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The necessity that anyone who devotes himself to the acquisition of a science should become a proficient in its elementary instructions before he can expect to grasp and comprehend its higher branches, is so almost self-evident as to need no argument. But as Speculative Freemasonry is a science, it is equally necessary that a requisite qualification for admission to a higher Degree should be a suitable proficiency in the preceding one. It is true, that we do not find in express words in the Old Constitutions any regulations requiring proficiency as prey liminary to advancement, but their whole spirit is evidently to that effect; and hence we find it prescribed in the Old Constitutions, that no Master shall take an apprentice for less than seven years, because it was expected that he should acquire a competent knowledge of the mystery before he could be admitted as a Fellow.

The modern Constitution of the Grand Lodge of England provides that no Lodge shall confer a higher Degree on any Brother until he has passed an examination in open Lodge on the preceding Degrees (Rule 195) and many, perhaps most, of the Grand Lodges of the United States have adopted a similar regulation. The instructions of all the Symbolic Degrees, and, indeed, of the higher Degrees, and that too, in all rites, makes the imperative demand of every candidate whether he has made suitable proficiency in the preceding Degree, an affirmative answer to which is required before the rites of initiation can be continued. This answer is, according to the instructions, that "he has." But some Freemasons have sought to evade the consequence of an acknowledgment of ignorance and want of proficiency by a change of the language of the instructions into "such as time and circumstances would permit." But this is an innovation, unsanctioned by any authority, and should be repudiated. If the candidate has not made proper proficiency, the ritual, outside of all statutory regulations, refuses him advancement.

Anderson, in the second edition of his Constitutions (page 71), cites what he calls "an old record," which says that in the reign of Edward III of England it was ordained "that Master Masons, or Masters of work, shall be examined whether they be able of cunning to serve their respective Lords, as well the Highest as the Lowest, to the Honour and Worship of the aforesaid Art, and to the Profit of their Lords." Here, then, we may see the origin of that usage, w hich is still practised in every well-governed Lodge, not only of demanding a proper degree of proficiency in the candidate, but also of testing that proficiency by an examination. This cautious and honest fear of the Fraternity lest any Brother should assume the duties of a posi. tion which he could not faithfully discharge, and which is, in our time, tantamount to a eandidate~s advancing to a Degree for which he is not prepared, in again exhibited in all the Old Constitutions. Thus in the Lansdowrzc Manuscript, whose date is referred to the middle of the sixteenth century it is charged "that no Mason take on him no Lord's world nor other man's, but if he know himself well able to perform the work, so that the Craft have no slander." The same regulation, and almost in the same language, is to be found in all the subsequent manuscripts.

In the Charges of 1729, it is directed that "a younger Brother shall be instructed in working, to prevent spoiling the materials for want of judgment, and for enereasing and continuing of brotherly love" (Contstitutions, 1723, page 53).

It was, with the same view, that all of the Old Constitutions made it imperative that no Master should take an apprentice for less than seven years, beeause it was expected that he should acquire a eompetent knowledge of the mystery of the Craft before he could be admitted as a Fellow. Notwithstanding these charges had a more particular reference to the operative part of the art, they clearly shou the great stress that was placed b) our ancient Brethren upon the necessity of skill and proficiency; and they have furnished the precedents upon which are based all similar regulations subsequently applied to Speculative Freemasonry.

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