This fact, as well as the inherent interest of the subject, gives a special timeliness just now to any serious and candid study of this difficult theme. That there are plain traces of truth in all the prominent ethnic systems of religion is a fact which is too evident to admit of denial. It is because the religious basis of their ethics is so defective that the practical outcome is so disappointing.
All higher truth which is discoverable in the religious history of the race is either directly or indirectly from God, and so far as it appears in ethnic systems is to be traced to God as its Author. Primitive revelation, with its emphatic restatements, covering many centuries in time and reaching mankind through various direct and indirect instrumentalities, was a mighty and pervading religious force in early history.
Truth dies hard—if, indeed, it ever dies. Half-truths, and even corrupted and overshadowed truths, can influence men, although partially and uncertainly, in the direction of a sound religious faith. Gladstone," vol. Page -- xii Men are made brave and courageous, and often ready for martyrdom, by whole conviction concerning half-truths.
The truth sometimes survives and even lives long in an atmosphere of corruption and degeneracy. Again, it will kindle an earnest aspiration for reform, and a new religion appears in history, but likely to be imperfectly furnished and so in alliance with error that it can do little for the spiritual and moral good of mankind. Truth may be "crushed to earth," but it "shall rise again" and live in the heart of humanity, however it may be throttled and supplanted by the god of this world and his brood of lies.
God "left not Himself without witness," and has been " not far from every one of us" in all the religious history of man. The " true Light which lighteth every man" has never ceased to shine, however dimly perceived. This thought is to the mind of the author the key to the whole situation. Primitive monotheism, 1 although based upon revelation, failed to hold the allegiance of the entire race, and a line of degeneracy has run parallel to the line of enlightenment and moral achievement.
Monotheism having been cast aside or deserted, something must take its place in the presence of the awful and mysterious phenomena of nature. It may be pantheism or polytheism or nature worship in its varied forms. Man then devises—not necessarily in any dishonest or insincere spirit—a religion of his own, for himself or his family or his tribe, according to the conception which he forms of his needs and in harmony with his own philosophy of nature.
The genesis of false religions is, therefore, to be found in the desertion and corruption of the true, and in man's urgent but unavailing struggle after some substitute for what he has forsaken. They are to be traced to treason and surrender in the religious citadel of human history. It is a story of "many inventions" in order to recover what has been lost or forfeited.
The non-religious condition even now of many who live in Christendom, resulting from their neglect or rejection of biblical truth, is a suggestive analogue to the status of heathenism in the religious history of the race. Rejected light is the universal epitaph of the buried religious hopes of man. This is far more in accord with the suggestions of reason, the testimony of experience, the lessons of history, and the statements of Scripture than to regard ethnic religions as tentative efforts on the part of God to guide mankind by temporizing compromises, by systems of half-truths, or by mixed dispensations of truth and error—a theory which involves the grave mistake of crediting non-Christian religious systems to God as their Author and Founder.
Page -- xiii This view of the origin of heathen systems is not new; it is as old as history. It has been regarded, however, of late in some circles as irreconcilable with the demands of the evolution theory as applied to the religious life of mankind.
It cannot fairly be interpreted as necessarily implying indiscriminate condemnation and hopeless abandonment of all adherents and devout disciples of non-Christian religions, since it is God's province to illumine and guide the souls of men through the agency of the Holy Spirit by any measure of light which He chooses to make sufficient for His purpose. There is primitive truth lingering in the consciousness and in the religious environment of all races. There is the natural conscience, and, above all, there is the free Spirit of God with immediate access to every soul.
God is not bound, and His truth, if He wills, can be so brought home to the moral nature of man by the monitions of the Spirit, with or without external means, that the saving act of faith may occur even in a partially instructed soul, for whose benefit the atoning work of Christ may be made available by divine mercy. This is not universal salvation for the heathen; it is, unhappily, the writer fears, merely a possibility, and only such for those faithful souls who are humble, and loyal to light and privilege.
The rest shall be judged justly in view of the light, and that alone, which they have sinfully ignored and rejected. The whole world needy the Gospel, and it is useless to gauge the need by greater or less when all men must be saved, either consciously or unconsciously, by Christ. The urgency lies in leading men to avail themselves of Him, and whether they do it intelligently or blindly will matter little if, in God's sight, it is done.
He will judge in each case. His verdict will be both merciful and just. We are to maintain an attitude of kindly and generous sympathy towards those who have less light than is given in the revealed Word.
We cannot condone error and we cannot compromise with sin, but we can seek to lead all souls to God and give them the inestimable benefits of that sure guidance for which we, ourselves, have reason to be deeply grateful. Let us not fail to discern, however, that these ethnic faiths as we know them in the world at the present time are in their decadence—so advanced in some instances as to have reached the stage of moral gangrene. This fact cannot be ignored, and while all needless and heated disparagement should be avoided, yet in the end it is wiser and safer—even kinder—to take account of their utter disseverance from Christianity and the impossibility of an alliance upon any platform of compromise which does not include the essential features of the Christian system.
