EZEKIEL LYSANDER BASCOM, 1779-1841
- MM 1797, Franklin #6, Hanover, NH
- Member of Harmony Lodge from 1797
- WM 1802 Harris Lodge
- Member of Social Lodge from 1822
- DDGM, District No. 6, in 1806-1808, 1814-1816
- Grand Chaplain, 1805-07, 1809, 1817, 1825
From Proceedings, Page 1873-210:
REV. EZEKIEL LYSANDER BASCOM, GERRY. (CHANGED TO PHILLIPSTON IN 1814.) Congregationdlist. 1805, 1806, 1807, 1809, 1817, 1825.
EZEKIEL LYSANDER BASCOM, A.M., the son of Moses and Eunice (Corse) Bascom, was born at Gill, Ms., Aug. 20, 1779, and died at Ashby, Ma., April 2, 1841, aged 61. He studied divinity with the Rev. Judah Nash, of Montague, Ma., and the Rev. Joel Foster, D.C., 1777, at New Salem, Ma.; was ordained pastor of the Cong. Church at Phillipston, Ms., Sept. 24, 1800; dismissed Dec. 31, 1820; installed pastor of the Cong. Church at Ashby, Jan. 3, 1821; dismissed in Sept., 1834; after this preached as an Unitarian at Savannah, Geo. He married, 1, the daughter of the Rev. Joel Foster, his divinity teacher; 2, Ruth (Henshaw) Miles, daughter of Col. William Henshaw, and relict of Dr. Asa Miles, D.C., 1787, at Leicester, Ms., in April, 1806.
— Alumni of Dartmouth College.
Besides serving as Chaplain he was District D.G. Master of District No. 6, in 1806, 1807, 1808, 1814, 1815 and 1816.
The subjoined letter from him to Grand Master Thomas has not been published until now : —
GERRY, 29 May, A.L. 5809.
ISAIAH THOMAS, ESQ. : —
M . W . M . AND MUCH RESPECTED SIR:
At a meeting of committees from Social, Aurora, and Harris Lodges on Wednesday last, it was unanimously agreed to celebrate the approaching Festival at Westminster, on the 26th of June. It is expected that five Lodges will unite in the celebration. As we are anxious to do honor to the Craft, and calculate to exceed anything ever yet exhibited in the County of Worcester, we are earnestly desirous of having the Honor of the Grand Master with us. The committees present saw fit to show me so much respect as to appoint me to communicate with you on the subject. Knowing your devotion to the good of Masonry, we presume that, unless your engagements to the Grand Lodge, or some other insurmountable objections intervene to prevent, you will be good enough to honor us by your attendance.
In addition to this request, which we make with due respect, we have one more, and we beg your pardon while we make it, that you will still farther gratify us by coming prepared to make a short address to us, your children, on the occasion. This would add dignity and interest to the day. We apply to Rev. Bro. Thompson for a sermon on that day. And if the Grand Master and so respectable a Deputy will honor us by their attendance, and gratify us by their public voice, we feel assured of the applause of the world, and of that zest of pleasure which every rational Mason seeks at such a time.
I beg, Sir, you will be obliging enough tp make me an immediate answer, as some important arrangements must be left undone till I hear from you. I know you will excuse the freedom with which I write, while I subscribe,
ISAIAH THOMAS, ESQ., Boston.
ST. JOHN'S DAY, JUNE 1817
AN ADDRESS, DELIVERED AT LEICESTER, BEFORE KING SOLOMON'S R. A. CHAPTER,
IN CONJUNCTION WITH SEVERAL LODGES, ON THE FESTIVAL OF ST. JOHN TRE BAPTIST,
JUNE 24, A. L. 5817.
At a Meeting of King Solomon's R. A. Chapter, at Leicester, June 24, A. L. 5817.
Voted, to return the thanks of the Chapter to Rev. Companion E. L. Bascom, for his Address, this day delivered before them, and request a copy for the press.
The following Companions were chosen a Committee for this purpose, viz.
- M. E. ISAIAH THOMAS, Esq.
- M. E. JOHN WILDER, and
- E. JOHN BROWN,
And presented the vote Sec. of the Chapter to the Rev. Companion Bascom.
Leicester, June 24, A. L. 5817.
MOST EXCELLENT, AND EXCELLENT COMPANIONS,
With diffidence I submit to your disposal the Address this day delivered. It was prepared in great haste, and rather collated than composed. The friends of Masonry will require no apology: Its enemies will admit none.
I am, with great respect your friend and Companion.
E. E. BASCOM.
Men meet together in the scale of nature, in the field of utility, and in the scheme of redemption. But in the school of education, and in the circle of converse, they are far from meeting. The distance between the rich and the poor, which the customs and habits of civil society have made, the pride of the higher class has endeavored to render extensive as possible. It has employed every method in its power to widen the space between them. It has attempted to repel every step of approach, on the part of the poor, by the haughtiness of superiority, and the brow of contumely. Between the high and the low, in the order and intercourse of human life, there may indeed be said to be "a great gulf fixed," so that the latter can scarcely pass to the former, for a few moments of respectful conference. Even the favor of a transient and momentary meeting with those, who stand in exalted situations, is with difficulty obtained by him, whose station is humble. The summits of human society, like the tops of steep and lofty rocks, not only refuse a residence, but even a visit, to the humble inhabitants of the vale below. "A man's gift shall make room for him, and bring him before the great." Their presence is considered as something sacred, which it is almost profanation for poverty to enter. It is rendered inaccessible to the foot that would ascend it from the humble walks of life, and, like the golden apples of fable, guarded by the drag; pns of insolence and pride.
Since this is but too true a picture of the modern state of the world, it is happy for man, happy for society, that communities exist, in which benevolence, charity, and brotherly affection, are professedly distinguishing features. Such is the Church of Christ, whose pure and heavenly principles reduce to one common level, before the Throne of God, the rich and the poor, the bond and the free. Such the Masonic institution, whose sublime and exalted privileges; are attainable by all good men and true; no more the prince from his royal palace, than the peasant from his thatched cottage.
