Will you mark very keenly why they went to Japan? Because to them Japan, in its new life, stood for the new light and life of the West. Their little, but mighty, aggressive neighbor on their eastern shore had brought to their very door the new civilization of the Christian West.
Here was an unusual opportunity. Where hundreds had come clear around the earth to us, thousands have seized this opportunity close at hand. They come from every province of China; even that farthest away, on the border of Tibet, sending hundreds.
The travel involved thousands of miles. And if their slow means of travel be taken into account, it meant what would be to us practically hundreds of thousands of miles. Hundreds of them have been sent by the provincial and local governments. Others have come through private funds made up for the purpose. And wealthy men have sent their sons. They have gone to Japan only because Japan has opened her doors so widely to our Christian civilization. It is not to their conqueror, Japan, they have come, but to the civilization which Japan has imported from Christian lands.
Was there ever such a knocking at the door of the Christian Church as this? Ten thousand picked men, of the best and keenest young manhood of China, representing all parts of the empire, and in large part representing the government, settling down to years of close study of our Christian civilization as found in Japan -- a tremendous fact for the Church to-day! Things are crowding in on us. It is the non-Christian world knocking at our back door. It was too far around to the front. So they have commenced their knocking at the nearest and handiest door they could find.
Then there are direct requests coming constantly to the missionaries, from the peoples in all these lands, earnestly asking and even pleading that men be sent to teach them of God and of Christ. Whole villages have been found in the fastnesses of Africa's wilds spending days together, and all day long, on their knees in prayer; most of ten mute prayer with upturned faces -- their very bent bodies their prayer -- that news of the white man's God might be sent to them.
In Korea and other lands it is no uncommon thing for men and women to travel hundreds of miles by their slow transportation, or even to come a-foot, to attend gatherings where the story of Jesus is being preached.
And then, too, there is the indirect knocking in the imitation of our Western ways, and throwing away of their own. Imitation is the highest form of compliment that can be paid. It tells of admiration, and of a desire to be as those imitated. The adapting of Western learning by these conservative Oriental peoples, the establishment of thousands of colleges and schools on the model of Christian countries is so radical a thing as to be nothing short of startling. The abandoning of bad customs, as well as of their old systems of education, is as startling. Where there were antagonisms there is now the friendliest imitation.
If to this we add the remarkable immigration to our shores, of a million a year, it intensifies enormously the opportunity of service brought to us by foreign peoples. Yet please notice that this latter is not Asia nor Africa coming to us, but Europe.
However crying their need may be, these are, nominally, not heathen peoples, but chiefly from Christianized Europe. The Asiatics would have come in great numbers, but that door was promptly shut and carefully locked by official hands.
As you swing your eye over these seething masses of the heathen world, and listen to their voices, let me ask you, with the earnest softness of tone that belongs to the heart, could there be a louder knocking at the door of the Christian Church?