It is perhaps still more obvious that, if the relation to God is a personal relation at all, the laws of the spiritual life must be primarily the laws of a deepening personal relation; and that, wherever any soul is ignoring such a deepening relation with God and with men, he is making it inevitable that the spiritual life should seem to him unreal, and that he should have no sense of growth and achievement in it. To state, then, simply, the conditions upon which a personal relation with God and with men would deepen, would be to state the fundamental laws of the spiritual life. If one is ignoring these laws, he need not wonder that the spiritual world is for him obscure.
It is not difficult to summarize, at least suggestively, what these conditions of any deepening personal relation must be; for it is plain that every friendship worthy the name must build upon mutual self-revelation and answering trust, mutual self-giving, and some deep community of interests. If we are not laying this foundation in our relations to God and to men, we are naturally making it impossible that there should be reality and depth in the relations involved in our religious life. One needs, this means, to put himself honestly face to face with God's great self-revelation in Christ, to give himself in real ethical activity in this relation, and to seek the great interests of the kingdom of God that lie at God's own heart. Only so is a real basis laid for steady growth into the divine friendship.
And when one asks how in any personal relation he may go forward to build upon this foundation, exactly the same suggestions, that may be made concerning any human relation, will be found to bear directly upon growth into the life with God. We must, for example, count upon unconscious growth here rather than conscious arrangement. We may not expect continuous emotion, but must rely mainly upon steady association with the life of Christ. We shall see that this personal relation, like any other, will grow naturally by the expression of it in the various ways possible to us, and we shall be sure to be genuine throughout.
That is, in a word, this whole analogy of the religious life to a personal relation suggests definite and deep, but yet simple, conditions that we may know and fulfil, and, in the fulfilment of them, be able to count upon results. But this must mean, also, that, where these plain conditions of a deepening personal relation are ignored, the spiritual life cannot be real or significant.
When we pass to the consideration of the differences between the conditions of the religious life and those of any other deepening personal relation, we are led here, too, to see that, just because this conception of the religious life as a personal relation has such deep significance, it is the more necessary that we should not unwarrantably transfer to the relation to God those limitations which, because of our very finiteness, hold in the relation of finite to finite. We are, then, carefully to guard the conception, making it clear to ourselves that we are seeking a relation to a God who has concretely and objectively revealed himself in Christ; and that we are not, therefore, to enter upon the experiment of simply building up a subjective experience of our own.
Not less are we to remember that we cannot, of course, expect a sensuous relation to God like that which accompanies, rather than constitutes, our true spiritual relation to other persons. Nor should this analogy mean that there is to be any failure in the deepest reverence; in claiming this personal relation to God we do not, and we may not, put ourselves upon familiar equality with God. And we shall especially remember that the relation to God, just because of what God is, must have a universality all its own. Since God is the God of perfect righteousness and life, and is himself the source of the moral constitution of men, the relation to him cannot be conceived sentimentally, but naturally carries with it our relations to all other personalities. The relation to God is that one relation which, itself set right, sets all other relations right. And there can be, therefore, no such thing as a growing religious life that does not mean at the same time a life of increasing faithfulness in all our human relations.