Vol. XLIV No. 10 — October 1966

To Have and to Hold

J. Carroll Hinsley, PGM

This stimulating address was delivered at the centennial communication of the Grand Lodge of Montana on June 28,1966, at Helena, by R.W. Brother J. Carroll Hinsley, P.G.M. of Texas. This condensation of his remarks is reproduced with his gracious approval and generous consent.

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Most of us have received title to a home or some other piece of real estate by means of an instrument known as a deed. Although we may not have studied it carefully, a deed has probably at some time or other played an important part in our lives.

In most of the states of this nation the forms of deeds are strikingly similar, and consist basically of five parts: a statement of the consideration or price paid, a granting clause, a description, a habendum clause, and a warranty clause.

Generally, in its short form, a warranty deed will read somewhat as follows: “We the grantors, for and in consideration of a price paid or to be paid, hereby grant, bargain, sell and convey unto the grantees certain property, now described, to have and to hold such property with all rights thereto belonging unto said grantees, their heirs, executors and administrators to warrant and forever defend the same unto the said grantees, their heirs and assigns forever.”

In the form of this common legal document lies a lesson for Masons today.

Those countless craftsmen who have gone before us, who founded the Craft, who were present and labored at the building of the Temple, who in medieval times worked together in constructing so many magnificent and celebrated structures, who organized the first grand lodge in England, who brought Masonry into the New World in the early 18th Century and worked to make it grow and prosper, who survived the anti-Masonic campaigns and the Civil War and the economic depression of the 1930s, who brought our Fraternity to its present estate and also labored in fields of business and government and the professions, the famous and the anonymous, to develop our system of government, schools, charities, and business — of the people, by the people, and for the people — those are the grantors who have conveyed the entire system of Freemasonry to us.

The consideration, the price paid, the quid pro quo for this conveyance certainly is not money or other tangible material wealth; and as to the untold thousands who have preceded us, it could not even be our promises given to them. But is it not the faith and hope, the expectation, that our Masonic forebears must have cherished, that those who came after them would strive to prove worthy of what was being passed on to them, that later generations would work and plan and struggle to preserve the order in all its purity and transmit unimpaired through a succession of ages the excellent tenets of our profession?

As for the granting clause — give, grant, bargain, sell and convey — there’s probably a little of all of these involved in transmitting the principles of our order from generation to generation.

First of all, there can be little doubt that much is given, granted and conveyed to each candidate, to each new Mason, and yes, even to the Mason of many years, in full measure according to his interest and ability to receive. But what of bargain and sell? There must be some obligation on the part of each Mason as he becomes a member of the order, as he finds out what he came here to do, as he is admitted into the Sanctum Sanctorum, to uphold always the high principles of the order, to preserve the reputation of the Fraternity, and to strive for the further advancement of Freemasonry in a world of ignorance and darkness. These things he implicitly promises to do in return for new light and understanding, for all the benefits of the new brotherhood granted to him on his admission into the order.

As to the description, in what words can we truly describe what is being transferred and conveyed from man to man, from lodge to candidate, from Mason to neophyte? It is truly the heart and soul, the intellect, the accumulated wisdom of the oldest, most highly respected, and largest fraternal order in the world. It is Freemasonry. It is faith, hope, and charity, and all those other elements that are included in those terms. There have been many attempts to give a brief definition or description of Masonry. One that seems to include the essential elements is this:

Masonry is an association of good men bound together in a philosophy of life, which requires a belief in a Supreme Being, in eternal life, and in the Brotherhood of Man. Masonry has gathered together those eternal principles and fundamental truths that have been proven to be necessary for right thinking and moral living. Masonry presents them to its members in a system of symbolical and allegorical teaching for use in establishing their own philosophies of life and personal codes of moral living, for the enrichment of their lives and the improvement of society.

Time does not permit a thorough development of this thought, a full and complete description of what Masonry is and what it does. But think of the part this great Fraternity of Freemasons played in the planning, the growth and development of our nation, our system of government, our economic and business system, our public schools, our colleges, libraries, and hospitals, our entire social system. Above all, we should remember that this was not done in concerted programs and drives by a national or a state organization. It was the result of the principles and ideals instilled in men year after year and decade after decade, principles that encouraged and influenced and impelled these men to plan and strive and work for the creation and development of the best possible world in which to live.

