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self-denial for the sake of others — for the sake of bring-
ing others into the Kingdom and procuring for them
health of body or health of soul. To the Buddhist, we
are told, self-denial is prescribed for its own sake : the
others whom he benefits are treated not as ends-in-
themselves, but as a means to his own good. The
supreme ideal is not Love, but Self-renunciation.
And the rationale of that self-renunciation is that all
personal existence, and all the desire which springs
from personal existence, are bad.^ The object of Ufa

^ Cf . the following passages from Buddliist Scriptures :

" By passing quite beyond the mere consciousness of the infinity
of reason, he, thinking ' nothing at all exists,' reaches (mentally)
and remains in the state of mind to which nothing at all is specially
present — this is the sixth stage of deliverance."

" By passing quite beyond all idea of nothingness he reaches
(mentally) and remains in the state of mind to which neither ideas
nor the absence of ideas are specially present — this is the seventh
stage of deliverance."

" By passing quite beyond the state of ' neither ideas nor the
absence of ideas ' he reaches (mentally) and remains in the state
of mind in which both sensations and ideas have ceased to be —

Christian Ethics and other Systems 267

is to escape from life — to escape from desire, to escape
from personality, perhaps (according to some inter-
pretations of Nirvana) to escape from consciousness
itself. Nobody, it must be remembered, can be a
true Buddhist but the monk or the nun : the life
of the layman is a mere concession to human weak-
ness. Salvation can never be attained by a layman
till his soul has been reincarnated in a monk. And
the ideal of the monks — though in practice, like their
Western equivalents, they have not been so socially
useless as might be supposed from their ideal — is in
the main renunciation of all ordinary human duties
and human enjoyments, a Hfe of soUtary meditation
and absorption in the Absolute. And even in laymen
the most necessary duties of good citizenship are at
best tolerated. It is strictly inconsistent with Buddhist
principles to use force even in the most necessary
administration of Justice. War is practised, but the
Buddhist admits that, in however just and necessary
a cause, it is not strictly lawful.^ The Jew or the
Christian will justify war as a necessary means to
securing the best things of life and the just distribution

this is the eighth stage of deliverance " (Book of the Great Decease,
iii, 39-41, Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XI).

" Hinder not yourselves, Ananda, by honouring the remains
of the Tath&gata, Be zealous, I beseech you, Ananda, in your own
behalf I Devote yourselves to your own good ! Be earnest, be
zealous, be intent on your own good ! " (I.e., chap, v, 24).

" You have done well, Ananda ! Be earnest in effort, and you
too shall soon be free from the great evils — from sensuality, from
individuality, from delusion, and from ignorance " (I.e., chap, v, 35).

1 Cf. Fielding Hall, The Soul of a People (chap. vi).

268 Conscience and Christ

of such things : to the genuine Buddhist nothing in
hfe can be worth fighting for, or even strugghng or
laboriously working for. Can anything be more
wholly opposed to the ideals whether of the best
modern Christians who labour for the improvement
of human hfe or of the average Western man who,
whatever his professed religious or non-religious
belief, is profoundly convinced that business, poUtics,
culture, and ordinary social life are worthy spheres of
human activity ? It is possible, of course, to suggest
that the Buddhist ideal is true and the Christian false :
it is simply trifling with the subject to maintain that
they are the same.^

It may, no doubt, be suggested that Christianity
has in the past at times approximated to the Buddhist
ideal. No doubt it has. Asceticism has sometimes
been far more extravagant among Christians than
among the followers of Gautama, who had a very
limited belief in the spiritual value of positive as
distinct from the negative kind of Asceticism. The
ideal of Christian Monasticism, especially in its earher
form, is open to precisely the same objections as the
ideal of Buddhism. Those Christians who are called
in the narrow and more technical sense of the term
mystics have often approximated to the Buddhist
type of religious thought and feeling, though some of

* It is true that the selfishness of the Buddliist ideal is practi-
cally (if illogically) redeemed by its insistence upon the duty of
inducing others to make similar self-renunciation : the monk must
make other monks. But this only emphasizes the anti-social
character of the ideal.

