An Exposition on the
By J O H N.B U N Y A N.
First published in 1691, by Charles Doe.
An unfinished commentary on the Bible, found among John
Bunyan's papers after his death, in his own handwriting.
er. 1. "And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord."
Now we are come to the generation of mankind. "Adam knew his wife": A modest expression; and it should teach us, in all such matters where things are discoursed of, that are either the fruits of sin, or the proper effects of man's natural infirmities, there to endeavour the use of such expressions, as neither to provide to lust, nor infect us with evil and uncivil communication. "Adam knew his wife"; Jacob, Samson, David, and others, are said to go in unto them. So as to our natural infirmities of the stool, the scripture expression is, "When thou goest abroad to ease thyself, thou shalt turn again and cover that which cometh from thee": Modest and bashful expressions, and such as become the godly, being those that are furthest off of occasioning evil, and nearest to an intimation, that such infirmities bespeak us infirm and imperfect creatures.
"And she conceived and bare Cain." The first sprout of a disobedient couple, a man in shape, but a devil in conditions. This is he that is called elsewhere, The child "of that wicked one" (1 John 3:12).
"And she said, I have gotten a man from the Lord." If Eve by these words did only ascribe the blessing of children to be the gift of God, then she spake like a godly woman; but if she supposed that this man Cain was indeed the seed promised, then it shows, that she in this was also deceived, and was therein a figure of all such as make false and strange delusions, signs of the mercy of God towards them: The man she thought she had got from the Lord as a mercy, and to be a Saviour, he proved a man of the devil, a curse, and to be a destroyer.
Ver. 2. "And she again bare his brother Abel, And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground."
Observe here, That the good child is not the first-born, but Abel, [a breath] (1 Cor 1:27,28). God often doth as Jacob did, even cross hands, in bestowing blessings, giving that which is best to him that is least esteemed: For Cain was the man in Eve's esteem; she thought, when she had him, she had got an inheritance; but as for Abel, he was little worth; by his name they showed how little they set by him. It is so with the sincere to this day; they bear not the name of glory with the world: Cain with them is the profitable son; Abel is of no credit with them, neither see they form or comeliness in him; he is the melancholy, or lowering child, whose countenance spoileth the mirth of the world: "The heart of the wise is in the house of mournings; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth" (Eccl 7:4).
"And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground." By this it seems yet further, that Cain was the man in favour, even him that should, by his Father's intentions, have been heir, and have enjoyed the inheritance: He was nurtured up in his father's employment, but Abel was set in the lower rank.
It was also thus with Isaac and Jacob, Ishmael and Esau, being the eldest, and those that by intention were to be heirs.
Now in the inheritance lay, of old, a great blessing: so that Esau in losing his father's inheritance, lost also the blessing of grace, and moreover the kingdom of heaven (Heb 12:16,17). Wherefore Cain had by this the better of Abel, even as the Jews by their privileges had the better of the Gentiles (Rom 3:1,2). But mark it, the blessing of grace is not led by outward order, but by electing love: Where the person then is under the blessing of election, be he the first or the second son, the highest or lowest in the family, or whether he be more or less loved of his friends, 'tis he that with Abel hath the everlasting blessing.
Ver. 3. "And, in process of time, it came to pass that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the Lord."
Mark here, That the devil can suffer his children, in outward forms of worship, to be godly and righteous men: Cain, a limb of the devil, and yet the first in order that presents himself and his service to God.
Cain brought of the fruit of the ground, as of wheat, oil, honey, or the like; which things were also clean and good. Hence it is intimated, that his offering was excellent; and I conceive, not at all, as to the matter itself, inferior to that of Abel's; for in that it is said that Abel's was more excellent, it is not with respect to the excellency of the matter or things with which they sacrificed, but with respect to Abel's faith, which gave glory and acceptableness to his offering with God, "By faith he offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain" (Heb 11:4).
"And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof" &c.
Abel, last in appearance, but in truth the first in grace; as it also is at this day: Who do so flutter it out as our ruffling formal worshippers? Alas! the good, the sincere and humble, they seem to be least and last; but the conclusion of the tragedy will make manifest that the first is last, and the last first; for the many are but called, the few are chosen.
"And the Lord had respect unto Abel, and to his offering." Herein are the true footsteps of grace discovered; to wit, the person must be the first in favour with God, the person first, the performance afterwards.
"And the Lord had respect to Abel." But how can God respect a man, before he respect his offering? A man's gift (saith Solomon)
makes way for him: It should seem therefore that there lies no such stress in the order of words, but that it might as well be read, "The Lord had respect to Abel, because he respected his offering."
Answ. Not so: For though it be true among men, that the gift makes way for the acceptance of the person, yet in the order of grace it is after another manner; for if the person be not first accepted, the offering must be abominable; for it is not a good work that makes a good man, but a good man makes a good work. The fruit doth not make a good tree, but "a good tree bringeth forth good fruit." Make (saith Christ) the tree good, and his fruit good; or the tree evil, and his fruit evil: Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Had Abel been a thorn, he had not brought forth grapes; had he been a thistle, he had not brought forth figs. So then, Abel's person must be first accepted, and after that his works.
Object. But God accepteth no man while he remains a sinner, but all men are sinners before they do good works, how then could the person of Abel be accepted first?
Answ. Abel was JUST before he did offer sacrifice. Just, I say, in the sight of God. This God witnessed by testifying of his gift: "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous": That is, God by accepting of the gift of Abel, did testify that Abel was a righteous man; for we know God "heareth not sinners": "The prayers of the wicked are an abomination unto God." But Abel was accepted, therefore he was righteous first.
Hence observe, That a man must be righteous before he can do any good work.
Quest. Righteous! "With what righteousness?"
Answ. With the righteousness of faith. And therefore it is said, that Abel had faith before he offered sacrifice. "By faith he offered" (Heb 11:4). Where faith is made to precede or go before the work which by faith he offered unto God.
Quest. But are not good works the righteousness of faith?
Answ. They are the fruits of faith: As here in the case of Abel; his faith produced an offering; but before he gave his offering, his faith had made him righteous; for faith respects a promise of grace, not a work of mine: Now the promise of grace, being this, that the seed of the woman, which is Christ, should destroy the power of the devil; by this Abel saw that it was Christ that should abolish sin and death by himself, and bring in "everlasting righteousness" for sinners. Thus believing, he had accepted of Christ for righteousness, which because he had done, God in truth proclaims him righteous, by accepting of his person and performances when offered.
