Vol. XXXIX No. 6 — June 1961

Seeking a Man

Eugene G. Beckman, GrChap

This address was delivered at the religious services at the opening of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina, April 27, 1961, by R.W. Eugene G. Beckman, grand chaplain.

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Run to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem,. . . and see if you can find a man. . . — Jeremiah 5:1

How would you feel and what would you think if, while walking down the main street of your city or town, someone dashed up to you, grabbed your arm, and in a voice almost breathless with urgency said, “I’m looking for a man; help me find a man.” Of course you would think he was crazy. You would probably break away from him, call the nearest policeman, and do what you could to have the poor demented creature sent to the state hospital where he could have proper care. Looking for a man! As if there aren’t hundreds of men in every town and city!

Diogenes, the popular philosopher of Athens in the fourth century, once went through the streets of Athens, carrying a lighted lantern in broad daylight. The citizens of the old Greek city mocked him to scorn when he told them in answer to their inquiries that he was “looking for an honest man.”

No doubt that is precisely what the people of Jerusalem thought about Jeremiah when he ran to and fro through the streets of Jerusalem, crying, “I am looking for a man.” Of course there were thousands of men there: priests and tradesmen, travelers and beggars, wise and foolish, rich and poor. If Jeremiah were not blind, he must have been crazy. Prophets were strange people, anyway.

Diogenes and Jeremiah were mocked in their day and generation, because their fellow men thought they knew a man when they saw one. The philosopher and the prophet were looked upon as lunatics. Yet was not the madness really in those who mocked them?

Jeremiah was looking for a certain kind of man, a real man. God told him to go and try to find an honest man, a conscientious man, a man who loves the truth, a man who is just in all his dealings, a man who is sincere in his religious life, a man who keeps himself unspotted from the world. There were thousands of men in Jerusalem, but they were not real men at all. They were about as much like real men as toy soldiers are like actual soldiers. He said, “The men I meet here in Jerusalem are strange men. I can’t find a real man. Help me find one.”

We think we know what a real man is. We think we meet them every day. We think we understand mankind and its achievements. We boast of man’s accomplishments in government, in scientific discoveries and inventions, in works of art and literature, in engineering feats, and we say, “What a piece of work is a man!” Jerusalem had men of renown and men of achievement, but she was lacking in real men. Real manhood is found in those men who possess the image and likeness of God. The power and value of real manhood is immense. Who can measure the influence of a real man?

Like Jeremiah of old, I am looking for a man, a certain kind of man. In the life and work of our Masonic lodges we need such men. The kind of man I am seeking has three characteristics, or three outstanding traits.

I am looking for a man of Vision. What is he like? Is it possible to describe this man? The man of vision is never in a rut. A prominent preacher once said, "The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.” The man of vision will not remain in a rut. He has imagination and new ideas. He dreams dreams and is far-seeing.

He can rise above old prejudices and the old way of doing things. He can always see the need of the hour. Although he lives in the present, he is always planning for the future. He never ignores the past. He realizes that he owes a great deal to the past and is ever grateful for all those who have gone before. He learns the lessons the past teaches. He can say with the Psalmist, “Yea, I have a goodly heritage.” But he is never a slave to the past. He is an heir, but not a slave.

His vision leads him to see what might be, and what ought to be. There is a great need in our lodges today for the man of vision. We should never underestimate this man. We should never call him a “dreamer,” as if a dreamer is always impracticable or unrealistic or one who ignores hard facts. Remember, the Bible, which we look upon as the Great Light of Masonry, says: “Where there is no vision the people perish. . . .” (Proverbs 29:18)

Have we a vision for our local lodge? Do we see it as a fellowship of kindred minds? Do we see it as a group of men gladly and eagerly helping each other in times of sorrow and trial and misfortune? Do we see it as a fellowship from which real men go out with faith and courage and understanding, bearing witness to the great tenets of our order in all the relationships of life and at every point of contact with others? Oh, how we need such men of vision!

Suppose every lodge had one member like Brother Ray Vaughn Denslow, whose passing occurred last year. The February 1961 issue of The Short Talk Bulletin was devoted to his life and achievements. His writings gave distinction to Freemasonry not only in America but throughout the world. He was a scholar and author. He was one of the most popular Masonic speakers of his time. He wrote,

There are the very few, the men of vision, who see in the Fraternity a chance to better the world. It is the touch of the hand, the personal relationship, the love of fellow man, and the practice of brotherly love which will bring Utopia, if it comes to this world.

He was truly one of “the men of vision” of whom he wrote. One man ofvision can transform a lodge.

In the second place, I am looking for a man with Enthusiasm. Ralph Waldo Emerson, brilliant American philosopher and writer of the nineteenth century, said, “Nothing great is ever achieved without enthusiasm.” We admire warmhearted enthusiasm in a man.

