This is not the place for any theological discussion; nor is it my intent to present the claims of any church or creed. Each reader must do that for himself, and the less he worries over it, the better I think it will be for him. I have read and reread Cardinal Newman’s wonderful Pro Apologia—his statement as to why and how he entered the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church, and it has thrilled me with its pathos and evidence of deep spiritual endeavor. Charles Warren Stoddard’s Troubled Heart and How It Found Rest is another similar story, though written by an entirely different type of man. Each of these books revealed the inner thought and life of men who were worried about religion, and by worry I mean anxious to the point of abnormality, disturbed, distressed unnecessarily. Yet I would not be misunderstood. Far be it from me, in this age of gross materialism and worship of physical power and wealth, to decry in the least a proper degree of solicitude for one’s personal salvation. The religious life of the individual—the real, deep, personal, hidden, unseen, inner life of a human soul—is a wonderfully delicate thing, to be touched by another only with the profoundest love and deepest wisdom. Hence I have little to say about one’s own inner struggles, except to affirm and reaffirm that wisdom, sanity, and religion itself are all against worrying about it. Study religion, consider it, accept it, follow it, earnestly, seriously, and constantly, but do it in a rational manner, seeking the essentials, accepting them and then resting in them to the full and utter exclusion of all worry.
But there is another class of religious worriers, viz., those who worry themselves about your salvation. Again I would not be misunderstood, nor thought to decry a certain degree of solicitude about the spiritual welfare of those we love, but here again the caution and warning against worry more than ever holds good. Most of these worriers have found comfort, joy, and peace in a certain line of thought, which has commended itself to them as Truth—the one, full, complete, indivisible Truth, and it seems most natural for human nature to be eager that others should possess it. This is the secret of the zeal of the street Salvationist, whose flaming ardor is bent on reaching those who seldom, if ever, go to church. The burden of his cry is that you must flee from the wrath to come—hell—by accepting the vicarious atonement made by the “blood of Jesus.” In season and out of season, he urges that you “come under the blood.” His face is tense, his brow wrinkled, his eyes strained, his voice raucous, his whole demeanor full of worry over the salvation of others.
Another friend is a Seventh Day Adventist, who is full of zeal for the declaration of the “Third Angel’s Message,” for he believes that only by heeding it, keeping sacred the hours from sunset on Friday to Saturday sunset, in accordance with his reading of the fourth commandment, and also believing in the speedy second coming of Christ, can one’s soul’s salvation be attained.