In consequence of this tendency, we find men coming together in tribes, in communities, in churches, in societies. Some gather together to cultivate the arts; some to plan for the welfare of the State; some to discuss religious themes; some to kindle their mirth; some to advance their craft. So every active community is divided into associations of artists, of merchants, of bookbinders, of carpenters, of masons, of plasterers, of shipwrights, of plumbers. Do you cry out against it? Then you cry out against a tendency divinely implanted. Your tirades will accomplish no more than if you should preach to a busy ant-hill or bee-hive a long sermon against secret societies.
Here we find in our path the oft-discussed question, whether associations that do their work with closed doors, and admit their members by pass-words, and greet each other with a secret grip, are right or wrong. I answer that it depends entirely upon the nature of the object for which they meet. Is it to pass the hours in revelry, wassail, blasphemy, and obscene talk, or to plot trouble to the State, or to debauch the innocent? Then I say, with an emphasis that no man can mistake, “NO.” But is the object the improvement of the mind, or the enlargement of the heart, or the advancement of art, or the defence of the government, or the extirpation of crime, or the kindling of a pure-hearted sociality? Then I say, with just as much emphasis, “YES.”
There is no need that we who plan for the conquest of right over wrong should publish to all the world our intentions. The general of an army never sends to the opposing troops information as to the coming attack. Shall we who have enlisted in the cause of God and humanity expose our plans to the enemy? No! We will in secret plot the ruin of all the enterprises of Satan and his cohorts. When they expect us by day, we will fall upon them by night. While they are strengthening their left wing, we will double up their right. By a plan of battle formed in secret conclave, we will come suddenly upon them, crying: “The sword of the Lord and of Gideon!”
Secrecy of plot and execution are wrong only when the object and influence are nefarious. Every family is a secret society; every business firm, and every banking and insurance institution. Those men who have no capacity to keep a secret are unfit for positions of trust anywhere. There are thousands of men whose vital need is culturing in capacity to keep a secret. Men talk too much—and women too. There is a time to keep silence, as