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THE RELIGIONS OF THE WORLD.
Why these Lectures were founded.
Design of the present
Course. Mahometanism. Its successes.
N the year 1691 ROBERT BOYLE directed by a Codicil to his Will "that Eight Sermons should be preached each year in London for proving the Christian Religion against notorious Infidels, to wit, Atheists, Theists, Pagans, Jews and Mahometans; not descending lower to any controversies that are among Christians themselves." He desired" that the preacher of these Sermons should be assisting to all companies, and encouraging of them in any undertaking for propagating the Christian Religion to foreign parts;" and further, that he should be ready to satisfy such real scruples as any may have concerning these matters, and to answer such objections and difficulties as may be started, to which good answers have not yet been made."
The second of these clauses seems to explain the intention of the first. The objections to Christianity urged by Jews, Pagans and Mahometans, were not, perhaps, likely to perplex an ordinary Englishman. But England, in the 17th century, A
was becoming more and more a colonizing country. The American settlements were increasing in importance every year. The East India Company had already begun its career of commerce, if not of conquest. In his own particular department of natural science Boyle observed the most steady progress; no one was doing more to accelerate it than himself. He would naturally divine that an advancement, not less remarkable, must take place in another region, in which the interests of men were far more directly engaged. He must have felt how much the student in his closet was helping to give speed to the ships of the merchant, and to discover new openings to his ambition. As a benevolent man he could not contemplate accessions to the greatness and resources of his country, without longing that she might also be conscious of her responsibility, that she might bring no people within the circle of her government whom she did not bring within the circle of her Light. Accordingly, we find him offering frequent encouragement by his pen and purse to the hard-working missionaries who were preaching the Gospel among the North American Indians. Cheering words, pecuniary help, and faithful prayers, might be all which these teachers of savages could ask from their brethren at home. But Boyle knew that difficulties which they would rarely encounter must continually present themselves to those who came in contact with the Brahmin in Hindostan, with the Mussulman both in Europe and Asia, with the Jew in every corner
REASONS AGAINST CHRISTIAN MISSIONS.
of the globe. A man who thought lightly or contemptuously of any of these, or of their arguments—who had not earnestly considered what they would have to say, and what he had to tell them could not be expected to do them much good. Moreover, Boyle was too well acquainted with philosophical men, with the general society of England, and with his own heart, not to be aware that there was another kind of opposition more formidable than this, which the proposal to diffuse Christianity abroad must struggle with. Was the gift worth bestowing? Were we really carrying truth into the distant parts of the earth when we were carrying our own faith into them? Might not the whole notion be a dream of our vanity? Might not particular soils be adapted to particular religions? Might not the effort to transplant one into another involve the necessity of mischievous forcing, and terminate in inevitable disappointment? Might not a better day be at hand in which all religions alike should be found to have done their work of partial good, of greater evil, and when something much more comprehensive and satisfactory should supersede them? Were not thick shadows overhanging Christendom itself, which must be scattered before it could be the source of light to the world?
Such questions as these Boyle must often have heard propounded by others; but the deepest and most painful suggestion of them had been to himself. He tells us, in the sketch of an European tour written under the name of Philaretus, that
"when he was still a young man, after he had "visited other places, his curiosity at last led him "to those wild mountains where the first and "chiefest of the Carthusian abbeys is seated; "where the devil, taking advantage of that deep 'raving melancholy befitting so sad a place, his "humour, and the strange stories and pictures he "found there of Bruno, the father of that order, suggested such strange and hideous thoughts, "and such distracting doubts of some of the "fundamentals of Christianity, that though his "looks did little betray his thoughts, nothing but "the forbiddingness of self-dispatch hindered his acting it. But, after a tedious languishment "of many months in this tedious perplexity, at "last it pleased God one day he had received the "Sacrament to restore unto him the withdrawn
sense of his favour. But, though Philaretus "ever looked upon these impious suggestions "rather as temptations to be resisted than as "doubts to be resolved, yet never did these fleet
ing clouds cease now and then to darken the "clearest serenity of his quiet; which made him "often say that injections of this nature were "such a disease to the faith as toothache is to "the body, for though it be not mortal, it is
very troublesome. However, as all things work "together for good to them that love God, Phi"laretus derived from this anxiety the advantage "of groundedness in his religion; for the per
plexity his doubts created obliged him to re"move them—to be seriously inquisitive of the