CHRISTIANITY COMPARED WITH OTHER RELIGIONS.
\\re believe that Christianity is the absolute re ligion, and that it alone can become universal ; but we cannot believe this intelligently, until Chris tianity is compared with other religions which have given light and life to millions of men and women, and from which have sprung civilizations with their splendid trophies of literature, science, art, morals, as well as great political and industrial systems. For the first time in history, all the families of mankind can become acquainted with each other and in vestigate the secrets of each other's lives. In these circumstances, comparison of religions cannot be escaped. Faith welcomes, instead of shrinking from, the necessity.
(1) Brahmanism. Little need be said concern ing Brahmanism. It is the religion of the great majority of the people of India, and is essen tially local, rather than universal. It cannot live out of India. The strength and the weakness of its doctrine of God is that according to it God is in everything and is everything. "Everything, from the lowest estate of a straw to the highest estate of a God, is Brahma." It thus admits His unity, but denies His character and personality. There is, therefore, no basis for a fundamental distinc tion between morality and immorality. Caste, which constitutes its great strength, is also a fa tal weakness, because, though originating in his torical necessities, it is essentially anti-national and anti-social. Mankind now will not accept a religion which is inconsistent with the truths of the unity of the race, its liberty, the equality of its members before God and before the law, the right of the meanest to rise to the highest-place and to the fullest self-realization, with the hope of prog ress to infinite horizons. Brahmanism denies the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Its compact structure is now being honey-combed by the thousand influences of the government, the courts of justice, the literature, the education, the social, sanitary, economical and physical sci ence of a Christian people, as well as by direct missionary enterprise. Its fall is as certain as anything future can be, though its place will not be taken by any of the existing Christian organiza tions. When India absorbs the spirit of Christ, it has intellectual and spiritual strength enough to develop a theology and a church suited to its own soil. Native churches in India are, as yet,
little better than exotics.
(2) Buddhism. To Gautama, even before he became Buddha, or Enlightened, the ideal man was the dignified ascetic, free from all ties and relationships, and holding out his bowl for rice, uncaring whether it was filled or not. This mendi cant, the flower of Brahmanistn, was seeking for liberation from self and absorption into the Su preme existence. All other men were subject to vanity and delusions. No wonder that to a noble nature, imbued with this conviction, the full truth should be revealed, after long study and medita tion, that man himself is greater than his ap petites, passions or desires ; and that by rising su perior to these he can attain to a liberation which means escape from the danger of rebirth. Before the simplicity and power of this way of salvation —salvation above all from the craving for con tinuous personal life—sacrifices and penances lost their efficacy and the Veda its supernatural au thority. His simple and sublime teaching was that the true greatness of man, in one word his life, consists, not in the abundance of the things which he possesses, but in himself or in moral culture ; in Christian language, he learned that the kingdom of God is within and that it is all-sufficient. This spiritual truth transfigured him. It took possession of disciples who gathered round him from various castes, and it filled them with such power that India became transformed. Never was a grander testimony on a great scale borne to the might of the Spirit. Not only at its beginning, but when India was ruled by Buddhist kings, it disdained the use of carnal weapons of every kind, and it continued to be a reforming force for centuries. Missionaries went forth, North, South, East and West, filled with a holy enthusiasm which enabled them to win in time all Eastern Asia to the Faith. Before the truth of man's essential greatness and the living witness borne to the truth by converts of every caste, from the Brahman to the Chandala, the iron bands prescribed by caste fell to the ground. The equality and fraternity of men were recognized.