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.