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A Bit Of HisTory Of Freemasonry

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

Dear Masonic Student,

The following information comes from the 7 volume set of Mackey’s Revised History of Freemasonry – Clegg edition; by Robert Ingham Clegg. There are at least 2 revised editions of Mackey’s History of Freemasonry. I think the Clegg edition gives much more detail that the other editions. However, for the Masonic student the original as well as the Singleton and Clegg edition are all quite useful.

Below are included some segments of text from pages 692 & 693 of volume 3 of the Clegg edition.  If you have access to this set you will enjoy reading the ‘preceding chapter’ Brother Clegg mentions below.

“The use of prayer in the Scottish Lodges of the 17th century is not a supposition. That is proved by actual records. Brother Lyon, in his invaluable work, to which we have been almost wholly indebted for the facts in the present and the preceding chapter, supplies us with two forms of prayers, one ‘to be said at the convening,’ and the other ‘to be said before dismissing.’ Both are taken from the minute-books of Mary’s Chapel  Incorporation for the year 1699.”

“Oh Lord, we most humblie beseech theee to be present with us in merecy, and to bless our meeting and haill (whole) exercise which wee now have in hand. O Lord, enlighten our understanding and direct our hearts and mynds, so with thy good Spirit, that wee may frame all our purposes and conclusions to the glory of thy name and the welfare of our Brethren; and therefore O Lord, let no partiall respect, neither of ffeed (enmity) nor favour, draw us out of the right way. But grant that we may ever so frame all our purposes and conclusions to the glory of thy name and the welfare of our Brethren. Grant these things, O Lord, unto us, and what else thou sees more necessarie for us, and that only for the love of thy dear son Jesus Christ, our alone Lord and Saviour; To whom with thee, O Father, and the belessed Spirit of Grace, Wee render all praise, honor and glory, for ever and ever. Amen.”

“The Second Prayer, or that used at the dismissal of closing of the Lodge is as follows:

“Oh Lord, wee most humbly acknowledge the goodnesse in meeting with us together at this tyme, to confer upon a present condition of this world.  O Lord, make us also study heaven and heavenly myndednesse, that we may get our souls for a prey, and O Lord, be with us and accompany us the rest of this day, now and forever. Amen.”

“The importance of this record of prayers at opening and closing in the Scottish Lodges, is that it adds great force to the claim that a similar custom existed in the English Lodges at the same period.”

“Therefore we may fairly conclude that it was the practice of the Scottish Lodges of the 17th century to open and close their meetings with prayer, a ceremony that we have reason to infer was also practiced by the English Lodges of the same period.”

Ed’s note:

Prior to the formation of the Premiere Grand Lodge in 1717 (The Grand Lodge of England), which phrased what we now know as Anderson’s Constitutions, and which opened up the door for admittance of men other that of the Christian religion, the craft of operative Masons was predominately Christian; The predominately Christian population of the Craft could have been because of the customs of the population in which the operative Masons lived and operated. And it could be that for this same reason it remained as such during the period of transition from purely operative Lodges to accepting non-operatives into their Lodges. The earliest records of accepting non-operatives into the Masonic Lodges of the 16th & 17th centuries come from Scotland, and the earliest is dated in 1598.

Regarding the prayers above: it is thought that the Lodges in England also opened and closed their Lodges with prayers, but the information above is an account of the earliest know record of such, and that record comes from Scotland too.

A Masonic Student can not do any better than reading in these ‘old’ Masonic books. Many Lodge libraries, and most if not all Masonic Libraries have copies of them on hand for reading.

Mackey’s 7 Volume Set of the History of Freemasonry; Gould’s History of Freemasonry, Mackey’s Masonic Encyclopedia of Freemasonry; can still be found on the used book market. My favorite source for good used Masonic Books is Brother Harold Davidson, of the Billings Masonic Library; Brother Harold is also the Librarian for the Philalethes Society – his email address is;  Those books can also be viewed on-line at

Three more modern books that are also quite good are: The Freemason at Work, by Harry Carr, and there is a revision by Frederick Smyth; A reference Guide for Freemasons by Fredrick Smyth; and Freemasons guide and Compendium by Bernard E. Jones.  You could check with Brother Harold to see if he has any used copies of those.

There are 6 more great Masonic books that every Masonic student would do well to have ready access to. If the student has the space and the money adding these books to his personal physical library is a good idea.

As long as I mentioned The Philalethes Society (the premier Masonic Research Society in North America) it is a very good society for the Masonic Student to be a member of. Also if you can find a copy of the CD Rom of ‘the first 50 years of The Philalethes Society’ it is very much worth the money. That CD Rom is long out of print, but you may be able to get a used copy, and maybe one could luck-out and find a new copy; there is a wealth of Masonic education information in those 50 years of the Philalethes.

The Philalethes has another good book called ‘Fiat Lux, – Volume 1,’ which is a book of papers that have been awarded the ‘Literature Award,’ which is awarded once a year for the best Masonic paper from all the papers printed in the Philalethes each year; Fiat Lux covers the years 1956 to 1986 – 30 years of great Masonic papers. I’m sure you can get a copy from Brother Harold, and also from the web site for The Philalethes at;  HYPERLINK “”

Part of the fun of being a Masonic Student is ferreting out good books to have in our libraries – both our physical and electronic libraries – and belonging to some great Masonic research societies.

Masonic Study – is life changing, and it lasts a lifetime!

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Last modified: March 22, 2014