To A. Ritchie, Corresponding Secretary

of the Western Tract and Book Society

10 November 1868


[Ms in Finney Papers, # 1967. Copy in the handwriting of Rebecca Finney.]


In July 1868, the Rev. A. Ritchie of the Western Tract and Book Society in Cincinnati had approached George Clark of Oberlin with a view to getting Finney's lectures on Freemasonry published. Negotiations followed, until Finney received the following letter:


Cincinnati, Nov. 5th 1868

Rev C. G. Finney

Dear Bro

At a meeting of our Board this

P.M. the following resolution

was passed "That the Sec. write

to Pres. Finney and inform him

that the Comm of Pub. will with

pleasure examine any Mss

which he may please to submit

for its consideration but that

our Constitution prevents agreement

to publish before examination"


I would add that I was very

much surprised at the conclusion

you draw from my last letter.

I understand the 2d Church to

hold that while it is opposed

to secret socs and ready at

[page 2]

all times to denounce them

yet it is not prepared to say

that every member of such Socs

should be summarily turned

out of the Church, and that

in no case should such an

one be received. This makes

a distinction between men and

the system. We think such

a distinction ought to be made.

Send me your letters complete

and if we do not publish

then condemn but until

then we regard condemnation

as unjust to us


A Ritchie


Finney also received a letter from Jonathan Blanchard, the president of Wheaton College, dated Marietta, Ohio, November 7, 1868, in which he wrote:


I called at the Cincinnati Tract Room yesterday and write at the Request of Br. Ritchie that he wishes almost he had not written just as he did and wants your Manuscript for the Book right away and he has no doubt or thought but that it will be all right, only he thought as the United Presbyterian Churches are full of Masons, he did not want them all turned out in a flock the first afternoon.

Finney's reply to Ritchie is as follows:


Oberlin 10th Nov. 1868.

My Dear Brother Ritchie,

Yours of the 5th is rec'd.

The resolution of your committee is

well enough, but as they have al-

ready decided committed themselves to the

opinion that persistent & instructed free-

masons should be received to the church

& as this is opposed to my own views &

to those of our churches, & as in publishing

on the subject, I propose to expose &

refute the position to which your committee

have beforehand committed themselves, it

is of no use to undertake the publication

through them. Of course, I concede to them

the right which I claim for myself, to

hold & publish their own views, but

after informing me, through you, that

they shall not publish that which sus-

tains the position of the first church

it is useless to send them my man

[page 2]

-uscript simply to be rejected. If I

publish further upon the subject,

I tell you frankly, that it is my pur-

pose to show that no man who

takes & adheres to the such horrid

oaths to commit such horrid crimes

as freemasons do, has a right to be

in the church of God. I do not hold

as you seem to suppose that all free-

masons should be "summarily turned

out of the church" without labor ex-

postulation, instruction & reproof.

But I do maintain that, if after due

instruction & labor, they still avow

their adherence to the oaths principles &

practices of freemasonry that they should

be excluded. I hold the same in relation

to candidates for admission. I do not

believe that any candid man can read

and understand the oaths & principles

of freemasonry & then affirm that an

intelligent & adhering mason should

belong to Christ's church. When we

[page 3]

began the discussion of the subject, we

found to our surprise that we had three

Royal Arch masons in our church. One

of them went over to the Episcopalians with-

out asking for a letter. Another, did

not deny having taken the oath belonging

to that degree, but denied its obligation.

The third denies that he ever took the

oath & affirms that any man who would

adhere to that oath or to the oath of the

master's degree, should be excluded

from the church. I have not found

a man who would say that any one who intelligently

adheres to these oaths, should be allowed a place in

Christ's church. But my object in writing was

simply to say two things. 1st That I had no thought

of condemning your committee- The condemnation was on

the other side. You informed me that they had prejudged our

case without a hearing, & condemned our position 2nd I

intended to say that it is of no use to send my numbers

there, because your committee have already condemned

them, by expressing an opinion through their

secretary. God bless you & them, My Dr. Br.

C. G. Finney


Finney received the following reply from Ritchie in Concinnati:


Cin. Nov. 11 1868

Pres. C. G. Finney

Dear Bro

I have no wish to annoy you by my letters

and yet I so value your approbation that I

am not willing to stand in a false position

1st I was so anxious that your Book should

pass our Comm that I suggested the only

point on which there was likely to be a diff

-iculty. It was not the act of the Comm. at all.

2d None of our Comm. as far as I know believe

that persistent and instructed masons

should be received and kept in the Church.

Indeed we would not advocate the receiving

of even teachable and partially informed

masons. All that I feel it a duty to do

in present circumstances is to refrain

from condemning those churches who tolerate

[page 2]

or receive the latter class with a

view to instruction & reform.

I might add that during a Pastorate

of twelve years I never received a

single member of any secret Soc.

A very near friend of mine formerly

a member of our Comm. received in

the same period twelve and succeeded

in every case in getting them to

leave the Lodge - He claims still

that he has done more for the

cause than I did. I am not

prepared to condemn him, much

less would I condemn President

Finney's plan for on that plan

I always acted. I need not tell

you that we need much wisdom

in dealing with such a system

of iniquity. I shall still expect

your Mss I doubt whether

the difference between us amounts

to anything after all at least

you will see that it is of a negative kind.

Yours A Ritchie



The following was received from Jonathan Blanchard in a letter dated Cincinnati, Nov 12. 1868:


Dear & Beloved Brother --

I have but a moment to write-- Do my dear brother send your Manuscript to Brother Ritchie --carefully and prayerfully revised as you surely will. The only difficulty with Brother Ritchie is that he is perfectly simple hearted and honest-- and does not wish to say one thing to one man & another to another -- And as "while men slept" (yourself among them) the devil hath sowed his secret tares in the Churches he (Ritchie) does not want to jerk up wheat and tares together -- But do send your Manuscript without delay --


Finney then received the following from J. A. Bingham, the General Agent of the Western Tract and Book Society:


Mallet Creek Nov 25, 1868


Rev. C. G. Finney

Dear Bro:

I expected to find on

my arrival in Cincinn-

ati your Book nearly or

quite ready for delivery. Of

course I am disappointed

that the copy is not

furnished. What does it

mean? The Soc. is ready -

and has been. The form

of passing through the

hands of the publishing

Board, being the first, &

only thing after Mss. recd

no other delay, as I un-

derstand it, will prevent

[page 2]

expeditious issue. The people

want that Book, I want

it -- and wish to put

it in the hands of others.

Is the Tr. Society to have

the copy? Are we to

have the Book for

the public good? If not

we must hurry up

Dr. Morgan's report

Yours truly

J. A. Bingham


Further negotiations took place, and Finney eventually got his Mss off to them towards the close of the year.



See letters of Ritchie to George Clark, 17 July and 28 August, and to Finney, 7 August 1868, in Finney Papers.

See Ritchie to Finney, 4 December 1868, and letter from Ritchie dated December 29, 1868, in the Calendar of the Finney Papers, acknowledging receipt of the Ms.