"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. 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" (First Corinthians xiii,1-2).
Such was the language of an eminent apostle of the Christian church, and such is the sentiment that constitutes the cementing bond of Freemasonry. The apostle, in comparing it with faith and hope, calls it the greatest of the three, and hence in Freemasonry it is made the topmost round of its mystic ladder.
We must not fall into the too common error that charity is only that sentiment of commiseration which leads us to assist the poor with pecuniary donations.
Its Masonic, as well as its Christian application, is more noble and more extensive.
The word used by the apostle is, in the original, love, a word denoting that kindly state of mind which renders a person full of good-will and affectionate regard toward others.
John Wesley expressed his regret that the Greek had not been correctly translated as love instead of charity, so that the apostolic triad of virtues would have been, not "faith, hope, and charity," but "faith, hope, and love."
Then would we have understood the comparison made by Saint Paul, when he said, "Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing."
Guided by this sentiment, the true Freemason will "suffer long and be kind."
He will be slow to anger and easy to forgive.
He will stay his falling Brother by gentle admonition, and warn him with kindness of approaching danger, He will not open his ear to the slanderers, and will lose his lips against all reproach.
His faults and his follies will be locked in his breast, and the prayer for mercy will ascend to Jehovah for his Brother's sins.
Nor will these sentiments of benevolence be confined to those who are bound to him by ties of kindred or worldly friendship alone; but, extending them throughout. the globe, he will love and cherish all who sit beneath the broad canopy of our universal Lodge.
For it is the boast of our Institution, that a Freemason, destitute and worthy, may. find in every clime a Brother, and in every land a home. Colonel Edward M L. Ehlers, a soldier of the Civil War in which he was severely wounded, was subsequently and at his death the Grand Secretary of New York.
To his courtesy and promptness the Revisor of this work is much indebted for many favors and there is a distinct satisfaction in submitting here one of the eloquent addresses to initiates that so often heartened his hearers (see Definitions of Freemasonry).
My Brother: With this right hand I welcome you to the fellowship of our Lodge and to the ranks of our ancient and honorable Fraternity whose cornerstone is Charity.
Charity is the brightest jewel in the Masonic crown.
Charity is the Corinthian pillar whose entablature adds strength, beauty and grace to the Masonic fabric. Charity is the radiant spark emanating from God, the inexhaustible source of love.
If we attempt to eulogize its charms, the cooler powers of the mind melt into ecstasy, the heart is at empire, and every discordant passion bows before its lenient sovereignty.
Not the Charity circumscribed by the narrow limits of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, binding up the wounds of the afflicted, but that broader nobler Charity that regards all men as Brothers.
The Charity that is swift of foot, ready of hand, in the cause of a common humanity.
The Charity that writes a Brother's vices in water and his virtues in enduring brass.
The Charity of which He who spake as never man spake was the illustrious exemplar.
Let this, the Mason's Charity, burn upon the altar of your heart a living fire.
This Charity whose superstructure is friendship, morality, brotherly love; whose capstone is holiness to the Lord. Liturgies and creeds, articles of faith and rules of discipline, stain the rubric pages of history, and speculative points of doctrine have occasioned more misery in the world than all the crimes for which nations have been punished and recalled to their duty.
We arraign no man's political opinions, nor do we interfere with his religious creed.
To himself and his country we leave the one, and to his conscience and his God we commit the other. To the altar of Masonry, all men bring their votive offerings. Around it all men, whether they have received their teachings from Confucius, Moses, Zoroaster, Mahomet, or the Founder of the Christian religion; if they believe in the universality of the Fatherhood of God and of the universality of the brotherhood of man, here meet on a common level.
The rich man, the poor man, the sovereign, the subject, are lost in the common Brother. The Christian returns to his Temple, the Jew to his Synagogue, the Mohammedan to his Mosque, each better prepared to perform the duties of life by the association of this universal brotherhood. It is to this Institution, born of heaven in the gray of the world's morning, before poets sang or historians wrote, that I am privileged to accord you a Craftsman's greeting.
And I charge you, by the noblest instincts of your manhood, by all that you are and revere, by the ties that bind you to earth, by your hope of heaven, so to live and so to act that your Masonic life may be an open book known and read of all men.
Finally, my Brother, I do assure you that whatever good you do is but duty done.
If a sorrow you have lightened or a tear wipe, away, if of poverty"s load you have taken a share from some weary burdened soul, if you have lifted a cup of cold water to the lips of a famishing mortal, then to far have you illustrated the divine teachings of Masonry, then in so far have you done as the Master commanded.
May He, without whose knowledge not even a sparrow falls, bless your fellowship in our Lodge, and to His great name shall be all the praise.
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