Quiet Talks with World Winners
S. D. Gordon
Author of "Quiet Talks on Power," "Quiet Talks About Jesus," "Quiet Talks on Personal Problems," Etc.
1. The Master Passion 2. The Master's Plan 3. The Need 4. The Present Opportunity 5. The Pressing Emergency 6. The Past Failure 7. The Coming Victory
II. Winning Forces
1. The Church 2. Each One of Us 3. Jesus 4. The Holy Spirit 5. Prayer 6. Money 7. Sacrifice
The Master Passion
The Earliest Calvary Picture. The Love Passion. Mother-love. The Genesis Picture. God Giving Himself. God's Fellow. The Genesis Water-mark. A Human Picture of God. On a Wooing Errand. Jesus' World-passion.
The Master Passion
The Earliest Calvary Picture.
There's a great passion burning in the heart of God. It is tenderly warm and tenaciously strong. Its fires never burn low, nor lose their fine glow. That passion is to win man back home again. The whole world of man is included in its warm, eager reach.
The old home hearth-fire of God is lonely since man went away. The family circle is broken. God will not rest until that old home circle is complete again, and every voice joining in the home songs.
It is an overmastering passion, the overmastering passion of God's heart. It has guided and controlled all His thoughts and plans for man from the first. The purpose of winning man, and the whole race, back again is the dominant gripping passion of God's heart to-day. Everything is made to bend to this one end.
When Eden's tragedy came so early, to darken the pages of this old Book, and, far worse, to darken the pages of human life, there is a great glimpse of this passion of God's heart in the guarding of those Eden gates. The presence of the angels with their sword of flame told plainly of a day when man would be coming back again to the old Eden home of God. The place must be carefully guarded for him.
This is a love passion, a passion of love. And love itself is the master passion both of the human heart and of God's heart. Nothing can grip and fill and sway the heart either of man or God like that.
We would all easily agree that the greatest picture of God's marvellous, overmastering passion of love is seen in the cross. All men as they have come to know that story have stood with heads bowed and bared before the love revealed there. They have not understood it. They have quarrelled about its meaning. But they have acknowledged its love and power as beyond that of any other story or picture.
However men may differ as to why Jesus died, and how His dying affects us, they all agree that the scene of the cross is the greatest revelation of love ever known or ever shown. All theories of the atonement seem to be lost sight of in one thought of grateful acknowledgment of a stupendous love, as men are drawn together by the magnetism of the hill-top of Calvary.
But there is a wondrously clear foreshadowing of that tremendous cross scene in the earliest page of this old Book. Nowhere is love, God's passion of love, made to stand out more distinctly and vividly than in the first chapter of Genesis. The after-scene of the cross uses intenser coloring; the blacks are inkier in their blackness; the reds deeper and redder; the contrasts sharper to the startling-point; yet there is nothing in the cross chapters of the Gospels not included fully in this first leaf of revelation. But it has taken the light of the cross to open our eyes to see how much is plainly there. Let us look at it a bit.
The Love Passion.
What is this greatest of passions called love? There is no word harder to get a satisfactory definition of. Because, whatever you say about it, there comes quickly to your mind some one who loves you, or you think of the passion that burns in your own heart for some one. And, as you think of that, no words that anybody may use seem at all strong enough, or tender enough, to tell what love is, as you know it in your own inner heart.
Yet I think this much can be said—love is the tender, strong outgoing of your whole being to another. It is a passion burning like a fire within you, a soft-burning but intense fire within you, for some other one. Every mention of that name stirs the flame into new burning. Every passing or lingering thought of him or her is like fresh air making the flames leap up more eagerly. And each personal contact is a clearing out of all the ashes, and a turning on of all the draughts, to feed new oxygen for stronger, fresher burning.
There are many other things that seem like love. Kindliness and friendliness, and even intenser emotions, use love's name for themselves. But though these have likenesses to love, they are not love. They have caught something of its warm glow. A bit of the high coloring of its flames plays on them. But they are not the real thing, only distant kinsfolk. The severe tests of life quickly reveal their lack.
Love itself is really an aristocrat. It allows very, very few into its inner circle, often only one. The real thing of love is never selfish. Now we know very well that in the thick of life the fine gold of love gets mixed up with the baser metals. It is very often overlaid, and shot through with much that is mean and low. Rank selfishness, both the coarse kind and the refined, cultured sort, seeks a hiding-place under its cloak. But the stuff mixed in it is not love, but a defiling of it. That is a bit of the slander it suffers for a time, from the presence in life of sin.
Weeds with their poison, and snakes and spiders with their deadly venom, draw life from the sun. That is a bit of the bad transmuting the good, pure sun into its own sort. The sun itself never produces poison or any hurtful thing.
Love itself is never mean, nor bad, nor selfish. The man who truly loves the woman whom he would have for his own lifelong, closest companion is not selfish. He does not want her chiefly for his own sake, but for her sake, that so he may guard and care for her, and her life be fully grown in the sunlight of the love it must have. And, if you think that is idealizing it out of all practical reach, please remember that true love will steadily refuse the union that would not be best for the loved one.
What is the finest and highest love that we know? There are many different sorts and degrees of love revealed in man's relation with his fellow: conjugal, the love between husband and wife; paternal, the love of a father for his child; maternal, the mother's love for her child; filial, the love of children for father and mother; fraternal, or brotherly, meaning really the love of children of the same parents for each other, both brothers and sisters—the same word is used for love between friends where there is no tie of blood; and patriotic, or love for one's country. And under that last word may be loosely grouped the love that one may have for any special object, to which he may devote his life, outside of personal relationships, such as music or any profession or occupation.
This is putting them in their logical order. Though in our experience we know the father-and mother-love for ourselves first; and then in turn the others, so far as they come to us, until we complete the circle and reach the climax of father-and mother-love in ourselves going out to another.
Now of these sorts and degrees which is the highest and finest? Well, your answer to that question will depend entirely on your own experience; as every answer and every thought we have of everything does. All children have mothers, or have had, but thousands of children don't know a mother's love.
I was speaking one time in New York City about the conception, of which the Bible is so full, that God is a mother. And the English evangelist Gypsy Smith, who lost his mother when very young, but who had an unusually devoted father, said with charming simplicity that he could not just see how God could be called a mother, but he knew He was a father. And then he went on to speak very winsomely of God as a father.
Many times love is not born in the heart at all, until there comes into the life some one clear outside of one's own kin. Many a woman never knows love until it is awakened in her heart by him who henceforth is to be a part of herself.
But the common answer, that most people everywhere give to that question, is that a mother's love is the greatest human love we know. And if you press them to tell why they think so, this stands out oftenest and strongest—that it is because she gives so much of herself. She gives her very life. If need be, she sacrifices everything in life, and then sacrifices life itself, going out into the darkness of death that her child may come into fulness and sweetness of life. This is the mother spirit, giving one's very self to bring life to another.
The mother gives her very life-blood that the new life may come. And, if need be, will gladly give her life out to the death that the new life may come into life. And yet more, she gives her life out daily and yearly, throughout its length, that so the full strength and fragrance of life may come in her child's life.
Yet, when all this has been said, I am strongly inclined to think that the mother's love, though the greatest that can be found in any one heart, is not the perfect, fully grown love. The human unit is not a man nor a woman, but a man and a woman. Perfect love requires more than one or two for its matured growth into full life. It cannot exist in its full strength and fragrant sweets except where three are joined together to draw out its full depth and meaning.
There must be two whose hearts are fully joined in love, each finding answering and ever-satisfying love in the other; and so each love growing to full ripeness in the warm sunshine of the other love. And then there needs to be a third one, who comes as a result of that mutual love, and who constantly draws out the love of the other two.
For love in itself is creative. It yearns to bring into being another upon whom it may freely lavish itself. That other one must be of its own sort, upon its own level. Nothing less ever satisfies. And so the love poured out draws out to itself an answering love fully as full as its own. And then, having yearned, it does more. It creates. It must create. It must bring forth life; and life like its own in all its powers and privileges. This is the very life of love in its full expression.
Yet to say all this is simply to spell out fully, in all its letters and syllables, the great, the greatest of passions, mother-love, which we agreed a moment ago was the highest. For mother-love is not restricted to woman, though among us humans it often finds its brightest expressions in her. It knows no restriction of sex. It is simply love at its fullest and highest and freest and tenderest; free to do as it will, and to do it as fully as it will. Love left to itself, free to do as its heart dictates, will give its very self, its life, that life may come to another. This is the great passion called love, the greatest of all passions.
