Project Canterbury


S E R M O N,






The Festival of St. John the Baptist,










Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Episcopal Diocese of New York, 2009

State of New-York and town of Newburgh, June 24, 1790.

THAT the thanks of this Lodge be presented to the Rev. Mr. GEORGE H. SPIERIN, for his Sermon delivered before them this day, on the celebration of the festival of St. JOHN the BAPTIST: And that Brothers CLINTON, AMERMAN and DODGE, be desired to request a copy of the same for publication.

No. 18,

Ille bonis faveatque et consilietur amice,
Et regat iratos, et amet peccare tumentes:
Ille dapes laudet mensa brevis, ille salubrem
Justitiam, legesque, et apertis otia portis:
Ille tegat commissa, deosque precetur et oret,
Ut redeat miseris, abeat fortuna superbis.


Newburgh, June 30th, 1790.

IN compliance with your request, I present you with a copy of my discourse delivered before you, on Thursday the 24th instant, requesting that charity, the just characteristic of your order, may extend her mild influence to this much indigested performance.

The notice given for its preparation to meet a critical eye, you well know, has been too short, therefore hope for an adequate indulgence. ‘Tis alone in compliance to your wish to see it in print, that I would by any means attempt to usher it into public view--fully apprehensive of the consequences attending such a step. However, to meet your approbation is the extent of my present view; and should it further tend in any wise, to the removal of those unjust censures of the ignorant, respecting your order, it will answer the end proposed, and be a sufficient compensation for the good intention of,

Your affectionate friend,
and very humble servant,


1st. Epistle of JOHN, 4th Chap. 8th Ver.
"He that loveth not, knoweth not God, for God is Love."

LOVE, being the pure and genuine source of every religious and moral duty, the foundation of every virtue, the incense which perfumes all our actions, which renders them pleasing in the sight of God and worthy the acceptance of man, being the characteristic of this ancient and brotherly affectionate institution, which has this day convened us together--I consider it a subject, particularly applicable, both to the solemnity of the day, and to the occasion which so universally celebrates it in every enlightened country of the globe, applicable, I say, to the day, being the anniversary of that favorite of Heaven, St. John, whose divine mission breathes love, with a fragrance irresistible and for which spirit of universal love, this ancient order has, in all ages and climes, invariably celebrated it--and applicable to the occasion, being that which inviolably cements every truly accepted Mason.

Having been thus honored by the friendly invitation of the brotherhood here assembled, to the performance of this duty, a duty which justly merits much more refined abilities, suffer me to attend in some measure, to the divine influence of this heavenly affection of the soul, LOVE, unbounded as its divine Author, and borne on the wings of celestial universality; to shew the necessity of this affection, in order to inspire all christian brethren in general, and also to observe the consistency of those moral rules of the Masonic institution, with the divine laws delivered to us by the founder of our holy religion--So that by a candid inference, deduced from what I shall offer on this occasion, to remove, I trust, those unreasonable prejudices which, too frequently arise in the minds of men, ignorant of the charitable and love-creating institution of this order, and of the morality of its laws and precepts, considered as a society.

The first and great commandment of the law is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart,” &c. and the second is like unto it; nay, comprehends the whole, in the same degree as the effect acknowledges the cause--“Thou shalt [1/2] love thy neighbour as thyself:” On these two, hang all the law and the prophets.
In corroboration of this divine command, what a gracious example of Love, what an exemplary pattern of affection, did our blessed Saviour exhibit to the world, in his voluntary sufferings for mankind! How peculiarly attentive to cultivate this truly Christian grace, as the source whence all this fair train of heavenly virtues issue, which soften and humanize the soul! With what unwearied solicitude did he dwell on the imbibing this principle! and, how indefatigable in disseminating this divine affection!

