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By The Rev. CHARLES G. FINNEY
ROYAL ARCH DEGREE
The fourth degree of Masonry is that of "Mark Master." The fifth is that of "Past Master." The sixth is that of "Most Excellent Master." In these the same points, in substance, are sworn to as in the Master's degree. In each succeeding oath the candidate recognizes and reaffirms all of his past obligations. In nearly every obligation the candidates swear implicit allegiance to the Grand Lodge of the United States and to the Grand Lodge of the State under which his lodge holds its charter. The candidate swears, also, that he will never be present at the raising of any person to a higher degree who has not regularly taken each and all of the previous or lower degrees. In the first degree secresy alone is enjoined. After this, additionaI clauses are introduced at every step, until the oaths of some of the higher degrees spread over several pages. They nearly all pledge pecuniary help to poor, indigent, worthy Masons, and their families, as far as they can without material injury to themselves and families. They never promise to deny themselves or families any comfort or luxury for the purpose of helping indigent worthy sons or their families. They never promise in their oaths to give pecuniary aid to any but Masons and their families. These families, by their head, have paid into the Masonic fund the amount that entitles them to aid, in case of pecuniary want, on the principle of mutual insurance against want.
All Masons above the third, or Master's degree, are sworn to keep inviolate the secrets of a brother, murder and treason excepted, up to the seventh, or Royal Arch degree. In the oath of this degree the candidate, as we shall see, swears to keep all the secrets of companion of this degree, murder and treason not excepted. All Masons of and above this degree are solemnly bound to do this. The same is true of all the points sworn to in this obligation which we proceed to examine.
In reviewing this and the degrees above it, I shall not need to give them in full, as they are substantially and almost verbatim alike, except as new points are added as the candidate goes on from one degree to another. The Royal Arch degree is taken in a lodge called a chapter. A Mason of this degree is called a companion, while in the lower degrees Masons address each other as brothers. After swearing to the same points contained in previously taken oaths, the kneeling candidate, with hands on the Holy Bible, proceeds: "I furthermore promise and swear, that I will aid and assist a companion Royal Arch Mason when engaged in any difficulty, and espouse his cause so far as to extricate him from the same, if within my power, whether he be right or wrong.
Here, then we have a class of men sworn, under most frightful penalties, to espouse the cause of a companion so far as to extricate him from any difficulty, to the extent of their power, whether he is right or wrong. How can such a man be safely intrusted with any office connected with the administration of the law? He means to abide by and perform this solemn oath, or he does not. It he does, will he not inevitably defeat the due execution of law, if intrusted with office connected with it? Suppose he is a magistrate, a sheriff, marshal, or constable, will he not be able to prevent the execution of justice, if he does all within his power, as he is solemnly sworn to do? If on a jury, if sworn as a witness, how can he be trusted, if he fulfills his Masonic vows?
But suppose he does not intend to abide by and fulfill his vows, but still adheres and does not renounce them; suppose he still recognizes their obligation, but fails to fulfill them, is he a man to be trusted with an office? If he does not respect and fulfill his Masonic oaths, the validity of which he acknowledges by continued adherence, of what avail will be his oath of office? Of what use will it be for him to swear that he will faithfully execute the laws, if he has taken the oath of this degree, and either fulfills or fails to fulfill it? If he fulfills it, he surely will not execute the law upon a companion Royal Arch Mason. If he still adheres to, but fails to fulfill his oath, he does not respect the solemnity of an oath, and ought not to be intrusted with an office. If he publicly, sincerely, and penitently renounces his Masonic oath as unlawful, profane, and not binding, he may be trusted with office, but while he adheres he must violate either his oath of office, or his Masonic oath, whenever the accused is a Royal Arch Mason, and, indeed, whenever such an one is involved in any legal difficulty.
I beseech the public not to think this severe. There is, in fact, no third way. Take either horn of the dilemma and it amounts to the same thing. To treat this lightly, as some are disposed to do, or to get over it under cover of the plea of charity, is worse than nonsense; it is wicked to ignore the truth, and proceed as if there were no great wrong in this case. There is great wrong, great sin, and great danger in this case--danger to both Church and State, danger to the souls of men thus situated. I beseech this class of men to consider this matter, and renounce this position. If they will not, I see neither justice nor safety in allowing such men to hold an office in Church or State.
