The Charges of a Free-Mason

To be read at the making of new Brethren, or when the Master shall order it.
    A Mason is obliged by his tenure to obey the moral law, and if he rightly understands the art he will never be a stupid atheist nor an irreligious libertine. He, of all men, should best understand that God seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh to the outward appearance, but God looketh to the heart. A Mason is, therefore particularly bound never to act against the dictates of his conscience. Let a man's religion, or mode of worship, be what it may, he is not excluded from the Order, provided he believes in the Architect of heaven and earth, and practices the sacred duties of morality. Masons unite with the virtuous of every persuasion, in the firm and pleasing bond of fraternal love; they are taught to view the errors of mankind with compassion, and to strive by the purity of their own conduct to demonstrate the superior excellence of the faith they may profess. Thus, Masonry is the centre of union between good men and true, and the happy means of conciliating friendship amongst those who must otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.
    A Mason is a peaceful subject to the civil powers wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concerned in plots or conspiracies against the peace or welfare of the nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior magistrates. He is cheerfully to conform to every lawful authority; to uphold on every occasion the interest of the community, and zealously promote the prosperity of his own country. Masonry has ever flourished in times of peace, and been always injured by war, bloodshed and confusion, so that kings and princes in every age have been disposed to encourage the Craftsmen on account of their peaceableness and loyalty, whereby they practically answer the cavils of their adversaries, and promote the honor of the Fraternity. Craftsmen are bound by peculiar ties to promote peace, cultivate harmony, and to live in concord and brotherly love.
    A Lodge is a place where Freemasons assemble to work and to instruct and to improve themselves in the mysteries of their ancient science. In an extended sense, it applies to persons as well as to place; hence every regular assembly, or duly organized meeting of Masons is called a lodge. Every brother ought to belong to some lodge, and be subject to its by-laws and the general regulations of the Craft. A lodge may be either general or particular, as will be best understood by attending it, and there a knowledge of the established usages and customs of the Craft may be acquired. From ancient times no Master or Fellow could be absent from his lodge, especially when warned to appear at it, without incurring a severe censure; unless it appeared to the Master and Wardens that pure necessity hindered him.
    The persons made Masons and admitted members of a lodge must be good and true men, free born, and of a mature and discreet age and sound judgment, no bondsmen, no women, no immoral or scandalous men, but of good report.
    All preferment among Masons is grounded upon real worth and personal merit only, that so the lords may be well served, the brethren not put to shame, nor the royal Craft despised; therefore no Master or Warden is chosen by seniority, but for his merit It is impossible to describe these things in writing, and therefore every brother must attend in his place and learn them in a way peculiar to this Fraternity. Candidates may, nevertheless, know that no Master should take an apprentice unless he is a perfect youth having no maim or defect in his body, that may render him incapable of learning the art, or serving his master's lord and of being made a brother and then a Fellowcraft in due time, after he has served such a term of years as the custom of the country directs; and that he should be descended of honest parents, that so when otherwise qualified, he may arrive to the honor of being a Warden, and then the Master of the lodge, the Grand Warden, and at length the Grand Master of all the lodges, according to his merit.
    No brother can be a Warden until he has passed the part of a Fellowcraft, nor a Master until he has acted as a Warden nor Grand Warden until he has been Master of a lodge, nor Grand Master unless he has been a Fellowcraft before his election, who is also to be nobly born, or a gentleman of the best fashion, or some eminent scholar, or some curious architect or other artist descended of honest parents, and who is of singularly great merit in the opinion of the lodges.
    These rulers and governors, supreme and subordinate, of the ancient lodge, are to be obeyed in their respective stations by all the brethren, according to the old charges and regulations, with all humility, reverence, love and alacrity.
    N.B. – In ancient times, no brother, however skilled in the Craft, was called a Master Mason until he had been elected into the chair of the lodge.
    All Masons should work honestly on working days, that they may live creditably on holy days; and the time appointed by the law of the land or confirmed by custom, shall be observed.
    The most expert of the Fellowcraftsmen shall be chosen or appointed the Master, or overseer, of the lord's work, who is to be called Master by those that work under him. The Craftsmen are to avoid all ill language, and call each other by no disobliging name, but brother or fellow; and to behave themselves courteously within and without the lodge.
    The Master, knowing himself to be able of cunning, shall undertake the lord's work as reasonably as possible, and truly dispend his goods as if they were his own; nor give more wages to any brother or apprentice than he really may deserve.
    Both the Master and the Mason receiving their wages justly shall be faithful to the lord and honestly finish their work, whether task or journey; nor put the work to task that hath been accustomed to journey.
    None shall discover envy at the prosperity of a brother, nor supplant him nor put him out of his work if he is capable to finish the same; for no man can finish another's work so much to the lord's profit, unless he be thoroughly acquainted with the designs and draughts of him that began it.
