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feel concerned touching the possible revelations of scholarship,
let them be what they may. In some particulars, he must
be prepared to suffer loss ; but he will also unquestionably
be treated to many a glad surprise, and his venerated beliefs
(where true) will be shown to rest upon immovable founda^
tions. Happily the prevailing attitude of modern Theology,
strictly so called, is one that is increasingly hopeful ; at
any rate, it is decidedly more friendly towards these Sub-
sidiary Sciences to-day than it was twenty-five years ago.

(4) A Danger to be avoided. — There is always great
risk, when a new method of research has begun to yield
satisfactory results, that it will be pressed into service too
rapidly and then pushed too far. Instance after instance
might be cited in which the lack of sufficient coolness and
patience at the outset has sacrificed much meanwhile, and

* See ComiyarcUivc Relirjion : Its Opportunity and Outlook. [In pre-


has even brought the whole issue into serious jeopardy.
The brief history of Comparative Eeligion itself might
furnish more than one illustration of the imminence of this
danger. It is not strange, of course, if, through over-ardent
zeal, grave miscalculations have occasionally been made,
and the individual importance of some one or more of these
Auxiliary Sciences has rashly been overrated. But to be
forewarned is to be forearmed. These risks, therefore, may
quite complacently be contemplated; for they can always
either be avoided or surmounted.



Syllabus.— General Remarks : pp. 327-328. What has Compar-
ative Religion accomplished towards securing for man the fullest
Mental Emancipation? I. Religion has at last been made a
subject of Exact Study : pp. 328-334. II. A clearer Under-
standing has been reached as to what Religion really is : pp.
334-340. III. The legitimate place of Mysteries in Religion has
been recognised and conceded : pp. 340-344. IV. A more ade-
quate Interpretation has been put upon the various Forms, alike
non-Christian and Christian, which Religion has been found to
assume : pp. 344-359. V. An improved Conception has been
gained touching the Supreme Being, and His essential relation to
Man : pp. 359-364. VI. A conspicuous Enlargement has been
wrought in the measure and outspokenness of a genuine sentiment
of Charity : pp. 364-367. Summary : pp. 367-368.

Literature. —Max Muller (Friedrich), Introduction to the Science of
' Relujion. London, 1873. [N. ed., 1882.] Fairbairn (Andrew
Martin), The Philosojohy of the Christian Religion. London, 1902.
Stanley (Arthur Penrhyn), Lectures on the History of the Eastern
Church. London. 1861. [N. ed., 1884.] Wordsworth (John),
TJie One Religion. Oxford, 1881. Hardwick (Charles), Christ
and other Masters. Cambridge, 1855-59. [2nd ed., 2 vols., 1863.]
Illingworth (John Richardson), Reason and Revelation. London,
1902. B,o^A^Es(QeoTge John), Thoughts on Religion. London,
1895. Slater (Thomas Ebenezer), The Higher Hindmsm, in
relation to Chrisianity. London, 1902. [2nd ed., 1903.] Grant
(George Munro), The Religions of the World. Edinburgh, 1894.
[N. ed., revised and enlarged, 1901.] Ellinavood (Frank

Field), Oriental Religions and Christianity. New York, 1892.
Clarke (William Newton), A Study of Christian Missions. New
York, 1900. Knox (George William), The Direct and Funda-
tnetUal Proofs of the Ch ristian Religion . New York, 1 903. Lewis
(Robert Ellsworth), The Educational Conquest of the Far East.
New York, 1903. Dresser (Horatio Willis), Man and the
Divin£ Order. New York, 1903. Brown (William Adams),
Tlie Essence of Christianity. New York, 1903.



General Eemarks. — It will prove no easy task, even
within the space of the next two Chapters, to summarise
the succession of achievements which have now to be
enumerated, and which are at once so numerous and so
varied. For although Comparative Eeligion is one of the
most recent of the Sciences, its record is already a distin-
guished one, — a fact which is as gratifying as it is honour-
able to those who have contributed towards bringing this
result to pass.

