« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
sloth and selfishness of man that multiply our labors till that which was but pleasant occupation becomes a painful drudgery. The cost of war and drunkenness and social vice is tenfold the cost of bread. The greed and robbery which prevents fair and righteous distribution of the fruits of labor; the waste of pride and excess, and the afflictions of disease of mind and body due to our folly and transgressions are by far the sorest burdens which we bear. The very earth becomes unfruitful-man gets less out of the earth than he could get if righteousness was the rule of conduct in the world.
"The whole creation groaneth and travaileth" under the abusive rule of sinful man.
We have nothing that can be called history of the early ages of mankind. The period before the time of Abraham must have been enormous. The genealogies given in Genesis do not furnish sufficient data for computing the time, for many of the names there given are names of nations, not of men, and are probably intended to give the relations of the various
The few brief records of that long period of prehistoric time are valuable to us as typical examples of human experience and the attitude of God toward man. The sad story of Cain and Abel is the first and perhaps the most significant.
The story is brief and simple, but exceedingly instructive as an example illustrating the origin and effects of transgression.
The first fact of the incident is the fact of sacrifice, or the offering of their possessions as an act of worship. Man is by his very nature a worshipper. In all countries and in every age that history reveals, we find men seeking to commune with divinity. In most cases, their worship is crude and corrupt; often it is nothing more than an effort to placate the
invisible forces which men feel to be superior to them in power. The chief incentive to worship, in the mind of the savage, is fear. He feels that his life and welfare are not wholly in his own keeping, and reasons that the powers above him may be influenced, as he himself is influenced, by gifts and supplication, by professions of devotion and by praise. It may be that this feeling is spontaneous, arising naturally from his sense of dependence on something, and on his crude reasoning that the powers over him are to be won over to favor him by these acts of worship.
It is much more probable that the religion of savage people is the survival and corruption of an earlier and truer notion oi God and our relation to him. All the features of heathen worship are much more like a degenerate state of a better conception, than a development of natural impulses.
In the sacrifices offered by both Cain and Abel we have the simple elements of all worship, that is offering to God of some fruits of our labor, something that represents ourselves, and expresses the desire to acknowledge our dependence, and our wish to please Him.
The second fact of the incident is that one offering was acceptable to God and the other was not. The explanation of this fact was given. It was not the character of the thing offered but the spirit of the worshiper that was important. “By faith Abel offered a more acceptable offering than Cain.” His attitude of mind, his state and quality of soul are the essential matters; this, and not the character of the gift, it was that God “respected.” This God distinctly announced to Cain in answer to his displeasure because his sacrifice was not acceptable. “If thou doest well shall thou not be accepted ? and if thou doest not well sin lieth at the door," thy door—the fault is in you. Here we have the fundamental principle of all worship; a principle repeated again and again by prophets and apostles and our Lord. “When ye spread forth your hands I will hide my eyes
from you; when ye make many prayers I will not hear; your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do well.” So cries Isaiah, and the Psalmist says, “The acceptable offering is an humble and contrite heart." And our Lord more profoundly taught, "God is a spirit, and they that worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”
The next fact of the story is the murder of Abel by Cain. All crime, every evil act is the outcome of an evil state of mind, of wrong attitude toward God. “Out of the heart are the issues of life." To be right with God is to be right with God's world; to have wrong attitude toward Him puts us out of tune with the universe, and brings us into wrong relations with our fellow men. Cain's character is indicated by the fact that his offering was not acceptable. His conduct is the outcome of his state.
The consequences of his sin are next noted. These were of several different kinds.
First, God calls him to account. “The voice of thy brother's blood crieth to me from the ground.” God is not only the creator but the ruler of the world. “He regardeth the children of men.” "He executeth judgment and justice for the oppressed.” Cain's sin finds him out. All sin finds out the sinner. No man can hide from God nor escape the consequence of his own acts. There is something terrible in the fact that man cannot get away from himself; the bitter pangs of remorse are never appeased: neither time nor place can offer refuge from the accusing voice of conscience. But still more dreadful is the thought that “Thou God seest me,” and sooner or later each soul must give account of itself unto Him. The blood of the innocent cries to God, and because of this cry God executeth judgment. He is a loving God and therefore a God of vengeance. He punishes transgression that righteousness
He announces to Cain the consequences that will follow,-follow, by the very nature of things—from his sin.
"Thou art cursed from the ground which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand. When thou tillest the ground it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength: a fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth.” This is no new penalty; it is the consequence which follows sin in the very nature of things. The very earththe ordinary joys of earthly life are denied to the sinner; he cannot derive the satisfaction that a good man gets from the good gifts of the natural world. Moreaver he is despised and driven out of the fellowship of his fellow men.
Cain realizes the terrible consequence of his sin and cries that it is more than he can bear. He rightly counts the loss of God's favor—the hiding from his face—the sorest of his penalties. It is not possible even now to state the universal penalty of sin more accurately than in the bitter cry of Cain. The loss of earthly happiness, the disfavor of God and the contempt and hostility of his fellow men. Then we have another and most important point of the incident. "And God put a mark upon Cain lest any finding him should kill him.” He is marked of God, not for judgment but for protection. Every sinner is marked of God, marked by signs that all men recognize, marked by his conduct and by his words and thoughts and imaginations; marked even in the face with the effects of sin. But when we see the marks of sin we should remember that they are marked in mercy.
Marked not for us to avenge but for our pity and forbearance. Marked lest we should judge them and take vengeance.
"Judge not,” “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord.”
The consequence of sin is never limited to the transgressor. No man liveth to himself. We are bound by many ties, of family and community and race, we are all members of one
body, and each is charged with a measure of responsibility for the common good, and this responsibility we cannot escape.
By his crime Cain brought distress to all, but especially to Mother Eve. She suffered, as mothers ever suffer through the sins of their children. One of her sons is dead, another is his murderer, and poor Eve begins to realize the deep meaning of the prediction spoken of God in Eden, “In sorrow shalt thou bring forth children.”
THE PROGRESS OF CIVILIZATION
This is very briefly noticed in the advancement of the arts of civilized life. Animals are domesticated, metals are workedeven iron, the most difficult and most useful of metals is wrought, and musical instruments of both wind and strings are
This comprehensive glance gives us a view of well advanced civilization. We have also a bit of poetry in the peculiar parallel or reduplicated form which was peculiar to Semetic poetry,
"Adah and Zillah hear my voice,
The tradition of Cain's crime was still familiar, and the restraint placed on revenge well known.
THE INTERMARRIAGE OF THE GODLY AND THE WICKED
The distinction between those who were faithful to their knowledge of God and those who were godless seems to have