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fore, this book, called the word of God, tried by the same universal rule which every other of God's works within our reach can be tried by, proves itself to be a forgery.
The bishop says, that "miracles are proper proofs of a divine mission." Admitted. But we know that men, and especially priests, can tell lies and call them miracles. It is therefore necessary, that the thing called a miracle be proved to be true, and also to be miraculous; before it can be admitted as proof of the thing called revelation.
The bishop must be a bad logician not to know that one doubtful thing cannot be admitted as proof that another doubtful thing is true. It would be like attempting to prove a liar not to be a liar, by the evidence of another, who is as great a liar as himself.
Though Jesus Christ, by being ignorant of the art of printing, shows he had not the means necessary to a divine mission, and consequently had no such mission; it does not follow that if he had known that art, the divinity of what they call his mission would be proved thereby, any more than it proved the divinity of the man who invented printing. Something, therefore, beyond printing, even if he had known it, was necessary as a miracle, to have proved that what he delivered was the word of God; and this was that the book in which that word should be contained, which is now called the Old and New Testament, should possess the miraculous property, distinct from all human books, of resisting alteration. This would be not only a miracle, but an ever existing and universal miracle; whereas, those which they tell us of, even if they had been true, were momentary and local; they would leave no trace behind, after the lapse of a few years, of having ever existed; but this would prove, in all ages and in all places, the book to be divine and not human; as effectually, and as conveniently, as aquafortis proves gold to be gold by not being capable of acting upon it; and detects all other metals and all counterfeit composition, by dissolving them. Since then the only miracle capable of every proof is wanting, and which every thing that is of a divine origin possesses; all the tales of miracles with which the Old and New Testament are filled, are fit only for impostors to preach and fools to believe.
ORIGIN OF FREE-MASONRY
PREFACE BY THE EDITOR.
This tract is a chapter belonging to the third part of the Age of Reason, as will be seen by the references made in it to precedng articles, as forming a part of the same work. It was culled from the writings of Mr. Paine, after his death, and published in a mutilated state, by Mrs. Bonneville, his executrix. Passages having a reference to the Christian religion she erased, with a view, no doubt, of accommodating the work to the prejudices of bigotry, These, however, have been restored from the original manuscript, excepting a few lines which were rendered illegible.
The masonic society had committed nothing to print until the year 1722, when Doctor Anderson's book of constitutions, &c. was ordered by the Grand Lodge to be printed. Since that time the masons have published many works respecting the fraternity, all of which, through design or want of information, tend to obscure and embarrass the subject; and as the society had adopted the custom of the priests of the ancient Britons, called Druids, to keep their proceedings an entire secret, mankind in general, including the greater portion of the brethren themselves, have remained in utter ignorance in regard to its establishment and original intention. Various speculations therefore continue to be made respecting the origin of the society, and its views at the time of its formation; and Mr. Paine among the rest, with all his sagacity, has suffered himself to be most egregiously deceived by such writings of the masons as had fallen into his hands. These writers, in giving an account of the society, take up the history of architecture as far back as any record of it has survived the wreck of time. Whereever they can trace in history, whether true or fabulous, any account of noble and grand structures, they presumptuously pronounce them to have been raised by their society. The pyramids of Egypt, the tower of Babel, whose existence is doubted, and Solomon's temple, about which there has probably been much lying,
are all claimed by them. For what is this ridiculous parade, but to make the uninitiated, as well as their own members, few of whom know any thing about it, wonder at the astonishing antiquity of the institution? Would not the advice of Pope apply in this case?
"Go! and pretend your family is young,
Nor own your fathers have been fools so long."
If the antiquity of a sect or society proved its utility, or that it was founded in correct principles; the religion taught by the ancient Egptians priests, or judaism, ought to be preferred to Christianity.
