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sels and consecrated elements, devoted to the most sacred rites of religion,—It is snatching from the divine hand of charity, the balm which she holds forth to heal the distresses of her children; the cordial cup of consolation, which she offers to the lip of calamity, and the sustenance her fainting infants should receive from the bosom of her celestial love.
As this then is the importance of the Masons secrecy, wherefore should the world wonder that the most profligate tongue that ever had expression hath not revealed it? The sport is too criminal to afford delight even to the wickedest of mankind; for it must be wantonness only which could induce any man to dU vulge it, as no profit could arise therefrom, not selfish view be gratified.—It was mentioned by divine lips as a crime not in nature: "What man is there of you, "whom if his son ask for bread, will give him a stone; "or if he ask a fish, will give him a serpent ?"—Then can there be a man so iniquitous among Masons, as to guide the thief to steal from a sick brother the medicine which should restore his health? the balsam which should close his wounds? the cloathing which should shield his trembling limbs from the severity of the winter? the drink which should moisten his fainting lip? the bread which should save his soul alive?
Such is the importance of our secrecy:—were there no other ties upon our affections or consciences, than merely the sense of the injury we should do to the poor arid the wretched, by a transgression of this rule, we are persuaded it would be sufficient to lock up the tongue of every man who professeth himself to be a Mason.
A.S charity is one of the principal characteristics of a Mason, we will treat of it in this lecture.
We do not mean to make strictures on that mo. dern error of indiscriminately dispensing alms to all suppliants, without regard to their real wants or real merits; whereby the hypocrite and knave often eat the bread which virtue in distress ought to be relieved by.—This is a mistaken character of charity, in which she is too often abused.—Though the bounties of benevolence and compassion are given with a righteous wish, yet they should be ruled by discretion.
The ancients used to depict the virtue charity, in the character of a goddess, seated in a chair of ivory, with a golden tire upon her head, set with precious stones :—her vesture, like the light of heaven, represented universal benevolence; her this one was unpol* luted and unspotted by passions and prejudices; and the gems of her fillet represented the inestimable blessings which flowed variously from her bounty.
They also represented the charities, otherwise called the graces, under three personages:— one of these was painted with her back towards us, and her face forward, as proceeding from us; and the other two with their faces towards us, to denote, that for one benefit done we should receive double thanks:—they were painted naked, to imitate that good offices should
be done without dissembling and hypocrisy:—they were represented young, to signify that the remembrance of benefits should never wax old:—and also laughing, to tell us that we should do good to others with chearfulness and alacrity.—They were represented linked together, arm in arm, to instruct us that one kindness should prompt another; so that the knot and band of love should be indissoluble.—The poets tell us, that they used to wash themselves in the fountain Acidalius, because benefits, gifts, and good turns ought to be sincere and pure, and not base and counterfeit.
Charity, in the works of moralists, is defined to be the love of our brethren, or a kind of brotherly affection one towards another.—The rule and standard that this habit is to be examined and regulated by among Christians, is the love we bear to ourselves, or that the Mediator bore towards us;—that is, it must be unfeigned, constant, and out of no other design than man's happiness.
Such are the general sentiments which the ancients entertained of this virtue, and what the modern moralists and christians define it to be at this day.
In what character charity should be received among Masons, is now our purpose to define, as it stands limited to our own society.''
• The principles which alone should attend a candidate for initiation to our society, are pathetically represented in the following psalm.
Pfal. xv. X. "Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall "dwell in thy holy hill?"
Being So limited, we are not subject to be imposed on by false pretences; and are certain of its proper and merited administration. It is hence to be hoped, that charity subsits with us without dissembling or hypocrisy, and is retained in sincerity and truth :— that benefits received impress a lively degree of gratitude and affection on the minds of Masons, as their bounties are bestowed with chearfulness, and without the frozen finger of reluctance :—the benevolence of our society is so mutual and brotherly, that each render good offices, as readily as he would receive them.f
2. " He that walketh uprightly and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart."
3. " He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doth evil to his neighbour; nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour."
4. "In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth "them that fear the Lord: he that fweareth to his own hurt and 9 changeth not."
5. " He that putteth not out his money to usury, nor taketh re"ward against the innocent.—He that doeth thefe things shall never "be moved."
f "The misplacing of a benefit is worse than the not receiving of "it; for the one is another man's fault, but the other is mine. The « error of the giver does oft times excufe the ingratitude of the receiver; "for a favour ill placed is rather a profusion than a benefit. It is the
■ most shameful of losses, an inconsiderate bounty. I will chuse a" "man of integrity, sincere, considerate, grateful, temperate, well-na"turcd, neither covetous nor sordid; and when I have obliged such a "man, though not worth a groat in the world, I have gained my end. "If we give only to receive, we lose the fairest objects for our charity: "the absent, the sick, the captive, and the needy"—Seneca of Benefits.
* The rule is, we are to give as we would receive, chearfully,
■ quickly, and without hesitation: for there is no grace in a benefit "that sticks to the fingers. A benefit should be made acceptable by "all possible means, even to the end that the receiver, who is never "to forget it, may bear it in his mind with satisfaction,"—Tie stmt.
In order to exercise this virtue, both in the character of Masons and in common life, with propriety, and agreeable to good principles, we must forget every obligation but affection ; for otherwise it were to confound charity with duty.—The feelings of the heart ought to direct the hand of charity.—To this purpose we should be divested of every idea of superiority, and estimate ourselves as being of equality, the same rank and race of men :—in this disposition of mind we may be susceptible of those sentiments which charity delighteth in, to feel the woes and miseries of others with a genuine and true sympathy of soul:—compassion is of heavenly birth ;—it is one of the first characteristics of humanity.—Peculiar to our race, it distinguishes us from the rest of creation. J
"It is not the value of the present, but the benevolence of the
* mind, that we are to consider • that which is given with pride and
* ostentation, is rather an ambition than a bounty."—tie tame.
§ I Cor. xiii. I. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of "angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
a. "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all "mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I "could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3. " And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and u though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4. .' Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up.
5. "Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not "easily provoked, thinketh no evil.
6. *' Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.
7. ** Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, en"dureth all things.
i. " Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they