Labour and Refreshment

There is, we fear, too marked a tendency in very many Lodges to hasten through its labours, with a view to entering, as soon as possible, upon the business of refreshment.


 – The Freemason’s Chronicle 17th April, 1875

Refreshment, after the Lodge is closed, is often necessary, and always proper, for the Brother who has not done a good day’s work by the time he attends the meeting is the exception, not the rule.

It may be recorded as an axiom, that every member of every Lodge in town and country will take, at home, a something to recruit ” the inner man,” when the Masonic duties of the day are ended.

There is not only no harm therefore, but, on the contrary, much good done by his taking that something in the company of his brethren.

It promotes, aye, is intended top remote, good fellowship.

Man, being a gregarious animal, can never fail to reap some benefit from the society of his fellows, and Masons, who never assemble formally but for mutual enlightenment or the promotion of some worthy object, are not likely to be an exception.

But it is possible to carry a matter too far, and doubtless it is within the experience of most of our readers that the time set apart for labour often compares somewhat unfavourably with the time devoted to refreshment.

Dining Room laid up for a Festive Board 2020
IMAGE CREDIT:  the square, publisher’s collection

The other day we commented on a recent article in the Saturday Review.

The good taste of the writer was about on a par with his knowledge of our art.

His idea of an “Emergency Meeting,” and the reason he as-signed why Popery denounced us so strongly no doubt answered the purpose for which they were written.

The ignorant laughed at the sorry jest, while it fell quite harmlessly on us to whom Masonry is no secret.

For ourselves, we saw in the reception by the Great City Lodge of our respected Brother, the Lord Mayor, only an act of homage, gracefully rendered to a Mason, who, by his own merits, had risen to be Chief Magistrate of this city.

To this the banquet, though on a grander scale than usual, was, as all our banquets are meant to be, certainly subsidiary; and few, we imagine, will deny in this particular instance its necessity, considering the number of hours that had first been set apart to the fulfilment of Masonic duties.

While, then, we readily concede that all men who have laboured diligently are entitled to take not only rest, but refreshment likewise ; while we admit that an occasional banquet is perfectly legitimate, and promotes good feeling among members, we must still caution our readers against making the banquet of primary instead of subsidiary importance.

Lodges which, encourage ” feeds” that are either too expensive or too protracted, furnish such silly writers as our Saturday Reviewer a certain shadow of an excuse for their attacks on Masonry.

Moreover, apart from this, there are many reasons why the business of a Lodge should not needlessly be curtailed.

Masonry inculcates many sublime truths by means of a very beautiful symbolism.

To what better purpose can we devote a portion of our time in Lodge than to an earnest study of these truths, and the symbols by which they are illustrated ?

We have more than once expressed our conviction that those who seek and gain admission into our Order, do so with a sincere desire to obtain, to use a familiar phrase, more light.

But how shall any obtain this light, except by study on their own part, and the instruction of older and more experienced Masons ?

A knowledge of Masonry is no more to be obtained by the unaided light of nature, than is the knowledge of any other art or system ; nor can a Mason, who has learnt by rote certain formulae, and is able to repeat them faultlessly, be said to have acquired a full knowledge of the Craft, any more than a man who has learnt by heart the rules of the Latin Grammar can be pronounced a good Latin scholar.

Just as in the study of the Latin language a man must know not only the rules of grammar, but become familiar with the meaning of words, of sentences, of idioms, just as afterwards he must master the different constructions of sentences, and their relation to each other, and then advance to the more difficult, yet far more enjoyable task of reading an author, so as to grasp his meaning, and the allusions he makes to the history or social habits of those who spoke the Latin tongue, as well as note the beauty of style that should be imitated, or the looseness of construction that must be avoided, so in Masonry.

Familiarity with certain formulas, the nature of which our readers will understand, though we are forbidden to specify them, is only the first step in the acquirement of Masonic knowledge.

When we have mastered these, and—seeing that nothing can be written—the effort is no light one, we have only, so to speak, mastered the grammar of Masonry, and a mere knowledge of words and sentences.

We still have to learn its construction, how this fits with that, how these with those.

Then, as in the study of everything that is veiled in allegory, there is still to be acquired the hidden meaning of the many symbols we use, and why we use them.

Hence the Lodge of Instruction, so that novices may gradually become more and more proficient in our ritual.

Hence, also, the lecture by some experienced and learned brother, when the hidden meaning of all that is beautiful and good in Masonry is made clear to us, so that we can realise, in some measure at least, the immense value of the art we have taken upon ourselves to study.

If brethren will only bring themselves to think so, this kind of Masonic work is infinitely preferable to the mere study of the want of the inner man.

We fully appreciate the good things of this life.

We feel, indeed, something akin to contempt for the man who decries, avoids, or wilfully misuses them.

But mere enjoyment of this particular kind is not the ” be-all and end-all” of Masonry.

Non-Masons enjoy themselves, and are all the better for the enjoyment.

But, in becoming a Mason, a man voluntarily commits himself to the fulfilment of certain duties.

He hopes that, in the fitness of time, he will attain a certain rank in the Craft, that so his sphere of usefulness may be more and more extended, and his ability to serve Masonry and mankind in general become greater and more effectual.

But all this is only attainable after a zealous course of labour, and the Lodge it is which must afford the opportunities for labour.

A Lodge which meets periodically for the purposes of instruction in our mysteries may justly take a pride in the work that it does.

A brother who takes upon himself to enlighten his fellows in the beauties of the Masonic ritual, and the lessons to be learnt therefrom, does equally good service.

With all due respect to our brethren, we should like to see more account taken of labour, and less of the banquet.

This latter, as we have said, is mostly necessary, but it is not of primary importance. Let silly people laugh at us if they will.

He laughs longest who wins, and Masonry is bound to win the respect and affection of all, as it has of most, creeds and nations.

And he who laughs loudest has the least sense, in accordance with the old and often quoted adage—none the less true because old and often quoted—” The loud laugh betrays the vacant mind.” The Pope may damn us—let not our readers be affrighted at the word, which is Scriptural, and moreover only a simpler form of ” condemn “—it is in his nature perhaps.

But the ridicule of folly and the condemnation of a Priest will do us no harm; not even to the extent of diminishing our zeal for labour or our appetite for refreshment.

The Freemasons Chronicle, a weekly record of masonic intelligence, was first published 2nd January 1875 London, England as an independent weekly journal of masonic interest and continued for 27 years.


It should be the business of a journal devoted to the interests of the Order to attempt the removal of prejudices such as these, which, though they may have little perceptible influence upon the prosperity of the Fraternity, yet have the effect of preventing timid or ill-informed persons from enlisting under its banner.

It will not only attempt to keep pace with the growing literary requirements of the day, but it will seek to exhibit the Order to the non-Masonic world divested of its technical details, and clothed in the garb of Charity and Brotherly Love.

The questions of the hour, which exercise the minds of thoughtful men, will be handled freely and broadly, without any tinge of political or sectarian bias.

The memoranda of Masonic gatherings which will appear from week to week, will be full and accurate; and as free interchange of opinion is one of the best signs of life and vigour in any society, ample scope will be given for Correspondence on topics of interest to the Order.

If we may venture upon a new rendering of words which recent events have made memorable, we will say here, once and for all, that we will be keen men of business, and will spare no effort, consistent with honour, to achieve commercial success; but first, and before all things, we will prove to our brethren and the world that we are FREEMASONS.

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