From the book "Illustrations of Masonry"
by William Preston 1895
No subject can more properly engage the attention, than the benevolent dispositions which indulgent Nature has bestowed upon the rational species. These are replete with the happiest effects, and afford to the mind, the most agreeable reflections. The breast which is inspired with tender feelings, is naturally prompted to a reciprocal intercourse of kind and generous actions, as human nature rises in the scale of beings, the social affections likewise arise. Where friendship is unknown, jealousy and suspicion prevail; but where that virtue is the cement, true happiness subsists. In every breast there is a propensity to friendly acts, which being exerted to effect sweetens every temporal enjoyment; and although it does not remove the disquietudes, it tends at least to allay the calamities of life.
Friendship is traced through the circle of private connexions to the grand system of universal benevolence, which no limits can circumscribe, as its influence extends to every branch of the human race. Actuated by this sentiment, each individual connects his happiness with the happiness of his neighbour, and a fixed and permanent union is established among men.
Nevertheless, though friendship, considered as the source of universal benevolence, be unlimited, it exerts its influence more or less powerfully, as the objects it favours are near or more remote. Hence the love of friends and of country takes the lead in our affections and gives rise to that true patriotism, which fires the soul with the most generous flame, creates the best and most disinterested virtue, and inspires that public spirit and heroic ardour which enable us to support a good cause, and risk our lives in its defence.
This commendable virtue crowns the lover of his country with unfading laurels, gives a lustre to his actions, and consecrates his name in later ages. The warrior's glory may consist in murder, and the rude ravage of the desolating sword; but the blood of thousands will not stain the hands of his country's friend. His virtues are open, and of the noblest kind. Conscious integrity supports him against the arm of power; and should he bleed by tyrant hands, he gloriously dies a martyr in the cause of liberty, and leaves to posterity an everlasting monument of the greatness of his soul.
Though friendship appears divine when employed in preserving the liberties of our country, it shines with equal splendour in more tranquil scenes. Before it rises into the noble flame of patriotism, aiming destruction at the heads of tyrants, thundering for liberty, and courting danger in defence of rights; we behold it calm and moderate, burning with an even glow, improving the soft hours of peace, and heightening the relish for virtue. In those happy moments contracts are formed, societies are instituted, and vacant hours of life are employed in the cultivation of social and polished manners.
On this ground plan the universality of our system is established. Were friendship confined to the spot of our nativity, its operation would be partial, and imply a kind of enmity to other nations. Where the interests of one country interfere with those of another, nature dictates an adherence to the welfare of our own immediate connexions; but such interference apart, the true mason is a citizen of the world, and his philanthropy extends to all the human race. Uninfluenced by local prejudices, he knows no preference in virtue but according to its degree, from whatever clime it may spring.