The Charges of a Freemason

The Charges Of A Free Mason Extracted from The Ancient Records of Lodges beyond Sea, and of those in England, Scotland, and Ireland, for the use of the Lodges in London: To be read At The Making Of New Brethren Or When The Master Shall Order It. The General Heads, viz.:
  1. Of God and Religion.
  2. Of the Civil Magistrate Supreme and Subordinate.
  3. Of Lodges.
  4. Of Masters, Wardens, Fellow, and Apprentices.
  5. Of the Management of the Craft in Working.
  6. Of Behavior, viz.:
    1. In the Lodge while constituted.
    2. After the Lodge is over and the Brethren not gone.
    3. When the Brethren meet without Stangers, but not in a Lodge.
    4. In the presence of Stranges not Masons.
    5. At Home and in the Neighborhood.
    6. Towards a strange Brother.

I. Concerning God And Religion

A Mason is oblig'd 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. But though in ancient Times Masons were charged in every Country to be of the Religion of that Country or Nation, whatever it was, yet it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that Religion in which all Men agree, leaving their particular Opinions to themselves; that is, to be good Men and true. or Men of Honour and Honesty, by whatever Denominations or Persuasions they may be distinguish'd; whereby Masonry becomes the Center of Union, and the Means of conciliating true Friendship among Persons that must have remain'd at a perpetual Distance.

II. Of The Civil Magistrate Supreme And Subordinate

A Mason is a Peaceable Subject to the Civil Powers, wherever he resides or works, and is never to be concern'd in Plots and Conspiracies against the Peace and Welfare of the Nation, nor to behave himself undutifully to inferior Magistrates; for as Masonry hath been always injured by War, Bloodshed and Confusion, so ancient Kings and Princes have been much dispos'd to encourage the Craftsmen, because of the Peaceableness and Loyalty, whereby they practically answer'd the Cavils of their Adversaries, and promoted the Honour of the Fraternity, who ever flourish'd in Times of Peace. So that if a Brother should be Rebel against the State, he is not to be countenanc'd in his Rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy Man; and if Convicted of no other Crime, though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of Political Jealousy to the Government for the time being, they can not expel him from the Lodge, and his relation to it remains indefeasible.

III. Of Lodges

A Lodge is a Place where members assemble and work; Hence that Assembly, or duly organiz'd Society of Masons, is call'd a Lodge, and every Brother ought to belong to one, and to be subject to its By-Laws and the General Regulations. It is either particular or general, and will be best understoon by attending it, and by the Regulations of the General or Grand Lodge hereunto annex'd. In ancient Times, no Master or Fellow could be absent from it, especially when warn'd to appear at it, with incurring a severe Censure, until it appear'd to the Master and Wardens, that pure Necessity hinder'd him.

The Persons admitted Members of a Lodge must be good and true Men, free-born and of marute and discreet Age, no Bondmen, no Women, no immoral or scandalous Men, but of good Report.

IV. Of Masters, Wardens, Fellows, And Apprentices

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 despis'd: Therefore no Master or Warden is chosen by Seniority, but for his Merit. It is impossible to describe these things in writing, and every Brother must attend in his Place, and learn them in a way peculiar to the Fraternity: Only Candidates may know, that no Master should take on an Apprentice, unless he has sufficient Imployment for him, and unless he be a perfect Youth, have no Maim or Defect in his body, that may render him incapable of learning the Art, of serving his Master's Lord, and of being made a Brother, and then a Fellow-Craft in due time, and even 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 qualify'd, he may arrive to the Honour of being the Warden, and at length the Grand-Master of all the Lodges, according to his Merit.

No Brother can be a Warden until he has pass'd the part of a Fellow-Craft; nor a Master until he has acted as a Warden, nor Grand Warden until he has been a Fellow-Craft 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 singular great Merit in the Opinion of the Lodges. And for the better, and easier, and more honourable discharge of his Office, the Grand-Master has a Power to chuse his Deputy GRand-Master, who must be then, or must have been formerly, the Master of a particular Lodge, and has the Privilege of acting whatever the Grand-Master, his Principal, should act, unless the said Principal be present, or interpose his Authority by a Letter.

These Rulers and Governors, Supreme and Subordinate, of the ancient Lodge, are to be obey'd in their respective Stations by all the Brethren, according to the Old Charges and Regulations, with all Humility, Reverence, Love and Alacrity.

V. Of The Management Of The Craft In Working

All Masons shall work honestly on working Days, that they may live creditably on Holy Days; and the time appointed by the Law of the Land, or confirm'd by Custom, shall be observ'd.

