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that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and by it he, being dead, yet speaketh. The history, character, and conduct of these two brothers, from the materials furnished us in scripture, are to be the subject of this Lecture.
Adam, with the partner of his guilt and of his future fortunes, being expelled from Eden, and tumbled from all his native honours, enters on the possession of a globe, which was cursed for his sake. He feels that he is fallen from a spiritual and divine life, from righteousness and innocence; that he has become liable to death; nay, by the very act of disobedience, that he really died to goodness and happiness. But the sentence itself which condemns him, gives him full assurance, that his natural life, though forfeited, was to be reprieved; that he should live to labour; to eat his bread with the sweat of his brow; and not only so, but that he should be the means of communicating that natural life to others; for that Eve should become a mother, though the pain and sorrow of conception and child-bearing were to be greatly multiplied. In process of time she accordingly brings forth a son; and pain and sorrow are no more remembered, for joy that a man-child is born into the world. What she thought and felt upon this occasion, we learn from what she said, and from the name she gave her new-born son. With a heart overflowing with gratitude, she looks up to God, who had not only spared and prolonged her life, but made her the joyful mother of a living child; and who in multiplying her sorrow, had much more abundantly multiplied her comfort. Ease that succeeds anguish is doubly relished and enjoyed. Kindness from one whom we have offended, falls with a weight pleasingly oppressive upon the mind. Some interpreters, and not without reason, suppose, that she considered the son given her, as the promised seed, who should bruise the head of the serpent; and they read her self-gratulatory exclamation thus, "I have gotten the man from the Lord." And how soothing to the maternal heart must have been the hope of deliverance and relief for herself, and triumph over her bitter enemy, by means of the son of her own bowels! How fondly does she dream of repairing the ruin which her frailty had brought upon her husband and family, by this "first-born of many brethren!" The name she gives him signifies "possessed," or a "possession." She flatters herself that she has now got something she can call her own; and even the loss of paradise seems compensated by a dearer inheritance. If there be a portion more tenderly cherished, or more highly prized than another, it is that of which David speaks,* "Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed; but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate." But O, blind to futurity, with how many sorrows was this "possession," so exultingly triumphed in, about to pierce the fond maternal breast! How unlike are the forebodings and wishes of parental tenderness and partiality, to the destinations of Providence, and the discoveries which time brings to light! "And she again bare his brother Abel." The word denotes vanity, or a breath of air. Was this name given him through the unreasonable prejudice and unjust preference of a partial mother? Or was it an unintentional prediction of the brevity of his life, and of the lamentable manner of his death? But the materials of which life is composed, are not so much its days, and months, and years, as works of piety, and mercy, and justice, or their opposites. He dies in full maturity, who has lived to God and eternity, at whatever period, and in whatever manner he is cut off. That life is short, though extended to a thousand years, which is
* Psalm cxxvii. 3-5.
disfigured with vice, devoted to the pursuits of time merely, and at the close of which the unhappy man is found unreconciled to God.
Behold this pair of brothers, then, growing in wisdom and in stature; gladdening their parents' hearts. They arrive at the age of reason, of vigour, of activity; they feel the law of God and nature upon them. Though the heirs of empire, they must labour for their subsistence-" Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground."* The earth will no longer spontaneously yield her increase. The clods must be turned up, and the seed must be cast into the furrow, through the care, foresight, and industry of man, else in vain will the heavens shed their influence; and in vain will the blessing of the Most High be expected. That cattle may furnish either the fleece for clothing, or milk for food, they must be protected from inclement seasons, and ravenous beasts; they must be conducted to proper pasture, and provided with water from the brook. And this is the origin of the first employments which occupied our elder brethren in a state of nature. And here it is observable, that the different dispositions of the brothers may be traced in the occupations which they followed. Pious and contemplative, Abel tends his flock; his profession affords more retirement, and more leisure, for meditation; and the very nature of his charge forms him to vigilance, to providence, and to sympathy. His prosperity and success seem to flow immediately, and only, from the hand of God. Cain, more worldly, and selfish, betakes himself to husbandry; a work of greater industry and art; the necessary implements of which suppose the prior invention of sundry branches of manufacture; and in whose operations, and their effects, art blending with nature, would claim at least her full proportion of merit and importance. But it is not the occupation which has merit or demerit; the man who exercises it, is the object of censure or of praise. It is not the husbandry of Cain, but wicked Cain the husbandman that we blame; it is not the shepherd's life, but good Abel the shepherd that we esteem. "And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. And Abel he also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof; and the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering :"+ What is any condition, any employment, unconnected with, unsupported, unadorned by religion! How wretched a creature is the mere citizen of this world, whose views, pursuits, and enjoyments, all terminate in time! The man who sees not his comforts and his successes as coming from the hand of God; and whose heart rises not in gratitude to the Giver of all good, is a stranger to the choicest ingredient in the cup of prosperity. But can God, the great God, stand in need of such things as these? "Is not every beast of the forest his, and the cattle upon a thousand hills?" Yes, verily : religion was not instituted for the sake of God, but of man: for man cannot be profitable to his Maker, as he that is wise, and good, and pious, may be unto himself. Religion is pressed upon us by the very law of our nature; and it is absolutely necessary to human happiness.
