The GOSPEL TRUTH
CHARLES G. FINNEY
To the Editor of The Lorain County News
[Published in The Lorain County News (Oberlin, Ohio) ), Vol. 13. no. 45 (January 11, 1872), p. 2.]
The following editorial appeared in The Lorain County News (Oberlin), November 30, 1871, page 2, column 4. It was written by Justus N. Brown, the editor who had replaced Richard Butler:
On this topic we are willing to admit to our columns articles on either side, provided they are short, ably written, and conceived in a true Christian spirit. We cannot consent that the paper should be made any man's hobby, but we are not afraid of free discussion carried to a reasonable extent.
The following original article from an esteemed correspondent has been hitherto crowded out by the pressure of other matter. ...
DEAR NEWS; The discussion of the principles of secret societies by the Anti-secret Society had suggested a number of interesting thoughts. I asked a member of the Free Mason fraternity if it was true that they were required to take the horrible oath to defend a brother charged or guilty of crime not excepting murder and treason. His answer was that "the Masons require no oath or obligation of any one inconsistent with their duty as a citizen or Christian." ...
In the News of January 4, 1872, at the top of page 2, column 1, the following announcement was made: "A COMMUNICATION from President Finney has to lie over till next week." The communication appeared the following week.
Communication from President Finney
EDITOR OF THE LORAIN NEWS:&endash; I thank you for throwing open your columns to a temperate discussion of the subject of freemasonry. In connection with this announcement you published an article from a correspondent, in which he said he had conversed with a respectable freemason, who affirmed that freemasons took no oaths inconsistent with their duties to God or man. This is a common saying of freemasons. This assertion is based upon a perfectly false pledge of the master who administers the oath. When the candidate is brought before the master, or whatever officer administers the oaths, placed in a kneeling posture with one hand supporting and the other upon the Holy Scriptures, the worshipful master says: " Mr.&emdash;" calling him by name&emdash;"you are now placed in a proper position to take upon you the solemn obligation of an Entered Apprentice Mason, which, I assure you, is neither to affect your religion or politics. If you are willing to take it, repeat your name, and say after me," etc. In many lodges this is put in the form of a question, thus: Are you willing to take an obligation upon you that does not affect your politics or religion. After giving this assurance, the master goes on to administer the oath, giving two or three words at a time, which the candidate repeats after him. Now this assurance is given by him that administers the oath to the candidate, as he passes from one degree to another. But the wording of the oaths pledges the candidate, from step to step, to do things that are utterly inconsistent with his duty, both to God and man. For instance, in the oath administered to the candidate in the master's degree, among others we have the following:
"Furthermore, do I promise and swear that a master mason's secrets, given to me in charge as such, and I knowing them to be such, shall remain as secure and inviolable in my breast as in his own, murder and treason excepted, and they left to my own free will and accord."
Now, observe, lest the candidate should conceive that these secrets did not include crimes to be concealed, murder and treason are excepted, thus showing conclusively that these secrets include the commission of crimes against God and the state. But, to conceal such crimes is contrary to his duty, both to God and man. But what of the pledge of the administrator of the oath, that it should contain nothing inconsistent with his duty to God and the state? Why, it was simply an unblushing falsehood. Let us pass on to the Royal Arch Degree. This is presided over by a high priest. Amongst the solemn oaths administered in this degree, we have the following:
"Furthermore do I promise and swear, that I will aid and assist a companion Royal Arch Mason when engaged in any difficulty, and espouse his cause so far as to extricate him from the same, if in my power, whether he be right or wrong." Also, "That I will promote a companion Royal Arch Mason's political preferment in preference to another of equal qualifications." "Furthermore, do I promise and swear, that a companion Royal Arch Mason's secrets, given me in charge as such, and I knowing them to be such, shall remain as secure and inviolable in my breast as in his own, murder and treason not excepted."
Now, what oaths are these? In the most express language the candidate is made to promise that which is a violation of his duty, both to God and man. How utterly false, then, was the assertion of the officer who administered these oaths, that there was nothing in them contrary to a man's duty either to God or his neighbor.
Now, the delusion under which freemasons shield themselves and quiet their conscience is this: They say the administrator of the oath assured them beforehand that there was nothing in these oaths that they were about to take, that was inconsistent with their duty to God or man; therefore, their oaths are to be interpreted in this light, and in accordance with this assurance of the officer that administered the oath. But this is as far as possible from being true. Their oath is a pledge made to God, for these oaths all conclude with, "So help me God, and keep me steadfast to perform the same." And then follow the most barbarous and shocking penalties. Now, the language of these oaths is unmistakable. They pledge the candidate to commit the crimes against God and society which are expressed in words of no dubious meaning. These oaths mean what they say or mean nothing; and can they be utterly nullified by the previous pledge that there was nothing in them inconsistent with duty to God or man? No, indeed! The candidate was bound, when the words of the oath were given him, to refuse to repeat them. He must have had certain knowledge that they were entirely inconsistent with the affirmation of the officer, that there was nothing in them inconsistent with duty. He should have said, "I will not take such an oath," and should have arisen from his knees; but he did not; he went forward voluntarily, and under the most solemn oath, committed himself to sin against God and his neighbor. He saw, in time to have refused the oath, that the officer administering it had lied to him; he was solemnly bound to stop short and not take the oath. But he took it, knowing what it meant, and what it could not but mean. And now, shall he be allowed by God, by society, or by his own conscience to take refuge behind the falsehood of the administrator of the oath, and shield himself from blame. No, indeed! He was not deceived when he took the oath, however the pledge of the officer might excuse him for entering upon taking it, but was bound by every principle of honor, morality, and religion to stop short, the moment that anything was pronounced by the officer inconsistent with his duty to God and man. He did not stop short and he was not deceived. The falsehood of the administrator in assuring him that the oath was innocent, was manifest in the very words of the oath. What folly, then, for freemasons to quiet their consciences by the assertion that their oaths are to be interpreted not by their most unequivocal meaning, but by the falsehood of the officiating officer that there was nothing in them inconsistent with duty to God or man.
Why, if the oaths do not mean what they say, they mean nothing at all, and both the administering and the taking of them is a blasphemous farce. No, no, my dear sirs, you may not thus alter the manifest meaning of those oaths, and escape the responsibility of taking them. However you may mystify and sear your own consciences, be assured that you cannot thus escape the condemnation of God or of society. Those are not and cannot be taken under the limitations of their meaning, which you suggest. They are unambiguous in their expression and you took them with the certain knowledge of what they said and what they meant. May I request the writer of the article to which I allude, to examine the oaths for himself and not credit the association of those who have taken them that there is nothing in them inconsistent with duty to God or man?
With your leave, I have more to quote from these oaths, which will still further show the folly and absurdity of the assertion that there is nothing in them inconsistent with good morals or religion. More anon.
No further articles from Finney appeared in the paper.