Commentaries on the
History, Philosophy, and Symbolism
of the Degree of
ROYAL ARCH MASON.
Excerpted from pages 91 – 170 of
by Albert G. Mackey
“A degree indescribably more august, sublime and important than any which precede it; and is, in fact, the summit and perfection of ancient Masonry. It impresses on our minds a belief in the being of a God, without beginning of days or end of years, the great and incomprehensible Alpha and Omega, and reminds us of the reverence which is due to His holy Name.”
Oliver's Historical Landmarks.
In the preceding degrees we see the gradual progress of man from the cradle to the grave, depicted in his advancement through the several grades of the masonic system. We see him acquiring at his initiation the first elements of morality, and when about to represent the period of manhood, invested with new communications of a scientific character, and discharging the duties of life in various conditions. Again, at a later stage of his progress we find him attaining the experience of a well-spent life, and in the joyful hope of a blessed resurrection putting his house in order, and preparing for his final departure.
And now with reverential awe we continue the sacred theme, and in the last degree symbolically allude to the rewards prepared for those who, in the pursuits of life, have distinguished themselves by a patient “continuance in well-doing.”
Life, without some definite object in view, would be but a wearisome and monotonous existence. Every man, therefore, by the very instinct, as it were, of his nature, sets out with the proposed pursuit of some particular aim. To one it is wealth—to another, fame—to a third, pleasure. But whatever it may be, its attainment is considered as necessary to the happiness of the party seeking it.
The great object of pursuit in masonry—the scope and tendency of all its investigations—is TRUTH. This is the goal to which all masonic labor evidently tends. Sought for in every degree, and constantly approached, but never thoroughly and intimately embraced, at length, in the Royal Arch, the veils which concealed the object of search from our view are withdrawn, and the inestimable prize is revealed.
This truth which masonry makes the great object of its investigations, is not the mere truth of science, or the truth of history, but is the more important truth which is synonymous with the knowledge of the nature of God—that truth which is embraced in the sacred tetragrammaton or omnific name, including in its signification His eternal, present, past and future existence, and to which He Himself alluded when He declared to Moses—“I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty: but by my name Jehovah was I not known unto them.”
This knowledge of divine truth is never thoroughly attained in life; the corruptions of mortality, which encumber and cloud the human intellect, hide it as with a thick veil from mortal eyes. It is only beyond the tomb and when released from the burthen of life, that man is capable fully of receiving and appreciating the revelation. Hence, when we figuratively speak of its discovery in the Royal Arch degree, we mean to intimate that that sublime portion of the masonic system is a symbolic representation of the state after death. The vanities and follies of life are now supposed to be passed away—the first temple which we had erected with such consummate labor and apparent skill, for the reception of the Deity, has proved an imperfect and a transitory edifice; decay and desolation have fallen upon it, and from its ruins, deep beneath its foundations, and in the profound abyss of the grave, we find that mighty truth, in the search for which, life was spent in vain, and the mystic key to which death only could supply, when, having passed the portals of the grave, we shall begin to occupy that second temple, that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
Every reflecting mason must at once be struck with the fact that the third degree, or, as Hutchinson calls it, “The Master Mason's Order,” presents all the appearance of being in a mutilated condition—that it is imperfect and unfinished in its history, and that, terminating abruptly as it does, it leaves the mind unsatisfied and craving for something that it does not and cannot supply. Now a reference to this fact is the first step towards an acquaintance with the true origin of the Royal Arch degree.
As an independent degree, given under a distinct jurisdiction and furnished with a separate but appropriate ritual, it is undoubtedly a modern degree, of comparatively recent establishment; but as a complement of the Master Mason's order, as supplying the deficiency of that degree in masonic symbolism it is, and of course must be, as old as the organization of which it forms so important and so necessary a part. The third degree is a symbolic memorial of events which took place at the first temple. The Royal Arch is equally a symbolic memorial of events that occurred at the second, and as the one would be incomplete without the other, we have every reason to suppose that each was adopted at the earliest period of the modem organization of Freemasonry as a memorial system. Indeed they must go together. The Royal Arch is the cape-stone of the masonic edifice, but the third degree is its foundation, and without the presence of both the building would be incomplete. The Royal Arch is absolutely necessary to the perfection of the Master's degree as a science of symbolism, and the latter cannot be understood without the developments of the former. They are the first and second volumes of a continuous history, and the absence of either would mutilate the work.
All of this, it must be remembered, is to be understood of the two degrees, simply in their modern organization, as a record, appropriated to a symbolic purpose, of the events to which they allude. Of course no one can indulge in the absurdity of supposing that the Royal Arch degree could have existed contemporaneously with the Master's at the time of the building of the first temple. Neither degree, in fact, in its present form is to be dated even at the later period of the building of the second. The events which they record of course occurred at the correct historic periods; but the organization and establishment of these degrees as records or memorials of these events, must have been a subsequent invention, when, we know not; nor is it essential to know. Certainly it was at a period beyond the memory of man, and outside of the records of history.
The Third Degree records a loss intrinsically of but little value, yet, in its symbolical reference, of the utmost importance. The Royal Arch records a recovery which is equally symbolical. The recovery cannot be appreciated unless we have first experienced the loss, and the loss would be unmeaning did we not subsequently meet with the recovery.
Accordingly, the Royal Arch degree was, anciently, always considered as a complement of the Master's, and was, therefore, originally conferred in symbolic lodges under the sanction of a Master's warrant. But as to the time when it was first dissevered from this connection and placed under a separate jurisdiction,masonic writers were not able to agree until the lucid explanations of the venerable Oliver have completely settled the long vexed question. [See Oliver, George. Some Account of the Schism which took place during the Last Century amongst the Free and Accepted Masons in England, showing the presumed Origin of the Royal Arch Degree; &c.]
It seems to be evident, from the researches of this learned masonic historian, that until the year 1740, the essential element of the Royal Arch constituted a component part of the Master's degree, and was of course its concluding portion; that as a degree, it was not at all recognized, being but the complement of one; that about that time it was dissevered from its original connection and elevated to the position and invested with the form of a distinct degree by the body which called itself “the Grand Lodge of England according to the old Constitutions,” but which is more familiarly known as the Dermott or the Atholl Grand Lodge, and frequently as “the ancients,” in contradistinction to the legitimate Grand Lodge which was styled “the moderns.”
The jurisdiction of the degree still however continued to be under Master's lodges, and many years elapsed before it was taken thence and placed under the control of distinct bodies called Grand Chapters. In America it was not until 1798 that a Grand Chapter was formed, and many lodges persisted for some years after in conferring the Royal Arch degree under the authority of their warrants from Grand Lodges.
CHAPTER OF ROYAL ARCH MASONS.
The title of the High Priest is “Most Excellent.” He represents Joshua, or Jeshua, who was the son of Josedech, and the High Priest of the Jews, when they returned from the Babylonian exile. He is seated in the east and clothed in the apparel of the ancient High Priest of the Jews. He wears a robe of blue, purple, scarlet and white linen, and is decorated with a breast-plate and mitre. On the front of the mitre is inscribed the words “Holiness to the Lord.” His jewel is a mitre.
The King represents Zerubbabel, who was the son of Shealtiel, and the Prince of Judah, being lineally descended from King Solomon. He was the leader of the first colony of Jews who returned from the captivity at Babylon to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord. He sits on the right hand of the High Priest, clothed in a scarlet robe, with a crown on his head and a sceptre in his hand. His jewel is a level surmounted by a crown.
The Scribe represents Haggai the prophet, who returned with Joshua and Zerubbabel to Jerusalem at the liberation of the Jews by Cyrus from their Babylonish captivity. He sits on the left hand of the High Priest clothed in a purple robe and wearing a turban of the same color. His jewel is a plumb-line surmounted by a turban. The Sophar or Scribe among the Jews at the period to which the Royal Arch degree refers, was a learned man whose duty it was to expound the law, and to take care of the records. He may be considered as in some measure a minister of state. Dr. Beard, in Kitto's Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature, thus describes the functions of the Scribes: “The Scribes had the care of the law; it was their duty to make transcripts of it; they also expounded its difficulties and taught its doctrines, and so performed several functions which are now distributed among different professions, being keepers of the records, consulting lawyers, authorized expounders of holy writ, and, finally, schoolmasters—thus blending together in one character the several elements of intellectual, moral, social, and religious influence. It scarcely needs to be added that their power was very great.” These three officers constitute the Grand Council.
The Captain of the Host represents the general or leader of the Jewish troops who returned from Babylon and who was called “Sar el hatzaba” and was equivalent to a modern general. He sits on the right of the council in front, and wears a white robe, and cap or helmet with a red sash, and is armed with a sword. His jewel is a triangular plate, on which an armed soldier is engraved.
The Principal Sojourner represents the spokesman and leader of a small party of Israelites who had sojourned in Babylon for a short time after the departure of the main body of exiles, and subsequently came up to Jerusalem. He sits on the left of the council, in front, and wears dark robe with a rose colored tesselated border, and a slouched hat and pilgrim's rod or staff. His jewel is a triangular plate, on which a pilgrim is engraved.
The Royal Arch Captain represents the “Sar hatabahim” or Captain of the King's guards. He sits in front of the council and at the entrance of the fourth veil. He wears a white robe and cap, and is armed with a sword, and bears a white pennon or banner. His jewel is a sword.
The Grand Masters of the three veils represent the attendants on the tabernacle. They sit at the entrance of their respective veils, and wear robes and caps of different colors. The Master of the third veil wears a scarlet robe and cap, the Master of the second a purple robe and cap, and the Master of the first a blue robe and cap. Each is armed with a sword, and bears a flag or pennon of the same color as his robe and the veil which he guards. Their jewel is the same as that of the Royal Arch Captain.
The Jewels of a Chapter are of gold, and each is suspended within a triangle. Those of a Grand Chapter are suspended within a circle.
The symbolic color of this degree is scarlet.
The collar and sash of a Royal Arch Mason are scarlet, edged with gold. The sash passes from the left shoulder to the right hip; and on that part of it which crosses the breast, the words “Holiness to the Lord” should be painted or embroidered in gilt letters.
The apron is of white lamb-skin, edged with scarlet ribbon.
THE ROYAL ARCH EMBLEM.
The emblem of Royal Arch Masonry is the triple tau which is a figure of three tau crosses, conjoined after the following form:
The signification of this emblem has been variously interpreted. Some have supposed it to be the initials H. T. which may stand for Hiram of Tyre, or for Templum Hierosolymae, the Temple of Jerusalem; and others, that it was intended to typify the sacred name of God. The following explanation is offered as the most probable one of the true meaning of this important emblem.