The Genesis Picture.
Now, maybe you think we have swung pretty far away from that first chapter of the Genesis revelation. No; you are mistaken there. We have been walking, with rapid stride, by the shortest road, straight into its inner heart. Let us look a bit at the picture of God sketched for us in this earliest page of revelation.
There are two creations here, first of the earth, man's home; and then of man himself who was to live in the home. Here at once in the beginning is mother-love. Before the new life comes the mother is absorbed in getting the home ready; the best and softest and homiest home that her mother-love can think of, and her fingers fix. The same mother instinct in the birds spends itself in getting the nest ready, and then patiently broods until the new occupants come to take possession.
The Bible never calls God a mother, though the mother language, as here, is used of Him many times. It takes more of the human to tell the divine. You must take many words, and several of our human relationships, and put them together, in the finest meaning of each, to get near the full meaning of what God is. Up on the higher level, with God, the word "father" really includes all that both father and mother mean to us.
The word "father" is even used once of God in what we think of as the strict mother sense. In speaking of God's early care of the Hebrews Paul says, "as a nursing-father bore he them in the wilderness." That word "nursing-father" is peculiar in coupling the distinctive function of the mother in caring for the babe with the word father.
The word "father" applied to God includes not only our meaning of father in all its strength as we know it at its best; but all of the meaning of the word "mother," in all its sweet fragrance, as we have had it breathed into our own very life.
We have come commonly to think of the word mother as a tenderer word than father. Though I have met many, both men and women, who unconsciously revealed that their experience has made father the tenderer, and the tenderest word to them. Father stands commonly for the stronger, more rugged qualities; and mother for the finer, gentler, sweeter, maybe softer qualities, in the strong meaning of that word soft.
God Giving Himself.
Here in this Genesis story the creation of the whole sun-system to give life to the earth, and of the earth itself, was the outward beginning of this greatest passion of love in the heart of God. And if you would know more of that love in this early stage of it, just look a bit at the home itself. It has been pretty badly mussed, soiled and hurt by sin's foul touch. Yet even so it is a wonder of a world in its beauty and fruitfulness. What must it have been before the slime and tangle of sin got in! But that's a whole story by itself. We must not stop there just now.
When the home was ready God set Himself to bringing the new life He was planning. And He did it, even as father and mother of our human kind and of every other kind do:—He gave some of Himself. He breathed into man His own life-breath. He came Himself, and with the warmth and vitality of His life brought a new life. The new life was a bit of Himself.
That phrase, "breathed into his nostrils," brings to us the conception of the closest personal, physical contact; two together in most intimate contact, and life passing from one to the other. The picture of Elijah stretching his warm body upon that of the widow's son until the life-breath came again comes instinctively to mind. And its companion scene comes with it, of Elisha lying prone upon the child, mouth to mouth, eye to eye, hand to hand, until the breath again softly reentered that little, precious body.
And if all this seems too plain and homely a way to talk about the great God, let us remember it is the way of this blessed old Book. It is the only way we shall come to know the marvellous intimacy and tenderness of God's love, and of God's touch upon ourselves.
How shall we talk best about God so as to get clear, sensible ideas about Him? Why not follow the rule of the old Bible? Can we do better? It constantly speaks of Him in the language that we use of men. The scholars, with their fondness for big words, say the Bible is anthropomorphic. That simply means that it uses man's words, and man's ideas of things in telling about God. It makes use of the common words and ideas, that man understands fully, to tell about the God, whom he doesn't know. Could there be a more sensible way? Indeed, how else could man understand?
Some dear, godly people have sometimes been afraid of the use of simple, homely language in talking about God. To speak of Him in the common language of every-day life, the common talk of home and kitchen, and shop and street and trade, seems to them lacking in due reverence. Do they forget that this is the language of the common people? And of our good old Anglo-Saxon Bible? Has anybody ever yet used as blunt homely, talk as this old Book uses? And has any other book stuck into people's memories and hearts with such burr-like hold as it has?
That breathing by God into man's nostrils of the breath of life suggests the intensest concentration of strength and thought and heart. The whole heart of God went out to man in that breath that brought life.
The whole thought of God's heart was to have a man like Himself. Over and over again, with all the peculiar emphasis of repetition, it is said that the man was to be in the very image, or likeness, of God. God gave Himself that the man might be a bit of Himself. Here is the love-passion, the mother-passion, the father-mother-passion, in its highest mood, and at its own finest work.
The man was to be the very best, that so he might have fellowship of the most intimate sort with God. Of course, only those who are alike can have fellowship. Only in that particular thing which any two have in common can they have fellowship together. Let me use a common word in its old, fine, first meaning: man was made to be God's fellow, His most intimate associate and companion.
As you read this early story in Genesis of God's passion of love, you know, if you stop to think into it, that if ever the need for it came, He will climb any Calvary hill, however steep, and receive the jagging nails of any cross, however cutting, for the sake of His darling child—man.
This love-passion never faileth. There is no emergency that can arise that is too great for love's resources. Any danger, however great, every need, no matter how distressing, is already provided for by love. The emergency may sorely test and tax love to its last limit, but it can never outdo it, nor outstrip it in the race. No matter how great the danger, love is a bit greater. No matter how strong the enemy threatening, love is always yet stronger. However deep down into the very vitals of life the poison-sting may sink its fangs, love goes yet deeper, neutralizing the deadly influence with its own fresh life-blood.
Have you ever looked into a single drop of water and seen the sun? the whole of that brilliant ball of fire there in one tiny drop of water? Well, there's one word on this first leaf of the Book which contains the clear reflection, sharply outlined, of the whole creation story; ah! yes, more than that, of the whole Gospel story.
Come here and look; you can see in its clear surface the form of a man climbing a little, steep hill, and being hung, thorn-crowned, upon a cross of pain and shame. It is in chapter one, verse two, the word "brooding." The old version and the Revision, both English and American, have the word "moved." The Revisions add "brooding" in the margin. And that is the root meaning of the word underneath our English—"brooding," or, rendered more fully, "was brooding tremulous with love."
The Genesis Water-mark.
That English word "brooding," as well as the old word underneath, is a mother word. The brooding hen sits so faithfully, day after day, upon the eggs, bringing the new lives by the vital warmth of her own body. The mother-bird nestles softly down upon the nest in the crotch of the tree, patiently, expectantly brooding, by the strength of her own life giving life to the coming young. She who, in the holiest, greatest function entrusted to her, comes nearest to God in creative power and love—the mother of our human kind, broods for long months over her coming child, giving her very life, until the crisis of birth comes; and then broods still, for months and years longer, that the new life may come into fulness of life. That is the great word used here.
Now, will you please notice very keenly the connection in which it occurs. It was because the earth was "waste and void, and darkness upon the face of the deep," that the Spirit of God was brooding. It is only fair to say that our scholarly friends who think in Hebrew are divided as to the meaning here. Some think that these words, "waste and void," simply indicate a stage, or step, in the processes of creation.
But others of them are just as positive in saying that the words point plainly to a disaster of some sort that took place. In their view the whole story of creation is in the ten opening words of the chapter. Then follows a bad break of some sort; then the brooding of God in verse two; and the rest of the chapter is taken up in what is practically a reshaping up again of the whole affair. Some of this second group of Hebrew scholars have made this translation,—"the earth became a waste," or "a wreck," or "a ruin," or "without inhabitant."
If we may so read it now, it gives a world of additional meaning to this word "brooding." Here was love not merely giving life, but giving itself to overcome a disaster. The brooding was to mend a break. Love creates. It also redeems. It stoops down with great patience, and washes the dirt and filth thoroughly off, in the best cleansing liquid to be found, and brings the cleansed, redeemed man back again.
Love does indeed create. It gave man the power to choose freely, without any restriction, whatever he would choose to choose. Redeeming love does more. It woos him to choose the right, and only the right. It gets down by his side after his eyesight has become twisted, and his will badly kinked by wrong choosing, and patiently, persistently works to draw him up to the level of choosing right. Love makes us like God in the power of choice. But there's a greater task ahead. It makes us yet more like Him in the desire to choose only the right, and in the power to choose it, too. All this is in that marvellous world of a word—"brooding."
