The common gavel, used by operative Masons to break
off the corners of rough stones, is in Speculative Freemasonry a symbol
of power. The twenty-four inch gauge is an instrument used by operative
Masons to measure and lay out their work, but in speculative Freemasonry
we are taught by its symbolism to divide our time into three equal
parts, whereby are found eight hours for refreshment and sleep, eight
for our usual vocation and eight for the service of God and humanity.
There is an object in view and an end attained. It is therefore, a
symbol of purpose.
Power is the ability to act so as to produce change
and cause events. Purpose is the idea or object kept before the mind as
an end of effort or action.
Modern science has uncovered so much power that
thoughtful men fear it will work for the destruction of civilization
unless a commensurate humane purpose is developed for its direction. The
day and generation in which we live pulsates with power, the world is
held in place by dynamic appositions, the universe is vibrant with force
and man is a part of the Divine energy. The greatest thing in God's
created universe is man. In him, according to the teachings of
Freemasonry, is the Eternal Flame, the indestructible image of the
living God. The power of man cannot be defined, cannot be fenced in,
because it transcends all finite standards of measurement.
Power directed by a bad purpose is positive
destruction. Alexander the Great was the most powerful man of antiquity.
With an Army of 35,000 men he flung himself against a Persian horde of
over one million. He conquered the world, but could not master himself.
Intent on lust and luxury, dissipation and destruction, his purposes
were bad, and at the age of forty-two he died in a drunken fit.
Charles the First of England insisted on the Divine
right of Kings. He had his courts decree that the King could do no
wrong, he filled the Tower of London with political prisoners, tortured
and decapitated his enemies, claimed the right of life and death over
his subjects. and exercised the unlimited power of an absolute monarch.
His purposes were bad, and under Oliver Cromwell his career was
cancelled, the executioner swung his axe and the head of Charles the
First rolled in the dust.
These were unusual men occupying exceptional
positions, but the power of destruction is terrific in the most ordinary
life. Czolgocz, the Polish anarchist, was a man of low order in the
social scale; without wealth, without influence and without education;
from the casual viewpoint ignorant, insignificant and weak. His mind was
a breeding ground of crazy purposes, but he had sufficient destructive
power to shoot William McKinley and assassinate the Chief Magistrate of
the greatest nation on earth.
Power directed by a good purpose is constructive, and
results in achievement. It keeps the cars on the tracks and the wires in
the air; it turns the wheels of man's industry and carries the commerce
of continents as upon a mighty shoulder.
Warren Hastings was born in 1832; his mother was a
servant girl who died when the baby was two days old; his father
deserted him, so he grew up as a charity child. He had a hungry mind and
obtained an education as best he could. When eighteen years of age he
shipped for India, working for his own passage. He had a purpose in his
life and there came a power that enabled him to establish the Bengal
Asiatic Society, to found colleges out of his own funds and in his own
name. Disraeli and English supremacy in India was the direct result of
this man's work. Today the memory of Warren Hastings is linked with the
greatness of the British Empire,
David Livingston was a humble Scotsman, the son of a
weaver and himself a worker at the spinning wheel. Into his soul there
came a great purpose of life, and he went to South Africa as a
missionary. He was frail of body, never physically strong, but with a
purpose there came to him a power to brave danger and endure privations.
For a period of twenty years he blazed a trail of light through a dark
continent, destroyed the slave trade in Negroes, and convinced the world
that the salvation of Africa was a white man's job. In that commission
he surrendered his life on his knees in supplication to God. His body
was carried thousands of miles by a black man through jungles, over
rivers, across land and seas; last summer at West Minster Abbey I stood
before his mortal remains buried and honoured in the sepulchre of Kings.
In his early manhood Abraham Lincoln stood before a
slave market in New Orleans. Upon the block was a young woman, stripped
to the waist. He heard the auctioneer describe her fine points and
estimate her value. He became conscious, not simply of a black form, but
a life divinely given. His soul responded to the challenge of a supreme
purpose and he said: "If I have a chance to strike this institution I
will strike it hard." Through the years there came to him the power to
blaze out the path and light up the way for a new baptism of human
freedom, finally to seal that purpose with a martyr's blood and ascend
to the throne of God with four million broken fetters in his hands. Now
the whole world joins in a myriad-voiced chorus of love and honour to
his memory. In every land and under every clime he is exalted and
glorified as a mighty champion of human rights.
