"Where is Abel thy brother?"

(Genesis 4:9.)

[04 1862 104] What was it that constituted the radical difference between the offering of Cain and that of Abel? Why was it that Abel's was a "more excellent sacrifice" than Cain's? The difference between the characters of the two men was great. The one, we are told, was "righteous;" the other appears to have been an ungovernable man with strong passions, though they may not have broken out till Abel's sacrifice drew the evil forth. But why was it that the one had his offering accepted, and the other found a stern refusal? The point is not found in the characters of the men. It is summed up in a most momentous word — "faith." "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain." Bear in mind that I do not for a moment put out of sight the difference in the practical ways of these two men — the bright side of Abel and the dark side of Cain. The moral effects of faith always justify God. It is true that that which faith lays hold of is outside the soul that possesses it; the resting place of faith is entirely without us. But no man can believe in Christ without most blessed effects — not immediate perhaps, nor always rapidly developed; but it is as impossible that there can be faith in Christ without consequences produced in life and walk, as it is that God could in anything put forth His mighty power without proof that such work is of Him.

 My present desire is to show how we find the character of Cain brought out in Scripture. It is a very striking proof of the perfectness of the Bible, that there is a great part of the Old Testament which we can only understand in the light of some of the latest books of the New. And in the case of the history of Cain, the mere reading of the narrative in Genesis would not give the clue. But the moment we apply the key, the door, which was previously locked, opens instantly. And the case with which it flies open is no mean proof that the very same hand which made the lock made the key also. In this case one little word applied makes all plain. That word is "faith." And here is the great searching question for each soul that is here — have you got it? If we read this history, with the light of God shining through us, we shall find it is God Himself speaking to us. Here you have two men — an accepted man and a rejected man. With which of these is your portion now? Can you say that you have by faith "a more excellent sacrifice?" Can you say that you know that God has offered it, and that the Holy Ghost has given you to believe it? Have you taken your stand by Abel? or are you travelling in the way of Cain? How is it that thousands lose their souls? They are kept by Satan in their ruin, in their degradation, by putting off the solemn consideration as to how they stand at this moment before God. They ignore their real condition. And let me entreat you, my readers, to take care that this may not be the case with your own hearts now. Take care, on the contrary, that you are applying the standard of God to your souls. It is an unsparing criterion. It leaves you nothing to stand on as a man, for you are a sinful man; and you may boast of being a man, but who can boast of being a sinner? The truth that God solemnly presses is that sin is come into the world. "So He drove out the man" — drove him out of Paradise.

It was not always so — not so did God make him. But look on the world now, and you have the same great proof of moral ruin as in these two, the offspring of the pair who were originally driven out. They were born in sin. Here they were alike. But in one case there was a believing man, and in the other a man who went on in his enmity to God, still in his ruin. To Cain God's question was, "Where is Abel thy brother?" And did you ever think that God has the same challenge to put to the soul now? There was One who condescended to become a man, to take our nature, and thus become brother of Israel, of man in a certain sense — our brother — though of course holy and guiltless, the only faithful witness. Yet He was smitten — smitten in the house of His friends! But it was not only a Jew who did it. It was man. Do you see, therefore, that this solemn question is one which God is ever pressing on this world? If His blessed Son came and deigned to die, does that relieve us from the awful guilt of having slain Him? Is God indifferent about it? Does any sin rise up against man like that? It was when Adam was put away from Eden that the blessed Lord of glory came into the midst of men who came short of the glory of God. He descended into the midst of suffering. He knew affliction as no other. He was the "man of sorrows." But that very One — the Son of man — could say, in speaking of Himself, "the Son of man which is in heaven." It is not only that He is the "only begotten Son" of the Father, but, as it is said, "which is in the bosom of the Father." And this is not a question of locality, but of the most intimate relationship and of Deity. Even as man He could not be described otherwise than as "the Son of man which is in heaven." Had He not been God, how could He have so spoken of Himself? But He became a man, a man as truly as one of us. He was not only man, but God; and not only God, but man. And in Him was shown what God was to man — in Him just as truly what man ought to be towards God. Yet the end of all was THE CROSS; and this at the hands of man. And God will make inquisition for that holy blood — I was going to say "innocent" blood. It was that, of course, but it was holy. There was divine power in Him repellent of evil. Adam, even unfallen, could not be called holy; he was faultless, but he had not a particle of holiness. But the Son of God came, and though there was divine power, yet one most wonderful trait in Him was, that He never escaped an atom of suffering by putting forth His own Godhead power. He did not walk in self-sustainment, though he might have done so; but in leaning upon His Father's power, doing the will of Him who sent Him. He looked up, He prayed, He would not speak His own words, and what the Father told Him to do, that He did. He was the obedient One — the perfect servant — bending down to every burden in order to glorify God in it. And all that He got here below was the cross. Now do you believe this? Do you believe what God would do for your soul?

