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with all the judgment and tact of the learned author of the “Court of the Gentiles,” we do not expect that it will produce the effect which would follow from undoubted historic records. Nevertheless, the preceding extract, in connection with what has been previously advanced, will be sufficient to give some distinct idea of the intellectual character of the people of whose religion we are now about to speak.
Without attempting any formal proof of an opinion elicited from the concurrence of so many circumstances, and sustained by the general tenor of revelation on this point, it appears extremely probable that, immediately after the fall
, Adam was made acquainted by God with the great elements of the economy of redemption; and that, in connection with this, partly expository its truths, and partly instrumental in their accomplishment, God dwelt between the cherubim at the gate of Eden, and there appointed animal sacrifices to be offered, as typical of the atoning sacrifice of the promised Saviour.
Whatever defect may appear to exist in the evidence on which this opinion is founded, it will be admitted to have this much in its favor—that it harmonizes the divine dealings toward the first pair with the general scope of the economy of grace ; and opens the way to a clear and consistent interpretation of the sacrifices of Cain and Abel, which every other scheme of interpretation involves in the greatest confusion.
Here, then, the progenitors of mankind dwelt and worshiped. Here, their children were associated with them in this holy exercise. Thus time passed away, until many men, women, and children, lived upon the earth: at length, in process of time, it came to pass that Cain and Abel came to offer sacrifice unto the Lord. Various efforts have been made by learned men to fix a strict sense on those words, “in process of time.” Hales supposes that the phrase refers to the end of the year; and Kennicott, to the sabbath-day. It seems probable that this did take place on the sabbath; yet the arguments used to prove, from this brief phrase, that it actually was on that day, do not appear to be conclusive. If we might venture to hazard a conjecture, we should say it seems most likely that those circumstances took place when Cain and Abel, arrived at man's estate, had married, and each of them therefore was called upon to bring an offering of his own unto the Lord. Hitherto they had engaged in acts of adoration as a part of the family of Adam; now they worshiped
in their own proper persons.
That this took place on their marriage, is rendered probable from our hearing nothing of the children of Abel ; but, immediately after the banishment of Cain, we hear of his having a son. However it might be, the circumstance was one calculated to call forth the religious opinions and feelings of the two brethren. Abel came with his animal offering, which he presented in faith, and met from his heavenly Father a gracious acceptance. In what way this was manifested, we are not informed: unquestionably, it was attested to his heart by the influ. ence of the Holy Spirit; and as in after times the divine Being testified his acceptance of sacrifice by consuming the victims with fire, it is probable this was likewise done here; for it seems clear, from the whole subject, that Abel's acceptance and Cain's rejection were alike openly and publicly made known. We are convinced, that the spirit of Cain's offense was a rejection of the promise of a Mediator. He came as an unbeliever, and as such was rejected.
Notwithstanding the tragic circumstances that followed, it is cheering, thus early in the world's history, to have so decided a testimony to the efficacy of the atonement: faith saw it; faith realized its virtue; faith was crowned with salvation; although the subject of this primitive faith was called to endure a violent death.
The account of the murder of Abel in our version is not only brief, but appears to be defective. The words, “And Cain talked with Abel his brother,” (Gen. iv, 8,) do not express the sense of the original: it should rather have been, “ And Cain said,” &c. Our translators, not finding any record of what was said, have given us that rendering. It is a fact not unworthy of notice, that the Samaritan Pentateuch supplies the words; adding, Let us walk out into the field.” An eminent critic assures us, that the addition may be safely considered a part of the sacred text, and that the passage may be read thus: “And Cain said unto Abel his brother, Let us go out into the field. And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain," &c.
The Jewish Targums pretend to give us the substance of their conversation; and as the piece is ancient and curious, we insert it: “And Cain said unto Hebel his brother, Let us go out into the field; and it came to pass that when they were in the field, Cain answered and said unto Hebel his brother, I thought that the world was created in mercy; but it is not governed according to
the merit of good works, nor is there any judgment, nor a Judge, nor shall there be any future state, in which good rewards shall be given to the righteous, and punishment executed on the wicked; and now there is respect of persons in judgment. On what account is it that thy sacrifice has been accepted, and mine not received with complacency? And Hebel answered and said, The world was created in mercy, and it is governed according to the fruit of good works; there is a Judge, a future world, and a coming judgment, where good rewards shall be given to the righteous, and the impious punished; and there is no respect of persons in judgment: but because my works were better and more precious than thine, my oblation was received with complacency. And because of these things they contended on the face of the field; and Cain rose up against Hebel his brother, and struck a stone into his forehead, and killed him.”—Dr. Adam Clarke, sub loc.
Before we pass from this generation, it may be proper to remark, that Sanchoniatho, speaking of Cain and his wife, states that they stretched forth their hands to heaven toward the sun: for him they supposed to be God, the only Lord of heaven, calling him Beel-Semin, which, in the Phenician dialect, signifies “ Lord of heaven.” Now, without attaching more importance to this tradition than it merits, we may observe, in passing, that, if the place of worship after the fall was at the east of Eden, where stood the cherubim and the infolding fire,—a place which Cain had called “the face of the Lord,” and “the presence of the Lord,”-then, when driven away, and denied all access, it is at least possible that he might have turned to the sun as the most glorious part in nature, and, in worshiping God, have stretched qut his hands to this luminary, as he had formerly done toward the holy place.
