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By The Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY
MASONRY SUSCEPTIBLE OF CHANGE ONLY BY ADDITIONS
In proof of this, I first appeal to the testimony of Masons themselves. Hear the testimony, given under oath, of Benjamin Russell, once Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. His and other depositions were given in Boston, before a justice of the peace, by request of Masons themselves. Observe, he was an ex-Grand Master of one of the most important lodges in the world. This surely is conclusive Masonic authority. He says: "The Masonic institution has been, and now is, the same in every place. No deviation has been made, or can be made at any time, from its usages, rules and regulations." Observe, he does not say that no additions can be made, but no deviations. He proceeds: "Such is its nature, that no innovations on its customs can be introduced, or sanctioned, by any person or persons. DeWitt Clinton, the former Governor of New York and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York and of the United States, also made an affidavit on the same occasion. He says: "The principles of Masonry are essentially the same and uniform in every place" (Powell, p. 40, as quoted by Stearns). In Hardy's Monitor, a standard Masonic work, we have the following, p. 96: "Masonry stands in no need of improvement; any attempt, therefore, to introduce the least innovation will be reprobated not by one, but by the whole fraternity." The Grand Lodge of Connecticut asserts: "It is not in the power of man, nor in any body of men, to remove the ancient landmarks of Masonry" (Allyn's Rituals p. 14). These are the highest Masonic authorities, and to the same effect might be quoted from all their standard works.
Second.--From the nature of the institution it cannot be changed, except by addition. In proof of this I observe
I. That Masonry is extended over the civilized world, at least Masons themselves boast that it includes men of every language, and of every clime. They claim for Masonry that it is a universal language; that men of every country and language can reveal themselves to each other as Freemasons; that by their signs and grips and pass words, etc., they can not only know each other as Masons, but as having taken such and such degrees of the order, that as soon as they reveal themselves to each other as having taken certain degrees of Masonry, they know their obligations, each to the other--what they may demand or expect of each other, and what each is under oath to do for the other. Now this must be true, or of what avail would Masonry be to those who are traveling through different countries, where there are different languages. Unless their methods of knowing each other were uniform, universal, and unchangeable, it is plain that they could not know each other as Masons. It is true in some particular localities there may be an additional pass word or sign, to indicate that they belong to that locality, but in all that is essentially Masonic, it must be universal and unchangeable.
II. The same is true with respect to their oaths. They must all, in every place, be under the same obligations to each other, or it would introduce endless confusion and uncertainty. Every Mason, of every place, must know that every other Mason, having taken the same degrees, has taken the same oaths that he himself has taken; that he owes the same duties, and can claim the same privileges of any other Mason of the same degree. If this were not so, Masonry would be of no value among strangers. Furthermore, if their obligations were not exactly alike, they would necessarily be betrayed into violating them. If they found that they claimed duties of each other which were not necessarily imposed by the obligations of both, or claimed privileges of each other not conferred by the obligations of both, they would in this way make each other acquainted with their respective obligations which were not in fact alike. Thus each would reveal to the other, secrets which he was sworn to keep.
