SERMON ON BROTHERLY LOVE PREACHED At the Old Brick Meeting-House in BOSTON, December 28, 1778. BEFORE THE MOST ANCIENT AND HONORABLE SOCIETY OF FREE AND ACCEPTED MASONS. And published at their unanimous Request.

By SIMEON HOWARD, A. M. Pastor of the West Church in BOSTON.

BOSTON, Printed by Brother THOMAS FLEET.


AT the Most Ancient Grand Lodge of FREE and ACCEPTED MASONS.

THE Most Worshipful JOSEPH WEBB, Esq G.M. in the Chair, with all the Grand Officers, to­gether with the Master and Wardens of Massachusetts and St. Andrew's Lodge, with about 120 Masons present. Voted unanimously, That the Thanks of this Grand Lodge be given to the Rev. Mr. SIMEON HOWARD for his Sermon delivered this Day, and that the following Brethren be a Committee to wait upon him and return him Thanks accordingly, and request a Copy of the same for the Press, viz.

  • Capt. Samuel Barrett, S. G. W.
  • Lieut. Col. Paul Revere, J. G. W.
  • Col. Thomas Crafts, S. G. D.
  • Lieut. Col. Edward Procter, J. G. D.
  • Mr. John Lowell, G. T.
Attest. WM. HOSKINS. G.S.

YOUR approving of my Sermon, so far as to desire a copy of it for the press, does me an honor, for which I thank you.—My aim in compo­sing, it was to promote the benevolent ends of your institution; with the same view I now consent to its publication; hoping the readers will exercise the same candor towards this hasty composition, which I experienced from the hearers.

I am, Gentlemen, Your most obedient, humble Servant, SIMEON HOWARD.
Jan. 5, 1779.
[Page 5]

Brotherly Love inculcated.

1 JOHN iii. 18.

—Let us not love in word, neither in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

BROTHERLY LOVE is so agreeable to the uncorrupted principles of our nature, and so plainly necessary and conducive to the well-being and happiness of human society, that persons of all persuasions will, in general, acknowledge it to be a virtue of peculiar excellency, which none ought to neglect. And while they thus allow its im­portance, there are but few but what pretend to be possessed of it. But notwithstand­ing men so generally agree in commending and laying claim to this virtue, there are, it is probable, many who have but a very [Page 6]imperfect idea of it. Some there are who seem to think that it consists only in good words and good wishes, or in desiring the welfare of others; altho' they do nothing to promote it any further than mere words will go. They are full of kind expressions; and there their charity begins and ends.

This is the error which the Apostle cau­tions us against in the text; "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue." He does not mean that it is improper to use kind words, or to make professions of love and good-will; but that we should not content ourselves with these only, or imagine that benevolence requires nothing more of us. Such language is agreeable and pleasant, and using it is one way of shewing kindness, tho' it by no means proves a real principle of love in the heart, and in many cases can be of no substantial service to the person to whom it is addressed. For, in the language of the Apostle James, "If a brother or sister be naked and destitute of daily food; and one of you say unto him, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled: notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful for the body; what doth it profit?" Is this true charity? Does this amount to loving our neighours as ourselves? By no means. People do but [Page 7]deceive themselves, if they imagine they have either christian faith, or christian charity, unless they shew it by good works: But more especially, if they scruple not to defraud, to defame and otherwise to injure their neigh­bours, with such good words as brotherly-love and charity in their mouths. Instead of contenting ourselves with this merely verbal charity, the Apostle exhorts us to love in deed and in truth; i. e. to cultivate a princi­ple of love and benevolence in our hearts, that we may with truth and sincerity make professions of it; and be ever ready to mani­fest it by deeds of charity.

This duty of brotherly-love is a very exten­sive one: It virtually comprises all the duties of the second table, all moral and social vir­tues, as they are distinguished from the duties that immediately relate to God as their object: Accordingly, the Apostle Paul says, "he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law." Nor is it improbable that many who make pre­tensions to this virtue are under other mistakes about it, besides that cautioned against in the text. It may therefore be useful to us all, and conducive to one professed design of that ancient institution which gave occasion to this solemnity, to spend a little time in explaining that charity or brotherly-love recommended in the text.

[Page 8] It is to be considered both in its principle, and in its effects or operations as it is called forth into exercise on various occasions, and in different circumstances.

It primarily intends sincere good-will or unfeigned benevolence; heartily wishing well to others, and desiring both their temporal and eternal good. Seeing, says the Apostle Peter, in his first epistle, 1 chap. "Seeing ye have purisied your souls in obeying the truth unto unfeigned love of the brethren; see that ye love one another with a pure heart fer­vently."—This is the general idea of christian charity, or brotherly-love.

