- 1 THOMAS S. ROY 1884-1980
- 1.1 TERM
- 1.2 NOTES
- 1.3 BIOGRAPHY
- 1.4 MEMORIAL
- 1.5 SPEECHES
- 1.6 CHARTERS GRANTED
- 1.7 RULINGS
THOMAS S. ROY 1884-1980
Deputy Grand Master, 1943
Grand Master, 1951-1953
RESIGNATION OF PASTORATE, MAY 1951
From New England Craftsman, Vol. XLVI, No. 5, May 1951, Page 77:
Not only the members of his own parish but many thousands of his fellow citizens in this whole community have learned with sincere regret of the resignation of Dr. Thomas S. Roy from the First Baptist Church pastorate. However outstanding his successor in that post may be, it will be difficult for a long time to think of that church without him as its spiritual leader.
For more than half of his two-score years in the Christian ministry, Dr. Roy has served Worcester. In that time he has come to be recognized as one of the ablest and most consecrated clergymen in the city's history. His gifts as a preacher and as a leader have been notable. Yet his work as a counsellor and guide for old and young, in his parish and out, has made itself felt in hundreds of individual lives. He has, furthermore, been unselfish and uncommonly effective in civic activities. His election as Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts is evidence of his capacity and distinction in one of his many fields of interest.
It is fortunate, indeed, for the community that Dr. Roy, upon retirement, plans to continue his residence there. He will turn himself now to lecturing and writing, and so rich have been his experiences and accomplishments that he can look forward in this new activity to years of that usefulness to mankind and service to God which have always governed his career. — The Evening Gazette, Worcester.
FROM NEW ENGLAND CRAFTSMAN, 1952
From New England Craftsman, Vol. XLVII, No. 3, March 1952, Page 36:
The Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts . . . brings to the Commonwealth and Craft hereabouts rare talents which ably sustain the precedents of his predecessors.
Reverend Dr. Roy was born in Newcastle, New Brunswick, on August 31, 1884. He received his education in Horton Academy, Wolfville, Nova Scotia (1907), Acadia College, Wolfville (1911), New Theological Institution. Newton, Mass., (1915), earning the B.A. and M.A. degrees at Acadia and the B.D. degree at Newton Theological Institution. He received the honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree from Acadia University and Colby College in 1932. He was professor of Public Speaking at Andover Newton Theological School, Newton, Mass., in 1935 and 1936, and is a member of the Board of Trustees of Newton Theological Institution, Worcester Polytechnic Instituite, and Worcester Academy, and is past president of the Worcester Economic Club.
Dr. Roy is married and has one son, Dr. James Evans Roy, a psychiatrist.
Made a Mason in King Solomon Lodge A. F. and A. M. of Digby, N. S., on March 5, 1912, Dr. Roy later affiliated with Dalhousie Lodge of Newtonville, Mass., and was Chaplain for four years. Paul Revere Lodge of Brockton, Mass., was his next affiliation and he served the lodge as Chaplain for six years. On his removal to Worcester to become Pastor of the First Baptist Church of that city, he affiliated with Montacute Lodge and he was Worshipful Master of that lodge in 1935 and 1936.
Reverend Dr. Roy is a member of Satucket Royal Arch Chapter and Bay State Commandery, both Brockton, Mass. Bodies, and of the three Scottish Rite Bodies, Worcester Lodge of Perfection, Goddard Council of Princes of Jerusalem, and Lawrence Chapter of Rose Croix. He is also a member of Massachusetts Consistory, S. P. R. S. He was made a 33d degree Mason in 1945.
Last November Brother Roy attended the installation of the Earl of Scarbrough as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of England at a special session of the Grand Lodge held at Royal Albert Hall, Kensington.
Image courtesy of the Museum of Our National Heritage
From Proceedings, starting on Page 1980-82:
Most Worshipful Herbert H. Jaynes read the following Memorial:
Born in New Castle, New Brunswick, August 31, 1884; died at Worcester, Massachusetts, March 21, 1980. His long life with God is ended.
At the Memorial Service for Thomas Sherrard Roy in the First Baptist Church of Worcester, Massachusetts on March 25, 1980, the Reverend Doctor Gordon M. Torgersen, president of Andover-Newton Theological School and successor to Dr. Roy as minister of the church, began his tribute by saying:
"In the very beginning of the Bible, a writer is describing the distant past and those who had done so much, saying There were giants in the earth in those days. No doubt an exaggeration," he said, adding, "If the words were written today about Dr. Roy, there would be no exaggeration at all. Without question he has been a giant in his day. He was an absolute master in the pulpit."
This very rare and very real man has left us and we feel a deep loss.
After a lingering illness, Dr. Roy died peacefully and willingly in his sleep in Hahnemann Hospital, Worcester, Massachusetts. He was the hfth of eight children born to Jerome and Nancy (Sherrard) Roy, he a Roman Catholic and she a Protestant; all the children were baptized in the father's faith.
At sixteen years, however, he began to attend the Baptist Church of which his mother was a member and soon was attending both morning and evening services, culminating in baptism in the Mirimachi River 'on a cool night in June.' "School," he said, "was a dull experience for me. " And so, he became a tailor's apprentice for four years, his pay to be room and board, plus a $160.00 for the total term. Later he worked on the railroad and spent a winter in the lumber camps. Not until 1905 at age twenty-one did he resume his education.
It was then that something happened in his life, he tells us "strange and exalting, that in religion is called conversion. There was born in me a consuming desire to enter the ministry." In that year, he enrolled in Horton Academy, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, operated by the Maritime Baptist Convention. He was graduated in 1907 and entered Acadia College, also in Wolfville, that fall; was graduated in 1911 and received his M.A. Degree in 1912.
He was ordained in 1911 in the United Baptist Church, Digby, Nova Scotia and soon thereafter married Mary Richard Evans. In 1913, he came to Massachusetts and entered the Newton Theological School, graduating in 1915.
