"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: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell." (Genesis 4:4,5)
WHAT an evident proof we have in the text of two manner of people: the one accepted, and the other rejected; the one righteous, and the other wicked; the one godly, and the other ungodly. And perhaps no words can more fitly set forth the state of the ungodly in the fall than the word singled out by the Holy Ghost, "ungodly." The saints of God, in their Cainish nature, not only in their unregenerate state, but as long as they live, have a Cainish principle, which will live in them. But, what a mercy to be found among God's Abels; and it does not matter how honest, truthful, kind-hearted, inoffensive a life a man might live, Satan's Cains will hate God's Abels. It ever was so and ever will be. Look at the Man, Christ Jesus: he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; when "he was reviled, he reviled not again: when he suffered he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously." (1 Peter 2:22,23) And yet Satan's Cains spit upon him, reviled him, hurried him out of the world; and I say Satan's Cains ever did and ever will hate and abhor the spirit, image, and grace of Jesus Christ. They hated Christ, and they will hate all that bear his image.
Now it might seem strange to you (and some few of you understand it), but I have been thinking upon my bed this morning (for my mind is busy) that my carnal nature, my Cainish nature always sides with the devil against Christ; now I feel that my carnal mind always did and always will side with the devil against Christ. Say you, "I don't feel it." Don't you know there are many Lords and many Christ's: if you have the spirit of Christ, and Christ formed in your hearts, the only hope of glory by the Holy Ghost, your vile, carnal mind will rise against it; and there is that deadly fight between Cain and Abel in the believer; Cain would pull down Abel, and Abel Cain; and the contest goes on. "Gad, a troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last." (Gen. 49:19)
He bore the image of the devil, the murderous heart of the devil, and went to the devil. "Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one." (1 John 3:12) ("Let God be true.") "And slew his brother; and wherefore slew he him." "Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous;" and with all the arguments you could use you would never convince me I am by nature one whit better than Cain. What passed between them in the field we are not told, but Cain rose against Abel and killed him. "Fear him, which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell." (Luke 12:5) Poor child of God, I want if I can to humble thy soul; if I can I want to say something God would apply to humble thee before him. What are you better than Cain? Is there any proof he was deeper sunk in the fall than others? Look here; we know not what was said in the field to provoke Cain; I have found thousands of times to my shame murderous desires harbored in my heart without provocation. You look at mortals in their infancy: they have not the strength of an ox, but they will put out their strength to the utmost, and convince you they are not pleased with what is going on. Oh! how the Cainish nature will show itself in a babe!
And "man born bad, grows worse and worse." Oh! poor fellow-sinner, have not you and I been in a rage--in a fit little better than madness: have we not breathed revenge? Has not blood-guiltiness risen up like a torrent? and, if God had not interposed and kept us night and day, what are we better than Cain who slew his brother? Are we not as willing for the devil to blow, as for our corruptions to rise when in a fume? Better meet a bear bereaved of her whelps than a fool in his folly; and then for God to interpose and restrain thy Cainish nature, and never suffer the devil to get the better of thee. What did Cain say? "My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth."
Sinner, sinner, do you wonder? Don't you want to be humbled that you are not a fugitive and vagabond on the earth? If a fugitive and vagabond who but myself would have brought me there? Poor fellow-sinner, what was it but God's love for thee that interposed on thy behalf when madly bent on thine own destruction?
I find it good to reflect. What have we been? What are we now? What are we capable of? Many people would be frightened at an old cow, and no more frightened at sin than at a butterfly. I say we are terrified with fancies, and yet sin is a darling; sin is a pretty plaything; there is no terror about sin, but they hug it, wallow in it, delight in it, no dread about it, and no fear of God concerning it. What folly is bound up in the hearts of the children of men!
What did you promise yourselves content from?
He had respect to Abel and his offering; for God to respect is to love. He loved Abel and chose him in Jesus Christ, his Son. "For his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins." (Eph. 2:4,5) He never loved our sins: he hates his people's sins, and gives his people grace to hate their own sins, but his love is so great to the children. "For his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins" hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace ye are saved.) Some poor, foolish people are too proud to have salvation by grace: how differently they feel to what I do! Nothing but grace and mercy through the atoning blood can ever save a monster like me; what they stumble at, my soul loves and delights in.
