or a Mohammedan from having faith in any God but Allah and of any prophet excepting Mohamet. Ah, the narrowness of our human souls, Ezra, the prejudice of our religions!
I once hired the best colored quartet in the world to sing for me at the State Fairs, where I was engaged in proselyting the business world to my faith. I also employed the best colored speaker and all-around clown in America, who entertained acres of people from Maine to California. The leader of the quartet and his brother were Catholic negroes, while "Old Mack" was a shouting Methodist. In Springfield, the home of Abraham Lincoln, where the quartet lived, we passed the Catholic church where they worshipped, going to and from the fair grounds every day. These boys never passed the church upon which the cross was displayed without lifting their hats or crossing themselves, as proof of their devotion to their church. "Old Mack" tapped me on the shoulder one day and called my attention to their devotion. That same day when preaching his "Fare-you-well Brother Watkins" negro sermon before five thousand people, old "Mack" let the reefs of his main-sail slip and forgot where he was. With that multitude standing spell-bound before this grand old negro, who was preaching the real salvation for sinners, these boys in the quartet almost laughed him to scorn. When he had finished, he wept for joy, but the leader called him a "damned fool." That is the kind of toleration that causes men, through ignorance, to call us names, Ezra.
I used to hear the Masonic brethren called horse thieves" by some who didn't like than, and who said all manner of evil against them. One of these old boys, in his fatherly interest in me, told me of the many crimes which the Masonic fraternity had committed against God and humanity, which had gone unpunished. And when I asked him why, he told me they were too strong in number, that whoever tried to bring them to justice would die by their hands! Ah, ignorance and superstition and falsehood! Thou hast stalked abroad and misled men in the years a gone! Ah, infamous slanderers, to what depths have you descended to malign an order which has been and ever will be the foundation of all religions! To one who has drunk of the Masonic cup of knowledge almost to the last drop, who wondered if these falsehoods could be true of men who gladly go at midnight to relieve the sufferings of others, without thought of fee or reward, and who has found among them men belonging to all religions, devoutly kneeling at the altar of Freemasonry asking God's blessing on friend and foe alike, what slander!
I've been preaching the gospel of Freemasonry, realizing that to a certain extent in doing so I am violating one of the most sacred tenets of the order, silence. "Set a watch, oh Jehovah before my mouth, and keep thou the door of my lips!" Forbid that I should undertake to defend this order, whose grand characteristics need no defence, which has stood the storm of centuries and brought within its gates the greatest and the best men this world has ever known, from John the Holy Baptist, forerunner of the Nazarene, to the disciple whom Jesus loved and who rested upon His breast at the Last Supper, if indeed not the Savior himself!
It's human to resent imputations against us which are not true, and in my old-fashioned Methodist way, I let the governor belt fly off once in a while, Ezra, but I just can't help it. When I hear a man telling a falsehood, knowingly or unwittingly, about a friend of mine, I want to tell him of it, and shake my fist under his nose while doing so. I once had a very dear friend, who was a Knight of Columbus, and another very dear friend who was a Knight Templar. I heard another Knight of Columbus accuse this Knight of Columbus friend of mine of having taken advantage of, and of having wronged a Brother Knight Templar. That was a mixed-up religious mess, wasn t it, Ezra? Well, I knew that it was a mistake, and then and there I defended my Knight of Columbus friend from an attack from his brother in the faith, concerning my brother in the faith!
It takes a man in the middle of the road and 'leven feet high to stand up and be counted sometimes, Ezra, but the grace of God, the love and fellowship of the Holy Spirit will descend on you like a benediction from on high, if you'll follow this injunction: "As ye would that others do unto you, do ye even so unto them."
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Sermon Number Ten
MASONRY never contemplated having to deal with "crooked limbs" in the wood choppin', Ezra. Masonry was organized strictly according to the code of a "gentleman s game." When you buy a stack Masonic beans and light your cigar, and the other fellows do likewise, or mayhap their cob-pipes with death rattles in the stems, loaded with Adams' Standard, you are not supposed to strain your eyes trying to read your neighbor's hand. Neither is he supposed to have to shut his hand up dead tight with just enough of the corners exposed to enable him to "read 'em and weep."
