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By The Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY
RELATIONS OF MASONRY TO THE CHURCH OF CHRIST
We are now prepared to consider the question of the relation of Freemasonry to the Church of Christ. On this question I remark:
lst. God holds the church and every branch of it, responsible for its opinion and action in accordance with the best light, which, in his providence, is afforded them. This, indeed, is law universal, equally applicable to all moral agents, at all times and in all places. But at present I consider its application to the Church of God. If any particular. branch of the church has better means of information, and therefore more light on moral questions, than another branch, its responsibility is greater, in proportion to its greater means of information. Such a branch of the church is bound to take a higher and more advanced position in Christian life and duty, to bear a fuller and higher testimony against every form of iniquity, than that required by less favored and less informed branches of the church. They are not to wait till other branches of the church have received their light, before they bear a testimony and pursue a course in accordance with their own degree of information.
2d. While Masonry was a secret, the church had no light, and no responsibility respecting it. Although individual members of the church, were Freemasons, as a body, she knew nothing of Masonry; therefore she could say nothing of it, except as its results appeared to be revealed in the lives of individuals; and, in judging from this source of evidence, the church could not decide, if the lives of the members were good or bad, whether it was Freemasonry that made them so; because, of its nature, designs, principles, oaths, doctrines, secret practices, she knew nothing. Hence God did not require the church to bear any testimony on the subject as long as Masonry was a secret. The world did not expect the church to take any action, or to bear any testimony on the subject, as long as Masonry was a thing unknown, except to the initiated. In those circumstances the unconverted world did not expect any testimony from the church, and they had no right to expect it. The well-known fact, that many professed Christians were Freemasons, was then no disgrace to the Church of God, because the character of Freemasonry was not known.
3d. But the state of the case is now greatly changed. Freemasonry is now revealed. It is no longer a secret to any who wish to be informed. Its nature, character, aims, oaths, principles, doctrines, usages, are in print, and the books in which they are revealed are scattered broadcast over the land. As long ago as 1826, Wm. Morgan published verbatim the first three degrees of Masonry. That these degrees were faithfully published as they were known, and taken in the lodges, no man can truthfully deny. Two, or more spurious editions of this work have been published, for the sake of deceiving the public. To obtain a correct edition of this work is at present difficult. Just previous to the publication of this work, EIder Stearns, a Baptist minister, and a high Mason, one who had taken many Masonic degrees, a man of good character who is still living, had published a volume entitled "An inquiry into the nature and tendency of Speculative Freemasonry." In 1860 the same author published a volume entitled "Letters on Freemasonry, addressed chiefly to the Fraternity," with an appendix. He has recently published another volume entitled "A new chapter on Freemasonry." Soon after the publication of Morgan's book, already referred to, a body of seceding Masons, appointed a committee of sixteen, if I do not mistake the number, upon which committee were several ministers of Christ, to prepare and publish a correct version of forty-eight degrees of Freemasonry. Elder Bernard had taken a large number of degrees, I know not exactly how many. The degrees ordered to be published by this committee were carefully collected and arranged and published under the following title, "'Light on Masonry;' A collection of all the most important documents on the subject of Speculative Masonry, embracing the reports of the western committees in relation to the abduction of Wm. Morgan, proceedings of conventions, orations, essays, etc., etc., with all the degrees of the order conferred in a Master's lodge as written by Capt. Wm. Morgan, all the degrees conferred in the Royal Arch Chapter, and Grand Encampment of Knights Templar, with the appendant orders as published by the convention of seceding Masons, held at Leroy, July 4th and 5th, 1828. Also, a revelation of all the degrees conferred in the Lodge of Perfection and fifteen degrees of a still higher order, with seven French degrees, making forty-eight degrees of Freemasonry, with notes and critical remarks by Elder David Bernard, of Warsaw, Genesee County, New York, once an intimate Secretary of the Lodge of Perfection. This book soon passed through seven editions. An eighth, but an abridged edition, has been recently published in Dayton, Ohio." Since the publication of Bernard's book, a volume has been published, entitled "Richardson's Monitor of Freemasonry;" being a practical guide to the ceremonies in all the degrees conferred in Masonic Lodges, Chapters, Encampments, etc., explaining the signs, tokens and grips, and giving all the words, passwords, sacred words, oaths, and hieroglyphics used