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"Abel and Stephen"
Parallel Lives of the Old and New Testament
Part 8 of 12
Clarence E. Macartney
One of the finest things in English poetry is that
passage in Byron's Cain, where he describes Cain
standing over the body of the murdered Abel,
astonished at death, then new in the world, and now so
old. The old, old fashion, and yet something which
comes with new wonder and shock to the men of each new
generation. Death in some other city, or in some other
house down the street, is one thing; but when death
invades our own house and family, we are forced to
look on it with the same awe and surprise and wonder
which Byron so splendidly imagines in the mind of
Who makes me brotherless?
His eyes are open! then he is not dead!
Death is like sleep; and sleep shuts down our lids.
His lips, too, are apart; why, then he breathes!
And yet I feel it not. His heart!-his heart!
Let me see, doth it beat? methinks-No!-
This is a vision, else I am become
The native of another and a worse world.
But he cannot be dead!-Is silence death?
No; he will wake: then let me watch by him.
Life cannot be so slight as to be quenched
Thus quickly!-He hath spoken to me since-
What shall I say to him? My brother!-No;
He will not answer to that name, for brethren
Smite not each other. Yet-yet speak to me!
Oh, for a word more of that gentle voice,
That I may bear to hear my own again!"
The history of Abel and Cain introduces us to the
first altar, the first murder, and the first death.
Centuries after, James wrote, "Sin, when it is
finished, bringeth forth death." Not until Cain slew
his brother Abel were the wages of sin advertised to
According to an old Muslim legend, the death of Abel
was at the direct instigation of Satan. Cain,
according to this story, was filled with envy and
hatred toward his brother, but did not know how he
could destroy his life. "But one day Satan placed
himself in Cain's ...
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