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Temporary Faith – Archibald Hall

February 25, 2010

The idea of temporary faith is taken from the stony-ground hearers in the parable of the sower. They are said to “hear the word,” and “immediately with joy to receive it;” yet they “have no root in themselves,” and they “endure only for a while.” Hence their faith is called temporary, because it doth not continue to the end. This attachment to the word of God includes, not only an assent to the truth of the Scriptures, but some sudden, though transient, flashes of joy in the affections, and some hasty resolutions for God and religion, while they are hearing the word. Their character and apostasy are thus described by Luke, “These have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” Such believers either receive the word upon the evidence of those arguments that satisfy the understanding about the truth of it; or else their faith rests upon the prejudice of education, or upon the testimony of him that preaches the word: and their joy usually arises from an apprehension of their own happiness being promoted by what they hear. Upon this principle they hear the word gladly, even while they neither understand the spiritual meaning of the law of God, nor depend upon the report of divine favor through Jesus Christ.

It is of little importance to us to examine the precise differences between historical and temporary faith, as it is evident that neither of them is the faith of God’s elect. Only it may be observed in general, that historical faith seems more immediately to refer to that persuasion the mind has of the truth of the word of God; whereas temporary faith, as it is compared to the seed which fell upon the stony ground, and forthwith sprung up, because it had no deepness of earth, seems more directly to respect that comfort which the mind receives in the goodness of the joyful sound. Persons may have no doubt of the truth of the Scripture, while yet they never relish any comfort or joy in the declarations of it: or, in other words, they may be historical believers, while they are not stony-ground hearers. It is, moreover, reasonable enough to allow, that the temporary joy may vanish, when the historical belief remains; though it is certain, that there can be no such joy as the temporary believer has in the word, without some historical belief of those things that occasion his gladness being the truths of God.

– Rev. Archibald Hall, A Treatise on the Faith and Influence of the Gospel, pp. 242-45

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