The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 5: Cain and Abel Tested
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Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam, differed widely in character.
Abel had a spirit of loyalty to God; he saw justice and
mercy in the Creator's dealings with the fallen race, and gratefully
accepted the hope of redemption. But Cain cherished feelings of
rebellion, and murmured against God because of the curse pronounced
upon the earth and upon the human race for Adam's sin.
He permitted his mind to run in the same channel that led to
Satan's fall—indulging the desire for self-exaltation and questioning
the divine justice and authority.
These brothers were tested, as Adam had been tested before
them, to prove whether they would believe and obey the word
of God. They were acquainted with the provision made for the
salvation of man, and understood the system of offerings which
God had ordained. They knew that in these offerings they were
to express faith in the Saviour whom the offerings typified, and
at the same time to acknowledge their total dependence on Him
for pardon; and they knew that by thus conforming to the divine
plan for their redemption, they were giving proof of their
obedience to the will of God. Without the shedding of blood
there could be no remission of sin; and they were to show their
faith in the blood of Christ as the promised atonement by offering
the firstlings of the flock in sacrifice. Besides this, the first
fruits of the earth were to be presented before the Lord as a thank
The two brothers erected their altars alike, and each brought
an offering. Abel presented a sacrifice from the flock, in accordance
with the Lord's directions. "And the Lord had respect unto
Abel and to his offering." Fire flashed from heaven and consumed
the sacrifice. But Cain, disregarding the Lord's direct and explicit
command, presented only an offering of fruit. There was no token
from heaven to show that it was accepted. Abel pleaded with his
[p. 72] brother to approach God in the divinely prescribed way, but his
entreaties only made Cain the more determined to follow his own
will. As the eldest, he felt above being admonished by his brother,
and despised his counsel.
Cain came before God with murmuring and infidelity in his
heart in regard to the promised sacrifice and the necessity of the
sacrificial offerings. His gift expressed no penitence for sin. He
felt, as many now feel, that it would be an acknowledgment of
weakness to follow the exact plan marked out by God, of trusting
his salvation wholly to the atonement of the promised Saviour.
He chose the course of self-dependence. He would come in his
own merits. He would not bring the lamb, and mingle its blood
with his offering, but would present his fruits, the products of
his labor. He presented his offering as a favor done to God,
through which he expected to secure the divine approval. Cain
obeyed in building an altar, obeyed in bringing a sacrifice; but he
rendered only a partial obedience. The essential part, the
recognition of the need of a Redeemer, was left out.
So far as birth and religious instruction were concerned, these
brothers were equal. Both were sinners, and both acknowledged
the claims of God to reverence and worship. To outward appearance
their religion was the same up to a certain point, but beyond
this the difference between the two was great.
"By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice
than Cain." Hebrews 11:4. 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 that 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.
Cain had the same opportunity of learning and accepting these
truths as had Abel. He was not the victim of an arbitrary purpose.
One brother was not elected to be accepted of God, and the other
to be rejected. Abel chose faith and obedience; Cain, unbelief and
rebellion. Here the whole matter rested.
Cain and Abel represent two classes that will exist in the world
till the close of time. One class avail themselves of the appointed.
[p. 73] sacrifice for sin; the other venture to depend upon their own
merits; theirs is a sacrifice without the virtue of divine mediation,
and thus it is not able to bring man into favor with God. It is
only through the merits of Jesus that our transgressions can be
pardoned. Those who feel no need of the blood of Christ, who
feel that without divine grace they can by their own works secure
the approval of God, are making the same mistake as did Cain.
If they do not accept the cleansing blood, they are under
condemnation. There is no other provision made whereby they can
be released from the thralldom of sin.
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