The whole story of the sacrifice of Calvary is included in this wondrous first leaf of revelation. If we had lost the Gospels, and didn't know their story, nor the history of man, we yet could know from this Genesis page that, if ever the need arose, God would lavishly give out His very life, at any cost of suffering and pain, that His man might be saved. John, three, sixteen is in the first chapter of Genesis. Calvary is in the creation. God gave His breath to man in creation, and His blood for man on Calvary. He gave His blood because He had given His breath. Each was His very life.
You know the way publishers have of putting an imprint in a book by means of what is called a water-mark. By the skilful use of water in manufacturing the paper, a name or trade imprint is made a part of the very paper of which the book is made.
Have you ever noticed God's water-mark on the paper of this first leaf of His Book? Hold your Bible up as we talk; separate this first leaf and hold it up to the light and try to see through it. The best light to use is that which came from Calvary. Can you see the water-mark plainly imprinted there? Look closely and carefully, for it is there. In clear-cut outline, every bit of it showing sharply out, is a cross. And if you look still more closely you will find this water-mark different from those in common use, in this—there is a distinct blood-red tinge to it.
A Human Picture of God.
Illustrations of God from our common life are never full, and must not be taken too critically, but they are sometimes wonderfully vivid and very helpful. Anything that makes God seem real and near helps.
A few years ago I heard a simple story of real life from the lips of a New England clergyman. It was told of a brother clergyman of the same denomination, and stationed in the same city with the man who told me.
This clergyman had a son, about fourteen years of age, who, of course, was going to school. One day the boy's teacher called at the house and asked for the father. When they met he said:
"Is your son sick?"
"He was not at school to-day."
"You don't mean it!"
"Nor the day before."
"And I supposed he was sick."
"No, he's not sick."
"Well, I thought I should tell you."
And the father thanked him, and the teacher left. The father sat thinking about his son, and those three days. By and by he heard a click at the gate, and he knew the boy was coming in. So he went to the door to meet him at once. And the boy knew as he looked up that the father knew about those three days.
And the father said, "Come into the library, Phil."
And Phil went and the door was shut.
Then the father said very quietly, "Phil, your teacher was here a little while ago. He tells me you were not at school to-day, nor yesterday, nor the day before. And we thought you were. You let us think you were. And you don't know how bad I feel about this. I have always said I could trust my boy Phil. I always have trusted you. And here you have been a living lie for three whole days. I can't tell you how bad I feel about it."
Well, it was hard on the boy to be talked to in that gentle way. If his father had spoken to him roughly, or had taken him out to the wood-shed, in the rear of the dwelling, it wouldn't have been nearly so hard.
Then the father said, "We'll get down and pray." And the thing was getting harder for Phil all the time. He didn't want to pray just then. Most people don't about that time.
And they got down on their knees, side by side. And the father poured out his heart in prayer. And the boy listened. Somehow he saw himself in the looking-glass of his knee-joints as he hadn't before. It is queer about that mirror of the knee-joints, the things you see in it. Most people don't like to use it much. And they got up from their knees. The father's eyes were wet. And Phil's eyes were not dry.
Then the father said, "My boy, there's a law of life, that where there is sin there is suffering. You can't get those two things apart. Wherever there is suffering there has been sin, somewhere, by somebody. And wherever there is sin there will be suffering, for some one, somewhere; and likely most for those closest to you."
"Now," he said, "my boy, you have done wrong. So we'll do this. You go up-stairs to the attic. I'll make a little bed for you there in the corner. We'll bring your meals up to you at the usual times. And you stay up in the attic three days and three nights, as long as you've been a living lie." And the boy didn't say a word. They climbed the attic steps. The father kissed his boy, and left him alone.
Supper-time came, and the father and mother sat down to eat. But they couldn't eat for thinking of their son. The longer they chewed on the food the bigger and drier it got in their mouths. And swallowing was clear out of the question. And the mother said, "Why don't you eat?" And he said softly, "Why don't you eat?" And, with a catch in her throat, she said, "I can't, for thinking of Phil." And he said, "That's what's bothering me."
And they rose from the supper-table, and went into the sitting-room. He took up the evening paper, and she began sewing. His eyesight was not very good. He wore glasses, and to-night they seemed to blur up. He couldn't see the print distinctly. It must have been the glasses, of course. So he took them off, and wiped them with great care, and then found the paper was upside-down. And she tried to sew. But the thread broke, and she couldn't seem to get the thread into the needle again. How we all reveal ourselves in just such details!
By and by the clock struck ten, their usual hour of retiring. But they made no move to go. And the mother said quietly, "Aren't you going to bed?" And he said, "I'm not sleepy, I think I'll sit up a while longer; you go." "No, I guess I'll wait a while too." And the clock struck eleven; then the hands clicked around close to twelve. And they arose, and went to bed; but not to sleep. Each one pretended to be asleep. And each knew the other was not asleep.
After a bit she said—woman is always the keener—"Why don't you sleep?" And he said softly, "How did you know I wasn't sleeping? Why don't you sleep?" And she said, with that same queer catch in her voice, "I can't, for thinking of Phil." He said, "That's the bother with me." And the clock struck one; and then two; still no sleep. At last the father said, "Mother, I can't stand this. I'm going up-stairs with Phil."
And he took his pillow, and went softly out of the room; climbed the attic steps softly, and pressed the latch softly so as not to wake the boy if he were asleep, and tiptoed across to the corner by the window. There the boy lay, wide-awake, with something glistening in his eyes, and what looked like stains on his cheeks. And the father got down between the sheets, and they got their arms around each other's necks, for they had always been the best of friends, and their tears got mixed up on each other's cheeks—you couldn't have told which were the father's and which the son's. Then they slept together until the morning light broke.
When sleep-time came the second night the father said, "Good-night, mother. I'm going up with Phil again." And the second night he shared his boy's punishment in the attic. And the third night when sleep-time came again, again he said, "Mother, good-night. I'm going up with the boy." And the third night he shared his son's punishment with him.
That boy, now a man grown, in the thews of his strength, my acquaintance told me, is telling the story of Jesus with tongue of flame and life of flame out in the heart of China.
Do you know, I think that is the best picture of God I have ever run across in any gallery of life? It is not a perfect picture. No human picture of God is perfect, except of course the Jesus human picture. The boy's punishment was arbitrarily chosen by the father, unlike God's dealings with our sin. But it is the tenderest and most real of any that has come to me.
God couldn't take away sin. It's here. Very plainly it is here. And He couldn't take away suffering, out of kindness to us. For suffering is sin's index-finger pointing out danger. It is sin's voice calling loudly, "Look out! there's something wrong." So He came down in the person of His Son, Jesus, and lay down alongside of man for three days and nights, in the place where sin drove man.
That's God! And that suggests graphically the great passion of His heart. Sin was not ignored. Its lines stood sharply out. The boy in the garret had two things burned into his memory, never to be erased: the wrong of his own sin, and the strength of his father's love.
Jesus is God coming down into our midst and giving His own very life, and then, more, giving it out in death, that He might make us hate sin, and might woo and win the whole world, away from sin, back to the intimacies of the old family circle again.
On a Wooing Errand.
Jesus was a mirror held up to the Father's face for man to look in. So we may know what the Father is like. When you look at Jesus and listen to Him you are looking into the Father's heart and listening to its warm throbbing. And no one can look there without being caught by the great passion burning there, and feeling its intense soft-burning glow, and carrying some of it for ever after in his own heart.
Jesus was on a wooing errand to the earth. The whole spirit of His dealings with men was that of a great lover, wooing them to the Father. He was insistently eager to let men know what His Father was like. He seemed jealous of His Father's reputation among men. It had been slandered badly. Men misunderstood the Father. He would leave no stone unturned to let men know how good and loving and winsome God is. For then they would eagerly run back home again to Him. This was His method of approach to the world He came to win.
Jesus is the greatest wooer the old world has ever known, and will be the greatest winner of what He is after, too. Run thoughtfully through these Gospels, and stand by Jesus' side in each one of these simple, tremendous incidents of His contact with the common people. Then listen anew to His teaching talks, so homely and so gripping. And the impression becomes irresistible that the one thought that gripped at every turn, never forgotten, was to woo man back to the Father's allegiance.
