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While thus however we do not arrogate to ourselves the claim to a remote antiquity, we offer for the consideration of all classes of our fellowcitizens, inducements for respect, far more potential. Though we may be of yesterday, we can point not merely to the principles which govern our Order, but the acts of charity and benevolence which have been done, as prouder monuments of glory than could be reflected by the loftiest pillar, though it bore the name of Nero or Trajan. If we have no martyrs to decorate our walls, we have the living preachers in all ranks and classes, who have gone forth and spread the glad tidings of joy to the sorrowing, and sang the anthem of peace and good-will to men. If no mouldering parchment, stained alike with age and crime, attests the hoary hand of time as the seal of our Order—we have the thanksgiving of the poor, -the prayer of the widow and orphan—to consecrate our union. If we cannot proclaim in our immediate community, the narratives of stern and unbending zeal, that would light the faggot and kiss the flame, as it enrobed him who was bound to the stake for the sake of his country or his God,—we have the satisfaction of knowing that in our times, no such test of fidelity has been required; but that in the sick chamber of the dyingwith the haunts of wretchedness and sorrow—with the misery of those who are sojourners with us on earth—our brethren have made themselves the patient partners and sharers of the lot so hard, and have hallowed their hands with the last breath of the poor and neglected stranger.
In an Order, resting upon the broad and comprehensive principles we have stated, it is true, as may have been supposed, that no difference in religious belief-no discord in political opinions--no reference to one's birth-place-separates us from the world. As in the political condition of our country all are welcome to the altar, on which alone burns the flame that is offered to the good fortune of our land—so on our altar no flame is kindled but that which is sacred to universal benevolence.From whatever quarter of the world the stranger may come, if he has sustained his character, a welcome awaits him at our door; and when admitted to the privacy of our hall, he hears no sound save that of doing good; he learns no lesson, that does not make him a wiser and better man. He is taught to view all around him as brothers, who are in life to share a common heritage, and to feel that the benefit they render to the unfortunate, is a rich store laid up for them in the world that is to
The rules which govern our lodges, accordingly, teach us not only to encourage in principle, but to carry out in practice, these sublime virtues. If a brother of the Order should be sick, an amount equal to his wants is placed weekly at his disposal ; and while the necessity continues, his bedside is nightly watched by one or more of his brethren. The bestowal of money is removed from ostentation, and is given and received in a spirit that cannot wound the sensibility of the most fastidious. In this, we cherish one of the most beautiful features in the charity we practice. The bounty that is intended to relieve the body, will at times but half accomplish its purpose, when the mind of him who is intended to be benefitted, is affected with the chance of the suspicion of an ignoble dependence. To relieve this dark and painful apprehension, we make no distinction: the amount which the poor and needy may draw, is extended likewise to the rich and powerful; and the recipient of our kindness
feels that the aid he receives is a part of the government of the Order to which he belongs, and knows that it comes to him warm with the welcome of good-will and fellowship from the source that gives it.
But it is not only in life, or to the individual member, that the consideration of our Order is directed: the wife and helpless children of many, when they have lost the head, at once of life and being, too often have been doomed to depend on the cold charities of the world, and watch the shade of approaching evening, without the power to trace in its sable cloak, the ray of hope or promise for the morrow. Life itself is most uncertain; but how much more uncertain the means whereby it shall be supported. The happy faces that have made glad the halls of sumptuous elegance, have been doomed to wander along the highway, the mendi. cants of bitter winter; and the flush of health, and the eye speaking and beaming with joy, have been exchanged for the cadaverous hue of want, and the sunken, hollow gaze of wretchedness and despair. No precaution forbids it, for the reputed wise have fallen beneath the influence of this destiny. No store is too large to defy its power, for they who could not tell their heaps of gold, have been reduced to starvation. For whatever wise reason this dispensation governs among men, all classes know and attest its powerful intiuence; and the records of our race present us with no higher incentives to disregard the enjoyments of temporal pleasures, than in the plain narratives of those who have sunk and fallen beneath the influence of this social whirlwind. With us the poor and unhoused wanderer knows not the agony of biting want: we may not give back to him the comforts which wealth alone can procure, but we can give him food and raiment. We stop that maddening cry of the child when it speaks to its parent, and asks for bread—we gather around the mother, who has no friend on earth, and cheer her heart and relieve her mind, when she knows us as the father to the fatherless—the friend to the afflicted. And though our mite be small, it is sufficient: and the human heart knows no higher satisfaction, than is found in the reflection, that out of our abundance we have provided for the poor, and in the days of our joy, we have not forgotten the sorrows of our neighbor.
