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By The Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY
FREEMASONRY IS A FALSE RELIGION
Some Freemasons claim that Freemasonry is a saving institution, and that it is true religion. Others hold a different opinion, claiming that it is the handmaid of religion, a system of refined morality. Others still are free to admit that it is only a mutual aid or mutual insurance society. This discrepancy of views among them is very striking, as every one knows who has been in the habit of reading sermons, lectures, and orations on Masonry published by themselves. in this article I propose to inquire, first, Do their standard authorities claim that Masonry is identical with true religion? secondly, Does Freemasonry itself claim to be true religion? and, thirdly, Are these claims valid?
1. Do their standard authorities claim that Masonry is true religion?
I quote Salem Town. I read his work some forty years ago. The book professes on its title-page to be "A System of Speculative Masonry, exhibited in a course of lectures before the Grand Chapter of the State of New York, at their annual meetings in the City of Albany." It was reduced to a regular system by their special request, and recommended to the public by them as a system of Freemasonry. It is also recommended by nine grand officers, in whose presence the lectures were delivered; by another who had examined them; and by "the Hon. DeWitt Clinton, General Grand High Priest of the General Grand Chapter of the United States of America, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York, etc., etc.
The book was extensively patronized and subscribed for by Freemasons throughout the country, and has always been considered by the fraternity as a standard authority. From this author I quote as follows:
"The principles of Freemasonry have the same coeternal and unshaken foundations, contain and inculcate the same truths in substance, and propose the same ultimate end, as the doctrines of Christianity."--P. 53. Again he says: "The same system of faith and the same practical duties taught by revelation are contained in and required by the Masonic institution."--P. 174. "Speculative Masonry combines those great and fundamental principles which constitute the very essence of the Christian system."--P. 37. "It is no secret that there is not a duty enjoined nor a virtue required in the volume of inspiration but what is found in and taught by Speculative Freemasonry." "The characteristic principles are such as embrace the whole subject-matter of divine economy." P. 31.
Again he says: "As the Word in the first verse of St. John constitutes both the foundation, the subject-matter, and the great ultimate end of the Christian economy, so does the same Word, in all its relations to man, time, and eternity, constitute the very spirit and essence of Speculative Freemasonry."--P. 155. Again, referring to the promise of the Messiah, he says: "The same precious promise is the great corner-stone in the edifice of Speculative Freemasonry."--P. 171. Again he says: "The Jewish order of priesthood from Aaron to Zacharias, and even till the coming of Messias, was in confirmation of the great event, which issued in the redemption of man. All pointed to the eternal priesthood of the Son of God, who by his own blood made atonement for sin, and consecrated the way to the Holy of holies. This constitutes the great and ultimate point of Masonic research."--P. 121.
"That a knowledge of the divine Word, or Logos, should have been the object of so much religious research from time immemorial adds not a little to the honor of Speculative Freemasonry."--P. 151.
Again he says: "It is a great truth, and weighty as eternity, that the present and everlasting well-being of mankind is solely and ultimately intended." --P. 170. This he says of Freemasonry. But again he says: "Speculative Masonry, according to present acceptation, has an ultimate reference to that spiritual building erected by virtue in the heart, and summarily implies the arrangement and perfection of those holy and sublime principles by which the soul is fitted for a meet temple of God in a world of immortality." --P. 63. Does not Freemasonry profess to be a saving religion?
