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Many persons are deluded by their vague supposition that our mysteries are merely nominal; that the practices established among us are frivolous; and that our ceremonies might be adopted, or waved, at pleasure. On this false foundation, we have found them hurrying through all the degrees, without adverting to the propriety of one step they pursue, or possessing a single qualification requisite for advancement. Passing through the usual formalities, they have accepted offices, and assumed the government of lodges, equally unacquainted with the rules of the institution they pretended to support, or the nature of the trust reposed in them. The consequence is obvious; wherever such practices have been allowed, anarchy and confusion have ensued, and the substance has been lost in the shadow.
Were the brethren who preside over lodges properly instructed previous to their appointment, and regularly apprised of the importance of their respective offices, a general reformation would speedily take place. This would evince the propriety of our mode of government, and lead men to acknowledge, that our honours were deservedly conferred. The ancient consequence of the order would be restored, and the reputation of the society preserved.
Such conduct alone can support our character. Unless prudent actions shall distinguish our title. to the honours of masonry, and regular deportment display the influence and utility of our rules, the world in general will not easily be led to reconcile our proceedings with the tenets of our profession.
MASONRY is an art equally useful and extensive. In every art there is a mystery, which requires a gradual progression of knowledge to arrive at any degree of perfection in it. Without much instruction, and more exercise, no man can be skilful in any art: in like manner, without an assiduous application to the various subjects treated of in the different lectures of masonry, no person can be sufficiently acquainted with its true value.
It must not, however, be inferred from this remark, that persons who labour under the disadvantages of a confined education, or whose sphere of life requires a more intense application to busi ness or study, are to be discouraged in their endeavours to gain a knowledge of masonry.
To qualify an individual to enjoy the benefits of the society at large, or to partake of its privileges, it is not absolutely necessary that he should be acquainted with all the intricate parts of the science. These are only intended for the diligent and assiduous mason, who may have leisure and opportunity to indulge such pursuits.
Though some are more able than others, some more eminent, some more useful, yet all, in their different spheres, may prove advantageous to the community. As the nature of every man's profession will not admit of that leisure which is necessary to qualify him to become an expert mason, it is highly proper that the official duties of a lodge should be executed by persons whose education and situation in life enable them to become adepts; as it must be allowed, that all who accept offices, and exercise authority, should be properly qualified to discharge the task assigned them, with honour to themselves, and credit to their sundry stations.
The Ceremony of Opening and Closing a Lodge.
IN all regular assemblies of men, who are convened for wise and useful purposes, the LF
mencement and conclusion of business are accompanied with some form. In every country of the world the practice prevails, and is deemed essential. From the most remote periods of antiquity it may be traced, and the refined improvements of modern times have not totally abolished it.
Ceremonies, when simply considered, it is true, are little more than visionary delusions; but their effects are sometimes important. When they impress awe and reverence on the mind, and engage the attention, by external attraction, to solemn rites, they are interesting objects. These purposes are effected by judicious ceremonies, when regularly conducted and properly arranged. On this ground they have received the sanction of the wisest men in all ages, and consequently could not escape the notice of masons. To begin well, is the most likely means to end well: and it is judiciously remarked, that when order and method are neglected at the beginning, they will be seldom found to take place at the end.
The ceremony of opening and closing a lodge. with solemnity and decorum, is therefore universally admitted among masons; and though the mode in some lodges may vary, and in every degree must vary, still an uniformity in the general practice prevails in every lodge; and the variation (if any) is solely occasioned by a want of me
thod, which a little application might easily re
To conduct this ceremony with propriety ought to be the peculiar study of every mason; especially of those who have the honour to rule in our assemblies. To persons who are thus dignified, every eye is naturally directed for propriety of conduct and behaviour; and from them, other brethren, who are less informed, will naturally expect to derive an example worthy of imitation. From a share in this ceremony no mason can be exempted. It is a general concern, in which all must assist. This is the first request of the master, and the prelude to all business. No sooner has it been signified, than every officer repairs to his station, and the brethren rank according to their degrees. The intent of the meeting ́ becomes the sole object of attention, and the mind is insensibly drawn from those indiscriminate subjects of conversation, which are apt to intrude on our less serious moments.
This effect accomplished, our care is directed to the external avenues of the lodge, and the proper officers, whose province it is to discharge that duty, execute their trust with fidelity; and by certain mystic forms, of no recent date, intimate that we may safely proceed. To detect impostors among ourselves, an adherence to order in the