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CAIN AND ABEL,
GENESIS iv. 8.
And Cain talked with Abel his brother : and
it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.
In our last sermon we saw sin and death entering into the world, and here we have a melancholy instance of their ravages. There the seeds were sown, here is the fruit produced; and Adam is presented with an awful spectacle both of sin and of death in his two sons, of sin in Cain, and of death in Abel. He has here to witness the dreadful effects of his own fall, as a brother lifts up his hand against a brother, and takes away his life.
I. We will first consider the circumstances which led to this atrocious act.
Adam, after his expulsion from the garden of Eden, had a son born unto him, and Eve, thankful for the gift, and perhaps expecting that this child was the seed before predicted, named him Cain, that is, a possession or acquisition, for she said, “I have gotten a man « from the Lord.” Afterwards she bore another son, whom they called Abel, that is, vanity, or a vanishing vapour. For whatever particular reason the name was given, it seems to intimate that far less hopes were entertained of him than of his brother. As they grew up they followed different occupations; “Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground.” They were both however taught to offer sacrifices. Now this, we think, could only have been in consequence of a direct revelation made to Adam, as the appointed method of appeasing the wrath of an offended God, and prefiguring that one great sacrifice of Christ, which, “when the fulness of time was come," made atonement for the sins of the world. According to their different employments the brothers brought different offerings. “Cain brought of the fruit of the
ground,” and “Abel brought of the firstlings of the flock, and the fat thereof;" and in the different reception given to their sacrifices began the cause of hatred and envy in the bosom of Cain. “ The Lord had respect unto Abel and his offering,” probably testifying his acceptance by causing fire to fall down from heaven and consume it; “but unto Cain and his offering he had not respect,” withholding every token of his approbation. “And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.”
We enquire into the reason of the difference made between their sacrifices, and the scripture itself informs us. In Hebrews (xi. 4.) we read, “ By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." It was because it was offered in faith that the preference was given to the offering of Abel. He came in the character of a sinner, he brought an expiatory sacrifice, he looked through it to the promised Saviour. But Cain had no such views or emotions in his offering. In it there was no shedding of blood, no substitution of a victim ; it was not expressive of his sense of
sin, it had no reference to an atonement. Herein was found a wide and essential difference between the two, and hence the difference in their reception.—And what makes the difference now in the offerings which are brought to God? We see various worshippers assembled in the same place, joining in the same service, using the same forms, and thus apparently and outwardly presenting even the same offerings: yet some are accepted, and others are not; the sacrifices of some are
the odour of a sweet smell, well pleasing to God, while those of others are an abomination to him. Why is this? What causes such a difference? The inward disposition and intention of the worshippers. One comes careless, formal, self-righteous, negligent of Christ, and is rejected. Another is devout, humble, contrite, seeking mercy. through the death of Christ, and is accepted. Brethren, we have in Cain and Abel a picture of the different state and condition of ourselves in the sight of God as we are present here. Let there be great searchings of heart. Let us examine our
motives, principles, and feelings. inwardly feel, while we penitently acknowledge, that we are miserable sinners. And let us rest for pardon, peace, and acceptance, in nothing but in the cross of Christ and him crucified.
We return to the history. The mortification which Cain felt by the preference given to Abel's offering, filled him full of anger against his brother. But why should he be angry with him ? Was it Abel's fault that his offering was rejected? No. It was his own fault, and such he should have felt it to be. Instead of being envious and revengeful against his accepted brother, he ought to have been humbled for his own deficiencies. But unhappily there was no such right feeling in him ; evil passions took possession of his soul; and as God was far removed above his power, he sought some nearer object on which his vengeance might fall. His disappointment and wrath were manifest in his look. Nor was his anger removed even by the kind expostulation of God. For God did condescend to expostulate with him: “ Why art thou