Yet be it keenly marked, there is a very bright gleam of light across this dark picture. In going over the story of sin with its terrific results now and afterward, one needs to be very tender, for he is talking about men
-- his brothers
. And to be very careful not to say things that are not so. Some good, earnest people have been thinking that the whole race except a small minority were given over to eternal misery. The vast majority of men has never heard the name of Jesus. And some very godly people have seemed to think that these are lost forever.
Yet the old Book of God speaks very plainly here. Its meaning can be gotten without any twisting of words. Neither the Jewish nation nor the Christian Church can be regarded as favorites of God. God has no favorites for salvation. The Jewish nation was chosen for service' sake. Through it there came a special after-revelation of God. Through it came the world's new Man. The Church is the repository of God's truth to-day, with its window panes not always quite clear. Its great mission is to tell the whole race of Jesus. Both were chosen for service.
Every nation knew God directly at the first. And be it said thoughtfully, every man has enough of revelation and of inner light to lead him back to God. A man's choice in this life is his choice always. Any student of the ordinary working of man's mind can certify that. Whatever sort of being a man deliberately, persistently chooses to be here and now, he will be always. The only change possible in the after-life will be in the degree. Never in the sort.
The Gospels speak of believing on Jesus, and of the bad results for those who decline or refuse to have anything to do with Him. Of course it is speaking of those who have heard of Him. There can be no believing on Jesus without hearing, and of course in simple fairness no condemning on any such grounds. The gospel message is wholly concerned with those who hear.
But there is clear and plain teaching about the great outside majority of past generations and of our own who have never heard. It was a member of both Jewish nation and Christian Church, whose tongue, touched by the Spirit of God, said, |God is no respecter of persons: but in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to Him.| That is a simple standard, yet a searching one. Anybody, anywhere, with a truly reverential thought upward, and a controlling purpose to be right in his life, will find the door swinging wide. No other badges or tickets required. This would include that remarkable woman of India, Chundra Lelah, all those weary years before the simple story of Jesus brought its flood of light and peace, and all of her innumerable class.
Paul puts it as simply and a little more fully in the letter to the Romans, that careful treatise which sums up with marvellous fulness and brevity the gospel he preached to the world. In chapter two, he says, |to them who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption (He will give) eternal life.| Note that in his review thus far he has not yet gotten to Jesus the Saviour.
These people of whom he is now speaking have never heard of Jesus. They are the great majority. Mark keenly the simple description of them. It is a description, not of an achievement, but of a purpose. The absorbing aim in their lives is seeking upward. The seeking controls the life. The mastering spirit of these seekers is patience, steadfastness. They are seeking for the highest thing. They are doing what seems to them to be right, while seeking. They are doing right patiently.
Patience! What a world of conflicting experiences in a word! Misunderstandings, breaks, slips, stumblings, failures, falls; but in all, through all, patience, steadfastness. Taking a fresh hold at every turn. And the gripping fingers ever learning a new tenacity. Pulling steadily up a steep mountain side, in a blazing hot sun, blinded by dust, struck by loosened rocks above rolling down, but -- patiently, steadily, with dust-blinded eyes, tugging up. To such is given the heart's desire -- eternal life. Ah! God judges a man by his direction, by the set of his face. He may not be far up, but his face is turned up. His heels show their backs. His toes point toward the top. That reveals the purpose, the desire of the man inside. His choice is to be up. And it is choice that makes character as well as revealing it. And the one thing that concerns God is the character as revealed in the purpose.
There is a simple, pathetic story from mission lands, variously told, and well vouched for, of a missionary pausing long enough in a village to tell the story of Jesus to the crowd that gathered, and then pushing on. This was the first visit of a missionary to this place and so the first news of Jesus. The crowd listened eagerly with various results. There was one listener, an old man, held in repute for his wisdom, who at once accepted the missionary's story, and announced his acceptance of Jesus. His neighbors expressed their surprise at his prompt acceptance of such a new thing. The old man's quiet answer in effect was this: |Oh, I have long trusted this Jesus, but I never knew His name before.| There was no change of purpose with this man, but, in the story of Jesus, the burst of light that brought unspeakable peace as he kept on in his upward tug.
Yet all this will not hold back from glad sacrifice, from free giving, from eager going to foreign mission lands a single man or woman who has been caught by Jesus' Spirit. The Master said, |Go ye.| That's enough. For the largest wealth that may be given, for the keenest sacrifice that may be endured, for the strongest life that may be devoted -- that is quite enough. And if more were needed -- then to go, to give, to sacrifice for the sake of helping our struggling brothers yonder know Jesus, and His wondrous sacrifice and His great peace. To make them conscious of the disgustingness of sin, to bring to them a vision of Jesus' face to allure, and enchain, to give a man's will an earnest boost, when he -would choose, but cannot seem to for the suction of sin, inherited and ever growing upon his choosing powers. God sent His best. Jesus sacrificed His all in going. We'll gladly follow in such a train. Jesus is God sending His best, sacrificing His dearest, giving His most, going Himself to get men started up the hill out of the bog.