Vol. XLI No. 7 — July 1963

He That Built All Things

Eugene G. Beckman, GrChap

This address was delivered at the religious services at the opening of the Grand Lodge of South Carolina, April 25, 1963, by R.W. Eugene G. Beckman, Grand Chaplain. The author has graciously permitted The Masonic Service Association to publish it as a Short Talk Bulletin.

Every house is built by some man; but He that built all things is God. — Hebrews 3:4

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Last winter I went quail hunting on a neighbor’s farm. Some distance behind this farmer’s house, a narrow branch runs into a large swamp. There are fields on each side of this branch, which is rather open and has little water in it except after a heavy rain. I knew a covey of quail ranged along that branch. I was walking along the edge, keeping an eye on the dog, expecting him to point any minute.

To my surprise I came upon a crude little house made out of poles. It was small, about five by seven feet. It had one door and the door had a lock on it. In front of this house was a crude stove made out of an old tobacco barn curer. I stopped and examined the house carefully. I knew who had built it. Two Boy Scouts had worked like little beavers, cutting down the poles, then cutting them the right length, and then building the house. They camped out there and cooked breakfast on that crude stove. You can imagine the joy with which they worked and the good times they had in that house. The pioneer spirit is not dead in American youth. “Every house is built by some man.”

I have a large calendar in my study, sent out by one of the leading insurance companies in America. This calendar has historic pictures on each page. The page for February has a picture of the birthplace of George Washington. It is a small two-room house, with a chimney at each end. It is situated on the bank of Bridges Creek, Westmoreland County, Virginia.

I tried to visualize the time when Augustine Washington built that house. He selected a beautiful site. He worked hard and long sawing the logs and building this house. As I look at that picture, I say to myself, “Isn’t it wonderful that out of that modest home came George Washington, known as ‘the Father of our Country’?” “Every house is built by some man."

I like to read about the preparation made for the erection of King Solomon’s Temple. I like to read about the building of this Temple. The Temple structure was in the form of a rectangle: 60 cubits long, 20 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. The building faced the east, its length extending from east to west. The walls were massive. The floor of marble slabs was covered with fir. The material of the walls was stone, which was hewn and prepared in the quarry, so that while the structure was being erected “no sound of axe, or hammer, or tool of iron, was heard.” So King Solomon built the Temple and finished. “Every house is built by some man.”

“But He that built all things is God.” We as Masons acknowledge and revere God as the Supreme Architect of the Universe. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). What is included in that statement is beyond the comprehension of man. When we think of the size of the universe, it staggers our imagination. The universe is all the works of creation.

Man’s ideas of the universe have constantly changed. In ancient times, the known universe was only the small part of the world over which the savage himself had traveled. It also consisted of the stars and the other heavenly bodies which he could see. He looked upon the sun and moon as gods. Some ancient people believed that the universe was balanced on the back of a large tortoise. The Greeks believed that a giant named Atlas held the universe upon his shoulders. They thought the earth was the center of the universe. They believed that the sun, moon and stars revolved around the earth. They believed that the earth was flat and if one went far enough in any one direction, he would fall off the edge.

Gradually man learned more about the universe. The voyages of exploration in the 1400s showed him that the earth was not flat, but round. Astronomers discovered that the earth was not the center of the universe. Man learned that the earth is only one of several planets which revolve around the sun. He learned that the sun itself is a star of only average size and brilliance among a hundred billion stars in the Milky Way galaxy.

Modern astronomers have gone further. They know that the fundamental units of the universe are the stars. The clusters of stars are called galaxies. We live in one called the Milky Way. There are as many galaxies in the universe as there are stars in the Milky Way. The dimensions of the universe are impossible for the mind of man to grasp, as it measures thousands of millions of light years. A light year is the distance light travels in a single year, moving at the speed of 186,000 miles a second. The 200-inch Hale telescope on Mount Palomar in California can see as far as one billion light years into space. If you boarded an interplanetary train which traveled at the speed of an express train today, it would take you 700,000,000 years to get to the Pole Star. No wonder the Psalmist asked in amazement of a God who created such a universe: “What is man that Thou are mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4)

When Isaiah thought of the greatness of God, he exclaimed: “Who hath measured the water in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance? He hath stretched forth the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth.” (Isaiah 40:12, 51:13)

Jeremiah said of God: “He hath made the earth by His power; He hath established the world by His wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by His discretion.” (Jeremiah 10:12). The Psalmist said: “I will praise Thee . . . for marvelous are Thy works!” (Psalms 139:14)

How old is the universe? Man does not know. He can only guess. In the February 1963 issue of the National Geographic Magazine there is a picture of some geologists in Antarctica. The accompanying article says that some scientists from Ohio State University mined some coal in the Hollick Mountains that dates from the Permian Period, about 250,000,000 years ago, when Antarctica had a comparatively warm climate.