by Masons. The ineffable and historical degrees are also given in full. By Jabez Richardson, A.M. In this book are published sixty-two Masonic degrees, with diagrams of lodges, and drawings representing their signs and ceremonies. Brother Avery Allyn has also published a large number of Masonic degrees. The question of the reliability of these works, I have discussed in a previous number. I am a little more particular in naming them in this place, for the information of those who have not seen the books. The substantial accord of all these authors, and their reliability, seems to be established beyond all reasonable question. Now, since these revelations are made, and both the church and the world are aware of what Masonry really is, God demands, and the world has a right to expect, that the church will take due action and bear a truthful testimony in respect to this institution. She can not now innocently hold her peace. The light has come. Fidelity to God, and to the souls of men, require that the church, which is the light of the world, should speak out, and should take such action as will plainly reveal her views of the compatibility or incompatibility of Freemasonry with the Christian religion. As God's witnesses, as the pillar and ground of the truth, the church is bound to give the trumpet no uncertain sound, upon this question, that all men may know, whether, in her judgment, an intelligent embracing and determinate adhering to Freemasonry are compatible with a truthful profession of religion.
4th. The Church of Christ knows Masonry through these books. This is the best and most reliable source of information that we can have, or can reasonably ask. We have seen in a former number, that Freemasons do not pretend that Freemasonry has been substantially altered since the publication of these books, that we have the most satisfactory evidence that it has not been, and can not be substantially changed. Let it therefore be distinctly understood, that the action and testimony of the church respects Freemasonry as it is revealed in these books, and not as individuals may affirm of it, pro or con. By these books we know it. By these books we judge it, and let it be understood that whatever action we take upon it, or whatever we say of it, we both act and speak of Masonry as it is here revealed, and of no other Masonry or thing, whatever. To this course, neither Masons nor any one else can justly take exceptions. From all the testimony in the case, we are shut up to this course. Let not Freemasons complain of this. These books certainly reveal Masonry as it was forty years ago. If it has been changed, the burden of proof is on them, and inasmuch as they make no pretense that Masonry has been reformed, and in view of the fact, that they still maintain that they embrace all the principles and usages of ancient Freemasonry, we are bound to speak our minds of Freemasonry as these books reveal
5th. Judging then, from these revelations, how can we fail to pronounce Freemasonry an anti-Christian institution? For example, 1st. We have seen that its morality is unchristian. 2d. Its oath-bound secrecy is unchristian. 3d. The administration and taking of its oaths are unchristian, and a violation of a positive command of Christ. 4th. Masonic oaths pledge its members to commit most unlawful and unchristian deeds. a. To conceal each others crimes. b. To deliver each other from difficulty whether right or wrong. c. To unduly favor Masonry in political actions and in business transactions. d. Its members are sworn to retaliate, and persecute unto death, the violators of Masonic obligation. e. Freemasonry knows no mercy, but swears its candidates to avenge violations of Masonic obligation even unto death. f. Its oaths are profane, the taking of the name of God in vain. g. The penalties of these oaths are barbarous and even savage. h. Its teachings are false and profane. i. Its design is partial and selfish. j. Its ceremonies are a mixture of puerility and profanity. k. Its religion is Deistic. l. It is a false religion, and professes to save men upon other conditions than those revealed in the Gospel of Christ. m. It is an enormous falsehood. n. It is a swindle, and obtains money from its membership under false pretenses. o. It refuses all examination, and veils itself under a mantle of oath-bound secrecy. p. It is a virtual conspiracy against both Church and State. No one, therefore, has ever undertaken, and for the plainest reasons none will undertake, to defend Freemasonry as it is revealed in these books. Their arguments are threats, calumny, persecution, assassination. Freemasons do not pretend that Freemasonry, as revealed in these books, is compatible with Christianity. I have not yet known the first Freemason who would affirm that an intelligent adherence to Freemasonry, as revealed in these books, is consistent with a profession of the Christian religion. But we know, if we can know anything from testimony, that these books do truly reveal Freemasonry. We have, then, the implied testimony of Freemasons themselves, that the Christian Church ought to have no fellowship with Freemasonry as thus revealed, and that those who adhere intelligently and determinately to such an institution have no fight to be in the Christian Church. In our judgment we are forced to the same conclusion, we can not escape from it, we wish it were otherwise, we therefore sorrowfully, but solemnly, pronounce this judgment.
