“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” 2 Tim. 3.5.
“He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is
outward in the flesh:
“But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the
spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”Rom. 2.28,29.
The texts which head this page deserve serious attention at any time. But they deserve especial notice in this age of the Church and world. Never since the Lord Jesus Christ left the earth, was there so much formality and false profession as there is at the present day. Now, if ever, we ought to examine ourselves, and search our
religion, that we may know of what sort it is. Let us try to find out whether our Christianity is a thing of form or a thing of heart.
I know no better way of unfolding the subject than by turning to a plain passage of the Word of God. Let us hear what St. Paul says about it. He lays down the following great principles in his Epistle to the Romans: “He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” Rom. 2.28,29.). Three most instructive lessons appear to me to stand out on the face of that passage. Let us see what they are.
1. We learn, firstly, that formal religion is not religion, and a formal Christian is not a Christian in God’s sight.
2. We learn, secondly, that the heart is the seat of true religion, and that the true Christian is the Christian in heart.
3. We learn, thirdly, that true religion must never expect to be popular. It will not have the “praise of man, but of God.”
Let us thoroughly consider these great principles. Two hundred years have passed away since a mighty Puritan divine said,
“Formality, formality, formality is the great sin of England at this day, under which the land groans.Â—There is more light than there was, but less life; more shadow, but less substance; more profession, but less sanctification” (Thomas Hall, on 2 Tim. 3.5, 1658.). What would this good man have said if he had lived in our times?
1. We learn first, that formal religion is not religion, and a formal Christian is not a Christian in God’s sight.
What do I mean when I speak of formal religion? This is a point that must be made clear. Thousands, I suspect, know nothing about it. Without a distinct understanding of this point my whole paper will be useless. My first step shall be to paint, describe, and define.
When a man is a Christian in name only, and not in reality,Â—in
outward things only, and not in his inward feelings,Â—in profession only, and not in practice,Â—when his Christianity in short is a mere matter of form, or fashion, or custom, without any influence on his heart or life,Â—in such a case as this the man has what I call a “formal religion.” He possesses indeed the form, or husk, or skin of religion, but he does not possess its substance or its power.
Look for example at those thousands of people whose whole religion seems to consist in keeping religious ceremonies and ordinances. They attend regularly on public worship. They go regularly to the Lord’s table. But they never get any further. They know nothing of experimental Christianity. They are not familiar with the Scriptures, and take no delight in reading them. They do not separate themselves from the ways of the world. They draw no distinction between godliness and ungodliness in their friendships, or matrimonial alliances. They care little or nothing about the distinctive doctrines of the Gospel. They appear utterly indifferent as to what they hear preached. You may be in their company for weeks, and for anything you may hear or see on a week day you might suppose they were infidels or deists. What can be said about these people? They are Christians undoubtedly, by profession; and yet there is neither heart nor life in their Christianity. There is but one thing to be said about them.Â—They are formal Christians. Their religion is a FORM.
Look in another direction at those hundreds of people whose whole religion seems to consist in talk and high profession. They know the theory of the Gospel with their heads, and profess to delight in Evangelical doctrine. They can say much about the ‘soundness” of their own views, and the “darkness” of all who disagree with them. But they never get any further! When you examine their inner lives you find that they know nothing of practical godliness. They are neither truthful, nor charitable, nor humble, nor honest, nor kind-tempered, nor gentle, nor unselfish, nor honourable. What shall we say of these people? They are Christians, no doubt, in name, and yet there is neither substance nor Fruit in their Christianity. There is but one thing to be said.Â—They are formal Christians. Their religion is an empty FORM.
Such is the formal religion against which I wish to raise a warning voice this day. Here is the rock on which myriads on every side are making miserable shipwreck of their souls. One of the wickedest things that Machiavelli ever said was this: “Religion itself should not be cared for, but only the appearance of it. The credit of it is a help;
the reality and use is a cumber.” Such notions are of the earth, earthy. Nay, rather they are from beneath: they smell of the pit. Beware of them, and stand upon your guard. If there is anything
about which the Scripture speaks expressly, it is the sin and uselessness of FORMALITY.
