By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous…
The great lesson we learn is this: there is one appointed way of approaching God, and only one; no other way devised by human cunning or human invention can or will bring us to God; and faith is the principle by which we do thus approach God. There are two classes which this speaks to —
1. Those who are convinced of the right way to heaven, and willing to walk in it.
2. Those who are wholly mistaken as to the way of salvation. Of the latter first. There is an inclination in man to strike out a way of his own, and that, usually, exactly contrary to God's appointed way to final happiness.Thus here is God the Creator appointing a way for man to walk in, and man refusing to walk therein is therefore lost. The common occasion on which men will choose their own way is in the means of salvation being by Christ, in the necessity of the aid of the Spirit, in the necessity of showing forth that work of the Spirit by holy living; very often such men begin their whole scheme of contradiction by denying the doctrine of original sin. By this means men try to make their way to heaven, What in these particulars is God's appointed way?
1. Man says he is not a sinner by birth and practice, root and branch a sinner, but he is only very weak, very various, some better than others, and so forth. God says, "There is none that doeth good; no, not one."
2. Or again, some say, Your amiability and morality are so great you need not think of any means of salvation; you may deserve heaven by the beauty of your own character or the force of your own works.
3. Again, some men talk of their own unaided strength helping them to perform good works.
4. And again; some men tell us there is no need of good works at all, but that a man may live in the constant habit of sin, and yet please God, and consider himself a servant of God; what says the Word of God? "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord." "We are His workmanship, created anew in Christ Jesus unto good works."Thus, then, man's way in the world greatly differs from God's way of salvation. But again, the example of Abel speaks to Christians too. Do I speak to some such now — men who will not accept the means which God has appointed to bring them near to Himself? who wish to belong to Him, and try to be reconciled, and believe Christ only can do it, and yet will not go to the means ordered by God, but strike out ways of their own, and then wonder why they do not gain their end?
1. There are some such who will not receive the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, choosing to expect a fitness which the Bible does not speak of: and thus, though Christ has appointed this way of approaching Him, they persist in refusing to walk in it. How is it you dare thus to trifle with God? How can you hope to be better or happier while, like Cain, you will come to God in your own devised manner, however well arranged, and not in His revealed, appointed method of approach?
2. Or again; some men will not pray; they think hearing is enough, or knowing is enough, or feeling is enough, or thinking is enough. They will not pray, while prayer is the very life of the soul.
3. Or again; some men will not read the Bible; the call of business or domestic life is the excuse they plead against ever reading the Word of God; and yet we are told to "search the Scriptures."
4. Again; some men will not come to church, thinking they can serve God as well at home, not seeing how it can matter, if they pray at home, whether they pray there or at church; not seeing that the whole consists in one being God's appointed means, the other not. Thus do men, good on the whole, sin as Cain, by choosing their own ways, in certain particulars, to approach God, and despising and neglecting others. Remember, it is by faith you will follow Abel. Use God's appointed means — faith.
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.