“But, again, we learn, in the second place, from this narrative—that all changes from the written revelation of God are wrong. There has sprung up in the Church of Christ an idea that there are many things taught in the Bible which are not essential; that we may alter them just a little to suit our convenience: that provided we are right in the fundamentals, the other things are of no concern and of no value whatever.
Now, look at our picture, and let your mistake for ever be driven away. It did seem to the people of Israel but a very indifferent matter whether the ark was carried on men’s shoulders, or whether it was dragged upon a cart. Why, they said, “It cannot matter. It is true God has told us that it is to be borne by the Levites, but what does that signify as long as it is carried? It will be all right. We will do the thing, and if we alter the mode, it will not signify very materially.” Yes, but it did signify, for it was through this alteration which they made in God’s law that the ark first began to shake, and to totter, and then Uzzah was tempted to put forth his hand and touch it. So that the death of Uzzah was the punishment upon the whole people for having neglected to observe the minute laws of God in every particular. My brethren, when Moses built the tabernacle, he was not left to build it after his own whim And taste. Every tache and every loop, every board and every fillet, everything was marked down in the divine plan, and Moses must build everything according to the pattern which he had seen in the Mount.
Now, this is the pattern for a Christian—this book of God which lies before me. The New Testament of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is our only rule of practice. And ye think, do ye, that ye may alter some few things, that ye may change them to suit the climate, or to indulge your own ideas of taste or convenience? You fancy, that doctrine for instance, is not of such sublime importance—that if a man does but preach the fundamentals, he may preach any other things he likes, and yet all will be well—that ceremonies, that Baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, for instance, are to be out, and hacked and fashioned, to suit modern fancies, and that they are not to be retained in their integrity according to apostolic rule and precedent? But this know, that the slightest violation of the divine law will bring judgments upon the Church, and has brought judgments, and is even at this day withholding God’s hand from blessing us. For within a few years we might see all the kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, if we would but carry God’s ark as God would have it carried, instead of marring the gospel by human inventions, and leaving the simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
I am not going this morning to enter into particulars, but just to lay down the general fact, that whatever God has commanded is important, and that I have no right whatever to alter anything—no, not the least thing, but to take the word just as it stands, just as God has revealed it to me, to be my rule of faith and practice. Ay, but there are some of you who never read your Bibles. You have a second-hand religion which you have borrowed from other people, you do not come to this Book to drink at the fountain head. Your grandmother thought so and so, and you think the same; your great grandfather went to church or to chapel, and that is your reason for going; but you have not come to God’s Word to submit your judgment to it. The reason why there are so many sects now-a-days is just this. If we all come straightway to the Bible, we should come far nearer together than we are now. It is not likely we should all see eye to eye. You cannot make a dozen watches all tick to the same time, much less make a dozen men all think the same thoughts. But, still, if we should all bow our thoughts to that one written Word, and would own no authority but the Bible the Church could not be divided, could not be cut in pieces as she now is. We come together when we come to the Word of God.
But I am always answered when I talk about these things, “Well, but they are not essential.” Who told you they were not?…No, sirs; you have no right to alter a word of God’s command; you have no right to turn aside in any respect, or in any manner. God’s doctrines are to be preached as God delivers them, and his ordinances are to be practiced after his own mode and law. Woe worth the day when God’s ark is put upon the chariot and dragged by oxen, instead of being carried upon the shoulders of men, who read God’s Word, and take it as it stands, and then follow out what God commands them, and will not be led by the sleeve or by the nose by any man or set of men.
Forget not this lesson brethren, for it is of the greatest importance to the Church.”
Charles Spurgeon April 8, 1860