1 hope to give no offence, when I say, that both these institutions, the one spiritual, the other temporal, have for their object the happiness of man, considered as a social, immortal being. Do you ask for a comparison between the two? I make none. That which is heavenly and divine, must not be brought in competition with the highest wisdom of man. — And such is the Gospel of the Blessed Jesus. — But do you ask me, how the life of the real Christian and the genuine Mason agree? Without hesitation I answer — that none can be a Mason at heart, without being a Christian in practice; that none can be a Christian at heart, without being a Mason in practice, As a system of practice, Masonry is pure, I had almost said perfect. But as a system of faith, us a Christian, I shew you a more excellent wav. And. with the divine poet, l would say of this,
"Should all the forma, that men devine,
Assault my faith with treacherous art,
I'd call them vanity and lies,
And bind the Gospel to my heart."
Wc confess, with sorrow, that our good name has been traduced, and the excellent maxims of the Masonic institution abused by some, who have been initiated into the misteries of the order. — While to the jaundiced eye of prejudice, this may tarnish the lustre of oar jewels, the man of a candid and liberal wind will examine, before he passes sentence, whether these irregularities proceed from the nature of our principles, or the depravity of the human heart. He will see that no human society is pure ; that the win at and the tares grow together till the harvest, and will then form his judgment, not from the character of the impious and vile, who have dishonored our Fraternity, but from the life of the great and the good. who in every age, have been proud to enrol their names on the list of the members of our ancient fraternity.
Let not the enemy of Masonry start, when he hears me advance from this holy place, where he is accustomed to hear truth and righteousness alone proclaimed, that, piety to God, and love to man, are the two grand and immoveable pillars, which support our fabric.
When we contemplate mankind, as the offspring of one common Parent, as originating from that perfect fountain of being, whose, wisdom shines with superior radiance through all his works, when we view man, formed for great intellectual improvements, and for the highest advancements in virtue and happiness, we wonder not at the universal thirst for knowledge, winch appears in the human mind, nor at the many systems, that arc established, and schemes, that are devised to enlarge the sum of human felicity. We rather wonder, that any should remain content in a state of ignorance, without that food of the mind, on which it has its most liberal feasts, its most innocent pastimes.
But the introduction of moral evil has not only shut up the avenues of immediate intercourse, between the great Father of his family, and his degenerate children, but, by its continual influence, it has wrought various disorders on the human frame. It has clouded the mind with the glooms of darkness, and disturbed the natural order of the passions.
Were it not for reasons like these, we might very naturally imagine, that the active mind would rove with ever fresh delight, through the, wide expanded fields of knowledge, and, in unremitted progress, he able to explore the vast and complicated works of JEHOVAH.
Observing the beauty, the order, and the uniform design, visible in the constitution and government of all systems, we should infer consummate wisdom and perfection in the great Architect. We should argue the equity and benevolence of that government, which He might exercise over us ; learn our obligations to reverence and love Him, and be animated in the pursuit of all those personal and social virtues, which adorn the human character.
But such is not the present state of man; and to recover him from the darkness of a depraved condition, and from the wretchedness of a vitiated taste, means are appointed for the exercise of the faculties, and the improvement of the virtues of men, that they may make gradual advancements, in the most useful knowledge, and the most sublime science.
Hence the formation of society; hence the origin of civilization; hence our progress through the various degrees of knowledge, from babes to perfect men.
The passion for association is deeply rooted m man. It seems to be the instinctive impulse of his nature. Its principles are traced in glowing characters on his heart, by the finger of God Himself.
Of all associations of human establishment, Masonry, the earliest offspring of society, has been the most powerful in ameliorating the condition of man. by softening his heart, smoothing his passions, and wearing down the rough points in his character.
Fidelity, compassion, and charity, and the virtues, which endear us to each other, add to the sum of rational felicity, and throw some sunny tints on the sombre picture of human life.
Masons, well versed in the history and science of their order, will not expect me to throw new light upon the subject. Argument has long since arisen to demonstration in proving its usefulness — eloquence has been exhausted in portraying its beauties.
We date the birth of Masonic principles from the hour when time began ; when the morning stars sang together, and ail the sons of God shouted for joy. If tradition tell true, the secrets of our institution were partially discovered before the deluge. But not until the building of the Temple of the Jews, did Masonry assume its twofold character of speculative and operative.
By this change, so important to the society and to the world, its principles became more diffusive, its charities wider spread. Nobles and Kings became members and patrons of the institution. Not that Lodges could derive any additional respectability from the admission of Nobles and Kings. It is known to Masons, and others have been told, that the Lodge is the temple of equality. All meet there on a level. All are there respected according to their intrinsic merit. There humble poverty never cowers before wealth. The splendid "Star and Garter" of the nobleman, are deposited at the door of the Lodge. The "lambskin" covers the robe of Royalty. The gems of the crown vie not there with the lustre of the Masonic Jewel. The sceptre of the King is laid aside at the sound of the Master's gavel.
I am not insensible that almost every kind of evil has been said to take its rise from our secret chambers. The charge is made, in the first instance, by weak and prejudiced minds ; and then, no doubt, believed by many honest and timid hearts. We shall not deny that infidelity, and almost every evil work, has been propagated far and wide under the garb of Masonry. How many wolves have crept into the fold of Christ in sheep's clothing? How many hypocrites now wear the snowy mantle of religion? As the excellency of religion makes the vile, hypocrites, that they may appear good; so the sublime principles of the craft have been prostituted to the basest of purposes, for the same end.
One who is justly and lawfully entitled to the name of Free and accepted Mason, honors his God, and is governed by the laws cf kindness and charity. He can never be an Atheist, or an irreligious libertine. He can never act against the light of conscience. He will also shun the errors of bigotry and superstition; making a due use of his reason, according to that liberty wherewith a Mason is made free. Though in ancient times, Masons were charged to comply with the religious opinions and usages of the country or nation where they sojourned or worked; yet it is now thought most expedient that, the brethren in general should only be charged to adhere to the essentials or first principles of religion, in which all men agree ; leaving each brother to his own judgment, as to particular forms. Whence being good men and true, of unsullied honor and unfailing honesty, the order becomes the centre of union, the earthly source, of comfort, and the means of conciliating true friendship.
