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The first is the Jew; to him the gospel is a stumblingblock

The first is the Jew; to him the gospel is a stumblingblock. A respectable man the Jew was in his day; all formal religion was concentrated in his person; he went up to the temple very devoutly; he tithed all he had, even to the mint and the cummin. You would see him fasting twice in the week, with a face all marked with sadness and sorrow. If you looked at him, he had the law between his eyes; there was the phylactery, and the borders of his garments of amazing width, that he might never be supposed to be a Gentile dog; that no one might ever conceive that he was not a Hebrew of pure descent. He had a holy ancestry; he came of a pious family; a right good man was he. He could not endure those Sadducees at all, who had no religion. He was thoroughly a religious man; he stood up for his synagogue; he would not have that temple on Mount Gerizim; he could not bear the Samaritans, he had no dealings with them; he was a religionist of the first order, a man of the very finest kind; a specimen of a man who is a moralist, and who loves the ceremonies of the law. Accordingly, when he heard about Christ, he asked who Christ was. “The Son of a carpenter.” “Ah!” “The son of a carpenter, and his mother’s name was Mary, and his father’s name Joseph.” “That of itself is presumption enough,” said he, “positive proof, in fact, that he cannot be the Messiah. And what does he say?” “Why he says, ‘Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.’” “That won’t do.” “Moreover,” he says, “‘It is not by the works of the flesh that any man can enter into the kingdom of heaven.’” The Jew tied a double knot in his phylactery at once; he thought he would have the borders of his garment made twice as broad. He bow to the Nazarine! No, no; and if so much as a disciple crossed the street, he thought the place polluted, and would not tread in his steps. Do you think he would give up his old father’s religion-the religion which came from Mount Sinai-that old religion that lay in the ark and the overshadowing cherubim? He give that up? not he. A vile impostor-that is all Christ was in his eyes. He thought so. “A stumblingblock to me! I cannot hear about it! I will not listen to it.” Accordingly, he turned a deaf ear to all the Preacher’s eloquence and listened not at all. Farewell, old Jew. Thou sleepest with thy fathers, and thy generation is a wandering race, still walking the earth. Farewell, I have done with thee. Alas! poor wretch, that Christ who was thy stumbling block, shall be thy Judge, and on thy head shall be that loud curse: “His blood be on us and on our children.” But I am going to find out Mr. Jew here in Exeter Hall- persons who answer to his description-to whom Jesus Christ is a stumblingblock. Let me introduce you to yourselves, some of you. You were of a pious family too, were you not? Yes. And you have a religion which you love- you love it so far as the chrysalis of it goes, the outside, the covering, the husk. You would not have one rubric altered, nor one of those dear old arches taken down, nor the stained glass removed for all the world; and any man who should say a word against such things, you would set down as a heretic at once. Or, perhaps you do not go to such a place of worship, but you love some plain old meetinghouse, where your forefathers worshipped, called a dissenting chapel. Ah; it is a beautiful plain place; you love it, you love its ordinances, you love its exterior; and if anyone spoke against the place, how vexed you would feel. You think that what they do there, they ought to do everywhere; in fact your church is a model one; the place where you go, is exactly the sort of place for everybody; and if I were to ask you why you hope to go to heaven, you would, perhaps, say, “Because I am a Baptist,” or, “Because I am an Episcopalian,” or whatever other sect you belong to. There is yourself; I know Jesus Christ will be to you a stumblingblock. If I come and tell you that all your going to the house of God is good for nothing; if I tell you that all those many times you have been singing and praying, all pass for nothing in the sight of God, because you are a hypocrite and a formalist. If I tell you that your heart is not right with God, and that unless it is so, all the external is good for nothing, I know what you will say — “I shan’t hear that young man again.” It is a stumblingblock. If you had stepped in anywhere where you had heard formalism exalted; if you had been told “this must you do, and this other must you do, and then you will be saved,” you would highly approve of it. But how many are there externally religious, with whose characters you could find no fault, but who have never had the regenerating influence of the Holy Ghost; who never were made to lie prostrate on their face before Calvary’s cross; who never turned a wishful eye to yonder Savior crucified; who never put their trust in him that 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; whilst 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 ye be converted, and become as little children, ye can in no wise enter into the kingdom of God;” if once I tell you that you must be elected of God-that you must be purchased with the Savior’s blood-that you must be converted by the Holy Ghost-you 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 stumblingblock.

Charles H. Spurgeon- “Christ Crucified,” A Sermon Delivered on Sabbath Morning, February 11, 1855

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