Page images



[Address by Charles W. Moore, then R. W. Grand Secretary of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, delivered in Boston, November 29, 1856, at the celebration of the centennial anniversary of the Lodge of St. Andrew.]

WORSHIPFUL MASTER-I suppose it to be entirely true, in view of the great accessions that have been made to its members within the last two or three years, that there are many persons present who entertain, at best, but a very general and indefinite idea of the antiquity, extent and magnitude of our Institution. And it is equally true that many even of our most intelligent and active young Brethren, not having their attention drawn to the subject, overlook its history and the extent of its influence, and naturally come to regard it in much the same light that they do the ordinary associations of the day; and this as naturally leads to indifference. Masonry, like every other science, whether moral or physical, to be rightly estimated, must be understood in all its relations and conditions. The intelligent Mason values it in the exact ratio that he has investigated its history and studied its philosophy.

But my immediate purpose is not to discuss the importance of the study of Masonry as a science, but to show its universality as a fraternity. This will necessarily involve to some extent the history of its rise and progress.

In the beginning of the Fifteenth century, Henry VI of England asked of our brethren of that day—“Where did Masonry begin?" And being told that it began in the East, his next inquiry was-"Who did bring it West

erly?"—and he received for answer, that it was brought Westerly by "the Phoenicians." These answers were predicated, not on archaeological investigations, for the archæology of Masonry had not then been opened, but on the traditions of the Order, as they had been transmitted from generation to generation, and from a period running so far back along the stream of time that it had been lost in the mists and obscurity of the mythological ages. Recent investigations, guided by more certain lights and more extensive and clearer developments of historical truth, have shown that these Brethren were not misled by their traditions, and that their answers indicated, with remarkable precision, what the most learned of our Brethren, in this country and in Europe, at the present time believe to be the true origin of their Institution.

Freemasonry was originally a fraternity of practical builders-architects and artificers. This is conceded by all who are to any extent acquainted with its history or its traditions. The Phoenicians, whose capital cities were Tyre and Sidon, were the early patrons of that semireligious mystic fraternity or society of builders, known in history as the "Dionysian Architects." That this fraternity were employed by the Tyrians and Sidonians in the erection of costly temples to unknown Deities, in the building of rich and gorgeous palaces, and in strengthening and beautifying their cities, is universally admitted. That they were the "cunning workmen" sent by Hiram, King of Tyre, to aid King Solomon in the erection of the Temple on Mount Moriah, is scarcely less certain. Their presence in that city at the time of the building of the Temple, is the evidence of history; and Hiram, the widow's son, to whom Solomon intrusted the superintendence of the workmen, as an inhabitant of Tyre, and as a skilled architect and cunning and curious workman, was doubtless one of their number. Hence, we are scarcely claiming too much for our Order, when we suppose that the Dionysians were sent by Hiram, King of Tyre, to assist King Solomon in the construction of the house he was about to dedicate to Jehovah, and that they communicated to their Jewish fellow-laborers a knowledge of the advantages of their fraternity, and invited them to a participa

tion in its mysteries and privileges. The Jews were neither architects nor artificers. By Solomon's own admission, they were not even skilled enough in the art of building to cut and prepare the timber in the forests of Lebanon; and hence he was compelled to employ the Sidonians to do that work for him. "The Tyrians," says a learned foreign Brother, "were celebrated artists; Solomon, therefore, unable to find builders of superior skill, for the execution of his plans, in his own dominions, engaged Tyrians, who, with the assistance of the zealous Jews, who contented themselves in performing the inferior labor, finished that stupendous edifice." And we are told on the authority of Josephus that "the Temple at Jerusalem was built on the same plan, in the same style, and by the same architects, as the temples of Hercules and Astarte at Tyre." They were doubtless all three built by one of the companies of "Dionysian Architects," who at that time were numerous throughout Asia Minor, where they possessed the exclusive privilege of erecting temples, theatres, and other public buildings.

