Arthur Selden Lloyd.

Christianity and the religions : being three lectures delivered at the summer school of Harvard University in July, 1908 online

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Christianity and
The Religions














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Ubc ftnfcfeerbocfeer press, "Hew IBorfe


When the invitation to deliver these
lectures came, it was probably intended
that they should discuss the attitude of
present day Christian teachers towards
those of other religions.

This, however, seemed fruitless. The
attitude of Christian teachers to-day to-
wards their brothers who do not know
the Father is practically determined by
the individual's apprehension of the
Message he is sent to deliver.

The one who understands that it is
a Message from the One Father to His
children everywhere will approach other
teachers as brother draws near to
brother. The one who regards the Gos-



pel as a system opposing other systems
and therefore to be defended, will of
necessity deal with others as with an-

Hence the only discussion that seemed
worth while was the essential difference
between the Revelation and the religions
with a view to determining what obliga-
tion this difference lays upon Christian
people towards those who know nothing
about the Revelation.

Nor did it seem necessary to take
note of the religions as these are known
in our time, since it were impossible to
determine to what extent these have
been consciously or unconsciously in-
fluenced and colored by contact with
Christian teaching. All that has been
said therefore of the religions is spoken
of them as they were before there had


been any Revelation of the Father in
the person of His Son, our Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ.

The last lecture is one man's opinion
as to how the obligation ought to be
met which Christians owe to their
brothers who do not know the Father.
It is of use just so far as it commends
itself to the judgment of intelligent
people or tempts others to formulate
a more reasonable mode of procedure.

A. S. L.





Every right-minded man has prob-
ably at some time tried to picture Uto-
pia. At least it would be hard to find
one who thinks at all who, in his youth,
did not dream of a state of society
wherein all sorts and conditions of men
might have an opportunity to develop
to their best. This generally passes
and the man settles down into the com-
monplace (we call it "becoming con-
servative"), having made up his mind
that the odds are too great for him,


there is no use to set himself against
the multitude; or else he becomes ab-
sorbed in getting for himself, (whether
the getting refers to religious or ma-
terial things does not signify — the get-
ting for himself is the factor of im-
portance) and adopts the easy philos-
ophy that teaches him to think it is as
much as one man can do to look after
and meet his own obligations (obliga-
tions meaning self-interest). So the
dream fades and these join the com-
pany of those who smile at dreamers
and believers in Utopia, waiting for
them also to be made practical by the
logic of experience.

But even so it seems to be true that

whenever in the records of the human

family (his race or religion does not

alter the case) a man has appeared who



led the people up to a higher level in
the scale of life, (not necessarily to a
more comfortable mode of living but
to higher ideas of men and living,) that
one has been a "dreamer" who persisted
in refusing to surrender his ideals, con-
vinced that his dream and not what
men call "the natural order" described
the truth about human life; and has
been able to make some at least see
through his eyes and desire to reduce
his dream to practical expression. And
every such man (it can no doubt be
stated without exception) has started
from the postulate that when Utopia
is found, the Eternal under whatever
name He may have been known and
man will walk as friends. Or, to put
it differently, all the records of the hu-
man family seem to indicate that their


development has been dependent upon
and in proportion to the efforts of men
to solve the problem of the relation be-
tween man and his Maker (the terms
that happen to be used do not signify) .
Thus among all the races is to be found
the dream of a golden age when there
w T ill be harmony between these two.
There is no surprise, therefore, when
we find that all the religions upon
which the old civilizations were built up
(for in every case a religious system
lies back of the civilization) have this
one motive — to find a means by which
man may be in God's presence, so to
speak, naturally. The consciousness
that a man must at last come into the
Presence is always present; the fact
that a man is unworthy to be in that
Presence is taken for granted; that he


can become worthy has been the saving
conviction at all times, among all peo-
ple. And every religion has had this
for its end, to enable man to attain that
worthiness in order to have a share in
the golden time.

Nor have these religions failed in
their purpose. The development of
nations has been a history of the growth
of their religions. Each nation seems
to have grown until the peoples have
attained the ideal their seers dreamed
of. This realized, there has come first
stagnation, and then — inevitably — de-
terioration, until contact with a higher
type ; i. e., people with a more true ideal,
has given a new motive and so a new
growth. (Comparison of the races
which in the old time grew, with those
that seem to have had in themselves no


power to develop will illustrate this for
the curious.) Careful scrutiny enables
us to find the reason why all the old re-
ligions sank into decay without their
ideals being realized. They were all
based on imperfect conceptions of hu-
man nature, and inevitably so; for in
the nature of things a man without help
from outside himself cannot know what
is not to be "discovered" in human ex-
perience. Therefore it is not to find
fault with, but to state a self-evident
truth about the old civilizations, to say
that these had to pass because their re-
ligions, i. e., the expression of their
ideals, could not pass beyond or reach
higher than the limitations of that man
among themselves who had come nearest
to a manner of life worthy to be a model
in his generation.



