From the book "Illustrations of Masonry"
by William Preston 1895
Charity is the chief of every social virtue, and the distinguishing characteristic of the Order. This virtue includes a supreme degree of live to the great Creator and Governor of the universe, and an unlimited affection to the beings of his creation, of all characters and of every denomination. This last duty is forcibly inculcated by the example of the Deity himself, who liberally dispenses his beneficence to unnumbered worlds.
It is is not particularly our province to enter into disquisition of every branch of the amiable virtue; we shall only briefly state the happy effects of a benevolent disposition toward mankind, and show that charity, exerted on proper objects, is the greatest pleasure man can possibly enjoy.
The bounds of the greatest nation, or the most extensive empire, cannot circumscribe the generosity of a liberal mind. Men, in whatever situation they are placed, are still, in a great measure, the same. They are exposed to similar dangers and misfortunes. They have not wisdom to foresee, or power to prevent, the evils incident to human nature. They hang as it were, in perpetual suspense between hope and fear, sickness and health, plenty and want. A mutual chain of dependence subsists throughout the animal creation. The whole human species are therefore proper objects for the exercise of charity.
Beings who partake of one common nature, ought to be actuated by the same motives and interests. Hence, to soothe the unhappy, by sympathizing with their misfortunes, and to restore peace and tranquility to agitated spirits, constitute the general and great ends of the Masonic institution. This humane, this generous disposition fires the breath with manly feelings, and enlivens that spirit of compassion, which is the glory of the human frame, and not only rivals, but outshines, every other pleasure the mind is capable of enjoying.
All human passions, when directed by the superior principle of reason, promote some useful purpose; but compassion towards proper objects is the most beneficial of all the affections, as it extends to greater numbers, and tends to alleviate the infirmities and evils which are incident to human existence.
Possessed of this amiable, this godlike disposition, Masons are shocked at misery under every form and appearance. When we behold an object pining under the miseries of s distressed body or mind, the healing accents which flow from the tongue, mitigate the pain of the unhappy sufferer, and make even adversity, in its dismal state, look gay. When our pity is excited, we assuage grief, and cheerfully relieve distress. If a brother be in want, every heart is moved; when he is hungry, we feed him; when he is naked, we clothe him; when he is in trouble, we fly to his relief. Thus we confirm the propriety of the title we bear, and convince the world at large, that BROTHER among Masons is something more than a name.