LOVE, or Charity, which are, in the original, synonimous, “covers a multitude of sins,” that is, thinketh no evil, broods not over the miseries, the misfortunes of our fellow creatures, harboreth no malice or resentment, envieth not, vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up with pride, or vain conceit of self-sufficiency, or presumptuous arrogance; but on the contrary, holds not evil in a contemplated view to reason from, wishes the welfare of a brother, unites the affections by smoothing the tempers and calming the turbulent passions of the mind; it is ever ready, with an heart-felt joy, to allow merit its due tribute of praise, prevent obloquy and slander, will not speak evil of a brother, though what is said may be true, without some necessary occasion, some good consequences attending it, which silence would prevent; much less, should we spread reports to a brother’s prejudice, false, or dubious; wishes not to hear evil, but rejoices at the fame, fortune, or happiness of a fellow-man; forgives injuries, and is readier to attribute miscarriages to inadvertency or surprize of temptation, than to premeditated malice or wickedness.

LOVE is candid, open and sincere in its counsels, expands both hand and heart, relieves the distressed, visits and comforts the sick, is kind, courteous, benevolent and affable to all; ever ready to consult a brother's interest, reputation and fame; discountenances back-bitings and whisperings to his prejudice, and always warns him of any impending danger he may not be aware of.

Surely this is the duty of every christian brother, and certainly he who rationally and duly considers, that we all have one common Lord and Master, that we are embarked in one common interest, that we have one faith, one hope, one baptism, and, after this bubble life, is dissolved, that we all expect to arrive by the gale of Love, to the haven of eternal life and glory, should think it but natural and just, that we should unfeignedly love one another, and be governed and regulated by the gentle bonds of humanity and love: We all hope [2/3] to arrive at that dwelling, that unfading mansion of endless love and peace, why then should we in our pilgrimage here below,  dissolve that unity of spirit, that bond of peace and love, which alone can qualify us for that everlasting bliss, in the mansions of eternal glory?

LOVE, which in its operation discovers itself to be a divine grace, is that tender affection of the soul, which quicker than thought, instantaneously thrills through the animal spirits, and diffuses the gentle spirit, to incline us to each other; ‘tis its nature to unite our minds, to calm the disorders of the passions, to give bounds to the inordinate appetites, and to cement the affections; GOD is LOVE, the eternal fountain of love, therefore, the more loving we are, the more similitude we bear unto him, and the more God-like our nature.

“By this,” says our blessed Saviour, “shall all men know, that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.” “He who loveth not his brother,” says St. John, “is not of God,” for, “he who is possessed of this world’s goods, and seeth his brother in distress, and doth not minister to his wants, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” “He that hateth his brother,” says St. Peter, “is a murderer.”

What a remarkable example of Love, does holy Job present to our view! “If I have,” says this holy man, “withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eye of the widow to fail, if I have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless have not eaten thereof, if I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering, if his loins have not blessed me, and been warmed with the fleece of my sheep, then let the arm fall from the shoulder-blade, and be broken from the bone.” In short, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to visit the sick, to instruct the ignorant, to rebuke the vicious, to advise the weak, to promote piety and religion, to exercise humanity, benevolence and charity, to be humble, temperate and just, are the great and cardinal virtues of the christian religion.

There are however, different degrees of love, which rise in a proportionate gradation, to the variety of circumstances which connect the great chain of society. Love to all [3/4] the human race, stamped with the divine image, however distinguished among men; Love to our country, family and friends--but above all, Love to the Omniscient Creator of the universe--His divine image should ever float on our minds, and blend itself with every duty--Distinctions and differences of an inferior nature, should never cause a breach of affection.

The communion of Saints, is a communion of Love--Happy are those who abound in this grace; the God of Love and Peace will be amongst them.

Independent of the authority and example of the blessed Jesus, we find, within us, an antecedent obligation to it; it is the dictate of nature, sanctified by reason and reflection; and though nature is depraved, yet, like sparks arising from a furnace, the still emits the gentle exhalation, which soars above the dregs that would restrain her.

