In nearly all Masonic rituals in the United States, these two emblems of the third degree are explained in practically the form given by Thomas Smith Webb:
“The Hour-Glass is an emblem of human life; behold! how swiftly the sands run, and how rapidly our lives are drawing to a close. We cannot, without astonishment, behold the little particles which are contained in this machine, how they pass away almost imperceptibly, and yet to our surprise, in the short space of an hour, they are all exhausted. Thus wastes man! today, he puts forth the tender leaves of hope; tomorrow, blossoms and bears his blushing honors which upon him; the next day comes a frost, which nips the shoot, and when he thinks his greatness is still aspiring, he falls, like autumn leaves, to enrich our mother earth.
“The Scythe is an emblem of time, which cuts the brittle thread of life and launches us into eternity. Behold, what havoc the scythe of time makes amongst the human race; if by chance we should escape the numerous evils incident to childhood and youth, and with that health and vigor arrive to the years of manhood, yet withall we must soon be cut down by the all-devouring scythe of time, and be gathered into the land where our fathers are gone before us. Both these emblems seems to be inventions of the ingenious and resourceful American who left do tremendous an imprint upon our ceremonies. MacKensie, the English Masonic encyclopedist, says of the hour glass: “Used in the third degree by Webb - but not essential nor authorized in any way.