There is no possible use to be derived from deception upon this subject. The masonic society is undoubtedly very ancient; having commenced, in the city of York, in England, in the early part of the tenth century of the Christian era; and from thence it spread into other parts of Europe. It was formed by men who had some knowledge of rude architecture, such as it was at that day, and working masons; and had no other view than improvement in the art or craft of masonry. Which their writers dignify with the title of royal craft, because some of their Kings have condescended to become members of the society, for the purpose, no doubt, of flattering their subjects to persevere in improvements in the art of building; which was useful to them, as they always stand in need of palaces, castles, and churches. The society is composed of free men, none others are admitted, hence the term, free masons. At first there were but three degrees, apprentice; fellow-craft, that is, one who had served an apprenticeship, and was entitled to wages as a journeyman; and master-mason. The latter degree entitled its possessor to contract for building on his own account. It was not until the beginning of the eighteenth century, that any one, according to the regulations of the society, could be admitted a member, who did not labour at the trade of masonry, or knew something of architecture; although, perhaps, through favour, some were smuggled in who had very little or no knowledge of that art.*
*The author of this Preface, although he has thrown considerable light upon the subject, has been himself deceived by masonic writers in respect to the origin of the existing society of Freemasons; which is entirely speculative, and was instituted at the time when, he says, persons not being masons by trade were first admitted as members, viz. in the early part of the eighteenth century. Late writers have shown, that the first Lodge ever established upon the exist
As to the mysteries of the craft, so much talked of, they are of the same nature as those of carpentry, or any other trade; and consist in a knowledge of the art of masonry; which was thought much more of at the time the society was instituted, than at the present day. The trifling rights and ceremonies, which the masons borrowed from the ancient Druids, are mere allegories, and symbolical signs and words, serving as a medium of secrecy, by means of which the members of the society are enabled to recognize each other.
There is no more propriety in prefixing the term free to masonry, than there is to carpentry, smithery, or to any other trade. It is inapplicable to any art or trade; although it may be applied to the professors of it. At the time the free masons' society was first instituted in England there were in that kingdom both free mer. and slaves in all the mechanical trades then in use. Doctor Henry, in his history of Great Britain, giving an account of the different ranks of people, &c. from 449 to 1066, after stating that slavery had been in some degree meliorated, observes, "But after all these mitigations of the severities of slavery, the yoke of servitude was still very heavy, and the greater part of the labourers, mechanics, and common people, groaned under that yoke at the conclusion of this period."
All the writers upon this subject, who are members of the scciety, endeavour to conceal the origin and object of it. For what reason it is dificult to imagine, except it be to keep the world in amazement respecting it. Or, perhaps, their pride induces them to contemn the humble, though laudable and useful purposes for which the institution was formed. Enough, however, has appeared in the old records which they have published to establish the view I have taken of it, and which, when I commenced this preface, I intended to have inserted; but finding they would extend to too
ing speculative plan, was formed in London, in 1717; and that a similar society was formed in Scotland, in 1736. These two lodges soon began to quarrel about precedency; each endeavouring to prove its priority by existing records of the humble mechanical societies of labouring masons, which had been established in both kingdoms many centuries before. The Yorkites, in England, it is believed, produced the oldest documents: both societies, however, continued to grant dispensations for forming lodges in foreign countries.
From these two sources all the Freemason societies, upon the present establishment, owe their origin. Nothing of the kind ever existed in Europe, or any other quarter of the world, previously to 1717. Although ostensibly founded upon a society of real working masons, nothing is now taught in it, nor ever has been, of that art, or any other art or science.-ED.
great a length, I am under the necessity of omitting them. I will, however, make a few extracts from the old charges of the Free and Accepted Masons, collected from their old records, at the command of the Grand Master, by James Anderson, D. D. Approved by the grand Lodge, and ordered to be printed in the first edition of the book of constitutions, on March 25, 1722.
"Concerning God and religion. A mason is obliged, by his tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid atheist, nor an irreligious libertine. But though in ancient times masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves; that is, to be good men and true, or men of honor and honesty, by whatever denominations or persuasions they may be distinguished; whereby masonry becomes the centre of union, and the means of conciliating true friendship among persons, that must have remained at a perpetual distance.*
Of lodges. A lodge is a place where masons assemble and work; hence that assembly, or duly organized society of masons, is called a lodge; and every brother ought to belong to one, and to be subject to its By-Laws and the general regulations.
"The persons admitted members of a lodge, must be good and true men, free-born, and of mature and discreet age, no bondmen, no women, no immoral or scandalous men, but of good report.
Of apprentices. Candidates may know, that no master should take an apprentice, unless he has sufficient employment for him, and unless he be a perfect youth, having no maim or defect in his body, that may render him incapable of learning the art, of serving his master's lord, and of being made a brother, and then a fellow-craft in due time, even after he has served such a term of
William Preston, past master of the lodge of antiquity, in his illustrations of masonry, makes the following remarks on the same subject. "The spirit of the fulminating priest will be tamed; and a moral brother, though of a different persuasion, engage his esteem; for mutual toleration in religious opinions is one of the most distinguishing and valuable characteristics of the craft. As all religions teach morality, if a brother be found to act the part of a truly honest man, his private speculative opinions are left to God and himself. Thus through the influence of masonry, which is reconcilable to the best policy, all hose disputes which imbitter life, and sour the tempers of men, are avoided."