FEAR NOT WHAT MAN CAN DO UNTO YOU
“In God have I put my trust: I will not be
afraid what man can do unto me.”
The first word uttered by a candidate for Masonic degrees upon entering a Masonic Lodge declares his faith in God. Without that declaration the form and beauties of a lodge would be forever concealed from him. So, too, would be the hidden beauties of Freemasonry. That declaration also professes the candidate’s undying trust in God – a trust that is symbolically tested during the ritual used in each of the three degrees of Masonry.
In the First Degree, the candidate is released to the custody of a person whom he cannot see and in a sightless condition is caused to be led in paths he has never before traveled. His conductor is merely identified to him as a true and trusty friend upon whose fidelity he can, with the utmost confidence, rely. The candidate is taught a most important lesson about Freemasonry – it is safe to trust a brother Mason; as safe as trusting in God.
During the Second Degree, the candidate is taught the importance of the symbolic Middle Chamber of King Solomon’s Temple, which he may only enter by demonstrating his worthiness and knowledge. Here, Masons learn that knowledge is the gift of God and that the benefits we receive from knowledge are to be shared with every man, woman and child with whom they come into contact. That is so, because Divine Wisdom is at the root of all we can ever hope to learn and know, the comforts from which are not be denied any of God’s creatures.
Yet, it is during the Third Degree that the candidate learns how to rely upon God – how to fear not what man can do unto him. During the ritual, the candidate learns that he will no longer have someone to pray for him. He must do so by himself. The true and trusty brother who had previously served as his guide is replaced with the invisible presence of the Deity. Here, Masons are prepared for traveling abroad, or in the social and professional circles in his life outside of a Masonic Lodge.
When we reflect upon the progression of the Masonic lessons about trusting in God, we are reminded about the parallel lessons taught during the natural state of human existence. A child is born into the world unable to care for itself. Throughout its early years, it receives the loving care of its nurturing parents and thereby learns how to trust in someone to make it feel safe, secure and very much loved. There comes a time when the child must leave that safe environment and journey alone into the world. It is then that the child truly learns in whom to place its trust.
Throughout the history of mankind, nothing has rendered men more powerless than fear. Those who either assumed authority over others, or embarked on a path toward doing so quickly learned that the imposition of fear upon men made them easy to subjugate and manipulate. Monarchs, legislatures, churches and employers have at various times used fear to gain power, hold power and gain compliance with their different demands. In so doing, they acted as enemies of freedom, for men who act or fail to act out of fear are never truly free.
What is it that causes you to fear? Is it ill health or the steps you must take to keep good health? Could you withstand the humiliation and pressures of losing your job? Does your religion make unreasonable demands upon your behavior and emotions so that you fear falling from God’s grace? Or, do you fear that others do not like you? Such disordered thinking can also give way to anger and resentment – two products of fear – and result in the loss of friends and the loss of peace of mind.
Albert Pike wrote about how essential it is for man to embrace virtue and honor in their lives. He wrote that good men were made better by so doing and that others around them also greatly benefited from the resulting acts of kindness, charity and goodwill. He also wrote about how quickly virtue and honor vanish when fear is allowed to creep into man’s consciousness. A kind word is often quickly and irrationally replaced with an unwarranted harsh criticism. The helping hand is suddenly withdrawn replaced with a vacant uncaring air. Those who ordinarily rushed to instill harmony where bickering once reigned now look over their shoulders to see who is spying on them and who will report them to those who can harm them.
With such consequences clearly in focus, it becomes easier to fully comprehend the importance of fearing not what man can do unto you. As Masons, we learn to pray as though everything depends upon God and to act as though everything depends upon us. Thus, Freemasons have acknowledged from time immemorial that prayer and action are two very well known secrets to aid in achieving good mental and physical health. It is essential to know that both must act together. Prayer without action by he who prays is as useless as faith is without acts.
Fear is a natural reaction to that with which we are unfamiliar. When pain is potentially involved, it is most natural to, at least, feel a great deal of trepidation. Imagine for a moment the plight of the Grand Master Jacques De Molay as he awaited certain torture, most clearly already having been told precisely which instrument would hurtfully probe which delicate parts of his body. Without doubt, he felt fear. Yet, as we are informed by ancient history, he eventually overcame that fear, declared that he would not profess the misdeeds attributed to him and his Knights Templar and was subsequently burned alive at the stake.
What is it that enables men to overcome fear? The heroic efforts of the soldiers at Iwo Jima, or those who stormed the cliffs at the Normandy invasion stand out to generations as examples of unflinching bravery. To the military man the answer is clear – he fights because of his comrades in arms. But, why do we resist fear? Most of us are not in combat and thus not at war. The answer is that we have so conditioned our faith and our minds that we know that we, like all men, will die. Our passing from this material life was ordained before we were born. It matters not so much how we die, but how we live.
Freedom is a gift of God. We can accept it, or reject the entire premise. Fear forces us to make a choice. Many select slavery and yield. Others believe that freedom is a matter of choice and therefore choose to act free, even though they may be in a horrendous state of fear. Man is but of little time here on earth. Yet, his spirit lives forever. We ought not to care so much about our welfare here on earth as to sacrifice the great gift of freedom God has given us.
Men of courage are men of freedom. Men in fear are men in bondage. The Holy Writings is replete with allegories about deliverance from bondage – not submission to slavery. We have been created to become men of God, not men subjugated to the will of those who would use fear to strip us of our natural born spirit of freedom,
When ill health strikes, fear not. You will live. You may even live awhile longer here on this plane. If you do not, it matters not, for you have always been and always will be a life force.
When your fortune fails and you are worrying about how to live one month to the next, fear not. No one has guaranteed you a life without turmoil. However, you have been guaranteed that God will give you strength. Pray and act as though you will succeed. Should you feel threatened, whether by an employer, a priest or holy man, or a bully, fear not. No man has been empowered by God to impose his own selfish desires upon any other man. The only manner in which that succeeds is when the man allows it to succeed.
My brethren, Masonry offers us a plan for how best to succeed in life. That plan is centered upon the four cardinal virtues of temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice. None of those virtues may be successfully practiced by a fearful man. Thus, Masonry admonishes us to be steadfast – not fearful. Had Hiram Abif feared death, he would have quickly revealed the secrets of a Master Mason when first assailed by the ruffian at the south gate.
How quickly do you surrender?