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Freemason, 中國美生會, 唐廬, Masonic, 共濟會

A Vindication of Masonry

Delivered on the 15th May, 1741, by Brother Charles Leslie, before Vernon Kilwinning Lodge, in the city of Edinburgh

If a man were placed in a beautiful garden, would not his mind, on a calm survey of its rich collections, be affected with the most exquisite delight? The groves, the grottoes, the artful wilds, the flowery parterres, the opening vistas, the lofty cascades, the winding streams, the whole variegated scene would awaken his sensibility, and inspire his soul with the most exalted ideas. When he observed the delicate order, the nice symmetry, and beautiful disposition of every part, which, though seemingly complete in itself, yet reflected surprising and new beauties on each other, so that nothing could be wanting to make one beautiful whole, with what bewitching sensations would his mind be agitated! A view of this delightful scene would naturally lead him to admire and venerate the happy genius of him who contrived it.

If the productions of art can so forcibly impress the human mind with surprise and admiration, with how much greater astonishment, and with what more profound reverence, must we behold the objects of nature, which, on every hand, present to our view unbounded scenes of pleasure and delight, in which divinity and wisdom are alike conspicuous? The scenes which she displays are indeed too expanded for the narrow capacity of man; yet it is easy. from the uniformity of the whole, to comprehend what may lead to the true source of happiness, the grand Author of existence, the supreme Governor of the world, the One perfect and unsullied beauty!

Besides all the gaieties and pleasing prospects which every where surround us, and with which our senses are every moment gratified; besides the symmetry, good order, and proportion that appear in the whole works of the creation, there is something farther that affects the reflecting mind, and draws its attention nearer to the Divinity; the universal harmony and affection which subsist throughout the different species of beings of every rank and denomination. These are the sure cement of the rational world, and by these alone the rational world subsists. Could we think that it was possible for them to be dissolved, nature too, and man, the chief work of God, would soon return to chaos, and universal ruin ensue.

If we raise our ideas higher, we shall find that this innate principle of friendship arises in proportion as the objects seem to advance nearer to the degree of rational. There can be no better way of judging of the superiority of one part of the animal creation above the other, than by observing what degrees of kindness and seeming good-nature they enjoy. However, I shall here pause, and refer the discussion of this disquisition to some more refined genius, of superior parts and abilities.

To confine my subject to the rational species, let us think and meditate on those benevolent dispositions and good-temper of soul, which indulgent nature has so kindly bestowed upon us. As human nature rises in the scale of things, so do the social affections likewise rise. Do we not feel in our breasts a strong propensity to friendship? Enjoy wenot a pleasure when it is firm and cemented, and feel we not a pain when it deadens or declines? What sweetens life, but friendship? - what relieves care, but friendship? - what alleviates pain, or makes sorrow smile, butfriendship? - sacred, holy friendship!

The progress of friendship is not confined to the narrow circle of private connections, but is universal, and extends to every branch of the human race. Though its influence is unbounded, yet it exerts itself more or less vehemently as the objects it favours are nearer or more remote. Hence springs true patriotism, which fires the soul with the most generous flame, creates the best and most disinterested virtue, and inspires that public spirit and heroic ardour which enables us to support a good cause, and risk our lives in its defence.

This commendable virtue crowns the lover of his country with unfading laurels, gives alustre to all his actions, and consecrates his name to latest ages. The warrior's glory may consist in murder, and the rude ravage of the desolating sword; but the blood of thousands will not stain the hands of his country's friend. His virtues are open, and of the noblest kind. Conscious integrity supports him against the arm of power; and should hebleed by a tyrant's hands, he gloriously dies a martyr in the cause of liberty, and leaves to posterity an everlasting monument of the greatness of his soul. Should I name the first Brutus*, the self-devoted Decii*, or the self-condemned but unconquerable Cato?

Friendship not only appears divine when employed in preserving the liberties of our country, but shines with equal splendour in the more tranquil hours of life. Before it rises into the noble flame of patriotism, aiming destruction at the heads of tyrants. thundering for liberty, and courting dangers in a good cause, we shall see it calm and moderate, burning with an even glow, improving the soft hours of peace, and heightening the relish for virtue. Hence it is that contracts are formed, societies are instituted, and the vacant hours of life are cheerfully employed in agreeable company and social conversation.

It is thus we may trace from reason and the nature of things, the wise ends and designs of the sacred institution of Masonry; which not only cultivates and improves a real and undisguised friendship among men, but teaches them the more important duties of society. Vain, then, is each idle surmise against this sacred art, which our enemies may either meanly cherish in their own bosoms, or ignorantly promulgate to the uninstructed world. By decrying Masonry, they derogate from human nature itself, and from that good order and wise constitution of things, which the Almighty Author of the world has framed for the government of mankind, and has established as the basis of the moral system, which, by a secret but attractive force, disposes the human heart to every social virtue. Can friendship or social delights be the object of reproach? Can that wisdom which hoary Time has sanctified be the object of ridicule? How mean, how contemptible must those men appear, who vainly pretend to censure or contemn what they cannot comprehend! The generous heart will pity ignorance so aspiring and insolent.

