Report of the Committee to Study the Problem of Secret Societies:
[1964 Yearbook, pages 33 - 40]
The Committee met four times during the past conference year to study the problem of Secret Oath-Bound Societies.
Since Freemasonry is the oldest and largest secret order, and since most other secret societies are patterned after that society, and since the literature of Freemasonry is vast and more accessible than the materials of other societies, we have drawn mainly from the literature of that society. We have made a special effort to quote directly from their own publications as will be seen by our references. It must be said, however, that while the literature of Freemasonry is vast and accessible - that literature is, for the most part, pro-Masonic. The Secret Rituals as such have been kept as secret as it is humanly possible to keep such things, and books critical of the Society are almost impossible to obtain in public libraries.
It must not be thought, however, that because the membership of the lodge is sworn to secrecy, its rituals are therefore unobtainable. Men have at times, for one reason or another, felt compelled to publish them. The Committee has been fortunate to have access to one such copy. The full title of this volume is, "Richardson's Monitor of Free-Masonry; Being A Practical Guide To The Ceremonies In All The Degrees Conferred In Masonic Lodges, Chapters, Encampments, Etc., Explaining the Signs, Tokens and Grips, And Giving All The Words, Sacred Words, Oaths, and Hieroglyphics Used By Masons." It was written by Jabez Richardson, A.M. and published by Ezra A. Cook, Publisher, Inc. of Chicago, Ill. in 1950. We will quote the oaths used in this paper from that handbook. In the author's preface to the Monitor, Mr. Richardson writes, "And as I have always looked upon our secret ceremonies and oaths as but the relics of a past age, and continued merely to preserve the ostensible antiquity of the institution rather than to bind our conscience, I do not hesitate to make them public." ". . . To suppose these oaths to mean anything now is simply absurd. Mankind outside a Masonic Lodge does not care a straw what takes place within the secret conclave, except as a matter of curiosity. It is partly to gratify this spirit of inquisitiveness that I have written this book, and partly to give information to Free Masons themselves by having an authentic detail of proceedings to read over at their leisure, they may become Masons in reality."
Our purpose in quoting this material is to indicate the reasoning by which Mr. Richardson felt at liberty to publish what he had sworn to keep secret on pain of death, and his reasons for so doing. He wrote as a friend, rather than an enemy. The content when compared with other sources is found to be in substantial agreement with them.
We do not deny that Masonry supports numerous praiseworthy works of charity and mercy which outwardly serve man well. Nor do we deny that some of its teachings are noble, in some respects. We do insist, however, that underlying the whole system of teaching is a false gospel that endangers the souls of men.
It would be impossible in our limited space and time to set forth the materials, necessary in research, relative to the history, or the various interpretations of Freemasonry. We simply set forth several consideration that we feel are sufficient to support our conviction of the incompatibility of membership in the Church and a Secret Oath-Bound Society at the same time.
I. To take such oaths as are required to become a member of such Societies is direct disobedience to the Word of God.
Jesus said: "But I say unto you, Swear not at all . . . . But let your communications be, Yea, Yea; Nay, Nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." (Matt. 5:34-37). James wrote: "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation." (James 5:12). Whatever one may think of the Biblical teaching on Oaths and Vows in general, it is evident that the unchristian oaths of the Secret Societies are in violation of the above Scripture. No man has the right to bind himself to do anything forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein required. That some of the oaths in question are of such character will be evident from the ones quoted in this paper.
If a man will say, as does Jabez Richardson, that he does not consider the oaths binding on the conscience, another problem, just as serious presents itself. He is guilty of taking God's name in vain in every degree he takes. Exodus 20:7 says: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy Cod in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that takes His Name in vain."
II. The Secrecy demanded is not in keeping with the spirit of Christianity. While we recognize the propriety of secrecy in certain areas of private life and international relations, we are firmly convinced that secrecy of the character required of Secret Oath-Bound Societies is not in keeping with the openness to investigation that is characteristic of Christianity.
Jesus said, "I spoke openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing." (John 18:20)
It has been truly said, "The very spirit of fair play suggests that there is something inherently suspect in secret societies, which attempt to keep their doctrines and tenets out of free public discussion."
