CAIN AND ABEL,
THE CARNAL AND SPIRITUAL MIND
Chapters 4, 5
"That is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterwards that which is spiritual." -- 1 Cor. 15:46.
"The flesh lusteth against the spirit." - Gal. 5:17.
ADAM did not live very long, before two other forms of life might be perceived proceeding from him. In these, the sons of old Adam, we have the first and second births of human nature, those forms of life, both carnal and spiritual, which by nature or grace grow out of the old man in each of us. And very different are these forms, though, like chaff and wheat, they spring both out of one root. Their order never changes. That is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural. Age after age it is the same, within, or without, or in the dispensations. The outcome of Adam varies not. Some forms of life there are, which are "of old ordained to condemnation" (Jude 4). These are the wild natural fruits; and, the root being known, its fruit is foreseen as surely as that brambles will only bear brambles. But besides these there are other forms of life, springing out of man, the fruits of "the engrafted word" (James 1:21), which are predestined to glory. Each of these I would now trace, first within, and then more outwardly. The tale is one on every platform. The outward fulfilments are but the manifestations that such or such a life prevails within.
I. -- THE FIRST AND SECOND BIRTH
WE have then here in Adam's sons, (that is, if we trace the story in its inward application,) the ways and works of the carnal and spiritual mind, which spring from the conjunction of the understanding and will, the inward man and woman. (Note: Gloss. Ordin. in loco; Ambrose, De Cain et Abel, l. i. c. 10, § 47.) That is not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterwards that which is spiritual (1 Cor. 15:46). What is first developed out of man is carnal, -- that "carnal mind, (phronema sarkos,) which is enmity against God; which is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be" (Rom. 8:7). This is Cain. But there is a second birth; another life is born, which by grace springs out of the same old Adam; and this second birth, this "spiritual mind," (phronema pneumatos,) is Abel, who so lives that he obtains witness of God that he is righteous. Long ere Adam dies, -- and he must die in us, before the world of blessing rises beyond the flood of waters, -- long ere we know the risen life, we may perceive the workings of these two minds, the flesh and the spirit, striving together in us: the carnal seed, the firstborn, lusting against the spirit; while the spiritual mind, by its desires to please God, seems but to raise the flesh to greater acts of carnal opposition. (Note: Aug. de Civitat. l. xv. c. 5; Ambros. de Cain et Abel, l. i. c. 1, § 4, and c. 3, § 10.)
The workings of these two minds are shewn out here. The carnal mind, like Cain, ignoring sin and the fall, is busy to improve the fallen creature; offering the fruit and cultivation of the cursed earth to God, as though such things could please Him: while the other, that is the spirit, confessing sin, by a sacrifice which involves, not the improvement of the earth, but the death and suffering of the creature, confesses death and yet looks for help in God, trusting His love and truth to meet us in our helplessness. To Cain it is quite natural to be out of paradise. The world never strikes him as being anything but what it should be. Abel's eye cannot but see that sin is in the world, and his religion is an open confession of death, though also of atonement through death. In both the worship is offered "to the Lord" (Gen. 4:3); for the flesh can be sincere in its religion, and yet mistake grievously. Cain, as much as Abel, sought acceptance; but his desire is witnessed in the form of his oblation. The flesh seeks to be accepted as it is; not to be changed from what it is by dying to its selfhood; but to be accepted, and yet remain the same old Cain: and with a true and holy God this is impossible. Therefore the flesh is angry with the spirit, and rises, and overcomes, and for a season quenches it. But God raises it up again in Seth, that other seed, "which God appointed instead of Abel" (Gen. 4:25). Thenceforth Cain, that is the flesh, is "cursed" (Gen. 4:11); a judgment which was not pronounced on old Adam; for man as man, though fallen under death, and with the earth cursed for his sake, is not directly cursed. But Cain is cursed: -- "Cursed art thou from the earth:" even as the carnal mind is cursed which lusts against the spirit.
