« AnteriorContinuar »
"If we can regard religions as stages in the evolution of religion, then we kate no motive either to depreciate or unduly to extol any of them. The earlier stages of the development will have a peculiar interest for us, just as we look zitk affection on the home of our ancestors even though we should not choose të dwell there. We shall not divide religions into the true one, Christianity, and the false ones, all the rest; no religion will be to us a mere superstition, nor skall we regard any as unguided by God. Feeling that we cannot understand our own religion aright without understanding those out of which it has been built up, we shall value these others for the part they have played in the great morement, and our own most of all, without which they could not be made perfect. In the light of this principle of growth we shall find good in the lowest, and shall see that the good and true rather than the evil and false, furnish the ultimate meaning of even the poorest system.”
Extract from "A History of ReligioN" BY ALAN Menzies, D. D.
""God is not dumb, that he should speak no more;
If thou hast wanderings in the wilderness
There towers the mountain of the voice no less,
“Slowly the Bible of the race is writ,
And not on paper leaves nor leaves of stone;
Texts of despair or hope, of joy or moan.
James Russell Lowell. Bibliolatres.
The present volume is the response to a desire expressed by representative members of South Place Ethical Society, London, to possess, in a form suitable for frequent reference, a characteristic selection of extracts from the literature of nations inspired by exalted thought and profound feeling. The immediate occasion of the wish was the successful publication of a series of lectures, descriptive of widely-divergent phases of religious and ethical belief, delivered before the Society by highly-competent authorities in the years 1888-91, and which had been hailed as the sign of the advent of “A new Catholicity."
The South Place Ethical Society were not unfamiliar with the kind of work indicated. Twenty years ago the Society's Minister, Mr. MONCURE D. Conway, had single-handed accomplished the novel and arduous task of compiling “A Book of Ethnical Scriptures” whose striking aphoristic wisdom and spiritual suggestiveness, in the charming Oriental setting, at once procured for it a place impartially in libraries orthodox and heterodox. The title of Mr. CONWAY's book, The Sacred Anthology, was, however, of itself likely to be provocative of another and more ambitious attempt in a similar direction. For that work (very wisely, if general interest was to be aroused) with the exception of a few impressive selections from the Old and New Testaments offered the English public exclusively specimens of spiritual beauty describable as exotics in the strictest sense. But the Sacred Anthology cannot of course be so limited in scope, its flowerets being necessarily gathered from the gardens of the world. Moreover, research, during the last twenty years, has least of all stood still in matters Oriental; so that the area of the collector has been both widened and more accurately explored.
The juster the ideal, however, of a truly catholic Sacred Anthology, the weightier the responsibility of those committed to its realisation. Fully alive to the seriousness of the undertaking the South Place Institute Committee accordingly appealed for counsel and assistance to all the contributors to the volume of lectures entitled “Religious Systems of the World,” and many others whose help
certain to be of value. Unhappily the response to these appeals fell short of what had been expected, although promises of effective support were received from several influential quarters. Having been honoured by the request to act as Editor, I had accepted the nomination in the belief that the more important part of the work would be accomplished by persons qualified by special knowledge: it was therefore something more than disappointing when it gradually appeared that not a little of the promised co-operation would have to be construed as mere expression of good-will. In the result a far larger share of the work of selection fell upon the shoulders of the writer than was anticipated, or desirable in a publication of the kind.
In the scheme originally proposed and privately distributed a formal arrangement according to leading topics resembling in principle that adopted by Mr. Conway in his pioneer volume, was suggested. To this theoretical objections were urged by a few to whom the scheme was submitted, most forcibly by Mr. ERNEST SIBREE, writing from the Indian Institute, Oxford; the main contention being that the filiation and progress of religious thought were confused and concealed by such an arrangement. These objections were practically strengthened by the difficulty, very soon experienced in execution, of combining with the subject any sort of evolutionary arrangement. Nothing short indeed of a repetition under each subject-heading of the same historic succession would at all have met the case. There would have been more loss than gain in so cumbrous a proceeding; and accordingly the classification actually adopted has been based on historical affinities.
In regard to the material contents, the following principles and rules have been followed. The end ever kept in view has been the production of a volume of moderate size, containing passages from universal literature selected for their sublimity of thought, intensity of religious emotion, or purity and elevation of ethical sentiment. In conformity with this purpose the form of faith has been held of no account; so that if a writer of singular moral and spiritual worth has been passed over, the explanation is either inaccessibility of his work in English, or sheer inadvertence. The principle of choice will be rendered plainer by a statement of what has been deliberately excluded. Matter-of-fact of antiquarian or scientific interest, and pure speculative inquiry, have been ignored. Also theological dogmas as such, and ecclesiastical formularies. Further, critical disquisition, and essentially negative or sceptical reflection. In a word the object has been to exhibit the fruits of positive religious thought and aspiration, not to appeal to the discursive understanding or satisfy intellectual curiosity. Living authors, it should be added, have been wholly excluded; and very brief extracts have been avoided, as rarely revealing the spirit of the composition from which they are taken.
From the preceding paragraph it will be at once clear why certain readers will meet with disappointment,--those, namely, who expect to find samples of every phase of theologic or cosmic belief that has obtained permanent record on “paper leaves or leaves of stone." Again, there will probably be some who will consider that the religion of "pure reason," or Humanitarianism stripped of historical swathings, as presumed "faith of the Future," does not stand out in sufficient relief. To such it may be remarked that it is not the Future, or even the Present, with which the volume is concerned; but the mind of the Past, dependent for its expression on so many accidents of time and place. That modes of thought and feeling familiarly known as “Christian" predominate, is simply due to the fact that of religious world-literature the Christian is the richest.
That the work is open to fair criticism, both as to some things that have been inserted and much that has been omitted, is practically certain; but the motives for selection will not justly be sought in beliefs privately favoured by the selector. Indeed the Editor hopes