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It is indeed astonishing that it should be passively taken for granted, as it generally is, by Christians, that the origin of all mankind from a single pair, is the absolute doctrine of the Bible. So far from it, there is nothing in this record inconsistent with as many different originations as there are races, or even varieties, of men. So far from it, the writer, in effect, tacitly assumes the existence of other tribes besides the family of Adam, when he makes Cain, the only surviving son of Adam and Eve, fear the vengeance of his fellow-men on being driven from the neighbourhood of Eden, and when Cain marries a wife in a distant country, and builds a town too; which, however small a place might be called a town, implies that there were people to build it and to inhabit it,-people surely of his wife's kindred and neighbourhood. So that it is more truly respectful to this portion of Scripture itself, to listen to what it really does say or imply, and so to interpret it as to let it leave room, wherever it will, for the truths of human philosophy, than dogmatically to make a meaning for it first, and then declare that meaning to be inspired, and condemn, as if from the chair of inspiration, the inquiries of the earnest and laborious man of science.
Modern physiologists, who have endeavoured to investigate, by the light of inductive science, the origin of the various distinct races of men, have found it almost impossible to reconcile those palpable and great diversities of race with the idea of one common origin from one human pair. And though some of the greatest names are found on the one side as well as on the other, it is difficult to persuade ourselves that the common
of the Creator, to assume that He gave to each zone and each climate its proper inhabitants, to whom that zone and that climate would be the most suitable, than to assume that the human species has degenerated in such innumerable instances.” (Life and Letters, I. 39.)
origin of the Negro, the European, the Hottentot, the Red Indian and the Malay, would ever have appeared probable to the Philosopher, if it had not been maintained for centuries as an almost unquestioned truth by the Divine.
We may gain at once the spirit of rational religion and of religious philosophy, from the careful and truthloving perusal of those very Scriptures, in the name of which religionists in general are apt to set reason and philosophy at defiance, to the sad hindrance of Science and to the perpetual disgrace of Theology.
But this history of Cain and Abel is chiefly interestng for the picture it gives of the world's earliest religious worship.
“ In process of time it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto Jehovah. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fattest thereof.” The general history of the world abundantly confirms this record of its infant homage. The earliest known worship of almost every nation has been that of sacrifice,—the offering of fruits or flowers, or the flesh of animals, with the accompaniment usually of sweet odours, and the pouring out of oil or wine upon the flames.
Is it asked, How should these acts ever have come to be considered as acts of religious worship? What could be the connection of ideas by which men regarded ceremonies like these as equivalent or auxiliary to the offices of religious thankfulness and religious entreaty ? It is plain matter of fact that they did think them so; nor is it difficult to trace and appreciate the connection of ideas. Doubtless it implies essentially low and corporeal notions of the Being adored, to worship Him by sacrifice in any case. The Gentiles, we know very well, believed that their deities actually ate of the offerings presented on their altars, and drank the wine and oil and blood. And not a few remonstrances of the psalmists and prophets shew that the Jews were very apt to think so too. But, short of this grossest notion, the imagination was aided by the senses in a way that impressed the rude heart, when the fragrant smoke visibly ascended towards the blue sky, where the local abode of the divinities was naturally believed to be, and the worshiper thus saw the emblem of the acceptance of his prayers and praises. Then it was surely not an unnatural acknowledgment of Providence, but a simple and beautiful expression of gratitude, to bring the choicest of his fruits and of his flocks, and present them to the great Giver, before he himself partook the produce. The first-fruits thus consecrated made all the fruits sacred and good in their use and enjoyment.
This, then, is the central idea of sacrifice. A heathen poet (Ovid), when describing in beautiful verse the simple habits of the early traditionary period of his country, describes it by saying how simple and unexpensive was the mode of religious worship, as corresponding to the simplicity of manners in that golden age. “Formerly (he says), corn with a few grains of pure salt was deemed enough to conciliate the gods. The myrrh of distant regions, the frankincense of Syria, the sweet balsam of India, and even the saffron, was unknown. The smoke of the altar rose from native herbs and laurels. If any one could furnish violets with his wreath of wild flowers, that marked him for a rich man. The knife which now rips the slaughtered ox had no part in those sacrifices." (Ovid. Fast. i. 337–348.)
Just like the bloodless sacrifices here described as regards the outward act) was that of Cain, who“ brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto Jehovah.” And equally appropriate to his condition as a keeper of sheep, was Abel's presentation of “the firstlings of his flock and the fattest thereof." Each brings an offering appropriate to his occupation in life; and each recognizes thereby (or at least professes to do) his dependence upon Providence for the increase of his field or of his flock.
But while thus alike in their outward character, the offerings of the brothers meet with very different treatment. “ Jehovah had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect." The one was accepted, the other rejected, Perhaps the one was consumed by fire, the other left unburnt. Perhaps the flame of the one glowed cheerfully and its smoke ascended lightly, while the other smouldered and flickered out. Conjecture has been active to imagine (what the writer has not told) how the acceptance of the one and the rejection of the other were manifested. Perhaps the acceptance of the one may have been believed from the subsequent prosperity of the flock, and the rejection of the other inferred from subsequent failure of crops. A far more important question is, why the one was accepted and the other rejected. And this question is settled beyond all need of conjecture, if we take the history as we find it, and let the references made to it by other scriptural writers confirm its plain and obvious meaning.
The book of Genesis itself refers the acceptance of Abel's offering and the rejection of Cain's to the difference of character and conduct between the two brothers. “ Jehovah said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shalt not thou be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door" (the sin lies at thy own door, I suppose it to mean, in homely English proverb, which may have been just as expressive in patriarchal Hebrew speech);—it is thine own fault if thy offering is not as acceptable as thy brother's.
“Doing well" is the condition of acceptable worship from first to last in the revealed dispensations of God. In the first recorded sacrifice this was the condition of acceptance; and, as days rolled on and the ceremonial of Judaism was matured, this great principle was never lost sight of; for the Jews were forbidden to think (as many of the Gentiles thought) that sacrifice would stand in stead of personal righteousness. Then, in the fulness of time, under the Gospel dispensation, in which there is no more sacrifice required even for sins of outward ceremony, He who abolished the law of ordinances expressly said, “ Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven."
The sacrifices of Cain and Abel are referred to and commented upon by two of the Christian scriptural writers, who take precisely the same view of the matter as that which is implied in the original narrative. The Epistle to the Hebrews says (xi. 4), “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 what is meant by faith is explained in verses shortly preceding and following: “Faith is the substance (or substantiating) of things hoped for, the evidence (conviction) of things not seen.” “Without faith, it is impossible to please God; for he that cometh to God must believe that He is (the conviction respecting the unseen), and that He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him” (the substantiating of things hoped for). The other New-Testament writer who alludes to this incident of the Old is St. John, in his first Epistle (iii. 12): “This is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one