I shall now proceed, and consider in what shape Masonry is of universal utility to mankind, how it is reconcilable to the best policy, why it deserves the general esteem, and why all men are bound to promote it.

Abstracting from the pure pleasures which arise from a friendship so wisely constituted, and which it is scarce possible that any circumstance or occurrence can erase, let us consider that Masonry is a science confined to no particular country, but diffused over the whole terrestrial globe. Wherever arts flourish, there it flourishes too. Add to this, that by secret and inviolable signs, carefully preserved among ourselves throughout the world, Masonry becomes an universal language. By this means many advantages are gained: men of all religions and of all nations are united. The distant Chinese, the wild Arab, or the American savage, will embrace a brother Briton; and he will know that, besides the common ties of humanity, there is still a stronger obligation to engage him to kind and friendly actions. The spirit of the fulminating priest will be tamed, and a moral brother, though of a different persuasion, engage his esteem. Thus all those disputes which embitter life and sour the tempers of men are avoided; and every face is clad in smiles, while the common good of all, the generous design of the craft, is zealously pursued.

Is it not, then, evident that Masonry is an universal advantage to mankind? for sure, unless discord and harmony be the same, it must be so. Is it not likewise reconcileable to the best policy? for it prevents the heat of passion, and those partial animosities which different interests too often create. Masonry teaches us to be faithful to our king, and true to our country; to avoid turbulent measures, and to submit with reverence to the decisions of legislative power. It is surely, then, no mean advantage, no trifling acquisition to any community or state, to have under its power and jurisdiction a body of men who are loyal subjects, patrons of science, and friends to mankind.

Does not Masonry, therefore, of itself command the highest regard? Does it not claim the greatest esteem? Does it not merit the most extensive patronage? Without doubt. If all that is good and amiable, if all that is useful to mankind or society, be deserving a man's attention, Masonry claims it in the highest degree. What beautiful ideas does it inspire? how does it open and enlarge the mind? and how abundant a source of satisfaction does it afford? Does it not recommend universal benevolence, and every virtue which can endear one man to another? and is it not particularly adapted to give the mind the most disinterested, the most generous notions?

An uniformity of opinion, not only useful in exigencies, but pleasing in familiar life, universally prevails among Masons, strengthens all the ties of their friendship, and equally promotes love and esteem. Masons are brethren, and amongst brothers there exist no invidious distinctions. A king is reminded that, although a crown adorns his head, and a sceptre his hand, yet the blood in his veins is derived from the common parent of mankind, and is no better than that of the meanest of his subjects. Men in inferior stations are taught to love their superiors, when they see them divested of their grandeur, and condescending to trace the paths of wisdom, and follow virtue, assisted by those of a rank beneath them. Virtue is true nobility, and wisdom is the channel by which it is directed and conveyed. Wisdom and virtue, therefore, are the great characteristics of Masons.

Masonry inculcates universal love and benevolence, and disposes the heart to particular acts of goodness. A Mason, possessed of this amiable, this god-like disposition, is shocked at misery under every form or appearance. His pity is not only excited, but he is prompted, as far as is consistent with the rules of prudence, to alleviate the pain of the sufferer, and cheerfully to contribute to his relief. For this end our funds are raised, and our charities established on the firmest foundation. When a brother is in distress, what heart does not ache? When he is hungry, do we not convey him food? Do we not clothe him when he is naked? Do we not fly to his relief when he is in trouble? Thus we evince the propriety of the title we assume, axed demonstrate to the world that the term brother among Masons is not merely nominal.

If these acts are not sufficient to recommend so great and generous a plan, such a wise and good society, happy in themselves, and equally happy in the possession of every social virtue, nothing which is truly good can prevail. The man who resists arguments drawn from such topics must be callous to every noble principle, and lost to all sense of honour.

Nevertheless, though the fairest and the best ideas may be thus imprinted in the mind, there are brethren who, careless of their own reputation, disregard the instructive lessons of our noble science, and, by yielding to vice and intemperance, not only disgrace themselves, but reflect dishonour upon Masonry in general. It is this unfortunate circumstance which has given rise to those severe and unjust reflections, which the prejudiced part of mankind have so liberally bestowed upon us. But let these apostate brethren know, and let it be proclaimed to the world at large, that they are unworthy of their trust, and that, whatever name or designation they assume, they are in reality no Masons. It is as possible for a mouse to remove a mountain, or a man to calm the boisterous ocean, as it is for a principled Mason to commit a dishonourable action. Masonry consists in virtuous improvement, in cheerful and innocent pastime, and not in lewd debauchery or unguarded excess.

