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.