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Masonry, Judaism And Christianity - Part 2

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Part 2 of 2

Q. "From whence came you."

A. "From the holy Lodge of St. John." This is an unequivocal testimony of the first Grand Lodge, under the revived system, to the fact that Lodges were dedicated to St. John.

In a formula used a little later than the middle of the last century, which was called "the Old York Lecture," the two Saints John occupy a prominent situation; the following is an extract:-

Q. "To whom were they (Lodges) dedicated under the Christian dispensation?"

A. "From Solomon, the patronage of Masonry passed to St. John the Baptist."

Q. "Why were the Lodges dedicated to St. John the Baptist."

A. "Because he was the forerunner of our Saviour; and by preaching repentance and humiliation, drew the first parallel of the Gospel."

Q. "Had St. John the Baptist any equal?"

A. "He had; St. John the Evangelist."

Q. "Why is he said to be equal to the Baptist?"

A. "Because he finished by his learning what the other began by his zeal, and thus drew a second line parallel to the former; ever since which time, Freemason's Lodges in all Christian countries have been dedicated to the one or to the other, or both of these worthy or worshipful men."

Says Dr. Oliver:- "In the original lectures compiled by Sayer, Payne and Desaguliers, and improved by Anderson, Desaguliers and Cowper; in the reviewers of Dunckerly and Martin Clare, twice repeated; and in the extended rituals of Hutchinson, Preston and others, which were in use down to the reunion in 1813, and by some Lodges even to the present time," "the Saints John occupy their place as the patrons of Masonry; no link in the chain of evidence is broken: for in no one ritual, whether ancient or modern, which was in use during the whole century, were they omitted."

It was a law of the English Grand Lodge established in 1721, that the Lodges in and about London and Westminster, should hold an annual communication on St. John the Baptist's day, or else on St. John the Evangelist's day.

But that this was no new custom, no innovation upon ancient usage is evident from a historical. fact. It is Stated that Queen Elizabeth sent an armed force to break up the annual Grand Lodge at York, which was always held on the day of St. John the Evangelist; when Sir Thomas Sackville, the Grand Master, induced the officers to be initiated, and their report to the Queen was so satisfactory, that she gave them no further disturbance. Thus it appears that more than one hundred years before the revision of Masonry, by the Grand Lodge in 1717, the Grand Lodge of York observed the festival of St. John the Evangelist.

This custom it is said has existed from time immemorial, in proof of which Dr. Oliver refers to a copy of the old Gothic constitutions, which was produced at a grand festival on St. John's day, in the year 1663, before Henry Jermyn, earl of St. Albans, Grand Master.

Thus much we have deemed it proper to say upon the historical point, involved in the matter under consideration, by which it appears plainly enough, that the first we know, and all we know of English Freemasonry, up to the present century, recognizes the dedication of Lodges to GOD and to the holy Saints John, as a part of the usages of the Order, and the observance of the days set apart for the commemoration of these two persons as Masonic festivals.

But we said that we received a part of our Masonry from Scotland. It will be proper to advert, for the moment to the decision of the Grand Lodge of Scotland touching thin subject. "It is evident," says Dr. Oliver, "that the substitution of the Saints John for Moses and Solomon was an article of belief among the first Masons who introduced the Craft into this island. The Kilwinning system, which may be traced back to the 12th century, is called "St. John's Masonry;" and in the present laws of the Grand Lodge of Scotland this principle is unreservedly maintained in the provision respecting "private Lodges, where all Lodges holding of the Grand Lodge of Scotland are strictly prohibited and discharged from holding any other meetings, than those of the three Orders, of Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason, denominated ST. JOHN'S MASONRY."

We have shown that in our own Grand Lodge those parts of the work and lectures, which the petitioners desire to have expunged, were received from England and Scotland, and that these two Grand Lodges held to them at the time they transmitted the Institution to us, and they had been moreover held by their predecessors from time immemorial.

When Masonry was in the custody of the Jews there is no doubt that Lodges were dedicated to Solomon. But after the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem and dissolution of the Jewish polity, both civil and ecclesiastical, Masonry naturally fell into the hands of Christians. From that time to this our tradition is, that they were dedicated to the Saints John, and no historical facts have been, or can be, adduced to show that tradition in this respect is erroneous.

We have no evidence that there have been any Lodges but Christian Lodges since the destruction of Jerusalem. The Jews have not been in a situation to hold Lodges. They have had no country, no home, no nation, no government. They have been flying from one country to another, seeking to escape from the persecutions which everywhere pursued them. That they have maintained their existence as a race, dispersed as they have been over the earth, is a miracle, which proves, if nothing else did, that they are the ancient people of GOD, and that their condition for the last eighteen hundred years is a fulfilment of divine prophecy.