III. The oaths of every degree, from the lowest to the highest, must be uniform, everywhere the same, and unchangeable. If they were not the same in every country, in every language, and at every time, Masonry would be a perfect babel. Now degrees may be added ad infinitum, but a Mason of any degree must Know that Masons of the same degree in every place, have taken the same oath that he has taken, and have taken all the oaths of the previous degrees, just as he has himself. If this were not true, Masons could not everywhere know with what they might entrust each other. Suppose, for example, that the obligation to conceal each other's crimes, and to keep each other's secrets, was not universal and unchangeable, how would they know with what they might trust each other in different places? Suppose the obligation to assist each other in getting out of any difficulty, whether right or wrong, was not uniform and universal, how would they know what they might demand of, or were under obligation to perform for, each other? But can not its objectionable points, it may be asked, be dropped out, and what is valuable preserved? Drop from the obligation, for instance, in any place, the clause that binds them to keep each other's secrets, murder and treason excepted, or without exception,--to deliver each other from difficulty, whether right or wrong, to give each other precedence in business or politics, to give each other warning of any approaching danger and the like. Now if you drop out any one of these, at any time or place, you introduce confusion, and Masons could not understand each other. Furthermore, drop out the most objectionable features of Masonry, and you have robbed it of its principal value to the membership, you have annihilated the principal reasons for becoming and for remaining a Mason. But the changes are manifestly impossible. There is nowhere any authority for such change; and, as has been stated, the whole fraternity would rebuke any attempt at such innovation. We may rest assured, therefore, that Freemasonry is not, and can not be, essentially changed, except by addition. To this point all their highest authorities bear the fullest testimony. Its very nature forbids essential innovations at any time or in any place. But should Masons affirm that the institution is changed, how are we to know what changes have been made? They are under oath to keep this a profound secret. Suppose they were to affirm that, since the revelations made by Morgan, Bernard, and others, the institution has been greatly improved, this is a virtual admission that those books are true, which they have so often denied. But since they have first denied that those books were true, and now virtually admit their truth, by claiming that Masonry has been improved since those books were written, what reason have we to believe them? I have, in a previous number, shown that it is irrational to believe what Masons themselves say in respect to their secrets. I do not know that any intelligent and respectable Freemason pretends that Masonry has been improved. But suppose they should, how shall we know in what respects it has been improved, that we may judge for ourselves whether the changes are improvements. If any number of them were now to affirm that Masonry, as it now exists, is divested of all the objectionable features that formerly belonged to it, how shall we know whether this is true? They have always denied that it had any objectionable features; they have always claimed that it needed no improvement, and their highest authorities have many times affirmed that all improvement and innovation were impossible. In view of all the testimony in the case, we have no right to believe that Masonry is at all improved from what it was forty years ago. As late as 1860, Richardson revealed sixty-two degrees of Masonry as it then existed. It was then the same in every essential feature as when Bernard made his revelation in 1829, and when Avery Allyn made his revelation in 1831. We are all, therefore, under the most solemn obligations to believe that Masonry is, in all important particulars, just what is has been since its various degrees have been adopted and promulged. We certainly do greatly err and sin, if, in view of all the facts, we assume, and act upon the assumption, that Freemasonry is divested of its immoral and obnoxious features. Such an assumption is utterly unwarranted, because, on the one hand, there is no evidence of the fact, and, on the other, there is positive and abundant proof that no such change has been made. We are all, therefore, responsible to God and to humanity for the course we shall take respecting the institution. We are bound to judge of it, and to treat it, according to the evidence in the case, which is, that, Freemasonry is necessarily a wicked institution, and incapable of thorough moral reformation.
I have spoken frequently of its having the character, in certain respects, of a mutual aid, or mutual insurance, company. It is inquired, are all these necessarily wicked? I answer, no. The benefits of these institutions may be real and great. For example, an insurance company that insures persons against loss by shipwreck, by fire, or by what we call accident of any kind, may be very beneficial to society. When they help each other in cases of calamity that involve no crime, they are not necessarily wicked, but may be very useful. The benefits of these companies are open to all upon reasonable conditions; and if any do not reap the fruits of them, it is not the fault of the society, but of those who neglect to avail themselves of its benefits. But Freemasonry is by no means a mere insurance or mutual aid society. The moral character of any institution must depend on the end at which it aims; that is, the moral character of any society is found in the end it is intended to secure. Mutual aid and insurance companies, as they exist for business purposes, do not necessarily deprive any one of his rights, and are often highly useful. The members of such societies or companies do not know each other, nor exert over each other any personal influence whatever. They are not bound by any oath to render each other any unlawful assistance, to conceal each other's crimes, nor "to espouse each other's cause, whether right or wrong." There is no