Abel then presented his person and offering, as shrouding both, by faith, under the righteousness of Christ, which lay wrapped up in the promise; but Cain stands upon his own legs, and so presents his offering. Abel therefore is accepted, both his person and his offering, while Cain remains accursed.
Ver. 5. "But unto Cain, and to his offering, he [the Lord] had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell."
Mark: As first Abel's person is accepted, and then his offering; so first Cain's person is rejected, and afterwards his offering: For God seeth not sin in his own institutions, unless they be defiled by them that worship him; and that they needs must, when persons by themselves offer sacrifice to God, because then they want the righteousness of faith.
This then made the difference betwixt Abel and his brother; Abel had faith, but Cain had none. Abel's faith covered him with Jesus Christ, therefore he stood righteous in his person before God: This being so, his offering was accepted, because it was the offering of one that was righteous.
"But unto Cain, and to his offering, the Lord had not respect." Hence note, That a Christless man is a wicked man, let him be never so full of actions that be righteous; for righteous actions make not a righteous man, the man himself must first be righteous.
Wherefore, though Cain was the eldest, and first in the worship; yet Abel was the wisest, and the most acceptable therein.
"And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell." From these words it may be gathered, that Cain had some evident token from the observation of God's carriage towards both himself and brother; that his brother was smiled upon, but he rejected: He was wroth: wroth with God, and wroth with his brother. And indeed, before the world hate us, they must needs hate Jesus Christ: "It hated me [saith he] before it hated you" (John 15:18). He was wroth: and why? Wroth because his sacrifice was not accepted of God: And yet the fault was not in the Lord, but Cain: He came not before the Lord, as already made righteous with the righteousness of Christ, which indeed had been doing well, but as a cursed wicked wretch, he thought that by his own good works he must be just before the Lord.
The difference therefore that was between these worshippers, it lay not in that they worshipped divers gods, but in that they worshipped the same God after a diverse manner: The one in faith, the other without; the one as righteous, the other as wicked.
And even thus it is between us and our adversaries: We worship not divers gods, but the same God in a diverse manner: We according to faith; and they according to their OWN INVENTIONS.
"And Cain was wroth." This further shows us the force of the law, and the end of those that would be just by the same; namely, That in conclusion they will quarrel with God; for when the soul in its best performances, and acts of righteousness, shall yet be rejected and cast off by God, it will fret and wrangle, and in its spirit let fly against God. For thus it judgeth, That God is austere and exacting; it hath done what it could to please him, and he is not pleased therewith. This again offendeth God, and makes his justice curse and condemn the soul. Condemn it, I say, for imagining that the righteousness of a poor, sinful, wretched creature, should be sufficient to appease eternal justice for sin. Thus the law worketh wrath, because it always bindeth our transgression to us, and still reckoneth us sinners, and accursed, when we have done our utmost to answer and fulfil it (Rom 4:15).
"And his countenance fell." However, an hypocrite, while God forbeareth to smite him, may triumph and joy in his goodness; yet when God shall pronounce his judgment according as he approve of his act, he needs must lower and fall in his countenance; for his person and gift are rejected, and he still counted a sinner.
Ver. 6. "And the Lord said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth? and why is thy countenance fallen?"
These words are applied to Cain, for a further conviction of his state to be miserable. "Why art thou wroth?" Is it because I have not accepted thy offering? This is without ground, thy person is yet an abomination to me: Must I be made by thy gift, which is polluted, for and by thy person, to justify thee as righteous? Thou hast not yet done well. Wherefore, Cain had no cause to be wroth; For God rejected only that which was sinful, as was both his person, and gift for the sake thereof: Neither had he grounds to lift up his looks on high, when he came to offer his sacrifice; because he came not as a man in a justify'd state. But "there is a generation that are pure in their ow eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness. There is a generation, - O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up" (Pro 30:12,13). Such an one, or the father of these, was Cain; he counted himself clean, and yet was not washed; he lifted up his looks on high, before he was changed from his iniquity.
Ver. 7. "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." "If thou do well." Why, is not worshipping of God, well-doing? It may, and may not, even as the person that worships is found. If he be found righteous at his coming to worship, and if he worship according to rule, then he does well, then he is accepted of God; but if he be not found righteous before, be you sure he cannot do well, let the matter with which he worshippeth be wrong or right. "Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?" (John 14:4). Let Cain be clean, and his offering will be clean, because brought to God in a vessel that is clean; but if Cain be unclean, all the holy things he toucheth, or layeth up in his skirt, it is made unclean by the uncleanness of his person: "And so is this nation before me, saith the Lord; and so is every work of their hands, and that which they offer there is unclean" (Haggai 2:11-14).
Men therefore ought to distinguish between doing and well-doing, even in the worship of God. All that worship do not do well, though the matter of worship be good in itself. Cain's offering you find not blamed, as if it had been of a superstitious complexion; but he came not aright to worship. Why? he came not as one made righteous before. Wherefore, as I have already touched, the difference that lay between the gifts of Abel and Cain, was not in the gifts themselves, but the qualifications of the persons. Abel's faith, and Cain's works, made God approve and reject the offering: "by faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain": For, as I said, Faith in Christ, as promised to come, made him righteous, because thereby he obtained "the righteousness of God"; for so was Christ in himself, and so to be to him that by faith received and accepted of him: This, I say, Abel did; wherefore now he is righteous or just before God. This being so, his offering is found to be an offering of Abel the just, and is here said to obtain witness even of God, that he was righteous, because he accepted his gift.
Wherefore, he that does well must first be good: "He that doeth righteousness is [must first be] righteous" (1 John 3:7). He is righteous first; he is righteous even as Christ is righteous, because Christ himself is the righteousness of such a person. And so on the contrary; the reason why some men's good deeds are accursed of God, it is because in truth, and according to the law, the Lord finds sin in them; which sins he cannot pardon, because he finds them not in Christ. Thus they being evil for want of the righteousness of the Son of God, they worship God as sinners, according to that of the apostle, Because they are not good, therefore they do not good, no, not one of them (Rom 3:10-12).
The way therefore to do well, it is first to receive the mercy of God in Christ; which act of thine will be more pleasing to the Divine Majesty, than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices: "I will have mercy [saith God] I will have mercy, and not sacrifice" (Matt 9:13; 12:7). This Cain did not understand, therefore he goes to God in his sins, and without faith in the mercy of God through Christ, he offereth his sacrifice. Wherefore because his sacrifice could not take away his sin, therefore it still abode upon him.
