Free-Masonry Letter To The Editor, The Christadelphian Magazine, 1957, page 102
Dear bro. Carter.--In the article "Christ or Freemasonry" (CHRISTADELPHIAN, Dec. 1956) bro. Evans gives many points of objection, and they are truly well taken; but there is one point not commented on which, if fairly investigated, should once and for all banish all thoughts of a brother being able to carry out the obligations of both associations. This is the practice I have reference to.
No effort is made to keep secret the final ceremony at a Masonic funeral. At the graveside all the members file past the open grave and each drops a small sprig of evergreen (spruce, balsam, pine, etc.) and last of all the Master of the lodge drops his evergreen on to the casket, saying as he does so, "We do this to signify our belief in the immortality of the soul". Surely then there should be no argument whether or not anyone, who has declared at his pre-baptism interview that the immortal soul doctrine is false, can with a clear conscience carry out this ceremonial act as a fraternal brother of the deceased.
If the foregoing were the only reason against membership in the Masonic order, surely the flat denial of one of the most important articles of our faith should cause a brother to put away any idea of joining such a society.
Sincerely your brother in Christ,
Toronto, Ont., Canada.
Christ or Free Masonry?
The Christadelphian, 1956, pages 456-458
THE question is sometimes asked, Is it "all right" for one who is a brother in Christ to have anything to do with this or that association which may be regarded by the world at large as quite legitimate and moral? In many instances it resolves itself into a matter of personal judgment. There may be no direct scriptural guidance. All of us have to associate in some degree with neighbours, workmates, business colleagues and tradespeople. Paul makes it quite clear (1 Cor. 10:23-4, 27-28) that such associations may be legitimate, if certain safeguards are observed to avoid weakening the faith of either ourselves or our brethren and sisters. Indeed, without contacts in the world, how could we testify to the truth? It is easy to suggest that all worldly associations are wrong, but those who argue thus are quite illogical unless they live as hermits or in monasteries, either of which would seriously limit their observance of some of the more important Christian duties.
It is axiomatic, however, that a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ must be consistent in his conduct, not only within the circle of the ecclesia, but in all his activities in life. Christ prayed for his brethren, "not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from evil" (John 17:15). In the world they are required to witness for Christ both by preaching and by the standard of conduct which they manifest (Matt. 5:16). Gore, in a striking passage about those who for one reason or another have become alienated from the Christian fold, confesses that this is sometimes the fault of those still within, and says, "It is not, in the main, argument that will bring them back, but the spectacle of a church so reformed as that it shall truly be, whether small or great, the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and a city set on a hill" (GORE: Reflections on the Litany, page 72. A. R. Mowbray and Co., Ltd.). A heavy responsibility rests on each one of us to maintain a standard of conduct and of loyalty to our faith which will make it evident to our neighbours that we are seeking first God's kingdom and His righteousness.
It thus becomes important to examine any course of action or any voluntary association which may be contemplated, so that we may satisfy ourselves that it can be undertaken without any qualms of conscience, that it will not lead the weak astray and that it can be in our minds when we seek God's blessing on all our activities. There are many things which are so obviously at variance with the revealed will of God that they should be avoided at all cost.
Freemasonry is one of the associations regarding which the question is sometimes asked, Is it "all right" for a brother? From a human point of view it may have its advantages and attractions. Can these be enjoyed without disloyalty to Christ? It is necessary, then, to examine the practices of "the craft" to find whether it conflicts with our highest duties.
In theory there would seem to be an insuperable obstacle to any outsider finding the answer to these questions. Freemasonry is nominally a secret society. Initiates are put on oath not to reveal its secrets. This mystification, whether it be a fact or just an intention, should of itself give a Christian cause for hesitation. One who has put on Christ and who has become his bondservant, (Phil. 1:1) is taking a very grave risk in making a binding promise regarding something not as yet revealed to him; for it is not made known before the oath has been taken. He may quite unwittingly, but of his own free will, be pledging himself to something involving him in disobedience to his Master. True, he is assured beforehand that what he is to promise will not conflict with his religious beliefs. But who is to be the judge of this? For he may find among his fellow Masons, when he is admitted, a priest, possibly a bishop, or even a Mohammedan.
