THE CHARACTER, CLAIMS AND PRACTICAL WORKINGS OF FREEMASONRY
By Rev. C. G. FINNEY
WHY FREEMASONS RESORT TO THREATS AND REFUSE TO DISCUSS THEIR PRINCIPLES
There are many aspects of this subject that need to be thoroughly considered by all men. For example, the bearing of this institution upon domestic happiness is of great importance.
The stringent secrecy enjoined and maintained at the hazard of one's life, is really inconsistent with the spirit of the marriage contract It is really an insult to a wife for a husband to go and pledge himself to conceal from his wife that which he freely communicates to strangers. Suppose that wives should get up lodges, spend their money and their time in secret conclave, absent themselves from home, and swear to keep their proceedings entirely from their husbands; and suppose that such organizations should be made permanent, and extend throughout the length and breadth of the land, would husbands endure this? Would they think it right?
In short, if wives should do what husbands do, would not husbands rebel, think themselves abused, and insist upon such a course being entirely and forever abandoned? Indeed they would! How can a man look his wife in the face after joining a Masonic lodge? I have recently received several letters from the wives of Masons complaining of this:--that their husbands had joined the lodge and paid their money, and were spending their time, and concealing their doings and their principles from their wives. This is utterly unjust. It is shameful; and no honorable man can reflect upon it without feeling that he wrongs his wife.
Of late, partly to appease women, and partly to give the female relatives of Masons certain signs and tokens by which they may make themselves known as the wives or daughters, sisters or mothers, of Freemasons, they are conferring certain side degrees upon women. Of this Freemasons themselves--that is the more honorable among them--are complaining as an innovation, and as a thing justly to be complained of by outsiders. And observe that they ask, what if these daughters or sisters of Masons, who are taking these side degrees, should marry men who are not Masons, and who are opposed to the institution,--what would be the consequence of this? You administer, they say, the degrees for the sake of preserving domestic peace; and here, on the other hand, it would produce domestic discord.
But again, it should be considered that Masonry is an institution of vast proportions, and of such a nature that it will not allow its principles to be discussed.
It works in the dark. And instead of standing or falling according to its character and tendencies, when brought to the light, when thoroughly discussed and understood by the public, it closes the door against all discussion, shrouds itself in midnight, and its argument is assassination. Now, what have we here in a republican government? A set of men under oath to assist each other, and even to conceal each other's crimes, embracing and acting upon principles that are not to be discussed!
Immediately after the publication of the first number of my articles in the Independent, on the subject of Masonry, I received a threatening letter from the city of New York, virtually threatening me with assassination. I have since received several letters of the most abusive character from Freemasons, simply because I discuss and expose their principles. Now, if their principles can not bear the light, they never should be tolerated. It is an insult to any community for a set of men to band themselves together to keep each other's secrets, and to aid each other in a great variety of ways, and refuse to have their principles known and discussed, whilst their only argument is a dagger, a bullet, and a bowie knife, instead of truth and reason. Indeed, it is well-known throughout the length and breadth of the land that Masonry is so determined not to have its principles discussed, that men are afraid to discuss them. They expect from the very nature of Masonry, and from the revelations that it has made of itself, to be persecuted, and perhaps murdered, if they attempt to discuss the principles and usages of that institution. Now, is such a thing as this to be tolerated in a free government? Why how infinitely dangerous and shocking is this!
Everything else may be discussed. All governmental proceedings, the characters of public men, all institutions of learning, all benevolent societies, and indeed everything else in the world may be discussed, and criticised. and held up for public examination; but Masonry, forsooth, must not be touched. It must work in the dark. All the moneys received by charitable institutions must be reported; and the manner in which they dispose of every dollar that they receive must be held up before the public for examination. Every one sees the importance of this, and knows that it is right. But Freemasonry will make no report of its funds. They will not tell us what they do with them. They will not allow themselves to be called in question. No, that institution must not be ventilated upon pain of persecution unto death.
Now, it is enough to make a man's blood boil with indignation that such an institution as this should exist in the land. And what is most astonishing is, that members of the Christian Church, and Christian ministers, should sympathize with, and even unite themselves to, such an institution as this.
Suppose the church should conduct in this manner, and the Christian Church should receive its members in secret, and such oaths should be administered to them. Suppose Christianity would not allow its principles to be discussed, would not allow itself to come to the light, should use threats of assassination, and should actually resort to assassination to establish itself, and should thus create a feeling of terror throughout the whole world so that no man would dare to speak against it, to ventilate it, and show up its principles,--what would be said of Christianity, should it, like Freemasonry, take such a course as this?