Again he says: "In advancing to the fourth degree, the good man is greatly encouraged to persevere in the ways of well-doing even to the end. He has a name which no man knoweth save him that receiveth it. If, therefore, he be rejected and cast forth among the rubbish of the world, he knows full well that the great Master-builder of the universe, having chosen and prepared him a lively stone in that spiritual building in the heavens, will bring him forth in triumph, while shouting grace, grace to the Divine Redeemer. Then the Freemason is assured of his election and final salvation. Hence, opens the fifth degree, where he discovers his election to, and his glorified station in, the kingdom of his Father." Then again he is assured of his "election and glorified station in the kingdom of his Father." If this is not claiming for Freemasonry a saving power what is? Salem Town is the great light in Freemasonry, as the title and history of his work imports. Does he not claim that Freemasonry is a saving religion? To be sure he does, or no words can assert such a claim. "With these views, the sixth degree is conferred, where the riches of divine grace are opened in boundless prospect." "Then he beholds in the eighth degree, that all the heavenly sojourners will be admitted within the veil of God's presence, where they will become kings and priests before the throne of his glory forever and ever."--Pp. 79-81. By the "heavenly sojourners," he certainly means Freemasons. Observe what he asserts of them: "Then he (the Freemason) beholds in the eighth degree that all the heavenly sojourners will be admitted within the veil of God's presence, where they will become kings and priests before the throne of his glory forever and ever." This clenches the claim. The maxims of wisdom are gradually unfolded, till the whole duty of man is clearly. and persuasively exhibited to the mind."--P. 184.
Again: "Principles and duties which lie at the foundation of the Masonic system,. and are solemnly enjoined upon every brother; whoever, therefore, shall conscientiously discharge them in the fear of God fulfills the whole duty of man."--P. 48. Then he claims for Freemasonry all that is or can be claimed for the law or Gospel of God.
Again he says: "The Divine Being views no moral character in a man with greater complacency than his who in heart strictly conforms to Masonic requirements." "The more prominent features of a true Masonic character are literally marked with the highest beauties."--Pp. 33, 185. Then again he represents Masonry as forming as holy a character in man as the Gospel does or can.
Again he says that "every good Mason is of necessity truly and emphatically a Christian."--P. 37. Then he represents Freemasonry as identical with Christianity. A true Mason must necessarily be a true Christian. That Masonry professes to conduct its disciples to heaven we find affirmed by Town, in the following language. Of the inducements to practice the precepts of Masonry he says: "They are found in that eternal weight of glory, that crown of joy and rejoicing laid up for the faithful in a future world."--P. 188.
By the faithful here he means faithful Freemasons. This same writer claims that Solomon organized the institution by inspiration from God. On page 187, he says: "So Masonry was transmitted from Enoch, through Noah, Abraham, Moses, and their successors, till Solomon, being inspired of God, established a regular form of administration."
This will suffice for the purpose of showing what is claimed for Masonry by their standard authorities. The same in substance might be quoted from various other standard writers. I have made these quotations from Elder Stearns' book, not finding in my library a copy of Town. In another place I shall find it convenient to quote sundry others of their standard writers, who, while they claim it to be a religion, do not consider it the Christian religion.
This conducts us (2) to the second inquiry: What does Freemasonry claim for itself?
And here I might quote from almost any of the Masonic degrees to show that this claim is put forth in almost every part of the whole institution. As Town claims for it, so it claims for itself, a power to conduct its disciples to heaven. Any one who will take pains to read Bernard's "Light on Masonry" through, will be satisfied that Town claims for the institution no more than it claims for itself.
I beg of all who feel any interest in this subject to get and read Bernard on Masonry; to read it through, and see if Town has not rightly represented the claims of Freemasonry. I deny, observe, that he has rightly represented its principles, and that which it really requires of Masons. That he has misrepresented Masonic law I insist. But in respect to its promises of heaven as a reward for being good Freemasons he has not misrepresented it. It claims to be a saving institution. This certainly will appear to any person who will take the pains to examine its teachings and its claims as revealed in "Light on Masonry." Mr. Town has grossly misrepresented Masonic Law and morality as we have seen in examining its claims to benevolence, and in scrutinizing their oaths and their profane use of Scripture. But that Mr. Town has not misrepresented the claims of Masonry to be a saving religion has been abundantly shown in these pages by quotations from "Light on Masonry." I might quote many pages from the body of Masonry where it teaches the candidates that the observance of Masonic law, principles and usages will secure his salvation. The Gospel professes no more than this, that those who obey it shall be saved. Surely Masonry claims to be a saving religion just as much as the Gospel of Christ does.
Just take the following from the degree of "The Knights of the East and West." "Light on Masonry," first edition, p. 217, already quoted in another place.
