Genesis 4:9
Great Texts of the Bible
Am I my Brother’s Keeper?

And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: am I my brother’s keeper?—Genesis 4:9.

Matthew Arnold was never tired of reminding us that while we go back to the ancient Greeks for lessons in art and beauty and culture, we must go to the Hebrews for instruction in religion and conduct. Every one now agrees that he was right. We feel that the Hebrew people had a genius for religion. We can trace it all through their literature. Whatever be the subject-matter—whether it be poetry, history, philosophy, legend or imaginative prose—when touched by the Hebrew genius it is charged with a passion for righteousness, and becomes a vehicle for lessons concerning ethics and religion which are the permanent heritage of the race. Gradually as the people developed and became self-conscious, the best of them felt that this national genius was not theirs by accident, but that they had as it were a mission for the world—to teach men to know God. And they looked forward to the day when the earth should be full of the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters cover the sea. The topic before us is instinct with such religious instruction.

Take a glance at the picture. Abel lay on the green grass, and earth’s innocent flowers shuddered under the dew of blood. “And the Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said”—for the first murderer is also the first liar—“I know not;” and he insolently added—for the first murderer is also the first egotist—“Am I my brother’s keeper?” But the Lord sweeps aside the daring falsehood, the callous question. “And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now thou art cursed.” And Cain fled to the land of his exile, with the brand of heaven’s wrath on his soul, and on his brow.

The lesson which the Old Testament narrative teaches is, obviously, the sin of social irresponsibility. We may conveniently approach the subject from the positive aspect—Responsibility, and the duties which it involves—and deal with it in three parts:

I.  The Responsibility of every Man for his Brother.

II.  The Special Responsibility of the Christian.

  III.  The Responsibility of the Church.


The Responsibility of Man for Man

i. God’s Question

“The Lord said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother?”

1. This is not God’s first question, for He had already addressed to Adam—as to the representative of the human race—that personal inquiry which the Holy Spirit still brings home to every heart convicted of sin, to every man when he first realizes that he is naked before God and longs to hide himself from Him: “Where art thou?” No! this is God’s second question, “Where is thy brother?” And just as the first question was addressed to man upon his first conviction of sin, so this second question is addressed to man after his first struggle with his fellow-man. It is asked of the victor concerning the vanquished in the cruel competition of life, “Where is thy brother?”

2. We are all concerned in this question. Let us take it as addressed to ourselves individually.

(1) First of all, we may consider the question so far as it relates to all those who are near and dear to us; all those whose names and faces are familiar to us; all those who are connected with us by the bonds of kindred or affection; parents, wife, husband, children, all that inner circle of friends and relations, all whom we acknowledge to have been, in some sense or other, committed by God to our safe keeping and care.

The family is our ideal of all love and service. Almost all our thoughts of affection and union begin and associate themselves with the family. The home,—the hearth,—the family altar,—the nursery,—the early childhood,—the far-off memories,—the sister’s tenderness,—the brother’s care,—the mother,—the father: are any words so eloquent to the heart of man? The family is the cradle of love.

The theme of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market is a sister’s devotion, and if we want a picture of love in the home it would be difficult to find a more simple or more beautiful one than that of the closing lines of this poem—

Days, weeks, months, years

Afterwards, when both were wives

With children of their own;

Their mother-hearts beset with fears,

Their lives bound up in tender lives;

Laura would call the little ones

And tell them of her early prime,

Those pleasant days long gone.

Then joining hands to little hands

Would bid them cling together,—

“For there is no friend like a sister

In calm or stormy weather;

To cheer one on the tedious way,

To fetch one if one goes astray,

To lift one if one totters down,

To strengthen whilst one stands.”

(2) Responsibility, however, reaches further out than this. Responsibility rests upon us, in some way or other, with regard to every one with whom we are brought into contact: the friends and acquaintances of our life; all those with whom we have business relations; the various members of that circle of society in which we move; our more casual acquaintances; the fellow-travellers we meet on our journeys—there is a responsibility resting upon us with regard to them all. “Where is thy brother?” Where is he, morally and spiritually, so far as the influence, however slight it may have been, which I have exercised over him goes? To have laughed at the evil or profane joke; to have spoken the thoughtless, the foolish, or the angry word; to have exhibited irritability or impatience—to say nothing of far more grievous stumbling-blocks than these—must have had some influence over others. Who is there that has not, at some time or other, said and done something the effect of which was evil on some one else?—something which tended to deface in the soul of another the image of God; something which tended to lead that soul into temptation, if not into sin. What marvellous opportunities have been afforded us in life of helping others to resist temptation, and to stand firm! How have these opportunities been used? Have we used them at all? “Where is thy brother?” The question is a very searching one.

