The Masonic Trowel

... to spread the cement of brotherly love and affection, that cement which unites us into one sacred band or society of brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble emulation of who can best work or best agree ...

[What is Freemasonry] [Leadership Development] [Education] [Masonic Talks] [Masonic Magazines Online]
Articles] [Masonic Books Online] [E-Books] [Library Of All Articles] [Masonic Blogs] [Links]
What is New] [Feedback]

 Masonic quotes by Brothers

Search Website For

Add To Favorites

Help Me Maintain OUR Website!!!!!!

List of Contributors

PDF This File

Print This Page

Email This Site To ...


Freemasons' Monthly Magazine - 1860

The custom of paying a parting tribute of respect to the Dead derives from a deep-seated and most natural feeling in the human heart, and hence we find it to have existed in every nation, ancient or modern, civilized or uncivilized; - among the South sea islanders and wild North American Indians, noels than the old world Hindus, Assyrians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans: with the Hebrews under their ancient theocratic institutions as well as with the Christians of modern times. The rites and customs connected with such funeral celebrations have been, of course, as widely different, as the national character of the nations among which they were adopted, but the one common principle was at the root of all, the desire to gratify the feelings of the survivors' hearts by some farewell tokens of affection and respect offered to the memory of the departed. We find the record of such observances sanctioned by the precedents of the earliest Scripture history, in which we read of Joseph and his brothers, on the decease of Jacob their father, carrying up the body for burial to Hebron and stopping "at the threshing-floor of Atad, beyond Jordan, and there mourning with a great and very sore lamentation: so that the inhabitants of the land, when they saw the mourning, said, this is a grievous mourning to the Egyptians." In the prophet Jeremiah, again, to pass over many other instances and allusions, we find references to the same observances, including the employment of the "mourning women," corresponding to the preface of the Romans and the "keepers" of Celtic funerals.

"Give ear! call the mourning-women, that they come, And to the skilful women send, that they come; Let them hasten, and lift up the lamentation over us, That our eyes may run with tears, And our eyelids may flow with water." 

The same scene, thus referred to by the ancient Hebrew prophet, may be seen by the traveller daily enacted in modern Syria and Egypt. In all time and in every land, under whatever different phases, the human heart, with its sorrows and its joys, is still the same, and even those who can with difficulty obtain the means of supporting their own life, will sacrifice even their daily sustenance to do honor to their dead ones. And when, in a community or a nation, some one has been called away, who, by virtue, valor, patriotism or other noble qualities, has towered preeminently above his fellows, the private and more modest marks of mourning accorded to all in common, extend and rise to a wider and loftier sphere, and country and citizens unite with kinsmen in lamenting the loss, and lauding the merits of the great or good departed. In ancient Greece the custom of eulogizing the memory of the illustrious dead was established at a very early period, as we learn from the Homeric Poems, and was adopted, as a wise and just institution, by her most illustrious orators and statesmen. Nor can we imagine any greater or more exciting stimulus, that could have been afforded to the valour of her warriors, than the glowing panegyrics of a PERICLES, pronounced over the tombs of those who had fallen in defence of their Fatherland. Few, if any, of the funeral orations of later times can be compared with that eloquent and heart-stirring eulogium delivered by that accomplished orator over the "first-slain" of his countrymen in the Peloponnesian war. How beautiful and powerful is even the condensed substance of the close of that memorable address ! 

"My task then is nearly done, yet it may be added that these glorious and beautiful lives have been crowned by a most glorious and honorable death. Enjoying and enjoyed, as had been their life, it never tempted them to seek by unworthy fear to prolong it. To repel their country's enemies was dearer to them than the fairest prospect which added years could offer them; and, having gained this, they were content to die, and their last field witnessed their brightest glory, undimmed by a single thought of weakness! Let us follow their example, contemplating our country's greatness, till our hearts and minds are fully inspired with a deep sense and an enduring Love of it. This is the just fruit of virtues, such as theirs whom we are now lamenting! They, when they could give their country nothing else, gave her their own lives; and their meet return is an enduring monument in every heart, in every land, forever!" A noble tribute to the noble dead, and powerful exhortation to the living, and time has shown it to have been no less prophetic, for, after the lapse of more than two thousand years; an English poet, himself the champion of fallen Greece, thug truthfully addresses her- 

"Bear witness Greece, thy living page,

Attest it, many a deathless age!