In explaining the ceremony of sounding the seventh trumpet, and conducting the candidate to the vacant canopy, we find the following: "This canopy it will be recollected is at the right side of the All Puissant who represents JEHOVAH. The sounding of the seventh trumpet, and the conducting of the candidate to the vacant canopy, is a representation of the end of the world, and the glorification of all true Masons at the right hand of God, having passed through the trials of Freemasonry and washed their robes in their own blood." If Freemasonry does not claim to be a saving religion how can such a claim be made? The compiler adds: "If this is not Antichrist what is?" But I must beg of the reader to examine the books that reveal Masonry for themselves, since to quote the claims of Masonry on this head further than I have done, would not only be useless and tiresome, but would swell this work too much.
This brings me (3) to the third inquiry: Are the claims that Masonry is a true and saving religion valid?
To this question I reply that it is utterly false; and in this respect Freemasonry is a fatal delusion. From the quotations that I have made from Town, it will be perceived that he represents Freemasonry as identical with Christianity.
Mr. Preston is another of their standard writers. I quote the following note from Stearns on Masonry, p. 28: "Mr. Preston's book, entitled 'Illustrations of Masonry,' has been extensively patronized by the fraternity as a standard work. The copy before me is the first American, from the tenth London edition." Mr. Preston says in his book, p. 30: "The universal principles of the art unite in one indissoluble bond of affection men of the most opposite tenets, of the most distant countries, and of the most contradictory opinions." Again, p. 125, he says: "Our celebrated annotator has taken no notice of Masons having the art of working miracles, and foresaying things to come. But this was certainly not the least important of their doctrines. Hence, astrology was admitted as one of the arts which they taught, and the study of it warmly recommended."
"This study became, in the course of time, a regular science." . So here we learn that Masons formerly claimed the power of working miracles. I quote again from Bradley, p. 8. He says: "We leave every member to choose and support those principles of religion and those forms of government which appear consistent to his views." In the work of Preston, p. 51, we have the following: "As a Mason, you are to study the moral law as contained in the sacred code, the Bible; and in countries where that book is not known, whatever is understood to contain the will or law of God." O, then, in every country Masons are to embrace the prevalent religion, whatever it may be, and accept whatever is claimed in any country where they may reside, to be the law and will of God. But is this Christianity, or consistent with it? It is well known and admitted that Masonry claims to have descended from the earliest ages, and that the institution has existed in all countries and under all religions; and that the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome, the astrologers and soothsayers, and the great men of all heathen nations have belonged to that fraternity.
It is also well known that at this time there are multitudes of Jews, Mohammedans, and skeptics of every grade belonging to the institution. I do not know that this is denied by any intelligent Mason. Now, if this is so, how can Freemasonry be the true religion, or at all consistent with it? Multitudes of Universalists and Unitarians, and of errorists of every grade, are Freemasons; and yet Freemasonry itself claims to save its disciples, to conduct them to heaven!
The third question proposed for discussion in my last number is: Are the claims of Masonry to be a true and saving institution valid? To this I answer, No. This will appear if we consider, first, that the morality which it inculcates is not the morality of the law and Gospel of God. The law and the Gospel, as I have shown in a former number, lay down the same rule of life. And Christ, in commenting upon the true meaning and spirit of the law, says: "If ye love them that love you, what thank have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?" He requires us to love our enemies, and to pray for them, as truly as for our friends. In short, he requires universal benevolence; whereas Freemasonry requires no such thing. Its oaths, which are its law, simply require its members to be just to each other. I say just, for their boasted benevolence is simply the payment of a debt.
They do, indeed, promise to assist each other in distress, and to help each other's families, provided they fall into poverty. But on what condition do they promise this? Why, that a certain amount is to be paid into their treasury as a fund for this purpose. But this, surely, is not benevolence, but the simple payment of a debt, on the principle of mutual insurance.
This I have abundantly shown in a former number. Again, the motives presented in Freemasonry to secure the course of action to which they are pledged are by no means consistent with the law or the Gospel of God. In religion, and in true morality, everything depends on the motive or reason for the performance of an action. God accepts nothing that does not proceed from supreme love to Him and equal love to our fellow-men. Not merely to our brother Masons; but to our neighbor--that is, to all mankind. Whatever does not proceed from love and faith is sin, according to the teachings of the Bible. And by love, I say again, is meant the supreme love of God and the equal love of our neighbor.