To an Englishman it seems a matter of little or no consequence who his neighbours are, and if he be a resident of a city he may occupy a dwelling for a year in ignorance even of the name of the family next door. But in China it is otherwise. If a crime takes place the neighbours are held guilty of something analogous to what English law calls “misprision of treason,” in that when they knew of a criminal intention they did not report it. It is vain to reply, “I did not know.” You are a “neighbour,” and therefore you must have known. In a memorial published in the Peking Gazette a few years ago, the Governor of one of the central provinces reported in regard to a case of parricide that he had had the houses of all the neighbours pulled down, on the ground of their gross dereliction of duty in not exerting a good moral and reformatory influence over the criminal! Such a proceeding would probably strike an average Chinese as eminently reasonable.1 [Note: A. H. Smith, Chinese Characteristics, 228.]

I thought in my own secret soul, if thus

(By the strong sympathy that knits mankind)

A power untried exists in each of us,

By which a fellow-creature’s wavering mind

To good or evil deeds may be inclined;

Shall not an awful questioning be made:

(And we perchance no fitting answer find:)

Whom hast thou sought to rescue or persuade?

Whom roused from sinful sloth? whom comforted, afraid?2 [Note: Mrs. Norton.]

ii. Cain’s Answer

“I know not: am I my brother’s keeper?”

1. The first part of Cain’s answer, “I know not,” was a lie, as most selfish answers are, and behind the lie was the sin of irresponsibility. And do we not continually betake ourselves to these “refuges of lies” in the bitter hour of remorse, in the dreary consciousness of self-degrading fault? “I am not responsible; this tendency to evil, intemperance, gambling, impurity, is the burden of heredity. I might as well blame myself for the shape of my head or the colour of my eyes as for the inevitable dispositions which determine my conduct. I am not responsible.” And all the while we are proving the falseness of the excuse we urge. Why the need to urge an excuse if, indeed, we are not responsible? Did we ever find ourselves compelled to seek such excuse for the shape of our head or the colour of our eyes? Whence, then, this necessity here, where morality is in question, when our own behaviour is at stake? The parallel, in truth, is demonstrated to be a false one by the very process of its assertion. This plea of necessity is but a “refuge of lies” to which the guilty fly; for “conscience does make cowards of us all.”

2. The second part of Cain’s answer, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” was an insult. To what a shameful pitch of presumptuous insolence had Cain arrived when he could thus insult the Lord God. A man may blaspheme and blaspheme frightfully, but it is usually because he forgets God, and ignores His presence. Cain, however, was conscious that God was speaking to him. He heard Him say, “Where is Abel thy brother?” and yet he dared, with the coolest impertinence, to reply to God, “I know not: am I my brother’s keeper?” As much as to say—“Do you think that I have to keep him as he keeps his sheep? Am I a shepherd as he was, and am I to take as much care of him as he did of a lame lamb?” The cool insolence of Cain is an indication of the state of heart which led up to his murdering his brother; and it was also a part of the result of his having committed that terrible crime. He would not have proceeded to the cruel deed of bloodshed if he had not first cast off the fear of God and been ready to defy his Maker. Having committed murder, the hardening influence of sin upon Cain’s mind must have been intense, and so at last he was able to speak out to God’s face what he felt within his heart, and to say, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”

