By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous…
1. It is a natural desire of the human heart to prolong its relations to the world after death. All expect to die, but no one desires to be forgotten. We want to get the better of death.
2. This is, in one sense, a strange desire. Can we not trust our fellows without stretching out one dead hand from the grave to guide? Would it not be better to be forgotten? Still, we do not love to think of sundering wholly our relations with this world.
3. The desire for posthumous influence is an instinct implanted by God, a sign of the grandeur of the human soul, and suggestive of its destiny.
4. This desire of posthumous influence can be realised in three ways.
(1) First, by our speech. It is not by the mastery of words alone that influence is perpetuated — by poet, scholar, or philosopher. You may lead a humble life, but your deliberate or casual speech will do a blessed or a baneful work ages hence.
(2) By what we do. While one may with his wealth found a hospital, endow a college, equip a library, or build a fountain in the central square of some city, it is possible that an inconspicuous life may become a perpetual fountain for good after that life on earth has closed.
(3) By what we are. Character is of all the most potent. Invisible as the wind and inaudible as the light, it is a real and enduring force. It is here that man exerts the greatest power for good or evil. It is here that a soul propagates influence on and through the ages for ever.
5. The influence that lives after us is not always what we intended it should be. In a moment of forgetfulness or passion we may speak that which will be remembered when all the good words we have uttered are forgotten.Lessons:
1. We infer from these solemn facts the immense extension of responsibility. "Plant a tree, Jamie," said Sir Walter Scott, "it will be growing while you are sleeping." So with our acts.
2. Those who have left us are still with us by their posthumous influence.
3. Remember that this continued activity of the dead is not the whole of the idea of a future life. We have a grander goal. There is another shore beyond the blue horizon, which the ship will surely reach; another nest to which we fly, where our ears again shall be gladdened by songs from those we have known, and by those whom, not having known, we influence. Those whom God has taken, who were, still are.
(E. B. Coe, D. D.)
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.