CAIN was of the wicked one and slew his brother. “The way of Cain” is not hard to describe. He is too proud to offer atonement for his sin; he prefers his own way of sacrifice; he presents a bloodless oblation; he hates the obedience of faith; he smites the faithful Abel. See ye the way of Cain, and beware, Oh, proud self-righteous ones, lest ye run therein, for the steps are few from self-righteous pride to hatred of true believers, and murder is not far in advance. There is the seed of every infamy in the proud spirit of selfjustification, and it is a great mercy that it does not oftener show itself in all its terrific ripeness. Look ye, bold boasters of your own merits, at the mangled body of the first martyr, for this is the full-blown development of your rebellious self-conceit. From all pride and vain-glory, from all selfrighteousness and hatred of the cross of Christ, good Lord deliver us.
There are many persons whose brother’s blood cries to God from the ground. There is the seducer; he spake with honeyed words, and talked of love, but the poison of asps was under his tongue, for lust was in his heart.
He came to a fair temple as a worshipper, but he committed infamous sacrilege, and left that to be the haunt of demons which once was the palace of purity. Such men are received into society; they are looked upon as gentlemen, while the fallen woman, the harlot-sister, she may hide herself beneath the shadow of night. None will make excuse for her sin; but the man, the criminal — he is called a respectable and reputable man — he may fill places of trust, and posts of honor, and there are none who point the finger of scorn at him. Sir, the voice of that poor fallen sister’s blood crieth to heaven against thee, and in the day of judgment her damnation shall be on thy skirts; all the infamy into which thou hast plunged her shall lie at thy door; and among the dreadful sights of hell, two eyes shall glare at thee through the murky darkness like the eyes of serpents, burning their way into thine inmost soul. “Thou didst deceive, and decoy me to the pit,” saith she; “thine arms dragged me down to hell, and here I lie to curse thee forever and ever as the author of my eternal ruin.”
Oh! there is one sinner who can look upon this in a solemn light! Who is it that has gone down to the pit? You man yonder — who is it that died but a few days ago? The woman who loved you as she loved her own soul; who idolized you; who thought you an angel. Shall I say it before God and to your face? — you ruined her. And what next, sir? You cast her off as though she were but dirt, and threw her into the kennel with a broken heart. And being there, her god having cast her off — for you were her god — she fell into despair, and despair led to dreadful consequences, and to direr ruin still. She has gone, and you are glad of it; glad of it, for you will hear no more of her now, you say. Sir, you shall hear of it; you shall hear of it; you shall hear of it! As long as you live her spirit shall haunt you; track you to the filthy joy which you have planned for a future day; and on your death-bed she shall be there to twist her fingers in your hair, to tear your soul out of your body, and drag it down to the hell appointed for such fiends as you; for you spilt her blood, the blood of her who trusted you — a fair, frail thing, worthy to be an angel’s sister, and you pulled her down, and made her a devil’s tool! God save you! for if He does not, your damnation shall be sevenfold. Oh! thou son of Belial, what shall be thy doom when God dealeth with thee as thou deservest? Are these hot words?
Not half so hot as I would make them. I would send them hissing into your souls if I were able; not so much to condemn you as with the hope that though you cannot make good the mischief you have done, you may yet turn from the error of your ways to seek a Savior’s blood, and find pardon for this great iniquity.
Then there are men who educate youth in sin. Satan’s captains and marshals; strong men with corrupt hearts, who are never better pleased than when they see the buds of evil swelling and ripening into crime. We have known some such; men of an evil eye, who not only loved sin themselves, but delighted in it in others; patted the boy on his back when he uttered his first oath; rewarded him when he committed his first theft.
Satan has his Sunday-school teachers; hell has its missionaries who compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and make him tenfold more a child of hell than they are themselves. Most of our villages are cursed with one such wretch, and is there a street in London which is not the haunt of one such fiend, or more? Wretch, hast thou sought to entangle them in thy net? Hast thou, like the spider, thrown first one film about them and then another, till thou hast them safely in thy coils to drag them down to the den of Beelzebub? Then the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth from the ground, and at the judgment this shall be a witness which thou shalt not be able to confute, the witness of the blood of souls ruined by thy foul and evil training. Beware ye who hunt for the precious life!
Ay, and some base men who, if they see young converts, will take a pride in putting stumbling-blocks in their way. They no sooner discover that there is some little working of conscience, than they laugh, they sneer, they point the finger. How often have I seen this in the husband who seeks to prevent the wife’s attendance at the house of God; in the young man who jeers at his companion because he felt something of the power of religion!
