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By The Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY
THE CLAIM OF FREEMASONRY TO GREAT ANTIQUITY IS FALSE.
We have seen that Freemasonry has been truly revealed. We have examined its oaths, principles, claims, and teaching, so far as to prepare the way for an examination of its moral character and tendencies, and also its relations to both Church and State. This I now proceed to do. And
1. .Its claims to great antiquity are false. Every one at all acquainted with the claims of Freemasonry knows that it professes to have existed in the days of Solomon; and it is claimed that Solomon himself was a Freemason, and that John the Baptist and John the Evangelist were Freemasons. Indeed, the writers frequently trace it back as coeval with the creation itself. Masons have claimed for their institution an antiquity antecedent to human government; and from this they have argued that they have a right to execute the penalties of their oaths, because Masonry is older than government. Now an examination will show that this claim is utterly false. Their own highest authorities now pronounce it to be false; and still these claims are kept up, and their oaths and ceremonies, and the whole structure of the institution profess the greatest antiquity.
Solomon, for instance, figures as a Freemason everywhere in their ceremonies.
Their lodges are dedicated to St. John; and in the third degree there is a scene professed to have been enacted in the temple and at the building of the Temple of Solomon.
Now, all this is utterly fallacious, a false pretense, and a swindle; because it is the obtaining of money from those who join them under false pretenses.
Steinbrenner, a great Masonic historian, after much research, with manifest candor, says that Speculative Freemasonry --which is the only form of Freemasonry now existing-- dates no further back than 1717. The article on Freemasonry in the new "American Encyclopedia" agrees with this statement of Steinbrenner. Indeed, all modern research on this subject has resulted in dating the commencement of Freemasonry, as it now exists, not far from the middle of the eighteenth century.
Dr. Dalcho, the compiler of the book of constitutions for South Carolina, says: "Neither Adam, nor Noah, nor Nimrod, nor Moses, nor Joshua, nor David, nor Solomon, nor Hiram, nor St. John the Baptist, nor St. John the Evangelist, were Freemasons. Hypothesis in history is absurd. There is no record, sacred or profane, to induce us to believe that those holy men were Freemasons; and our traditions do not go back to those days. To assert that they were Freemasons may make the vulgar stare, but will rather excite the contempt than the admiration of the wise."
Now, observe, this is a high authority, and should be conclusive with Masons, because it is one of their own leaders who affirms this. But, if this is true, what shall we think of the claims of Freemasonry itself? For every one who reads these revelations of Freemasonry will see that Solomon, and Hiram, and those ancient worthies everywhere figure in these rites and ceremonies; so that, if these men were indeed not Masons, then Freemasonry is a sham, an imposture, and a swindle. What! has it come to this, that this boasted claim of antiquity, which everywhere lies at the foundation of Masonic rites, ceremonies, and pretensions, is now discovered to be false?
Through all the Masonic degrees the pretense is kept up that Masonry has always been one and the same; and that its degrees are ancient, and all its principles and usages of great antiquity. Let any one examine the books in which it is revealed, and he can not help being struck with this. Furthermore, in the orations, sermons, and puffs that are so common with Masons on all occasions on which they show themselves off, they flaunt their very ancient date, their very ancient principles and usages, and they pledge their candidates, from one degree to another, to conform to all the ancient rites, principles, and usages of the order.
But what shall we at the present day say of these pretensions? I have before me the Masonic Monthly for October, 1867, printed in Boston. It will not be denied, I suppose, that this is one of their standard authorities. At any rate, whatever may be said of the editor of this paper, it will not be denied that the authorities quoted in the discussions in this number are high, if not the very highest authorities in the Masonic fraternity. If I had space to quote nearly this entire number, I should be very happy to do so, for it is occupied almost entirely, from beginning to end, with exposing these pretensions to which I have alluded. It appeals to their own standard authorities; and insists that Speculative Freemasonry, in all its higher degrees, is an imposture and a swindle. It quotes their great historian Steinbrenner, of New York--to show that Speculative Freemasonry was first established in London, in 1717; and that at that time Masonry consisted probably, of but one degree. That about 1725 a Mr. Anderson added two degrees; and, as the writer in this number states, began the Christianizing of Freemasonry. There is at this day a great division among Freemasons themselves, the point of disagreement being this: One party maintains that the Christian religion is of no more authority with Masons than any other form of religion; that Masonry proper does not recognize the Bible as of any higher authority than the sacred books of heathen nations, or than the Koran of Mohammed; that Freemasonry proper recognizes all religions as equally valid, and that so far as Masonry is concerned it matters not at all what the religion of its adherents is, provided they be not Atheists. The other party maintains that Masonry is founded upon the Bible, and that it is substantially a Christian institution.
