George W. Truett on
Pastor of First Baptist Church, Dallas
Texas Grand Lodge, Waco, 1940
On Freemasonry, listen to Truett’s reflections and charges to the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1940. Christian anti-Masons should hear this, as none of them are Truett’s equal in soul winning, preaching excellence, or pastoral leadership.
Most Worshipful Grand Master, President Neff [then president of Baylor and Truett’s introducer to the Grand Lodge], and you, my Brother Masons:
In my first expression from this platform this evening, I would say that I am touched more deeply than I can say by the courtesy of the invitation to me to be here with you this evening, and speak out of my heart some words to you, and I am responding to that invitation with a poignant sense of my inability to speak in a manner worthy of so significant an occasion as is the one here assembled this evening. In the appreciation of the far-reaching and gracious serviceableness of the Masonic Fraternity … any qualification for me to speak to you, then I have that one qualification.
From my earliest recollection, sitting about my father’s knee, who was a Mason, and hearing him and fellow Masons talk, I imbibed the impression in early childhood that the Masonic Fraternity is one of the most helpfully mediating and conserving organizations among men, and I have never wavered from that childhood impression but it has stood steadfastly with me through the busy and vast hurrying years.
A man has a strong heart if he is not touched with a strange sense of awe when he goes into a Masonic Lodge and observes its furniture, notably the Bible right in the center of that Lodge, and the square and the compass. When one calls to mind this furniture in the local Masonic Lodge, he is reminded at once that an institution of strategic and commanding importance is in his community and when one calls to mind the vast array of great men linked with this institution, his appreciation must be greatly magnified.
President Neff has called to our attention some of the most honored names ever bound up with the life of this commonwealth who were Masons, and men of world significance have been bound up with this institution and glorified it by their precepts and by their lives. To name only two, there was John Milton, who ranked with Homer and Virgil in his wonderful writings, and he turned aside, you will remember, from his important writings to hurl his Philippics in England when men were seeking to destroy liberty. John Milton, a Mason.
And to name only one name in this country, high over all, as long as men's hearts are capable of beating with admiration and with strange fervor of feeling for patriotism, their hearts will bum at the mention of this name, first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, the immortal George Washington. [Applause.]
All of us must feel a keen indebtedness to the Grand Master of Texas in giving emphasis on his visitations in his official career to the teachings that Masonry in its precepts and principles is to be magnified every day. We are profoundly grateful to him that he has let us remember with accentuated emphasis that the big business of life for man is to live like he ought to live, and he is to take no furloughs from this big business, but day by day and wherever he goes he is to be true to the ideals and standards that have given this institution a great place in the earth and far famed distinction.
And when one remembers that over 100,000 Texas citizens are bound up with this institution, renewed heart hope are given me for the welfare of our country, for these 100,000 and more men can rally this state to the highest standards and turn the batter back from the gates for every wrong horde of evil influences that would at any time seek to override and overrun and destroy our commonwealth. We are agreed, I must believe, that it behooves a community to keep for it all the while the right standards and ideals for the inspiration of conduct and the strengthening of character…
I am happy to believe my Brother Masons, that you are happy to magnify these great virtues, justice, love and brotherhood, in every Masonic Lodge throughout the vast domain of our beloved state.
We are of one mind, I must believe, that we are to keep before us all of the time the test of life, the test of earthly life, which test is the test of the right kind of service. That it the test of life, the aristocracy of the right kind of service. That is our Grand Master’s test of life. “By their fruits ye shall know them.” A tree is known by its fruits. One ideal life which this world has seen is portrayed for us in the simple words, “He went about doing good.” What the world wants and prays for is the coming of men who will go up and down the land continually doing good.
The wrongs of the world cannot be righted except by the right kind of service. Its injustices cannot be corrected, its grievances cannot be redressed, except by the right kind of services. It is by service, my brother men, that men must vindicate their faith in each and every realm, in the social realm, in the realms of business and professional life, in the realms of political and governmental life, in the realms of educational, and moral, and religious life. It is by service that men must vindicate their faith, for faith, you will agree, is more than a dogma. Faith is a passion; faith lives, faith achieves, faith arrives, faith is valuable in proportion as it arrives in services.
