A Diploma issued by a Grand Lodge or by a subordinate Lodge under its authority, testifying that the holder thereof is a true and trusty Brother, and recommending him to the hospitality of the Fraternity abroad. The character of this instrument has sometimes been much misunderstood. It is by no means intended to act as a voucher for the bearer, nor can it be allowed to supersede the necessity of a strict examination. A stranger, however, having been tried and proved by a more unerring standard, his Certificate then properly comes in as an auxiliary testimonial, and will be permitted to afford good evidence of his correct standing in his lodge at home; for no Body of Freemasons, true to the principles of their Order, would grant such an instrument to an unworthy Brother, or to one who, they feared, might make an improper use of it.
But though the presence of a Grand Lodge Certificate be in general required as collateral evidence of worthiness to visit, or receive aid, its accidental absence, which may arise in various ways, as from fire, captivity, or shipwreck, should not debar a strange Brother from the rights guaranteed to him by our Institution, provided he can offer other evidence of his good character. The Grand Lodge of New York has, upon this subject, taken the proper stand in the following regulation: ''
That no Freemason be admitted to any subordinate Lodge under the jurisdiction of this Grand Lodge, or receive the charities of any Lodge, unless he shall, on such application, exhibit a Grand Lodge certificate, duly attested by the proper authorities, except he is known to the Lodge to be a worthy brother."
The Certificate system has been warmly discussed by the Grand Lodges of the United States, and considerable opposition to it has been made by some of them on the ground that, it is an innovation.
If it is an innovation, it certainly is not one of the present day, as we may learn from the Regulations made in General Assembly of the Masons of England, on Saint John the Evangelist's day, 1663, during the Grand Mastership of the Earl of St. Albans, one of which reads as follows: "That no person hereafter who shall be accepted a Freemason shall be admitted into any Lodge or Assembly, until he has brought a certificate of the time and place of his acceptation from the Lodge that accepted him, unto the Master of that limit or division where such Lodge is kept" (see Constitution, 1738, page 101).
Among the General Regulations " made at a Grand Lodge held in Corke, on Saint John ye Evangelist's Day, 1728," is the following:
" That no person pretending to be a Mason shall be considered as such within ye precincts of our Grand Lodge or deemed duly matriculated into ye Society of Freemasons, until he hath subscribed in some Lodge to these regulations and obliged himself to sign ye before mentioned Duplicate (a copy of the General Regulations possessed by all Lodges), at which time he shall be furnished with proper means to convince the authentic Brethren the hath duly complied."
Brother WT. J. Chetwode Crawley (Caementaria Hibernica, Fasciculus1, pages 11 and 12), says further that "In this clause we descry the germ of the Certificate now issued to every Master Mason. ' The proper means to convince the authentic Brethren' supplies the earliest intimation in the history of the Craft of a practice which, originating with the Grand Lodge of Munster, has been adopted by every Grand Lodge in the World.
The first Grand Lodge Certificate ever heard of in England seems to have been that brought with him to England by Lawrence Dermott, and proudly exhibited by hirn to his Grand Lodge (see the Minutes of the Grand Lodge of the Ancient for March 2, 1757, as given in Brother Sadler's Masonic Facts and Fictions).
The Premier Grand Lodge (Moderns) borrowed the practice from Lawrence Dermott and began to make use of Certificates in the year 1755."
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