(A Christian View of Freemasonry; Concordia; 1957, p.23)
III. The Allegiance demanded is such as belongs to God only.
This is evident in the oath taken by a Fellow Craft Mason: "To all of which, I do most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear, without any hesitation, mental reservation, or self-evasion of mind in me whatever, binding myself under no less penalty than to have my left breast torn open, my heart and vitals taken from thence, thrown over my left shoulder, and carried to the valley of Jehosaphat, there to become a prey to the wild beasts of the field, and the vultures of the air, should I willfully violate, or transgress any part of this, my solemn oath or obligation, of a Fellow Craft Mason. So help me God, and keep me steadfast in the due performance of the same." (Richardson, Op. Cit., P.22)
In the Book of the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania; Sherman and Co., 1889; the following Ode, sang at installation of officers to a newly formed lodge is recorded as follows:
"Hail, Masonry divine!
Glory of ages, shine,
Long may'st thou reign;
Where'er thy Lodges stand
May they have great command,
And always grace the land,
Thou art divine!"
In these quotations Freemasonry so deifies itself that men are to place their very lives at its disposal.
IV. Membership in such a society constitutes an unequal yoke with Unbelievers.
The Scriptures exhort the believer to give full allegiance to Christ His head. (I Cor. 11:3). He is not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. (II Cor. 6:14-18). The lodge yoke is so binding that it presumes to supersede the duty of a man to his wife, family, his church, to fellow Christians, or his pastor. That the members of such societies are, for the most part, unsaved men must be clear to any wide awake Christian, and therefore such a relationship is in direct violation to the Word of God.
V. Some oaths taken would require the obstruction of Justice if taken seriously. This is clear from this oath:
"I furthermore promise and swear, that I will employ a companion Royal Arch Mason, in preference to any other person of equal qualifications. "I furthermore promise and swear, that I will assist a companion Royal Arch Mason when I see him engaged in any difficulty, and will espouse his cause whether he be right or wrong.
"I furthermore promise and swear, that I will keep all secrets of a companion Royal Arch Mason (when communicated to me as such, or I knowing them to be such.) without exceptions." (Richardson, Op. Cit. P.72)
Notice the words, "whether he be right or wrong", "without exceptions". It is never right to swear beforehand and in ignorance to maintain secrecy concerning events which might prove to be morally and ethically wrong. J. Oswald Sanders rightly says, "Such oaths are ethically unjustifiable and judicially culpable."
VI. Some Oaths taken are unthinkably repulsive to the Christian Conscience. Note these examples:
From Entered Apprentice Oath: "To all which I do most solemnly and sincerely promise and swear, without the least equivocation, mental reservation, or self evasion of mind in me whatever; binding myself under no less penalty than to have my throat cut across, my tongue torn out by the roots, and my body buried in the rough sands of the sea at low water marks . . . etc." (Richardson, Op. Cit, P.10)
From the Most Excellent Master's Degree: ". . . binding myself under no less penalty than to have my breast torn open, and my heart and vitals taken from thence, and exposed to rot on the dung-hill . . . (Ibid. P.63)
From the Royal Arch Degree Oath: ". . . binding myself under no less penalty, than to have my skull smote off, and my brains exposed to the scorching rays of the meridian sun " (Ibid., p.72)
In the initiation of the Order of Knights Templars:
In this initiation the candidate must drink wine from a human skull, symbolic of the"bitter cup of death". Before he drinks this cup he must repeat these words:
"This pure wine, I take from this cup, in testimony of my belief of the mortality of the body and the immortality of the soul; and as the sins of the whole world were laid upon the head of our Saviour, so may the sins of the person whose skull this once was, be heaped upon my head, in addition to my own; and may they appear in judgment against me, both here and hereafter, should I violate or transgress any obligation in Masonry " (Ibid., PP.123-4)
It is to be noted that is some of the orders such as the Order of the Knights Templar, and the Order of the Cross, there is much use made of the New Testament and much mention made of a Saviour, but not without the kind of repulsiveness evident in this last quotation.
VII. These Societies wrest the Scriptures and misapply them throughout their literature.
The following are only a few examples of this practice:
In the Fellow Craft Degree Ritual we have this exchange:
"Master-Brother, in your present situation, what do you most desire? Candidate - More light.
Master-Brethren, form on the square, stretch forth your hands, and assist in bringing this new-made brother to more light. (pause)
And God said, Let there be light, and there was light." (Ibid., p.22).
