Commentaries on the

History, Philosophy, and Symbolism

of the Degree of


Excerpted from pages 13 – 43 of

The Book of the Chapter

by Albert G. Mackey

“By the influence of Mark Master Degree, the work of every operative mason was distinctly known. The perfect stones were received with acclamations; while those that were deficient were rejected with disdain. The arrangement proved a superior stimulus to exertion, which accounts for the high finish which the temple subsequently acquired.”

Oliver's Historical Landmarks.


The degree of Mark Master, which is the fourth in the masonic series, is, historically considered, of the utmost importance, since we are informed that, by its influence, each operative mason, at the building of King Solomon's temple, was known and distinguished, and the disorder and confusion, which might otherwise have attended so immense an undertaking, was completely prevented, and not only the craftsmen themselves, but every part of their workmanship was discriminated with the greatest nicety and the utmost facility. If defects were found, the overseers, by the help of this degree, were enabled, without difficulty, to ascertain who was the faulty workman; so that all deficiencies might be remedied, without injuring the credit or diminishing the reward of the industrious and faithful among the craft. [Webb, Thomas. Freemason's Monitor, edit. 1808. p. 84 et seq.]

Not less useful is it in its symbolic signification. As illustrative of the Fellow Craft's degree, it is particularly directed to the inculcation of order, regularity, and discipline. It teaches us that we should discharge all the duties of our several stations with precision and punctuality; that the work of our hands and the thoughts of our hearts should be good and true—not unfinished and imperfect—not sinful and defective—but such as the Great Overseer and Judge of heaven and earth will see fit to approve as a worthy oblation from his creatures. If the Fellow Craft's degree is devoted to the inculcation of learning, that of Mark Master is intended to instruct us how that learning can most usefully and judiciously be employed for our own honor and the profit of others. It holds forth to the desponding the encouraging thought, that although our motives may sometimes be misinterpreted by our erring fellow-mortals, our attainments be underrated, and our reputations be traduced by the envious and malicious, there is One, at least, who sees not with the eyes of man, but may yet make that stone which the builders rejected the head of the corner. The intimate connection, then, between the second and fourth degrees of Masonry is this, that while one inculcates the necessary exercise of all the duties of life, the other teaches the importance of performing them with systematic regularity. The true Mark Master is a type of that man, mentioned in the sacred parable, who received from his Master this approving language: “Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joys of thy Lord.”


We learn, from the traditions of Freemasonry, that the order of Mark Masters, at the temple of Solomon, was selected from the great body of the Fellow Crafts.

According to these traditions, there were two divisions of the Fellow Crafts. The first, or higher class, worked in the quarries, in finishing the stones, or, as we may say, in our lectures, “in hewing, squaring, and numbering” them; and that each one might be enabled to designate his own work, he was in possession of a mark which he placed upon the stones prepared by him. Hence, this class of Fellow Crafts were called Mark Masters, and received their pay from the Senior Grand Warden, whom some suppose to have been Adoniram, the brother-in-law of Hiram Abif, and the first of the Provosts and Judges. These Fellow Crafts received their pay in money, at the rate of a half shekel of silver per day, equal to about twenty-five cents. They were paid weekly, at the sixth hour of the sixth day of the week, that is to say, on Friday, at noon. And this hour appears to have been chosen, because, as we are taught in the third degree, at noon, or high twelve, the Craft were always called from labor to refreshment, and hence the payment of their wages at that hour would not interfere with, or retard the progress of, the work. And Friday was selected as the day, because the following one was the Sabbath, or day of rest, when all labor was suspended.

But the other and larger division of the Fellow Crafts, being younger and more inexperienced men, and with less skill and knowledge, were not advanced to the grade of Mark Masters. These were not, therefore, in possession of a mark. They proved their claim to reward by another token, and, after that part of the edifice was completed, received their wages in the middle chamber of the temple, being paid in corn, wine, and oil, agreeably to the stipulation of King Solomon with Hiram of Tyre.