But it will be proper to be more particular in explaining the nature of this virtue, by pointing out some of the principal properties of it and shewing what is contrary thereto. Love is an active principle in the soul: Wherever it is, it has a mighty influence upon the mind and behaviour; producing effects correspondent to its nature▪ and restraining the subjects of it from every thing contrary thereto: And it is to be made manifest both to ourselves and others by its fruits, and not by an empty profession. And,

1. It is a property of brotherly-love to rejoice in the goodness of God [Page 9]to others; and to delight in their happiness. We are enjoined to "rejoice with them that do rejoice," in testimony of the good-will which we bear to them. And if we sincerely love others we are of course pleased when we see them happy and prosperous; especially when we see them wise, good and virtuous; and so in a fair way to obtain eternal salvation. "Charity rejoiceth not in iniquity, but re­joiceth in the truth." And the apostle John, declares that he "had no greater joy than to see others walking in the truth."

From hence it is easy to see, how contrary an envious temper and repining at the welfare of others is to brotherly-love. Accordingly one part of the Apostle's description of this virtue is this, "charity envieth not." If then we would be possessed of this amiable virtue we must avoid all envy at those who are wiser, richer, more virtuous, more esteemed, more prosperous, than ourselves. Living in malice, and living in envy are akin to each other, and joined together in scripture, as being both opposite in their nature to brotherly-love or christian charity.

2. Another property of brotherly-love is to sympathise with others in their troubles and afflictions; bearing a part in their sor­rows, and being sincerely grieved for them [Page 10]when they are in adversity. Accordingly we are exhorted in scripture to "weep with them that weep," as well as to rejoice with them that do rejoice. Every one knows by ex­perience that whenever he sincerely loves another, as for example, a child, a brother, or a friend nearer than a brother; he is of course grieved and afflicted for them when they are in trouble. So the truly charitable man can­not see any others in sorrow and distress with an eye of indifference; but will as it were feel for them, and share in their sorrows; according to the exhortation of the Apostle —"Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ;" that is, the law of love, which is emphatically the law of Christ, who said, "Hereby shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one for another." If we can see our brethren or neighbours in sorrow and difficulty, without any pity or compassion, without a tender sympathy with them, we do not certainly love them in since­rity and truth; especially if we are rather pleased than grieved when we see them labor­ing under adversity.

3. It is the property of this virtue to mourn for the errors and vices of others, by which their future happiness is endangered, as well as for their worldly sorrows and afflictions.

[Page 11] Whoever is possessed of true benevolence, desires the eternal happiness of all men; and therefore cannot but be grieved when he sees any walking in the ways of sin and folly which lead to misery and destruction.

From this property of brotherly-love we see that it is inconsistent therewith to be de­signedly or willingly instrumental in leading others into wickedness; to tempt and intice them to intemperance, uncleanness, profane­ness, unlawful gaming, or any kind of vicious extravagance; or even to set them an exam­ple of such wickedness: Whoever does thus is so far from imitating the father of mercies in benevolence, as we are exhorted to do, that he rather resembles the grand adversary of God and man, "who, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour."

4. Brotherly-love, or true benevolence, im­plies doing good to all as we have opportu­nity; relieving their wants, comforting them in trouble, and doing what in us lies to pro­mote their welfare. Love is a generous boun­tiful principle; it exerts itself in substantial acts of kindness, as occasion and opportunity are presented. He that loves in deed and in truth "does good to all men, as he hath op­portunity;" according the Apostle's exhorta­tion; [Page 12]who says also, "to do good and to com­municate forget not; for with such sacrifices God is well pleased." We are indeed directed by the Apostle to do good, "especially unto them who are of the houshold of faith." The reason of this direction is, that we, as christians, are more nearly connected with them; they belong, as it were, to the same family and are our brethren in a more appro­priate sense, than mankind in general; and because they are also supposed to be more worthy characters, better and more useful members of society than others. And tho' christianity has on this account been charged with recommending a contracted spirit: Yet, if I mistake not, the other institution above referred to, in like manner recommends to its professors the members of their own so­ciety as the first objects of their liberality and beneficence. Nor do I apprehend that any reasonable objection can be brought against this direction. One end of all social connec­tions is to promote mutual affection among those who form them: They have plainly a tendency to do this. Members of the same society must be supposed to be better acquaint­ed with the wants and necessities of one ano­ther, than with those of other men; and to be more concerned for their good. By en­tering into a particular connection with others [Page 13]we take upon ourselves a new obligation to love and do good to them, in addition to that which we are naturally under to men in gene­ral, considered only as human creatures. We ought not indeed to confine our good-will and good offices to our brethren by profes­sion; nor does christianity or the other insti­tution above mentioned require us to do so; but only to give them the preference. Both these institutions leave the natural obligations to universal charity in their full force; and induce some new ones with respect to those of our own particular fraternity. Our nearest connections are naturally the first objects of our benevolence; from them it extends to others more remote.

