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no fears, no doubts, as to the practical workings and ultimate results of Freemasonry. And were you, the good, the wise, the religious—all associated with us, the bare supposition of evil results would be impossible; while anticipations of great and incalculable good would be absolutely certain.
The Masonic Duty of Charity.
“ By Speculative Masonry we learn to subdue the passions, act upon the SQUARE, keep a tongue of good report, and practice CHARITY.”—Masonic RITUAL.
What is Charity ? and how is it to be understood by Freemasons ?
The word Charity means literally the activity of love. An apostle tells us that“ God is Charity," or Love ; in other words, love constantly and actively engaged in the promotion of Order, Beauty, and Happiness.
All the splendor of the universe, the excellence of its beauty, and the wealth of enjoyment which it exhibits, are but revelations of the divine Love or Charity actively manifesting itself in all and every part.
-“We cannot go
Of all the virtues that humanity and the spirit of our institution demand of a Mason, none is more easy in its practice, and hence none more generally noticed by the community at large than charity. What is easier for a man than to divide, here and there, a small portion of his substance with the poor and needy-a portion which otherwise would, perhaps, be spent to less useful purposes ?
But is this, by itself, virtue? We might be charitable to rid ourselves of an importunate intrudergive, as a kind of ransom, for the momentary good feeling awakened in our bosom, by the sight of misery and distress ; we throw our mite to them more for our than their sakes. This is not true charity. Often, too, men are charitable because they are rich; and it leads them to think mightily well of themselves—how happy they are, compared with this or that poor man-how little a few dollars will affect their easy circumstances. Now this class of benefactors cares little whom they benefit with their charity ; worthy or unworthy subject is all one to them. This is not true charity. Again many give because, in these days of progress and civilization, a man dare not be hard-hearted toward the poor, without exposing himself to censure and disrepute in community. It is fear that stimulates them to be charitable, not love; it is to public opinion that they make a sacrifice, rather than to the poor. The giving of a shilling is so little, but to refuse the shilling might injure them ; hence almost everybody is more or less inclined to charity. But such is not true charity.
Be not deceived ; with many that act charitably, it is more a matter of good breeding than a virtue. Their standing and relation in society is the main mover of their deeds; the spirit of true charity never entered their bosoms. Be not deceived. It is too true that our actions, as a body, are often better than ourselves ; that at times we are charitable and generous, without possessing the true spirit of those virtues ; hence Christ prized the poor widow's penny higher than all the gold of the Pharisees.
Charity becomes a virtue only when our willingness to give springs from an inward participation in the misfortunes of the needy and the afflicted ; and at the same time it be applied to a worthy subject, with the intention to relieve, or at least alleviate his sufferings as much as it is in our power so to do.
But our good will and charitable deeds require one more caution. In order to be truly charitable, we must spare no pains to learn how our gifts may be applied to the best advantage, and to do the most good ; i. e., in the distribution of our gifts we must be prudent and wise, for there is danger that any virtue, practised without prudence and wisdom, may do more harm than good.
True charity has her seat within the heart; she is planted there by our Creator, as one of those nobler sentiments, the exercise of which elevates man to his proper sphere, and not only makes him social and humane, but yields him peace and happiness. She is one of the main sources from which spring all the nobler sentiments of the human race.
The wise and good of former ages have gained the admiration of the world by their noble deeds ; but none were ever truly great if charity were not the prime motive of their actions. A retrospective view of the history of the past, gives us the most striking proofs that without the practice of charity no nation ever prospered, no. man was ever truly happy. If a man be not charitable, he must be selfish-if he be not benevolent, and cares nothing for the welfare of his fellow-men, he must be proud. There is no medium between the two. We have said that without the practice of charity no nation ever prospered, no man was ever truly happy. Can any one read the writings of our immortal WASHINGTON without being convinced of this fact; without being filled with esteem and veneration for the father of his country? Every word, every sentence breathes the spirit of love and charity. To free his beloved country, his oppressed fellow-citizens, from the absolutism of a foreign king, to render them free, happy, and prosperous, with the least possible