Many are the virtues, which belong to the system of Masonry, without which, men cannot be Masons, though they may bear the name. Of these, fidelity and charity are of the highest estimation. Our secrets have descended from age to age, from generation to generation, and have forever remained undiscovered. All nations, and tongues, and religions, have been possessed of them, and yet among this vast body, none have been found so destitute of principle, and void of virtue, as to betray their sacred trust. In our own days, the horrid inquisition of Spain have used every means, and tried every torture, which their infernal scrutiny could invent, to extort the secrets of the craft from their unfortunate victims, but without success. Mean and dastardly have been the means employed by bigotry on superstitious minds, in our own vicinity ; but the base intriguer, whose heart must have been darker than the garb he wore, has received little in return, but the contempt of those who have been made acquainted with his foul deceit. Weak and frail brethren, in the hours of intoxication, when they had lost their sense of decency as men, and dignity as Masons, and while they would readily communicate any other secrets, with little reserve, have stoped short when inquiries were made on this interesting subject, and, as though the very thought roused them again to a sense of what they once professed to ha, the only answer they would give, to ail solicitations, has been "that is a sacred deposit; God forbid I should ever expose it."
In the storm of battle, when lighting hand to hand, and breast to breast, when angry rage has seized upon the soul, and the lire of warlike honor has consumed the liner feelings of the heart, the spirit of Masonry has stopped the uplifted arm, and spared the foe. Many examples might he adduced in confirmation, that a Mason will never draw the blood of his brother, nor suffer him to be injured, if in his power to defend him. The banks of Lake George have seen a Putman rescued from the rising flames of savage fury, by the potent arm of Masonic fidelity. What neither law, religion, nor humanity could produce, is effected by the influence of Masonry. Vice is transformed to virtue. Malice is charmed with a look. Murder is disarmed with a sign!
"Her spirit potent walks the battle field,
And smooths grim Visaged war's insangum'd front!"
The great Apostle to the Gentiles, when speaking of the same charity, which Masonry inculcates, has soared the loftiest bight of holy eloquence! Without charity, vain is every human effort, vain the practice of every other virtue. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, though I have all faith even to remove mountains and have not charity, l am nothing! Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing." Charity is not merely giving to the poor, clothing the naked, and feeding the hungry. These indeed are duties, in the performance of which the Mason delights. Hut charity is something more. Though when confined to its literal meaning, as now used, it may extend only to acts of beneficence and compassion; yet according to its true original signification, it is a pure unfeigned love, exercised towards God and man. It is a tree in the spiritual garden, bearing beautiful and extensive branches, and yielding the delightful fruits of immortality. Thus the same Apostle exorts the Ephesians "to be followers of God as dear children, and to walk in love or charity, for on this hang all the law and the Prophets." Charity is not the result of cold and sober, and prudent calculation of what is right and fit. Like electricity it flashes to the heart, imparting in its course the glow of feeling and the warmth of sympathy. Its basis is pity and benevolence. It gives to human frailties human compassion. It gives to injuries forgiveness. It gives to affliction consolation. It gives to misfortune the sympathetic tear. It gives to the broken hearted comfort. It teaches us to raise the lowly minded; to cheer the wounded spirit, and extend the relieving voice to the repenting sinner! It is the brightest ornament of the Christian crown, the most brilliant virtue of the Masonic Jewel. It divests us of our angry feelings; rids us of our illiberal prejudices; purifies our tongues from the language of discord ; drives from our bosom the spirit of religious intolerance, teaches the lesson of love to the Christian, the Jew, the Mahomedan and the Pagan. It brings the whole human race within one grand circle. All sit together under the wide spreading shade of Masonic benevolence and christian charity.
The influence of this heavenly principle is like the holy anointing oil by 'which the places and rites of ancient worship were consecrated. "Like the dew of Harmon, like the dew that descended upon the Mountains of Zdon, where the Lord commanded his blessing."
The Lodge is the only place, I know, in which party animosity, whether religious or political, never appears. There and there alone, all are Citizens of the same country; all are engaged in the same cause. There and there alone, all, under the same instructions, with undisputing perseverance, travel on, though sometimes through hard and rugged paths, in pursuit of that which they hope to find. There and there alone, all unite in one common pursuit, and all, that persevere to the end, receive one common prize. A blessing indeed, rare and sublime! That we may enter one place, where we can divest ourselves of unhallowed zeal and party contentions, and bail each other under the endearing appellation of Companion and Brother.
In the excellent language of an amiable brother, "it is not by mere initiation into the secrets of the order that we become Masons. We may put on the apron; we may figure in processions we may wear the jewels, and bear about all the trappings of the order, and still be no Masons." No, none can be Masons indeed, unless they have hearts open as day to melting charity, and a hand that was never withheld from a brother in distress. On the foundation of a corrupt heart, a Masonic fabric can never be erected ; and the illiberal hand can never be imployed in such sublime labor.
A respect for those who are honestly prejudiced against our order, requires me to obviate some of the principle objections which have been made to the Institution. It is said, that Masonry contracts the circle of philanthropy, and confines to one description of men that benevolence, which ought to be extended equally to all. But, methinks this extended philanthropy would be found injurious, impracticable, and its attempt distinctive of patriotism and social harmony. This universal and equally distributed philanthropy would obligate us to commiserate the misfortunes of Nootku Sound, as much as the miseries of our own country; to shed as many tears for the fate of New Spain, as for the destruction of New England.
Then follows an objection of a nature entirely different, that Masonry, by multiplying the objects, must of necessity diminish the ardor of friendship. The greatest solace of man is to pour into the bosom of a sympathizing friend his hopes and his fears, his griefs and his joys. Our blessed Savior, who was the soul of benevolence, who did good to all men, who died for all men, loved one of his disciples more than the others. The virtues are social; they are imitative: they are increased by practice and cultivation. Man is the slave of habit. Let his habits be vicious, and it would be almost impossible, even for the energy of a virtuous nature to overcome them. So on the other hand, the virtues which Masonry almost compels us to cultivate, will become naturalized by habit — Man will be more disposed to yield to those virtues, which produce friendship, and by habit alone, I had almost said, he may become a sincere friend.