After the pastorates in West Newton, Massachusetts; London, Ontario, and Brockton, Massachusetts, he became minister of the First Baptist Church in Worcester, Massachusetts on January 1, 1929, a ministry he held until 1951, and which he left to become Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts. Our Past Grand Master was a community leader: The first President of Worcester Civic Music Association in 1930 and continued as such for six years; President of the Worcester Kiwanis Club in 1937 and of the Worcester Economic Club in 1941. At other times he was president of the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the Worcester Mechanics Association and the Bohemians Club of Worcester.
Dr. Roy was a trustee of Worcester Academy for twenty-five years, ex-officio trustee of Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a trustee of Newton Theological Institute from 1927. He received the "Good Neighbor Award" from the Brotherhood of Beth Israel Synagogue in 1967. Honorary degrees were conferred upon him by: Acadia University, D.D.: Colby College, D.D.: Clark University, L.H.D. and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, D.Sc. Dr. Roy was made a Master Mason in King Solomon's Lodge, No. 54 in Digby, Nova Scotia on March 5, 1912, while studying in Acadia College. He affiliated with other Lodges as he moved from pastorate to pastorate, lastly with Montacute Lodge in Worcester, Massachusetts in 1929.
He became its Worshipful Master in 1936; District Deputy Grand Master in 1942; Deputy Grand Master in 1943 and was Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts in 1951-52-53. He was Executive Secretary of the Conference of Grand Masters in North America for three years and Chairman and later Secretary for ten years of its Commission on Information for Recognition. While Secretary, he edited three books for the Commission. He is the author of Dare We Be Masons?, a collection of addresses delivered in various Grand Lodges in North and South America, and Stalwart Builders, a chronological history of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.
Most Worshipful Brother Roy was a membei of all the Scottish Rite Bodies in Worcester and a Past Most Wise Master of Lawrence Chapter of Rose Croix in that Valley. He was a member of Massachusetts Consistory in the Valley of Boston. He was created a Sovereign Grand Inspector General, 33°, Honorary Member of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction on September 26, 1945 and was its Associate Grand Prior for many years.
In York Rite Masonry he was Exalted in Newton Royal Arch Chapter in 1919; he affiliated with Satucket Royal Arch Chapter in Brockton in 1924; Greeted in Hiram Council in Worcester, 1943; Knighted in Bay State Commandery No. 38 in Brockton, 1924. The Paul Revere Medal of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter was conferred upon him in 1953.
Officiating at Dr. Roy's Memorial Service were Rev. Dr. Gordon M. Togersen, Rev. James T. Begley, Rev. Suzanne Nelson and Most Worshipful Whitfield W. Johnson. Dr. Roy's body was cremated at Rural Cemetery in Worcester. His ashes will be deposited in the family lot in Cambellton, New Brunswick, where those of his wife, Mary, who died in 1975, presently rest.
We, in Massachusetts Masonry, are grateful for the gift ot his life and for his presence among us. This memorial ends with the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson with which Dr. Roy began Stalwart Builders. "There is properly no history, only biography. An institution is the lengthened shadow of a man."
May we continue to live in the shadow of his giant of a man to the increasing glory of his and our beloved Fraternity.
FEAST OF ST. JOHN, DECEMBER 1942
As Deputy Grand Master
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Most Worshipful and Right Worshipful Brethren, Distinguished Guests and Brethren:
As you can imagine, I should like my very first word to be an attempt to express my gratitude to you, Sir, for the honor that you have done me in appointing me as your Deputy for the coming year. I confess that it is very difficult for me to express every thing that crowds into my consciousness as I think of this honor that has come to me so unexpectedly.
I remember hearing or reading at some time or other of an incident in the life of the great Noah Webster, the man who wrote the dictionary. It is said that on one occasion his wife came upon him suddenly when he was "raiding the ice box," or something. She said, "Noah, I am surprised." His reply was, "My dear, I am surprised, you are astonished." I assure you, Most Worshipful Sir, that I am surprised at receiving this honor, however astonished my Brethren are. It is the greatest and the most pleasant surprise that has ever come to me in my life. I come to the position with a great deal of fear and trepidation and yet the encouragement that I have received from the Brethren since they have learned of the appointment has helped very much.
I remember a story that was told of the son of a Baptist minister who used to like to play cards. It was in the days when that was not considered quite the thing in the home of a Baptist minister. If he could not find any one to play with he would play solitaire. When he played solitaire in the home, it was in a room farthest from the rest of the house, at the end of a long hall. It happened to be his father's study. One day he was so absorbed in his game that he did not hear the steps approaching until his father was almost at the door. He ran the cards hurriedly together, swept them into the pack, reached inside the closet door right near and dropped them into the first pocket he could reach. He did not know it, but he had put them in the pocket of his father's baptismal gown. Shortly after, there was a baptism in the river nearby. The minister waded out until the pocket was reached by the water, when the cards began to float out. I don't know very much about it, but is there a card called the ace, Most Worshipful? Well, first the ace came out, then the ten-spot, then a queen, a jack and a king. The mother, much agitated at what she saw, was standing on the bank with the son. She turned to him and said, "Say something, John, say something, help your father out." The boy, who was looking pop-eyed at the cards, said: "Good heavens, Mother, he doesn't need any help with a hand like that."
I do not know how burdensome my duties are going to be during the year. I did not ask any questions about that. I have taken the position on the faith that the Lieutenant Governor was talking about a few minutes ago. (And incidentally, let me say that I do not have to preach here tonight. He preached a better sermon than I preach any Sunday in my pulpit. My brother ministers here will bear me out in that.) I have sometimes thought that I was chosen for this position because business and professional men are so occupied in these busy days. On the other hand, a minister is not supposed to have any thing to do during the week, and Lodges do not meet on Sundays. In this connection I might say that there was one minister of whom one of his parishioners said that he knew very little about him, for he was invisible during the week and incomprehensible on Sunday. I will say this, however, that any thing that it is possible for me to do to assist the Grand Master and to further the work of Freemasonry in this Jurisdiction, I shall be,happy to do this year.