The tau-cross T, so called from its resemblance to the Greek letter tau, was among the ancients the hieroglyphic of eternal life. Among the Brahmins it was marked upon the bodies of candidates as a sign that they were set apart for initiation. It was also familiarly known to the Hebrews, and is thus alluded to in the vision of Ezekiel (9:4), “Go through the midst of the city and set a tau upon the foreheads of the men that sigh, and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof.” And this mark, or tau, was intended to distinguish those upon whom it was placed, as persons to be saved on account of their sorrow for sin, from those who as idolators were to be slain. The tau was therefore a symbol of those who were consecrated or set apart for some holy purpose. The triple tau may, with the same symbolic allusion, be supposed to be used in the Royal Arch degree, as designating and separating those who have been taught the true name of God, from those who are ignorant of that august mystery.
In English masonry, this emblem is so highly esteemed as to be styled the “emblem of all emblems,” and the “grand emblem of Royal Arch Masonry.” Within a triangle and circle it constitutes the Royal Arch jewel. [The English Royal Arch lectures thus define it. “The Triple Tan forms two right angles on each of the exterior lines, and another at the centre by their union; for the three angles of each triangle are equal to two right angles. This being triplified, illustrates the jewel worn by the companions of the Royal Arch; which by its intersection forms a given number of angles, that may be taken in five several combinations; and reduced, their amount in right angles will be found equal to the five Platonic bodies which represent the four elements and the sphere of the Universe.”] In America, this symbol has not been generally adopted; but at the triennial session of the General Grand Chapter of the United States, held at Chicago, in 1859, a Royal Arch apron was prescribed, consisting of a lamb-skin, (silk or satin being strictly prohibited,) to be lined and bound with scarlet; on the flap of which should be placed a triple tau, within a triangle and all within a circle.
Chapters of Royal Arch Masons are “dedicated to Prince Zerubbabel.”
Candidates receiving this degree are said to be “exalted to the august degree of the Holy Royal Arch.”
Documents connected with Royal Arch Masonry are dated from the era of the building of the second temple and the time of that important discovery which gave origin to the degree. Hence such documents are dated as A:. I:. that is, Anno Inventionis, or, in the Year of the discovery, and as the second temple was begun to be built 530 before Christ, the Royal Arch date is found by adding 530 to the date of the Christian era. Thus the year 1858 would in Royal Arch documents be marked as A:. I:. 2388.
SCRIPTURE READING AT THE OPENING OF A CHAPTER OF ROYAL ARCH MASONS.
The following charge is read at the opening of a chapter:
“Now we command you, brethren, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us; for we behaved ourselves not disorderly among you. Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought, but wrought with labor and travail day and night that we might not be chargeable to any of you. Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat; for we hear there are some who walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busy-bodies. Now them that are such, we command and exhort, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always.” — 2 Thessalonians 3:6-16.
The passage of Scripture here cited is an exhortation against idleness; and is very appropriately selected to be read at the opening of a chapter, to teach us that as Royal Arch Masons we are still called on to labor, freely and without weakness. Though the old temple be destroyed, we must labor in building the new; though the word be lost, we must labor for its recovery. Masonic labor is the search for the word—the search after Divine truth. This and this only is the mason's work, and the word is his reward.
Labor, said the old monks, is worship—“laborare est orare”—and thus in our sacred retreats do we worship—working for the truth—working for the word—ever looking forward—casting no glance behind—well knowing that, “if any will not work, neither shall he eat;” but cheerily hoping for the consummation and the reward of our labor in the sublime knowledge which is promised to him who plays no laggart's part; and which, when this earthly temple is dissolved, we shall find in that second temple, not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
LECTURE AND RECEPTION.
The lecture in the Royal Arch degree is divided into two sections; and as Webb has very properly said, “It should be well understood by every Royal Arch Mason, as upon an accurate acquaintance with it will depend his usefulness at our assemblies, and without it he will be unqualified to perform the duties of the various stations in which his services may be required by the chapter.” But beyond this assistance, which it gives in the practical working of the ceremonial of the degree, the lecture is of no utility. When the student desires light upon the history, the traditions and the symbolism of the Royal Arch, he must apply to other sources, and must make himself acquainted with the profane as well as sacred history of the times and events to which the degree refers, if he would thoroughly appreciate its esoteric teachings.
The following works, among others, are especially recommended to the perusal of the student in Royal Arch Masonry. They are all easily accessible:
“The Antiquities of the Jews,” by Flavius Josephus; the 9th, 10th and 11th books.
“The Old and New Testament connected in the History of the Jews and Neighboring Nations,” by Humphrey Prideaux, D.D. Part I. Books 1, 2 and 3 are of essential use.
“A System of Speculative Masonry,” by Rev. Salem Town, A.M.; especially the 13th and 19th chapters.
“Some Account of the Schisms which took place during the last century amongst the Free and Accepted Masons in England, showing the Presumed Origin of the Royal Arch Degree,” by Rev. Geo. Oliver, D.D.
“The Insignia of the Royal Arch, as it was used at the first establishment of the degree, illustrated and explained,” by the same author. These two works are always printed together; the one being supplementary to the other. Morris has republished them in the 13th volume of his Universal Masonic Library. They are highly interesting; but no Royal Arch Mason can expect to be a thorough master of his science unless he attentively reads the following:
“The Historical Landmarks of Freemasonry,” by Dr. Oliver; from the 33d to the 48th chapter. The 44th chapter on the tetragrammaton must he closely studied.
FIRST SECTION OF THE LECTURE.
The first section explains the organization of a chapter, and the stations and duties of its officers. With this section every officer of a chapter should be intimately acquainted. A knowledge of it is essentially necessary to all who are engaged in the ceremony of the opening of a chapter.
A Royal Arch Chapter represents the tabernacle erected by our ancient brethren near the ruins of King Solomon's Temple.
SYMBOLISM OF THE VEILS.
Blue, is emblematic of universal friendship and benevolence, and teaches us that those virtues should be as expansive in the breast of every mason as the blue vault of heaven itself.
Purple, being formed by a due admixture of blue and scarlet, is intended to remind us of the intimate connection that exists between symbolic masonry and the Royal Arch degree.
Scarlet, is emblematic of that fervency and zeal which should actuate all Royal Arch Masons, and is peculiarly characteristic of this degree.
White, is emblematic of that purity of life and rectitude at conduct by which alone we can expect to gain admission into the holy of holies above.
The Second Section of the Royal Arch Lecture furnishes valuable information in reference to the events that are commemorated in this degree, and correctly details the ceremony of exaltation. It may, for convenience, be appropriately divided into two clauses, each referring to a different historic period.
Our attention is here invited by appropriate symbolic ceremonies to the destruction of the city of Jerusalem, and the temple of the Lord by the Chaldean monarch Nebuchadnezzar, who carried the Jews as captives into Babylon.
The following passages of Scripture are to be recited during this clause of the ceremony of exaltation:
“I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known; I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight; these things will I do unto them and not forsake them.” — Isaiah 42:16.
As the return of the captives from Babylon forms a prominent reference in the Royal Arch degree, it was exceedingly appropriate to commence the ritual by a selection of these words from Isaiah, which form a part of that series of sublime chapters in which, as Bishop Lowth remarks, “the return of the Jews from the captivity of Babylon is the first, though not the principal thing in the prophet's view.” These verses, in particular, contain a promise of guidance and protection to the captives through the uncultivated deserts and barbarous people that were interposed between Babylon and Jerusalem. Of course it has a sublimer prophetic sense, which the pious and intelligent candidate will readily apply. Masonically it is analogous to a similar encouragement given in the commencement of the Entered Apprentice's degree to him who puts his trust in God. It is well, on all such occasions, in the incipiency of his masonic journey to remind the candidate that he is in the hands of a true and trusty friend in whom he may well confide, which friend is none other than the G:. A:. O:. T:. U:.
The Divine Master has said, “he that humbleth himself shall be exalted,” (Luke 14:11); and thus after being first taught to put his trust in God as a faithful friend and guide, the recipient next learns by an impressive ceremony the necessity of humiliation and self-abasement. Humility is an essential virtue to all who are engaged in the search after truth. Plato says, that truth lies concealed in a well, which thought may perhaps be intended to teach us that we should look for it in the humblest places. Humility is a virtue carefully inculcated throughout the Sacred Scriptures, as ever meeting its reward in subsequent exaltation. It is with diffidence and humility that the wise man should approach such mysterious subjects as the nature and attributes of Deity. The mason who seeks advancement must lay aside all pride and arrogance, and with an humble spirit, a readiness to learn, and an anxiety to be taught, must throw himself at the feet of his preceptor and receive the new light and truth for which he craves. And so the candidate for the sublime mysteries of this august degree is first to learn on its very threshold to bow his head and to stoop low, ever remembering that, he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
PRAYER AT EXALTATION.
During the ceremony of exaltation, it is proper to recite the following prayer.
Supreme Architect of the Universe, who, by thine Almighty Word, didst speak into being the stupendous arch of heaven, and for the instruction and pleasure of thy rational creatures, didst adorn us with greater and lesser lights, thereby magnifying thy power, and endearing thy goodness unto the sons of men: We humbly adore and worship thine unspeakable perfection. We bless thee, that when man had fallen from his innocence and happiness, thou didst leave him the powers of reasoning, and capacity of improvement and of pleasure. We thank thee that amidst the pains and calamities of our present state, so many means of refreshment and satisfaction are reserved to us, while traveling the rugged path of life; especially would we, at this time, render thee our thanksgiving and praise for the institution, as members of which we are at this time, assembled, and for all the pleasures we have derived from it. We thank thee that the few here assembled before thee, have been favored with new inducements, and been laid under new and stronger obligations of virtue and holiness. May these obligations, O blessed Father! have their full effect upon us. Teach us, we pray thee, the true reverence of thy great, mighty, and terrible name. Inspire us with a firm and unshaken resolution in our virtuous pursuits. Give us grace diligently to search thy word in the book of nature, wherein the duties of our high vocation are inculcated with divine authority. May the solemnity of the ceremonies of our institution be duly impressed on our minds, and have a happy and lasting effect on our lives! O thou, who didst aforetime appear unto thy servant Moses in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush, enkindle, we beseech thee, in each of our hearts, a flame of devotion to thee, of love to each other, and of charity to all mankind! May all thy miracles and mighty works fill us with thy dread, and thy goodness impress us with a love of thy holy name! May Holiness to the Lord, be engraven upon all our thoughts, words, and actions! May the incense of piety ascend continually unto thee, from the altar of our hearts and burn day and night, as a sacrifice of sweet smelling savor, well pleasing unto thee! And since sin has destroyed within us the first temple of purity and innocence, may thy heavenly grace guide and assist us in rebuilding a second temple of reformation, and may the glory of this latter house, be greater than the glory of the former! So mote it be. Amen.
"The fraternity," says Bro. Scott, “are taught the necessity of appealing to the throne of heaven before entering upon any important undertaking. To the Father of all we must ask for strength and power to support us in every trial, duty, and emergency in life. It is not difficult for us to learn who taught us to pray, and how to pray. The Holy One prompts the sinful heart to plead for forgiveness, and ask for heavenly things.” [Scott, Charles. Analogy of Ancient Craft Masonry. p. 33.]