This, then, is what our Masonic forebears have conveyed to us who came after them, and in the language of our deed, "to have and to hold, unto us and to our heirs and assigns forever, with all the rights thereto belonging.” To have and to hold. What depth of meaning is conveyed in these words! Not only the possession of the rights and privileges, but a duty to cherish and protect to the fullest this great gift that is ours. And just how are we discharging this trust that has been placed in us?

We are living in a period that has been variously described as a critical period, changing times, an era of social revolution, a state of confusion on the part of many, when they seem to have lost their sense of values and to have abandoned all belief in and practice of those essential virtues and principles that are the mainstay of any great society or civilization.

Brother J. Edgar Hoover called attention to serious and distressing conditions in our nation, those arising from the effects of civil disobedience movements and demonstrations by some elements of society, a crime rate that is increasing six times as fast as our expanding population, a startling growth of violent and barbarous juvenile crimes committed by youths who are time and again released and sent back into the streets to kill, rape, rob, and assault the citizenry, a frightening breakdown in law enforcement, and an apparent tendency on the part of many of our courts to make law enforcement more and more difficult.

In recent years Masonic leaders have been viewing with alarm some of the conditions in the Fraternity. We hear complaints of poor attendance at lodge meetings and other shortcomings.

In the face of unprecented economic prosperity in our nation, after twenty years of membership increases such as our Craft had never known, we began in 1960 to experience net losses of membership in our constituent lodges. The total loss has increased each year, until in 1964 only 11 grand lodges reported net gains. The total net loss for that year was 26,747, reducing the total Masonic membership of lodges in the United States to 4,005,605 from a high of 4,103,161 in 1959, a loss of nearly 100,000 in 5 years. During this same period of time it is estimated that the population of the United States increased approximately twelve million.

There are other matters of concern. Large numbers of Masons were prominent in the political life of our country in earlier times. A recent study of the number of Masons in our national congress indicated that there were only 213 Masons in both houses, or 40 percent of the total membership of 535, compared with nearly 60 percent, or 300 Masons eighteen years earlier. This same study disclosed that only four past masters of Masonic lodges and one past grand master were members of congress.

There have been many suggestions and recommendations as to what ought to be done, such as lowering the age at which men can petition for degrees, abolishing degree fees, abolishing requirements for unanimous election of candidates, limiting the size of lodges, employing public relations counselors, inviting men to become members, adopting new charitable programs, as well as many others.

No one suggests that we should complacently accept constant losses in membership as inevitable, but certainly we should not become so frightened that we will be stampeded into accepting or trying methods that may be of doubtful value to our Fraternity. In the first place, we ought always to keep in mind that Masonry is not now and never was intended as an organization for the masses. It has always been a selective organization, having as its aim and purpose the well- rounded development of selected individuals by the inculcation of certain basic and unchanging truths and moral laws through a system of symbolic teaching.

Perhaps it is better to achieve this purpose with a limited number of members than it is to enroll large groups who will never receive or acquire an understanding of these great truths and purposes. Perhaps it is possible that what we need most today is more Masonry in men rather than more men in Masonry.

It would seem that a return to those fundamental principles that were transmitted to us by our Masonic forefathers, to have and to hold, with all the rights thereto belonging, unto us, our heirs and assigns forever, upon which this and other grand lodges and all their subordinate lodges have grown and made the influence of Masonry felt during the past centuries is what we need most today. The ancient Charges of a Freemason, to which we referred earlier, contain a number of matters of good and wholesome instruction for us. These charges state that a Mason is obliged to obey the moral law, that Masons are to be good men and true, or men of honor and honesty. This is a principle we need always to have and to hold.

No doubt large numbers of our members measure up to these requirements; but is it not a fact that we have far too many examples of those who do not and that sometimes we are inclined to ignore their shortcomings in the hope that things will improve without action on our part? But it is possible that the public is not so generous and that many times our failure to discipline our erring members has cost us dearly in the opinion of those who are not members of our Fraternity.