Great believers are always great doers. Witness Moses of the Old Testament, and Paul of the New Testament. Witness George Washington, and Robert E. Lee, and Sam Houston , and a vast galaxy of names we could all pass in review before us, each illustrating the great truth that a great believer is always a great doer….
If ever there was a time when men, all men, every man, should live at his highest and best in countenance with the law of God, and for the highest will of his brother man, that time is now. It is a crime any time for a man to be a small man, small in spirit, small in body, in spirit, selfish in spirit, but it is ten-fold a crime, one hundred-fold a crime, for a man in such destiny-determining days as these that confront us to be an unworthy man....
There are three institutions that ought to have every man’s best, and those institutions are the home, civil government and religion. These ought to have every man’s best, and these are definitely appointed.
There is, first of all, the home. It is God’s first institution for human society. It is the ultimate basis for human society. It is the citadel both for church and state. All will go well if we have the right sort of homes, and every man should be at his best in his own home. Nothing can atone for malfeasance if a man doesn’t live at his best in his own home and with his own family.
And then there is the second institution definitely appointed, namely civil government, or state. The powers that be are ordained of government. Every man should be the best citizen possible. Every man should give attention, rapt, and considerate, and thoughtful, and patriotic attention to his own country, to his own faith, to his own nation. Every man should be a true patriot, and voice it in every worthy way, wherever he goes. Every man should be that. Yes, every man should be that, and a renaissance of general patriotism may well be magnified now in these epochal days that are on the world, that make us wonder every night when we rest our heads upon our couches what we will read in the morning paper.
There was a saying that went abroad a while back by a man, and he challenged us no little by a pungent saying. His saying was “America is afflicted with the bad citizenship of good men.” That seems utterly impossible, doesn’t it? No, it isn't. “America,” he said, “is afflicted with the bad citizenship of good men,” and he went on to explain that many men are very kindly in their homes, deferential husbands and considerate fathers.... [They] seek after right standards and the highest welfare of their homes, and they are kindly in their relations to their neighbors, community-minded and public-spirited, and charitable in their behavior, and yet give no heed, no thought, to the body politic, to the country, to their land, and, my Brethren, his statement holds good. This country is afflicted to an alarming degree with the bad citizenship of good men….
And then there is the other organized matter, or the Christian religion. Old Carlisle was right when he said, “Religion is the determining factor of any and every civilization, and every man should see to it that he bows reverently and trustfully toward Him who is Lord over all, and blessed for ever more, offers his life primarily and transcendently in harmony with that righteous and perfect will of our divine Master and Savior.”
Every man’s life should be thus ordered before God. Every man’s life should be thus ordered before God now. In an hour like this, it should be a dedication, a rededication hour for every man of us.
Perocles, that great orator at Athens long ago, used to take the young men out with him to the graves of their beloved and mighty dead, and he would recite their mighty deeds, their valorous behavior, and there by those graves pledge them anew to the highest things in the lives yet before them to be lived.
An occasion like this is an occasion suitable for a rededication, a redevotement, a recommitment of us all to say today we will live at our best, at our highest and best, for the glory of God and for the highest welfare of humanity.…
[Much applause, as all the Brethren assembled rose in token of their great appreciation of the wonderful address to which they had just listened.][i]
See more on George W. Truett: www.sbhla.org/bio_gtruett.htm, the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives, which mirrors www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/view/TT/ftr16.html, the Texas State Historical Society’s Handbook of Texas, on Truett. His books include, We Would See Jesus (1915), A Quest for Souls (1917), and God's Call to America (1923), collected into one volume, Follow Thou Me (1932). Biographies include George W. Gray, “Out of the Mountains Came This Great Preacher of the Plains” (American Magazine, November 1925) and an authorized biography by his son-in-law Powhatan W. James’ George W. Truett: A Biography (Macmillan, 1939; Broadman, 1945) appeared in five editions by MacMillan (1939-1945) and the sixth, Memorial Edition, by Broadman Press, in 1953. At Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary chapel services are held in the Truett Auditorium.