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In all the Old Constitutions we find a reference made to ability and skill as the only claims for preferment or promotion. Thus in one of them, the Lansdourne Manuscript, whose date is about 1560, it is said that Nimrod gave a charge to the Freemasons that "they should ordaine the most wise and cunning man to be Master of the King or Lord's worke that was amongst them, and neither for love, riches, nor favour, to sett another that had little cunninge to be Master of that worke, whereby the Lord should bee ill served, and the science ill defamed.
"And again, in another part of the same manuscript, it is ordered, "that noe Mason take on him noe Lord's worke nor other man's but if he know himselfe well able to performe the worke, so that the Craft have noe slander." Charges to the same effect, almost, indeed, in the same words, are to l)e found in all the Old Constitutions. So Anderson, when he compiled the Charyes of a Freemason, which he says were "extracted from the ancient records," and which he published in 1723, in the first edition of the Book of Constitutions, lavs down the rule of preferment in the same spirit, and in these words: "All preferment among Masons is grounded upon real worth and personal merit only; that so the Lords may be well served, the Brethren not put to shame, nor the royal Craft despised; therefore no Master or Warden is chosen by seniority, but for his merit."
Then he goes on to show hovs the skilful and qualified Apprentice may in due time become a Fellow Craft, and, "when otherwise qualified, arrive to the Honour of being the Warden, and then the Master of the Lodge, the Grand Warden, and at length the Grand Master of all the Lodges, according to his merit" (Constitutions, 1723, page 51). This ought to be now, as it has always been, the true law of tree masonry; and when ambitious men are seen grasping for offices, and seeking for positions whose duties they are not qualified to discharge, one is inclined to regret that the Old Charges are not more strictly obeyed
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