"It is a truth too obvious to be concealed, that the privileges of masonry have been too common. Hence we may assign a reason why their good effects are not more conspicuous.—Several persons enrol their names in our records merely to oblige their friends; and reflect not on the consequences of such a measure, nor enquire into the nature of their particular engagements. Not a few are prompted by motives of interest; and many are introduced with no better view than to please as good companions. A general odium, or at least a careless indifference, is the result of such conduct.—But here the evil stops not.—These persons, ignorant of our noble principles, probably without any real defect in their own morals, are led to recommend others of the same cast with themselves for the same purpose. Thus, behold the end! The most sacred part of masonry is turned into scoff and ridicule, and the superficial practices of a luxurious age bury in oblivion principles which have dignified princes and the most exalted characters.
"Many have been deluded by the vague supposition that the mysteries of masonry were merely nominal, that the practices established among us were slight and superficial, and that our ceremonies were of such trifling import, as to be adopted or waved at pleasure. Having passed through the useful formalities, they have accepted offices, and assumed the government of Lodges, equally unacquainted with the duties of the trusts reposed in them, and the design of the society they pretended to govern. The consequence is obvious; anarchy and confusion ensue, and the substance is lost in the shadow.—Thus men eminent for ability, for rank and fortune, view with indifference the distinguished honours of masonry, and either accept offices with reluctance, or reject them with disdain.
"Such are the disadvantages under which masonry has long laboured. Every zealous friend to the society must earnestly wish for a reformation of these abuses."
From an oration given by William Preston on 21 May 1772, at the occasion of the first demonstration before the Grand Master (Moderns) of Preston's degree system.