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Proselytism

Making converts, to win over from one faith to another by argument or other means of persuasion. Brahmanism is, perhaps, the only religion which is opposed to proselytism. The Brahman seeks no convert to his faith, but is content with that extension of his worship which is derived from the natural increase only of its members.

The Jewish Church, perhaps one of the most exclusive, and which has alwavs seemed indifferent to progress, yet provided a special form of baptism for the initiation of its proselytes into the Mosaic rites. Buddhism, the great religion of the Eastern world, which, notwithstanding the opposition of the leading Brahmans, spread with amazing rapidity over the Oriental nations, so that now it seems the most popular religion of the world, owes its extraordinary growth to the energetic propagandism of Sakya muni, its founder, and to the same proselyting spirit which he inculcated upon his disciples. The Christian church, mindful of the precept of its Divine founder, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature," has always considered the work of missions as one of the most important duties of the Church, and owes its rapid increasers in its earlier years, to the proselyting spirit of Paula and Thomas, and the other apostles.

Mohammedanism springing up and lingering for a long time in a single family, at length acquired rapid growth among the Oriental nations, through the energetic proselytism of the Prophet and his adherents. But the proselytism of the religion of the New Testament and that of the Koran differed much in character. The Christian made his converts by persuasive accents and eloquent appeals; the Mussulman converted his penitents by the sharp power of the sword. Christianity was a religion of peace, Mohammedanism of war; yet each, though pursuing a different method, was equally energetic in securing converts.

In respect to this doctrine of proselytism, Freemasonry resembles more the exclusive faith of Brahms than the inviting one of Moses, of Buddha, of Christ, or of Mohammed. In plain words, FreemasonrY is rigorously opposed to all proselytism. While its members do not hesitate, at all proper times and on all fitting occasions, to defend the Institution from all attacks of its enemies, it never seeks, by voluntary laudation of its virtues, to make b new accessions of friends, or to add to the number of its disciples.

Nay, it boasts, as a peculiar beauty of its system, that it is a voluntary Institution. Not only does it forbid its members to use any efforts to obtain initiates, but actually requires every candidate for admission into its sacred rites to seriously declare, as a preparatory step, that in this voluntary offer of himself he has been unbiased by the improper solicitations of friends. Without this declaration, the candidate would be unsuccessful in his application. Although it is required that he should be prompted to solicit the privilege by the favorable opinion which he had conceived of the Institution, yet no provision is made by which that opinion can be inculcated in the minds of the profane; for were a Freemason, by any praises of the Order, or any exhibitions of its advantages, to induce anyone under such representations to seek admission, he would not only himself commit a grievous fault, but would subject the candidate to serious embarrassment at the very entrance of the Lodge.

This Brahmanical spirit of anti-proselytism, in which Freemasonry differs from every other association, has imprinted upon the Institution certain peculiar features. In the first place, Freemasonry thus becomes, in the most positive form, a voluntary association. Whoever comes within its mystic circle, comes there of his "own free will and accord, and unbiased by the influence of friends." These are the terms on which he is received, and to all the legitimate consequences of this voluntary connection he must submit. Hence comes the axiom, "Once a freemasons always a Freemason" that is to say, no manse having once been initiated into its sacred rites, can, at his own pleasure or caprice, divest himself of these obligations and duties which, 19 a Freemason, be has assumed. Coming to us freely and willingly, he can urge no claim for retirement on the plea that he leas unduly persuaded, or that the character of our Institution had been falsely represented. To do so would be to convict himself of fraud and falsehood, in the declarations made by him preliminary to his admission.

If these declarations were indeed false, he at least cannot, under the legal maxim, take advantage of his own wrong. The knot which binds him to the Fraternity has been tied by himself, and is indissoluble. The renouncing Freemason may, indeed, withdraw from his connection vith a Lodge, but he cannot release himself from his obligations to the regulation, which requires every Freemason to be a member of one. He may abstain from all communication with his Brethren, and cease to take any interest in the concerns of the Fraternity; but he is not thus absolved from the performance of any of the duties imposed upon him by his original admission into the brotherhood. A proselyte, persuaded against his will might claim his right to withdraw; but the voluntary seeker must take and hold what he finds.

Another result of this anti-proselyting spirit of the Institution is, to relieve its members from all undue anxiety to increase its membership. It is not to be supposed that Freemasons have not the very natural desire to see the growth of their Order. Toward this end, they are ever ready to defend its character when attacked, to extol its virtues, and to maintain its claims to the confidence and approval of the wise and good. But the growth they wish is not that abnormal one, derived from sudden revivals or ephemeral enthusiasm, where passion too often takes the place of judgment; but that slow and steady, and therefore healthy, growth which comes from the adhesion of wise and virtuous and thoughtful men, who are willing to join the brotherhood, that they may the better labor for the good of their fellow-men.

Thus it is that we find the addresses of our Grand Masters, the reports of our Committee on Foreign Correspondence, and the speeches of our anniversary orators, annually denouncing the too rapid increase of the Order, as something calculated to affect its stability and usefulness. Hence, too, the Black Ball, that antagonist of proselytism, has been long and familiarly called the Bulwark of Freemasonry. Its faithful use is ever being inculcated by the fathers of the Order upon its younger members; and the unanimous ballot is universally admitted to be the most effectual means of preserving the purity of the Institution. And so, this spirit of anti-proselytism, impressed upon every Freemason from his earliest initiation although not itself a landmark, has come to be invested with all the sacredness of such a law, and Freemasonry stands out alone, distinct from every other human association, and proudly proclaims, "Our portals are open to all the good and true, but we ask no man to enter."

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