Symbolical Masonry, by H.L. Haywood, , at sacred-texts.com
After the candidate has effected his entrance a "certain sharp instrument"—(which should never be one of the working tools)—is applied in a peculiar manner, and a certain hint of the meaning of this is given, as the initiated reader will clearly remember. On all this there is no reason to comment save in brief manner, and then only on the meaning given as aforesaid. This meaning has especial significance to us because it sets forth the only real penalty that a Mason ever suffers for violating his obligation. (On "Obligation," see p. 110.)
It is accurate to say that a majority of the attacks on Freemasonry have been occasioned by the "Penalties" which are supposed to be enforced on oath-violating members. Of these Penalties it is manifestly impossible here to speak, though there is much that could be said, orally, in a tyled lodge. It seems that their present form was derived from the seventeenth century English Treason laws, though certain particulars may be elsewhere traced. It is certain that we have not inherited them from the operative Masons, for we have many of their OB's in print, and a comparison of our own form with theirs is not altogether to our advantage, as witness the following passage from MacBride's "Speculative Masonry":
"It seems to us, with these OB's before us, there is only one course open to all Masons desiring the welfare of our ancient institution, and that is to insist that a simpler, more sensible, and consequently, more solemn and binding
form shall be substituted, wherever the corrupt form now prevails. The latter has neither the sanction of age, of law, of reason, nor of good taste."
This, it may be emphasised, is but a criticism of the form of the Penalties; I am very sure that neither Brother MacBride nor any other wise Mason will advocate the abandoning of Penalties else we leave out of our Symbolism a symbol of the everywhere present moral law that "the wages of sin is death." Truth dies out in the liar, Beauty dies out in the vulgar, Goodness dies out in the wicked, and the way of the transgressor is hard. Would ours be a complete moral science if it ignored this Divine law built into the spiritual structure of man?
There is more to be said. He who violates the laws of an art will lose out of his mind the power of that art. The pianist who occupies himself wholly with tin-pan rag-time loses the ability to play, and even to appreciate, real music. The author who descends to the "Diamond Dick" level of literature forfeits his ability to write nobler pages. The architect who scamps and cheats in his building will soon lose the skill of erecting structures that deserve the name of architecture, a fact brought out with convincing power by Robert Herrick in his great novel, "The Common Lot." So is it with him who deliberately transgresses the laws of the Royal Art of Freemasonry, the Art of noble brotherhood lived in the bonds of the Eternal Life; its skill and its influence will die out within him as if an instrument of torture had been plunged into his heart.