God has given me this perfect pattern of all goodness and dependence; but that is not all. He has given this blessed One to bear my sins, to take them upon Himself, to bear the judgment for them. And do you think that Christ has failed to do it? God is most explicit. He has found a glory in Christ, not merely as His Son, not merely as a man, but as the bearer of sin upon the cross, so much so that He can bring out now a full, immediate pardon. Nay, more; He is justifying, He is giving such a standing before Him as one would not exchange for that of Adam in Paradise. Though sin is around, and the believer may find the effects in his own soul and body of what sin has brought in, and though the believer may have a lot worse in suffering than that of others, as is the normal case; with all that he has got Christ — he has redemption; he has the certainty of eternal life. Is it presumption to allow this? You might better ask, Is it presumption to believe God? If you said, I have abstained from this or that sin, etc., and therefore can look up with confidence, or at least hope, for the favour of God, that would be presumption. Can I put my obedience by the side of Christ? Can I challenge God to look at it? Men look among themselves to see which is the least defiled. But there is One who is without taint; God has declared it. The whole question is over. The perfectness of Christ, the love of Christ, the love of God in Christ, made the case of man only the more hopeless until redemption came in. Christ magnified God in the cross, and God raised Him from the dead. This is part of God's righteousness. But redemption is the very thing that man always leaves out of the account, because he ignores his own sin. Can you say for yourself, the whole question is settled? Everyone that believes in Christ ought to be able to answer with boldness. If you were to ask, Have you been faithful? surely it should bring many a blush on the face. There ought to be many a trembling knee where there is honesty, and the only confession would be of utter unfaithfulness. But if God has accomplished redemption, am I honouring Him if I dispute His word, or doubt His love, and put away what He presents to me? It is a terrible thing to talk about redemption and faith without having drawn near to God. That is only trifling about sin.

But if you have gone to God, and confessed to Him what you are, there is nothing but blessing awaits you, though you have to confess that you have outraged Him, that you have lived for yourself without God, that you have thought to approach Him in doing some religious duty — like Cain, who brought an offering of that which his own hands had laboured in, thinking he had done his best to bring it in a suitable way to God. It is plain that Cain had never felt his sin. As to natural character, there might have been more in him than in Abel. It might have been said of Abel that he was a quiet, spiritless man, with no energy in him at all. But Cain was such as men can admire. He was a bold man, indeed, for he dared to look up to God and answer Him. For when God said, You shall be a fugitive on the face of the earth, he replies, in effect, No! I will build a city. That is what man applauds. And in all that makes man great, there might be some ground, if there was no such thing as sin. But if I have to meet God about my sins . . . .? And meet Him I must, now or hereafter. If I meet Him now, there is nothing but salvation, redemption, and forgiveness of sins; love from God, power with God; because He has given all I need in the death and resurrection of His beloved Son.

But man, away from God, says, True, we are not in Paradise, but we must make an imitation of it; and so he takes advantage of all that science and art have brought in, and tries to make this world a pleasant place to live in. But there is an infinitely more important question, and that is, How is man to stand with God? And all that would better the material condition of human life is but a blind of Satan to hinder men from settling the great question. Where do you find these things first coming in? Among the descendants of Cain. It cannot be denied that the inventions of man are useful — that he who invented a steam-engine conferred a benefit on others; and, of course, it is all right to make use of these things. But it is another thing to live in them, to live for them, as though this world were only a place for man to amuse himself and dwell for ever in. We must appear before the tribunal of Christ. What should we think of the depraved moral condition of a criminal, condemned to death, spending his time and thoughts in adorning his cell, which he must leave only for the place of execution? Yet such a state is doubtless true of some who hear me.