[ocr errors]

Dionysius arrived in Greece from Egypt about one thousand five hundred years before Christ, and there instituted, or introduced, the Dionysian mysteries. The Ionic migration occurred about three hundred years afterwards, or one thousand two hundred years B. C.-the emigrants carrying with them from Greece to Asia Minor the mysteries of Dionysius, before they had been corrupted by the Athenians. "In a short time," says Mr. Lawrie, the Asiatic colonies surpassed the mother country in prosperity and science. Sculpture in marble, and the Doric and Ionic Orders were the result of their ingenuity." "We know," says a learned encyclopedist, "that the Dionysiacs of Ionia" (which place has, according to Herodotus, always been celebrated for the genius of its inhabitants), "were a great corporation of architects and engineers, who undertook, and even monopolized, the building of temples, stadiums, and theatres, precisely as the fraternity of Masons are known to have, in the Middle Ages, monopolized the building of cathedrals and conventual churches. Indeed, the Dionysiacs resembled the mystical fraternity, now called Freemasons, in many important particulars. They allowed no strangers to inter

fere in their employment; recognized each other by signs. and tokens; they professed certain mysterious doctrines, under the tuition and tutelage of Bacchus; and they called all other men profane because not admitted to these mysteries."

The testimony of history is, that they supplied Ionia and the surrounding country, as far as the Hellespont, with theatrical apparatus, by contract. They also practised their art in Syria, Persia, and India; and about three hundred years before the birth of Christ, a considerable number of them were incorporated by command of the King of Pergamus, who assigned to them Teos as a settlement. It was this fraternity, whether called Greeks, Tyrians, or Phoenicians, who built the Temple at Jerusalem. That stupendous work, under God, was the result of their genius and scientific skill. And this being true, from them are we, as a fraternity, lineally descended, or our antiquity is a myth, and our traditions a fable. Hence the answer of our English Brethren of the Fifteenth century, to the enquiry of Henry VI, that Masonry was brought Westerly by the Phoenicians, indicated with great accuracy the probable origin of the Institution.

They might indeed have said to him that long anterior to the advent of Christianity, the mountains of Judea and the plains of Syria, the deserts of India and the valley of the Nile, were cheered by its presence and enlivened by its song; that more than a thousand years before the coming of the "Son of Man," a little company of "cunning workmen," from the neighboring city of Tyre, were assembled on the pleasant Mount of Moriah, at the call of the wise King of Israel, and there erected out of their great skill a mighty edifice, whose splendid and unrivaled perfection, and whose grandeur and sublimity have been the admiration and theme of all succeeding ages. They might have said to him, that this was the craft-work of a fraternity to whose genius and discoveries, and to whose matchless skill and ability, the wisest of men in all ages have bowed with respect. They might have said to him that, having finished that great work, and filled all Judea with temples and palaces and walled cities, having enriched and beautified Azor, Gozarra, and Palmyra, with the results of their genius, these "cunning workmen" in

after-times, passing through the Essenian associations, and finally issuing out of the mystic halls of the "Collegia Artificium" of Rome, burst upon the "dark ages" of the world like a bright star peering through a black cloud, and, under the patronage of the church, produced those splendid monuments of genius which set at defiance the highest attainments of modern art. And, if in addition to all this, they had said to him, that in the year A. D. 926, one of his predecessors on the throne of England had invited them from all parts of the continent, to meet him in general assembly at his royal city of York, the answer to his inquiry-" Who did bring it Westerly?"—would have been complete.

Henceforward, for eight centuries, Masonry continued an operative fraternity; producing both in England and on the Continent, those grand and unapproachable specimens of art which are the pride of Central Europe, and the admiration of the traveler. But it is no longer an operative association. We of this day, as Masons, set up no pretensions to extraordinary skill in the physical sciences. Very few of us-accomplished Masons as we may be-would willingly undertake to erect another Temple on Mount Moriah! Very certain we are that our own honored M. W. Grand Master,-primus inter pares, as all his Brethren acknowledge him to be, would hesitate a long time before consenting to assume the duties of architect for another Westminster Abbey, or a new St. Paul's. No. At the reorganization of the Craft and the establishment of the present Grand Lodge of England in 1717, we laid aside our operative character, and with it all pretensions to extraordinary skill in architectural science. We then became a purely moral and benevolent association, whose great aim is the development and cultivation of the moral sentiment, the social principle, and the benevolent affections, a higher reverence for God, and a warmer love for man. New laws and regulations, adapted to the changed condition of the Institution, were then made, an entire revolution in its governmental policy took place, order and system obtained where neither had previously existed, and England became the great central point of Masonry for the whole world.

From this source have Lodges, Grand and Subordinate,

« PreviousContinue »