THE CHARACTER, CLAIMS AND PRACTICAL WORKINGS OF FREEMASONRY
By Rev. C. G. FINNEY
IT is high time that the Church of Christ was awake to the character and tendency of Freemasonry.
Forty years ago, we supposed that it was dead, and had no idea that it could ever revive. But, strange to tell, while we were busy in getting rid of slavery, Freemasonry has revived, and extended its bounds most alarmingly.
I propose to write a series of articles, giving my views of the character and tendency of the institution.
I know something about it, for I have been a Freemason myself. Soon after I was twenty-one years of age, and while in Connecticut at school, an old uncle of mine persuaded me to join the Freemasons, representing that, as I was from home and much among strangers, it would be of service to me, because if a Freemason I should find friends everywhere. The lodge in that place was but a Master's lodge. I therefore took three degrees, or as far as what they call "the sublime degree of Master Mason." When I returned to the State of New York, to enter upon the study of law, I found at Adams, where I resided, a Masonic lodge, and united with them. I soon became secretary of the lodge, and met regularly with the lodge. When I took especially the Master's degree I was struck with one part of the obligation, or oath, as not being sound either in a political or moral point of view.
However, I had been brought up with very few religious privileges, and had but slight knowledge on moral subjects; and I was not, therefore, greatly shocked, at the time, with the immorality of anything through which I passed. The lodge where I took my degrees was composed, I believe, mostly of professed Christians. But when I came to join the lodge at Adams I found that the Master of the lodge was a deist. At this distance of time I can not be certain whether the deist to whom I refer, Eliphalet Edmunds, was Master of the lodge when I first joined. My best recollection is that Captain Goodell was Master when I first joined the lodge at Adams, and that Judge Edmunds was Master at the time of my conversion to Christ. I am certain that deism was no objection to any man becoming a member or a master of the lodge. There were in that lodge some as thoroughly irreligious men as I have ever associated with anywhere, and men with whom I never would have associated had they not been Freemasons. I do not recollect that any Christian men belonged to that lodge at the time I joined it. There were some very profane men who belonged to it, and some men of very intemperate habits.
As I paid the strictest attention to what they called their lectures and teachings, I became what they call "a bright Mason;" that is, as far as I went, I committed to memory their oral teachings--for they had no other.
The oaths, or obligations, were familiar to me, as was everything else that belonged to those three degrees that I had taken.
I had belonged to the lodge in Adams nearly four years when I was converted to Christ. During the struggle of conviction of sin through which I passed I do not recollect that the question of Freemasonry ever occurred to my mind. The season that I called properly my conviction of sin was short. My exercises were pungent, and I very soon obtained hope in Christ.
Soon after my conversion the evening came for attendance upon the lodge. I went. They, of course, were aware that I had become a Christian, and the Master of the lodge called on me to open the lodge with prayer. I did so, and poured out my heart to the Lord for blessing upon the lodge. I observed that it created a considerable excitement. The evening passed away, and at the close of the lodge I was requested to pray again. I did so, and retired, but much depressed in spirit. I soon found that I was completely converted from Freemasonry to Christ, and that I could have no fellowship with any of the proceedings of the lodge, Its oaths appeared to me to be monstrously profane and barbarous.
At that time I did not know how much I had been imposed upon by many of the pretensions of Masonry. But upon reflection and examination, and after a severe struggle and earnest prayer, I found that I could not consistently remain with them. My new life instinctively and irresistibly recoiled from any fellowship with what I then regarded as "the unfruitful works of darkness."
Without consulting any person, I finally went to the lodge and requested my discharge. After manifesting considerable reluctance they granted my request. My mind was made up. Withdraw from them I must; with their consent if I might, without their consent if I must. Of this I said nothing; but some way it came to be known that I had withdrawn from them. This created some little feeling amongst them. They, therefore, planned a Masonic celebration or festival. I do not recollect exactly what it was. But they sent a committee to me, requesting me to deliver an oration on the occasion. I quietly declined to do so; informing the committee that I could not conscientiously in anywise do what would manifest my approval of the institution, or sympathy with it. However, at that time, and for years afterward, I remained silent and said nothing against the institution; for I had not then so well considered the matter as to regard my Masonic oaths as utterly null and void. But from that time I never allowed myself to be recognized as a Freemason anywhere. This was a few years before the revelations of Freemasonry, by William Morgan, were published. When that book was published, I was asked if it were a true revelation of Freemasonry. I replied that it was, as far as I knew anything about it; and that, as nearly as I could recollect, it was a verbatim revelation of the first three degrees as I had myself taken them. I replied in this way because I saw, of course, that as the thing was published, and no longer a secret, I could not be under any obligation to keep it a secret, unless I could be under an obligation to lie, and to lie, perpetually, by denying that that which had been published was truly Freemasonry.
I knew that I could be under no obligations to be guilty of a perpetual falsehood, and that I really made no revelation of any secret when I frankly acknowledged that that which had been published was a true account of the institution, and a true expose of their oaths, principles, and proceedings.
Afterward I considered it more thoroughly, and was most perfectly convinced that I had no right to adhere to the institution, or to appear to do so; and that I was bound, whenever the occasion arose, to speak my mind freely in regard to it, and to renounce the horrid oaths that I had taken.
On reflection and examination I found that I had been grossly deceived and imposed upon. I had been led to suppose that there were some very important secrets to be communicated to me. But in this respect I found myself entirely disappointed.
Indeed, I came to the deliberate conclusion, and could not avoid doing so, that my oaths had been procured by fraud and misrepresentation, and that the institution was in no respect what I had been previously informed that it was.
And, as I have had the means of examining it more thoroughly, it has become more and more irresistibly plain to my convictions that the institution is highly dangerous to the State, and in every way injurious to the Church of Christ.
This I expect to show in detail should I be spared to finish the articles which I contemplate writing. But in my next it will be in place to inquire, How are the public to know what Freemasonry really is?
After this inquiry is settled, we shall be prepared to enter upon an examination of its claims, its principles, and its tendency.
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