Have you not marked the world-wide swing of Jesus' thought and plan? It is stupendous in its freshness and bold daring. The bigness of His idea of the thing to be done is immense. To use a favorite phrase of to-day, He had a world-consciousness. It is hard for us to realize what a startling thing His world-consciousness was. We are so familiar with the Gospels that we lose much of their force through mere rote of familiarity.
It takes a determined effort, and the fresh touch of the Holy Spirit, too, to have them come with all the freshness of a new book. And then we have gotten sort of used in our day, and in our part of the world especially, to talking about world-wide enterprises.
We don't realize what a stupendous thing a world-consciousness was in Jesus' day. He certainly did not get it from His own generation; not from the Jews. It stands out in keen contrast to their ideas. They lived within very narrow alleyways. They supposed they were the favorites of God; and everybody else—dogs, and damned dogs, too; not in the profane usage, but actually.
But Jesus thought of a world, and yearned for a world. The words "world" and "earth" are constantly on His lips. He said He came "into the world;" not to Palestine; that was only the door He used for entrance. It was from Him that John learned, what he wrote down, that He was to "lighten every man that cometh into the world."
To the Jewish senator of the inner national circle He said plainly in that great sentence that contains the gist of the whole Bible—John, three, sixteen—that it was a world he was after. A saved world was the one purpose of His errand to the earth. He had come to "save the world," and would stop at nothing short of giving His very self "for the life of the world."
He tells His own inner circle that "the field" is a world. And that it is to be won by the means He Himself was using; namely, men, human beings, "sons of the kingdom" were to be sown as seed all over its vast extent.
You remember, that last week, the request of the Greeks for an interview? The outside non-Jewish world came to Him in the visit and earnest request of those Greeks. And His whole being became greatly agitated. It was as when one, at last, after years of labor without any seeming success, gets a first faint glimpse of the results he longs so earnestly for. Here was a touch, a glimpse of the very thing on which His heart was so set. The great outside world was coming to Him.
The realization of its tremendous meaning, the sure promise it held of the day when all the world would be coming seems to set Him all a-tremble with intensest emotion. The delight of the possible realizing of His life-dream, His earth errand, and yet the terrific conviction that only by travelling the red road of the cross could that world be won, made a fierce conflict within. It was the world-vision that agitated Him.
And it was that same world-vision that held Him steady. He would not scatter. By concentrating all in one act He would generate and set off a dynamic power on Calvary that would shake and then shape a world. The knowledge that all men would be irresistibly drawn by the loadstone of the cross steadied His steps.
A few days later, as He sat resting a bit, on the side of the Hill of Olivet, the disciples earnestly ask for some idea of His plan. And He explains that the Gospel was to be "preached to the whole inhabited earth." That conception was never out of His mind. How could it be!
But the great purpose and passion of His life stands out most sharply in the words of that last imperial command. He shows the whole of His heart in that stirring "Go ye into all the world and make disciples of all the nations"; "preach the gospel to the whole creation." The passion of Jesus' heart was to win the world. And that passion has grown intenser in waiting. To-day more than ever the one passion of yonder enthroned Man is to win His world. Everything else bends to that with Him. Nothing less will satisfy His heart.
Now, the God-touched man is always swayed by the same purpose and passion as sway God. The passion of every God-touched man, fresh from direct contact with Him, is to win the whole world up to God. Everything will be held under the strong thumb of this, and made to fit and bend and blend into it.
The Master's Plan
Will the World Be Won? Some Bad Drifts. Great Incidental Blessings. The World Really Lost. God's Method of Saving. The Programme of World-winnng. Early Moorings. Service Unites. The World-winning Climb.
Will the World Be Won?
The great passion of God's heart is a love-passion. Love never fails. It waits and, if need be, waits long; but it never fails to get what it is waiting for. Love sacrifices; though it never uses that word. It doesn't know it is sacrificing, it is so absorbed in its gripping purpose. There may be keen-cutting pain, but it is clean forgotten in the passion that burns within. God means to win His world of men back home to Himself.
But some earnest friend is thinking of an objection to all this talk about a world being won. You are taken all anew with the great picture of God's passion of love in the opening page of this old Book. But all the time we have been talking together you have been having a cross-cutting train of thought underneath. It has been saying, "Isn't this going a bit too far? will the whole world be won?"
Let us talk over that a bit. We have been used all our lives to hearing about soul-winning. We have been urged, more or less, to do it. A favorite motto in some Christian workers' convention has been, "Win one." But this idea of winning the world has not been preached. At first it doesn't seem exactly orthodox.
The old-time preaching, of which not so much is heard now, except in restricted quarters, is that the whole world is lost; and that we are to save people out of it. We used to be told that the world is bad, and only bad; bad beyond redemption, and doomed. In his earlier years Mr. Moody used to say often with his great earnestness that this was a doomed world, and that the great business of life was to save men out of it.
But of late years there has been a distinct swing away from this sort of preaching and talking. Everything we humans do seems to go by the clock movement, the pendulum swing: first one side, then the other. Now we hear a very different sort of preaching. This is really a good world. There is some wickedness in it, to be sure. Indeed, there is quite a great deal of it. But in the main it is not a bad world, we're told.
The old-time preaching was chiefly concerned with getting ready for heaven. Now it is concerned, for most part, with living pure, true lives right here on the earth. And that change is surely a good one. But it is also the common thing to be told that the world is not nearly so bad as we have been led to believe.
Some Bad Drifts.
It is striking that with that has come a change of talk about sin, the thing that was supposed to be responsible for making the world so bad. Sin is not such a damnable thing now, apparently. It is largely constitutional weakness, or prenatal predilection, or the idiosyncrasy of individuality. (Big words are in favor here. They always make such talk seem wise and plausible.) Heaven has slipped largely out of view; and—hell, too, even more. Churchmen in the flush of phenomenal material prosperity, with full stomachs and luxurious homes and pews, are well content with things as they are in this present world, and don't propose to move.
And with that it is easy to believe what we are freely told, that there is really no need of giving our Christian religion to the heathen world. Those peoples have religions of their own that are remarkably good. At least they are satisfactory to them. Why disturb them? They are doing very well. This talk about their being lost, and needing a Savior, is reckoned out of date. The old common statements about so many thousands dying daily, and going out into a lost eternity, are not liked. They are called lurid. And, indeed, they are not used nearly so much now as once.
This swing away has had a great influence upon the mass of church-members, and upon their whole thought of the foreign-mission enterprise. There is a vaguely expressed, but distinctly felt idea both in the Church and outside of it, for the two seem to overlap as never before—that the sending of missionaries is really not to save peoples from being lost. That sort of talk is almost vulgar now.
Mission work is really a sort of good-natured neighborliness. It is benevolent humanitarianism in which we may all help, more or less (usually less), regardless of our beliefs or lack of beliefs, our church-membership or attendance. We should show these heathen our improved methods of living. We have worked out better plans of housekeeping and schooling, of teaching and doctoring, and farming and all the rest of it. And now we want to help these poor deficient peoples across the seas.
We think we are a superior people in ourselves, as well as in our type of civilization, decidedly so. And having taken good care of ourselves, and laid up a good snug sum, we can easily afford to help these backward far-away neighbors a bit. It is really the thing to do.
Such seems to be the general drift of much of the present-day talk about foreign missions. The Church, and its members individually, have grown so rich that we have forgotten that we were ever poor. The table is so loaded with dainties that we are quite willing to be generous with the crumbs, even cake crumbs.
Great Incidental Blessings.
Now, without doubt the sending of the missionaries has vastly improved conditions of human life in the foreign-mission lands. The missionaries have been the forerunners of great improvements. They have been the pioneers blazing out the paths along which both trade and diplomacy have gone with the newer and better civilization of the West. Civilization has developed marvellously in the western half of the world. And the missionaries have been its advance agents into the stagnant East, and the savage wilds of the southern hemisphere.
Full, accurate knowledge of nature's resources and laws, and adaptation of that knowledge to practical uses, have been among the most marked conditions of the western world during the past century. And, as a result, education, medical and hygienic and sanitary science, development of the earth's soil, and resources above and below the soil, have gone forward by immense strides. So far as is known, our progress in such matters exceeds all previous achievements in the history of the race.
