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[It is “ by faith that you are to walk, and not by sight." In order to form a correct judgment of things, listen not to the report of sense, but consult the testimony of faith. Send faith as a spy to search out the heavenly land that is before you. If you attend to the voice of unbelief, it will tell you of nothing but Anakims that are invincible, and “of cities that are walled up to heaven.” But if you ask for the account which faith will give, it will tell you, “ They are bread for usą," and shall be as easily devoured, and as profitably to our souls, as the food that is put into our mouths. What the effect of this principle shall be upon your souls, you may see in the case of the Apostle Paul. Greater trials than his you cannot expect to encounter: and greater supports you cannot need. But whence arose his supports ? He was animated by "a spirit of faith :" by that, he foresaw the issue of his conflicts: and by that he was upheld: and, through the influence of that, all his afflictions appeared but light and momentary, yea, and the very means of augmenting his happiness and glorye - Thus shall faith operate in you: it shall “ work by love:" it shall “ purify the heart;" it shall " overcome the world?.” Only " live by faith :” and if at any time you be ready to stagger through unbelief, remember that “he is faithful who hath promised;" and " be strong in faith, giving glory to God." For of this you may be perfectly assured, that the more lively your faith is, the more abundant will be its fruits; and that in every hour of trial “ according to your faith it will be done unto you."]
d Numb. xiv. 9. e 2 Cor. iv. 8, 9, 13–18. 1 John v. 4.
. ABEL'S OFFERING INSTRUCTIVE TO US. Heb. xi. 4. 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.
IN reading the history of the saints under the Old Testament dispensation, we are constrained to admire their conduct on many occasions, and to regard them as excellent patterns for our imitation. But we should not readily have traced all their diversified excellencies to one principle, and still less to the principle of faith, if it had not been done for us by an inspired writer. But, now that it is done, we see the
truth, and the importance too, of the suggestion; and are stirred up to cultivate the same principle in order to the attainment of their virtues.
The Apostle, in adducing instances of the power of faith from the beginning of the world to the close of the Jewish records, omits all mention of Adam, who, we doubt not, both lived and died in faith. But his aim in this part of his epistle is to encourage the believing Hebrews to persevere in their holy profession, notwithstanding all the trials to which they might be subjected on account of it : and, as nothing particular is recorded concerning Adam's faith, and Abel was a martyr for the faith, it was more to his purpose to commence his catalogue of worthies with the name of Abel; of whose offering we are now more particularly called to speak. To illustrate what the Apostle says concerning it, I shall shew, 1. In what consisted the peculiar excellence of
Abel's offering as contrasted with that of CainBy referring to the account given us in the book of Genesis, we find,
1. That Abel's offering differed widely from that of Cain
[Cain brought only “ of the fruits of the ground a." Now this he might have done even in Paradise; since it was only a tribute of gratitude towards his heavenly Benefactor, and an acknowledgment of dependence on him for a continuance of his favours. But Abel brought " of the firstlings of his flock, and of the fatb" by which he acknowledged himself a sinner deserving of death, and his hope of mercy only through the intervention of a vicarious sacrifice. By this act, he professed his faith in that Saviour who was in due time to die for the sins of the whole world, and whom the sacrificial ordinances already instituted were intended to prefigure. That sacrifices had been ordained of God, is evident, from its being said that Abel offered his sacrifice “ by faith :" for had Abel offered this sacrifice of his own mind, there could have been no scope
for the exercise of faith; since faith necessarily has respect to some divine declaration; and in this instance must have had respect to a command from God to present such an offering, and a promise from God to accept it. When the command was first given, we are not certainly informed: but I conceive it to have been immediately after the Fall, when, as we are told, “ the Lord God made coats of skins, to clothe” our first parents. It is evident that living creatures were then slain ; and slain by God's command: and, if we suppose those living creatures then offered in sacrifice, we have the most complete exhibition of the way of salvation that is contained in all the sacred records : since, as the sin of our first parents was atoned for by the blood of those sacrifices, and the shame of their nakedness was covered by their skins, so are our sins expiated by the blood of our great Sacrifice, and our souls are clothed in the robe of his unspotted righteousness. events the fact is clear, that such an institution had been formed by God; else Abel's faith could not have had respect to it: and no other period for the commencement of it seems so proper as that to which we have referred, because it is the only period mentioned in the inspired history, and because, if not instituted till the time of Abel, our first parents must have been left many years without that instruction and consolation which such an ordinance was calculated to convey.
a Gen. iv. 3.
b Gen. iv. 4.
It is evident then that Abel's offering excelled that of Cain in two most important respects, namely, in the matter of it, and in the disposition with which it was offered: his being “a firstling of his flock," whilst Cain's was only “of the fruits of the ground ;” and being offered with an express view to the sacrifice which was in due time to be offered, whilst Cain had no respect whatever to himself as needing salvation, or to the Saviour by whom alone he could find acceptance with God.]