Kneeling is the appropriate attitude in which this sublime prayer should be offered up. “Kneeling,” says Horne, “was ever considered to be the proper posture of supplication, as it expressed humility, contrition, and subjection. For as among the ancients, the forehead was consecrated to genius, the ear to memory, and the right hand to faith, so the knees were consecrated to mercy.” [Horne, Thomas. Intro. to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, vol. II. part III, chap. V, sect. II, p. 131.]
DUTIES AND OBLIGATIONS OF THE DEGREE.
The extended duties and obligations of this degree are next referred to by those impressive ceremonies which are peculiar to Freemasonry. The obligations imposed by exaltation to this august degree, although of the most solemn nature, are still eminently practical in their nature, for it must be remembered, to borrow the language of a distinguished brother [Albert Pike], that as “the order of masonry was instituted for the improvement of mankind, so it demands the performance of no duty, the practice of no principle that is extravagant or impracticable.”
“Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the back side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, even to Horeb. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush, and he looked, and, behold the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.
“And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush and said, Moses, Moses! And he said, Here am I. And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.” — Exodus 3:4-6.
THE BURNING BUSH.
It was at the Burning Bush that Moses received that divine commission in fulfillment of which he composed the Pentateuch. And as it is from these writings of Moses that we derive all those significant teachings by which a Royal Arch Mason is eminently distinguished from the rest of the fraternity, it is peculiarly appropriate to introduce the instructions, hereafter to be given, by a recital of the passage which details the circumstances under which the Jewish lawgiver received the power and authority to perform those miracles which are referred to in subsequent parts of the degree.
But the Burning Bush, as the spot where the G:. A:. O:. T:. U:. first made himself known to Moses, and through him to his chosen people, becomes to the Royal Arch Mason, the source of light and knowledge, and takes the position occupied by the East in symbolic masonry. And hence, in some of the higher degrees, masonic documents are dated not from “the East” but from the “B:. B:.” that is, the Burning Bush.
The following passages of Scripture are read with impressive ceremonies:
“Zedekiah was one-and-twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord. And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar; but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart, from turning unto the Lord God of Israel. Moreover, all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord, which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy. Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age; he gave them all into his hand. And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons, until the reign of the kingdom of Persia.” — 2 Chronicles 36:11-20.
THE DESTRUCTION OF JERUSALEM.
The Temple was destroyed in the year of the world 3416 and 588 years before the birth of Christ, being just 416 years since its dedication by King Solomon. For a more particular detail of the events connected with the destruction of the temple, the reader is referred to the first lecture on the Royal Arch history appended to this book.
With the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem and the carrying of the Jews into captivity, ends the first clause of the Royal Arch reception.
The second clause commences by a reference to that happy period when Cyrus, having overthrown the Chaldean dynasty, restored the captive Jews to liberty and permitted them to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of rebuilding the house of the Lord.
PROCLAMATION OF CYRUS.
The ceremonies begin by a recital of the following passages of Scripture:
“Now in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying: Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia, the Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, which is in Jerusalem.” — Ezra 1:1-3.
“And Moses said unto God, Behold! when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, the God of your fathers hath sent me unto you, and they shall say to me, What is his name? What shall I say to them?” — Exodus 3:13.
“And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: And thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” — Exodus 3:14.
The Egyptians worshipped the Sun as their chief deity, under the appellation of ON, and it was to distinguish himself as the true and only God that Jehovah in the passage just recited instructed Moses to inform the Israelites that he came to them by the authority of him who was I AM THAT I AM, which term signifies the Self Existent Being. This method of denoting the Supreme Deity was adopted by the Jews under the teachings of Moses, and distinguished them from all heathen nations of the world. It became, therefore, the shibboleth, as it were, of their religion, and was appropriately selected as a token by which the captives might on their arrival at Jerusalem, prove themselves to be the true children of the covenant and worthy to be employed in the task of rebuilding the house of the Lord.
THE RETURN OF THE JEWS FROM THE CAPTIVITY.
The return of the captives from Babylon to Jerusalem through a barren wilderness beset by hostile tribes and over a dry desert unsupplied with water to quench their thirst, or any means of subsistence, must have proved to these weary and footsore pilgrims a rough and rugged road. The passages of Scripture selected as a memorial of the tribulations of that journey are appropriately taken from those Psalms which are supposed to have been written by David when in cirumstances of great distress—the first when he was flying from the anger of Saul; the second when concealed in the cave of En-gedi from the persecutions of his enemies; and the last, when in great sorrow on account of the rebellion of his son Absalom. They are here, however, referred, as they have been by some commentators, to the condition of the exiles at Babylon.
“Lord, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice. Let my prayer be set forth before thee, as incense: and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work iniquity. Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil. Mine eyes are unto thee, O God the Lord; in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute. Keep me from the snare which they have laid for me, and the gins of the workers of iniquity. Let the wicked fall into their own nets, whilst that I withal escape.” — Psalms 141:1-10.
“I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication. I poured out my complaint before him; I showed before him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked, have they privily laid a snare for me. I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me; refuge failed me: no man cared for my soul. I cried unto thee, O Lord; I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living. Attend unto my cry, for I am brought very low; deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name.” — Psalms 142:1-7.
“Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness. And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
“For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath made me to dwell in darkness. Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate. Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit. Cause me to hear thy loving kindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk, for I lift up my soul unto thee. Bring my soul out of trouble, and of thy mercy cut off mine enemies: for I am thy servant.” — Psalms 143:1-12.
But rough and rugged as was the road, and long and toilsome as was the march, it at last came to an end, and the weary sojourners were blessed with a sight of the ruined walls of Jerusalem and the glistening tents of their brethren. Here they turned aside to rest; and here too we may pause in our review of the ritual, to investigate the nature of the temporary tabernacle which is said to have been erected by the Jewish leaders near the ruins of the temple.
We are not to suppose that the tabernacle represented in the ceremonies of the Royal Arch degree is an exact copy of the tabernacle constructed by Moses, and which served as a pattern for that erected by Zerubbabel and his colleagues near the ruins of King Solomon's Temple. It is unnecessary here to enter into an elaborate description of the Mosaic tabernacle; it will be sufficient to say that although the colors of the veils were the same, namely, blue, purple, scarlet, and fine linen, yet their disposition was entirely different from that observed in the tabernacle of the Royal Arch.
This is, however, a matter of not the slightest importance to the substantial character and design of the degree. The tabernacle erected by Zerubbabel and the restored captives was intended for practical purposes of religious observances and was obliged to be constructed according to the exact specifications laid down in the twenty-sixth chapter of Exodus. The tabernacle used in Freemasonry is altogether symbolical, and therefore architectural correctness was by no means necessary to the preservation of the symbols inculcated by it.
It is the same thing in respect to the analogy of the blue lodge to Solomon's temple. The former is a representation of the latter, only in a symbolic sense. And yet a great superfluity of learning has been wasted by some writers to prove that the whole system of Freemasonry is a failure, simply because the position, the form and decorations of the temple are not accurately preserved in every village lodge room throughout the country. For instance, Dr. Dalcho, in his “Orations,” thinks he discovers an insurmountable error in the ritual of the Master's degree, because in the ancient temple “there was a gate on the north side, but none on the west, because the Sanctum Sanctorum was built there.” Dalcho, in this passage, as well as in many others of the same work, and in the notes to his Ahiman Rezon, shows very conclusively that he was not intimately conversant with the esoteric symbolism of the order. It is essential to the symbolic instruction of Masonry, that there should be a gate on the west and none on the north of the lodge, but it by no means affects the integrity of our system that a different arrangement existed at the temple. We must preserve the symbolism, but we may neglect the architectural details.
So in the Masonic tabernacle, the four colors of the veils in the Mosaic tabernacle have been preserved because these colors are symbolic; but no attention has been paid to their correct distribution, as in this there was no symbolism.
We say then, with these explanatory remarks, that in the Royal Arch degree, we represent the tabernacle erected by our ancient brethren near the ruins of King Solomon's temple.
Prideaux denies that any such tabernacle was erected by the captives on their return; but Bishop Patrick, an almost equally learned authority, thinks that there was; and says, in his Commentary on I Chronicles 9:11, “As before the first temple was built there was a tabernacle for divine service, so after the second was founded, they erected a tabernacle till this temple could be finished. Without which they could not have performed the several parts of the worship of God which were annexed to the several parts of the holy places, according to law.” [Patrick, Simon, et al. A Critical Commentary and Paraphrase on the Old and New Testament, vol. II. p. 557.]
Reason, as well as masonic tradition, support the opinion of Bishop Patrick.
THE SIGNS OF MOSES.
The reference in a previous part of the degree to the Burning Bush, where God first made his true name known to Moses, has prepared the mind for the reception of those other revelations of the divine interview, in which the Deity communicated to the patriarch those miraculous signs by which he was to convince the people to whom he was to be sent of the truth of his mission. And hence we now begin to recite from the books of Moses the account of the establishment of these signs. The symbolism is here worthy of attention. As these signs were ordained by their divine author to establish the authority of the mission in which the Jewish lawgiver was to be engaged in rescuing his people from the darkness of Egyptian idolatry, and in bringing them to the knowledge and worship of the true God, so are they here symbolic of' the evidence which every mason is to give of his mission in rescuing himself from the bondage of falsehood and in searching for divine truth.
SYMBOLISM OF THE SERPENT.
“And Moses answered and said, But behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee. And the Lord said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, a rod. And He said, Cast it on the ground: and he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand. That they may believe that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee.” — Exodus 4:1-5.
The serpent has always been considered by masonic writers as a legitimate symbol of Freemasonry, and yet it is singular that in the whole ritual of the York rite this is the only instance in which any allusion is made to it. In the other masonic systems it is, however, repeatedly referred to. Dr. Oliver says that, “amongst masons it serves to remind us of our fall in Adam and our restoration in Christ.” These events are symbolically represented in masonry by the loss and recovery of the word. Hence the reference in this place to the symbol of the serpent must in this view be considered as peculiarly appropriate.
In the course of these ceremonies reference is made at different times, to three important constructions in Scriptural history, namely, the three arks and the three tabernacles.
Here our attention is invited by memorial words to the first ark, the ark of safety, which was constructed by Shem, Ham and Japhet, under the superintendence of Noah, and in which, as a tabernacle of refuge, the chosen family took temporary shelter until the subsidence of the waters of the deluge. [That the ark of Noah was also a tabernacle of Jehovah is the opinion of many learned biblical commentators. Dr. Jarvis, speaking of the zohar, which in our common version of Genesis 6:16, has been translated “window,” says, “I take it to have been the Divine Shechinah or glory of Jehovah, dwelling between the cherubim, which were now brought from their place at the east of Eden, as the ark afterwards was from the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle into the Holy of Holies of the first Temple.” — Jarvis, Samuel. Church of the Redeemed, vol. I. p. 20, note 8.]
SYMBOLISM OF THE LEPROUS HAND.
“And the Lord said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom; and he put his hand into his bosom; and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. And He said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again; and he put his hand into his bosom again; and he plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.” — Exodus 4:6-8.