No attempt will be made at present to do more
than chronicle the principal successes in a long and
important series. Moreover, such achievements as do
obtain explicit mention must be referred to in the
briefest possible form.^ They will be dealt with under
a twofold division. Thus the present Chapter will
specify certain radical changes which have recently been
effected in current popular sentiment, while Chapter XL
will indicate the neiv methods of research which have
been introduced, and which promise to secure speedily
for Comparative Eeligion a wider and more effective

It must also be borne in mind, in the course of the
following review, that the results mentioned are restricted
to achievements which have been attained thus far. But
the study of Comparative Eeligion means the promotion
of a movement which is still within measurable distance
of its beginning, and which is plainly destined very greatly
to outrun the goal of its original purpose. In view not
only of its researches into the past, but of the steadily
widening horizon of its future, it is safe to predict that
Comparative Eeligion will one day occupy a foremost
place among those Sciences which compel universal recog-

^ In a subsequent volume it is proposed to expand greatly the contents
of the present Chapter, and to present a full survey both of the grounds
upon which the statements here made are based, and of the proofs by which
the conclusions reached may very easily be established. The rapid review
of the field now given will, however, in the meantime, serve an important
purpose of its own.


nition, and which secure for themselves prompt and loyal

What has Compakative Religion effected in the


Emancipation? — A wise teacher has declared that "the
tree is known by his fruit ";2 and Comparative Keligion
is perfectly willing to be weighed and judged under the
application of this test. If estimated, in particular, in the
light of the changes which it has so directly contributed
towards effecting in current sentiment touching some of
the most lofty problems of modern thought, no one will
deny that this new Science has rendered most efficient
service in the interest of sound scholarship, and in diffusing
more intelligent and progressive conceptions concerning
God and man, and their respective relations to each

1. Religion has been made an Exact Study. — As
standing in the very front of all its other achievements.
Comparative Religion has brought it to pass that Eeligion
is now deliberately included among those subjects to which
men are applying the methods of exact investigation and

When one thinks of it calmly, it is truly a surprising
fact that, among the multitudinous themes upon which men
are accustomed to reflect. Religion is the one which usually
receives the least and the briefest attention. Of course
it is not overlooked, in making this remark, that there
are many who take their Religion more seriously. There
are individuals, to be reckoned even by thousands, who hold
Religion to be supreme ; but, speaking of mankind in the
mass, and of the mass of mankind since the race had its
origin, the foregoing indictment is unquestionably true.
Usually no opinions, once formed, are so tenaciously held
by a man as are those which he calls his religious opinions ;

^ See Comparative Religion : Its Opportunity avd Outlook. [In ijrepara-

- Matthew xii. 33.


nevertheless, in the great majority of cases, no human
beliefs are accepted more heedlessly — and oftentimes, it
must frankly be confessed, in more complete ignorance of
their ultimate grounds — than are some of those which are
embraced in a man's ecclesiastical Creed ! We give our-
selves to the study of the Arts and the Sciences ; and, with
most praiseworthy perseverance, we persist in our under-
taking through long laborious years. Or we are ambitious
to possess skill in some particular kind of handiwork ; and
we think it not too costly a prize when at last the coveted
dexterity becomes ours as the reward of incessant pains.
We are often perplexed, and sometimes completely baffled,
as we slowly work out the solution of some complicated
problem in Philosophy; yet we courageously continue our
quest, and resolutely refuse to be turned away defeated.
Nevertheless, within the domain of Keligion, with its pro-
founder and more intricate and much more momentous
difficulties, we exhibit a strangely feeble curiosity. In that
connection, we have too long been content to let others
— and, more singular still, to let almost any one — do our
thinking for us. While our opinions concerning secular
matters have been more or less deliberately formed, our views
concerning the unseen world have been accepted practically
without examination — sometimes, evidently, with only a
languid concern, sometimes with manifest indifference —
whether these conclusions have chanced to reach us through
the teaching of parents, or through the instruction of the
pulpit, or through the conversation of some garrulous but
ill-informed friend. It will not be denied, therefore, that
unlimited praise is due to any new factor in our modern
methods of study that may have been instrumental in
checking so grave, so inexcusable, and so utterly reckless a
course of moral conduct.