But what is the moral character of a man who espouses the cause, and does all he can to rescue a criminal from the hands of justice
I answer, he is a partaker of his guilt. He is truly an accessory after the fact. This oath does not contemplate the professional services of an advocate employed to defend an accused person in a court of justice. But even in this case an advocate has no right to defeat the due administration of justice, and turn the criminal loose to prey upon society. When he does this he sins both against God and society. It is his business to see that no injustice is done the accused; to secure for him a fair and impartial trial, but not to rescue him, if guilty. An advocate who would "espouse the cause" of a criminal "so far as to extricate him from his difficulty, whether right or wrong," would deserve the execration of both God and man.
The candidate in this degree proceeds, as follows: "Also, that I will promote a companion Royal Arch Mason's political preferment in preference to another of equal qualifications." Bernard, who has taken this and many other Masonic oaths, says, in his "Light on Masonry," in a foot-note, that this clause of the oath is, in some chapters, made a distinct point in the obligation, thus: "I furthermore promise and swear, that I will vote for a companion Royal Arch Mason before any other of equal qualifications," and in some chapters both are left out of the obligation. Upon this clause I remark:
1. Freemasons deny that Freemasonry has anything to do with any man's political opinions, or actions, provided he be not the enemy of his country. From this obligation, or oath, he can judge of the truth or falsehood of this profession. Again, who does not know that thousands of the Southern rebels were and are accepted Freemasons. How does this fact comport with the pretense that a Freemason must be loyal to the government under which he lives. In the higher degrees they swear to be loyal and true to their government, but are the Southern Masons so?
2. We see why such efforts are made to increase the number of Royal Arch Masons, and the reasons held out to induce political aspirants to become Royal Arch Masons. It is said, I suppose truly, that Royal Arch Masons are multiplying by scores of thousands in this country. It is, beyond doubt, the design of their leaders to control the elections and secure the offices throughout the country. From letters received from reliable parties I learn that in some localities Masons avow this design. But whether they avow or deny it, this oath unmistakably reveals their design. Why is this clause found in this oath? It is presumption and foolhardiness to ignore this plain revelation of their design to control the government, secure the offices, and have everything their own way. If the public can not be aroused to look this conspiracy in the face, and rise up and put it down in time, they will surely find, too late, that their hands are tied, and that virtual slavery or a bloody revolution awaits us. Our children and grandchildren will reap the bitter fruits of our own folly and credulity. What do Freemasons mean by this oath? They either intend to keep it, or not to keep it. If they mean to do as they have promised under the most solemn oath to do, then Freemasonry, at least Freemasonry of this and all the higher degrees, is a political conspiracy to secure the offices and the control of the government. I say Freemasonry of this and of all the higher degrees, for be it remembered that all Masons of and above this degree have taken the oath of this degree. I quote the following from an able editorial in the Albany Evening Journal Extra, October 27, 1831: "An addition was made to the Master's oath, in the northern part of this State, a few years since, by Gov. Pitcher, who introduced it from Vermont.
