I do not mean that actually every country in the world is open to the Gospel. For there are a few countries with comparatively scanty populations that are not open; except, indeed, on the edges, to the man prying earnestly around for a way to get in.
I don't mean that every man in these open countries is actually asking us to send him some word of Jesus. For vast numbers of them have never heard either about us or about Him. They don't know there is a Jesus to ask about; or, judging by others, they would be asking.
Neither do I mean that these multitudes who are asking are, in every case, asking for the Gospel itself. For many times that is not so. They ask for that which appeals to them strongly as something that they want. They want our Western science and learning. They want to get from us the secret of harnessing nature up to their wagon to pull their heavy loads.
In many cases, without doubt, they don't want our Christianity at all. They regard it simply as something that goes along inseparably with the thing they do want. They are willing to put up with some of it for a while, if only they can get the thing they are after. Their eyes have been caught by the bright light of our Christian civilization. They don't understand how it came to us. They haven't wakened up enough, most of them, to think into that.
They want the light we have, as we might want something that we could order a shipment of. They haven't learned enough yet to want to get the light-generating plant installed in their midst. The great fact that all our civilization has come to us through the partial presence of the Light of the world hasn't dawned upon their minds yet.
But, however selfish motives and a crude understanding or misunderstanding may enter in, the great strange unprecedented fact still remains true that the world of heathenism is knocking at the door of Christendom as never before in the world's history.
And then, too, everywhere some of them are asking plainly and piteously for the real thing. Great numbers in all the foreign-mission lands are asking that Christian teachers be sent to them with Bibles and other books to teach them the way back home to God. Wherever they find out that there is a knowledge of God to be gotten, from there comes the insistent knocking that it be brought to them.
I remember Bishop Bashford, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, stationed in China, telling of one of his thrilling experiences out there. He had gone inland quite a bit into China on one of his tours. One day he was preaching the story of Jesus to a crowd of Chinese gathered in the open air. As his interpreter turned his words into Chinese the crowds listened with great respect and keenest interest.
As he finished he asked them if they had ever heard the Gospel before. No; none of them had. He was turning up absolutely fresh soil. And they pressed in about him, earnestly asking that men be sent to tell them. And this experience of Bishop Bashford's is being repeated, over and over again, throughout the foreign-mission world.