“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
And now, in the last place, it is mine to warn you that to trust in ceremonies is a most deceitful thing, and will end in the most terrific consequences. When these people had got the ark into the camp, they shouted for joy, because they thought themselves quite safe; but, alas, they met with a greater defeat than before. Only four thousand men had been killed in the first battle, but in the second, thirty thousand footmen of Israel fell down dead. How vain are the hopes that men build upon their good works, and ceremonial observances! How frightful is that delusion which teaches for the gospel a thing which is not “the gospel,” nor “another gospel;” but it is a thing that would pervert the gospel of Christ. My hearer, let me ask thee solemnly, what is thy ground of hope? Dost thou rely on baptism? O man, how foolish art thou!
…. No, my friends, be ye Presbyterians, Episcopalians, or Dissenters, it matters not, ye have your ceremonies; and there are some among us that rely upon them. This one truth cuts at the root of us all. If this be our hope, it is a foul delusion. We must have faith in Jesus, we must have the new heart and the right spirit. no outward forms can make us clean. The leprosy lies deep within; and unless there be an inward work, no outward work can ever satisfy God, and give us an entrance into Paradise.
Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Delivered Sunday Morning, April 4, 1858
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens
New Park Street Pulpit, Vol. 4, Sermon No. 186
“The Form and Spirit of Religion”