by W. Bro. D. B. WALLACE, W.M., 26th October, 1917.
It has been the custom in this Lodge for the Worshipful Master on his Installation to give an address on some Masonic or cognate subject; but there having been no Installation Ceremony this year, I will only make a few remarks on subjects which have a special bearing upon the duties of Freemasons.
Want of Enthusiasm.
All thinking Freemasons deplore the want of enthusiasm in our ranks, and the number of unattached Freemasons who take no interest whatever in the craft, unless they require assistance, when, as a rule, they are not slow in applying for it. These matters have been the frequent subject of remarks in this Lodge, but no remedy, thus far, has been suggested.
A little introspection is good for all men, and we may well begin here by asking ourselves if we are quite free from blame in connection with these conditions.
Duty to Candidates.
I think one mistake we make is that we do not recognise that we have a duty to a candidate before, as well as after, initiation. We begin wrongly by not seeing that the candidate comes forward in a proper state of mind, fit for the reception of the sublime truths of Freemasonry. He has, in all probability, been chaffed and led to believe that he has to go through a very severe trial, and is in consequence, excited, nervous and in some cases deadly afraid; therefore his mind is not in a fit state to understand and appreciate our excellent doctrines.
In this respect there has, in my opinion, been too much secrecy, with the result that many of the very best men do not seek to join us, as they are quite ignorant of our tenets and principles. I remember a very worthy man who spoke to me several times about joining us, but wanted to know something about Freemasonry first. I replied that I could not tell him anything about it except that no one ever regretted joining and referred him to the clergyman of the district, who had recently joined, on this point. I do not know whether he spoke to the clergyman or not, but he never to my knowledge joined our society. I was a much younger man then, although a P.M.; were he to ask me now I should have no hesitation in informing him of some of our leading principles, such as a belief in a Supreme Being, the brotherhood of man, the leading of virtuous and upright lives, and rendering assistance to distressed Brethren.
Before being introduced into the Lodge the candidate signs a declaration that be is prompted by a favourable opinion, preconceived of the Institution, a desire for knowledge, and a sincere wish to be more serviceable to his fellow men. he makes the same declaration in the Lodge, shortly after his entrance. He is probably excited, and not in that equable frame of mind necessary to understand the declaration he is making.
To a certain extent, he must have a favourable opinion of the Institution or he would not seek to join it; but it is quite likely to be an erroneous opinion as it is not founded upon knowledge. Some candidates probably expect some social benefit, others may expect financial benefit while some, to my knowledge, expect considerable material assistance.
Before candidates are proposed they should be told not to expect any benefit from Freemasonry. It is not a benefit society entitling members to any payment or benefits in cases of sickness or deaths, but a Society of good men bound together by the bonds of brotherhood to serve mankind in general, but each other in particular. That it is not a frivolous institution consisting of empty rites and ceremonies, but imposes very serious duties and solemn obligations and that no one can be initiated without an openly expressed belief in a Supreme Being. I consider, Brethren, that every candidate be enlightened on these points before initiation, that he may, if he wishes, draw back if he considers he could not undertake the duties which would be imposed on him.
The benefits to be derived from Freemasonry are moral and spiritual, not material. The instructions received in our Lodges must improve the mind and elevate the soul of every devout and earnest Brother, and, the social intercourse with good men is a great source of enjoyment which must and does promote a feeling of brotherly love among its members.
Brethren, Freemasonry is a Society, whose members from the lowest to the highest in rank have placed upon them the onus of service; service to God; service to man; service to the brotherhood and service to the Lodge.
In the charge of the First Degree we were taught the duties we owe to God, by never mentioning His name save with that awe and reverence which are due from the creature to his Creator. This aspect of our duty - the reverence to be paid to God - is not sufficiently observed by a number of our Brethren. The use of profane and indecent language is, I am sorry to say, too common and not confined to the young and inexperienced. I notice that, in many American States, one of the questions to be answered by the proposer of a candidate is: "Does he habitually use profane or indecent language?"
This question might profitably be added to our enquiries. The use of such language is degrading and unworthy of our profession as Freemasons, and the tone of our institution would be improved if those who habitually use profane and indecent language were debarred from entering it. Our duty to our neighbour we were also taught in the same charge; the only question is, who is our neighbour? Every worthy man we meet is our neighbour.
Our duty to ourselves is to cultivate the talents wherewith God has blessed us, and in Freemasonry we can find a very great help. The learning of the liberal arts and sciences enumerated in our ritual is not the only means of cultivating our talents. To improve the mind nothing better can be found than the study and practice of the principles and tenets of Freemasonry. By the practice of these alone can we build that spiritual temple; the object of speculative Freemasonry, the temple of the soul, fitting us for entrance into those celestial mansions, not made by hands, eternal in the heavens.
All men are not endowed with the same talents; but it is the duty of each of us to cultivate and improve that which he has. Let us not be like the timid servant who buried the talent given into his keeping by his Lord, and on its being required of him, returned it as he received it; but rather like those who received five talents and two talents respectively and made such good use of them, that they were able to return to their Lord their talents doubled in number.
Duty to the Craft.
Our duty to the craft is to use our best exertions to keep it pure, by admitting no unworthy person therein, to work for its best interests, not only by attending meetings of Lodges and rendering assistance to poor and distressed Brethren; but by leading ourselves pure, virtuous and upright lives, void of all offence; which will be the best recommendation of Freemasonry to the outer world. The reputation of Freemasonry is entirely dependent on the conduct of the Brethren, and it is our solemn and serious duty to so regulate our lives that this reputation is not in any respect lessened by our conduct.
Duty to the Lodge.
Duty to our Lodge consists in regular attendance at its meetings; learning and taking part in its work, if required; correct demeanour; obedience to the Wor. Master and his officers; promptitude in paying dues, so that the charitable work of the Lodge may not be impaired, and any general service which may be required of us. Elevation to office super-imposes on the duties just enumerated the duties of the particular office, proficiency in which is most essential.
With reference to our particular Lodge, we have not the assistance from some of our members of high Masonic rank which we have a right to expect. Having erected a Lodge of research, which is not and cannot be carried on as the ordinary Lodge, it is their duty to assist in the work; not to leave it to an enthusiastic and devoted few.
And I think, Brethren, we can truly say that this Lodge is doing good work. By its papers, which reach most of the Lodges in this provincial district, we have already awakened a spirit of inquiry into Freemasonry, as has been evinced by the numerous requests from country lodges to send our papers to be read at their meetings, when they had no ceremonial work on hand. The reading of these increase the desire for further knowledge a spirit of enthusiasm with good results.
Finally, Brethren, -what are our duties to unattached Freemasons, of whom, unfortunately, there are far too many? Or have we any duties towards them? My personal opinion is that, in many cases, we owe them no duty. A great deal of misconception has been caused by that phrase, " Once a Freemason always a Freemason".
This is a subject, however, on which there is certain to be a great diversity of opinion; therefore, I will not at present enlarge upon it, but will probably bring it forward on some future occasion for discussion.
SOURCE: UML No. 14 - November 1917
Food For Thought