By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous…
There is a double solemnity in the life that we lead. We believe we are to be judged at God's bar for the deeds done in the body; but by those same deeds we are doomed to help or hurt all with whom we are or shall be connected here below. This is not an arbitrary decree: it is the necessary condition of human life. It is a monitory, and at the same time a cheering doctrine. One might think the joyful side of the alternative would alone suffice to make every man good and faithful. As the tree dies, but in its very decay nourishes the roots of a new forest; as the little silkworm dies, but his fine fabric does not perish; as the coral-insect dies, but his edifice breaks the angry wave that has traversed the ocean, and becomes the foundation of greenness and future harvests: so, when you die, be your place lofty or lowly, your self-sacrificing endeavours shall leave enduring riches and a moral bulwark. With what new interest does this thought clothe all the relations of human life! It speaks to you, parents. The dead speak, however brief the term of the moral career, and even though that career be closed while the moral nature still sleeps in God's own charge. The little child, fading like a tender plant, has not wholly perished even from the earth. Though it came but to smile and die, yet has it left an influence not fleeting, but long abiding. That gentle image of innocence, that strange power of patience, shall soften your heart, and make it move with tender sympathy to the distresses of your kind, even to the end of your own days. But a peculiar power belongs to those who have been wayfarers upon earth, who have fought the battle of life, and gained the victory over temptation. They encourage me in my toils; they say to me, "Here is the end of thy griefs"; they warn me against the indulgence of my errors and sins —
"Soft rebukes in blessings ended,
Breathing from their lips of air."What, then, are we doing, what principles cherishing, what dispositions manifesting? How shall we reappear to the contemplative eye of those who shall here outlive us? How would you return in the survivor's memory, were you now to receive from God your summons? As a faithful father who let slip no opportunity to train up his offspring in the way of virtue, who never sacrificed the welfare of his family to his own pursuit of profit and pelf, but sought for them the treasure that is better than gold? And how would it be with you, children, were you called out of the world? You would not utterly vanish. Your parents, at least, would still behold you? Would it be with unmingled satisfaction that your reappearing images would inspire them? But the appeal is to every mortal. "No man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself." Place thyself in thought on the other side of the grave, and, with reverted eye, mark how it will be. From that position, dost thou look back, and see selfishness, meanness, pride, envy, lust, passion, absorbing love of the world, all from thy life working ruin. according to their nature, on thy associates and fellow-men? God forbid!
(C. A. Bartol.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: By faith, Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he had testimony given to him that he was righteous, God testifying with respect to his gifts; and through it he, being dead, still speaks.