God and the Craft
Faith and Freemasonry march hand-in-hand says Ernest Smart
Some time ago I was asked whether, as a
Christian minister, I found any conflict
between my faith and my membership of
Freemasonry. I pointed out that only those
who professed a belief in a Supreme Being
could become Masons.
I must admit that sometimes I have been
tempted to ask prospective candidates what
difference such confession made to their
lives. One day I will!
I also explained how Lodge meetings
begin and end in a prayer, and how central to
Masonic ritual is the book Masons call the
Volume of the Sacred Law – that book which
is sacred to each member, of whatever faith.
When Masons refer to it as “directing
our steps in the paths of happiness” and
add that it “will lead you to all truth”, that
is exactly what it will do – but only if we
read it for ourselves!
An unopened book will teach us nothing,
and that volume only becomes holy as we
use it to teach us the way to God.
If you remove all religious references
from the rituals, there is virtually nothing
left. Although Masons are enjoined to refrain
from topics of religious discussion, that does
not preclude religious contemplation.
Masons state that Freemasonry is not
a religion – nor is it.
But it should be a society of religious men
who, at each stage of their progress through
the three Degrees, through Installation and
through the other Degrees in Freemasonry,
are commended to the care and guidance of
that Supreme Being, whose faith we have
Seeking the right way to exercise
Masonry in the Lodge and in the
community, Freemasons should be guided
by faith and commitment to the One who
sees all, and knows all. If we succeed, then
non-Masons may cease to query whether our
faith stands in the way of our Freemasonry.
I have sometimes pointed out to young
Masons that, in the First Degree, we are
called upon to exercise nearly all the virtues
which should mark us out as men of very
In the prayer we ask that that the
candidate “may so dedicate and devote
his life to Thy (God’s) service as to become
a true and faithful brother.” We seek “divine
wisdom” upon Him that He may “be
enabled to unfold the beauties of true
The candidate’s Obligation is taken with
his hand on the Volume of the Sacred Law,
and he finishes it with the words: “So help
me God” and is told that “the sacred
writings are to govern our faith.”
The candidate is told to “practice…
every moral and social virtue”. Most
crucially, and alas, all too often unsuccessfully,
he is recommended to a “most serious
contemplation (of) the Volume of the Sacred
Law” In which he will discover the duties he
owes to God, to his neighbour and himself.
He is called upon to be a law-abiding
subject, and to the practice of “every
domestic as well as public virtue”,
Prudence, temperance, fortitude and
justice should also be marks of his good
character. Secrecy, fidelity and obedience
are three more such marks.
I would contend that all these traits are
the qualities which should be ours because
of our faith in the one true and living God –
by whatever name we call Him.
Faith and Freemasonry march hand-in-hand,
and should inspire what we are, and
what we do in the name of the Supreme
Being, whose faith we professed at our initial
interview to become a Mason.
Ernest Smart is a Minister in the United
Reformed Church, a Past Assistant Grand
Chaplain and Provincial Grand Chaplain