Articles in THE INDEPENDENT of NEW YORK
The GOSPEL TRUTH
BY REV. CHARLES G. FINNEY
NEW YORK, THURSDAY, MAY 7, 1868
THE CLAIM OF GREAT ANTIQUITY FALSE.
Having, as I think, satisfactorily shown that the publication of Freemasonry by Elder Bernard, in his "Light on Masonry," and by Richardson and others, is in all essential points truthful and correct, I proceed to notice the character of Masonry as it is thus revealed. But first I observe that, when, it is said that these authors agree, and that different lodges agree, it is not intended, as I have intiimated in a formere number, that they are precisely alike in every word and syllable.
Nor is it intended that since these revelations Masons have not introduced new signs, pass-words, grips, etc., by which they know each other; for it is well known that the Grand Lodge of New York, to prevent book Masons from entering their lodges, and passing themselves as Masons everywhere; did introduce new pass-words and signs by which Masons made themselves to each other. But the thing intended is that these authors substantially agree in their revelations of Freemasonry; and that Freemasonry, in its principles and inculcations, is the same at present that it was when these revelations were made. In another place I shall have occasion to show that Freemasonry is a growth, and that nearly all the present degrees of Masonry have been formed and introduced since about the middle of the eighteenth century.
At present I remark that, on an examination of Bernard's "Light on Masonry," it will be seen that Freemasonry is an imposture and a swindle.
This will appear in the following particulars:
1. Its claims to great antiquity are false. Every one at all acquainted with the claims of Freemasonry knows that it professes to have existed in the days of Solomon; and it is claimed that Solomon himself was a Freemason, and that John the Baptist and John the Evangelist were Freemasons. Indeed, the writers frequently trace it back as coeval with the creation itself. Masons have claimed for their institution an antiquity antecedent to human government; and from this they have argued that they have a right to execute the penalties of their oaths, because Masonry is older than government. Now an examination will show that this claim is utterly false. Their own highest authorities now pronounce it to be false; and still these claims are kept up, and their oaths and ceremonies and the whole structure of the institution profess the greatest antiquity.
Solomon, for instance, figures as a Freemason everywhere in their ceremonies.
Their lodges are dedicated to St. John; and in the third degree there is a scene professed to have been enacted in the temple and at the building of the Temple of Solomon.
Now, all this, as I shall have occasion to show more fully hereafter, is utterly fallacious, a false pretense, and a swindle; because it is the obtaining of money from those who join them under false pretenses.
Steinbrenner, a great Masonic historian, after much research, with manifest candor, says that Speculative Freemasonry&emdash;which is the only form of Freemasonry now existing&emdash;dates no further back than 1717. The article on Freemasonry in the new "American Encyclopedia" agrees with this statement of Steinbrenner. Indeed, all modern research on this subject has resulted in dating the commencement of Freemasonry, as it now exists, not far from the middle of the eighteenth century.
Dr. Dalcho, the compiler of the book of constitutions for South Carolina, says: "Neither Adam, nor Noah, nor Nimrod, nor Moses, nor Joshua, nor David, nor Solomon, nor Hiram, nor St. John the Baptist, nor St. John the Evangelist, were Freemasons. Hypothesis in history is absurd. There is no record, sacred or profane, to induce us to believe that those holy men were Freemasons; and our traditions do not go back to those days. To assert that they were Freemasons may make the vulgar stare, but will rather excite the contempt than the admiration of the wise."
Now, observe, this is a high authority, and should be conclusive with Masons, because it is one of their own leaders who affirms this. But, if this is true, what shall we think of the claims of Freemasonry itself? For every one who reads these revelations of Freemasonry will see that Solomon, and Hiram, and those ancient worthies everywhere figure in these rites and ceremonies; so that, if these men were indeed not Masons, then Freemasonry is a sham, an imposture, and a swindle. What! has it come to this, that this boasted claim of antiquity, which everywhere lies at the foundation of Masonic rites, ceremonies, and pretensions, is now discovered to be false?
But again, no one can read Bernard on Masonry through, or any of these authors, without perceiving the most unmistakable evidence that most of the degrees in Masonry are of modern date. I do not know why so much stress should be laid upon the antiquity of Masonry by those who embrace and adhere to it. It surely does not prove that it is of any value, or that it is true. Sin is of very ancient date, heathenism is of very ancient date, and most of the abominations that are in the world are of very ancient date; but this is no reason tbr embracing them, or regarding them as of any great importance.
But to certain minds there is a charm in the appearance and profession of antiquity; and young Masons are universally deceived in this respect, and led to believe that it is one of the most ancient of existing institutions, if not the very most so. Now, I would not object to Masonry because it is of modern origin; for this would not prove it to be false, if it did not profess to be of ancient origin. I notice this false pretense not because I think its being of recent date would prove it unworthy of notice, or of immoral character or tendency. But observe that its pretensions from first to last are that it is of very ancient date; and it is traced back to the days of inspiration, and is claimed to have been founded and patronized by inspired men.
What would Masonry be if all its claims to antiquity were stricken out? and if those degrees in Masonry, and those ceremonies and usages, were abolished that rest upon the claim that Solomon, that Hiram Abiff, and John the Evangelist, were Freemasons? What would remain of Freemasonry if all those claims found in the very body of the institution were stricken out? Why, their very lodges are dedicated to the holy order of St. John and Zerubbabel, etc. But what had St. John to do with Freemasonry? Manifestly nothing. He never heard or thought of it. Nor did Solomon or Zerubbabel.
And here let me say a word to young men who have been urged to unite with this fraternity, and who have been made to believe that the institution is so very ancient that it was established and patronized by those holy men. My dear young men, you have been deceived. You have been imposed upon as I was imposed upon. You have been made to believe a lie. They have drawn your money from you under false pretenses that some very ancient mysteries were to be revealed to you; and that the institution was one established as far back, at least, as the days of Solomon, and that St. John was the patron of the institution. Now this, rely upon it, is but a pretense, a sham, an imposture, and a swindle. I beg you to believe me; and if you will examine the subject for yourself, you will find it to be true.
Your own best historian, Steinbrenner, will teach you that Freemasonry, as you know it, and as it is now universally known, dates no further back than the eighteenth century. And Dr. Dalcho, who is good authority with the brotherhood, as we have seen, repudiates the idea of its antiquity as that which "may make the vulgar stare, but will rather excite the contempt than the admiration of the wise." I know that Masons affirm that the institution in its present form is the descendant of a brotherhood of stone-masons, whose history may be traced back for some seven hundred years. But remember that Freemasonry, as you know it, and as it now exists, is not at all what it was among those simple artisans. The name is preserved, and some of its symbols, for the purpose of claiming for it great antiquity. But do not be deceived. If you will examine the subject for yourselves, you will find that modern Freemasonry is entirely another thing from that from which it claims to be descended. And when you hear ministers, or orators, on any occasion, claiming for speculative Freemasonry&emdash;which is the only form in which it now exists&emdash;a great antiquity, let it be settled, I pray you, in your minds, that such claims are utterly false; and that those who make them are either grossly ignorant or intensely dishonest. King Solomon a stone-mason! Hiram a Grand Master of a Grand Lodge of stone-masons! Those men uniting in a lodge with a company of stone-masons! Does any one really believe the silly tale?
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