The fact is, that Freemasonry is the most anomalous, absurd, and abominable institution that can exist in a Christian country; and is, on the face of it, from the fact that it will not allow its principles to be discussed and divulged, a most dangerous thing in human society. In nearly all the letters that I am receiving on this subject--and they are numerous--astonishment is expressed, and frequently gratitude and praise to God, that a man is found who dares publicly to discuss and expose the principles of the institution. Now, what is this? Have we an institution, the ramifications of which are entwining themselves with every fiber of our government and our institutions, our civil and religious liberties, of which the whole country is so much afraid that they dare not speak the truth concerning it?
What is this, thrust in upon human society and upon Christian communities, that can not be so much as discussed and its principles brought to light without threats of persecution and assassination? What honest man can witness such a state of things as this in our government without feeling his indignation enkindled ?
Everything else may be discussed, may be brought to the light, may be held up to the public for their verdict; but Freemasonry must not be touched. Other institutions must stand or fall in the light of reason and of sound morality. If they are sustained at all they must be sustained by argument, by logic, by standing the test of thorough criticism. But Masonry must stand, not by argument, not by logic, not by sound reason, but must be sustained by persecution and murder. And so universally, as I have already said, is this known and assumed, as to strike men in every part of the land with such terror, that they dare not speak their minds about it.
And now, are we in this country to hold our peace? to hold out our hands and have the shackles put upon them? Is the press to be muzzled, and the whole country to be awed and kept under the feet of this institution, so that no man shall dare to speak his mind? God forbid! "Every plant," says Christ, "which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up." The works of darkness shall be dragged to the light; and the power of this institution must be broken by a thorough expose of its oaths, its principles, its spirit and tendency. Afraid to speak out against such an abomination as this! Remember that he that would save his life by concealing the truth, and refusing to embrace and defend it, shall lose it.
Again, Freemasonry is a most intolerant and intolerable despotism.
Let any one examine their oaths, and see what implicit obedience they pledge to the great dignitaries, and Masters, and High Priests of their lodges, and they will see what an institution this is in a republican government. There is no appeal from the decision of the Master of a lodge. In respect to everything in the lodge, his word is law. In a recent number of the "National and Freemason," which fell into my hands, the editor asserts that there is no appeal to the lodge from the decision of the Master of the lodge, and that he should allow none. In the ascending scale of their degrees, they swear to render implicit obedience to the grand lodges, and the higher orders above them, and this beforehand. They are not allowed to question the propriety of those decisions at all. They are not allowed to discuss, or to have any voice or vote in regard to those decrees. There is not in the world a more perfect and frightful despotism than Freemasonry is from beginning to end. Now, think of the great number of Freemasons in this country that are becoming accustomed to yield this implicit obedience to arbitrary power, a one man power, running through every lodge and chapter throughout the whole entangled system. And this institution is penetrating every community, selecting its men, and enforcing their obedience to arbitrary power throughout this whole republican country. And will not the country awake to this great wrong and this great danger? A friend of mine, a minister of the Gospel, writes me that he had been himself a Mason. He was urged to join the institution, as I was myself; but he renounced it many years ago, and supposed that it was dead. But some fifteen years since he found it reviving in the neighborhood where he was living, and he preached a sermon exposing it. That very week they burned him in effigy at his own gate; and that even now he could not preach against it and expose it without being set upon and persecuted he knows not to what extent,.
And this, then, is the way for Masons to meet this question! If allowed to go on they will soon resort to mobs, as the slaveholders and their sympathizers did; and it will be found that Masonry can not be spoken against without mobs arising to disperse any assembly that may meet for the examination of the subject, If fifteen years ago a minister of the Gospel could be burned in effigy before his own gate, for bringing this institution to the light, and if now threats of assassination come from the four winds of heaven if a man speaks or writes the truth concerning it, if let alone how long will it be before it will have its foot upon the neck of the whole nation, so that it will be sure to cost any man his life who dares to rebuke it?
But why do Freemasons take this course? Why do they decline to discuss, and resort to threats of violence? I answer first, for the same reason that slaveholders did the same.
Many years ago John Randolph, with a shake of his long finger, informed the Congress of the United States, that slavery should not be discussed there. At the South they would not allow tracts to be circulated, nor a word to be spoken against the institution. They resorted to every form of violence to prevent it. And who does not know the reason why? Their abominable institution would not bear the light, and they knew it right well. Freemasons know very well that they can not justify their institution before an enlightened public. I mean, those of them who are well-informed know this.
Multitudes of them are so ignorant as to feel quite sure that they are right, and that their institution is what it professes to be. The well-informed among them know better; and those who would naturally be expected to discuss the question, if it were discussed, know that they can not stand their ground. They can not justify their horrid oaths, with their barbarous penalties. They know that they can not establish their false claims to great antiquity.