Hear what St. Paul tells the Romans: “He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh” (Rom. 2.28.). These are strong words indeed! A man might be a son of Abraham according to the flesh,Â—a member of one of the twelve tribes,Â—circumcised the eighth day,Â—a keeper of all the beasts,Â—a regular worshipper in the temple,Â—and yet in God’s sight not be a Jew!Â—Just so a man may be a Christian by outward profession,Â—a member of a Christian Church,Â—baptized with Christian baptism,Â—an attendant on Christian ordinances,Â—and yet, in God’s sight, not be a Christian at all.
Hear what the prophet Isaiah says: “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me? saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks or of lambs, or of he-goats. When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? Bring no more vain oblations: incense is an abomination unto Me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble into Me: I am weary to bear them. And when ye spread forth your hands I will hide mine eyes from you; yea, when ye make many prayers I will not hear: your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1.10-15.). These words, when duly weighed, are very extraordinary. The sacrifices which are here declared to be useless were appointed by God Himself! The feasts and ordinances which God says He ”hates,” had been prescribed by Himself! God Himself pronounces His own instituions to be useless when they are used formally and without heart in the worshipper! In fact they are worse than useless;
they are even offensive and hurtful. Words cannot be imagined more distinct and unmistakeable. They show that formal religion is worthless in God’s sight. It is not worth calling religion at all.
Hear, lastly, what our Lord Jesus Christ says. We find Him saying of the Jews of His day, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me” (Matt. 15.8,9.). We see Him repeatedly denouncing the formalism and hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, and warning His disciples against it. Eight times in one chapter (Matt. 23.13) He says to them, “Woe unto you, scribes md Pharisees, hypocrites!” For sinners of the worst description He always had a word of kindness, and held out to them an open door. But formalism, He would have us know, is a desperate disease, and must be exposed in the severest language. To the eye of an ignorant man a formalist may seem to have a very decent quantity of religion,
though not perhaps of the best quality. In the eye of Christ, however, the case is very different. In His sight formality is no religion at all.
What shall we say to these testimonies of Scripture? It would be easy to add to them. They do not stand alone. If words mean anything, they are a clear warning to all who profess and call themselves Christians. They teach us plainly that as we dread sin and avoid sin, so we ought to dread formality and avoid formality. Formalism may take our hand with a smile, and look like a brother, while sin comes against us with sword drawn, and strikes at us like an open enemy. But both have one end in view. Both want to ruin our souls; and of the two, formalism is far the most likely to do it. If we love life, let us beware of formality in religion.
Nothing is so common. It is one of the great family diseases of the whole race of mankind. It is born with us, grows with us, and is never completely cast out of us till we die. It meets us in church, and it meets us in chapel. It meets us among rich, and it meets us among poor. It meets us among learned people, and it meets us among unlearned. It meets us among Romanists, and it meets us among Protestants. It meets us among High Churchmen, and it meets us among Low Churchmen. It meets us among Evangelicals, and it meets us among Ritualists. Go where we will, and join what Church we may, we are never beyond the risk of its infection. We shall find it among Quakers and Plymouth Brethren, as well as at Rome. The man who thinks that, at any rate, there is no formal religion in his own camp, is a very blind and ignorant person. If you love life, beware of formality.
Nothing is so dangerous to a man’s own soul. Familiarity with the form of religion, while we neglect its reality, has a fearfully deadening effect on the conscience. It brings up by degrees a thick trust of insensibility over the whole inner man. None seem to become so desperately hard as those who are continually repeating holy words and handling holy things, while their hearts are running after sin and the world. Landlords who only go to church formally, to set an example to their tenants,Â—masters who have family prayers formally, to keep up a good appearance in their households,Â—unconverted clergymen, who are every week reading prayers and lessons of Scripture, in which they feel no real interest,Â—unconverted singers, who sing the most spiritual hymns every Sunday, merely because they have good voices, while their affections are entirely on things below,Â—all, all, all are in awful danger. They are gradually hardening their hearts, and searing the skin of their consciences. If you love your own soul, beware of formality.
