J. N. (John Nicol) Farquhar.

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he must have some idea in his mind which limits the rights of
the Christian faith in relation to those religions.

From this point of view, then, it is of the utmost consequence
that Christians should realize and state frankly the relation
of their religion to others. If we cannot justify Missions to
the minds of thinking men, we must confess defeat ; and it is
clear we cannot justify them in present circumstances without
a clear exposition of the relation of Christianity to the
religions of the world.

But, in order that our exposition may keep in close touch
with facts, it will be well to realize first of all what the
theories are Avhich are put forward as reasons why the Christian
Church should not seek to make converts. We begin with
two which are so manifestly unsatisfactory as to be scarcely
worthy of consideration ; yet, since they influence public
opinion, it will be well to take a look at them.

[a) There are, first of all, those who urge that the differences
between religions are superficial and of no consequence, that,
when you look down into the depths of reality, you find that
all men really believe the same things. This would reduce all
religions to a dead level, and w-ould make the attempt to
think out the relationship between any pair of faiths altogether
useless. There are comparatively few people who Avould
subscribe to this bald statement; yet it is sometimes urged.
In one of her recent books Mrs. Besant states first the funda-
mental principles of Theosophy, and then proceeds :

Its secondary teachings are those which are the common teachings
of all religions, living or dead : the Unity of God ; the triplicity of His
nature ; the descent of Spirit into matter, and hence the hierarchies


of intelligencies, whereof humanity is one ; the growth of humanity by
the unfoldment of consciousness and the evolution of bodies, i.e.
reincarnation ; the progress of this growth under inviolable law, the
law of causality, i.e. karma ; the environment to this growth, the three
worlds, physical, astral, and mental, or earth, the intermediate world,
and heaven; the existence of divine Teachers, superhuman men.^

Here we are told that all religions, living or dead, teach this
long list of doctrines. What do anthropologists think of the
claim that savage religions contain this great catalogue of
ideas ? What do Christians think of the assertion that
Christianity teaches reincarnation? What do Muhammadans
think of the assertion that Islam teaches that God's nature
is triple ? Clearly thinking men can only express their utter
amazement that such baseless statements could evgr be
seriously made.

(b) The second group are both more reasonable and more
numerous. They are quite ready to admit that religions
differ very deeply in their doctrines, and also in their modes
of worship, but they argue that, since religion is a practical
thing, these differences do not matter. Even in the lowest
religions each man knows that he ought to do his duty both
by God and man. All religions seek the same God, con-
sciously or unconsciously. Hence it is quite unnecessary to
change any one's religion. Frequently the thought is added
that each man's religion is the best thing for him. This
idea was expressed by a Hindu ascetic named Ramakrishna
Paramaharhsa :

Every man should follow his own religion. A Christian should
follow Christianity, a Mohammedan should follow Mohammedanism,
and so on. For the Hindus the ancient path, the path of the Aryan
Rishis, is the best.^

Clearly this statement has only to be looked at to be rejected.

^ The Riddle of Life, pp. 1-2.

"^ RdmakrisJma, 177.' It is most interesting to realize that this was the
attitude of Celsus, the second-century opponent of Christianity. ' Over
and over Celsus maintains the duty of "living by the ancestral usages",
"each people worshipping its own traditional deities.'" — Glover, 254.

D 2


Such a line of argument would justify the foulest religions on
earth, systems which inculcate cannibalism, human sacrifice,
promiscuity, incest, and every other abomination and cruelty.

(c) But serious people do not seriously believe that all
religions are the same, or that it is wrong to try to make
a cannibal a Christian. The truth is that these two statements
are merely blundering attempts to put into universal form the
instinctive feeling, present nowadays in thousands of minds,
that the great religions of the world, Muhammadanism,
Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism,
are so noble, and produce such good results, that it is a shame
to attack them and disturb those who profess them.

