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The doctrine of eternal punishment, and the beliefs which seem to make it an essential doctrine of Christianity, had really lost their foundation so long ago as the Civil War in America. While there are in all parts of the country, and more especially in the South, men who boast of their belief, in even literal forms of future and eternal punishment, the tendency throughout the land is to let the doctrine drop quietly into the background. While it is not denied, it is not advocated. While it is on formal occasions assented to, it is never forcibly presented. It will never be disproved, because no one can disprove a fact which lies in the future. It cannot be argued down, because there is always the possibility of asserting that there is an infinite Being who is capable of governing in that way; but, when once a generation has grown up unfamiliar with the doctrine, it will quietly take its place with witchcraft, possession of the devil, and other delusions and half-truths of former ages.

How blessed the thought that we cannot pre-empt, monopolize, or limit the possibilities of human and divine fellowship. From wherever we start there is an open way to Him. Whenever we reach out after Him, whenever we go earnestly in search of Him, we find some traces of His presence. What others have seen and felt we may not duplicate, but we may have our own original experience. There is no rule of faith which will cover even a majority of cases. There is infinite fertility and variety in the ways of God's spirit. Temperament itself, with all its contradictions, and often as it sets at naught the conventionalities, is only another evidence that what God desires is not some stereotyped of religious experience, but the sincere, simple, direct fellowship and trust of each individual soul.

October 14, 1905

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