There are many books on Buddhism, and to produce a new one almost demands an apology. Yet most of them deal with the dead past, and Buddhism is a living religion which is showing remarkable powers of revival and adaptation. This is a movement of so great significance that I hope this small volume may prove of value, not only to missionaries but to all sympathetic students of a religion which has played an immense part in the world's history, and which is still a dominant influence in the lives of scores of millions. During twelve years of somewhat intimate study of Buddhist countries I have found that while there is much that is degenerate there is much that is very noble, and the object of this little book is to estimate the living forces of the religion rather than to emphasise its weaknesses. It is at once more scientific and more worth while to look at the strong than at the weak points of a religion, and there is an increasing school of missionary thought which believes in building the Christian Church of Asia upon the great foundations laid through so many centuries. Not only is it true that God has not left Himself without a witness amongst these peoples; it is even truer that during the long and on the whole noble history of the expansion of Buddhism His Spirit has been at work. I am convinced that any who really study this remarkable chapter in human history will come to this conclusion, if they have any belief whatsoever in a meaning in history and in a Divine Providence.
The missionary amongst Buddhist peoples should aim at studying all that is noble and of good repute, whilst of course he will not shut his eyes to what is degenerate and unworthy, and inasmuch as an increasing number of missionary teachers are doing me the honour to consult me as to the method of approach to their Buddhist friends, I venture to dedicate this small volume to them as a token of hearty sympathy in the noble work that they are doing in seeking to fulfil the age-long purposes of God. I think that many of them agree with me that already a nobler form of Christianity is being produced on Asiatic soil than that which we have brought thither, and it may well be in the providence of God that a new and splendid era of Church History is opening up as these responsive and religious peoples of the Orient are captured by the Gospel of Christ. In spite of the failures of Christendom and of our divided Christianity the whole of Asia reverences the historic Jesus, and from her contact with His Spirit is at once reforming and revivifying her ancient faiths. This process is of immense significance and her best spirits, even when they do not call themselves Christian, are frank to confess how much they owe to Him and how much there is in their old faiths which will need to die in order that they may live again, purified and deepened. That Asia is increasingly becoming Christian in its standards of thought and conduct is evident to any unbiased observer, and one of the most remarkable proofs of the authenticity and originality of our faith is this—that it is at once reforming and fulfilling the ancient faiths of Asia. What it did with the religions of Rome and Greece it is already doing with the nobler religions of the Orient; and true missionaries of Christ are at work upon a task of incomparable dignity and significance.
|Publisher:||Bronson Tweed Publishing|
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