Much of the religion which is abroad in the world is a “vain thing”. The religion of “ceremonies” is vain. If a man shall trust in the gorgeous pomp of uncommanded mysteries, if he shall consider that there resides some mystical efficacy in a Romish priest and that, by uttering certain words, a blessing is infallibly received, we tell him that his religion is a vain thing. You might as well go to the Witch of Endor for grace as to a priest; and if you rely upon “words”, the words of a magician will as soon raise you to heaven as the vain performances of the best ordained minister under heaven. Ceremonies in themselves are vain, futile, empty. All “ceremonial religion”, no matter how sincere, if it consist in relying upon forms and observances, is a vain thing.
So with “creed-religion” by which I mean not to speak against creeds, for I love “the form of sound words”, but that religion which lies in believing with the intellect a set of dogmas, without partaking of the life of God. All this is a vain thing. Again, that religion which only lies in “making a profession of what one does not possess”, in wearing the Christian name and observing the practice of the Church, but which does not so affect the character as to make a man holy, nor so touch the heart as to make a man Gods true servant such a religion is vain throughout.
O my dear hearers, how much worthless religion you may see everywhere! So long as men get the name, they seem content without the substance. On all sides there are deceivers, and deceived ones; who write heaven upon their brows, but have hell in their hearts; who hang out the sign of an angel over their doors, but have the devil for a host within. Take heed to yourselves; be not deceived, for He who tries the heart and searches the imaginations of the children of men is not mocked, and He will surely discern between him that fears God, and him that fears Him not.
C H Spurgeon