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.