I am sometimes a bit amused to find myself a member of the Masonic Fraternity. Because I go back over thirty years to an incident that happened when I was ordained. At the ordination service in my denomination there is one minister who gives a charge to the church, and another who gives a charge to the one being ordained. The one who gave me the charge that night charged me — and I don't know whether it was on the peril of my immortal soul or not — not to join any secret society. Then, perhaps because of that perversity of human nature that causes us to want to do that which is forbidden, I shortly joined the Masons. I can say that Masonry has brought me during the years the happiest experiences of my life. A minister's life is apt to be ingrown if he is completely absorbed in the affairs of his own parish and he ought to get out into life. Then too, if a man is going to preach to sinners, he ought to find out something about them.
Coming as I have to Freemasonry, I can say this—that it has been a great satisfaction for me to be a member of an order for which I do not have to apologize, even to myself. It is great to be able to look every man in the face and know that Freemasonry builds no walls between my life and his; to know that I have never, directly or indirectly, been committed to anything that would even remotely suggest that I am opposed to him because of his race, or his religion or his politics.
Some person might ask: "Why is it if Freemasonry is all this that they have abolished it in Dictator countries?" Because Dictators will not tolerate anything they cannot control. They cannot put it into their pockets. They have not been able to use it as an instrument of their hate, so they will have none of it, and seek to destroy it.
An American in Europe was visiting an art gallery. He had made a lot of money in America and had not made anything else, and knew very little about what he was looking at. He went from room to room, rushing from one painting to another, peering at it for a minute and then moving on. On his way out he said to the verger, "I don't think very much of these pictures, they are daubs and nothing else." The verger polished his spectacles reflectively as the man talked, and when he had finished, he quietly remarked: "Sir, these pictures are not on trial, the spectators are." It is not Freemasonry that is on trial in the world today, but the Dictators. It is too big for their small minds and smaller souls; it is a perpetual rebuke to their kingdoms that are built on blood and fear.
Let me say in conclusion that if Freemasonry is not the answer to the problems of the world, then there is no answer. It is in the values that are related to brotherhood that we shall find the foundation stones on which we can build securely. But we must do the building. Merejkowski, in his life of Leonardo da Vinci, records that after one of his voyages Columbus sent a set of calculations to Da Vinci. When the artist went over them, he saw that they were full of palpable errors. Then he wondered how it was that a man who had accomplished as much as Columbus could know so little and do so much. He came to the conclusion that "a man must be a seer in order to know, but he must be blind in order to do." I pondered for a while over the meaning of that, and then it came to me. You can know too much for action. You can balance all of the possibilities of a situation, all of the positives and the negatives, all of the assets and the liabilities against one another until you reach an intellectual or emotional dead centre that makes it impossible to move in any direction. The great things that have been accomplished in the world have not been accomplished because men saw clearly how they could do them, but because they felt too deeply to see clearly. If we are going to make Freemasonry the force it should become in the world, it will not be because we can see clearly how to do it, but because of the passion in our lives to do it. It is that inner urge that will enable us to build so that we can confidently look towards the day "When the war drums throb no longer and the battle flags are furled, in the parliament of man, the federation of the world."
WORCESTER AUDITORIUM, MARCH 1951
From New England Craftsman, Vol. XLVI, No. 3, March 1951, Page 46:
Substance of a speech given by Thomas Sherrard Roy, Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, at a reception honoring him at the Auditorium Worcester recently.
"After taking to myself all of the credit that my modesty will permit, or even all that my egotism will demand. I still realize that this reception tonight is a tribute to the great office which is represented in me. and which I am proud to hold. I think too, that it is an expression of satisfaction on the part of Worcester County Masons, that after more than a hundred and forty years this office should be held by a member of a Worcester Lodge.
"I am deeply conscious of the fact that it is a great honor to hold this high office. But it is also a great responsibility. In all sincerity I can say that up to this moment I have been more burdened with the responsibility than exalted by the honor.
"Perhaps this party tonight has its highest justification in the fact that it gives us an opportunity to stand up and cheer for Freemasonry, to dramatize the love we have for the craft. We need occasionally to find or make some sort of celebration when we may not only renew our obligations, or pledge our allegiance again to Freemasonry, but become conscious anew of our solidarity. Of course the basic assumption here is that we have something to cheer about; that Freemasonry is worthy of such an expression of devotion.
"Well, we have something to be proud of in Freemasonry, and that whether we think of its past or its present. We have something to talk about in the history of Freemasonry. Our roots are deep in the centuries gone. While we claim a formal history since 1717, Freemasonry had been a full-grown movement for centuries before that time. But what we are proud of is not length of days, but quality of contribution. The craft guild of Masons stood for a standard of craftsmanship, an integrity in operative achievement and skill that produced buildings that have challenged the admiration of men in all succeeding centuries. That integrity finds its expression in every great cathedral whose towers pierce the sky, and whose soaring pillars and graceful arches remind the worshipers of the transcendence of God and the beauty of holiness.
"When the day came that the operative mason was succeeded by the speculative mason, the task of Freemasonry was transformed from the building of cathedrals to the building of men. The tools of the craftsman became symbols of the standards of life, or, if you like, the symbols of the ideal procedures by which men are enabled to find life at its best. The end of Masonic effort became the serving of God, not through the erection of dead stones into a material building, but the erection of living stones into a spiritual building, a building that would have eternal value.
