Sunday Considerations: Superficial Religion

How many are there who never put their trust in Him who was slain for the sons of men? They love a superficial religion, but when a man talks deeper than that, they set it down for cant! You may love all that is external about religion, just as you may love a man for his clothes—caring nothing for the man, himself. If so, I know you are one of those who reject the Gospel. You will hear me preach. And while I speak about the externals, you will hear me with attention. And while I plead for morality and argue against drunkenness, or show the heinousness of Sabbath-breaking, all well and good. But if once I say, “Except you be converted and become as little children, you can in no wise enter into the Kingdom of God.” If once I tell you that you must be elect of God—that you must be purchased with the Savior’s blood – that you must be converted by the Holy Spirit—you will say, “He is a fanatic! Away with him, away with him! We do not want to hear that any more.” Christ crucified is to the Jew—the  ceremonialist—a stumbling block!

But there is another specimen of this Jew to be found. He is thoroughly orthodox in his sentiments. As for forms and ceremonies, he thinks nothing about them. He goes to a place of worship where he learns sound Doctrine. He will hear nothing but what is true. He likes that we should have good works and morality. He is a good man and no man can find fault with him. Here he is, regular in his Sunday pew. In the market he walks before men in all honesty—so you would imagine. Ask him about any Doctrine and he can give you a formal discourse upon it. In fact, he could write a treatise upon anything in the Bible and a great many things besides. He knows almost everything. And here, up in this dark attic of the head, his religion has taken up its abode. He has a better parlor down in his heart, but his religion never goes there—that is shut against it. He has money in there—mammon, worldliness. Or he has something else—self-love, pride. Perhaps he loves to hear experimental preaching. He admires it all. In fact, he loves anything that is sound. But then he has not any sound in himself—or rather, it is all sound and there is no substance. He likes to hear true Doctrine. But it never penetrates his inner man. You never see him weep. Preach to him about Christ crucified, a glorious subject, and you never see a tear roll down his cheek. Tell him of the mighty influence of the Holy Spirit—he admires you for it—but he never had the hand of the Holy Spirit on his soul. Tell him about communion with God, plunging into the Godhead’s deepest sea and being lost in its immensity—the man loves to hear—but he never experiences! He has never communed with Christ and accordingly when once you begin to strike home, when you lay him on the table, take out your dissecting knife, begin to cut him up and show him his own heart—let him see what it is by nature and what it must become by Grace—the man starts, he cannot stand that! He wants none of that—Christ received in the heart and accepted.

Albeit that he loves it enough in the head, ‘tis to him a stumbling block and he casts it away. Do you see yourselves here, my Friends? Do you see yourselves as others see you? Do you see yourselves as God sees you? For so it is, here are many to whom Christ is as much a stumbling block now as ever He was. O you formalists! I speak to you! O you who have the nutshell, but abhor the kernel! O you who like the trappings and the dress, but care not for that fair virgin who is clothed therewith—O you who admire the paint and the tinsel, but abhor the solid gold, I speak to you! I ask you, does your religion give you solid comfort? Can you stare death in the face with it and say, “I know that my Redeemer lives”? – Charles Spurgeon.  Sermon excerpt from “Christ Crucified,” 1855.

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