"But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn
of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering." Genesis
A long course of years has fled since the earth drank in
the blood of Abel. His was the earliest of all graves. But he is not silent
in it. His faith has an ever-living voice. No time can stop its warning
sound. "By it, he, being dead, yet speaks." Such is the heaven-told fact.
Surely then there must be much most worthy of notice in his testimony, since
it thus rolls on from age to age. Its subjects must be all-important. It is
so—none can be compared to it. It is so—for it proclaims the Lord Jesus
Christ. This is the purpose of its call to every child of man, "Believe on
the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." Trust in His blood. Plead
nothing but His death before God. Make His cross your only hope.
Reader! perhaps you have never found all this Gospel in
Abel's brief life. But it is there. Unfold with me the record; and let us do
so in humble prayer, that the Spirit may graciously teach. For without His
aid, none ever see the Lord. Abel stands before us in the lovely character
of one whose spirit rejoices in God his Savior. This is the prominent
feature in his portrait. He selects the firstborn of his flock. He brings it
as an offering. He lays it on the altar. He raises the knife. He takes the
life, as a debt due to God. Such is his conduct. But what moves him to this
mode of worship? He must have some grand intent. Let us trace it.
Did reason convince him that he was a sinner, and
show him that, as such, his own life was forfeited? Did it whisper the hope,
that he might recover it, by giving another in its place? Did it suggest the
idea that the death of a guiltless victim might be the release of a guilty
soul? That could not be. A sinner's blindness never suspects the real
desert of sin—much less can it imagine a blood-stained ransom. There is
God in that thought.
But while we thus inquire, Scripture draws back the veil
and tells us the principle, which lived in his heart. It was faith. "By
faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." Thus
the case is cleared. For faith is trust in God, and humble reliance on His
Word. God speaks—and faith hears—believes—obeys. Faith can breathe only in
the atmosphere of revelation. It can stand only on the rock of divine
promise. It has no ear, but for heavenly tidings. It can read only what the
finger of God writes. It can always give a reason, even this, "The mouth of
the Lord has spoken it."
We are sure, then, that since Abel offered in faith, he
was following the positive directions of God. We are thus led to read many
of the workings of his soul in this service. It cannot be, but that his
parents had made known to him, in terms of shame, the enormity of their
willful fall. Hence he knew how it occurred, that he was born a child of
wrath, and an heir of corrupted nature. But could they pause here? Oh! no.
Adoring gratitude would constrain them to add that pardon was provided, and
that a Redeemer, all-qualified and mighty to save, was coming to lay down
His life. They would teach, too, that a holy rite had been ordained by God
to exercise faith, and to keep alive the expectation of the atoning lamb.
This was the Bible unto Abel. Here he would read the main lessons of the
Gospel of salvation. He staggered not through unbelief. He embraced the
truth wholly unto life eternal. In the twilight of the world, he saw the Sun
Reader! does not this bring condemnation to multitudes,
who in the full blaze of light never get saving faith? We thus gain insight
into the spiritual man of Abel. He stands at this altar, a man of
humility—faith—love. He is full of self-abasement. He abhors himself in dust
and ashes. His act confesses that he is a lost, and ruined, and undone
sinner. He sees that eternal rejection is his due. He feels that he has no
power of himself to help himself.
But he is full of faith. In looking off from himself he
looks upward to another. He knows, that in the heaven of heavens there lives
a Savior ready to fly down with healing in His wings. He sees in the blood
of his victim, a pledge of the blood prepared to cleanse him to the very
uttermost. He is full, too, of sanctifying love. For no man can trust in
mercy so full, so unmerited, so suitable, so effectual, without feeling,
that thus purchased from perdition, he must live a willing sacrifice to the
God of grace.
At this time there was another by the side of Abel. But
now a great gulf parts them. It was his brother Cain. He was born in like
guilt. He doubtless shared the same parental instruction. In outward
advantages there was no difference. But is their spiritual character the
same? Far otherwise. The truth which melts the one, only hardens the other.
One receives the blessing. The other abides under the curse. Their dealings
with God manifest them. It is a sad sight. But we must not shrink from
observing how Cain discovers himself. He seems to come to God. This is good.
But what does he bring?—"The fruit of the ground." The first appearance is
fair. But the disguise falls; and we see the hideous marks, which prove that
he "was of that wicked one."
We find self-will at the root of his religion. God
has ordained the way in which He was to be approached. Cain thinks that he
can use a course more suited to the majesty of heaven and the dignity of
man. He places his puny reason above the counsels of the All-wise. He turns
from a revealed will to grope in the darkness of his own vain conceits.
Reader! is not this a pitiful case? But it is the
delusion of many. "Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools."