2. That God had respect to Abel's offering, and not to Cain's
(In what way God testified his acceptance of Abel's offering we are not informed : we are sure however that it was in some way clearly understood by Abel, and as clearly by Cain also; since it was the means of filling him with envy and wrathful indignation. It is probable, that God sent fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice of Abel. This in after ages was frequently done by God; as at the first offering of sacrifices by Aaron in the tabernacle, and at the first offering of sacrifices also in the temple of Solomonę. Whatever the testimony was, God shewed, by it, that he accepted both the person and the offering of Abel, whilst neither the person nor the offering of Cain were at all acceptable in his sight'.]
Such being the acknowledged superiority of Abel's sacrifice, let us consider,
c Gen. iii. 21.
d Lev. ix. 24.
II. What instruction the pre-eminent acceptance of
it conveys to usWe are told that “ by it, he being dead yet speaketh.” The whole record concerning it shews,
1. That man, how righteous soever he may be, needs a sacrifice
[Abel is characterized by our blessed Lord himself as eminently righteous; being designated by the name " righteous Abel." And in our text it is said, that "God bore testimony to him as a righteous man." But did he on account of his distinguished piety not need an atonement ? or did he think himself entitled to approach his God in any other way than as a self-ruined sinner, that could be saved only through the blood of a vicarious sacrifice? No; it is remarkable that Cain, who was at heart a murderer, thought he might find acceptance with God without such a sacrifice; whilst "righteous Abel" dared not to hope for mercy in any other way than through the sacrifice of Christ: and at this very hour none more deride the necessity of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and in his atoning blood, than those who are hostile in their hearts to all vital godliness. But, however moral any may have been, they are sinners before God, and must seek for mercy solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ: for an Apostle expressly tells us, that " without shedding of blood there is no remission of sinsh." Let this then be remembered by us all: for it is by no means so deeply considered as it ought: there lurks in all of us a self-righteous disposition : we, no less than the Jews of old, are averse to "submit to the righteousness of God," and make the Lord Jesus Christ “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence." But there is no way to the Father but by him," nor “any name under heaven but his whereby any man can be saved k."]
2. That a sacrifice has been appointed of God for the sins of the whole world
[It has been before shewn, that Abel's “ faith" necessarily pre-supposes a divine institution as the object of his faith. And what was the sacrifice that was ordained of God? Was it to the blood of bulls or goats that men were taught to look ? “The blood of bulls and of goats," as the Apostle tells us, “could never take away sins.' That same person who was foretold to Adam the Seed of the woman who should bruise the serpent's head,” was to effect that victory by having
& Matt. xxiii. 33. i John xiv. 6.
h Heb. ix, 22. k Acts iv. 12.
his own heel first bruised', or, as Saint Paul expresses it, he was
through death to destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devilm:" in a word, he was to “ redeem us to God by his blood," and to be the propitiation not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world. He it was who, both in Abel's sacrifice, and in all the sacrifices under the law, was shadowed forth; and who is therefore called “ the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world"." Before he came into the world, his sacrifice had a retrospective, as at the time of its being offered it had a prospective, efficacy for the salvation of all who trusted in it; so that, from the beginning to the end of time, he is the only Saviour of sinful man.]
3. That through that sacrifice all who believe in it shall assuredly be saved
[We are told that the record concerning Abraham's having his faith imputed to him for righteousness, " was not written for his sake alone, but for us also, to whom it shall be imputed if we believe on Him that raised
Jesus our Lord from the deado.” And we may be perfectly sure, that the record concerning the efficacy of Abel's faith, and the testimony given to him from God respecting the acceptableness of his sacrifice, was not for his honour merely, but for our encouragement. It shews to us how pleasing in God's sight the humble Publican is in comparison of the self-applauding Pharisee, especially when he rests all his hopes of mercy on the atoning blood of Christ. It shews us, that God “ will fill the hungry with good things, whilst the rich he will send empty away.” In a word, it shews us, that “ the blood of Jesus Christ will cleanse from all sin ;” that “ whosoever cometh unto God by him shall in no wise be cast out;" and that “all who believe in him shall be justified from all things.” Thus, whilst it directs us to the blood of Christ as the ground of our hope, it assures us, that that “ blood speaketh not only as much and as satisfactorily as the blood of Abel did, but far better things than that ever did or could speak P."] There is one thing not yet noticed in our text,
which deserves particular attention, and which will serve us for an APPLICATION of the subject
to our souls
• By his faith,” and the consequent acceptance of his sacrifice, “ Abel, though dead, yet speaketh to us.”
n Rev, xiü. 8.
1 Gen. ii. 15.
m Heb. ii. 14.