Page:The Outline of History Vol 1.djvu/607

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583
THE BEGINNINGS OF CHRISTIANITY

quite unlike the priest, altar and temple cults, those cults for the worship of definite finite gods that played so great and so essential a part in the earlier stages of man's development between 15000 B.C. and 600 B.C. These new world religions, from 600 B.C. onward, were essentially religions of the heart and of the universal sky. They swept away all those various and limited gods that had served the turn of human needs since the first communities were welded together by fear and hope. And presently when we come to Islam we shall find that for a third time the same fundamental new doctrine of the need of a universal devotion of all men to one Will reappears. Islam indeed is marred, as Judaism is marred, by a streak of primitive exclusiveness; its founder was manifestly of a commoner clay than either Jesus or Gautama, and he had to tack on to his assertion of the supremacy of God an assertion that Muhammad was in especial his prophet, a queer little lapse into proprietorship, a touchingly baseless claim for the copyright of an idea which, as a matter of fact, he had picked up from the Jews and Christians about him. Yet, warned by the experiences of Christianity, Muhammad was very emphatic in insisting that he himself was merely a man. And the broad idea of human brotherhood under God that he preached, and the spirit in which his followers have carried it among black and fallen races, puts his essential teaching little lower than that of its two greater but far more abundantly corrupted and misrepresented rivals.

We speak of these great religions of mankind which arose between the Persian conquest of Babylon and the break-up of the Roman empire as rivals; but it is their defects, their accumulations and excrescences, their differences of language and phrase, that cause the rivalry; and it is not to one overcoming the other or to any new variant replacing them that we must look, but to the white truth in each being burnt free from its dross, and becoming manifestly the same truth—namely, that the hearts of men, and therewith all the lives and institutions of men, must be subdued to one common Will, ruling them all.[1]

  1. "St. Paul understood what most Christians never realize, namely, that the Gospel of Christ is not a religion, but religion itself in its most universal and deepest significance."—Dean Inge in Outspoken Essays.