"It is something to be proud of that Freemasonry has sought to make man conscious of his inherent greatness — that he is not a worm, but the crown of the creative process. It has tried to bring to man a sense of his own worth, of his place in the world as the instrument of God in the working out of his designs for the world. It has taught man that he is not a chattel to be placed at the disposal of kings or governments, but a person with the inherent right to have a voice in the government and ordering of his own life. So that from the beginning. Freemasonry has been against all totalitarianisms, political, religious or social, and has been for the triumph of the principle of a free man in a free world. That is the reason why the Freemasons were the first to feel the wrath of the Nazis when they moved into Holland, and Norway, and Denmark. That is why the Masons are not permitted in any Communist country today.
"The dictators pay their own tribute to the character of Freemasonry when they destroy it. We are proud of the enemies we make, proud of the criticisms of Masonry. We do not expect praise from those who do not share our ideals of the worth of the individual man. our ideals of freedom. We do not expect praise from those who do not share our ideals of the worth of the individual man, our ideals of freedom. We do not expect praise from those who do not share our ideals of tolerance, who do not share our ideals of brotherhood. Those who oppose Freemasonry reveal their own character as those opposed to those principles of freedom, and tolerance, and virtue that arc the glory of a free people.
"With all of our pride in our past, and in our principles, our faces are not turned towards the past, nor our thoughts turned in upon ourselves. We are those who face the future. While we are not a political body, and are traditionally barred in the discussion of politics, we are and must continue to be a political force to be reckoned with. That is, others must know that here is a group of men of integrity and vision who can be depended upon to stand for those values that make for coherence and cohesiveness in a democracy. Freemasonry is not a religion, but it is and of necessity must be a great spiritual force. It is the projection of a great moral force into the life of the community. It is the assertion of truth that by its power will batter down falsehood; the assertion of right that by its might will destroy the wrong; the assertion of all that is best in men to oppose all that is worst in the world.
"I have been reading the amazing book by William K. Laurence, with the title The Hell Bomb. It is a popular book written in the simplest possible terms about the hydrogen bomb, which he calls the hell bomb. It is the interesting and terrifying story of the destructive potential of a bomb a thousand times greater than that of the atom bomb. It describes the problem of trying to get a fifty million degree match that will stay alight long enough to explode the hydrogen bomb. He said it is like trying to start a fire with wood in the snow at thirty degrees below zero with an ordinary match. Which means that men are in search of an activating force that will release a destructive power so great that it is beyond the imagination of all the devils in all the hells devised by the theologians. That in the world whose possibilities we have no match today. Can we become the actuating force that will release the constructive forces in mankind that will win the race with destruction?
"Freemasonry is no ivory tower, no escape from the problems and tensions that are inevitable in a democracy. We are not using Masonry as an escape the obligations of life, playing at brotherhood as a substitute for an acceptance of the realities of brotherhood, which some one has said, 'takes away all of the cushions and leaves us with a cross.' We must think of it as that which we can release as a great redemptive force in the world. You are privileged men — men who have seen a vision of what life be, men who have dreamed a dream of ideal life for humanity and are forever committed to the task of translating that vision and the dream into action."
NEW YORK, APRIL 1952
From New England Craftsman, Vol. XLVII, No. 4, April 1952, Page 52:
FREEMASONRY IS NO IVORY TOWER
The following address was delivered at a dinner given honoring Richard A. Rowlands, Grand Master of Masons in New York. An outstanding feature of this occasion was the presentation of the Grand Lodge Achievment Award to Ambassador Warren R. Austin, Chief of the United States Mission to the United Nations. Over 1,000 Worshipful Masters from all over the State of New York were present.
These are days of great challenge to Freemasonry. While we are proud of our history as speculative Masons since 1717, and as operative Masons for long centuries before that, we must not be content to try to justify the present by the past, hut rather make the present so vital and significant that it will vindicate the past — making worthwhile all that the Masons of days gone by have done to make the present possible. That is, we shall not find our meaning in that which happened yesterday; we will find its meaning in that which is happening today.
I think that the challenge that comes to Freemasonry today is to keep Freemasonry a force, and not let it become just another form. We must not glorify an institution, but make that institution glorify life through its service to mankind. Organizations such as ours began with ideas and principles. But sometimes the organization becomes the greatest enemy of the ideas and principles. Some person has imagined a conversation between an angel and the devil. The angel said, "We are going to defeat you by giving to men great ideas." The devil replied, "You cannot defeat me that way, for all I have to do to offset the ideas is to insitutionalize them" . . .
It is our lot to have been born into one of the most difficult and treacherous days in the world's history . . . Things are no longer right or wrong; they are convenient or inconvenient, they are profitable or unprofitable, they are expedient or inexpedient, they are — well, use any set of contrasting adjectives you please so long as you do not suggest that they are right or wrong. Ideals are mocked at as the vestigial remains of childhood taboos, and principles are ridiculed as just an euphemism for prejudices. The result is that life becomes not a series of choices between the right and the wrong, but a series of rationalizations in which great moral principles are eliminated through refusal to acknowledge anv standards as having inherent a validity or absolute authority. It is our insistence upon the imperatives of the great principles proclaimed by our Order that will keep Masonry a force in the world.
To keep it a force we must affirm in practice the basic realities that are implied in our teaching of brotherhood. In our negative reaction to the regimentation of a collective economy we must not turn to a ruthless individualism. We cannot get the kind of security, based on brotherhood, which we desire by exchanging one form of ruthlessness or selfishness for another. If this brotherhood which we learn and teach means anything, it means that it must be practiced with all men. There is one thing that the present world situation teaches beyond peradventure, and that is that the security of the most privileged depends upon the security of the least privileged. The security of those at the top is dependent upon the security of those at the bottom. In the long journey down the years humanity travels on the feet of the slowest, and not on the feet of the fastest. If we think it is every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost, then it is only a matter of time until the paroxysms of fear felt by the hindmost in the clutch of whatever devil there may be is communicated to the foremost. One of the imperatives of realism is that we recognize that we all belong together . . . We must accept and live by the conditions of brotherhood as a force that comes as consequence of our refusal.
These are the things that compel us to face the question as to whether we are a form or a force. We shall demonstrate that we are a force if we channel the lives of men into ways of fulfilling great purposes . . .