This controversy is assuming extensive proportions, and it is very interesting for outsiders to look into it. I say outsiders--and I might say it is important, and would be very creditable, for the members of the fraternity to understand this matter better than they do; for I doubt if one in twenty of them is posted in regard to the real state of this question among the fraternity themselves. Mr. Evans, who is the editor of this Masonic Monthly, takes the ground, and I think sustains it fully from their own authorities, that all the upper degrees of Masonry are an imposture.
He goes on to show where and by whom, in several important cases, these upper degrees were manufactured and palmed off on the brotherhood as ancient Freemasonry.
For example, he shows that Mr. Oliver, one of their most prolific authors, asserts that one of the grand lodges in London gave charters, about the middle of the eighteenth century, to the Masonic lodges in France; and that in France they immediately betook themselves to manufacturing degrees and palming them off on the public as of very ancient origin. They proceeded to manufacture a thousand of these degrees in France. Many of them they asserted they had received from Scotland; but the Grand Lodge of Scotland denied ever having known of those degrees.
It is also asserted in this number that the Royal Arch degree was at first but an appendage to a Master's lodge, and had no separate charter, and for a long time was not recognized at all as any part of Freemasonry. And it informs us when and by whom the Royal Arch degree was manufactured. This number also shows that many of the Masonic degrees have originated in Charleston, South Carolina; and that a man by the name of Webb, in Massachusetts, manufactured the Templars' degrees. In short, we find here their own standard authorities showing up all the higher degrees of Masonry as having been gotten up and palmed off on the fraternity in order to make money out of them; and is not this a swindle? I wish to call the attention especially of the fraternity to these statements in this number of the Masonic Monthly.
Indeed, it is now common for the highest and best informed Masons to ridicule the pretense that Speculative Freemasonry is an ancient institution, as a humbug and a lie, having no foundation in correct history at all. Now will Freemasons examine this subject for themselves?--for they have been imposed upon.
I am particularly anxious to have professed Christians who are Freemasons thoroughly understand this matter. They have regarded Freemasonry as entirely consistent with the Christian religion, and have professed to see in it nothing with which a Christian can not have fellowship. In the third, or Master's, degree we find the story of Hiram Abiff introduced into Masonry.
Now this number of the Monthly charges, that this class of Freemasons went on to construct all the subsequent degrees of Freemasonry from the Bible, by ransacking the whole Old and New Testaments for striking passages from which they could construct new degrees, thus leaving the impression that Masonry was a divine institution, and founded upon the Bible.
If professed Christians who are Freemasons will really examine this subject, they will see that a Masonic lodge is no place for a Christian.
But suppose it should be asked, may we not innocently take those degrees that are founded upon the Bible, and that recognize the Christian religion as of divine authority? I answer, Christians cannot be hypocrites. Let it be distinctly understood, that all these higher degrees are shown to be an imposture; and that this Christianizing of Freemasonry has consisted in heaping up a vast mass of falsehood, and of palming it off upon the fraternity as truth and as ancient Freemasonry.
Can Masonic orators be honest in still claiming for Speculative Masonry great antiquity, divine authority, and that it is a saving institution? Masons are themselves now showing that the whole fabric of Speculative Freemasonry is an enormous falsehood. Stone Masonry, doubtless, had its simple degree, and its pass words and signs by which they knew each other. It also had its obligations. But upon that little stem have been engrafted a great number of spurious and hypocritical degrees.
This does seem to be undeniable. Now will Freemasons be frank enough to acknowledge this, and to say frankly that they have been imposed upon? Will they come out from all fellowship with such an imposture and such a swindle?
It has then come at last to this, that the highest authority among Freemasons has taken the ground that the Freemasonry which has been so eulogized throughout the length and breadth of the land, and which has drawn in so many professed Christians and ministers, is nothing less than an enormous cheat. That those behind the curtain, who have manufactured and sold these degrees--those Grand Chapters and Encampments and Commanderies, and all those pompous assemblies--have been engaged in enticing the brotherhood who had taken the lower degrees, to come up into their ranks and pay their money, that they may line their pockets. Now remember that these positions are fully sustained by Masons themselves, as their views are set forth in this number of the Masonic Monthly.
