General Ahiman Rezon, by Daniel Sickels, , at sacred-texts.com
p. 186 p. 187
WE have seen the type of man complete in moral worth and intellectual culture—not left to acquire knowledge, but first prepared to use that knowledge well, when it shall have been obtained. What more is left? Communion with our Maker. The mere knowledge of the Deity, as given us heretofore, is that of an august Creator, whom we are to reverence, and in whom alone we are to place our trust. But we have not yet seen him walking upon the earth, and holding open communion with the sons of men. Man has not yet been ennobled by personal contact with the All-Holy.
Let us imagine a conception perfectly in accordance with the ideas and opinions of our early brethren. "Who has at any time seen GOD, and lived?" "ADAM, our first progenitor." "But only in the days of his innocence. Since the day when all mankind was corrupted by his fall, no living man has looked upon the face of the Almighty."
Now, what would be the natural opinion of our ancient brethren as to the means of securing GOD'S actual presence? We know that, for a thousand years, men labored to find the true name of JEHOVAH, which they believed would be a talisman, giving them power over all the secrets of the Universe. Union, of the most unselfish nature, formed the grand characteristic of our Fraternity. Ambition, desire for fame—every passion which appeals to the self-love of man—was
merged in the perfect union engendered by an adherence to the tenets of the Order to such a degree, that the names even of our great architects have not come down to us, though their works still stand, to attest their excellence. All was the work of brethren, and each was allowed his share of the glory.
Now, with this perfect union, and with the knowledge that the belief .existed that it was through the weakness of man only that he could not endure the presence of his Creator, what so natural as to suppose that if three brethren be found as types respectively of moral, intellectual, and physical perfection, and they be joined together in holy fellowship which should make their very souls as one, they might, in mystic union, call upon the great and sacred name of the Deity, and receive an answer to their prayer? That this idea did prevail, we have sufficient proof; and it is to this, rather than to any more utilitarian views, that we are to look for the rule which, in a purely speculative institution, so sternly demands physical, as well as moral and intellectual integrity.
We know that the wise and good of the days of SOLOMON regarded his idolatry as an evidence that the countenance of the All-Holy had been darkened to him; that he no longer held the interviews with the ONLY-WISE GOD, through which they deemed that his superhuman wisdom came. And indeed it would seem to them a thing monstrous and wholly unnatural, that the being whose intellect had been illumined from above, and to whom JEHOVAH had promised wisdom beyond that of men, should grovel in adoration before false gods, did they not also believe that it was only through direct and constant communion with the Almighty that this wisdom could continue; and now that he no longer sought that presence, he was given over to the blind guidance of his passions
This degree is a type of the communion of man with GOD. Long before the incarnation of that great Being, was the
hope entertained of seeing him with mortal eyes, and no exertions were deemed too great to insure that consummation. With us, these ideas are but a type; for we have that realization so longed for by the brethren of old. And yet, as a type, how interesting it is to look back upon their struggles to look forward into what is now bright and clear!
The practical lessons to be found in the full exposition of the ceremonies of this degree, require us to be complete in our duty to our neighbor, before we can venture to direct him. Step by step, mounting from the lowest to the highest, we must prove to ourselves that we would serve him—pray for him—sympathize with his inmost feelings, and sustain him from falling, before we can venture to counsel him, even to his good—far less, dictate to him.
We now find man complete in morality and intelligence, with the stay of RELIGION added, to insure him of the protection of the Deity, and guard him against ever going astray. These three degrees thus form a perfect and harmonious whole; nor can we conceive that any thing can be suggested more, which the soul of man requires.
FREEMASONRY, in every degree, as before remarked, is progressive. A knowledge of it can only be attained by time, patience, and application. In the first degree, we are taught the duties we owe to GOD, our neighbor, and ourselves. In the second, we are more thoroughly inducted into the mysteries of moral science, and learn to trace the goodness and majesty of the Creator, by minutely analyzing his works. But the third degree is the cement of the whole. It is calculated to bind men together by mystic points of fellowship, as in a bond of fraternal affection and brotherly love. It is
among brethren of this degree that the ancient Landmarks of the Order are preserved, and it is from them that we derive that fund of information which none but ingenious and expert Masons can supply.
It is also from brethren of this degree that the rulers of the Craft are selected; because it is only from those who are capable of giving instruction that we can reasonably expect to receive it.
THE first section in this, as in the two preceding degrees, is initiatory; and a knowledge of it is indispensable to every brother who would make himself useful in the ceremonial transactions of a Lodge.
The Compasses are peculiarly consecrated to this degree, because within their extreme points, when properly extended, are emblematically said to be inclosed the principal tenets of our profession; and hence the moral application of the Compasses, in the third degree, is to those precious jewels of a Master Mason—Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love.
The following passage of Scripture is introduced during the ceremonies:
Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor
the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; while the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain; in the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease, because they are few, and those that look out of the windows he darkened, and the doors shall be shut in the streets when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of Music shall be brought low; also, when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond-tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail; because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto GOD who gave it.—ECCL. xii. 1-7.
The passage of Scripture here selected is a beautiful and affecting description of the body of man suffering under the infirmities of old age, and metaphorically compared to a worn-out house about to fall
into decay. How appropriate is such an introduction to the sublime and awful ceremonies of that degree, in which death, the resurrection, and life eternal are the lessons to be taught by all its symbols and allegories!—MACKEY's Manual of the Lodge.
Or the following ODE may be sung:
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In youth, to GOD let memory cling,
Before desire shall fail or wane,
Or ere be loosed life's silver string,
Or bowl at fountain rent in twain;
For man to his long home doth go,
And mourners group around his urn;
Our dust, to dust again must flow,
And spirits unto GOD return.