History preserves in the clear amber of immortality
the record of men, who, set on fire by some sublime purpose and dedicate
the power of their lives to its prosecution.
The lesson is definite and practical. The twenty-four
inch gauge and the common gavel speak to every Mason the language of
constructive purpose and personal power. They mean that a Mason should
cherish his ideals, the beauty that forms in his mind, the music that
stirs in his heart, the glory that drapes his purest purpose, for out of
these things he has the power to build for himself and a new world in
which to live.
The Level is an instrument used by operative Masons
to prove horizontals. It is trite to say that it is a symbol of
equality. The Declaration of American Independence proclaims that all
men are "Created Equal." With most of us this is a glittering
generality, born of the fact that we are all made of the same dust,
share a common humanity and walk on the level of time until the grim
democracy of death blots out all distinctions, and the sceptre of the
prince and the staff of the beggar are laid side by side.
It is apparent that men are not equal, and cannot be
equal either in brain or brawn. There is no common mould by which
humanity can be reduced to a dead level. The world has various demands
requiring different powers; brains to devise great and important
undertakings; seers to dream dreams and behold visions; hands to execute
the designs laid down upon the Trestle board; scientists to adorn the
mind and reveal the glories of the universe; poets to inspire the soul
and play music on human heart strings; pioneers to blaze out the path,
and prophets to light up the way to a land where the rainbow never
The equality of which the Level is a symbol is one of
right and not one of gift and endowment. It stands for the equal right
of every man to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; the equal
right of every man to be free from oppression in the development of his
own faculties. It means the destruction of special privilege and
Freemasonry presided over the birth of our Republic
and by the skill of its leaders wrote into organic law of this land the
immutable truth of which the Level is a symbol. In a Masonic Lodge
George Washington was taught that the Level is a symbol of equality. In
the darkest hour of the Colonial cause, the soldiers, in a moment of
despair and desperation, would have placed on Washington's head the
crown of a King. Hayden says, "The overthrow of the rump of Parliament
by Cromwell, the breaking up of the imbecile directory by Napoleon were
difficult tasks compared to the ease with which the divided Continental
Congress could have been dispersed." Washington was not fighting for
Royal Rank, nor for coronation. As a champion of human rights, he was
fighting for exact justice and equality of opportunity, and so the
kingship and the crown were rejected with indignation and contempt.
I remember reading a story of the great flood that
came upon the Ohio. In the gray of the morning some men saw a house
floating down the river and on its top a human being. Going to the
rescue, they found a woman whose life they wished to save, but she said,
"No! In this house I have three dead babies I will not desert; I am
going out with them." To most of us that act would verge on the
immorality of suicide; to her it was the expression of a mother's love
deeper than despair and death; her conduct corresponded with her
conscience. We cannot place ourselves in her circumstances and in
charity should refrain from judgment.
Jean Valjan was a great hulk of a man, young and
strong, ignorant and big hearted, tramping the streets of Paris in
search of work, trying to care for a widowed sister and her family of
seven little ones. There was no work to be had. He could not bear to
hear the voices of starving children so he came home late at night,
thinking they would be sleep. But hunger gnawed, and when he came in
they were wide-awake and cried, Oh Uncle Jean, have you any work? Oh,
Uncle Jean, we are so hungry!" Madness seized the man; he went to the
nearest bakery, broke the window and stole a loaf of bread. Jean was
arrested and sent to Toulon as a galley slave. In the eyes of the law he
had committed the immoral act of theft. But his eyes saw pinched-up
faces, his ears heard cries of hunger and, regardless of consequences,
his conduct corresponded with his conscience in a deed of moral heroism.
