Vol. XXI No. 5 — May 1943

A Mason’s Faith

Faith is the backbone of the social and the foundation of the commercial fabric; remove faith between man and man, and society and commerce fall to pieces. There is not a happy home on earth but stands on faith; our heads are palmed on it, we sleep at night in its arms with greater security for the safety of our lives, peace and prosperity than bolts and bars can give.
— Thomas Guthrie

Speaking before the Feast of St. John in the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Governor and Brother Leverett Saltonstall began his address: “Gentlemen of the Masonic faith.”

The words burn brightly in the mind, lighting a new vista. For while Freemasonry has no dogma, nor claims to be nor is a religion, it has a faith which is at once its glory and its pride.

The Standard Dictionary lists seven definitions of the word faith: 1) a firm conviction of the truth of what is declared by another; 2) the assent of the mind or understanding to the truth of what God has revealed; 3) intellectual conviction in general, on whatever based; 4) the instinctive confidence which reason has in its own fundamental assumptions; 5) a doctrine or system of doctrines that one holds to be true; 6) an obligation to fidelity, whether expressed or implied, as, “the mutual faith of brothers”; 7) the character of deserving belief or trust; good credit; credibility; reliability.

A Masons faith may embrace any or all of these.

Exacting no religious test and taking to itself men of “every country, sect and opinion” Freemasonry requires only a belief in Deity, who maybe called by each initiate for himself by any name he pleases. To the Mason, God may be Jehovah, Allah, Muhammad, Buddha, Vishnu, Great Architect of the Universe, Great First Cause, the Absolute, Nature.

A belief in God connotes faith in His being omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient; all-powerful, all-pervading, all-knowing.

As all theologies set forth a future life in the doctrine of immortality, some may consider this as the cornerstone of a Mason’s faith. But consider: The whole structure of Freemasonry is built about the Legend of the Third Degree which is constructed within the frame of belief in a resurrection. It is firm in dependence upon a life hereafter and everlasting. Freemasonry is but one of a thousand groups which so believe; every church in the world, no matter of what sect, teaches and believes that God is; that He is the Father of all; that all men, therefore, are brothers; that after this earthly life there is a life everlasting — this Freemasonry shares with all faiths, all doctrines, all churches.

Therefore this cannot be considered as exclusively belonging to a Mason’s faith. One must look further to find what Freemasonry may consider to be her own special faith.

First among the tenets of a Mason’s faith (beyond that set forth above) may be faith in country. Throughout the degrees is emphasis upon country. Masons are charged to be true to it; to countenance no disloyalty or rebellion; to support their government. So are millions of other men in thousands of other organizations. But Masons have a special right to consider that their faith rests in part on a belief in the country, for no other organization has been so deeply concerned in the creation and establishment of this nation as has Freemasonry.

A man has faith in the work of his hand and brain. The United States of America is largely the work of the brains and hands of Freemasons, and has largely been governed by Masonic principles aided by Masons since its beginning. In the Bill of Rights is much that is Masonic. The Constitution was framed and signed more by Freemasons than by others. Washington and most of his generals were Freemasons.[1] Congress and the Supreme Court are usually composed of a majority of Freemasons. At present thirty-four Governors of states are members of the Fraternity.

So belief in this nation, its ideals, its purposes, its progress, its future and its glory is a great part of a Mason’s faith.

A second part, scarcely less great, is the Relief of Freemasons in brotherhood. It is idle to contend that some Freemasons neither think much about it, or act much by it. Backsliders and the unregenerate are in all faiths, organizations, and fraternities. The vast majority of Freemasons have made the concept of a universal Brotherhood of Man a part of themselves, believe in it, practice it as well as they can, have faith in it.

There was but one perfect man upon this earth and Him they crucified. No Mason is perfect. The faith of no Mason, therefore, is perfect. If there was perfect practice of brotherhood there would be no more war, poverty, or any other ill save those caused by act of God. It is idle, too, to say that because our faith in brotherhood is not equalled by our works, therefore there is no faith. Belief in brotherhood, in its power, in its reality, in its future and its potency is a great part of a Mason’s faith and cannot be written off by referring to the imperfections of human nature.

Masons believe in ritual. Ritual is one of the world's puzzles. The source of its power, the reason behind its effects, man’s insistence upon the importance of its perpetuation, are alike mysteries. Ritual has always played a large part in the affairs of men; in their churches, their armies, their governments, their relations one with another. Something deep within us all responds to ritual; something so well hidden in the human mind that even the philosopher and the psychologist have not been able to dig it out. It makes us sounding boards which give back a new tone when ritual strikes upon our minds.

The truths taught in ritual can of course be expressed in non-ritualistic language. For instance: God, who resides in heaven, we desire Thy name to be glorified, and that what Thou willest to be upon this earth, including the bringing of Thy kingdom, be accomplished here as it is in heaven. We ask of Thee our meals every day and entreat Thee to forgive us when we sin, just as we will forgive those who sin against us. Do not let us come into the snares of temptation but keep us from all that is evil, because Thou hast both glory and power, now and for ever, amen.

The words mean the same as those in the Lord’s prayer; they do not sound so beautifully nor so musically, but the sense is there. The Lord’s prayer is ritual known to every English speaking man and woman the world over. It is ritual which can be said by any group, anywhere, anytime; a power for unity, a bond between strangers, a level on which high and low, rich and poor may meet and commune.

