Discipline: 1. Abel and Enoch

 •  10 min. read  •  grade level: 8
I PROPOSE to consider the nature and effect of discipline as taught in the histories of the early witnesses. Not that I deem them connected, but my limits will not allow me to make longer comments than either one or two would afford. I take them separately.
Abel as the first in faith, on whom by birth was entailed the penalty of sin, is one whose history we might expect to furnish us with outlines of that discipline which a life emnient for faith would require.
It is a mistake, and one which causes no little trial to the soul at times, to conclude, because a train of truth or grace is strong in me, that therefore nature must be less assuming. The fact is the contrary, and it is well to understand the reason of this. If our nature had been of a lower order before the fall, the fall would not have put it lower than it is now; but then its aspirations and assumptions to escape the effects of the fall would not be so violent and daring. It could not aspire to more than it lost. The fact then of our being made in the likeness of God and not anything lower, gives ground for assumption now that we are fallen from it. A great man reduced naturally reverts to what he was once. If he be a fool, he assumes it without the ability to sustain it. And this is just what our nature does. The more conscious of, or rather the more it is pressed to feel, its fall from a once high estate, the more it struggles for recognition and assumes importance wherever it can. The less its assumption is canvassed and desired, the more it labors to make it good; and here it is that souls who are in earnest to deny its position are opposed by it at every step, and learn practically that they alone who have suffered in the flesh have ceased from sin—that death alone morally in the cross of Christ frees me from the power and thralldom of nature, and that the process of death in discipline physically gives effect to the moral truth of it through God's grace. That is, we are dead through Christ, and as such freed from the law and before God in Him. Consequently the Father by discipline leads us into the practical advantage of our position in Christ, so that we are not only dead in Him, but we are dead in ourselves—the practical effect of. our knowing that we are dead in Him, for which discipline is the instrument. The soul that learns fully its acceptance before God as righteous before Him is taught that it must not be dependent on the nature from the effect of which it is delivered; and that its existence is outside. The apostle could say that he died daily, carrying about the dying of the Lord Jesus that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body. If the acceptance is veritable—if it be truly a deliverance from our natural state—ought we not to evidence morally and practically the effect of it? And it must be so, for acceptance in righteousness is above and beyond our natural condition, and the more it is enjoyed and maintained, the more must the other be lost sight of. It would be only a worthy acknowledgment of the service. Would you maintain your natural condition and yet rejoice in deliverance from it? If you rejoiced in deliverance, would you not show it by your renunciation of that from which you were delivered?
If Abel be the first witness of acceptance in righteousness, we shall find that he was the first witness that surrendered his natural existence—a witness in one as well as in the other: of acceptance, to the joy and rest of his own heart; by death, how true and glorious it was—-so that he being dead yet speaketh. This is the first and proper order of discipline. Reckon yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin. Mortify your members which are upon the earth. We have this position of death, because of our life in Christ; for if living in Him, we are dead. in ourselves; and discipline in its simplest and primary lessons instructs us in this. No saint but learns what death is, either in the slow process of a continual dropping of constant small trials, or through a last illness or one overwhelming calamity. Death must be learned to make good in our souls the deliverance from it; for testimony it is also necessary. Abel's history is very scanty in details; but it comprises the two grand points of a saint's life in a vividness and -vigor not to be surpassed-namely, acceptance with God, and death to every natural tie and sense; the former the easy action of faith, the latter declared, not willingly, but consequent on an altered condition in an evil world, through violence from which death gave relief. God allows the persecution of Cain to afford an opportunity to declare His grace and the giver of it; and suffering for righteousness sake, while it is discipline to ourselves, is the highest place of service in the gospel.
Let it be granted that if I know acceptance well, death is my portion here, and that discipline will never overlook this; for this makes it sure to me and witnesses to others also that the acceptance is true. Thus we shall derive much benefit from Abel's history. Abel started, as we say, in life, not according to the rule and direction given to Adam, “to till the ground from-whence he was taken.” Abel, on the contrary, is a keeper of sheep. This discloses at the outset that Abel had no intention of improving the scene around him, or of deriving by his own efforts anything from earth which could mediate between him and God. The sense of death was before his soul, and to be delivered from this could alone satisfy him. He was a keeper of sheep. Not listless and unoccupied, he tended his flock, passing from pasture to pasture as their need required. As He expected nothing to spring from the earth to relieve him, so no one place on it was his permanent abode. He was a laborer, a wanderer, and, suffering from the curse, he felt there was one on everything around him, and himself under the penalty of death in such a scene. Tending a living flock brought him into association with life-the very thing his own spirit needed. He therefore1 took of the firstlings of his flock, what was the “beginning” and the “strength,” and he offered it to God. It was God's own, typifying the life of Christ. This he presented to God, and it met his own sense of death; but he had still more to meet before he could encounter the presence of God. There was the needed acceptance also. This was met and answered by presenting the “fat,” which is the excellency of the animal only obtainable through death-the result in resurrection of the death of Christ, which now satisfies the conscience as to its full acceptance with God. Thus Abel entered into the mind of God as to his own state before Him, and thus he obtained witness that he was righteous, not merely as to what he did, but how he stood. Happy as accepted of God, he has to learn the place and suffering of one so blessed down here. If he were accepted of God, he must be dissociated from a scene which was under God's curse. If he were delivered from the sentence of death, death could be no penalty to him; but he must expect it where everything is contrary to the life in which he was accepted; consequently he is called to give unequivocal proof that acceptance with God and deliverance from judgment are such real blessings that actual death cannot deprive him of them. This is his testimony and this is his discipline. As it was with Stephen, the first martyr of resurrection, so it was with Abel, the first martyr of acceptance. Stephen gave better evidence in his death than in his life of the virtue of Christ's resurrection, and his own soul advanced more into its realities in the moment of his death than it could during his lifetime. His last testimony was the brightest. While they, the agents of the world's evil, were stoning Stephen, he was only responding to their fatal blows by consigning his spirit to the One they denied and disowned, and to prove then how perfect and assured he was in Christ's care and charge of him, he knelt down to expend all the strength their malignity still spared him in their behalf!
The witness of acceptance or the witness of resurrection has no part in this evil world. Everything must be death to him, and in discipline he learns this in order to actualize to himself the greatness of the gift of God, which is eternal life outside and beyond it. Try to walk in it any way you will and you must learn this—the Father will have it so. He must have His own life true to its proper instincts. Make a fire of sticks and the viper will remind a Paul that this is a scene of death. It is only from one tomb to another. In a shipwreck yesterday, afflicted by a viper to-day! We need this discipline. We think we can pass on like other men, enjoying the new and blessed portion we have received; but the contrary is the case. And it is well to understand this, that the Father will have us to appreciate our portion in His Son, in contrast to everything here. We shall try in vain to combine both. A great deal of our time is spent in learning that there is nothing here to meet the requirements of our new affections. There is a wandering in the wilderness in a solitary way, and yet no city is found to dwell in. But God does allow this in order that His children may find that their desires can only be satisfied by Him. We must learn that we are not of the world. We cannot trust it. Christ would commit himself to no man If you had the face of an angel, they would stone you. And though Cain “talks” with Abel, and they are “in the field” apparently in happy unity, Abel soon learns that he cannot trust him, for in that very social moment Cain rose up against him and slew him.
Our profession declares that we have done with earth. God's discipline will always lead us practically into this, as will also faithful testimony. In our discipline we may give a testimony; but it is better, like Stephen, to be disciplined in our testimony. God makes true in either way His blessing to our souls, and our history closes.