Back of all the temporary circumstances and
conditions of men and transitory moral codes evolved by human minds are
certain positive standards of morality which the Divine Intelligence has
impressed upon every particle of matter and every pulsation of energy.
They are the same for all mankind, regardless of place, time, race or
religion. Of these standards the try square is the Masonic mouthpiece.
Freemasonry is defined as a beautiful system of morality.
It is a woven tapestry of great moral principles and
purposes. Whenever a Mason fails to live up to the best that is in him,
whenever he blots out the Divine light of his conscience, whenever he is
recreant to right as God gives him to see the right, he is false to the
trying square of his profession, for by this symbol Freemasonry teaches
a morality that masters manners, moulds mind and makes mighty manhood.
The plumb is an instrument used by operative Masons
to try perpendiculars. In speculative Freemasonry it is a symbol of
righteousness, that is, an upright life before God and man. It has been
said that, in the art of building, accuracy is integrity. If a wall not
be perpendicular, as tested by the plumb line, it is a menace to the
stability of the structure. Likewise if a Mason is ignorant of this
symbol as an active principle in his life, he is a danger to the
standing of the Fraternity in the community where he lives.
Righteousness is not a sanctimonious word. It means
rectitude of conduct, integrity of character, and deathless devotion to
the truth. The Psalmist asked, "Lord, who shall abide in Thy
Tabernacle?" and this was his answer: "He that walketh uprightly, and
worketh righteousness and speaketh the truth in his heart." When
correctly understood, the truth symbolized by the Plumb constitutes a
challenge to courage.
In the sixteenth century Giordano Bruno taught a
plurity of words; for this he was accused of heresy. He was tried,
convicted and imprisoned in a dungeon for seven years. He was offered
his liberty if he would recant, but Bruno refused to stain the sanctity
of his soul by denying that which he believed to be true. He was taken
from his cell and led to the place of his execution, clad in a robe on
which representations of devils had been painted. He was chained to a
stake, about his body wood was piled, fagots were lighted and on the
spot in Rome where a monument now stands to his memory he was consumed
by the flames. Without the hope of heaven or the fear of hell he
suffered death for the naked truth that was in him.
The Great Light of Freemasonry contains this promise:
"The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." Men of tremendous
power, men of creative genius have passed into oblivion, but the
righteousness of pure and noble character, of unselfish and Divinely
inspired life finds perpetuation in the clear amber of immortality. Of
the righteousness the Plumb is a symbol in Freemasonry.
Unrighteousness has wrought the destruction of
peoples and civilizations, but "Righteousness exalteth a nation."
Symbols are not academic playthings, they are intended to provoke and
Fellowcraft Working Tools present to the mind basic
ideas of equality, morality and righteousness.
All the implements of Masonry are assigned to the use
of the Master Mason. The principal one is the Trowel, an instrument used
by operative Masons to spread the cement which unites the building into
one common mass. In Speculative Freemasonry it is a symbol of
Paul stood on the Mars Hill and said to the
Athenians, "God hath made of one blood every nation of men." That is not
an expression of sentiment but the announcement of a fact, whether men
desire or deny it, whether men cherish it in their hearts or crucify it.
Man's ignorance does not change the laws of nature nor vary their
irresistible march. God's laws vindicate themselves; they crush all who
oppose and break into pieces everything that is not in harmony with
their purpose. In the light of this truth it can be safely asserted that
no nation, no civilization can long endure which does violence to the
Divine fact of human brotherhood. Fraternity is the basis of all
important movements for the common good and the general welfare of
Freemasonry has been called a "society of friends and
brothers employing symbols to teach the truth." The Trowel is a Masonic
symbol of love, and with it we are to spread the cement of brotherly
affection. Next to faith in God, the greatest landmark in Freemasonry is
the "Brotherhood of Man." We call each other "Brother," but we sometimes
fail to realize that brotherhood is a reciprocal relationship. It means
that if I am to be a brother to you, then you must be a brother to me.