3. Thus, first with a lie, and then with an insult, Cain replies to God’s question. But the question is not a negative one, and it cannot be answered negatively. Men often urge the innocence of their conduct: they say, they are sure that they have never done any one any harm. The excuse is a salve to the conscience of careless people, who are using their lives here for mere pleasure and frivolity. Almost all such persons will tell you that they are doing no harm; and this is not to be wondered at, because every one who does what is foolish and shortsighted must have some way of justifying himself, otherwise he would hardly act in a foolish and shortsighted way; and this plea that he is doing no one any harm is the simplest and most plausible that can be set up. But is it likely to be true that a man—even the best of men—has never hurt his neighbour by word or deed? Many men think so, and there is much to strengthen them in their belief; it is the commonest thing in the world to hear the most loose and ungodly lives excused upon this plea, that such an one was after all a good kind of man and never did any one any harm. Look closely at this notion of doing no one any harm and see what it is worth. How far will it bear examination? Is it not really a repetition of the old excuse of Cain, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” If we spend all our time taking the weeds out of our garden, we shall certainly not gather any flowers; so, if we never get beyond the principle of doing no harm to our neighbour, it is just as certain that we shall do him no good. The question is a positive one, and in some way or other—each man’s conscience knows best how—God expects from each one of us the positive answer, I am my brother’s keeper.

The chief assertion of religious morality is that white is a colour. Virtue is not the absence of vices or the avoidance of moral dangers; virtue is a vivid and separate thing, like pain or a particular smell. Mercy does not mean not being cruel or sparing people revenge or punishment: it means a plain and positive thing like the sun, which one has either seen or not seen.1 [Note: G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles.]

Cain lives to-day, and the blood of Abel still cries to God. And there is the Cain spirit in every man who does not accept his responsibility for his brother; living it out honestly and earnestly in everything through the whole seven days of the week. There are dead men and women and children crying with an awful cry. How these cries go up to God. Men who go far up in balloons tell us that they reach a height where the silence is intense, deep, oppressive—a thing that can be felt. The roll of the city is all unheard, the roar of the sea, the hubbub of our busy life—all is silenced. But startling in its suddenness comes sometimes the shrill cry of a child. Ah! the things that God does not hear: the things that do not go up to heaven—the empty prayers; the pretences and pride of us men and women and ten thousand other things. But the thousands of girls—almost every one of them having to tell a bitter story of betrayal, an anguish of shame, a hell of despair—their cry goes up to Heaven! The cry of the downtrodden, the wronged and injured, the overworked and underpaid. Listen to the words of St. James—“Go to now, ye rich men, weep, howl. Your gold is cankered, your garments are moth-eaten. Behold the hire of the labourers who have reaped your fields is kept back, and the cries of them have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.”1 [Note: M. G. Pearse.]

Outside the Bible no one has interpreted this great principle more splendidly than Victor Hugo in his wonderful portrait of Jean Valjean. For nineteen years the State held Jean Valjean between its palms as a boy holds a butterfly, and when the palms were parted there had been no change of character. For nineteen years the State held him a criminal in the galleys as a boy holds the humble-bee in the sweet cup of the hollyhock. And when the penitentiary doors opened and the State parted its fingers, and the criminal buzzed out into society again, the sting was as sharp and the poison as virulent as ever. The reason was that character cannot be changed by outside pressure alone. Jean Valjean went out into the world with his heart full of hate and bitterness, and in that spirit he came to the door of a friend of Jesus Christ. The good bishop, Hugo tells us, had a great heart. He was not a great thinker. He felt that the world was suffering from a cruel disease. He felt the fever, he heard the sobbing, of the patient. He did not spend his time trying to find out how sin came, nor why; but he tried to help a little. So he opened the door to this wicked man and welcomed him. While the bishop slept the criminal in the man awoke, and he stole the silver from the bishop’s house and escaped. The next morning he was brought back again by the police, and the bishop saved him and sent the police away. And when they were gone he looked into the poor, astonished man’s face, and said, “Jean Valjean, my brother! I have bought your soul from you. I have drawn it from black thoughts that lead to perdition. I have given it to goodness.” And the man, redeemed by the words, “My brother,” by the quick tear of sympathy, by the Christ in the heart-throb of this large-hearted man, went out to lead a new life. And Jean Valjean became Father Madeleine.1 [Note: L. A. Banks.]

I closed my hands upon a moth,

And when I drew my palms apart,

Instead of dusty, broken wings,

I found a bleeding human heart.

I crushed my foot upon a worm

That had my garden for its goal,

But when I drew my foot aside,

I found a dying human soul.2 [Note: Dora Sigerson Shorter.]

