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The Importance of the Secrets of Masonry Demonstrated
Thomas Smith Webb
If the secrets of Masonry are replete with such advantages to mankind, it may be asked, why are they not divulged for the general good of society? To which it may be answered: were the privileges of Masonry to be indiscriminately bestowed, the design of the institution would be subverted; and, being familiar, like many other important matters, would soon lose their value and sink into disregard.
It is a weakness in human nature, that men are generally more charmed with novelty than the real worth or intrinsic value of things. Novelty influences all our actions and determinations. What is new, or difficult in the acquisition, however trifling or insignificant, readily captivates the imagination, and insures a temporary admiration; while what is familiar, or easily obtained, however noble and eminent for its utility, is sure to be disregarded by the giddy and unthinking.
Did the particular secrets or peculiar forms prevalent among Masons constitute the essence of the art, it might be alleged that our amusements were trifling, and our ceremonies superficial. But this is not the case. Having their use, they are preserved; and, from the recollection of the lessons they inculcate, the well-informed Mason derives instruction. Drawing them to a near inspection, he views them through a proper medium; adverts to the circumstances which gave them rise; dwells upon the tenets they convey; and, finding them replete with useful information, adopts them as keys to the privileges of his art, and prizes them as sacred. Thus convinced of their propriety, he estimates the value from their utility
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 waived 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 honors 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 honors 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.
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Last modified: March 22, 2014