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Masonic Charity, and Moral Enfluence.
FREEMASONRY not only inculcates the principles of love and benevolence, it seeks to give them an actual and living presence in all the occupations and intercourse of life. It not only feels, it acts ! It not only pities human suffering, it relieves it! By a wise provision or law of the Order, which requires each member to pay into the treasury of the lodge a specified sum per year-a sum generally very small, and never above the ability of laboring mena fund of relief is formed, which, with the initiatory and degree fees, is amply able to meet all the demands which may be made on it by sick or distressed brothers.
Nowhere in the world can a good Mason feel himself alone, friendless, or forsaken. The invisible but helpful arms of our Order surround him wherever he may be. Mythic story tells us that the ancient gods invisibly and secretly followed their favorites in all their wanderings, and when these were exposed to danger, or threatened with destruction, would unveil themselves in their awful beauty and power, and stand forth to preserve them from harm, or to avenge
wrongs. So Freemasonry surrounds all her children with her preserving presence, revealing herself only in the hour of peril, sickness, or distress! If one be overtaken by illness or misfortune, be he in any part of the world, and never so poor, he will, if he make his wants known, receive the necessary assistance, and find friends to watch over him with fraternal solicitude. And should he fall a victim to disease, the brothers of charity will be there to close his eyes, and with solemn, yet hopeful, heavenpointing rites, give his body to the repose of the tomb. Nor would their sympathy and love be limited by the grave of their brother. Oh no! False and empty is that charity which expires on the borders of the tomb. And while, in Christian Faith and Hope, their love will attend the spirit of the departed brother, up the pathway of Angels, to the dwellings of the pure and good, they will not be forgetful of their duties to his family, nor unmindful of those domestic interests which were so dear to his heart. They will throw the protecting arm of the Order around the fatherless children, and extend to the weeping wife the tender consolations of brotherly sympathy.
This will not be regarded as a trifling benefitespecially to one who is not rich in this world's goods. Who can estimate the importance of this institution to the mechanic, and all who depend on their daily labor for their daily support ? This is a world of change. Posterity is uncertain ; the strong and sinewy arm is liable at any moment to be made weak. The elements of the storm gather in the sunniest sky; so the form which is the stoutest and the heart which is the manliest to-day, may be stricken down and falter to-morrow. Now, what society but ours can come in here to break the blow of misfortune, and calm the sufferer's mind, and heal the stricken spirit? Will the public charities do this? Will society? Society makes provision for its paupers ; but if the principles of our association were carried out, there would be no paupers! Society, we say, makes provision for its poor ; but then, in exchange, it takes away from them their manhood, and deprives them of the prerogatives of citizens! Yet all this may be better than absolute starvation, and let us be thankful for it. But a member of our fraternity can be brought to no such extremity. He has a right to that charity which he himself, when prosperous and strong, and rich, extended to others. And now, in the hour of his weakness and want, it comes back to him, in a thousand generous streams, attended with the benedictions of his brethren, to relieve his necessities and gladden his heart.
It is sometimes said that Freemasonry is selfish; that “ Masons confine their benefactions to themselves." Were this charge true to its fullest extent, it would be no serious objection to our institution ; for it is clear enough to all who will reflect, that our charities or benefits must be limited by our resources ! We adhere strictly to the apostolic rule--to do good, or to be charitable to all, “but especially to the household of faith.” And this right of individuals to associate for mutual support, will certainly not be questioned.
Here is a number of persons, for example, who are deeply penetrated with a sense of their weakness, as individuals. They have learned how extremely uncertain is all earthly prosperity. The painful experience of life has taught them that the spontaneous charities of the world are entirely inadequate as a remedy for misfortune. They say to each other, “We see, in our mutual weaknesses and dependencies, and in the affinities and relations which make us social beings, the design of the Creator, that we should regard each other as brethren, and shield each other from misfortune. Come, let us accept this ordinance of Heaven. Let us covenant together to support each other in the day of need.” Now, who can doubt the legitimacy and propriety of their scheme of reciprocal relief? and who would think of condemning those men because they could not wipe away every tear, and relieve all the suffering in the wide world?
It is thus with our Masonic fraternity. It pro
tects first its own children, as a loving parent should ; but it also looks with a pitying eye on the miseries of others; and beyond its 'pale, has many a heart been made to throb with reviving hope, and many an eye to sparkle with joy, by its benefactions. Still, it is true, all its benefits and charitable operations must circulate within the circumference of its means. As to the moral influence of Freemasonry, it need only be said that it watches over all its children with paternal anxiety, shields from temptations, by its oft-repeated admonitions and its lessons of virtue, the younger members ; and encourages the more mature to persevere in the upward way of ever-growing, ever-brightening perfection. The soul which animates our Order, inspiring all its members, and controlling all its acts, is the spirit of Love. And certain we are that one cannot be a good Mason without being a better man, a better citizen, and a better Christian. Christianity is the central idea of the institution. The sentiment of religion pervades all its arrangements. Every lodge meeting is opened with appropriate religious exercises. The great facts of God, accountability, a future life, and retribution, are kept constantly before the minds of the brethren. There is no religious organization-no Christian church more vigilant in watching over the conduct, or more strict in its discipline of its members.