4. For every man therefore the question is, What is the best thing that I can do? Whether in the city or in the country, I, in my little sphere, with my limited ability, have my life to live, and how am I to answer God’s question? Well, if we live in the city; let us not lose ourselves in the thought of its vastness. The great world of London is so apt to swallow one up, to paralyze one with a sense of helplessness. We listen to its statistics, and they appal us if we take them in, which most of us do not. Thank God for the men who have problems and theories for its salvation, but they are and must be subjects of controversy. The one thoroughly good thing we can do is to know the Lord Jesus Christ, to call Him Lord, and then, looking into His face, to say, Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?

If every one who professes to care about the poor would make himself the friend of one poor person, there would soon be no insoluble problem of “the masses,” and London would be within measurable distance of becoming a city of happy homes.3 [Note: Canon Barnett.]

It is not much

To give a gentle word or kindly touch

To one gone down

Beneath the world’s cold frown.

And yet—who knows

How great a thing from such a little grows?

O, oftentimes,

Some brother upward climbs,

And hope again

Uplifts its head, that in the dust had lain,

And sorrow’s night

Gives place to morning’s light.

Because of hands

Outstretched to help—a heart that understands,

And, pitying,

Counts it a Christlike thing—

Not to despise

The fallen one who at the wayside lies—

But, for His sake,

A brother’s part to take.1 [Note: E. H. Divall, A Believer’s Rest, 67.]


The Special Responsibility of the Christian

1. The question, Where is thy brother? comes to those who follow Christ, not only as it comes to other men, but also with another meaning, a meaning which enables us to give a very blessed answer to it. Abel was a type of Christ. Abel’s sacrifice is the first recorded type of the sacrifice on Calvary. He who died on the cross is our Brother. As we hear the voice of God calling to us, Where is thy brother? we answer, Here is our Brother, crucified for sin, buried, risen, ascended, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high, ever interceding for us. It is a new demand, a new question.

O sweetest Blood, that can implore

Pardon of God, and heaven restore,

The heaven which sin had lost:

While Abel’s blood for vengeance pleads,

What Jesus shed still intercedes

For those who wrong Him most.

2. And not only is Jesus the Brother about whom the question is asked of each of us, Where is thy brother? but in Him we all are brethren. Again, the question comes with a new meaning. “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.” Accordingly the perfect life does not consist in the cultivation of an isolated personal perfection. Christ lived in God; He was detached from the world, He spent whole nights in prayer; but the account of Him is incomplete until we add, “He went about doing good.” “He came to seek and to save the lost.” “As I have loved you,” He said. In these solitary hours which He spent in communion with the Father He renewed the fires of His love for men, maintained and augmented His strength for serving them. While deepening His own delight in the Father’s love, He added intensity to His passion for raising the most miserable of mankind into the same transcendent blessedness. And so the true imitation of Christ includes not only the discovery of the immeasurable strength which a devout soul may find in God, but the actual use of that strength for the service of mankind.

There is a passage which I dare say some of you may remember in one of Cardinal Newman’s sermons, preached and published before he left the Anglican Communion, in which he presses upon his hearers with all his characteristic earnestness the obligation to attempt the ideal Christian life. He asks, “Where should we find that ideal Christian life?” and he answers: “In the humble monk and the holy nun, in those who, whether they remain in seclusion or are sent over the earth, have calm faces and sweet plaintive voices, and spare frames, and gentle manners and hearts won from the world and wills subdued, and for their meekness meet with insult, and for their purity with slander, and for their courtesy with suspicion, and for their courage with cruelty; yet they find Christ everywhere, Christ their all-sufficient portion, to make up to them both here and hereafter all they suffer, all they dare for His name’s sake.” Now, God forbid that I should withhold sympathy and reverence from saintly men and women who in evil times have forsaken the world in order to find God. No doubt among those who have taken the vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience there have been many who took them not merely to make sure of eternal blessedness for themselves, but that they might be free to serve others. Honour, all honour, to their memory! But in Dr. Newman’s account of the men and women who have maintained the Christian tradition from Apostolic times to our own, the passion for serving and redeeming man receives no place. By prayer and fasting, and poverty and severe discipline, they have overcome temptation to sin, and become saints. There is something wanting in the picture. A few years ago I met with a young woman earning eleven or twelve shillings a week in a Birmingham warehouse, who had been filled with affectionate pity for another young woman, a member of my church, who had worked with her and who, through illness, had lost her situation and her wages. She took the sick girl to her own poor lodging, fed her, nursed her, cared for her. I am afraid my friend had not the gentle manners and the sweet plaintive voice of Dr. Newman’s charming picture. But that seems to me the true imitation of Christ.1 [Note: R. W. Dale.]