This is the foundation on which Theosophy has built itself
The theory is that all the great religions are reconciled in its
ample bosom^ that there is no longer any need for controversy
or for propaganda, but that each faith may live its own life
in love and harmony with its neighbours. Many people all
over the world have been greatly attracted by this statement,
and also by the summons of the Theosophical Society to join
in forming a brotherhood of men. The teaching of the
Society has been welcomed by many who were without
definite religious belief of their own ; and in India, Burma,
and Ceylon multitudes have acclaimed it as the means that
is destined to re-establish the ancient religions.

But, though the programme of love and unity is a most
attractive one, and though the summons to brotherhood and
human service is something which every Christian must
rejoice to hear, yet Theosophy itself is no safe refuge for the
present distress. So far from providing a means of recon-
ciling the great religions, Theosophy creates another religious
system. It is simply a new doctrine with a crude mytho-
logy. Mrs. Besant, who is President of the Theosophical
Society, in her Theosopliy} in Jack's series, ' The People's
Books,' puts forward as the central doctrine of the system
the statement,

» p. 14.



that the community of religious teachings, ethics, stories, symbols,
ceremonies, and even the traces of these among savages, arose from
the derivation of all religions from a common centre, from a Brother-
hood of Divine Men, which sent out one of its members into the world
from time to time to found a new religion, containing the same essential
verities as its predecessors, but varying in form with the needs of the
time, and with the capacities of the people to whom the Messenger
was sent.

Christianity teaches that the Father sent the Son to be the
Saviour of the world ; Muhammadanism teaches that Allah
sent Muhammad as the final Prophet; Hinduism has its
avataras, but they are no brotherhood of men, but are each
an incarnation of the supreme Vishnu ; while Mahayana
Buddhism also has its incarnations, but they come from the
Supreme likewise. It i5 quite easy to say that Christ,
Muhammad, Krishna, Gautama, and the rest are all members
of the brotherhood, and that that reconciles the religions.
The reconciliation is effected by cutting the heart out of each,
and substituting this new mythology. The truth is that, so
far as their central theological ideas are concerned, Hinduism,
Buddhism, Judaism, Muhammadanism, and Christianity stand
much nearer to each other than they do to this new dogma.
Certainly no sincere Christian, Jew, or Muhammadan can
accept a system which detaches religion from God. It
stands nearer Hinduism than any other faith ; yet many
Hindus already protest loudly against the identification of
their religion with the system ; and as time goes on its true
nature will become clear to many who now trust in it. The
great success of the propaganda in India is almost exclusively
due to its defence of caste and idols. What sort of ' recon-
ciliation ', then, does it offer to Christians and Muhammadans?
[d) But the vast majority of those who have come under
the sway of the new thought are not at all inclined to adopt
the fanciful theories of Theosophy. They have no reasoned
statement of their position ready to give to the inquirer, yet
both their feelings and their convictions on the question are
deep and serious. They fall into two distinct groups.


i. The first group consists of people in Christian lands,
many of them genuinely Christian people, others men and
women whose faith has been partly shaken, but all impressed
with the importance of the faiths of the East and the obliga-
tion lying upon us to treat them honourably. They show
an immense interest in these religions. They are hungering
for information, eager to Hsten to a competent teacher, some-
times ready to struggle through hard books. Even if they
know but little, they are keen and enthusiastic. They are all
inclined to say : These great religions are all so good, they
contain so much that is noble, and they train so many good
men, that it seems a shame to disturb them in any way.
Ought we not rather to be thankful for them and to seek to
learn from them ? — These ideas have come to them from
a variety of sources.

European administrators, judges, army officers, educa-
tionalists, and business men come into close personal contact
with educated Hindus, Buddhists, and Muhammadans, and
find a large number of them men of high moral character,
of keen intellect, and of real religious feeling. They frequently
appear to be as good men as Christians of the same condition
of life are. It is perfectly clear that they get a great deal ot
help from their religions. They have large joy and deep
confidence in them. The question therefore naturally arises,
Why should they be teased into becoming Christians ?

