One of the modes of recognizing a stranger as a true Brother, is from the lawful information of a third party. No Freemason can lawfully give information of another's qualifications unless he has actually tested him by the strictest trial and examination, or knows that it has been done by another. But it is not every Freemason who is competent to give lawful information. Ignorant and unskilful Brethren cannot do so, because they are incapable of discovering truth or of detecting error. A rusty Freemason should never attempt to examine a stranger, and certainly, if he does, his opinion as to the result is worth nothing. If the information given is on the ground that the party who is vouched for has been seen sitting in a Lodge, care must be taken to inquire if it was a "just and legally constituted Lodge of Master Masons."
A person may forget from the lapse of time, and vouch for a stranger as a Master Mason, when the Lodge in which he saw him was only opened in the First or Second Degree. Information given by letter, or through a third party, is irregular. The person giving the information, the one receiving it, and the one of whom it is given, should all be present at the same time, for otherwise there would be no certainty of identity. The information must be positive, not founded on belief or opinion, but derived from a legitimate source. And, lastly, it must not have been received casually, but for the very purpose of being used for Masonic purposes.
For one to say to another, in the course of a desultory conversation, "A. B. is a Freemason," is not sufficient. He may not be speaking with due caution, under the expectation that his words will be considered of weight. He must say something to this effect: "I know this man to be a Master Mason, for such or such reasons, and you may safely recognize him as such." This alone will insure the necessary care and proper observance of prudence.
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