Here, again, in the hand becoming leprous and being then restored to soundness, we have a repetition of the reference to the loss and the recovery of the word; the word itself being but a symbol of divine truth, the search for which constitutes the whole science of Freemasonry, and the symbolism of which pervades the whole system of initiation from the first to the last degree.
And here we have an allusion to the second ark and tabernacle, the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle in the wilderness, which were constructed by Moses, Aholiab and Bezaleel, as we find recorded in Exodus 36:2, “And Moses called Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wise-hearted man in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even every one whose heart stirred him up, to come unto the work to do it.” And in a previous passage (31:1-7), “And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, See, I have called by name Bezaleel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, and in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship, to devise cunning works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in cutting of stones to set them, and in carving of timber, to work in all manner of workmanship. And I, behold, I have given with him Aholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, and in the hearts of all that are wise-hearted I have put wisdom that they may make all that I have commanded thee: the tabernacle of the congregation, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is thereupon, and all the furniture of the tabernacle.” [The reference at this place which is made in some chapters to Adoniram, who was one of the craftsmen at the temple of Solomon, and the mixture of his name with that of two of the sons of Noah who lived almost two thousand years before him, is so preposterous an anachronism, as to prove that it is a palpable innovation, at first introduced by some ignorant ritualist, and perpetuated by subsequent carelessness. It cannot be explained on any principles of symbolism; it is supported by none of the writers on Royal Arch Masonry, all of whom here make the reference to the constructors of the tabernacle and ark of the testimony; and it is absurd and nonsensical, and therefore manifestly not masonic. These three rules—the fitness of symbolism, the allusions and authority of learned writers, and the absence of absurdity, are excellent ones for judging in all disputed questions of ritualism where the nature of oral tradition deprives us of any others more direct.]
SYMBOLISM OF THE WATER TURNED TO BLOOD.
“And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe also these two signs, neither hearken unto thy voice, that thou shalt take of the water of the river, and pour it upon the dry land: and the water which thou takest out of the river, shall become blood upon the dry land.” — Exodus 4:9.
The last miraculous sign by which Moses was to establish his authority and to prove his mission among the Jews and the Egyptians is here recited. Masonically it bears the same symbolic reference as the other two, to a change for the better—from a lower to a higher state—from the elemental water in which there is no life, to the blood which is the life itself—from darkness to light. The progress is still onward to the recovery of that which had been lost, but which is yet to be found.
And here we find an allusion to the tabernacle erected for temporary worship by Joshua, Haggai and Zerubbabel, and to that imitative ark for whose history we are traditionally said to be indebted to the exertions of those illustrious personages.
The signet of Zerubbabel, which is adopted as one of the Royal Arch symbols, will be explained after the recital of the passage of Scripture which refers to it.
THE SIGNET OF ZERUBBABEL.
“In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts.” — Haggai 2:23.
The signet of Zerubbabel, or, as it is more properly explained, the signet of truth, is in this place a symbol of the promise that the search of the neophyte for truth will now speedily meet with its reward. The signet, or private seal, most frequently in the form of a signet ring, was anciently often given by monarchs, or other persons of high condition, instead of a written testimonial, to their servants as a token of some authority which had been delegated, and of which the possession of the signet was, therefore, the only evidence. Haggai, who came to Jerusalem to excite the Jews to greater diligence in the work of rebuilding the temple, thus encouraged them by the declaration that the Lord had made their leader, Zerubbabel, his signet. He had exalted him, to use the language of Dr. Clarke, “to high dignity, power and trust, of which the signet was the instrument, or sign, in those days.” He was to be under God's peculiar care, and to be to him very precious, and thus the signet of truth is presented to the aspirant to assure him that he is advancing in his progress to the attainment of truth, and that he is thus invested with the power to pursue the search. He who has got thus far in Royal Arch Masonry becomes the sworn servant of truth, and the signet is the token of his elevation.
As to the form of the signet, which in many chapters is most improperly represented by a triangular plate of metal, it may be observed that it always was a finger ring with some device upon it, and it is so called because it was anciently used, as it still is in the East, for the purpose of enabling the wearer to seal with it important documents, instead of subscribing his name, which, it is well known, that even royal personages, in early times, were often unable to do, from their ignorance of the art of writing.
These signets, or seal rings, called by the Hebrews chotam, are repeatedly alluded to in Scripture. They appear to have been known and used at an early period; for we find that when Judah asks Tamar what pledge he shall give her, she replies, “Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand.”—Genesis 38:18. They were worn on the finger, generally the index finger, and always on the right hand, as being the most honorable; thus in Jeremiah (22:24) we read: “as I live, saith the Lord, though Coniah, the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence.” They were also inscribed with some appropriate device by which the owner might be identified. The art of doing this must have been well known even in the days of Moses, for we find an allusion to engraving on stone, “like the engravings of a signet,” in the directions for making the breast-plate, as laid down in Exodus 28:11.
What was the particular device inscribed on the signet ring of Zerubbabel we cannot now determine, but we may conjecture, and perhaps approximate to truth. The signets of the ancients were generally sculptured with religious symbols, or the heads of their deities. The sphynx and the sacred beetle were favorite signets among the Egyptians. The former was adopted from that people by the Roman Emperor Augustus. The Babylonians followed the same custom, and many of their signets, remaining to this day, exhibit beautifully sculptured images of Baal-Berith, and other Chaldean deities. It was, perhaps, from the Babylonians that Zerubbabel learned the practice of wearing one, for Herodotus tells us that every Babylonian had a signet.
But the anti-idolatrous character of his faith must have prevented the Jewish prince from using any of the Chaldean objects of worship as a seal. May he not rather have adopted the great religious symbol of the Hebrews, and inscribed upon his signet ring the tetragrammaton or omnific name? Whether he did or not, this would at least be a most appropriate representation in our chapters of the seal of the illustrious builder of the second temple.
INCENSE BURNS DAY AND NIGHT ON THE ALTAR OF THE LORD.
The burning of incense constituted an essential part of the service of the temple, and large quantities of it were offered twice a day, at the morning and the evening sacrifice.
IMPOSTORS AMONG THE WORKMEN.
The following passage of Scripture from the 4th chapter of Ezra, verses 1 to 5, although forming no part of the ritual, may be read for a better understanding of the condition of affairs commemorated in this degree.
“Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the Lord God of Israel; then they came to Zerubbabel, and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esar-haddon, king of Assur, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel and Joshua, and the rest of the chiefs of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God, but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia has commanded us. Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building; and hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even unto the reign of Darius king of Persia.”
The exclusive character of the Jewish religion, separated as it always had been, by peculiar rites and a more exalted doctrine from that of every surrounding nation, made it impossible for its disciples to permit those who were not of the true and ancient faith to unite with them in any holy or religious work. Hence the builders of the second temple were extremely vigilant in seeing that no “impostors” from among “the adversaries,” that is, the Samaritans and the other nations with which the kings of Assyria had peopled Israel, should be allowed to mingle with the workmen. All who came up to this sacred task were bound to afford the evidence that they were the descendants of those faithful Giblemites who had wrought at the building of the first temple, who at its completion and dedication were received and acknowledged as Most Excellent Masters, at its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar were carried captives into Babylon, and being released by the proclamation of Cyrus, king of Persia, had come up to assist in the glorious task of rebuilding the house of the Lord without the hope of fee or reward. These, and these alone were permitted to engage in the construction of the edifice.
The working tools of a Royal Arch Mason are sometimes explained as follows:
The working tools of a Royal Arch Mason are the Crow, Pick-axe and Spade. The Crow is used by operative masons to raise things of great weight and bulk; the Pick-axe to loosen the soil and prepare it for digging; and the Spade to remove rubbish. But the Royal Arch Mason is emblematically taught to use them for more noble purposes. By them he is reminded that it is his sacred duty to lift from his mind the heavy weight of passions and prejudices which encumber his progress towards virtue, loosening the hold which long habits of sin and folly have had upon his disposition, and removing the rubbish of vice and ignorance, which prevents him from beholding that eternal foundation of truth and wisdom upon which he is to erect the spiritual and moral temple of his second life.
Until within a few years, architectural authorities have denied the antiquity of the arch and keystone, and have attributed their invention to a period not anterior to the era of the Roman emperor Augustus. Such a theory, if correct, would of course invalidate the historical truth of an important portion of the Royal Arch degree. Fortunately, therefore, the researches of modern archaeologists have traced the existence of the arch as far back as five hundred and fifty years before the building of King Solomon's temple, and thus completely reconciled the traditions of Freemasonry with the accuracy of history.
Mr. Wilkinson, the great Egyptian traveler, says that the arch “was evidently used in the tombs of the Egyptians as early as the commencement of the eighteenth dynasty, or about 1540 B.C.; and judging from some of the drawings at Beni Hassan, it seems to have been known in the time of the first Osirtasen, whom I suppose to have been contemporary with Joseph.” [Wilkinson, John. Manners and Customs of the Ancient Egyptians, vol. II. p. 117.]
“After this,” says Kitto, “it seems unreasonable to doubt that the arch was known to the Hebrews also, and employed in their buildings.”
But in the decision of the question we are not left to the suggestions of probability. Portions of the immense substructions of the temple of Solomon still exist, and have been recently discovered and explored. Messrs. Scoles and Catherwood, two English architects, were the first to notice the commencement of the spandril of an arch springing from these subterranean works towards Mount Zion, and Dr. Jarvis suggests that this arch “may have been part of the construction of Solomon's private entrance into the temple.” [Jarvis, Samuel. Church of the Redeemed, vol. I. p. 258.] The researches of subsequent travelers have discovered other vaults and arches beneath the temple, evidently the work of Solomon.
Freemasonry is throughout so connected a system that we are continually meeting in an inferior degree with something that is left to fee explained in a higher. Such is the case with the three squares of our ancient Grand Masters, whose peculiar history can only be understood by those who have advanced to the degree of Select Master.
ARK OF THE COVENANT.
The following quotation from the learned Dr. Lightfoot's “Prospect of the Temple,” (ch. 15), will at this time be read with interest by the Royal Arch Mason:
“It is fancied by the Jews, that Solomon, when he built the temple, foreseeing that the temple should be destroyed, caused very obscure and intricate vaults under ground to be made, wherein to hide the ark when any such danger came; that howsoever it went with the temple, yet the ark, which was the very life of the temple, might be saved. And they understand that passage in 2 Chronicles 35:3, 'Josiah said unto the Levites, put the holy ark into the house which Solomon, the son of David, did build,' &c., as if Josiah, having heard by the reading of Moses' manuscript and by Huldah's prophecy of the danger that hung over Jerusalem,—commanded to convey the ark into this vault, that it might be secured; and with it, say they, they laid up Aaron's rod, the pot of manna, and the anointing oil. For while the ark stood in its place, upon the stone mentioned,—they hold that Aaron's rod and the pot of manna stood before it; but, now, were all conveyed into obscurity—and the stone upon which the ark stood lay over the mouth of the vault. But Rabbi Solomon, which useth not, ordinarily, to forsake such traditions, hath given a more serious gloss upon the place; namely, that whereas Manasseh and Amon had removed the ark out of its habitation, and set up images and abominations there of their own,—Joshua speaketh to the priests to restore it to its place again. What became of the ark, at the burning of the temple by Nebuchadnezzar, we read not; it is most likely, it went to the fire also. However it sped, it was not in the second temple; and is one of the five choice things that the Jews reckon wanting there. Yet they had an ark there also of their own making, as they had a breast-plate of judgment; which, though they both wanted the glory of the former, which was giving of oracles, yet did they stand current as to the other matters of their worship, as the former breast-plate and ark had done.” [Lightfoot, John. Prospect of the Temple. pp. 295-6.]
