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Freemasonry in Harmony with the Spirit of the Age,
and the Needs of Man.
FREEMASONRY seeks to restore the unity of the race, which the unhappy divisions of the Church have so deplorably disturbed, and to realize, in a more beautiful and efficient form, the holy ideas of Charity, and Love, and Brotherhood. The tendency to association is as old and universal as humanity. It is a sacred law, as binding as that of religion, which compels man to do homage to the Infinite. And among the almost endless variety of human wants, there is not one which makes itself so powerfully and keenly felt as the want of friendship, society—the intimate and constant communion of soul with soul. And yet, such are the habits of modern society, and the spirit of the times, there is no want so difficult to supply. Many hearts there are, glowing with mighty affections, oppressed with deep and earnest longings for friendly communion with sympathizing and responding hearts, and yet, like the spirit of the parable, wander up and down the deserts of life seeking that they never find. The cords of social unity have been severed, and individualism—selfishness has been, by some diablerie or other, installed into the godship of this lower world. These individual and material tendencies, which cast a withering and fatal paralysis over all social life, and all the soul's affections, may be referred chiefly to the unfortunate dissensions that exist among those who are especially bound to dwell together in love. I mean the professed followers of Christ. The fundamental ideas of Christianity are the unity and brotherhood of man-its chief law is that of mutual love. Penetrated with these ideas, the first apostles sought to gather all nations around the standard of the Christ, as one family of brethren, having one interest and one aim. Preserving the ancient and eloquent language of signs, they adorned their temples of worship with speaking images ; pictures of saints and angelssymbols of exalted virtue-were to be seen in every city and village; and the cross—the sign of eternal freedom-was set up as a guide-post on every highway. Thus arose the Church. For many ages it was the true body of Christ, and realized the high ideal of the gospel. It stood the protector of the weak against the strong, the indefatigable friend of the poor and the wretched. It went to man, oppressed, weak, miserable ; tamed his savage ferocity, consoled him in his sorrows, told him of his alliance with Heaven, and in kindling tones bade him aspire to an immortal freedom and a heavenly communion. Like the mythical ash tree, Ygdrasill, it rose ma jestic and beautiful amid the ages, and spread its branches abroad over the nations, and a celestial hymn of love swelled through the evergreen foliage ; but the serpent of corruption preyed upon its roots. The Catholic church consummated her suicide the very day she overturned the altars of charity, and conspired with tyrants against the rights and liberties of man. False to the Christian idea and doctrine of love, she lost the talisman of her power, and when the scorned spirit of love bade adieu to her unworthy altars, she was shivered into a thousand fragments.
Hence, instead of one Church, one Lord, one Faith of Friendship, one baptismal of Charity, we have isolated communities, bound together by no common bond of sympathy, or faith, or love. We need not enlarge here. We only speak a fact which all feel, and over which all sincere Christians
We utter a mournfal truth when we say there is all too little of earnest faith in exalted and disinterested friendship, and in virtue and love, which are not based on the calculations of interest. There is too little of fraternal sympathy, too little of pity for the woes and sufferings of others—too little of that deep, exhaustless love for man as man, irrespective of nation, faith, or rank, which Christianity so strictly enjoins. There are thousands of causes operating at the present time which prevent the free and fraternal communion of man with man. There are the jealousies of religious sects just noticed, and the warrings of political parties, the incessant toil and struggle after wealth, or some temporal and individual good, which break up the unity and harmony of society, transform life into an Arab desert, and men into plundering Ishmaelites.
Freemasonry labors to introduce equality, and bring man to a clearer recognition of his duty to his fellow-men. In the world without, there are innumerable artificial distinctions and arrangements which most painfully constrain the soul. There are barriers in the most democratic societies which separate man from man, and tend to erase entirely the sense of fraternal obligations. Now Masonry designs to create another order of life, where there shall be no honors nor distinctions, but such as are based on MERIT. All the arrangements of the outward life—our social organizations, to which we owe allegiance as citizens, have a materializing tendency-are the result of selfish calculation, and give to the more earthly portion of human nature a most fearful predominance; whereas our association, and all similar institutions, are calculated to develop and make active the social sympathies and affections, and thus make men feel that the sacred terms of Friendship, Love, and Truth, are something more than illusions-empty names, invented only to amuse or deceive.
Standing in the midst of the world, we do not see men as they are. Life is but a vast masquerade, where each one, seeking a personal interest, veils his real purpose, and appears what he is not; and where no one is certain of meeting a look, or of grasping a hand which responds in sympathy to his own. Around us all is show, illusion, appearance! We wander among these shadows of men and of things; often are we disappointed and deceived ; we dream of a friendship, a love, a sincerity, which will always charm us as an undying melody ; sometimes we see what to us appear to be friendly forms, and hear what to us seem to be words of truth and love ; but life! life! the terrible deception is before and around us ; the vision dissolves-nothing remains but the ugly forms of deceit! In the very midst of society this flaming pit, where bodies and souls are consumed-of society-this terrific abyss, where fiery passions and opposite interests struggle with hideous roar ;-society, this mysterious phantomland, over which roll everlasting shadows, and the wailings of an infinite despair ;-in the very midst of society so living, so incessantly active, man feels himself to be but a solitary hermit! Alas! that man, while surrounded by beings created in the same image, and pressed by them on every hand, should yet be compelled to mourn that he is a lone wanderer on the earth! But such is the gloomy destiny which our imperfect social organizations