A few Europeans also come into contact with the quiet
population of the villages of Eastern lands and learn to
admire their industry, patience, endurance, and charity.
These people live a quiet settled life. They are happy in
their own way, and there are many beautiful points in their
intercourse with one another and in their religion. Quaint
touches of spirituality and religious insight flash out in their
conversation now and then.^ Their ideas and their practice

^ Two Hindu women fell out in the street. One became very violent.
The other turned to her and said solemnly, ' Hush, you will hurt the
Brahman in you.' For the Brahman see Chap. \T.


seem to fit very well into their circumstances. On the whole
they do very well with their religions. Why should they
be disturbed ? On the other hand, some of those who have
become Christians in those lands seem to have lost their good
old manners and to have become a travesty of European
civilization. Is it worth while doing so much to produce this
result ?

The practical man is usually quite satisfied with Asiatic
lands as they are. These people make good material for
governing, and for drilling as soldiers. Business amongst
them pays the business man. Things on the whole go very
well. From this point of view there does not seem to be any
need for a great change. Hence many an Indian civilian,
doctor, army officer, and business man tells his friends when
he is on furlough that he knows the people of India and he
sees no reason why they should become Christians at all.

The revival of Hinduism and the swift rise of the National
Movement have made the Indian express himself very forcibly
both in speech and in literature. There can be no question
that educated India has deeply influenced the opinion of
Europe and America these last few years.

The publication of large numbers of translations of sacred
texts from the East and of innumerable articles and books
expounding the great religions, the loud protests of a few
European scholars who, having laid aside Christianity, are
favourably disposed towards Eastern religions, the Parliament
of Religions in Chicago, and the visits of Hindu and Buddhist
teachers to Britain and to America, have all helped to produce
a much higher appreciation of these religions and a deep
sympathy with those who profess them.

General considerations have also come in to strengthen
this mass of kindly feeling. People are inclined to reason as
follows : We do not really know the other world : why should
we dogmatize about it ? Let us live good lives ourselves and
leave others to do the same. Why should we raise religious
strife ?


Racial and national questions have also their influence.
Race is deep and national differences go far. As rulers, we
find it necessary to tolerate much, to make large allowances
for race : may not the religions of these strange peoples be
related to their racial qualities ? Here we come very close to
Ramakrishna's idea. The adaptation of these Eastern systems
to the peoples and their civilizations is certainly insisted on
by many ; and the idea is buttressed by the recollection
of the fierce character of religious passion when once roused,
and by the belief that it is altogether impossible to separate
these people from their religions.

There are large elements in these Eastern faiths which
attract a certain type of mind. The doctrine of transmigra-
tion is most interesting and suggestive. Mystic pantheism
draws many more. The great toleration of these religions
seems to many minds a most admirable feature. Since they
only ask to be left alone, since they are quite willing to
tolerate Christianity, why should we not accept the policy ?

But, while all this mass of honest thinking and noble
feeling is present in the movement, it would be foolish to
ignore the fact that in many minds there lies also the idea
that religion is not a matter of such importance as to justify
the machinery of Missions and the disturbance they cause.
This fruit of religious indifference and rank ignorance ought
to be clearly distinguished from other factors by all those
who are interested either in practical religion or in the
advance of religious science.

ii. The second group consists almost entirely of non-
Christians who have had a Western education. They admire
Western thought, science, and social life, and there are but
few of them that have not adopted Western habits in some
degree. Many of them regularly use English in talking of
the things of the mind and the spirit. They usually know
something about Christianity. But they are men who have
felt in their own lives and in their own community the power
of their own religion. They have been created by it. The


soul-windows through which they look out upon the world
have been made by it. The past lives in them. Every
aspect of their religion, its thought, its philosophy, its cult,
its home-life, even what seems absurd to the outsider, is
sacred to them. They see the glint of the spiritual world
on every part of it. They arc quite content with it. Like
Plutarch they say.

