The attraction of the cross!

Spurgeon, "A Blow for Puseyism" No. 653.

"The Spirit gives life. Human effort accomplishes nothing.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."
-John 6:63

True religion has always been spiritual,
but mere professors have ever been content
with the outward form alone.

The most of mankind cannot get on with a religion
in which there is nothing to see, nothing to please
the ear, or nothing to gratify their taste.

It is only the spiritual man who is so overwhelmed
with the glories of God that he does not need the
glories of man-- so overcome with the splendor of
Christ that he does not want the splendor of the
multitude-- so taken up with the magnificence of
the great High Priest that he does not care for
gorgeously appareled priests.

"What!" they say, "a religion in which there is
nothing for me to see! What! an unseen altar?"
Yes, an unseen altar.
"Am I not to see the sacrifice?"
"Never to see it? Then I do not understand it.
What! a God, but no symbols! No crucifixes!
No crosses! What! no holy wafer, no sacred
place, nothing sacred."
No, nothing visible to be reverenced,
nothing whatever but the unseen God.
"What! not even my place of worship,
is not that to be holy?"
If you are a Christian- all places must alike
be sacred to you. "Neither in this mountain, nor
yet at Jerusalem, shall men worship the Father,
but those that worship him must worship him in
spirit and in truth."
You must be yourself a temple, and God must
dwell in you. You must be yourself a priest, and
anywhere you may offer spiritual sacrifice.

Ritual performances are very pretty spectacles
for silly young ladies, and sillier men to gaze upon,
but there is no shadow of spiritual life in them!
Now, you see at once that Ritual Performances
are not spiritual things-- these are not life.

Church rituals do not look like a divine thing--
on the contrary, if I stand among the throng, and
gaze at all its prettinesses, it looks amazingly
like a nursery game, or a stage play.

"Lack of taste!", you say.

Not so, I reply-- my eyes admire your glittering colors,
and the splendor of your services is breath-taking to me.
As a man, I enjoy the swell of your organ, and I can
even put up with the smell of your incense, but my
spirit does not care for these fooleries, it turns away
sickened, and cries, "There is nothing here for me--
there is no more nourishment for the spirit in all this
than there is food for man in a swine's trough!"

The words of Jesus Christ are thoroughly unceremonial
and informal- they are spirit and they are life, and we
turn to them with all the greater zest after having
seen enough of your childish things.

The external observances of religion
in themselves are utterly unprofitable!

What is the life of godliness?
What is the vitality and essence of acceptable worship?

Jesus' answer virtually is, "It is not your outward
observances, but your inward emotions, desires,
believings, and adorings, which are living worship."

Much is said now-a-days about an ornate form of worship–
The excellency of melodious music is much extolled.
The swell of the organ, it is said, begets a hallowed
frame of mind. But how far is the effect sensuous,
and how far spiritual?
Is it not to be feared that a song in a
church service is often no more a spiritual
exercise than a tune at a concert.

Music has charms, and he who cannot feel them is to be pitied.
But, then, acceptable heart worship is quite another thing–
no arrangement of notes and chords can ever do the work
of God the Holy Spirit. Unless music can aid in making
sinners penitent, in leading souls to Jesus Christ, or
uplifting saints in holy joy to the throne of God, we must
hold that in vital godliness it profits nothing.

Architecture, with its arched roofs, and noble pillars,
and dim religious light, is supposed to impart a reverence
and awe which befit the solemn engagements of the
Sabbath, and draw the mind towards the invisible God.
Well, if combinations of stone can sanctify the spirit of
man, it is a pity that the gospel did not prescribe
architecture as the remedy for the ruin of the fall!

If gorgeous buildings make men love God, and
long-drawn aisles renovate men's spiritual nature,
build, all you builders, both day and night!
If bricks and mortar can lead us to heaven, alas
for the confusion which stopped the works at Babel!
If there be such a connection between spires and
spiritual things as to make human hearts beat in
unison with the will of God, then build high and
loftily, and lavish your gold and silver!