It is queried how it is consistent with those principles of goodwill we profess, to conceal our secrets from the world. We answer, that the principles and privileges of the institution are open to all such as are qualified to receive them. To the wise and the virtuous, the arcana of the craft, under proper sanctions, are freely communicated. To divulge them in common would annihilate the Society, without doing any good to the world.
To the objections which have already been noticed, relative to the intemperate, profligate and vicious, we answer. Nothing can be more unfair or unjust, than to depreciate or condemn any institution, good in itself, on account of the faults of those who pretend to adhere to it.
The abuse of a thing is no valid objection to its inherent good. Worthless characters, as before hinted, are to be found occasionally in the very best institutions upon earth. If the unworthiness of a professor casts a slur upon the profession, it may be inferred by parity of reason, that the misconduct of a Christian is an argument against Christianity. But this is a conclusion which I presume no man will allow; and yet it is no more than what he must subscribe, who is so unreasonable as to insist upon the other! The fact is, the best gifts may be abused. Even the bread of Heaven in the wilderness grew corrupt, when used indiscretely. The common blessings of life are turned into curses, if misapplied. When you see base and unworthy men among Free-Masons, depend upon it, the fault is not in the institution, but In themselves. They have deviated from the principles of the craft. They have counteracted their profession, and are as bad Masons as men.
But if bad Masons abuse the institution, grieve their brethren, and give the adversary occasion to speak reproachfully, why may we not turn the other side of the picture, and show the multitudes of the most illustrious names that adorn our annals.
Not to mention the thousands of the most excellent of the craft, who from Solomon of Judea to Alexander of Russia, have ornamented the eastern calendar, been patrons of Masonry and lovers of the craft, let us come home to our own country and name a few among the constellations of its worthies.
The martyr of liberty — the child of glory — whose life-blood flowed to secure the freedom of his country — the heroic Warren was a Mason. The sage, who called down the slumbering artillery of Heaven from the brilliant caverns of the clouds, who paralized the electric beam itself, who rendered harmless the lightning of the thunder — Franklin was a Mason.
The orator, who by the all powerful force of his eloquence could persuade the unwilling, and press conviction on the obstinate, whose mind was an assemblage of virtues — Hamilton was a Mason. The man in whose praises all unite, whose worth was so various and excellent, so exalted, that even to attempt its description would be thought presumption — Washington was a Mason. The minister of Christ, whose humble life well comports with the doctrines he preaches, whose much exampled piety is patterned from his unassuming Master — Harris is a Mason.
The exclusion of females from Lodges, has been often urged as an objection against Masonry. To the indiscrete advocates of female Masonry I have little to say. Nor would I insult female delicacy by making many remarks to them on the subject. The duties of Masonry, like the affairs of state, are unsuitable to their tenderer sex. They do not esteem the masculine female and the Amazonian belle as ornaments of their society. The delicacy of their sex would shudder at the idea of joining in those secret assemblies, which are indispensably necessary to the honor and advancement of our institution. That our private meetings are not prejudicial to them, the long experience of the world has taught.
It is no flattery, nor violation of truth, to say, that if. is a Mason's pride to honor, to protect, and be approved by them. While they walk in that sphere, which heavenly wisdom has directed, they secure esteem. But when they imprudently step beyond, and assume the man, they cease to charm — no longer respected by their own sex, nor beloved by ours.
MOST EXCELLENT, AND EXCELLENT COMPANIONS. RIGHT WORSHIPFUL AND RESPECTED BRETHREN.
The flourishing state of Masonry in our country has greatly contributed to enlarge the boundaries of social happiness. And a general knowledge of its principles and ceremonies, through this jurisdiction, has, with the enjoyment of civil and religious freedom, extended the blessings of philanthropy among every class of our fellow citizens.
You know, what the world does not, that your Chapters, and Lodges are solemnly constituted for the promotion of morality, piety, and virtue. You know that our institution is most excellent, its worth intrinsic, its system pure. By a careful observance of its precepts, you may eradicate the prejudices of the candid, and disarm the malice of the obstinate. You may convince, the world, that although you possess secrets for your immediate benefit, you possess the heart of the good Samaritan! and your charities, like the rising light, embrace new objects, and increase in warmth! So shall you put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. And while the tender sex are not admitted to the secrets of your institution, let your constant respect, and your faithful honor and defence, render them happy — remove every suspicion, and increase their confidence. By your pure and dignified treatment, convince them that their importance, in your mind, is not diminished, by that universal custom, which prevents their connexion with this, and many other societies, whose laws and regulations are not adapted to their finer dispositions, and more delicate habits.
As respects the festivities of this day, sacred to the memory of John the Baptist, permit me to hope that you will not forget for a moment his character or your duty. He too wore a leathern girdle about his loins, and his food was locust and wild honey ; emblems of innocence and simplicity. As his name adds a lustre to our ancient calendar, tarnish not his memory by forgetting his example, while you are professing to call it to mind ; or neglecting to copy into your own life the shining virtues of his. As he was the distinguished forerunner of Him, who came to bring peace on earth and good will to men, to the glory of God in the highest; so let all your exertions tend to peace — all the energies of your mind be employed to prepare society for that happy stale, which is alike the termination of the Mason's labors, and the consummation of the Christian's hopes. Like him, cultivate the loral virtues, and improve in all that is amiable and good. Let the genius of Masonry preside over your conduct; let your recreation be innocent, and your festivity pure, that you may preserve unsullied the reputation of the fraternity. By practicing here in public the virtues you have been taught in secret — by discrete, and prudent, and dignified conduct, prove to beholders, not only the goodness of the institution, but its influence on your hearts.