The symbolic color of the Mark degree is purple. The apron is of white lamb-skin, edged with purple, and the collar of purple, edged with gold. But as Mark lodges are no longer independent bodies, but always held under the warrant of a Royal Arch Chapter, the collars, aprons and jewels of the Chapter are generally made use of in conferring the Mark degree.

Lodges of Mark Masters are “dedicated to Hiram, the Builder.” A candidate receiving this degree is said to be “advanced to the honorary degree of a Mark Master.”


Wherefore, brethren, lay aside all malice, and guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings.

If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious, to whom coming as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious; ye also as living stones, be ye built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up sacrifices acceptable to God.

Wherefore, also, it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion, for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth, shall not make haste to pass it over. Unto you, therefore, which believe, it is an honor; and even to them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner.

Brethren, this is the will of God, that with well-doing ye put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honor all men; love the brotherhood; fear God.

The passages of Scripture here selected are peculiarly appropriate to this degree. The repeated references to the “living stone,” to the “tried stone,” the “precious cornerstone,” and more especially to “the stone which the builders disallowed,” are intended to impress the mind not only with the essential ceremonies of the degree, but also with its most important and significant symbol. The passages are taken, with slight but necessary modifications, from the 2nd chapter of the First Epistle of Peter and the 28th chapter of Isaiah.


The lecture on the fourth degree of Masonry is divided into two sections, each of which is appropriately exemplified by a corresponding section of the ritual of initiation.


The first section exemplifies the regularity and good order that were observed by the craftsmen at the building of the temple, illustrates the method by which the idle and unworthy were detected and punished, and displays the legend which recounts one of the principal events which characterizes this degree.

The attention of the neophyte is particularly directed, in the ceremonies of this section, to the materials of which the temple was constructed, the place whence they were obtained, and the method in which they were inspected and approved, or rejected.


The materials of which the temple of King Solomon was principally constructed consisted of the compact mountain limestone which is almost the entire geological formation of Palestine, and which rises above the surface in the rocky hillocks on which the city of Jerusalem is built.

This stone is very solid, of a nearly white color, and capable of receiving a remarkable polish. [A writer in the “Boston Traveller,” who visited the quarries beneath Jerusalem, describes the stones as being “extremely soft and pliable, nearly white, and very easily worked, but, like the stones of Malta and Paris, hardening by exposure.”]

Ancient quarries of this rock still abound in the Holy Land, and, although long since disused, present the internal evidence of having been employed for purposes of building. One of them, beneath the city of Jerusalem, and undoubtedly the very quarry from which Solomon obtained most of his material, has been but lately discovered. Mr. Prime, who visited this quarry in 1856, speaks of it thus:

“That the whole was a quarry was amply evident. The unfinished stone, the marks of places whence many had been taken, the galleries, in the ends of which were marked out the blocks to be cut, and the vast masses cut, but never removed, all showed sufficiently the effect of the cutting. But date or inscription we looked in vain for, and conjecture is left free here. I wandered hour after hour through the vast halls, seeking some evidence of their origin.

One thing to me is very manifest. There has been solid stone taken from this excavation sufficient to build the walls of Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon. The size of many of the stones taken from here appears to be very great. I know of no place to which the stone can have been carried but to these works, and I know of no other quarries in the neighborhood from which the great stone of the walls would seem to have come. These two connected ideas impelled me strongly towards the belief that this was the ancient quarry whence the city was built, and when the magnitude of the excavation between the two opposing hills and of this cavern is considered, it is, to say the least of it, a difficult question to answer, what has become of the stone once here, on any other theory than that I have suggested.” [Prime, William. Tent Life in the Holy Land. p. 113.]

This quarry has received, in modern days, the name of the “Cave of Jeremiah.” It is situated on the Hill of Acra, west of the temple.

