A Masonic Charge from 1796 A.D.

The Spirit of Masonry in moral and elucidatory lectures.

Hutchinson, William, 1732-1814.

1796 AD (other edits, 1775, 1796, 1802, 1843)

(Brothers who know our Victorian Ritual will no doubt pick out some interesting lines. The ritual we practise may have Geographic and Jurisdictional differences, but all hark back to common values and phrasing. Ed)

You are now admitted by the unanimous Consent of our Lodge, a Fellow of our most Antient and Honourable Society; Antient, as having subsisted from times immemorial, and Honourable, as tending in every Particular to render a Man so that will be but conformable to its glorious Precepts. The greatest Monarchs in all Ages, as well of Asia and Africa as of Europe, have been Encouragers of the Royal Art: and many of them have presided as Grand-Masters over the Masons in their respective Territories, not thinking it any lessening to their Imperial Dignities to Level themselves with their Brethren in Masonry, and to act as they did.

The World's great Architect is our Supreme Master, and the unerring Rule he has given us, is that by which we Work.

Religious Disputes are never suffered in the Lodge; for as Masons, we only pursue the universal Religion or the Religion of Nature. This is the Cement which unites Men of the most different Principles in one sacred Band, and brings together those who were the most distant from one another.

There are three general Heads of Duty which Masons ought always to inculcate, viz. to God, our Neighbours, and ourselves.

To God, in never mentioning his Name but with that Reverential Awe which becomes a Creature to bear to his Creator, and to look upon him always as the Summum Bonum [1] which we came into the World to enjoy; and according to that View to regulate all our Pursuits.

To our Neighbours, in acting upon the Square, or doing as we would be done by.

To ourselves, in avoiding all Intemperances and Excesses, whereby we may be rendered incapable of following our Work, or led into Behaviour unbecoming our laudable Profession, and in always keeping within due Bounds, and free from all Pollution.

In the State, a Mason is to behave as a peaceable and dutiful Subject, conforming cheerfully to the Government under which he lives.

He is to pay a due Deference to his Superiors, and from his Inferiors he is rather to receive Honour with some Reluctance, than to extort it.

He is to be a Man of Benevolence and Charity, not sitting down contented while his Fellow Creatures, but much more his Brethren, are in Want, when it is in his Power (without prejudicing himself or Family) to relieve them.

In the Lodge, he is to behave with all due Decorum, lest the Beauty and Harmony thereof should be disturbed or broke.

He is to be obedient to the Master and presiding Officers, and to apply himself closely to the Business of Masonry, that he may sooner become a Proficient therein, both for his Credit and for that of the Lodge.

He is not to neglect his own necessary Avocations for the sake of Masonry, nor to involve himself in Quarrels with those who through Ignorance may speak evil of, or ridicule it.

He is to be a Lover of the Arts and Sciences; and to take all Opportunities of improving himself therein.

If he recommends a Friend to be made a Mason, he must vouch him to be such as he really believes will conform to the aforesaid Duties, lest by his Misconduct at any time the Lodge should pass under some evil imputations. Nothing can prove more shocking to all faithful Masons, than to see any of their Brethren profane or break through the sacred Rules of their Order, and such as can do it they wish had never been admitted.

[1] summum bonum, noun, plural noun: summum bona. The highest good, especially as the ultimate goal according to which values and priorities are established in an ethical system. Summum bonum is a Latin expression meaning "the highest good", which was introduced by Cicero, to correspond to the Idea of the Good in ancient Greek philosophy.