But, though unhappy brethren thus transgress, no wise man will draw any argument from thence against the society, or urge it as an objection against the institution. If the wicked lives of men were admitted as an argument against the religion which they profess, Christianity itself, with all its divine beauties, would be exposed to censure. Let us therefore endeavour strenuously to support the dignity of our characters, and, byre forming the abuses which have crept in among us, display Masonry in its primitive lustre, and convince mankind that the source from which it flows is truly divine.

It is this conduct which can alone retrieve the ancient glory of the craft. Our generous and good actions must distinguish our title to the privileges of Masonry, and the regularity of our behaviour display their influence and utility. Thus the world will admire our sanctity of manners, and effectually reconcile our uniform conduct with the incomparable tenets we profess to admire.

As our order is founded upon harmony, and subsists by regularity and proportion, so our passions ought to be properly restrained, and be ever subservient to the dictates of right reason. As the delicate pleasures of friendship harmonise our minds, and exclude rancour, malice, and ill-nature, so we ought to live like brethren bound by the same tie, always cultivating fraternal affection, and reconciling ourselves to the practice of those duties, which are the basis on which the structure we erect, must be supported.

By improving our minds in the principles of morality and virtue, we enlarge our understandings, and more effectually answer the great ends of our existence. Such as violate our laws, or infringe on good order, we mark with a peculiar odium; and, if our mild endeavours to reform their lives should not answer the good purposes intended, we expel them our assemblies as unfit members of society.

This is the practice which should universally prevail among Masons. Our outward conduct being directed by our inward principles, we should be equally careful to avoid censure and reproach. Useful knowledge ought to be the great object of our desire; for the ways of wisdom are beautiful, and lead to pleasure. We ought to search into nature, as the advantages accruing from so agreeable a study will amply compensate our unwearied assiduity. Knowledge must be attained by degrees, and is not every where to be found. Wisdom seeks the secret shade, the lonely cell designed for contemplation; there enthroned she sits, delivering her sacred oracles ; there let us seek her, and pursue the real bliss; for, though the passage be difficult, the farther we trace it the easier it will become.

Geometry, that extensive art, we should particularly study as the first and noblest of sciences. By geometry we may curiously trace nature, through her various windings, to her most concealed recesses. By it we may discover the power, the wisdom, and the goodness of the grand Artificer of the universe, and view, with amazing delight, the beautiful proportions which connect and grace this vast machine. By it we may discover how the planets move in their different orbs, and mathematically demonstrate their various revolutions. By it we may rationally account for the return of seasons, and the mixed variety of scenes which they display to the discerning eye. Numberless worlds are around us, all framed by the same Divine Artist, which roll through the vast expanse, and are all conducted by the same unerring laws of nature. How must we then improve! with what grand ideas must such knowledge fill our minds! and how worthy is it of the attention of all rational beings, especially of those who profess themselves promoters of our grand institution.

It was a survey of nature, and the observation of its beautiful proportions, that first determined man to imitate the divine plan, and to study symmetry and order. This gave rise to societies, and birth to every useful art. The architect began to design, and the plans which he laid down, improved by experience and time, produced some of those excellent works which will be the admiration of future aged I might here trace the history of the craft, and show that, ever since order began, or harmony displayed her charms, our order had a being; but this is so well known, that a tedious discussion of incontrovertible facts might rather cloud the understanding, than open to our view a prospect which ignorance and barbarism can only veil.

If we are united, our society must flourish; let us then promote the useful arts, and, by that means, mark our distinction and superiority; let us cultivate the social virtues, and improve in all that is good and amiable; let the Genius of Masonry preside, and, under her sovereign sway, let us endeavour to act with becoming dignity.

Now, is Masonry so good, so valuable a science? Does it tend to instruct the mind, and tame each unruly passion? Does it expel rancour, hatred, and envy? Does it reconcile men of all religions, and of all nations? Is it an universal cement, binding its followers to charity, good-will, and secret friendship? Is it calculated to promote the truest freedom? Does it teach men to lead quiet lives? In short, are its precepts a complete system of moral virtue?

Then hail, thou glorious craft, bright transcript of all that is amiable! Hail, thou blest moral science, which so beautifully exemplifies virtue! Welcome, ye delightful mansions, where all enjoy the pleasures of a serene and tranquil life! Welcome, ye blest retreats, where smiling friendship ever blooms, and, from her throne, dispenses pleasure with unbounded liberality! Welcome, sacred habitations, where peace and innocence forever dwell !

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