However, it appears that the secrecy is merely a myth. The hidden rites have been brought into the light of day in the writings of freemasons as well as in those of some of its opponents, and the accuracy of what has been written is attested by the obvious annoyance of those defenders of the secrets who complain bitterly that someone must have been false to his oath. (Walton Hannah, who is quoted later in this article, asserts that anyone could have written what he did against Freemasonry, after a week's reading in the British Museum.) Be that as it may, it is a fact that authoritative writings are freely quoted in books to which anyone can have access.
What is Freemasonry? It is said to be "a great adventure, a search after that which was lost: in other words, the Mystic Quest, the craving of the soul to comprehend the nature of God and to achieve union with Him". The initiation ceremony is "the first stage of a system of knowledge and self-discipline which, if faithfully followed up and lived out in his personal life, will clarify and transform his mind from its natural state of darkness to one of Light" (H. S. Box: The Nature of Freemasonry, page 15. The Augustine Press).
Again, "Masonry is a system of spiritual development, and shows a way by which our body, soul and mind may be made a fit temple for the divine son, who is our true self, to dwell in".
"A way." But for a Christian there is only one way, "the way". "I am the way, the truth and the life : no man cometh unto the Father but by me." (John 14:6) "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) But Freemasonry will have none of this. It claims to be the source of the very greatest gifts. "Among the manifold blessings that Freemasonry has conferred on mankind none is greater than that of taking the sting from death and robbing the grave of victory." (Box: page 43) How could anyone professing Christianity acknowledge such teaching? How could he rob Christ of the glory due to him alone? "The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Cbrist." (1 Cor. 15:56-7)
A second objection is to be found in the origins of Freemasonry. When God delivered the children of Israel from their captivity in Egypt, the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians were aimed against their gods; the Nile, the flies or sacred beetles, emblems of the Sun-god, and so on. The idols of the land were humiliated, and the Israelites were afterwards bidden to have nothing to do with these things. "After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do." (Lev. 18:3) "Cast ye away every man the abominations of his eyes, and defile not yourselves with the idols of Egypt." (Ezek. 20:7) Yet we learn, "the usages and customs of Freemasonry have ever borne a near affinity to those of ancient Egypt". (Box: page 11)
It is not we alone among the sects who see inconsistency and worse in a professing Christian being a Freemason. Much light is shed on the subject by a recent controversy on the subject. Walton Hannah and J. L. C. Dart, both of them Anglican ministers, have argued the case at some length, (Theology, Jan.-May, 1951) and, in the present writer's view, Hannah's arguments against Freemasonry are conclusive for us who have put on the name of Christ. He draws attention to the oath taken. by initiates to the craft, who promise not to reveal its secrets. Those candidates who claim to be Christians take this oath with their hand on the open Bible, "the volume of the Sacred Law", as it is called; though the sacred writings of any other religion will do just as well for those who follow it. Before taking the oath, however, a Masonic prayer is offered. "Vouchsafe Thine aid, Almighty Father and Supreme Governor of the Universe, to this convention, and grant that this candidate for Freemasonry, who now kneels before Thee, may so dedicate and devote his life to Thy service that he may become a true and faithful Brother among us. Endue him with a competence of Thy Divine Wisdom, that, assisted by the secrets of the Masonic Art, he may the better be enabled to unfold the beauties of true godliness, to the honour and glory of Thy Holy Name. So mote it be." There follows the oath itself, which would offend many were it to be reproduced here. Suffice it to say that it is followed by the recital of a penalty for breaking it, so worded as to symbolize the loss of salvation. (Hannah states that this is pointed out by Masonic scholars.) There is an attempt, of course, to suggest that the words are merely symbolic. Dart likens them to a man saying, "If I do so and so, you may knock me down". No more than that. But one cleric, formerly a Mason, but whose conscience revolted, wrote, "I had an ingrained feeling that words, especially when solemnly uttered with one hand resting on the open Bible, should say what they mean and mean what they say". (Theology, April, 1951)
But what of the association with the other religions such as Mohammedanism or Hinduism? Dart defends this by saying, "We allow no religious controversy in lodge, but each worships him in whom he believes, and we speak of him by symbolic titles, which we all believe are true in themselves, and which we know are common to us all. We are convinced that it is right that, in this divided and suffering world, men of different creeds should be able to come together on the common platform of faith in a supreme Ruler and Judge of the world, in order that they may work for unity and peace amongst men, encourage brotherhood, and engage in charity . . . The only true light in our darkness is our Lord and Saviour. But because of strifes and divisions not all can see him. Freemasonry is trying to build a neutral platform." To which Hannah replies, "Dart seemingly admits that Christians are justified in joining in the worship of a lowest common-denominator God, shorn of all attributes peculiar to any particular religion. 'We have found the worship of God, 0 citizen of the world', is the motto of the Royal Arch. The obvious inference is that this worship is found in Masonry, where the Son of God is excluded in order that people who reject him may be included. What a pity that so many Christian martyrs in pagan Rome needlessly lost their lives through refusing to cast a few grains of incense to paganism, when our Christian Masons today could so easily have justified this abhorrent practice to them".