And some of all this has been seeping into the heathen world. It hasn't gotten in far yet; only into the top soil, and about the edges, so far. The progress in this regard has seemed both rapid and slow. When the great mass of these peoples have not yet gotten even a whiff of the purer, better civilization air of the western nations the progress seems slow. But when we remember the incalculably tremendous inertia, and the strangely stagnant spirit of heathen lands, it seems rapid.
The effort to get the heathen world simply to clean up; to open the windows and let in some fresh air, and use plain soap and water to scrub off the actual dirt makes one think of the typical small boy's dislike of being washed up. It has been a hard job. Yet a great beginning has been made. The boy seems to be beginning to find out that his face is dirty, and feels dirty. And that is an enormous gain.
The World Really Lost.
Yet while this is good, and only good, it isn't the thing we are driving at in missions. While it would fully warrant all the expenditures of money, and vastly more than has yet been given, it should be said in clearest, most ringing tones that all this is merely incidental. It is blessed. It is sure to come. It is remarkable that it always has come where the Gospel of Jesus is preached.
Yet this is not the thing aimed at in missions. The one driving purpose is to carry to men a Saviour from sin. And to take Him so earnestly and winsomely that men yonder shall be wooed and won to the real God, whom they have lost knowledge of.
It cannot be said too plainly that the world is lost. It has strayed so far away from the Father's house that it has lost all its bearings, and can't find its way back without help. The old preaching that this is a lost world, is true.
But we need to remember the different uses of that word "world." In the old-time conception it was used in a loose way as meaning the spirit that actuates men in the world. The scheme of selfishness and wickedness and sinfulness which has overcast all life is commonly spoken of in the Bible as the world spirit. In that sense the world is bad, and only bad. Men are to be saved out of it, as Moody said.
But, in the other commoner use of it, that word "world" simply means the whole race of men. And we must remind ourselves vigorously of the plain truth that this is a lost world. That is to say, men have gotten away from God. They completely misunderstand Him. Then they do more, and worse, they misrepresent and slander Him. The result is complete lack of trust in Him. They have lost their moorings, and have drifted out to deep sea with no compass on board. Thick fogs have risen and shut out sun and stars and every guiding thing. They are hopelessly and helplessly lost, and need some one to bring the compass so as to get back to shore, back home to God.
But this world of men is to be won. Jesus said He came to save a world. And He will not fail nor rest content until He has done it, and this has become a saved world. He said that He gave His life for the life of the world. And the world will yet know the fulness of that life of His throbbing in its own heart.
This does not mean that all men will be saved. There seems to be clear evidence in the Book that some will insist on preferring their own way to God's. And I am sure I do not know anything except what the Book teaches. It is the only reliable source of information I have been able to find so far. It must be the standard, because it is the standard.
There will be a group of stubborn irreconcilables holding out against all of God's tender pleading. John's Patmos vision of glory, with its marvellous beauty and sweep, has yet a lake of fire and a group of men insisting upon going their own way. If a man choose that way, he may. He is still in the likeness of God in choosing to leave out God. He remains a sovereign in his own will even in the hell of his own choosing.
God's Method of Saving.
The method of saving is by winning. The Father would not be content with anything else. Such a thing as might be represented by throwing a blanket over the head of a horse in a burning stable, and so getting it out by coaxing, and forcing, and hiding the danger, is not to be thought of here. Sin is never smoothed over by God, nor its results, their badness and their certainty.
He would have us see the sin as ugly and damning as it actually is, and see Him as pure and holy and winsome as He is; and then to reject the sin and choose Himself. The method of much modern charity, the long-range charity that helps by organization, without the personal relation and warm touch, is unknown to God. He touches every man directly with His own warm heart, and appeals to Him at closest quarters.
Man's highest power is his power of choosing. It is in that He is most like God. God's plan is to clear away the clouds, sweep down the cobwebs that bother our eyes so, and let us get such a look at Himself that we will be caught with the sight of His great face, and choose to come, and to come a-running back to Himself. The world will be saved by its own choosing to be. It will be saved by being won. Men will choose to leave sin and accept God's Saviour Jesus Christ.
It is a great method. It is the only method God could use. The creative love-passion of His heart was that we should choose Himself in preference to all else, and choose life with Him up on His level as the only life.
And the method of winning is by getting each man's consent. The old cry of soul-winning is the true cry. It tells the method of work for us to follow. Each man is to be won by his own free glad consent. There is to be no wholesaling except by retailing. In business the wholesale comes after the retail. It is the child and servant of the retail.
Here the method is to be one by one; and the results, a great multitude beyond the power of any arithmetic to count. Soul-winning is the method, and world-winning is the object and the final result.
The Programme of World-winning.
There is a programme of world-winning repeatedly outlined in this old Book of God. That programme has not always been clearly understood. Indeed, it may be said that for the most part it has been misunderstood, and still is by many. And, as a result, many churchmen have lost their bearings, and strayed far from the Master's plan for their own lives and service. It helps greatly to get the programme clear in mind, so we can steer a straight course, and not get confused nor lost.
The first item of that programme is world-wide evangelization. That is the great service and privilege committed to the Church, and to every Christian, for this present time. Every other service is second to this. This does not mean world-wide conversion. That comes later. It does mean a full, winsome telling of the story of Jesus' Gospel, to all nations and to all men.
It means the doing of it by all sorts of helpful, sensible means; the hospital and medical dispensary, the school and college, the printed page, and the practical helping of men in every way that they can be helped. Above all, it means the warm, sympathetic, brotherly touch. Not simply by preaching; that surely, but in addition to that the practical preaching of the Gospel by all of these means..
When that has been accomplished the Kingdom will come. The King will come, and with Him the Kingdom. There will be radical changes in all the moral conditions of the earth. It will be a time of greatly increased evangelization, and of conversions of people in immense numbers. It will seem as if all were giving glad allegiance to Jesus the King. The world will then seem to be indeed a won world.
But there will be many who have simply been swung into line outwardly by the general movement among the mass of peoples, just as it always is. And our King wants whole-hearted love and service.
And so, at the end of the kingdom period, there will come another crisis. It is spoken of by John in his Revelation vision as a loosing of Satan, and a renewal of his activity among men. That used to puzzle me a good bit. I wondered why, when that foul fiend had once been securely fastened up, he should be loosed again. But I'm satisfied that the reason is that at the end of the Kingdom time there is to be full opportunity for those who are not at heart loyal to Jesus, and who simply bow to Him because the crowd is doing so, to be perfectly free to do and go as they choose.
Jesus wants a heart allegiance, and only that. The great thing is that every man shall freely choose as he really prefers. This it is that both makes and reveals character. And so there will be a final crisis. All who at heart prefer to do so may swing away from Jesus.
That crisis ends with the final and overwhelming defeat of Satan and all the forces of evil. He goes to his own place, the place he has chosen and made for himself; and all who prefer to leave God out will go by the moral gravitation of their own choice to that place with him.
Then follows the full vision of a won world, which John pictures in such glowing colors in these last two chapters of Revelation, as a city come down from God out of heaven.
There are two leading passages that speak of this programme. You remember that during the last week of His life Jesus told His disciples of the fall of Jerusalem. They came earnestly asking for fuller information regarding the future events. They asked when the present period of time would come to an end. And in answering He said—and the answer became a pivotal passage around which much else swings—that the Gospel of the Kingdom would be preached in the whole inhabited earth for a testimony unto all nations. And then the end of the present age or period of time would come.
The first council of the Christian Church was held as a result of the remarkable success attending the beginning of world-wide evangelization. It was held in Jerusalem to consider the serious question of what to do with the great multitude of foreign or Gentile converts.
The Church had been practically a Jewish church. But Paul had commenced his remarkable series of world-wide preaching-tours. Great numbers of the outside peoples had accepted Christ, and been organized into Christian churches. Some of the Jewish Church in Jerusalem thought that all of these should become Jewish in their observance of the old Mosaic requirements. Both Paul and Peter, the two great church leaders, object to this.
It is at the close of the conference that James, who was presiding, outlines in his decision the programme of world-winning of which we are talking together. He quotes from the prophecy of Joel. He says there are to be three steps or stages in working out God's plan.
