Plainly, if the spiritual life is a true sphere of normal living at all, it must have its natural conditions, and failure to fulfil these conditions must result in the spiritual life becoming unreal. The very fact that the religious life is so intimately concerned with aesthetic and ethical data makes it certain that the natural conditions of the spiritual life will have a marked similiarity to the conditions of recognizing and entering into any sphere of value. And the fact that the religious life is essentially a personal relation with God, and that Christ's great commandment is love for God and for men, makes it equally certain that the conditions of the spiritual life are essentially the same as the conditions of a deepening personal relation.

Here, too, we may well note how far the conditions of the spiritual life are similar to the conditions of aesthetic appreciation, and to the conditions of a deepening personal relation, and how far the conditions of the spiritual life are different.

If one asks first, then, how it is that we generally come into the great spheres of value,—of music, and literature, and art, and friendship, he must recognize that, in all alike, we are commonly introduced through the witness of some other, who has already found his way into an appreciation of the value. One who should insist on discovering all values at first hand would inevitably doom himself to a very narrow life. We naturally count, therefore, in all these spheres of value, on our inheritance from the past, and upon the certainty that others may have already found what we would gladly find. If, then, in our spiritual life we are ignoring entirely the witness of others, if we are not at all putting ourselves where we would naturally get that witness, we need not wonder that we are not making the progress that would otherwise be possible.

In like manner, to come into any one of these great values requires on our own part absolute honesty, coupled with a genuine modesty. On the one hand, there is to be no pretense of having reached a degree of appreciation that is not yet ours. This can only hinder our growth into any value. We shall not, therefore, simply catch up the opinions of others as our own, but speak honestly only of that which we have ourselves attained. But on the other hand, with an equally real modesty, we shall not claim that we ourselves have seen all that there is in any of these spheres of value. Doubtless there is much more than we have yet appreciated, and we shall not, therefore, make what we have already seen the measure of all reality. We may modestly hope that much that others have found, that we cannot honestly claim yet to have discovered for ourselves, may still come to us if we continue to give the great values honest opportunity with us. Here, too, that is, our spiritual life may have suffered through our lack of this absolute honesty, on the one hand, or of this genuine modesty on the other.

These very qualities themselves suggest that one great method of coming into a sense of reality and achievement in any of the great spheres of value is, that we should simply stay persistently in the presence of the best in the sphere in which we seek attainment, in honest response to that best. There need be no pretense. We are called simply to give attention, time, and thought; the great realities and values will, thus, finally verify themselves. But where one has given a great value no opportunity to make its own legitimate impression, he cannot wonder that the sense of its reality and significance is lacking. We have no right to expect conviction and sense of value where we have not given the best an honest chance at us. Probably the greatest reason for failure in the sense of reality and achievement in the spiritual life, as in the case of all other values, lies just here. And it is thus, above all, that "the inner light fails."

In trying, now, to transfer to the religious life the conditions of entering upon any sphere of value, how far must differences be recognized?

We have seen that even in the case of aesthetic appreciation, conditions essentially ethical, like honesty and modesty, could not be ignored. And yet, doubtless, in aesthetic appreciation, the ethical is not so intrinsically involved as in the religious life; and this is the particular point at which the analogy needs careful guarding.

The religious life can never be one of mere passive appreciation, or aesthetic admiration; it requires through and through the active ethical will. The revelation of God in Christ is preeminently the revelation of an ethical will—of character; and such a revelation makes demands upon one; it is a constant appeal to conscience, a persistent motive to willing. It inevitably asks, What are you going to do with that will and life? "Will we willingly surrender to the spiritual power whose influence we thus perceive to be all around us? Or will we treat this incomparable thing as an everyday matter and in laziness forget it and turn our backs on it? This, at last, is the real test-question of faith. And it passes over immediately into the other question, whether or not we are willing to be sincere."[1] The very existence of harmonious personal relation to God requires such an ethical will in the worshipper. The character of God, then, can never be a mere subject of passive aesthetic admiration; it demands a moral surrender to the will of God, and strenuous endeavor to embody that will in life.

That persistent staying in the presence of the worthful, therefore, which aesthetic appreciation requires as its chief condition, in the case of the religious life must mean more than a passive waiting. The religious life must recognize, indeed, as we have seen, that the resulting conviction is not simply its own product; but still there must be active, hearty, loyal cooperation with the divine will, a prompt following pf all light revealed. Nothing less than this is really giving God and the spiritual world a chance at us. The religious life is so inevitably and indubitably knit up with the ethical[2] that there can be no doubt as to this difference of the conditions of the spiritual life from those of æsthetic appreciation.

But, with this point guarded, the analogy of the growing appreciation of any sphere of value has continual suggestion for the spiritual life, that may save it from much perplexity and from serious blunders, and may bring it rather to some clear insight into its own laws.

[1] Herrmann: Communion with God, p. 83.

[2] See King: Theology and the Social Consciousness, Chap. VII.