We do not wish to be understood as intimating our belief that Cain actually introduced idolatry, although he might by his con. duct have paved the way for its reception. It is, however, evi. dent that the ancient Jewish writers, who had access to the most valuable historical traditions in the world, were of opinion that this great evil became prevalent very early in the history of our race. To show this fully, we give the following extract from the great Maimonides* :
* Moses Maimonides, or Moses the son of Maimon, was a celebrated rabbi, born of an illustrious family at Cordova, in Spain, A. D. 1131. He was an eminent
"In the days of Enos the sons of Adam fell into a great error, even the counsel of the wise men of that generation degenerated into folly; and Enos himself was one of those who labored under that error. Now their error consisted in this they said, Whereas God has created these stars and orbs to be the regulators of the universe, has placed them on high, and imparted glory to them; inasmuch as they are servants which serve before him, they must be worthy of being praised and glorified, and of having homage paid unto them. Moreover, it must be the pleasure of God (blessed be he!) that those should be exalted and revered whom he has made excellent and venerable, just as it is the pleasure of a king that those who stand before him should be revered, which, indeed, is reverence (paid) to the king (himself.)
" As soon as they were struck with this idea, they began to build temples to the stars, to offer sacrifices unto them, to praise them, to glorify them, in order that they might thus (according to their wicked notion) obtain the favor of the Creator. Such was the radical principle of idolatry.
“ But, after a length of time, false prophets arose among the sons of men, who said that God had commanded them, saying, • Worship ye such and such a star, or all the stars : offer sacrifices and drink-offerings to the same, to the end that the whole of the people, women, little ones, and all the other inhabitants of the land, may bow down to it.' And so he (the false prophet) revealed unto them some image, which he invented in his own heart, saying that this was the image of such and such a star, which was revealed to him in his prophecy. And in this manner they began to make images in temples, under trees, on the tops of mountains, and on high hills; to assemble together and to bow down to the same; saying to the people, that this image had power of doing good and evil, and it was right to worship it, and to stand in awe of it. Moreover, their priests used to say unto
physician, and wrote on philosophy, logic, and medicine, in various languages; as Arabic, Chaldee, and Greek. But, however eminent in other respects, he was still more so as a divine; which led the Jews to say of him, that none ever so nearly approached to the wisdom and learning of their great founder and lawgiver as Moses the son of Maimon. He was remarkable for having cast off the authority of the absurd fables and traditions to which his nation had generally paid great deference. Of the Yad Hachazakah (whence the above extract is taken) Collier says, “Those that desire to learn the doctrine and the canon law contained in the Talmud, may read Maimonides' compendium of it in the Yad; wherein they will find a great part of the fables and impertinences of the Talmud entirely discarded.”
them, 'By this service ye will increase and prosper; and so and so ye ought to do.'
“And then other liars too began to appear, and to say that the star itself, or some orb or angel, spoke unto them, saying, 'Worship ye one in such and such a manner,' (the manner in which it was to be worshiped having been revealed to them by the same,) and do ye do so and so.' And so the thing spread over the whole world, (namely,) the worshiping of images, in various man. ners of worship, one different from the other, the offering of sacrifices, and the bowing down unto the same.
“But after another lapse of time, the glorious and awful God came into utter oblivion, both in the conversation and in the minds of all existing, so that they knew him no more; and, in consequence of this, the whole people of the land, the women and the little ones, knew only that image of wood or stone, or that temple of stones, which they were trained from their infancy to bow down unto, to worship, and to swear by the name of. Even the wise men who were among them, as, for instance, their priests and the like men, imagined that there was no other god, except the stars, or orbs, for the sake of which, and in the like. ness of which, those images were made ; but as to the Rock of the universe, there was no man who comprehended or knew him, except a few individuals who were then in the world; as, for instance, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Shem, and Eber: and in this manner the world was continually performing its revolutions, until the pillar of the world was born, namely, Abraham, our father.”—Barnard's Maimonides, pp. 201-204.
Whatsoever may be thought of the various details respecting the rise and progress of idolatrous principles and practices, furnished in this quotation, it will be admitted that the writer was pre-eminently qualified to form a judgment on the subject; and, further, that the account he has given, in its general character, is in accordance with the scope and teaching of ancient profane history. The fact of the rise of idolatry before the flood is distinctly asserted by Sanchoniatho, who not only speaks of revering the sun, as we have seen; he also declares that dead men were deified, and pillars erected to their memory, and sacrifices offered unto them, and anniversary feasts celebrated to their honor; and that all this took place before the time of Tubal-cain.
Passing on with the Scripture narrative, we are informed of the eminent piety of Enoch. However distinguished this patri