Quantity v. Quality in Freemasonry
In the discourse at Grand Lodge there are always those set of Brethren who use the words from the past to establish their points. Any historian, even a rank amateur like myself, knows that armed with enough time you can find a quote or precedent to support any position. While reading the Proceedings of 1861 I ran across a gem of rare brilliance. No doubt one of Maine's Past Grand Masters will take this to heart, particularly considering its source!
But the chief source of danger to us, is a too rapid increase in our numbers. We fear nothing from without. All our danger is from within. Masonry has stood the test of ages, and the waves of persecution which have beat against her have only established her on a surer foundation. Her strength and support depend on the character of those who uphold her. How closely then should we scrutinize the character of those who seek admission among us. Our strength depends not on the quantity but the quality of our members. One unworthy member casts a blot on the whole fraternity. One mis-shaped stone mars the symmetry of the whole temple. One defective pillar may cause the ruin of the whole edifice. None of us have forgotten the wait of anguish, which went up from ever New England town, a little more than a year ago, when that terrible calamity occurred in that young but busy City in our mother commonwealth. A single pillar, fair without, but unsound and defective within, gave way, and in a moment that vast structure was a mass of ruin, burying beneath it the mangled forms of those whom it should have supported and protected. Let this be a lesson to us, that every new member should be a pillar of adamant to our institution, giving way to no pressure from within or without: that we should not content ourselves with a fair outside, but examine his internal qualifications and suffer no flaw or defect to escape us, else he may prove unable to support the character of our order, and involve himself and us in one common ruin. The fathers understood this and governed themselves accordingly.
Address of the Grand Master of 1861
M.W. Bro. Josiah Hayden Drummond
Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Maine, Vol. 4, pg. 156
This is sound advice echoing from the ages: Guard the West Gate! What fine quote that might make for a newsletter: "Remember my Brothers the concern for membership is not to gain many, but to find one worthy and well qualified man though it take a lifetime. As one Past Grand Master said 'Our strength depends not on the quantity but the quality of our members.'"
Let no man tell you Masonry needs many more "members," what Masonry really needs is a few more Brothers!