The idea of the concealment of an ark and its accompanying treasures always prevailed in the Jewish church. The account given by the talmudists is undoubtedly mythical, but there must, as certainly, have been some foundation for the myth, for every myth has a substratum of truth. The masonic tradition differs from the rabbinical, but is in every way more reconcilable with truth, or at least with probability. The ark constructed by Moses, Aholiab and Bezaleel was burnt at the destruction of the first temple—but there was an exact representation of it in the second, of whose origin Royal Arch Masonry alone gives an account.
THE BOOK OF THE LAW — LONG LOST BUT NOW FOUND.
The Book of the Law furnishes us with the following passages, which may be appropriately read.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.” — Genesis 1:1-3.
“And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished, that Moses commanded the Levites which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying, Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.” — Deuteronomy 31:24-26.
“And thou shalt put the mercy-seat above, upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.” — Exodus 25:21.
There was a tradition among the Jews that the Book of the Law was lost during the captivity, and that it was among the treasures discovered during the building of the second temple. The same opinion was entertained by the early Christian fathers, such for instance as Irenaeus, Tertullian and Clemens Alexandrinus, “for,” says Prideaux, “they (the Christian fathers) hold that all the Scriptures were lost and destroyed in the Babylonish captivity, and that Ezra restored them all again by divine revelation.” [Prideaux, Humphrey. Old and New Testament Connected, vol. I. p. 368.] The truth of the tradition is very generally denied by biblical scholars, who attribute its origin to the fact that Ezra collected together the copies of the laws, expurgated them of the errors which had crept into them during the captivity, and arranged a new and correct edition. But the truth or falsity of the legend does not affect the masonic symbolism. The Book of the Law is the will of God, which, lost to us in our darkness, must be recovered as precedent to our learning what is TRUTH. As captives to error, truth is lost to us; when freedom is restored, the first reward will be its discovery.
POT OF MANNA.
“And Moses said, this is the thing which the Lord commandeth, Fill an omer of the manna, to be kept for your generations; that they may see the bread wherewith I have fed you in the wilderness, when I brought you forth from the land of Egypt. And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a pot, and put an omer full of manna therein, and lay it up before the Lord, to be kept for your generations. As the Lord commanded Moses, so Aaron laid it up before the testimony to be kept.” — Exodus 16:32-34.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token.” — Numbers 17:10.
In one of the highest degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite we find the following explanation of the symbolism of the key which is equally applicable to Royal Arch Masonry. “The key demonstrates that having obtained the key to our sublime mysteries, the mason, if he behaves with justice, fervency and zeal to his companions, will soon arrive at the true meaning of the masonic society.”
But the symbolism is here still further extended. It is within the sacred pages of the law that this invaluable key is found, which teaches us that it is only in the revelations of the Supreme Architect of the Universe that DIVINE TRUTH is to be discovered.
The following passage of Scripture is read as explanatory of an important mystery:
“And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the Lord: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah was I not known to them.” — Exodus 6:2-3.
The High Priest will then invest the candidates with an important secret of the degree, which should always be accompanied with an explanatory lecture.
The name of God, which we, at a venture, pronounce Jehovah—and which is called the “Tetragrammaton,” (from the Greek tetra, four, and gramma, letter,) because it consists in Hebrew of four letters, and the “Ineffable name,” because it was unlawful to pronounce it, was ever held by the Jews in the most profound veneration. They claim to have derived its origin from the immediate inspiration of the Almighty, who communicated it to Moses, as his especial appellation, to be used only by his chosen people. This communication was first made at. the Burning Bush, when God said to the Jewish lawgiver: “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel: Jehovah the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob hath sent me unto you: this [Jehovah] is my name forever, and this is my memorial unto all generations.” And at a subsequent period, he still more emphatically declared this to be his peculiar name, when he said: “I am Jehovah: and I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of El Shaddai; but by my name Jehovah was I not known unto them.”
Ushered to their notice by the utmost solemnity and religious consecration, this name of God became invested among the Israelites with the profoundest veneration and awe. To add to this mysticism, the Kabbalists, by the change of a single letter in the original, read the passage which is, “this is my name forever,” as if it had been written, “this is my name to be concealed.”
This interpretation, though founded on an error, and probably an intentional one, soon became a precept, and has been strictly obeyed to this day. The word Jehovah is never pronounced by a pious Jew, who, whenever he meets with it in Scripture, substitutes for it the word Adonai or Lord, a practice that has been followed by the translators of the common English version of the Bible with almost Jewish scrupulosity, the word Jehovah in the original being always translated by the word “Lord.” The use of this word being thus abandoned, its pronunciation was ultimately lost, since by the peculiar construction of the Hebrew language, which is entirely without vowel letters, the vocal sounds being supplied to the ear by oral teaching, the consonants, which alone constitute the alphabet, can, in their combination, give no possible indication, to one who has not heard it before, of the true pronounciation of any given word.
There was one person, however, who, it is said, was in possession of the proper sound of the letters and the true pronunciation of the word. This was the High Priest, who, receiving it through his predecessor, preserved the recollection of the sound by pronouncing it three times, once a year, on the day of Atonement, when he entered the holy of holies of the tabernacle or the temple.
If the traditions of masonry on this subject are correct, the kings, after the establishment of the monarchy, must sometimes have participated in this privilege, for Solomon is said to have been in possession of the word and to have communicated it to his two colleagues at the building of the temple. The Kabbalists and Talmudists have enveloped this ineffable name of God in a host of mystical superstitions, most of which are as absurd as they are incredible, but all of them tend to show the great veneration that has always been paid to it. Thus they say that it is possessed of unlimited powers, and that he who pronounces it shakes heaven and earth, and inspires the very angels with terror and astonishment. The Rabbins call it “shem hamphorash,” that is to say, “the name that was declared,” and they assert that David found it engraved on a stone while digging into the earth.
Besides the tetragrammaton or ineffable word, there are many varieties of the name which have been adopted with almost equal veneration among other nations of antiquity, of which the three following may be offered as instances.
1. Jah. This was the name of God in the Syrian language, and is still retained in some of the Syriac forms of doxology. It is to be found in the 68th Psalm, verse 4: “Extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name Jah,” and also in the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:2), where in the original it is “Jah is my strength and my song.”
2. Bel. This was the name of God among many of the eastern nations, and particularly among the Chaldeans. It is also frequently met with in Scripture when allusion is made to the idolatrous worship of the Pagan nations.
3. On. This was one of the names by which God was worshipped by the Egyptians. It is also alluded to in the sacred writings, as when we are told that Pharaoh gave Joseph for his wife, “Asenath, the daughter of Poti-pherah, priest of On.” (Genesis 41:45.)
Now all these names of God, which, with many others to be found in the ineffable degrees of masonry, make up a whole system, are eminently symbolical. In fact, the name of God must be taken, in Freemasonry, as the symbol of TRUTH, and then the search for it will be nothing but the search after truth, which is the true end and aim of the masonic science of symbolism. The subordinate names are subordinate modifications of truth, but the ineffable tetragrammaton is the symbol of the sublimity and perfection of divine truth, to which all good masons and all good men are seeking to advance, whether it be by the aid of the theological ladder, or by passing between the pillars of Strength and Establishment, or by wandering in darkness, beset on all sides by dangers, or by traveling, weary and worn, over rough and rugged roads—whatever be the direction of our journey, or how accomplished, light and truth, the Urim and Thummim, are the ultimate objects of our search and our labor as Freemasons. [See Mackey's Lexicon of Freemasonry, where the words “Jehovah” and “Name of God” will be found to contain information interesting to the Royal Arch Mason.]
THE TRIANGULAR PLATE OF GOLD.
The equilateral triangle was adopted by nearly all the nations of antiquity as a symbol of the Deity. The Egyptians, for instance, considered it as the representative of the great principle of animated existence. Among the Hebrews it was often used as a symbol of the tetragrammaton, and in masonry it retains the same signification, being the symbol of the Grand Architect of the Universe and Bestower of Light, its three sides representing the Past, the Present, and the Future, all of which are contained in the eternal existence of Jehovah.
THE CUBICAL STONE.
The cubical stone to which the neophyte is for the first time introduced in this degree is the Masonic stone of foundation, which occupies so large and important a portion of the legends and traditions of the order. This stone inscribed with a mystical diagram representing the Ineffable Name, is said to have been in the possession of Adam in Paradise—to have been used by Abel as the altar on which he offered his acceptable sacrifice, and then to have been used for the same purpose by the pious Seth. Enoch subsequently employed it for an important object, and it was finally deposited in the temple of Solomon, for reasons known only to those who have penetrated into the arcana of Freenaasonry. Much of this legendary information is altogether of a symbolical character, requiring for its comprehension a thorough acquaintance with masonic symbolism, and is therefore by no means to be taken in its literal sense. These legends are to be met with in the ancient York lectures. The student, in his progress through the degrees, will find repeated references to this “masonic stone of foundation,” which supported the ineffable name, with or without the ark, and which may be considered, in whatsoever light we may choose to view the traditions, whether as fabulous or authentic, as really symbolizing Divine Truth, which must alone direct and sustain us in our search after God, whom Freemasons term the Great Architect of the Universe.
CHARGE TO THE NEW ROYAL ARCH MASONS.
Companions: By the consent and assistance of the members of this Chapter, you are now exalted to the august degree of a Royal Arch Mason. The rites and mysteries developed in this degree, have been handed down through a chosen few, unchanged by time, and uncontrolled by prejudice; and we trust that they will be regarded by you with the same veneration, and transmitted with the same scrupulous purity to your successors.
No one can reflect on the ceremonies of gaining admission into this place, without being forcibly struck with the important lessons which they teach. Here we are necessarily led to contemplate, with gratitude and admiration, the sacred Source from whence all earthly comforts flow. Here we find additional inducements to continue steadfast and immovable in the discharge of our respective duties; and here we are bound by the most solemn ties, to promote each other's welfare, and correct each other's failings, by advice, admonition, and reproof. It is a duty which we owe to our companions of this order, that the application of every candidate for admission should be examined with the most scrutinizing eye, so that we may always possess the satisfaction of finding none among us, but such as will promote, to the utmost of their power, the great end of our institution. By paying due attention to this determination, you will never recommend any candidate for our mysteries, whose abilities and knowledge you cannot freely vouch for and whom you do not firmly and confidently believe, will fully conform to the principles of our order, and fulfil the obligations of a Royal Arch Mason. While such are our members, we may expect to be united in one object, without indifference, inattention or neglect; fervency and zeal, fidelity and affection, will be the distinguishing characteristics of our society; and that satisfaction, harmony and peace, will be enjoyed at our meetings, which no other society can afford.