Finally. Companions and Brethren, when you go forth to mingle with the world, convince them I have not said half that might be said in honor of this Ancient Order. And may Heavenly Wisdom illuminate, your minds — and Heavenly Power give strength to your exertions — and Heavenly Goodness fill and enlarge your breasts with the Beauty of Charity. Let your hearts be ever open to the. plaints of sorrow, and your hands, extended to the relief of suffering virtue. Listen to the admonitions of temperance, and to the modest voice of humility. Let your life demonstrate your love to God and man. Though the historian may record the virtues, the orator portray the excellence and the poet paint the beauty of your beneficent Institution, yet it is your example alone that must convince the world of the propriety of the poet, the Correctness of the orator, and the truth of the historian.
I should not only be guilty of incivility to this numerous and respected Audience, but should be, conscious of not having performed my duty to my own mind, nor to that Ancient Fraternity, by whose partiality I have been placed here, as their organ, did I not express the grateful sense we feel of the honor the assembly have this day done us, by attending the pub lie rites of our festival.
We congratulate you, as well as ourselves, on the lapse of that superstition, which, not long since, prohibited you and your fathers from beholding us, but with the jaundiced eye of horror ! The days are with in my recollection, when frightful stories of leagues with devils, were always associated with the name of Free-Mason! We are now: permitted to have secrets without reposing them hi the bosom of the prince of darkness, and in the stranger's face, to mark the brother's eye, without instructions from the lower regions! We are fellow citizens with you. We claim a share of your confidence as men, and we hope not to abuse it as Masons. And if you would form a judgment, of our Institution, we respectfully request you to draw your opinion from the principles advanced, or from the characters of the good, whom you all revere.
A solemn crisis, as I cast my eye, for the last time, an this mixed assembly! We are all passing to the world of spirits! We now shall part, to meet no more, until that day "for which all other days were made!" May we then be admitted to that blest abode, to that "Holy of Holies," where the faithful dwell, and the "weary rest from all their labors!"
"SO MOTE IT BE."
INDEPENDENCE DAY, JULY 1825
ADDRESS, DELIVERED AT WESTERN, AT THE DEDICATION OF CARMEL LODGE FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS, JULY 4, 1825, BY EZEKIEL L. BASCOM, K. T., PASTOR OF THE CONGREGATIONAL CHURCH.
I was early roused from my slumbers, this morning, by demonstrations of joy, denoting that this is the Jubilee of my nation — a proud memorial of the humble confidence and undaunted courage of our fathers!— a Day to be remembered with lively gratitude to the Great Ruler of nations; and with veneration for the characters of those brave men, who, half a century ago, fought and bled for their Country’s freedom. Those testimonials of joy, amid remembrances of the sorrows of that dark and trying period, which are now daily exhibited from north to south, at the approach of the “NATION’S GUEST" — and of which our public papers furnish us the constant details, render superfluous any observations of mine, upon a subject so deservedly interesting and dear to every American bosom.
Few here, indeed, can in mind recal the gloomy darkness of that early day. Half a century has swept away the memory of those scenes, and their busy actors, with comparatively few exceptions: but the blessings purchased then, we trust, will be felt by grateful millions, in ages long to come!
The growing greatness of our much loved country cannot be a subject of indifference to any. It must call forth the demonstrations of the purest joy;— It should call forth those of deepest gratitude from every feeling heart. To the praise and glory of our Heavenly Benefactor be it remembered,— it was divine blessing that gave wisdom to our Councils; it was divine energy that nerved the arm of our soldiery; it was divine goodness that armed the weak against the mighty, the feeble child against an oppressive parent, and trembling subjects against the tyranny of kings and their ministers.
The display of beauty and good feeling, the manifestation of improvement, moral, social and scientific, now exhibited in this holy temple, proclaim aloud that God is the strength of the salvation of his people; and that we should not only enter his gates with thanksgiving, but fill his courts with praise.
An excellent choir, under the direction of Luke Eastman, Esq. from Sterling, here rose, and performed in an elegant manner, an Anthem from "The Songs of the Temple,” peculiarly appropriate.
I have often looked with wonder and astonishment on the character of Job, as exhibited in the sacred writings. Certain incidents in that character present, in the noblest view, our nature, on a level with fellow man, yet walking with God! They display before our understanding a dignity worthy our emulation, worthy the children of the Highest.
A more beautiful feature in that, or any other character, will rarely be found, than that contained in these words — “If I did despise the cause of my manservant, or my maid-servant, when they contended with me, what then shall I do, when God riseth up? Did not He, that made me, make him? Did not one fashion us both?” This short and simple reasoning leads us to regard Man with respect, whether high or low, rich or poor. Considering any object before us, as the workmanship of God, we seem almost naturally lead to respect it, in our reverence for the Creator.
If a piece of painting or of sculpture, of however inferior merit, intrinsically, be ascribed to some eminent name, though but the essay of his youth, or the mere play of his hand; it is held in veneration, and considered by every lover of the art as something valuable. If a piece of poetry, of however light and trivial a nature, could be proved to be the production of Milton’s or Shakespeare’s pen, though only the inferior and feeble offspring of their infant muse, it would still be read with reverence. How much more then, when we open our mind to the consideration that any creature, of however inferior and humble a class, is the composition of the Almighty, should it command our respect: it is the curious organization of the Great Father of all knowledge; the wonderful workmanship of the Great Master of all art: it is his beautiful design — it is his nice exertion — it is in the style and manner of Omnipotence!
And for what end has lie made man ? To sit at his case on the summit of this sublunary scene, and accept the ascending incense of all things? — To be useless, in the midst of surrounding utility? — To slumber, while all things else awake to labour? — Surely not. He was not made to live only to himself. He was made to minister to the good of creation; to act the part of a providence, and a protector, to the creatures in his possession; to concur with his fellow men, in improving the state of human life; to be ready to distribute whatever benefits he may be able to communicate; to be attentive to the cries, and obedient to the calls of surrounding necessity; to consider himself as sent into the world, not to be ministered unto, but to minister;— and thus by a course of generous activity, to qualify himself for other scenes of action and enjoyment in a future world.