I remember, too, another young woman who came to me in great trouble, and told me that her father was drunk two or three times a week, that he insisted on having a large part of her earnings to spend it in drink, and that when he came home at night with drink in him he often beat her; life was becoming intolerable to her. She wanted to know whether it would be right for her to leave him. Her mother was dead; her father, if she left him, would be alone; was it her duty to stay? I told her that in my judgment his treatment of her had released her from the obligation, but I asked her whether it would be possible for her to be happy at night if she went elsewhere, whether she would not be always thinking that in his drunken fits her father might come to harm, and whether she could not regard the care of this unhappy man, with all the suffering and misery it brought upon her, as the special service to which Christ had appointed her. She looked up, hesitated for a moment, and then said, “I will.” I do not think she would have made a good model for an artist painting a saint. She did not live in a picturesque convent, but in a back court in Birmingham. Her dress was not picturesque, but the somewhat unlovely dress of a poor working girl. Yet that seems to me to be the true imitation of Christ. Let me finish the story. She came to me three months later, and told me, with the light of joy on her face, that her father had never come home drunk since that night she had resolved to care for him for Christ’s sake.2 [Note: Ibid.]

How many souls of strongest powers

To selfish solitude consigned,

Have whiled in idleness their hours,

Nor nobly sought to serve mankind!

But not to such the Muse may give

Her sacred wreath, the Patriot’s pride!

Since for themselves content to live,

So for themselves alone they died.

Happy the man who for his God

Has left the world and all its ways,

To tread the path the saints have trod,

And spend his life in prayer and praise!

Unhappy, who himself to please

Forsakes the path where duty lies,

Either in love of selfish ease,

Or in contempt of human ties.

In vain have they the world resigned

Who only seek an earthly rest;

Nor to the soul that spurns mankind

Can ever solitude be blest.1 [Note: E. Caswall.]

3. There is yet another encouragement to the follower of Christ to consider his brother, and it is a most wonderful and gracious one. Whatever service he renders to a brother he renders to Christ Himself.

I bend to help a little straying child

And soothe away its fears,

When lo! the Wondrous Babe, all undefiled,

Looks at me through its tears.

Beside a cot I kneel with pitying eyes,

A dying brow I fan—

The pallet seems a cross and on it lies

One like the Son of Man!

The way is long, and when I pause to share

My cup, my crust of bread,

With some poor wanderer—oh, vision rare!—

A halo crowns his head.

O’er sin’s dark stream there comes a drowning cry,

Its woeful tide I stem

And grasp for one who sinks—the Christ is there,

I touch His garment’s hem.

O Presence, ever new and ever dear,

My Master, can it be

In Thy great day of coming I shall hear,

“Thou didst it unto Me”?


The Church’s Responsibility

i. The Corporate Life of the Church

1. The instinct of social work, the idea of self-sacrifice for the many, of united effort for the common cause which is the good of all, is perfectly satisfied by the conception of the Holy Catholic Church. It is true that to many the Church has come to mean simply an institution for the spiritual advantage chiefly of the wealthier classes; but that, surely, is a grotesque parody of the Church, which in its fulness and glory means nothing else than a spiritual society founded by our Lord Himself, to be His Kingdom on earth. The Church is a great Mutual Benefit Society, the greatest which has ever existed among men, and the salvation which the Church offers is no selfish or solitary thing. And if we realize what is involved in being members of the Holy Catholic Church, we cannot rest until we are doing something, however little it may be, towards making this mutual helpfulness a more real thing than it was before. The Bible comes to us with lessons tending in this direction on every page. We are “members one of another”; “Let him that loveth God, love his brother also”; “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself”; “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.” St. John is the strongest and clearest of all the inspired writers on this great lesson of mutual love and social service. He makes it a test: “By this we know that we have passed out of death into life.” Why? How? Not because we have accepted the Christian Creed, not by participation in the Sacraments, but “because we love the brethren.”

