ABEL; Or, The Young Man's Offering
James Smith, 1856
"By faith Abel offered unto God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain." Hebrews 11:4
There can be no doubt but the offering of sacrifices originated in the command of God. When man sinned, an atonement became necessary; for without shedding of blood, there can be no remission of sins. God, therefore, revealed his will, that the inferior creatures should be presented unto him in sacrifice, to typify and represent the glorious sacrifice that was to be offered in after times on Golgotha.
Adam was unquestionably the first sacrificer. What must have been the feelings of that first sinner, when he shed the blood of the first harmless lamb — to offer it to God upon the altar for his own sin! Family worship in his house was carried on through sacrifices for sin, and thank-offerings for mercies received.
Adam had two sons, who differed in their dispositions, pursuits, and religious feelings; they both worshiped God; but only one was accepted, because only one sought him after the appointed order. Cain was of the wicked one; his person and offering were rejected; and he is held up as a warning to all young men, who set up their reason in preference to obeying God according to his own revelation. But we have now only to do with Abel, whose person and offering were both acceptable to God.
WHAT did he offer?"Abel also presented an offering — some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions." He brought the prescribed lamb, the fattest, the finest he had; he presented it to God, slew it before God, and offered it upon the altar as prescribed by God. It was a sin-offering. In this he acknowledged sin. He confessed . . .
He, therefore, presented the lamb as his substitute, and sought that it might be accepted in his stead. By this act he renounced self, seeking to be accepted through another. He condemned himself, admitting that he deserved to die, as that lamb had died. He justified God in the sentence that he had passed in consequence of Adam's sin.
To this state, we must all be brought before we can be accepted of God, before our offerings can be pleasant in his sight. We must be convinced of sin, feel that we are sinners, and confess the same with sorrow before God. We must perceive the absolute need of an atonement for sin, and place our dependence on the blood of another for acceptance with God. We must seek and expect pardon only through blood, for that is the only medium through which it flows. We must heartily and honestly renounce ourselves, second God's sentence of condemnation passed in consequence of our sin, and justify God in the seeming severity of the sentence which awards eternal punishment for man's transgression.
Reader, have you ever been brought to this? Examine your
heart, investigate the state of your soul, for a mistake here may be fatal.
HOW did Abel offer?"By faith Abel offered to God." He believed that God would provide a suitable and sufficient sacrifice for sin. That the seed of the woman would appear. That he would make the atonement that was necessary. That God would accept the sacrifice which he himself would provide when it was offered. That he would accept it for sinners. That its merit would avail for all who exercised faith in it, and looked for acceptance with God alone through it. He believed that God would confer all necessary blessings upon those who seek him through one all-glorious sacrifice.
He had confidence in God, and this produced love to God, and led him to honor God. He looked upon God as a father — devising means that his criminal children would not be banished from him. He believed that there was love in God's heart, that he had no pleasure in the death of a sinner. He, therefore, took the lamb, offered it up, and expected that God would accept both his person and services through a much better sacrifice than that.
He was a subject who had been in rebellion against his lawful sovereign; but he was now honoring the law and government by accepting the invitation to return to his allegiance, and seeking the pardon of his rebellion through the means prescribed by authority.
Just so, this is the way in which we must seek and find pardon, peace, and acceptance with God. It must be by faith, receiving God's testimony, acting upon God's Word, placing confidence in Christ's atoning blood, and submitting ourselves implicitly to his righteousness.
"Without faith, it is impossible to please God." Cain had no faith in God's promise; he rested in his own works, he expected to be accepted on account of his own offering, and, therefore, both his person and performances were rejected by God. Just so it is now with many; they have no faith in Jesus — they do not rely on his precious blood — they do not approach God, pleading his finished work; but they rest upon some frames, feelings, services, or sacrifice of their own; and, consequently, they know nothing of peace with God, acceptance before God, access to God, and joy in God. But what is religion without these? A form it may be, a substance it is not. A delusion it may be, a divine reality it cannot be. Observe, then —
First, there is no acceptance with God for a sinner, without a sacrifice.Without a bloody sacrifice. The so-called bloodless sacrifice of the popish mass, is an infamous delusion and deception. It is blood which makes atonement for the soul. And yet the blood of lambs, bulls, or goats, will not do it. No, it must be better blood. The blood of Jesus Christ alone, God's own dear Son — will cleanse us from all sin. But nothing else will, nothing else can. His blood is called "precious blood," there is infinite value and eternal efficacy in it. It is precious in the sight of God, precious to the anxious sinner, and precious to the happy believer.