Another modern traveler says: “I have roamed abroad over the surrounding hills, even to Mizpeh, where Samuel testified, and into the long, deep limestone quarries beneath Jerusalem itself, whence Solomon obtained those splendid slabs, the origin of which has been so long unknown. It is but four years since the existence of this immense subterranean cavern was known to travelers. I have penetrated it for near half a mile, and seen there many large stones already cut, which were prepared for work, but were never removed. This new discovery is one of the greatest wonders of Jerusalem. It seems to extend under the temple itself, and the stones were all finished and dressed there, and then raised up at the very spot for their appropriation.” [Christian Witness, Sept. 11, 1857.]

It is evident, therefore, that the quarries whence the Mark Masters obtained their materials were situated in the immediate vicinity of the temple.

Stones of a finer quality were also obtained from the mountains of Lebanon, and were prepared by the workmen of Hiram, King of Tyre.


The work of all the materials brought up for the building of the temple was required to be good, true, and square, and such only, our traditions inform us, were the overseers authorized to receive.

Good work—made of the best materials, not defective, but accurately and neatly finished, and thus fit and suitable, by its workmanlike appearance, for a place in the magnificent building for which it was intended.

True work—right to precision in all its dimensions and surfaces, neither too long nor too short, too thick nor too thin, but level on its top and bottom, and perpendicular on its sides, so as to be exactly conformable to the copy or pattern which had been inscribed by the master builder on his trestle-board.

Square work—that the joints of the stones might be accurately adapted, and each part fitted with such exact nicety that the whole, when completed, might seem to be “rather the workmanship of the Supreme Architect than of mere human hands.”

And all this is in conformity not only with the traditions of Masonry, but with the teachings of the Scriptures, which inform us that “the house, when it was in building, was built of stone made ready before it was brought thither; so that there was neither hammer nor axe, nor any tool of iron, heard in the house while it was in building.” [1 Kings 6:7. The writer in the “Boston Traveller,” quoted, says, when speaking of the quarry beneath Jerusalem, “the heaps of chippings which lie about show that the stone was dressed on the spot, which accords with the account of the building of the temple.”]


Oliver says that, at the building of the temple, certain men were employed to mark the materials as they came out of the hands of the workmen, that no false mark might be placed upon an imperfect stone, and to enable them to be put together with greater facility and precision, when conveyed from the quarries to the holy mountain of Moriah. This is not exactly the tradition. Each workman placed his own mark upon his own materials, so that the workmanship of every mason might be readily distinguished, and praise or blame be justly awarded. These marks, according to the lectures, consisted of mathematical figures, squares, angles, lines, and perpendiculars, and hence any figure of a different kind would not be deemed “the regular mark of the craft.” A similar custom was practised by the masons of the middle ages, and many of the stones, both inside and outside of the cathedrals and other buildings of that period were thus marked. Mr. Godwin, in a communication to the Society of Antiquaries, says, that “in his opinion, these marks, if collected and compared, might assist in connecting the various bands of operatives, who, under the protection of the Church—mystically united—spread themselves over Europe during the middle ages, and are known as Freemasons.”


The Jews divided the day into twelve hours, commencing at sun-rise and ending at sun-set. The hours, therefore, varied in length with the variations of the seasons. Mid-day was, however, always the sixth hour, and sun-set the twelfth. At the equinoxes, for instance, when the sun rose at six o'clock, the hours of the day were apportioned as follows: Seven o'clock was the first hour; eight, the second; nine, the third; ten, the fourth; eleven, the fifth; and twelve, the sixth. The sixth hour, or “high twelve,” was appropriately selected as the time of paying the craft their wages, because, being then called from labor to refreshment, the progress of the work was not impeded by the interruption of paying the workmen, which would have been the case at any other time.

The week commencing on Sunday, and ending on Saturday, or the Sabbath, the sixth day was accordingly Friday, and hence 12 o'clock, noon, on Friday, is the time designated by “the sixth hour of the sixth day of the week.” The labors of the week were then concluded, and the rest of the time, to sunset or the twelfth hour, was probably occupied in paying off the workmen.