The ignorant or dishonest among them will vapor, and set forth their ridiculous pretensions to antiquity; and will try to persuade us that God was a Freemason when He created the Universe, and that all the ancient worthies were Freemasons. But the well-informed among them know perfectly well that there is not the shadow of truth in all this pretension, and that their claim to great antiquity is a lie, and nothing but a lie, from beginning to end. They know also that the claims of the institution to benevolence are false, and can not be sustained, and that there is not a particle of benevolence in their institution;
Again, they know very well that the claim of Masonry to be a saving religion is a false claim; and that its claim to be substantially the Christian religion is without the least foundation. They know also that its professions are false in regard to the truth of history; and that its claim to be a depository of the sciences and arts is without foundation.
They know very well that Masonry has no just claims to be the light of the world in regard to any of its pretensions. They know that the secrecy which it enjoins can not be defended, and that it has no right to exist as a secret, oath-bound institution. They know that this oath-bound secrecy can not be justified before an enlightened public; that there is nothing in Freemasonry to justify their oaths or penalties, and that there is nothing in it that deserves the respect of the public.
They are well aware that they can not justify their pompous titles, their odious ceremonies, their false teachings, their shameful abuses of the Word of God; and they are ashamed to attempt to justify the puerilities on the one hand, or the blasphemies that abound on the other.
Any one who will examine Richardson's "Masonic Monitor," will find in it diagrams of the lodges and of many of the ceremonies; and if anybody wishes to see how ridiculous, absurd, and profane many of their ceremonies are, let him examine that work.
The reason of their declining all discussion, and resorting to threats of violence, is manifest enough. It is sagacious in them to keep in the dark, and to awe people, if they can, by threats; because they have no argument, no history, no anything that can justify them in the course they take.
Shame on an institution that resorts to such a defense as this? But it can not live where the press and speech are free; and this its defenders know right well. If freedom of speech is allowed on the subject, and the press is allowed to discuss and thoroughly to ventilate it, they know full well that the institution can not exist. The fact is, that Freemasonry must die, or liberty must die. These two things can not exist together. Freemasons have already sold their liberty, and put themselves under an iron despotism; and there is not one in a thousand of them that dares to speak against the institution, or really to speak his mind.
I have just received a letter from one of them, which reads as follows: "Dear Sir,--I merely write you as a man and professed Christian to say that you are doing God service in your attacks upon the institution of Masonry. I am a Mason, but have long since been convinced that it is a wicked, blasphemous institution, and that the Church of Christ suffers from this source more than from any other. You know that the oaths and scenes of the lodge are most shamefully wicked; and a Christian man's character, if he leaves them, is not safe in the community where he lives. You can make what use you please of this; but, perhaps, my name and place of residence had better not be made public, for I fear for my property and my person." This is the way that multitudes of Freemasons feel. They have sold their liberty, and they dare not speak out. Shall we all sell our liberties, and allow Masonry to stifle all discussion by a resort to violence and assassination? Threats are abundant; and they go as far as they dare do in executing their threats.
In some places, where Freemasons are numerous and less on their guard, I am informed that they do not hesitate to say that they Intend to have a Masonic government, peaceably if they can. That this is the design of many of the leaders in this institution, there can be no rational doubt in the minds of those who are well informed. The press, to a great extent, is already either bribed or afraid to speak the truth on this subject; and, so far as I can learn, there are but few secular or religious papers open to its discussion. Now, what a state of things is this! A few years ago it was as much as a man's life was worth to write anything against slavery, or to speak against it, in the Southern States. And has it come to this, that the North are to be made slaves, and that an institution is to be sustained in our midst that will not allow itself to be ventilated? For one I do not feel willing at present to part with my liberty in this respect--although I am informed that a Mason, not far from here, intimated that I might be waylaid and murdered. It matters not. I will not compromise the liberty of free speech on a question of such importance to save my life. Why should I? I must confess that I have felt amazed and mortified when so many have expressed astonishment that I dared to speak plainly on this subject, and write my thoughts and views.
Among all the letters that I have received on this subject, I do not recollect one in which the writer does not admonish me not to publish his name. And this in republican America! A man's life, property and character not safe if he speaks the truth in regard to an institution which is aiming to overshadow the whole land, and to have everything its own way! as the writer of the letter from which I have just made an extract says, that a man's character is not safe if he speaks the truth concerning Freemasonry. Is not this abominable?
So well do I understand that Masons are sworn to persecute, and to represent every one who abandons their institution as a vile vagabond, and to say all manner of evil against him, that I do not pretend to believe what they say of that class of men.
When the question of Freemasonry was first forced upon us in our church, and I was obliged to preach upon the subject and read from Bernard's "Light on Masonry," I found before I got home that EIder Bernard had been so misrepresented and slandered that people were saying, "He is not a man to be trusted." Who does not know that whoever has dared to renounce that institution, and publish its secrets to the world, has either been murdered, or slandered and followed with persecution in a most unrelenting manner?
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