Through all the Masonic degrees the pretense is kept up that masonry has always been one and the same; and that its degrees are ancient, and all its principles and usages of great antiquity. Let any one examine the books in which it is revealed, and he cannot help being struck with this. Furthermore, in the orations, sermons, and puffs that are so common with Masons on all occasions on which they show themselves off, they flaunt their very ancient date, their very ancient principles and usages; and they pledge their candidates, from one degree to another, to conform to all the ancient rites, principles, and usages of the order.

But what shall we at the present day say of these pretensions? I have before me the Masonic Monthly for October, 1867, printed in Boston. It will not be denied, I suppose, that this is one of their standard authorities. At any rate, whatever may be said of the editor of this paper, it will not be denied that the authorities quoted in the discussions in this number are high, if not the very highest, authorities in the Masonic fraternity. If I had space to quote nearly this entire number, I should be very happy to do so; for it is occupied almost entirely, from beginning to end, with exposing these pretensions to which I have alluded. It appeals to their own standard authorities; and insists that Speculative Freemasonry, in all its higher degrees, is an imposture and a swindle. It quotes their great historian--Steinbrenner, of New York--to show that Speculative Freemasonry was first established in London, in 1717; and that at that time Masonry consisted, probably, of but one degree. That about 1725 a Mr. Anderson added two degrees; and, as the writer in this number states, began the Christianizing of Freemasonry. There is at this day a great division among Freemasons themselves, the point of disagreement being this: One party maintains that the Christian religion is of no more authority with Masons than any other form of religion; that Masonry proper does not recognize the Bible as of any higher authority than the sacred books of heathen nations, or than the Koran of Mohammed; that Freemasonry proper recognizes all religions as equally valid, and that so far as Masonry is concerned it matters not at all what the religion of its adherents is, provided they be not Atheists. The other party maintains that Masonry is founded upon the Bible, and that it is substantially a Christian institution.

This controversy is assuming extensive proportions, and it is very interesting for outsiders to look into it. I say outsiders--and I might say it is important, and would be very creditable, for the members of the fraternity to understand this matter better than they do; for I doubt if one in twenty of them is posted in regard to the real state of this question among the fraternity themselves. Mr. Evans, who is the editor of this Masonic Monthly, takes the ground, and I think sustains it fully from their own authorities, that all the upper degrees of Masonry are an imposture.

He goes on to show where and by whom , in several important cases, these upper degrees were manufactured and palmed off on the brotherhood as ancient Freemasonry.

For example, he shows that Mr. Oliver, one of their most prolific authors, asserts that one of the grand lodges in London gave charters, about the middle of eighteenth century, to the Masonic lodges in France; and that in France they immediately betook themselves to manufacturing degrees and palming them off on the public as of very ancient origin. They proceeded to manufacture a thousand of these degrees in France. Many of them they asserted they had received from Scotland; but the Grand Lodge of Scotland denied ever having known of those degrees.

It is also asserted in this number that the Royal Arch Degree was at first but an appendage to a Master's lodge, and had no separate charter, and for a long time was not recognized at all as any part of Freemasonry. And it informs us when and by whom the Royal Arch Degree was manufactured. This number also shows that many of the Masonic degrees have originated in Charleston, S. C.; and that a man by the name of Webb, in Mass., manufactured the Templars' degrees. In short, we find here their own standard authorities showing up all the higher degrees of Masonry as having been gotten up and palmed off on the fraternity in order to make money out of them; and is not this a swindle? I wish to call the attention especially of the fraternity to these statements in this number of the Masonic Monthly.

Indeed, it is now common for the highest and best-informed Masons to ridicule the pretense that Speculative Freemasonry is an ancient institution, as a humbug and a life, having no foundation in correct history at all. Now, will Freemasons examine this subject for themselves?--for they have been imposed upon.

I am particularly anxious to have professed Christians who are Freemasons thoroughly understand this matter. They have regarded Freemasonry as entirely consistent with the Christian religion, and have professed to see in it nothing with which a Christian cannot have fellowship. In the Third or Master's Degree we find the story of Solomon and Hiram Abiff introduced into Masonry.

Now this number of the Monthly charges that this class of Freemasons went on to construct all the subsequent degrees of Freemasonry from the Bible, by ransacking the whole Old and New Testaments for striking passages from which they could construct new degrees, thus leaving the impression that Masonry was a divine institution and founded upon the Bible.

If professed Christians who are Freemasons will really examine this subject, they will see that a Masonic lodge is no place for a Christian.

But suppose it should be asked, May we not innocently take those degrees that are founded upon the Bible, and that recognize the Christian religion as of Divine authority? I answer, Christians cannot be hypocrites. Let it be distinctly understood that all these higher degrees are shown to be an imposture; and that this Christianizing of Freemasonry has consisted in heaping up a vast mass of falsehood, and of palming it off upon the fraternity as truth and as ancient Freemasonry.

Can Masonic orators be honest in still claiming for Speculative Masonry great antiquity, Divine authority, and that it is a saving institution? Masons are themselves now showing that the whole fabric of Speculative Freemasonry is an enormous falsehood. Stone Masonry, doubtless, had its simple degree, and its pass-words and signs by which they knew each other. It also had its obligations. But upon that little stem have been engrafted a great number of spurious and hypocritical degrees.

This does seem to be undeniable. Now will Freemasons be frank enough to acknowledge this, and to say frankly that they have been imposed upon? Will they come out from all fellowship with such an imposture and such a swindle?

It has then come at last to this, that the highest authority among Freemasons has taken the ground that the Freemasonry which has been so eulogized throughout the length and breadth of the land, and which has drawn in so many professed Christians and ministers, is nothing less than an enormous cheat. That those behind the curtain, who have manufactured and sold these degrees,---those Grand Chapters, and Encampments, and Commanderies, and all those pompous assemblies--have been engaged in enticing the brotherhood who had taken the lower degrees to come up into their ranks and pay their money, that they may line their pockets. Now remember that these positions are fully sustained by Masons themselves, as their views are set forth in this number of the Masonic Monthly.

I do most earnestly entreat Freemasons to inform themselves on this subject; and not turn around and tell us that they, being Freemasons, know more about it than we do ourselves. The fact is, my friends, many of you do not. You do not read. I have myself recently conversed with a Freemason who admitted to me that he was entirely ignorant of what was being said in Masonic periodicals on this subject. I do not believe that one in twenty of the Masonic fraternity in this country is aware of the intense hypocrisy with which all the higher degrees of Masonry have been palmed off upon them and upon the whole fraternity. Can men of honor and of principle allow their names and influence to be used to sustain such an enormous mass of false pretension?





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