An important lesson is here allegorically taught, which may be communicated in the sublime language of Brother Albert Pike:

“Be careful, my brother, that thou receive no wages, here or elsewhere, that are not thy due. For if thou dost, thou wrongest 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.”


In this section the Mark Master is instructed in the origin and history of the degree. By a symbolical lesson, of impressive character, he is taught the duty of aiding a distressed brother. A variety of interesting circumstances connected with the building of King Solomon's temple are detailed, and the marks of distinction which were in use among our ancient brethren are explained.

The Symbolic allusion of the Indenting Chisel and the Mallet is one of the first things to which the attention of the candidate is directed.

The Chisel and Mallet are used by operative masons to hew, cut, carve, and indent their work; but, as Mark Masters, we are taught to employ them for a more noble and glorious purpose; they teach us to hew, cut, carve, and indent the principles of morality and virtue on our minds.

The following passages of Scripture are here appropriately introduced.

“The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” — Psalms 118:22.

“Did ye never read in the Scriptures, the stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner?” — Matthew 21:42.

“And have you not read this Scripture, the stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner?” — Mark 12:10.

“What is this then, that is written, the stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner?” — Luke 20:17.


The Mark, whose peculiar use should be here practically exemplified, is the appropriate jewel of a Mark Master. It is made of gold or silver, usually of the former metal, and must be in the form of a keystone. On the obverse or front surface the device or “mark” selected by the owner must be engraved, within a circle composed of the following letters: H. T. W. S. S. T. K. S. On the reverse or posterior surface, the name of the owner, the name of his chapter, and the date of his advancement, may be inscribed, although this is not absolutely necessary. The “mark” consists of the device and surrounding inscription on the obverse.

It is not requisite that the device or mark should be of a strictly masonic character, although masonic emblems are frequently selected in preference to other subjects. As soon as adopted it should be drawn or described in a book kept by the chapter for that purpose, and it is then said to be “recorded in the Book of Marks,” after which time it can never be changed by the possessor for any other, or altered in the slightest degree, but remains as his “mark” to the day of his death.

This mark is not a mere ornamental appendage of the degree, but is a sacred token of the rites of friendship and brotherly love, and its presentation at any time by the owner to another Mark Master, would claim, from the latter, certain acts of friendship, which are of solemn obligation among the fraternity. A mark thus presented, for the purpose of obtaining a favor, is said to be pledged; though remaining in the possession of the owner, it ceases, for any actual purposes of advantage, to be his property; nor can it be again used by him, until, either by the return of the favor, or the consent of the benefactor, it has been redeemed; for it is a positive law of the order, that no Mark Master shall “pledge his mark a second time until he has redeemed it from its previous pledge.” By this wise provision, the unworthy are prevented from making an improper use of this valuable token, or from levying contributions on their hospitable brethren.

The use of a similar token was of great antiquity among the Greeks and Romans. With the former people, when a host had entertained a stranger, who was about to depart, he broke a die in two, one half of which he himself retained, while the other half was presented to the guest, so that if, at any future period, they, or any of their descendants, should meet again, a means of recognition was established, and the hospitable connection was renewed, or its favors returned. Among the Romans a similar custom prevailed, and the mark or die was called tessera hospitalis, or “the hospitable token.” It descended from father to son, and the claim of friendly assistance that it had established could only be abolished by a formal renunciation, and the breaking of the tessera to pieces. [See an interesting Masonic tale, entitled “The Broken Tessera,” in Morris, Robert. Lights and Shadows of Freemasonry. pp. 239-242.]

The primitive Christians used a similar token, on which the initials of the Greek words for Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were inscribed. It served in the place of a certificate of Christian membership, and, being carried by them from town to town, secured the assistance and protection of their brethren.