You were as blind, as dead, as much at enmity to God, as ignorant of salvation as they; and yet for God to have respect to thee, and have no respect to them. I want thee to be humbled; I want thee to drop thy head, and the tears drop on the ground. Before God interposed on my behalf I could spend part of the day at the ale-house; but when God opened my eyes I had to give it up.
But what a mercy for God to have respect to us under sin, to make us differ from the devil's Cains, and bring us among God's Abels whom he will glorify in bliss. I say--Reflect
"When lower and lower." And look here: it is not as if it stopped when God stopped thee. What have we been since? Why, sinking in sin lower and lower, like the woman with the deadly disease; ever since God called us have we not been sensible of it?
"Turn again, son of man, thou shalt see greater abominations than these."
"He stretch'd forth his power,
And snatch'd us from hell."
And why? Because he had respect to our persons, and loved our souls, and predestinated us to eternal life in Jesus Christ, his well-beloved Son, before the world began.
You put the Abels together, and they will lay hold on one another's fists somewhere; but how can the Cains understand it?
"When lower and lower,
We every day fell,
He stretch'd forth his power,
And snatch'd us from hell."
Poor sinner, what are you going to do in heaven? Why, glorify and extol the Trinity-in-Unity for plucking a brand, in compassion, from a burning hell. And oh? that Jesus Christ should burn in thy stead! You see I cannot talk quietly about God's truth. "While I was musing the fire burned."
The carnal mind ever will rise against divine sovereignty: there is not a truth in the Bible but my carnal mind rises against; and yet, on the other hand, the Abel, the life of God, the new nature, God's workmanship in my soul, sides with God and his Son Jesus Christ, and receives the love of the truth, and is saved thereby to the glory of God.
So soon upon the fall, of the two first men born of a woman, the one is chosen, the other rejected; the one loved, the other hated; the one called, the other left; the one lived and died a servant to sin and the devil, and went to the devil when he died, and the other was chosen in Christ Jesus before the world began. "The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect." This difference is seen right through the Book of God, though mortals hate it, and you will not hear much said about it from the pulpit. Oh! it is a mercy to be kept by the power of God Almighty faithful unto death.
We find Isaac and Ishmael, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman; and though Abraham said, "Oh! that Ishmael might live before thee," nevertheless what saith the scripture? "Cast out the bondwoman and her son; for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free." (Gal. 4:30,31) For "in Isaac shall thy seed be called;" and when Abraham made his last will and testament he gave all he possessed to Isaac, the child of promise, the child of the freewoman; and as to him that was born of the concubine he gave him presents while he was alive, and sent him away. And so with God: "The earth hath he given to the children of men."
"'Tis all they seek; they take their shares,
And leave the rest among their heirs."
But "the inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 1:4) is to be given to God's Isaacs, as a deed of gift, to be enjoyed to all eternity.
Then we have Jacob and Esau. Rebekah found the twins struggling in her womb; and every regenerate soul will find this struggling; and it will puzzle him exceedingly. Have you not come to the conclusion:--if born of God, regenerated by the Spirit, why am I thus? Why does Esau struggle thus? Why do I feel so carnal, so devilish? (A man pulled a long face last Sunday, being ready to give us all: I have been thinking of that man; I want to meet with him again.)
Bound for heaven indeed! Why, all seems gone stark out. But Rebekah went to the right quarter; and if taught of the Holy Ghost, God will teach thee where to go; she went to enquire of the Lord. Pharaoh went to Moses; Saul to the witch of Endor; Rebekah, the regenerated child of God, amazed, went to enquire of the Lord. What is God's answer? "Two nations are in thy womb; and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger." Is it not so to this day, sinner?