It was to the effect that, in voting for officers, preference should be given to a Mason over another candidate of equal qualifications. Very respectable testimony of the fact was published very generally in the newspapers, about two years since, and has never, to the knowledge of the writer, been contradicted or questioned. It is admitted that this obligation, in terms, has not generally been administered (that is, in a Master's Lodge), but it is insisted that if the principle be once admitted that men in our country may band together in secret conclave, for any purpose not known to the laws, and may bind themselves under obligations involving the penalty of death for their transgressions, they may as well pledge themselves to any new object, or purpose, as to those for which they have already associated. There is no limit to the extent of such associations, if they are allowed at all. The principle itself is radically wrong. But independent of any positive obligation, the very creation of such artificial ties of brotherhood, the strength which they acquire by frequent repetition and by the associations of the fraternity, necessarily produce a clannish attachment which will ordinarily exhibit itself in the most important concerns of life in bestowing business and patronage on a brother, and in elevating him to office and rank which will reflect back honor upon the order to which he belongs. The inevitable result, therefore, of such institutions is to give one class of citizens unequal and unjust advantages over those who are not of the favored order. And when we find this natural result hastened and strengthened by obligations, under the most awful penalties, to fly to the relief of a brother, to espouse his cause, whether right or wrong, and to conceal his crimes, have not the rest of the community a right to say to these exclusives, these privileged orders, "we will not submit to your usurpations, and until you restore your fellowcitizens to equal rights and privileges with you, we will not give you our votes or trust you with public office." To these remarks I fully subscribe. But I return to another clause of this oath. The candidate proceeds: "Furthermore do I promise and swear, that a companion Royal Arch Mason's secrets, given me in charge as such, and I knowing them to be such, shall remain as secure and inviolable in my breast as in his own, murder and treason not excepted." Bernard says, in a foot-note, "In some chapters this is administered, 'All the secrets of a companion, without exception.'" Upon this clause I remark:
1. That Freemasonry waxes worse and worse as you ascend from the lower to the higher degrees. It will be remembered that in the Master's oath murder and treason were excepted in the oath of secresy. In this degree murder and treason are not excepted. Now, as all Masons who take the degrees above this have also taken this oath, it follows that all that army of Freemasons, composed of Royal Arch Masons, and all who have taken the degrees above this are under the most solemn oath to conceal each other's crimes, without exception. And what an institution is this, to be allowed existence under any government, especially under a republican form of government? Is it safe to have such a set of men scattered broadcast over all the United States? Let us look this thing squarely in the face. It can not be honestly denied that Royal Arch Masons take this oath. But a short time since a minister of the Gospel of my acquaintance was confronted with this oath, and he did not deny having taken it. Now, if all that vast army of Masons who have taken this oath intend to do as they swear to do, what must be the result? Scores and hundreds of thousands of men, scattered broadcast over the whole land, are pledged by the most solemn oath, and under the penalty of death, to conceal each other's crimes, without exception. Are such men to be safely intrusted with office, either in Church or State? And must not a government be on the verge of ruin when such a conspiracy is allowed to multiply its numbers at such a frightful rate as it is doing, at this time, in this country? Will the people of the United States have the foolhardiness to ignore the crime and danger of this conspiracy against their liberty? Or will they good-naturedly assume that Freemasons mean no such thing? Why, then, is this oath? Will they, under the cover of mock charity, assume that these men will not cover up each other's crimes? What kind of charity is this? Is it charity to believe that a set of men will lie, under oath, as all Freemasons above the degree of Fellow Craft must do, if they do not conceal each other's crimes? Again, what right have Freemasons, themselves, to complain of a want of charity in those who regard them as conspirators against good government? Why, what shall we do? If they do not repent of, and renounce, these oaths, we must either regard them as conspirators against government, or as men who will lie, under the solemnity of a most awful oath. The gentlemen must choose which horn of the dilemma they will take. On the one hand, they are sworn conspirators against the execution of the criminal laws; on the other, they are a class of men that do not regard the solemnity of an oath. This is the exact truth, and it is folly and madness to ignore it. Freemasons, therefore, have no right to complain of us, if we take them at their word, and believe that they mean to do what they have sworn they will do. They demand charity of us. Is it not charitable to believe that they intend to fulfill such solemn vows, made, and often repeated, under such terrible sanctions ? The candidate of this degree concludes by saying: "Binding myself under no less penalty than that of having my skull smote off, and my brains exposed to the scorching rays of the sun, should I ever, knowingly, or willfully, violate or transgress any part of this, my solemn oath or obligation as a Royal Arch Mason. So help me, God, and keep me steadfast in the performance of the same." Now, upon this awful sanction, the candidate swears that he will not wrong the chapter, or a companion of this degree, out of anything, or suffer it to be done by others, if in his power to prevent it. Men in certain business partnerships and relations, whose partners have been Royal Arch Masons, have been influenced to take this degree to prevent their being wronged by their Masonic partners. On the best authority, I have been informed of one case of this kind, recently, and it turned out that while the one who was thus induced to take this degree was in the army, fighting the battles of his country, his Royal Arch partner deliberately cheated him out of several thousand dollars. What shall we say to, what shall we do with, these men who swarm in every part of this country, and who are thus banded together to espouse each other's cause and to extricate each other from any difficulty, whether they are right or wrong, to conceal each other's crimes, to vote each other into office, and the like? Can wholesome society continue to exist under the influence of such an institution as this?