HH Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.–Matthew 15:24
And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.–John 12:32
The Answer to a Universal Need
In the next place, the death of Christ interprets and answers a universal longing. It meets with perfect satisfaction the deepest need of all the world.
One of the great gains of this age of ours is that it has drawn the world together so. There is now an intermingling of the nations that but a few decades ago was quite impossible. Thanks to the means of transport we possess, and to the need of expansion on the part of nations; thanks to the deathless spirit of adventure, to the gains of commerce and to the march of armies, there is a blending now of the whole earth such as was undreamed of once. Now one result of all that intermingling has been a new sense of the oneness of humanity. No longer do we delight in travellers’ tales, such as captivated the Middle Ages. Men push their way into untravelled forests, and they come to us from Arabia and Tibet, and under all that is strange, they bring us tidings of the touch of nature that makes the whole world kin. We realise today as men have never done, how God has made all nations of one blood. Deeper than everything that separates, there are common sorrows and elemental hopes. There is one common heart by which we live; one common life in which we share; one common enemy awaiting all when the pitcher is broken at the fountain.
But especially has this oneness of humanity been made evident in the religious life. That has been one incalculable gain of the modern study of comparative religion. It has investigated a thousand rites and found at the back of them a common longing. It has touched the foundations of a thousand altars and found they were built upon a common need. It has gathered from Africa, from India, from China, the never-failing story of religion, and always at the very heart of things it has discovered one unchanging element. It is not enough to say that all men have religion. That is now an accepted commonplace. Something far more wonderful and thrilling has been slowly emerging into prominence. It is that under a thousand different rites, from those of Patagonia to those of China, there lies the unquenchable desire of man to get into right relationship with God. Deeper than all sense of gratitude, though gratitude is very often there–deeper than unreasoning terror, though heathen religion is always big with terror deeper than that, this fact stands out today, based on exhaustive and scientific study, that the deepest longing in the soul of man is the longing to get right with God. It is that in the last analysis which explains sacrifice, and where is the heathen tribe that does not sacrifice? It is that which explains the way of heathen witchcraft, of which the evils can never be exaggerated. The religious life is the deepest life of man, and in that life, over the whole wide world, the one determining and vital question is, how can a mortal man get right with God?
My friend, brothers and sisters, I almost ask your pardon for having taken you so far afield. But you see, I think, the point which I am driving at, and from which there is no possible escape. That very question, so vital to humanity, is the question which the atonement answers. It answers the cry that is rising to the heavens from every heathen rite and heathen altar. It tells men in language that a child can grasp, yet with a depth that angels cannot fathom, how sinful man by an appointed sacrifice can be put right with the eternal God. I believe with all my soul in educational missions, but at the heart of missions is more than education. I believe with all my soul in medical missions, but at the heart of missions, there is more than healing. Christ never said, “My teaching shall draw all men,” nor yet, “My healing power shall draw all men”; He said, “I if I be lifted up, shall draw all men, and this spake He of the death that He should die.” That means that in the atoning death there is the answer to man’s deepest need. It means that the deepest cry of all humanity is answered in the message of the cross. And I venture to say that all we have learned today in the modern study of comparative religion, corroborate, and authenticates, and seals that certainty upon the lips of Jesus.
The Necessary Step before the Comforter Could Come
Then, lastly, we have the thought that the death of Christ has liberated His influence. It has opened the window of the ark if I might put it so, that the dove might fly abroad over the waters. “It is expedient for you that I go away,” He said, “for if I go not away the Comforter cannot come.” Now the Lord is that Spirit, says the apostle–it is that same Jesus glorified and liberated. So by the lifting up upon the cross Christ was set free from local limitation, to pass into a spiritual ministry that should be co-extensive with the world. No longer can any village of far Galilee claim the present monopoly of Christ. No longer can loving hearts in Bethany say, “He is our guest and ours only for tonight.” He is at present now by the lake shores of Africa as He is within the house of God where you worship–because He lived and died. We often talk of the story of the cross as if in that story lay the world’s redemption. But I beg of you to remember that while that is true, it is far from being all the truth. Christ spoke not a word of the story of the cross. He said, I–persisting through the cross–I, the living Christ, will draw the world–I whom death is powerless to hold. In other words, when our missionaries go forth, they go with something more than a sweet story. They go with Him of whom the tale is told, so wonderful, so unspeakable, so moving. They go with Him who, having tasted death, is now alive and lives for evermore, and who is able to save unto the uttermost all who come unto God by Him.