Christian Ethics and other Systems 269

them have at the same time practised laborious works
of Charity which to the strict Buddhist would seem
but so many falUngs off from the true ideal. And even
in the ecstasies of the Christian mystic, the " love "
of which their utterances are so full has never quite
forgotten that it is a desire for the good of other
persons, and has seldom become merely a name for
the destruction of all desire in order to attain that
true good of self which is the extinction of self. As to
certain modern and quite unmonastic mystics who
profess much sympathy with quasi-Buddhist modes
of thought and expression, I will only say that their
ideal appears to be consistent with an attitude towards
the pleasures, enjoyments, and ambitions of this life
which does not perceptibly differ from that of non-
mystical Christians, and which would seem to the
really Buddhist monk as inconsistent with the life of
the true philosopher as it is with that of the true
religionist. But in so far as the Western man is ever
sincere in his professions of sympathy with the
thoroughgoing Buddhist ideal, I freely admit that I
do not see why he should ask a Buddhist to become
a Christian. I will go further, and say that the diffi-
culty is to justify his remaining a Christian and not
becoming a professed Buddhist. The attitude that is
really intolerable is first to complain of Christianity
on the ground that it is too " world-renouncing," and
then to patronize a religion which is on any view
vastly more world-renouncing, world-contemning,

270 Consciefice and Christ

progress-hating, other-worldly than Christianity has
ever been at any period of its history — certainly
more so than it is now. In one respect the most
ascetic and world-renouncing form of Christianity has
always been poles apart from Buddhism. World-
renouncing Christianity — except in mystics who have
fairly passed outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy
— has always aspired after a better life hereafter : to
the Buddhist hope of a future life is one of the deadly

It is true that just as Christianity has sometimes
been tinged with Buddhist ideas, so it is possible to find
in some phases of Buddhism a much closer approxima-
tion to the best Christian ideas. Among the practical
Japanese, for instance, the speculative, world-renounc-
ing, anti-social side of Buddhism has never had any
profound influence. One of its sects has become much
more theistic than the rehgion of Gautama. ^ The
language used about salvation by belief in Amida
closely resembles the Christian language about salva-
tion through Christ. 2 Its Eschatology, through
association with the Shinto ancestor- worship, has
become more like the Christian hope of personal

^ " The virtues which . . . are untarnished by the desire of
future hfe " — MahS,-Parinibbdna-Sutta, ii. 9 {Sacred Books of the
East. Vol. XL).

" The Jodo Shin Shu. See two very interesting articles by
Dr. Estlin Carpenter on " Religion in the Far East " in The Quest
(Vol. I, Nos. 3 and 4, 1910)-

" See The Praises of Amida, Seven Buddhist Sermons, translated
from the Japanese of Tada Kanai. By Arthur Lloyd. Tokyo,
published by the Kyobunkwan ; Yokohama, Kelly and Walsh, 1907-

Christian Ethics and other Systems 271

Immortality. And the Ethics of the sect have under-
gone corresponding developments. The ascetic world-
renunciation tends to disappear, and to be trans-
formed into a high standard of social duty such as
would be recognized by the modern Christian as the
true interpretation of Christian Love. This develop-
ment has been, up to a certain point, quite independent
of Christianity : but in recent times the Buddhist
ideal has shown a strong tendency to assimilate
avowedly and consciously the ideal of Christ. Buddhist
priests sometimes boast that they are teaching Chris-
tian MoraHty.

In the same way, in India and elsewhere, attempts
are being made to regenerate the old historical Re-
ligions in a way which is obviously due, sometimes to
an unavowed, sometimes to an avowed, influence of
the Christian ideal. The best known of such attempts
are the movements or rather religious communities
known as the Arya Somaj and the Brahmo Somaj. In
the Brahmo Somaj the influence of Christianity is
particularly conspicuous. Its Theism, its hope of
Immortality, and its Ethics are often quite of the
Christian type. The language in which Keshub
Chunder Sen, the founder of its most liberal branch,^

^ The original sect was founded by Rajah Rammshun Roy in
1844. There is another branch of the Brahmo Somaj founded by
Debendranath Tagore in 1844; Keshub Chunder Sen in 1866
founded the " Brahmo Somaj of India," which became so famous
that its connexion with the older movement which, though in-
fluenced by Christian thought, professes closer affinity with a
regenerated Hindooisra, was often ignored.

272 Conscience and Christ

speaks of Christ is very much what would be
used by many Unitarian Christians. Somewhat
similar tendencies may be detected within the old
Persian religion now known as Parseeism. As to
Judaism it is difficult to say when it did not begin to
be influenced by Christianity. And certainly there
are many modern Jews whose Ethic is practically at
all points Christian. Some modern Jewish Reformers
advocate the reading of the New Testament, and
regard Jesus as at least one of the prophets — if not
as the prophet by whom at last the eternally true
element of Judaism has been fully brought out and
separated from the element in Judaism which was
particularistic, unethical, transitory. ^ If they still
advocate a modified observance of the ceremonial
law, it is only as a particular form of universalistic
Theism, suitable to the needs of a particular race
with a special history but by no means of any strictly
ethical or universal obligation.

It is only, as it seems to me, as regards these modem
attempts to reform ancient religions under the avowed
or unavowed influence of Christianity ^ that the
question can seriously arise whether they can be
regarded as alternative forms of Religion which could

» See, for instance, the Liberal Judaism and other writings of
Mr. Claude Montefiore.

* The argument will not be much affected if it is contended that
the approximation to Christianity has been independent of even
indirect Christian influence — very difficult as such a contention
appears to me to be.

Christian Ethics and other Systems 273

possibly appear so far satisfactory to one who shares
the Christian ideal that he would feel himself pre-
cluded from asking their adherents to leave their old
religions and to join the Christian Church. As regards
members of such bodies, we ought, I think, seriously to
face the question what ought to be the attitude of the
Christian to them. Ought we to abandon direct
proselytizing propaganda in countries, where such
religious communities exist, and to direct our mis-
sionaries' energies rather towards helping and assisting
such ef orts at reform from within ? In answer to
this question I would say three things :

(i) We ought to recognize that this Christianizing
of other bodies is distinctly one of the ways in w^hich
the Kingdoms of the world are already becoming, and
are likely in the future still more to become, the
Kingdom of our God and of His Christ. In so far as
these reforms mean the practical acceptance of that
conception of God and that ideal of life which Jesus
taught, Christians must rejoice, and thank God that
such a work is going on. Already the best Missionaries
recognize that the indirect results of missionary effort
are as important — perhaps more important — than the
direct results as regards the more civilized races and
the more educated classes in them. These results by
themselves constitute a sufficient and splendid justifi-
cation of those missionary efforts in the past towards
which some of our enlightened Equi-reHgionists adopt
such a supercilious and depreciatory attitude. We

274 Conscience and Christ

must not let the mere non-use of the word Christianity
bUnd us to the presence of the spiritual reality when
it is actually there. The attitude of Christians towards
such religious movements ought to be in the highest
degree friendly and sympathetic. It does not follow
that we can remain wholly satisfied with their posi-
tion ; or that, even if we could, avowedly Christian
missions ought to cease. Even if the Brahmo Somaj
were a completely satisfactory equivalent of Chris-
tianity, the forces of all the Christians and all the
reformed Hindooisms between them would assuredly
be no more than adequate to the task of fighting
against the idolatries and superstitions and the caste-
moralities of unre formed Hindooism. We may freely
admit that direct proselytizing effort had better be
concentrated rather upon those who are in the most
spiritual need of it than upon those who have adopted
some quasi- Christian form of belief under another
name. And yet it is probable that the more complete
Christianization of such movements will be best carried
on by the continuance of independent missionary
effort directed towards the making of avowed members
of the Christian Church. The people of India are quite
capable of appreciating the idea that the same God
can be worshipped under many forms : they are not
likely to be much impressed by a ReUgion which does
not believe in itself sufficiently to proselytize.

