Our Freemasonry is undoubtedly a progressive science, and yet the fundamental principles of Freemasonry are the same now as they were at the very beginning of the Institution. Its landmarks are unchangeable. In these there can be no alteration, no diminution no addition. When, therefore, we say that Freemasonry is progressive in its character, vie of course do not mean to allude to this unalterable part of its institution- But there is 3 progress which every science must undergo, and which many of them have already undergone, to which the science of Freemasonry is subject.
Thus we say of chemistry that it is a progressive science.
Two hundred sears ago, all its principles, so far as they were known, were directed to such futile inquiries as the philosopher's stone and the elixir of immortality Now these principles have become more thoroughly understood, and more definitely established and the object of their application is more noble at philosophic. The writings of the chemists of the former and the present period sufficiently indicate this progress of the science. Yet the elementary principles of chemistry are unchangeable. Its truths were the same then as they are now. Some of them were at that time unknown, because no mind of sufficient research had discovered them; but they existed as truths, from the very creation of matter; and now they have only been developed, not invented.
So it is with Freemasonry. It too has had its progress. Freemasons are now expected to be more learned than formerly in all that relates to the science of the Order. Its origin, its history, its objects, are now considered worthy of the attentive consideration of its disciples. The rational explanation of its ceremonies and symbols, and their connection with ancient systems of religion and philosophy, are now considered as necessary topics of inquiry for all who desire to distinguish themselves as proficient in Masonic science.
In all these things we see a great difference between the Freemasons of the present and of former days. In Europe, a century ago, such inquiries were considered as legitimate subjects of Masonic study. Hutchinson published in 1760, in England, his admirable work entitled the Spirit of freemasonry, in which the deep philosophy of the Institution was fairly developed with much learning and ingenuity. Preston's Illustrations of Masonry, printed at a not Much later period, also exhibits the system treated, c in many places, in a philosophical manner. Lawrie's History of Freemasonry, published in Scotland in 1804, is a work containing much profound historical and antiquarian research.
And in the last century, the works of Doctor Oliver alone would be sufficient to demonstrate to the most cursory observer that Freemasonry has a claim to be ranked among the learned institutions of the day. In Germany and France, the press has been borne down with the weight of abstruse works on our Order, written by men of the highest literary pretensions. In the United States, notwithstanding the really excellent work of Salem Town on Speculative Masonry, published in 1818, and the learned Discourses of Dr. T. M. Harris, published in 1801, it is only within much more recent years that Freemasonry has begun to assume the exalted position of a literary institution.