The Signs of the Times


December 16, 1886

Cain and Abel Tested

[A sermon delivered at Basel, Switzerland, January 30, 1886.]


“And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord. 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; but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell. And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? if thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted, and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door; and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. And Cain talked with Abel his brother; and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.” Genesis 4:3-8. ST December 16, 1886, par. 1

Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam, were unlike in character. Cain cherished feelings of rebellion and murmuring against God because of the curse pronounced upon the ground and upon the human race for Adam's sin; while Abel had a spirit of meekness and of submission to the authority of God. ST December 16, 1886, par. 2

These brothers were tested, as Adam had been tested before them, to see if they would be obedient to God's requirements. They had both been instructed in regard to the provision made for the salvation of man. Through the system of sacrificial offerings, God designed to impress upon the minds of men the offensive character of sin, and to make known to them its sure penalty, death. The offerings were to be a constant reminder that it was only through the promised Redeemer that man could come into the presence of God. Cain and Abel understood the system of offerings which they were required to carry out. They knew that in presenting these offerings they showed humble and reverential obedience to the will of God, and acknowledge faith in, and dependence upon, the Savior whom these offerings typified. ST December 16, 1886, par. 3

Cain and Abel erected their altars alike, and each brought an offering. Cain thought it unnecessary to be particular about fulfilling all the requirements of God; he therefore brought an offering without the shedding of blood. He brought of the fruits of the ground, and presented his offering before the Lord; but there was no token from Heaven to show that it was accepted. Abel entreated his brother to come into the presence of God only in the divinely prescribed way. But his remonstrances made Cain all the more determined to carry out his own purpose. As the eldest, he felt above being advised by his brother, and despised his counsel. ST December 16, 1886, par. 4

Abel brought of the firstlings of the flock, the very best, as God had commanded him. In the slain lamb he sees by faith the Son of God, appointed to death because of the transgression of his Father's law. God has respect to Abel's offering. Fire flashes from heaven, and consumes the sacrifice of the penitent sinner. ST December 16, 1886, par. 5

Cain now has an opportunity to see and acknowledge his mistake. He may change his course of action, and testify his obedience by presenting an offering precisely in accordance with the divine specification; and He who is no respecter of persons will have respect to the offering of faith and obedience. ST December 16, 1886, par. 6

After the disrespect shown to his commands, God does not leave Cain to himself; but he condescends to reason with the man that has shown himself so unreasonable. “And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?” ST December 16, 1886, par. 7

The Lord was not ignorant of the feelings of resentment cherished by Cain; but he would have Cain reflect upon his course, and, becoming convinced of his sin, repent, and set his feet in the path of obedience. There was no cause for his wrathful feelings toward either his brother or his God; it was his own disregard of the plainly expressed will of God that had led to the rejection of his offering. Through his angel messenger, God said to this rebellious, stubborn man: “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.” “If thou doest well”—not having your own way, but obeying God's commandments, coming to him with the blood of the slain victim, thus showing faith in the promised Redeemer, who, in the fullness of time, would make an atonement for guilty man, that he might not perish, but have eternal life. ST December 16, 1886, par. 8

“And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.” Abel's offering had been accepted; but this was because Abel had done in every particular as God required him to do. This would not rob Cain of his birthright. Abel would love him as his brother, and as the younger, be subject to him. ST December 16, 1886, par. 9

Thus the matter was plainly laid open before Cain; but his combativeness was aroused because his course was questioned, and he was not permitted to follow his own independent ideas. He was angry with God and angry with his brother. He was angry with God because he would not accept the plans of sinful man in place of the divine requirements, and he was angry with his brother for disagreeing with him. Satan presents a temptation. The thought that he suggests is a terrible one; will Cain receive it?—Yes; he is opening the door of his heart to the whisperings of Satan. Envious and jealous of the preference shown to his younger brother, he will not hesitate to take his life. ST December 16, 1886, par. 10

Cain invites Abel to walk with him in the fields, and he there gives utterance to his unbelief and his murmuring against God. He claims that he was doing well in presenting his offering; and the more he talks against God, and impeaches his justice and mercy in rejecting his own offering and accepting that of his brother Abel, the more bitter are his feelings of anger and resentment. ST December 16, 1886, par. 11

Abel defends the goodness and impartiality of God, and places before Cain the simple reason why God did not accept his offering. ST December 16, 1886, par. 12

The fact that Abel ventured to disagree with him and even went so far as to point out his errors, astonished Cain. It was a new experience; for Abel had hitherto submitted to the judgment of his elder brother; and Cain was enraged to the highest degree that Abel did not sympathize with him in his disaffection. Abel would yield when conscience was not concerned; but when the course of the God of Heaven was brought in question, and Cain spoke derisively of the sacrifice of faith, Abel was courageous to defend the truth. Cain's reason told him that Abel was right when he spoke of the necessity of presenting the blood of a slain victim if he would have his sacrifice accepted; but Satan presented the matter in a different light. He urged Cain on to a furious madness, till he slew his brother, and the sin of murder was laid upon his soul. ST December 16, 1886, par. 13

Some time had elapsed since the death of Abel. “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not. Am I my brother's keeper?” How true it is that one sin leads to another; and how forcibly is this truth illustrated in the case of Cain! He seemed surprised at the question, “Where is Abel thy brother?” He had gone so far in sin, had so far yielded himself to the influence of Satan, that he had lost a sense of the presence of God, and of his greatness and knowledge. So he lied to the Lord to cover up his guilt. Cain knew very well where his brother was; and God knew where he was, for there was a witness to the bloody deed. ST December 16, 1886, par. 14

The spirit of Satan had entered into Cain. Satan was an accuser, and Cain began his evil course by accusing God of partiality and injustice. Satan was a deceiver, and Cain deceived Abel by inviting him into the field when murder was in his heart, that he might do the dark deed in secret. Satan “was a murderer from the beginning;” and he instigated Cain to do the same cruel work. “He is a liar, and the father of it;” and here, too, Cain showed himself an apt and proficient pupil. ST December 16, 1886, par. 15

Again the Lord said to Cain. “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.” God had given Cain an opportunity to confess his sin before sentence should be pronounced against him. He had had time to reflect. He knew the enormity of the deed he had done, and of the falsehood he had told to conceal it. But he was rebellious still. The hand that had been stretched out against his brother was stretched out against God; and had the power been his, he would have silenced the accusing voice of God, as he had that of his brother. ST December 16, 1886, par. 16

Cain has proved himself incorrigible, and sentence is no longer deferred. The divine voice that has been heard in entreaty and expostulation pronounces the terrible words: “And now art thou cursed from the earth, 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 vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.” In remorse and anguish, but not in repentance, Cain exclaims, as many who have rejected the word of the Lord have done, and will do again, “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” ST December 16, 1886, par. 17

(Concluded next week.)