I do most earnestly entreat Freemasons to inform themselves on this subject; and not turn around and tell us that they, being Freemasons, know more about it than we do ourselves. The fact is, my friends, many of you do not. You do not read. I have myself recently conversed with a Freemason who admitted to me that he was entirely ignorant of what was being said in Masonic periodicals on this subject. I do not believe that one in twenty of the Masonic fraternity in this country is aware of the intense hypocrisy with which all the higher degrees of Masonry have been palmed off upon them, and upon the whole fraternity. Can men of honor and of principle allow their names and influence to be used to sustain such an enormous mass of false pretension?
But again, no one can read Bernard on Masonry through, or any of these authors, without perceiving the most unmistakable evidence that most of the degrees in Masonry are of modern date. I do not know why so much stress should be laid upon the antiquity of Masonry by those who embrace and adhere to it. It surely does not prove that it is of any value, or that it is true. Sin is of very ancient date, heathenism is of very ancient date, and most of the abominations that are in the world are of very ancient date; but this is no reason tbr embracing them, or regarding them as of any great importance.
But to certain minds there is a charm in the appearance and profession of antiquity; and young Masons are universally deceived in this respect, and led to believe that it is one of the most ancient of existing institutions, if not the very most so. Now I would not object to Masonry because it is of modern origin; for this would not prove it to be false, if it did not profess to be of ancient origin. I notice this false pretense not because I think its being of recent date would prove it unworthy of notice, or of immoral character or tendency. But observe that its pretensions from first to last are that it is of very ancient date; and it is traced back to the days of inspiration, and is claimed to have been founded and patronized by inspired men.
What would Masonry be if all its claims to antiquity were stricken out, and if those degrees in Masonry, and those ceremonies and usages, were abolished that rest upon the claim that Solomon, that Hiram Abiff, and John the Evangelist, were Freemasons? What would remain of Freemasonry if all those claims found in the very body of the institution were stricken out? Why, their very lodges are dedicated to the holy order of St. John and Zerubbabel, etc. But what had St. John to do with Freemasonry? Manifestly nothing. He never heard or thought of it. Nor did Solomon or Zerubbabel.
And here let me say a word to young men who have been urged to unite with this fraternity, and who have been made to believe that the institution is so very ancient that it was established and patronized by those holy men. My dear young men, you have been deceived. You have been imposed upon as I was imposed upon. You have been made to believe a lie. They have drawn your money from you under false pretenses that some very ancient mysteries were to be revealed to you; and that the institution was one established as far back, at least, as the days of Solomon, and that St. John was the patron of the institution. Now this, rely upon it, is but a pretense, a sham, an imposture, and a swindle. I beg you to believe me; and if you will examine the subject for yourselves, you will find it to be true.
Your own best historian, Steinbrenner, will teach you that Freemasonry, as you know it, and as it is now universally known, dates no further back than the eighteenth century. And Dr. Dalcho, who is good authority with the brotherhood, as we have seen, repudiates the idea of its antiquity as that which "may make the vulgar stare, but will rather excite the contempt than the admiration of the wise." I know that Masons affirm that the institution in its present form is the descendant of a brotherhood of stone masons, whose history may be traced back for some seven hundred years. But remember that Freemasonry, as you know it, and as it now exists, is not at all what it was among those simple artisans. The name is preserved, and some of its symbols, for the purpose of claiming for it great antiquity. But do not be deceived. If you will examine the subject for yourselves, you will find that modern Freemasonry is entirely another thing from that from which it claims to be descended. And when you hear ministers, or orators, on any occasion, claiming for Speculative Freemasonry--which is the only form in which it now exists--a great antiquity, let it be settled, I pray you, in your minds, that such claims are utterly false; and that those who make them are either grossly ignorant or intensely dishonest. King Solomon a stone mason! Hiram a Grand Master of a Grand Lodge of stone masons! Those men uniting in a lodge with a company of stone masons! Does any one really believe the silly tale?
How long shall the intelligent of this generation be insulted by having this pretended antiquity of Freemasonry paraded before the public? Do not intelligent Freemasons blush to hear their orators on public occasions, and even ministers of the Gospel in their Masonic sermons, flaunt the silly falsehoods of the great antiquity of Freemasonry before the public, and claim that Enoch, Zerubbabel, Solomon, the St. Johns, and all the ancient worthies, were Freemasons?