The infinite wisdom of the Great Creator of the Universe has inherently stamped the nature of man with a love of society, no doubt, for various wise purposes; for one, more particularly, in order to cultivate and enliven this heaven-born affection. God is Love, the holy scriptures inform us; we are made after his image--if not possessed then of this principle, we are not, nor can we be, like unto him, therefore none of his. But, in proportion as the root of all virtues extends, the nearer we approach the divine essence of Love--‘tis the advancement and enlargement of our souls--the ornament and beauty of a great mind--it banishes all this monstrous train of unruly passions, which torments the spirits, and darkens the understanding--calms the mind--supports us with cheerfulness in the possession of ourselves, and preserves us from a variety of inconveniences and evils incident on enmity and ill-will--the pleasure of it is boundless, and ever reflects a compensating reward--it prevents divisions in both civil and religious societies--But where this is wanting, confusion, disorder, and strife naturally ensue--resentment, malice and envy occupy its place--torment the spirit, and render it like the troubled ocean, “whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” “If we love one another,” says St. John, “God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. If we have been eyes to the blind, feet to the lame, a father to the poor, the blessing of them that are ready to perish will be upon us.”

Next to our Love to God and Faith in his Son Jesus Christ, the Love of our Neighbor, will be the trial on which our eternal sentence will ultimately depend.

“Come ye blessed of my father, inherit the kingdom prepared [4/5] for you, from the foundation of the world,” as the reward of your obedience--“For I was an hungred, and you gave me meat--I was thirsty, and you gave me drink--a stranger, and you took me in--naked, and you clothed me--sick, and you visited me.”

What an amiable example did our blessed Lord exhibit to the world--who went about with indefatigable diligence in order to find objects to exercise his goodness upon!--How industrious in this love-inspiring pursuit!--And when his time was spent in accomplishing his benevolent purpose--How did he crown all, with a wonderful specimen of miraculous love to his creatures, by laying down his life and shedding his precious blood for them!--here was love, my friends, and what does he require of them in return? No more than to contemplate his unbounded love, to shew their gratitude in exercises of love and affection to each other, and thereby to qualify themselves for that heavenly society in the realms of bliss, where nought but love, harmony, and peace can dwell.

What I have premised, being christian love, the law of God, and the dictate of nature, the golden rule of duty--the rule, whereby every christian society should square their actions and level their principles--I beg leave to proceed in explaining, in some degree, the laws and regulations of this fraternal institution, agreeably to the published constitution of this order, that by considering the consistency of those laws, with the law of God, it may tend to remove the prejudices of men, unacquainted with this institution, and also the influences which the actions of some unworthy brethren unhappily excite, to the discredit of this, but indeed too often abused order.

A legally warranted, regular lodge, will not receive a man of any rank, influence or station, into their society, who does not firmly believe in the eternal God, as the grand architect and governor of the universe, and who will not practice those laws indited by the holy Spirit in the gospel. Atheism, deism, or libertinism, are as opposite to the spirit of this institution, as repugnant as darkness is to light--the essentials of religion is the base; at the same time leaving its members free in the adoption of particular forms and modes, without respect to persons, countries, sects or factions; provided they are just men, and true--honest, honorable, industrious and friendly, “working righteousness and hating iniquity.”

A true Mason who obediently observes the duties of his craft, as enjoined him by the spirit of this institution will practice [5/6] every private virtue, will be just, charitable, and merciful; candid, sincere, and friendly; sober, industrious, and prudent; not an adulterer or profaner; true to his trust, free from those passions which may precipitate him into crimes that would reflect dishonor on the fraternity--and above all, free from any crime that may violate his duty and obligation to God; will be zealously assiduous in the acquisition of a knowledge of those sciences, and will still press forward to the high mark of his calling; namely, his duty to his Creator, his country, his neighbour and himself; ever promoting that love and affection which brethren of the same household, more particularly, owe to each other. And, although a true Mason will never shut up the bowels of mercy and charity, against any of the human race--yet, when called upon by the afflicted vice of an oppressed or suffering brother, of the same universal household; mercy, benevolence and charity, open the affectionate soul, in love and compassion, and will yield redress according to ability.