First of all is the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus to all the nations, in which work Paul had been so earnestly engaged, and the remarkable success of which it was that had given rise to the whole discussion. When this has been completed the kingdom is to be established with the nation of Israel in the central place, the tabernacle of David set up, as he quotes it. The purpose of this is that all the rest of the peoples on the earth, all the nations, "may seek after the Lord."
The purpose of the Kingdom is the same, in the main, as is now the purpose of the Church. It is to push forward on broader lines, and more vigorously than ever, the work of bringing all men back to the Father's house.
There are many other passages that might be referred to, but these will answer our purpose just now. There is to be a won world, and the old Book outlines plainly just how and when it will be won.
Now, I know that all ministers and Christian teachers are not agreed about this. There has been a controversy in the Church, both long and sometimes bitter, unfortunately, about the Lord's return and the setting up of the Kingdom. And I have no desire to take any part in that, but instead, a strong desire to keep out of it. There is too much pressing emergency among men for helpful service to spend any time or strength in controversy.
In a word it may be put this way. There are those who believe that Jesus' coming is a thing to be expected as likely to occur at any time, or within our lifetime, within any generation. His coming is to be the beginning of the Kingdom period, when all peoples will be loyal to Him.
The others believe that the preaching of the Gospel will bring the whole world into allegiance, and that will be the Kingdom, and then Jesus will return. Both agree fully that the thing to be desired, and that will come, is the world-wide acknowledgment of Jesus as Saviour and King.
It may be added, however, that of later years there is a third great group in the Church, which is really the largest of the three. These people practically ignore the teaching about an actual return of Jesus to the earth. They believe that He has already come, and is continually coming in the higher ideals, the better standards, and nobler spirit that pervade society.
If it be true that the present preaching of the Gospel is to result in winning the whole world at once, without waiting for this programme of which I have spoken, then there is in that a very strong argument for world-wide evangelization. For only so can the desired result be secured. And so we can heartily join hands together in service regardless of what we believe on this question. I make a rule not to ask a man on which side of the question he stands, but to work with him hand in hand so far as I can in spreading the glad good news of Jesus everywhere.
The difference of view regarding the Lord's return need not affect the practical working together of all earnest men. We are perfectly agreed that the great thing is to have the story of Jesus' dying and rising again told out earnestly and lovingly to all men. And we can go at that with greatest heartiness, side by side.
The great concern now is to make Jesus fully known. That is the plan for the present time. It is a simple plan. Men who have been won are to be the winners. Nobody else can be. The warm enthusiasm of grateful love must burn in the heart and drive all the life. There must be simple, but thorough organization.
The campaign should be mapped out as thoroughly as a Presidential campaign is organized here in our country. The purpose of a Presidential campaign is really stupendous in its object and sweep. It is to influence quickly, up to the point of decisive action, the individual opinion of millions of men, spread over millions of square miles, and that, too, in the face of a vigorous opposing campaign to influence them the other way. The whole vast district of country is mapped out and organized on broad lines and into the smallest details.
Strong brainy men give themselves wholly to the task, and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars within a few months. And then, four years later, they proceed as enthusiastically as before to go over the whole ground again. We need as thorough organizing, as aggressive enthusiasm, and as intelligent planning for this great task which our Master has put into our hands.
And we have a driving motive power greater than any campaign-manager ever had or has—a Jesus who sets fire to one's whole being, with a passion of love that burns up every other flame. We need a Church as thoroughly organized, and every man in it with a burning heart for this great service.
The World-winning Climb.
An old school-master, talking to his class one morning, many years ago, told a story of an early experience he had had in Europe. He was one of a party travelling in Switzerland. They had gotten as far as Chamounix, and were planning to climb Mont Blanc. That peak, you know, is the highest of the Alps, and is called the monarch of European mountains. While it is now ascended every day in season, the climb is a very difficult task.
It requires strength and courage and much special preparation; and is still attended with such danger that the authorities of Chamounix have laid down rigid regulations for those who attempt it. One's outfit must be reduced to the very lowest limit. And, of course, nothing else can be done while climbing. It absorbs all one's strength and thought.
There were two parties in the little square of the town, making their preparations with the guides. One young Englishman disregarded all the directions of the guides. He loaded himself with things which he positively declared were absolutely essential to his plans.
He had a small case of wine and some delicacies for his appetite. He had a camera with which he proposed to take views of himself and his party at different stages of the climb. He had a batch of note-books in which he intended recording his impressions as he proceeded, which were afterward to be printed for the information, and, he hoped, admiration of the world. A picturesque cap and a gayly colored blanket were part of his outfit.
The old toughened guides, experienced by many a severe tug and storm in the difficulties ahead, protested earnestly. But it made no impression on the ambitious youth. At last they whispered together, and allowed him to have his own way. And the party started.
Six hours later the second party followed. At the little inn where they spent the first night they found the wine and food delicacies. The guides laughed. "The Englishman has found that he cannot humor his stomach if he would climb Mont Blanc," one of them said grimly. A little farther up they found the note-book and camera; still higher up, the gay robe and fancy cap had been abandoned. And at last they found the young fellow at the summit in leather jacket, exhausted and panting for breath.
He had encountered heavy storms, and reached the top of the famous mountain only at the risk of his life. But he reached it. He had the real stuff in him, after all. Yet everything not absolutely essential had to be sacrificed. And his ideas of the meaning of that word "essential" underwent radical changes as he labored up the steep.
Then the old teacher telling the story suddenly leaned over his desk and, looking earnestly at the class, said, "When I was young I planned out my life just as he planned out his climb. Food and clothing, and full records of my experiences for the world's information, figured in big. But at forty I cared only for such clothes as kept me warm, and at fifty only for such food as kept me strong. And so steep was the climb up to the top I had set my heart upon that at sixty I cared little for the opinions of people, if only I might reach the top. And when I do reach it I shall not care whether the world has a record of it or not. That record is in safety above."
We laugh at the ambitious young Englishman. But will you kindly let me say, plainly, without meaning to be critical in an unkind sense, that most of us do just as he did. And will you listen softly, while I say this—many of us, when we find we can't reach the top with our loads, let the top go, and pitch our tents in the plain, and settle down with our small plans and accessories. The plain seems to be quite full of tents.
The plan of the Swiss guides is the plan for the life-climb. It is the plan, and the only one for us to follow in the world-winning climb. That was Jesus' plan. He left behind and threw away everything that hindered, and at the last threw away life itself, that so the world might find life. We must follow Him.
The Urgent Need
Three Great Groups. The Needle Of The Compass Of Need. A Quick Run Round The World. West By Way Of The East. Christian Lands. The Greatest Need. Groping In The Dark. Living Messages Of Jesus. The Great Unknown Lack.
Three Great Groups.
The human heart is tender. It answers quickly to the cry of need. It is oftentimes hard to find. In Christian lands it is covered up with selfishness. And in heathen lands the selfishness seems so thickly crusted that it is hard to awaken even common humanitarian feeling.
But that heart once dug out, and touched, never fails to respond to the cry of need. We know how the cry of physical distress, of some great disaster, or of hunger will be listened to, and how quickly all men respond to that. When the terrible earthquake laid San Francisco in burning ruins the whole nation stopped, and gave a great heart-throb; and then commenced at once sending relief. Corporations that are rated soulless and men that are spoken of as money-mad, knocking each other pitilessly aside in their greed for gold and power, all alike sent quick and generous help of every substantial sort.
Beside expressing their sympathy in kindest and keenest word, they gave millions of dollars. Yet this might seem to be a family affair, as indeed it was. But the great famines in India and in other foreign lands farthest removed from us, have awakened a like response in our hearts. Great sums have been given in money and supplies to feed the hunger of far-away peoples, and help them sow their fields and get a fresh start.
There is a need far deeper and greater than that of physical suffering. And there is a heart far more tender than the best human heart. That need is to know God, whom to know is to enter into fulness of life, both physical and mental; and into that life of the spirit that is higher and sweeter than either of these lower down. And that tender heart is the human heart touched by the warm heart of God.
Many of us Christian people who are gathered here to-night have had unusual blessing in having our hearts touched into real life by the touch of God. And there's much more of the same sort waiting our fuller touch with Him. And now we want to see to-night something of the needs of God's great world-family, which is our own family because it is God's. Then we shall respond to it as freely and quickly and intelligently, as He Himself did and does.
