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By The Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY
THE ARGUMENT THAT GREAT AND GOOD MEN HAVE BEEN AND ARE FREEMASONS, EXAMINED
IT is the universal practice of Freemasons to claim as belonging to their fraternity a great many wise and good men.
As I have shown in a former number, Masonry itself claims to have been founded by Solomon, and to have been patronized by St. John. Their lodges are dedicated to St. John and Zerubbabel, as I have shown; and Solomon figures more or less prominently in a great number of their degrees. Now it has already been shown by their highest authorities that this claim of having been founded by Solomon and patronized by St. John is utterly without foundation. Strange to tell, while it claims to have always been one and identical, and that it never has been changed, still on the very face of the different degrees it is shown that the great majority of them are of recent origin. If, as their best historians assert, Speculative Freemasonry dates no further back than the eighteenth century, of course, the claim of Freemasons that their institution was established and patronized by inspired men can command no respect or confidence.
But, if this claim is false, what reason have we to have confidence in their assertions that so many great and good men of modern times were Freemasons. Investigation will prove that this claim is to a very great extent without foundation. It has been asserted here with the utmost confidence, over and over again, that Bishop McIlvaine was a Freemason. But having recently been written to on the subject, he replied that he never was a Freemason.
Again, it is no doubt true that many men have joined them, and, when they have taken a sufficient number of degrees to have the impression entirely removed from their minds that there is any secret in Freemasonry worth knowing, they have become disgusted with its shams, its hypocrisies, its falsehoods, its oaths and its ceremonies, its and its blasphemies; and they have paid no further attention to it.
Freemasons have paraded the fact that Gen. Washington was a Mason before the public. The following conclusion of a letter from him will speak for him, and show how little he had to do with Masonry. Before his death he warned the whole country to beware of secret societies. The letter alluded to is dated "Mt. Vernon, September 25, 1798." Here we have its conclusion. It needs no comment:
"I have little more to add than thanks for your wishes, and favorable sentiments, except to correct an error you have run into of my presiding over the English lodges in this country. The fact is I preside over none, nor have I been in one more than once or twice within the last thirty years. I believe, notwithstanding, that none of the lodges in this country are contaminated with the principles ascribed to the society of the Illuminate.
"Signed, GEORGE WASHINGTON."
I might quote numerous instances in which good men have at first hesitated, and finally refused to go any further in Masonry, and have threatened to expose the whole of it to the world. Whoever will read Elder Stearns' little books on Masonry will find examples of this.
But why should Freemasons lay so much stress on the fact that many good men have been Freemasons? It has always been the favorite method of supporting a bad institution to claim as its patrons the wise and good. This argument might have been used with great force, and doubtless was, in favor of idolatry in the time of Solomon and the prophets. Several of the kings of Israel were idolaters, as well as the queens and the royal family generally.
The great mass of the prophets, and religious teachers, and great men of the nation, lapsed into idolatry. Nearly all the learning, and wealth and influence of the whole nation could be appealed to as rejecting Christ. Those who received him were but a few fishermen, with some of the lowest of the people. Now what a powerful argument was this! If the argument of Masons be of any value, how overwhelming an argument must this have been against the claims of our Lord Jesus Christ!
Why the rejecters of Jesus could quote all the great men of the nation, and the pious men, and the wise men, as decidedly opposed to his claims! The same was true after his death and resurrection for a great while. The question would often arise: "Do any of the rulers believe on him?"
An institution is not to be judged by the conduct of a few of its members who might have been either worse or better than its principles. Christianity, e.g., is not to be judged by the conduct of particular professed Christians; but by its laws, its principles, by what it justifies and by what it condemns. Christianity condemns all iniquity. It abhors covering up iniquity. In the case of its greatest and most prominent professors, it exposes and denounces their sin, and never justifies
But Masonry, on the other hand, is a secret work of darkness. It requires its members to take an oath to cover up each other's sins. It requires them to swear, under the most awful penalties, that they will seek the condign punishment of every one who in any instance violates any point of their obligation. It, therefore, justifies the murder of those who betray its secrets.