Again, Hannah asks, "Is it in accordance with the moral law that a man should bind himself in advance by oath to secrecy and obedience in a matter of faith and morals concerning the very nature of which he has no previous knowledge? And secondly, is there a valid motive for such secrecy? Why should any teaching on faith, morals and the nature of God, be secret, and inculcated only in a close-tyled*. Lodge, when the Gospel of Christ is universal and free? If the church has Christ's sole authority on earth to teach faith and morals, then the church has not only the right, but indeed the duty to investigate the teachings of any other body which claims religious knowledge, and pronounce whether or not this knowledge is compatible with the teaching of Christ."
*Tyle. This is the freemason's spelling of the word "tile". Its usage is illustrated by the following from the Oxford Dictionary: "To protect a lodge or meeting from interruption or intrusion, so as to keep its proceedings secret, by posting a tyler at the door" [Ed.]
The matters which have been dealt with here touch mainly on the most elementary stages in Freemasonry. A Mason who had been confronted with some of this evidence pleaded that he was only concerned with the lower degrees of the craft; that they involved him in nothing inconsistent with the Christian life, and that compromise, if it existed, was only encountered by those who chose to proceed to the higher degrees. But is this so? The initiation ceremony--the very first introduction to the "secrets" of the craft--is gone through in ignorance of the commitments which follow on the oath; the equivalent of a curse is uttered, ("Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" (Jas. 3:11), albeit on the candidate himself should he reveal some trivial details about a hand grip or a secret word; promises are made which restrict the proclamation of what is claimed to be a knowledge of the way of salvation ("Go ye into all the world", said Christ, "and preach the gospel to every creature"(Mark 16:15). In connection with a higher degree, the teaching is accepted that the sting of death and the victory of the grave are removed. Is it "through our Lord Jesus Christ"? No, but "the greatest blessing conferred by Freemasonry on mankind".
And what becomes of our faith in the establishment of God's kingdom on earth? It is replaced by the hope that "when we shall be summoned from this sublunary abode we may ascend to the Grand Lodge above, where the World's Great Architect lives and reigns supreme".
It is probably true that the majority of people who become Masons and confine their activities to the lower degrees, are scarcely aware of the significance of the ceremonial by which they are admitted: scarcely aware of its rivalry with religious faith. The common conception of religion is based on little if any real knowledge, and in the eyes of the multitude is limited to the idea that if men lead what is euphemistically called "a good life", all will be well in the hereafter, wherever that hereafter may be spent. The quasi-religious language which is contained in the initiation rites of Freemasonry and the loose use of Bible quotations* is sufficient to invest the whole business with an air of respectability and piety which may well blind its adherents. But is it "all right" for men who understand God's way of salvation, to associate themselves with such blindness; to have fellowship with "the unfruitful works of darkness" and, perhaps more literally than they think, "in their hearts turn back again into Egypt"? Surely there can only be one answer. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty."(2 Cor. 6:17-18)
*E.g. in the ceremony of initiation, as quoted by Box, page 34
Q. How did you gain admission?
A. By three distinct knocks.
Q. To what do those three distinct knocks allude?
A. To an ancient and venerable exhortation: Seek, and ye shall find; ask, and ye shall have; knock, and it shalt be opened unto you."
N. L. EVANS