But Masonry teaches no such morality as this. The motive urged by Masons is, to honor Masonry, to honor the institution, to honor each other. While they are pledged to assist each other in distress; to keep each other's secrets, even if they be crimes; and to aid each other whether right or wrong, so far as to extricate them from any difficulty in which they are involved; yet they never present the pure motives of the Gospel. They are pledged not to violate the chastity of a brother Mason's wife, sister, daughter, or mother; but they are not pledged by Masonry, as the law and Gospel of God require, to abstain from such conduct with any female whatever. But nothing short of universal benevolence, and universal morality, is acceptable to God.
But again: It has been shown that Masonry claims to be a saving institution; that this is claimed for it by the highest Masonic authorities; and that this claim is one set up by itself as well. But an examination of Freemasonry shows that it promises salvation upon entirely other conditions than those revealed in the Gospel of Christ. The Gospel nowhere inculcates the idea that any one can be saved by obedience to the law of God. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified" is the uniform teaching of the Bible. Much less can any one be saved by conformity to Masonic law, which requires only a partial, and therefore a spurious, morality. The Bible teaches that all unconverted persons are in a state of sin, of total moral depravity, and consequent condemnation by the law of God; and that the conditions of salvation are repentance and a total renunciation of all sin, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, and sanctification by the Holy Spirit. Now these are by no means the conditions upon which Freemasonry proposes to save its members. The teachings of Freemasonry upon this subject are summarily this: Obey Masonic law, and live.
Now, surely, whatever promises heaven to men upon other conditions than those proposed in the Gospel of Christ is a fatal delusion. And this Freemasons can not deny, for they profess to accept the Bible as true. Freemasonry lays no stress at all upon conversion to Christ by the Holy Spirit. It presents no means or motives to secure that result. The idea of being turned from sin to holiness, from a self-pleasing spirit to a supreme love of God, by the preaching of the Gospel, accompanied by the Holy Spirit, is not taught in Freemasonry.
It nowhere recognizes men as being justified by faith in Christ, as being sanctified by faith in Christ, and as being saved as the Gospel recognizes men as being saved.
Indeed, it is salvation by Masonry, and not salvation by the Gospel, that Masonry insists upon. It is another gospel, or presents entirely another method of salvation than that presented in the Gospel. How can it be pretended by those who admit that the Gospel is true that men can be saved by Freemasonry at all? If Freemasons are good men, it is not Freemasonry that has made them so; but the Gospel has made them so, in spite of Freemasonry. If they are anything more than self-righteous, it is because of the teachings of the Gospel; for certainly Freemasonry teaches a very different way of salvation from that which the Gospel reveals. But, again, the prayers recorded in Freemasonry, and used by them in their lodges, are not Christian prayers; that is, they are not prayers offered in the name of Christ.
But the Gospel teaches us that it is fundamental to acceptable prayer that it be offered in the name of Christ. Again, as we have seen in a former number, the teachings of Freemasonry are scandalously false; and their ceremonies are a mockery, and truly shocking to Christian feelings.
Again, Freemasonry is a system of gross hypocrisy. It professes to be a saving institution, and promises salvation to those who keep its oaths and conform to its ancient usages. It also professes to be entirely consistent with the Christian religion. And this it does while it embraces as good and acceptable Masons hundreds of thousands who abhor Christianity, and scoff at the Bible and everything that the Bible regards as sacred. In a Christian nation it professes to receive Christianity as a true religion; in Mohammedan countries it receives the Koran as teaching the true religion; in heathen countries it receives their sacred books as of as much authority as that which is claimed in Christian countries for the Bible. In short, Freemasonry in a pagan country is pagan, in a Mohammedan country it is Mohammedan, and in a Christian country it professes to be Christian; but in this profession it is not only grossly inconsistent, but intensely hypocritical.