The value of a mark is said to be “a Jewish half shekel of silver, or twenty-five cents in the currency of this country.” The shekel of silver was a weight of great antiquity among the Jews, its value being about a half dollar. It is more than probable that there was a coin of fixed value in the days of Solomon, but the earliest specimens which have reached the present times, and are to be found in the cabinets of collectors, are of the coinage of Simon Maccabeus, issued about the year 144 B. C. Of these, we generally find, on the obverse, the sacred pot of manna, with the inscription, “Shekel Israel,” in the old Samaritan character; on the reverse, the rod of Aaron, having three buds, with the inscription, “Ierushalem Kadoshah,” or Jerusalem the Holy, in a similar character.

We learn from the Book of Exodus that every Israelite above twenty years of age was compelled to pay an annual poll-tax of half a shekel, as a contribution to the sanctuary, which was hence called “the offering of the Lord.” The consecration of the Jewish half shekel of silver to so holy a purpose as the support of the sanctuary and the temple, is undoubtedly the reason why it has been adopted in Masonry as the value of the Mark.


Certain passages of Scripture are here referred to as explanatory of the subsequent investiture with important secrets of the degree.

“And we will cut wood out of Lebanon, as much as thou shalt need; and we will bring it to thee in floats by sea, to Joppa, and thou shalt carry it up to Jerusalem.” — 2 Chronicles 2:16.

A circumstance of great interest in the account of Joppa, so far as relates to this degree, is its difficulty as a port of entrance. Josephus, in describing it, says: “Joppa is not naturally a haven, for it ends in a rough shore, where all the rest of it is strait, but the two ends bend towards each other, where there are deep precipices and great stones, that jet out into the sea, and where the chains wherewith Andromeda was bound have left their impressions, which attest the antiquity of that fable. But the north wind opposes and beats upon the shore, and dashes mighty waves against the rocks which receive them, and renders the haven very dangerous.” [Josephus, Flavius. The Wars of the Jews. b. III, ch. IX, sec. 3, pp. 537-538.]

Dr. Kitto says: “The fact is, the port is so dangerous, from exposure to the open sea, that the surf often rolls in with the utmost violence, and even so lately as 1842, a lieutenant and some sailors were lost in pulling to the shore from the English steamer that lay in the harbor.” [Kitto, John. Scripture Lands, p. 179.]

The same author, in describing the situation of the town, says: “It chiefly faces the north, and the buildings appear, from the steepness of the site, as if standing upon one another.” And again: “From the steepness of the site, many of the streets are connected by flights of steps, and the one that runs along the sea-wall is the most clean and regular of the whole.”

The Baron Geramb, a Trappist Monk, who visited the Holy Land in 1842, gives the following incident in connection with this subject:

“Yesterday morning, at day-break, boats pulled off and surrounded the vessel to take us to the town (of Joppa), the access to which is difficult, on account of the numerous rocks that present to view their bare flanks. The walls were covered with spectators, attracted by curiosity. The boats being much lower than the bridge, upon which one is obliged to climb, and, having no ladder, the landing is not effected without danger. More than once it has happened that passengers, in springing out, have broken their limbs, and we might have met with the like accident, if several persons had not hastened to our assistance.” [de Geramb, Marie-Joseph. A Pilgrimage to Palestine, vol. I. p. 47.]

There can, therefore, be no doubt of the steepness of the shore at Joppa, and of the difficulty and danger to which the workmen, who navigated the floats from Tyre must have been exposed in landing; and the authorities that we have quoted, wonderfully confirm the probability of the tradition on the subject contained in the Mark Master's degree.

“Then he brought me back the way of the gate of the outward sanctuary, which looketh toward the east; and it was shut. And the Lord said unto me, Son of man, mark well, and behold with thine eyes and hear with thine ears, all that I say unto thee, concerning all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and all the laws thereof; and mark well the entering in of the house, with every going forth of the sanctuary.” — Ezekiel 44:1, 5.


The Chisel and Mallet are the working tools of a Mark Master, and are thus symbolically explained:

The CHISEL morally demonstrates the advantages of discipline and education. The mind, like the diamond in its original state, is rude and unpolished; but as the effect of the chisel on the external coat soon presents to view the latent beauties of the diamond, so education discovers the latent virtues of the mind, and draws them forth to range the large field of matter and space, to display the summit of human knowledge, our duty to God and to man.