But "if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." This reasoning therefore was much to Cain's condition; he would be wroth, because God did not accept his offering, and yet he did not well: Now, if he had done well, God, by receiving of his brother's sacrifice, shows, he would have accepted him; for this is evident, they were both alike by nature; their offerings also were in themselves one as holy as the other: How then comes it to pass that both were not accepted, they both offered to God? Why, Abel only sacrificed well, because he first by faith in Christ was righteous: This because Cain wanted, "sin abideth at his door."
"And to thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him." That is if sin abideth at thy door still, to thee shall be his desire; he shall love, pity, pray for thee, and endeavour thy conversions; but thou shalt be lord over him, and shalt put thy yoke upon his neck. This was Jacob's portion also; for after Esau had got head, he broke Jacob's yoke from off his neck, and reigned by nineteen or twenty dukes and princes, before there was any king in Israel (Gen 27:40).
It is the lot of Cain's brood, to be lords and rulers first, while Abel and his generation have their necks under persecution; yet while they lord it, and thus tyrannically afflict and persecute, our very desire is towards them, wishing their salvation: While they curse, we bless; and while they persecute, we pray.
Ver. 8. "And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him."
When Cain saw that by God's judgment Abel was the better worshipper, and that himself must by no means be admitted for well-doing, his heart began to be more obdurate and hard, and to grow into that height of desperateness, as to endeavour the extirpating of all true religion out of the world; which it seems he did, by killing his brother, mightily accomplish, until the days of Enos; for "then began men [again] to call upon the name of the Lord" (v 26).
Hence see the spite of the children of hell against God: They have slain thy prophets, and digged down thine altars (1 Kings 19:10). If they may have their wills, God must be content with their religion, or none; other they will not endure should have show within their reach, but with Cain, will rather kill their brother; or with the Pharisees, kill their Lord; and with the evil kings of old, will rather kill their sons and subjects. That the truth, I say, may fall to the ground, and their own inventions stand for acceptable sacrifices, they will not only envy, but endeavour to invalidate all the true worship and worshippers of God in the world; the which if they cannot without blood accomplish, they will slay and kill till their cruelty hath destroyed many ten thousands, even as Cain, who slew his brother Abel.
And Cain talked with his brother. He had not a law whereby to arraign him, but malice enough, and a tongue to set all on fire, of which no doubt, by the goodly replies of his brother, was easily blown up into choler and madness, the end of which was the blood of his brother.
"And Cain talked with Abel," &c. To wit, about the goodness and truth of his religion. For that the New Testament seems to import, he slew him "because his works were righteous" (1 John 3:12); which Abel, no doubt, had justified before his brother, even then when he most set himself to oppose him. Besides this, the connection of the relation importeth, he talked with him, he slew him; he talked with him and slew him, purely upon a religious account, because his works were righteous.
Hence note, That when wicked men have the head in the world, professors had need be resolved to hazard the worst, before they do enter debate with ungodly men about the things that pertain to the kingdom of God. For behold here, words did not end in words, but from words came blows, and from blows blood. The counsel therefore is, "That you sit down first, and count up the cost," before ye talk with Cain of religion (Luke 14:27-33). "They make a man an offender for a word, and lay a snare for him that reproveth in the gate, and turn aside the just for a thing of nought" (Isa 29:21).
"And Cain talked with Abel his brother." With Abel his only brother, who also was a third part of the world. But tyrants matter nothing, neither nearness of kin, nor how much they destroy: "The brother shall betray the brother to death," &c.
"And it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him." When they were in the field, from home, out of the sight, and far from the help of his father: Subtle persecutors love not to bite, till they can make their teeth to meet; for which they observe their time and place. Joseph was also hated of his brethren, but they durst not meddle till they found him in the field (Gen 37:15). Here it is also that the holy virgin falleth: He found her in the field,—and there was none to save her (Deut 22:27).
Hence observe again, That be the danger never so imminent, and the advantage of the adversary never so great, the sincere professor of the truth stands his ground against wind and weather. Bloody Cain daunted not holy Abel; no, though now he have his advantage of him (Dan 3:16-18). He rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. "And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil," &c. (1 John 3:12). It is therefore hence to be observed, That it is a sign of an evil way, be it covered with the name of the worship of God, when it cannot stand without the shedding of innocent blood. "Wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil." Had his works been good, they had been accepted of God: He had also had the joy thereof in his conscience, as doubtless Abel had; which joy and peace would have produced love and pity to his brother, as it was with his brother towards him; but his works being evil, they minister to him no heavenly joy, neither do they beget in him love to his brother; but contrariwise, his heart fill his eye with evil also; which again provoketh (while it beholdeth the godly carriage of Abel) the heart to more desperate resolutions, even to set upon him with all his might, and to cut him off from the earth. Thus the goodness of God's people provoketh to envy the wicked heart of the hypocrite. As it was betwixt Saul and David; for after Saul had seen that God had rejected him for his wickedness, the more he hated the goodness of David: "And Saul saw and knew that the Lord was with David" (1 Sam 18:8- 15). "And Saul was yet the more afraid of David; and Saul became David's enemy continually" (v 29).
Ver. 9. "And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?"
Cain thought it had been no more but to kill his brother, and his intentions and desires must needs be accomplished, and that himself should then be the only man. "Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance shall be ours" (Mark 12:7). But stay, Abel was beloved of his God, who had also justified his offering, and accepted it as a service more excellent than his brother's. So then, because the quarrel arose between them upon this very account, therefore Abel's God doth reckon himself as engaged (seeing he is not) to take up his servant's cause himself.
"And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother?" A question not grounded on uncertainty, but proposed as a beginning of further reasoning; and also to make way to this wicked wretch, to discover the desperate wickedness of his bloody heart the more. For questions that stand at first afar off, do draw out more of the heart of another: and also do minister more occasion for matter, than if they had been placed more near to the matter.
"Where is Abel?" God missed the acceptable sacrifices of Abel; Abel was dead, and his sacrifices ceased, which had wont to be savoury in the nostrils of God; Cain could not supply them; his sacrifices were deficient, they were not of faith. Hence note, that if tyrants should have their will, even to the destroying of all the remnant of God, their sacrifices and worship would be yet before God as abominable as they were before.
