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By The Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY
WE are prepared in this number to take up the question, How are the public to know what Freemasonry really is? This we may answer.
1. Negatively. (1.) Masonry cannot be known from a perusal of the eulogistic books which adhering Masons have written. Of course they are under oath in no way whatever to reveal the secrets of Masonry. But it is their secrets that the public are concerned to know. Now their eulogistic books, as any one may know who will examine them, are silly, and for the most part little better than twaddle. If we read their orations and sermons that have been published in support of Masonry, and the books that they have written, we shall find much that is silly, much that is false, and a great deal more that is mere bombast and rho domontade. I do not say this rashly. Any person who will examine the subject for himself must admit that this language is strictly true. But I shall have occasion hereafter when we come to examine the character of the institution, to show more clearly the utter ignorance or dishonesty of the men who have eulogized it.
Let it be understood, then, that adhering Masons do not profess to publish their secrets. And that which the country and the church are particularly interested to understand they never publish--their oaths, for example; and, therefore, we cannot tell from what they write what they are under oath to do.
(2.) We cannot learn what Masonry is from the oral testimony of adhering Masons.
Let it be pondered well that every one of them is under oath to conceal and in no way whatever to reveal the secrets of the order. This Freemasons do not deny. Hence, if they are asked if the books in which Masonry has been published are true, they will either evade the question or else they will lie; and they are under oath to do so.
Observe, adhering Masons are the men who still acknowledge the binding obligation of their oaths. Now, if they are asked if those books truly reveal Masonry, they consider themselves under an obligation to deny it, if they say anything about it. And, as they are well aware that to refuse to say anything about it is a virtual acknowledgment that the books are true, and would therefore be an indirect revelation of Masonry; they will almost universally deny that the books are true. Some of them are ashamed to say anything more than that there is some truth and a great deal of falsehood in them.
(3.) As they are under oath to conceal the secrets of Masonry, and in no wise whatever to reveal any part of them, their testimony in regard to the truthfulness or untruthfulness of those books is of no value whatever. It is mere madness to receive the testimony of men who are under oath, and under the most horrid oaths that can be taken--oaths sustained by the most terrific penalties that can be named to conceal their secrets and to deny that they have been published, and that those books contain them--I say it is downright madness to receive the testimony of such men, it matters not who they are. Masons have no right to expect an intelligent person to believe their denials that these books have truly revealed Masonry. Nor have they a right to complain if we reject their testimony. What would they have us do? Shall we believe the testimony of men who admit that they are under oath to conceal and never in any way reveal the secrets of their order, when they deny that their secrets are revealed in certain books, and shall we ignore the testimony of thousands who have conscientiously renounced those horrid oaths, at the hazard of their lives, and declared with one accord, and many of them under the sanction of judicial oaths lawfully administered, that Morgan, Bernard and others have truly revealed the secrets of Freemasonry? There are at this day thousands of most conscientious men who are ready to testify on oath that those books contain a substantially correct exposition of Freemasonry as it was and is. I say again that Freemasons have no right to expect us to believe their denials; for while they adhere to Masonry they are under oath to "conceal and never reveal" any part of its secrets and of course they must expressly or impliedly deny every revelation of its secrets that can be made. Would they have us stultify ourselves by receiving their testimony ?
2. Positively. How, then, are we to know what Masonry is? I answer: (1.) From the published and oral testimony of those who have taken the degrees; and afterward, from conscientious motives, have confessed their error, and have publicly renounced Masonry. But it has been said that these are perjured men, and therefore not at all to be believed. But let it be remarked that this very accusation is an admission that they have published the truth; for, unless they have published the secrets of Masonry truly, they have violated no Masonic oath. Therefore, when Masons accuse them of being perjured, the very objection which they make to the testimony of these witnesses is an acknowledgment on the part of Masons themselves that they have truly published their secrets.
But again. If to reveal the secrets of Masonry be perjury, it follows that to accuse the revealers of Masonry of perjury, is itself perjury; because by their accusation they tacitly admit that that which has been published is truly a revelation of Masonry, and therefore their accusation is a violation of their oath of secresy. Let it then be understood that the very objection to these witnesses, that they have committed perjury, is itself an acknowledgment that the witnesses are entirely credible, and have revealed Masonry as it is. And not only so--but in bringing forward the objection, they commit perjury themselves, if it be perjury to reveal their secrets, because, as I have said, in accusing the witnesses of perjury, they add their testimony to the fact that these witnesses have published Masonry as it is. So that by their own testimony, in bringing this charge of perjury, they themselves swell the number of witnesses to the truthfulness of these revelations.
(2.) Renouncing Masons are the best possible witnesses by whom to prove what Masonry really is. (a.) They are competent witnesses. They testify from their own personal knowledge of what it is. (5.) They are in the highest degree credible witnesses. First, because they testify against themselves. They confess their own wrong in having taken those terrible oaths, and in having had any part in sustaining the institution. Secondly, their testimony is given with the certainty of incurring a most unrelenting persecution. Adhering Freemasons are under oath to persecute them, to destroy their characters, and to seek to bring them to condign punishment. This we shall see when we come to examine the books.
Adhering Masons have persecuted, and still persecute, those that reveal their secrets, just as far as they dare. They are in the highest degree intolerant., and this every Mason knows. In a recent number of their great Masonic organ, published in New York, they advise the Masons in Oberlin in no way to patronize those who oppose them. Those who renounce Masonry are well aware of their danger. But, notwithstanding, they are constrained by their consciences, by the fear and love of God, and by regard to the interests of their country, to renounce and expose it. Now, surely, witnesses that testify under such circumstances are entitled to credit; especially as they could have had no conceivable motive for deceiving the public. Their testimony was wrung from them by conscience. And the authors of the books that I have named, together with several others--such as Richardson, Stearns, and Mr. Allyn, and I know not how many others--are sustained by the testimony of forty-five thousand who publicly renounced Masonry, out of a little more than fifty thousand that composed the whole number of Freemasons then in the United States. Now, it should be well remembered that the five thousand who still adhered belonged almost altogether to the slaveholding States, and had peculiar reasons for still adhering to the institution of Masonry. And, further, let it be distinctly observed that, as they adhered to Masonry, their testimony is null, because they still regarded themselves as under oath in no wise to reveal their secrets; consequently, they would, of course, deny that these books had truly revealed Masonry. I say again, it is mere madness to receive their testimony.