She sits in beauty by the world’s Sin-Gate,

Where pass the hopes that come not back again,—

Lorn hearts and lonely, souls of love and hate,

Sad women, weary children, broken men;

And evermore her Master’s royal love

Goes down among the dark and hopeless bands,

Bids drooping souls rejoice, and look above,

And trust, unfearing, to His wounded hands.1 [Note: L. Maclean Watt, In Poets’ Corner, 66.]

2. But our practice falls painfully short of what it ought to be and might be. Some of us have shaken off the fetters of Individualism. We have accepted, with our lips at least, this much more glorious creed of mutual service and co-operation; but how little there is really of social life even in the best organized Church! Very few of us consider that the fact of being fellow-communicants creates any real demand on our sympathy or help. Most of us worship year after year in a church, seeing the same faces round us, kneeling next to us at the altar, and yet go out into the world and treat them as strangers.

Again and again complaint has reached me from young men who have come up to London to seek their fortune; they have left home and friends and all companionship behind them, and have come up to hard toil in this grasping, grinding city. They are cut off from all the enjoyments and amenities of a young man’s natural life; and the Church is just the place where they might find what they need. The Church might supply a young man with these natural enjoyments, all the more delightful because they would be pure and good. But does the Church? That is the point. Again and again it has been said to me, “I have found such and such a church; I like the preaching and the ritual; I make my Communions there; but I don’t know anybody. Nobody has taken me up. Nobody has shown me any help; nobody has said anything to me; nobody is interested in me.” Well, there is a way in which every one of us could do something to realize the social ideal of the Catholic Church. We could stretch out the right hand of fellowship to our brother-worshippers, and do something to break down a little of our national English stiffness and shyness, and enable people to realize—what, as a matter of fact, they do feel in their hearts—the bond which unites all those who meet together in the mystical Body of Christ. Very different would be the aspect of the world if we all did that.1 [Note: G. W. E. Russell.]

I sat a little while ago in one of the chambers of the National Gallery, and my attention was caught by the vast miscellaneous crowd as it sauntered or galloped through the rooms. All sorts and conditions of people passed by—rich and poor, the well-dressed and the beggarly, students and artisans, soldiers and sailors, maidens just out of school and women bowed and wrinkled in age; but, whoever they were, and however unarresting may have been all the other pictures in the chamber, every single soul in that mortal crowd stopped dead and silent before a picture of our Saviour bearing His cross to the hill. And when the Church is seen to be His body—His very body: His lips, His eyes, His ears, His hands, His feet, His brain, His heart: His very body—and when the Church repeats, in this her corporate life, the brave and manifold doings of Judaea and Galilee, she too shall awe the multitude, and by God’s grace she shall convert the pregnant wonder into deep and grateful devotion.1 [Note: J. H. Jowett.]

How far we are from reaching the Christ ideal! James Russell Lowell was a poet, a statesman, a man of the world. You know his poem, “A Parable”:

Said Christ our Lord, “I will go and see

How the men, My brethren, believe in Me.”

Great organs surged through arches dim

Their jubilant floods in praise of Him;

And in church, and palace, and judgment-hall,

He saw His own image high over all.

But still, wherever His steps they led,

The Lord in sorrow bent down His head;

And from under the heavy foundation-stones,

The Son of Mary heard bitter groans.

“Have ye founded your thrones and altars, then,

On the bodies and souls of living men?

And think ye that building shall endure,

Which shelters the noble and crushes the poor?”

Then Christ sought out an artisan,

A low-browed, stunted, haggard man,

And a motherless girl, whose fingers thin

Pushed from her faintly want and sin.

These set He in the midst of them,

And as they drew back their garment-hem,

For fear of defilement, “Lo, here,” said He,

“The images ye have made of Me!”

ii. The Missionary Duty of the Church

1. There is another aspect of Church life. Christ Himself has laid the responsibility of missionary service upon the Church, and therefore there cannot be sound and healthy life in the Church where it is ignored. We must think of the word “missionary” in its true sense,—it matters not whether we apply it to work at home or abroad—the Church must go out “to seek and to save that which was lost.”

