BY A LONDON BROTHER
FREEMASONS MONTHLY MAGAZINE - 1842
IN one of the dungeons of Potsdam, were seated three persons: the first, a young soldier, scarce eighteen, whose jacket, stripped of its facings, told that the sentence of the court-martial had already passed - a sentence which for his of fence (that of desertion) Frederick the Great seldom inclined to mercy.
Beside him was seated a female, her hands clasped in convulsive firmness; her lips quivering with suppressed emotion; the tears streaming conconsciously from her eyes, which were rivetted, with mournful tenderness, upon the prisoner, soon to be led forth to death. The third inmate of that dreary cell was the chaplain of the prison, whose self-possessed, yet mild demeanor, told that long familiarity with scenes of wretchedness, while it had enabled him to suppress all outward demonstration of sorrow, had not blunted his heart to the miseries of his fellow creatures. "Fritz!" exclaimed the heart-broken mother, "this is not the spirit in which a Christian should meet death: listen to the exhortation of God's minister." "Mother, I am innocent," replied the youth. "My captain gave me permission to absent myself two days, the very night before he fell, but my judges would not believe me."
"I believe you," sobbed the heart-broken parent; "but is the injustice of man an excuse for neglect of Heaven. Though guiltless of this one fault, how many thousands are unatoned - are unrepented of? and you would die in this hardened spirit? - the sense of human injury is stronger than the sense of human sinfulness. Hear, Fritz," she continued, "bend thy stubborn knees. When your poor father died, you were an infant, helpless and sickly - I forgot myself, hushed my own griefs to remember you. I commanded back my tears, stifled my sighs, divorced my grief from your father's grave, and lived through many a grievous hour, because thou didst live. 'Twas a bitter grief; but, oh! 't was happiness to this. My boy, my thoughts grow frantic when I behold thee blotted from the book of life! Bend, bend thy stubborn knees and ask for mercy."
"Mother!" exclaimed the young soldier, his frame writhing with emotion, "spare me." "Spare me, and save thyself," answered the unhappy woman; humble thy haughty spirit; nor deem, that because an unjust sentence has been pronounced against thee, thou mayest unprepared stand before the judgment seat of the Most High."
Fritz, whose face was covered with his hands, wept bitterly - his sobs were audible. "Blest tears!" exclaimed the priest, "they are the harbingers of contrition - the penitential waters of the soul, which cleanse it from impurities:" The rest of the night was passed in prayer and religious exercises. The unhappy youth was brought to feel that earthly injustice was no expiation for his offences against Heaven, and that ere he could look for pardon from his offended Creator, he must endeavor to merit it by penitence and prayer.
"Mother," said the youth, after his feelings had been soothed by the hope which so lately was a stranger to his breast, "I thank thee - thou hast given me life, nurtured me, expended on my early years all the rich treasures of a parent's love; as cares, as watchfulness, as tenderness: thou halt done more, thou halt taught me how to die-to quit the world in peace." "And to pardon it," interrupted the minister, "to extend Christian forgiveness to your enemies, if such thou hast." "What!" exclaimed the young man - the infirmity of human passion for a moment subduing the dictates of religion - "forgive my enemies! - forgive Hubert and Carle, whose lies condemned me! - never, father, never!"
"How else wilt thou hope to be forgiven?" demanded the good old man. "Shall man dare ask forgiveness of his Maker, and yet refuse it to his fellow worm?" "But, Hubert and Carle, father"- "Have injured thee, my son," said his mother, calmly; "had they not, where would be the merit of forgiving them? Has thou forgot the first prayer I taught thee to pronounce: 'Dimitte nobis debits nostra: sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.' Forgive them, my child, as thou hopest to be forgiven." "Mother, the last feeling is rooted from by heart, I do forgive them."
"Thanks! thanks!" exclaimed the now happy parent; "the bitterness of losing thee is past; our separation will be short, Fritz, I am already bowed more by sorrow than by years. The grave now orating to receive thee will not be long without a second tenant."
