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dour, a want of reason and charity. For by the laws of nature and of nations, every individual and every society has a right to be supposed innocent till proved otherwise.
Yet, notwithstanding the mysteries of our profession are kept inviolable, none are excluded from a full knowledge of them in due time and manner, upon proper application, and being found capable and worthy of the trust. To form other designs and expectations, is building on a sandy foundation, and will only serve to testify, that like a rash man their discretion is always out of the way when they have most occasion to make use of it.
ON MASONIC OATHS.
It is but too frequently alleged by the enemies of our order, that upon the initiation of a member into our mysteries, he lays himself under an obligation by an Oath, with very severe penalties. This, by them, is pronounced an unwarrantable proceeding. Certainly these persons are as ignorant as they are ungenerous, and for want of better judgments form erroneous notions, and from false premises, draw false conclusions. To obviate this objection I will trace the origin of swearing, and observe the different customs adopted by the ancients on this head. After examining the nature of the Oath, supposing that one is required, as set forth by the adversaries of Masonry, I will consider how far it is, or is not, warrantable in the present
From that great luminary of the craft, the Holy Scriptures, we are informed what was the custom of swearing among the Hebrews, who sometimes swore by stretching
forth their hands ;* sometimes the party swearing put his hand under the other's thigh, which was the manner of administration used by Abraham and Jacob, standing before the altar,f as we read in Kings; which was also the custom of the Athenians, the Carthagenians, and the Romans.
The Jews chiefly swore by Jerusalem, by the temple, by the gold of the temple, by the altar, and the gift of the altar; and in the time of the Jewish Sanhedrim they fasted on the day they were to give evidence upon oath, and entering their place of worship went before the ark containing the scriptures, and taking a roll of the law in their left arm, near to the heart, invoked the majesty of heaven to bear witness to the truth of their statement.S
The third commandment orders us never to pronounce the name of the Eternal but with the greatest respect. It forbids us to profane it by frivolous discourse, but above all by false oaths or perjury; consequently, oaths are a solemn and religious act, in which we take God to witness, that what we declare is true. Rash oaths, unnecessary, vain or false oaths are strictly forbidden, but are permitted when the laws, the magistrates, or the custom of society requires it, and scripture sanctions it. Also, in Deuteronomy we find “ Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God and serve him and swear by his name ;" and in Jeremiah** we learn that it was necessary to swear by the true God; he ejaculated “How
* Genesis, chapter 14, v. 27.
On this solemn occasion they also wore the fringed cloth, and placed the Phylacteries on their arms and head as commanded in Numbers, chap. 15, v. 37, and Exodus, chap. 13, v. 16.
|| An oath of the Lord shall be taken between them. See Exodus, chap. 22, v. 11.
1 Chapter 6, v. 5,15.
shall I pardon thee for this ? thy children have forsaken me, and swore by them that are no Gods ;” and to forbear other instances, the worshippers of the true God are by King David represented to swear by him, that is, by invoking his name.
The antiquity of swearing being established beyond a doubt, as also the administration of an oath, I shall, in answer to the general objection of our persecutors, examine how far an oath would, or would not, be justifiable, on the initiation of a Mason, supposing it to be required even under such penal sanctions as is pretended.
If we examine the laws and regulations of Free Masonry, it will appear that the end and purport of it is truly laudable, being calculated to regulate our passions, to assist us in acquiring knowledge of the arts and sciences, and to promote morality and beneficence, as well as to render conversation agreeable, innocent, and instructive, and so to influence our practice as to make us useful to others, and happy in ourselves. With regard to the relation we have (as members) to the Society in general, it will appear equally evident from the same regulation, that a Free Mason is to be a peaceable subject, conforming cheerfully to the government under which he lives, is to pay a due deference to his superiors, and from his inferiors is to receive honour rather with reluctance than to extort it. He must be a man of universal benevolence and charity, not tenacious of his abundance, when the exigencies of his fellow creatures lay the justest claim to his bounty.
Masons not only challenge, but have ever supported that character among the honest and candid part of mankind, whose equity and reason would never suffer them to entertain ill-grounded prejudices.
The great Mr. Locke appears to have been so delighted with the principles of the order, that he told a nobleman, (to whom he was writing on the subject) that it was his
wish they were communicated to all mankind, since there is nothing more true, nor conducive to perfect happiness, than what Masons teach; that the better men are the more they love one another, virtue having in itself something so arniable as to charm the heart of all who behold it.
Another distinguished writer* says, no abuse is tolerated among Masons; no intemperance allowed; modesty, union, and humility, are strongly recommended. This Society is no ways offensive to religion, good manners, or political government. It has and does still flourish in all countries. In England it is under the especial patronage of the royal family. His Royal Highness, Augustus Frederick, the Duke of Sussex, has been the Grand Master ever since the accession of his brother, George IV., to the throne.t
* Mr. Lenoir, in a French work, entitled L'Antiquité de la Franche Maconnerie, printed in Paris, 1814, page 217.
+ While this work is in progress, it is with feelings of regret we learn the death of his R. H. the Duke of Sussex, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England. With truth and justice can it be said, no nobler heart ever beat in a Mason's breast. He was a highly clement and beneficent prince. He identified himself with the interests of the great mass of the people, and considered how far he could advance their social, relative, and intellectual greatness. His blending with the community was utterly denuded of the coldness of princely formality and the starch of a superior station; it was frank, open, generous, and sincere; Kearty without affectation, and convivial without ostentation. His mind was of a distinguished order, utterly free from any taint of prejudice and narrow mindedness; he was liberal and philanthropic in a very remarkable degree, and looked little to the agency or means by which good was to be achieved, being wrapped only in its success and consummation.
The charitable institutions of England acknowledge, in the person and advocacy of his late royal highness, a persevering and unwearied devotedness of zeal, which he bestowed, frequently at much personal inconvenience, and under the taunt in the highest quarters, that his proceedings were incompatible with princely dignity and royal decorum. The noble duke felt, however, that his intimacy with the people
Mr. Chambers, the famous lexicographer, also testifies, “ That free and accepted Masons are a very ancient society, so called either from some extraordinary knowledge of masonry or building, which they were supposed to be masters of, or because the first founders of their society were of that profession.
“ They are very considerable both for number and character; being found nearly in every country, and consisting principally of men of merit and consideration. . As to antiquity, they lay claim to a standing of thousands of years, and can trace up their origin as early as the building of Solomon's temple.
and their institutions cast a splendour upon his path, royal, indeed, when compared to the unreal and vapid elements that constitute a throne. In his best days the duke was an energetic and fluent speaker; he warmed the hearts and roused the sympathies of his audiences; his energetic tongue frequently warmed into the life of benevolence, the languid and cold materials of avarice and insensibility. His advocacy in the cause of Masonry, generally resulted in a golden harvest. His heart was so expansive, and his notions of charity so unbounded, that his friends frequently suggested a more restricted exhibition of his noble philanthropy.
H. R. H. entered the fraternity in the year 1798, when he was initiated in Berlin, in the Royal York Lodge, The Union. On the accession of his brother, George the IVth. to the throne, he was unanimously elected Grand Master, while the King himself became the patron of the order.
By the death of this clement prince, Free Masonry has suffered a severe blow ; inasmuch as it seldom happens that a man of his distinction and parts is found sufficiently detached from the allurements and ties of splendour, to mix, as a friend, with the great mass of the people. To say that he adorned the ancient craft, would, perchance, be saying too much. It might be rather promulgated that his royal highness's unabated attachment to it, bespeaks the noble and indestructible foundation on which it stands.
May he rest in Peace, and receive his reward from the Grand Master of the universe.