Is not this too frequent in our great establishments in London; where one young man kneels to pray and many are found to laugh at him and hurl some foul term at his head; not content to perish themselves. Like dogs pursuing a hart so will the wicked haunt the godly. Oh! you who are the enlisting-sergeants for the Black Prince of Darkness, you who seem never so happy as when you set traps for souls to inveigle them to destruction, solemnly do I warn you. Oh! take the warning, lest God’s avenging angel, without warning, should soon overtake you with the dividing-sword which shall smite you even to the neck, and make you feel how terrible a thing it is to have tried to ruin the servants of the living God.
Then there is the infidel, the man who is not content to keep his sin in his own breast, but must needs publish his villainy; he ascends the platform and blasphemes the Almighty to his face; defies the Eternal; takes Scripture to make it the subject of unhallowed jest; and makes religion a theme for comedy. Take heed, sir, there will be a tragedy by-and-bye, in which you shall be the chief sufferer! What shall I say of those men who are more diligent by far than half God’s ministers are, whose names we see placarded on every wall, who will go from town to town, especially where in greatest numbers artisans are dwelling, and never seem content unless they are preaching against something that is pure, and lovely, and of good report; uttering things which would make your cheeks blanch if you heard them, and at the very reading of which the marrow of your bones might melt — dreadful things against the Most High, such as David heard when he said, “Horror hath taken hold of me because of the wicked that keep not thy law.” Should I address such, the voice of your brother’s blood crieth to Jehovah. The young men you have deluded, the working men you have led astray, the sinners whose lullaby you have sung, the souls you have poisoned with your foul draughts, the multitudes that you have deceived — all these shall stand up at the last, an exceeding great army, and pointing their fingers at you, shall demand your swift destruction, because you decoyed them to their doom.
And what shall I say of the unfaithful preacher; the slumbering watchman of souls, the man who swore at God’s altar that he was called of the Holy Ghost to preach the Word of God; the man upon whose lips men’s ears waited with attention while he stood like a priest at God’s altar to teach Israel God’s laws; the man who performed his duties half-asleep, in a dull and careless manner, until men slept too and thought religion but a dream?
What shall I say of the minister of unholy life, whose corrupt practice out of the pulpit has made the most telling things in the pulpit to be of no avail, has blunted the edge of the sword of the Spirit, and turned the back of God’s army in the day of battle? Ay, what shall I say of the man who has amused his audience with pretty things when he ought to have roused their consciences, who has been rounding periods when he ought to have bean denouncing the judgment of God; who has been preaching a dead morality when he ought to have lifted Christ on high as Moses lifted the serpent in the wilderness? What shall I say of those who have dwindled away their congregations, who have sown strife and schism in Churches of Christ once happy, peaceful, and prosperous? What shall I say of the men who, out of the pulpit, have made a jest of the most solemn things, whose life has been so devoid of holy passion and devout enthusiasm that men have thought truth to be a fiction, religion a stage play, prayer a nullity, the Spirit of God a phantom, and eternity a joke? Among all who will need eternal compassion, surely the unfaithful, unholy, unearnest minister of Christ will be the most pitiable! What did I say? Nay, rather the most contemptible, the most despicable, the most accursed! Surely, every thunderbolt shall make his brow its target, and every arrow of God shall seek his conscience as its mark. If I must perish, let me suffer anyhow but as a minister who has desecrated the pulpit by a slumbering style of ministry, by a want of passion for souls. How shall such men answer for it at the bar of God — the smooth things, the polite and honeyed words, the daubing of men with the untempered mortar of peace, peace, when they should have dealt with them honestly as in God’s name? Oh, sirs, if we never play the Boanerges, we shall hear God’s thunders in our ears, and that forever and ever, and cursed of men, and cursed of the Most High, shall we be without end. In Tophet we shall have this wail peculiar to ourselves, “We preached what we did not feel; we testified of what we did not know; men received not our witness, for we were hypocrites and deceivers, and now we go down, richly deserving it, to the very lowest depths of perdition.”
But the voice of your brother’s blood crieth to God from the ground, even though you be no infidel lecturer, though you have never been debauched, though you have taught no heresy, though you have spread no schism. If your life is unholy your brother ’s blood is on your skirts. “Oh,” saith one, “if I sin I sin to myself.” Impossible! As well might the miasma say, “I am deadly to myself alone;” as well might the cholera say “My deadly breath is for myself only.” Your example spreads; you, like the leper, leave uncleanliness on everything you touch. The very atmosphere which surrounds you breeds contagion. What others see you do, they learn to do.