Self-will first makes a god—then a religion—and at last a pit of destruction
We next see pride in him. This must be, for it is
the first-born of unenlightened reason. Creation leaves man dust. Sin makes
him the vilest of dust. But still he walks vaingloriously, until grace
opens his eyes, and lays him low in his proper humility. So it is with
Cain. He feels neither sin, nor need of pardon. Therefore he proudly
tramples on an offering, which tells him of nature's pollution. High-minded,
he will not wash in the blood of the Redeemer, that he may be purified. Thus
he is a model of that class, who, in every age, say, "We are rich and have
need of nothing; and know not that they are wretched, and miserable, and
poor, and blind, and naked."
There was unbelief, too. God had set before him
the redemption of Jesus Christ. It was proclaimed in promise and in type.
What more could have been done? But Cain believes not. Unbelief closes his
eyes—he will not look to Jesus. It closes his hand—he will not
lay hold on Him. It clogs his feet—he will not run to Him. It closes
his ear—he will not hear of Him. It closes his mouth—he will
not cry unto Him. It closes his heart—he will not receive Him. Do you
marvel at his folly? Take heed! Take heed! Conscience may know, "You are the
The end is quickly told. Bad soon becomes worse. Unbelief
swiftly goes down to its place, where the Gospel is never preached, and hope
never comes. God expostulates. Cain yields not. He sees the righteousness of
faith, only to hate it. He seeks, by the murder of his faithful brother, to
extinguish the light which upbraids him. He falls into the recklessness of
despair. And now, from his everlasting chains, he cries, "Beware of
rejecting the more excellent sacrifice."
Reader! it may be, that, careful about many things, you
have, until now, been careless concerning that which should be the main
concern of man. Listen, then, for a moment, I beseech you. Do you not hear a
startling question from this story? It is this. Are you a follower of
Abel or of Cain? In simpler terms, are you receiving or neglecting the
Lord Jesus? I say the Lord Jesus. For this is the real point. He was the end
of the "more excellent sacrifice," which Abel brought, which Cain scorned.
He is the Lamb appointed by God, accepted of God, and led to our very doors
in our Bibles. Who can utter the mighty motives which urge the sinner to
avail himself of this sacrifice? They are more than the moments of eternity.
Each speaks as loud as the thunders of Sinai. Each has a thrilling clang, as
the trumpet of God.
Only consider its real power. It is just this. It
saves forever all the souls of all poor sinners, who present it to God in
faith. Now, is not your soul precious? It is so beyond all thought. It needs
redemption from wrath and ruin. Are you prepared to offer its equal price?
Suppose the balances of heaven brought out. What can you place as a
counterpoise in the counter-scale? You have nothing, but what is lighter
than vanity. Produce now "the more excellent sacrifice." Its worth is beyond
all weight. Offer this, and you are saved. Will you now be Cain-like, and
reject "the more excellent sacrifice"? Your sins are many. The sands of the
sea-shore are few in comparison. But each must be blotted out, or you die. A
sin unpardoned cannot enter heaven. What, then, will you do? One thing is
clear. You cannot undo the done. You cannot recall the past. But behold "the
more excellent sacrifice." It cleanses from all sin. Through it all manner
of sin is forgiven to the children of men. It makes the scarlet, white as
now, and the crimson, like wool. It changes the vilest into perfect purity.
Its merits can render you spotless.
Will you be Cain-like, and reject "the more excellent
sacrifice"? You need peace. Satan threatens. The law condemns. Conscience
accuses. Your wounds are deep. Your burdens heavy. Memory shows frightful
specters. The heart bleeds. You go mourning and heavy laden. You look to
self. It is despair. You look to the world. It mocks your woe.
You look to reform. It is a broken cistern. You fly to outside
performances of devotion. They are reeds, which break and pierce the
How different is "the more excellent sacrifice!" It tells
you that God is satisfied, guilt remitted, and all accusers silent. It thus
brings peace—perfect peace, which passes all understanding. Will you now be
Cain-like, and reject "the more excellent sacrifice"?
You desire sanctification. You pant to be conformed to
the image of Christ. This is well; for it is an eternal law of God, that
without holiness no man shall see His face. But holiness can be learned only
at this altar. It is a sight of the dying Jesus, which kills lust. It is the
shadow of the cross, which causes evil to wither. A lover of iniquity cannot
dwell on this hallowed ground. But there never was a holy man, who did not
live in glory in "the more excellent sacrifice." If ever you would walk with
God in true righteousness, you must not be Cain-like, and reject it. But
remember this sacrifice is only one. Jesus by the one offering of Himself,
once made, "has perfected forever those who are sanctified." Pass by it, and
you can find none else. Pass by it today, and you may seek it in vain
Hear, then, the voice of Abel, which calls you without
delay to hasten to the one altar of salvation. Reader! turn not from these
humble lines, until in truth you can say, I rejoice in the Lord Jesus
Christ, I find Him to be "the more excellent sacrifice."