Then come the fruits of these two lives, for they too, each in their own way, must further develope themselves. Each bears its proper fruit in us, in an order and succession which is invariable. The names of the seed describe the progress of each, but their acts speak even more plainly. The one, the carnal mind, "goes out from the presence of the Lord" (Gen. 4:16), and busies itself with "cities," and with "works in brass and iron;" building on the earth, instructing artificers in varied works in brass and iron, establishing itself in what it is and has, instead of dying to what it is, that it may reach better things; while the other life, that of the spirit, finds its rest in God, and suffers and dies in hope of resurrection; one form of life after another passing away and dying out, to be replaced by still better thoughts and affections. "And he died," never noted throughout Cain's line, (for the flesh hates to think of such a change as is implied in dying,) is the understood portion of all Seth's line, save of him who was not, for God took him (Gen. 5:8, 11, 14, 17, &c.). And the metals in which Cain's seed are workers, shew in figure the sort of truths with which the carnal mind is occupied. For the metals all figure truths; gold and silver, those which are more precious and spiritual; brass and iron, those of an inferior class, connected with the outward world, and merely natural things. In this hard world, iron is most useful. Cain's seed therefore prefer it to the gold or silver which may be used in God's tabernacle. Nevertheless, the Lord, foreseeing better days, has said, "For brass I will bring gold, and for iron silver, and for wood brass" (Isa. 60:17); (Note: Compare also the "nations ruled with a rod of iron," Rev. 12:5; 19:15, and the "golden mercy-seat" for redeemed Israel, Heb. 9:4, 5, &c. See, too, what is said of the "river Pison, which compasseth the land of Havilah, where there is gold, and the gold of that land is good," Gen. 2:11, 12. Gregory the Great explains these figures, Moral. in Job, l. iv. c. 31, § 61.) foretelling an increase and advance of truth in the last days. It is noteworthy, too, that the lives before the flood in each of these lines are of a length never known after it. So the forms of life, which succeed each other in us before we have been brought to know regeneration, are much longer in coming to their end, than those which we know after we have passed the mystic waters. But long as these first lives are, they all die out, and of the fleshly seed not one survives the first world. The other seed is carried through the flood: the life which grows out of the spiritual mind, not only is not destroyed, but is much strengthened by that judgment. But the carnal mind never reaches the new earth, where the rainbow is set as a token of the covenant.
If we look further at the names in these two lines, -- for the names in Scripture ever denote character, -- we shall learn yet more of the different forms of life, which succeed each other in us, both in the flesh and in the spirit. For flesh and spirit, though in substance unchanged, take fresh forms at different stages. A life of faith, or of sonship, or service, are all at root the same elect spirit; but this one spirit shews itself in different forms, according to the varying degrees of its development; as the self-same tree or flower looks different at different stages of its growth. These different forms, which succeed each other, are here represented to us by different men, each of whom figures one stage or form of the inward life. Cain means a possession, (Note: Heb. kayin [H7014]) a name pointing, as his life, to hopes fixed on earthly things. Abel, that is a vapour, (Note: Heb. hebel [H1893], a vapour, or vanity. So the Preacher says in Ecclesiastes, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity." hebel hebelim kol hebel; and again, "Every man living is vanity," or Abel. Every living man is Abel. He who saves his life shall lose it; and he who loses, saves it.) speaks of soon passing hence, and of mounting up into another higher atmosphere. The names of this line, as raised up in Seth, tell all the different parts of the same mystery. We first have Seth, that is replaced; then Enos, that is infirm man; then Cainan, that is lamentation; then Mahalaleel, that is praising God. After this comes Jared, that is, strong, or commanding; then Enoch, that is dedication; then Methuselah, that is the spoiling of death; then Lamech, that is humbled; then Noah, quietness. Thus goes this life. Instead of Adam, there is a life replaced in a state to serve God. Then comes the sense of wretched weakness; then lamentation for this; then praise and thanksgiving; after which comes strength to command and overcome; then a life of real dedication; then the spoiling of death; then true humiliation; and then a life of rest, which passes from the world of the curse to that beyond the deep waters. (Note: Gloss. Ord. in loco. See also Aug. de Civit. xv. c. 17, 18.) Such was the course; such is it now. I need not trace Cain's line, though there too the names are significant. But I note that in Cain's seed we find an Enoch, though at a much earlier stage than in the other line; while in both, the last but one is Lamech, that is the humbled one, or humiliation. For the flesh professes soon to reach that dedication, (Enoch is dedication,) which the spiritual seed is long waiting for; (Note: In the first line, Enoch is the son of Cain, Gen. 4:17. The elect Enoch comes in the seventh stage, Gen. 5:21, and Jude 14. See Greg. M. Moral. in Job, l. xvi. c. 10, § 15.) while the fact that in both seeds a stage is reached which is, and is felt to be, indeed Lamech, only shews how the flesh, as well as the spirit, may be at length both poor and humbled; the one humiliation, like the care and sorrow of the world, only to bring forth a worldly possession which runs or flows away; (Note: Lamech's sons (Cain's Lamech) were Tubal-Cain, Jubal, and Jabal. Gen. 4:19-22. Tubal-Cain means "worldly possession." Jubal and Jabal mean "that which runs or flows away." The other Lamech's son was Noah, or "rest.") the other, like that godly sorrow, which brings forth a rest and repentance never to be repented of (2 Cor. 7:10).