Examine the Bible: look around, if you have eyes to see. Are there not to this hour, and have there not been since the days of Rebekah, two manner of people? Is there not a people that love the Lord, and long to love him more, and a people that hate and despise him; a people that fear to sin against him, and a people that have no fear of God before their eyes; a people longing to get at him, and a people saying, "Depart from us, for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways?" (Job 21:14)
Is there not a people that make this world their all, and a people with the world under their feet, seeking salvation alone by the blood and obedience of Jesus Christ; a people that cannot know enough of him, and a people willingly ignorant of God, and his Son, Jesus Christ; a people waling in his ways, keeping his commands, through reigning grace, walking through life with his Abels; and a people of a Cainish principle in whom Satan lives and walks, and whom he leads captive at his will, who, though "they profess they know God, yet in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." (Titus 1:16) Is it not so to this hour?
Is there not a people toward the Lord, and a people against him; a people that desire him, and long to get to glory by Jesus Christ, his Son; and a people bent on their own destruction? What a mercy to be found among the Abels!
"The one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger." And you will find the bulk have been on Satan's side. The dukes came on Esau's side. "Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called." (1 Cor. 1:26) "Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world, rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom?" (James 2:5) The great ones, the noble ones are on Cain's side. They hate the image of Christ,--anything that comes from him and leads to him; and what a mercy if we differ by the all-sufficient grace of God.
Well, the time came that Rebekah should be delivered. There came forth from the same worm, at the same time, one loved of God, another hated. "For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of him that calleth: it was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated." (Rom. 9:11-13)
Rebekah brought her twins, and "the boys grew;" and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field;"--and all who live and die in cunning, lies, deceit, double-dealing;--all who live and die in these crooked ways will perish in their sins.
A man very fit for this world is hardly fit for the kingdom of heaven; and a man fit for the kingdom is hardly fit for this world. "And Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents." He was a God-fearing man, a humble, penitent man, that made the world his footstool; he was born of God's Spirit, interested in the blood and obedience of God's dear Son, fit for heaven. He had learned the song of heaven, and God took him home to sing it. Throughout the Bible Cains are Cains, and Abels Abels. Which do we most resemble? If the Cains are our companions, and we are cunning hunters with them, remember the Cains will be in hell, and the Abels in heaven. God brought Abel home straight to himself: he went a short rough road, yet sudden death was sudden glory to Abel; while a life of wickedness is damnation to those that live and die in it.
I should like to tell you the truth while I am here, and I say it is a mercy to love the Abels and for the Abels to love us.
"Nor can a union e'er take place
'Twixt heirs of hell and heirs of grace."
Look at the Israelites and Egyptians; God made a way through the sea for the ransomed to pass over; they sang his praise, and soon forgat his works; and so do you and I; but he does not forget us.
Think of the righteous and the wicked. Look at the first Psalm; look at the Proverbs. Through the whole book of God there are these two manner of people spoken of in hundreds and hundreds of places. "Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners: nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful: But his delight is in the law of the Lord: and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season. The leaf of his profession also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper." (Ps. 1:1-3) "The ungodly," God's opposite, "are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away." "Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish." That is only a sample of the whole Bible. "Say ye to the righteous, that it shall be well with him: for they shall eat the fruit of their doings. Woe unto the wicked: for the reward of his hands shall be given him." There is the chaff and the wheat. "He will gather the wheat into his garner: but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable." (Matt. 3:12)
There are the sheep and the goats; the one on the right hand, the other on the left. To the sheep he shall say, what ravished my soul forty years ago; "Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:" (Matt. 25:34) and to the wicked, "Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matt. 25:41)
There are vessels of mercy (oh! what I have sucked from that), and vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. There are vessels to honor, and vessels to dishonor; some redeemed from among men, others left to perish: some born again of God's Spirit, and some left to wander the downward road, whose end is destruction.
There is a people whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life, and the rest shall be cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:15) The High-priest bore the children's names on his breast when he went in before the Lord. They that think upon his name, the bruised reeds that hunger after righteousness--their names are in the Lamb's book of life; and all the wicked will he destroy with the breath of his mouth.
Oh! for you and me to be found among God's Abels here, and spend an eternity with them above.
"Oh! to grace how great a debtor,
Daily I'm constrained to be,
Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter,
Bind my worthless heart to thee."