Nothing, finally, is so foolish, senseless, and unreasonable. Can a
formal Christian really suppose that the mere outward Christianity he professes will comfort him in the day of sickness and the hour of death? The thing is impossible. A painted fire cannot warm, and a painted banquet cannot satisfy hunger, and a formal religion cannot bring peace to the soul.Â—Can he suppose that God does not see the heartlessness and deadness of his Christianity? Though he may deceive neighbours, acquaintances, fellow-worshippers, and ministers with a form of godliness, does he think that he can deceive God? The very idea is absurd. “He that formed the eye, shall He not see?” He knows the very secrets of the heart. He will “judge the secrets of men” at the last day. He who said to each angel of the seven churches, “I know thy works,” is not changed. He who said to the man without the wedding garment, “Friend, how camest thou in hither?” will not be deceived by a little cloak of outward religion. If you would not be put to shame at the last day, once more I say, beware of formality (Psalm 94.9; Rom. 2.16; Rev. 2.2; Matt. 22.12.).
2. I pass on to the second thing which I proposed to consider. The heart is the seat of true religion, and the true Christian is the Christian in heart.
The heart is the real test of a man’s character. It is not what he says or what he does by which the man may be always known. He may say and do things that are right, from false and unworthy motives, while his heart is altogether wrong. The heart is the man. “As he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23.7.).
The heart is the right test of a man’s religion. It is not enough that a man holds a correct creed of doctrine, and maintains a proper outward form of godliness. What is his heart:Â—That is the grand question. This is what God looks at. “Man looketh at the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh at the heart” (1 Sam. 16.7.). This is what St. Paul lays down distinctly as the standard measure of the soul: “He is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart” (Rom. 2.28.). Who can doubt that his mighty sentence was written for Christians as well as for Jews? He is a Christian, the apostle would have us know, which is one inwardly, and baptism is that of the heart.
The heart is the place where saving religion must begin. It is naturally irreligious, and must be renewed by the Holy Ghost. “A new heart will I give unto you.”Â—It is naturally hard, and must be made tender and broken. “I will take away the heart of stone, and I will give you a heart of flesh.” “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.”Â— It is naturally closed and shut against God, and must be opened. The Lord “opened the heart” of Lydia (Ezek. 36.26; Psalm 51.17; Acts 16.14.).
The heart is the seat of true saving faith. “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Rom. 10.10.). A man may believe that Jesus is the Christ, as the devils do, and yet remain in his sins. He may believe that he is a sinner, and that Christ is the only Saviour, and feel occasional lazy wishes that he was a better man. But no one ever lays hold on Christ, and receives pardon and peace, until he believes with the heart. It is heart-faith that justifies.
The heart is the spring of true holiness and steady continuance in well-doing. True Christians are holy because their hearts are interested. They obey from the heart. They do the will of God from the heart. Weak, and feeble, and imperfect as all their doings are, they please God, because they are done from a loving heart. He who commended the widow’s mite more than all the offerings of the wealthy Jews, regards quality far more than quantity. What He likes to see is a thing done from “an honest and good heart” (Luke 8.15.). There is no real holiness without a right heart.
The things I am saying may sound strange. Perhaps they run counter to all the notions of some into whose hands this paper may fall. Perhaps you have thought that if a man’s religion is correct outwardly, he must be one with whom God is well pleased. You are completely mistaken. You are rejecting the whole tenor of Bible teaching. Outward correctness without a right heart is neither more nor less than Pharisaism. The outward things of Christianity,Â— baptism, the Lord’s Supper, church-membership, almsgiving, and the like,Â—will never take any man’s soul to heaven, unless his heart is right. There must be inward things as well as outward,Â—and it is on the inward things that God’s eyes are chiefly fixed.
Hear how St. Paul teaches us about this matter in three most striking texts: “In Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith that worketh by love.”Â—”In Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.”Â—”Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God” (Gal. 5.6; Gal. 6.15; 1 Cor. 7.19.). Did the Apostle only mean in these texts, that circumcision was no longer needed under the Gospel? Was that all? No indeed! I believe he meant much more. He meant that true religion did not consist of forms, and that its essence was something far greater than being circumcised or not circumcised. He meant that under Christ Jesus, everything depended on being born again,Â—on having true saving faith,Â—on being holy in life and conduct. He meant that these are the things we ought to look at chiefly, and not at outward forms. “Am I a new creature? Do I really believe on Christ? Am I a holy man?” These are the grand questions that we must seek to answer.
When the heart is wrong all is wrong in God’s sight. Many right
things may be done. The forms and ordinances which God Himself has appointed may seem to be honoured. But so long as the heart is at fault God is not pleased. He will have man’s heart or nothing.
The ark was the most sacred thing in the Jewish tabernacle. On it was the mercy-seat. Within it were the tables of the law, written by God’s own finger. The High Priest alone was allowed to go into the place where it was kept, within the veil, and that only once every year. The presence of the ark with the camp was thought to bring a special blessing. And yet this very ark could do the Israelites no more good than any common wooden box, when they trusted to it like an idol, with their hearts full of wickedness. They brought it into the camp, on a special occasion, saying, “Let us fetch the ark, that it may save us out of the hand of our enemies” (1 Sam. 4.3.). When it came in the camp they showed it all reverence and honour. “They shouted with a great shout, so that the earth rang again.” But it was all in vain. They were smitten before the Philistines, and the ark itself was taken. And why was this? It was because their religion was a mere form. They honoured the ark, but did not give the God of the ark their hearts.
There were some kings of Judah and Israel who did many things that were right in God’s sight, and yet were never written in the list of godly and righteous men. Rehoboam began well, and “for three years walked in the way of David and Solomon” (2 Chron. 11.17.). But afterwards “he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chron. 12.14.).Â—Abijah, according to the book of Chronicles, said many things that were right, and fought successfully against Jeroboam. Nevertheless the general verdict is against him. We read, in Kings, that “his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God” (1 Kings 15.3.).Â—Amaziah, we are expressly told, “did that which was right in the sight of the Lord, but not with a perfect heart” (2 Chron. 25.2.).Â—Jehu, King of Israel, was raised up, by God’s command, to put down idolatry. He was a man of special zeal in doing God’s work. But unhappily it is written of him:
“He took no heed to walk in the law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin” (2 Kings 10.31.). In short, one general remark applies to all these kings. They were all wrong inwardly. They were rotten at heart.
There are places of worship in England at this very day where all the outward things of religion are done to perfection. The building is beautiful. The service is beautiful. The singing is beautiful. The forms of devotion are beautiful. There is everything to gratify the senses. Eye, and ear, and natural sentimentality are all pleased. But all this time God is not pleased. One thing is lacking, and the want of that one thing spoils all. What is that one thing? It is heart! God sees
under all this fair outward show the form of religion put in the place of the substance, and when He sees that. He is displeased. He sees nothing with an eye of favour in the building, the service, the minister, or the people, if He does not see converted, renewed, broken, penitent hearts. Bowed heads, bended knees, loud amens, crossed hands, faces turned to the east, all, all are nothing in God’s sight without right hearts.
When the heart is right God can look over many things that are defective. There may be faults in judgment, and infirmities in practice. There may be many deviations from the best course in the outward things of religion. But if the heart is sound in the main, God is not extreme to mark that which is amiss. He is merciful and gracious, and will pardon much that is imperfect, when He sees a true heart and a single eye.
Jehoshaphat and Asa were kings of Judah, who were defective in many things. Jehoshaphat was a timid, irresolute man, who did not know how to say “No,” and joined affinity with Ahab, the wickedest king that ever reigned over Israel. Asa was an unstable man, who at one time trusted in the king of Syria more than in God, and at another time was wroth with God’s prophet for rebuking him (2 Chron. 16.10.). Yet both of them had one great redeeming point in their characters. With all their faults they had right hearts.
The passover kept by Hezekiah was one at which there were many irregularities. The proper forms were not observed by many. They ate the passover “otherwise than the commandment” ordered. But they did it with true and honest hearts. And we read that Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “The good Lord pardon every one that prepareth his heart to seek God,Â—though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. And the Lord hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people” (2 Chron. 30.18-20.).