But this inward view of the two seeds will not be seen by all. I turn, therefore, to the outward fulfilment of the same history.
II. -- THE CARNAL AND THE SPIRITUAL
IN this view Adam's sons represent the two great classes of the sons of men, in whom respectively the flesh and spirit rule, and who, by the preponderance of the one or of the other, fall under one or other of those two great classes, the carnal and spiritual, which make up the human family; who, though born by nature from the same womb, and nursed at first by the same mother, in their ways and ends are most distinct, both worshipping indeed the same God, but very differently; the one, offering Him the improvement of the creature, -- for carnal men must have a religion as well as spiritual men, -- the other, accepting judgment for sin, pouring out a life to Him, in hope of resurrection: the one, ignoring the fact of the curse, and going out to fill the earth with crimes, and arts, and energies; the other, suffering as martyrs here, and departing to find, what they had not here, a home, in another world. For "by faith Abel offered unto God" (Heb. 11:4). He saw the curse, and instead of hiding from himself that sin and death are here, he makes this the base of his religion, looking to God for better things to come. And his seed offer still by faith. They see the curse, that they are sinful creatures, for their sin cast out of paradise. But the death of the Lamb, though it seals the judgment on sin, pledges to them that there is a way through death out of it. Therefore they are content to give up their lives. Others may seek to improve self; they will rather die to self. Their acceptance is not in self improved, but in deliverance out of self by the cross, through a Deliverer. Hence they take willingly the sinner's place; first by baptism confessing death in them; (for baptism is burial (Rom. 6:4; Col. 2:12), and we do not bury live things, but dead things;) and then living a life of daily death in hope of resurrection.
Not so the other seed. Cain's line are all for cultivating the ground, that is, improving the fallen creature. When most religious, they yet spare the flesh. They like what is beautiful in religion: they can appreciate good fruits. But let there be the shedding of blood, a life poured out, such self-mortification is with them rank superstition; while the judgment of the pride of reason and of sense is treason against Him who suffered us to become such creatures as we now are. They are not, they feel, in Eden, but in a world where sin and sorrow reign on every hand. Death is here: blink it they cannot. A curse is working in that soil, on which they spend so much labour. But they will approach God as though no sin were here; as if in soul and body all were right and normal. What have they to do with anything so horrid as the cross? No bloodshedding -- no "religion of the shambles" -- for such worshippers. Hence the efforts to seem other than they really are. Hence the wrath, if anything open their eyes to see their state in God's sight. Then these men, who mock at the blood poured out, who say that crosses and mortifications are brutal and brutalising, will not scruple to hate a brother worshipper, if he be holier, or more accepted, than they are; like their father Cain, who would not offer the blood of the Lamb, but could stain his hands in his own brother's blood. Surely "the way of Cain" (Jude 11) remains; and the objectors to a worship by blood are yet "murderers;" (Note: "He that hateth his brother is a murderer" -- 1 John 3:15.) though, like Cain, they profess not to be conscious of it.
Is, then, the improvement of the creature wrong? Are good fruits not acceptable? On the contrary, God accepts them as a meat offering, where the blood ("for the blood is the life" -- Lev. 17:13-14,) has first been shed in a burnt offering. For man's duty to his neighbour (and the meat offering is this) is accepted, if God first has His portion. (Note: The difference of the burnt offering and meat offering was this: -- a life was offered in the one, fruits in the other. See Lev. 1, 2. Life is that which God claimed as His portion in creation, Gen. 9:4; as an emblem, therefore, it represents what the creature owes to God. But the fruit of the herb and of the tree was man's allotted portion, Gen. 1:29; as such, it is the figure of man's claim, or of what we owe to man. What we owe to God or to man is respectively our duty to either. Thus, in the burnt offering, the surrender of a life figured man's duty to God; while fruits, in the meat offering, represented man's duty to his neighbour.) But to think that these fruits can alone satisfy God is just Cain's error, and must meet with reprobation. God will accept anything He can -- anything which proceeds on real ground; but take a place which does not belong to you, then God, because He is true, cannot meet you there; for He deals with realities, and the course you pursue is not a reality. It does not confess your place as fallen; therefore He cannot meet it, though it may have cost you much. But only be true; and without attempting to meet God with the fruits which the cursed earth produces, only confess, by act and voice, that you are fallen, and that in this state, though sin be in the world, you yet give God credit for grace and power to meet it; then, as in Abel's case, so in yours, the faith that puts you on such ground must be accepted. Remember, Cain, because he got off true ground, lost the help of the true God. Abel, because confessing the truth of sin and death, found acceptance and all the help he needed.
