This is a long read but worth the time and effort to see how Charles Taze Russell viewed Free Masonry. Note the first quote is from the very first copy of Zion's Watch Tower. I don't think I've ever seen these quotes in discussions, such as this one, used before to reveal that Russell did not have a very high opinion of secret societies such as Masonry. Please note that I capitalized important words or thoughts to highlight the point.
September 1879 ZION’S WATCH TOWER, “THE DAY OF THE LORD”
Page 26, paragraph 6:
Rev. vi. 15, figuratively describes that time of falling of kingdoms when every mountain (kingdom) and island shall be moved. The kings and chief ones as well as bondmen will recognize in this trouble that “The great day of His wrath is come,” and will seek to make alliances and to hide themselves from the sure coming storm. They will seek to be covered and protected by the great mountains (kingdoms,) of earth and to be hid in the great rocks of this world’s societies, (MASONIC, ODD FELLOWS, &c.,) but they shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s anger, for “all the kingdoms of the world shall be thrown down, and instead of three mountains (kingdoms) “the kingdom of the Lord becomes a great mountain, and fills the whole earth.” Daniel ii. 35, 45.
June 15, 1895 ZION'S WATCH TOWER, Page 1827
SECRET AND BENEFICIAL SOCIETIES
Dear Brother [Russell]: I would like to have your opinion on the subject of life insurance. They are organizing lodges all around here--United Workmen, Knights of Pythias, Red Men, Masons, Odd Fellows, etc. They are working it just about like sectarianism in the churches. Would like to see an article in the Tower on the subject. W. E. KILLAM
OUR REPLY TO THE QUERY
In our judgment the majority of "secret societies" are merely beneficiary and have no secret schemes antagonistic to the general public welfare, the secret rites and ceremonies being merely "boys' play," occupying the time and attention of persons who have no greater aims than those which pertain to the present life. We not, however, that several Roman Catholic Societies seem to have schemes connected with the use of fire-arms, and are therefore to be classed as malevolent rather than benevolent.
We note also that the ORDER OF FREE MASONS, if judged by its past history, has some secret object or scheme, more than fraternity and financial aid in time of sickness or death. And, so far as we can judge, there is a certain amount of profane worship or mummery connected with the rites of this order and some others, which the members do not comprehend, but which, in many cases, serves to satisfy the cravings of the natural mind for worship, and thus hinders it from seeking the worship of god in spirit and in truth--through Christ, the only appointed Mediator and Grand Master.
In proportion as such SOCIETIES CONSUME VALUABLE TIME IN FOOLISH, SENSELESS RITES AND CEREMONIES, AND IN SUBSTITUTING THE WORSHIP OF THEIR OFFICERS, AND THE USE OF WORDS AND SYMBOLS WHICH HAVE NO MEANING TO THEM, for the worship of God, in his appointed way--through Christ, and according to knowledge and the spirit of a sound mind—IN THAT PROPORTION THESE SOCIETIES ARE GRIEVIOUS EVILS, regardless of the financial gains or losses connected with membership in them.
But respecting those orders which are merely Mutual Insurance Societies, in which the members pay a certain weekly sum of money to their sick, and at death a larger sum to their families, we must concede that they represent a good principle. It is certainly in harmony with the golden rule to help our neighbor when he is in need. The only objection we see to this is, that it puts the matter on a business or selfish basis and thus destroys its benevolent features; for each one joins, not for the good he can do, but for the help he hopes to obtain for himself or his family.
If, therefore, the matter be considered merely as a business arrangement, we can see no more wrong in joining such Mutual Benefit Societies than in taking out a policy in a regular Life or Accident Insurance Co., or insuring property in a Fire Insurance Co.--provided always that there be no confession of error or binding obligation required, contrary to the liberty wherewith Christ makes free. Wherever oaths of secrecy are demanded it is safe for God's people to touch not, taste not, handle not, --except as oaths are prescribed by public law, as before courts or in reference to documents for public record. In every other case the children of God will be blessed in obeying strictly the admonition, --Let your Yea be yea, and your Nay, nay, for "whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." It is in connection with his description of the "last days" of the Gospel age that St. James cautions against all binding oath, such as many Secret Societies demand.--Matt. 5:37, Jas. 5:12.
August 1, 1895 ZION’S WATCH TOWER
CONSECRATION VS. THE WORLD AND ITS AFFAIRS
A brother, once very deep in Secretism, and who knows that THE EDITOR HAS HAD NO SUCH EXPERIENCE, writes as follows:
DEAR BROTHER RUSSELL:--Your remarks under caption of “Secret and Beneficial Societies” in TOWER, of June 15, ’95, seem rather funny to me. You hit the nail very fairly considering that you were hammering so much in the dark. I am glad that you defend the principle of protection as afforded by legitimate or old line companies, life, fire and accident. With you, however, I think their days are numbered. No human business was ever organized with broader and more philanthropic intentions than insurance, and no business has been so abused and diverted from its real purposes. When insurance fails (as it has failed) from the effect of selfishness, wwe can not hope that any human work will succeed.
As to the secret societies, they use a ritual applicable to each different degree, which is fully as reasonable as that of many of the churches, and like those of the churches, it is usually of heathen origin. The worship of the Sun appears prominently in Masonry, and so it does in the service of the Catholic and Episcopal churches. The term “Worshipful,” as used in masonry, is now practically obsolete, but was formerly and generally used as a term of respect. I occupied the station of “Worshipful Master” for three years, but I never received the adoration of my fellow mortals, and I certainly never gave it to others. Your suggestion, that it is done ignorantly, is a good suggestion, but it does not apply in that case. Perhaps no man in my state, during the twenty odd years I was a member of the fraternity, gave more careful study to the symbolism of Masonry, its moral teaching and its jurisprudence.
While Masonry does not inculcate the worship of its officers, it does what is worse; for in its essence the symbolism used in the ceremonies are derived from devil worship.
Although no longer unequally yoked with those unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14-17), I do want to say for those who are still in bondage that they have much excuse. Masonry consists very largely in a series of moral instructions, taught agreeably to ancient usage, by types, symbols and allegorical figures. It is a system, and a very beautiful system—as is very much of Satan’s work—when seen from the worldly standpoint.
Your fellow-worker in the best (not the worst) of bonds.
ANOTHER BROTHER WRITES:--
“Masonry is not Christianity; and he who is so deluded as to think it is, is led thereby into a labyrinth of grievous errors. I think I know what I am talking about, for I was for seven years “Master” of a “Lodge,” and conferred hundred of degrees. Masonry will not take away sins, or save a soul from death; and it is a grave question whether or not a child of God has any business spending time and money in any worldly institution. There is nothing pure; that is earthly, but purity comes down from above.”