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wroth," said the Lord to Cain, “and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted ? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” This is exceedingly like the kind manner of the father towards the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son, and is as much as to say, “why art thou angry with others? Is not the rejection of thine offering owing to thyself alone? If thou art as humble and pious as thy brother, and offerest thy sacrifice in faith as he, shalt thou not be accepted equally with him ? and still have the authority over him, and the honour which belongs to thy birth-right? And if thou hast not these right views and affections, is it not thine own sin ?”—May not sinners be thus reasoned with in every age? Whose fault is it that you are not favoured and blessed of God? Is not the cause to be found in yourselves if you are rejected ? “ As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked should turn from his evil way and live ?”
ways are equal, but your ways are unequal." “The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” To such a rule of
proceeding what possible objection can be made ? Here each one bears his own burden, and according to his own individual state and character he stands or falls. Then let every man prove his own work, and examine himself whether he be in the faith. Let him see to it that he come unto God in the appointed way, and then he shall assuredly find mercy even as others. But with Cain the expostulation availed not. The mortification which he had received rankled in his heart; he could not forgive what he considered as a humiliation, and he brooded over revenge upon him, whom he unjustly considered as the cause of his disgrace. Ah! who that knows his own heart is not aware that such dispositions are natural to man, and that he is too commonly ready to be enraged against others, when only himself is to blame.
II. We will now consider the commission of this atrocious act. It is related in these words which stand as the text." 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.” It seems from this narration that the murder was not committed immediately, but after he had had time for deliberation, so that he had not even the excuse of the heat of a momentary passion; it was a deliberate cold-blooded act. It seems too that there was deceit and guile in his behaviour ; he talked with his brother in their usual manner, as it seems, having war in his heart, while smooth words were on his tongue. At length he found a suitable opportunity : when they were together, and probably alone, in the field, he rose
up against Abel, and slew him.—Behold now the misery and mischief which sin has brought into the earth. See a pious youth weltering in his blood by a violent and untimely death. See his own brother standing over him with murderous hands, and with every ungovernable, diabolical passion swelling in his heart, and depicted in his countenance. There you see
the consequences of the fall of man. There you may contemplate what human nature is. There you may behold yourselves. Hold this glass to your own face. Shrink not from the examination of the features. They are those of the natural man, born in the likeness of his fallen progenitor. There see of what you are capable; what, but for the grace of God, you might commit. These subjects will lose their utility, even though the historical relation may keep up their interest, if we do not thus make them applicable to ourselves.
Here too we meet with the first instance of the power
of death over the human race; and as Abel was probably the first of mankind that died, his death, especially under such circumstances, must have been peculiarly distressing to his parents. Their sin would be thus
powerfully called to their remembrance, and the painful sensations which they must feel through the death of one son, and the wickedness of the other, would be greatly aggravated by the thought, that these were both the sad consequences of their own transgression.
Here also we read of the first martyr, and of the breaking out of that enmity which was put between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. St. John, exhorting those who were brethren in Christ to love one another, adds, “not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.” Abel therefore was slain for his righteousness' sake. He leads the van of the noble army of martyrs. But many a one since that day has fallen in the same warfare, and persecutors in various ages have made themselves “ drunken with the blood of the saints.” If we enjoy peaceful times and protection for our lives, our liberties, and substance, we owe it to the good providence of God, and to his restraining power over the minds and actions of the ungodly. We should be thankful for this : but still more for that incarnate Saviour, who himself became partaker of flesh and blood, “ that he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil ; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage.” “I am the