All the costly gifts cast into the treasury are valuable chiefly as representing an inner spirit of devotion, and of self-consecration. They may exist as outward acts without the living spirit which gives them value in God’s eyes.
We need therefore to cultivate the soul, and to see that that sacred spirit of devout submission dwells within us which dwelt in him, who not only sacrificed himself on the cross, being obedient unto death, but ever lived in that state of heart which was embodied in his prayer, “Nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”
Would the washing of the windows of a house make the inhabitants thereof clean?
Yea, does the painting and ornamenting of the exterior of a mansion make the dwellers in it healthier or holier men? We read of devils entering into a clean swept and garnished house, and the last end of that man was worse than the first.
All the outward cleansing is but the gilding of the bars of the cage full of unclean birds; the whitewashing of sepulchres full of rottenness and dead men’s bones. Washing the outside of a box will leave all the clothes inside as foul as ever.
Remember, therefore, that all that you can do in the way of outward religion is nothing but the sacrifice of the fat of rams, and “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.”
—Charles H. Spurgeon
Flashes of Thought (Passmore and Alabaster, 1874).