Thy heroes, 'mid the general doom, 

That swept the column from the tomb, 

A mightier monument command, 

The mountains of their native land!" 

This custom then of paying a proper tribute of respect and affection to all the dead, and of offering, by funeral orations and other appropriate means, a more public and marked honor to the memory of those who had in their lives pre-eminently distinguished themselves, is, as we have said, no less sanctioned by the precedents of history in every age and land, than the sense of right and justice implanted in the human soul. It emanates at once from the heart of humanity. We shall, therefore, not be wrong in applying it to a point of Masonry, to which many circumstances have combined of late to draw our attention in a more than ordinary degree, and respecting which we know that many of our Brethren are feeling not a little anxiety and uneasiness. MASONRY, we need hardly say, in its path of wide-spread benevolence, is confined to no age or land. It is the fortress and support of charity, virtue and truth, of Humanity at large, in every age and land; and its practice, like its principles, should ever been strict unison with those DIVINE PRINCIPLES, from which HUMANITY derives its loftiest and holiest inspirations. As each nation, of ancient or of modern times, has had its own peculiar modes of giving vent to the sorrow of the living, and of showing respect to the dead, so the RITUAL of our world-wide Brotherhood has established a certain form for the funeral ceremonies of each departed Brother; and to us it appears a matter of no light moment - but, on the contrary, one of imperative duty - that, whenever it is possible, the order of that Ritual should be compiled with. That every Mason, however humble his position or unknown his name, provided he had through life been true to his vows and the principles of our Order, should in death receive from his Brethren a Brother's need of mourning and respect. There is no want of charity in distinctly stating that only for him who has thus been a true Mason in life, can this honor be ,justly claimed or expected. The instances happily are few, but yet they do occasionally arise, in which those initiated into our honorable craft have proved false, in character and conduct, to all those high and virtuous principles which it is the essential object of Masonry to maintain. If, by such deviation from his vows, he, who was once a brother, has incurred the penalty of expulsion, he has lost all claim to funeral honors awarded to the true Mason. And yet, we have learned with deep regret that a case has not long since occurred in a neighboring State, in which this wise and wholesome rule has been entirely and flagrantly disregarded, even the highest Masonic honors having been paid to the memory of one, who, at the time of his death, was under the sentence of expulsion, and whose whole life had reflected disgrace, instead of dignity, upon our Brotherhood! We feel bound to protest in the most earnest terms against such a misuse and degradation of Masonic honors as this. However it may have originated in a feeling of generous charity towards the dead, it is no less a violation of the fundamental principles of Masonry, and is calculated to inflict great injury upon our Order in the eyes of the uninitiated; while even among ourselves, one of the greatest incentives to perseverance in the path of duty and of fidelity to Masonic obligations is removed, when the violator of those obligations is thus seen by his Brethren to be honored on a par with the most faithful observer of them. This, we know, is an extreme and extraordinary case, such as, we trust and hope, may never occur again. 

But there is another species of indiscriminate conferring of the highest funeral honors of very frequent occurrence, and against which, though of course in a less urgent tone, we must also protest. Let every true Mason we repeat, receive at the hands of his Brethren the regular tribute of funeral respect laid down by our Ritual, but, as has ever been the case in the history of the human race, let high and extraordinary honors be reserved for such Masons as have, like the Heroes of Ancient Greece, or the Fathers of American Freedom, distinguished themselves in life preeminently above their fellows in the practical virtues of Masonry;- for those who, by truth, virtue, honor and honesty, and, above all, by that true charity and generosity of heart, which is the brightest jewel in the Masonic crown, have (in the words of the Grecian orator) 'erected for themselves an enduring monument in every heart, in every land, forever!'

back to top

[What is Freemasonry] [Leadership Development] [Education] [Masonic Talks] [Masonic Magazines Online]
Articles] [Masonic Books Online] [E-Books] [Library Of All Articles] [Masonic Blogs] [Links]
What is New] [Feedback]

This site is not an official site of any recognized Masonic body in the United States or elsewhere.
It is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion
of Freemasonry, nor webmaster nor those of any other regular Masonic body other than those stated.

DEAD LINKS & Reproduction | Legal Disclaimer | Regarding Copyrights

Last modified: March 22, 2014