Ideas are expressed only by signs. When ideas he may do so only by symbols. Our a man would convey to his brother his language is but a succession of signs. Words are symbols, signs of an idea. But we as free and accepted Masons choose also to speak to one another by material symbols. These stand for certain truths we hold as necessary to Masonry and fundamental to true manhood. These rods, borne by the stewards, are of value only as they are signs of ideas. As Masons we seek the interpretation of these ideas and desire faithfully to inculcate them in the minds of all who shall hereafter accept our vows.
The first idea they symbolize is that of protection. The stewards, bearing these rods, meet the candidate at the door. He is thus assured that all his interests are to be safe-guarded. He may commit himself implicitly to the stewards, for the emblems of their offlce signify security and protection. This is among the highest comforts of man, to feel the safety vouchsafed by the confident strength of hiS brothers. It is surpassed only by the protection man realizes as he commits himself into the safe keeping of his Creator. David expressed the confidence in such a trust by the symbol of a rod, "When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me."
There is corresponding obligation upon the part of the stewards. The implicit trust of a brother calls for a faithful discharge of your stewardship. The security you afford within the lodge must be widened by the daily conduct in society. Let it never be said of you as Emerson said of some of his generation: "What you are speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say."
The second symbol is progress. You are to meet the candidate, not as stationary guards but as those who shall mark the path of progress as you advance from knowledge to knowledge in Masonry. The advance you assist him in making is unhasting and unresting. You are ever urging him to further light and wisdom. The rods you bear represent the divinely appointed state of man. Truth comes slowly but eternally. Man can never attain to perfect knowledge here. He must always confess "Now I know in part." To indicate by word or conduct that full knowledge is ours, is to arrest the purpose of the Creator in us. To symbolize in unforgettable fashion the progress of the mind toward the light is to render a service of incalculable worth to any man.
The rods symbolize guidance. Neatly imbedded in the head of each rod is a star. From time immemorial the stars have been the guiding fingers for man. He has been guided by them across the trackless desert, through the tangled wilderness and over the snowbound waste of the long Polar nights. The deep sea has not been able to lose the sailor, for the friendly stars have led him unerringly to his port of entry. So the rods are set for the proper and true guidance in the truths of Masonry. But truth cannot exist apart from incarnation. A thousand blazing symbols of metal fashioned bring neither comfort nor light except they live in daily conduct. You who bear the emblem of guidance must of necessity incarnate the moral worth indicated by your high office.
The symbols can only have meaning as they find the translation of their meaning first in the quality of merit in the men who bear them. Your dignity, fidelity and uprightness make meaningful and winsome all the moral virtue of protection, progress and guidance. Other offices, within the lodge, may be invested with more honor but your constant and necessary duties make incumbent upon you a most solemn and serious performance of the work assigned you. As you invest your office with this three fold significance, will you lift it out of mere perfunctory routine into high and noble symbolism. Those who take their first steps in Masonry under your tutelage will catch a vision of the sublimer possibilities and conserve for succeeding generations, the value of our worthy order.