OUR DUTY TO THE CRAFT
On the 27th of December, 1822, Ohio Lodge, No. 30, celebrated the Festival of St. John the Evangelist, at Columbus. It was one of those celebrations of the "olden time," that still linger in the memory of a few surviving patriarchs who shared in it. Our country was then comparatively new; the grey-haired " fathers" of the present were then in the vigor of life, and in the midst of their labors. Masons, and even Lodges, were then but few in the West; and when they met on a festive day, there was truly a gathering of noble and generous hearts. Strong hands were clasped, and words of encouraging cheer were uttered, and fraternal bonds grew stronger around the festive board. The brethren of those days loved Masonry, for Masonry induced them to love one another. They were clearing away the forests, and laying the foundations of our cities and towns, and preparing our now fruitful fields for their present productiveness. They were laboring men, and when called to "refreshment" they did ample justice to the bounteous provision.
On the occasion alluded to above, Bro. "H. Bacon, P.M.," addressed the assembled brotherhood; and from a copy of that address, which has recently fallen into our hands, we make the following extract. It furnishes another evidence of the sound and wholesome sentiments entertained by the "worthy" of a former generation. Its doctrines are sound; its advice wholesome; its assumptions in entire harmony with the genius of Masonry. Read it.
"In order however, to come to a correct understanding of our duty as, members of one great family, it will be necessary to consider the subject, in relation to the privileges conferred, and if it is impartially considered in this point of view, we shall find our obligations extended — our motives of action increased — and the consequences of our conduct operating to an extent, which we never had anticipated. It is not with us, as with an individual who stands solitary and alone in the world, who may say to himself, that he will riot in all the extravagance of vice, and that the consequences only fall upon himself. We on the other hand have incorporated ourselves into one great family — we have received a warrant, which in a certain sense places us upon a level with every Mason — we carry with us a draft upon a banker, who will never enter a cold unfeeling protest — we have the certain pledge of millions — and we know that a brother will not desert a brother though a stranger; and that although the clods of the valley may have covered us, that the obligation shall not cease its operation. With this view of the subject, shall we hesitate to admit that our duties are not merely to our God, and to ourselves, but that we owe much to the memory of our departed brethren; that, we owe much more to those with whom we are now associated. Every brother should act therefore not merely with reference to himself, but in relation to the general good of that great family, to which he is attached by such innumerable ties, and from whom be has a right to demand, an accumulated benefit, should he ever become the child of misfortune and want.
Among all the various duties we are called upon to exercise in our masonic character, there is no one, which so imperiously claims the exercise of all our prudence, as when called upon to decide upon the admission of candidates. It is a subject which cannot be too often submitted to our consideration. It is true, that when it is considered that every member has a complete controlling influence in these cases, it affords matter of astonishment that there has been so much to regret from hasty and inconsiderate decisions. The desire of increasing our numbers is too often suffered to operate as a most powerful agent in determining our judgment upon questions of this nature. It is a principle which is incorporated into the whole human character. We see it paramount in the operations of every civil and religious community, and it is not to be expected that Masons should be exempt from its influence. Nor should they be. To impart those pure pleasures in which we participate, to add to the aggregate of social happiness, and to lessen the measure of human misery, even in this world, is certainly an object well worthy of the ambition of the highest, and is not beyond the comprehension of the lowest member of community. Thence it is, that we can rank among our warmest supporters those who have stood highest upon the list of fame, and hence it is, that the poorest peasant returns from the Lodge to the bosom of his family with a fulness of soul, which makes him love them better, and which ascends with his evening devotions as an acceptable return to that Being, who manifests his goodness and loving kindness to the most undeserving of his creatures. But in obtaining this end, the great danger lies in not discriminating between the proper means in our power for its accomplishment. We are too apt to forget when called upon to decide upon the admission of a candidate, that by the introduction of one who is unworthy, we may perhaps deter from making the application a great number of others, who if admitted would do honor to their profession. By this course, our numbers are indirectly lessened, and we suffer our imprudent zeal to defeat its own object. The same reason applies with equal force to those who are induced to act in opposition to the dictates of their judgment, from a mistaken benevolence, and the principles and objects of the institution become less extended in proportion to the extremity of their zeal. But of all the arguments I have heard suggested upon similar occasions, that is certainly the most dangerous, notwithstanding it may be the most absurd, which would admit a candidate of acknowledged immoral habits in anticipation, that when subjected to the discipline of our rules, and induced by the beauty of our system, that a reformation would be produced. Certainly those who have advanced this idea, have not reflected, that it violates every rule and is in direct hostility to every principle, by which Masons ought to be governed. They certainly cannot have reflected, that we have no means of regaining the possession of that which may have been imparted, and that however easy it may be for us to reduce ourselves upon the level with such an applicant, it will be difficult indeed to give him a standing higher than his merit in the world will entitle him to claim. Suffer me to urge this subject upon your attention as one upon which much depends. As one upon which depends the well-being and character of the Fraternity in no inconsiderable degree.
What should be the particular qualifications of a candidate for admission, is a subject with which all of you either are, or may be familiar. Is it one who has long trod in the crooked path of infidelity who makes the application? I leave to you to determine as to the obstacles which will present themselves to the passage of such a person through the different degrees. I leave you to determine whether we recognize the volume which now lies before us, as being the fables of priestly craft and delusion, or the eternal gospels of Heaven? It may be that Masonry is perfectly reconcilable, with a disbelief of those Holy writings, but for one, I must enter my protest against that kind of benevolence, which in the last moment of expiring nature, can resign its brother into the cold and merciless embrace of an hopeless infidelity. Surely God has not made man in vain. He has not said to the proud oppressor, that he may riot upon the spoil of the poor and defenseless, and that death shall forever close the account. He has not said to the votaries of ambition, that they may slay their thousands, and tens of thousands, upon the altar of their usurped power, and that no memorial shall hereafter exist, which shall record the sacrifice. Nor does the genius of Masonry, say to the sons of poverty, want and toil, that that hope and confidence which has been their stay, is a mere phantom of the imagination, and their only resource against the ills which seem to encumber them, is in that last act of despair, which drops forever the curtain of their existence.
Does the slow, calculating miser knock at your gate for admission? Avoid him as a pestilence! He is if possible, more to be dreaded, than the confirmed infidel. How will such a wretch participate in those social and benevolent pleasures which bring such a vast increase to the general treasury of our happiness. His will be a kind of cold calculating philosophy, that can look, with the most perfect apathy, upon every object of pity, until be shall have minutely investigated the causes. He will bring with him that kind of frigid insensibility, which will be able to wrest every obligation into an instrument for gratifying its own selfishness."