clannish spirit engendered by their frequent meeting together, nor by mutual pledges under the most awful oaths and penalties, to treat each other with any favoriteism under any circumstances. But Freemasonry, on the contrary, does pledge its members by the most solemn oaths, to aid each other in a manner that sets aside the rights of others. For example, they are sworn first, in the Master's degree, to conceal each other's crimes, "murder and treason only excepted;" second, in the Royal Arch degree, "murder and treason not excepted;" in this same degree they swear to endeavor to extricate each other, if involved in any difficulty, whether they are right or wrong; third, they also swear to promote each other's political elevation in preference to any one of equal qualifications who is not a Freemason; fourth, to give each other the preference in business transactions. --See Richardson's Monitor of Freemasonry, p. 92. Degree of Secret Monitor: "I furthermore promise and swear, that I will caution a brother Secret Monitor by signs, word, or token, whenever I see him doing, or about to do, any thing contrary to his interest in buying or selling. I furthermore promise and swear, that I will assist a brother Secret Monitor in preference to any other person by introducing him to business, by sending him custom, or in any other manner in which I can throw a penny in his way." They swear "to represent all who violate their Masonic oaths as worthless vagabonds, and to send this character after them to ruin their business and their reputation wherever they may go and be to the end of their lives." They also swear to seek the condign punishment of all such in the infliction of the penalties of their oaths upon them. They swear to seek their death. They swear to a stringent exclusiveness, excluding from their society all that would most naturally need aid and sympathy, and receiving none who are not "physically perfect." Old men in dotage, young men in nonage, all women, idiots and other needy classes, are all excluded. Freemasonry has a vast fund of money at its disposal. The fraternity are very numerous. They boast of numbering in this country at the present time six hundred thousand, and that they are multiplying faster than ever. They permeate every community, and their influence is almost omnipresent. Of course, such an aid society as this will everywhere and in every thing ignore and trample on the rights of others to secure advantages for each other. As an illustration of the workings of this society, I make an extract or two from "The American Freemason," published in Louisville, Kentucky, dated April 8, 5854, that is 1854, and edited by Robert Morris, an eminent Masonic author. From the eighty-fifth page I quote as follows: "Lynn, Indiana.-- In hauling a load of pork to the depot a year or two since, I found the rush of wagons so great that the delivery was fully three days behind. This was a serious matter to me, for I could not lose so much time from my business, and was seriously weighing the propriety of going on to Cincinnati with my load, when the freight agent, learning from a casual remark of mine, that I was a Freemason, was kind enough at once to order my errand attended to, and in three hours I was unloaded, and ready, with a light heart, to set my face homeward. Is it not an admirable thing, this Masonic spirit of brotherly love?" To this the editor adds: "Verily it is. We have seen it in many varieties of form, but our kindhearted brother's is but an every-day experience of Masonic practice, but to the world how inexplicable do such things appear." Here we have a specimen of Masonic brotherly love. But was this right, to give this preference to this man, and wrong all who were there before him, and had a right to have. their business done before him! He gained three days' time, and saved the expense of waiting for his turn, whilst others were obliged to lose both the time and expense. And this we are coolly told, by high Masonic authority, is the "constant practice of Freemasons." What an exquisite brotherly love is this. It is delicious! But this is in entire accordance with the spirit of their oaths. But is it not a trampling on the rights of others! In this same paper we have, in an illustration of the nature of Freemasonry, a tale, the substance of which is, that a criminal, under sentence of death, was set free by Freemasons under the pretense that he was not guilty of the murder for which he was condemned. So they took the case into their own hands, and set aside the judgment of the court and jury. Observe, this is given as an illustration of the manner in which Freemasons aid each other.
These cases are given as their own boast of specimens of their brotherly love. But is this consistent with right and good government? The fact is, that it is impossible to engage in any business, to travel, to do any thing, to go anywhere, without feeling the influence of this and other secret societies. Wrongs are constantly inflicted upon individuals and upon society, of which the wronged are unaware. We can be wronged any day by a favoritism practiced by these societies, without being aware how or by whom we are wronged. I was informed of late, that in a large manufacturing establishment, poor men, dependent for their daily bread upon their labors in the factory, were turned out to give place to Freemasons who were no better workmen than themselves. Indeed it is inevitable that such a society should act upon such a principle. But it may be asked, can not Masonry be essentially reformed, so that it shall involve no wrong.? I answer, no, unless its very fundamental principle and aim be reversed, and then it would cease to be Freemasonry. In its workings it is a constant wrong inflicted upon society. It is an incessant and wide-spread conspiracy for the concealment of crime, to obstruct the course of justice, and, in many instances, to persecute the innocent and let the wicked go free. To reform it, its ends and its means must both be reformed. It must cease to be exclusive and selfish. It must cease to promise aid in many forms in which it does promise it. I have said that it was more than an innocent mutual aid society. Its members are pledged to aid each other in concealing iniquity, and in many ways that trample upon the rights of others.