But there is one feature in our charities, which to me has always seemed the most touching of any that we cherish: We do not forget those from whom the breath of life has passed away. We bury the dead! However poor and obscure, the brother that has joined us, receives all the rites of burial at our hands. We adjust the cold and stiffened limbs, and with our own hands restore to dust, the dust which erewhile was animated and warm. Peace-sweet, eternal peace, rest with the ashes of the departed! His grave is opened to the view of hundreds, who felt him one of them; and the last sod that caps the mound of earth which marks his resting place, is witnessed by those whom he had joined as brothers. The stranger to him in the common walks of life, is not now a stranger. The hand that in life is steeled for the encounter of man with man, is now no longer encased in its hardy covering: the heart that in the world is subdued and kept obedient to rules of policy, is now unbound, and leaps forth, beating high with the gloom and sadness that overpower it: the eye that is cold, is wet with the tear of manly sorrow: and the hundreds are now bound with the beautiful and touching bond of a common sympathy and common sorrow. To the living, a lesson is told, instinct with truth and feeling: a lesson that softens the sternest heart, and melts into a holy communion the sternest spirit. The grave-yard is the temple in which we are brought to pray for mercy—the coffin, the table of our sacrament. Let not the scoffer be near, for his feeling will meet with no fellowship in the crowd that are gathered around; and the breathings of deep emotion that rise from that spot, like incense from the altar, will smite the heart of him who does not feel the sanctity of our Order, when thus uncovered in the sight of God, we devoutly pray for mercy at the throne of grace.
But we are met with an objection, that perhaps embraces all that can be said against our Association. It is said this is a secret society; it is an irresponsible body, and one that should not be encouraged. There are two answers which can be readily given to this objection. The first is, that in the sense in which the objection is used, our Body is not a secret society; and next, that, if it was, there is no society in the world that has not something peculiar and exclusive towards its members.
But I have said that ours is not a secret society. It is true that we have
among ourselves certain marks of recognition, and certain ceremonies, which are not known to the world; but subject to the qualification of good character, to which I have before alluded, there is no individual in the community who cannot become acquainted with all that is so called secret. We have, it is true, certain forms, but these are the laws of our association; and it is as just to say that the rules of a private society are infringements of the political liberty of the citizen, as to say that that is secret which any one may know who deserves. Besides, the existence of a secret supposes a desire in those who are its repositories, to exclude all others from a participation in it. Not so with us: we entreat all who are useful members of society, to unite with us in our philanthropic labor; and though inefficiently, the object of this discourse is to promulgate the principles of our Order, and seek among those who have not yet joined us, allies in the great cause which we now seek to advance.
But since when has mystery become a crime? In what department of life do we seek to impress our neighbor or friend, with the high obligation of his position in society, where we do not at the same time cherish that tie of hidden feeling, which is the mystery of friendship? Look abroad upon the whole face of nature-raise upward the eye from the smallest plant or meanest insect-let it travel through all the intermediate links, until it rests on the highest object of creation, the last work of superior excellence exhibited in the form of man, instinct with life, and illuminated with reason--and through all this varied range, in each department will we find the manifestation of superior power, distinguished by the mystery of illimitable and incomprehensible will. It is this which casts around the mind the impress of awe and reverence, and that even to the untutored intellect of the savage, comes with the holy influence, that makes him seek its abode in the incomprehensible light of day. Take from religion the mystery of divinity, and where is its influence? Take from God the mystery of unlimited power, and he is no longer Lord over all. If the end we propose to accomplish be proper, we should not neglect the means to make it successful. It is the immediate and responsible identification of each member of our Order, with the whole body, by the knowledge of the peculiar matters which are kept private, that gives the help to the continual and steady exercise of our Brotherhood. To each is given the key; cach brother stands with the sign, a sentinel on the outward wall, to welcome the friend and challenge the foe. And each is the guardian of the Order; for the crime or folly of one, though it could not destroy, might derange the beautiful harmony which marks the orb in which it moves.
