The Standard Masonic Monitor of Brother George E. Simons, New York (page 21), offers an admirable address upon the Bible that for many years has been used by Brethren in various parts of the United States and elsewhere.
The Standard Monitor prepared by Brother Henry Pirtle, Louisville, Kentucky, 1921 (page 15), submits another address equally, to be used with pleasure and profit. The growing custom of presenting a suitably inscribed Bible from the Lodge to the initiate offers further opportunity to the Brethren to enlarge upon this important theme.
A brief address is here given upon the Bible as a Book peculiarly the cherished chart of the Freemason in struggling through the storms of life to the harbor of peace:
The Rule and Guide of Masonic Faith is the Holy Bible. From cradle unto grave we cling to books, the permanent of friends, the sources of knowledge and inspiration.
Books are the lasting memories of mankind. Youth relief upon the printed page for records of science, reports of philosophy, foundations of history, words of inspiring wisdom. Knowledge of the best books and a wise use of them is superior scholarship, highest education. in age as in youth we turn the leaves of literature for renewed acquaintance with the gracious pact and better hold upon the living present. Of all the books is the one of leadership, the Book Supreme blazing the way with Light of noblest excellence to man, the Bible.
Within these covers are laid down the moral principles for the up building of a righteous life. Freemasonry lays upon the Altar of Faith this Book. Around that Altar we stand a united Brotherhood. There we neither indulge sectarian discussion nor the choice of any Church. We say the Freemason shall have Faith but our God is everywhere and we teach that it is the prayer that counts, not the place of praying. For centuries the Bible has shone the beacon light of promised immortality, the hope serene of union eternal with the beloved who go before. Here is the message for Masonic comfort when all else fails, the rays of truth glorifying God, enlightening Man.
Dr. George W. Gilmore, Editor of the Homiletic Review, and Chaplain of Anglo-Saxon Lodge, No. 137, New York City, prepared for us the following address for use in presenting a Bible to the newly raised Freemason: My Brother: Already this evening your earnest attention has been called to the three Great Lights in Masonry, especially to the Holy Bible. its importance to the whole Masonic structure has been emphasized. As you observe it now on the sacred Altar of the Brotherhood, its position is emblematic of the significance already taught you. Just as it is the basis on which the other two Great Lights rest, so its highest teachings are the foundation on which Freemasonry is erected, and they have been commended to you as the basis of your own faith and practice.
There is, however, a condition in this recommendation implicit, in part, in the circumstances under which you entered this lodge. Among the qualifications claimed for you as warranting your admission to this place one was that you are " of lawful age."
This was not insignificant. it meant that the Lodge was receiving you as one possessing mature judgment and the ability of a man to follow his judgment with the appropriate will to action. Freemasonry, my Brother, looks for no blind obedience to its commands. lt expects that its adherents will focus upon its mandates their God-given powers of intellect, and is confident that its precepts and its works will be justified by a mature and considered estimate of their worth. Hence, in so important a matter as that which concerns your own "faith and practice," you are commanded to study this sacred book and "learn the way to everlasting life," to read it intelligently and with as full appreciation of its origin and growth as you may command. You should realize, first, that this Book is not, speaking humanly, the product of a single mind, the reflection of one generation. It is a double collection of many tracts or treatises.
How many hands contributed to the composition we do not now know and probably never shall.
Some of its parts are highly complex, the product of whole schools of thought, ritual, and learning.
Its outstanding unity, however, rests upon the sublime fact that the mind of the Great Architect of the Universe has, in all ages and places, been in contact with the mind of His sons, imparting to them as their capacities permitted, inspiring their sublimest thoughts and guiding to their noblest action, and was in contact with those who penned these books.
Second, this sacred volume covers in the period when it was actually written possibly nearly or quite thirteen hundred years-at least from the time of Moses to ths day, when 2 Peter was written. And much earlier traditions, handed down by word of mouth (just as the teachings of Freemasonry are transmitted), are embodied within its pages.
The Old Testament records the history of a people from that people's unification out of clans and tribes to its formation as a monarchy, its division, its subsequent decline and fall as a kingdom, and its rebirth as a church state or theocracy. External history, not recorded within the Bible, tells of the extinction of this church-state by the Romans.
The history recorded in the Old Testament relates not only to external events, but to the more important matters of religion and ethics. It embraces not only the perfected thought of 1000 years of development, but also the crude morality of nomad tribes when "an eye tor an eye" registered the current conception of justice.
It is a far cry from that crude and cruel morality to the teaching of Micah: ''What doth Jehovah require of thee but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?" And the advance proceeds as we reach the New Testament. There we find such a consummate climax of religion and morality as is reached in the summary of the commandments:" Thou shalt love the Lord thy God With all thy heart and With all thy soul and With all thy mind and With all thy strength; and thy neighbor as thyself," conjoined with such peaks of self-control as in the command: " Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you, bless them that curse you, pray for them that despitefully use you."
The Bible is not, then, one dead level of ethics, religion, or culture. It is the register of a progress from a primitive stage of morals to the highest yet known. Not the inferior starting points of this morality are commended to you, but that level of action which best befits a man who would act on the square in this age of enlightenment.
If, therefore, you find in the record the sharp-practice of a Jacob or the polygamy of a Jacob or a Solomon, it is not there as a pattern. for your own life and practice. It is, just a record, faithful to fact and the witness to fidelity in recording.
You are not to reproduce in this age the life and morals of 1200 B. C., or of an earlier age. You are to exercise the judgment of one living in the light of the prophets, of Jesus Christ, and of the great teachers and moralists who have followed them.
The highest pattern is yours to follow, that, as the Supreme Teacher expressed it, "Ye may be sons of your Father in heaven.'' This is the spirit and this the method in and by which you are encouraged to approach this masterpiece of literature, ethics, and religion, to draw from it the principles of the conduct you as a Macon shall exhibit in the lodge and in the world. My brother, it is the beautiful practice of this lodge to present to each of the initiates a copy of the Great Light. It is my present pleasing duty to make this presentation in the name of the Worshipful Master and in behalf of the Lodge.
Receive, it, read it with painstaking care, study it sympathetically, appropriate its most exalted teachings, exemplify them in your life.
Therein is found " the way to life eternal."
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