This question is plainly of great practical moment, in days when both belief in a revelation as a whole is assaulted on many sides, with little novelty but with great confidence ; and those who cannot endure to part with their whole faith are still manifoldly tempted to sacrifice its integrity, in order to retain, as they think, such residue of our inherited faith as seems to them most defensible. Saving or justifying faith, all allow, is the gift of God. Holy Scripture expressly says it. But if faith as a whole is from God, so are also the dispositions towards it.
If the beginning of our faith were from ourselves, then the beginning of our salvation would be from ourselves, not from God. If our belief were the simple result of our own reasoning powers ; if it depended upon nothing more, than acquiescing in certain things as true, which we could not help seeing to be true, when they were set before us ; if the belief that God has revealed Himself to mankind and has in that revelation taught the truths which He has taught, depended upon nothing more than that we could see clearly with our natural understanding the process of proof upon which it rested, then our faith would be a human not a Divine faith.
Plainly, there must be much correspondence between human and Divine faith. They must have much in common, both in their groundwork and in the process whereby they are attained ; else they would not be designated by one common name. Both human and Divine faith are in things unseen, and of which the senses have no certain cognizance; else they would not be faith. Both depend on the absolute credibility of him in whom the faith is reposed; both must be proof against all lesser appearances, or surmises, or suspicions, which the waywardness of man's own heart, or the doubts of others, might suggest.
Both may be gained by different processes. Human faith, as well as Divine, has its intuitive perceptions, by which it arrives as solidly at its conclusions in some cases, as, in others, by long or laboured conclusions. The perceptions of human faith are quickened or dulled by the moral character ; the finest perceptions of human faith are often such as the soul can give least account of. In human faith too, acute intellect will misjudge. Deep love, purity of heart, simplicity of soul, guilelessness of mind, will know where securely to rest its faith, while acuteness of intellect will be at fault, quick in discerning single points, sharp to discover a seeming defect, but not penetrating enough to see the centre on which the character really turns, or enlarged enough to comprehend it as a whole.
Faith in Divine things or in persons sent from God, may rest on direct sight of things invisible, as in S. Paul, or on slow reasoning, as in Nicodemus, or on simple apprehension, as in Nathanael. It may come through the report of others, as among a portion of the Samaritans, or through some unseen attractive might, as in our Lord's words, heard with the outward ears when, He was in the Flesh among us, or borne in, at times, upon the inward ear now. But in whatever way, direct or indirect, through the affections or through the intellect, the soul arrives at faith, whether in God or man, Divine Faith has this over and above, that in it there is an immediate action of God upon the soul. Faith, from first to last, is the gift of God to the soul which will receive it. God prepares the soul, with its will, not without it, to receive the Faith. God stills the soul, that it may listen to the Faith ; God flashes conviction into the soul, that it may see the truth of the Faith ;in those who through His Grace persevere to the end, God seals up the Faith in the soul, that it may keep the Faith which it has received, unchanged, undiminished, unadulterated, the source of life and love and holiness, until faith is swallowed up in the blessed-making sight of Him Whom, unseen, it believed.