PRAYER AT THE CLOSING OF A CHAPTER OF ROYAL ARCH MASONS.
By the wisdom of the Supreme High Priest, may we be directed; by his strength, may we be enabled; and by the beauty of virtue, may we be incited, to perform the obligations here enjoined on us; to keep inviolably the mysteries here unfolded to us; and invariably to practice all those duties out of the Chapter, which are inculcated in it. So mote it be. Amen.
ROYAL ARCH HISTORY:
IN THREE LECTURES.
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE TEMPLE.
“They have cast fire into thy sanctuary; they have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy name to the ground.” — Psalms 74:7.
There is no part of sacred history, except perhaps the account of the construction of the temple, which should be more interesting to the advanced mason than that which relates to the destruction of Jerusalem, the captivity of the Jews at Babylon, and the subsequent restoration under Cyrus for the purpose of rebuilding “the house of the Lord.” Intimately connected, as the events which are commemorated in this period are, with the organization of the Royal Arch degree, it is impossible that any mason who has been exalted to that degree, can thoroughly understand the nature and bearing of the secrets with which he has been entrusted, unless he shall have devoted some portion of time to the study of the historical incidents to which these secrets refer.
The history of the Jewish people from the death of Solomon to the final destruction of the temple, was one continued series of civil dissensions among themselves, and of revolts in government and apostacies in religion. No sooner had Rehoboam, the son and successor of Solomon, ascended the throne, than his harsh and tyrannical conduct so incensed the people that ten of the tribes revolted from his authority, and placing themselves under the government of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, formed the separate kingdom of Israel, while Rehoboam continued to rule over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which thenceforth constituted the kingdom of Israel, whose capital remained at Jerusalem. From thenceforward the history of Palestine becomes twofold. The ten revolting tribes which constituted the Israelitish monarchy, soon formed a schismatic religion, which eventually terminated in idolatry, and caused their final ruin and dispersion. But the two remaining tribes proved hardly more faithful to the God of their fathers, and carried their idolatry to such an extent, that at length there was scarcely a town in all Judea that did not have its tutelary deity borrowed from the idolatrous gods of its pagan neighbors. Even in Jerusalem, “the holy city,” the prophet Jeremiah tells us that altars were set up to Baal. Israel was the first to receive its punishment for this career of wickedness, and the ten tribes were carried into a captivity from which they never returned. As a nation, they have been stricken from the roll of history.
But this wholesome example was lost upon Judea. The destruction of the ten tribes by no means impeded the progress of the other two towards idolatry and licentiousness. Judah and Benjamin, however, were never without a line of prophets, priests, and holy men, whose teachings and exhortations sometimes brought the apostate Jews back to their first allegiance, and for a brief period restored the pure theism of the Mosaic dispensation.
Among these bright but evanescent intervals of regeneracy, we are to account the pious reign of the good King Josiah, during which the altars of idolatry throughout his kingdom were destroyed, the temple was repaired, and its regular service restored. It was in the prosecution of this laudable duty, that a copy of the Book of the Law, which had long been lost, was found in a crypt of the temple, and after having been publicly read to the priests, the levites, and the people, it was again, by the direction of the prophetess Huldah, deposited in a secret place.
But notwithstanding this fortuitous discovery of the Book of the Law, and notwithstanding all the efforts of King Josiah to reestablish the worship of his fathers, the Jews were so attached to the practices of idolatry, that upon his death, being encouraged by his son and successor Jehoahaz, who was an impious monarch, they speedily returned to the adoration of pagan deities and the observance of pagan rites.
The forbearance of God was at length exhausted, and in the reign of this King Jehoahaz, the series of divine punishments commenced, which only terminated in the destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity of its inhabitants.
The instrument selected by the Deity for carrying out his designs in the chastisement of the idolatrous Jews, was Nebuchadnezzar, King of the Chaldees, then reigning at Babylon; and as this monarch, and the country which he governed, played an important part in the series of events which are connected with the organization of the Royal Arch degree, it is necessary that we should here pause in the narrative in which we have been engaged, to take a brief view of the locality of Babylon, the seat of the captivity, and of the history of the Chaldee nation, whose leader was the conqueror of Judah.
“Few countries of antiquity,” says Heeren, “have so just a claim to the attention of the historian as Babylonia.” [Heeren, Arnold. Historical Researches Into the Politics, Intercourse, and Trade of the Principal Nations of Antiquity, vol. I. p. 871.] The fertility of its soil, the wealth of its inhabitants, the splendor of its cities, the refinement of its society, continued to give it a pre-eminent renown through a succession of ages. It occupied a narrow strip of land, lying between the river Tigris on the east and the Euphrates on the west, and extending about five hundred and forty miles west of north. The early inhabitants were undoubtedly of the Shemitic race, deriving their existence from one common origin with the Hebrews, though it is still a question with the historian whether they originally came from India or from the peninsula of Arabia, [Heeren, Arnold. Historical Researches Into the Politics, Intercourse, and Trade of the Principal Nations of Antiquity, vol. I. p. 381.]. They originally formed a part of the great Assyrian monarchy, but their early history having no connection with Royal Arch Masonry, may be passed over without further discussion. About six hundred and thirty years before the Christian era, Babylon, the chief city, was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of the Chaldeans, a nomadic race, who descending from their homes in the mountains of Taurus and Caucasus, between the Euxine and the Caspian seas, overwhelmed the countries of Southern Asia, and became masters of the Syrian and Babylonian empires.
Nebuchadnezzar was a warlike monarch, and during his reign was engaged in many contests for the increase of his power and the extension of his dominions. Among other nations who fell beneath his victorious arms, was Judea, whose King Jehoahaz, or as he was afterwards named Jehoiakim, was compelled to purchase peace by paying an annual tribute to his conquerors. Jehoiakim was subsequently slain by Nebuchadnezzar, and his son Jehoiachin ascended the throne of Israel. The oppression of the Babylonians still continued, and after a reign of three months, Jehoiachin was deposed by the King of the Chaldees, and his kingdom given to his uncle Zedekiah, a monarch who is characterized by Josephus as “a despiser of justice and his duty.”
It was in the reign of this ungodly sovereign that the incidents took place which are commemorated in the first part of the Royal Arch degree. Having repeatedly rebelled against the authority of the Babylonian king, to whose appointment he was indebted for his throne, Nebuchadnezzar repaired with an army to Judea, and laying siege to Jerusalem, after a severe struggle of eighteen months' duration, reduced it. He then caused the city to be leveled with the ground, the royal palace to be burned, the temple to be pillaged, and the inhabitants to be carried captive to Babylon.
These events are symbolically detailed in the Royal Arch, and in allusion to them, the passage of the Book of Chronicles which records them, is appropriately read during the ceremonies of this part of the degree.
“Zedekiah was one-and-twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the Lord. And he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, and stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the Lord God of Israel. Moreover, all the chief of the priests and the people transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the Lord, which he had hallowed in Jerusalem, and the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy.”
This preparatory clause announces the moral causes which led to the destruction of Jerusalem—the evil counsels and courses of Zedekiah,—his hardness of heart,—his willful deafness to the denunciations of the Lord's prophet,—and his violation of all his promises of obedience to Nebuchadnezzar. But not to the king alone was confined this sinfulness of life. The whole of the people, and even the priests, the very servants of the the house of the Lord, were infected with the moral plague. They had abandoned the precepts and observances of their fathers, which were to have made them a peculiar people, and falling into the idolatries of their heathen neighbors, had desecrated the altars of Jehovah with the impure fire of strange gods. Message after message had been sent to them from that God who had properly designated himself as “long suffering and abundant in goodness”—but all was in vain. The threats and warnings of the prophets' were heard with contempt, and the messengers of God were treated with contumely, and hence the fatal result which is detailed in the succeeding passages of Scripture read before the candidate.
“Therefore he brought upon them the King of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword, in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man or him that stooped for age; he gave them all into his hand. And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon.”
But the king of the Chaldees was not content with the rich spoils of war that he had gained. It was not sufficient that the sacred vessels of the temple, made by order of King Solomon, and under the supervision of that “curious and cunning workman,” who had “adorned and beautified the edifice” erected for the worship of Jehovah, should become the prey of an idolatrous monarch. The dark sins of the people and the king required a heavier penalty. The very house of the Lord itself—that sacred building which had been erected on the “threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite,” and which constituted the third Grand Offering of Masonry on the same sacred place, was to be burned to its foundations; the city which was consecrated by its presence was to be leveled to the ground; and its inhabitants were to be led into a long and painful captivity. Hence the tale of devastation proceeds as follows:
“And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire; and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away captive to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia.”
These events took place in the year 588 before Christ. But we must not suppose this to have been the beginning of the “seventy years' captivity” foretold by the prophet Jeremiah. That actually commenced eighteen years before, in the reign of Jehoiakim, when Daniel was among the captives. Counting from the destruction of Jerusalem under Zedekiah, which is the event recorded in the Royal Arch, to the termination of the captivity under Cyrus, we shall have but fifty-two years, so that we may readily understand how there should be among the aged men assembled to see the foundations laid of the second temple, many who had beheld the splendor and magnificence of the first.
But though the city was destroyed, and the temple burnt, the deep foundations of the latter were not destroyed. The ark of the covenant, with the book of the law which it contained, was undoubtedly destroyed in the general conflagration, for we read no account of its having been carried to Babylon, but the wisdom and foresight of Solomon had made a provision four hundred and seventy years before, for the safe preservation of an exact image of that sacred chest.
Thus we terminate what may be called the first section of the Royal Arch degree. The sound of war has been upon the nation—the temple is overthrown—the city is become a desert—yet even in its desolation, magnificent in its ruins of palaces and stupendous edifices—and the people have been dragged in chains as captives to Babylon.
THE CAPTIVITY AT BABYLON.
“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down; yea, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof.” — Psalms 137:1-2.
Between that portion of the ritual of the Royal Arch which refers to the destruction of the first temple, and that subsequent part which symbolizes the building of the second, there is an interregnum (if we may be allowed the term) in the ceremonial of the degree, which must be considered as a long interval in history, the filling up of which, like the interval between the acts of a play, must be left to the imagination of the spectator. This interval represents the time passed in the captivity of the Jews at Babylon. That captivity lasted for seventy years, from the reign of Nebuchadnezzar until that of Cyrus, although but fifty-two of these years are commemorated in the Royal Arch degree. During this period many circumstances of great interest and importance occurred, which must be perfectly understood to enable us to appreciate the concluding portion of the ceremonies of that degree.