And it is because this society promises aid in so many ways, and under so many circumstances, that men unite themselves to it. I have never heard any better reason assigned for belonging to it, than that, in many respects, one might reap a personal advantage from it. Now reform it, and make it a truly benevolent society; reform out of it all unrighteous favoritism, and all those forms of aid which are inconsistent with the universal good, and the highest well-being of society in general, and you have altered its essential nature; it is no longer Freemasonry, or any thing like Freemasonry. To reform it is to destroy it. In this view of Freemasonry, it is easy to see how difficult, if not impossible, it is for a man to be a consistent Freemason and yet a Christian. Just conceive of a Christian constantly receiving the preference over others as good as himself, in traveling, in railroad cars, on steamboats, at hotels, and everywhere, and in business transactions, and in almost all the relations of life, allowing himself to be preferred to others who have equal rights with himself. To be sure, in traveling, he may bless himself because he is so comfortable, and that so much pains are taken to give him the preference in every thing. If at a hotel, he may have the best seat at the table, and the best room in the house, and may find himself everywhere more favored than others.
But can he honestly accept this? Has he any right to accept it? No, indeed, he has not! He is constantly favored at the expense of others. He constantly has more than his right, while others are deprived of their rights. In other words, he is selfish, and that continually. He finds a personal benefit in it. Yes, and that is why he adheres to it. But again, if true to his oath, he is not only thus constantly receiving benefits unjustly, or to the injury of others, but also conferring them.
Whenever he sees a Masonic sign and recognizes a Masonic brother, he, of course, must do by him as a Freemason, as he himself is done by.
How can a man who is a Christian allow himself to be influenced by such motives as are presented in Freemasonry? Now let it be understood that all action is to be judged by its motive. No man has a right to receive or confer favors that interfere with the rights of others. And a man who can travel about the country and make himself known as a Freemason for the purpose of being indulged, and finding the best place in a hotel, or the best seat in a railroad car, or the best state-room in a steamboat, must be a selfish man, and can not be a Christian, --for a selfish man is not a Christian. Let it then be understood that Masonry in its fundamental principle, in which its moral character is found, is not reformed, and can not be reformed without destroying its very nature.
It can not be a part of general benevolence, but stands unalterably opposed to the highest well-being of society in general. The same, let me say, is true to a greater or less extent of all secret societies, whose members are bound by oath or pledge to treat each other with a favoritism that ignores the rights of others. Now, it has been said, and I think truly, that in the late war if a man wished preferment and high rank, he must be a high Mason. Such things were managed so much by high Masons that it was difficult for a man to rise in rank unless he could make himself known as a high Mason. And let the facts become known--and, I hope that measures will be taken to make them know--and I believe it will be found that the great mass of the lucrative offices in the United States are in the hands of the Freemasons.
It is evident that they are aiming to seize upon the government, and to wield it in their own interest. They are fast doing this, and unless the nation awake soon it will be too late. And let the church of God also awake to the fact that many of her ministers and members are uniting with a society so selfish and wicked as this, and are defending it, and are ready to persecute all who will not unite with them in this thing. What Mr. Morris said of the nature of Freemasonry, that is, that it was the constant practice of Freemasons to give each other the preference, as in the case of the man delivering his load, is really what every observant man, especially if he has ever been himself a Mason, knows to be true.
When Freemasons say that it is "a good thing" they mean by this that men reap personal advantage from it. But I am bound to say, that I should feel utterly ashamed to have any one offer to give me a right that belonged to others because I was a Mason.
It has been frequently said, by persons: "If I was going to travel, I would become a Freemason." A physician in the United States Army in the late war, said to a relative of his: "If I were going into the army again, I would be sure to become a Freemason. There is such a constant favoritism shown by Freemasons to each other, on every occasion, that were I going to take the field again, I would be sure to avail myself of the benefits of that institution." Now, in opposition to this, I would say, that were I going to travel, or were I going to enlist in the army, I should be ashamed to avail myself of any such benefits at all. It is not right that any such favoritism should exist, and any man ought to reject with indignation the proposal of such favoritism. Any man should blush, if he has entertained the thought of allowing himself to be placed in such a selfish position. But it is asserted, no doubt with truth, that oftentimes the lives of brother Masons have been spared, simply because of this relation. But shall a man save his life by wrongdoing? He had better remember, that if he attempts this, he ruins his own soul. He that would thus "save his life, shall lose it." A man can gain nothing in the end by wrong-doing; let him do right, and if, by so doing, he loses his life, he will be sure to save it. With my present knowledge of Freemasonry I would not become a Freemason to save my life a thousand times.