As has been said, this whole religious
development everywhere had its origin
in the conviction that for a golden age
to be set up there must first be found
a means by which men might be con-
sciously at home in the Presence. All
alike taking for granted that a man in
the ordinary circumstances of his life
might not presume to come there.
Every religion was a system for the
purpose of propitiating Deity. But it
is not to be concluded from this that
man knew or had clear cut opinions
about things unseen. Rather an in-
stinctive conviction, if one may so
speak, that some time and somewhere
it is the destiny of a man to come into
the presence of the All -ruling: but
this in another world under new condi-
tions. Here and now the most that can


be attained is the winning of the good
will of a power or powers that it were
useless to combat. (It is interesting
to note that Confucius seemed to di-
vine the other side of the truth when
he bade men because they could know
nothing of the beyond, to learn how to
win contentment by living right in the
days of this life. As also to note that
for the Hebrews what has been said
does not apply. For unlike any other
people their conception of the Eternal
was not only that He is One, but that
"He is of purer eyes than to behold
iniquity." Therein describing an ideal
that can never become ineffective, for
it involves the thought of final com-
pleteness for the one who is to see Him
face to face. )

So human society developed; each


age having its dream of Utopia; each
age guessing at the riddle of the Un-
seen. Each age lifted up by the few
who dreamed beautiful dreams and
thought great thoughts giving up their
lives to the effort of trying to solve the
mystery of the Unseen. And by striv-
ing each age at last reached up to and
won what their great ones had dreamed
of — and then passed, because as some-
one has said of the Roman Empire it
did not know what to do with the world
after it had it in its hands to fashion
as it would.


It was when the Roman Empire had

attained to heights that until then had

not been reached that Messiah came.

In Him the "human" was finally and



completely differentiated from all crea-
tures. He came not as other men had
come with a proposed solution of a dif-
ficulty. He did not come to estalish
"a religion" or to tell men of new-
methods by which they might propitiate
powers in whose presence they were im-
potent. Above all he did not come as
a rival to the old religions, claiming
adherents for Himself as the originator
of a cult. It were impossible to think of
Him as one of a company contending
for rights or pleading for a hearing.
Truth is, He never had a word to say
against any. "I came not to destroy but
to fulfil" was His own declaration as
to his attitude towards what had been.
And though this, of course, had refer-
ence first of all to the development of


His own people, and to their hopes and
fears concerning their relation to the
Eternal, it were just to conclude that
He had in mind also those other mighty
men of old, by whom the Almighty had
been leading men everywhere up from
the earth until they had attained the
ability to separate in their thought the
human from all else physical and ma-
terial. The most casual reader must
notice the contrast between His teach-
ing and that of all other teaching, even
though it be allowed that He had no
new code of morals to impart, and in
many things stated what the sages had
taught before Him. He lifted all that
had ever been taught to a new height,
giving to morality a new meaning and
throwing light on the ancient teachings


that had never rested there. Yet even
though this be true, if it were all that
could be said, it would mean that His
teaching differed only in degree from
what had gone before. It would be ex-
aggeration to use the term "Revela-
tion" to describe Himself and His teach-
ing, for who can say that a man in
growing might not have discovered for
himself a pure morality, and have
searched at last the very depths of the
wisdom of the ancients? "Revelation"
to be such seems to demand that it show
men truth about human life that is out-
side human experience, in such wise
that a man may not only comprehend it,
but know it to be necessary for his best
development. It must impart truth
concerning a man which a man by
searching cannot find for himself.



To differentiate the teaching of Mes-
siah from all other teaching from every
other source, it is necessary therefore to
find in it marks not of difference but
distinction, i. e., that which separates it
in kind from all other teaching that the
race has ever received. Understanding
the term "religion" as describing a
means by which men may propitiate the
Eternal, and win favor where they had
deserved punishment, and acquire
friendship where there had been enmity,
(in general this would describe all the
ancient religions), the first mark of
distinction in Messiah's teaching is that
He did not establish a "religion" but
rather declared that His coming
brought all "religions" to an end; in


that what all religions had striven to
discover was revealed in Him, and that
in His own person He would put to
an end that for which all religions had
existed. The time will scarcely come
(though it might be wished for) when
Christian people will cease to speak of
"our most holy religion," but on the
lips of a Christian that word has wholly
different meaning from what is in-
volved when we speak of "the re-
ligions." Even the Jews had a system
(given them indeed of Jehovah, yet a
system) by which a man might propi-
tiate the Eternal, but when Messiah
came He declared that He "fulfilled"
and brought to an end all that this had
stood for. Henceforth there would be
no "religion" for the wall of partition
He declared He Himself had broken


down. Hereafter a man, simply be-
cause he is a man, may draw near to
"the throne of grace" boldly.

