the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25
Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters
THE BLOOD OF SPRINKLING
RIGHTEOUS Abel would have silenced his own accusing blood if he only could. When Cain suddenly struck him down, dying Abel took all the blame on himself. As long as he could speak Abel excused his brother, and sought to be reconciled to his brother. He put himself in the wrong and his brother in the right. He saw, now, when it was too late, how he had grieved and vexed and offended his brother. He had not thought about his brother. He had not put himself into his brother's place. He had not looked at things with his brother's eyes. He had been glad, and he had let his gladness too much appear, when his own offerings were respected and his brother's despised. Forgive me, O my God! Forgive me, O my brother! was Abel's last prayer. Whatever dead Abel's blood may have cried, I feel sure what dying Abel himself cried. Lord, lay not this blow to my brother's charge, he cried. And when Abel had said that again and again he fell asleep.
If Cain had only done the exact opposite of what he immediately did as soon as he had buried Abel: if he had only determined in spite of it all still to abide in the land of Eden; if he had only kept himself in the presence of the Lord, and had not allowed himself to go out from the presence of the Lord; if he had only laid the foundations of his city beside Abel's grave, then Abel's prayer for his brother would have been heard, and Abel's blood from that day would have begun to speak almost like the blood of Christ itself. Had Cain all his after days prevented the dawning of the morning that he might offer unceasing sacrifices beside his brother's grave; had he risen from his bed at midnight till, being in an agony, his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground on Abel's grave; then Cain would have been a pattern that in him God might first show forth all long-suffering to those who should after Cain believe to life everlasting. And if you would but determine to learn tonight of Cain and Abel; if you would but keep at home and dwell in the presence of your past sin, and in the presence of the Lord; if you would but build your house, and if God would but prepare your table, in the presence of your enemies; now that Christ's atoning blood has taken the place of Abel's accusing blood; now that Christ's peace-speaking blood is every day and every night being sprinkled from heaven upon His and other men's murderers,-you would even yet escape being a fugitive and a vagabond on the earth, and would be made a fellow-citizen with the saints, and of the household of God.
Where, then, is Abel thy brother? Answer that on the spot. Where hast thou hid him? Say on the spot, Lord, come with me and I will shew Thee. Go back often to Abel's grave. Go back continually to your past life. Go back to your school days. Go back to your college days. Go back to your first office, your first shop, your first workshop. Recall your first friend. Pass before your eyes the first young man, the first young woman, you were intimate with. Call up the long-mouldered corpse of your first affection, your first passion, your first love, your first lust. Give instances. Give names; and ask if God has another case like yours in all His Book. Face full in the face that monstrous folly; that word, that act, that makes you blush scarlet and turn in your seat to think of it. They are turning on their beds in hell at this moment for far less. Go back to that farmhouse in the country, to that hamlet up among the hills, out of which you were so glad to escape from the presence of the Lord, and from the place of your sin, and get away to hide yourself in the great city. See how one ghost awakens another ghost till they come up an army of the ghosts of dead men and dead women against you. Men and women now dead, and in their own places. Men and women also still alive, but dead to you,-would God they were! Men and women who, when they, or their children, or only their spoken or written names pass before you, make you wish they were dead-they or you. Go back, I say. In God's name, in God's strength, go back! Take time, and go back. Take trouble, and go back. Take pains, and go back. Do not grudge time and trouble and pains. You will be well paid for all your time and trouble in humiliation, in remorse, and in godly sorrow. Even if you took, what Cain, it is to be feared, did not take-even if you took one whole hour every night alone with your past life, it would not be mis-spent time. Redeem the time. Redeem it, and you will be justified for so doing long before the great white throne is set No; one whole hour every twenty-four hours of your present life would not be too much time to give to go over your past life. I undertake that if you will go home, and shut your door, and begin with such an hour tonight, you will not fall asleep in your chair. Why are you so pushed for time to repent? Why is retrospection the only thing that you have no time for, and always push it into a corner? Is it because you are not your brother's keeper? Is it because you never struck a foul blow in the field? Is it because no grey head has ever gone down to a grave that your hands dug? Is it because no young man's faith, and no young woman's trust, and no unsuspecting friend's good name has ever been shaken, or deceived, or pulled down and murdered by you? Have your hands been always so washed in innocency? Are there no tears against you in God's bottle, and no names in His book? God takes care and account not of murdered lives only, but also of murdered names and reputations. How many men and women have we all struck at with that sharp razor, an envious, malicious, murderous tongue? Work at your consciences, you children of God, till they are as quick to detect, to record, and to recollect an unkind, unjust, unhandsome, slighting, detracting, belittling, sneering word, or look, or shrug, as they are to keep you in mind of a foul blow in a field, and a far-back grave in a wood. It would lay some high heads here low enough this night if the graves of all the good names and reputations they have had a hand in murdering were to suddenly open around them. All good men, all men of God, keep a whole churchyard of such graves ever open before them. And, if you do not, whatever you may think you are, and whatever other men may think you are, Christ, your angry Judge, knows what you are.