I never liked the idea of being like a settin' hen, ready to peck at everybody who wondered how many eggs she might have in her nest. Masonry is a close corporation, and a close communion church, when it comes to meddlin' with the working tools, but the first and last leaf in Masonic jurisprudence teaches us to "act on the square." Do you follow me, Ezra?
Whenever you find a man who goes through life on a general denial, it pays to examine him adversely before the trial. That s according to the sublime principles of Blackstone. Moreover, whenever you find a man proclaiming his honesty from the house-tops, he's just rocking the cradle to sell his own conscience. Why should I offer advance proofs of my good intentions when nobody has accused me of anything, Ezra? It's like taking a band of Indians from Carlisle University to advertise Sagwa.
That reminds me of a story. Many, many moons ago, there came to the little village where I once lived in Old Indiana, one of these "Sagwa" dispensers or "roots, herbs and barks" brought from the famous "Ban Yan tree of South America, I think it was. Anyhow, he located this medicinal tree as far away from home as he could. Maybe it was in Patagonia, where every prospect pleases and only man is vile enough to eat missionaries whom we sent thither to spread the gospel to the heathen in "furin parts."
The old boy who managed the hippodrome from Tomah was a trifle "pot-gutted" and wore a sombrero with hair cut on the bias, and they called him "Doc." Did you ever stop to think how many folks are called Doc, Ezra? They are like the Captains and Colonels, down south, or the professors up north. Well, this Old Doc had some likely looking bucks with his show, who spoke mighty good English when not on guard. "Rattlesnake Dick" was the bad man from Cheyenne, who, Doc told the audience, could split a postal-card at twenty paces with his three dollar Quackenbush. It just so happened that I also owned another "Quack" of the same pattern, only mine didn't have any globe sights on and Rattlesnake's did. When Old Doc challenged the world to an equal of his deadshot, he took in a little too much territory. I never sold Sagwa, or posed as a Bison William or Johnnie Baker in the use of weapons, Ezra, but I used to snuff a candle without much effort or run up a string of bull's eyes and generally got my turkey at all the shootin' matches. So a friend of mine got Doc to challenge me to shoot with Dick. I shot. We waived the formalities of splitting postal-cards, and proceeded to plug bull s eyes. After much solemn warning and more solicitude for my consenting to be the goat, we were told to "fire when ready, Gridley. Rattlesnake Ied off with a center-shot, and L followed suit. Then he led a trump and I made an even break. The crowd was growing hilarious at the sixth round, with honors even, when Rattlesnake fluked, missing the center an inch. I plugged number seven. Then the postal-card splitter went far a-field. Just to show respect for the audience, I plugged in ten centers without a miss and allowed it Iooked llke rain, Ezra. It broke up the meetin'. Rattlesnake took a straight shoot across lots to the reservation, and Sagwa received a slump in Colfax.
The point I wanted to make is, that while as "Johnnie Poole" told the teacher, it pays to advertise, it s a mistake to take in too much territory in your brief of claims for recognition. Don't try to split postal-cards until you have learned to spilt stove-wood enough for your wife to get dinner with. In stating your case to the jury, Ezra, always keep this fact in mind, that the highway of truth is the only one where the traffic is never blocked, and that's the highway over which all good Masons travel.
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Sermon Number Eleven
The man who seeks entrance into the order in the hope of its giving him a boost, excepting the boost of real brotherhood, — the man who seeks to commercialize Masonry, has no business even in the ante-room, where decent men are prepared for receiving the "hidden mysteries."
DID you ever read St. Paul's letters to the Ephesians and the Galatians, and the Hebrews and the rest of em, Ezra? St. Paul was a proselyte to the Christian faith. He started out to persecute them and to put them to death. Paul was a sort of Bashi-Bazouk who followed along and threw stumbling blocks in the way of the followers of the Nazarene, until one day he ran against the stone wall and was stricken blind for the time being. Then he got converted, and then he became the wheel-horse of the Christian religion. They say that a proselyte becomes the rabidest kind of a convert.