The ancient faith of our fathers suffices.^

Jesus knew them and described them :

And no man having drunk old wine desireth new : for he saith, The
old is good.^

Others, more conscious of the danger, go a step further and
say, ' Our religion is as good as Christianity. We do not set
up our religion to be the only religion for mankind, but we do
maintain that it is pure, spiritual, stimulating, and satisfying.
It pleases us more than any other religion ever could. There-
fore we believe it to be as good as yours.' Thus Hindus,
Muhammadans, and Buddhists are not only up in arms in
defence of their religions, but urge that the missionary in
seeking to bring men into Christianity is actually doing
wrong. A few extremists would like to see the missionary
sent home bag and baggage ; but the majority of educated
men protest that the educating, civilizing, uplifting work of
Missions is far too precious to be dispensed with. Their one
objection to Missions is the baptism of converts, the planting
of the Christian Church. That, they contend, is not only
unnecessary, but is an act of unjust aggression upon the
existing religions.

In face, then, of this large body of serious and moderate
opinion, it is clear that the Christian must either transform his
missionary methods or else justify what he is doing in the face
of all the world. This he can do only by setting out clearly
how he believes Christianity is related to other religions.

* Glover, 89. ^ Luke 5, 39.


There is all the more reason for so doing, because here we
have to deal, not with a single reasoned opinion, but with
a very large mass of powerful and noble feeling, shot through
and through with many lines of thought, clear and inchoate,
strong and weak.

III. The position which the thoughtful, modern Christian
takes up towards other religions may be expressed under the
following four heads.

A. There is a certain underlying unity in all religions as
there is in the manifestations of every other human function.
The human heart and mind are the same everywhere. Hence
there is something which links the lowest religion to the
highest. There are gleams of light, suggestions of truth,
in the most degraded faith. There is an identity which
persists throughout the myriad forms which religion takes.

Further, each religion has been of value to the men who
have professed it. Every religion has given its followers at
least the idea of duty and of the community, and usually also
the idea of God and of worship. There has never been a
religion that did not uplift men, that did not bring them
nearer God.

Yet even that does not express the whole truth. The
religion of a savage is the very highest thing he knows, how-
ever gross it may be. In its activities his soul reaches its
highest exercise. Hence we must recognize that,, through
his gross religion, the savage can reach God-
That the savage hands and helpless,
Groping blindly in the darkness,
Touch God"s right hand in that darkness
And are lifted up and strengthened.

As the writer once heard a good man say in a public
meeting, ' Religion must be a very simple thing in God's
eyes ; otherwise the simple folk of the world would have no
chance at all ! ' \Vc must believe that it i§ possible for every
human being, no matter what his circumstances may be, to
find his way to God, if he truly use all the light he has.


Otherwise, the relation of Father and child does not exist in
his case. So the very foundation of Christianity demands
this acknowledgement. Our belief in Christ leads to the
same truth ; for we hold Him to be

the light which lighteth every man ; ^

and we believe that even in savage minds God

left not himself without witness ; ^

and that the very lowest men

show the pith of the law written in their hearts.^

Thus through the grossest religion there is a path to God.

Christianity frankly acknowledges that a man may be
acceptable to God in any religion. This is stated in the
clearest possible language by Peter :

Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons : but in
every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accept-
able to him.^

The ladder from earth to heaven is there for the lowest savage
as well as for Jacob and the modern man.

B. The condition under which a man reaches God is utter
sincerity, the turning of his whole soul toward the light, the
frank acceptance of truth into his heart, straightforward
obedience to the very highest he knows. It is this pose of
the soul that opens it to heavenly influences, that makes it
possible for our Father to enter into personal fellowship with
His child. Without this attitude, there can be no true
religion anywhere. Beyond this no man can go, however
narrow or however wide his knowledge, experience, and
opportunities may be. This law then applies to men in
every religion.