Some may rival you, and exceed you, but if you taught them their letters, and they learn to read in hell’s book better than you, all that they learn afterwards will come to your door, because the elements of sin they learned from your practice. I am afraid many people never look at their transgressions in this light. Why, you cannot help being leaders and teachers. If in your own house you are a drunkard, your boys will be drunkards too! I have heard of a man who flogged his boy for swearing, swearing at him all the time he did it. We know instances of men who feel as if they would sooner bury their children than see them grow up such as they are themselves, but yet how can it be helped? Your practice must and will influence your children; nay, not your children only, but all with whom you come into connection in the mercantile world. Do not think, sir, if you are a great employer, that your men can know what your life is without being affected by that knowledge. There may be some among them who have an inward principle which will not yield to temptation, but I know of hardly anything more dangerous than for a number of operatives to come constantly into contact with one whom they look up to as a master, who is also a master of the arts of sin, and a doctor of damnation to their souls.
Oh! take care, if not for yourselves yet for others, or else, as sure as you live, the voice of your brother’s blood will cry unto God from the ground.
What shall the cry be against open sinners and infidels? It would be an awful thing to pray for a man’s damnation; but there are some people I know of who while they live do so much mischief, that if they were dead, men would breath more freely. I know a village where there lives a man who contaminates half the population. There is a leer upon his face at which virtue blushes; there is a sneer at which even courage quails. He is a wretch so well taught and so deeply instructed in the highest science of iniquity, that wherever he may go he finds none a match for him, either in his reasoning or in the infamous conclusions which he draws; a man who is a deadly Upas-tree, dropping black poison upon all beneath his shadow. I did think once I would half pray that the man might die and go to his doom, but one must not; and yet, were he gone, the saints might say, “ ‘Tis well,” and as over Babylon when she is destroyed and the smoke of her torment goeth up forever, the saints will say “Hallelujah!” so have I thought that over these against whom the blood of many young people cries to God from the ground, when they go at last to their doom, men might almost say, “Hallelujah! for God hath judged the great sinner who did make the people of the earth drunk with the wine of his fornication.”
What shall we do to be rid of the past? Can tears of repentance do it? No.
Can promises of amendment make a blank page where there are so many blots and blurs? Ah, no! Nothing that we can do can put away our sin. But may not the future atone? May not future zeal wipe out past carelessness?
May not the endeavor of our life that is yet to come, make amends for the indolence or vice of the life that is past? No. The blood of our brethren has been shed, and we cannot gather it up. The mischief we have done is not to be retrieved! O God! souls that are lost through us cannot be saved now; the gates of hell are so shut that they can never be opened. No restitution can we make. The redemption of the soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever; the sin is not to be washed away by repentance, nor retrieved by reformation. What then? Hopeless despair for everyone of us, were it not that there is another blood, the blood of One called Jesus, theft crieth from the ground too, and the voice of that blood is “Father, forgive them; Father, forgive them.” I hear a voice that says, “Vengeance, vengeance, vengeance,” like the voice of Jonah in Nineveh, enough to make every man clothe himself in sackcloth. But a sweeter and a louder cry comes up — “Mercy, mercy, mercy;” and the Father bows His head and says, “Whose blood is that?” and the voice replies, “It is the blood of Thine onlybegotten, shed on Calvary for sin.” The Father lays His thunders by, sheathes His sword, stretches out His hand, and crieth to you, the sons of men, “Come unto Me, and I will have mercy upon you; turn ye, turn ye; I will pour out My Spirit upon you and ye shall live.” “Repent and believe the Gospel.” Hate the sin that is past, and, trust in Jesus for the future. He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by Him; for the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, cleanseth us from all sin. Flee, sinner, flee! The avenger of the blood that thou hast shed pursues thee with hot haste; with feet that are winged, with a heart that is athirst for blood, he pursues thee. Run, man, run! The refuge city is before thee. It is there along the narrow way of faith. Fly, fly, for unless thou reach that city ere he overtake thee he shall smite thee, and one blow shall be thine everlasting ruin. For God’s sake do not loiter! Those flowers on the left-hand side — care not for them; thou wilt dye that field with thy blood if thou lingerest there! That ale-house on the right hand? Stay for none of these things, He comes! Hark to his footsteps on the hard highway! He comes, he comes, he comes now! Oh, that now thou mayest pass the portals of the refugecity!
Trust the Son of God, and sin is forgiven, and you have entered into everlasting life.