To produce this state of society, when all shall act in concert with the divine plan, in the promotion of natural, moral, and intellectual happiness, there must be cultivated in the human mind a divine and generous ardor to be workers together with Goo in this noble, and ennobling service. This generous ardor, this heaven-descended principle of love to God, operating towards the creatures He has made, has a direct and natural tendency to effect all that real good, which the heart of benevolence anticipates in the millenial days. This was part of that errand, on which the Son of God came down to man. His life exhibits a pattern worthy of all imitation. His precepts allure us, his rules direct us, his commands constrain us, to imitate that pattern, to follow that example, that we may exhibit to the world a lively testimony that we have learned in the school of Christ.
Among the most amiable axioms laid down by our Saviour, and which tends directly to illustrate and confirm the point we have in view, is one contained in
St. John, xiii. 35.
By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Suggestions like this had a powerful effect in the first ages of Christianity. So affectionate were the disciples, in those early days, that their heathen enemies would often exclaim, “Behold! how these Christians love one another!” So eminently had they imbibed the spirit of Christianity, and so carefully did they regard the precepts of their divine Master, that they knew themselves, and all the world knew them to be his disciples, because they loved one another. Would to God that all who now wear the Christian name, would, in the same manner make it manifest, that they are the disciples of the same Master.
It is always, not only proper, but highly important, that the Christian minister, on whatever occasion he is called to speak, should inculcate and enforce Christian duty, as peculiarly appropriate to the moral interests of society. And here I am not going to pretend that Masonry is a religious institution, whatever may be the feelings of others on the subject; but I do pretend, and I will contend earnestly, that it is the best moral institution ever established by man;— that the members of the Ancient Fraternity are bound by all the moral precepts of the gospel;— and though, where there is a dereliction from these, there may be still the name and shadow, there cannot be the principle and substance of “Free and Accepted Masonry.”
The rule laid down by our Blessed Saviour, just read from St. John’s gospel, is of peculiar importance to the Masonic family, as well as to the Christian church. Every society ought to have some bond of union. Our signs and tokens, as Masons, without the thing signified, are unproductive ceremonies. But when these signs are the ensigns of benevolence and tokens of brotherly love, they are Jewels of value far “above rubies!”
The disciples of our Lord ought to be known by some distinctive trait. What then shall this be?— a peculiar look — a cast of countenance? Some enthusiasts, I know, have pretended to discern true Christians from others, merely by a glance of the eye. I, without hesitancy, call such enthusiasts, mistaken zealots. A down-cast look, an austere countenance is no certain index of a pure heart. “The Pharisees disfigured their faces,” that they might obtain the name of good men. Yet, “their heart was very wickedness.” They had a show and semblance of religion, but nothing of its spirit and its power. And I have known Masons; at least, men that we must acknowledge such, because, by their own deception, or the unpardonable carelessness of Lodges, they have obtained a superficial knowledge of our secrets;- I say, I have known those, who in order to enlarge the Masonic secret to what I should think a ridiculous size, have pretended that they knew a Mason instantly, “on sight;" and could even point out the dwellings of the fraternity, as they passed through the streets of our villages!
Now, while every genuine Mason is conscious that Masonic signs are easily communicated, so that we may be known at pleasure, he cannot but look with pity and contempt on such pretenders to necromancy.
I cannot think, that Christians ought to pretend, that membership to this or /hat particular church, or belonging to this or that particular denomination, is a mark of true discipleship. 1 must go where I am not acquainted, to find a church above being deceived; of course, that may not have hypocrites in it. Signing any particular confession of faith; embracing any particular set of religious sentiments, proves nothing for true Christianity. “Circumcision is nothing, uncircumcision is nothing.” “Sound heads may be over rotten hearts. — Orthodoxy, alone, will never save a sinner.”
Almost every society have some external mark or sign by which its members are to lie known. Communion at the Lord’s Table is a badge of discipleship among Christians. There professors meet together to eat and drink as brethren, in token of their love, and memory of their Lord. But does eating and drinking in Christ’s presence give certain evidence of true discipleship? By no means. Our Saviour’s own declaration decides this question. “Many,” says he, “shall say unto me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not eaten and drunken in thy presence?' Then will 1 profess unto them, I never knew you!” So, as “all are not Israel, that are of Israel;” no more are all Masons, who can give the signs and tokens. As all that profess Christianity, should be what they profess by communing at the Lord’s Table; so all, that are initiated into our sacred mysteries should consider the sign of no value, without the thing signified. Loving one another is a mark of Christ’s disciples; and communing at his Table is a token of mutual love; and they ought ever “to keep” that holy “feast in love; not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” And it is no less a mark of that fraternal feeling, which ever exists in the heart of the true Mason. Masons are bound by promise and by oath;" and Christians by still more solemn obligations, to live and love as brethren. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity.” “ By this shall all men know that we are Christ’s disciples, if we love one another.”
But how are Christians, and how are Masons to love one another? and how is this love to be manifested? Is it known by what we say? I am sorry, that there are so many, who love “in word and in tongue,” but “not in deed and in truth.” I will here briefly notice some of the expressions of that love, which is genuine, and by which the true Christian and the true Mason may ever be distinguished.
Where there is genuine Masonic or Christian love, there will be a tenderness of the reputation of their brethren. They will guard every avenue ; they will keep the door of the heart duly tiled, at the approach of calumny and slander. Surely there is not that love, which marks the true members of these societies, where the tongue remains unbridled. What is more contrary to the genius of Masonry, or the spirit of Christianity, than to “bite and devour,” to speak evil and defame, to have no tenderness for the failings of erring man. “Charity covereth a multitude of sins: tkinketh no evil.”
True Christian and Masonic love manifests itself in extending a ready hand of relief, like the good Samaritan, to the needy. Showing mercy to the poor, giving assistance to the distressed, are among the strongest and most substantial evidences by which the world can know, that we “love one another.” God assures us in his word, that these marks are found in all his true children; and every pretension to religion without them is vain and deceptive. It seems that at the day of final account, one grand enquiry, at least, will he of almsgiving, and deeds of charity.