"And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel?" O dreadful question! The beginning of Cain's hell, for now God entereth into judgment with him. Wherefore, however this wretch endeavoured at first to stifle and choke his conscience, yet this was to him the arrow of death: Abel crieth, but his brother would not hear him while alive, and now being dead God hears the cry of his blood. "When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble" (Psa 9:12). Blood that is shed for the sake of God's word, shall not be forgotten or disregarded of God: "Precious in his sight is the death of his saints" (Psa 116:15). "And precious shall their blood be in his sight" (Psa 72:14).
"Where is Abel thy brother?" This word, thy brother, must not be left out, because it doth greatly aggravate his wickedness. He slew "his brother"; which horrid act the very law and bond of nature forbiddeth. But when a man is given up of God, it is neither this nor another relation that will bind his hands, or make him keep within the bound of any law. Judas will seek his master's, and Absalom his father's blood. "Where is Abel thy brother?"
"And he said, I know not." He knew full well what he had done, and that by his hands his brother's blood was fallen to the ground, but now being called into question for the same, he endeavoureth to plead ignorance before God. "I know not." When men have once begun to sin, they know not where they shall end; he slew his brother, and endeavours to cover his fact with a lie. David also little thought his act of adultery would have led him to have spilt the blood of Uriah, and afterwards to have covered all with dissembling lips and a lying tongue (2 Sam 11).
"I know not: am I my brother's keeper?"
This is the way of all ungodly men, they will not abide that guilt should be fastened. Sin they love, and the lusts and delights thereof, but to count for it they cannot abide; they will put it off with excuses, or denials: Even like Saul, who though he had spared the cattle and Agag contrary to the command of God, yet would needs bear Samuel down, that he had kept, yea "performed the commandment of the Lord" (1 Sam 15:13,20). But they are denials to no boot, and excuses that will not profit, that are made to hide the sin of the soul from the sight and judgment of God. Lies and falsehood will here do nothing.
Ver. 10. "And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground."
Poor Cain, thy feeble shifts help thee nothing, thy excuses are drowned by the cries of the blood which thou hast shed.
"What hast thou done?" the blood of thy brother cries. Beware persecutors, you think that when you have slain the godly, you are then rid of them; but you are far wide, their blood which you have shed, cries in the ears of God against you. O the cries of blood are strong cries, they are cries that reach to heaven; yea they are cries that have a continual voice, and that never cease to make a noise, until they have procured vengeance form the hands of the Lord of sabbath (Job 16:18): And therefore this is the word of the Lord against all those that are for the practice of Cain: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I will prepare thee unto blood and blood shall pursue thee: sith thou hast not hated blood, [that is, hated to shed it,] even blood shall pursue thee" (Eze 35:6).
"The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me." The apostle makes this voice of the blood of Abel, a type of the voice of the justice of the law, and so extends it further than merely to the act of murder; intimating that he sheds blood, that breaks any of the commands of God, (and indeed so he doth, "he layeth wait of his own blood, and privily lurketh for his own life" (Prov 1:18). Wherefore the apostle compareth the blood of Abel and the blood of Christ together; but so as by the rule of contraries, making betwixt them a contrary voice, even as there is between a broken command and a promise of grace, the one calling for vengeance and damnation; the other calling for forgiveness and salvation; "the blood of sprinkling it speaketh better things than the blood of Abel" (Heb 12:24); that is, it calls to God to forgive the sinner; but Abel's blood, of the breach of the law, that cries damn them, damn them. Christ also sets his own blood in opposition to the blood of all that was shed before him; concluding that the proper voice of all the blood of the godly, is to call for vengeance on the persecutors, even from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zecharias, that was slain between the altar and the temple (Matt 23:35). And let me here take leave to propound my private thoughts: namely, that the Zecharias that here is mentioned, might not be he that we find in the book of Chronicles (2 Chron 24:21); but one of that name that lived in the days of Christ, possibly John Baptist's father, or some other holy man. My reasons for this conjecture, are, 1. Because the murderers are convict by Christ himself: Zecharias, whom ye slew between the altar and the temple. 2. Because Christ makes a stop at the blood of Zecharias, not at the blood of John the Baptist: wherefore, if the person here mentioned were not murdered after, but before John the Baptist, then Christ seems to excuse them for killing his servant John; for the judgment stops at the including of the guilt of the blood of Zecharias. 3. I think such a thing, because the voice of all holy blood that hath been shed before the law by the adversary, excepting only the blood of Jesus, must needs be included here; the proper voice of his, only being to plead for mercy to the murderers. However, the voice of blood is a very killing voice, and will one day speak with such thunder and terror in the consciences of all the brood of Cain, that their pain and burthen will be for ever insupportable.
Ver. 11. "And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand."
Here begins the sentence of God against this bloody man; a sentence fearful and terrible, for it containeth a removing of him from all the privileges of grace and mercy, and a binding of him over to the punishment and pains of the damned.
"And now art thou cursed from the earth." Peace on earth, is one branch of those blessed tidings that were brought into the world, at the coming of the Messias (Luke 2:14). Again, before Christ was come in the flesh, it is said, He rejoiced "in the habitable part of his earth" (Pro 8:30). Wherefore, by the earth in this place, I understand the state that the men are in, to whom, by the mind of God, the gospel and grace of God is to be tendered. Now, whether it respect that state of man by nature, or the state of those that are saints, from both these privileges Cain is separate, as are all whom the Lord hath utterly rejected. Not but that yet they may live long in the world, but God hath cut them off from the earth, and all the gospel privileges therein, and set them in the condition of devils; so that as to grace and mercy they are separate therefrom, and stand as men, though alive, bound over to eternal judgment. And as to their lives, it matters not how long they live, there is "no sacrifice for their sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Heb 10:26,27). So that I say, as the devils be bound in hell, so such lie bound in earth; bound I say in the chains of darkness, and their own obstinate heart, over to the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God. Cain therefore by these words is denied the blessing of future means of grace, and stands bound over to answer for his brother's blood, which the ground had received form his cruel hand.
Ver. 12. "When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield to thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth."
This is a branch, or the fruits of this wilful murder. Indeed, sins carry in them not only a curse with respect to eternity, but are also the cause of all the miseries of this life. "God turneth - a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein" (Psa 107:34).
"When thou tillest the ground." Sin committed doth not always exclude the sinner from an enjoyment of God's mercies, but yet if unrepented of, bringeth a curse upon them. "I will curse, [saith God,] your blessings: yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart" (Mal 2:2). This also is the reason that the table of some is made their snare, their trap, a stumbling-block and a recompence unto them (Rom 11:9); men ought not therefore to judge of the goodness of their state, by their enjoyment of God's creatures, but rather should tremble while they enjoy them, lest for sin they should become accursed to them, as were the enjoyments of this wicked man.