These same charges admonish us that preferment among Masons should be grounded upon real worth and personal merit only, and that no master or warden is to be chosen by seniority. How often have we ignored these instructions in our lodges? Is it possible that in our prosperity we have grown complacent and neglected to insist on the best possible leadership? Surely we cannot expect our Fraternity to rise to greater heights than the leadership in our lodges. In our membership we count some of the ablest men in North America, but we have often ignored their talents and capabilities when it has come time to elect a new warden and a new master.

Our Fraternity has a tradition of interest in government, good government, and of participation in its affairs. True, we do not countenance discussion of partisan politics that would tend to disrupt our communications, nor do we endorse candidates or controversial issues. But have we become sterile in our thinking? Can we no longer inspire Masons to take an interest in government at all levels, participate in government, and see that it operates in consonance with moral law and not as an instrument to despoil the populace for the enrichment of the few? The men and the Masons who led in creating your state and mine, and our national government, and your grand lodge and mine, were not afraid to take part in politics and government and work to make them what they ought to be.

Does not the fact that there are reportedly only four past masters of Masonic lodges in our present Congress indicate that our Masonic leadership is not assuming the same responsibility in this field as it once did?

Is there a solution to these problems? Yes, I believe there is. I do not suggest that it lies in any magic formula or in any number of innovations to change the basic nature of our order. I believe it lies simply in a return to fundamental principles long clearly-stated and recognized as being inherent in Freemasonry.

We will not find this solution in emphasis on degree work, or in urging members to attend stereotyped and uninteresting business meetings, or in any series of modem gimmicks, or public relations programs. On the other hand, we must find a way to select and utilize the tremendous leadership potential in our membership, those who can and will inspire our millions of Masons with a renewed understanding of the greatness of purpose, of the possibilities of accomplishment, of Freemasonry.

We must return to the simple instructions of the Charges of a Freemason, to learn to obey the moral law, to be good men and true, men of honor and honesty. We need a new emphasis on those ten tenets, virtues, principles, mentioned in the First Degree, which I like to think of as the Ten Commandments of Masonry: faith, hope, and charity; brotherly love, relief, and truth; temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice. When we do this, our organization can again become a solid foundation for our society, our civilization, a force for good that will be felt in business and government, in education, yes, even in religion, in every activity in which men participate. But this we can do only by giving our brethren that good and wholesome instruction we so often promise but so many times fail to provide.

We have received from those who went before a great and precious gift, the great and ancient Fraternity of Freemasons with all its traditions, its beautiful degrees full of symbolism and meaning, its lofty idealism, and its inspiration to each individual Mason. That inspiration must make each one of us truly aware that there can be no higher honor than to be one of that group dedicated to a sincere belief in the Fatherhood of God, the Brotherhood of Man, and the Immortality of the Soul, and to the practice of these beliefs in all aspects of daily life. This is what we are to have and to hold, to ourselves and to our heirs and assigns, to future generations of men unborn.

We must not weary of our task. We must not debase our precious heritage with gimmicks and innovations. We must not, from lack of dedication or understanding, permit it to be so remodeled and changed that it becomes a counterfeit, something not Freemasonry. We must be dedicated to the proposition that we are to have and to hold Freemasonry in all its beauty and to pass it on to future generations as pure and unimpaired as we received it.

Then, when we prepare to lay down life’s working tools, we may be moved to contemplate the fruits of our labors in the words of Brother C. C. Hunt, which he entitled “Our Temple,” paraphrasing Brother Rudyard Kipling’s beautiful poem:

When our Temple on earth has been finished,
  And our tools have been all laid aside,
When the sound of the gavel is silenced,
  And on earth we no longer reside,
We shall rise at the Word of the Master,
  And remember the way that we grew,
As “The Master of all good workmen
  Shall put us to work anew.”
We there will build a new Temple,
  Reflecting the will of our God,
Its portals be easy to enter,
  For love is the entering rod.
Then each brother shall work without ceasing,
  And try all his deeds with the square;
He will build the Temple of greatness
  For the God who in all things is fair.
And only the Master shall praise us,
  And only the Master shall blame,
For each for the love that is in him,
  With never a thought of fame,
Shall build his part of the Temple
  With a care for each detail;
That will raise a perfect structure,
  A work that shall never fail.

The Masonic Service Association of North America