Freemasonry is no ivory tower. It is no escape from the problems and tensions that are inevitable in our kind of world. We are not using Masonry as an escape from the obligations of life, playing at brotherhood as a substitute for an acceptance of the realities of brother hood: a brotherhood which, as some one has said, "take away all of our cushions and leaves us with a cross" . . . You are privileged men — men who have seen a vision of what life can be; men who have dreamed a dream of an ideal life for humanity; and you are, therefore, forever committed to the task of translating the vision and the dream into action . . ."
FEAST OF ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST, JULY 1955
From Proceedings, Page 1955-196:
Saint John the Baptist
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Honored Guests and Brethren:
"Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist." These words constitute high praise, no matter who spoke them. But even this praise is magnified when it is remembered that it was spoken by the greatest man who ever lived.
While it is true that in Massachusetts in particular and in America in general we seem to accord a greater respect to John the Evangelist than to John the Baptist, nevertheless John the Evangelist is really a late comer as a recipient of Masonic honors. According to some Masonic authorities, John the Baptist was a patron saint of Freemasonry long before John the Evangelist was brought in to give distinction to the Fraternity.
All of the knowledge that we have about John the Baptist is based upon the brief references to him in the Gospels, in The Acts of The Apostles, and in the history of Josephus. Perhaps after I get through talking about him you will say what I said one night after watching and listening to Bishop Sheen on television. He had been talking about taxes and the unconscionable burden they place upon us, and said, somewhat facetiously, "as a matter of fact it's hard to keep both a government and a wife in these days." I turned to my wife and said, "I wish I knew as little as he does about both." I was in the doghouse for a little while, but was finally able to make my peace. It is true that on the basis of available biographical material I do not know much about John the Baptist. But what I know, I know very well, for the facts we have concerning his life are very convincing, and give us a remarkably clear and significant picture of the man.
Of course John the Baptist was not a Mason as we are Masons. That is, he was not a member of a Masonic body. But he exemplified the spirit and principles of Freemasonry in his character and activities. Ed like to be able to say positively that he was chosen as the patron saint of Freemasonry because of the correspondence of his character with the ideals of the Craft. Honesty compels me to acknowledge that patron saints were chosen for the purpose of affording protection of a supernatural character to the group by whom they were chosen. It is possible that the ruggedness of John the Baptist appealed to rugged Craftsmen, thus making him a natural choice. If, however, they were looking for one who would embody their ideals in his life, he was still a natural choice. For there are certain facts about his life that are indisputable, and indicate the appeal he makes to Masons.
John the Baptist established his right to be chosen as the patron saint of Freemasonry by his emphasis on the inexorability of law in the development of human character and the perfection of human relations. We have what we call the immovable jewels ill the Lodge: the plumb, the square and the level. They symbolize the insistence of Freemasonry on the existence and reality of the absolute. When John said to the religious leaders of his day: "Who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" he indicated that the fact that they were religious leaders would not prevent their bad acts from having bad results. An evil thing done in the name of religion will have an evil effect just as truly and as terribly as if the motivation were evil. John's emphasis, even as that of Freemasonry today, was upon the necessity of high ethical conduct. For Freemasonry sees today as clearly as John the Baptist saw nearly two thousand years ago that, if we do not obey the laws of life — truth, honor, justice, integrity — destruction will be inevitable, just as John said, "The axe will be laid to the root of the tree." That which is not built by the plumb of rectitude and integrity will be destroyed.
John the Baptist strengthens his position as the patron saint of Freemasonry by his affirmation as to what constitutes human worth. Let it be understood that some of the religious leaders who listened to him were not meekly accepting his strictures against them. In the strength of a proud racial and religious heritage, they replied that what he predicted could not happen to them. God was irrevocably committed to their persistence and their protection by the promises he had made concerning Abraham and his descendants. They were the descendants of Abraham, and therefore the children of promise. But John said to them: "And think, not to say within yourselves 'we have Abraham to our father': for I say unto you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham." In other words, it is not physical inheritance that counts, but spiritual inheritance. God could take the most unpromising human material and out of that create spiritual children of Abraham. For it is the man who has inherited the spiritual values of Abraham who is the child of promise, whether or not he is a racial descendant.
Freemasonry proclaims nothing more definitely than this that a man's worth is not determined by the accidental circumstances of birth, or race, or class, or creed, but by the quality of life he develops. For no man is born with a given quality of life, he is born with possibilities. What he does with those possibilities determines the quality of his life. John said that it was not so important that a man be a physical son of Abraham as that he prove by his life that he is a spiritual son. It may be a commonplace today for Freemasonry to say that when a man enters our portals it is not because he is a representative of a race, or a class, or a religion, but because he has been found worthy as a man. But don't forget that when John the Baptist said it, it was considered rank heresy, and he a renegade to his race for voicing it.
John the Baptist was a prophet, and in this capacity establishes his right to be the patron saint of Freemasonry. Saying that he was a prophet means much more than is usually associated with the word. If I were to tell you that the Red Sox will win the pennant, and that by the first of April next year President Eisenhower will have announced that he is a candidate for re-election, and if both of these things should happen, you would probably say to me, "You are quite a prophet, aren't you?" We think of the prophet as we think of the fortune teller. We say that the prophet is a predictor, one who foresees that which will come to pass. That is not what I mean when I say that this patron saint of ours was a prophet. I shall never forget how an old college professor of mine characterized a prophet. He said, "He is not a foreteller, he is a forthteller."
Strictly speaking, the prophet is one who is interested in proclaiming the truth — perhaps a new truth, perhaps a new interpretation of an old truth. He is the man who is ready to break with old thought forms and creeds in the interest of reality in religion and life. He is not always religious. We speak of Jefferson as a political prophet, and of Horace Mann as a prophet in the field of education.