After St. Paul had gotten religion, he preached and he prayed, and when they put him in jail he wrote these letters that I m telling you about to the faithful. In one of his latest dictations Paul wrote: "But God hath chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise." I never had this gospel impressed on me more than when I received an invitation one day to talk to a convention of schoolteachers. Not having ever been a schoolteacher, not even a student in a graded school during my sixty-odd years of lingering on this old sheet-iron world, I naturally wondered what this crowd of educated people had in mind when they invited me to drop over and while away an hour with them. I thought maybe they had gotten their names and dates mixed, but they assured me that such was not the case, so I concluded to look 'em over, Ezra, seeing that the first person to ever hug me after I was tumed loose as an orphan to root for myself, and to push my hair back and call me nice names, was a teacher, with whom I played several return engagements ere I had grown to manhood and she to ripe old age, so I heeded the call. Did you ever start out wondering what you'd say and then find it hard to stop saying what seemed to just pour out like soap-suds running down a sink-hole? That was my name and address on this occasion that I'm telling you about. There were oodles of handsome, yes, some beautiful faces and characters present when I rang the bell for books, and just started in teaching teachers. I can't even approximate what I said, Ezra, neither could they. The boss teacher sent over to get my "Manuscript" to publish. Manuscript! Did you get that, Ezra? Well, I couldn't comply with that request, as I don't shoot paper-wads, not at teachers, if I know myself.
If you could have seen those teachers! Dignified highbrows, handsome women and pretty girls, trying to look sober and couldn't. They tittered and giggled until I had to rap for order, and me just tellin' 'em the very things which they knew better than I did. I looked back in memory to the days when I went to a country school, and told them about red-headed, stooped-shouldered Bill Parish, who drew his words out like he was afraid they'd get to fighting if he didn't keep them apart. And about Donald Brooks sitting on his buckwheat cakes to keep them warm until noon. You know, Ezra, and they knew, that a cold buckwheat cake is like eating a saddle-blanket, it's hard to masticate and harder to digest, and here they nearly threw fits laughing at their own everyday experiences as teachers. It was using the foolish things of this world to confound the wise, and I was hittin' her up on all six and gettin' encored to the echo, when I looked at the clock and found that I'd blatted a whole hour. They gave me a send-off when I closed that showed that I'd struck their funny bones, and they invited me to play a return engagement, those splendid people, the very elect of earth, who must look wise and frown on funny things most of the time, because I had dared tell them of human nature and how to handle it. It's so in Masonry, Ezra. It's the grandest and most helpful element in the world, but you must know how to gauge the doses, son. There are men who have climbed all the way up to the topmost round of the Masonic ladder and can string it out like coiling up a tape-worm on a clothes line, but they have failed in many places to observe the beautiful precepts which the Grand Architect of the Universe put into the heart of man to incorporate in the ritual.
There s an Old Boy who sweeps the streets of Madison and divides his sweepings with the sparrows who find it hard picking since the automobiles don't use oats for fuel. This old boy takes off his hat when you speak to him, and retums your salutation as a dignified gentleman should. He is polite in every way. When you drive by he gets out of the way and smiles instead of frowns. When the lodge meets, he lays aside his street clothes, dons a nifty looking suit, puts on his white apron, "the emblem of innocence and the badge of a Mason" and sits with his brethren, a gentleman and a brother clear through. You couldn't hire this old boy to blackball a candidate through spite or for a fancied grievance towards the brother who presented the petition, because in his heart of hearts, from entering the door for the first time, until his friends scatter flowers over his grave, he has been vaccinated with the spirit of Freemasonry, and it has "took, good and plenty," and his vocation in life is just as honorable as the man who wears the Master's hat, or the Templar's helmet. He's a man for a' that and a' that, and God will reward him in the Great Temple above where he may, for all we know, become one of the pilasters or the columns that help support the superstructure. It doesn't make much difference where you are along life's pathway, just so you are a man all the time, Ezra.