Should any dispute arise among brethren from those infirmities inseparable from humanity, with respect to right of property, or otherwise, a true Mason will appeal to no other justice, than his brethren, convened together on that emergency; where the golden rule of EQUITY, should ever mark the line of justice--And should not the wisdom of that private Lodge, of which they are members, be adequate to their mutual satisfaction--an appeal may be made to the Grand Lodge--but should never engage in a law-suit till such proceedings utterly fail; and should the dispute be of such a nature, that necessity and a duty to their family render a law-suit necessary, in order to clearly ascertain the dubious right--‘tis, however, to be carried on without rancor or ill-will, acting on the line of justice, neither doing or saying anything to stop the progress of that brotherly love and affection, which is ever the cement of this ancient fraternity.

There are three principal heads, which every christian brother, as well as a Mason, should inviolably observe; and those are, our duty to God, to our neighbour, and to ourselves--to God, in never mentioning his holy name, but with that reverence, solemnity and awe, which the Supreme Architect of the universe justly claims; to contemplate him as the source of every happiness, and as such to regulate our actions--to our neighbor, as acting by him, as we would be acted by--and to ourselves, in being temperate, just, and free from all pollution; in short, “to do justly, to love mercy, and walk humbly in the sight of God,” are the true, indispensible characteristics of a really free and accepted Mason.

[7] Having shewn the divine influence of this heavenly affection, LOVE, together with the necessity of this obligation amongst all christian brethren in general, as propounded to their observation in the gospel of the blessed Jesus--And also, having observed the connexion, and consistency of those moral duties of the masonic institution, with those of divine laws, given to mankind, by the Divine Founder of our holy religion--suffer me, further, to proceed to an address to this christian congregation in general--But first to you, gentlemen, of the Masonic Order, in particular.--

May I be bold to enquire, what those distinguishing badges are, you bear along with you? methinks, on a narrow inspection, I behold in them, the emblems of every virtue--the sun, moon, and stars, the manifest work of an almighty hand--the contemplation of which, atheism itself, if such a principle really exists, views with dubious astonishment and admiration. The holy bible too, those sacred oracles of God, with joy I behold, as truly symbolical of your acknowledgment, and faith, in the divine revelation therein contained--the heaven-inspiring laws of which, bear in themselves, such efficacy, as to attract your love and affection, with more than magnetic virtue. Do not I likewise see the square and compass, emblematic of moral rectitude, integrity, and truth. Lo! a key, with oiled wards, ready to open a compassionate heart to every afflicted brother; and in reality to open your treasury, to the comfort-giving relief of misery and want--But ah! what is that, I behold, which appears to superintend the whole system? An eye looking from a cloud, which in a great measure seems to intercept mortal sight, but which, in itself, comprehends all things within its orb; a striking representation of the all-seeing eye of God--In short, all so calculated that your duty to God and man, may momentarily recur to your senses.

 Let me now, may friends, exhort you, in the name of God, that great architect of the universe, whose omniscient providence superintends his creation, whose divine laws, I trust, is the basis of all your actions--that you will literally frame your conduct, agreeably to this figurative representation--in a lively faith in his divine revelation--and in obedience to its holy laws--in acting on the square of doing as you would be done by--in preserving that key near your hearts, ready to open the door of compassion and mercy to every suffering, honest brother, without any distinction of sect or party, nation or tongue, into your protection, “as a tempest-driven voyager into a port of safety,” convince the [7/8] world that the only qualities you revere, are such as form good and virtuous men, and by your actions demonstrate, that virtue is the unshaken fabric you build--of which, those badges you now carry along with you are evident symbols. This is the inevitable obligation of your order, deduced from the remotest period of antiquity--rolling along in translucent channels, through the tide of time, still opening broader and deeper, till at length it terminate in an universal ocean--when “the cloudcapt towers--the gorgeous palaces--the solemn temples--the great globe itself--yea, all that it inherit shall dissolve, and, like the baseless fabric of a vision, leave not a wreck behind.”