The MALLET morally teaches us to correct irregularities, and to reduce man to a proper level; so that, by quiet deportment he may, in the school of discipline, learn to be content. What the mallet is to the workman, enlightened reason is to the passions: it curbs ambition, it depresses envy, it moderates anger, and it encourages good dispositions; whence arises among, good masons that comely order,

“Which nothing earthly gives, or can destroy,

The soul's calm sunshine, and the heartfelt joy.”


The following passages of Scripture are here appropriately introduced:

“This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head stone of the corner.” — Acts 4:11.

“To him that overcometh, will I give to eat of the hidden manna; and I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it.” — Revelations 2:17.

“He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear.” — Revelations 3:13.


The Keystone, in this degree, is evidently an allusion to the tessera hospitales, or hospitable tokens, among the ancients, which have already been spoken of, and which are thus described by Dr. Adam Clarke:

“A small oblong square piece of wood, bone, stone, or ivory, was taken, and divided into two equal parts, on which each of the parties wrote his own name, and then interchanged it with the other. This was carefully preserved, and handed down, even to posterity, in the same family; and by producing this when they traveled, it gave a mutual claim to the bearers of kind reception and hospitable entertainment at each other's houses.” [Clarke, Adam. New Testament with Commentary and Critical Notes, vol. II. p. 930.]

In the passage from the second chapter of Revelations, which is read during the presentation of the Keystone, it is most probable that by the “white stone” and the “new name,” St. John referred to these tokens of alliance and friendship. With these views, the symbolic allusion of the Keystone in the Mark degree is very apparent. It is intended to denote the firm and friendly alliance which exists between Mark Masters, and to indicate that by the possession of this token, and the new name inscribed upon it, and which is known only to those who have received it in the progress of their initiation, a covenant has been instituted that, in all future time, and under every circumstance of danger or distress, will secure the kind and friendly assistance of those who are the possessors of the same token. The Mark Master is thus, by the reception of this mystic sign, adopted into the fraternity of all other Mark Masons, and entitled to all the rights and privileges which belong exclusively to the partakers in the meaning of the same significant stone. The Keystone of a Mark Master is, therefore, the symbol of a fraternal covenant among those who are engaged in the common search after Divine Truth.


The traditions of Masonry respecting the wages of the workmen at the temple, instruct us that there were two divisions of the Fellow Crafts. The first, or higher class, were employed in the quarries, in hewing, squaring and numbering the stones, and thus preparing them for the builders' use; and that each one might be enabled to designate his own work, and to determine the amount of compensation which was due him, he was in possession of a mark, which he placed upon all the materials prepared by him. Hence this class of Fellow Crafts were called Mark Masters, and received their pay from the Senior Grand Warden, whom some suppose to have been Adoniram, the brother-in-law of Hiram Abif, and the first of the Provosts and Judges. They received their pay in money, at the rate of a half shekel of silver, equal to about twenty-five cents. They were paid weekly, at the sixth hour of the sixth day of the week—that is to say, on Friday, at noon.

The second, and probably larger class of the Fellow Crafts were younger and less experienced men, whose skill and knowledge were not such as to entitle them to advancement to the grade of Mark Master. These workmen were not, therefore, in possession of a mark, and proved their right to reward by another token. They received their wages in the middle chamber, and were paid in corn, wine, and oil, agreeably to the stipulation of King Solomon with Hiram, King of Tyre.

The promotion of a certain number of the Fellow Crafts to a higher degree, which was to be considered as an honorarium, or reward bestowed upon them for their superior skill and knowledge in their profession, has occasioned this degree to receive the technical title of “the honorary degree of a Mark Master,” a term which Webb has in one place carelessly corrupted in to “honorable.”


