The chief difference, no doubt, consists in the fact that, in the religious life, we are dealing with the most fundamental of all relations—the relation to God, which, we have already seen, has a universality all its own. Even the ethical life, therefore, so far as it is conceived as independent of the religious, has no such sweep as the religious life. And if the ethical demanded the training of a constantly compelled struggle, this, much more. To come into any worthy personal relation to a God, right relation to whom involves right relation to all others and to all else, is no holiday task. It calls for a girding up of the loins of our minds. "Self-renunciation," à Kempis reminds us, "is not the work of one day, nor children's sport." Moreover, the simple fact that in the religious life we have to deal with an unseen God, so unobtrusive as to seem almost deliberately to hide his working, gives to the conditions of the religious life some real difference. Here we have not only to maintain ourselves in a spiritual world, plainly given as a fact, but we have almost to maintain the reality of that world itself. We must create, in some real sense, not only our moral spirit, but also the very realm in which that spirit is to be shown. The very existence for us of the spiritual world, that is, seems in no small measure committed to our trust. Day by day we are to assure ourselves anew: There is a God; he does love; man is free; man is immortal; this life is not all; there is a growing, all-embracing Kingdom of God. That religion has in all this a task somewhat, though not wholly, peculiar, will hardly be denied.
But the difference just noted, like the first difference, evidently makes a supreme demand upon the ethical purpose. And the contrast between the conditions of the religious life and those of all the rest of life, except the ethical, as to the intended obscurity with which we have to deal, lies exactly in this inseparableness of the religious and the ethical. The ethical spirit is absolutely essential to the true religious life. There must, therefore, be emphasized in every possible way in the religious life that which will morally train; and the merely formal, perfunctory, or imitated must be sternly eliminated. If there is a God at all, who really intends to bring us to the highest life, we may confidently expect that the conditions of our life will be so shaped as to call out in us the persistent ethical will. In Herrmann's words, "We are to seek communion with God, not as something alongside of devotion to what is good, but only in this devotion."
Above all else, this means that the conditions must be such that the religious life may be the man's own, voluntarily chosen and voluntarily kept. If this is to be true, a sacred reverence for the human personality must be a controlling principle in all God's dealing with us. Man's freedom will be respected, and his individuality respected. There will be no over-riding of either in any way. This implies that, in the nature of the case, it is impossible that there should be any forcing of God and the spiritual life upon a man. They must become his own, by voluntary recognition, by persistent choosing. Only so can he keep his spiritual life and grow in it.
And if there is to be no forcing of God and the spiritual world upon a man, this would seem to mean further, that we can expect no absolutely incontrovertible evidences, no overpowering signs—certainly not before the ethical choice. A choice will be left, some room for our own attitude of will to have its effect. It is this principle that Pascal seems to have in mind when he says: "God wished to render himself perfectly recognizable to those who seek him with their whole heart; and hidden from those who shun him with all their heart." "Religion is a thing so great, that it is just that those who would not take the pains to seek it, if it is obscure, should be deprived of it. What do they complain of then, if it is such that they could find it by seeking it?" And he intimates how this obscurity becomes a moral test: "If you care but little to know the truth, here [in a suggested difficulty] is enough to leave you in repose. But if you desire with all your heart to know the truth, it is not enough, examine minutely."
Wherever, then, we ask in the spiritual life for incontrovertible evidence, we ask not only for that which transcends our limitations, but for that which on moral grounds also is not to be granted; we ask that the conditions of our life should be less perfectly adapted than they now are to our highest moral and spiritual needs. The seeming unreality of the spiritual world becomes itself, thus, a ground of trust.
But even more than this is to be said. Our moral need seems plainly to require, also, that there shall be no domination of the human personality by God's personality. Not only will God not thrust the fact of his existence upon us in resistless fashion, whatever our moral attitude, but in his personal relation to us, even after we have voluntarily and gladly recognized it, he will still sacredly respect our own moral initiative and our own individuality. Because he would bring us to real character and to a spiritual experience of our own, he will jealously guard his action, hiding his hand in his dealing with us, not putting upon us the practically irresistible pressure of over-powering personality. If even the parent and elder friend need to take pains not to dominate with their personalities the growing personality of the child, much more must the- Infinite Personality guard the manifestations of himself. The very possibility of unmistakably genuine character in finite beings seems to depend upon the fact that God should, thus, at least in the preliminary stages of their training, scrupulously remain the indemonstrable, the invisible, the hidden, the unobtrusive God, showing such a reverence for the personality of his children as men never show for one another.