Masonry regards no man for his outward worth of wearing apparel, it's the heart that beats in unison with all that s good and true, with all that stands for the uplifting of mankind, and the mind that generates pure and holy thoughts, that reaches down and helps others to climb, that counts where the "Three Great Lights" burn the brightest at midnight's lowly hour, Ezra. You couldn't hope to gather together the hundred of thousands of the craft without finding a Jubelo or a Jubela or a Jubelum in that mighty army of the faithful, but you just measure 'em up with any other set of men on this great, big, cold, clammy world, and you'll find their Bertillion system equal to the best, because God has put it into the heart of man when he is chosen to a high place to try and honor, rather than disgrace his standing among men. As I have said before and am about to say again, there's an occasional ring-streaked buck among the herds, but as few or fewer according to numbers than any other institution in the world. Don't forget this gospel, Ezra. Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation yourself, and thereby set a good example before your fellowman, for which your Heavenly Father will reward you when you have put out the fire and called the dog in life's journey.
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Sermon Number Twelve
YOU'LL find skunks in the cabbage now and then, Ezra, no matter how close you nail the pickets, or how many traps you set. Human skunks creep into Masonry, once in a while, son, just as their kinfolks creep through the hedge fence, and when you dispute their right, use their spraying apparatus to let you know how much stink they can create.
There are those connected with Masonry, I am sorry to say, who know as much about the pure and unadulterated high ideals for which Masonry stands, as Balaam's ass knew about Hebrew grammar. They get through the bars themselves by a scratch, and then for the most flimsy and un-Masonic excuses in the world, exercise the right of the black cube" for pure and unadulterated cussedness, for the most flimsy excuses in the world, and, what is worse still, smile and pretend to be as innocent as unborn babes!
I'm decidedly in favor of guarding the doors of Masonry well; the very fact that these kind of ashlars are used for the building is the best proof in the world that the doors should be guarded. But Masonry is the great institution whose aim is to help good men to be better men, not a place where we may sneak up behind another and knife him when he can't defend himself, because we have some fancied grievance, or, what is worse still, because we don t like the man very well who has presented his petition, or because of a desire to smirch the record of those who have been entrusted with the affairs of the lodge for the time being. Of all the men for whom I have supreme contempt, it's the Mason who will go so far as to try to prevent others from advancing in the line, or from accomplishing that which I may have accomplished when entrusted with the same sacred duty, and which they have helped me accomplish. They are the Jubelums of Freemasonry. I've felt at times that these men whom we must recognize as brothers, even when they have sunk their poisoned barbs deep into our hearts, for fancied grievances, or for pure and unadulterated cussedness, were mighty poor Masonic relations, Ezra. They remind me of the fellow who couldn't lick his opponent, but who could make mouths at his sister. They are the kind who, when drunk, lick their wives just to show their authority.
I've been tempted sorely, to smite some of this class in return, while ambling down the old dirt road, Ezra, when mayhap those near and dear to me had been deprived temporarily of the "hidden mysteries," but, when I just asked God to make me very humble, and to help me to do with them as I would have them do, with me, when some of their flesh and blood were undergoing the scrutiny before being admitted, I could forget the temptation, and, looking far beyond the petty selfishness and jealousies, hear the response from "Hiram's" station, "Fair in the South," with a peace of mind that left no bitterness of soul, or self-conviction of having done a dirty trick in the dark, to avenge another trick of like nature.
I've never exercised the "right of spite," and the Mason who does is a Mason only in name, without one of the instincts of real Masonry. It ain't laying any bricks in the wall, nor furnishing any of the mortar of real old-fashioned Masonry, thc foundation of all religions by preventing a good man from participating in the noble and glorious work of rebuildtng the Temple of Jchovah, just because arc don't like the man who presented his petition.
They have tolerable strict rules in the regular army, Ezra. We all need a tight rein, with overcheck and crupper, too, but it doesn't help matters to abuse each other unnecessarily. There's more than one regular army officer who proved tyrannical in the extreme during the war of the Rebellion, towards raw recruits, who is sleeping on the battlefields with a minie-ball through his back. Then it seemed that it was the delight of the Westpointer to inflict punishment on the "raw recruits." Then the jailbirds were admitted to the regular army, now, you have to have a good, clean record or you can't even become a private in the army, and officers don t get shot in the back for being overbearing and tyrannical, but men from the ranks can become officers by merit.