In the same issue is a picture of the Hayden Planetarium in New York with the Zeiss projector which reproduces the heavenly bodies with amazing realism. These words are found on the entrance of this Planetarium: “There must be a very much greater Power than man responsible for the wonderful things which are daily occurring in the Universe.” The man who said that was Charles Hayden, who donated the Zeiss projector, which is the heart of the Planetarium. Yes, there is a greater Power. He is the Supreme Architect of the Universe, the God whom we as Masons acknowledge and revere.

The greatest thing that God ever built is man. “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let him have dominion over . . . all the earth. . . .’ So God created man in His own image. . . . male and female created He them. And God blessed them, and . . . [gave them] dominion over . . . every living thing. . . .” (Genesis 1:26-28) The Psalmist said: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” (Psalms 139:14) Again he says: “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man that Thou are mindful of him. . . ? For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.” (Psalms 8:3-5)

As the Psalmist gazed at the stars at night, he was overwhelmed by two facts: the vastness of the universe and the insignificance of man. Could God possibly be concerned with him? How can God care for man in such a vast universe? Faith has the answer. God is mindful of man. God cares for man. If He clothes the lily of the field, and feeds the birds of the air, will He not do the same for man, His child? Man is the greatest building God ever built. Paul said: “You are God’s building.” (1 Corinthians 3:9)

Every building is built for a purpose. That little house by the branch was built by the Scouts as a place to camp out. Augustine Washington built his house on Bridges Creek for a home. Solomon built the Temple for the glory of God and as a place of worship. God has created you and me to glorify Himself. "Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.”

Every Mason should glorify God by his daily life and work. Paul said: “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31) There is no task so lowly that we cannot do it to the glory of God. George Herbert wrote:

Teach me, my God and King,
In all things You to see,
And what I do in anything
To do it as to Thee.

A rather self-righteous visitor to an orphanage was walking around and asking questions about the work of the home. With a kind of conscious superiority he asked one of the young women, “Well, my girl, what are you doing for God?”

“I scrub floors,” came the answer. It is not the kind of work, but the quality of it that really counts. I like the epitaph carved on the gravestone of an old village shoemaker: “He cobbled shoes to the glory of God for forty years.”

When Rangoon in Burma was liberated from the Japanese in World War II, there was found written on the wall of a cell in which a British soldier had been shot the following lines: “Only one life to live; it will soon be past. Only what’s done for God will last.” That is very true. We have only one life to live on this earth, and God claims that life to be lived for His glory.

God did not need us when He built the Alps and the Rocky Mountains, or when he cut the mighty Mississippi — the Father of Waters in America — or when He painted the wayside daisy. But when children are to be taught, the young are to be guided, the home to be consecrated, society to be purified, the government to be made righteous and just, God needs us all, every single one.

But someone might ask, “Can one man do anything?”

An American admiral said some time ago: “The individual serviceman is still the ‘basic element’ of a country’s military strength, even in this age of modern weapons.”

All Masons are called upon to be builders. We have a saying: “You are a brick!” It comes to us from ancient Greece. In those days nearly every city had a wall around it for protection. A king was asked why his cities were not walled. He turned to his army with a fine gesture and said: “They are my walls, and every man of them a brick.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could say that of every Mason in America?

Luther’s parable comes to mind. Satan called a council of his chiefs. One reported: “I let loose some tigers on a caravan of Christians and their bones are now bleaching on the desert sands.”

“What of that?” said Satan. “They are all saved.”

The next said: “I let out the southwest wind on a boatload of Christians and they are all drowned.”

“What of that?” said Satan. “They are all saved.”

A third said: “After ten years I managed to get a group of Christians to sleep.”

“Hurrah!” shouted Satan. “Thou art a good and faithful servant!”

There lies our besetting sin as Masons, and we must always be on our guard. Too many Masons have gone to sleep.

Daniel Webster said: “The most important thought that ever occupied my mind was that of my individual responsibility to God.” May we ever remember that! We are responsible to the Supreme Architect of the Universe. May we so build, labor, and live, that when the time comes for us to lay down the working tools of life, we may gain entrance into that Celestial Lodge above, where the Supreme Architect of the Universe presides. May you hear His welcome: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.”

The Masonic Service Association of North America