Thursday, September 24, 2009

Charles Spurgeon: The Form and Spirit of Religion

Following is the introduction to a sermon by Charles Spurgeon. Please follow the link to read the whole sermon.
A Sermon

(No. 186)

Delivered on Sabbath Morning, April 4, 1858, by the


At the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.

“Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the Lord out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies.”—1 Samuel 4:3.

THESE MEN made a great mistake: what they wanted was the Lord in their midst; whereas they imagined that the symbol of God’s presence, the ark of the covenant, would be amply sufficient to bestow upon them the assistance which they required in the day of battle. As is man, such must his religion be. Now, man is a compound being. To speak correctly, man is a spiritual being: he hath within him a soul, a substance far beyond the bounds of matter. But man is also made up of a body as well as a soul. He is not pure spirit; his spirit is incarnate in flesh and blood. Now, such is our religion. The religion of God is, as to its vitality, purely spiritual—always so; but since man is made of flesh as well as of spirit, it seemed necessary that his religion should have something of the outward, external, and material, in which to embody the spiritual, or else man would not have been able to lay hold upon it. This was especially the case under the old dispensation. The religion of the Jew is really a heavenly and spiritual thing; a thing of thought, a thing that concerns the mind and spirit; but the Jew was untaught; he was but a babe, unable to understand spiritual things unless he saw them pictured out to him, or, (to repeat what I have just said) unless he saw them embodied in some outward type and symbol: and therefore God was pleased to give the Jew a great number of ceremonies, which were to his religion what the body is to man’s soul. The Jewish religion taught the doctrine of the atonement, but the Jew could not understand it, and therefore God gave him a lamb to be slain every morning and every evening, and he gave him a goat over which the sins of the people were to be confessed, and which was to be driven into the depths of the wilderness, to show the great doctrine of a substitute and atonement through him. The Jewish religion teaches, as one of its prominent doctrines, the unity of the Godhead; but the Jew was ever apt to forget that there was but one God; and God, to teach him that, would have but one temple, and but one altar upon which the sacrifice might rightly be offered. So that the idea of the one God was (as I have already said) made incarnate in the fact that there was but one temple, but one altar, and but one great high priest. And mark, this is true of our religion—Christianity: not true to so full an extent as of Judaism—for the religion of the Jew had a gross and heavy body—but our religion has a body transparent, and having but little of materialism in it. If you ask me what I would call the materialism of our religion, the embodiment of the spiritual part of that in which we trust and hope, I would point, first of all, to the two ordinances of the Lord, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. I would point you next to the services of God’s house, to the Sabbath day, to the outward ritual of our worship: I would point you to our solemn song, to our sacred service of prayer; and I would point you also—and I think I am right in so doing—to the form of sound words, which we ever desire to hold fast and firm, as containing that creed which it is necessary for men to believe if they would hold the truth as it is in Jesus. Our religion, then, has an outward form even to this day; for the Apostle Paul, when he spoke of professing Christians, spoke of some who had “a form of godliness, but denied the power thereof.” So that it is still true, though I confess not to the same extent as it was in the days of Moses, that religion must have a body, that the spiritual thing may come out palpably before our vision, and that we may see it.


Chrissy said...

I love your blog. You are courageous and not afraid to stand for truth.

Paul said...

Very Nice.

Jennie said...

Thanks Paul,
I needed the encouragement; I have been very discouraged over on Elena's blog.

Jennie said...

thanks so much, and welcome; I'm glad you're here.

Daughter of Wisdom said...

Glad to see you back on your blog again!

Jennie said...

Thanks Hillary!

Jennie said...

I think this sermon is applicable to the Roman Catholic idea of Mary as the Ark of the Covenant. The Bible teaches that believers must trust in Him alone. He is our only helper, savior and mediator.

Jennie said...

If the Ark in any way represents Mary, it is as she also represents God's people, the Church and Israel; but I have always been used to thinking of the Ark of the Covenant as representing Christ Himself; so I believe the lid or Mercy seat certainly represents Christ and the box MIGHT represent His people, covered by His mercy, and holding His law in their hearts.

Jennie said...

and the Bethshemites took off the lid, and looked into the ark of the Lord, and, for this, the Lord “smote of that people fifty-thousand and three-score and ten men; and the people lamented because the Lord had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter.” These Bethshemites had no intention whatever of dishonouring the ark. They had a vain curiosity to look within, and the sight of those marvellous tables of stone struck them with death; for the law, when it is not covered by the mercy-seat, is death to any man, and it was death to them. Now, you will easily remember how very solemn a penalty is attached to any man’s intruding into the outward form of religion when he is not called to do so. Let me quote this awful passage: “He” (speaking of the Lord’s Supper) “that eateth and drinketh unworthily eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” How frightful an announcement is that! A curse is pronounced upon the man who dares to touch even the outward form of religion, unless he hath the power of it; and we know there is nothing which excites God’s holy anger more swiftly than a man’s attending to the ordinances of his house and making an outward profession of being in Christ, while he has no part nor lot in the matter.