Authors: Charles Spurgeon
A sermon (No. 1418) delivered on Lord's Day morning, June 9th, 1878, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,
by C. H. Spurgeon.
Faith may be well described as taking hold upon divine instruction. God has condescended to teach us, and it is ours to hear with attention and receive his words; and while we are hearing faith comes, even that
faith which saves the soul. To take "fast hold" is an exhortation which concerns the strength, the reality, the heartiness, and the
truthfulness of faith, and the more of these the better. If to take
hold is good, to take fast hold is better. Even a touch of the hem of
Christ's garment causeth healing to come to us, but if we want the full riches which are treasured up in Christ we must not only touch but take hold; and if we would know from day to day to the very uttermost all the fullness of his grace, we must take fast hold, and so maintain a
constant and close connection between our souls and the eternal
fountain of life. It were well to give such a grip as a man gives to a
plank when he seizes hold upon it for his very life-- that is a fast
We are to take fast hold of instruction, and the best of instruction is
that which comes from God; the truest wisdom is the revelation of God in Christ Jesus: of that therefore we are to take fast hold. The best
understanding is obedience to the will of God and a diligent learning of those saving truths which God has set before us in his word: so that in effect we are exhorted to take hold of Christ Jesus our Lord, the
incarnate wisdom in whom dwelleth all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We are not to let him go but to keep him and hold him, for he is our life. Does not John in his gospel tell us that the Word is
our light for instruction and at the same time our life? "In him was
life, and the life was the light of men." The more we abide in the Lord Jesus and the more firmly we take hold upon him, the better will it be for us in a thousand ways. I intend at this time to speak as the Holy Spirit shall enable me upon this fast-hold; and I reckon that the subject is one of the most important which can occupy your attention at this particular crisis in the history of the church. Many there be around us who believe in Christ, but it is with a very trembling faith and their hold is unsteady; we need to have among us men of tighter grip, who really believe what they profess to believe, who know the truth in its living power, and are persuaded of its certainty, so that they cannot by any means be moved from their steadfastness. Among the vacillating crowd we long to see fast-holders who are pillars in the house of our God, whose grasp of divine truth is not that of babes or boys, but of men full grown and vigorous.
We shall handle our subject by speaking first upon the method by which we may take fast hold; then upon the difficulties which will lie in our way in so doing; thirdly, upon the benefits of such a firm grasp; and lastly upon the arguments for our fast holding mentioned in the text.
At the outset my brethren, much must depend upon the intense decision which a man feels in his soul with regard to eternal things. If he intends trifling he will trifle, but if he means taking fast hold he will, by God's grace, do so. Under God, this, in many cases, depends very much upon a man's individuality and force of character. Some men are naturally thorough and whole-hearted in all things upon which they enter, whether of this world or the next. When they serve the devil they are amongst his life guards, and they rush to the front in all kinds of iniquity. Among sinners they become the chief for they have no fear and no hesitancy; they are daredevils, defying both God and man, sinning greedily with both hands. Such men, when converted, often become eminent saints, being just as thorough and resolute in their following after God as they were in the pursuit of evil; they are determined to vindicate his holy cause and spread abroad the knowledge of his love. I must confess an earnest longing that many such may be brought into the church of Christ at this time to brace her up and inspire her with new energy. Many in our churches appear to have no depth of earth; with joy they receive the word from the very fact that they are so shallow, but as soon as the sun ariseth with burning heat it is discovered that they have no root, for they wither away. Others are truly religious, and probably will remain so, but they are not zealous; in fact they are not intense about anything, but are lukewarm, weak, and unstable. These are mere chips in the porridge, neither souring nor sweetening: they give forth no flavour, but they take the flavour of that which surrounds them; they are the creatures of circumstances, not helmsmen who avail themselves of stream and tide, but mere drift-wood carried along by any and every current which may take hold on them. They have no fullness of manhood about them, they are mere children; they resemble the sapling which can be bent and twisted, and not the oak which defies the storm. There are certain persons of this sort who in other matters have purpose enough, and strength of mind enough, but when they touch the things of God they are loose, flimsy, superficial, half-hearted. You see them earnest enough in hunting after wealth, but they show no such zeal in the pursuit of godliness. The force of their character comes out in a political debate, in the making of a bargain, in the arrangement of a social gathering, but you never see it in the work of the Lord. The young man comes to the front as a volunteer, or as a member of a club, or in the house of business, but who ever hears of him in the Sabbath school, the prayer-meeting, or the home-mission? In the things of God such persons owe any measure of progress which they make to the influence of their fellows who bear them along as so much dead weight, they themselves never throwing enough weight into the matter to add a single half-ounce of spiritual power to the church. Now, all this is mischievous and wrong.
My dear friends, we must all confess that if the religion of Christ be true it deserves that we should give our whole selves to it. If it be a lie let it be scoured from creation; but if it he true, it is a matter concerning which we cannot be neutral or lukewarm, for it demands our soul, our life, our all, and its claim cannot be denied. There must be a determination wrought in our souls by the Holy Spirit to be upright and downright in the work of the Lord, or else we shall be little worth.
