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 con-tained 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.

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 as a lively stone in that spiritual building in the heavens, will bring him forth with triumph, while shouting grace, grace to the Divine Redeemer. Hence, opens the fifth degree, where he discovers his election to and his glorified station in the kingdom of his Father." "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. "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.

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. 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's 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. It is not proper for me to quote extensively from any book in a newspaper article.

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."

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.

But under this head I will, in the first place, quote from some of their standard writers. Elder Bradley is one of them. On p. 54 of his work he says: "Masonry, however, is not only the most ancient, but the most moral institution ever invented by man." Again he says, p. 33, that "Masonic principles are the same in every age and nation."

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!





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