How the sovereignty of God shines forth in these two men; Cain and Abel: the first born of a woman after man's direful fall: the one taken, the other left; the one plucked as a brand from the burning by the compassion of God, and the other passed by. The one God had respect to: the other he neither respected in his offering or person.
What a solemn consideration, which concerns us all! Shall we be found among God's Abels, or Satan's Cains? Which do we most resemble in spirit and practice? Which are our companions? Our companions in this world will be our companions in eternity. Like loves like; and, "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" You throw the Abels together, and they will sooner or later mingle in spirit, and become one in Christ; but Abels and Cains can never unite. It is a solemn fact. When God cursed the devil for the wicked thing he had done in tempting Eve, he said, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." (Gen. 3:15)
What a solemn thought that God will set enmity between the two seeds. "It shall bruise thy head," Christ, the seed of the woman, bruised the serpent's head; "and thou shalt bruise his heel." The heel is the hindermost part of the body; and Satan often bruises the heel, and it drives us nearer to anchor in God's Christ. And when Jacob gathered up his feet into the bed, his heel was caught up out of Satan's shot; and to all eternity the church of the living God shall be out of the gun-shot of hell; they shall at death shoot the gulf of perdition and enter glory.
Cain, in process of time, brought an offering to the Lord of the fruits of the earth: he was a tiller of the ground; Abel a keeper of sheep. God had no respect to Cain: he loved him not; he chose him not; he had no respect to his offering. The earth was cursed for man's sin, and in Cain's case, as it were, double-cursed. "And now thou art cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand." God showed his displeasure against Cain for his abominable crime; and oh! what a plight he was in! How I have had to thank God I am not there--a fugitive and vagabond. Once especially I was tempted of the devil, and saw the care of God toward me; I have heard of similar cases since, where sinners have been given up to commit rash acts; and there was I exposed to the same sin, and if not kept might have fallen as well as they, and been a fugitive and vagabond; and more than all, I might have been damned in hell with Cain. I will defy any man to lay the sinner too low for me, because I know what it is to be brought to feel my low estate; and I will defy any man to lift the Saviour and salvation by him too high for me "Glory to God in the highest." "Not unto us O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy and for thy truth's sake." (Ps. 115:1) How many times I have thought if I had been a poor destitute vagabond, with neither money, credit, friends, house or home, what have I to say? And yet how can I set forth the goodness, pity and love of the Trinity-in-Unity on behalf of such a monster as I?
But, "he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion," so then "it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy." (Rom. 9:16) We noticed in the morning how his sovereignty in taking one and leaving another shines through the book of God. And however the carnal mind might have against it,
"His word shall stand, his truth prevail,
And not one jot or tittle fail."
God respecteth now the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies. What the bulk of professors believe in is simply this, that God loves everybody, Christ died for everybody, the Spirit strives with everybody, and would save everybody, but some are too obstinate and will not be prevailed on, and consequently perish. But when did any perish? Did you ever hear of any going to perdition? If a man dies on the drop, they frequently make a penitent of him before he dies, and give him the sacrament setting forth the blood and obedience of God's dear Son, and yet the Bible tells us, "the wicked shall be turned into hell, with all the nations that forget God." But who ever heard of anybody going to hell?
How right through the book of God is seen the sovereignty of God respecting the religious and wicked; bastards and sons; those whose names are in the book of life, and those that are to be cast into the lake of fire. But the grand point with us is, are we found among God's Abels or the devil's Cains?
Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground. The ground is cursed for man's sins. "Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken; for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." The earth is a cursed thing, but it is not to be compared to the carnal mind. Cain's offering did not point to Christ, as Abel's did; it was not a living but dead offering, and so with all that mortals can attain to. Did I not tell you my carnal mind always does side with the devil against the Christ of God formed in my heart the only hope of glory.
What mortals bring to please God, and are pleased with themselves, and flows from the carnal mind must be cursed; and yet this is the offering that lying pretenders bring to God; and they are pleased with it, though in God's sight it is sin. It ariseth from the carnal mind, and that is declared to be enmity against God, and "is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." (Rom. 8:7) Then comes a solemn word touching all the offerings all the Cains will bring to God:" so then, "they that are in the flesh cannot please God." It is impossible: the unregenerate cannot please God.