The passover kept by Josiah must have been far smaller and worse attended than scores of passovers in the days of David and Solomon, or even in the reign of Jehoshaphat and Hezekiah. How then can we account for the strong language used in Scripture about it? “There was no passover like to that kept in Israel from the days of Samuel the prophet; neither did all the kings of Israel keep such a passover as Josiah kept, and the priests, and the Levites, and all Judah and Jerusalem that were present” (2 Chron. 35.18.). There is but one explanation. There never was a passover at which the hearts of the worshippers were so truly in the feast. The Lord does not look at the quantity of worshippers so much as the quality. The glory of Josiah’s passover was the state of people’s hearts.
There are many assemblies of Christian worshippers on earth at this very day in which there is literally nothing to attract the natural
man. They meet in miserable dirty chapels, so-called, or in wretched upper-rooms and cellars. They sing unmusically. They hear feeble prayers, and more feeble sermons. And yet the Holy Ghost is often in the midst of them! Sinners are often converted in them, and the kingdom of God prospers far more than in any Roman Catholic cathedral, or than in many gorgeous Protestant churches. How is this? How can it be explained? The cause is simply this, that in these humble assemblies heart-religion is taught and held. Heart-work is aimed at. Heart-work is honoured. And the consequence is that God is pleased and grants His blessing.
I leave this part of my subject here. I ask men to weigh well the things that I have been saying. I believe that they will bear examination, and are all true. Resolve this day, whatever Church you belong to, to be a Christian in heart. Whether Episcopalian or presbyterian, Baptist or Independent, be not content with a mere form of godliness, without the power. Settle it down firmly in your mind that formal religion is not saving religion, and that heart-religion is the only religion that leads to heaven.
I only give one word of caution. Do not suppose, because formal religion will not save, that forms of religion are of no use at all. Beware of any such senseless extreme. The misuse of a thing is no argument against the right use of it. The blind idolatry of forms which prevails in some quarters is no reason why you should throw all forms aside. The ark, when made an idol of by Israel and put in the place of God, was unable to save them from the Philistines. And yet the same ark, when irreverently and profanely handled, brought death on Uzzah; and when honoured and reverenced, brought a blessing on the house of Obed-edom. The words of Bishop Hall are strong, but true: “He that hath but a form is a hypocrite; but he that hath not a form is an Atheist.” Forms cannot save us, but they are not therefore to be despised. A lantern is not a man’s home, and yet it is a help to a man if he travels towards his home in a dark night. Use the forms of Christianity diligently, and you will find them a blessing. Only remember, in all your use of forms, the great principle, that the first thing in religion is the state of the heart.
3. I come now to the last thing which I proposed to consider. I said that true religion must never expect to be popular. It will not have the praise of man, but of God.
I dare not turn away from this part of my subject, however painful it may be. Anxious as I am to commend heart-religion to everyone who reads this paper, I will not try to conceal what heart-religion entails. I will not gain a recruit for my Master’s army under false pretences. I will not promise anything which the Scripture does not warrant. The words of St. Paul are clear and unmistakeable. Heart-
religion is a religion “whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom. 2.29.).
God’s truth and scriptural Christianity are never really popular. They never have been. They never will be as long as the world stands. No one can calmly consider what human nature is, as described in the Bible, and reasonably expect anything else. As long as man is what man is, the majority of mankind will always like a religion of form far better than a religion of heart.
Formal religion just suits an unenlightened conscience. Some religion a man will have. Atheism and downright infidelity, as a general rule, are never very popular. But a man must have a religion which does not require much, trouble his heart much, interfere with his sins much. Formal Christianity satisfies him. It seems the very thing that he wants.
Formal religion gratifies the secret self-righteousness of man. We are all of us more or less Pharisees. We all naturally cling to the idea that the way to be saved is to do so many things, and go through so many religious observances, and that at last we shall get to heaven. Formalism meets us here. It seems to show us a way by which we can make our own peace with God.
Formal religion pleases the natural indolence of man. It attaches in excessive importance to that which is the easiest part of Christianity,Â—the shell and the form. Man likes this. He hates trouble in religion. He wants something which will not meddle with his conscience and inner life. Only leave conscience alone, and, like Herod, he will “do many things.” Formalism seems to open a wider gate, and a more easy way to heaven (Mark 6.20.).
