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for their portion and happiness. But they are subject to numerous and servere disappointments and vexations. Under these evils they are prone to murmur and complain. But God has good reasons for their afflictions and troubles. And they ought to be submissive, patient and joyful under his wise and holy conduct. In the person of Jesus Christ God has set before us an example of proper conduct, in respect to the things of this life." And he has given us faithful and abundant instructions. Besides, he does what is wisest and best in our temporal affairs. He does far better than we desire him to do. It is, then, madness and folly for us to complain and murmur against him.
4. Since the earth is cursed for human wickedness, no one, without repentance, can enjoy the blessing of God. Until sinners repent, they are wholly opposed to God in their feelings, designs, interests and exertions. God is disposed and obliged, by his holiness, justice and goodness, to oppose and condemn such persons, as are unreasonably and unjustly opposed to him. God will never repent of his opposition and displeasure against his enemies. If they do not repent of their wickedness and truly turn to God, they must remain under his curse and perish forever.
5. In view of the evils that rest upon the earth, all persons are strongly urged to seek a portion in heaven. There is a world into which sin can never enter; and in which there is no curse, nor plague, no evil, nor sorrow. The gospel opens to you that holy and happy world. It offers it for your possession and enjoyment. It offers it to you without money and without price. It offers it to you through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. Look at the heavenly portion which God offers you in the gospel. Will you accept, or reject the offer? What will be your condition if you reject the eternal blessedness and glory of heaven? Jesus Christ has told you ; and he has shown you in lively pictures. Are you not, then, urged, by the best and strongest reasons, to turn from yourselves to God, from the sorrows of earth to the joys of heaven, from the condemning sentence of the law to the forgiveness and salvation of the gospel ?
6 Hear; and your soul shall live.”
A B E L.
And the Lord had respect to Abel and to his offering.
GENESIS, IV. 4.
In connection with the text, there is the first statement that is given in the Scriptures, respecting acts of worship that were rendered to God after sin and sorrow entered this world. These acts of worship were performed by the two first brothers of the human family. One of these brothers and his worship God accepted ; but he rejected the other brother. From the text it is now proposed,
I. To consider the character of Abel. As he was born into the world, he was like other human beings. Yet, by the Lord Jesus Christ he is called “ righteous Abel.” And the apostle says, “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.” Abel possessed
' the peculiar and essential character of pious persons, without which no one can be approved and accepted of God. He believed what was true ; and he performed what was right. He had true faith and good works.
1. Abel believed divine truth. Would he have come before God and have worshiped him with acceptance, if he had not believed in his existence and perfections, his holiness and sovereignty? in his knowledge, power, goodness, wisdom, justice, truth and grace? Would he have offered unto God a sacrifice from the firstlings of his flock, in reference to “ the blood of the everlasting covenant," if he had not believed in the Mediator, who should, by his own death, lay a foundation for the forgiveness and salvation of sinners? Would he have come unto God, through faith in the divine Redeemer of sinners, if he had not seen and known himself to be a sinful, guilty and lost creature ? In order to worship God with
acceptance Abel must have believed the great doctrines of natural and revealed religion. His knowledge and belief of divine truth were the foundation of his duties and of his acts of worship.
2. Abel obeyed, as well as believed, divine truth. With true faith in the holiness and majesty of God, he would reverence his fearful name. With a belief in his justice and purity and his displeasure against wickedness, he would submit to the condemning sentence of the law. With a knowledge of his own sinfulness and ill-desert, he would abhor himself, turn to God with a humble spirit
, confide in his mercy, obey his requirements and rejoice in his salvation. Such was the faith, such the conduct and character of Abel. He believed the truth; and he performed his duty.
II. It is proposed to show what the divine acceptance of Abel implies.
1. It implies the approbation of his conduct. Though he had sinned and was guilty before God and deserved his displeasure, yet there was a great change in his character. This change consisted in the exercise of holy, instead of unholy affections. In respect to the nature and not merely the objects of his affections, Abel became a new creature. In such a change, as God requires and approves in the human character, there is real holiness. And holiness is perfect in its nature, though no saint on earth is constantly holy; or in a state of moral perfection. They who become pious, by the light of divine truth, see the holiness and glory of God and their own sinfulness and vileness. And they turn to God with supreme affection for his goodness; and they tnrn from themselves with holy displeasure for their wickedness. God approves of their character and is pleased with their conduct. For they believe what he teaches and they do what he commands.