All their performances in God's account are sin; they are Christless, graceless, they center in the dead sea of self; and stink of self and pride. Let their creed be Calvinistic or Arminian, they that live and die without the new birth, that live and die in the flesh, cannot please God. They are God's opposites: and "the wicked shall be turned into hell with all the nations that forget God."
Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground. There is no life in it, no blood, no pointing to Jesus Christ, not a sigh or groan from indwelling life in the soul; it was earthly, sensual, devilish; something set up in the place of the Redeemer's blood and obedience; and hence God neither respected Cain nor his offering.
Poor sinner, let us have a look at Abel. "He also brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof." "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh." (Heb. 11:4) By faith--faith in Christ, being alive to God and united to his Son, Jesus Christ, he offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, he brought of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fat thereof. It was a live offering, typical of the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world--an offering of blood. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Peter 1:18,19) I say the offering he brought pointed to the Lamb of God. "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God." (Heb. 9:14)
"Only by faith in Jesus' wounds
The sinner gets release;
No other sacrifice for sin
Will God accept but this."
"Your lamb shall be without blemish: a male: ye shall offer it up: Ye shall sprinkle the blood on the door-posts, and the plague shall not be on you when I strike the land of Egypt."
Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock, pointing to the Lamb of God, and God had respect to him, and to his offering. He loved him from eternity, chose him in his Son from before the foundation of the world. How could he but have respect to the person and offering of the man when the man came with an offering pointing to the blood of his Son,--a living offering pointing to the Lamb of God, the Friend of sinners? It was his adopted child, loved from eternity, and hence God had respect to his redeemed child; and the child brought a living offering.
And where God sets up his kingdom in the soul of his child, who is created in Christ Jesus unto good works which he hath before ordained that he should walk in them, (Eph. 2:10) there is not a grace of the Spirit ever buds or blossoms in the soul,--a soul united to the Lamb but is an offering acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Sinner, ye must be born again. We can bring forth no fruit but as united to the Vine. But all the motions of eternal life are heard; God heard the groanings of the children of Israel and had respect to them.
"Though the Lord be high"--how high we can never grasp--"the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, yet hath he respect unto the lowly." (Ps. 138:6) His Abels are lowly: they are the lilies of the valley; they find favor in his sight. "Though the Lord be high yet hath he respect unto the lowly."
Sinner are you among the lowly--among the myrtle trees in the bottom? "But the proud he knoweth afar off." Perhaps the two great features to single out and make to differ Cains and Abels, are pride and humility.
Oh! think of the pride of the Cains; what a besetting sin is pride. The very religion of the Cains centers in the dead sea of self; the whole muck of it is pride. They are pleased with themselves, and think God is pleased with them. But "I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes."
But the leading feature of the Abels is humility. If, when your eyes were first opened you fell lower and lower two yards a day, it seems now as if you fell four. Cain gets better and better; and Abel gets worse and worse. "Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall." Look at a poor sinner preparing for damnation in hell; he gets a little money round him, and thinks it is himself has got it, and there he is blown up in pride, and swelling like a toad; and he thinks others might do better if they did as he. Everything that feeds thy pride is a curse to thee in disguise, and fits for hell. I say, the proud go to perdition, and the humble to glory by the blood of Christ.
And this is why God had no respect to Cain: he was a man of pride; you let a man be convinced of his state, and it will grow upon him to the end of his days.
"When lower and lower we every day fell,
He stretch'd forth his hand and snatch'd us from hell."
You let a man know himself, and his will be a spreading leprosy, he will get lower and lower; and let him have pardon and it will humble him; and nothing can humble a man but knowledge of self and a knowledge of mercy.
"But the proud he knoweth afar off." How can the two unite? The one is of the world,--the one swells in pride, the other is humbled. "All the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be as stubble, and the day that cometh shall burn them up." I want to live and die among the humble. God will have respect to everything that comes from union to the living Vine. He will have respect to thy sighs and wishes, and the contrition of thy heart. "With him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
It is the contrite inherit the kingdom. "The wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the promotion of fools." (Prov. 3:35) God will have respect to the repentance he works in the soul of his child. Do you feel godly sorrow for sin? How can you feel it unless you possess godly life?
