Chapter 2 – Abel, or Justifying Faith

The two men who stand worshipping at the gate of Eden introduce us to the two races of mankind, believers and unbelievers.

The earthly man has far more culture, taste, and beauty in his religion. He brings the fruit of his toil, and the first and best of it. He brings the pure, sweet blossoms of spring, and the rich ripe fruits of summer, and perhaps his altar is festooned with rare beauty and taste, and contrasts most favorably with the rude mound of clay on which Abel offers the ghastly and revolting sacrifice of a bleeding, dying, consuming lamb.

But Cain’s whole offering was a direct denial of all that God had said about His curse upon the ground and all its fruits, of the fact of sin and of the need of an atoning Saviour, which had been already typified in the coats of skins of Adam and Eve, and no doubt fully taught by God already. Abel’s sacrifice was a simple and humble acknowledgment of all this, and a frank acceptance of God’s way of pardon and acceptance.

The first act of faith is to believe what God says about sin. We do not need to try to work up a feeling about our sins. It is enough to believe that we are sinners because God says it. Abel did so. He took the sinner’s place, and instantly he found the sinner’s Savior. The publican did, and, lo, “he went down to his house justified.” Cain would not see his sin, and the result was that he fell into deeper sin, and came at last to the other extreme where he had to cry, “My sin is greater than can be forgiven.”

The devil’s first trick is to get us to say, “I have not sinned.” And then his last blow is to make us think, “My sin is too great to be forgiven.” But humble faith accepts God’s judgment upon itself, and escapes judgment.

An emperor of France was once leading a foreign king through the prisons of Toulon. As a special courtesy he said, “You can set any prisoner free you please.” He spoke to several but found no one that seemed to deserve it. All were innocent, much-abused men. At last he found a sinner, a poor fellow, who could only say, “O Sire, I am an unworthy man, and am only thankful my punishment is not worse.” At once he set him free, saying, “You are the only man I can find who has anything to have forgiven. You are pardoned by the emperor’s commands.” So the self-righteous miss the great salvation, and the lost are saved. Thus let us take the place of guilt and find pardon through faith in God’s Word and the blood of Christ. He condemns in order that He may save. “He hath concluded all under sin, that He might have mercy upon all.”

Abel’s faith not only recognized the sin, but also the Divine provision for it by sacrifice. He did not look at his own character or his own works. It was his gifts that God testified to.

Two men go up to yonder bank cashier, both holding in their hand a piece of paper. The one is dressed in expensive style, and presents a gloved and jeweled hand. The other is a rough, unwashed workman. But the first is rejected with a polite bow, and the second receives a hundred pounds over the counter. What is the difference? The one presented a worthless name; the other handed in a note endorsed by the president of the bank. And so the most virtuous moralist will be turned away from the gates of mercy, and the vilest sinner welcomed, if he presents the name of Jesus.

What shall we give to infinite purity and righteousness? JESUS. There is no other gift worthy for God to receive. And He has given Him to us for this very end, that we may give Him back as our substitute and satisfaction. And He has testified of this gift what He has said of no other, namely, that in Him He is well-pleased, and all who receive Him are “accepted in the Beloved.” Shall we accept the testimony that God is satisfied with His Son? Shall we be satisfied with Him?

An old Scots carter told me once how he was converted. Riding along in his cart, he was crushed by the load of his sins, and the thought kept coming to him all the time — “What shall I give to God to satisfy His claims?” And he thought of his reformation, his promises, his services, his tears, and everything he could, but all seemed to fail. At last something said, “Offer JESUS.” He did so, and instantly his soul was filled with the sweet sense of acceptance and blessing.

A Scots evangelist tells his story. When he was a lad, his father was a shepherd. One morning a lamb was dead. Another lamb was also motherless. He asked his father to give the little orphan to the mother who had just lost her lamb. But she would not have it. He tried again and again, but she would only rebuff it. At last the father took the dead lamb, and removing its skin placed it on the living one. Instantly the mother welcomed it, and began to caress it and receive it as her own.

God covers us with the righteousness of Jesus, and loves us with the same love He bears to Him, seeing us only as in Him, and accepting us as His very sons and daughters for Jesus’ sake.

Abel’s faith “obtained witness that he was righteous.” So we must not only accept the great atonement, but must also believe that we are accepted and justified. This does not merely mean that we are pardoned and exempted from judgment. It means that we are declared and counted righteous, utterly and forever justified, and placed in the same position as if we had never sinned — nay, had kept all the commandments of God, just as Christ has done.

Now, we get this assurance only by faith. We simply believe the record that God has given of His Son; that He has given Him to us as our complete righteousness, and He is ours, just because we have accepted Him. We may weep and pray, but all will bring no rest until we simply believe that God has accepted us, justified is, and for ever loves us in Jesus; and, as dear George Muller puts it, counts each of us “His darling child.” they who thus believe have peace with God, and know that they have eternal life.

The moment the soul accepts its justification and stands clear of the awful shadow of the curse, it springs at once into freedom, love, and power. The secret of weak love and strength is feeble faith. A doubt about our perfect acceptance will paralyze spiritual power. An Eastern artisan in the employ of a great prince suddenly became an unsteady workman. His exquisite jewelry was marred, and his hand refused to work with its old cunning. His king sent for him and asked the reason. He found that the man was hopelessly in debt, and was expecting every day to lose his wife and children as slaves for his indebtedness. The kind prince paid his debt, and in a moment all was right. The man’s hand recovered its spring, and his work its beauty. His burden was gone, and he was free. So God sets us free to serve Him, and a full assurance of complete justification is necessary to entire sanctification.

Dr. James, of Albany, the author of the remarkable volume, Grace for Grace, and one who was much used of God in personal dealings with burdened souls in all parts of the land, gave as his experience the statement that the greatest hindrance he found to the full acceptance of Christ as an indwelling and sanctifying presence, was the prevalence of vague ideas and imperfect assurance respecting the absolute and eternal acceptance in Christ on the part of those with whom he was called to deal.

Do we dare to believe that we are absolutely, utterly, eternally accepted in Jesus Christ, in the same sense as He is accepted, and righteous even as He is righteous, so that our very name before God and heaven is: “The Lord our righteousness”; His own very name of ineffable holiness (Jer. 23: 6) given to us (Jer. 33: 16), even as the bride bears the husband’s name?

Now this all comes by a simple act of believing God’s testimony. God declares it of us because we have accepted Christ’s atonement, and we believe the declaration, and take the new place assigned us. The bride stands at that altar and believes the word spoken by the minister, and she fearlessly takes the place of a wife. The French soldier saves his emperor’s life, and hears him say in gratitude, “Thank you, Captain,” and answers, “Of which company, sir?” and steps at once to his new position. The sinner believes God’s declaration, and “goes home to his house justified.” “He that believeth not, hath made God a liar.” There is one spot on earth covered evermore by the great sentence, “No condemnation.” That spot is under the cross of Jesus. The moment we step there and claim the sentence, it is ours, and God cannot break His eternal Word.