But it is said, if your purpose is charity, why conceal it? why not be open in all your transactions? They who urge this argument, forget the living and beautiful characteristic of charity, so touchingly expressed in the admonition: “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. That thine alms may be in secret, and thy Father which seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.” They seek and desire the public and ostentatious offering of relief, which looks for its reward in the rumor and noise of the spectator, and not in the calm satisfaction which the doing of a good act itself excites. We have no such end in view. The object we aim at, is the doing good to those who are united with us; and so long as we are cheered with the reflection that we are the humble means of doing good to others, it will not concern us that the world may not know each particular of our charity. That applause which is so grateful to him who is engaged in any undertaking, we regard not as the end of our labor, but the spur and incentive which should encourage all who properly estimate the advantage of public opinion.
There are also many who will be ready to exclaim-if the charity you practice is of so wide a character, why confine it to those who are united with you? Why not make it embrace all mankind? To this objection, if it can be so called, the reply readily suggests itself. To profess to relieve the wants of the civilized world, from the sources which we derive from the contributions of a few, would be to herald a Quixotic enterprize, that sane men would pity and despise. To accomplish this end, would be beyond the ability of any private society, and would in the magnitude of the undertaking, crush the power of the laborer, however honest. Besides, it is beyond the cavil of the hostile to expose us in an improper view, because they may please to suggest impossible or absurd ends to be accomplished. When the suggestion they make can be proved to be attainable, we may be then liable to the reproach it is intended to convey. But we claim to be judged by our own professions, and to receive the approbation of the community in which we are, when we act in accordance with those professions. We do accomplish what we profess to perform, and stand justified in the eyes of good and honest men, when we reject the suggestion to attempt what is well known to be impossible.
Yet it must be remembered, that our charity is not practised as a substitute for any of the requirements which are made by the communities in which we live. Whatever may be the policy, none will question the humanity, which in most civilized countries has created a refuge for the distressed, in the establishment of a fund for the poor. To this, as one of the institutions of civil society, we contribute our aid, and thus discharge with fidelity the debt we owe in common with all classes of citizens. But this relief which the law compels all to extend, too often fails to reach the truly distressed. And while by the exercise of our charity we relieve the
tax on the general fund, we support the crushed and bruised spirit, that sinks under the humiliation of support from a public charity. It may be this feeling is but pride—foolish pride—and that such pride is weakness in the individual. But who has probed his own heart, and has not felt the same feeling, there written in characters of fire, and consuming life, and the misery which it endured. It is born with us, and is one of the strong safeguards which surround and protect the choicest blessings of society. God has planted it as a wholesome seed, and we earnestly endeavor to preserve it unharmed, nor suffer it to be trodden down and cast out as noxious weed. This is one of the ends we propose to accomplish. From the Temple of the Most High we carry to our closet the chastened spirit, which makes us bend the knee in the solitude of private prayer, and from the discharge of our public duty in the protection of a public fund, we turn with feelings of a softer kind to the private duties of our Order: to that charity, which is ever living in our hearts, and owes its existence not to the law of man, but to the generous and pure spirit which God has caused to be ever present with us. There is no law for the discharge of this duty, but the law of Love—there is no fear to keep us watchful, but the fear of God. Thus are we brought near to that blissful existence, when man went forth knowing no law but love to his Maker, because ignorant of sin. Thus do we strive to live most closely according to the will of our Maker, when our conduct is governed by the holy principles which are breathed into us with the breath of life: and thus do we give earnest evidence of the repentance, which throughout all time must be our lot, when conscious that we have fallen, we yet strive to regain a portion of the lost love of our God, and humbly seek to imitate those virtues which made us once pure in his sight, and which still to us, though fallen, promíse happiness hereafter for the life that is well spent.
Bụt the charity which we practice in our institutions, is earned in part by those who receive it. The poor and distressed who find relief from our stock, have contributed to create it: and where we offer the hand of fellowship, and invite all to come in and be united with us—if any refuse, they neither are entitled, nor can they expect to receive, benefit from our institutions. To entitle them to receive, we require not only that they should join in building up the temple under whose dome they may rest secure from the storm, but that they should be united with us in the brotherhood of feeling; and for this as a pre-requisite, we demand the possession of an untarnished character. It is thus that we make each one feel the importance of aiding with his contribution, when he is made to realize the fact, that without this, he would be friendless and forgotten; and at the same time secure in the person of the recipient, that proudest heritage of man, name uņclouded with the faintest taint of dishonor or disgrace.
Such are the principles upon which our Order rests: such the principles we cultivate and cherish. Springing from these, our Order has proudly emerged from the humble obscurity of its origin, and now challenges the utmost scrutiny of its principles.
“To pour in virtue's lap her just reward;