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MARCH 31, 1854.
We enter upon our next quarter's responsibilities with no small feelings of pleasure, and with many serious reasons for bright hopes on the subject of Masonic progress. Increased individual good-feeling towards the Craft is rapidly leading to more organized demonstrations in its favour; and the recent initiations in certain Lodges tend to strengthen the belief, that no class of society will remain unrepresented in Masonry, and that even many sectarian differences will be united in the one resolution to do good where good can and should be done ; and that minor differences of opinion will give way before those grand principles of truth and high feeling, which should form the ultimate aim of study to every Freemason.
We have, indeed, no discouraging remarks to offer on the state of the Craft in general, but, as its kindly recognised interpreter as the almost sole medium of its intercommunication either with its own members or with those who have not yet tasted the cup of its mysteries--we venture, in all brotherly feeling, to "say our say,” and perhaps to grumble a little, at a few matters at which we feel every real working and upright Mason is as indignant as ourselves.
Charity and Masonry should be synonymous words. The greatest of the golden three of Christian virtues—a virtue, be it remembered, that belonged as thoroughly to the old Jewish Masons as to their Christian successors-should be the true
“jewel” to be worn in the bosom of the good Mason, even as its more sparkling, but less heavenly representative, sits on the outward breast.
Now let us briefly think within ourselves what Masonic Charity really is.
Much is done—much that is great and good, refined in theory and noble in practice—and, alas for all human things ! much is left undone, or, worse still, done badly.
The expensive character of festal meetings is surely against the main purposes of Masonry. A good dinner has never, and probably never could be, construed into a stumbling-block of offence, but, with the example of the Continental Lodges before us, our own plain knowledge of the "art of dining," and our experience of how much can be done for a little, we unequivocally express our belief that one-third of the money at present lavished upon dinner and supper banquets would satisfy the entire wishes of really conscientious members; and we would cling to the fond hope that few Masons can forget the obligations, to which their first evening in a Lodge rendered their honour, as well as their conscience, bound and indebted.
But the evil does not rest here. It might be easy, painfully easy, to show that the main funds of many Lodges are literally swallowed up—and a painful balance might be struck between seven-shilling “light wine” (as Mr. Skimpole calls it), of doubtful quality, and the often ludicrously inefficient assistance rendered to a “Brother" in distress. Surely it is a satire upon the principles of Masonry, to live beyond our means in one matter which is purely incidental, and to be found wanting in what is the avowed essential feature of our Order !
But we have a specific object in view in introducing this uncomfortable subject to the notice of our Brethren—we mean the conduct of many of those who have enjoyed high office, either as Provincial, Past, or Grand Officers, and especially the latter. Happily for the true cause it advocates, Masonry not only possesses some noble Charities, but likewise not a few men and Masons, who make them their anxious and honourable charge. The competition for the expensive office of Steward to the Girls' and Boys' School is alone sufficient to prove that our Brethren are ready to come forward, not only with open hearts, but open purses, to the great good work. The interest taken by prominent members in procuring the nomination of a child to a vacant position in either establishment, often displays a perseverance which might well be imitated by many wealthier fraternities; and we have the happiness of knowing, at this moment, many to whom the convivial enjoyments of Masonry are their least enjoyments—whose charity, in proportion to their means, is as exemplary as is the honour and purity of their lives.
But, unhappily, there are many such of our Brethren who are called upon to do too much, because others do too little. It has been a subject of regret to us long since, that we should so frequently see the same faces, and the same faces only, at Grand Lodge, and at other meetings where the golden principle of Charity should assert its sway. How is it, that, out of the large mass of wealthy and influential Brethren, who succeed to the honours of the Grand Lodge, frequently as much by virtue of worldly position as by Masonic efficiency, we find so few and those few so scantily forthcoming in the great work? Shall we, with grief and regret, avow the fact that Masonic tradesmen show more of this great feeling than those, on whom the gentler gifts of life have been bestowed ? Shall we state how often substantial and effectual help comes from the humble and unpretending Brother, when the wealthy, perhaps titled one, has little to do beyond a stray half-sovereign bestowed for no very clear reason ?- Shall we attempt to
Shall we attempt to “go into figures," and try to show how much money is spent on Masonics, and how little on Masonry ?
Best-beloved brother Masons—you, to whose kindliness of heart and generosity of principle we have seldom personally appealed in vain-bethink you a little of those sacred obligations upon which you entered
on which, remember, you entered freely and devotedly, without bias or compulsion, but under pledges so solemn that we would fain believe you required no words of ours to bring them back to your minds. satisfied with your own conduct and present position ? Is there not a sense of something wanting-a feeling of some unfulfilled