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“ What the end of their constitution is, seems still to be a secret, though as much of it as is known, appears laudable, and it tends to promote friendship, society, mutual assistance, and good fellowship.
“ The members of this family are said to be possessed of a number of secrets, which have been religiously observed from age to age. Be their other good qualities what they will, it is plain they are masters of one in a very great degree, namely, Secresy."
Now, let us calmly ask, if a number of persons, who have formed themselves into a body, with a design to im. prove in useful knowledge, to promote universal benevolence, and to cultivate the social virtues of human life, and have bound themselves by the solemn obligation of an oath, to conform to the rules of such an institution, where can be the impiety, immorality, or folly of such proceeding? Is it not the custom of most communities, in the state, amongst the learned bodies, in commerce, &c., a case too commonly known to require a recital of particular instances.
As the principles of our institution cannot be considered but truly praiseworthy, containing those valuable perquisites which will ever secure the esteem and admiration of all good men, as well as most assuredly the envy of the bad,) we will put this plain question: Is not the design of it of equal importance to the public, with the lending of a large sum of money to a private man? The answer and the consequences are both evident; than an oath on the subject of Free Masonry, if required, is both lawful and obligatory.
As for the terror of a penalty, it is a mistaken notion to imagine that the solemnity of an oath adds anything to the obligation; or that the oath is not equally binding without any penalty at all.
I shall add a few quotations from the late Bishop Saunderson, leaving the explanation and application to the intelligent.
A solemn oath of itself, and in its own nature, is not more obligatory than a simple one ; both because the obligation of an oath arises from this, that God is invoked as a witness and avenger, no less in the simple one than in the solemn and corporal ; for the invocation is made precisely by the pronunciation of the words, (which is the same both in the simple and solemn,) and not by any corporal motion or concomitant sign, in which the solemnity of the oath consists.
And it is a matter well worthy the consideration of every man, that as the object of a lawful oath is God alone, so it contains a solemn confession of his omnipresence, that he is with us in every place; of his omniscience, that he knoweth all the secrets of the heart; that he is a maintainer of truth, and an avenger of falsehood; of his justice, that he is willing; and of his omnipotence, that he is able to punish those that by a disregard to their oaths shall dishonour him.
It is therefore of a very dangerous tendency for persons who have once taken an oath, to trifle and play with the force of it, even supposing the occasion of such an obligation of small moment in itself, and this is positively determined by the same writer, in the following words, and ought to be a caution to all not to violate an oath, lest they incur the fatal consequences of real perjury.
A voluntary oath is the more binding for being voluntary, because there is no stricter obligation than that we take willingly on ourselves. An oath is binding in matters of the least moment; because weighty and trivial things have alike respect unto truth and falsehood; and, further, because every party swearing is bound to perform all he promised, as far as he is able, and as far as it is lawful. This is confirmed by Moses :* if a man swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond, he shall not break his word; he shall do according
* Numbers, chap. 30, v. 2. Deut, chap. 23, v. 21. 24.
GOVERNMENT OF THE FRATERNITY EXPLAINED.
to all that proceedeth out of his mouth. And it is threatened, one that sweareth falsely, shall be cut off by the
I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of Hosts, and it shall enter into the house of him that sweareth falsely by my ame; and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it, with the timber thereof, and the stones thereof.
The objectors being thus answered, with respect to the lawfulness of an oath, supposing one to be required on the initiation of a Free Mason, as the certainty of which conjecture is their only support.
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FRATERNITY EXPLAINED.
The mode of government observed by the fraternity will best explain the importance, and give the truest idea of the nature and design of the Masonic system.
There are several classes of Masons, under different appellations. The privileges of these classes are distinct, and particular means are adopted to preserve those privileges to the just and meritorious of each class.
Honour and probity are recommendations to the first class ; in which the practice of virtue is enforced, and the duties of morality inculcated, while the mind is prepared for regular and social converse, in the principles of knowledge and philosophy.
Diligence, assiduity and application, are qualifications for the second class; in which an accurate elucidation of science, both in theory and practice, is given. Here human reason is cultivated by a due exertion of the rational and
GOVERNMENT OF THE FRATERNITY EXPLAINED.
intellectual powers and faculties; nice and difficult theories are explained ; new discoveries produced, and those already known beautifully embellished.
The third class is composed of those whom truth and fidelity have distinguished ; who, when assaulted by threats and violence, after solicitation has failed, have evinced their firmness in preserving inviolate the mysteries of the order.
The fourth class consists of those who have perseveringly studied the scientific branches of the art, and exhibited proofs of their skill and acquirements, and who have consequently obtained the honour of this degree, as a reward of merit.
The fifth class consists of those who, having acquired a proficiency of knowledge in the foregoing degrees, have been elected to preside over regularly constituted bodies of Masons.
The sixth class consists of those who, having discharged the duties of the chair with honour and reputation, are acknowledged and recorded as excellent Masters.
The seventh and last class consists of a select few, whom years and experience have improved, and whom merit and abilities have entitled to preferment. With this class the ancient landmarks of the order are preserved ; and from them we learn and practice the necessary instructive lessons, which at once dignify the art, and qualify its professors to illustrate its excellence and utility.
In some part of our continent, although not countenanced by the Grand Chapter of the State of Pennsylvania, are some additional explanations to the seventh degree.
This is the established mode of the Masonic government, when the rules of the system are observed. By this judicious arrangement, true friendship is cultivated among different ranks and degrees of men, hospitality promoted, industry rewarded, and ingenuity encouraged.
Masonry is an art equally useful and extensive. In every art there is a mystery, which requires a gradual progression of knowledge, to arrive at any degree of perfection in it. Without much instruction, and more exercise, no man can be skilful in any art; in like manner, without an assiduous application to the various subjects treated in the different lectures of Masonry, no person can be sufficiently acquainted with its true value.
It must not, however, be inferred from this remark, that persons who labour under the disadvantages of a confined education, or whose sphere of life requires a more intense application to business or study, are to be discouraged in their endeavours to gain a knowledge of Masonry. To qualify an individual to enjoy the benefits of the society at large, or to partake of its privileges, it is not absolutely necessary that he should be acquainted with all the intricate parts of the science. These are only intended for the diligent and assiduous Mason, who may have leisure and opportunity to indulge in such pursuits.
Though some are more able than others, some more eminent, some more useful, yet all in their different spheres, may prove advantageous to the community; and our necessities as well as our consciences, bind us to love one another. The industrious tradesman certainly proves himself a valuable member of society, and, worthy of every honour that we can confer; but as the nature of every man's profession will not admit of that leisure which is necessary to qualify him to become an expert Mason, it is highly proper that the official duties of a lodge should be executed by persons whose education and situation in life enable them to become