Expand your souls to the whole human race, ever endeavoring to promote their happiness--Whatever is illiberal or mean, keep at a distance--A narrow contracted soul, who considers himself alone, who wraps himself up within the circle of his own interest, and not a part of that universal spirit of God, reject among you. Remember above all my friends, you are Christian Masons--that you are under the most sacred ties of christianity, to regulate all your actions; and ever remember, that you adhere to the love-creating sounds of that Holy Evangelist, St. John, whose festival you also celebrate in love--“If the Son shall make you free, then shall you be free indeed.”

Do you know that the foundation of brotherly love was fixed, when the world was made? That our blessed Saviour is the chief corner-stone of this structure? and therefore cannot be dissolved but with time itself; when the dread order of the universe shall be dissolved, and consummated in the never-ending order of eternity, and that then, all its members, who conscientiously exercise the light they enjoy, shall rise from its ruins, into a glorious structure, fully framed together, and shall ever after be considered an everlasting lodge of love and peace indeed, where our blessed Lord and Saviour himself, shall reign as Grand Master for evermore. Are you of those lively materials, fit to be incorporated in this spiritual DOME? Do you fear God, and trust in him? Do you steadfastly believe his doctrines? And, do you, from a lively principle of affection, reverence his precepts, and reduce them to practice? Are you sensible that nothing but the precious blood of Christ, can reconcile you to your offended God? Do you repair to this fountain, to cleanse you of your defilement? Do you fly for refuge to that grace, purchased by this miraculous atonement? Do you exercise unalterable justice and humanity towards your fellow-men? Is your christian charity universal? Does your love extend to [8/9] every good man? and in particular, to those of the same brotherly household? Are you free from the spirit of bigotry, or prejudice to your christian brethren? Are you free from pride, presumption, and arrogance?--“from envy, hatred and malice, and all uncharitableness?” And are you not, finally, emulous in perfecting those graces, and in pressing forward to the high mark of your profession, Love? Consult your hearts; to them I make my appeal. If you find this spirit prevail, ‘tis certainly of God, then are you free indeed.

Ever support those acts of benevolence and compassion, for which you are deservedly distinguished, and like the primitive christians, conduct your selves, who obliged even their enemies, with reverence and admiration, to exclaim, “behold how these Christians love one another!”

Now, as the generality of mankind, ever form their opinions, whether just or unjust, from the external conduct of any society, let it ever, therefore, be your care to be exemplary; bring not that institution you so much revere, into disrepute, but by your actions convince the world, that free-masonry is an institution founded on virtue; and that such as degenerate into vice, are not masons, but cowans and imposters; and such, I presume, you have always a power to expel from every social trust; and in order the better to secure against bad members, be ever cautious whom you admit into your fraternal confidence--let the qualifications be not alone confined to rank, birth, wealth or station; but more particularly, let them be just men and true, of any nation or country, who establish their principles on the Rock, Christ, and firmly believe his divine revelation--for, be assured, where these are not the supporting pillars, the foundation of that fabric, the edifice cannot be finished, nor can the work be depended upon, it will totter to the base, till it crumbles into everlasting ruins. I could dwell upon this subject and protract it to the work of an age--but I trespass too long on your patience, shall therefore, after a short exhortation to all those who do not profess themselves of this fraternity, conclude.

My friends and fellow christians, let me entreat you to act with a prudent caution, and with that charity we all so much revere, at least in theory, with respect to your censures of an institution so ancient, and in all ages, embraced by men of the greatest piety and learning of all the enlightened nations of the globe; and who at all times, considered and acknowledged themselves highly honored by their admission--it is a mark of a malevolent and envious [9/10] heart, to reason from evil, and it is illiberal, unjust and cruel, to condemn any nation or society, the rules and laws of which, we are unacquainted with, merely from the misconduct and irregularity of some of its members.--There is not, my friends, a society either civil or religious, of which we have any account in the annals of the sacred or profane history, which has not, in some degree, incurred the reflections of men, from the ill-conduct of some of its members--even the religion of the blessed Jesus itself, in its dawning state, under the immediate guidance of a few, and those few, under the direction and conversant in person, with Christ himself, we find had been disgraced by one of those few having betrayed his divine Master, and abandoned the holy cause, for the gratification of the meanest of all passions--(this being ever the case, while man possesses a corrupt heart and a freedom of action) but shall we hence infer, that the christian religion is not of divine institution?