The man who will unduly humiliate his fellowman just because he can, is on a par with Harry Thaw flogging boys for pastime.
There's Masons with whom I associate, who hated me once, and unduly wounded me because they didn't know me. They are among my best friends now, because we've gotten acquainted, and the sweetest thought of mine is, that instead of preventing their exaltation, I presented their petitions, and helped make them better men. Oh, that this spirit might settle down upon the whole world, and that instead of trying to throw stumbling-blocks in the pathway of those who are teaching God's word, and who are true disciples of the Master, that we might one and all reach out a hand and lift their loads, and offer them encouragement instead of black-cubes when they knock at our doors and ask for a tallow candle to guide them to the pathway of Christian Masonry!
THE VERMIFUGE APPENDIX
Therefore, if thou rememberest that thou hath aught against thy brother, for the love that thou bearest for Masonry, just try the remedy prescribed by the Nazarene, and great will be thy reward we are all human beings, one about as good as the rest, taking them on the arerage.
ONE day some years ago, the Commander-in-chief of Scottish Rite Masonry in Wisconsin invited me to preach a sermon to the class at the banquet following the exemplification of the work from the Fourth degree to that of Sublime Prince of the Royal Secret 32d.
Here is what the editor of Masonic Tidings has to say of the event:
"The next speaker was Sublime Prince Bascom B. Clarke of Madison. The Commander-in-chief, in introducing Sublime Prince Clarke, said, 'I now introduce to you Uncle Silas who writes "The Gospel of Freemasonry" for the Masonic Tidings. He is also known as a "Funny Man," a Philosopher, and a Bishop.'"
"Our good brother was not disappointing in any of those roles. He created jollity and mirth by his conventional knowledge of such American phrases as a jack-pot' and 'sitting in the game.' But when he turned to consider the serious things of life and cited many sad incidents in the life of the unfortunate, into whose lives had been brought hope and sunshine because of his own big heart and the Masonic brethren of Madison,�and as he vividly delineated the suffering of some outcast of society, some child that had been deprived of the tender care of mother and father, and left to struggle amidst biting hunger and poverty, he awakened the deepest sympathy and touched the heart tendrils of every Sublime Prince.
"The Bishop seems to the manner-born, the very semblance of the cloth, but, dear reader, though he never was ordained a Bishop, he preaches the gospel of Humanity and God in a way that touches the hearts of mankind.
"Brother Clarke, however, is only a layman, a prominent and successful business man, who has given away a fortune — always in an unostentatious way — helping to ameliorate the sufferings of humanity. The one thought uppermost in his mind during a busy and active life — to bring sunshine into the lives of the unfortunate and those less fortunate than himself.
"We excerpt the following from his address:
"'After four days of feasting upon the spiritual bread of life, emanating from the Sanctuary of God's Holy Temple; after the beautiful and impressive lessons which must have been deeply indented upon the trestle-board of every heart; after having been lifted higher and higher into the rosecolored ether of the spirit world, listening to the teachings of the great Sages and holy men of the past, of Confucius, Moses, Zoroaster, Mohamet, and of the Lowly Nazarene; after having assumed the most sacred vows ever taken by mortal man; after having witnessed that marvelous panorama of pictures painted upon the canvas of our immortal souls and hearing the words of truth and sobemess, I wonder if we are ready at this time to turn from those holy things, to delve in thoughts of mirth and jollity; or if it were better to allow these sacred lessons and all they mean to sink deeper into our heart of hearts.
"'The Illustrious Commander-in-chief has called me a philosopher, but my name is not Philetus. I am called "Bishop" by some who love me for what I am. I have never been consecrated a bishop excepting in the hearts of those whose hands I help to hold up in doing God's work. Last and perhaps Ieast, I am called "The funny man of The American Thresherman because I write stale jokes and preach "nigger" sermons.