There are two strong currents in ancient Jewish history, that of the priest and that of the prophet. The priestly class created the forms of worship that must be observed; they are exponents of the religion of form. The prophet insisted upon the religion of the spirit. It was the priest who said that the people must observe certain days in ways strictly prescribed. The prophet insisted that God said: "Your new moons and appointed days my soul hateth, they are a trouble unto me, I am weary to bear them." The priest insisted upon ritually prescribed sacrifices to make one acceptable unto God. The prophet said: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." The priest said that one should come before the Lord with burnt offerings, with calves a year old, in order to be acceptable. The prophet said: "He hath showed thee O man what is good, and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." It is interesting to recall that it is the prophetic group that has survived in Judaism. For the Rabbis are descendants of the prophets, and very worthy successors.
The prophets were heralds of the truth rather than preservers of tradition. As Masons, we have been called "Sons of Light." Hut let us not forget that the prophets were the original sons of the light. Their desire was for truth, and yet more truth. They and we, therefore, represent the attitude that holds the only hope for progress in life. Humanity has always been plagued with the inertia that has caused men to insist that we have been given a deposit of truth to guard, and that it is final for all time and all conditions. There is a story that comes out of this neighbourhood in Colonial days. I have not been able to verify it. It is said that the officials of the Town of Cambridge, across the river, authorized the building of a road to Watertown, probably what is now Mt. Auburn Street. Those commissioned to build the road did not stop at Watertown, but carried it on to Newtown, as it was then called. When the road builders were reprimanded by the authorities for going beyond their orders, their reply was that they thought that while they were at it they might just as well carry the road as far to the west as it would ever be needed. This was not injurious to progress, because the restless and resistless energy of succeeding generations would establish new frontiers as humanity pushed westward. What has been injurious has been the attempt of men in authority to establish final frontiers in theology, in politics, in economics, in education, and to damn as heretics and rebels those who dare to think beyond them. It is the prophets such as John the Baptist who have insisted that there is always further light, a new summit to be reached, some new formulation of truth to be grasped. It was the late Rufus Jones of Haverford College, and one of the great prophets of our generation who said: "I had rather be battling desperately for a truth not yet won than to be the dull and sleepy guardian of an ancestral heritage of truth, established beyond doubt ages ago, and inherited from generation to generation without cost or peril." Such a prophet was John the Baptist. By his forthright denunciation of the evils of his day, evils laid at the door of a religion which at that time was ritualistically prolific, but spiritually sterile, by his cleat-enunciation of the truth that sets men free, he proved that, whether or not he was the forerunner of the Messiah, he was the forerunner of the "Sons of Light" called Masons, whose great purpose it is to find the light by which men can live as sons of God, and brothers one of another.
FEAST OF ST. JOHN, DECEMBER 1972
From Proceedings, Page 1972-470:
Thank you, Most Worshipful Grand Master, for the great honor of being invited to speak here tonight, and for the high privilege of addressing one of the finest Masonic audiences in the world.
In one sense I find it strange to be here. Sixty-two years ago next June I was ordained as a clergyman. One of the parts of that ceremony was a charge to the candidate by one of the clergymen present. Among other things he said to me: "Now, whatever you do, don't join the Masons, or any other secret order." In order to find out why I should not join the Masons I joined them, for within the year I became a member of King Solomon Lodge of Masons in Digby, Nova Scotia. I spoke at the banquet of the Grand Lodge of Nova Scotia at their Annual Communication last June, and the Grand Master presented me with their sixty year medal, which I wear with great pride.
I hope that no person thinks that I was taking in too much territory when I referred to this audience as one of the finest Masonic audiences in the world. Many years ago I heard the late Dr. Allen Stockton tell of a party of different nationalities being shown the crater of Mt. Vesuvius. As they stood there, awestruck, an American was the first to find his tongue, and he blurted out: "Would you look at that, doesn't that beat hell!" An Englishman looked at him in surprise and said: "My word, you Yankees have been everywhere, haven't you!" I have not been everywhere, but I have been around enough to appreciate the high quality of this audience, augmented of course by the presence of so many distinguished visitors.
The Feast of Saint John the Evangelist was celebrated first in Massachusetts in 1733. If it had been celebrated annually since then this would be the two hundred and fortieth celebration. The addresses on this occasion have been printed in the proceedings only ninety-one years. One of the most interesting experiences I had in writing the history of the Grand Lodge was reading those addresses. Some of them I found amusing. There was the story told by Most Worshipful Melvin M. Johnson about his visit to an historic church and cemetery in Hingham. The clergyman, conducting him through the cemetery, paused at a stone with the inscription: "Here lies a lawyer and an honest man." The clergyman then told Dr. Johnson that he was conducting an Englishman through the cemetery one day, and when they came to that stone the Englishman read it and said: "What a curious custom you have over here, burying two men in one grave." Dr. Johnson was a lawyer, and did not like it. They went into the old church and Dr. Johnson noticed that there was a sounding board over the pulpit. Pretending ignorance he said to the clergyman, "What's that?" The clergyman said: "That is a sounding board; when the minister preaches it throws the sound out so the people can hear." Dr. Johnson replied: "It has been my experience when listening to preachers that when you throw out the sound there is nothing left."
Then there was the address given by Most Worshipful Herschel Rose, Grand Master of West Virginia, when our distinguished and well-beloved senior Past Grand Master, Most Worshipful Joseph Earl Perry was Grand Master. Referring to our Grand Master he said: "He and I were attending the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, and were being convoyed about the historic Shrine of Valley Forge. As we trod the hallowed soil your Grand Master was suddenly seized with an overwhelming inspiration. He said, "I have a most sublime idea. On March 9th next I must address my Grand Lodge. I am going to inspect the archives of this place, and see what happened here on March the ninth, 1778, and make that incident the text of my address." He found the book, and as one handling holy things he turned its pages until he found the record of March ninth. Then he read: 'It is the order of the Commanding General that every soldier who has not been inoculated shall this day receive one gill of either rum or whisky.' That is all. The Grand Master sent me a copy of his address - a magnificent paper, but he did not use this text."
