Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam, were very unlike in character. Abel feared God. Cain cherished rebellious feelings and murmured against God because of the curse pronounced upon Adam and because the ground was cursed for his sin. These brothers had been instructed in regard to the provision made for the salvation of the human race. They were required to carry out a system of humble obedience, showing their reverence for God and their faith and dependence upon the promised Redeemer, by slaying the firstlings of the flock and solemnly presenting them with the blood as a burnt offering to God. This sacrifice would lead them to continually keep in mind their sin and the Redeemer to come, who was to be the great sacrifice for man.
Cain brought his offering unto the Lord with murmuring and infidelity in his heart in regard to the promised Sacrifice. He was unwilling to strictly follow the plan of obedience and procure a lamb and offer it with the fruit of the ground. He merely took of the ground and disregarded the requirement of God. God had made known to Adam that without shedding of blood there could be no remission of sin. Cain was not particular to bring even the best of the fruits. Abel advised his brother not to come before the Lord without the blood of sacrifice. Cain, being the eldest, would not listen to his brother. He despised his counsel, and with doubt and murmuring in regard to the necessity of the ceremonial offerings, he presented his offering. But God did not accept it.
Abel brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat, as God had commanded; and in full faith of the Messiah to come, and with humble reverence, he presented the offering. God had respect unto his offering. A light flashes from heaven and consumes the offering of Abel. Cain sees no manifestation that his is accepted. He is angry with the Lord and with his brother. God condescends to send an angel to Cain to converse with him.
The angel inquires of him the reason of his anger, and informs him that if he does well and follows the directions God has given, He will accept him and respect his offering. But if he will not humbly submit to God’s arrangements, and believe and obey Him, He cannot accept his offering. The angel tells Cain that it was no injustice on the part of God, or partiality shown to Abel, but that it was on account of his own sin and disobedience of God’s express command that He could not respect his offering—and if he would do well he would be accepted of God, and his brother should listen to him, and he should take the lead, because he was the eldest.
But even after being thus faithfully instructed, Cain did not repent. Instead of censuring and abhorring himself for his unbelief, he still complains of the injustice and partiality of God. And in his jealousy and hatred he contends with Abel and reproaches him. Abel meekly points out his brother’s error and shows him that the wrong is in himself. But Cain hates his brother from the moment that God manifests to him the tokens of His acceptance. His brother Abel seeks to appease his wrath by contending for the compassion of God in saving the lives of their parents when He might have brought upon them immediate death. He tells Cain that God loves them, or He would not have given His Son, innocent and holy, to suffer the wrath which man, by his disobedience, deserves to suffer.