The spirit of Christian and Masonic love will show itself in the meek and tender exercise of watchfulness over the brotherhood. A want of this is an ancient mark of hatred. An early precept given to man was this:— “Thou shalt not hate thy brother, in thine heart. Thou shall in any wise rebuke him, and not suffer sin upon him.” I know this is an unpleasant duty; and too often the person reproved resents the reproof and despises the reprover. Ahab hated Micaiah, because “he prophesied no good concerning him,” but testified against his wickedness. I have known many instances, both among Masons and Christians, where reproof has produced the same effect; and where the reproved has not been satisfied with retorts so mild, as — “Physician, heal thyself!” But why this? Oh, “’tis pride, rank pride, and haughtiness of soul!” The heart is not humbled by the spirit of the gospel. The masonic gavel has not been faithfully applied. It is because of this disrelish of reproof, that it is so much neglected. We had rather “suffer sin upon a brother,” than incur his displeasure. But it ought ever to be remembered, for it is well known, that Christians solemnly covenant to be faithful in this: and the Fraternity know that no obligations can be more solemn than those, which bind them to direct tire doubting, to sustain the falling, to warn the erring, and reprove the vile. I know we fail in this: but I do not know that nominal Masons fail more than professed Christians. It is, indeed, too commonly the case, that our admonitions are not offered in a good temper. This destroys the intended effect. If we could possess the spirit that David once did, we should give reproof in meekness, and receive it in love: “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break my head: for yet my prayer also shall be in their calamities.” Solomon says, “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.”
In a word: True Christian and masonic love expresses itself, in imitating the virtues of John the Baptist, in obedience to the precepts and example of a Greater than he; by kindness, by charity, by instruction, by counsel, by warning, by reproof, by “doing to others, as we would that others should do unto us.”
The necessity of this grace or virtue, in any society, more especially this of ours, is paramount to every thing else. Christians are not Christians without it. Masons are not Masons without it. The beneficence of a Solomon, the faith of miracles, the tongues of men or angels, are nothing without it. It was the motto and guide of John the Evangelist: the brightest attribute of Him, who called, instructed, and commissioned John. It is the fulfilling of the law: the first and second great commandment; enforced in the strongest and most powerful manner, by the worthies of every age; yes, and by Him, who is above all, the Leader of Christians, the Redeemer of sinners! “If God so loved the world” of sinners, we ought certainly to love one another. Shall Jesus descend from the bosom of the Father to suffer and to die for enemies, and shall we indulge anger, wrath, malice and hatred towards brethren? Shall we injure our fellow creatures, when God has set us such a glorious example of benevolence in giving his son to save a ruined world; and when the glorious Jesus has so astonishingly exemplified condescension, benignity and love ! Shall we be cruel, hard-hearted, and unmerciful, when God is so infinitely tender, gracious and kind! The brightest precept in the Christian’s calendar, pronounced by his divine Master, is this— "Be ye merciful, as your Father in heaven is merciful.” A Christian without charity, a Mason without love, is a solecism! There is no such being! And yet we acknowledge with shame and grief, that many who bear these exalted names are — I should say, seem to be — utterly destitute of this heavenly principle. As a Mason, I lament it in the Craft; as a Christian, I mourn it in the church; and, oh, would God 1 might stop here: but, alas! I am constrained to add, more painfully than all beside, as a Christian Minister, I must bewail it most bitterly among the shepherds of the flock, the anointed of the Lord! “O that my head were waters, and mine eyes fountains of tears!” I would weep for the desolations of the daughter of Zion, promoted, encouraged, but not healed by her appointed watchmen! The example is contagious. If the divine spirit of Christianity cannot guard its professors, can the humbler, though exalted precepts of Masonry secure the Fraternity from the wilds of pretension, and the wastes of hypocrisy! And what, short of the pretender or hypocrite is that man, whose garb is lettered with the heaven-descended name of Christian, or whose badge bespeaks the fair title of Free-Mason; who yet shows no love to the brotherhood, no pity to the poor, no relief to the distressed, no kindness ' to the wanderer, no instruction to the ignorant, no warning to the wayward, no reproof to the vile, no compassion to the frail and tempted|
These things I say, to bespeak the charity of the un-charitable. If they “were not all Israel,” who called themselves “of Israel,” — and that was an apostolic reproof to some wicked Jews;— if they are not all Christians, who bear the Christian name;— and this the church and its ministers have greatly to lament;— then, is it any wonder, is it a stigma upon Masonry, that you see some nominal Masons, who, like Jews and Christians, abuse their good profession, and neither love nor live as brethren? I charitably hope, there are none of my present audience so illiberal, as to decide against Masonry, on the same ground, on which they would decide for Christianity. I presume there are none, who will dare to pretend, whatever their feelings may be, that the base conduct of one, of ten, or of an hundred individuals, gives full ground for stigma upon any profession or community whatever. For instance, in the language of a good writer — “Shall the profession of Physic be discarded, or despised, because an ignorant, or careless practitioner poisons instead of curing his patients? Shall our laws and constitutions be condemned, because there are rapacious counsellors, and pettyfogging lawyers engaged at our courts? Shall the church be styled a brothel, a nursery of the covetous and idle, because there are some clergymen, that are unholy, unclerical, lascivious, covetous? Shall the blessed Gospel, in all its spirit of holiness, be styled a deception, priest-craft, because many of its professors are hypocrites, enthusiasts, and deceivers? No; No; Every class will answer, No! Then certainly Masonry must not be condemned, despised, ridiculed, because some, professing themselves Masons, have been and still are guilty of a conduct unworthy their high profession, and sacred calling. No: let the Order remain, as it ought to remain, unimpeached; and every defective member, either high or low, rich or poor, as in every other profession, order or community, take shame to himself, are guilty of a three-fold evil,— that of disgracing himself; bringing dishonour upon his profession, and hindering its profitable progress in the world.” (Inwood)
I will soon relieve the patience of my audience: But permit me, first, to address a few words to the officers and members of Carmel Lodge, and others of the Fraternity before me.
