CHRISTIAN/MASONIC IDEAS AT JOSEPH's TIME
(This article has been attributed to an e-mail message posted on the Mormon-Masons and Mormon History forum. The author of the original e-mail has requested me to provide his name and e-mail address, Joe Steve Swick III, firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Oliver, George. Signs and Symbols Illustrated and Explained, in a course of 12 Lectures on Freemasonry.New ed. New York: Masonic Publishing Co., 1891.
A primary ceremony of the First Degree is, the investiture of the Apron....the Apron or Girdle, in ancient times, was an universally received emblem of Truth and Passive Duty. The Israelites, when preparing to effect their escape from Egyptian captivity, were enjoined to eat the Passover with their loins girded. Job is commanded to gird up his loins like a man, when the Almighty is about to reward his patience and constancy. At the consecration of Aaron, he is invested with this symbolical article of apparel. And the prophets, on all occasions, before they performed any remarkable act of duty, carefully complied with this important ceremony. When Samuel was received into the ministry, though but a child, he was girded with a linen ephod. David, in the height of his exultation on the recovery of the Ark, danced before it, invested with the same garment. Elijah the Tishbite and John the Baptist were both girded with an Apron of (white) leather. It was said of Jesus Christ, that his Girdle should represent equally Righteousness and Fidelity. And in conformity with these authorities his principle disciples exhorted the Christian converts to gird up the loins of their mind, to be sober, and hope to the end, and to stand firm in the faith, having their loins girt about with Truth.
Amongst the primitive Masons, this badge received a characteristic distinction from its peculiar colour and material; and was, indeed, unequivocal mark of superior dignity. The investiture of the Apron formed an essential part of the ceremony of initiation, and was attended with rites equally significant and impressive. With the Essenian Masons, it was accompanied by illustrations not less imposing and satisfactory to the newly initiated enquirer. He was clothed in a long WHITE robe, which reached to the ground, bordered with a fringe of blue ribbon to incite personal holiness, and fastened tightly around the waist with a girdle....With feet bare and head uncovered, he was considered a personification of modesty, humility, and the fear of God.
It was the firm opinion of the Essenes, that internal purity and rectitude of conduct were most strikingly evinced by a person's outward appearance. This belief was probably derived from that famous precept of King Solomon, who had constantly that same emblematical reference on his lips: "Let thy garments always be WHITE." At his investiture, the candidate was exhorted to the practice of moral virtue....their deviations from moral rectitude were not frequent. But if an instance did occur, in which the purity of the White Garment was sullied by intemperance or excess, the offender was formally excluded from all social intercourse with his former brethren, and declared unworthy of the Robe which he had disgraced by violated vows....This exclusion was considered a punishment of such a dreadful nature, that Josephus says it was commonly followed by a lamentable death.
Thus, also, in the institutions of the heathen nations, the aspirant was honoured with a similar investiture; and shared all the benefits and privileges which were accessible to the wearer of this widely-celebrated badge of innocence. The garments of initiation were uniformly *White*, and they bore common reference to innocence of conduct and purity of heart. When a candidate was initiated into the ancient mysteries, he was esteemed *regenerate*; for these institutions were the sole vehicle of regeneration...and he was invested with a White Garment and Apron, as a symbol of his newly attained purity....
Amongst the Greeks, the garment of initiation was White, because, says Cicero, white is a colour most acceptable to the gods. This Robe was accounted sacred, and a never-failing source of protection in every emergency. As an invaluable relic, it was used by the fortunate possessor until resolved to rags; and when no longer fit for use, the children were invested with the tattered remnants, as undoubted preservation against the malign affects of all diseases to which they were by nature exposed....
In Hindustan, the aspirant, with similar ceremonies was solemnly invested with the consecrated Sash or Girdle, which, being inserted over his left shoulder, descended on the right side, and hung as low as the extremities of the fingers could reach. This Girdle he was directed to wear next to his skin. It consisted of a cord composed of *three times three* threads knit together, and fastened at the end with a knot. It was manufactured with many mysterious ceremonies, and was said to possess the power of preserving the wearer from personal danger....
The [Masonic] Apron is made of a Lamb's Skin; its colour, White. These are understood amongst us as joint emblems of Innocence; by which we are properly and constantly reminded, that while clothed in that distinguishing badge our conduct should be uniformly marked by the corresponding duties of innocence and integrity.The lamb was always esteemed an emblem of the purest innocence; and hence the Redeemer of mankind received the significant appellation of "the Lamb of God," because he was immaculate, and without spot or blemish. And the colour, White, is an unequivocal symbol of Light and Purity, has been honoured and venerated in all ages, by every nation and every people since the creation of light out of darkness. Even the primitive Christian adopted a custom so universally prevalent, so consonant with reason, sanctioned by the usage of all antiquity, and authorized by the solemn ordinances of a religion which had been instituted by Deity himself; for not only did the Jewish Prophets symbolize purity and impeccability by this colour; but the spotless Author of our religion is said to have been clad in raiment White as Light at his transfiguration, and White as snow after his resurrection... Many years after this, the Divinity condescended to promise that every Christian, who should overcome the temptations of the world, should be rewarded with a WHITE STONE, as an undeniable passport into the paradise of God....the early followers of Jesus Christ invested the catechumens with a White Robe...accompanied by this solemn charge: "Receive the White and undefiled garment, and produce it without spot before the tribunal of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you may obtain eternal life"....
The Masonic Apron is said to be more ancient than the badge of any other honorable institution... the Apron is unquestionable more ancient than [the Deluge]; it was, therefore, worn before the establishment of the idolatrous mysteries. We are certain, from undeniable authority, that the Apron was the first species of clothing with which mankind was acquainted, and was adopted before the expulsion of our great progenitors from the garden of Eden. When they had violated the original compact, their eyes were opened to a sense of guilt and shame, and they saw that they were naked. Decency suggested the necessary expedient of covering themselves with Aprons (Oliver, Signs and Symbols, 128-137).
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Christian/Masonic Ideas at Joseph's Time Last Updated September 1, 2001
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