Page images
PDF
EPUB

certainly seem highly probable that he intended a similar course of argument to be applied to him. For of Abel, as of Enoch, he says, that he "obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts." But without pleasing God it is impossible to obtain witness from him that we are righteous; and "without faith it is impossible to please him." Consequently, as the faith of Enoch is to be inferred from the mere fact of his translation, so may the faith of Abel be, in like manner, deduced from the mere acceptableness of his sacrifice to God. The works of Cain, then, were wicked, because desecrated by infidelity, and he was rejected, because through unbelief he had not done well. His brother, on the other hand, through belief had done well, and his works were righteous because mixed up with faith and both this faith and this want of it, may be proved from the different manner in which the two offerings were ceived.

So far then every thing is clear; and though it is not explicitly stated, either by Moses or St. Paul, in what respect the faith of Abel was superior to that of Cain, and whether in nature or degree, yet neither can this be regarded as a matter of much difficulty to determine. Doubtless,

a Gen. iv. 4.

besides a general belief in the proposition that "God is, and that he is the rewarder of them that diligently seek him," a proposition which seems to have been held by both the brothers in common, we may fairly suppose, that the faith of Abel comprehended also a firm reliance upon all the promises and revelations which had hitherto proceeded from God, and, consequently, a belief in that particular promise which assigned to the seed of the woman the office of crushing the serpent's head. For whilst we deny that the faith of all the worthies enumerated by St. Paul was displayed by their obedience to some special command, we freely admit that they all acted in that manner which they believed would be most acceptable, and founded their actions and belief upon some pre-existing revelation or promise. Thus" by faith Sarah received strength to conceive; because she judged him faithful, who had promised" that she should be "delivered of a child when she was past age." Thus" by faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel, and gave commandment concerning his bones," in a steady belief that God would fulfil his promise and put the descendants of Jacob in possession of their appointed inheritance. Thus also "by faith did Rahab receive the spies in peace,"

a Heb. xi. 11.

b Ibid. xi 22.

believing that the Israelites would obtain that victory which God had promised them over the inhabitants of Canaan: and thus shall we find in every instance of faith alluded to by St. Paul, that there was a distinct belief in some preceding promise or revelation, either of a particular kind, as in the cases already detailed, or of a more general nature, as in the faith of Enoch. Since then it is certain that the promise of a redemption and a Redeemer had been already communicated to man, and that even before the sacrifice of Abel he had received a revelation of a future deliverance, we are directly and undeniably authorised to assert that it was for his faith in that peculiar and benevolent declaration of God's will, a faith as clear as the obscurity of the terms of the promise allowed, and as full and firm as the nature of the case required, that "the Lord had respect unto him and to his offering." And from the same principles we as clearly infer on the other hand, that "unto Cain and to his offering the Lord had not respect," because he was deficient or devoid of that excellent gift. The Deist may ridicule the principles upon which this solution is founded if he will; but he cannot deny that they are principles distinctly laid down by revelation. He may deride the merit of faith as a reason of man's acceptableness in the sight of his Creator, and refuse to yield his assent to the proposition

[ocr errors][merged small]

that "without faith it is impossible to please God." Upon this ground we fear not his objections, and we are ready to meet him whenever the occasion seems to demand the discussion; but our present object requires not that we should enter into so large a field of doctrinal investigation. Our only object at present is to shew that the respect with which the offering of Abel was received is not a circumstance upon which any argument can be founded against the internal credibility of the book in which it is found. It cannot, we maintain, be considered as inconsistent either with the dictates of reason, or the attributes of the Deity, or the general tenor of revelation; because the approbation of God was not bestowed upon Abel on account of the sanguinary nature of his sacrifice, or any frivolous or arbitrary distinction, but on account of a great and estimable religious qualification which he possessed. It was because he was endued with that virtue of faith, which, from the beginning to the end of revelation is almost beyond all others conspicuous in the Saints, and laid down as an indispensible requisite for obtaining the favour of God. This we have already shewn by proving first that the narrative of Moses undeniably implies that the offering of Abel was accepted and approved because he had done well; and then, by demonstrating, in the method pointed out to us by

St. Paul, that the qualification which entitled him to that character was his religious faith, the very quality in which Enoch was translated, through which Noah was saved, for which Abraham was blessed, and by which the Christian is justified. At least, then, the Deist must allow that Abel's offering was not accepted for any improper reason, but in exact conformity. with the general representations of Scripture upon the means by which men incur the displeasure, or win the favour of the Almighty. The respect, therefore, which was shewn to the sacrifice of this faithful man, and the preference he obtained over the less faithful Cain, can never be condemned as inconsistent with the wisdom and holiness of God, or as unworthy to be recorded in a divine revelation until it has first of all been proved that the doctrine of our acceptance through faith is either irrational or unrighteous. But irrational it never can be proved, so long as it is allowed that our conduct is materially affected by the nature of the principles we embrace; nor unrighteous, so long as we hold that "faith without works is dead," and exhort every man to "add virtue to his faith," and shew forth the soundness of his belief by the fruits of righteousness in his life.

Such are the observations we would urge

« PreviousContinue »