I am going to ask you to come with me for a brief journey around the world. We want to get something of a clear, even though rapid view, of the whole of this world of ours. For the whole world is a mission field. Missionaries are sent everywhere, including our own home-land, and including all of our cities.
Our cities are as really mission fields as are the heathen lands. There is a difference, but it is only one of degree. The Christian standards present in our American life, and absent from these foreign-mission lands, make an enormous difference. But, apart from that great fact, the need of mission service is as really in New York as it is in Shanghai.
If we are to pray for the whole world, and to help in other ways to win it, we ought to try to get something of a clear idea of it, to help us in our thinking and praying and planning.
It will help toward that if we remember at the outset that the world from the religious point of view, divides up easily into three great groups. First there are the great non-Christian, or heathen, lands and nations. This includes those called Mohammedan; for, while that religion is based upon a partial Christian truth, it is so utterly corrupt in teaching and morally foul in practice that it is distinctly classed with the heathen religions.
Then there are the lands and nations under the control of those two great mediaeval historic forms of Christianity, the Roman and Greek Churches, in which the vital principles of the Christian life seem to have been almost wholly lost in a network of forms and organization. The essential truths are there. But they are hidden away and covered up. There are untold numbers of true Christians there, but they live in a strangely clouded twilight.
The third great group is of lands and peoples under the sway of the Protestant churches.
The Needle of the Compass of Need.
Let us look a little at these peoples. Where shall we start in? The old rule of the Master's command, and of the early Church's practice, was to begin "at Jerusalem," and keep moving until the outmost limit of the world was reached. I suppose that practically, in service, beginning at Jerusalem means beginning just where you are, and then reaching out to those nearest, and then less near, until you have touched the farthest.
But the old Jerusalem rule will make a good geographical rule for us English-speaking people, with an ocean between us, in getting a fresh look at this old world that the Master asks us to carry in our hearts and on our hands. So we'll begin there.
The needle of a magnetic compass always points north. The needle of the compass of progress has always pointed west; at least always since the Medo-Persian was the world-power. But it is striking that the compass of the world's need always points its needle toward the east. And so, starting at Jerusalem, we may well turn our faces east as we take our swing around the world to learn its need.
It may be a relief to you to know at once that there will not be any statistics in this series of talks. We want instead just now to get broad and general, but distinct, impressions. Statistics are burdensome to most people. They are a good deal of a bugbear to the common crowd of us every-day folks. They are absolutely essential. They are of immense, that is, immeasurable, value. You need to have them at hand where you can easily turn for exact information, as you need it, to refresh your memory. And an increasing amount of it will stick in your memory and guide your thinking and praying.
There are easily available, in these days of such remarkable missionary activity, an abundance of fresh statistics, in attractive form. We are greatly indebted to the Student Volunteer Movement and the Young People's Missionary Movement and the Church Societies for the great service they have done in this matter of full fresh information.
But the thing of first importance is to get an intelligent thought of the whole world. And then to add steadily to our stock of particular information, as study and prayer and service call for it. It is possible to get a simple grasp of the whole world. And it helps immensely to do it.
It helps at once to this end to remember that two-thirds of all the peoples of the earth are in the distinctly heathen, or non-Christian, lands. This in itself is a tremendous fact, telling at once of the world's need. At the beginning of the twentieth hundred-years since Jesus gave His command to preach His Gospel to all men, two-thirds of them are still in ignorance of Him and under the same moral sway as when He went away.
I might add that there are a billion people in these two-thirds. But that figure is so big as only to stagger the mind in an attempt to take it in. The important thing is to see that it doesn't by its sheer bigness, stagger our faith or our courage or our praying habit. We want to be like the old Hebrew who "staggered not" at God's promise to do for him a naturally impossible thing. Yet it is well to repeat that word "billion," for it brings up sharply and gigantically the staggering need of the world for Christ.
One-third is in lands commonly called Christian. Though we must use that word "Christian" in the broadest and most charitable sense in making that statement.
A Quick Run Round the World.
Beginning at Jerusalem, then, means for us just now beginning with the Turkish Empire. And with that, in this rapid run through, we may for convenience group Arabia and Persia and Afghanistan. This is the section where Mohammedanism, that corrupt mixture of heathenism with a small tincture of Christian truth, has its home, and whence it has gone out on its work throughout the world.
Great populations here have practically no knowledge at all of the Gospel, for missionary work is extremely scant. The land of the Saviour, with its eastern neighbors, has no Saviour, so far as knowing about Him is concerned, though it needs His saving very sorely.
Next to it, on the east, lies the great land of India, with the smaller countries that naturally group with it. And here are gathered fully a fifth of the people of the earth. These are really in large part our blood-brothers. Their fathers away back were brothers to our fathers. And so missionary work here ought to be reckoned largely as a family affair. British rule has had an immense humanizing influence here. Missionary activity has been carried on aggressively for years, and great and blessed progress has been made.
Yet it is merely a preparation for the work now so sorely needed. These years of faithful seed-sowing have made the soil dead ripe for a harvest in our day. A strange religiousness utterly lacking both in religion and in morality, abominably repugnant in its gross immorality, honey-combs the life of these people. The cry of need here is deep and pathetic.
Pushing on still to the east, the great land of China with its dependencies, looms up in all its huge giant size. Roughly speaking, almost a third of the world's people are grouped here. There are practically almost as many in what is reckoned Chinese territory as in all Christian lands. Here is found the oldest and best civilization of the non-Christian sort. The old common religion of Confucius is practically not a religion at all, but a code of maxims and rules, and utterly lacking in moral uplift or power.
The peculiarly impressive thing about China, as indeed about nearly all of the heathen world, is the spirit of stagnation. There is a deadness, or sort of stupor, over everything. It is as if a blight had spread over the land, checking all progress. Habits, customs, and institutions remain apparently as they were a thousand years ago. This stands out in sharp contrast with the spirit of growth that marks Christian lands.
It seems strange to us because the spirit of growth is the atmosphere of our western world, breathed in from infancy. The one word that seems peculiarly to describe China is that word "stagnant." The people themselves are remarkable both for their mental power and their habits of industry. The Chinese may well be called the Anglo-Saxons of the Orient, in latent power and mental character.
In our modesty we think the Anglo-Saxon, the English-speaking, the greatest of living peoples. Certainly the leadership of the world is in Anglo-Saxon hands, and has been for centuries. And the marvellous, unprecedented progress of the world has been under that leadership.
Well, when these Chinese wake up we are very likely to find the race getting a new leadership, and the history of the world a new chapter added. What sort of leadership it will be morally, and what sort of a chapter, will depend on how much statesmanship there is in our praying and giving and missionary service. But the need is enormously intensified by the unawakened power of these Chinese.
West by Way of the East.
Still moving east, we come to the newly awakened and very attractive island-nation of Japan, which, because of its geographical and territorial situation, has been called the Great Britain of the Orient. Japan stands at present as the exception to the common stagnation of the heathen world. It has made a record nothing less than phenomenal as a student of Western life. It has absorbed, and imitated, and adapted to its own use, the Western knowledge and spirit with a wonderful power and intelligence.
Japan is both bright and ambitious to an almost abnormal degree, and as tricky in its dealings, and morally unclean in its life, as it is bright and ambitious. They have been called the Frenchmen of the Orient, and that characterization fits remarkably in many respects. Great progress has been made in giving the Gospel to Japan, but the present moral need is immensely intensified by the very aggressiveness of the Japanese spirit.
With Japan, the island-kingdom, it is easy to group the whole island-world lying to the east and south, though these are utterly different peoples. This includes the great number of islands scattered throughout the Pacific Ocean. The conditions are largely those of savagery except where affected by Christian civilization through the missionary enterprise. The Gospel has done some wonderful feats of transformation here. And there is plenty of room for more. Australia, the "island continent," is a British colony, and of course now reckoned among Christian lands; as is also the large island of New Zealand, also a British colony, which has been a leader in some of the most advanced steps of modern civilization.
Crossing the Pacific to the east brings up the South American Continent; and Central America, the connecting stretch of land with our own continent; and Mexico, which is commonly grouped with foreign-mission lands. South America has been spoken of both as the "neglected continent" and as the "continent of opportunity." The common characteristic religiously of all this vast section from Mexico to the "Land of Fire," at the southernmost toe of South America, is that it is under the sway of the Roman Catholic Church. Some parts of it have been spoken of as "baptized heathenism." A vast network of church forms and organization, practically lifeless, holds these peoples in an iron grasp. The need of the Gospel of Jesus is fully as great as in civilized China or savage Africa.
