A tentative reconstruction of a “Standard Original” version of the Old Charges – Part 3 of 3
Taken from the 1986 Prestonian Lecture “The Old Charges”
By Dr. Wallace McLeod
Part Sixteen – The Assembly at York
And when this assembly was gathered together, he made a cry, that all old Masons and young that had any writing or understanding of the charges that were made before in this land or in any other, that they should shew them forth. And when it was proved, there were found some in French, some in Greek, some in English, and some in other languages, and the intent of them was found all one. And he made a book thereof, how the craft was founded; and commanded that it should be read or told when any Mason should be made, and so to give him his charge. And from that day until this time Masonry hath been kept in that form, as well as men might govern it. And furthermore at divers assemblies have been put and ordained certain charges more by the best advice of Masters and Fellows.
Part Seventeen – The Manner of taking the Oath
Tunc unus ex senioribus teneat librum, ut ille vel illi ponant manus super librum et tunc praecepta debent legi. (Then one of the elders holds the book, as will he, and he must lay the hands upon the precepts of the book, and then ought to be read.)
Part Eighteen – The Admonition before the Charge
Every man that is a Mason take right good heed to these charges, If that you find yourself guilty in any of these, that you may amend you against God. And especially ye that are to be charged, take good heed that ye may keep these charges, For it is a great peril for a man to foreswear himself upon a Book.
Part Nineteen – The Charges General
- The first charge is that ye shall be true men to God and the Holy Church; and that ye use no error nor heresy, by your understanding or by discreet or wise men’s teaching.
- And also that ye shall be true liege men to the King without treason or falsehood; and that ye know no treason or treachery, but that ye amend it if ye may, or else warn the King or his council thereof.
- And also that ye shall be true each on to another; that is to say, to every Master and Fellow of the Craft of masonry that be Masons allowed, ye shall do to them as ye would they should do to you.
- And also that every Mason keep true counsel of lodge and of chamber, and all other counsel that ought to be kept by the way of Masonry.
- And also that no Mason shall be a thief or thief’s friend, as far forth as he may know.
- And also that ye shall be true to the lord and master that ye serve, and truly to see his profit and advantage.
- And also you shall call Masons your Fellows or Brethren, and no other foul name; nor you shall take your Fellows wife in villainy, nor desire ungodly his daughter nor his servant.
- And also that ye pay truly for your meat and drink where you go to board.
- And also ye shall do no villainy in that house whereby the Craft may be slandered.
Part Twenty – The Charges Singular
These be the charges in general that every Mason should hold, both Masters and Fellows. Rehearse I will now other charges singular for Masters and Fellows.
- First, that no Master shall take upon him no lord’s work, nor no other mans work, but that he know himself able and cunning to perform the same, so that the Craft have no slander nor disworship, but that the lord may be well and truly served.
- And also that no Master take no work but that he take it reasonably, so that the lord may be well and truly served with his own good, and the Master to live honestly and pay his fellows truly there pay, as the manner of the Craft asketh.
- And also that no Master nor Fellow shall supplant other of their work; that is to say, if he have taken a work, or else stand Master of a lord’s work, he shall not put him out, except he be unable of cunning to end the work.
- And also that no Master or Fellow take no apprentice to be allowed his apprentice, but for seven years; and that the apprentice be able of birth and limbs as he ought to be.
- And also that no Master nor Fellow take no allowance to be made Mason, without the consent of his fellows, at the least five or six; and that he that shall be made Mason be able on all sides, that is to say, that he is freeborn and of good kindred, and no bondman, and that we have his right limbs, as a man ought to have.
- And also that no Master nor Fellow take no lord’s work to task that was wont to go to journey.
- And also that every Master shall give pay to his fellow but as he may deserve, so that he be not deceived by false workman.
- And also that no Fellow slander another behind his back, to make him lose his good name or his worldly goods.
- And also that no Fellow, within the lodge or without, mis-answer another ungodly without reasonable cause.
- Also that every Mason shall reverence his elder, and put him to worship.
- And also that no Mason play at hazard or at dice, nor no other unlawful games, whereby the Craft may be slandered.
- And also that no Mason shal be no ribald in lechery, to make the Craft to be slandered.
- And that no Fellow go into the town in the night time there is a lodge of Fellows, without a fellow with him, that may bear him witness that he was in honest places.
- And also that every Master and Fellow shall come to the assembly if it be within fifty miles about him, if he have any warning, to stand there at the reward of Masters and Fellows.
- And also that every Master and Fellow if they have trespassed shall stand at the reward of Masters and Fellows, to make them accord if they may; and if they not accord them, to go to the common law.
- And also that no Master nor Fellow make no mould nor square nor rule to no layer.
- And also that no Master nor Fellow set no layer, within the lodge nor without, to hew mould stones with with no mould of his own making.
- And also that every Mason shall receive and cherish strange Fellows when they come over the country, and set them to work, as the manner is; that is to say, if they have mould stones in place, he shall set him a fortnight at the least on work, and give him pay; and if he have no stones for him, he shall refresh him with money to the next lodge.
- And also that every Mason shall truly serve the lord for his pay; and truly make an end of your work, be it task or journey, if you may have your pay according as you ought to have.
Part Twenty-one – The Oath
These charges that we have rehearsed, and all other that belong to masonry, ye shall keep, so help you God and Halidom, and by this Book to your power. Amen
I honestly believe that what Bro.Mcleod has achieved here is so underrated, so under published and so relevant to much of the origin of our ritual today that it should be one the “musts” on any new initiates reading list.