And Abel, he also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect to Abel and to his offering:…
1. First, consider the offerings of Cain and Abel, and the way in which they were received by the Almighty. But very different were the feelings with which they brought them. Cain came with feelings not unlike those of the Pharisee, spoken of by our blessed Lord, when he went up into the temple to pray, thinking neither of his hereditary defilement nor of his personal transgressions; whereas Abel gave evident signs of his deep sense of both, by bringing not only the meat offering as an acknowledgment to God of his obligations to Him for temporal benefits, but also the firstlings of his flock, as an atoning sacrifice for his sins.
2. I will now, in the second place, make a few observations upon this Scripture narrative; and, first, I would observe that it is sufficiently clear, from this passage of Scripture, that not all who worship God are acceptable worshippers, Natural conscience, which cannot be pacified without the observance of the outward forms of religion, leads not a few to join in the public worship of Almighty God, and custom induces still more. "They come unto God as His people come, and they sit before Him as His people, and they hear His words; but," as the prophet goes on to say, "they will not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness" (Ezekiel 33:31). Now, hence arises an important duty to all the professing people of God, namely, that of examining themselves as to the motives which influence them in all their approaches to the Most High, and in all the services of religion. You are accustomed to pray to God in public and in private. Is this mere habit? Is it the pacification of conscience that causes you thus to bow the knee before Him, and to utter words in which your heart has no part? Or does a sense of your manifold daily wants bring you to His footstool, and does the tongue give utterance to the feelings of the heart? The next observation which I would make upon these offerings of Cain and Abel is, that do we desire to serve God acceptably, we must serve Him with our best. It is the especial commendation of good Josiah, King of Judah, that he "turned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might"; and for that he is preferred before all the kings who were before or came after him. I would observe, lastly, that our persons must be rendered pleasing unto God, or our offerings will not be accepted by Him. "God had respect to Abel and to his offering"; first to Abel, and then to his offering. The reasoning of Manoah's wife was sound, when she said, in answer to the fears of her husband, "If the Lord were pleased to kill us, He would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands" (Judges 13:23). She infers the acceptance of the person from the acceptance of the service. It is said, in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews 11:4), that Abel "obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts." Thus we read in the Book of Leviticus (Leviticus 9:24), "And there came a fire out from before the Lord, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat"; in Chronicles 2 Chronicles 7:1, "When Solomon had made an end of praying, the fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the house." And the same we know occurred in the case of the prophet Elijah, when he met the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. This, indeed, was the great prerogative of Abel and the Old Testament saint; but, though we have not this, we have what all will allow to be far better, that of which this was but the figure; for the believer now has assuredly the fire of God, that is, the Spirit comes down into his heart day by day — not visibly, but spiritually — and burns up in his heart his sins and corruptions, and lights up the light of true faith, never to be extinguished.
3. I must now proceed to point out some of the lessons of instruction derivable from this subject. And, first, we may learn from this narrative that none can stand before God with acceptance except through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. It is no uncommon thing to hear people say that if they diligently follow an honest calling, do no one any harm, and pay everyone his due, it is sure to be well with them; that is to say, that they will certainly find acceptance with God at the last, and be received into His kingdom. Learn, secondly, from this subject, that "the visible Church of God hath ever been a mixed company, consisting of the evil as well as the good." Learn, lastly, from this subject, that a sacrifice has been appointed of God for the sins of the whole world, and that, through it, all who believe shall assuredly be saved.
(T. Grantham, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: