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Light and Truth: The Old Testament: Chapter 8 - The Way of Cain

By Horatius Bonar

      "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord." -- Genesis 4:16

      "Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous." --I John 3:12

      "Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core."--Jude 11

      AS "the way of Cain" is spoken of by the apostle Jude, as specially the way of the last days, let us inquire what it was. It was evil, not good. He is an open and defiant sinner; and in him sin takes its full swing. He is the first child of the fall, and the offspring of the fallen; he is no common transgressor; he runs no ordinary career of wickedness; he rushes to the extremity of evil. He is given as a beacon, yet as a true specimen of man, of the human heart even in the most favourable circumstances. He came into the world, not like Adam, full-grown, but a child, and therefore with the least possible amount of evil. He is the child of believing parents; for Adam shewed his faith by calling his wife, and Eve shewed hers by the way in which she received her first-born. He had a most godly brother, and was one of a pious household; brought up within sight of Paradise, and from childhood taught the knowledge of the true God, and the woman's seed. He was exposed to no outward temptation; he had no companion in sin; he walked the broad way alone. He was warned, no doubt, against the serpent and his seed. He was more than once spoken to directly by God. He had every possible advantage, in the absence of evil and the presence of good. Much might have been expected from him; yet he turns his back on God, on Paradise, on the altar, on the sacrifice, on all that is good and blessed.

      But let us see more specially what the apostle calls "the way of Cain." It is the way,

      I. Of unbelief. Cain is the first specimen of an unbelieving man. His parents were sinners, but they believed. His brother was a sinner, but he believed. Cain is not an atheist, nor an altogether irreligious man. He owns a God, and brings his fruits to the altar. But he brings no lamb, no blood, nothing that speaks of death. He comes with no confession, no cry for mercy. He sees no need of the woman's seed, no danger from the serpent; no preciousness, and perhaps no truth, in the promise of the serpent's crushed head or Messiah's bruised heel. He takes Satan's side against God, not God's against Satan; for all unbelief is a siding with Satan against God. God is not to him the God of grace, nor the woman's seed the Saviour of the lost. He has a religion, but it is self-made, a human religion, something of his own; without Christ, or blood, or pardon. The love of God is to him mere indifference to sin. Rejection of God's religion, and of His Messiah,--this is "the way of Cain."

      II. It is the way of apostasy. He turns his back on God, and will have none of Him. He is not like one of our dark heathen, ignorant of the true God. He knows Jehovah, and has heard His voice; but he turns away. He is an apostate (the first apostate) from the religion of his father; a scorner of the Messiah; he wants a Messiah of his own,--"a Christ that is to be"; not God's Christ, but man's. From what small beginnings apostasy springs.

      III. It is the way of worldliness. Having forsaken his father's God, he makes a god to himself; that god is the world. He goes far from Paradise, builds a city, becomes a thorough man of the world; becomes the father of the inventors of all curious instruments, leads the ever-swelling crowd in its race of worldliness and vanity,--with the cry, Onward, onward; progress, progress. They eat and drink, marry, and are given in marriage. All about Cain is of this present evil world. In our age what a spirit of worldliness is abroad; often not open wickedness, but simply worldliness, so absorbing the soul as to draw it quite down from the region of "the world to come."

      It is the way of hatred. He begins with envy of his brother; goes on to hatred; ends in murder. He is specially jealous of his brother's having found favour with God. Yes, strange, though he would have none of God for himself, he cannot bear that his brother should have it. Not the love of man or woman, but of God is the cause of the first jealousy and the first murder. He hates God, and all the more for loving his brother. He hates Abel, and all the more for being loved of God. He cannot lay hands on God, as he fain would do, but he lays hands on His favourite, and so takes his revenge. Yes, the way of Cain is the way of envy, jealousy, hatred, murder!

      The way of God-defiance. He dissembles; he wipes his bloody weapon and his bloody hands, saying, What have I done? He lies; he pretends; he would hide his doings from God. He has beguiled his brother into a lonely field and slain him, thinking that none would rescue, and none see. He acts as the liar and the hypocrite in the very presence of God. The way of Cain is the way of hypocrisy, falsehood, and defiance of God. God asks him of his brother; his answer is not only a lie, but a brazenfaced piece of impiety: "Am I my brother's keeper?" Thus he mocks God; utters the language of irreverence and defiance:--"He is your favourite, why do you not keep him? I never pretended to keep him." Here mingled fear, shame, audacity, defiance are manifested. He would fain deny the deed, but dares not. He trembles, and would fain conceal it. He puts on a defiant air and attitude, as if to brave it out before the all-seeing One!

      Such is the way of Cain! Mark his doom.

      1. Despair. No cry for mercy, but merely, My punishment is greater than I can bear. So is it in other ages. The sinner's despair of mercy, or complaint against God for making his punishment so heavy, is the repetition of Cain's offence and his doom. Why should a sinner despair on this side of hell? There is forgiveness to the uttermost; grace reaching far beyond the extremity of human guilt.

      2. Banishment from God. He goes out from the presence of God, as if he could no longer bear that. He must away from Paradise, the birthplace of the race, the old seat of worship. But what is this to the eternal banishment? Cain has no rest, moving to and fro without hope or aim, a fugitive and vagabond, seeking rest, finding none. Sad curse! yet nothing to the eternal wandering!

      3. Disappointment. He himself was his mother's disappointment, for she thought she had gotten the man- child. So is he a disappointment to himself. From first to last we see in him a disappointed man, trying everything, succeeding in nothing; building cities, roaming from place to place, to soothe his conscience, and fill up his heart's void. But in vain!

      4. Fruitless worldliness. He is the heir of a barren world; for the whole world is his. He is possessor of a soil made unfruitful by a brother's blood; tilling and sowing, yet not reaping. A weary man, toiling for that which is not bread; trying to wring water out of the world's dry sands and broken cisterns. Such is the career of thousands. Fruitless worldliness. A life of vanity; a soul utterly void; a being wholly wasted.

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See Also:
   Chapter 1 - The Old and New Creation
   Chapter 2 - The Link Between Being and Non-Being
   Chapter 3 - A Happy World
   Chapter 4 - The Sin, the Sinner, and the Sentence
   Chapter 5 - Man's Fig-Leaves
   Chapter 6 - Expulsion and Re-Entrance
   Chapter 7 - The Blood of Sprinkling and the Blood of Abel
   Chapter 8 - The Way of Cain
   Chapter 9 - The Man of Rest
   Chapter 10 - Going Out and Keeping Out
   Chapter 11 - The Shield and the Recompense
   Chapter 12 - Liberty and Service
   Chapter 13 - The Day of Despair
   Chapter 14 - The Blood of Deliverance
   Chapter 15 - How God Deals with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 16 - The Fire Quenched
   Chapter 17 - The Vision from the Rocks
   Chapter 18 - The Doom of the Double-Hearted
   Chapter 19 - Be Not Borderers
   Chapter 20 - The Outlines of a Saved Sinner's History
   Chapter 21 - Divine Longings Over the Foolish
   Chapter 22 - What a Believing Man Can Do
   Chapter 23 - Song of the Putting Off of the Armour
   Chapter 24 - The Kiss of the Backslider
   Chapter 25 - The Priestly Word of Peace
   Chapter 26 - Human Anodynes
   Chapter 27 - Spiritual and Carnal Weapons
   Chapter 28 - Divine Silence and Human Despair
   Chapter 29 - Jewish Unbelief and Gentile Blessing
   Chapter 30 - The Restoration of the Banished
   Chapter 31 - The Farewell Gift
   Chapter 32 - God's Dealing with Sin and the Sinner
   Chapter 33 - God Finding a Resting-Place
   Chapter 34 - The Moriah Group
   Chapter 35 - Diverse Kinds of Conscience
   Chapter 36 - The Soul Turning from Man to God
   Chapter 37 - Man's Dislike of a Present God
   Chapter 38 - True and False Consolation
   Chapter 39 - Gain and Loss for Eternity
   Chapter 40 - Man's Misconstruction of the Works of God
   Chapter 41 - The Two Cries and the Two Answers
   Chapter 42 - The Knowledge of God's Name
   Chapter 43 - Deliverance from Deep Waters
   Chapter 44 - The Excellency of the Divine Loving-Kindness
   Chapter 45 - The Sickness, the Healer, and the Healing
   Chapter 46 - The Consecration of Earth's Gold and Silver
   Chapter 47 - The Gifts of the Ascended One
   Chapter 48 - The Speaker, the Listener, the Peace
   Chapter 49 - The Believing Man's Confident Appeal
   Chapter 50 - The Love and the Deliverance
   Chapter 51 - The Sin and Folly of Being Unhappy
   Chapter 52 - The Book of Books
   Chapter 53 - The Secret of Deliverance from Evil
   Chapter 54 - The Voice of the Heavenly Bridegroom
   Chapter 55 - The Love that Passeth Knowledge
   Chapter 56 - The Vision of the Glory
   Chapter 57 - Man's Extremity and Satan's Opportunity
   Chapter 58 - The Day of Clear Vision to the Dim Eyes
   Chapter 59 - The Unfainting Creator and the Fainting Creature
   Chapter 60 - The Knowledge that Justifies
   Chapter 61 - The Heritage and its Title-Deeds
   Chapter 62 - The Meeting Between the Sinner and God
   Chapter 63 - God's Love and God's Way of Blessing
   Chapter 64 - Divine Jealousy for the Truth
   Chapter 65 - Divine Love and Human Rejection of it
   Chapter 66 - God's Desire to Bless the Sinner
   Chapter 67 - The Resting-Place Forgotten
   Chapter 68 - The Day that Will Right all Wrongs
   Chapter 69 - The Glory and the Love
   Chapter 70 - False Religion and its Doom
   Chapter 71 - No Breath No Life
   Chapter 72 - Every Christian a Teacher
   Chapter 73 - Work, Rest, and Recompence
   Chapter 74 - Human Heedlessness and Divine Remembrance
   Chapter 75 - Lies the Food of Man
   Chapter 76 - The Love and the Calling
   Chapter 77 - The Anger and the Goodness
   Chapter 78 - Darkness Pursuing the Sinner
   Chapter 79 - Jerusalem the Centre of the World's Peace
   Chapter 80 - Jerusalem and Her King
   Chapter 81 - Looking to the Pierced One
   Chapter 82 - The Holiness of Common Things
   Chapter 83 - Wearying Jehovah with our Words
   Chapter 84 - Dies Irae


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