It has proved no small satisfaction to the promoters
of Comparative Eeligion, that the work undertaken within
this latest field of research has helped materially to modify
current popular sentiment touching this whole matter.


Men toil and slave in the domain of Physical Science, and
indeed in every department of material advance, because
experience has taught them that only by this means can
they hope to win success. They thoroughly believe in
the employment in that connection of severely scientific
methods, because they have tested and proved their utility.
Surely in this respect "the children of this world are in
their generation wiser than the children of light." ^ Men
would believe more profoundly in Eeligion if they under-
stood it better ; and if they really believed in it, they would
be more willing to endure self-sacrifice and even reproach
for its sake. Be that as it may, it has at least been made
clear that the study of this phenomenon is fully as im-
portant as — nay, is immeasurably more important than —
any other study. If, as Tiele affirms, " Eeligion is one of
the mightiest motors in the history of mankind," ^ no con-
scientious student can afford to neglect or minimise its
significance. Another, with equal emphasis, has declared
that " Religion, if it be true, is central truth ; and all know-
ledge which is not gathered round it, and quickened and
illumined by it, is hardly worth the name." ^ Hence it
has come to pass that, during the nineteenth century, the
various manifestations of this subtle element in man have
carefully been observed ; the records compiled by different
investigators have been compared; the results thus ob-.
tained have in due course been classified ; and an honest
attempt has been made to understand and account for those
psychological and directly religious impulses which, sooner
or later, reveal their activity in every human breast. The
primary question, in truth, has of late become completely
changed. It is no longer, " Are these several Religions true,
or false?" but rather, "What are the actual foundations
upon which each of these Faiths rests ? " And, as a con-
sequence of this altered attitude and query, it did not take

^ Luke xvi. 8.

2 Article on "Religions," Encyclopccdia Britannica,

^ William Ellery Clianning.


long to convince thoughtful men that Eeligion demands
and rewards serious inquiry quite as fully as do any of the
Physical Sciences. If we have been startled, and then
blessed, by the revolution which the introduction of elec-
tricity has wrought in almost every sphere of human
experience, the keenest eagerness has been awakened by
the demonstration that there exists also a spiritual elec-
tricity — the subtle invisible powers of which we are only
beginning to understand and control — with which it be-
comes us to secure, as rapidly as possible, an enlarged
individual acquaintance. And of late the doctrine has been
energetically preached, and reiterated, that only by the
laborious way of exact investigation and study can this
intimate acquaintance be obtained.

It will scarcely be contended that Eeligion, as a vast
domain of belief, has had fair play in the past. Its
dicta have not been impartially scrutinised, and then
(if possible) brought into harmony with the rest of our
knowledge. On different pretexts, times without number,
prospectors in this arena have been promptly arrested, and
then vigorously warned away. Accordingly, although some
of the very richest ore has long lain close at hand, and
almost upon the surface of a wide but unexplored territory,
this great area remains to this day, so far as the masses are
concerned, a vast terra incognita.

The chief obstacles which have frustrated the purpose
of the explorer hitherto have been two, viz. — {a) a hesi-
tancy on the part of others to permit the application of
exact methods of study within a region which most men
think should be entered only with measured step and
with uncovered head ; ^ and because, (6) where inquiries of
this sort have previously been carried on, they have fre-
quently resulted in a lessened degree of veneration for those
Scriptures, whether Christian or non-Christian, which had
hitherto been held to be unique and entitled to an un-
questioning reverence.

^ Cf. Appendix. Note XXIII., page 545.


