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things, would be most desirous of partaking of the benefits of this holy institution, and setting before them this symbolical sacrifice of our Redeemer; and that the same sacred day, whose return brought with it the image and promise of their future rest, would be most frequently, though not exclusively, chosen for the typical representation of those means by which that repose was to be purchased and secured.
Of the historical Types previous to the Deluge.
As the stream of time rolled on, the same divine and benevolent Being, who had revealed the purposes of his grace towards his rebellious creatures, was pleased to add types of an historical nature to those he had legislatively enacted, in which, as in a picture he presented to their consideration, further revelations of his conduct and intentions towards them; or displayed more evidently the manner in which the principles of divine mercy or government, goodness or providence, should be exercised towards them; and also how motives derived from these, would influence the operations of believers in them, or the want of such principles would produce contrary effects; and that thence would arise that spirit of separation and hostility which the wicked have ever felt and shown towards the righteous in every age of the world.
The first recorded incident of this sort we find in Gen. iv. 3-16. Abel brought of the firstlings and fat of his flocks an offering unto the Lord. Cain also brought his offering of the fruits of the ground, probably the first fruits, but that is not stated. As far as the outward act extended, both appeared to be solemnly engaged in the worship of their Maker, yet he who discerns the heart and its purposes, accepted the sacrifice of Abel, and rejected that of Cain.
The latter circumstance might have been expected to have excited alarm, and an anxious desire to obtain the acceptance then denied him. On the contrary, it provoked his anger, and discovered the hardness and impenitency of his heart, by the effect it produced upon his person. "Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell."
Nothing can be more remote from a godly temper and disposition than a spirit of haughtiness and turbulence. Such were manifested on the present occasion; yet that God, whose counsel has ever been to leave the guilty without excuse, kindly entered into converse with the stubborn and refractory sinner: he gently exposed the folly and self-injury of such conduct; directed his attention to that knowledge which he already possessed of the justice and
mercy of the Almighty, on whom he was dependent, and whom he was provoking yet more and more. He reminded him of the certainty of his acceptance if he did well, and the equal certainty of punishment if he continued a transgressor. Neither the invitation nor the warning produced any beneficial effect. The seed of hostility against his brother appears to have been sown amidst these solemnities, and with morbid celerity it grew up, and brought forth fruit unto death. Cain enticed his brother Abel into the field, rose upon him, and slew him. The murder, perpetrated in a retired and sequestered spot, could not escape the knowledge of the Omnipresent. The sinner, when charged with his crime, by a daring effrontery endeavoured to repel and elude what he could not deny; but the guilt was brought home to the conscience of the offender, with an authority and force of conviction that silenced all cavil. He was compelled to stand mute before his Judge in awful expectation of the sentence of blood-guiltiness. It is passed, blotting him out of the land of the living, and cursing even his blessings; but the full execution is not immediately enforced; the day of grace, space and opportunity for repentance is continued.
This historical type follows the ritual one of
sacrifice with peculiar propriety and utility. The latter presents a brief exposition of the mysteries of the gospel; the former a representation of the effects produced by the principles of that gospel in the lives of those who receive it, the awful consequences affecting, both here and hereafter, those who disbelieve and reject it, and the operation of the enmity subsisting between the seed of the woman and that of the serpent.
The faith of Abel produced a conformity to the will of his Redeemer.
He brought of his fold a substitute, according to divine appointment, and offered of the best of his flock for his redemption, and by faith in the blood of a more excellent sacrifice, though as yet afar off, he obtained acceptance. His mind being at peace with God, was at peace with his neighbour, and in the exercise of that charity which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things." In the simplicity of his heart, and the integrity of his way, without a suspicion of fraud or guile, he fell into the snares of the wicked, and was slain without resistance, committing himself to him that judgeth righteously.
The character of Abel, as represented in this narration, corresponds with that of the church: the latter is redeemed by the blood of Jesus