96 Let us look a little at these religious characters brought before us. Cain and Abel were both alike as to outward character and circumstance. They were both under the sentence of banishment from the presence of God. They both had employment, and both seemed to have been outwardly decent characters. They both came to worship, too, and Cain brought that which cost him most, that for which he had worked. God had sent him forth to till the ground, and he tilled it; that was all right, and it was right for him to bring an offering. The difference between them was not in all that. In outward character, too, Cain was just like Abel; nothing came out amiss until he killed his brother. What was the mistake in Cain? There was no sense upon his heart that he was driven out of paradise because he deserved it: he might not have known that he was driven out even, for he thought he had nothing to do but to go to God, as if he was all right with Him. This is just what men are doing now. They are driven from God's presence and favour, going on with their occupations, tilling the ground and the like, and, when the time comes round, thinking to come and worship! What would a father feel about his child who had been disobedient to him one day, and coming the next, just as if nothing had happened, expecting to be received as though all was right between him and his father? This is just what men are doing with God. But, dear friends, you are out of paradise, and can you think to come and worship God as if nothing had happened? Are you expecting to get into heaven just the same as (not one whit better than) Adam was when he got out of paradise? If you got into heaven, you would spoil it; but the truth is, you are making your own heaven down here.
97 Abel was not a bit better than Cain as to his position and nature; but there is one great difference - he owns it all, and obtained testimony that he was righteous. "By faith he offered to God a more excellent sacrifice," etc. It might have been said he was not so right as Cain in a natural sense, as to his calling, for God had not set men to keep sheep, and he had to till the ground; but he brought a sacrifice from the flock, a bloody sacrifice. He had a sense of being out of paradise; but, more than that, he had a sense of being an outcast for sin. He felt he was a sinner. He had a sense of having broken with God and God with him, and he knew Him to be of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. He owned that God had not done wrong in turning man out, and that it would be wrong to let him in. He owned that death hung over him as his proper desert.
It is God's sentence upon me, and my ruin is my desert. These things had such a reality to his soul that he would have known it would have been presumption for him to go to God as though nothing had happened. Then he had something more still; for he had learnt, through the grace of God, that there was something needed between him and God, and that this something was there. Sacrifice was the only way. See the other side of this blessed truth. Not only could he not go without a sacrifice, but, beyond this, it was there: and we know who this is - the Son of God. God says, I cannot look at sin; but there is one thing I can look at - an offering about sin, and that is my Son as a sin-offering. Faith apprehends this, and there was no thought of coming in any other way. "There will I meet with thee," God said to Moses. And what did he put at the door of the tabernacle? The altar of burnt-offering, the sacrifice for sin God had there; and faith rests on this as the only possible way of approach.
98 There was no climbing up some other way. There is but this one door by which to enter, and it is through that sacrifice, by which the holiness of God is fully maintained, as well as His love manifested, in the highest way. I want to see my sin put away in His sight, just as I see it brought out first in His sight; and here is the perfect sin-offering, and there is no place where this wonderful question of good and evil has been judged as at the cross of Christ. The sacrifice is fully accepted. He has borne all the wrath and put it away. Hear Him saying, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" There was perfect obedience and perfect love. He was a perfect sin-offering; and there He is now at the right hand of the Father. "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him." His offering for sin has for ever settled the question of sin. He has made peace about my sin and for my sin; and has He done it in part? Would that be like God? No; it was complete. "When he had by himself purged our sins, he sat down on the right hand of the majesty on high." When I see that, I cannot go to God as Cain, just as I am; and yet I must go to Him if I am to have happiness or blessing. But I also see that God has provided Himself with a burnt-offering. It is taken out of our hands, as it were; it is God's own perfect work; it is His settling of sin, and I can rest in the result of what He has offered. This is faith. Now we go to God by Him. This is, as it were, offering Christ. God gives me the resting-place; and the convinced sinner cannot come to Christ without finding all his sins put away for ever. The sacrifice of the burnt-offering is there, and the moment I am there I come with the sacrifice, and can be happy in His presence, though with a perfect knowledge of His holiness.
"Abel obtained witness that he was righteous": not merely that the sacrifice was perfect, but he had the witness that he was righteous. It was not only true that he was righteous, but that he also had the witness of it, and this gave him peace. The gospel is God's witness to His acceptance of Christ. See how this is "God testifying of his gifts." If you bring that Lamb, I accept you according to all its value in my sight.