And it was a magnificent paper, for I went back again in the Proceedings to March 9, 1938, and read that address on The Masonic Way of Life, a masterpiece in thought and expression which you can read in his book of that title. Incidentally Most Worshipful Brother Perry is not often caught without a reply. He was asking me one day about my grandsons. I told him that my oldest grandson was a physician, and on the way to a career in anaesthesiology, He said: "Isn't that interesting. He will be doing the same thing as his grandfather, putting people to sleep."
I am going back to the first degree tonight, for the theme of this address, and I am going to take two words out of that degree that crystallize the importance of Freemasonry in the life of the individual and the world. You will never be able to get away from these words the longest day that you live, and they may help to recall whatever may be worth recalling of what I say.
The first word is light. This word symbolizes the goal of the Freemason. FIe becomes, and figuratively at least, will remain through life a seeker of the light. There is more than usual significance in the fact of the emphasis upon light at the very beginning of the degrees. Whether by accident or design the men who' put the ritual together conform to the creative process as revealed in the Great Light in Freemasonry. For it reads: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light: and there was light." That was the first act in the creative process, and figuratively the first creative act in Freemasonry.
There was a brilliant black poet named James Weldon Johnson, who wrote a book of folk sermons by black preachers. One of them tells of the coming of the light: "And God stepped out on space, and he looked around and said: I'm lonely - I'll make me a world. And far as the eye of God could see darkness covered everything, blacker than a hundred midnights down in a cypress swamp. And God smiled, and the light broke, and the darkness rolled up on one side, and the light stood shining on the other, and God said: That's good."
Light is a fascinating subject from any angle. What is light? I go to one dictionary and am told that light "is electromagnetic radiation to which the organ of sight reacts." Another tells me that "light is that natural agent or influence, which, emanating from the sun and various other sources evokes the functional activities of the organ of sight." It is difficult to follow the intricacies of definition formulated by the physicists. We can be glad that we do not have to give a definition of light in order to enjoy it and use it. Time magazine recently had as the head of a column the words: "More light on light," in which we were told that more exact measurements have proved that light travels at one hundred and forty-four miles per second less than the one hundred and eighty-six thousand miles per second that we have been led to believe. This is of tremendous significance to the scientists, but means nothing to us in our enjoyment of the light.
It is its symbolic implications that make the quest for light so significant. It represents man's persistent outreach towards perfection, and his thrust into the unknown. It fairly shouts at us that we can't sit down; that there may be a place to start, but there is no place to stop in our quest for the light. Ages ago, countries on the western edge of Europe inscribed on their coins the words, ne plus ultra, "nothing more beyond." That was the end of the world for them. But there came the day when the Atlantic, the great barrier to their progress, became a thoroughfare on a new adventure to a new world. Our late brother, Rudyard Kipling, voiced what I am talking about in his poem, "The Explorer."
"There's no sense in going further -
it's the edge of cultivation."
So they said, and I believed it
broke my land and sowed my crop -
Built my barns and strung my fences
in the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills
where the trails run out and stop.
"Till a voice as bad as conscience,
rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and
"Something hidden. Go and find it.
Go and look behind the ranges -
Something lost behind the ranges.
Lost and waiting for you. Go!"
Always the quest for the light leads us behind the ranges. One cannot contemplate the world in which we live today, with its confusion, its conflicts, its abhorrent and shocking barbarities, without acknowledging how great our need is for the light.
We need light on how to manage our educational system so that the major emphasis will be upon the development of character as the first consideration. For the future of our country will not depend upon oui scientific advance, and our ability to put a man on Mars, or Venus, if such were physically possible; It will not depend upon our control of ecology so that the earth will be a more livable planet, important as that is; it will not depend upon a political realism that will enable us to choose our political leaders without periodically transforming our country into a boiling cauldron of hate; it will depend upon the high quality of character we can produce. For, as I have repeated so often, no country is strong if character be weak, and no country is weak if character be strong. We need light on how to control the power we possess, so that it shall be used constructively, and not to bring death and destruction.
We need more light on family development. How can we make the home the dynamic force that will inspire children not only with a love for country deeper than that proclaimed in a salute to the flag, but induce a passion for integrity that will hold society together with ribs of steel. In truth it can be said that the' future of humanity - the reaching of "that far off divine event to which the whole creation moves" depends upon those who persistently seek for more light.
One of the things I admire most in Freemasonry is the consistency of its concepts - the way its teachings link with one another. If the first "word "light" symbolizes that which Freemasonry affirms is a universal in life, then the second word is "work," suggested and symbolized by the working tools of the Craft. I rcalize that work is not a popular subject to introduce. Jerome K. Jerome once wrote what many of us feel: "Work fascinates me, I could sit and look at it for hours." As light is the symbol of progress, so work symbolizes the means by which progress is made.
There is nothing more tragic in life than to have ends without means; to have a goal in life but no means by which to reach it; to know in general what ought to be done, but with no sense of the particular imperatives that can bring it to pass; to affirm the ultimate ends we want to see realized, but with no recognition or acceptance of the immediate urgencies involved in the realization of those ends. Freemasonry symbolizes the imperative of means in presenting the working tools. Again, let me say, that as light is the symbol of progress, so. the working tools symbolize the means by which progress is made.
I could spend a long time on the subject of work and its necessity, not only for production to sustain our economy, but its necessity for life development, which is more important. What I want to emphasize is the fact and importance of the recognition and acceptance of an absolute in life, as symbolized in the working tools.
