WHENCE OUR BELIEF: GRACE AND WILL
TO believe is to assent to a truth on the authority of God's word. We
must find that the truth proposed is really guaranteed by the authority
of God. In this process of mental research, the mind must be satisfied,
and the truth found to be in consonance with the dictates of right
reason, or at least, not contrary thereto.
But the fact that we can securely give our assent to this truth does
not make us believe. Something more than reason enters into an act of
Faith is not something natural, purely human, beginning and ending in
the brain, and a product thereof. This is human belief, not divine, and
is consequently not faith.
We believe that faith is, of itself, as far beyond the native powers of
a human being as the sense of feeling is beyond the power of a stone,
or intelligence, the faculty of comprehension, is beyond the power of
an animal. In other words, it is supernatural, above the natural
forces, and requires the power of God to give it existence. "No man can
come to me, unless the Father who has sent Me, draw him."
Some have faith, others have it not. Where did you get your faith? You
were not born with it, as you were with the natural, though dormant
faculties of speech, reason, and free will. You received it through
Baptism. You are a product of nature; therefore nature should limit
your existence. But faith aspires to, and obtains, an end that is not
natural but supernatural. It consequently must itself be supernatural,
and cannot be acquired without divine assistance.
Unless God revealed, you could not know the truths of religion. Unless
He established a court of final appeal in His Church, you could not be
sure what He did reveal or what He meant to say. Because of the
peculiar character of these truths and the nature the certitude we
possess, many would not believe all, if God's grace were not there to
help them, even though one could and would believe, there no divine
belief or faith proper until the soul lives the faculty from Him who
alone can give it.
The reason why many do not believe is not because God's grace is
wanting nor because their minds cannot be satisfied, not because they
cannot, but because they will not.
Faith is a gift of God, but not that alone; it is a conviction, but not
that alone. It is a firm assent of the will. We are free to believe or
not to believe.
"As one may be convinced and not act according to his conviction, so
may one be convinced and not believe according to his conviction. The
arguments of religion do not compel anyone to believe, just as the
arguments for good conduct do not compel anyone to obey. Obedience is
the consequence of willing to obey, and faith is the consequence of
willing to believe."
I am not obliged to receive as true any religious dogma, as I am forced
to accept the proposition that two and two are four. I believe because
I choose to believe. My faith is a submission of the will. The
authority of God is not binding on me physically, for men have refused
and still do refuse to submit to His authority and the authority He
communicated to His Church. And I know that I, too, can refuse and
perhaps more than once have been tempted to refuse, my assent to truths
that interfered too painfully with my interests and passions.
Besides, faith is meritorious, and in order to merit one must do
something difficult and be free to act. The difficulty is to believe
what we cannot understand, through pride of intelligence, and to bring
that stiff domineering faculty to recognize a superior. The difficulty
is to bend the will to the acceptance of truths, and consequent
obligations that gall our self-love and the flesh'. The believer must
have humility and self-denial. The grace of God follows these virtues
into a soul, and then your act of faith is complete.
Herein we discover the great wisdom of God who sets the price of faith,
and of salvation that depends on it, not on the mind, but on the will;
not on the intelligence alone, but on the heart. To no man is grace
denied. Every man has the will to grasp what is good. But though to all
He gives a will, all have not the same degree of intelligence; He does
not endow them equally in this respect. How then could He make
intelligence the first principle of salvation and of faith? God
searches the heart, not the mind. A modicum of wit is guaranteed to all
to know that they can safely believe. Be one ever so unlettered and
ignorant, and dull, faith and heaven are to him as accessible as to the
sage, savant and the genius. For all, the way is the same.
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