One more long easterly stride, across the Atlantic, brings black Africa, and completes this rapid run around the globe, so far as distinctly heathen lands are concerned. Africa is peculiarly the savage continent, though it has the oldest civilization in its northeast corner, and the newest British civilization rapidly developing on its southern edge. It is the "dark continent," both in the color of its inhabitants and in its sad destitution and degradation. About a tenth of the world's population is here; with as many missionaries as in civilized India, but unable to reach the people as effectually as there because of the lack of national organization and the absence of great highways of travel.
Africa is essentially a great mass of separate tribes, larger and smaller, most of them in deepest savagery, with sorest need not only of salvation, but of civilization. The sore need of its very savagery has seemed to make it a magnet to missionary enterprise. And yet all that has been done, and is being done, seems almost swallowed up in the depth of its degradation and savagery.
I have taken you with me in this very rapid run that we might try to get a simple practical grasp of the heathen world. And if you and I might often take just such a run, with map or globe and Bible at hand, and our knees bent, it would greatly help us in getting close to the world our Lord died for; and which He means to win; and to win through you and me; and which He will win.
But I must talk with you a bit about our Christian lands, Europe and America, with huge Russia sitting astride both Europe and Asia, with a foot dangling on each side of the globe. For these, too, are mission lands. Foreign-mission lands, would you call them? Well, that depends entirely on what spot you happen to call home. They are all mission fields. The whole world is a mission field to God. Foreign-mission field? or home-mission? Which? It makes no practical matter which term you choose to use.
It will be well to remember just what that common phrase, "Christian lands," really means. It may help us in our praying. And it may help us, too, to keep humble as we think about heathen lands. It means, of course, the lands where Christian standards are commonly recognized as the proper standards of morals and of life.
It does not mean that the people are all Christian. Only a minority so class themselves; the great majority do not. Neither does it mean that that minority called Christian is controlled in daily life and in business by the principles of Jesus. For by pretty general consent they are not so controlled. It is not too much to say that there is more of that same spirit of selfishness that marks the heathen world, dominating the personal lives of people in Christian lands, than there is of the unselfish Christ spirit. That may sound unkind and too critical to you. It is not said in a critical spirit, but simply in the desire to get the facts as they are. I am fully persuaded that the more you think about it the more you will come to see that this is simply the truth.
Nor yet does that term, "Christian lands," mean that these lands are as distinctly Christian through and through as heathen lands are distinctly heathen, or non-Christian, through and through. As a matter of fact, Christian lands are not dominated as thoroughly by the Christian spirit as heathen lands are by the heathen spirit. We really don't deserve our distinctive phrase as much as they deserve theirs.
It does mean chiefly this, that here in these lands the Christian Church has its stronghold; that Christian standards are commonly recognized, though in practice they are so commonly disregarded. It means that the enormous incidental blessings, in material and mental life, that always follow the preaching of the Gospel are here enjoyed most fully. And it means, too, that much of the humanizing, softening, and energizing power of the Gospel of Christ has seeped and soaked into our common civilization and affected all our life.
This is true; yet the mass of persons living in this atmosphere, and enjoying its great advantages, are wholly selfish in the main drive of their lives, and so in being selfish are un-Christian. While Christian ideals dominate so much of our life, the term "Christian lands" really describes our privileges more than it does our practices.
The Greatest Need.
A word now about these great Christian lands of Europe and America. The Catholic countries of Europe have been regarded as mission fields by the Protestant churches, and missionary operations have been conducted in them for many years. Russia has likewise been commonly regarded as missionary territory, and a very difficult one at that. In portions of Great Britain, in our own Western States and frontiers, in the Southern mountain States, and in other sections, and among special classes, missionary work has been regularly carried on.
And the cities, those great, strange, throbbing hearts of human life, are all peculiarly mission fields. It is remarkable how the modern city reproduces world conditions morally. The city is a sort of miniature of the world. All the varying moral conditions of the heathen world, atheism, savagery almost, crude heathenish superstition, degradation of woman, neglect of children, and untempered lust, may be found in New York and Chicago, in London and Paris, in Vienna and Berlin, and in varying degree in all cities of Christian lands. The grosser parts are hidden away, more or less.
These conditions are softened in intensity by the commonly recognized moral standards of life. But they are there. The man immersed in mission service in any of these cities is apt to think that there can be no greater nor sorer need than this that pushes itself insistently upon him at every turn.
The slum ends and sides of our Christian cities and huge heathendom, jostle elbows in the likeness of their moral conditions. The need is everywhere, crying earnestly, wretchedly out to us. There is good mission ground anywhere you please to strike in.
But—but, by far the greatest need, with that word "greatest" intensified beyond all power of description, is in the heathen lands. The vastness of the numbers there, the utter ignorance, the smallness of their chance of getting any of the knowledge and uplift of the Gospel, all go to spell out that word "greatest." The awful cumulative power of sin, unchecked by the common moral standards of life, with the terrific momentum of centuries; the common temptations known to us, but with a fierceness and subtlety wholly unknown to us in Christian lands—and yet how terrifically fierce and cunningly subtle some of us know them to be!—these all make every letter in that word "greatest" stand out in biggest capitals, and in blackest, inkiest ink.
Groping in the Dark.
That is a bare suggestion of the need of the world in bulk. But we want to get a much closer look than that. These are men that we are talking about; our brothers, not merely hard, unfeeling, statistical totals of millions. Each man of them contains the whole pitiable picture of the sore need of the world vividly portrayed in himself.
The very heathen religions themselves are the crying out, in the night, of men's hearts, after something they haven't, and yet need so much. Strange things these heathen superstitions and monstrous practices and beliefs called religions! It has been rather the thing of late to speak somewhat respectfully of them, and rather apologetically. They have even been praised, so strangely do things get mixed up in this world of ours. It has been supposed that God was revealing Himself in these religions; and that in them men were reaching up to God, and could reach up to Him through them.
They really are the twilight remnants of the clear direct light of God that once lightened all men; but so mixed through, and covered up with error and superstition and unnatural devilish lust, that they are wholly inadequate to lead any man back home to God. In almost all of them there is indeed some distinct kernel of truth. But that kernel has been invariably shut up in a shell and bur that are hard beyond any power of cracking, to get at the kernel of truth for practical help, even if the people knew enough to try.
They tell pathetically of the groping of man's heart after God. But the groping is in the pitch dark, and amid a mass of foul, filthy cobwebs that blind the eyes with their dust, and grime all the life. I have no doubt that untold numbers of true hearts in heathen lands are feeling after God, and in some dim way coming into touch with Him. He is not far from any one of them; but they find Him chiefly in spite of these religions, rather than through any help found in them.
The story is told of a Chinese tailor who had struggled hopelessly for light, and had finally found it in finding Jesus. He put his idea of the heathen religions that he knew, and had tried, in this simple vivid way:
"A man had fallen into a deep, dark pit, and lay in its miry bottom, groaning and utterly unable to move. He heard a man walking by close enough to see his plight. But with stately tread he walked on without volunteering to help. That is Mohammedanism.
"Confucius walking by approached the edge of the pit, and said, 'Poor fellow! I am sorry for you. Why were you such a fool as to get in there? Let me give you a piece of advice: If ever you get out, don't get in again.' 'I can't get out,' said the man. That is Confucianism.
"A Buddhist priest next came by and said: 'Poor fellow! I am very much pained to see you there. I think if you could scramble up two-thirds of the way, or even half, I could reach you and lift you up the rest.' But the man in the pit was entirely helpless and unable to rise. That is Buddhism.
"Next the Saviour came by, and, hearing his cries, went to the very brink of the pit, stretched down and laid hold of the poor man, brought him up, and said, 'Go, sin no more.' This is Christianity."
The awful moral or immoral conditions prevalent throughout the heathen world are the most graphic comment on the influence of these religions. It can be said thoughtfully that, instead of ever helping up to God and the light, they drag down to the devil and to black darkness. There is not only an utter lack of any moral uplift in them, but a deadly downward pull. The very things called religions point out piteously the terrible need of these peoples.