We have found in the Old Testament the blackest picture of a brother’s sin. We can find in the New Testament a very different picture. Andrew, the First Apostle, has always been chosen as the illustrative type of a missionary because he brought his brother to Christ. The two brothers, thus placed in juxtaposition, show the completely different (and yet by no means unusually different) view which two men could take of the relations and duties of brotherhood. Just as the stars shine brightest on a dark night, so the dark background of Cain’s selfishness and jealousy serves to enhance the brilliance of Andrew’s conduct, whose first thought was to find his brother and to make him the sharer of his own happiness.

Complete as is the difference between the light and dark, and complete as is the contrast between the action of these two men, the essence of the difference between the careers of the Apostle and the fratricide lay in this one point—a matter which men are used to look upon as very much a question of degree, and influenced immensely by differing circumstances—the way in which they respectively regarded brotherhood as a relationship entailing, or not entailing, certain natural duties. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” said Cain, and when he asked that question, he seemed to take it for granted that he had made a defence of himself to which no exception could possibly be taken. “Where is Abel thy brother?… I know not: am I my brother’s keeper?” seemed unanswerable. But with Andrew it was just the opposite. His first thought, on making the great discovery of Christ, was to make his brother the partner of his good fortune: “He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias.”

A brother’s heart had Andrew. Joy beyond

All joy to him, the promised Christ to find:

But heavenly joy may not to duty blind;

He cannot rest, his bliss is incomplete

Till Simon sits with him at Jesus’ feet,—

His brother then by more than natural bond.1 [Note: G. T. Coster.]

2. Missions! Christianity alone could give birth to them Men may be disposed to disparage them, but have they ever seriously reflected what civilized Europe would have given to pagan populations, if Christian missionaries had not been there? Alas! what would it have brought to them? Rifles and other fire-arms wherewith to destroy each other; brandy and opium, to brutalize and to degrade! But amongst those European conquerors, in the very refinement of their vices more barbarous than their victims, there are those who have at heart a strange love. They come to these pagans. They tell them of the Father in heaven who loves them, and of brothers on earth who wish to save them. They relate to them the marvellous history of the love of the Son of God. They are persecuted. They are reviled. They may be murdered. But soon, on the earth watered by their blood, Christian Churches are seen to flourish. It is thus that the net of the gospel, formerly borne by twelve fishermen of Galilee, finds its extremities meet after having compassed the whole earth.

The platted thorns that pierced His bleeding brow,

The cross of shame, the spikes that tore His palms,

Are blazoned o’er her banners, treasured now,

All consecrate with martyrs’ dying psalms.

Sweet daughter of the King!—her beauty bright

Hath yet the bloodstains starred upon her vest,

Of faithful hearts, who, through a loveless night

Of flame and sword went gloriously to rest.1 [Note: L. Maclean Watt, In Poets’ Corner, 66.]


Aitchison (J.), The Children’s Own, 271.

Assheton (R. O.), The Kingdom, and the Empire, 51.

Brooks (P.), The Law of Growth, 115.

Darlow (T. H.), The Upward Calling, 288.

Goodwin (H.), Parish Sermons, 4th Ser., 272.

Ingram (W. C.), Happiness in the Spiritual Life, 228.

McClure (J. G. K.), Loyalty the Soul of Religion, 71.

Miller (J.), Sermons, Literary and Scientific, 1st Ser., 202.

Peabody (F. G.), Mornings in the College Chapel, 2nd Ser., 123.

Robinson (F.), College and Ordination Addresses, 62.

Sinclair (W. M.), Christ and Our Times, 297.

Spurgeon (C. H.), Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, xxiv. No. 1399.

Thomson (W.), Life in the Light of God’s Word, 200.

Vaughan (J.), Sermons (Brighton Pulpit), xxi. No. 1199.

Walters (C. E.), The Deserted Christ, 139.

Christian World Pulpit, xlviii. 280 (Pearse).

Church of England Pulpit, xlvi. 265 (Henson).

Church Pulpit Year Book, vi. 265 (Waters).

Churchmanship and Labour, 31 (Russell).

Contemporary Pulpit, 1st Ser., ix. 354 (Dale).

Lombard Street in Lent, 28 (Farrar).

Oxford University Sermons, 351 (Percival).

The Great Texts of the Bible - James Hastings

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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