Cain observes the fruits of the earth arrive at their maturity. He knows that all his care and skill, without the interposition of Heaven could not have produced a single grain of corn. He had observed the seed which he cast into the ground, dying, in order to be quickened; he saw from putrefaction a fresh stem springing up, and bearing thirty, sixty, an hundred fold; and a power more than human conducting this wonderful progress. Of the first and best, therefore, he brings an offering unto the Lord; not to enrich his Maker, but to do honour to himself. Abel's flocks and herds likewise, through the blessing of the Almighty, increase and multiply; he adores the hand that
* Genesis iv. 2.
† Genesis iv. 3, 4.
makes his wealth; and presents the firstlings of his flock to the Lord. alas! his offering, in order to be accepted, must bleed and die. The innocent lamb which he had tended with so much care, had fed from his hand, had carried in his bosom, must by his hand be slain, must find no compassion from the tender shepherd's heart, when piety demands him-must be consumed to ashes before his eyes. "And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering. But unto Cain, and to his offering, he had not respect.' What made the difference? Not the nature and quality of the things offered, but the disposition of the offerers. Our text illustrates and explains the passage in Genesis," By FAITH Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." Cain came before God as a righteous man; Abel as a sinner. Cain brought an offering of acknowledgment; Abel a propitiatory sacrifice. Cain's gift bespeaks a grateful heart: Abel's a contrite spirit. Cain eyes the goodness of God; Abel his mercy and long-suffering. Cain says, "Lord, I thank thee for all thy benefits toward me;? Abel, "Lord I am unworthy of the least of thy favours." Cain rejoices in the world as a goodly portion; Abel, by faith, discerns and expects a better inheritance. Cain approaches, trusting in an imperfect righteousness of his own, and departs unjustified; Abel draws nigh, depending on the perfect righteousness of a Mediator, and goes away righteous in the sight of God.
In what manner the divine approbation and displeasure were expressed, we are not informed; whether by a celestial fire seizing and consuming the one offering and leaving the other untouched; or by a voice from heaven, declaratory of the mind of God. But we are assured that it was sufficiently notified to the parties themselves. On Abel, undoubtedly, it had the effect which a sense of the favour of God will always produce upon a good mind, a mind which esteems the loving kindness of the Most High more than life; sweet complacency and composure of spirit, "the peace of God which passeth all understanding." On Cain it produceth a very different effect; he was very wroth, "and his countenance fell." Men are often angry when they ought to be grieved; and remorse for their own unworthiness frequently becomes resentment against their innocent neighbours; and not seldom it changes into sullenness, insolence, and rebellion against God himself. Observe the goodness and condescension of God; he vouchsafes to reason with, to warn, and to admonish this peevish, petulant man; and gives encouragement to a better temper and behaviour. "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?" He promises to support him in his right of primogeniture, unworthy as he was "To thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him;" but at the same time he points out the danger of persevering in impiety, and of prosecuting his resentments-" If thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." But the soul, of which envy, malice and revenge have taken possession, is lost to the better feelings of human nature; is deaf to remonstrance, and insensible of kindness. The innocent are simple and unsuspicious; intending no evil, they fear none. Cain, it would appear from the letter of the narration, and the scene where the action is laid, decoyed his brother into solitude, under the mask of familiarity and friendship; "he talked with him," they were in the field. What a horrid aggravation of his guilt! A deed of violence! Murder! a good man's, a brother's murder! Deliberately resolved on, craftily conducted, remorselessly executed! Was man's first disobedience a slight evil, which introduced such desperate wickedness into the world; which transformed man into the most savage of beasts! "He rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." Now was death for the first time seen; and seen in his ghastliest form! Death before the time! The death of piety and goodness! Death inflicted by violence, and preceded by pain! Death embittered to the sufferer by reflecting on the hand from which it came; the
hand of a brother, the hand which should have supported and protected him, which should have barred the door against the murderer, not borne the fatal instrument itself! At length the feeble eyes close in peace; and the pain of bleeding wounds, and the pangs of fraternal cruelty are felt no more. "The dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit unto God who gave it." The spirit returns to God, to see his unclouded face, formerly seen through the medium of natural objects, and of religious services; to understand, and to enjoy the great mystery of the atonement, hitherto known only in a figure. Happy Abel, thus early delivered from the sins and sorrows of a vain world! And thus death, at whatever season, in whatever form, and from whatever quarter it comes, is always unspeakably great gain to a good man.
