5. China Seeks More Complete Life in Ethics
Making another flight over the greatest physical barrier of cultural and intellectual intercourse, the Himalayas, and descending down into the Hwang Ho valley of North Central China, we find, in the sixth century, another thriving, fertile civilization. Here man, despite his mundane limitations and handicaps, is also reaching out in his ever-continuous search for the true philosophy of life. In 604 B.C. the mystical Lao-tzu was born. Due to his tremendously inquisitive, speculative, and adventurous intellect, he was ever asking what, why, and how? His life's effort was devoted to seeking the Tao, or "way of the universe." At last, at the end of a fruitless, lifelong search, he became physically exhausted. He then abandoned all and determined to withdraw into obscurity. Being halted at the frontier by the captain of the garrison, he was asked to write his philosophy of life before finally going into exile, and there wrote the ever-since-famous Tao Te' Ching, the Bible of the Taoists.
In the midst of this most brilliant galaxy of intellectual and spiritual giants of the phenomenally interesting sixth century B.c., and not in the least inferior to any of the brightest intellectual lights that blazed forth to lighten the mind and heart of man, appeared Confucius. Born in 551 B.C., this most intellectual and honest sage of the period set himself to a life task of evolving an ethical philosophy of life. The subject of the future life was totally baffling to him. On one occasion a disciple appeared before him with a question concerning the future life. In response the master replied, "Not being able to fully understand the present life, how can I understand the future life."
Because of the neglect of ancient Israel, and their lack of missionary zeal, the myriads of Chinese who have come and gone from the days of Lao-tzu and Confucius have had to satisfy their soul longings to a large extent with the mysticism of Lao-tzu and the cold, ethical philosophy of Confucius. A mission sent from Jerusalem to China in the days of this spiritual arousement was entirely possible because it was achieved, under equally difficult travel conditions, by the famous Nestorian missionaries who journeyed to China in the seventh century A.D.
6. Israel's Evangelistic Indolence
As we have now completed our brief survey of the great spiritual and intellectual stir and mental turmoil in all these important centers of ancient civilizations, all coming within the span of one hundred years, let us retrace our sweeping Right back over Asia, to the land of Judah and Israel. What is the spiritual state of God's chosen people at this unprecedented day in the history of human thought? With the most abundant heritage of truth and light, the richest spiritual and intellectual ancestry, the wealth of the wisest in their possession, the sixth century B.C. finds them situated in the most striking contrast to all the searchings for light and life amazingly manifest in all the other centers of ancient civilization. They were willfully rejecting all their abundant heritage of the past, tragically abandoning their national prestige and spiritual leadership, and being taken captive by a much inferior people, nevermore to possess their racial and national significance in the cultural, intellectual, and spiritual world.
It was in the scope of this one-hundredyear period, and from the teachings of the geniuses mentioned, that most of the great non-Christian religious faiths of the Orient sprang. Only through the wildest flights of our imagination can we, in the slightest sense, appreciate the unnumbered millions of Asia that have sought spiritual solace and salvation from these false religions. In the light of these futile human attempts to bring present spiritual contentment and ultimate escape to the great peoples of the Orient, how pertinent is Isaiah's inference, written almost contemporaneously with the lives and labors of these giant founders of the great Oriental religious systems:
"Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled." Isa. 50:11.
And too, when we trace the calamitous effects on these races, both physical, social, and spiritual, of their ritualistic requirements ; bodily mutilations ; and darkened, mystical deceptions, that only bring pain, sorrow, and anguish; how literally true is Isaiah's analysis : "This shall ye have of Mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow." Can it be that ancient Israel had any responsibility in this tragic spread of error and spiritual gloom? Has God's chosen people, His royal priesthood, any moral relationship to the long story of heathen deception that has come in the wake of the teachings of these doubtlessly honest truth seekers?
Isaiah prophetically presents this entire picture of the ancient task of Israel with that of the modern one. "It shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people." Isa. 11:11. What a lamentable scene we have observed in Israel's total failure to cooperate with God in His first plan "to recover the remnant of His people" from these ancient centers of population, where there was a manifest desire and craving for a more complete comprehension of truth.
The lesson is apparent to modern Israel. Once more the world is tremendously astir. God has today "set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people" from, in many cases, these same great centers of modern culture, along with all the nations and races of men. "Again the second time" Isaiah's message comes to us : "Arise, shine ; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee."