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VINDICATION OF FREE MASONRY.
Ir is a very easy task to trace from reason and the nature of things, the wise ends and designs of the sacred constitution of Masonry; which not alone cultivates and improves a real and undisguised friendship among men, but teaches them the more important duties of society. Vain, then, is each ídle surmise against this sacred art, which our enemies may either meanly cherish in their own bosoms, or ignorantly promulgate to the uninterested world. By decrying Masonry, they derogate from human nature itself, and from that good order and wise constitution of things, which the Almighty Author of the world has framed for the government of mankind, and has established as the basis of the moral system; which, by a secret, but attractive force, disposes the human heart to every social virtue. Can friendship or social delights be the object of reproach? Can that wisdom, which hoary time has sanctified, be the object of ridicule? How mean, how contemptible must those men appear, who vainly pretend to censure or contemn what they cannot comprehend! The generous heart will pity ignorance so aspiring and insolent.
I shall now proceed, and consider in what shape Masonry is of universal utility to mankind, how it is reconcilable to
the best policy, why it deserves the general esteem, and why all men are bound to promote it.
Abstracting from the pure pleasures which arise from a friendship so wisely constituted, and which it is scarce possible that any circumstance or occurrence can erase; let us consider, that Masonry is a science confined to no particular country, but diffused over the whole terrestrial globe, where arts flourish. Add to this, that by secret and inviolable signs, carefully preserved among ourselves throughout the world, Masonry becomes an universal language. By this means, many advantages are gained: men of all religions and of all nations are united. The distant Chinese, the wild Arab, or the American Savage, will embrace his brother; and he will know, that, besides the common ties of humanity, there is still a stronger obligation to engage him to kind and friendly actions. The spirit of the fulminating priest will be tamed, and a moral brother, though of a different persuasion, engage his esteem. Thus, all those disputes, which embitter life, and sour the tempers, are avoided; and every face is clad with smiles, while the common good of all, the general design of the craft, is zealously pursued.
Is it not evident that Masonry is an universal advantage to mankind? For, sure, unless discord and harmony be the same, it must be so. Is it not likewise reconcilable to the best policy? for it prevents that heat of passion, and those partial animosities, which different interests too often create. Masonry teaches us to be faithful to the government, and true to our country; to avoid turbulent measures, and to submit with reverence to the decisions of legislative power. It is surely, then, no mean advantage, no trifling acquisition, to any community or state, to have under its power and jurisdiction loyal subjects and citizens, patrons of science, and friends to mankind.
Does not Masonry, therefore, of itself command the
highest regard? Does it not claim the greatest esteem? Does it not merit the most exclusive patronage? Without doubt. If all that is good and amiable, if all that is useful to mankind or society, be deserving a wise man's attention, Masonry claims it in the highest degree. What beautiful ideas does it not inspire? How does it open and enlarge the mind? And how abundant a source of satisfaction does it afford? Does it not recommend universal benevolence, and every other virtue which can endear one man to another? And is it not particularly adapted to give the mind the most disinterested, the most generous notions?
An uniformity of opinion, not only useful in exigencies, but pleasing in familiar life, universally prevails among Masons, strengthens all the ties of their friendship, and equally promotes love and esteem. Masons are brethren; and amongst brethren there exists no invidious distinctions. A king is reminded, that though a crown adorns his head, and a sceptre in his hand, yet the blood in his veins is derived from the common parent of mankind, and is no better than that of the humblest individual. Men in inferior states are taught to love their superiors, when they see them divested of their grandeur, and condescending to trace the path of wisdom, and follow virtue, assisted by those of a rank beneath them. Virtue is true nobility, and wisdom the channel by which it is directed and conveyed. Wisdom and virtue, therefore, are the great characteristics of Masons.
Masonry inculcates universal love and benevolence, and disposes the heart to particular acts of goodness. A Mason possessed of this amiable, this God-like disposition, is shocked at misery under every form or appearance. His pity is not only excited, but he is prompted, as far as is consistent with the rules of prudence, to alleviate the pain of the sufferer, and cheerfully to contribute to his relief. For this end our funds are raised, and our charities established on the firmest foundation. When a brother is in distress,
what heart does not ache? When he is hungry, do we not convey him food? Do we not clothe him when he is naked? Do we not fly to his relief when he is in trouble? Thus we evince the propriety of the title we assume, and demonstrate to the world, that the term or endearing name of Brother among Masons is not nominal.
If these acts are not sufficient to recommend so great and generous a plan, such a wise and good Society, happy in themselves, and equally happy in the possession of every social virtue, nothing which is truly good can prevail. The man who resists arguments drawn from such topics, must be callous to every noble principle, and lost to all sense of honor.
Nevertheless, though the fairest and the best ideas may be thus imprinted in the mind, there are brethren who, careless of their own reputation, disregard the instructive lessons of our noble science, and, by yielding to vice and intemperance, not only disgrace themselves, but reflect dishonour on Masonry in general. It is this unfortunate circumstance which has given rise to those severe and unjust reflections, which the prejudiced part of mankind have so liberally bestowed on us. But let these apostate brethren know, and let it be proclaimed to the world at large, that they are unworthy of the trust, and that whatever name or designation they assume, they are in reality no Masons. It is as possible for a mouse to move a mountain, or a man to calm the boisterous ocean, as it is for a principled Mason to commit a dishonourable action: Masonry consist in virtuous improvement, in cheerful and innocent pastime, and not in lewd debauchery or unguarded excess.
But though unhappy brethren thus transgress, no wise man will draw any argument from thence against the society, or urge it as an objection against the institution. If the wicked lives of men were admitted as an argument, the religion which they profess, with all its divine beauties, would be exposed to censure. Let us, therefore, endeavour
strenuously to support the dignity of our characters, and by reforming the abuses which have crept in among us, display Masonry in its primitive lustre, and convince mankind that the source from which it flows is truly divine.
It is this conduct which can alone retrieve the ancient glory of the craft. Our good and generous actions must distinguish our titles to the privileges of Masonry, and the regularity of our behaviour display their influence and utility. Thus the world will admire our sanctity of manners, and effectually reconcile our uniform conduct with the incomparable tenets we profess and admire.
As our order is founded upon harmony, and subsists by regularity and proportion, so our passions ought to be properly restrained, and be ever subservient to the dictates of right reason. As the delicate pleasures of friendship harmonize our minds, and exclude rancour, malice, or ill-nature, so we ought to live like brethren bound by the same tie, always cultivating fraternal affection, and reconciling ourselves to the practice of those duties, which are the basis on which the structure we erect must be supported. By improving our minds in the principles of morality and vir tue, we enlarge our understandings, and more effectually answer the great ends of our existence. Such as violate our laws, or infringe our good order, we mark with a peculiar odium; and if our mild endeavours to reform their lives should not answer the good purposes intended, we expel them our assemblies as unfit members of the society. Rich and poor receive equal justice. As an instance of the evenhanded justice of the order, I have selected the following expulsions which took place a few years ago.*
* Governor Van Teylingen, a Past Grand Steward, expelled the Society in 1792, for crimes of the most abominable nature. Joseph Baylis, expelled in 1775, for an attempt to commit a detestable or unnatural kind of crime. William Brand, expelled in 1774, for injuring