By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous…
I. CARNAL MEN MAY JOIN WITH THE PEOPLE OF GOD IN EXTERNAL DUTIES OF WORSHIP.
1. Natural conscience will put men upon worship.
2. Custom will direct to the worship then in use and fashion.
3. Carnal impulses will add force and vigour to the performances.
(2) Secular aims and advantages. Use
1. It serves to inform us that the bare performance of the duties of religion is no gracious evidence. Cain may sacrifice as well as Abel. A Christian is rather tried by his graces than by his duties; and yet this is the usual fallacy that we put upon our own consciences. Use
2. If it be so, that carnal men may join with the people of God in duties of worship, here is direction: in all your duties put your hearts to this question, Wherein do I excel a hypocrite? So far a natural man may go. As Christ said (Matthew 5:47).
II. THAT THERE IS A SENSIBLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE GODLY AND THE WICKED IN THEIR SEVERAL DUTIES AND PERFORMANCES.
1. Why is it so?
(1) They have another nature than wicked men. Water can rise no higher than its fountain; acts are according to their causes; nature can but produce a natural act. The children of God have the Spirit of grace bestowed upon them (Zechariah 12:10).
(2) They have other assistance. The children of God have a mighty Spirit to help them (Jude 1:20).
2. Wherein lies the difference between the worship of the godly and the worship of carnal men that live in the Church. I answer, In three things mainly — in the principle, in the manner, and in the end.
(1) In the principle. Natural men do nothing out of the constraints of love, but out of the enforcement of conscience; duty is not their delight, but burden.
(2) There is a difference in the manner how these duties are to be performed; this is to be regarded as well as the matter. A man may sin in doing good, but he can never sin in doing well. A man may sin though the matter be lawful, for the manner is all (Luke 8:18).
(3) There is a difference in regard of the end. Now there is a general and a particular end of worship.
(a) A general end, and that is twofold; to glorify God and to enjoy God; the one is the work of duty, and the other is the reward of duty. Now carnal men are content with the duty instead of God and satisfy themselves with the work wrought, though there be no intercourse between God and their souls. Therefore a godly man looks at this, what of God he hath found. You must not be content with the duty instead of God.
(b) There is a peculiar aim, and that is always suited to the particular part of worship, and that is a right intention.
III. THIS SENSIBLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DUTIES OF THE GODLY AND THE WICKED IS OCCASIONED BY THE INFLUENCE AND EFFICACY OF FAITH. Here I shall state —
(1) What this faith of Abel was;
(2) I shall handle the general ease. What this faith of Abel was.
1. There was a faith of his being accepted with God when his service was suited to the institution. Such a promise was intimated to them, as appears by God's expostulation with Cain (Genesis 4:7).
2. It was a faith in the general rewards and recompenses of religion. Abel looked to the good things to come, and so his hopes had an influence upon his practice: Cain's heart was altogether chained to earthly things, therefore he looks upon that as lost which was spent in sacrifice.
3. It was a faith in the Messiah to come.For the reasons of the point, Why faith makes this difference between worship and worship, that it makes the duties and worship of believers to be so different from that of carnal men?
1. I answer, because it discerneth by a clearer light and apprehension. Faith is the eye of the soul. A beast liveth by sense, a man by reason, and a Christian by faith.
2. Faith receives a mighty aid and supply from the Spirit of God. Faith plants the soul into Christ, and so receives influence from Him; it is the great band of union between us and Christ, and the hand whereby we receive all the supplies of Jesus Christ. Christ lives in us by His Spirit, and we live in Him by faith.
3. As it receives a mighty aid, so it works by a forcible principle, and that is by love; for "Faith works by love" (Galatians 5:6). We live by faith, and we work by love. Where faith is, there is love; and where love is, there is work. Affection follows persuasion, and operation follows affection.
4. It discourseth and pleads with the soul with strong reasons and enforcements. Faith is a notable orator to plead for God; it pleads partly from the mercies, and partly from the promises of God.
(T. Manton, 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.