FREE-MASONRY is a MORAL ORDER, instituted by virtuous men, with the praiseworthy design of recalling to our remembrance the most sublime TRUTHS, in the midst of the most innocent and social pleasures, - founded on LIBERALITY, BROTHERLY LOVE and CHARITY. It is
a beautiful SYSTEM of MORALITY, veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols. TRUTH is its centre, - the point whence its radii diverge, point out to its disciples a correct knowledge of the Great Architect of the Universe, and the moral laws which he has ordained for their government.
A proper administration of the various ceremonies connected with our ritual is of the first importance and worthy of our serious consideration. The rites and ceremonies of Free-masonry form the distinctive peculiarity of the Institution. In their nature they are simple - in their end instructive. They naturally excite a high degree of curiosity in a newly initiated brother, and create an earnest desire to investigate their meaning, and to become acquainted with their object and design. It requires, however, both serious application and untiring diligence to ascertain the precise nature of every ceremony which our ancient brethren saw reason to adopt in the formation of an exclusive system, which was to pass through the world unconnected with the religion and politics of all times, and of every people among whom it should flourish and increase. In order to preserve our ceremonies from the hand of innovation, it is essentially necessary that every officer should be thoroughly acquainted with them, and that a firm determination should exist among the craft to admit no change. A few words here or there may not in themselves appear of much consequence, yet, by
frequent allowance, we become habituated to them, and thus open the door to evils of more serious magnitude. There is, there can be, no safety but in a rigid adherence to the ancient ceremonies of the Order.
The first of these that claim our attention are those employed in opening and closing the Lodge; much might here be said in relation to them did they admit of written elucidation, but as they are necessarily kept within the body of the Lodge, nothing but vague and unsatisfactory hints could be given respecting them; we therefore prefer to pass them in silence, urging as a recommendation to visit each other as the best method of keeping out innovation and preserving entire uniformity.
In connection with this ceremony, a variety of charges have, at various times, been used by the Order; from the number, we cull the two following, as well for their simple beauty as for the wholesome truths contained in them.
CHARGE AT OPENING.
"The ways of virtue are beautiful. Knowledge is attained by degrees. Wisdom dwells with contemplation: there we must seek her. Let us then, Brethren, apply ourselves with becoming zeal to the practice of the excellent principles inculcated by our Order. Let us ever remember that the great objects of our association are, the restraint
of improper desires and passions, the cultivation of an active benevolence, and the promotion of a correct knowledge of the duties we owe to God, our neighbor and ourselves. Let us be united, and practise with assiduity the sacred tenets of our Order. Let all private animosities, if any unhappily exist, give place to affection and brotherly love. It is a useless parade to talk of the subjection of irregular passions within the walls of the Lodge, if we permit them to triumph in our intercourse with each other. Uniting in the grand design, let us be happy ourselves and endeavor to promote the happiness of others. Let us cultivate the great moral virtues which are laid down on our Masonic Trestleboard, and improve in every thing that is good, amiable and useful. Let the benign Genius of the Mystic Art preside over our councils, and under her sway let us act with a dignity becoming the high moral character of our venerable Institution."
CHARGE AT CLOSING
"Brethren: You are now about to quit this sacred retreat of friendship and virtue, to mix again with the world. Amidst its concerns and employments, forget not the duties you have heard so frequently inculcated and forcibly recommended in this Lodge. Be diligent, prudent, temperate, discreet. Remember that around this altar you have promised to befriend and relieve every Brother who shall need your assistance. Remember that you
have promised to remind him, in the most tender manner, of his failings, and aid his reformation. Vindicate his character, when wrongfully traduced. Suggest in his behalf the most candid and favorable circumstances. Is he justly reprehended? - Let the world observe how Masons love one another.
"These generous principles are to extend further. Every human being has a claim upon your kind offices.'Do good unto all.' Recommend it more 'especially to the household of the FAITHFUL.'
"By diligence in the duties of your respective callings; by liberal benevolence and diffusive charity; by constancy and fidelity in your friendships, discover the beneficial and happy effects of this ancient and honorable Institution. Let it not be supposed that you have here'LABORED in vain, and spent your STRENGTH for nought; for your WORK is with the LORD and your RECOMPENSE with your GOD.'
"Finally, Brethren, be ye all of one mind, - live in peace, and may the God of love and peace delight to dwell with and bless you!"
ADMISSION OF CANDIDATES.
By the regulations of the Fraternity, a candidate for the mysteries of Masonry cannot be initiated in any regular Lodge, without having been proposed at a preceding regular meeting. All applications for initiation should be made in writing, giving name, residence, age, occupation, and references.
The petition, having been read in open Lodge, is placed on file. A committee is then appointed to investigate the character and qualifications of the petitioner. If, at the next regular meeting of the Lodge, the report of the Committee be favorable, and the candidate is admitted, he is required to give his free and full assent to the following interrogations:
The candidate, if no objection be urged to the contrary, is then introduced in due and ancient form.
Having thus spoken of the Lodge and its officers, a few words to the craft themselves might not be
deemed out of place; but we prefer to speak to them in the plain yet eloquent language of the following charges, worthy the attention of all men, and particularly the zealous enquirer for MASONIC TRUTH.
THE PRIVATE DUTIES OF MASONS.
Whoever would be a Mason should know how to practise all the private virtues. He should avoid all manner of intemperance or excess, which might prevent his performance of the laudable duties of his Craft, or lead him into enormities which would reflect dishonor upon the ancient Fraternity. He is to be industrious in his profession, and true to the Master he serves. He is to labor justly, and not to eat any man's bread for nought; but to pay truly for his meat and drink. What leisure his labor allows, he is to employ in studying the arts and sciences with a diligent mind, that he may the better perform all his duties to his Creator, his country, his neighbor and himself.
He is to seek and acquire, as far as possible, the virtues of patience, meekness, self-denial, forbearance, and the like, which give him the command over himself, and enable him to govern his own family with affection, dignity and prudence: at the same time checking every disposition injurious to
the world and promoting that love and service which Brethren of the same household owe to each other.
Therefore, to afford succor to the distressed, to divide our bread with the industrious poor, and to put the misguided traveler into the way, are duties of the Craft, suitable to its dignity and expressive of its usefulness. But, though a Mason is never to shut his ear unkindly against the complaints of any of the human race, yet when a Brother is oppressed or suffers, he is in a more peculiar manner called upon to open his whole soul in love and compassion to him, and to relieve him without prejudice, according to his capacity.
It is also necessary, that all who would be true Masons should learn to abstain from all malice, slander and evil speaking; from all provoking, reproachful and ungodly language; keeping always a tongue of good report.
A Mason should know how to obey those who are set over him; however inferior they may be in worldly rank or condition. For although Masonry divests no man of his honors and titles, yet, in a Lodge, pre-eminence of virtue, and knowledge in the art, is considered as the true source of all nobility, rule and government.
The virtue indispensably requisite in Masons is - SECRECY. This is the guard of their confidence, and the security of their trust So great a stress is to be laid upon it, that it is enforced under the strongest obligations; nor, in their esteem, is any
man to be accounted wise, who has not intellectual strength and ability sufficient to cover and conceal such honest secrets as are committed to him, as well as his own more serious and private affairs.
DUTIES AS CITIZENS.
A Mason is a peaceable citizen, and is never to be concerned in plots and conspiracies against the peace and welfare of the nation, nor to behave himself, undutifully to inferior magistrates. He is cheerfully to conform to every lawful authority; to uphold on every occasion, the interest of the community, and zealously promote the prosperity of his own country. Masonry has ever flourished in times of peace, and been always injured by war, bloodshed and confusion; so that kings and princes in every age, have been much disposed to encourage the craftsmen on account of their peaceableness and loyalty, whereby they practically answer the cavils of their adversaries and promote the honor of the Fraternity. Craftsmen are bound by peculiar ties to promote peace, cultivate harmony, and live in concord and Brotherly Love.
DUTIES IN THE LODGE.
While the Lodge is open for work, Masons must hold no private conversation or committees, without leave from the Master; nor talk of anything foreign or impertinent; nor interrupt the Master or Wardens, or any Brother addressing himself to the Chair; nor behave inattentively, while the Lodge
is engaged in what is serious and solemn; but every Brother shall pay due reverence to the Master, the Wardens, and all his fellows.
Every Brother guilty of a fault shall submit to the Lodge, unless he appeal to the Grand Lodge.
No private offences, or disputes about nations, families, religions or politics, must be brought within the doors of the Lodge.
DUTIES AS NEIGHBORS.
Masons ought to be moral men. Consequenrtly they should be good husbands, good parents, good sons and good neighbors; avoiding all excess, injurious to themselves or families, and wise as to all affairs, both of their own household and of the Lodge, for certain reasons known to themselves.
DUTIES TOWARDS A BROTHER.
Free and Accepted Masons have ever been charged to avoid all slander of true and faithful Brethren, and all malice or unjust resentment, or talking disrespectfully of a Brother's person or performance. Nor must they suffer any to spread unjust reproaches or calumnies against a Brother behind his back, nor to injure him in his fortune, occupation or character; but they shall defend such a Brother, and give him notice of any danger or injury wherewith he may be threatened, to enable him to escape the same, as far as is consistent with honor, prudence, and the safety of religion, morality, and the state; but no farther.