"A fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth." The meaning is, thou shalt not have rest in the world, but shalt be continually possessed with a guilty conscience, which shall make thy condition restless, and void of comfort. For the man that indeed is linked in the chains of guilt and damnation, as Cain here was; he cannot rest, but (as we say) fudge up and down from place to place, because his burthen is insupportable. As David said, "Let their eyes be darkened that they see not, and make their loins continually to shake" (Psa 69:23). A continual shaking and restlessness doth therefore possess such persons as are given up of God, and swallowed up of guilt.
"A fugitive and vagabond shalt thou be in the earth." Some men certainly know, even while they are in this world, their state to be most miserable, and damnable, as Cain, Saul and Judas did; which knowledge, as I have hinted, puts them besides the very course of other carnal men; who while they behold them at quiet under their enjoyments, these cannot but wonder, fear, and be amazed with the deep cogitations which will abide upon them, of their certain misery and everlasting perdition.
Ver. 13. "And Cain said unto the Lord, My punishment is greater than I can bear." Or as the margin hath it, "Mine iniquity is greater than that it may be forgiven." And both readings are true: for however some men please themselves in lessening sin, and the punishment thereof, yet a burdened conscience judgeth otherwise. And if Cain failed in either, it was in that he counted his sin (if he did so) beyond the reach of God's mercy. But again, when men persecute the worship and people of God, as Cain did his blessed and religious brother, even of spite, and because he envied the goodness of his brother's work; I question whether it be lawful for a minister to urge to such the promise of grace and forgiveness; and also whether it be the mind of God such persons should hope therein. He that sins the sin unto death, is not to be prayed for (1 John 5:16), but contrariwise he is to be taken from God's altar that he may die (Exo 21:14). This was Cain's case, and now he knew it; therefore as one excluded of God from his mercy and all the means thereof, he breaks out with roaring under the intolerable burden of the judgment of God upon him, concluding his punishment at present "greater than he could bear," and that yet his sin should remain unpardonable for ever: As saith our Lord Jesus Christ, He hath neither forgiveness here nor in the world to come (Matt 12:32).
Ver. 14. "Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; And I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth, and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me."
By these words is confirmed what was said before, to wit, to be cursed from the earth, was to be separate from the privileges of the gospel. For Cain was not now to die, neither was he driven into any den or cave; yet driven out from the face of the earth, that is, as I have said, he was excluded from a share in those special mercies that by the gospel were still offered by grace to the others that inhabited the world: The mercies, I say, that are offered by the gospel, as namely, The mercy of eternal life: For as to the blessings of this world, he had yet a notable share thereof. Besides, he groaneth under this judgment, as an insupportable curse: "Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth." And indeed, if we take it according as I have laid it down, it is a curse that would break the whole world to pieces; for he that is denied a share in the grace that is now offered, must needs be denied a portion in God's kingdom. And this Cain saw; wherefore he adds in the process of his complaint, "And from thy face shall I be hid": "I shall never come into thy kingdom, I shall never see thy face in heaven." This is therefore the highest of all complaints; namely, for a man from a certain conviction that his condition must without fail be damnable, to condole and bemoan his forlorn condition.
"Thou hast driven me out." O! when God shall bind one over for his sin, to eternal judgment, who then can release him? This was Cain's state, God had bound him over. The blood of his brother was to rest upon him and not to be purged with sacrifice for ever.
"Thou hast driven me out THIS DAY." He knew by the sentence that fell from heaven upon him, even from that very day that he was made a companion of, and an associate with devils. This day, or for this day's work, I am made an inhabitant of the pit with the devil and his angels. Hence note, That God doth sometimes smite the reprobate so apparently, that himself from that day may make a certain judgment of the certainty of his damnation. Thus did Balaam: "I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh" (Num 24:17). Where by now, he respects the time of grace; and by nigh, the time or day of judgment: As who should say, "I, for my sorceries, and wicked divinations, am excluded a portion in the day of grace, and therefore shall not see the Saviour NOW: I am also rejected, as to a portion in the blessed world to come: and therefore when he judgeth, I shall not see him NIGH: Nigh, as a friend, as a saviour to my soul." I doubt this is the condition of many now alive, who for their perfidiousness and treachery to Christ, and his church, have already received, even "in themselves, that recompence of their error which was meet" (Rom 1:27).
Ishmael also, in the day he laughed at Isaac (Gen 21:9), and Esau in the day he sold his birthright (Gen 27; 28), might have gathered, the one from God's concurring with the judgment of Sarah, the other, from his father's adhering to his brother; his adhering, I say, in a prophetic spirit (Gal 4:29); that from thenceforth they both were excluded grace and glory, as the apostle by the Holy Ghost afterwards doth (Heb 12:16,17).
"And from thy face shall I be hid." By face here, we are to understand God's favour, and blessed presence, which is enjoyed by the saints both here, and in the world to come (Psa 4:6,7; 16:11). Both which this wicked man, for the murdering of his brother, and his envy to the truth, now knew himself excluded from.
"From thy face shall I be HID." The pit of hell, to which the damned go, besides the torment that they meet with there, is such a region of darkness, and at such a distance from the heavens, and the glorious comfortable presence of God, that those that shall be found the proper subjects of it, shall for ever be estranged from one glimpse of him: besides, sin shall bind all their faces in secret, and so confound them with horror, shame, and guilt that they shall not be able from thenceforth for ever, so much as once to think of God with comfort.
"From thy FACE." As it were all the glory of heaven, it lieth in beholding the face of God: A thing the ungodly little think of; yet the men that have received in themselves already the sentence of eternal damnation, they know it after a wonderful rate; and the thoughts of the loss of his face and presence, doth, do what they can, as much torment them, as the thoughts of all the misery they are like to meet withal besides.
"And a fugitive and a vagabond shall I be on the earth." Even from the present frame of his spirit, Now, having received the sentence, he knew, the judgment past being unrevokable, how it would be with him all his life long; that he should spend his days in trouble and guilt, rolling under the justice of God, being always a terror and burthen to himself, to the day he was to be cut off from the earth, that he might go to the place appointed for him.
"And it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me." Guilt is a strange thing, it makes a man think that every one that sees him, hath knowledge of his iniquity. It also bringeth such a faintness into the heart (Lev 26:36), that the sound of a shaken leaf doth chase such persons: and above all things, the cries of blood are most fearful in the conscience; the cries of the blood of the poor innocents, which the seed of Cain hath shed on the face of the earth (Jer 2:34; 19:4). Thus far of Cain's complaint.