"'One of the most serious problems in all the world is trying to be a ' funny man." Why, I've paid a dollar for a seat in the bald-headed row to listen to a professional funny man, trying to make his audience smile. But my promise tonight is to tell you some serious jokes that it has been my lot to know.
"'I began my career as a "Funny Man" publishing avery "weakly" little newspaper in an Indiana vlllage forty years ago. It was one-half "boiler iron" insides, the other half was dedicated and devoted to dog-fights, town gossip and to teaching the correct philosophy of opening a jack-pot!" In exchange for these interesting facts, I received cordwood, composed of hickory limbs that would put out a decent fire, and pumpkins from the size of a foot-ball to a wash-tub! My readers thought it was the funniest thing in the world to watch me dodging enraged neighbors and bad debt collectors. They used to gather every publication morning to read the news, and laugh when I got kicked up the stairs and down again. It's a serious business trying to be a funny man!
"'One morning, when I had reached the limit of my credit, I turned the column rules, and between these streaks of mourning, I wrote my obituary. Then I moved. All I had to do to move was to just put out the fire and call the dog! My readers thought it was the funniest editorial I had ever written. It takes a real funny man to feel hilarious at his own funeral!
"'Now, I 'm going to tell you why they call me "Bishop." There's a godly little man in Madison, whose wife has the face of a saint. They came there so poor in purse that they had to fertilize the barracks before they could raise a religious disturbance. My people are all Methodists, and believe in a religion that hollers. They have chased me all over their meeting houses ever since I was big enough to repeat the Lord's Prayer, trying to snare me in. They have hooked me several times, but, like our profane brethren of the class, I always back-slided.
"When these Volunteers of America came to do God's will, and asked me to "decorate the mahogany," their creed was so simple that I could understand. Then I invited others to "sit in," and in the polite parlance of the game I asked them to please observe the usual formalities, which means to "sugar the green" and to "sweeten the kitty. "
I've watched this saintly little mother at midnight's lowly hour, visiting the saloons of Madison, seining the pond for pennies and nickles with which to carry on their good work and every saloon-keeper. and every other man who says "prosit" is her friend and protector. I've watched her going alone up the dark alleys, ministering to those in need, with none to molest her.
"'One day these Christian people told me that if they had a thousand dollars they could buy a little chapel in my ward, in which to hold religious services for the poor, and I told them to buy. They looked at me with open mouthed astonishment, and I challenged them to the "test" of God's promise to help those who keep His commands. We gave an entertainment and when the curtain raised to the strains of a calliope. everybody sang, "Nearer, My God to Thee," for we had the money in the box office with which to pay for the little chapel.
"'One cold winter's night this godly little woman whispered to me that she had in her home a little girl, scarcely in her teens, who would soon become a mother. That she had taken from her a bottle of deadly poison with which she had meant to take her own life, because an infamous scoundrel, who should writhe in the torments of the orthodox hell, had betraved her and left her to her fate. This good Christian woman asked me to make it possible for her to not only save this little girl's life, but her reputation as well. As "bishop" of her church, I wrote a letter, sending multigraph copies to the faithful in Madison, to some within the sound of my voice. Most of these brethren are members of this craft. I told them in an orthodox way, without disclosing my hand, that they were expected to "straddle the blind" and to tilt the lid of the official jack-pot. They filled my hands with bright, shining, smiling, glistening simoleons that talk without making a noise, and that little girl is living an upright and Christian life today, and the world knows not the secret of her life.
"'On a hot day in July last, these same Christian people fed and watered twenty-six hundred little children in Tenney Park. The greater part of the funds for this occasion was contributed by Madison Masons. We have a wonderful photograph of that assembly of little folks, the best I have ever seen. There were white children, Norwegians, Italians, and chocolate drops. All kinds, sizes and previous conditions before being groomed for the occasion. It took a water tank to haul lemonade and a wagon to transport the sandwiches and other good things. As I looked over this crowd of Polacks, Danes, Chinese and Alligator Bait, I asked this good little woman who was managing the menagerie if she thought that all of these were included in those beautiful words, "Suffer little children and forbid them not. to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven?" Yes, she said, they were all included in the manifest, but we'd have to scrub some of them before loading on the Old Ship of Zion.