In the Royal Arch Degree Initiation the "Principal Sojourner says,
"We are willing to go, but we have no pass-word whereby to make ourselves known . . . What shall we say?" In answer the "Captain of the Host" reads from Exodus 3:13, 14 including the words, "God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM:... I AM hath sent you." Then the "Captain of the Host" says, "We are directed to use the words 'I AM THAT I AM' as a pass-word." (Ibid., p.75)
In the HISTORICAL DEGREES the following appears:
"Senior Warden to Candidate - Do you know why our ancients have beards?
Candidate-I do not, but you do.
Senior Warden-They are those who came here, after passing through great tribulation, and having washed their robes IN THEIR OWN BLOOD: will you purchase such robes at so great price. (Blood is removed from arm of candidate after which)
Senior Warden-See, my brethren, a man who has spilled his blood to acquire a knowledge of our mysteries and shrunk not from the trial." (Ibid., p.168; caps ours)
This type of distortion is even more evident in reading the concept of the teaching of Scripture evident in various philosophies of Freemasonry. A good example is the following:
"With Jesus, Religion does not consist of a few acts of prayer, worship, and alms; it is not one thing, but the spirit in which we are to do everything, if it be only give a cup of cold water to a brother man. Many kinds of life have to be lived, and no one kind has a right to be called religious, to the exclusion of others Every task is sacred which offers opportunity for growth and service; all things are holy which draw men together in fellowship and promote justice and beauty in the earth." (The Religion of Masonry by Joseph Fort Newton; p.25)
Here is another example:
"By a sure and clear insight, our wise and gentle Masonry, in searching the noisy and confused quarry of human thought and faith, found a precious stone - too often rejected by builders hitherto - and made it the head of the corner; the truth of a righteous God who asks of man that he do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with the Eternal." (Ibid., p.71).
VIII. The attitude of Masonry to the Bible and Revelation is impossible for an evangelical Christian to share.
Most Masons, in this country, would deny this. To prove their point they would point to the fact that the Bible is considered a great light, and symbol of light in Masonry. They would point to the fact that it is often quoted in its literature and Ritual. The true picture, however, is well presented in the following quotations:
"The Church has no monopoly of Religion, nor did the Bible create it. Instead it was Religion that created the Bible and the Church, and if they were destroyed it would create them anew." (Ibid. p.21, 22).
"Like everything else in Masonry, the Bible, so rich in symbolism, is itself a symbol - that is, a part taken for the whole. It is a symbol of the Book of truth, the Scroll of faith, the Record of the Will of God as man has learned it in all lands and all ages - the perpetual revelation of Himself which God has made, and is making, to mankind. Thus, by the very honor which Masonry pays to the Bible, it teaches us to revere every Book of Faith in which man has found light and help and hope. In a Lodge consisting of Jews the Old Testament alone may be placed upon the Altar, and in a Lodge in the land of Mohammed the Koran may be used, according to the law of the mother Grand Lodge.
"But whether it be the Gospel of the Christian, the Book of the Law of the Hebrew, the Koran of the Moslem, or the Vedas of the Hindu, it everywhere Masonically symbolizes the will of God revealed to man, expressing such faith and vision as he has found in the fellowship of the seekers and servants of God." (Ibid. p.93, 94)
IX. Masonry is a religion offering a way of salvation without Jesus Christ. Many people claim that the Lodge is just as good as the Church, and is doing the same kind of work. They think that Masonry is a Christian institution, believing and practicing from the Word of God.
This is not only untrue, but the Official publications of Freemasonry will prove these ideas to be false.
That Masonry is religious, no one will deny. They talk about God, have public prayer, chaplains, priests and Worshipful Masters. They often quote from the Bible and it is a part of the furniture of the lodge, but the religion of Masonry is not Christian.
This will be seen in the following quotations:
"The religion of Masonry is not sectarian. It admits men of every creed within its hospitable bosom, rejecting none and approving none for his pect4iar faith. It is not Judaism, though there is nothing in it to offend the Jew; it is not Christianity, but there is nothing in it repugnant to the faith of a Christian. Its religion is that general one of nature and primitive revelation handed down to us from some ancient and patriarchal priesthood - in which all men may agree and none may differ." (Encyclopedia of Freemasonry, Dr. Albert G. Mackey; P.619).
"Masonry is not a religion but Religion - not a church but a worship, in which men of all religions may unite . . . . It is not the rival of any religion but the friend of all, laying emphasis upon these truths which underlie all religions and are the basis and consecration of each." (Newton, Op. Cit., p.11, 12).
Notice that these Masonic authorities say that the religion of Masonry is not sectarian, not Christian.