The following passage from the Book of the Law is read:

“For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the market place, and said unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right, I will give you. And they went their way. And again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour, he went out and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came, that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more, and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they received it, they murmured against the good man of the house, saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day. But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong; didst thou not agree with me for a penny? Take that thine is, and go thy way; I will give unto this last even as unto thee. Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with my own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good? So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.” — Matthew 20:1-16.


There is no passage of Scripture recited in any portion of our ritual which is more appropriate to the ceremonies into which it is introduced, than is this sublime parable of our Lord to the whole extent and design of the Mark Master's Degree. We learn from it that the Grand Architect of the Universe will make no distinction of persons in the distribution of His beneficence, but will give alike to each who sincerely seeks to obey the great law of His creation. Masonry regards no man on account of his worldly wealth or honors. It is the internal, and not the external qualifications that recommend a man to be a mason. No matter what may be the distinctions of place or office, the humblest shall receive as full a reward as the highest, if he has labored faithfully and effectually in the task set before him. And this arises from the very nature of the institution.

The lodge is the mason's vineyard; his labor is study, and his wages are truth. The youngest brother may, therefore, labor more earnestly than the oldest, and thus receive more light in Masonry as the reward of his earnest work. There was a young craftsman who had been idle all the week, doing no work whatsoever—the symbol of the profane, who has not yet been initiated into Masonry; yet, on the last day, at the eleventh hour, he found in the quarries and brought into the temple that stone which became the head of the corner. Thus did he more service to the house of the Lord than all those who had labored from the rising even to the setting of the sun, and yet who could offer no more at the end of each day's work than the ordinary result of an ordinary man's labor.

The vineyard of Masonry is open to all. But he who works most diligently, though he began the latest, shall not be below him who, commencing earlier, has not put his whole heart into the task.

The design of all Masonry is the search after TRUTH, and every one who seeks to discover it, shall receive his reward in the attainment. However we may have endured the heat and burden of the day, if we have not labored wisely, with the true end in view—if our zeal has not been tempered with judgment—though first at the vineyard, we shall be last at the reward; for truth is to be found only by him who looks for it earnestly, and whose search is directed by wisdom, and supported by faithful courage and unfaltering zeal. It is not the time that you have been a mason, but the way in which that time has been employed, that will secure the prize of intellectual light. He who, like the youthful craftsman in the quarries, has made one discovery in masonic science, is of more benefit as a member to the fraternity than he who, after long years, has learned nothing more than his ritual, just as the keystone was of infinitely more value than many ordinary blocks of stone.

So, then, let us all labor in the vineyard and the quarry—in the lodge and in the study—so that, being called as initiates to seek masonic truth, we also may be chosen to find it.


Brother: I congratulate you on having been thought worthy of being advanced to this honorary degree of Masonry. Permit me to impress it on your mind, that your assiduity should ever be commensurate with your duties, which become more and more extensive, as you advance in Masonry. In the honorable character of Mark Master Mason, it is more particularly your duty to endeavor to let your conduct in the lodge and among your brethren be such as may stand the test of the Great Overseer's square; that you may not, like the unfinished and imperfect work of the negligent and unfaithful of former times, be rejected and thrown aside, as unfit for that spiritual building—that house not made with hands—eternal in the heavens.

While such is your conduct, should misfortunes assail you, should friends forsake you, should envy traduce your good name, and malice persecute you, yet may you have confidence, that among Mark Master Masons you will find friends who will administer relief to your distresses and comfort to your afflictions, ever bearing in mind, as a consolation under all the frowns of fortune, and as an encouragement to hope for better prospects, that the stone which the builders rejected, possessing merits to them unknown, became the chief stone of the corner.


Supreme Grand Architect of the Universe, who sitteth on the throne of mercy, deign to view our labors in the cause of virtue and humanity with the eye of compassion; purify our hearts, and cause; us to know and serve thee aright. Guide us in the paths of rectitude and honor; correct our errors by the unerring square of thy wisdom, and enable us so to practice the precepts of Masonry, that all our actions may be acceptable in thy sight. So mote it be. Amen.

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