    When the Fellowcraftsman is chosen Warden of the work under the Master, he shall be true both to Master and Fellows, shall carefully oversee the work in the Master's absence, to the lord's profit; and his brethren shall obey him.
    All Masons employed shall meekly receive their wages without murmuring or mutiny, and not desert the Master till the work be finished.
    A younger brother shall be instructed in working to prevent spoiling the materials for want of judgment, and for increasing and continuing brotherly love.
    All tools used in working shall be approved by the Grand Lodge.
    No laborer shall be employed in the proper work of Masonry; nor shall Freemasons work with those who are not free, without an urgent necessity; nor shall they teach laborers or unaccepted Masons as they should teach a brother or a fellow.
      You are not to hold private committees or separate conversations without leave from the Master, nor to talk of anything impertinently, or unseemly, nor interrupt the Master or Wardens or any brother speaking to the Master; nor behave yourself ludicrously or jestingly while the lodge is engaged in what is serious and solemn; nor use any unbecoming language upon any presence whatsoever; but to pay due reverence to your Master, Wardens and Fellows and put them to worship.
      If any complaint be brought, the brother found guilty shall stand to the award and determination of the lodge who are the proper and competent judges of all such controversies (unless you carry them by appeal to the Grand Lodge), and to whom they ought to be referred, unless a lord's work be hindered the meanwhile, in which case a particular reference may be made, but you must never go to law about what concerneth Masonry, without an absolute necessity apparent to the lodge.
      You may enjoy yourself with innocent mirth, treating one another according to ability, but avoid excess, or forcing any brother to eat or drink beyond his inclination, or hinder him from going when his occasions call him, or doing or saying anything offensive, that would forbid an easy and free conversation, for that would blast our harmony and defeat our laudable purposes. Therefore, no private piques or quarrels must be brought within the door of the lodge, far less any quarrels about religion, or nations, or state policy, we being only as Masons of the universal religion before mentioned; we are also of all nations, tongues, kindreds and languages, and resolved against all politics, as what never yet conduced to the welfare of the lodge, nor ever will.
      You are to salute one another in a courteous manner as you will be instructed, calling each other brother, freely giving mutual instructions as shall be thought expedient, without being overseen or overheard, and without encroaching on each other or derogating from that respect which is due to any brother, were he not a Mason; for though all Masons are as brethren on the same level, yet Masonry takes no honor from a man that he had before, nay, rather it adds to his honor, especially if he has deserved well of the brotherhood, who must give honor to whom it is due and avoid ill manners.
      You should be cautious in your words and carriage, that the most penetrating stranger should not be able to discover or find out what is not proper to be intimated; and sometimes you may divert a discourse and manage it prudently for the honor of the worshipful Fraternity.
      You are to act as becomes a moral and wise man particularly not to let your family and friends and neighbors know the concerns of the lodge, etc.; but wisely to consult your own honor, and that of your ancient brotherhood, for reasons not to be mentioned here. You must also consult your health by not continuing together too late or too long after lodge hours are passed; and by avoiding of gluttony or drunkenness, that your family be not neglected or injured, nor you disabled from working.
      You are cautioned to examine him in such a manner as prudence shall direct you, that you may not be imposed upon by an ignorant false pretender, whom you are to reject with contempt and derision and beware of giving him any hints of knowledge.
      But if you discover him to be a true and genuine brother you are to respect him accordingly; and if he is in want you must relieve him if you can, or direct him how he may be relieved. You must employ him some days or else recommend him to be employed. But you are not charged to do beyond your ability; only to prefer a poor brother and a good man and true before all other people in the same circumstances.
      Finally--All these charges you are to observe, and also those that shall be communicated unto you in another way; cultivating brotherly love, the foundation and capstone, the cement and glory of this ancient Fraternity; avoiding all wrangling and quarreling, all slander and backbiting, nor permitting others to slander any honest brother, but defending his character and doing him all good offices, so far as is consistent with your honor and safety and no further. And if any of them do you injury, you must apply to your own or his lodge, and from thence you may appeal to the Grand Lodge, at the annual communication, as has been the ancient laudable conduct of our forefathers in every nation; never taking a legal course but when the case cannot be otherwise decided; and patiently listening to the honest and friendly advice of Masters and Fellows, when they would prevent you going to law with strangers, or would excite you to put a speedy period to all lawsuits that so you may find the affair of Masonry with more alacrity and success; but with respect to the brothers or Fellows at law, the Masters and brethren should kindly offer their mediation which ought to be thankfully submitted to by the contending brethren; and if that submission is impracticable, they must, however, carry on their process of lawsuit without wrath and rancour (not in the common way) saying or doing nothing which may hinder brotherly love and good offices to be renewed and continued, that all may see the benign influence of Masonry, as all true Masons have done from the beginning of the world, and will do to the end of time.
Amen, so mote it be.