"Devon" Lodge, No. 1138.
Masonic Oration delivered by W.Bro. L. P. Methan, P.G.D. (England), DProvGM (Devon) at the Consecration of DEVON LODGE, No. 1138, NEWTON ABBOT, on November 28th, 1866.
"Eight Worshipful Sir and Brethren, The diffidence I naturally feel in again undertaking to deliver the oration usual at the dedication of every Masonic Temple is removed when I reflect that the theme on which I have to speak carries with it its own inspiration, and that even if I fail to reach the "height of this great argument," I shall receive from you the same indulgent consideration I have so often experienced. Having so lately, and more than once, addressed the Provincial Grand Lodge on the history and antiquity of our order, I shall now confine myself to its sacred origin and teaching. We know that upon Freemasonry the passing events of the world make no change and exercise no influence. Her doctrines were established before the pyramids were founded, and they will flourish when not one brick remains upon another to show where the pyramids were placed. We believe that the day will come when her doctrines will overspread the earth, as the waters cover the sea, from the frozen North to the sultry South, from the East, the birthplace of the cheerful day, to the West, the bed of the mournful night. And why have we this confident belief? Because it it founded on eternal truth, which knows and can know no change; because on this book, the volume of the Sacred Law, we rest our faith, our principles, our teaching.
Coming to us not as the discovery of the genius of man, but as the revelation of God Himself, it is in the nineteenth century what it was in the first fresh, immutable, eternal. It appeals, and Masonry echoes its divine voice, not to a creed, not to a party, not to a generation, but to all mankind and to all ages. It speaks alike to the individual and to the multitude, it prescribes to the loftiest genius, "thus far shalt thou come and no further," while to the humble spirit it whispers in parental tones, "Be happy in your lowly lot." It tells us of the past by its warnings and examples; it spreads the present before us like a map of the strange land, its shoals, its quicksands, its sunny spots, and its pleasant resting places, through which our earthly pilgrimage is made as we pass onward to 'The undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveller returns.'
It tells us of the future in words true as the rising and setting sun, that as Paradise beamed on our first parents, so shall it open its portals again, when this world recedes from view, to the faithful and obedient of the human race. The Bible has given to Masonry those allegories and analogies which appeal so strongly to the bosom of every Mason. Its aim is to promote the happiness of mankind, to improve the understanding, and impress upon its disciples the solemn truth that there is an omnipotent, omniscient, and ever-living God, who governs all, and to whom all men must render an account of a well or ill spent life. The beautiful ceremonies of our order, derived from this book, show us that the same Almighty Power has fashioned and sustains the world, that he has created man, placed him in this universe of wonder, beauty, and order, endowed him with a reasoning and feeling spirit to comprehend them, and thus led him, as it were, by a gentle compulsion, 'To look through Nature up to Nature's God.'
By such associations Masonry is calculated to make on the minds of its members an impression which can never utterly be effaced, although it may be from time to time dulled by the cares and temptations of the world. And when comes upon us that 'Last scene of all which ends this strange eventful history,' and we stand on the brink of the grave which must so soon receive us into its cold bosom, whence, but from the teaching of this sacred book, can we learn to gaze unflinchly into its dark depths, and, looking beyond its gloomy portal, raise the the eye of Faith to that bright Morning Star, whose rising shall bring peace and salvation to all who accept its teaching and follow its injuctions whence, but from its promises can we learn to regard Death not as the King of Terrors a ghastly grinning skeleton of decaying mortality but a sweet gentle mother come to claim her own child again, yearning to clasp him to her warm bosom, to shelter him in her protecting arms from all life's trials, disappointments, and pains, and to lull him into a grateful and eternal rest? If we are good Masons we shall realise this picture in our own persons. Our obligations, if they mean anything, mean that we have given ourselves to others, that we have resolved to form all mankind into one universal brotherhood, to gather up, as it were, the fragments of a ruined nature, and build them into a perfect temple. Such is the work to which every Mason, in his generation, has bound himself to add a stone. The builder builds for centuries we for eternity. A hundred thousand men laboured to raise a pyramid over a dead king; let us feel and show that we are engaged in a far nobler work, in erecting a living temple to the living God a temple not be judged by its outer magnificence, but by its inner decorations, and by its fruit which is to last for ever.
