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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 37

The Study of Religion

The Study of Religion.

Politics, trade, industry, literature, art, philanthropy,—there is no human interest that has not been "moulded or shaped by religion; and no study so comprehensive or profound awaits the future historian as that which is busied with the religious development of man. The future historian, I say; for, although I have been so venturesome as to entitle my lecture "A Study of Religion," I am painfully aware that no study of it can at this day be otherwise than fragmentary and crude,—that in their very best investigations this present generation are but dabblers and babblers in a matter too high for them. The materials for building up a true science of religion (science must be herself the historian and the analyst) exist to-day uncut, nay, unquarried even, in the traditions and annals and poems and bibles and philosophies, the cultus and the customs, the social systems and the countless institutions of many and diverse nations, of some of which even the names are as yet scarcely known; while the constructive task of planning and executing this great master-piece of intellectual architecture can fall to the lot of those only who shall inherit the results of whole generations of mighty minds. The great structures of the existing world-religions eclipse wholly, to the common observer, the very possibility of such a science; they stand for religion itself to the common intellect; they fill the field of vision; and their magnitude, which is as nothing beside the boundlessness of the slow-coming religion of man, is quite as much as even our best scholars can appreciate to-day. In what I have presumed, therefore, to call a "study of religion," I beg to be acquitted of the pretence of anticipating the proper task of succeeding centuries.