There is a failing, temporary faith with respect to the promises of God, which will not advantage them in whom it is. It is known how often the people of old professed that they did believe and that they would obey accordingly; but, saith the apostle, notwithstanding all their pretensions and professions, notwithstanding all the convictions they had of the truth of the word, and the resolutions, they had of yielding obedience, wherein their temporary faith did consist, yet they perished in their sins, because “the word was not mixed with faith in them;” that is, truly and really believed.
Now, this giving a subsistence in the mind unto the things believed, that they shall really operate and produce their immediate effects therein, of love, joy, and obedience, is that spiritual mixture and incorporation whereof we speak. And here lies the main difference between saving faith and the temporary persuasion of convinced persons. This latter gives no such subsistence unto the things believed in the minds of men, as that they should produce their proper effects therein. Those in whom it is, believe the promise, yet not so as that thereby the things promised should have such an existence in their minds as to produce in them and upon them their proper effects. It may be said of them, as it is of the law in another sense, “They have the shadow of good things to come, but not the very image of the things.”
Faith in its acting towards and on the promise is also said to receive it. By it we receive the word; that is, it takes it into the soul and incorporates it with itself. There is more herein than a mere assent to the truth of what is proposed and apprehended. And sometimes we are said by it to receive the word itself, and sometimes to receive the things themselves which are the subject-matter of it. So are we in the first way said to” receive with meekness the ingrafted word,” James 1: 21; to “receive the promises,” Hebrews 11: 13; “having received the word,” 1 Thessalonians 1: 6; 1 Thessalonians 2: 13. In the latter way to “receive Christ” himself, John 1: 12, and “the atonement” made by him, Romans 5: 11; which are the principal subjects of the gospel. And herein lies the life of faith; so that it is the proper description of an unbeliever, that “he doth not receive the things of the Spirit of God,” 1 Corinthians 2: 14. And unbelief is the not receiving of Christ, John 1: 11. There may be a tender made of a thing which is not received. A man may think well of that which is tendered unto him, and yet not receive it.