The Signs of the Times


December 23, 1886

Cain and Abel Tested



These two brothers, Cain and Abel, represent the whole human family. They were both tested on the point of obedience, and all will be tested as they were. Abel bore the proving of God. He revealed the gold of a righteous character, the principles of true godliness. But Cain's religion had not a good foundation; it rested on human merit. He brought to God something in which he had a personal interest,—the fruits of the ground, which had been cultivated by his toil; and he presented his offering as a favor done to God, through which he expected to secure the divine approval. He obeyed in building an altar, obeyed in bringing a sacrifice; but it was only a partial obedience. The essential part, the recognition of the need of a Redeemer, was left out. ST December 23, 1886, par. 1

As far as birth and religious instruction were concerned, these brothers were equal, though Cain, being the first-born, was in some respects the favored one. Both were sinners, and both acknowledged the claims of God as an object of worship. To all outward appearance, their religion was the same up to a certain point of time; but the Bible history shows us that there was a time when the difference between the two became very great. This difference lay in the obedience of one and the disobedience of the other. ST December 23, 1886, par. 2

The apostle says that Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. Abel grasped the great principles of redemption. He saw himself a sinner; and he saw sin, and its penalty, death, standing between his soul and communion with God. He brought the slain victim, the sacrificed life, thus acknowledging the claims of the law which had been transgressed. Through the shed blood he looked to the future Sacrifice, Christ dying on the cross of Calvary; and, trusting in the atonement that was there to be made, he had the witness that he was righteous and his offering accepted. ST December 23, 1886, par. 3

How did Abel know so well the plan of salvation?—Adam taught it to his children and grandchildren. And the apostle says that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” After Adam had sinned, a feeling of terror seized him. A constant dread was upon him; shame and remorse tortured his soul. In this state of mind he wished to be as far removed as possible from the presence of God, whom he had so loved to meet in his Eden home. But the Lord followed this conscience-stricken man, and while he condemned the sin of which Adam had been guilty, gave him words of gracious promise. In pronouncing the curse upon the deceiver, God had said: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” ST December 23, 1886, par. 4

This was the first gospel sermon ever preached to fallen man; this promise was the star of hope, illuminating the dark and dismal future of the race. Adam gladly received the welcome assurance of deliverance, and diligently instructed his children in the way of the Lord. This promise was presented in close connection with the altar of sacrificial offerings. The altar and the promise stand side by side, and one casts clear beams of light upon the other, showing that the justice of an offended God could be appeased only by the death of his beloved Son. The bleeding victim consuming on the altar illustrated Adam's teachings, and thus the sight of the eyes deepened the impression made by the hearing of the ear. ST December 23, 1886, par. 5

Abel heard these precious lessons, and to him they were like seed sown on good ground. Cain also heard them. He had the same privileges as his brother, but he did not improve them. He ventured to go contrary to the commands of God; and the result is strongly presented before us. Cain was not the victim of an arbitrary purpose; one was not elected to be chosen of God, and the other to be rejected. The whole matter rested upon doing or not doing as God had said. ST December 23, 1886, par. 6

In the case of Cain and Abel we have a type of two classes that will exist in the world till the close of time; and this type is worthy of close study. There is a marked difference in the characters of these two brothers, and the same difference is seen in the human family today. Cain represents those who carry out the principles and works of Satan, by worshiping God in a way of their own choosing. Like the leader whom they follow, they are willing to render partial obedience, but not entire submission to God. Man, in the pride of his heart, would like to believe that he can confer some favor upon God; that our heavenly Father may be the receiver, and not always the giver. But God will not be bribed. He says: “Every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills.” “If I were hungry, I would not tell thee; for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof.” Man has nothing to give that he has not first received from God. ST December 23, 1886, par. 7

The Cain class of worshipers includes by far the largest number; for every false religion that has been invented has been based on the Cain principle, that man can depend upon his own merits and righteousness for salvation. ST December 23, 1886, par. 8

The great controversy from Adam's day down to our time has been on the point of obedience or opposition to God's law; and every soul will be found on the side of the obedient or the rebellious. Satan, who was once a mighty and lofty angel in Heaven, is the leader of the rebellion against God. From the first it has been his object to dethrone God, by breaking down the rules of his government. He had induced angels to join him in Heaven; and when Adam sinned, he thought to carry the whole human race on his side. The declaration of God, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed,” was the first intimation Satan received that the world would not be given over to his dark sway, but that man would have a Redeemer. There is naturally no enmity between fallen angels and fallen men. Both are evil; and evil, wherever it exists, will league against the good. ST December 23, 1886, par. 9

Man was promised a Redeemer, and was granted a second trial, to see if he would develop a righteous character; but he is left a free moral agent. And in all ages the multitudes have accepted the Cain principle, and have maintained that a partial obedience is all that is necessary. They have claimed a right to the favor of God, while disregarding his positive commands. This is the position of the Christian world today. God has given men a code of laws, and the fourth precept of that code enjoins the observance of the Sabbath as a memorial of creation. There is but one Sabbath of the Lord, and that is the seventh day. Special injunctions have been laid upon men to remember this day to keep it holy; but many show their contempt for the divine authority by keeping, in its place, a day which God has given them as a day of labor. ST December 23, 1886, par. 10

Those who cherish error have ever manifested a spirit of intolerance toward the obedient children of God. They are actuated by the spirit that led Cain to slay his brother. “And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.” Abel, the first martyr, was not old and feeble, but a youth, full of life and vigor; but he lay down his life for the truth of God. And all the way down through the ages there have been some who have lost their lives because of their adherence to religious principles. ST December 23, 1886, par. 11

Our Saviour himself was a victim of religious intolerance. “He came unto his own; but his own received him not.” Had he praised and exalted men, had he called corruption purity, and given license to human creeds by teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, they would have received him gladly. But his zeal for God, the righteous fervor with which he denounced every abomination that was done in the land, and, above all, the sinless purity of his own character, aroused the bitter hatred of the “whited sepulchers” who deceived the people by the appearance of great sanctity. Satan and evil angels united with evil men to destroy from the earth the champion of truth. There was a bruising of the heel of the seed of the woman, when Christ was scorned as a deceiver, and was hunted down and put to death as a criminal; but could Satan have induced him to commit one sin, there would have been a bruising of the head, and the world would have been abandoned to the power of the prince of darkness. ST December 23, 1886, par. 12

The religion of Christ is for men to accept, with all its inconveniences. They may invent an easier way; but it will not lead to the city of God, the saints’ secure abode. Only those who “do his commandments,” will have “right to the tree of life,” and “enter in through the gates into the city.” ST December 23, 1886, par. 13