Respected Officers, and Beloved Brethren, you belong to one of the first, and most honorable communities in the world. Feel the importance now, and never forget your obligations, so to live, that it may be said of you, with all truth, as you have heard it was of the primitive Christians— “See how these Masons love one another!” Let all malice, and envy, and evil-speaking, and wrath, and contentions be unknown among you: and be ye kindly affectioned one towards another, with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another. Let this laudable ambition excite your diligence in all your Masonic labors, and in all your search after knowledge and improvement, to excel in all those grand and prevailing traits of your professional glory, Charity, Brotherly-love, Benevolence, and Good will.
If you think I have, in any wise, portrayed the genius of Masonry; and I think you do not doubt it; then prove to the world, by your fidelity to the principles you profess, that you, yourselves, are Masons indeed. Never espouse any cause, which either in sentiment or practice shall rob our holy religion, our Saviour, or our God of the least virtue, honor, or glory. Your Tyler must not be the only one to guard your door. He cannot refuse admittance to those “who have permission from the Rt. Wp. Master.” There are other sentinels than he; there are other scrutinizing guards, whose “duty it is” to prevent the unworthy from gaining “admission to the middle chamber.” The world will judge of our principles by our members and their conduct. We say, Masonry is the handmaid of religion, and inculcates every Christian virtue. But what good will it effect, that the drunkard should inculcate temperance; that the debauchee should preach purity; that the infidel should proclaim the honor of our Saviour!— No, no; Be what you profess; and admit none to your mysteries, but those who give fair promise, that they will guide their steps with wisdom; support their Masonic character by strength from heaven; and ornament their whole life with the divine beauty of the Christian graces. Let caution be your check-word to beautify your South; to strengthen your West; and to preserve unsullied the rays of Wisdom from the oriental point.
Your very name is significant. Carmel was built upon a “high hill,” — fit resort for Masons. Your ancestors, you know, could thence descry the approach of the unworthy. May your Carmel witness many, like the ancient Elijah (I Kings xviii:19-42) prostrate before the Deity. May the gates of your city or asylum be ever closed against the Ahabs of the day; while the genuine children of Judah (Joshua xv:55), entitled to their inheritance by love and good works, find a ready admission.
As laborers and workmen under the great Architect of the Universe, may you ever imitate the good Nehemiah, his laborers and companions at Jerusalem. They worked day and night, to rebuild their ruined walls. So work ye, not only with scientific skill, but with never ceasing diligence, until the grand temple of your spiritual Masonry is fully ■eared, anil completed by its “cape-stone" and then may your walls be shouted salvation, and your gates eternal praise.
A word to the Audience shall close. Do any present, who are not Masons, feel disposed to ask the secret of Free-Masonry? “Would you ask an honest man to break his word?” I can, however, tell you, without breaking my word, without violating the truth, without making any unwarrantable disclosure, that reverence for the Name of Deity is the first lesson inculcated in our Lodges; self-government, as connected with it, the second; and that divine principle of the Gospel, Benevolence to man, the third. Masonry in all her lessons forbids the indulgence of any sordid affections. The heart of every good Mason is ever expanded with ardent desires for the happiness of man; first, no doubt, to the brotherhood; second, to all for whom Christ died. To the child in distress, the Mason’s bosom is ever open, where like his glorious Master, the Saviour of the world, he frequently carries the lambs of the flock. For virtuous sorrow the Mason’s eye has always at least a pitying tear; and he is no less ready to “weep with those who weep,” than to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” To instruct the ignorant, to wipe away the widow’s tear, to support and defend the orphan, to heal the wounded bosom of distress, masonic pity, and masonic benevolence hold out in the hand of charity, the richest cordial of comfort,— sincere endeavour; and the softest balm of commiseration,—zealous exertion. The fleece of his flock, like Job’s, is always ready to make garments for the naked; the wheat of his garner is cheerfully offered to make bread for the hungry; his “ cruise of oil and barrel of meal” are never withholdcn from the cry of indigence.
Finally: “Hear me for my cause,” these last few words! the last most of you, if not all, will ever hear from me. Believe me, Masonry, in the proper effects of all its principles, produces the greatest possible happiness of man, as a rational, social, intellectual being. It forms the good Christian; it moulds the good man. The good Mason fears God, loves his brethren, and does good to mankind. Whatever may have been the conduct of any, who have obtained admission to our secret chambers, the best feelings of the heart are inculcated as the bond of all our Masonic union; they are the leading points of all our Masonic lectures.
It is not unlikely, that in this vicinity, as in other places, there are some opposers of our order. On this point I must touch sparingly, as I am a stranger, and cannot be supposed to have any knowledge. But should there be any before me, of either sex, unfriendly to our Institution, I desire, in this holy place, where nothing but truth should ever be uttered; before Him, who searches the heart; in whose august presence, you and I must one Day appear, to declare, in the most solemn manner, that I do believe Masonry, far above every other human system, calculated to produce the best effect on society; to promote the most amiable feelings; and excite to a practice, corresponding, in every respect, with the genius of that holy religion, which our divine Master has brought from realms of glory to fit us for mansions there. To the Ladies present, in particular, in the simple majesty of truth, I declare, that it is the tendency of Masonic principle to make husbands more affectionate, where wives do not oppose; fathers more tender; sons more dutiful. It fills the bosom of flic aged with mildness; and of the young with urbanity, kindness and activity, to promote the greatest enjoyment of their sisters and female friends.
Do you think Masonry has no secret? True, it has none, that is not calculated to do good. The leading secrets of the Craft are those signs and tokens, by which we know and are known to strangers. This is not all. The manner in which we communicate instruction must be secret too. The aptness of our emblems to convey moral instruction is before the world in our books, our papers, and discourses. But with their particular application to us as Masons, in our secret retirement, the world has no concern. They are not injured by a want of the knowledge; nor could they be benefitted by our proclaiming it abroad.
But I have done. If a word on this point be not enough, volumes would not satisfy. I take my leave of you, until we meet on that Great Day, “for which all other days were made,” with this humble, earnest: prayer to God, that by His grace, through Jesus Christ, Masons may so live, that their good shall not be evil spoken of; Christians may so live, as to adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour; we may allso live, as to meet the divine approbation, and be at last received to mansions of eternal glory. Amen.