"Friend, parent, neighbour first it will embrace,
"Our country next, and next all human race."

According to our ability we are to do good to all men, so far as we can consistently with our obligations to those to whom we are un­der particular engagements; not only to enter­tain strangers and afford relief and assistance to the poor and those who are in sorrow and distress; but to do all we can to promote both the temporal and eternal happiness of mankind. And therefore this excellent vir­tue will naturally lead a man to lend his assistance for the support of religion and vir­tue, [Page 14]of good order and government; for op­posing the encroachments of tyranny and arbitrary power, for the encouragement of arts and sciences, of useful manufactures, of com­merce, of agriculture, and of every thing which tends to the real good of mankind. And he who has it in his power to be useful in this way and neglects it, must be deficient in that brotherly love and charity which the gospel recommends.

5. Loving in deed and in truth implies for­bearance and candor towards those who may differ from us in opinion in some respects, instead of rashly judging, condemning, persecuting or reviling them. "Judge not, that ye be not judged," says our Saviour, "condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned." It is indeed al­lowable for us to speak of known errors in opi­nion or practice, as such, as contrary to the truth and gospel of Christ; yea, Christians are commanded to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints. But then it is in love that we ought to speak the truth, to oppose error and to contend for the faith; not with wrath and bitterness, as is too com­monly done by different sects and parties. We ought to remember that we ourselves are fallible and liable to err, as well as those that differ from us; that we have no more right [Page 15]to lord it over their faith and consciences, than they have over ours; nor, consequently, have we any right to harm them, merely for their religious opinions, though they are erroneous.

The gospel is a plan of liberty, allowing, and even requiring all men to exercise their own judgment and consciences; and forbid­ding them to usurp authority over one ano­ther, or uncharitably to censure each other. The holy scriptures abound with precepts to this purpose; and an habitual regard to them is required in the exhortation in the text.

6. This virtue implies a pacific disposition; and endeavouring, as much as in us lies, to live peaceably with all men; more especially with our christian brethen; and therefore re­quires humility and mutual condescention, without which there can be no peace, no dwelling together in unity; but uncharitable contentions and fatal divisions must needs take place. "I therefore the prisoner of the Lord," says the Apostle, Eph. iv, "beseech you, that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called; with all lowliness and meek­ness; with longsuffering; forbearing one ano­ther in love, endeavouring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace."

[Page 16] Whoever loves his brethren in deed and in truth, will be desirous to maintain peace and unity; even though in some cases he should be obliged for that end to give up his own just right. This must however be confined to things indifferent in their own nature; for we are not in any case to do evil, or sin against God for the sake of peace: Nor are we oblig­ed, for this cause, to give up our temporal rights when they are considerable, or wil­lingly to become slaves to encroaching and ambitious men. But whatever can be done consistently with a good conscience, and the preservation of our own valuable rights, brotherly-love obliges us to do, rather than contend.

7. This virtue implies a forgiving temper of mind, and a disposition to overlook injuries. Forgiving others their trespasses is a material branch of that charity which the gospel re­quires. "Put on therefore," says the Apostle, "as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, meekness, long­suffering, forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any; even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." (Col. iii. 12.) And it ought to be re­membered what great stress our blessed Lord himself puts upon this, saying,—"If ye forgive [Page 17]men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive your trespasses: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive you."

And if this be the case, we see that it is plainly inconsistent with brotherly love, to indulge an implacable spirit and a desire of revenge;—it is so let the injury be ever so great; but it is more inexcusable when the injury is too trifling to deserve the resentment of a wise man; being only an idle word, or unguarded expression, utterred perhaps in a passion. A man who for such trifling offences insists upon being revenged, even though it should be by taking the life of the offender, has a spirit as contrary to that of love, as light is to darkness; even tho' he should in con­tempt of common sense and good breeding, and in defiance of the feelings of humanity and the laws of God, be absurd enough to call this genteel satisfaction.

