The chief objection that any naturalistic scheme of religion has to encounter comes from those who, applying the language of jurisprudence to every-day life, urge that the three terms, command, duty, and sanction, are inseparably connected; that command and duty are correlative terms; that, wherever a duty lies, a command has been signified. Such arguers refuse to recognize in a religion without some supreme will constraining a religion at all. Thus Canon Liddon calls religion "essentially a relation to a person. . . . Religion consists fundamentally in the practical recognition of a constraining bond between the inward life of man and an unseen Person; . . . the maintenance of a real relation with the personal God, or with a Divine Person really incarnate in Jesus Christ." The same objection appears in a slightly altered form in pages of the London "Spectator," in the course of a discussion upon natural religion, suggested by the work before us:
"We do not differ from this able writer in thinking that there is such a thing as 'natural religion,' but we do differ from him when he asserts there is such a thing for one who declines, or is unable, to discover in the universe traces of a superphysical, we would rather say, than a supernatural, Power—that is, traces of a power to mold and modify that in nature which is physical, in the direction and for the purposes of that in nature which is not physical, but mental and moral. There is no end of 'natural religion' in the mere discovery of human free-will, for that is the discovery that the adamantine chain of physical necessity has been and is interrupted by the will of man itself—a discovery utterly inconsistent with the favorite scientific view. There is no end of 'natural religion' in the discovery of conscience, that there is a moral obligation on us to do this rather than that—an obligation from which it is simply impossible to escape, without bringing on ourselves an unappeasable remorse, and a sense of conscious unworthiness from which it is impossible to dissociate the conviction of invisible condemnation and displeasure. There is no end of natural Christianity in the discovery that Christ is an ideal infinitely and hopelessly above and beyond us, and yet full of power to draw us upward, if we will, toward himself. But there is, to our minds, nothing worthy of the name of natural religion or natural Christianity at all that does not promise us guidance and excite in us trust. . . . The author of 'Ecce Homo' seems to us content to find a natural religion in that which is neither natural nor religious—not natural, because, in spite of the paradox, it is in the highest sense natural to man to lean on something beyond Nature; not religious, because religion means something which is binding, something which we can not in our hearts defy, and we can in our hearts defy any power which only threatens us with extinction, and does not threaten us with inextinguishable remorse."
- "Some Elements of Religion."