The most expert of the Fellow-Craftsmen shall be chosen or appointed the Master or Overseer of the Lord's Work; who is to be call'd Master by those that work under him. The Craftsmen are to avoid all ill Language, and to call each other by no disobliging Name, but Brother or Fellow; and to behave themselves courtesly 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 to give more Wages to any Brother or Apprentice than he really may deserve.

Both the Master and Masons 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 accustom'd to Journey.

None shall discover Envy at the Prosperity of a Brother, nor supplant him, or put him out of his Work, if he be 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 a Fellow-Craftsman 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 employ'd shall meekly receive their Wages without murmuring or Mutiny, and not desert the Master till the Work is finish'd.

A younger Brother shall be instructed in working, to prevent spoiling the Materials for want of Judgement, and for encreasing and continuing of Brotherly Love.

All the Tools used in working shall be approved by the Grand Lodge.

No Labourer shall be employ'd in the proper work of Masonry; nor shall Free Masons work with those that are not free, without an urgent Necessity; nor shall they teach Labourers and unaccepted Masons, as they should teach a Brother or Fellow.

VI. Of Behavior

1. In the Lodge while constituted.

You are not to hold private Committees, or separate Conversation, without Leave from the Master, nor to talk of any thing impertinent 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 Pretence 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 it by Appeal to the Grand Lodge,) and to whom they ought to be referr'd unless a Lord's Work be hinder'd the mean while, 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.

2. Behaviour after the Lodge is over and the Brethren not gone.

You may enjoy yourselves with innocent Mirth, treating one another according to Ability, but avoiding all Excess, or forcing any Brother to eat or drink beyond his Inclination, or hindering him from going when his Occasions call him, or doing or saying anything offensive, or that may 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 Catholick Religion above-mention'd; we are also of all Nations, Tongues, Kindreds, and Languages, and are resolv'd against all Politicks, as what never yet conduc'd to the Welfare of the Lodge, nor ever will. This charges has been always strictly enjoin'd and observ'd, but especially ever since the Reformation in Britian, or the Dissent and Secession of these Nations from the Communion of Rome.

3. Behaviour when Brethren meet without Strangers, but not in a Lodge form'd.

You are to salute one another in a courteous manner as you will be instructed, calling each other Brother, freely giving mutual Instruction as shall be thought expedient, without being overseen or overheard, and without encroaching upon 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 upon the same Level, yet Masonry takes no Honour from a Man that he had before; nay rather it adds to his Honour, especially if he as deserv'd well of the Brotherhood, who must give Honour to whom it is due, and avoid ill manners.

4. Behaviour in presence of Strangers not Masons.

You shall be most cautious in your Words and Carriage, that the most penetrating Stranger shall not be abole to discover or find out what is not proper to be intimated; and sometimes you shall divert a discourse, and manage it prudently for the Honour of the worshipful Fraternity.

5. Behaviour at Home, and in your Neighbourhood.

You are to act as becomes a moral and wise Man; particularly, not to let your Family, Friends, and Neighbours know the Concerns of the Lodge, &c., but wisely to consult your own Honour, and that of the ancient Brotherhood, for Reasons not be be mention'd here. You must also consult your health, by not continuing together too late, or too long from home, after Lodge Hours are past; and by avoiding of Gluttony or Drunkenness, that your Families be not neglected or injured, nor you disabled from working.

6. Behaviour towards a strange Brother.

You are cautiously to examine him, in such a method as prudence shall direct you, that you may not be impos'd 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 rlse direct him how he may be reliev'd. You must employ him some Days, or recommend him to be employ'd. But you are not charged to do beyond your Ability, only to prefer a poor Brother, that is a good Man and true, before any other poor People in the same Circumstances.

Finally, all of these Charges you are to observe, and also those that shall be communicated to you in another way; cultivating Brotherly-Love, the foundation and Capestone, 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, as far as is consistent with your own or his Lodge; and from thence you may appeal to the Grand Lodge at the Quarterly Communication, and from thence to the annual Grand Lodge; 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 Master and Fellows, when they would prevent your from going to Law with Strangers, or would excite you to put a speedy Period to all Law Suits, that so you may mind the Affair of Masonry with the more Alacrity and Success; but with respect to Brothers or Fellows at Law, the Master and Brethren should kindly offer their Mediation, which ought to be thankfull submitted to by the contending Brethren, and if that submission is impracticable, they must however carry on their Process, or Law-suit, without Wrath and Rancor (not in the common way), saying or doing nothing which may hinder Brotherly Love, and good Offices to be renew'd and continu'd; 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.

The above Charges, including the original spelling, punctuation, and capitalization are extracted directly from the Ancient Constitutions published in 1723, and adopted by most Grand Lodges throughout the world.

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