2 JULY 1910, Page 21



SIR,—Some of the statements made at the World Missionary Conference demand the careful consideration of thoughtful people. Almost every speaker emphasised the point that the missionary's true purpose in dealing with non-Christian faiths was not to destroy but to build up,—that in every religion there is a deposit of truth which must be preserved and interpreted in the light of the highest revelation. The following quota- tion from St. Augustine would seem to show that he also held this opinion :—

" For the thing itself which is now called the Christian religion really was known to the ancients, nor was wanting at any time from the beginning of the human race until the time that Christ came in the flesh, from whence the true religion which had pre- viously existed began to be called Christian' ; and this in our day is the Christian religion, not as having been wanting in former times, but as having in later times received this name."—" Opera," Vol. I., p. 12.

These words refer doubtless to the religion of the Noachic race, of which Gen. xi. 1 says : " The whole earth was of one language and one speech." It is probable, therefore, that after the dispersion of this race the original revelation became divided into different religions, which in course of time became overlaid with myth and confused in their expression. St. Augustine's words clearly do not support the idea that primitive religion was due to natural instinct, and if they are to be considered as of value, we may well be astonished that the perception of this truth has taken fourteen centuries for