It is interesting to note that the first tools given to the Mason, were in some form the original working tools used by man. When primitive man began to build he needed an implement with which to measure, and an implement with which to hammer. Go down the line with our working tools and you must conclude that without them there can be no material construction whatever. But much more important they symbolize the fact that unless the absolutes they imply are accepted in life there can be no development in the life of a man or a civilization. For they speak to a condition in life today that constitutes one of the most dangerous trends in our civilization. It is represented by one of the words most commonly used today, the word permissiveness. Anything goes! There are no absolutes any more. Everything is relative.
There is a story to the effect that Albert Einstein, the author of the theory of relativity was attending a meeting one night, and a man who recognized him wrote these words on a slip of paper, and passed them to him: "my theory of relativity: there is no hitching post any-where, right?" Einstein wrote the word, "Right" on the paper, and passed it back to him. It may be that in the rarefied intellectual atmosphere where Einstein, and those who could understand him lived, there is theoretically no absolute. But where you and I live, two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time; parallel lines never do meet; men predict the coming of an eclipse and it arrives, within a fraction of a second of the time predicted; men can travel to the moon, or send a satellite spinning for months about Mars because of the dependability of absolute laws. There are physical laws in the universe that can be depended upon to the last degree of probability, and we deny this, or defy it, at our peril.
Our symbols can have no meaning if they do not insist that what is true in the erection of a building is just as true in the building of a life or a civilization, namely, that in building there can be no permissiveness; that we are governed by laws just as infallible, and just as inexorable as in the physical realm. It is a slander upon the wisdom of The Great Architect of The Universe to say that he has created the physical world to be ruled by law, but has left the life of the moral world to chance. Rather it condemns the permissiveness of the present as the most dangerous delusion that has ever taken possession of the mind of man.
One of the most common expressions heard in our attempt to ease the minds of ourselves or others on occasion is this: "Don't worry, everything will come out all right." It assumes that life is like a great hopper, into which you can fire every sort of word, or act, or experience, indiscriminately, with the self-assurance that some divine alembic will take over, and transmute all that is unworthy into the gold of material success or character achievement. Freemasonry says it is not so; that things will come out right only when we have created the conditions that will make them come out right. There is not a probIem that faces us today, whether it is a war in Vietnam, or the racial struggle in America but has been caused by a violation of the laws that are part of the structure of the universe. Sometimes we try to find a scapegoat when we say: "Why does God permit this to happenl" God does not permit it to happen, we do. He has given us laws to live by and we disobey them. Nor is what happens punishment for our derelictions, as we sometimes insist. Realistically there is no such thing as punishment for sin, there is only consequence of the disobedience we are not willing to acknowledge. Nor is it necessary that we should cry out to the ultimate power in the universe to intervene in some way, and save us from the consequence of our mistakes.
An interesting incident has been recorded as occurring in the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Things had not been going well. There had been a great deal of discussion, with many differences, and little progress. One day, Benjamin Franklin asked the President of the Convention if he might speak. In his soft, low hesitant voice he read a statement in which he deplored the "small progress" that was being made, and said: "How has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings. In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain we had daily prayer in this room for divine protection - our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered And have we now forgotten that powerful friend! Or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistancel I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth-that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aidl" He then read a resolution asking that daily prayers be offered in the Convention. I have heard Masonic speakers refer to this incident as the turning point in the Convention, and attribute it to the power of prayer. As a matter of fact the resolution was never voted upon and the matter was dropped. The Constitutional Convention went through from beginning to end without the benefit of prayer. The success that has come through the Constitution and its amendments, has not been because of prayer, but because it was, and is, based upon the principles of Justice and the rights of man, without which no prayer would have saved it. It succeeded because the representatives of twelve sovereign States, for Rhode Island was not represented at all during the Convention, were willing to sacrifice some of their sovereignty, in vital particulars, in the interest of a united nation. You don't have to pray to get God on your side when you act in obedience to his laws for He is already there; and no amount of prayer can win his approval if you disobey those laws. That is not a pious platitude, it is immutable and inexorable law, written into the universe, and as the biblical writer expressed it: "written by the finger of God."
There they are, light and working tools, symbolizing what Freemasonry wants to do, not with men, but for men. There is a fundamental reason for our unwritten law against asking a man to become a Mason. If we solicited members we would be using men to build an organization. When they come of their own free will and accord we are using an organization to build men. I have tried to indicate how it can be done; by constantly seeking for more light, the dedication of ourselves to the realization of desirable ends, and by working in obedience to immutable laws to achieve those ends. Can we be such Masons!
Edmond Rostand, distinguished French dramatist, wrote a play called L'Aiglon, or "The Eaglet." It is a story of the ambition of Napoleon's son, the Duke of Reichstadt, born of an Austrian princess, and brought up in the Austrian court. He wanted to return to France and become Emperor as his father had been. One night he left a hat that belonged to his father on a table in a room adjoining his bedroom. Metternich, the Austrian political leader came into the room, saw the hat, picked it up, and in an apostrophe to Napoleon expressed the hatred he had for him as he said: "Conquering hero, I hated you then. Now you are broken I hate you still, because you were taller than other men when you measured your height on History's wall, I hate you! I hate your unconquered will."
"Because you were taller than other men when you measured your height on History's wall." How is it with us when we measure our height on the wall of our community! Do we stand taller than other men in the eyes of the community because we are Masons? This is our challenge. And it has been expressed in another way by Edwin Markham, home-spun poet, and a New York Mason who wrote some lines that might have been intended for Masons:
"'We men of Earth have here the stuff
Of Paradise - we have enough!
We need no other stones to build
The Temple of the Unfulfilled -
No other ivory for the doors -
No other marble for the floors -
No other cedar for the beam
And dome of man's immortal dream.
"Here on the paths of every day -
Here on the common human way
Is all the stuff the gods would take
to build a Heaven, to mold and make
New Edens. Ours the task sublime
To build eternity in time!
- 06/11/1952 Dover, Dover
- 09/10/1952 Canaan, Everett
- 12/10/1952 Ezra, Taunton
- 12/10/1952 Level, Worcester
- 03/11/1953 Shawmont, Springfield