Doctor Oliver, speaking oi the Masonic discourses which began to be published soon after the reorganization of Freemasonry, in the commencement of the eighteenth century, and which he thinks were instigated by the attacks made on the Order, to which they were intended to be replies, says : "Charges and addresses were therefore delivered by Brethren in authority on the fundamental principles of the Order, and they were printed to show that its morality was sound, and not in the slightest degree repugnant to the precepts of our most holy religion. These were of sufficient merit to insure a wide circulation among the Fraternity, from whence they spread into the world at large, and proved decisive in fixing the credit of the Institution for solemnities of character and a taste for serious and profitable investigations."
There can be no doubt that these addresses, periodically delivered and widely published, have continued to exert an excellent effect in behalf of the Institution, by explaining and defending the principles on which it is founded.
Not at all unusual is it now as formerly for Grand Lodges to promote the presentation of such addresses in the Lodges. For example, the Grand Lodge of Ohio (in the Masonic Code of that State, 1914, page 197, section 82), says of the several Subordinate Lodges: "It is enjoined upon them, as often as it is feasible, to introduce into their meetings Lectures and Essays upon Masonic Polity, and the various arts and sciences connected therewith."
The first Masonic address of which we have any notice was delivered on the 24th of June, 1721, before the Grand Lodge of England, by the celebrated John Theophilus Desagullers, LL.D, and F.R.S. The Book of Constitutions (edition 1738, page l13), under that date, says "Brother Desaguliers made an eloquent oration about Masons and Masonry." Doctor Oliver, in his Revelations of a Square (page 22), states that this address was issued in a printed form, but no copy of it now remains---at least it has escaped the researches of the most diligent Masonic bibliographers.
On the 20th of May, 1725, Martin Folkes, then Deputy Grand Master, delivered an address before the Grand Lodge of England, which is cited in the Freemason's Pocket Companion for 1759, but no entire copy of the address is now extant.
The third Masonic address of which we have any knowledge is one entitled "A Speech delivered to the Worshipful and Ancient Society of Free and Accepted Masons, at a Grand Lodge held at Merchants' Hall, in the City of York, on Saint John's Day, December 27, 1726, the Right Worshipful Charles Bathurst, Esq., Grand Master. By the Junior Grand Warden. Olim meminisse juvabit. York: Printed by Thomas Gent, for the benefit of the Lodge."
The Latin words Olim meminisse juvabit, as given on the above copy of the title page of this printed address, are taken from the works of the Roman epic poet Vergil, Who writes thus: Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit meaning Perchance even these things it will be hereafter delightful to remember. The author of the above address was Francis Drake, M.D., F.R.S., who was appointed Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of All England at York on December 27, 1725 (see Drake, Francis). The first edition of the speech bears no date, but was probably issued in 1727, and it was again published at London in 1729, and a second London edition was published in 1734, which has been reprinted in Hughan's Masonic Sketches and Reprints (American edition, page 106). This is, therefore, the earliest Masonic address to which we have access. It contains a brief sketch of the history of Freemasonry, written as Masonic history was then written. The address is, however, remarkable for advancing the claim of the Grand Lodge of York to a superiority over that of London, and for containing a very early reference to the three degrees of Craft Masonry. The fourth Masonic address of whose existence we have any knowledge is "a Speech Delivered to the Worshipful Society of Free and Accepted Masons, at a Lodge, held at the Carpenters Arms in Silver-Street, Golden Square, the 31st of December, 1728. By the Right Worshipful Edw. Oakley, Architect, M.M., late Provincial Senior Grand Warden in Carmarthen, South Wales." This speech was reprinted by Cole in his Ancient Constitutions at London in 1731.
America has the honor of presenting the next attempt at Masonic oratory. The fifth address, and the first American, which is extant, is one delivered in Boston, Massachusetts, on June 24, 1734. It is entitled "A Dissertation upon Masonry, delivered to a Lodge in America, June 24th, 1734. Christ's Regm."
This last word is doubtless an abbreviation of the Latin word for kingdom. Discovered by Brother C. W. Moore in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, it was published by him in his magazine in 1849. This address is well written, and of a symbolic character, as the author represents the Lodge as a type of heaven.
Sixthly, we have "An Address made to the body of Free and Accepted Masons assembled at a Quarterly communication, held near Temple Bar, December 11, 1735, by Martin Clare, Junior Grand Warden."
Martin Clare was distinguished in his times as a Freemason, and his address, which Doctor Oliver has inserted in his Golden Remains, has been considered of value enough to be translated into the French and German languages.
Next, on March 21, 1737, the Chevalier Ramsay delivered an oration before the Grand Lodge of France, in which he discussed the Freemasonry and the Crusaders and traced an imaginary history of its course through Scotland and England into France, which was to become the center of the reformed Order.
Ramsay and his address are discussed at length in Doctor. Mackey's revised History of Freemasonry. A report of this speech is to be found in the Histoire &c. de la tre ven. Confratenit des F. M. &c. Traduit par 1e Fr. de la Tierce. Francfort, 1742. This French title means History of the very Worshipful Fraternity of Freemasons, etc. Translated by the Brother of the Third Degree. Frankfort, 1742. An English version of this much discussed address by the Chevaller Ramsey is given in Robert F. Gould's History of Freemasonry, vo1unle 3, pages 84-9 (see Ramsay). After this period, Masonic addresses rapidly multiplied, w that it would be impossible to record their titles or even the names of their authors.
What Martial (1, 17), in the first century, said of his own epigrams, that some were good, some bad, and a great many middling, may, with equal propriety and justice, be said of Masonic addresses. Of the thousands that have been delivered, many have been worth neither printing nor preservation.
One thing, however, is to be remarked : that within a few years the literary character of these productions has greatly improved. Formerly, a Masonic address on some festal occasion of the Order was little mor than a homily on brotherly love or some other Masonic virtue. Often the orator was a clergyman, selected by the Lodge on account of his moral character or his professional ability. These clergymen were frequently among the youngest members of the Lodge, and men who had no opportunity to study the esoteric construction of Freemasonry. In such cases we will find that the addresses were generally neither more nor less than sermons under another name.
They contain excellent general axioms of conduct, and sometimes encomiums or formal praises on the laudable design of our Institution.
But we look in vain in them for any ideas which refer to the history or to the occult philosophy of Freemasonry. Only in part do they accept the definition that Freemasonry is a science of morality, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. They dwell on the science of morality, but they say nothing of the symbols or the allegories. But, as has been already said, there has been an evident improvement. Many of the addresses now delivered are of a higher order of Masonic literature. The subjects of Masonic history, of the origin of the Institution, of its gradual development from an operative art to a speculative science, of its symbols, and of its peculiar features which distinguish it from all other associations, have been ably discussed in many recent Masonic addresses. Thus have the efforts to entertain an audience for an hour become not only the means of interesting instruction to the hearers, but also valuable contributions to the literature of Freemasonry.
Masonic addresses should be written in this way.
All platitudes and old truisms should be avoided.
Sermonizing, which is good in its place, is out of place there. No one should undertake to deliver a Masonic address unless he knows something of the subject on which he is about to speak, and unless he is capable of saying what will make every Freemason who hears him a wiser as well as a better man, or at least what will afford him the opportunity of becoming so.
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