1 Corinthians 12:2
You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, even as you were led.
Perhaps there is no one habit which Scripture attributes more often, either explicitly or implicitly, to the agency of the Holy Spirit than a sound and lively faith; and there is none, therefore, which the soul will more carefully seek and cherish. Faith, in the sense in which we are here concerned with it, is the belief of a professed revelation of God to man, on the authority of God who made it, and a lively faith is such a conviction of its truth as causes it to operate as a motive on our affections and lives. It is itself, then, a habit of the intellect, and appears, so far, to become moral only at the point where it influences, rather than is influenced by, the will. And in this light, as a moral motive, coupled too, as it often is in Scripture, with those effects which it should produce on the will, there seems no greater difficulty in viewing faith as a work of the Spirit than in so regarding repentance, love, or obedience. But in the prior intellectual process — the conviction of the understanding by the force of proof — there is a difficulty which has been felt probably by most minds. There appears, as far as can be seen, no more reason to seek or expect Divine interposition to correct or prevent a logical error, than to stay the effects of any physical power which we ourselves have set in motion. Either would be a miracle which God may work, but which we have no authority to suppose He will. We can no more refuse to believe what is proved, or believe what is destitute of apparent proof, than the eye can reject or change the forms and colours thrown by external objects on the retina. How then can the reception of a doctrine by the reason be affected by the operations of Divine grace? If it is proved, must it not be believed? This difficulty, however, such as it is, is not peculiar to Scripture, or religious truth, or the question of the Holy Spirit's influence. It belongs equally to the acknowledged fact that, on almost every subject, men, apparently of equivalent power of intellect, with precisely the same evidence before them, arrive at widely different conclusions. Thus it is every day in history, in politics, in much that is called science, in the judgment we form of each other's characters and conduct, and even in the credit that is given to alleged events almost within the sphere of our own observation. Whether it be that a partial and temporal blindness of the judgment is superinduced by the force of passion and the tension of the will; or whether, as seems more probable, attention, the optic glass, or rather the eye of the mind, is directed by the prevailing emotion excited by the subject in question, with more intensity on a certain class of considerations bearing upon it, while others it glances over slightly, or entirely disregards — even as the bodily eye gazing fixedly on one object is as blind for the time to all the rest as if they were not — so that from all the topics which should have been considered in due weight and measure, it culls those only which lead to the desired conclusion, or gives them such undue prominence in the field of vision that the judgment, deceived and misled, arrives, at a partial, though acceptable, decision — these are questions which may be left to the metaphysician to solve. It is enough for us that the fact is admitted, that everywhere, but in the necessary truths of demonstrative reasoning, the conclusions of reason are actually modified by the wishes, interests, or prejudices of the reasoner; so that belief is not merely the result of intellect, but is, in perhaps a large majority of cases, the mixed product of the moral and intellectual faculties combined. And if this be true where the feelings and passions are only remotely affected, and should not be so at all, how much more will it have place when the subject-matter is religion, which must teach the tenderest part of our moral nature; which strikes on hopes and fears; which bears directly on every affection, passion, motive, habit, and act; which, if admitted to be true, requires a complete revolution in the whole inner man and in great part of the outward conduct. The choice of arrangement of the materials with which reason is to work is much in the power of the will; and the will is prejudiced, and cannot, or will not, honestly do its part. It is not, then, surprising that our Lord should have attributed unbelief always to moral, never to purely intellectual causes (see John 3:18-20; John 5:40-44; John 7:17). It will follow, too — which is the point more immediately before us — not only that in the formation of a sound and living faith there is room for the agency of the Holy Spirit, but that without His aid such faith cannot exist. For if the character of our belief depends not merely on the correctness of the reasoning process, but much more on prior operations of the will, by which the antecedents and materials of reason are selected and arranged, and if our moral nature is in our unregenerate state warped and impaired so as to have a disinclination to what is good and a bias to what is evil, it is evident that the gospel, placed before such a tribunal, must be tried by a prejudiced and incapable judge; that, being wished false, and admitting of objections capable of being magnified and coloured into refutations, it is certain to be found false; and that nothing can rectify the balance of judgment, and place truth on an equal footing with falsehood, but the same external and Divine power which changes and renews the will of man, and enables it to love right instead of wrong, and to desire in all things to know and to do God's will. Let us now, in further illustration of what has been said, endeavour to trace in one or two instances the process by which moral causes, acting on the intellect, may lead to avowed or practical belief.
1. In a certain class of minds infidelity and heresy alike seem to owe their origin to intellectual pride. To believe is to, adopt the same opinions which have been the creed of multitudes before, and to be confounded in the mass of unreasoning minds which have received implicitly the same traditionary tenets. Objections, on the other hand, have an air of novelty. There is at least the appearance of power in striking out difficulties. It is an intoxicating pleasure to feel different from other men — that is, in our own judgment, superior to them — and the brain often reels under it. Besides this, there is a prejudice against the gospel from the mere circumstance of its being old. In every science new discoveries are making daily. In history, in politics, in science, men have been long mistaken, why not in religion also? With such feelings and prepossessions the mind catches up objections to Christianity, or to some of its doctrines, as just what it was expecting to find. It dwells on them; it magnifies them by the exclusion of other presumptions, till they fill the field of mental vision and leave no room for truth. Humility and faith are kindred gifts of the same Spirit.
2. Another source of unbelief is even more evidently moral. It arises when the soul would hide from God after displeasing Him by wilful sin. Some, for example, smother accusing thoughts in worldly amusements and the dissipation of frivolous gaiety. But many — far more, probably, than can be known till the secrets of all hearts are disclosed — take refuge in a kind of partial unbelief. There are difficulties in revelation, and in some of its doctrines — light as a feather, indeed, when weighed impartially in the balance against the accumulated evidences of truth, but not of course without weight when poised and pondered over by themselves. Such the writhing soul is glad to seize. Suppose the gospel should not be true? his obligations are imaginary, and his guilt and ingratitude are unreal.
Parallel VersesKJV: Ye know that ye were Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.