Secondly, There is no acceptance for a sinner, through the sacrifice of Christ, without faith.Not that faith gives virtue or efficacy to the blood of Jesus. No, no! Faith adds nothing to the blood of the Lamb. But faith looks at it, admires it, places confidence in it, renounces everything besides, brings it before God, and pleads it in order to obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Reader, the blood of Jesus will do you no good, if you have no personal dealings with it. You must view it as the price paid for the sinner's release, the satisfaction rendered to divine justice, an act of high honor rendered to the righteous government of the Most High God, and the only medium through which pardon, peace, reconciliation, and acceptance, can be enjoyed. You must have "faith in his blood," or you can never be pardoned, justified, sanctified, and made fit for Heaven. If Abel had not exercised faith in the blood of Christ, as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, he would have been rejected just the same as Cain was; and if you attempt to approach God in any other way, you will be rejected too.
Thirdly, There is no true faith without an offering.You may believe many things, you may believe much; but unless your faith centers in Christ, it is not "the faith of God's elect," it is not "the faith of the operation of God," it is not the faith to which the promise of salvation is made. Christ is the great object of faith. Christ is the great sacrifice for sin. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
"Precious faith," as Peter calls it, always receives Christ, lives on Christ, and rejects everything that would eclipse the honor or conceal the glory of Christ. True faith is exceedingly jealous; it will have Christ first, and Christ last, and all good desires, good efforts, and good works, come in between. Faith sprinkles everything with blood, and never ventures into God's presence without the basin in her hand.
When the believer has obtained and enjoyed his acceptance with God through faith in the righteousness and blood-shedding of the Lord Jesus — then he offers the sacrifice of praise; then he will do good, and communicate of his substance to God's cause and the poor saints, knowing that with such sacrifices God is well pleased (Hebrews 13:16). Faith always carries the blood in her right hand, when she goes in before the Lord, and brings her other sacrifices and offerings in her left hand; and her right hand is always foremost, as though her right arm were much longer than her left.
Reader, is your faith of this kind? Have you dealings with the blood of Jesus daily? Do you always offer the blood of Christ for your acceptance, and expect that all your poor performances will be accepted through that? Be very careful here, for unless you have true faith, and your faith be fixed on the right object — Christ will profit you nothing. The devils, believe — and tremble.
See, then the importance of faith. After Christ, nothing is more important. If we believe, not we shall be damned. Faith puts us in possession of every spiritual blessing; but if destitute of faith, whatever we may imagine, we are "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
See, also, the necessity of approaching God in his own way. Cain brought an offering, he had an altar — but he was rejected. As Joseph said to his brethren, "You shall not see my face — unless your brother is with you," so God will never look upon a sinner with approbation, or accept a sinner at his throne — unless he has the blood of Jesus with him. Jesus said. "I am the way — no man comes unto the Father but by me." This is the fixed and immutable decree of Heaven, settled in the eternal council, and abiding sure forever: "No sinner can come to the Father, but by Jesus." Neither priest, pope, nor virgin Mary will do; neither sufferings, prayers, nor penances will do; not all the saints of God, with all the angelic host combined, could obtain access to, or acceptance with, God for a sinner — but through the blood of Jesus.
This is the way, the only way, therefore walk in it. The way to be accepted and honored of God, is just to do as Abel did — bring the LAMB, confess sin, plead its blood, rely on its merits — and you will soon obtain witness that you are righteous. God will testify his approbation, and you will obtain power to conquer sin, mortify corruption, overcome the world, vanquish Satan, and be more than a conqueror through Him that loved you!
This was the case with the young men to whom John wrote;
therefore he said, "I write unto you, young men, because you have overcome
the wicked one. I have written unto you, young men, because you are strong,
and the Word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one,"
(John 2:13, 14). Let young men, then, see to it, that they have faith in
Christ; that their faith, is a growing faith, that it is a working
faith, that it is a conquering faith; that it puts the crown on
the head of Jesus, the world under their feet, and keeps eternal glory in
their eye! True faith . . .
roots itself in God's Word,
is nourished by precious blood,
achieves wonders in God's cause, and
invariably keeps its possessor in the dust, singing:
"Now I have found the ground, wherein
Sure my soul's anchor may remain,
The wounds of Jesus for my sin,
Before the world's foundation slain,
Whose mercy shall unshaken stay,
When Heaven and earth are fled away.
O love, you bottomless abyss!
My sins are swallowed up in thee;
Covered is my unrighteousness,
Nor spot of guilt remains on me!
While Jesus' blood through earth and skies,
Mercy, free boundless mercy, cries!
Jesus, I know, has died for me,
Here is my hope, my joy, my rest!
Hither, when Hell assails, I flee,
I look into my Savior's breast;
Away, sad doubt and anxious fear,
Mercy and love are written there!
Fixed on this ground will I remain,
Though my heart fail and flesh decay;
This anchor shall my soul sustain
When earth's foundations melt away,
Mercy's full power I then shall prove,
Loved with an everlasting love!"