"The hour will soon arrive, mother, when we must part; but let me fulfil my last earthly duty." The captive reached from the shelf above his rude hard couch, a military knapsack, and began arranging its contents. "Here, dear mother, is my bible; keep it for my sake; it was my father's; and you will not prize it less that it has been your unhappy son's. Would," he added, turning to the priest, "I had aught worthy of your acceptance, but the captive's prayer must be your only guerdon; unless," he continued, "this trinket, which seems marked in curious characters and Hebrew letters, be worthy of your attention." He placed in the old man's hands a small medallion of silver gilt, as he spoke.
"Where got you this?" demanded the priest, eyeing it with surprise and curiosity. "It was my father's - it has his name upon it" "Fritz Kineberg," said the inquirer, reading the legend engraved on the rim - the speaker paused for a moment and then resumed - "my son, I have a duty to attend to; another wretched prisioner awaits my ministry; but at the hour of the last trial of your firmness, I will be with you." "Leave us not, holy priest," exclaimed the mother, "Heaven knows we have need of consolation and support."
" 'Tis the sacrifice of duty, daughter," answered the old man, "and mast be made."
The inmates of the prison bowed in resignation, and again were deep in prayer, as the good priest left the cell. Morn at length broke, and all was prepared for the execution of Fritz-still the priest returned not - his arms were pinioned, and the guard about to conduct him from his cell, when the door was gently opened, and the chaplain entered.
"You are late," said the young man, "but duty, doubtless detained you. Un-loose my mother's arms from about my neck, father, and give me your blessing comfort her when I am gone."
"Fritz," said the old man, solemnly, "you stand upon the verge of eternity. Is thy mind subjected to the will of God ?" "I am contented to die. God's will be done."
The sobs of the wretched mother, whose fortitude had quite forsaken her, were irrepressible. "Unsearchable are His ways, my child; inscrutable are His decrees. Lost and wretched as you stand, were it well, He still could save you.' "I am hopeless, father, of all earthly mercy," replied the young man.
"Hope," answered the priest, with a tone approaching to cheerfulness, "should never leave us. Should it please Providence to spare thy life"- "Priest!" exclaimed the mother, who had been listening to his words, "Is there hope? Thou art a holy man, and would'st not trifle with a soul upon the verge of time. Shall I not be left a childless mother ? Has Heaven in mercy to my prayer, spared me my age's prop - my boy - my only one ?"
"It has," replied the priest, producing the pardon; " he is free:' In an instant, mother and son were folded in each other's arms, while the messenger of mercy bestowed on them his benediction.
The father of Fritz and Frederick of Prussia were Freemasons. The story is told as related to the writer by one of the young soldier's descendants, who is himself a member of the Fraternity, and attached to a Lodge in Suabia.* * Frederick was initiated on the 15th of August, 1738, in a Lodge held at Brunswick, England, under the Scot's constitution - he being at that time Prince Royal. On his accession to the throne, his favorable opinion of the Institution induced him to cause a Grand Lodge to be formed at Berlin; for which purpose a charter was obtained from Edinburgh, Scotland. He took a great personal interest in its affairs, and established several important regulations.
Among them were the following; - (1.) That no person should be made a Mason, unless his character was unimpeachable and his manner of living and profession respectable. (2.) That every member should pay twenty-five rix dollars for the first degree; fifty for the second, and one hundred on his being made a Master Mason. (3.) That he should remain at least three months in each degree; and that every sum received should he divided by the Grand Treasurer into three parts; one to defray the expenses of the Lodge: another to be applied to the relief of distressed Brethren; and the third to be distributed among the poor in general.
- [ED. MAGAZINE.]
Freemasonry is a science of symbols, in which, by their proper study, a search is instituted after truth, that truth consisting in the knowledge of the divine and human nature of God and the human Soul.
- DR. A. G. MACKEY.George Helmer FPS