Page -- xiv The place of the supernatural in a true theory of social evolution. Concerning the bearing of our theme upon theories of social evolution a word may be in place. The tendency to apply rigidly the law of evolution to the social history of mankind is now strong. In this Comte and Spencer have led the way, and many students of social science have followed.
In the judgment of some of these, all biblical conceptions of the origin and social development of man must lapse in favor of the popular theory. That evolution as a law of development—a method or process—has had a large function in moulding the social progress of the race, especially in the lower rather than the higher aspects of its civilization, is not to be questioned; but that it accounts for everything, and is a sufficient interpretation of what we have been accustomed to consider the supernatural factor in human experience, is difficult to believe.
The gigantic task of Mr. Herbert Spencer has come to a rounded conclusion; his " Synthetic Philosophy" is before us in its completeness. It is the result of the intellectual throes of many toiling years. He has given us, however, strictly a utilitarian system of ethics, a naturalistic theory of sociology, and a rationalistic creed of theology. His high-water mark in religion is agnosticism—a philosophy of the Great Unknowable.
He is a mighty thinker, a superb and masterly worker; but this only adds to the disappointment which many must feel in contemplating the moral and social significance of the theories which he has wrought out with such a prodigious passion of thought during thirty-six years.
That there is a weighty element in the problem which Mr. Spencer and his school have virtually ignored, or have consigned to the realm of the Unknowable, is plain to those who believe in biblical conceptions of man and history. The supernatural in its various aspects, and especially the place of revealed religion in the history of man and the social development of the race, is a factor of great significance in the problem.
Man's individual and social history is full of the culture power of a divine religion, and to rule this out of its place of influence and discredit its value is a grave mistake.
Request all papers and periodicals to decline liquor advertisements. Be painful, give pain. It did mark the geographical divide between the sandy plains of northern Senegambia and the mangrove swamps of the Southern Rivers area. Inspired by his success with the Yatrebites, and some other tribes in the interior of Arabia, Mohammed, who had hitherto preached patience and submission under persecution, directed his disciples to defend themselves when attacked, declaring that all who died in defence 2f. Postfix, suffix. And it was not his intention to accept the position of Provisional Governor. In some sections the Moro juramentado was beheaded after death and the head sewn inside the carcass of a pig.
Yet concerning this factor of supernatural religion Mr. Spencer's verdict is "not simply that no hypothesis is sufficient, but that no hypothesis is even thinkable. Natural forces, as well as supernatural, are God's instruments, and no doubt an immensely preponderating share of His prov-. Page -- xv Where the natural ends and the supernatural begins is at many points an enigma both of science and religion.
That the supernatural, however, most assuredly has its place and its mission is the immemorial faith of all who have turned to God's Word for light. It simply coincides with the divine promise of guidance and help in the stress and strain of the omnipresent strife. Have Christian missions any evidence to offer as to the influence of Christianity and the scope of its ministry in lifting society to higher levels? This is perhaps an inconspicuous and somewhat unexpected quarter from which to look for sociological light; yet is it not, after all, a busy workshop of social reconstruction, where higher intellectual, moral, and spiritual forces are being introduced into the environment of belated civilizations?
We cannot regard it as a voice out of the realm of philosophy, nor can we count it a dictum of science, but it may be considered a word of intelligent testimony from those who are laboring to make men better and purify social conditions amid the disheartening sorrows and corruptions of non-Christian society. As such it is worthy of a hearing, and its report seems to be decidedly in favor of the potent and transforming power of Christianity in the moral and social reconstruction of both the individual and associate life of man.
The idea, often emphasized in these lectures, that Christianity, including primitive revelation and the Old Testament dispensation, is an involution introduced into the course of human history by the God of Providence for the purpose of promoting individual and social progress, and changing what would otherwise be a downward into an upward evolution, seems to the author to be merely the restatement in modern terms of the unchangeable and ever true doctrine of Redemption.
This simply means that in the long struggle of human society toward moral perfection God has contributed a notable—in fact, an indispensable—factor in the gift of an ideal religion. In a book of sociological scope, present-day terminology seems preferable to the stereotyped formula of theological thought, as more in keeping with the literary and technical aspects of the subject, and perhaps also more in touch with the reader.
Is it not plain that the Church in its missionary capacity has a responsibility as well as an opportunity which is of transcendent moment. Page -- xvi The last word has not been said upon this subject; the last survey of the field has not been made; nor has the final estimate been penned of the sublimity, dignity, and far-reaching import of this unrivalled trust. Christianity needs a deeper world-consciousness. Modern life is developing it.