Ver. 15. "And the Lord said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him seven-fold. And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him."
By these words, the judgment is confirmed, which Cain, in the verse before, so mournfully pronounced against his own soul. As if the Lord had said, "Cain, thy judgment is as thou hast said, I have driven thee out this day from a share in my special favour; and when thy life is ended, thou shalt be hid from my face, and a blessed presence for ever; and seeing it is thus, therefore I will not suffer that thou die before thy time: Alas, thy glass will be quickly run! Besides, thy days, while thou art here, will sufficiently be filled with vexation and distress; for thou shalt always carry in thy conscience the cries of innocent blood, and the fear of the wrath of God: I have said it, and will perform it: I am not a man, that I should repent: So that thus shall thy judgment be: Therefore he that killeth Cain, I will take vengeance on him."
Hence note, That none need to add to the sorrows of the persecutors. They above all men are prepared unto wrath. Let them alone (saith Christ) they will quickly fall into the ditch. Besides, God hath taken the revengement of the blood of his servants into his own hand, and will execute his wrath himself. Therefore he saith to his saints (as in this case), "Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, saith the Lord" (Rom 12:19). And the reason is, because the quarrel is in special between the prosecutor and God himself. For we are not hated because we are men, nor because we are men of evil and debauched lives; but because we are religious; because we stand to maintain the truth of God. Therefore no man must here intercept, but must leave the enemy in the hand of that God he hath slighted and condemned. This made Moses that he meddled not with Corah and his company, but left them to that new thing which the Lord himself would do unto them, because they had condemned the ordinance of God (Num 16:25-35). This made David also that he meddled not with Saul, but left him to the vengeance of God, though he had opportunity to have destroyed him (1 Sam 24 and 26:10-12). Let us learn therefore to be quiet and patient under the hand of wicked and blood-thirsty men. Let us fall before them like holy Abel; it is and will be grief enough to them, that when we are dead, our blood will cry from the ground against them.
"Therefore he that killeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken," &c. He now that shall, after this admonition, plead for religious blood with the sword, vengeance shall be taken on him, because he giveth not place to the wrath of God, but intercepts with his own, which "worketh not the righteousness of God" (James 1:19,20). Say therefore with David, when you are vexed with the persecutor, Mine hand shall not be upon him; but "as the Lord liveth, the Lord shall smite him; or, his day shall come to die; or, he shall descend in battle, and perish."
"Vengeance shall be taken on him seven fold." It would not be hard to shew how little they have prevailed, who have taken upon them to take vengeance for the blood of saints, on them that have been the spillers of it. But my business here is brevity, therefore I shall not launch into that deep, only shall say to such as shall attempt it hereafter, "Put up thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword"! (Matt 26:52). And "here is the patience and faith of the saints" (Rev 13:10). Let Cain and God alone, and do you mind faith and patience; suffer with Abel, until your righteous blood be spilt: even the work of persecutors, is, for the present, punishment enough; the fruits thereof being the provoking God to jealousy, a denying of them the knowledge of the way of life, and a binding of them over to the pains and punishment of hell.
"And the Lord set a mark upon Cain." What the opinion of others is about this mark, I know not; to me it seems like those in Timothy, who had "their conscience seared with a hot iron" (1 Tim 4:2). Which words are an allusion to the way of the magistrates in their dealing with rogues and felons; who that they may be known to all, are either in the hand, shoulder, or cheek branded with a hot iron. So Cain was marked of God for a reprobate, for one that had murdered a righteous man, even of envy to the goodness of his work: But the mark (as it was on those in Timothy) was not on any outward or visible part of his body, but (as there the apostle expresseth it) even upon his very conscience; his conscience then had received the fire-mark of the wrath and displeasure of God, which, as a burning iron doth to the flesh, had left such deep impression therein, that it abode as a scar or brand upon him, in token that good would for ever after hold him for a fugitive rogue or vagabond.
"And the Lord set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him." For though the mark was branded with burning upon his conscience, and so inward and invisible; yet the effects of this hot iron might be visible, and seen of all: the effects, I say, which were, or might be, his restlessness in every place, his dejectedness, the sudden and fearful pangs and agonies of his mind, which might break out into dolorous and amazing complaints; besides, his timorous carriage before all he met, lest they should kill him; gave all to understand, that God had with a vengeance branded him. And indeed this was such a mark as was amazing to all that beheld him, and did ten times more make them afraid of spilling blood, than if any visible mark had been set upon him; of for by his trouble and distress of mind, they saw, what was the guilt of blood: and by his continual fear and trembling under the judgment of God, what it was to be in fear of, nay, to have the first fruits of everlasting damnation. Thus therefore God reserved Cain to the judgment which he had appointed for him.
Ver. 16. "And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden."
The right carriage of a reprobate, and the infallible fruits of final desperation. For a man that hath received in his mind the stroke of the judgment of God, and that is denied all means of saving and sanctifying grace, (as the great transgressors are,) the presence of God is to such most dreadful; whether we understand the knowledge of him as he is in himself, or as he discovereth himself in his church; for the thought of his being, and eternal majesty, keeps the wound open, and makes terror and guilt revive. To such it would be the best of news, to hear that the Godhead doth cease to be, or that themselves were high above him. But that they are in the hand of the living God, this is the dreadful and fearful thought.
"And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord." These words may be taken many ways.
1. That he separated himself from the church (the place of God's presence) (2 Cor 6:16) which then consisted of his father and mother, and of those other children they had. And this appears by the text, "He went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod."
2. A man goes out from the presence of God, when he withdraws his thoughts from holy meditations, and employeth the strength of his mind about the things of this life (Job 21:14-18). And thus he also did; he went into the land of Nod, and there fell to building a city, and to recreate himself with the pleasures of the flesh what he might.
3. A man goes out from the presence of God, when he throweth up the worship and way of God; and this he did in departing from the church (2 Chron 19:1-3).
4. Besides, his going out from the presence of the Lord, implieth, that he hardened his heart against him, that he set his spirit against him; that he said to God, Depart from me (Heb 3:12); that he grew an implacable enemy to him, and to every appearance of good in the world (Job 15:12,13).
"And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord." These words may also respect his being thrust out from God, as one anathematized, accursed, or cut off, in effect the same with excommunication. But be it so, the act was extraordinary, being administered by God himself; even as he served Corah and his company, though in kind there was a difference, the one, even Cain, being yet permitted to live for a while in the world; the other being sent down quick into hell; but both, for their villany against the worship and people of God, stand bound over to answer it at the eternal judgment.