Notwithstanding all the boasts that are made in its lower degrees of its being a true religion, if you will examine the matter through to the end, you will find that, as you ascend in the scale of degrees, the mask is gradually thrown off, until we come to the "Philosophical Lodge," in the degree of the "Knights Adepts of the Eagle or Sun;" in which, as will be seen, no concealment is longer attempted. I will make a short quotation from this degree, as any one may find it in "Light on Masonry."--P. 18.
"Requisitions to make a good Mason.--If you ask me what are the requisite qualities that a Mason must be possessed of to come to the center of truth, I answer you that you must crush the head of the serpent, ignorance. You must shake off the yoke of infant prejudice, concerning the mysteries of the reigning religion, which worship has been imaginary and only founded on the spirit of pride, which envies to command and be distinguished, and to be at the head of the vulgar in affecting an exterior purity, which characterizes a false piety joined to a desire of acquiring that which is not its own, and is always the subject of this exterior pride and unalterable source of many disorders; which, being joined to gluttonness, is the daughter of hypocrisy, and employs every matter to satisfy carnal desires, and raises to these predominant passions altars upon which she maintains without ceasing the light of iniquity, and sacrifices continually offerings to luxury, voluptuousness, hatred, envy, and perjury.
"Behold, my dear brother, what you must fight against and destroy before you can come to the knowledge of the true good and sovereign happiness! Behold this monster which you must conquer--a serpent which we detest as an idol that is adored by the idiot and vulgar under the name of religion!"-- See "Light on Masonry," pp. 270, 271. 8th edition.
Here, then, Masonry stands revealed, after all its previous pretensions to being a true religion, as the unalterable opponent of the reigning or Christian religion. That it claims to be a religion is indisputable; but that it is not the Christian religion is equally evident. Nay, it finally comes out flat-footed, and represents the reigning or Christian religion as a serpent which Masons detest, as an idol which is adored by the idiot and vulgar under the name of religion.
Now let professed Christians who are Freemasons examine this for themselves. Do not turn away from examination of this subject.
And here, before I close this article, I beg to be understood that I have no quarrel with individual Masons. It is with the system that I have to deal. The great mass of the fraternity are utterly deceived, as I was myself. Very few, comparatively, of the fraternity are at all acquainted with what is really taught in the higher degrees as they ascend from one to another. None of them know anything of these degrees any further than they have taken them, unless they have studied them in the books as they are revealed. I can not believe that Christian men will remain connected with this institution, if they will only examine it for themselves and look it through to the end. I know that young Masons, and those who have only taken the lower degrees, will be shocked at what I have just quoted from a higher degree. I was so myself when first I examined the higher degrees. But you will inquire how, and in what sense, are we who have only taken the lower degrees responsible for the oaths and teachings of the higher degrees, which we have not taken. In a future number I shall briefly answer this question. Most Freemasons, and many who have been Masters of lodges of the lower degrees, are really so ignorant of what Masonry as a whole is, that when they are told the simple truth respecting it, they really believe that what you tell them is a lie. I am receiving letters from this class of Freemasons, accusing me of lying and misrepresentation, which accusations I charitably ascribe to ignorance. To such I say, Wait, gentlemen, until you are better informed upon the subject, and you will hold a different opinion.
I have quoted from Salem Town showing that he claims that Solomon established the institution by divine authority--that Town claims for it all that is claimed for Christianity as a saving religion. I might show that others of their standard writers set up the same claim. Now I am unwilling to believe that these writers are hypocrites. It must be that they have been imposed upon as I was. They were ignorant of the origin of Freemasonry. Perhaps this was not strange, especially as regards Mr. Town; for until within the last half century this matter has not been searched to the bottom. But certainly there is now no excuse for the ignorant or dishonest assertions that are so often made by Freemasons. Such pretenses palmed off as they now often are, upon those whose occupation or other causes forbid their examination of the subject, ought to arouse the righteous indignation of every honest citizen. I say it ought to do so; yes, and it must do so, when we see our dear young men lured by false pretenses in crowds into this snare of Satan. They get drawn in and committed, and, as we see, are afraid to be convinced of their error and become uncandid and will not honestly examine the subject. They will shun the light when it is offered. Can men be saved in this state of mind?