(2) I think it should very distinctly be realized that
the truth and value of the Christian Ethic does not

Christian Ethics and other Systems 275

depend upon the fact of its having been taught by
Jesus Himself — still less upon its having been taught
by Jesus exclusively. If it could be shown that the
sayings which we have been in the habit of regarding
as most characteristic of the historical Jesus were in
reality none of His, if it could be shown that there
never was an historical Jesus or that we know nothing
to speak of about His teaching, the truth and the
value of the teaching attributed to our Lord in the
Gospels would not be one whit diminished. Still less
could it be affected by the fact that others have taught
the same ideal. And what is true of the ethical teaching
is true equally of the religious teaching of Jesus — if
we put aside those few genuine sayings which speak of
His own divine Sonship or Messiahship. If that is so,
it is a possibility that a religious community which did
not formally adopt the name of Christian might come
to teach the Ethics and the Theism of the Christian
Church. Whether any actual religious community has
reached this position is a question of fact upon
which I will not venture to pronounce any positive

(3) There remains the question, "If an individual
or a community has reached this position, what would
be still lacking to them ? " That is a large question,
to answer which fully would involve almost a treatise
on dogmatic Theology. But, so far as the answer can
be given in a single word, I believe the answer to be this.
If it could be shown that the Jesus of the Gospels was un-

276 Conscience and Christ

historical, what we should lose would be the personality
of Jesus. The Christian ideal might be recognized
where the words of Jesus are not known or reverenced,
or the words might be accepted where the historic
Jesus was not believed in : but they would not come
home and appeal to us as powerfully as they do when
we think of them as the expression of an actual Person
who once lived in this world of ours, who once enjoyed
and still enjoys that loving and intimate communion
with the heavenly Father of which the Gospel pages
tell us. The influence of an ethical ideal embodied in
a Person is greater — I do not think it easy to say how
much greater — than the influence of an ideal con-
sidered as a body of ideas or of precepts. And for this
influence of the personality of Jesus to reach its
highest efticacy, it must be recognized as supreme and
paramount. Assuredly, if we believe the words of the
Gospel, there are many who have in various degrees
lived out Christ's ideal, though they have not taken
His name upon their lips. " Inasmuch as ye have done
it unto one of these My brethren, even these least, ye
havedoneit untoMe." But, speaking broadly, it is easier
to follow Christ when we know whom we are following.
The influence of Jesus will not be supremely felt in
a community which puts Him side by side with the
Buddha or the Bab or Keshub Chunder Sen. The
embodiment of the moral ideal in a Person, the con-
centration of moral effort upon the following of that
Person, the recognition of a unique spiritual authority

Christian Ethics and other Systems 277

and supremacy in that Person, the beUef in the possi-
bility of approach to God through Him — these have
always been characteristic notes of the Christian
Religion : and to these it has always, I believe, owed
its highest spiritual effectiveness. A Christianity
without Christ — or a Christianity in which Christ is
not emphatically put above other masters — will always
be a maimed and not very effective Christianity.

While therefore we may recognize to the full that
there may be many genuine followers of Jesus in the
Brahmo Somaj or in some reformed Jewish Society,
I believe that Jesus will always be better followed in
a society which actually recognizes His unique posi-
tion. If a community actually came consciously to
reahze this unique position of Jesus, it would, I should
imagine, sooner or later wish to acknowledge the fact
by adopting the name of Christian, by identifying
itself ynih. the body of Christ's followers throughout
the world, and by claiming as its own, deliberately and
consciously, the whole spiritual treasure which has
come down to them from the Christianity of the past.
It would not follow, of course, that it would renounce
all spiritual affinity with the spiritual past of its own
race. Christianity has already appropriated much
spiritual truth which is not of Christian origin. What
it has done in the past, it will probably do in the
future. The Christianity of the East may hereafter
appropriate to itself, and be palpably coloured by, all
that is best in the teaching of Confucianism, of