Again, all He showed was differen-
tiated from "the religions" by his atti-
tude towards the questions which had
underlaid and given reason for them all.
No religion but had its motive in the
hope or dread of another existence
after men had passed beyond the con-
ditions of this present life. And the
aim of every rite was to gain credit for
the suppliant when he came into Hades ;
just as the motive of all speculation
was either to find some clue to the na-
ture of the Unseen or else find out what
befalls men in the land of shadows.

In direct contradiction to this, Mes-
siah took for granted all that men
had hoped or dreaded. The life beyond


in his teaching became a matter of
course — the explanation of and reason
for all this present. The conditions of
that life were treated as a known quan-
tity — its nature was plainly declared
and the relation of a man to his Maker
was definitely described. And all He
showed was based on these suppositions
as though they were the very reason and
explanation of His Revelation. It is
not surprising then to discover that He
does not follow the sages in urging men
to acts of religion with a view to making
peace for themselves in an existence that
has nothing in common with the life a
man lives on the earth, and yet ever to be
dreaded; rather does He teach man to
think the other way about — Eternal
life which is the gift of the Father


through His Son Jesus Christ, He
seems to say, is the completeness of
human life — i. e., of the life a man lives
in his mortal body. The matter of su-
preme importance to every man is there-
fore the choices he makes; since these
show his relation to the things that give
color and significance to his life now
and here. And the reason of this is
that only by using these as his Father
uses them can he learn to know the Fa-
ther and be conformed to His likeness.
This, no doubt, is the reason he regu-
larly speaks of the life beyond incident-
ally. The life that is complete, He
tells us, surely waits for the one who
longs for it. Therefore complete life
is not to be compared with those things,
whatever may be their value, that a man


must let slip in order to attain it. The
place of despair surely waits for the
heedless one, hence it becomes intel-
ligent creatures not to be deceived by
the apparent value of those passing
things that degrade men's lives. Per-
fect life is the destiny of men. What
will help them to be worthy to have
share in that life ought for men to be
the determining factor in their choices.


It is most interesting to note how
Messiah confirms the reliability of men's
intuitions by tacitly endorsing the
end the sages had pursued. These
all leave it beyond doubt that they con-
sidered the truth about a man's relation
to his Maker to be the supreme ques-
tion. Whatever else they taught, or


however inadequately, this is the real
searching in all the ancient's philoso-
phies. (No reference is made here to
the religion of Israel. In this lecture it
is assumed that Messiah is the Crown
of that Revelation. )

The first word of Messiah after He
had declared "the Kingdom of God is
come" was to announce that He came
to "reveal the Father." It were use-
less to speak of the meaning of this
phrase which has changed the attitude
of mankind to all the questions relat-
ing to human life, further than to em-
phasize the self-evident thought that
when He said He would reveal the
Father, He of necessity must mean that
He would show the Eternal to men in
the terms of men's thought. The un-
knowable would be brought within the


compass of men's knowing so that there
would be no more occasion to speculate
about Him into whose presence all
men's teachers had declared men must
finally come. And if His promise was
to be of practical value to men, it seems
safe to say that He could not mean alone
that He would show His Father to men
in the terms of their thought, (it may
be questioned whether that would have
done more than make men marvel) . It
seems necessary to suppose that He
meant He would show to men Him
Who is their Father in such terms as
would make them able to understand
the relation. On the other hand it may
be worth while to note that in this
promise He did not undertake to show
men all the truth about the Eternal. It
were easily conceivable that this might


be impossible. He came to reveal to
men all that is necessary for men to
know about the creator of the universe
and their own relation to Him. In a
word He undertook to make clear and
to reduce to simple terms the pro-
foundest mystery that confronts human
thought by answering that question —
What is the relation between man and
his Maker? Speaking generally, He
added nothing to what had already been
revealed concerning the relation be-
tween its Maker and the material uni-
verse. But as to the relation between
men and God, Messiah declared, He is
Father. And in this He meant what
He said or else He was mocking man.
Certain it is that on the simple meaning
of this statement is rested all He did
and showed until He was received up


into Heaven; and certain it is that in
that unique form of words which we call
the "Lord's Prayer," wherein He at
one and the same time taught those
whom He had chosen to pray and also
committed them to the acceptance of
His teaching in this particular, He
makes them declare as true His first
postulate, when He puts on their lips
the words, "Our Father in Heaven."

