But in order that the spiritual life might become to us most real and significant, we found not only that it must be connected indubitably with all that is realest to us, but must also be seen to make its own unmistakable and indispensable contribution to life. That is, we must be not only radically liberal in our view in the recognition of the inter-relatedness of religion with all life, but also radically Christian in the recognition of the essential and unique contribution of religion itself.
That religion has most assuredly this contribution to make, no man can doubt, who has once caught a glimpse of the fundamental nature of religion. For myself, this comes out most clearly in seeing how inevitably, as I have elsewhere pointed out, a faith essentially religious logically underlies all our reasoning, all work worth doing, all strenuous moral endeavor, all earnest social service. The argument so closely concerns the present inquiry that its reproduction here may be pardoned.
For, in the first place, a faith essentially religious logically underlies all our reasoning. For every argument that we can possibly make, especially concerning any of the greater interests of life, must go forward upon the double assumption of the consistency and the worth of the world. We can reason at all, only so far as we have already virtually asserted that the world is a world in which we can rationally think; and our most significant arguments require, as well, that we should add the faith that the world is a world in which we can rationally live. That, in other words, there is the unity and consistency of one truth and of a unified reason in the world, and an essential love at its heart that makes life abundantly worth living. And these two fundamental assumptions of all our reasoning are essentially religious convictions.
That men often do not recognize these logical implications of their reasoning, and may use with great complacency impersonal and irreligious language concerning their experience that will not bear thinking through—this is all too true; but this does not alter the fact of the ultimate logical implications of their deepest thinking and living. The mere report, therefore, of the psychological facts of a man's religious experience, as he conceives it, is by no means the final step in any fundamental religious inquiry.
In the same way, a faith essentially religious underlies all work worth doing. For, as Paulsen says, speaking simply as a philosopher, 'Whoever devotes his life to a cause believes in that cause; and this belief, be his creed what it may, has always something of the form of religion.' 'Hence,' he adds, 'faith infers that an inner connection exists between the real and the valuable within the domain of history, and believes that in history something like an immanent principle of reason or justice favors the right and the good and leads it to victory over all resisting forces.' It is impossible, that is, for a man with full consciousness to throw himself enthusiastically into a work which he regards from the start as absolutely hopeless. When, then, he takes up the work of his life calling, or the cause to which he devotes himself, as work really worth while, in which he can lose himself with joy, whether consciously or not, he is virtually asserting his faith in a plan larger than his own plan, the all-embracing plan of the on-going providence of God, which shall catch up the little fragments of his work into a larger whole and make them contribute, thus, to a goal greater than any that the man himself may set. To believe in the final worth of one's own work, then, logically implies a real belief in God. For 'principles' and 'plans' and 'laws,' so far as I am able to see, have no real existence, that will bear thorough thinking, and can do nothing, apart from a Being that must be conceived ultimately in essentially personal terms.
A fully religious conviction logically underlies all enthusiastic work.
In all strenuous moral endeavor, in the fight for character for one's self, a faith essentially religious is in like manner involved. So Martineau asserts: 'Nothing less than the majesty of God, and the power of the world to come, can maintain the peace and sanctity of our homes, the order and serenity of our minds, the spirit of patience and tender mercy in our hearts.' For here, once more, we shall not earnestly attempt a hopeless task. And if, in the surrender to the highest in us, we cannot believe that we thereby at the same time link ourselves to the highest in the universe, we shall not be able to reach that courage which gives promise of any high attainment. Only the highest motives are finally sufficient here. If our faith in the ultimate ethical trend of the great power back of the universe really breaks down, we shall hardly be able to keep our faith even in our own ideals. That this faith in the ethical trend of the universe is always consciously present, or even the need of it definitely felt in any recognized religious way, I am far from affirming. . . . . There are great temperamental differences here, doubtless, and the very force of life in us may carry us over many thin places in our reasoning, without misgiving; but the fact remains that hopeful, courageous, moral endeavor logically requires the faith that we are not here at war with the ultimate purpose of things.
And, once more, a faith essentially religious logically underlies, in like manner, all earnest social service. I do not forget that in the inconsistency of our natures men may often go on in forgetfulness of the real significance of their actions, and in the strength of motives which they have at least formally denied. Nor do I forget that it is possible for social service itself to become, for the time being, even a kind of fad, and for the phrases of the new social consciousness of our time to become only a new cant. Nor do I forget that men in such unselfish service may honestly think of themselves, for a time, as not needing in any degree either the convictions or the consolations of religion.
Nevertheless, when I try really to think the situation through, I am not able to doubt that Nash is right when he says: 'Nothing save a settled and fervid conviction that the universe is on the side of the will . . . . can give the will the force and edge suitable.' For here, also, we shall not throw ourselves with all abandon into a task that we think either hopeless or worthless. And that means that we must have back of our social service the great religious convictions of the love of God and the worth of men. We shall not attempt to dip out the ocean with a cup, and we shall not enter on a boundless social task in which there is no hope of accomplishing any permanent and large result. We must believe here that we work with God, in line with his own purpose, and that the mighty will of the living God is pledged to our attempt.
Moreover, let it here be added, so far as the Christian religion is able to fulfil its promise of putting men into real communion with God known as Father; so far as it is able to give undoubted worth to life in the conception of man as child of God; so long as it can find in all duty simply the will of a loving Father; and so long as it can give to men assured faith in an immortal life of most significant work and of the highest personal association—so long must Christianity have an indispensable contribution to make to human life. A truly Christian faith can alone give the ideal conditions of the richest life.
If we turn, now, from this general consideration of the presumptive evidence of the reality and significance of the spiritual life, to seek to indicate more definitely just how we are to find our way into reality here, we may well raise three questions: How may we proceed most positively and satisfactorily in our rational argument for the existence of a God who truly fulfils the Christian conception? How are we to find our way into an undoubted personal relation to God? How is reality to be brought into single Christian doctrines? That is, what is the way into the reality of the spiritual life, as to the theistic argument, as to personal relation to God, and as to particular Christian doctrines?
 Personal and Ideal Elements in Education, pp. 90-97.