Such was the life, and such the untimely end of "righteous Abel;" for so our blessed Lord styles him, who fell a martyr to religion. The remainder of Cain's history; the short view given us of the character of his descendants, together with the birth of Seth, given and appointed of God to preserve the sacred line, to propagate the holy seed, in place of Abel, whom Cain slew; will, with the permission of God, furnish matter for another Lecture. Let us conclude the present, by setting up the character of Abel as an object of esteem and a pattern for imitation.
Faith in God, and in a Saviour to come; and the righteousness which is of God by faith, are the leading and striking features of this portrait; and by these, "being dead, he yet speaketh ;" or if you choose to adopt the marginal reading, "is yet spoken of." It is a desirable thing to enjoy a good name while we live, and to be remembered with kindness after we are dead. But reputation is the gift of others: it is often gained without merit, and lost without a crime. Whereas true goodness is a real, unalienable possession; it cleaves to us in death; it accompanies us to the world of spirits; it instructs the world while we live; it speaks from the grave; it shines in the presence of God in heaven. Here, my friends, it is lawful and honourable to aspire. Permit others to get before you in wealth or in fame; grudge not to your neighbour the superiority in wit, or strength, or beauty; but yield to none in piety, in purity, in faith, in charity; aim at the highest honours of the christian name; be humble, and be every thing.
Salvation, men and brethren, has, from the beginning, flowed in one and the same channel. There was not one gospel to the antidiluvian, and another to the postdiluvian world; one method of redemption to the Jews, and another to the Gentiles; but "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever." Abel, Abraham, Moses, David, Simeon, Paul, and all who have been, or shall be saved, lived and died in the faith of Christ. "Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."* This therefore is the great commandment of God to us in these days of meridian light and glory, namely, "that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another."
Was Abel a type of Christ, as well as a believer in him! The scripture indeed saith it not expressly; but surely, without straining, we may discern some striking marks of resemblance. What saith Moses? "Abel was a keeper of sheep." What saith Christ? "I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep." What did Abel? "He through faith brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof, an offering unto the Lord." What did Christ? Through the eternal Spirit he offered himself without spot to God." Were Abel's days cut short by the hand of vio lence? So "Messiah the Prince, was cut off, but not for himself." Was
*Acts iv. 12.
Abel hated of, and slain by his brother? Christ "was despised and rejected" of his own, and died by the treachery of a familiar friend in whom he trusted, and by the cruelty of those who were his brethren according to the flesh. Did the blood of Abel cry to God from the ground, for vengeance on the head of him who shed it? O, with what oppressive weight has the blood of Jesus fallen, and how heavily does it still lie on the heads of them, and of their children, who with wicked hands crucified and slew him! Could the blood of Abel atone for his sin? No: but the blood of Christ cleanseth him, and every believer, from all sin. Yet Abel died as a righteous man, Christ as a sinner. Abel, a guilty creature, was justified and accepted through an imputed righteousness; Christ, who was "holy, harmless, undefiled and separated from sinners," was condemned and suffered, because "The Lord laid on him the iniquity of us all." Abel suffered death once for all; the body of Christ was "offered once for all," and by that one sacrifice," he hath forever perfected them that are sanctified." But we pursue the similitude and the contrast no farther. May God bless what has been said. Amen. And to his holy name be praise.
HISTORY OF CAIN.
1 JOHN III. 11, 12.
For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.
It is a pleasant task to attend the footsteps of the wise and good, through the thorny maze of human life: to draw nigh with the devout, to the altar of God to learn patience of the meek, compassion of the merciful, and kindness of the generous: to love and admire them in life, and to regret them in death. But ah! how painful to trace progress, and to mark appearances of "the carnal mind, which is enmity against God," and hatred to man from the first conception of an ill design, to the final execution of a deed of horror! "Lust, having conceived, bringeth forth sin, and sin when finished, bringeth forth death." Nevertheless, it is highly important, that even objects of detestation should be placed before the eyes of men; that sin should be viewed in her native loathsomeness and deformity, to excite, if possible, aversion and disgust. To direct men in the journey of life, it is necessary to erect beacons, the admonition of hidden dangers and death; as well as to set up indexes, to point out the right path. The two first men who were born into the world, are designed of Providence to answer this valuable purpose, to those who should come after them. Abel, though dead, continues to instruct men in the excellency, amiableness, and importance of true religion; Cain stands to all generations, a fearful example of ungovernable passion, hurrying a man on to blood, and plunging him into despair. Having considered the former as a pattern for imitation, we are now to consider the history of the latter, as affording an useful and seasonable warning to look to ourselves, "lest we also be hardened, through the deceitfulness of sin."