Another conclusion is also inevitable.
Not only does He see to it that His dis-
ciples may not pray without confessing
the truth of His declaration, but He
shuts them up to that other declaration
of His only less momentous than the
first — that a man's life has its source in
God's life (thus reaffirming the first
record of the old Revelation) and there-
fore in order that a man may live a nor-


mal human life, it were necessary
that a man be filled, controlled, inspired,
taught, guided, all of these and more,
by the same Spirit that filled Himself,
for it is the Spirit of the living God
their Father, and if their Father's then
theirs also, so that without the help of
the Spirit of God they are not able to
be like their Father.

The supreme importance of these
postulates in His own estimation is seen
in that Messiah's whole public life may
be said to have been devoted to making
this one truth clear. He was, as men
speak, jealous for His Father's honor.
He denounced only those (and these He
declared to be "children of the devil")
whose teaching would lead men to think
of His Father as bearing other relation
to men than that of Father. And as


though to put away forever all question
as to the literalness of His meaning, the
only picture He draws of the Eternal
is in the likeness of an old man whose
heart is breaking because his son had
used his freedom to ruin himself withal.
Hence it may be stated unreservedly
that His teaching urges men to think
of the great Unknown and Unknowable,
as far as concerns themselves and their
career and in all the relations of life, in
the simplest terms of human relations;
so much so that He rests His admoni-
tion to service rendered for and fidelity
to the Lord God Omnipotent on the
very same motives that control in a sane
household. The Father's love will be
wounded by disobedience; the Fa-
ther's love will be gratified by glad
service; but no service is service except


that which love prompts — love for the
Father. The very bonds by which a
man would draw away his child from the
things that debase, to the course that will
issue in self-respect and right manli-

It is interesting and would be worth
while to note how all his teaching takes
this starting point for granted, but the
detail that is necessary here, is to em-
phasize that which He repeated again
and again, that a man cannot live a nor-
mal, human lif e until he has the mind of
his Father, i. e., until he takes the same
view of life that his Father takes of it,
nor until he deliberately and consciously
works with his Father to help Him ac-
complish what He wishes to have done;
another illustration of the simplicity
with which He found human relations



as men know them sufficient to make
plain all that human beings need to
know about the relation between them-
selves and the Eternal God. Even that
declaration which has given pause to
many; and which on this account many-
have ignored, viz. : that a man's real life
begins when he has received Life from
above — or as it is put in another place,
when he has received the Holy Ghost, is
no exception to the rule of His teach-
ing as here outlined. He is only de-
scribing in other terms what is matter
of course in human experience, that a
son cannot be congenial with his father,
knowing his mind, sharing his interests,
eager to accomplish his purposes, until
the son partakes of the spirit of his
father. And all that His Revelation
contains of satisfaction and joy beyond


anything that mortal relations can
know, He leaves for the child to find out
and learn as he becomes competent to
comprehend through continuing and
ever more intelligent communion and
intercourse with his Father thus re-
vealed to Him.

It was said above that there were no
need to note further marks of distinc-
tion between Messiah's method and that
of the sages than those there alluded to,
but it is necessary here to note one other.
He never commanded anybody to be-
lieve anything He said. Of all the
teachers of men He alone is unique in
His reverence for men's intelligence.
A man's mind (one cannot read His
words without noting it) must be free


if the man is to retain his integrity.
And so He introduced to men that
method which at last men have learned
to call scientific. Experiment He de-
clared to be the only true test. "Try
what I have showed you in your own
life and you will find it answers to the
truth in you," he declared in various
terms. He never spoke except with au-
thority. All the information He im-
parted He declared to be what He knew
in His own experience. But as to its
application by others, He always said,
"Try it for yourself, letting your confi-
dence in me give you courage to pay
what it costs and you will find I have
introduced to that which takes all the
riddles out of life and makes clear the
way before you." He calls it giving
men "My Peace."



That He knew He was inviting men
to go in the face of what seemed to be
the evidence of practical sense and that
He sympathized with them in the diffi-
culty, is evidenced by the many assur-
ances He gave not only in word and
picture but by actual demonstration in
His own conduct, that what they would
secure would far surpass all it cost to
get ; as well as His compassion for men's
weakness and cowardice in drawing
back from what they longed for, on ac-
count of the dear price involved, is
showed by the manner in which He laid
bare the inevitable wretchedness that
must follow a life that was not lived
naturally. Two conclusions seem to be
inevitable if we follow Messiah's teach-
ings to their logical end. First, that
He regards the theory of life He com-


mended as the only working theory a

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Online LibraryArthur Selden LloydChristianity and the religions : being three lectures delivered at the summer school of Harvard University in July, 1908 → online text (page 1 of 4)