Ver. 17. "And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch: and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch."
Cain's wife was his sister, or near kinswoman; for she sprang of the same loins with himself; because his mother was "the mother of all living" (Gen 3:20).
This wife bare him a son; for whose sake, as it seems, he built the city. Hence note, That men who are shut out of heaven, will yet use some means to be honourable on earth. Cain being accursed of God, yet builds him a city; the renown of which act, that it might not be forgotten, he calleth it after the name of his son. Much like this was that carnal act of blasted Absalom; because he had no child, he would erect a pillar, which must forsooth be called Absalom's place, after the name of Absalom, to keep his name in remembrance upon earth (2 Sam 18:18).
"And he builded a city," &c. Note, That it is the design of Satan, and the deceitful heart of man, to labour to quiet a guilty conscience, not by faith in the blood of Christ, but by over much business in the things of this world.
"And called the name of the city, after the name of his son, Enoch." Although Cain had a mind to keep up his name with fame in the world, yet he would not venture to dedicate the city to his own name; that would have been too gross; and perhaps others would have called it, The CITY OF THE MURDERER; but he calleth it after the name of his son, his son Enoch; whom he pretended was a man both taught, and dedicate, as it seems his name imports. Hence note again, That men who themselves are accursed of God, will yet put as fair glosses on their actions, as their hypocritical hearts can invent. Who must this city be dedicated to, but to him whom Cain had dedicated and taught. I will not say that in truth he gave him to God, for that his reprobate heart would not suffer; but being given up of God, yet retaining, with Saul, considerations of honour: therefore, as is the custom of ungodly hypocrites, he would put the best show on his ungodly actions.
Thus Saul, when he had received the sentence of the Lord against him; yet, Turn again with me (saith he to Samuel) "yet honour me now before - the people, and before Israel" (1 Sam 15:30). So the money wherewith the high priests and scribes had bought the life, and obtained the death of Christ; with that they make some shew of godliness, in buying with it a piece of ground to bury strangers in (Matt 27:3-7).
Ver. 18. "And unto Enoch was born Irad: and Irad begat Mehujael: and Mehujael begat Methusael: and Methusael begat Lamech."
These are the offspring of Cain; the English of whose names, if the nature and disposition of the persons were according, they might well be called, with abhorrence, the brood of wicked Cain, even the generation whom the Lord had cursed, notwithstanding Enoch was their father. Enoch begat Irad, a wild ass; Irad begat Mehujael, one presumptuous above measure, his name signifies, one teaching God. But "who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord?" (Isa 40:13). Or "Shall any teach God knowledge?" (Job 21:22). The son of this man was Methusael, asking death, the true fruit of all such presumptuous ones, "his confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors" (Job 18:14). His son was Lamech, one poor or smitten: The first, that, as we read, did break the order of God in the matter of marriage.
Ver. 19. "And Lamech took unto him two wives: the name of the one was Adah, and the name of the other Zillah."
This man was the first that brake the first institution of God concerning marriage. "He took unto him two wives." The New Testament says, Let every man have his own wife. And so said the law in its first institution: therefore plurality of wives first came into practice by the seed of cursed Cain, and for a time was suffered in the world through the hardness of man's heart.
Ver. 20, 21. "And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle. And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ."
Jabal signifies bringing, or budding; Jubal, bringing or fading. So then in these two sons might be shewed unto us the world, as it is in its utmost glory: that is, it brings buds, it brings fading: today in the field, tomorrow in the oven: "All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof, is as the flower of the field. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the Spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass" (Isa 40:6-8).
And observe in these, the last was the musical one. Indeed, the spirit of the world, after things have budded, is so far off from remembering that they again must fade; that then it begins its Requiem; then it saith to itself, Eat, drink, and be merry; then it is for handling the harp and organ (Luke 12:16-20).
Ver. 22. "And Zillah, she also bare Tubal-Cain, an instructor of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubal-Cain was Naamah."
Tubal-Cain, a worldly possession; and Naamah, one that by her name should be beautiful. Lamech his fruit then was, a budding, fading, worldly possession, with a little deceitful, vain beauty, for "favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised" (Pro 31:30). Ver. 23. "And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt."
He that sticks not to exceed in one point, will not fear to transgress in another. He had hardened his heart, by breaking the modest and orderly bounds of marriage, and so fitted himself to shed blood, or do any other wickedness.
"Hearken to me, ye wives." Lustful men break their minds to their fleshly companions, sometimes, sooner than to wiser counsellors. Even as Ahab, in the business of the vineyard of Naboth, breaks his mind to that ungodly Jezebel his wife.
"I have slain a man to my wounding." Who, or what man this murdered person was, therein the word is silent: yet this Lamech being the son of a bloody murderer, it is possible he was some godly man, one of Adam's other children, or of his grandchildren, the son of Seth: for these sons of Cain, and namely this in special, as it seems, took not heed to the mark wherewith God branded Cain; but like Belshazzar, he hardened his heart, though he knew it, and would turn murderer also (Dan 5:18-22).
"I have slain a man to my wounding." The guilt of blood who can bear? or who can help himself thereby? It is a wounding thing, it is a hurtful thing, he that sheds man's blood wrongfully, cannot establish himself thereby (Matt 22:6,7). The Jews thought to have preserved themselves and country by killing Jesus Christ; but this so provoked the justice of God, that for this thing's sake he sent the Gentiles upon them to burn up their city; who when they were come, if stories be true, slew of them eleven hundred thousand; and those of them that were taken alive, were sold to who would buy them, Thirty a penny. "Ye shed blood [says God] and shall ye possess the land? Ye stand upon your sword, ye work abomination, and ye defile every one his neighbour's wife: and shall ye possess the land?" (Eze 33:25,26).
Ver. 24. "If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold."
Though wicked men may be willingly ignorant of that part of the judgments of God, that are to premonish them, that they do not that wicked thing for which the judgment was executed; yet if there be anything like favour mixed with the judgment, of that they will take notice, to encourage themselves to evil: even as this ungodly person, he would not be stopped from blood by the judgment of God upon Cain; but rather, as it seems, because the judgment was not speedily executed, his heart was fully set in him to do evil (Eccl 8:11). Much like that of the Jews, who because Jehoiakim had slain Uriah the prophet, and yet God spared the land; therefore make that an argument to prevail with Zedekiah to kill Jeremiah also (Jer 26:20-23).
