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By The Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY
THE BOASTED BENEVOLENCE OF MASONS A SHAM
The law of God requires universal benevolence, supreme love to God, and equal love to our neighbor--that is, to all mankind.
This the Gospel also requires, and this is deniable. But does Masonry inculcate this morality? and is this Masonic benevolence?
By no means. Masonic oaths require partial benevolence; or strictly, they require no benevolence at all. For real benevolence is universal in its own nature. It is good willing; that is, it consists in willing the well-being or good of universal being--and that for its own sake, and not because the good belongs to this or that particular individual.
In other words, true benevolence is necessarily impartial. But Masonic oaths not only do not require impartial and universal benevolence, but they require the exact opposite of this. The law and Gospel of God allow and require us to discriminate in our doing good between the holy and the wicked.
They require us to do good, as we have opportunity, to all men, but especially to the household of faith. But the Masonic oaths make no such discriminations as this, nor do they allow it. These oaths require Masons to discriminate between Masons and those that are not Masons; giving the preference to Masons, even if they are not Christians, rather than to Christians if they are not Masons.
Now this is directly opposite to both the law and the Gospel. But this is the benevolence and morality of Freemasonry, undeniably.
The law and the Gospel require our discriminations in our treatment of men to be conditional upon their holiness and likeness to God and their faith in Jesus Christ.
But the oaths of Freemasons require their discriminations to be founded upon the mere relation of a brother Mason, whatever his Christian or moral character may be.
It is not pretended that a man may not be a good and worthy Mason who is not a Christian. It is admitted and claimed by Freemasonry that a man's religion, or religious character, has nothing to do with his being a Mason. If he admits the being of a God this is enough.
Now this, I say again, is not only not in accordance with Christian morality, and with the law and Gospel of God; but it is directly opposed to both law and Gospel.
But, again, the utter want of true benevolence in the Masonic institution will further appear if we consider the exclusiveness of the institution. A minister in Cleveland, recently defending the institution of Masonry, declared that the glory of Masonry consists in its exclusiveness. But is this in accordance with the benevolence required in the Gospel?
Masonry, observe, professes to be a benevolent institution. But, first, it excludes all women from a participation in its rights, ceremonies, privileges, and blessings, whatever they may be. Secondly, it excludes all old men in their dotage. Thirdly, it excludes all young men in their nonage; that is, under twenty-one years of age. Several other classes are excluded; but these that I have named comprise a vast majority, probably not less than two-thirds of all mankind. Again, they admit no deformed person, and none but those who are physically perfect. In short, they admit none who are likely to become chargeable to the institution.
Some time since the Grand Lodge of the State of New York adopted a series of articles defining certain landmarks and principles of Freemasonry. These articles have been accepted and eulogized by the Masonic press. The first is as follows. I quote it from the American Freemason, edited by "Robert Morris, Knight Templar, and author of various Masonic works," with his preface and strictures. These articles Mr. Morris regards as high Masonic authority. The number from which I quote is dated at Louisville, Kentucky, 8th of April, 5854, Masonic date, in other words, in 1854, fourteen years ago.
"Our New York brethren are eminent for the matchless ability with which their Grand Lodge documents are prepared. In this department they have set the example for others, and there are yet a few that would do well to look to the East for more light. We copy their 'Thirty-four Articles' with some condensation and a few comments of our own, and present them to our readers as a well-digested system of Masonic law and practice.
"'Article I. It is not proper to initiate into our lodges persons of the negro race; and their exclusion is in accordance with Masonic law, and the ancient charges and regulations. Because of their depressed social condition; their general want of intelligence, which unfits them as a body to work in or adorn the craft; the impropriety of making them our equals in one place, when from their social condition and the circumstances which almost everywhere attach to them, we can not do so in others; their not being, as a general thing, free-born; the impossibility, or at least the difficulty, of ascertaining, if we once commence, their free birth, and where the line of intelligence and social elevation commences and ends, or divides portions of their race; and finally, their not being as a race "persons of good report," or who can be "well recommended" as subjects for initiation, their very seldom being persons who have any "trade, estate, office, occupation or visible way of acquiring an honest livelihood and working in the craft, as becomes members of this ancient and most honorable fraternity, who ought not only to earn what is sufficient for themselves and families, but likewise something to spare for works of charity and for supporting the ancient grandeur and dignity of the royal craft, eating no man's bread for naught;" and their general positive deficiency of natural endowments. All which would render it impossible, as a general thing, to conciliate and continue between them and us good will and private affection or brotherly love, which cements into one united body the members of this ancient fraternity.'