Kant clearly recognizes this imperative need of the hidden God, and his own careful statement deserves quotation: Else "God and eternity with their awful majesty would stand unceasingly before our eyes, (for what we can prove perfectly is to us as certain as that of which we are assured by the sight of our eyes). Transgression of the law would no doubt be avoided, what is commanded would be done; but the mental disposition, from which actions ought to proceed, cannot be infused by any command, and in this case the spur of action is ever active and external, so that reason has no need to exert itself in order to gather strength to resist the inclinations by a lively representation of the dignity of the law: hence most of the actions that conformed to the law would be done from fear, a few only from hope, and none at all from duty, and the moral worth of actions, on which alone in the eyes of supreme wisdom the worth of the person and even that of the world depends, would cease to exist. As long as the nature of man remains what it is, his conduct would thus be changed into mere mechanism, in which, as in a puppet show, everything would gesticulate well, but there would be no life in the figures. Now, when it is quite otherwise with us, when with all the effort of our reason we have only a very obscure and doubtful view into the future, when the Governor of the world allows us only to conjecture his existence and his majesty, not to behold them or prove them clearly; and on the other hand, the moral law within us, without promising or threatening anything with certainty, demands of us disinterested respect; and only when this respect has become active and dominant, does it allow us by means of it a prospect into the world of the super-sensible, and then only with weak glances: all this being so, there is room for true moral disposition, immediately devoted to the law, and a rational creature can become worthy of sharing in the summum bonum that corresponds to the worth of his person and not merely to his actions. Thus what the study of nature and of man teaches us sufficiently elsewhere may well be true here also; that the unsearchable wisdom by which we exist is not less worthy of admiration in what it has denied than in what it has granted."
It is not strange, then, after all, that the Spiritual life meets us constantly with the paradoxical demand that we should in some real sense create the objects of our faith, as well as act in view of them. So Kant felt as to God and freedom and immortality. So Fichte affirmed as to the entire world of the spirit. So James has asserted most strongly as to freedom. So Browning and many another has believed as to the love of God and all that that involves. Religion is a deed. And, in a very real sense, we are left to determine whether for us there shall be a God, and a loving God, a freedom, an immortality, a future world, a Kingdom of God. God has intended that the conditions of our life should be such as to challenge us at every point to a stalwart faith and a stalwart life. As Browning says, thinking of the central truth of all—the love of God, and his supreme historical revelation in Christ:
"So duly, daily, needs provision be
For keeping the soul's prowess possible,
Building new barriers as the old decay,
Saving us from evasion of life's proof,
Putting the question ever, 'Does God love,
And will ye hold that truth against the world?'"
And it is impossible to let this truth, of which we are now speaking, get full possession of us, and not find a great new light thrown on the whole dark problem of evil—our greatest natural obstacle to a satisfying religious faith. Seeing how much is at stake in this reverent guarding, at any cost, of our moral initiative
and of our individuality, we learn not to expect God to interfere, even when great evils threaten. The greatest evil, after all, would be that the conditions of genuine character should fail. We come even to rejoice that we live, in this time of our preliminary training, in a world in which the rewards of virtue do not seem to follow either immediately or certainly. The natural and inevitable doubt which underlies for every man "the problem of evil" becomes, in the light of this far reaching principle of reverence for personality, itself a cause of thanksgiving; for it insures that our righteous choices shall not be selfishly motived. We are glad that the genuinely unselfish choice seems so often to cut right athwart our own interests; for it means that our wills are not over-ridden. The very existence of the problem of evil makes possible our belief in the genuineness of the character of ourselves and of others. It is a heavy price that is thus paid, no doubt; but it is not too heavy for the priceless interests so guarded.
We have to recognize, on the part of God, then, something like a really purposed obscuring of the spiritual world. The seeming unreality of the spiritual life is a chief part of our moral and spiritual training.
 Communion with God, p. 206.
 Thoughts and Letters, pp, 327, 355.
 Dialectic of Pure Practical Reason. Abbott: Kant's Theory of Ethics, pp. 357-358.