But if all that you produce is sensuous, and nothing
more, then turn to living stones, and seek to build
up a spiritual house with spiritual means.

The real inward spirit of man is not blessed by
sounds which charm the ear but appeal not to
the understanding, nor by colors which delight
the eye but gladden not the affections of man.

To gratify taste is well enough for the carnal,
but it profits nothing in the sight of God.

It may be as well to be artistic as to be plain,
but it is of no matter either way, if tested by
the Word– in the balances of the sanctuary
these matters are lighter than vanity!

We must make precisely the same remark
concerning the eloquence of the preacher.
Many persons have come to think that oratorical
ability is essential in the minister. It is not enough,
some think, to preach the truth with the Holy Spirit
sent down from heaven-- we must also preach it in
the wisdom of words with excellency of speech.
The trappings of oratory, and the drapery of eloquence,
are thought to be profitable.

Ah! dear friends, one half of the emotions excited
in our places of worship are of no more value than
those excited at the theater!

The mere ring of words is no more profitable
than a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal.
"The flesh profits nothing."

So far as the truth itself moves our inmost souls,
preaching is of real service. But if that which you
hear only commends itself to you because of the
sweet voice that speaks it, or the entertaining
tones in which it is delivered, your hearing is a
carnal exercise, and profits you nothing.

It is only when your spirit grasp the truths, when
your heart embraces Christ, when your soul beholds
God by the eye of faith, that you derive benefit.

I grant you that excitement may sometimes be
used by God to stir the spirit of man, but unless,
my dear hearers, your religion is based on
something more than natural excitement,
it is based upon a lie.

Your spirit must come to know its ruin before God,
and be humbled. Your spirit must come to take
hold of Jesus Christ and believe in him. Your spirit
must undergo the divine change which only God the
Holy Spirit can work, or else that excitement shall
be nothing more than the blowing up of a bubble,
which shall burst and leave not a vestige behind!

Take care of any religion which merely tickles your
fancy, excites your passions, or stirs your blood!

True grace penetrates the very core of our nature,
it changes the heart, subdues the will, renews the
passions, and makes us new creatures in Christ Jesus.

You would feel unhappy if you had spent the whole
Sunday without going to a place of worship, but you
are quite at ease if you come here and leave your
hearts at home. When we are singing, you sing with
us, and when we are praying, you cover your eyes too,
and when we are preaching, some of you think of what
I am talking about, and some do not. And when you
get through the appointed hour, you feel quite easy.
But oh! remember that the mere physical
act of being here, profits nothing!

Oh! dear friends, do shake off the idea, that going
up to a place of worship, or opening a Bible, or
reading family prayer, or kneeling down, can,
as mere acts, save your souls.

The mere form of worship profits nothing!

It is only as your spirit prays,
as your spirit seeks,
as your spirit worships,
as your spirit listens to God's Word,
that there is any quickening power in it whatsoever.

I wish that all ministers of Christ would
scorn to use any carnal weapons.

I know the talk is, that we ought to vie with
the false churches in the beauty of our services.
But this is a temptation of the devil!

If the simple preaching of the cross will not
attract the people, let them stay away!

Let the Lord's servants abandon the sword
and shield of Saul, and go forth with the
gospel sling and stone!

Our weapons are the words of Jesus-
these are spirit and these are life.

Architecture, apparel, music, liturgies--
these are neither spirit nor life–
let those rest on them who will–
we can do without them, by God's help.

My dear brethren in Christ, ministers of the
gospel– let me implore you, stick to the gospel!

Set your backs against the tendency of the times
to depart from the simplicity of Jesus Christ.

If men will not come to hear us because we preach
the gospel, draw them by no other attractions.
We need no attraction but the cross!
An uplifted Savior draws all men to him still!

"The Spirit gives life. Human effort accomplishes nothing.
The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life."
-John 6:63