"New life from him we must receive,
Before for sin we rightly grieve."
Is godly sorrow ever created in your soul? It worketh "repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of." (2 Cor. 7:10) Then the Holy Ghost says, "What carefulness is wrought in you." Do you know about that carefulness? Have you been stung by sin? "Let him be your fear; and let him be your dread. And he shall be for a sanctuary."
Do you feel that carefulness where you put your feet? If you fear God you must try and do what is right and bear the rest. "Yea, what indignation." "Why," say you, "that is not natural." No, but it is supernatural; and what is it but gospel repentance? And when does it flow? When mercy flows into your soul. "Yea, what revenge." The knife is put to the throat of thy lusts, and thou wouldest kick them out of doors but can'st not.
And sometimes thy besetting sins will kick thee into sin. Job said, "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes." (Job 42:5,6) This is only found in God's Abels, and is produced there by the power of the Spirit. When mercy flows in, self-abhorrence will flow out. "Then shall ye loathe yourselves." When do you feel indignation against what riots in your heart? It is not natural; it is going out of the common course; but God says it shall be so with his children, that they shall loathe themselves for their doings (not only their sayings, but their doing that which they have done) when he speaks peace and is pacified toward them. And it is in these offerings God takes pleasure; and to eternity how he will inhabit the praises of Israel! How his children will glorify him, extol him, and lift him up very high; he will reap the greatest glory from sinners saved by grace.
"The Lord had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth, and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well shalt thou not be accepted?" This is putting the thing home to his conscience. There is nothing well about thee, nor good about thee; thine offering is dead, comes from the dead ground, does not point to my Son, is not attended with humility; you are as destitute of repentance as a beast. "And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." The destruction of thy body and soul is the fruit of thine own sin. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
These two brothers were in the field together. What passed between them we cannot tell? but how can sheep and goats unite, the proud and humble agree--those that are sick of self, and those that are fond of self unite? Those that look to the Lamb of God for salvation, and those that look to their own doings, how can they be of one spirit toward the living God?
And Cain, influenced by the devils blowing a blast on his carnal mind, rose in fury against his brother, and slew him; more he could not do. What can be a greater proof of man's fall,--the two first brothers, born of the same mother, being together in the field, one rises against the other and kills him. And wherefore slew him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. What a proof of the fall! Oh! sinner, "I sorely feel the fall;" but Christ has righteousness enough to sanctify all his saints.
"Sin entered into the world and death by sin." (Rom. 5:12) You read the history of England, Greece, Rome, France:--what is it but one series of murders, assassinations, and bloody wars? How many husbands have been hanged like dogs for murdering their wives? Oh! the state of mankind! And yet mortals will not believe it, because they don't feel it. How Herod killed James! How the executioner was sent to take John's head off in the prison!
They say none of the disciples of God's suffering Son died a natural death except John; and God's enemies were not to be thanked that he did, for they put him into boiling oil, but his work was not done, so he escaped.
To the Lord's people sudden death is sudden glory. "And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: am I my brother's keeper?" What a taunt? "Thou art thy brother's murderer; the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground." And then God tells him what he shall be--a fugitive and a vagabond among men; and he said, "My punishment is greater than I can bear--from thy face shall I be hid, and it shall come to pass that everyone that findeth me shall slay me." But God set a mark upon him, and, poor man, he went away and amused himself by building a city; and he called the city by his son's name; and when his measure of iniquity was full he went to his own place.
Oh! to perish when the malicious Cains! And on the other hand, oh! to live and die with the martyrs of Jesus, with the Abels, the humble people, the contrite sinners.
"The contrite heart and broken
God will not give to ruin,
This sacrifice he'll not despise,
For 'tis his Spirit's doing."
Oh! to live and die with them that love Him. "I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me." He hath respect to those that love him, and his dear Son, and love his appearing and delight in his smiles; and his visitations revive their spirits.
Oh! sinner, what a solemn thought! Are we among the Abels or among the Cains, working out our own destruction by our own sins?