"If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold." Give wicked men leave to judge of themselves, and they will pass a sentence favourable enough. Though Lamech had not pity when he spilt blood; yea, though the judgment of God upon Cain could not hold his murderous hands: yet now he is guilty, let him but make a law in the case, and woe be to him that killeth Lamech: Vengeance shall be taken of him seventyfold and seven. Joab could with pitiless hands spill the blood of men more righteous than himself, not regarding what became of their souls: but when his blood was by vengeance required for the same, then he would take sanctuary at the horns of the altar (1 Kings 2:28). But judgment is not wholly left to me, the Lord is judge himself; before whom both Cain and Lamech, and all their successors, shall be arraigned, and receive just doom, and that never to be reversed.
Ver. 25. "And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: for God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew."
Now we have done, for a while, with Cain, and are come again to the church of God. Cain had slain Abel, and by that means, for a while, had greatly suppressed the flourishing of religion; in which time his own brood began to be mighty upon earth; so increasing, as if religion was put to an end for ever. But behold their disappointment! "Adam knew his wife again," (for Adam's family was then the true church of God;) or take Adam for a type of Christ, and his wife for a type of the church, and then this observation followeth; namely, That so long as Christ and the church hath to do with one another, it is in vain for Cain to think of suppressing religion.
"Adam knew his wife again." If Eve had now been barren, or Adam had died without farther issue, then Cain might have carried the day; but behold another seed! a seed to stand in Abel's place: therefore she called his name Seth; that is, Set or Put, as namely, in the room of Abel, to stand up for, and to defend the truth against all the army and power of Cain. As Paul also saith of himself, "I am set, [or put,] for the defence of the gospel" (Phil 1:17). This man therefore, so far as can be gathered, was the first that put check to the outrage of Cain and his company. But mark some observations about him.
1. He was set in the stead or place of Abel; not an inch behind him, but even at the place where his blood was spilt. So that he that will revive lost religion, must avow it as God's Abels have done before him: every talker cannot do this. The blood that was shed before his face, must not put check to his godly stomach; yea, he must say to religion, as Ruth said once to her mother, "Where thou diest, I will die, and there will I be buried" (Ruth 1:17). This is the way to revive and to maintain the ways of God, in despite of bloody Cain.
2. This Seth that was set to put check to Cain, did not do it of his own brain, but the hand of God was principal in the work. "God," said she, "hath appointed me another seed to be set in the place of Abel." And indeed it is otherwise in vain, when religion is once suppressed, to think it should ever revive again. Alas! where is the man, if he want God's Spirit, that will care for the flourishing state of religion? and that in truth will make the Lord his delight: "This is Zion, whom no man seeketh [for, or seeketh] after" (Jer 30:17). All men here say, "See to thine own house, David" (1 Kings 12:16). But when Seth comes, then the ground is made good again; then a living saint is found to stand and maintain that truth which but now his brother bled for. When James was killed, Peter stands up, &c. (Acts 12:1-3). And therefore Seth is said to be another seed, a man of another spirit: One who was principled with a spirit beyond and above the spirit of the world. "Another seed," one that was spirited for God's word, and God's worship, and that would maintain his brother's cause.
3. Observe, That when Seth maintains his brother's lot, you hear no more of the brood of Cain. And indeed, the way to weary out God's enemies, it is to maintain and make good the front against them: "Resist the devil, and he will fly" (James 4:7). Now if the Captain, their king Apollion, be made to yield, how can his followers stand their ground? "The dragon, - the devil, Satan, - he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Rev 12:9). But how? It was by fighting: "Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; - and overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and by not loving of their lives unto the death" (Rev 12:7,8,12).
4. Let this, in the last place, serve for persecutors, That when you have cast down many ten thousands, and also the truth to the ground; there is yet a Seth, another seed behind, that God hath appointed to stand in the stead of his brethren, by whom you will certainly be put to flight, and made to cease from oppressing the truth.
Ver. 26. "And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord."
The Holy Ghost, in recording the birth of Enos, goeth out of his ordinary style, in that he doubleth the mentioning of his father, with respect to the birth of this son. And indeed it is worth the observing; for it staggereth the faith of some, to think that the man that makes good the ground of a murdered brother, should not leave issue behind him: But "to Seth, to him was born a son." Our faithfulness to the truth, shall be no hindrance to the flourishing state of our offspring, take them either for the fleshly or spiritual seed of God's servants, but sons, (especially in the latter sense, if we truly stand by the word of God) shall surely be born unto us.
"And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos." Enos, a man; not a devil, like Cain, but a man; or, a man that was miserable in this world, for the sake and cause of God; for it seems, as was his father, so was he, even both given up to maintain God's truth; which cannot be done but with great hazard, so long as Cain or his offspring remain. His father therefore, by his very name, did offer him up to bear all hardships for the name and cause of God: "Behold I send you forth [saith Christ] as lambs in the midst of wolves." In effect, he called their name Enos, men to be acquainted with grief and miseries: But mark, "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord."
"Then," when Seth maintained Abel's ground, and when Enos endured all miseries for the same: For indeed this makes spectators believe that religion is more than a fictitious notion: The hardships, miseries, and blood of the saints, will make men, otherwise heedless, consider and ponder their cause aright.
"Then began." For, as I also before have hinted, the outrage of bloody Cain did put, for a time, a stop to the flourishing state of God's worship; which in all probability was not so little as half a hundred years, even till Seth, and the son of Seth, stood up to maintain the same; but "then, THEN men began [more men than Seth and Enos] to call upon the name of the Lord."
Note again, That all true religion beginneth with fervent prayer: Or thus, That when men begin to be servants to God, they begin it with calling upon him. Thus did Saul, "Behold he prayeth" (Acts 9): And, "Lord have mercy upon me," is the first of the groans of a sanctified heart.
The margin hath it, "They began to call themselves by the name of the Lord." As God saith in another place, "My name is called on them." The disciples were called Christians, (nay, the saints are called the anointed ones, and the church is called Christ) (1 Cor 12:12). But note, That fervent prayer ends in faith and confidence in God. They called themselves by the name; they counted themselves not from a vain and groundless opinion, but through the faith they had in the mercy of God, The saints and holy people of God.
They began to publish themselves, in contradistinction to the offspring of Cain, the holy people of God. Wherefore, a separation from the wicked began betimes; the one going by the name of "the sons of God"; the other, "by the sons and daughters of men" (6:1,2): "Then began men to call upon the name of the Lord."