"COMMENT. These arguments can not be successfully controverted. We, in the Southern or slave-holding States, whose experience with the colored race is greater than that of others, affirm the New York doctrine in every particular. However occasional instances may be offered to the contrary, they are but the exceptions to prove the general rule, that the race ought not to amalgamate socially or physically.
"'ARTICLE II. No person of the negro race shall be examined or admitted as a visitor of any lodge of Masons under this jurisdiction, if made in an African lodge in North America. Because all such lodges are clandestine and without legal authority.'"
Here we have their benevolence unmasked. A depressed social condition is a bar to admission to this benevolent society. What if the Christian church should adopt such an article? Is this Christian benevolence? Is it consistent with Christian morality? Christian ministers, is this the morality you teach and practice? You profess to teach and practice the precepts of Christ, and join and hold fast to a society whose law is to exclude men for being in a depressed social position, whatever their wants, their moral and religious character may be. You boast of your benevolence and exclude the very class who have most need of sympathy and benevolence, and are you a professed disciple, and perhaps a professed minister of Jesus. Shame!
But is this real benevolence, or Gospel morality? No, indeed! It is the very opposite of Gospel morality or true benevolence. In a recent number of the National Freemason--I think its date is the 18th of January--it is admitted by the editor of that great national organ that benevolent institutions have been so much multiplied that there is now seldom any call upon Masons for charitable donations. Yes, but who has multiplied these benevolent societies? Surely Masons have not done this, Christians have done it. And Masonry now seems forced to admit that Christian benevolence has covered the whole field, and left them nothing to do. So far as I have had experience in Freemasonry, I can say that I do not recollect a single instance in which the lodge to which I belonged ever gave any money to any charitable object whatever.
As a Freemason, I never was called upon, and to my recollection I never gave a cent as a Freemason, either to an individual as a matter of charity or to any object whatever. My dues and fees to the lodges, of course, I paid regularly; but that the money thus collected was given to any charitable object whatever I do not believe.
Again, Freemasonry, at the best, is but a mutual insurance company. Their oaths pledge them to assist each other, if in distress or in necessitous circumstances; and each other's families, if left in want. This they can well afford to do, on the principle of mutual insurance: for they have vast sums, almost incalculable in amount, taking the whole fraternity together; and they can lay out almost any amount of money in fitting up their sumptuous lodges of the higher degrees, in building Masonic temples, in seeking each other's promotion to office, and in defending each other in case any one of them commits a crime and is liable to suffer for it.
The following estimate, taken from a note in the revised edition of Bernard's "Light on Masonry," p. 96, will give some idea how large are the sums held by Masons. "Supposing that in the United States there are 500,000 Entered Apprentices, 400,000 Masters, and 200,000 Royal Arch Masons, also 10,000 Knights, and that they all paid the usual fees for the degrees, the amount would be the enormous sum of $11,250,000; the yearly interest of which, at seven per cent is $787,500, which sum (allowing $100. to each individual) would support 7,875 persons.
Now, I ask: Do Masons, by their charities, support this number of poor in the United States? Do they support one-tenth part of this number? Supposing they do, is it necessary to give $10, or $50 for the privilege of contributing $1, $5, or $50 masonically? Must the privilege of being a charitable man be bought with gold? How many there are who have rendered themselves incompetent to bestow charities, by their payment for and attendance on Masonic secrets and ceremonies! If all the money paid for the degrees of Masonry was applied to charitable purposes, the subject would appear differently; but it is principally devoted to the erection of Masonic temples, support of the Grand Lodges, and for refreshment for the craft, and I think I may add, their support in kidnapping and murder."
It is no doubt true that but a very small part of their funds is ever used for the support of even their own poor. If it is, it behooves them to show it, and let the public know. They boast much of their benevolence; and the charities of Freemasons are frequent]y compared with those of the church--and that, too, boastfully; they maintaining that they are more benevolent and charitable, and do more for the poor and destitute than even the church has done.
But let us look at this. Is there any truth in all this boasting? What has Freemasonry done for general education in any part of the world? Let them tell us. Again, what has Freemasonry done for the general poor? Nothing. What have they done for their own poor, as a matter of charity and benevolence? Absolutely nothing. They have not even disbursed the funds which have been paid in for that purpose. Let them show, if they can, that on the principle of a mutual insurance society they have faithfully paid out to their own poor that fund which has been paid in by Masons for the purpose of securing to themselves and families, in case they should be reduced to poverty, what would meet their absolute necessities. We challenge them to show any such thing. We challenge them to show that, on the principle of benevolence and charity, they have really done anything for either the general poor or their own poor. They compare themselves with the Church of Christ in this respect! What have they done for the Southern poor during our great struggle, and during the long period of starvation and distress that has reigned in the South? What have Freemasons, as such, done for the freedmen? And what are they now doing? What have they done in any age of the world, as Freemasons, for Christian missions, for the conversion of the world, for the salvation of the souls of men? What! compare themselves boastfully with the Church of God, as being more benevolent than Christians?
