Christendom Astray

Printable .pdf version,

Preface to the Edition of 1884

THE enlightened reader will bear with the seeming arrogance of the title. It is a proposition – not an invective. The question proposed for consideration is a question for critical investigation. Attention is invited to the evidence and the argument. They are strictly within the logical sphere. They can be examined and dismissed if found wanting. What the title affirms is that Christendom, the ostensible repository of revealed truth, is away from that truth.

In reality the title goes further than this. By implication, it asserts certain things to be the truth that are not accepted by Christendom. It offers the proof of the doctrines that are according to truth, as the best demonstration that Christendom is astray from those doctrines. The demonstration is by the Holy Scriptures. To these Christendom is professedly subject, and it is in the light of these (estimated as Christendom estimates them, viz., as divine writings) that the question is considered throughout. It cannot be an unacceptable thing to earnest believers in the Bible to have it debated whether their conceptions of duty and destiny are according to the Bible. This is what is done in the following lectures.

This is not the first time the lectures have appeared. They first saw the light under the name Twelve Lectures, many years ago (Feb., 1862). They came out then in fortnightly parts (one lecture per fortnight) in response to the demand of those who had heard of them. The lectures themselves were in the first instance delivered in Huddersfield in discharge of an individual duty on the part of the lecturer. Since then many thousands of copies have been circulated. The author little imagined at the time he wrote them, that any such fate was in store for them. He wrote them for delivery only, and supposed their work was done when a small Huddersfield audience had heard them. As a matter of fact they have revolutionised the religious convictions of great numbers of people, of which fact much written evidence has appeared in the pages of the monthly Christadelphian.

It will be found upon investigation that the Bible is no more responsible for the views and tenets of Christendom than it is for Mormonism. It propounds a system of doctrine which is compatible with all the evidences of sense, as systemised in the material sciences of the ages, and which at the same time commends itself to the moral instincts of every fully developed mind, as supplying those links, in the absence of which the human understanding is baffled in its attempts to fathom the mysteries of existence …

Of the exact date of the Lord’s appearing we have no information. We are in the era of that wonderful event, and it may be the occurrence of any day; but “of that day and hour knoweth no man”. We are in the position the disciples occupied in relation to the day of God’s judgement on Jerusalem; we wait in a state of indefinite expectancy, knowing that the event looked for is near, even at the door; but not knowing exactly how long.

The truth developed in a complete form is rapidly creating a people for the name of the Lord at his return. Such a work is a necessary prelude to the advent. The apostolic testimony gives us to understand that Jesus finds a people alive at his coming. Hence, their development is a necessity of the end. It is meet that Christ should have a people contemporary with the developments of the end.

At his coming in the flesh, John the Baptist, by preaching, gathered from Israel a select people, to whom in due course Christ was manifested by the descent of the Holy Spirit, and by means of whom in their ultimate operations, he proclaimed the way of life to the world, vanquished paganism, and enthroned his name traditionally in the high places of the earth. His coming in the Spirit draws near; a people is in preparation, increasing in numbers, faith, zeal, and service, to whom, when their development has reached a certain point, he will be revealed, with the thousands whom he shall bring from the dead by his power. May reader and writer alike have the supreme happiness of being included in their glorious number.

Note to 1951 edition

The author of Christendom Astray died in 1898, and several editions of this book have appeared since his death. The past fifty years, however, have seen many changes in the outlook of people towards religious subjects and also in world affairs. When Christendom Astray was first written there was a general knowledge of the Bible in Great Britain, and men earnestly discussed many subjects covered by these lectures. Interest in the Bible has declined, and many of the objections which the author had to meet are now rarely advanced. But the positive presentation of Bible truth with the copious citation of Scripture has an unchanged value. It has been decided, therefore, to delete some of the discussions which no longer have relevance today – as for example the arguments from natural philosophy for the immortality of the soul in Chapter 2 – and a few references to the practices of eighty years ago in what was Chapter 18, now Chapter 17. The whole of Chapter 16, on the “Evidence that the End is Near”, has been deleted. The general argument of the chapter remains unaffected by the passage of time, except that the suggested time of the Lord’s appearing proved to be premature. Two world wars and world-wide changes could not go unnoticed in an adequate treatment of the subject, but this would have entailed an entire re-writing of the chapter. As it is desired that the book shall be left as the work of Robert Roberts, the only alternative was to delete the whole chapter, while referring readers to more recent Christadelphian publications, for information on the evidence that the coming of Christ is near.

All Scripture quotations in this edition have been checked.