Masons consistently justified the murder of Morgan, as everybody in this country knows who has paid any attention to the subject.
This is not inconsistent with their principles. Indeed, it is the very thing demanded, the very thing promised under oath.
But again: This same argument, by which Masons are attempting to sustain their institution, was always resorted to to sustain the practice of slaveholding.
Why, how many wise and good men, it was said, were slaveholders. The churches and ecclesiastical bodies at the North were full of charity in respect to them. They could not denounce slaveholding as a sin.
They would say that it was an evil; but for a long time they could not be persuaded to pronounce it a moral evil, a sin. And why? Why, because so many doctors of divinity were slaveholders and were defending the institution. Because a large portion of the church, of nearly every denomination, were involved in the abomination. "They are good men," it was said; "they are great men--we must be charitable."
And so, when this horrid civil war came on, these great and good men, that had sustained the institution of slavery, sustained and stimulated the war.
Many of them took up arms, and fought with desperation to sustain the institution. But what is thought now--at least throughout all the North, and throughout all the Christian world--of the great and good men who have done this thing? Who does not now admit that they were deluded? that they had anything but the Spirit of Christ? that they were in the hands of the Devil all along?
The fact is, this has always been the device of those who have sustained any system of wickedness. They have taken pains, in one way and another, to draw into their ranks men of reputation for wisdom and piety, men of high standing in Church and State. A great many of those who are claimed by Freemasons to be of their number never were Freemasons at all. Others were entrapped into it, and turned a "cold shoulder" upon it, and paid no more attention to it; but were ever after claimed as Freemasons.
But there are great multitudes of Freemasons who have taken some of the degrees, and have become heartily disgusted with it. But, knowing that Freemasons are under oath to persecute and even murder them if they publicly renounce it and expose its secrets; they remain quiet, say nothing about it, and go no further with it; but are still claimed as Freemasons. As soon as public sentiment is enough aroused to make them feel safe in doing what they regard as their solemn duty, great numbers of them will no doubt publicly renounce it. At present they are afraid to do so. They are afraid that their business will be ruined, their characters assailed, and their lives at least put in jeopardy.
But it should be understood that, while it may be true that there are many pious and wise men belonging to the Masonic fraternity, yet there are thousands of learned and pious men who have renounced it, and thousands more who have examined its claims, and who reject it as an imposture and as inconsistent either with Christianity or good government
It is sometimes said: "Those men that renounced Masonry in the days of Morgan are dead. There are now thousands of living witnesses. Why should we take the testimony of the dead instead of that of the living? The living we know; the dead we do not know."
To this I answer, first: There are thousands of renouncing Masons still living who reiterate their testimony on all proper occasions against the institution. Many of them we know, or may know; and they are not dead witnesses, but living. Now, if it was wickedness that led those men to renounce Freemasonry and publish its secrets, how is it that no instance has ever occurred in which a seceding Freemason has renounced and denounced his renunciation, and gone back into the ranks of Freemasons? I have never heard of such a case. It is well for the cause of truth that this question has come up again before the Masons that renounced the institution in the days of Morgan were all dead. It is well that hundreds and thousands of them are still alive, and are still living witnesses, bearing their steady and unflinching testimony against the institution.
But, again: The present living witnesses who testify in its behalf, let it be remembered, are interested witnesses. They still adhere to the institution. They are under oath not to speak against it, but in every way to support it. Of what value, then, is their testimony in its favor?
The fact is, we have their secrets published; and these books speak for themselves. Let the living or the dead say what they may, the truth is established that these books truly reveal Masonry; and by this revelation let the institution stand or fall.
If any thing can be established by human testimony, it is established that Bernard's "Light on Masonry" has revealed Masonry substantially as it is. Bernard is still living. He is an old man; but he has recently said: "What I have written I have written on this subject. I have nothing to add, and I have nothing to retract." And there are still hundreds and thousands of men who know that he has published the truth. How vain and frivolous, then, is the inquiry, "Why should we not take the testimony of living rather than of dead witnesses?" The prophets and apostles are dead. Why not take the testimony of living skeptics that we know? Some of them are learned and respectable men. Alas! if dead men are not to be believed!