From the book "Illustrations of Masonry"
by William Preston 1895
From the commencement of the world, we may trace the foundation of Masonry. Ever since symmetry began, and harmony displayed her charms, our Order has had a being. During many ages, and in many different countries, it has flourished. No art, no science preceded it. In the dark periods of antiquity, when literature was in a low state, and the rude manners of our forefathers withheld from them that knowledge we now so amply share, Masonry diffused its influence. This science unveiled, arts arose, civilization took place, and the progress of knowledge and philosophy gradually dispelled the gloom of ignorance and barbarism. Government being settled, authority was given to laws, and the assemblies of the fraternity acquired the patronage of the great and the good, while the tenets of the profession diffused unbounded utility.
Abstracting from the pure pleasures which arise from friendship so widely constituted as that which subsists among masons, and which is scarcely possible that any circumstance or occurrence can erase, masonry is a science confined to no particular country but extends over the whole terrestrial globe. Wherever arts flourish, there it flourishes too. Add to this, that by secret and inviolable signs, carefully preserved among the fraternity, it becomes an universal language. Hence many advantages are gained. The distant Chinese, the wild Arab, the American savage, will embrace a brother Briton; and will know, that beside the common ties of humanity, there is still a stronger obligation to induce him to kind and friendly offices. The spirit of the fulminating priest will be tamed; and a moral brother, though of a different persuasion, engage his esteem; for mutual toleration in religious opinions is one of the most distinguishing and most valuable characteristics of the Craft. As all religions teach morality, if a brother be found to act the part of a truly honest man, his private speculative opinions are left to God and himself. Thus, through the influence of Masonry, which is reconcilable to the best policy, all those disputes which embitter life, and sour the tempers of men are avoided; while the common good, the general object, is zealously pursed.
From this view of our system, its utility is sufficiently obvious. The universal principles of the art unite, in one indissoluble bond of affection, men of the most opposite tenets, of the most distant countries, and of the most contradictory opinions; hence in every nation a Mason may find a friend, and in every climate a home.
Such is the nature of the institution, that in a Lodge, union is cemented by sincere attachment, and pleasure reciprocally communicated in the cheerful observances of every obliging office. Virtue, the grand object in view, luminous as the meridian sun, shines resurgent on the mind, enlivens the heart, and heightens cool approbation into warm sympathy and cordial attention.