Facts speak louder than assertions. Facts are stubborn things. Look over the history of religion in every age of the world, and observe what has always been popular. Look at the history of Israel from the beginning of Exodus to the end of the Acts of the Apostles, and see what has always found favour. Formalism was one main sin against which the Old Testament prophets were continually protesting. Formalism was the great plague which had overspread the Jews, when our Lord Jesus Christ came into the world.Â—Look at the history of the Church of Christ after the days of the apostles. How soon formalism ate out the life and vitality of the primitive Christians!Â—Look at the middle ages, as they are called. Formalism so completely covered the face of Christendom that the Gospel lay as one dead.Â—Look, lastly, at the history of Protestant Churches in the last three centuries. How few are the places where religion is a living thing! How many are the countries where Protestantism is nothing more than a form! There is no getting over these things. They speak with a voice of thunder. They all show that formal religion is a popular thing. It has the praise of man.
But why should we look at facts in history? Why should we not look at facts under our own eyes, and by our own doors? Can anyone deny that a mere outward religion, a religion of downright formality, is the religion which is popular in England at the present day? It is not for nothing that St John says of certain false teachers, “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them” (1 John 4.5.). Only say your prayers,Â—and go to church with tolerable regularity,Â—and receive the sacrament occasionally,Â—and the vast majority of Englishmen will set you down as an excellent Christian.Â—”What more would you have?” they say: “If this is not Christianity, what is?”Â—To require more of anyone is thought bigotry, illiberality, fanaticism, and enthusiasm! To insinuate a doubt whether such a man as this will go to heaven is called the height of uncharitableness! When these things are so it is vain to deny that formal religion is popular. It is popular. It always was popular. It always will be popular till Christ comes again. It always has had and always will have “the praise of man.”
Turn now to the religion of the heart, and you will hear a very different report. As a general rule it has never had the good word of mankind. It has entailed on its professors laughter, mockery, ridicule, scorn, contempt, enmity, hatred, slander, persecution, imprisonment, and even death. Its lovers have been faithful and ardent,Â—but they have always been few. It has never had, comparatively, “the praise of man.”
Heart-religion is too humbling to be popular. It leaves natural man no room to boast. It tells him that he is a guilty, lost, hell-deserving sinner, and that he must flee to Christ for salvation. It tells him that he is dead, and must be made alive again, and born of the Spirit. The pride of man rebels against such tidings as these. He hates to be told that his case is so bad.
Heart-religion is too holy to be popular. It will not leave natural man alone. It interferes with his worldliness and his sins. It requires of him things that he loathes and abominates,Â—conversion, faith, repentance, spiritual-mindedness, Bible-reading, prayer. It bids him give up many things that he loves and clings to, and cannot make up his mind to lay aside. It would be strange indeed if he liked it. It crosses his path as a kill-joy and a mar-plot, and it is absurd to expect that he will be pleased.
Was heart-religion popular in Old Testament times? We find David complaining: “They that sit in the gate speak against me; and I was the song of the drunkards” (Psalm 69.12.). We find the prophets persecuted and ill-treated because they preached against sin, and required men to give their hearts to God. Elijah, Micaiah, Jeremiah, Amos, are all cases in point. To formalism and
ceremonialism the Jews never seem to have made objection. What they did dislike was serving God with their hearts.
Was heart-religion popular in New Testament times? The whole history of our Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry and the lives of His apostles are a sufficient answer. The scribes and Pharisees would have willingly received a Messiah who encouraged formalism, and a Gospel which exalted ceremonialism. But they could not tolerate a religion of which the first principles were humiliation and sanctification of heart.
Has heart-religion ever been popular in the professing Church of Christ during the last eighteen centuries? Never hardly, except in the early centuries when the primitive Church had not left her first love. Soon, very soon, the men who protested against formalism and sacramentalism were fiercely denounced as “troublers of Israel.” Long before the Reformation, things came to this pass, that anyone who cried up heart-holiness and cried down formality was treated as a common enemy. He was either silenced, excommunicated, imprisoned, or put to death like John Huss.Â—In the time of the Reformation itself, the work of Luther and his companions was carried on under an incessant storm of calumny and slander. And what was the cause? It was because they protested against formalism, ceremonialism, monkery, and priestcraft, and taught the necessity of heart-religion.
Has heart-religion ever been popular in our own land in days gone by? Never, excepting for a little season. It