'In days of ancient art Men strove with anxious care to mind the unseen part, for the Gods were everywhere. Let's do our part as well Both the unseen and the seen And make the house where God doth dwell beautiful, and fair, and clean.'
If we would value at their proper worth those wondrous pillars of Wisdom, Strength, and Beauty, on which Freemasonry rests, we must begin with that practical humility which can alone break down the barriers and bridge over the gulf which now divides man from his fellow-man; with that charity which suffereth long and is kind, which thinketh no evil and speaketh no evil, which judges with candour and reprehends with mercy; with that submission to the Divine Will which teaches us to trust in God ourselves, and to feel toward others that love of which He is the essence; with that benevolence which so many need while treading, side by side with us, the thorny road of life, benevolence which we, in turn, may have to ask from others, and under what circumstances of danger, difficulty, and distress, God only knows. We must, in daily life, seek to be guided by prudence, temperance, fortitude, and justice. We must be prepared to give at any moment an exact account of the talents committed to us by the great Lord, to Whom we are stewards; we must be prepared to show that those precious jewels time, intellect, and worldy wealth, have not been buried in the earth in a napkin, any more than they have been squandered in self-indulgence and vice, but that they have been spent in such works as are most consonant with His law and will. If we would learn that law and will, let us look up to the firmament of heaven and observe the peace and splendour of those countless hosts how each rejoices, as it were, to subserve the universal order; there shall we recognise an omni-potent, yet gentle influence, which demands and receives a willing and exact obedience. When we turn our eyes down to our globe, we see in all the works of the First Great Cause the same unswerving principle. It ruled at the creation, it has prevailed through all time, and it will bless the countless ages of eternity. It is the law of kindness and of love, a law given to Masons for their humble imitation. It is rich in promise, joyous in operation, and certain in its fruition as truth itself.
Of such a law how can I better speak than in the language of an old divine language noble as ever fell from the lips of uninspired man! Would that voice or gesture of mine could do it justice! Of this law of kindness and love there can be no less acknowledgment than that her tent is in the bosom of God, her voice is the harmony of the spheres; all things in heaven and earth conspire to do her homage, the very least as feeling her care, the very greatest as not exempted from her power; angels and men, and creatures of what condition soever, though each in different voice and manner, yet all with unison of conduct, admiring and praising her, the mother of their peace and joy."
"Worshipful Master and Brethren of Lodge Devon. To-day we commit to you the honour of this Province and the Craft; see that you guard them well. Your history is yet unwritten; see that its pages never record an act which, living or dying, you may wish to blot! May the corn, the wine, the oil, and the salt, used in our ceremonies to-day, and the qualities they typify, be ever present to your thoughts. Remember that you have vowed to be discreet and temperate, liberal in charity, steadfast in friendship, just and virtuous in deportment, so shall the world see what beneficent effects flow from our ancient and honourable institution! Say not I have entered to-day on too lofty a flight of speculation, and left terrestrial difficulties too far below. Not so: you cannot attain excellence unless your aim be measured by the highest standard. The actual powers of fallen nature forbid perfection; but we are commanded to be perfect, and it is your special and self-imposed duty to do your best to become so. As Masons, striving to bring the whole human family into one universal brotherhood, it is good for you to reflect how much of the misery which man suffers or inflicts is due to himself. As Masons it is good for you to resolve that as far as your influence extends, individually and collectively, those ills so pathetically lamented by our gifted brother, the poet Burns, by which 'Man's inhumanity to man makes countless myriads mourn' shall cease for ever.
It is good for you to reflect that the principle of self-control, which this involves, is the mainspring of all social and individual happiness. Whether it be the Sovereign on the throne, the labourer at the plough, or ourselves, in our public, domestic, or masonic life, this self-control, this forgetfulness of self, this care for the happiness of others, is the great and vital source of all that is considerate, dignified, virtuous, and true. It is, in very deed and truth, real Masonry. Dear brethren, I pray that the Great Architect of the Universe will prosper you in your undertaking, and bless and preserve you in time and in eternity!"