What then is the religion of Masonry? Dr. Mackey says, "Its religion is that general one of nature, and primitive revelation." It finds truth in all religions and does not permit any religion to claim a monopoly on salvation. In this same vein Dr. Mackey says:
"A Mason is obliged, by his tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the art, he will never be a stupid atheist nor an irreligious libertine. But though in ancient times Masons were charged in every country to be of the religion of that country or nation, whatever it was, it is now thought more expedient only to oblige them to that religion in which all men agree, leaving their particular opinions to themselves, that is, to be good men and true, or men of honor and honesty, by whatever denominations or persuasions they may be distinguished, whereby Masonry becomes the center of union and the means of conciliating true friendship among persons that must have remained at a perpetual distance." (Manual of the Lodge, under the title Charges of a Freemason, P. 215; it also appears as a charge to Masons in the Constitution of Free-Masons; reproduced by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania; 1906, p.48).
Masonry has no place for salvation through the Atoning work of Christ. They talk about "Deity" but the Son of God would be offensive to the Jew, the Hindu, or the Muslim. He is not welcome, for He divides men. Yet without Christ they offer salvation. What great claims they make:
"What hath thy lore of life to let it live?
What is the vital spark, hid in thy vow?
The millions learned, as thy clear paths they trod,
The secret of the strength thou hast to give:
'I am a way of common men to God.'"
(Carl Claudy in Newton, Op. Cit., p.57).
Masonry is a religion, but a religion of morality and works, and adheres only to the code of Masonry.
That this is true is clear even in the prayers and charges found throughout their constitutions. Take a few examples from the "Book of the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania, Op. Cit.)
In an opening prayer: " . . bless us in all our undertakings, that all our doings may tend to Thy glory and the salvation of our souls." (p.93)
In another prayer: " . . teach us so to govern us here in our living and working, that we may come to His bliss which never shall have an end." (p.109).
In a charge at initiation: "The World's great Architect is our Supreme Grand Master, and the unerring rule 'He has given us, is that by which we work; religious disputes are never suffered within the lodge; for, as Masons, we worship God as our consciences require, and thus we are united as in one sacred bend." (p.100, 101).
All of this a contradiction to the gospel which says there is no salvation apart from Jesus Christ. (Acts 4:12; John 14:6). That no man can be saved by works, (Eph. 2:8, 9; Rom. 3:20, 28; Gal. 3:10, 11), but only through faith in the Christ who died for sinners (Rom. 5:1, 8; 3:21-28).
How applicable are the words of J. Gresham Machen. He wrote:
"The primitive Church . . . was radically intolerant. In being radically intolerant, as in being radically doctrinal, it placed itself squarely in opposition to the spirit of the age . . . It demanded a completely exclusive devotion. A man could not be a worshiper of the God of the Christians and at the same time be a worshiper of other gods; he could not accept the salvation offered 'by Christ and at the same time admit that for other people there might be some other way of salvation; he could not agree to refrain from proselytizing among men of other faiths, but came forward, no matter what it might cost, with a universal appeal." (What Is Christianity, p.279, 280).
By way of application he says further:
"But when I say that a true Christian Church is radically intolerant, I mean simply that the Church must maintain the high exclusiveness and universality of its message. It presents the gospel of Jesus Christ not merely as one way of salvation, but as the only way. It cannot make common cause with other faith. It cannot agree not to proselytize. Its appeal is universal, and admits of no exceptions. All are lost in sin; none may be saved except by the way set forth in the gospel. Therein lies the offense of the Christian religion, but therein lies its glory and its power. A Christianity tolerant of other religions is just no Christianity at all." (Ibid., p.284).
In the light of all this we are certain that it is an undisputable fact that if the teachings of Masonry were followed to their logical conclusions it would mean first the subordination of the Church to itself - and therefore its destruction. How in the light of all this 'can one honestly subscribe allegiance to both at the same time. "No man can serve two masters" (Matt. 6:24).
In view of this study the Committee recommends:
1. That the article "Secret Oath-Bound Societies" as it passed first reading be accepted as the rule of our Church on this question. (conf. 1962 Year Book; p.54).
2. That the Annual Conference form a Committee to formulate a questionnaire for candidates for Membership in the Bible Fellowship Church in keeping with our Church Standards. Such a questionnaire should contain a question relative to Lodge membership.
John H. Riggall, Chairman
Frank L. Herb, Jr., Secretary
Earl M. Hosler
William A. Heffner