There are no ministers here, but there are a good many divinity students who will too soon be ministers. Will they listen and let me speak a word or two to them on the blood of Abel? One word which I have purchased a right to speak. Alas! alas! We are called and ordained to be our brother's keeper long before any one has taken us and shown us the way to keep ourselves. And with what result? With what result let our communion-rolls and our visiting-books answer. If any minister would be shut up and determined to preach nothing else and nothing ever but the peace-speaking blood of Christ, let him read every night in his communion-roll, in his young communicants' class list, and in his pastoral visitation-book. That name, that name, that name, that family of names! Where are the owners of all these names? What account can I give of them? If they are not here tonight, where are they? Why are they not here, and why are they where they are? What a preacher Paul must have been, and what a pastor, and supported and seconded by what a staff of elders, since he was able to say to his assembled kirk-session in Ephesus that he was clear of the blood of all his people! What mornings to his tent-making, and to his sermons, and to his epistles; and what afternoons and evenings to humility, and to tears, and to temptations, both publicly and from house to house! Like Samuel Rutherford, and long before his day, always at his books, always among his people, always at their sick-beds, always catechising their children, always preaching and always praying. No, I know no reading so humbling, so condemning, so killing to us ministers as our communion-roll. We ministers must always appear before our people, and before God, clothed from head to foot with humility, with a rope upon our heads, and with nothing in our bands or in our mouths but the cross of Christ and the blood of Christ, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.
The blood of Christ! O my brethren, what blood the blood of Christ must be! What wonderful, what wonder-working blood! What amazing blood! How can even the blood of Christ atone for, and make amends to God and man for, all our envy, and malice, and murder of men's bodies, souls, and reputations? The more I think of that-I do not know, I cannot tell, I cannot imagine. And then, not atonement and amends only, not bare pardon for all the past only, but eternal life, and all that leads up to eternal life, and all that eternal life is and contains. For the Holy Ghost also is the purchase of Christ's blood, a new heart also, and a whole lifetime of the means of grace The Bible also, the Sabbath day, the Lord's table, a minister after God's own heart, deep, divine, unsearchable providences, a peaceful death-bed, a happy resurrection morning, a place at the right hand of the Judge, an open acknowledgment and acquittal on the day of judgment, 'Come, ye blessed of My Father,' and then a mansion with our own name in blood upon its door-post and its lintel to all eternity! Yes; precious blood indeed! What blood that must be that can so outery and drown silent in its depths all the accusing cries that are even now going up to God all behind me and all around me! I feel that I would need a whole Redeemer and all His redeeming blood to myself. But, then, after that fountain filled with blood has drowned in the depths of the sea all the accusations that my sinful life has raised against me, that same blood will still flow for you and will do the same service for you. And the blood of Christ is the same blood yesterday, today, and for ever. For after it has spoken better things than that of Abel to you and to me, it will still abide and will still do the same service to our children and to their children, till a multitude that no man can number have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. No wonder that Paul called that blood not the blood of Christ only, but the blood of God.
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Whyte, Alexander. Entry for 'Abel'. Alexander Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wbc/​a/abel.html. 1901.