Enthusiasm is usually associated with youth, especially in high school and college students. But it is not the exclusive prerogative of youth. Think of the Apostle Paul, after accomplishing so many things, against many odds, and now an aged man in prison, writing, “I press on toward the mark.” Think of John Wesley, four days before his death at eighty-eight, writing to young William Wilberforce that glowing letter of encouragement in the cause of the abolition of slavery. Think of General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, Sir Wilfred Grenfell in the Labrador, Dr. Albert Schweitzer in Africa, and many others. They maintained the spiritual glow throughout their lives. Their enthusiasm never flagged.

One of the charges leveled at the early Methodists was that they were too enthusiastic. It was meant as a reproach, but it really was a compliment. People were surprised that anyone could be in earnest about religion.

The same charge was hurled against the early Christians in the Book of Acts. People said these men were drunk. But the truth is that they found religion to be a thrilling thing and there was nothing half-hearted about them. How different the people in another church, the church at Laodicea! They were lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. They came under the condemnation of God. A lukewarm religion will never challenge nor impress the world. It is like salt that has lost its savour.

We know that in any undertaking enthusiasm counts for much, whether it be in sports, in business, the professions, politics, religion, the Fraternity, or anything else. Without enthusiasm little is ever accomplished. Often it is the difference between victory and defeat.

How true this is in our lodges! The only time we see enthusiasm in some lodges is at the Ladies’ Night banquet. I was invited to conduct a Masonic Religious Service in a small city where the lodges planned together for this open meeting. There are over nine hundred Masons in that city, but we had only thirty of them at that service. It was embarrassing to tire host church and to the masters of the lodges. That was a very poor advertisement for Masonry.

Last year the lodges in South Carolina lost 1,222 members for non-payment of dues. The same disappointing fact may be observed in many of our sister grand jurisdictions. There’s a lot of lost enthusiasm revealed by such statistics.

But can we blame it entirely on the brothers who have dropped away? What caused their interest to evaporate so much, that they lost their loyalty as well as whatever enthusiasm they have ever had?

Remember, one enthusiastic man can inspire a whole lodge and put new life into it. I’m looking for a man with Enthusiasm!

Finally, I am looking for a man of Endurance. This is the quality we admire whether we see it in the scientist, the student, or the athlete; we depend on men who possess this determination to see a thing through to the end. We admire those who are good starters and those who are good finishers. We admire the man who, “having put his hand to the plough,” keeps on.

We just mentioned enthusiasm as the second essential quality of a real man. Every man has moments of enthusiasm. He may have it for thirty minutes, while another may have it for thirty days; but it is the man who keeps his enthusiasm for thirty or forty years who makes a success of life. Endurance is enthusiasm at its highest level.

Let me give you an example. Think of the Curies. After the 487th experiment had failed, Pierre said, “It can’t be done. Maybe in a hundred years it can be done, but not in our lifetime.” And he was ready to give up. But Madame Marie Curie said, “If it takes a hundred years, it will be a pity, but I dare not do less than work for it as long as I have fife.” Her enthusiasm inspired her husband to keep on. She transformed his flagging enthusiasm into a conquering endurance. In 1898 the two discovered radium, the wonderful element used throughout the world in treating cancer and other diseases.

Our Lord said, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) Paul said, “I have fought a good fighth, I have finished my course, I have kept the fait; henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness. . . .” (2 Timothy 8:7, 8) It is not only vision we need, and enthusiasm, but also "staying power.” So many men lack this quality. This is shown by the number dropped each year from our lodges.

Who keeps our lodges open and at labor? Who "presses on to the high mark” of our calling, the exemplification of brotherly love, relief, and truth? It is the members who love the lodge, who work the degrees, who sit at the bedsides of sick and distressed brothers, who radiate Masonic ideals in all the contacts of their daily living. It is men who endure to the end.

We need the man of Vision, the man of Enthusiasm, and the man of Endurance. Suppose we could find all three qualities in one man, the man of Vision who is full of Enthusiasm and who will keep on in his work and witness! This is possible. What a man he would be! Imagine a lodge full of men like that! Each quickened by a noble vision, each full of enthusiasm, each persevering in his service. What a lodge that would be! What a power for Good! People would find it hard to ignore a lodge like that. Men would want to have a part in it.

But how can we have men like that? How can I become a man like that? I think the answer is found in the prophecy of Isaiah.

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles [men of vision]; they shall run, and not be weary [men of enthusiasm]; they shall walk, and not faint [men who endure unto the end] (Isaiah 40:31)

Our God, the Great Architect of the Universe in whom we believe, is a God of Vision and of Enthusiasm and of Endurance, and linked with Him in fellowship and service, the same marks may be seen in our fives.

Blessed is the lodge that has one man with these qualities. One such man can transform a lodge. You can be this man. Your lodge needs you. As these words are distilled through your thinking and feeling, won’t you say, With the help of God, I am determined to be a man of Vision, a man of Enthusiasm, a man of Endurance”? Everywhere Freemasonry is looking for a man!

The Masonic Service Association of North America