But in our own souls, practically, Divine grace rarely operates altogether in this same order. For we are never, except through our own fault, out of Christ. God, for the most part, anticipates by His Gift the trials of elder years. In infancy, we receive the Sacrament of faith. Being then "made members of Christ and children of God," we receive freely, through God the Holy Ghost, the first principle of that spiritual life which is afterwards to be developed.
In our childhood we, for the most part, without any opposition of a contrary will in us, receive the faith through the teaching of our parents, amid the operation of God the Holy Ghost on our dispositions and our young hearts. By the mercy and Providence of God, we, for the most part, receive the faith, before those faculties of the mind are developed, to which the
reception of the faith would be a trial. Even thus, we may see how the reception of the faith depends upon the right use of grace ; since the faith, communicated in the very same way, takes more or less deep possession of the soul, as the child is, in other respects, in his childish duties, self-government, obedience, prayers, more or less faithful to the grace of God.
Some childish unfaithfulness to grace has often laid the foundation of the unbelief of maturer years. The course of the Christian life, intended for us by God, is continual development of the grace which in Baptism we received, in "charity out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned." Even if unhappily faith is obscured in any, through the indulgence of habits, whether intellectual or sensual, contrary to faith ; if even, through marked resistance to grace or habitual neglect of it, love have grown cold, and faith have become an inoperative, historic faith, that faith, although at the time destitute of grace, because the soul has parted from grace and love, is still the residuum of past grace. The habit of faith still abides, like a body not yet dissolved, into which Christ may yet recall the soul by His life-giving word, "Young man, I say unto thee arise."
But as is the original character of faith, such is the way in which it is maintained. If man arrived at faith through the mere use of his natural reason, accepting or rejecting what is proposed for his belief according as the evidence is or is not adequate to satisfy his natural reason, then undoubtedly it would be through unaided exercise of that same natural reason, that his faith must be maintained, strengthened, enlarged, defended ; or, if it have been unhappily shaken or lost, then, by that same mere exercise of the understanding must it be consolidated or recovered. If, on the contrary, God works faith in the soul, not without grounds which satisfy reason illumined by His Holy Spirit, but Himself acting, not simply on the reason, but on the will also and the affections, disposing, preparing, arousing, helping, illuminating, justifying, sanctifying, the whole man, then faith, being the gift of God by grace, must be retained in us through grace ; then faith will grow with the growth and enlargement of grace ; or it will wane through whatsoever lessens grace ; and if faith be impaired or destroyed, it cannot be demonstrated into any one by mere force of argument, nor can we recover it for ourselves by mere diligent study of human proof, but it must be regained by regaining the lost grace of God.