Take the case of a savage who has been living a faithful
life, in accordance with his light, in a coarse cannibalistic
religion. He hears Muhammadanism preached, feels the

^ John 1, 9. 2 Acts 14, 17. ^ Romans 2, 15.

* Acts 10, 34, 35. Cf. also Paul's words, Rom. 10, 12.



reasonableness of monotheism, the pressure of the doctrine
of judgement on his conscience^ the high moral value of the
ethics of Islam. But, for various reasons, he continues his
old life and the practice of cannibalism. What is the in-
evitable result ? The religion through which he formerly
received help is no longer of any use to him. He has seen
truth and has refused to obey it. He is no longer a religious

So, when a polytheist, coming in contact with Christianity,
realizes the folly of idolatry, and feels that the cross and the
love of Christ are just what he needs for the transformation
of his sin-stained soul and life ; if he fail to confess Christ
publicly ; if he shrink back from acting upon this revelation
of religious truth in his inner life ; if he continue to bow down
to idols; his old faith, however valuable it may have been to
him formerly, can never be for him a door into fellowship
with God again ; for he has turned his back upon the highest,
and has made the great refusal.

C. Christians acknowledge fully the great and good work
that has been done by each of the great religions. We gladly
recognize that, in them, many saints have been trained,
thousands of homes have been purified and uplifted, and
multitudes of men and women have found God. We rejoice
in the true and fruitful religious experience of these good
men. We also recognize that in each of these religions men
and women are still being trained in goodness and lifted
nearer God. These are the facts on which people in Europe
and America and educated non-Christians insist, when they
demand that missionaries shall cease to make converts to
Christianity. We acknowledge them and thank God for them.

We go still farther : we gladly confess that these great and
good results prove the presence of truth in each of these
systems :

By their fruits ye shall know them. Do men galher grapes of thorns,
or figs of thistles ? ^

^ Matt. 7, i6.



When, however, certain of our friends go one step farther
and say, ' Thus, all these religions are true,' we call a halt, and
ask them to state more definitely what they mean. Do they
mean to say that each is true in part, or that each is wholly
true? that each contains a considerable amount of truth, or
that each is the very truth of God ? Clearly it can be only
the former ; for these great religions contradict each other
very seriously on many points. Thus we agree with our
friends completely, when they say, 'All these religions are
good and helpful because each contains much truth.'

D. It is now necessary to take a look at the points on
which the great religions contradict each other; and, in order
to make our exposition as clear as possible, we shall restrict
ourselves to the great quaternion, Hinduism, Buddhism,
Christianity, Muhammadanism. These will provide quite
sufficient material and illustration. Hinduism teaches that
every soul is born and dies many times ; Christianity says.

It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this cometh

Buddhism agrees with Hinduism on this point, but con-
demns Hindu literature, priests, and sacrifice, and sets forth
the Buddha as the omniscient and infallible teacher for all
men. Christianity teaches that God is the Father of men,
that His Son became incarnate to reveal the Father and to
die for the sins of the world, that He is the ideal for all men,
and that His moral and spiritual teaching is necessary for all
men. Muhammadanism, agreeing with Christianity that men
are born and die once, denies all the affirmations of Christianity,
and proclaims Muhammad as the last and greatest Prophet
and the Koran as the eternal utterance of God. These
oppositions and contradictions are as abrupt and definite as
they can well be, and there are many more, quite as clear-cut
and irreconcilable. The differences between the great religions
are by no means small.

' Heb. 9, 27.


Let us now place beside these facts the contention that the
great reh'gions are all so noble and so great that we ought not
to make odious distinctions among them, but should recognize
them as a band of brothers. Clearly this contention can be
maintained only on the ground that the differences between
the religions are negligible. They may be regarded as
negligible from different points of view. The atheist and
the agnostic, acknowledging the value of the moral teaching
of the various systems, put aside the differences between them
as so much mythology. Many a humble man says, ' I believe

Online LibraryJ. N. (John Nicol) FarquharThe crown of Hinduism [microform] → online text (page 2 of 39)