III. -- THEIR LIVES
AND the lives of these two seeds are as marked as their religions. As it was in Cain's day, so is it now. The seed, whose religion is to improve the fallen creature, "goes out from the presence of the Lord," and seeks to make a ruined world happy without God, by "building cities," and "inventing harps," and "instructing every artificer in brass and iron" (Gen. 4:17, 21, 22); in a word, by civilising the world with arts, striving to make life easy, and the world a safe dwelling place. The other are happy in God without the world; dying out of it, or rising to a better world. The one judge and slay their brother: the other do not judge even the murderer; but, inasmuch as the world is not purged from blood, they are as yet strangers and pilgrims in it. The one call lands after their own names, and cities "after the names of their sons," to make the world their own, and not the Lord's, if possible (Compare Gen. 4:17). The other "call themselves by the name of the Lord," and would make themselves the Lord's and not their own, with His name upon them (Gen. 4:26, margin). So the one live, -- for as I have already said, no death is recorded in any of Cain's seed; the other die, writing death as their portion; "And he died," is recorded of every one of them, save of him "who was not, for God took him;" while they count their years by days, as it is written of each, "All the days of such a one were so many years, and he died" (See Gen. 5 passim). So run the seeds each in their course. The carnal line have by far the most to shew on earth; but the end of their cities and music is foreseen; Enoch warns of the day when the Lord shall come, and all His saints with Him; when the earthly city shall fall, and "the voice of harpers and musicians and trumpeters shall no more be heard in her; when no craftsman, of whatever craft he be, shall be found in her; because in her is found the blood of the saints, and of all that are slain upon the earth" (Rev. 18:22-24).
Further distinctions are shewn in other points recorded here. There are, however, some similarities. The last generation but one in each line is Lamech; and as name denotes character, this sameness of name marks some resemblance. For the Church and world, the carnal and spiritual seed, in the long run, and just before the judgment, become too much alike. Still they differ. Lamech "dies" in Seth's line: he yet has faith of better things; while his speech (for the words of both are recorded) points out how deep a difference exists under the outward similarity. For Lamech in Cain's line boasts that Cain had been preserved spite of his sin, and argues from this that he may also sin with impunity: -- "I have slain," he says, "a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt;" but since God has set a mark on Cain, lest he be destroyed, "if Cain shall be avenged seven-fold, surely Lamech seventy and seven-fold" (Gen. 4:23, 24): that is, God has spared one who sinned like Cain; how much more will He preserve me, though I too am a murderer. So from grace this Lamech argues that sin may abound. The other Lamech also speaks, but it is of "the ground the Lord hath cursed," and of the "rest" out of it, which "shall comfort them:" -- "This same shall comfort us concerning our toil, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed" (Gen. 5:28, 29). The one says in effect, "Where is the God of judgment?" The other confesses sin, in hope of better things. All this is timely truth for us; for the days are near of the last judgment of the first creation. The time has come when the Church and world are both Lamech, that is "poor," with small difference to be seen anywhere. And yet under this, some misuse grace to sin, and some by grace look for a Deliverer; while a remnant escapes who see not death, and another is saved even through the judgment.
I add but a word on the dispensational fulfilment of this. In this view the two seeds, the elder and the younger, are the Jew and the Christian Church. That was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural. First came the fleshly dispensation, and then the spiritual. The Jew seeking to improve the earth; Christ and the Church giving a life to God. The Jew slaying the righteous seed, which yet is raised up; the Church dying in hope of resurrection. Both of these are Adam's sons; both acknowledge the same one God, though in very different life and worship; the one, departing to be with Christ; the other, going out "from the presence of the Lord," as "fugitives and vagabonds in the earth" (Gen. 4:16); finding no ease or rest for the sole of their feet, and fearing, where no fear is, that every one that findeth them shall slay them (Compare Gen. 4:14 and Deut. 28:65, 66); but, like Cain, providentially preserved, for the Jew has a mark set upon him, lest he be slain. The Lord yet preserves him wondrously. But to the end his portion is of this earth, in the first, not in the new, creation. (Note: Augustine, Contr. Faust. Man. l. xii. c. 9, and 13, goes very fully into the dispensational application of all this history, dwelling particularly on the fact that the Jew, like Cain, was preserved, and had a mark set on him. So, too, Ambrose, De Cain et Abel, l. i. c. 2. See John 8:44.)
So the last shall be first, and the first last. The dead shall live, and earthly life shall pass away. And the souls under the altar shall be at rest, for they have washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb.
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