by Dr. Phillip Kendal P.G.M.
Truth is the light of Masonry. Character is the quality
of Masonry and the character of Freemasonry is no more than the prevailing
character possessed and practised by Master Masons. One of the greatest
intangibles of Human life is character. Can you tell what it is? I can
not circumscribe it for you - it is as varied as human beings themselves.
It defies measurement and definition. Yet it is capable of recognition.
If I were to attempt to define it, I would say that it was the composite
of all the intangible qualities of good with which man has been endowed.
If he takes the time and trouble to develop those qualities which he often
does exhibit in his moments of greatest inspiration. In a speech before
his death Charles Lindbergh made the following statement, "that long
term survival depends alone on the character of Man." Yet how many
of us have given it much thought!
How many people of the earth are willing and humble enough
to admit that our inability to get along is due to our failure to develop
the important and intangible forces that lie within the character of Man?
Some one has aptly said no man can climb beyond the limitations
of his own character. If that be true then we must see to it that the attainment
of good character is a primary and not a secondary activity of man.
Masonry - has in this 20th century - been accused of inactivity.
A century which is noted for its services to Humanity. It has been quoted
as the age of Service Clubs. Many members propose a similar program for
the Craft. They accuse of being inactive. They say let us do something
spectacular, that the public can see.
Brethren, the Masonic design is the development of character
and the improvement of life and conduct.
Artemus Calloway has this to say, you can't give character
to another man, but you can encourage him to develop his own by possessing
Boardman puts it in verse this way; "Sow an act and
reap a habit, sow a habit and reap a Character, sow a Character and you
reap a destiny."
Henry Ward Beacher, (Anglican Clergyman) has this to say
about character; "A man's character is the reality of himself. His
reputation is the opinion others have formed of him.
The circumstances amid which you live determines your
reputation. The truth you believe determines your Character.
Character, whether Christian or Masonic is not imparted
by merely a confession of faith or by taking degrees. It is something received
from others, it must be personally acquired through long years of tedious
patient endeavours and strenuous effort.
A definite objective is always essential to any great
People talk about building character or personality, but
how is it done? Every impulse acted upon, every resolution carried out,
every time emotion that gets us somewhere is weaving itself into the pattern
of our character. This is not the product of lectures or sermons but of
well directed effort. Character takes in the whole man. Perhaps character
is best summed up in the sentences which Plato - tells were inscribed in
the "Temple of Apollo at Delphi," "Know thyself .... nothing
Shakespeare had this to say about Hamlet, Old Polonius
- speaking to his son Laoertes: "This above all to thine own self
be true, Thou canst not then be false to any Man."
This involves self discipline and self discipline means
doing things we would rather not do.
Character is the greatest of all human attributes. It
is greater than riches, for riches may be a curse to one deficient in character.
It is greater than religion for church buildings would rot and decay if
persons of character did not stand as the "Bulwark of religion."
It is greater than our social fabric for were it not for
character, men would fear to associate with one another.
Today, the building of Character is far more difficult
than ever. Pleasures are too common, life too free and easy in this promiscuous
society. Great characters were built in the days when men and women travelled
in covered wagons, they drove back the frontiers and carved homes out of
the wilderness. In days when food and clothing were of the coarsest. When
school children walked two or three miles to school and sat on benches
hewn from logs. When a preacher travelled long distances covering his circuit.
When men and women produced their own pleasures and the bible formed a
large part of the family reading.
When there was a greater belief in the power of prayer
than in the power of self great characters - are built in overcoming trials,
in hurdling obstructions that others said could not be overcome in achieving
great ends against great odds.
We can build character by doing things others have done,
but we can't build character by doing things merely because others have
We can build character by doing the things which each
of us knows he should be doing and there are ways and means at hand of
learning how to do them,if he will but take advantage of them.
In the volume of the sacred law we oft find the thought
of human life and conduct expressed as a building, something that is raised
and fashioned gradually, stone by stone, by each individual, as masons,
we are all builders with our thoughts, our emotions, our words and our
actions, they are constantly working away at a house not made with hands,
this is the "house of character."
"Talent maybe developed in solitude, but character
is created in society. It is the fruit of fellowship. Genius may shine
aloof and alone, like a star, but goodness is social, and it takes two
men and God to make a brother." When a man is determined for good,
what can stop him?
Cripple him and you a Sir Walter Scott, put him in prison
and you have a John Bunyan, bury him the snows of Valley Forge and you
have a George washington. Load him with bitter racial prejudice and you
have a Disraeli, afflict him with asthma until, as a boy he lies choking
in his father's arms and you have a Theodore Roosevelt, stab him with Rheumatic
Fever until for years he cannot sleep without an opiate and you have Steinmetz.
There can be no doubt that Character determines destiny.
The future of the world certainly depends far more on
the development of character than on anything else, without it no plans
that statesmen can lay down for a better world can possibly succeed. We
can build more and better houses, thus raising the level of citizenship,
but the "creation of peoples" does not come about that way. We
do not build citizens from bricks, mortar and lumber, but from stones of
honesty, truth, love and beauty, courage and industry, as freemasons, let
us in the years ahead apply ourselves to the task of building a temple
worthy of the G.A.O.T.U. always keeping in mind, that every man is the
architect of his own temple in which he has to spend eternity.
We are all blind, until we see that, in the human plan,
nothing is worth the making, if, it does not make the man. Why build these
cities glorious if man unbuilded goes? In vain we build the work, unless
the builder also grows.
"Edwin Markhan puts it this way: My brethren, freemasonry
is founded upon the dignity of the individual, upon the brotherhood of
man in the family under the fatherhood of God. May I suggest: that we continue
to dedicate and rededicate ourselves to the attributes of character and
standards of conduct which enable us to live the way of life befitting
a skilled craftsman. A man can only reach as high as his ideals. Therefore,
let us dedicate ourselves to the ideals of men of courage, men of conviction,
yes, indeed, men of service. Let us be builders of men of God.
In closing my Brethren we would do well to heed the admonition:
- that - If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in
the Character, if there is beauty in the character there will be harmony
in the home, there will be peace in the Nation. If there is peace in the
Nation, there will be peace in the World.
My brothers, so long as you and I continue this kind of
building, then indeed will Freemasonry have built its Temples in the Hearts
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