2. God's acceptance of Abel implies the forgiveness of his offenses. The law, which is founded on the immutable and eternal principles of truth and goodness, requires and binds every moral agent to be constantly and perfectly holy; and it condemns every sinner to endless punishment. This law God approves and sanctions by the whole glory of his natural and moral perfections.
And he is obliged, by his office of universal sovereignty and by the interests of his kingdom, to maintain this law in its boundless extent and its minutest requirements and prohibitions. “The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The wages
of sin is death." Who, then, that has once sinned, in the least motion of his heart, can be saved from the curse of the law, the wrath of God and the pains of endless death? But all mankind have sinned. Then "how should man be just with God ?" Every mouth must be stopped and all the world become guilty before God. “ Therefore by the deeds of the law, there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Without forgiveness from God, no one can be saved from present wrath and endless punishment. But God cannot forgive sinners against his truth and justice, his holiness and sovereignty ; nor against the peace, the order, purity and happiness of his kingdom. Yet, on the apostacy of Adam, he revealed the Savior and bestowed mercy upon the guilty parents of the human race. And through the name and blood of the divine Redeemer, who is one with God and one with man, God just and justify every penitent believer. Abel possessed the character, believed the doctrines and performed the duties, which true faith implies. He complied with the conditions of forgiveness, was accepted in his worship of God and saved from deserved punishment.
3. The divine acceptance of Abel implies the bestowment of every blessing which he could need. He became reconciled to God; and God was reconciled to him. By his own goodness and mercy God would be disposed, when Abel had complied with the offer of salvation, to grant him the evidences and expressions of his affection and friendship. He showed him some present and visible tokens of his approbation and complacency. He gave him the instruction, guidance, comfort and strength of the Holy Spirit. He taught and showed him the riches of his glory in the salvation of sinners. He assured him of his gracious presence through life. He promised him hope and triumph in death. He gave him a title to complete redemption from every evil and to eternal holiness and happiness in heaven. Such are the blessings which Abel would need ; and which his acceptance with God implied he should receive.
The character of Abel and his acceptance with God afford a number of practical observations.
1. The instructions of divine truth are necessary to the duty and salvation of sinners. Ignorance, error and deceit are not the means of the worship which God accepts, nor of the duties which he approves. Without divine instruction there would be no reason to believe, that the salvation of sinners could be possible. God only could know it to be possible ; and he could know it to be
; so, only from his infinite and eternal perfections. Since God has revealed the method of salvation, it is the wonder of the universe, that he can maintain his truth and justice and yet pardon and save such creatures as his truth and justice condemn. They could not be saved without the mediation and atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor could his mediation and atonement be possible, without the revealed manner of the divine existence, according to the doctrine of the Trinity. With this manner of the divine existence, there could be no atonement and no foundation for the forgiveness of sinners, unless God, in the person of Jesus Christ, had been manifest in the flesh and united in himself, humanity with divinity. With this union of the two distinct natures in one person, none could be saved without the atoning sacrifice which he has made by his death on the cross. Nor can any now. be saved without true faith in his name. Surely the duty and salvation of human beings are connected with subjects of the highest importance. Who, then, does not need to be taught and shown the truth on such subjects, as awaken the deepest interest in the hosts of angels, manifest and glorify the perfections of Jehovah and establish the only possible foundation for the forgiveness and salvation of sinners? True faith and good works will never exist in any human being, without the knowledge of truth and duty. And no one will ever have this knowledge without the instructions of divine revelation. Sinners will never repent and turn to God and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in the way to heaven, without the true knowledge of God and man, of the law and gospel, of heaven and hell. Nor will the church and children of God advance in religious attainments, beyond their progress in the belief and