We come however to closer matters of fact when we observe next that our taking fast hold of the things of God must depend upon the thoroughness of our conversion. In this church we try, as far as we can, in
receiving church-members, to receive none but those who give clear evidence of a change of heart; but this evidence can be imitated so skilfully that the best examination and the most earnest judgment cannot prevent self-deceived persons from making a profession of religion. This we cannot help, but woe to those who wilfully deceive. Many exhibit flowers and fruits which never grew in their own gardens; their experience is borrowed and does not spring from the essential root of the Holy Ghost's work within their souls: this is sad indeed. Our condition before God is a personal matter and can never be settled by the judgment of our fellows, for what can others know of the workings of our hearts? Each man must judge himself and examine himself, for whatever a church may attempt in its zeal for purity, it can never take the responsibility of his own sincerity from any man. We do not pretend to give certificates of salvation, and if we did they would be worthless; you must yourselves know the Lord and be really converted, or else your profession is a forgery and you yourselves are counterfeits. If a man shall in after life hold fast the things of God he must be soundly converted at first. Very much of his after life depends upon the thoroughness of his beginning. There must at the very first be a deep sense of sin, a consciousness of guilt, a holy horror of evil, or he will never make much of a Christian. I do not say that all or even any of those doubts and temptations and satanic suggestions which some have had to struggle with, are necessary to make a true conversion; but I must confess that I am not at all displeased when I meet with a good deal of battling and struggling in the experience of the newly awakened. It is not pleasant for them, but we hope it will be profitable. Those whose souls are ploughed and ploughed and ploughed again before the seed is sown upon them, often yield the best crop. John Bunyan's "Grace Abounding" very much accounts for John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress." If it had not been for his terrible conflicts of soul he might not have known how to hold fast his confidence when shut up for twelve years in prison, nor would he have seen visions of the celestial city when all around him was as the valley of the shadow of death. I do not wish to see seeking souls distressed by Satan, but I do press for this-- that there shall be an end of self-trust, a total destruction of selfrighteousness, a complete giving up of all legal and carnal hopes, or else the conversion will be a mere show and he who is the subject of it will be like Ephraim, a silly dove without heart. Unless repentance of sin is real in you, you will never take fast hold of the truth of God.
And there must be, dear friends, a very sincere laying hold upon Christ Jesus. If you have any doubt about the doctrine of atonement I do not wonder if your religion soon wears into shreds. No, you must without question accept the substitutionary sacrifice; your soul must feel that the precious blood is her only hope, that this and this alone can make her clean before the living God. You must fly to Christ in desperation, and cling to him as all your salvation and all your desire; there must be no hesitancy here. At the very outset of the Christian life these two things should be very distinct with you --sin which has ruined you, and Christ who has saved you. Make a muddle at first and your life will be a tangle. Some tradesmen never carry on their business well, they evidently do not more than half understand it and are mere bunglers. Now, if you come to enquire you will find that they were never thoroughly grounded in their calling; either they never served an apprenticeship, or else they were lazy lads and never became masters of their trade, and this bad commencement sticks to them all their lives. It is the same with the higher learning. A man may go a long way in the classics, but if he was not grounded in the grammar he will be everlastingly making mistakes which a sound scholar will soon discover. Every teacher must work hard at the elements if his pupils are to succeed. Whatever you do with the higher forms, do teach that little boy his grammar, ground him in the rudiments, or he will be injured for life. To borrow another illustration, we have heard of a bridge which spanned a stream and for some years stood well enough, but by-and-by through the force of the current, it began to show signs of giving way. When it came to be examined it was soon seen that the builders never went deep enough with the foundations. There is the mischief of thousands of other things besides bridges. We must have good and deep foundations or otherwise the higher we build the sooner the fabric will fall. Look at many of the wretched houses in the streets around us, they are the disgrace of the city; you will see settlements and cracks everywhere because of bad foundations and bad materials. The same is true in the characters of many professed Christians; for want of a good commencement you can see flaws and cracks innumerable and you wonder that they do not come down in sudden ruin. So indeed they would, but like those wretched houses they hold one another up. Many professors only keep upright because they stand in a row and derive support from their associations. I wish we could see more Christian men of the sort who dare to stand alone, like those old family mansions which stand each one in its own garden, so well built that when we begin to take them down each brick is found to be solid as granite, and the mortar is as hard as a rock. Such buildings and such men become every day more rare, but we must come back to the old style, and the sooner the better. Those of you who are yet in the early days of your piety should see to this. See that you are right, and sound, and thorough, and take fast hold of truth in the days of your first love, or yours will be but a sickly life in years to come.
This being taken for granted, the next help to a fast hold of Christ is hearty discipleship. Brethren, as soon as you are converted you become the disciples of Jesus, and if you are to become fast-holding Christians you must acknowledge him to be your Master, Teacher, and Lord in all things, and resolve to be good scholars in his school. He will be the best Christian who has Christ for his Master and truly follows him. Some are disciples of the church, others are disciples of the minister, and a third sort are disciples of their own thoughts; he is the wise man who sits at Jesus' feet and learns of him with the resolve to follow his teaching and imitate his example. He who tries to learn of Jesus himself, taking the very words from the Lord's own lips, binding himself to believe whatsoever the Lord hath taught and to do whatsoever he hath commanded--he I say, is the stable Christian. Follow Jesus my brethren and not the church, for our Lord has never said to his disciples, "Follow your brethren," but he has said "Follow me." He has not said, "Abide by the denominational confession," but he has said, "Abide in me." Nothing must come in between our souls and our Lord. What if fidelity to Jesus should sometimes lead us to differ from our brethren? What matters it so long as we do not differ from our Master? Crochets and quibbles are evil things, but a keenly sensitive conscientiousness is invaluable. Be true disciples of Christ and let his least word be precious to you. Remember that if a man love him he will keep his words; and he hath said, "he that shall break one of the least of these my commandments and shall teach men so, the same shall be least in the kingdom of heaven." Shun all compromises and abatements of truth, but be thorough and determined, holding fast your Savior's words. Follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. If such be your resolve by the grace of God, you will take fast hold of instruction and will never let it go.