Many will state that Charles Spurgeon to be the “prince of preachers,” and ascribe his works as being on a level unto its own. While I enjoy the works of Spurgeon and some others there is one author that stands apart and in this bloggers opinion rises above the works of some of the most notable and that is Alexander MacLaren.
Maclaren was born in Glasgow on February 11, 1826, and died in Manchester on May 5, 1910. He had been for almost sixty-five years a minister, entirely devoted to his calling. He lived more than almost any of the great preachers of his time between his studies, his pulpit, and his pen. He subdued action to thought, thought to utterance and utterance to the Gospel. His life was his ministry; his ministry was his life. In 1842 he was enrolled as a candidate for the Baptist ministry at Stepney College, London. He was tall, shy, silent and looked no older than his sixteen years. But his vocation, as he himself (a consistent Calvinist) might have said, was divinely decreed. “I cannot ever recall any hesitation as to being a minister,” he said. “It just had to be.” In the College he was thoroughly grounded in Greek and Hebrew. He was taught to study the Bible in the original and so the foundation was laid for his distinctive work as an expositor and for the biblical content of his preaching. Before Maclaren had finished his course of study he was invited to Portland Chapel in Southampton for three months; those three months became twelve years. He began his ministry there on June 28, 1846. His name and fame grew.
Although many of these commentators and authors are “Calvinists,” in their theology I recently asked the Rev. Greg Wilbanks, a pastor in Cullman, Alabama, his opinion on why so many men which were so wrong in doctrine were so right in their studies and his response to me was that those men had “permission,” but we have “authority.” I will not take the time to delve into that but what a powerful thought!
Here is an lengthy excerpt from the book:
WHAT CROUCHES AT THE DOOR ‘If thou doest not well, sin croucheth at the door: and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’–GENESIS iv. 7 (R. V.). These early narratives clothe great moral and spiritual truths in picturesque forms, through which it is difficult for us to pierce. In the world’s childhood God spoke to men as to children, because there were no words then framed which would express what we call abstract conceptions. They had to be shown by pictures. But these early men, simple and childlike as they were, had consciences; and one abstraction they did understand, and that was sin. They knew the difference between good and evil. So we have here God speaking to Cain, who was wroth because of the rejection of his sacrifice; and in dim, enigmatical words setting forth the reason of that rejection. ‘If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?’ Then clearly his sacrifice was rejected because it was the sacrifice of an evil-doer. His description as such is given in the words of my text, which are hard for us to translate into our modern, less vivid and picturesque language. ‘If thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door; and unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.’ Strange as the words sound, if I mistake not, they convey some very solemn lessons, and if well considered, become pregnant with meaning. The key to the whole interpretation of them is to remember that they describe what happens after, and because of, wrong-doing. They are all suspended on ‘If thou doest not well.’ Then, in that case, for the first thing–‘sin lieth at the door.’ Now the word translated here ‘lieth’ is employed only to express the crouching of an animal, and frequently of a wild animal. The picture, then, is of the wrong-doer’s sin lying at his door there like a crouching tiger ready to spring, and if it springs, fatal. ‘If thou doest not well, a wild beast crouches at thy door.’ Then there follow, with a singular swift transition of the metaphor, other words still harder to interpret, and which have been, as a matter of fact, interpreted in very diverse fashions. ‘And unto thee shall be _its’_ (I make that slight alteration upon our version) ‘desire, and thou shalt rule over it.’ Where did we hear these words before? They were spoken to Eve, in the declaration of her punishment. They contain the blessing that was embedded in the curse. ‘Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.’ The longing of the pure womanly heart to the husband of her love, and the authority of the husband over the loving wife–the source of the deepest joy and purity of earth, is transferred, by a singularly bold metaphor, to this other relationship, and, in horrible parody of the wedded union and love, we have the picture of the sin, that was thought of as crouching at the sinner’s door like a wild beast, now, as it were, wedded to him. He is mated to it now, and it has a kind of tigerish, murderous desire after him, while he on his part is to subdue and control it. The reference of these clauses to the sin which has just been spoken of involves, no doubt, a very bold figure, which has seemed to many readers too bold to be admissible, and the words have therefore been supposed to refer to Abel, who, as the younger brother, would be subordinate to Cain. But such a reference breaks the connection of the sentence, introduces a thought which is not a consequence of Cain’s not doing well, has no moral bearing to warrant its appearance here,and compels us to travel an inconveniently long distance back in the context to find an antecedent to the ‘his’ and ‘him’ of our text. It seems to be more in consonance, therefore, with the archaic style of the whole narrative, and to yield a profounder and worthier meaning, if we recognise the boldness of the metaphor, and take ‘sin’ as the subject of the whole. Now all this puts in concrete, metaphorical shape, suited to the stature of the bearers, great and solemn truths. Let us try to translate them into more modern speech. 1. First think, then, of that wild beast which we tether to our doors by our wrong-doing.