The General Regulations permit their own alteration by Grand Lodge - the Old Charges do not!The Old Charges very evidently deal with both the operative and speculative sides of Masonry; some of the phrases are concerned with “The Lord’s Work.” The context shows that it is not the Lord God who is here meant, but the particular nobleman for whom building construction is undertaken Law in Masonry is so much more a matter of the heart than of the head, so much more concerned with setting forth conduct than in assessing penalties, that, to thoroughly comprehend it, we must be willing to revise our ideas of law, as we understand the enactments of legislatures.
Masonic law knows but four penalties; reprimand, definite suspension, indefinite suspension and expulsion or Masonic Death.Mackey’s list of twenty-five Landmarks (thirty-nine in Nevada) has been adopted as official in many American Masonic Jurisdictions; others have condensed his list into a lesser number, still keeping all his points; a few Jurisdictions have a greater number, including some not specified on Mackey’s list. A “Book of the Law” constitutes an indispensable part of the furniture of every lodge. Its “Ancient Usages and Customs” so soon win their way into the hearts of new brethren that there is a great resistance to any attempt to change the old order, unless necessity shows that it is inescapable.Those Jurisdictions which do not include a printed list of the ancient Landmarks in their written law, usually follow and practice them as a part of their unwritten law. Masons much prefer to whisper good counsel to an erring brother, rather than subject him to Masonic trial, whenever the gentler method can be made effective.A very large majority of Grand Lodges in the United States adhere to the spirit of the “Old Charges,” and - so far as modern conditions permit - to the sense of the “General Regulations.” It is, therefore, of real importance that Masons desiring to understand the law by which the Craft is governed, and the legal standards by which Grand Lodge measures its “laws, resolutions and edicts;” should read both the “Old Charges” and the “General Regulations of 1723.” When he reaches the last (thirty-ninth) of the “General Regulations,” he will read: “Every Annual Grand Lodge has an inherent Power and Authority to make new Regulations, or to alter these, for the real benefit of this Ancient Fraternity; provided always that the Old Landmarks be carefully preserved,” etc.The “Old Landmarks” or the “Ancient Landmarks” as we customarily call them, are thus stated to be the foundations of the law of Masonry which are not subject to change. With these as a foundation, the “Old Charges” for precedent, the first “General Regulations” for organic law, Grand Lodges write and adopt their Constitutions and by-laws, which are usually subject to approval by the Grand Lodge, a Grand Lodge Committee or the Grand Master, Grand Masters, “ad interim,” formulate and issue edicts and make decisions; often these are later incorporated by the Grand Lodge into the written law of the Jurisdiction.