The fact is, the Church of Christ has done ten thousand times as much for humanity as they have ever done. And she has not done it on the principle of a mutual insurance company, but as a matter of true benevolence; including in her charities the poor, the lowly, the halt and the blind, the old and the young, the black and the white.
The Church of Christ has done more for the bodies of men, ten thousand times more, than Freemasonry has ever done or ever will do.
Besides, the Church of Christ has poured out its treasure like a flood to enlighten mankind generally, to save their souls, and to do them good both for time and eternity. But what has Freemasonry done in this respect? Their boasted benevolence is a sham. I admit that they do sometimes afford relief to an indigent brother Mason, and to the families of such. I admit that they have often done this. But I maintain that this is not done as an act of Christian charity, but only as an act of Masonic charity; and that Masonic charity is only the part payment of a debt. Masons pay in their money to the Masonic fund; and this fund is that out of which their poor are helped, when they are helped at all.
What individuals do for individuals, on rare occasions, is but a trifle. Indeed, it is seldom that they are called on as individuals. The help granted to the poor is almost always taken from the funds of the lodges. And I seriously doubt whether there is a lodge in the United States that has ever paid as much for the support of their own poor as has been paid in to their funds by those who have joined the lodge. Let it be understood, then, that their boast of benevolence and of Christian morality is utterly false. Their oaths do not pledge them at all to the performance of any truly Christian morality; but to a Masonic benevolence, which is the opposite of true Christian morality.
Instead, therefore, of Masonry's inculcating really sound morality, instead of its being almost or quite true religion, the very perfection of that morality which their oaths oblige them to practice is anti-Christian, and opposed to both the law and Gospel of God. It is partial. And here let me again appeal to the dear young men who have been persuaded to join the Masonic fraternity under the impression that it is a benevolent institution. Do not, my dear young men, suffer yourselves to be deceived in this respect. If you have well considered what the law and Gospel require, you will soon perceive that the benevolence and morality required by your Masonic oaths is not Gospel morality or true benevolence at all; but that it is altogether a spurious and selfish morality. Indeed, you yourselves are aware that you joined the lodge from selfish motives; and that the morality inculcated by Masons is an exclusive, one-sided, and selfish affair altogether. In some of the lectures, you are aware that occasionally the duty of universal good-will is, in few words, inculcated. But you also know that your oaths, which lay down the rule of your duty in this respect, require no such thing as universal and impartial benevolence; but that they require the opposite of this. That is, they require you to prefer a Mason because he is a Mason to a Christian because he is a Christian; and, instead of requiring you to do good especially to the household of faith, your oaths require you to do good especially to those who are Freemasons, whether they belong to the household of faith or not. But this you know to be anti-Christian, and not according the Gospel. But you know also that Christians devote themselves to doing good to Masons and to those who are not Masons, to all classes and descriptions of men. And this they do, not on the principle, as I have said, of a mutual insurance society, but as a mere matter of benevolence. They deny themselves for the sake of doing good to the most lowly and even to the most wicked men.
Do not allow yourselves, therefore, to suppose that there is any good in Masonry. We often hear it said, and sometimes by professed Christians and Christian ministers, "that Masonry is a good thing."
But be not deceived. If by good is intended morally good, the assertion is false. There is nothing morally good in Freemasonry. If there are any good men who are Freemasons, Freemasonry has not made them so; but Christianity has made them so. They are good not by virtue of their Freemasonry, but by virtue of their Christianity. They have not been made good by anything they have found in Freemasonry; but, if they are good, they have been made good by Christianity, in spite of Freemasonry. I must say that I have always been ashamed of Freemasons whenever I have read, in their orations, or in the sermons of ministers who have eulogized it, or in their eulogistic books, the pretense that Freemasonry is a benevolent institution. Many have claimed it to be religion, and true religion. This question I shall examine in another place. But the thing I wish to fix your especial attention upon in the conclusion of this article is, that Freemasonry has no just claims to Christian morality or benevolence; but that in its best estate it is only partiality, and the doing in a very slovenly manner the work of a mutual insurance company. I do not claim that as a mutual insurance company it is necessarily wicked but I do insist that, being at best a mutual insurance company, it is wicked and shameful to flaunt their hypocritical professions of benevolence before the public as they constantly do. How long shall an intelligent people be nauseated with this pretense? How can they expect us to have the least respect for such claims to benevolence? We must regard the putting forth of such claims as an insult to our common sense.