“Babylon the great,” as the prophet Daniel calls it, the city to which the captive Jews were conducted by Nebuchadnezzar, was situated four hundred and seventy-five miles in a nearly due east direction from Jerusalem. It stood in the midst of a large and fertile plain on each side of the river Euphrates, which ran through it from north to south. It was surrounded with walls which were eighty-seven feet thick, three hundred and fifty in height, and sixty miles in compass. These were all built of large bricks, cemented together with bitumen. Exterior to the walls was a wide and deep trench, lined with the same material. Twenty-five gates on each side, made of solid brass, gave admission to the city. From each of these gates proceeded a wide street, fifteen miles in length, and the whole was separated by means of other smaller divisions, and contained six hundred and seventy-six squares, each of which was two miles and a quarter in circumference. Two hundred and fifty towers, placed upon the walls, afforded the means of additional strength and protection. Within this immense circuit were to be found palaces and temples and other edifices of the utmost magnificence, which have caused the wealth, the luxury and the splendor of Babylon to become the favorite theme of the historians of antiquity, and which compelled the prophet Isaiah, even while denouncing its downfall, to speak of it as “the glory of kingdoms, the beauty of the Chaldees' excellency.”
To this city the captives were conducted. What was the exact number removed we have no means of ascertaining. We are led to believe from certain passages of Scripture that the deportation was not complete. [Jeremiah (52:16) says that Nebuzaradan left “certain of the poor of the land for vine-dressers and for husbandmen.”] Calmet says that Nebuchadnezzar carried away only the principal inhabitants, the warriors and artizans of every kind (which would, of course, include the masons), and that he left the husbandmen, the laborers, and, in general, the poorer classes that constituted the great body of the people. Among the prisoners of distinction, Josephus mentions the high priest, Seraiah, and Zephaniah, the priest that was next him, with the three rulers that guarded the temple, the eunuch who was over the armed men, seven friends of Zedekiah, his scribe and sixty other rulers. Zedekiah, the king, had attempted to escape, previous to the termination of the siege, but being pursued was captured and carried to Riblah, the headquarters of Nebuchadnezzar, where, having first been compelled to behold the slaughter of his children, his eyes were then put out, and he was conducted in chains to Babylon. [These circumstances are detailed in the degree of “Super Excellent Master”—a degree not used in our chapters. The tradition of this degree says that the thumbs of Zedekiah were cut off, but this additional punishment is not mentioned either by Jeremiah or Josephus.]
A masonic tradition informs us that the captive Jews were bound by their conquerors with triangular chains, and that this was done by the Chaldeans as an additional insult, because the Jewish masons were known to esteem the triangle as an emblem of the sacred name of God, and must have considered its appropriation to the form of their fetters as a desecration of the Tetragrammaton.
Of the road pursued by the Chaldeans with their prisoners we can judge only from conjecture. It is, however, recorded that they were carried by Nebuzaradan, the captain of Nebuchadnezzar's army, direct from Jerusalem to Riblah, where Nebuchadnezzar had fixed his headquarters. Riblah was situated on the northern border of Palestine, about two hundred miles northeast of Jerusalem, and was the city through which the Babylonians were accustomed to pass in their eruptions into and departures from Judea.
From Jerusalem to Riblah, the journey is necessarily through Damascus, and the route from Riblah was direct to Palmyra. Hence, we have every reason for supposing that the Chaldean army, with the captives, took that route which is described by Heeren [In his Appendix “On the Commercial Routes of Ancient Asia,” affixed to his Historical Researches Into the Politics, Intercourse, and Trade of the Principal Nations of Antiquity, vol. II. append. XIII, II, 2.], and which would have conducted them from Jerusalem, through Damascus, to Riblah in a northerly direction. Here Nebuchadnezzar commanded Seraiah the high priest, and the rulers, to the amount of seventy, to be put to death. Thence directing their course to the north-east, they arrived at Thapsacus, an important commercial town on the Euphrates, which river they crossed somewhat lower down at a place called Circesium. They then journeyed in a southerly direction, through the Median wall and along the east bank of the Euphrates to Babylon. By this route they avoided making a large circuit to the north, or crossing an extensive desert which could supply no water.
The condition of Jerusalem after the departure of the captives is worthy of consideration. Previous to his departure from Jerusalem, Nebuzaradan appointed Gedaliah, who was the son of Ahikam, a person of an illustrious family, governor of the remnant of the Jews who were left behind. Gedaliah is described by the Jewish historian as being of “a gentle and righteous disposition.” He established his seat of government at Mispah, and induced those who had fled during the siege, and who were scattered over the country, to return and cultivate the land, promising them protection and favor if they consented to continue peaceable and pay a small tribute to the king of Babylon.
Among those who had fled on the approach of the Chaldean army was Ishmael, one of the royal family, a wicked and crafty man, who, during the siege of Jerusalem, had sought protection at the court of the King of the Ammorites. Ishmael was secretly instigated by Bealis; the Ammoritish monarch, to slay Gedaliah, that, as one of the royal family, he might himself ascend the throne of David. Notwithstanding that Gedaliah was informed of this nefarious design, he refused, in his unsuspecting temper, to believe the report, and consequently fell a victim to the treachery of Ishmael, who slew him while partaking of his hospitality. Ishmael then attempted to carry the inhabitants of Mispah into captivity, and fled with them to the king of the Ammorites; but being overtaken by the friends of Gedaliah, who had armed themselves to avenge his death, the captives were rescued and Ishmael put to flight. The Jews, fearing that if they remained they would be punished by the Babylonians for the murder of Gedaliah, retired to Egypt. Five years after, Nebuchadnezzar, having invaded and conquered Egypt, carried all the Jews whom he found there to Babylon. “And such,” says Josephus, “was the end of the nation of the Hebrews.” Jerusalem was now desolate. Its king and its people were removed to Babylon, but it remained unpopulated by foreign colonies, perhaps, as Whiston suggests, “as an indication of Providence that the Jews were to re-people it without opposition themselves.”
Let us turn now to the more immediate object of this lecture, and examine the condition of the captives during their sojourn in Babylon.
Notwithstanding the ignominious mode of their conveyance from Jerusalem, and the vindictiveness displayed by their conqueror in the destruction of their city and temple, they do not appear, on their arrival at Babylon, to have been subjected to any of the extreme rigors of slavery. They were distributed into various parts of the empire; some remaining in the city, while others were sent into the provinces. The latter probably devoted themselves to agricultural pursuits, while the former were engaged in commerce or in the labors of architecture. Anderson says, that Nebuchadnezzar, having applied himself to the design of finishing his buildings at Babylon, engaged therein all the able artists of Judea and other captives to join his own Chaldean masons; [Anderson, James. Constitutions of the Free-Masons, edit. 1723. p. 17.]. They were permitted to retain their personal property, and even to purchase lands and erect houses. Their civil and religious government was not utterly destroyed, for they retained a regular succession of kings and high priests, one of each of whom returned with them, as will be seen hereafter, on their restoration. Some of the principal captives were advanced to offices of dignity and power in the royal palace, and were permitted to share in the councils of state. Their prophets, Daniel and Ezekiel, with their associates, preserved among their countrymen the pure doctrines of their religion, and taught that belief in the Divine Being which constituted the most important principle of Primitive Freemasonry, in opposition to the spurious system practiced by their idolatrous conquerors. “The people,” says Oliver, “who adhered to the worship of God, and they were neither few nor insignificant, continued to meet in their schools, or lodges, for the undisturbed practice of their system of ethical Freemasonry, which they did not fail to propagate for their mutual consolation during this calamitous reverse of fortune, and for the benefit of their descendants.” [Oliver, George. Historical Landmarks of Freemasonry, vol. II. p. 410.]
The rabbinical writers inform us that during the captivity a fraternity was established, for the preservation of traditional knowledge, which was transmitted to a few initiates, and that on the restoration, Zerubbabel, Joshua and Esdras carried all this secret instruction to Jerusalem, and there established a similar fraternity. The principal seats of this institution were at Naharda, on the Euphrates, at Sora, and at Pompeditha.” [See Mackey's Lexicon of Freemasonry, word Naharda. It is but fair to remark that the authors of the “Encyclopedie Methodique,” in common with many other writers, place the establishment of these colleges at a much later date, and subsequent to the Christian era. But Oliver supposes them to have been founded during the captivity.]
Among the remarkable events that occurred during the captivity, we are to account the visit of Pythagoras to Babylon. This ancient philosopher was, while in Egypt, taken prisoner by Cambyses, during his invasion of that country, and carried to Babylon, where he remained for twelve years. There he is said to have had frequent interviews with Ezekiel, and to have derived from the instructions of the prophet much of that esoteric system of philosophy into which he afterwards indoctrinated his disciples.
Jehoiachin, who had been the king of Judah before Zedekiah, and had been dethroned and carried as a captive to Babylon, remained in prison for thirty-seven years, during the long reign of Nebuchadnezzar. But at the death of that monarch, his son and successor, Evilmerodach, restored the captive king to liberty, and promoted him to great honor in his palace. Evilmerodach, who was infamous for his vices, reigned only two years, when he was deposed and put to death by his own relations, and Neriglissar, his sister's husband; ascended the throne. Jehoiachin is said to have died at the same time, or, as Prideaux conjectures, he was as the favorite of Evilmerodach, slain with him.
After the death of Jehoiachin, Salathiel or Shealtiel, his son, became the “head of the captivity,” or nominally the Jewish king.
Neriglissar, or Niglissar, as he is called by Josephus, reigned for forty years, and then was succeeded by his son Labosordacus. This monarch became by his crimes hateful to the people, and, after a short reign of only nine months, was slain by his own subjects. The royal line, whose throne had been usurped by Neriglissar, was then restored in the person of Belshazzar, one of the descendants of Nebuchadnezzar. Belshazzar was an effeminate and licentious monarch, indulging in luxury and dissipation, while the reins of government were entrusted to his mother, Nitocris. He was, therefore, but ill prepared by temper or ability to oppose the victorious arms of Cyrus, the King of Persia, and Darius, the King of Media, who made war upon him. Consequently, after an inglorious reign of seventeen years, his power was wrested from him, the city of Babylon was taken by Cyrus, and the Babylonian power was forever annihilated.
After the death of Shealtiel, the sovereignty of the Jews was transmitted to his son, Zerubbabel, who thus became the head of the captivity, or normal Prince of Judea.
While the line of the Jewish monarchs was thus preserved, during the captivity, in the house of David, the Jews were not less careful to maintain the due succession of the high priesthood; for Jehosadek, the son of Seraiah, was the high priest that was carried by Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon, and when he died, during the captivity, he was succeeded in his sacred office by his eldest son, Joshua.
