Fast Days and Freemasonry
In the earls days of the Lodge "Canongate Kilwinning from Leith," now Saint David, Edinburgh, No. 36 the records of the Lodge occasionally make reference to the adjournment or cancellation of the regular meeting upon account of the date coinciding with that fixed by royal proclamation "as a day of fasting, humiliation, and prayer." The Minute of Saint John the Evangelist day, December 27, 1739, concludes as follows:
The Right Worshipful toasted and drunk the usual healths upon this occasion. and the Lodge was closed by the proper officers and adjourned till Thursday the tenth day of January 1740 the Wednesday preceding being a National fast day therefore we could have no meeting as usual. From the Scots Magazine we learn the reason for the observance of this "National fast day" Edinburgh, November 1739. The Reverend Commission of the General Assembly met the beginning of this month and agreed on an act for a national fast, to implore the blessing of God for success to his Majesty's arms, &e.
At the same time. they humbly addressed his Majesty to nominate the day on which it should be observed, and further to interpose his royal authority for that effect. In consequence of this, the King has been pleased. by a proclamation. to order its observance on the 9th day of January next, thro' Scotland; as also in England and Wales.
A reference to the holding of the Fast is contained in the January number of the same magazine: Agreeable to the address of the Commission of the General Assembly, and the royal proclamation consequent thereupon the 9th of January was observed as a May of fasting, humiliation and prayer, to implore the blessing of God on his Majesty's arms, &e. War was declared in October, 1739, between the forces of George II, of Great Britain and Ireland, and of Philip V, of Spain, and only came to an end with the Treaty of Peace signed in October, 1748. In consequence of the war, and the weather, the regular meetings of the Lodge in April and October 1744 were given up altogether. "April 10th, 1744 New Lodge being the day appointed for a National fast." The date, which should really be April 11, was fixed by royal proclamation to be observed as in the former instance "as a fast throughout G. Britain, on account of the war with Spain."
Cannongate Killwinning from Leith 10th of October. 1744 Year of Masonry, 5744 . This being the Day immediately after the fast appointed by the Presbytery for the judgment like weather it was thought proper to hold no Lodge but adjourned to the 14th Nov. next.
From what are termed "Poetical Essays" printed in the October number of the Scots Magazine of that y ear we obtain some idea of "the judgment like weather"
ON THE INCLEMENCY OF THE WEATHER Bye rural swains lament. in plaintive strains, The dislnal ruins of our wasted plains. Tempestous winds. in hurricanes. have torn From 'mongst our reapers hands our richest corn Strange and impetuous deluges of rain Have spread a mournful aspect o'er the plain; While raging Hoods in rapid surges sweep Our hapless harvest to the foaming deep: .............. Yet lets resign'dly bear Those griefs and troubles heav'n assigns us here. 'Tis for our crimes.
The author of these lines appears to have had no doubt as to the cause of the ruined harvest "Tis for our crimes" but as referred to in Graham's Social Life of Scotland in the Eighteenth Century, the folks of these days seemed sometimes to find it very difficult to decide whether a calamity was due to the devil who is vexing a man! or due to Heaven which is punishing him. To quote further from the same book:
In the religious life of Scotland in the early decades of the eighteenth century, the intense religious fervor and faith which characterized the covenanting days retained all its influence and hold over great masses of the people of all classes, and the belief in the constant interference of Providence with every act of existence, however minute, was unbounded.
That there were unbroken, unbreakable laws, a succession of physical cause and effect, inevitable, changeless, passing on their silent course unbending to mortal prayers, unyielding to human needs this, of course, was a conception of the material world unknown to those days, incredible to these men.
When calamaries befell the country it was not easy to discriminate for which or for whose particular sins the wrath was shown. When therefore a Fast and day of humiliation was appointed to avert the hand of Providence, there was always announced a list of various alternative sins for which penitence was due.
When the 'ill years" came with frost and haar, snow and rain, destroying crops and starving the people, the General assembly ordered a Fast. comprehensively "to appease the anger of God for the sins of Sabbath breaking, profanity, drunkenness, uncleanness and infidelity." A. M. Mackay P. M. 36. The above information furnished to us by Past Master A. M. Mackay; Royal Lodge of Saint David, No. 36.
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