Freemasonry did for them, what few if any other societies ware willing to do. They were virtually outlawed in many Countries, and in scarcely a single Christian nation were they admitted to the enjoyment of the full privileges of citizenship. Even in England at this very day, they are debarred from holding a seat in Parliament. In some of our own States, they are not eligible to hold any civil office, and yet no where upon the face of the earth do they enjoy so much of privilege, or are they as well treated as in England and in the United States. Under such circumstances this Institution, true to its principles as a cosmopolite society, opens its doors to them and permits them to enter its pale, if they desire to do so, with the assurance, if they do, that they shall be hailed and treated as brethren; that there shall be one spot which they may call home, where they may dwell in safety and in peace; where they shall enjoy all its immunities and privileges; eligible to any office, entitled to all the benefits which the Fraternity have covenanted to extend to each other. This was a very great favor, and we have no doubt that our Israelitish brethren have esteemed it as such.

To the best of our information it was not until about the middle of the last century that the Jews were admitted into Freemasonry, with the exception of their connection with spurious Lodges on the continent, - as Masonry was then understood and practised.

Up to about the year 1754, there was no authorized form of Masonic Prayer in use in the Lodges in England. The Prayer Book was then a text-book of the Lodge. The Master was left to his own discretion in this particular, although the general practice was to select an appropriate form from the Liturgy. About this time the Jews were first admitted into the English Lodges; they very naturally objected then as they object now, to the use of the forms of Christian worship. These objections being yielded to, by some of the Masters, led to irregularities in the devotional services of the lodge room. But this did not meet the approbation of the old and eminent members of the Order, who were desirous of transmitting to their successors, the forms and lessons of Masonry as they had learned them. In order to set this matter right by authority, Dr. Manningham, then Deputy Grand Master, in connection with Dr. Anderson, drew up the following prayer, and laid it before the Grand Lodge at London for its sanction, by which it was immediately adopted. It was published in the "Freemasons' Pocket Companion" in 1754.

"Most Holy, and Glorious Lord God, thou Architect of heaven and earth, who art the giver of all good gifts and graces! and hath promised that where two or three are gathered together in thy Name, thou wilt be in the midst of them; in thy name we assemble and meet together, most humbly beseeching thee to bless us in all our undertakings: to give us thy Holy Spirit, to enlighten our minds with wisdom and understanding; that we may know and serve thee aright, that all our doings may tend to thy glory and the salvation of our souls. And we beseech thee, O Lord God, to bless this our present undertaking, and to grant that this our Brother may dedicate his life to thy service, and be a true and faithful Brother amongst us. Endue him with Divine wisdom, that be may, with the secrets of Masonry, be able to unfold the mysteries of godliness and Christianity. This we humbly beg, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen."

This historical incident clearly proves two important facto, that previous to the year 1754, the English Lodges had been accustomed to use prayer taken from a Christian Liturgy, and secondly, that the admission of Jews into the Fraternity caused a discussion of the propriety of such prayers, which resulted in a decision of the Grand Lodge, by which a Christian form of worship was adopted. 

It is very evident from what has been said, that all the Masonry which the world has known anything about, since the destruction of Jerusalem, up to about one hundred yearn ago, has been Christian Masonry, that is Freemasonry in the hands of Christians, conducted by them after a manner which has recognized, in some form or other, the fact and authority of the Christian religion. Yet it does not exclude persons who are not Christians. It requires belief in GOD as an indispensible qualification. Professing that, if there be no objection to the candidate as wanting in other qualifications, he is admitted. In this sense we have received no other kind of Masonry, and we can transmit no other. At the building of the Temple, the society was mainly in the hands of the Jews, now it is mainly in Christian hands, but open for Jews as well as Gentiles. It is confined to no sect, and to no nation. We trust that this Grand Lodge will be the last to do any thing to change the Landmarks of the Order; to circumscribe its influence, to restrict its usefulness, to render it national or sectarian, or to commence, in any form, or for any purpose, the mischievous work of innovation upon its well established principles. For these reasons, and for others which might be named, the committee recommend that the petitioners have leave to withdraw.

 
The Masonic Review - 1854
[Report to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts]
for the Committee, George M. Randall.

Masonry super adds to our other obligations the strongest ties of connection between it and the cultivation of virtue, and furnishes the most powerful incentives to goodness.

Dewitt Clinton.