It is exceedingly practical; is it not only for grateful gifts and happy
hours, but for use when the soul is sad, when the heart is pierced and
pained, when the road is rough and rugged, and the way seems desolate
The sentiment of brotherhood in a man's heart is a
futile thing unless he can find avenues for its external expression. So
far as I have been able to discover, there are three such avenues.
The first is sympathy. Not intellectual sympathy that
passes by on the other side of the street and expresses sorrow, but a
red-blooded sympathy that lifts a man up who has fallen down and speaks
the light of a new hope into his face. Dr. Hillis said that sympathy is
the measure of a man's intellectual power. Sympathy is more than this;
it is a measure of a man's heartthrob and soul vision. The great
painters, poets, preachers, physicians and patriots whose names
illuminate the pages of history, excelled their contemporaries in this
one quality of human sympathy.
The second avenue is service. I have read somewhere,
most likely in one of the writings of Dr. Joseph Fort Newton, a
statement that all over the vast Temple of Freemasonry, from foundation
stone to the highest pinnacle, is inscribed in letters of living light
the Divine truth that labor is love, that work is worship and that not
indolence but industry is the crowning glory of a man's life whether he
be rich or poor. In all the annals of human progress the men who have
accomplished works which have lived after them, which have come up
through cycles of time a blessing to succeeding generations, had not
before their eyes Gold or Fame, or Selfish aims or Sordid gain; but had
hung upon the walls of their minds great ideals of human service to
which they remained devoted until the light faded and the day closed.
The third avenue is sacrifice, the most radiant word
in the history of our race. The sacrifices of father and mother for the
education of the child, the sacrifices of son and daughter for the old
folks back home, the sacrifices of the patriot for the homeland and the
Flag, the sacrifices of the great servants of humanity; have through the
ages made music in the souls of men. He who would take sacrifice out of
human life would steal from maternity its sacred sweetness, expunge the
wrinkles from the face of Abraham Lincoln, and obliterate the stripes of
red in our National Flag.
Every advance in civilization involves a victim.
Before the progress of the world stands an Altar and
on it a sacrifice.
Back in the centuries Socrates, with a cup of hemlock
poison to his lips, offered himself upon the Altar of human sacrifice
for the Divine right of liberty in man.
The words of Patrick Henry before the Virginia
Assembly: "The next gale that blows from the north will bring to our
ears the resounding clash of arms. I know not what course others may
take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death," lifted the soul
of Colonial America up to the coronation of a supreme sacrifice and made
this Republic of the West a possibility.
In the world crisis, American soldiers and sailors,
as the champions of civilization, laid their all, their hopes, their
aspirations, their ambitions, their home ties and affections upon the
altar of human sacrifice to insure our National safety, defend our
National honour, and vindicate the ideals of American independence on
the battlefields of Flanders and France.
In a little country school I was taught that our
National Flag stands for the graves of men and the tears of women, for
untrammelled conscience and free institutions, for sacred memories and
great ideals; that is red stands for the blood that bought it, it white
for the purity of the motive that caused it to be shed, its blue for
loyalty ascending to the sky, and its stars for deeds of bravery
brighter than the stars of a faultless night. But when I think of George
Washington and Gen. Joseph Warren, and Capt. John Paul Jones, and that
heroic band of Masonic patriots in the American Revolution, and cast the
utility of out Craft against the background of its history, I can see
its stripes of red baptized in the sacrificial blood of our Fraternity,
and its stars of glory illuminated by the deathless light that shines
from a Masonic Altar.
In Freemasonry we are familiar with the ancient drama
of sacrifice made in the name of faith, fortitude and fidelity.
These three; sympathy, service and sacrifice are the
avenues for the external expression of the sentiment of brotherhood in
In proportion as we are inspired by this ideal and
use these avenues of expression, our Fraternity will contribute to human
good and happiness, and answer the end of its institution.
Tools have been called "The evangelists of a new
They are teachers not less than college and
cathedral. Just as the Twenty-four inch Gauge and Common Gavel stand for
purpose and power; the Level, Square and Plumb present basic ideas of
equality, morality and righteousness; so the Trowel is Freemasonry's
symbol of unity and brotherhood among men.