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In the primitive ages of the world every father was the Priest of his family, and offered prayer and sacrifice for his household. So, too, the Patriarchs exercised the same function. Melchizedek is called the Priest of the Most High God; and every where in Scripture we find the Patriarchs performing the duties of prayer and sacrifice. But when political society was organized, a necessity was found, in the religious wants of the people, for a separate class, who should become, as they have been described the mediators between men and God, and the interpreters of the will of the gods to men. Hence arose the sacerdotal classwthe cohens among the Hebrews, the Stereos among the Greeks, and the sacerdos among the Romans. Thereafter prayer and sacrifice were entrusted to these, and the people paid them reverence for the sake of the deities whom they served. EAver since, in all countries, the distinction has existed between the priest and the layman, as representatives of two distinct classes.
But Freemasonry has preserved in its religious ceremonies as in many of its other usages, the patriarchal spirit. Hence the Master of the Lodge, like the father of a primitive family, on all occasions offers up prayer and serves at the altar. A Chaplain is sometimes through courtesy, invited to perform the former duty, but the Master is really the Priest of the Lodge. Having then such solemn duties to discharge, and sometimes as on funereal occasions, in public, it becomes every Master so to conduct his life and conversation as not, by contrast, to make his ministration of a sacred office repulsive to those who see and hear him, and especially to profanes.
It is not absolutely required that he should be a religious man, resembling the clergyman in seriousness of deportment; but in his behavior he should be an example of respect for religion. He who at one time drinks to intoxication, or indulges in profane swearing, or obscene and vulgar language, is unfit at any other time to conduct the religious services of a society. Such a Master could inspire the members of his Lodge with no respect for the ceremonies he was conducting; and if the occasion was a public one, as at the burial of a Brother, the circumstance would subject the Order which could tolerate such an incongruous exhibition to contempt and ridicule.
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