These objections, and others which are only less urgently
pressed, will be fully dealt with when, in the volume
already referred to,^ a reply is being made to the critics of
Comparative Religion. In the meantime, attention may be
directed to two considerations which are directly relevant
to the topic now under review. (1) The study of Religion
(no matter how exact — the more exact the better, pro-
vided it be pursued by a competent and conscientious
investigator) cannot hope to do more than exhibit and establish
or people. A man is not suffering an injury, but is invari-
ably being rendered a service, when he is brought directly
and conscientiously into contact with the truth. And this
statement holds good, emphatically, in connection with an
examination of the Sacred Writings which he has always
been taught to revere. As the outcome of a closer study of
these books, a man may lose, indeed, his old reverence for
the historic records of his Faith ; but he will not surrender
a due reverence, and a reverence which now rests upon
stable and visible foundations, where such foundations
actually exist. If, on the other hand, the grounds of one's
belief can be shown to be purely (or at least largely)
imaginary, it is plainly of the very first importance that
so momentous a fact should be ascertained and recognised
with the smallest possible delay. And (2) the study of
Religion, in accordance with exact and scientific methods,
is the only means by which any Faith can now win or retain
the confidence of thoughtful men.^ It cannot be denied
that, prior to the Reformation, the beliefs and worship of
even Christian lands were inseparably wedded to tradition.
Authoritative opinion was accepted, not interrogated. But
to-day, whether the adherents of any particular Religion like
it or not, every Faith is distinctly upon its trial ; and the
investigations already begun, the inevitable product of the

^ See footnote, page 327.

- Religcnteni esse oportet, religiosum iiefas ("A man should be religious,
not superstitious ").


age in which we live, are certain to go on. President
Harper of Chicago, when speaking of modern Christian
communions, recently felt constrained to declare that " the
Church has alienated from itself the rich and the poor, and
it is now alienating the intellectual also." The scientific
method, which is to-day being employed in every department
of exact inquiry, has at last been deliberately introduced
into the domain of Eeligion ; for it is recognised that there,
as elsewhere, there can be no reliable or constructive work
done without it. Heading men now understand that not
only Language and Literature and Law and Art and Science
pass through successive stages of growth, but that Eeligion
equally is subject to the same process. Moreover, the Bible
is no longer supposed to be the oldest writing that we
possess, or to contain necessarily a record of the earliest
civilisation: the archives of other nations besides Israel,
and of nations that long antedated Israel, are now becoming
accessible to every scholar, and are being carefully examined
and pondered. Accordingly, " the educated man will insist
on the use of reason. He will refuse to stultify the under-
standing. . . . [Nay more,] it is as the result of scientific
investigation that the Bible continues to be for him the
Book of Books, and the Eeligion of Christ the Eeligion of
Eeligions. ... He has discovered what has permanent value
in Christianity, and has sifted from it all that is of an
ephemeral nature. . . . [Thus he has found Christ ;] not the
Christ of dogma, or of tradition, or of his parents, but
the Christ of his own experience, — the living, helping, for-
giving, saving Christ." ^

Apart altogether, therefore, from any hypothesis as to
the manner in which Eeligion may have begun, it has
plainly had a history ; and that history must patiently be
studied before it can reliably be interpreted. Scholarship
to-day, whether Christian or non- Christian, can not possibly

^ The Christian Work and Evangelist. New York, October 11, 1902.
Cp. Symposium on "The Alleged Indifference of Laymen to Religion," in
The Hihhert Journal, pp. 235-258. London, January 1904.


shirk this task. Certainly the pulpit should not ignore, or
fatuously underestimate, the gravity of the issues which are
at stake. The old demand, " simply believe ! " will no longer
suflfice. If it be thought that some who have undertaken
the work of interpretation are at heart unfriendly to the
special Faith which we chance to represent, or that they
blunder because they are ignorant or visibly careless in
carrying on this work, the reason why others (animated by
a more serious spirit) should follow them into this field is
manifestly increased. If one really believe that his Keligion
is true, if one really believe that the Scriptures he possesses
are genuine, he cannot better display that confidence before
the world than by welcoming the fullest inquiry into the
foundations of his Faith, and by lending cheerfully his own
personal assistance towards making that inquiry thorough
and complete. And if the Eeligion in question actually is
what it is conscientiously held to be, then no agency can
be named which will so quickly strengthen this conviction,
both in oneself and in others — and thereby lend immense
impulse to the defence and propagation of the beliefs that
are maintained — as the Science of Comparative Eeligion.
For that Science not only incites a man to study, leading
him to examine anew the grounds of his personal con-
fidence in the tenets which he professes ; ^ but, to all who
would establish themselves in the truth, it supplies one of
the most authoritative and penetrative methods by which
they may promptly and effectively attain the special end
they have in view.^

2. A CLEARER Understanding of what Eeligion really
IS. — As the natural outcome of those exact and critical
studies to which reference has just been made. Comparative

^ Cp. the testimony of even so widely read and profoundly thoughtful a
witness as Principal Fairbairn, The Philosophy of tU Christian Religion.
Preface, pages vii.-ix.