8. And lastly; it is to be observed, that he who loves in deed and in truth, will be careful to abstain from every kind of injury towards his neighbour, and to practice all those social and relative duties which are necessary for the good order, peace and happiness of society, All these duties have their foundation in love as their principle; and they naturally flow [Page 18]from it, as streams from their fountain. Nor can a person break any of God's command­ments, relative to social life, without violating the great law of christian charity at the same time. The Apostle Paul himself explains the christian law of love in this latitude; repre­senting it as inconsistent with every kind and degree of fraud and injustice, and including in it every social virtue—our whole duty to­wards our neighbour. For thus he speaks Rom. xiii. "Owe no man any thing but to love one another; for he that loveth another, hath fulfilled the law. For this, thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not bear false witness; thou shalt not covet: And if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: Therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law."

Having thus explained the great and im­portant duty recommended in the text, I shall ask your patience no longer, than while I briefly apply the subject. And,

1. Let us ever bare upon our minds the great extent, the comprehensive nature of the law of love;—that it requires not merely good words and kind wishes, or even giving [Page 19]alms; but the practice of all moral and social virtues, and the abstaining from all vice; and that if we allow ourselves to lead dissolute immoral lives, we in vain pretend to be pos­sessed of brotherly-love.

2. Let us consider the many obligations we are all under to the duty we have been con­sidering;—from the relation we bare to all men, as our brethren, they in common with us, being all the offspring of the same great Father of our spirits; from the example of universal love and beneficence which this great Parent has set us;—from our weakness and insufficiency to our own happiness, and the [...] they stand in of help and assistance from one another;—from the social nature of man, his love of society, and dis­position to be pleased with the exercises of benevolence, whether he feels them in himself or sees the effects of them in others: And as christians, we are obliged to this duty, by the repeated and express commands of the gospel, and the example of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Master, who gave the most convinc­ing evidences of sincere affection to us, and has commanded us to love one another as he has loved us; and by our desires and hopes of eternal happiness in heaven, which cannot be obtained or enjoyed without a benevolent [Page 20]temper.—And let me add, that the brethren of the ancient Society of Free and Accepted Masons, are under an additional obligation to this duty. They have voluntarily bound themselves to observe the laws and orders of an institution, one design of which is to promote brotherly-love, and which allows of nothing contrary thereto; of no immoral, no injurious practice. For, this, I am fully satisfied, may be truly said of their institution; that it was in part designed to make men bene­volent kind and virtuous; and that the more closely a brother conforms to the rules of his profession, the more happy he will be in him­self, and the more useful to others. It may however and no doubt often does, fail of ef­fecting its design; as is the case of christianity, though planed by the wisdom of God himself. But it would be highly unreasonable to make either of these institutions answerable for the ill conduct of their professors. Shame be to all unworthy, to all immoral brethren. But let not a blameless, a benevolent and a wise institution be repreached for their sakes.

A vicious and uncharitable Mason is pe­cularly inexcusable. He is bound to be other­wise by the laws of nature, of revelation and of masonry: And yet so great is his corrup­tion, so strong his propensity to wickedness, [Page 21]that he breaks asunder this three fold cord to the disgrace of his profession, and even of his humanity. Let then, the gentlemen of this fraternity be pleased to consider, how strongly they are obliged to the practice of charity and all virtue. Your institution, you know, has been faulted by some, unacquainted with its principles, as having a bad tendency, and by others as trifling and useless. But it is not all the reproaches of its enemies that can so much dishonor it, as the vicious lives of its professors. Take care then to confute all such insinuations by shewing that it has a good influence upon your tempers and lives. Demean yourselves according to the good rules and orders of your society. Let there be found among you no instance of impiety, of profaneness, of intemperance, of impurity, of dishonesty, of covetousness, of contention, or of any other vice: But strive to excel in all the virtues of a good life. This will ren­der the badges of your profession honorable; will gain respect to your institution from those who do not profess it; will make you happy in yourselves, and increase the happiness and diminish the sorrows of your family and do­mestic connections, and cause those who are not intrusted with your secrets to bless your institution; it will make you good husbands, good fathers, good friends, and good mem­bers [Page 22]of society; you will be workers together with God in promoting the happiness of man­kind; and in that day, when all secrets shall be disclosed, you will be approved by your Judge, and admitted free of the city that is above, whose builder and maker is God.

