Section 2 — The carnal and Spiritual Seed (Genesis 4, 5.)

In the second part of this series we have a mingled story of two lives — of many individuals, but still only of two lives — essentially contrasted with one another. It is already the commencing fulfillment of that prophetic word which had spoken of the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. The story belongs, not to one generation only, but to every generation from that day to this; for while it is assuredly true that the real and fundamental victory which insures every other is His to whom belongs in its full sense the title of "Seed of the woman," yet it is true, too, that in every generation the great opponents have their representatives among men, and the conflict and the victory are in principle continually repeated.

The world has been from the beginning, as all history attests, a scene of unceasing strife; but its strife has been very generally a hopeless contest of evil with evil; for evil has no internal unity nor peace. Its elements may compact, but cannot concord. "Corruption is in the world through lust," lust is its essential feature, and we have had this already traced to its beginning in paradise itself; but lust means strife, means war, the conflict of jarring interests, each pursuing his own: "Whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts, which war in your members?" In such a collision there can be no true victory any where. Such history may fill men's chronicles; with God it is a mere unmeaning blank.

God's history is but the tracing, amid this darkness, of one silver line of light, light come into the world, a foreign element in it. With this the record of the six days' work begins: "Let there be light, and there was light." With this, too, begins the story of that of which we have already seen these creative days to be a type. We do not know how long the earth lay "waste and empty" under darkness; we do know that for man not long was the darkness unbroken. God's word again brought in light, although light at first long struggling with the darkness which it found; yet from the first God's benediction was its pledge of final victory. "Evening" might be, but not henceforth total "night;" while each "morning," as it follows, presages and brings nearer the full and perfect day, God's Sabbath-rest, when darkness shall be gone forever.

But here, then, is conflict, if mysterious, yet most real, where there are victories to be recorded, and where, thank God, the final victory is sure: a conflict just where the light is, and not elsewhere; a conflict to which every human heart in which God has spoken that out of darkness light may shine, is witness, and which is seen on a far grander scale in the field of the world at large. It is to this that the chapters now before us invite our attention; and as we shall see in these two spheres, where the inner world of the heart is but the miniature representative of the world without. We may see it more plainly if we trace it first upon the larger scale.

Here the blood of righteous Abel speaks to us of what often causes to the soul such deep perplexity, the apparent prevalence of evil over good: a perplexity which is not removed until we see it as the law of the conflict we have spoken of. The seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent's head; but then the serpent shall first bruise the heel of the woman's seed. This applies first of all and pre-eminently, as already said, to Christ as the conqueror over man's mortal foe. In Abel's death we may thus see Christ, whose blood indeed speaks better things than that of Abel, but of whom Abel is none the less, as the first martyr, dying at a brother's hand, a perfect type.

If this be true, however, Cain must be a picture especially of the people, Christ's brethren, too, after the flesh, at whose hand he really died; and here at once the whole type assumes meaning and consistency.

Cain, then, is the Jew, the formal worshiper of God, bringing the work of his hands, the fruit of his own toil, not doubting that it ought to be accepted of God. Not irreligious, as men would say, he ignores the breach that sin had caused between man and his Creator, but of which the very toil whose fruit he brought was witness. So coming, he is necessarily rejected of God; and such is Pharisaism, of whatever grade or time. Just persons, having no need of repentance; diligent elder sons, serving the Father, but without getting so much as a kid to make merry with their friends; self-satisfied legalists, ignorant of God and grace: such is the Lord's picture of a generation of which Cain was prototype and father. Pharisees were they, who always were most zealous for commandments and against Christ, "going about to establish their own righteousness, and not submitting themselves to the righteousness of God."

Abel, on the other hand, draws near to God, bringing nothing of his own handiwork, but an innocent victim, a life taken which no sin had stained or burdened, a sacrifice most unreasonable if it were not faith. What pleasure could God take in death? or how could the death of a guiltless substitute atone for the guilty? Thus man still reasons. But the very folly of Abel's sacrifice to the eye of reason should suffice to assure us that he was not following the promptings of his own mind in it. His was not will-worship, but faith; and if plainly the death of a beast could not take away sin, his eye rested upon what that substitution foreshadowed. "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." And in this he might well speak to us of Him who, not for Himself indeed, but as Man for men, offered to God that one acceptable offering in which all others find their consummation and their end.

"Witness" and "martyr" were from the beginning one. The self-righteous heart of Cain resents the testimony to man's guilt and God's provision for it, resents the testimony of God Himself to the acceptance of Abel and his offering. In vain does God graciously remonstrate with him; Abel is slain, and Cain goes out from the presence of the Lord, not to be slain of man, but to be a fugitive and a vagabond upon the earth.

How like the people who bought Aceldama with the blood of Christ — "the potter's field to bury strangers in"! for the whole earth has been to them since then a strangers' burial-ground. As a vessel marred upon the wheel, they have been witnesses for Him in their rejection that they are but as clay in the hands of Him against whom they have sinned.