There are many who, in vindication of their censures, say, if this institution is founded on virtue, or attended with lawful and salutary purposes--Why is it not universally communicated to the world? But if such men consider that the general promulgation of any institution, would have a direct tendency to destroy the life and spirit of that institution; and that in the eye of vanity, every thing becomes vile, and cheap, as it becomes common and general, they would no longer seek occasion of censure, from such false deductions of reason. The religion of Christ, blessed be God, being built on a rock, inviolable to the rudest shock of time, though left to secondary means of promulgation, yet, is attended by the divine spirit--still do we find it far from being universally communicated to the world--Its blessed spirit, in progressive extension illumes fast, and is making happy strides towards universality, ere the close of this mortal scene; yet do we see, it has not pleased divine wisdom to open that scene of immortal light, at once, to the world, as a contrasted view of principle, seems necessary to enliven the enlightened christian, and also to lead on the heathen from darkness to divine effulgence, by the conviction of the senses, co-operating with spiritual grace.

You, who are not of this fraternity, felicitate yourselves on the divinity of your holy religion, the same persuasive motives to love and affection, are open to your acceptance--the book of grace, which alike obligates all christians, is open to invite your obedience--nay, proposes the reward of everlasting happiness, as an inducement: Here the fundamental rules of every christian society, shine with unparalleled [10/11] lustre, and those rules coincident with the law of nature, implanted in the human breast, in order to lead us to the knowledge of divine attributes, so far as may be necessary for our direction: Let this volume of grace, in which your duty shines with more than meridian splendor, co-operating with that divine spark implanted in the breast of man, actuate every action of your lives--so as to qualify you for the society of angels and saints in heaven--in order to which, let us all, my fellow christians, prostrate ourselves before that pure fountain of eternal love, and pray for the influence of the blessed spirit to assist us in the performance of every duty; that by divine grace, we may be enabled to cherish that spark of celestial love, implanted in our nature, and feed and fan it to an heavenly flame; may we ever look upon each other as we really are, brethren of the same common lump, however refined by art; and may this contemplation direct our actions to each other, till we meet at the last day, that awful day of judgment, when love to our Creator and love to our fellow-men, shall be the celestial lamps, which shall illume our souls and light us through the dark valley of the shadow of death, to conduct us to the regions of everlasting bliss--through the merits of the precious blood of Christ our Lord and Saviour.


July 20th, 1790.

“WHEREAS it is unanimously agreed to, by the worthy Master, Wardens, and other members of this Lodge, now met, that the committee appointed the 24th ultimo, should immediately deliver a written answer to the Rev. GEORGE H. SPIERIN’S foregoing letter addressed to them; but the present absence of one of the committee rendering it necessary another brother should be appointed in his stead, to execute said purpose: It is therefore, Resolved and agreed to, that brother JOHN DU BOIS be appointed to act instead of said absentee.”


July 22, 1790

WE, the committee from Steuben Lodge No. 18, in behalf of our much beloved and worthy Master, Wardens, and other members thereof, do gratefully acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 30th June last, accompanied with a copy of your excellent discourse, delivered before the fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons of said Lodge, the 24th ult. now, at their request, for publication. Your ready compliance therein will ever be esteemed a point of your friendship. We doubt not of its happy tendency in removing the prejudices of the ignorant, and shall convince them how undeserved our order is of their censures, by endeavoring, with the assistance of Divine Grace, in duly adhering to the principles of its institution, especially the precepts so fully expressed in your admirable discourse, which we shall lay up in our hearts and practice in our lives, not doubting of our profiting thereby, and affording pleasure to the author, for whom we have the highest esteem--requesting the acceptance of our sincere wishes, in behalf of Steuben Lodge, for your uninterrupted enjoyment of every felicity, and remain

Your obliged friends,
and humble servants,

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