But I must not forget the collection for the poor, which was proposed to be part of the bu­siness of this assembly. This benevolent pro­posal coming from a society of free Masons, shews that tho' their charity regards in the first place their own members, yet it is not confined to them, but extends to all who need relief. In this good work they invite all who are able to join them.—Give me leave to second the invitation.—Though giving alms is not the whole, it is yet an essential part of charity, where there is occasion and ability for it. That there is at present great occasion for it among us must be known to most of you. Besides such poor as we always have with us, there are many persons now in this town re­duced, by the consequences that have resulted from the war, from comfortable circumstances, to such poverty as to be unable to procure the real necessaries of life: This is said to be the case with the families of some of those who are now in the public service, or have died fighting in defence of their country, for [Page 23]a very inadequate reward. And at the same time that the war has been thus unfavorable to some, it has given opportunity to others to acquire great wealth. Suppose then that you were thus reduced, so as not to have where­withal to purchase bread and fuel to keep yourself and your family from suffering. Would not you think that those around you who had enough and to spare ought to assist you: And if instead of doing it, they should spend in sumptuous living, in expensive equi­page, furniture, servants, needless diversions, and idle amusements, enough to support many such families as yours, would you think that they did right? Or that they had any regard for the laws of christianity, of masonry, or even of humanity? Or suppose instead of being thus poor and neglected, you were one of those who have, in this day of general cala­mity, found means greatly to encrease your riches, and should thus neglect a poor bro­ther or neighbour, though you every day spent in needless show and luxury enough to support a poor family with frugality; would not your conscience accuse you of a very criminal neglect of duty, if you should reflect but a moment upon the matter? Would not your own heart condemn you? Could you think that you acted as became a christian, a free Mason, or even a man? And would it not chil your spirits in your gayest amuse­ments [Page 24]to think, that there were many among us suffering for want of necessaries, which they could procure with what you needlessly spend? Suppose farther; that instead of thus shuting up your bowels of compassion, you should retrench some of your unnecessary expences, and give what you thus saved to some poor worthy family, to dispel the melancholy of an affectionate father, to revive the spirits of an anxious distressed mother, to spread a smile over the meagre, dejected countenances of half-famished children, or to cause some widow's heart to sing for joy, whose husband has died in the service of his country; should you, I say, thus bestow what you saved by denying yourself a needless gratification, would it not afford you more true satisfaction and joy of heart, than you ever received from an assembly or a concert, or any other diversion or amusement?—It certainly would, unless you are quite divested of humanity. And would not the blessing of persons ready to perish coming on you, be worth more than to be applauded by the unthinking votaries of pleasure, as a jovial companion, a man of taste, who knew how to spend money and make a figure?

As to the families of soldiers, it is no more than justice to assist them, if they need assis­tance. [Page 25]For you cannot but be sensible that it is principally owing to our army that you have had an opportunity of acquiring your affluence, and are now in the peaceable en­joyment of it; nor can you be ignorant that their wages have been insufficient for their support. And can you pretend to be possessed of brotherly-love, while you neglect to assist them—neglect to do justice?

You cannot but know that the sacred scrip­tures represent this duty as of the utmost im­portance. The passages to this purpose, both in the old and new testament, are almost in­numerable: And they all deserve the con­sideration of every one who desires to be ap­proved of God: But I would particularly ask your attention to the words of our blessed Savior, recorded in the 25th chapter of Mat­thew. There he has given us a representation of the final judgment; in which we are taught, that the main thing, upon which the doom of every one will turn, will be the having prac­tised, or neglected this duty:—That when the Son of man shall sit upon the throne of his glory, and all nations be gathered before him. —"He shall say unto them on his right hand, come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the founda­tion of the world: For I was an hungred and [Page 26]ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye cloathed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.—Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on his left hand, depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: Naked and ye cloathed me not: Sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.—Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." Can any argument more forceable be devised to recommend the practice of charity? What! shall the great Judge of the world, seated upon his tribunal declare before angels and men, that our having relieved a brother in distress, was doing a kindness to him; and accordingly reward us with eternal happiness; —And that our having neglected to shew kindness to the necessituous, was neglecting him; and accordingly punish us with ever­lasting destruction! And do we after this, need to be urged to this duty? Shall we not rather be searching for objects of charity, and be de­sirous of employing as much of the wealth [Page 27]which God has given us, in this way, as we can? Thus disposed of, upon right principles, it will draw more than sterling interest:— It will, in this world, gain us the "favor of God, which is life, and his loving kindness, which is better than life;" and, in due time, be repaid with glory, honor, and immortal felicity. One would think that this consider­ation would induce the hard-hearted Miser, the griping Extortioner, and even the thought­less Voluptuary, with all the unpitying herd of Worldings, to abound in acts of charity, even from a principle of selfishness. How­ever, if this argument has no effect, I can think of no other that will be likely to pre­vail; and will, therefore, conclude with the words of king Solomon, to the same purpose with those of our Savior just recited; "Whose stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard. —He that hath pity upon the poor, lendeth unto the Lord; and that which he hath given, will he pay him again."

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