-It was the late Dean Church who once aptly remarked that "the
call to be religious is not stronger than the call to see of what sort our
religion is." See also Howard Agnew Johnston, Scientific Faith. Chicago,


Keligion has been instrumental in diffusing a clearer under-
standing of what Eeligion really is.^

In Chapter VII., some account was given of the different
Schools into which modern opinion has gradually become
divided touching the origin of Eeligion. The theory which
an ever - increasing number of students of Comparative
Eeligion to-day support — a theory which involves the
affirmation of the divinity of faith's source, while admitting
the inevitableness of those incessant modifications which
every Eeligion undergoes owing to the influences of its
particular environment ^ — presents a perfectly reasonable
explanation alike of the similarities and the dissimilarities
which have invariably characterised Eeligion in the course
of its development.

It has fitly been said that the dawn of the religious
consciousness in man must be one of the most hallowed and
inspiring sights which it is possible to contemplate. What
that experience meant for the first members of the race,
Comparative Eeligion is not in a position to say ; but it is
the special business of that Science to scrutinise every
instance of that experience which it can discover, and to
seek to trace and explain its individual significance. And
as the result of prolonged and varied studies — carried
on directly within its own proper domain, or conducted in
other but contiguous fields — it has reached certain definite
conclusions, which it now offers to all who are willing to
examine them. It teaches that the earliest and funda-
mental revelation which God makes of Himself to man is
an innei'' revelation, — a revelation in conscience, a revelation
that has its seat in the very being of man.^ Accordingly,
Eeligion does not reveal itself merely in the chance ejacula-
tion of the lips ; it is the natural and necessary outcome of
the very life which throbs within a man's breast. Eeligion
is not a matter of mere heredity; it is rather a personal
exercise by the soul of those abilities which belong to its

^ Cp. pages 109 and 217. ^ See pages 231 f.

3 Cp. page 233.


separate and responsible self. Eeligion is not a gift which
one man secures through, and owes exclusively to, the good
offices of another: it is ever an original possession, and
is enjoyed as an inalienable birthright. Eeligion is not a
speculation, — a mental abstraction in which the secluded
Mystic may find recompense for his withdrawal from the
world, and by means of which the profound scholar may
rise to heights which lie wholly beyond the reach of the
ordinary man: it is in all cases a life, varying in its
intensity, but invariably real and practical, and ever willing
to expend itself in the service of others.

Whenever, therefore, one is confronted by the question,
"How, and why, does Eeligion manifest itself in the ex-
perience of man, and why does it invariably persist in the
face of countless obstacles ? " the answer is furnished more
fully by Comparative Eeligion than by any other discipline.
From this source, we have been supplied with the knowledge
of at least four great governing principles, viz. : —

(1) The Unity of Eeligion. — As Comparative Philology
gradually disclosed among Languages a hidden but essential
unity which had never previously been suspected, the same
service has been rendered within a different realm by means
of Comparative Eeligion. For it has shown that Eeligion is
not an abnormal or accidental experience, but one that is
fundamentally characteristic of the human race. The various
Faiths of the world are but the evolution of an original con-
stituent principle of humanity. Eeligions are diverse ; but
Eeligion itself, like the air which man inhales, and which
everywhere enswathes him, is one. It is just because of the
existence in man of this basal and all-pervasive sentiment
that, everywhere and always, he has striven to satisfy the
cravings of his distinctly religious emotions.

Online LibraryLouis Henry JordanComparative religion, its genesis and growth → online text (page 30 of 63)