Yet, though wanderers upon the earth, the nation subsists; for He who has ordained their punishment has also ordained its limit. They subsist with the mark of Cain upon them, a people who strikingly fulfill the character of Cain's progeny to this day, away from the presence of Jehovah, according to one of their own prophecies, "without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim."

With Lamech and his sons the line of Cain ends: one in whom self-will and impenitent abuse of God's long-suffering reach their height. A polygamist and would-be homicide, his name speaks of the human "strength" in which he rejoices, his wives' names of the lust of eye and ear after which he goes, his sons' names and their inventions of how, then as now, a soul away from God will use His creatures so as to be able to dispense with Him.* This is a generation such as those of whom the Lord said, "The latter end is worse than the beginning." With Cain, seven generations, and in the last still Cain, only developed further: progress in a race away from God, who will possess themselves of the earth in His despite, and be prosperous citizens in the land of vagabondage.

{*Lamed' is "strong;" Adah, "ornament;" Zillah, "tinkling" ("music-player" some interpret rather than translate it); Jabal, "the traveler;" Jubal, "the trumpet-blast;" Tubal Cain is variously rendered, "worker in ore," "brass of Cain," "issue of Cain;" Naamah, "lovely."}

Happily this is not all; nor is that which is of God, though down-trodden, extinct upon earth. In Seth (appointed in the place of Abel, whom Cain slew) we have its resurrection, and henceforth its perpetuation. The line of Cain perished with the old world in the waters of the deluge; with Seth, God begins, as it were, the race of man anew (Gen. 5), Cain and the fall being now omitted. Seth is the son of man, so to speak, in his likeness who was made in the likeness of God and blessed. With Seth, there are nine generations unto Noah, in whom once more the earth is also blessed: three triads, for God manifests Himself in, as well as to, His people; at the end of the second of which Enoch goes to heaven without seeing death, while Noah is God's seed, brought through the judgment to replenish and find his blessing on the earth beyond. The Church of first-born ones and Israel find here very plainly their representatives, to those who have learned from Scripture the respective destinies of each. Fittingly, therefore, does Enoch become the earliest prophet of the Lord's approach (Jude 14), while the days of Noah are expressly likened, by the Lord Himself, to the time of the coming of the Son of Man.

The more we look, the more we shall see the force of the comparison. Infidelity has invited our attention to a correspondence between the two lines of Cain and Seth, and there is a certain correspondence which it will be well to examine. The resemblance of some names pointed out is no doubt superficial; but there are undoubtedly two Enochs and two Lamechs, and the latter close upon the end of the old world. Of the two Enochs, all that is noted is but contrast. The first gives his name to the city which Cain builds as it were in defiance of his sentence, a city whose builder and maker God is not. Enoch, one of a line which have no earthly history, walks with God, and is not, for God has taken him. The two Lamechs have more in common, for alas! the separateness which at first obtained between the worshipers of Jehovah and those in alienation from Him narrowed as time went on. It was when Enos was born that men began to call upon the name of the Lord, for "Enos" is "frail" or "mortal man," and those content to bear that title learn the mercies of a covenant-keeping God. But as time goes on, Lamech succeeds to Enos — strength to weakness, the world and the Church approach; and thus Lamech, like his Cainite representative, has his memorable saying also: pious, and largely true, but with one fatal flaw in it. Lamech called his son's name "'Noah,' saying, 'This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands because of the earth which the Lord has cursed.'"

And the comfort came, and in Noah, real blessing for the earth from God. Lamech was thus far a true prophet; but the people to whom he spoke, or the survivors of them, with their whole posterity, save Noah's family alone, were all cut off by the flood that preceded the blessing.

Is there nothing similar now, when boundary-lines are nearly effaced, and the Church has shifted from the Enos to the Lamech-state, and peace is preached in the assurance of good days coming, while intervening judgment, universal for the rejecters of present grace, is completely ignored and set aside?

Seth's line has warning as well as comfort for us, then yet is it after all the line to which God's promise and His blessing cleave, and while the world profits naught by their inventions, it is beautiful to see how He numbers up the years of their pilgrimage. With them alone there is a chronology, for He who telleth the stars "numbers their steps" and "telleth" even "their wanderings."

Thus far, then, as to the interpretation of this primeval history as it applies to the larger scale of the world around. But there is a world within which corresponds certainly not less to what these types signify, and which lies apparently yet more within the scope of these Genesis biographies. In this inner world, wherever God has wrought, the same conflict is found, and subject to the same laws. Through death, life; through defeat, victory.

