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Synopsis

An immense difficulty has to be encountered by those who have been deeply impressed by the value and beauty of Christianity when they are called upon to consider the claims of other faiths. Anyone who has had within his experience and under his observation such an exceptional case as that of a sincere Christian who, from childhood to old age, has set before him the ideal Christ and the Christian conception of an all-compassionate Father—a Christian whose inner light has been so pure that no darkness of doubt has ever dimmed it, and no doctrinal warfare has ever stained its radiance—he, I contend, has an almost insuperable obstacle to overcome when he attempts to associate holiness and purity, of the same supreme order, with the followers of other religious systems which have been formulated for the comfort and salvation of humanity.
It is doubtful if any ordinary adherent of the Christian faith, however extensive his sympathies towards persons outside his own flock, has ever been able to pass this barrier, which always seems to interpose itself when search is made for a common bond of union with an alien belief.
A man may have lived many a year in the East, and witnessed there, with deep appreciation, the purity, the endurance, the touching self-denial of the devout peasantry, and the beautiful charity of the poor towards the poor; or he may have associated with saintly ascetics in India, and with the yellow-robed and gentle religieux of Ceylon; he may have surveyed the famous temple of that fair island, in the intense stillness of a tropical night, till all identity of self seemed to vanish in the solemnity of the surroundings, and the only sound was that of a monk’s intoning voice heard from within the dungeon-like apertures of the building, and the only light that of the fitful fireflies amid the lofty and drooping foliage;—yet, in each and all of these experiences, that aroma of holiness, so perceptible at times in our own religious atmosphere, would somehow seem strangely absent to the unacclimatized senses, and no halo would be distinguishable by a vision which had been restricted by prejudice.
Still more difficult is it to rise to the same height of reverence for a saintly and surpassing personality if it is presented in sacred records other than those to which one has owned a prior allegiance. Nevertheless, the discovery in other religious systems of a correspondence with one’s own particular persuasion must assuredly tend towards the attainment of that attitude of mind commended by St. Paul of “being all things to all men.” To pave the way towards the acquisition of this mental posture in relation to religious concepts is the main object I have had in view in composing this small book…

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