"'One Christmas Eve not many years ago, this whitehaired little captain rushed into my office, and after saluting me as his superior officer and as Bishop of the church, told me that he had found a home where six people were sleeping in a single bed. I asked if they were Mormons, and he said, "Come and see." I loaded a reporter for a daily paper into my automobile and with this little captain we headed for the pines. Reporters and newspaper men all enjoy funny sights. We found four little children shivering over a little stove in a home so poor that a killdeer would have had to carry his own rations. A little brown-eyed girl eleven years old, holding her baby sister, and trying to keep the others from freezing, was asked if she was looking for Santa Claus. "No," she said, "I think he is dead." That saintly Little Mother of the Volunteers of America with her own home to care for, and all the rest of "God's patient poor" in the city besides, was rushed on the job. Such a scattering of dirt and rags and such a scrubbing as that old floor received! It was such a funny sight! Why, the reporter was so amused that the tears ran down his cheeks, as we returned from the Club with a great big turkey all baked and brown, and piping hot, with cranberry sauce and oyster dressing enough to feed twenty men, as he watched those children and their parents clean the platter. It was a funny sight! It takes serious things to make some folks feel funny. We paid a return engagement of the menu for their Christmas dinner. That godly little woman made my automobile look like a moving van, loaded with bedding, clothes and clothing. At midnight when all was cleaned and when the children were asleep in clean, warm beds, we left a Christmas tree loaded with presents. It was such a good opportunity for playing a joke on those little children.
"'Because of these little pleasantries along life's highway, they call me "Bishop." It takes funny men to make bishops. Why, Bishop Quayle of the Methodist church, who is big enough to be called a partridge, is such a funny man that he would make you laugh in administering the sacrament. But he's a tower of strength to his church and for God. I have listened to him preach and wondered how on earth he knew so much about cards, when the very disciples of the church bars him from ' sitting in." I was brought up in that faith, and used to hearing, Amen, every time the preacher caught his breath. I m still a brother-in-law and contributing member.
"'As I listened to the answers of the brethren of the class in reply to that momentous question, over which some of us have dodged and other lied, while still others told the truth and shamed the devil, in every class, my own included, I was deeply impressed with the mirth provoking proposition, "Are you in the habit of taking God's name in vain?" It carried me back to sixteen years ago when Brother Perry and Brother Brown sat on the side lines to hear my reply. It was such a funny question that it brought a sob of shame thdt I had ever profaned God's Holy Name. I wasn't like George Washington who couldn't tell a lie. I dared not, for I knew that I'd get caught in it. The hand pressure from those brethren who were watching me there, for having told the truth, was comforting indeed. "Who doesn't know whether or not he takes God's name in vain?" No man on this earth, with his reason not dethroned, but who knows only too well whether he takes God's name in vain or not. Every man who does not swear is justly proud of the fact, and those who do swear feel the cutting humility as you and I, my profane brethren, have felt when that question has been plainly put to us. To lie about it is compounding a felony, even though such a question could cause a smile or sneer from any man! It takes serious things to make some men feel funny, now, doesn't it?
"'As I watched the temptation of Zerubbabel, writhing under the tempter's plea, and heard his prayer before the Ark of the Covenant, where the Shekinah had come down from Heaven and lighted up the Ark between the wings of the Cherubims, for strength to withstand the great temptation, as I saw him triumph because of his fidelity, in my soul I said, "Blessed be the God of Truth!"
"'As a philosopher I commend to you the example of Philetus, as a serious man I warn you of the hazard of trying to win the pot in poker on a single pair, as a Bishop who has never been consecrated, I raise my hands and invoke the blessing of the Holy Trinity to rest and abide with you each and every one.'"
If all men were perfect there would be no need of church or Masonic revivals, there would be no need of courls or jails, no need of great armies clashing in a world's war, but all men and women could dwell together in unity, meeting on the level, acting by the plumb-line, and parting, on the square.