Have you met God about your sins? Have you answered His solemn question. Where is thy brother? Why is He not here? He had eternal life. No one — not only no man, but no one — had power to take it away. He laid it down of Himself. His death might seem like the death of any other; but it did differ most essentially from any beside. It was the death of a man who was a divine person. Not all the legions of Rome could have taken it from Him, had He not given it up Himself. He was the willing prisoner, and the willing sacrifice. When the band of armed men came to take Him, after proving with what perfect ease He could baffle His persecutors — for when He said, "I am he," they went backward and fell to the ground — He gave Himself into their hands. And yet men take advantage of His love to deny His power — take advantage of His humiliation to gainsay His glory! Alas! men refuse to commit their souls without an anxious thought to that precious blood whose virtue is proclaimed in God's own Word. Strange, that in these days of such extensive circulation of the Word of God, there should be so little real belief in its power! The Turk, with his Koran, believes what it tells him, goes through his prayers, ablutions, and forms, and is satisfied that he is one of the faithful. But those who have God's Word are afraid to trust Him, afraid lest, after all, their sins should rise up against them! But what does God proclaim that blood for? Either the death of Christ is of no value; or no sin of scarlet dye can rise up to make me doubt it is all put away, if I believe God's word about it. No doubt sin ought to humble me. But the one who knows most of himself, while resting on the blood of Christ, will be the most humble. Suppose a man in debt, so deeply that he is afraid even to look into his books to discern the amount. But a friend appears who has unbounded resources, and says, I will pay your debt. No matter what your lack of credit is; the question is, what is my name? will it stand good? I will not only pay your debts, but set you up as you never were before. It is precisely so that God works through His beloved Son. And when a man believes, he should not be afraid to look at himself; he can afford to let the light of God shine into his heart, and search out and show him all his motives. And all the discovery of his own evil ought to be only for the discovery of the worth of that which has blotted out all his sins for ever. This binds him to Christ with a new hatred of sin that he never knew before. God is exalted as a Saviour — God who has come down to me in His Son; not as One who could have no sympathy with me, but in that Blessed Man who thought it not robbery to be equal with God — in Him of whom the prophets spoke, testifying of His glory. And if you believe, the inestimable privilege is yours of being saved by Him, without even a speck of sin left upon you. What a joy! and well may you rejoice, if this portion is yours.

And what a thought it is that something so wonderful is always going on — God thinking of souls; pressing this salvation upon you; telling you of His Son as the Saviour! Will you not accept Him for the worth at which God accounts Him? Remember the word of God, "When I see the blood, I will pass over you." How many say, "If only I could see the blood!" Does God call you to do this? He sees it. And faith means the soul resting upon the value that God attaches to the blood of His dear Son; so that I can say, My sins, which were scarlet, are washed away; though they were many, they are all forgiven. There may be many important questions; but every question sinks into insignificance in presence of this — the value of Christ and His blood in the presence of God. I am brought to meet God at His judgment-seat now, as it were, in my own conscience; and there I hear His voice saying, The blood of Jesus Christ, my Son, cleanses from all sin. Beloved friends, have you thus come? May this be the language of your hearts, "I believe." What is it that hinders the giving up of self? of the little world, or the great world? If I give up myself and bow before the only worthy one, this exalts God. It is the acknowledgment that He is good to me in my sins. In Israel, God was at a distance, hidden, and they had to approach Him; but now God is going out to sinners. Jesus came "to seek and to save that which was lost." God was so bent on blessing sinners, that He must become manifest in flesh to die for them. Thus the sum is this: If I prefer myself, I am a lost man; but if I cast myself upon the worthiness of Christ, I can join those who say, "Thanks be unto God which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."