Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown.
Those who are sincere Christians ought to be very careful that they hold fast and preserve that which they have. You must by no means abandon the faith and truth which ye once espoused, you must continue in grace and persist in the ways of virtue, through all opposition. A Christian ought to strive and endeavour for final holiness. He must persevere not only in the profession of all Divine truths, but in the performance of all the duties which are enjoined by the Christian religion.
I. ON WHAT ACCOUNTS WE ARE OBLIGED TO BE CAREFUL THAT WE PERSEVERE IN TRUTH AND GODLINESS.
1. As to the benefit and advantage of persevering, it were enough to say that this is that which will give us an assurance of the sincerity of our hearts, and of the reality of our holiness. Many men's beginnings are tolerably good, but they grow worse afterwards, and their end is worst of all. Therefore it is the conclusion that must be the trial of men. Next, I will show the advantage of this admirable gift from that portion of Scripture to which my text belongs: "Thou hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My Name." Now, observe what are the advantages. "Behold, I will make them of the Synagogue of Satan, to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee," i.e., I will make heretics, apostates, and false brethren ashamed: they shall at last be forced to condemn their own hypocrisy and apostasy, and to reverence that sincerity and uprightness which appear in the lives of those holy men whom no temptations could withdraw from their duty, but who in all seasons held fast their integrity. It follows, ver. 10. "Because thou hast kept the Word of My patience, I also will keep," etc. Here is another benefit of perseverance, namely, God keeps those who keep His Word, who continue in it, and forsake not the profession and practice of it. Such persons shall be kept in an hour of temptation, i.e., in a remarkable time of distress. And He adds, "That no man take thy crown": where, according to the different sense of this clause, there is a double reason suggested, that we should not apostatise from the ways of God. If by crown be meant religion itself, then we have reason to hold it fast, because it is a thing of so excellent a nature. It is our crown, our dignity, our glory. Or, we may understand this of the crown of perseverance, and then the sense may be this, Hold that fast which thou hast, continue so steadfast in your religion and in your duty that no man may be able to take your crown from you, i.e., to rob you of your constancy and perseverance, for these are the crown of a Christian. And they are called so because they are the consummating of all, according to that known maxim, the end crowns the work, i.e., accomplisheth the whole enterprise. Again, perseverance is deservedly called a crown, because it is this which entitles you to a crown of glory. It is in vain that we set out well at first, and run swiftly, if we reach not the end of the race, and come up to the very goal. This may convince you of the benefit and advantage of this duty. So that I need not insist much on the evil of apostasy. Apostasy is near akin to the unpardonable sin (Matthew 5:13). This doctrine condemns the apostasy of these times we live in.
II. THE MOST EFFECTUAL HELPS TO PERSEVERANCE, AND THE MOST SOVEREIGN ANTIDOTES AGAINST APOSTASY.
1. The first effectual help is serious deliberation and choice. For it is certain that this is one cause of apostasy that men do not sit down and consider before they enter into religion. They take up the principles and practice of religion too hastily; and so it is no wonder that as they rashly took them up, they as suddenly lay them down. The old aphorism is true here, "Nothing that is violent lasts long." Force a stone upwards with never so great strength, yet you shall soon see it fall down again. And to this purpose furnish yourselves with a sufficient stock of knowledge; for this will help to preserve you from falling away (Proverbs 2:11, 12). They are the ignorant and novices that usually leave the paths of uprightness. Let religion be founded in serious consideration and choice, and then you will not bid farewell to it in evil times, when you come to be tried; then you will not shrink and fall back, and, like ill-built ships, sink in the launching.
2. That you may do so, carefully look to your heart, for thence is the rise of all your backsliding. What you can do in religion, though it be never so weak and mean, do it heartily.
3. That you may hold fast that which you have, and not revolt from God and His ways, see that you be very humble Unless you lay your foundation low, your fabric will not stand long.
4. To humility you must not forget to join fearfulness, according to that of the apostle, "Be not high-minded, but fear." I do not speak of such a fear as is accompanied with cowardice; but such a religious awe upon our minds, whereby we are sensible of our own inability to stand, and therefore we are wary and cautious.
5. Are you desirous to persevere, and continue to the end in the ways of truth and holiness? Then see that your affections be not immoderately carried out towards this world.
6. That you may not be of this number, fix and establish yourselves by faith. "Thou standest by faith," saith the apostle (Romans 11:12). This grace is an establishing, confirming, strengthening grace; and as long as we maintain this, we shall never fall away. But on the contrary, know this — that unbelief is one grand cause of apostasy — which was the occasion of that caution given in Hebrews 3:12. Such as your faith is, such is your fortitude; therefore endeavour to attain great measures of this, that you may with undaunted valour withstand the temptations of the evil spirit, and keep your station when he is most desirous to put you to flight. Cleave to the Rock of Ages, and you shall stand immovable; rely on Him, and you shall be upheld; depend on His promises, and you shall never fall.
7. That you may never turn apostates, entertain a love of God and goodness in your breasts. Love as well as faith is an establishing grace. Therefore St. Jude had reason to speak thus to the Christians of his days (ver. 28), "Keep yourselves in the love of God." If they would be steadfast in their religion, they must embrace it out of love.
8. In order to perseverance be careful to nourish a patient and resigning temper of mind.
9. Grow in grace, strive for the utmost attainments in Christianity; for this likewise is an approved remedy against apostasy. See then that you cast off all slothfulness, and remember that constant endeavours and the continual exercise of Christian graces are the conditions of perseverance. Be diligent, then, to improve your graces, and to make accessions to what you have.
10. That you may continue and persevere in all holiness, take care that those means, those institutions, those ordinances, which were appointed for this purpose, be not neglected by you. Lastly, Be ever watchful and circumspect, if you would hold fast what you have.
Parallel VersesKJV: Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.