6th. Every local branch of the Church of Christ is bound to examine this subject, and pronounce upon this institution, according to the best light they can get. God does not allow individuals, or churches, to withhold action, and the expression of their opinion, until other churches are as enlightened as themselves. We are bound to act up to our own light, and to go as far in advance of others as we have better means of information than they. We have no right to say to God that we will act according to our own convictions, when others become so enlightened that our action will be popular and meet their approval.
Again: Those individuals and churches, who have had the best means of information, owe it to other branches of the church, and to the whole world, to take action and to pronounce upon the unchristian character of Freemasonry, as the most influential means within their reach of arousing the whole church and the world to an examination of the character and claims of Freemasonry. If churches who are known to have examined the subject withhold their testimony; if they continue to receive persistent and intelligent Freemasons; if they leave the public to infer that they see nothing in Freemasonry inconsistent with a creditable profession of the Christian religion, it will be justly inferred by other branches of the church, and by the world, that there is nothing in it so bad, so dangerous and unchristian as to call for their examination, action, or testimony. Before the publishing of Morgan's book, the Baptist denomination, especially, in that part of the country, had been greatly carried away by Freemasonry. A large proportion of its eldership and membership were Freemasons. A considerable number of ministers and members of other branches of the Christian Church had also fallen into the snare. The murder of Wm. Morgan, and the publication of Masonry consequent thereupon in the books I have named, broke upon the churches--fast asleep on this subject--like a clap of thunder from a clear sky. The facts were such, the revelations were so clear, that the Baptist denomination backed down, and took the lead in renouncing and denouncing the institution. Their elders and associated churches, almost universally, passed resolutions disfellowshiping adhering Masons. The denomination, to a considerable extent, took the same course. Throughout the Northern States, at that time, I believe it was almost universally conceded, that persistent Freemasons, who continued to adhere and co-operate with them, ought not to be admitted to Christian churches. Now, it is worthy of all consideration and remembrance, that God set the seal of His approbation upon the action taken by those churches at that time, by pouring out His Spirit upon them.
Great revivals immediately followed over that whole region. The discussion of the subject, and the action of the churches took place in 1827-'8 and '9, and in 1830 the greatest revival spread over this region that had ever been known in this or any other country. They knew Masonry, as we know it, by an examination of those books in which it had been revealed. We have the same means of knowing Freemasonry, if we will use them, that those churches and ecclesiastical bodies had. We have the highest evidence that the nature of the case will admit, that God approved of their decision and action. In the brief outline that I have given in the preceding pages, I have endeavored to show truthfully, so far as my space would allow, what Freemasonry really is, and if it is what these books represent it to be, it seems to me clear as noonday, that it is an anti-Christian institution. And should the question be asked, "What shall be done with the great number of professed Christians who are Freemasons?" I answer, Let them have no more to do with it. Again, let Christian men labor with them, plead with them, and endeavor to make them see it to be their duty to abandon it. These oaths should be distinctly read to them, and they should be asked whether they acknowledge the obligation of these oaths, and whether they intend to do the things that they have sworn to do. Let it be distinctly pressed upon their consciences, that all Masons above the first two degrees have solemnly sworn to conceal each other's crimes, murder and treason alone excepted, and all above the sixth degree have sworn to conceal each other's crimes, without an exception. All above the sixth degree have sworn to espouse each other's cause and to deliver them from any difficulty, whether they are right or wrong. If they have taken those degrees where they swear to persecute unto death those who violate their obligations, let them be asked whether they intend to do any such thing. Let them be distinctly asked whether they intend still to aid and abet the administration and taking of these oaths, if they still intend to countenance the false and hypocritical teachings of Masonry, if they mean to countenance the profanity of their ceremonies, and practice the partiality they have sworn to practiced. If so, surely they should not be allowed their places in the church.