278 Conscience and Christ

Hindooism or of Buddhism. But these teachings are
not very Ukely to be " baptized into Christ " as fully as
truth demands where the central position of Jesus in the
religious history of the world is not formally recog-
nized. Even from the point of view of Psychology —
that science to which our Equi-religionists are so fond
of appealing — we may treat it as an established fact
that a certain exclusiveness and concentration of
devotion is essential to the religion producing its
fullest effect upon heart and life. No teacher ever
did much who only believed in his religion as one of
many equally permissible forms of approach to God.
This consideration would not justify our professing to
find in Christianity a uniqueness or a superiority to other
religions which is inconsistent with the facts of history.
But it does make it important that we should not
suffer ourselves to drift into these fashionable modes
of exaggerated toleration unless we feel absolutely
compelled to do so by loyalty to truth. As far as I
understand them, the facts of religious history support
the unique position which Christianity claims for its

I have so far avoided the use of defmite dogmatic
language or reference to the dogmatic formula? of
Catholic Christianity. I have so far said nothing
which might not be accepted by those Unitarians who
do actually give Jesus a supreme and central position
in their envisagement of the Universe — such Uni-

Christian Ethics and other Systems 279

tarians, I mean, as Channing or Martineau or Dr.
Drummond. But if we do agree to put Jesus in this
supreme place — to regard Him as the supreme Example,
the supreme Prophet, the supreme Revealer of God —
if we come to regard the Religion which He founded
not merely as one of many parallel Religions, but as
the final or absolute Religion, the culminating product
of all religious evolution, then the question will arise
in what language this conviction may be most suitably
expressed ; or, better, what view of the relation of
Christ to God supplies the best interpretation of the
facts revealed by history and religious experience.
On this very difficult enquiry it is no part of my
present task to enter. I will only say a very few words
as to the relation in which it stands to the question
I have been actually discussing.

We have most of us come, I imagine, to recognize
the historical fact that traditional Christian doctrine
is the result of the Church's reflection about its
Founder. It expresses the sense which Christ's
followers have entertained of His unique spiritual
importance. It has expressed that sense in terms
which were taken from the metaphysical dialect of the
ancient Graeco-Roman world, and which implied the
ideas of that metaphysic. That metaphysical dialect
is not ours : some of the metaphysical conceptions
which it implies are not ours. We do not naturally
think in terms of Ousia and Hypostasis, Logos and
Perichoresis. Generation and Procession. And there-

28o Conscience and Christ

fore I do not believe that Christianity is eternally
committed to the formulae of the past : we may not
say that a religious body has ceased to be Christian
which has abandoned some of these terms and adopted
others. But there is always an enormous presumption,
within the religious sphere, in favour of keeping up our
spiritual continuity with our own past. If we are
agreed that it is ethically and religiously healthy to
give Christ a supreme and a unique position in our
religious and ethical life — to think of Him as occupy-
ing a unique position in relation both to God and to
Humanity — the traditional Catholic language has a
strong presumption in its favour. Whether we can
put Christ into this position depends in the main upon
the importance which we attach to His moral and
religious teaching, and to the estimate which wc form
of His character considered as an expression of His
ideal. The strictly religious side of His teaching is
excluded from our present subject. In these lectures
I have endeavoured to give reasons for thinking that we
can attribute a supreme position and unique value to the
moral teaching of Jesus Christ and to the character
which is disclosed in His teaching, His life, and His
death. I believe that an examination of the strictly
religious or theological side of Christ's teaching would
yield the same result — that we should find His teach-
ing about God, and about man's relation to Him, the
highest teaching that the world has known. And it
is a leaching which is not altogether separable from a

Christian Ethics and other Systems 281

certain view about His own nature and relation to
God. For it is just in His supreme consciousness of a
filial relation to God, of intimate union with God, in
which we see exhibited the true attitude of Humanity
in general to God. And the two lines of enquiry — the
ethical and the religious — are closely connected. For
if we start with the conviction that God exists and
that He may best be thought of in the light of the
highest moral ideal known to Humanity, then it
follows that, wherever we discover this highest moral
ideal, there we must recognize the highest revelation
of God which the human mind can apprehend. We
have seen that Jesus was the first to teach in its full
purity that moral ideal which, so far as it can be
condensed into a single principle, expresses itself in
the words that Love is the fulfiiling of the Law. He
was the first to teach also — mth full clearness and

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Online LibraryHastings RashdallConscience & Christ : six lectures on Christian ethics → online text (page 20 of 23)