THE Master Khu_ru_m was an industrious and an honest man. What he was employed to do he did diligently, and he did it well and faithfully. He received no wages that were not his due. Industry and honesty are the virtues peculiarly inculcated in this Degree. They are common and homely virtues; but not for that beneath our notice. As the bees do not love or respect the drones, so Masonry neither loves nor respects the idle and those who live by their wits; and least of all those parasitic acari that live upon themselves. For those who are indolent are likely to become dissipated and vicious; and perfect honesty, which ought to be the common qualification of all, is more rare than diamonds. To do earnestly and steadily, and to do faithfully and honestly that which we have to do–perhaps this wants but little, when looked at from every point of view, of including the whole body of the moral law; and even in their commonest and homeliest application, these virtues belong to the character of a Perfect Master.
Idleness is the burial of a living man. For an idle person is so useless to any purposes of God and man, that he is like one who is dead, unconcerned in the changes and necessities of the world; and he only lives to spend his time, and eat the fruits of the earth. Like a vermin or a wolf, when his time comes, he dies and perishes, and in the meantime is nought. He neither ploughs nor carries burdens: all that he does is either unprofitable or mischievous.
It is a vast work that any man may do, if he never be idle: and it is a huge way that a man may go in virtue, if he never go out of his way by a vicious habit or a great crime: and he who perpetually reads good books, if his parts be answerable, will have a huge stock of knowledge.
St. Ambrose, and from his example, St. Augustine, divided every day into these tertias of employment: eight hours they spent in the necessities of nature and recreation: eight hours in charity, in doing assistance to others, dispatching their business, reconciling their enmities, reproving their vices, correcting their errors, instructing their ignorance, and in transacting the affairs of their dioceses; and the other eight hours they spent in study and prayer.
We think, at the age of twenty, that life is much too long for that which we have to learn and do; and that there is an almost fabulous distance between our age and that of our grandfather. But when, at the age of sixty, if we are fortunate enough to reach it, or unfortunate enough, as the case may be, and according as we have profitably invested or wasted our time, we halt, and look back along the way we have come, and cast up and endeavor to balance our accounts with time and opportunity, we find that we have made life much too short, and thrown away a huge portion of our time. Then we, in our mind, deduct from the sum total of our years the hours that we have needlessly passed in sleep; the working-hours each day, during which the surface of the mind’s sluggish pool has not been stirred or ruffled by a single thought; the days that we have gladly got rid of, to attain some real or fancied object that lay beyond, in the way between us and which stood irksomely the intervening days; the hours worse than wasted in follies and dissipation, or misspent in useless and unprofitable studies; and we acknowledge, with a sigh, that we could have learned and done, in half a score of years well spent, more than we have done in all our forty years of manhood.
To learn and to do!–this is the soul’s work here below. The soul grows as truly as an oak grows. As the tree takes the carbon of the air, the dew, the rain, and the light, and the food that the earth supplies to its roots, and by its mysterious chemistry trans-mutes them into sap and fibre, into wood and leaf, and flower and fruit, and color and perfume, so the soul imbibes knowledge and by a divine alchemy changes what it learns into its own substance, and grows from within outwardly with an inherent force and power like those that lie hidden in the grain of wheat.
The soul hath its senses, like the body, that may be cultivated, enlarged, refined, as itself grows in stature and proportion; and he who cannot appreciate a fine painting or statue, a noble poem, a sweet harmony, a heroic thought, or a disinterested action, or to whom the wisdom of philosophy is but foolishness and babble, and the loftiest truths of less importance than the price of stocks or cotton, or the elevation of baseness to office, merely lives on the level of commonplace, and fitly prides himself upon that inferiority of the soul’s senses, which is the inferiority and imperfect development of the soul itself.
To sleep little, and to study much; to say little, and to hear and think much; to learn, that we may be able to do, and then to do, earnestly and vigorously, whatever may be required of us by duty, and by the good of our fellows, our country, and mankind,–these are the duties of every Mason who desires to imitate the Master Khu_ru_m.
The duty of a Mason as an honest man is plain and easy. It requires of us honesty in contracts, sincerity in affirming, simplicity in bargaining, and faithfulness in performing. Lie not at all, neither in a little thing nor in a great, neither in the substance nor in the circumstance, neither in word nor deed: that is, pretend not what is false; cover not what is true; and let the measure of your affirmation or denial be the understanding of your con-tractor; for he who deceives the buyer or the seller by speaking what is true, in a sense not intended or understood by the other, is a liar and a thief. A Perfect Master must avoid that which deceives, equally with that which is false.
Let your prices be according to that measure of good and evil which is established in the fame and common accounts of the wisest and most merciful men, skilled in that manufacture or commodity; and the gain such, which, without scandal, is allowed to persons in all the same circumstances.
In intercourse with others, do not do all which thou mayest lawfully do; but keep something within thy power; and, because there is a latitude of gain in buying and selling, take not thou the utmost penny that is lawful, or which thou thinkest so; for although it be lawful, yet it is not safe; and he who gains all that he can gain lawfully, this year, will possibly be tempted, next year, to gain something unlawfully.
Let no man, for his own poverty, become more oppressing and cruel in his bargain; but quietly, modestly, diligently, and patiently recommend his estate to God, and follow his interest, and leave the success to Him.
Detain not the wages of the hireling; for every degree of detention of it beyond the time, is injustice and uncharitableness, and grinds his face till tears and blood come out; but pay him exactly according to covenant, or according to his needs.
Religiously keep all promises and covenants, though made to your disadvantage, though afterward you perceive you might have done better; and let not any precedent act of yours be altered by any after-accident. Let nothing make you break your promise, unless it be unlawful or impossible; that is, either out of your nature or out of your civil power, yourself being under the power of another; or that it be intolerably inconvenient to yourself, and of no advantage to another; or that you have leave expressed or reasonably presumed.
Let no man take wages or fees for a work that he cannot do, or cannot with probability undertake; or in some sense profitably, and with ease, or with advantage manage. Let no man appropriate to his own use, what God, by a special mercy, or the Republic, hath made common; for that is against both Justice and Charity.
That any man should be the worse for us, and for our direct act, and by our intention, is against the rule of equity, of justice, and of charity. We then do not that to others, which we would have done to ourselves; for we grow richer upon the ruins of their fortune.
It is not honest to receive anything from another without returning him an equivalent therefor. The gamester who wins the money of another is dishonest. There should be no such thing as bets and gaming among Masons: for no honest man should desire that for nothing which belongs to another. The merchant who sells an inferior article for a sound price, the speculator who makes the distresses and needs of others fill his exchequer are neither fair nor honest, but base, ignoble, unfit for immortality.
It should be the earnest desire of every Perfect Master so to live and deal and act, that when it comes to him to die, he may be able to say, and his conscience to adjudge, that no man on earth is poorer, because he is richer; that what he hath he has honestly earned, and no man can go before God, and claim that by the rules of equity administered in His great chancery, this house in which we die, this land we devise to our heirs, this money that enriches those who survive to bear our name, is his and not ours, and we in that forum are only his trustees. For it is most certain that God is just, and will sternly enforce every such trust; and that to all whom we despoil, to all whom we defraud, to all from whom we take or win anything whatever, without fair consideration and equivalent, He will decree a full and adequate compensation.
Be careful, then, that thou receive no wages, here or elsewhere, that are not thy due! For if thou dost, thou wrongst some one, by taking that which in God’s chancery belongs to him; and whether that which thou takest thus be wealth, or rank, or influence, or reputation or affection, thou wilt surely be held to make full satisfaction.