In the first year of the reign of Cyrus the captivity of the Jews was terminated. Cyrus, from his conversations with Daniel and the other Jewish captives of learning and piety, as well as from his perusal of their sacred books, more especially the prophecies of Isaiah, had become imbued with a knowledge of true religion, and hence had even publicly announced to his subjects his belief in the God “which the nation of the Israelites worshiped.” He was consequently impressed with an earnest desire to fulfill the prophetic declarations, of which he was the subject, and to re-build the temple of Jerusalem. Accordingly, he issued a proclamation, which we find in Ezra, as follows:
“Thus saith Cyrus, King of Persia, The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and He hath charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judea. Who is there among you of all His people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judea, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel, (He is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.”
With the publication of this proclamation of Cyrus, commences what may be called the second part of the Royal Arch degree. The whole space of time occupied in the captivity, and the events connected with that portion of the Jewish history, are not referred to in the ceremonies, but constitute, as we have already remarked, an interval like the period of time supposed to pass in a drama, between the falling of a curtain at the close of one act and its being raised at the commencement of the subsequent one. But now there are “glad tidings of great joy,” as given in this proclamation to the Jews. The captives are liberated—the exiles are permitted to return home. Leaving the banks of the Euphrates, they direct their anxious steps over rough and rugged roads to that beloved mountain of the Lord, where their ancestors were so long wont to worship. The events connected with this restoration are of deep attraction to the mason, since the history abounds in interesting and instructive legends. But the importance of the subject demands that we should pursue the investigation in a separate lecture.
THE RETURN TO JERUSALEM.
“For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord; and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it” — Jeremiah 30:3.
We have now arrived at that portion of the history of the Babylonish captivity which is allegorized in the concluding ceremonies of the Royal Arch degree. And here we may incidentally observe, that the same analogy which exists in the Master's degree to the ancient mysteries, is also to be found in the Royal Arch. The masonic scholar, who is familiar with the construction of those mysteries of the Pagan priests and philosophers, is well aware that they inculcate by symbolic and allegoric instruction, the great lessons of the resurrection of the body and the immortality of the soul. Hence they were all funereal in their character. They commenced in sorrow, they terminated in joy. The death or destruction of some eminent personage, most generally a god, was depicted in the beginning of the ceremonies of initiation, while the close was occupied in illustrating, in the same manner, the discovery of his grave, the recovery of the body, and the restoration to life eternal. The same religious instruction is taught in the Master's degree. The evidence of this fact, it is unnecessary for us hero to demonstrate. It will be at once apparent to every mason who is sufficiently acquainted with the ritual of his order.
But is it not equally apparent that the same system, though under a thicker veil, is preserved in the ceremonies of the Royal Arch? There is a resurrection of that which has been buried—a discovery of that which had been lost—an exchange of that which, like the body, the earthly tenement, was temporary, for that which, like the soul, is intended to be permanent. The life which we pass on earth is but a substitute for that glorious one which we are to spend in eternity. And it is in the grave, in the depths of the earth, that the corruptible puts on incorruption, that the mortal puts on immortality [1 Corinthians 15:53], and that the substitute of this temporal life is exchanged for the blessed reality of life eternal.
The interval to which we alluded in the last lecture, and which is occupied by the captivity of the Jews at Babylon, is now over, and the allegory of the Royal Arch is resumed with the restoration of the captives to their home.
Five hundred and thirty-six years before the Christian era, Cyrus issued his decree for the return of the Jews. At the same time he restored to them all the sacred vessels and precious ornaments of the first temple, which had been carried away by Nebuchadnezzar, and which were still in existence.
Forty-two thousand three hundred and sixty of the Jews repaired, in the same year, from Babylon and the neighboring cities to Jerusalem. The leaders of these were Zerubbabel, Joshua and Haggai, of whom, as they perform an important part in the history of this event as recorded in the Royal Arch, it is incumbent on us to speak more particularly. [In the English ritual of the Royal Arch, Ezra and Nehemiah are added to the number as scribes.]
Zerubbabel was, at the time of the restoration, the possessor of the regal authority among the Jews, as the prince of the captivity and a descendant of the house of David, and as such he assumed at Jerusalem the office of king. He was the son of Shealtiel, who was the son of Jechoniah, the monarch who had been deposed by Nebuchadnezzar and carried away to Babylon. He was the intimate friend of Cyrus, and indeed, it is supposed that it was principally through his influence that the Persian monarch was induced to decree the liberation of the captives.
Joshua, the High Priest, was, like Zerubbabel, entitled to his office by the indisputable claim of direct descent from the ancient hierarchy. He was the son of Josedech, and the grandson of Seraiah, who had been the High Priest when Jerusalem was taken by Nebuchadnezzar.
Of Haggai, the Scribe, but little is known that can be relied on. We know nothing of the place or the time of his birth, but it is supposed that he was born at Babylon during the captivity. He was the first of the three prophets who flourished after the captivity, and his writings, though few, (so few, indeed, that some theologians have supposed that the larger portion of them has perished,) all relate to the building of the second temple. The office of scribe, which is the one assigned to him in the Royal Arch degree, was one of great importance in the Jewish economy. The sophers or scribes constituted, says Dr. Beard, “a learned, organized, much esteemed and highly influential body of men, recognized and supported by the state.” [Kitto, John, ed. Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature, vol. II. p. 205, see Scribes.] They were learned in the laws, and it was their duty to expound them to the people. Horne says that the scribe seems to have been the king's secretary of state, and as such to have registered all acts and decrees. [Horne, Thomas. Intro. to the Critical Study and Knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, vol. III. p. 93.] It is, perhaps, in this capacity that we are to suppose that Haggai claims a place in the Grand Council of the Royal Arch. Zerubbabel, assisted by these advisers, proceeded to arrange his followers in such a form as would enable them most safely and expeditiously to traverse the long and dangerous road from Babylon to Jerusalem, which latter place they reached after a journey of four months, on the 22nd of June, 535 years before the birth of Christ.
The first object of the Jewish leader was, we may well suppose, to provide the means of shelter for the people who accompanied him. We are irresistibly led to the conclusion, that for this purpose it was found necessary to erect tents for their temporary dwelling. Extensive and populous as was Jerusalem at the commencement of the captivity, after the ruthless devastation of its unsparing conqueror it could hardly have retained sufficient means for the convenient accommodation of the fifty thousand souls who were thus suddenly and unexpectedly brought within its walls. Tents, therefore, afforded rude and temporary dwellings, until, in the course of time, more substantial buildings could be erected.
The next thing was to restore the ancient sacrifices and religious services, and for this purpose to provide a temporary place of worship until the second temple could be completed. Accordingly, a few months after their arrival, they met together at Jerusalem and celebrated the Feast of Trumpets, and a few days subsequently, the Feast of Tabernacles. It was probably the celebration of this latter observance, as well as the necessity and expediency of the measure, that led the Grand Council of leaders to the erection of a temporary tabernacle near the ruins of the ancient temple, the existence of which is so familiar to us from the traditions and ceremonies of the Royal Arch.
Having thus furnished dwellings for the workmen, and a sacred edifice for the celebration of their religious rites, our Masonic traditions inform us that Joshua, the High Priest, Zerubbabel, the King, and Haggai, the Scribe, daily sat in council, to devise plans for the workmen and to superintend the construction of the new temple, which, like a phoenix, was to arise from the ashes of the former one.
It is this period of time in the history of the second temple, that is commemorated in the concluding portion of the Royal Arch. The ruins of the ancient temple are begun to be removed, and the foundations of the second are laid. Joshua, Zerubbabel and Haggai are sitting in daily council within the tabernacle; parties of Jews who had not left Babylon with the main body under Zerubbabel, are continually coming up to Jerusalem to assist in rebuilding the house of the Lord.
During this period of laborious activity a circumstance occurred, which is alluded to in the ritual of the Royal Arch. The Samaritans were desirous of assisting the Jews in the construction of the temple, but their propositions were at once rejected by Zerubbabel. To understand the cause of this refusal to receive their cooperation, we must for a moment advert to the history of this people.
The ten tribes who had revolted from Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, and who had chosen Jeroboam for their king, rapidly fell into idolatry, and having selected the town of Samaria for their metropolis, a complete separation was thus effected between the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Subsequently, the Samaritans were conquered by the Assyrians under Shalmanezer, who carried the greater part of the inhabitants into captivity, and introduced colonies in their place from Babylon, Cultah, Ava, Hamath and Sepharvaim. These colonists, who assumed the name of Samaritans, brought with them, of course, the idolatrous creed and practices of the region from which they emigrated. The Samaritans, therefore, at the time of the rebuilding of the second temple, were an idolatrous race, and as such abhorrent to the Jews. [They were not, perhaps, altogether Idolaters, although idolatry was the predominant religion. The Rev. Br. Davidson says of them: “It appears that the people were a mixed race. The greater part of the Israelites had been carried away captive by the Assyrians, including the rich, the strong, and such as were able to bear arms. But the poor and the feeble had been left. The country had not been so entirely depopulated as to possess no Israelite whatever. The dregs of the populace, particularly those who appeared incapable of active service, were not taken away by the victors. With them, therefore, the heathen colonists became incorporated. But the latter were far more numerous than the former, and had all power in their own hands. The remnant of the Israelites was so inconsiderable and insignificant as not to affect, to any important extent, the opinions of the new inhabitants. As the people were a mixed race, their religion also assumed a mixed character. In it the worship of idols was associated with that of the true God. But apostacy from Jehovah was not universal.” See the article Samaritans in Kitto, John, ed. Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature, vol. II. p. 672.] Hence, when they asked permission to assist in the pious work of rebuilding the temple, Zerubbabel, with the rest of the leaders, replied, “Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel, as King Cyrus, the King of Persia has commanded us.” [Ezra 4:3.]
Hence it was that, to avoid the possibility of these idolatrous Samaritans polluting the holy work by their cooperation, Zerubbabel found it necessary to demand of every one who offered himself as an assistant in the undertaking, that he should give an accurate account of his lineage, and prove himself to have been a descendant (which no Samaritan could be) of those faithful Giblemites who worked at the building of the first temple.
It was while the workmen were engaged in making the necessary excavations for laying the foundation, and while numbers continued to arrive at Jerusalem from Babylon, that three worn and weary sojourners, after plodding on foot over the rough and devious roads between the two cities, offered themselves to the Grand Council as willing participants in the labor of erection. Who these sojourners were, we have no historical means of discovering; but there is a Masonic tradition (entitled, perhaps, to but little weight) that they were Hananiah, Misael and Azariah, three holy men, who are better known to general readers by their Chaldaic names of Shadrach, Mesheck and Abednego, as having been miraculously preserved from the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar.
Their services were accepted, and from their diligent labors resulted that important discovery, the perpetuation and preservation of which constitutes the great end and design of the Royal Arch degree.
This ends the connection of the history of the restoration with that of the Royal Arch. The works were soon after suspended in consequence of difficulties thrown in the way by the Samaritans, and other circumstances occurred to prevent the final completion of the temple for many years subsequent to the important discovery to which we have just alluded. But these details go beyond the Royal Arch, and are to be found in the higher degrees of Masonry, such as the Red Cross Knight and the Prince of Jerusalem.
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