Of the Worshipful Master.
This is probably the most important office in the whole system of Masonry, as, upon the intelligence, skill, and fidelity of the Masters of our lodges, the entire institution is dependent for its prosperity. It is an office which is charged with heavy responsibilities, and, as a just consequence, is accompanied by the investiture of many important powers.
A necessary qualification of the Master of a lodge is, that he must have previously served in the office of a Warden. This qualification is sometimes dispensed with in the case of new lodges, or where no member of an old lodge, who has served as a Warden, will accept the office of Master. But it is not necessary that he should have served as a Warden in the lodge of which he is proposed to be elected Master. The discharge of the duties of a Warden, by regular election and installation in any other lodge, and at any former period, will be a sufficient qualification.
One of the most important duties of the Master of a lodge is, to see that the edicts and regulations of the Grand Lodge are obeyed by his Brethren, and that his officers faithfully discharge their duties.
The Master has particularly in charge the warrant of Constitution, which must always be present in his lodge, when opened.
The Master has a right to call a special meeting of his lodge whenever he pleases, and is the sole judge of any emergency which may require such special communication.
He has, also, the right of closing his lodge at any hour that he may deem expedient, notwithstanding the whole business of the evening may not have been transacted. This regulation arises from the unwritten law of Masonry. As the Master is responsible to the Grand Lodge for the fidelity of the work done in his lodge, and as the whole of the labor is, therefore, performed under his superintendence, it follows that, to enable him to discharge this responsibility, he must be invested with the power of commencing, of continuing, or of suspending labor at such time as he may, in his wisdom, deem to be the most advantageous to the edifice of Masonry.
It follows from this rule that a question of adjournment cannot be entertained in a lodge. The adoption of a resolution to adjourn, would involve the necessity of the Master to obey it. The power, therefore, of controlling the work, would be taken out of his hands and placed in those of the members, which would be in direct conflict with the duties imposed upon him by the ritual. The doctrine that a lodge cannot adjourn, but must be closed or called off at the pleasure of the Master, appears now to me to be very generally admitted.
The Master and his two Wardens constitute the representatives of the lodge in the Grand Lodge, and it is his duty to attend the communications of that body “on all convenient occasions.” When there, he is faithfully to represent his lodge, and on all questions discussed, to obey its instructions, voting in every case rather against his own convictions than against the expressed wish of his lodge.
The Master presides not only over the symbolic work of the lodge, but also over its business deliberations, and in either case his decisions are reversible only by the Grand Lodge. There can be no appeal from his decision, on any question, to the lodge. He is supreme in his lodge, so far as the lodge is concerned, being amenable for his conduct in the government of it, not to its members, but to the Grand Lodge alone. If an appeal were proposed, it would be his duty, for the preservation of discipline, to refuse to put the question. If a member is aggrieved by the conduct or decisions of the Master, he has his redress by an appeal to the Grand Lodge, which will, of course, see that the Master does not rule his lodge “in an unjust or arbitrary manner.” But such a thing as an appeal from the Master of the lodge to its members is unknown in Masonry.
This may, at first sight, appear to be giving too despotic power to the Master. But a slight reflection will convince any one that there can be but little danger of oppression from one so guarded and controlled as a Master is, by the sacred obligations of his office, and the supervision of the Grand Lodge, while the placing in the hands of the craft so powerful, and at times, and with bad spirits, so annoying a privilege as that of immediate appeal, would necessarily tend to impair the energies and lessen the dignity of the Master, while it would be subversive of that spirit of discipline which pervades every part of the institution, and to which it is mainly indebted for its prosperity and perpetuity.
The ancient charges rehearsed at the installation of a Master, prescribe the various moral qualifications which are required in the aspirant for that elevated and responsible office. He is to be a good man, and peaceable citizen or subject, a respecter of the laws, and a lover of his Brethren–cultivating the social virtues and promoting the general good of society as well as of his own Order.
Within the last few years, the standard of intellectual qualifications has been greatly elevated. And it is now admitted that the Master of a lodge, to do justice to the exalted office which he holds, to the craft over whom he presides, and to the candidates whom he is to instruct, should be not only a man of irreproachable moral character, but also of expanded intellect and liberal education. Still, as there is no express law upon this subject, the selection of a Master and the determination of his qualifications must be left to the judgment and good sense of the members.