In this sphere of the individual experience the conflict is between two natures — the one which is ours as born naturally; the other, as born of God supernaturally: and here, evidently, the order is, "first, that which is natural, and afterward that which is spiritual." The law of Genesis is thus that the elder gives place to the younger. Cain represents, therefore, that in us which we rightly and necessarily call "the old nature." His name signifies "acquisition, possession;" Abel's, "vapor, exhalation." The contrast between them cannot be questioned, and was prophetic of their lives: Cain possessing himself of that earth on which for man's sake the curse rested, while Abel's life exhaled to God like vapor drawn up by the sun. We may be very conscious, as Christians, of these opposite tendencies: the "flesh," so designated because in it man is sunk down from the spiritual being, which he was created, into mere "body," as we may say, or dust, while the new nature rises Godward.

Not that the flesh cannot have a religion of its own. It can bring its offering Cain-wise, the fruit of a toil which should convict it as outside of paradise, and (expecting it to be received, of course,) be roused to anger by not finding the tokens of acceptance which a mere prodigal, coming home as that, obtains; — the spirit of him who was, again, "the elder son," and who, while professing, "Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandments," had still to add, "and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends." How many of those even in whom there is begun in the heart some true desire after God, are yet destitute of all knowledge of acceptance with Him, because they are endeavoring to approach Him after Cain's pattern, taking their own thoughts instead of His! Faith still, taught of His Word, brings Abel's offering — the surrender of a life unstained by sin, and yielded therefore on account of others, not its own; and faith is the character and expression of the new nature: we are "all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus."

The interpretation of the type runs smoothly so far. The difficulty will be for most that Abel should die, and by his brother's hand — a difficulty quite parallel to that which it represents, that when we have so begun to live, we should find in practical experience a law of sin overmastering, death in the place of life. — "For I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." — "For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me."

Thus, while it is surely true that the life which as children of God we partake of cannot be slain, it is nevertheless true as to experience, from which side the type presents things here, that it is after we have begun to live the true and eternal life we have to learn what death is — to pass through the experience of it in our souls, and learn deliverance from "the body of this death."

In the struggle with evil, we too (though in a very different way from Him who alone is fully and properly the woman's seed) find victory from defeat. We need, on our own account (as He did not), the humiliation of it. Jacob, though heir of blessing, must halt upon his thigh before he can be Israel, a prince with God; and what seems on the one side to be unredeemed evil and its triumph only, shall in another be found the mighty and transforming touch of the "angel that redeems from evil."

We must have the sentence of death in ourselves, that we may not trust in ourselves, but in God that raiseth the dead. The possession of life — of the new nature — is not power over sin; and this we have to learn, that all "power is of God." Trust in a new nature which we have got is still trust in ourselves as having got it; and self-confidence in whatever shape is still a thing alienate from God, and to be broken down, not built up. We must come to the self-despairing cry, "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" before we can learn, as we shall then surely learn, to answer, "I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord."

Thus Abel dies, and Cain lives and flourishes; away from God indeed, but not permitted to be slain. The flesh abides in us, though we are born again; we cannot destroy it when we gladly would. Nay, we have, before we can find the fruit we seek for, to see the flesh in its fruit, under its fairest forms, the evil thing it ever was. To its seventh generation, "that which is born of the flesh is flesh," — from Cain to Tubal-cain, "Cain's issue." But then we have reached a new beginning, and for other fruit find another tree — Seth, appointed of God as a seed "in the place of Abel, whom Cain slew."

Just so when the fruits of the flesh are manifest, and we have proved the inefficacy of the right and good desires which come of the new nature in us when we have failed to work deliverance for ourselves, and have had to cry in despair, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" we find the answer in a fruitful seed bestowed in place of Abel — "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord," and the "law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus" makes us "free from the law of sin and death;" — not "the life," but "the Spirit of life," — not our effort, but divine might, — not self-occupation, but occupation with Him in whom we are before God, and in whom the divine favor rests upon us full and constant as upon Him (and because on Him) it rests. "I, yet not I, but Christ in me." This is a second substitution which for deliverance it imports a soul to know: the substitution of the power of the Spirit for the power of a right will and human energy, the substitution therefore of occupation with Christ for occupation with holiness; for then and thus alone is holiness attainable.

From Seth, then, "Enos" springs.* We can take home the sentence of death; we can glory in weaknesses, that the strength of Christ may rest upon us; and His power known — the living God for us, as we find Him whom our weakness needs, we "worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh." "Then began men" — from the birth of Enos" to call upon the name of the Lord."

{*"Frail" or "mortal man."}

And with Seth, Adam's line begins afresh, as if sin had never entered, as if it had never blotted the page of human history. Like the genealogy in Luke, where, the Son of Man having come in, Adam again shines forth in the brightness of his creation as "the son of God;" so here begin once more "the generations of Adam," with no record of the fall to touch the blessed fact that "in the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made He him." No Cain, nor even Abel, enters here. The record is of a life in all its generations not of this world, yet the days of which in the world God numbers: a life which is fruitful, but whose fruit it is not yet the time to show; a life to which alone is appended the record of a walk with God, and which not only finds its home with God in Enoch, but with Noah also, in due time, after the long-suspended judgment is poured out, inherits the earth also by perpetual covenant of a covenant-keeping God.