So it is with the Masonic ritual. Rituals do differ in different jurisdictions, but in details rather than in essentials. Many Freemasons go from place to place, but the great majority stay within their own jurisdictions. The Masonic ritual they learned is the only ritual these know.

What is important is not the particular ritual, but the fact that it is the same ritual which a brother hears, learns, knows and grows to love. It is an integral part of the mystic tie. It is a cement joining heart and heart. It is a silken cord between mind and mind, drawing a brother back and back again to hear the same old words, the same old truths framed in the same old phrases.

Aye, Freemasons believe in their ritual as a foundation stone of a Mason’s faith.

Freemasons believe in their leaders. As all know, mistakes are made, occasionally the wrong brother gets in line, sometimes reaches the East with little ability, with nothing to give his lodge. But it is the exception which proves the rule. Through countless years brethren have learned that their leaders are to be trusted. The heavy responsibility which is a Master’s, the almost crushing burden which rests on the devoted shoulders of a grand master, have in the main been proudly and successfully born. Somehow the arcanum which clothes the Master, the sheen of the purple a grand master wears, give birth to the desire and the ability to rule justly and to deal gently, to lead wisely and to decide rightly.

So Masons have learned to believe in their leaders, to reverence the position of Master and grand master, to applaud what is well done, to forget and forgive what is ill done. Belief in leadership is an essential for progress in any institution; that the Fraternity has had the belief so long and with such justification cannot but be a main part of a Mason’s faith.

A Mason believes in his Mother lodge. Ah, pity the Freemason for whom those words hold no thrill; to whom the right to belong to the little lodge of long ago is not a diamond in life’s coronet of honors won! Actually she may be little and ineffectual; her hall small and ill furnished; her brethren undistinguished; her accomplishments too minute to be found in print. But to most Masons she holds something no other lodge can possess; for most there is a glory about her name and a rainbow within her temple. To return and to mingle again with those who make her is an event to be looked forward to, a privilege to strive hard to possess.

From whence comes it, this love for Mother lodge?

From whence comes it, love for mother?

From the same wellspring, buried deep in humanity. Our mother gave us life. Our mother cherished, guarded, guided, taught and loved us. Our mother is proud of us. Our mother exults when we succeed and weeps when we fail. Our mother is ours, and none may take her from us.

So with the Mother lodge. She gave us Masonic life. She cherished, guarded, guided, taught and loved us. If we succeed, the Mother lodge rejoices. If we fail, she is grieved. Our Mother lodge is ours and none may take her from us.

Belief in our Mother lodge is at once fierce and tender. The more our minds tell us there is no reason therefore, the more intolerant we are with those who dare to say so! Love for, belief in, our Mother lodge is well woven in with a Mason’s faith.

Brethren believe in grand lodge. Newcomers at times do feel that the Fraternity is divided into “we” and “they” — “we” being the officers of lodges and delegates and “they” the officers and past officers of grand lodge. Such a conception, dividing the Craft into the sheep and goats, is as unfortunate as it is unkind. Those who attend grand lodge much and often have a clearer vision. In the long run, no body of men has collectively a kinder heart, a greater mercy, a keener justice, a saner decision between what is attractive but not wise, and what is conservative and therefore apt to be safe. Read as many Proceedings of as many grand lodges as you will and over what period of time you may have the patience to go. You will find here and there legislation which has proved mistaken in later years, but you will look hard and far and find little or none of decisions based on other than decent and selfless thinking; upon the humanities rather than upon political considerations.

Hence it is that the Fraternity has an abiding belief in grand lodge, justified by experience and practice. Surely this, at times almost touching in its assurance that in grand lodge lies the remedy for all fraternal ills, is a great part of a Mason’s faith.

The triumph of good over evil is one of the great teachings of Freemasonry. That truth cannot be crushed to earth there to remain; that selfishness and greed cannot in the long run triumph over fidelity and skill; that at long last virtue brings its own reward and sin and evil its own punishment, is a part of Freemasonry. It is impossible to be a Freemason and not carry that teaching into daily life.

At long last, goodness, not evil, wins. At long last, that which is slain by error is raised by truth. At long last, heaven is above and hell beneath the feet of men.

Multiplied thousands also so believed who are not of the Fraternity. Belief in the triumph of good over evil is not the exclusive possession of Freemasonry. But it is so much, so often, so completely taught in Freemasonry, so impressed in formal ceremony and ritual and degree, so constantly sung in the ears of those who go to lodge that it cannot but be considered among the materials from which a Mason’s faith is built.

Man does fail. He reaches for the stars and grasps a branch above his head; he adventures towards the sunset and settles on the banks of the first river which blocks his path; he starts right and runs strongly and turns off to the primrose path and falters when he reaches the garden. All sadly true. But some reach for the stars and find them; some travel to the sunset nor stay not until the goal is reached; some run until they drop nor ever swerve. It is these in whom Freemasons believe. It is belief in such as these and the knowledge that a majority of men are such as these, which makes belief in men the capstone of a Mason’s faith.

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  1. Of the 39 signers of the Constitution, 13 were Freemasons; of the 74 general officers of the Continental Army, 33 were Freemasons.

The Masonic Service Association of North America