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The throng of auditors forced Christ to leave the shore, and to make Peter's ship his pulpit. Simon was busy washing his nets. Even those nets that caught nothing must be washed, no less than if they had sped well. Little did Simon think of leaving those nets, whieh he so carefully washed, and now Christ interrupts him with the favour and blessing of his gracious presence. Labour, in our calling, how homely soever, makes us apable of Divine benediction. He that would so easily lend Christ his hand and his ship, was likely soon after to bestow himself on his Saviour.
Simon hath no sooner done this service to Christ, than Christ prepared his reward. “Launch forth into the deep, and let down your nets to make a draught." Rather in a desire to gratify and obey his guest, than to pleasure himself, will Simon bestow one cast of his net. The night was the fittest time for the hopes of their trade. Not unjustly might Simon misdoubt his speed by day, when he had worn out the night in unprofitable labour. Sometimes God crosses the fairest of our expectations, and gives a blessing to those times and means whereof we despair. That pains cannot be cast away, which we resolve to lose for Christ. How
many do we see casting out their nets in the great lake of the world, who, in the whole night of their life, have caught nothing! Yet, if we have thus vainly mispent the time of our darkness, let us, at the command of Christ, cast out our new-washen nets: our humble and penitent obedience shall come home laden with blessings. when they had so done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes, so that their net brake.”
What a difference there is betwixt our own voluntary acts, and those that are done on command: not more in the grounds of them than in the issue ! those are oftimes fruitless; these, ever successful. Never man threw out his net at the word of his Saviour, and drew it back empty. Who would not obey thee, O Christ, since thou dost so bountifully requite our weakest services ?
It was not mere retribution that was intended in this event, but instruction also. This act was not without a mystery. He that should be made a fisher of men, shall in this draught foresee his success. The very first draught that Peter made, after the completing of his apostleship,
enclosed no less than three thousand souls. O powerful gospel, that can fetch sinful men from out of the depths of natural corruption ! O happy souls, that, from the blind and muddy cells of our wicked nature, are drawn forth to the glorious liberty of the sons of God!
Simon's net breaks with the store. Abundance is sometimes no less troublesome than want. The net should have held, if Christ had not meant to overcharge Simon, both with blessing and admiration. How happily is that net broken, whose breaking draws the fisher to Christ!
Simon was a skilful fisher, and knew well the depth of his trade; and now, perceiving more than art or nature in this draught, he falls down at the knees of Jesus, saying, " Lord, go from me, for I am a sinful man.” Himself is caught in this net. He does not greedily fall on so unexpected and profitable a booty, but he turns his eyes from the draught to himself, from the act to the Author, acknowledging vileness in the one, in the other majesty : “Go from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man."
O Simon, thy Saviour is come into thine own ship to call thee, to call others by thee, unto blessedness; and dost thou say, “ Lord, go from me?” As if the patient should say to the physician, “ Depart from me, for I am sick.” It was the voice of astonishment, not of dislike; the voice of humility, not of discontentment: yea, because thou art a sinful man, therefore hath thy Saviour need to come to thee, to stay with thee; and because thou art humble in the acknowledgement of thy sinfulness, therefore Christ delights to abide with thee, and will call thee to abide with him. No man ever fared the worse for abasing himself to his God. Christ hath left many a soul for froward and unkind usage; never any for the disparagement of itself, and entreaties of humility. Simon could not hold Christ faster than by thus suing to him to be gone, than by thus pleading his unworthiness.
O my soul, be not weary of complaining of thine own wretchedness. Be astonished at those mercies which have shamed thine ill deservings. Thy Saviour hath no power to go away from a prostrate heart. He that resists the proud, encourages the lowly : “ Fear not, for I will make thee henceforth a fisher of men.” The world is a sea. Souls, like fishes, swim at liberty in this deep. The nets
of wholesome doctrine draw up some to the shore of
grace and glory. How much skill, and toil, and patience, is requisite in this art ! “Who is sufficient for these things ?” This sea, these nets, the fishers, the fish, the vessels, are all thine, O God. Give thy ministers ability and grace to take; give hearers will and grace to be taken; and take thou glory by that which thou hast given. Bp. HALI..
THE LORD SHINING FORTH. THE Lord upon the throne of grace is represented as shining. And, by this expression, faith may discover how able He is, who sits upon the throne, to do whatever we stand in need of. Hence it appears he can do all things for the help of his people, easily, instantly, irresistibly, and advantageously. He is able to do anything, every thing, for our relief.
1. Easily: without any toil or trouble. It costs him no more pains to do all you need, or can desire, than it costs the sun to shine forth. He can supply all wants, resolve all doubts, subdue all corruptions, secure from all calamities, even those which most threaten us, as easily as the sun can shine. He can as easily scatter all your doubts, fears, dangers, lusts, as the sun can scatter the thinnest cloud : it is no more to him than shining forth.
He can as easily do all you can think or desire, as you can turn an eye, or move a hand, or speak a word; for he can act with as much ease as the sun darts forth his light and beams: and it is no more for the Lord to put forth his power than to shine forth.
If that which you desire would put the Lord to any pains, or toil, or trouble, you might doubt whether it would be done; but here is the encouragement of faith—the Lord can do all with the greatest ease; let him but shine forth, and it is done.
2. Instantly: in a moment; in the twinkling of an eye; as soon as the light diffuses itself through the air. the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west, so shall the coming of the Son of man be,” Matt. xxiv. 27. The lightning is so quick in its motion, that it is in the east and west at once, and in a moment. So quickly can the Lord do all you can desire, he can make the outgoings of his power like the goings forth of the light :
56 As a young woman about
let him but shine forth, and it is done. Those lusts that you have been wrestling and tugging with for many years, he can subdue in a moment: those doubts, obscurities, perplexities, that have puzzled you so long, and through which
your understandings cannot make their way, he can clear up in a moment. Those clouds of anti-christian darkness that are gathering thick about us, he can quickly scatter : let him but shine forth, and they will vanish. If what you need or desire would cost the Lord
any expense or time, or prove tedious to him, you might doubt whether it would be done : but he can do all with as quick a motion as that of the light; all in an instant.
3. Irresistibly: nothing can stop him, or give him any impediment. Men and devils can no more obstruct what his
power is engaged in, than you can hinder the sun from rising with your hand, or stop it from going forth in its strength and lustre when it is risen. If the Lord could be hindered, faith might be at a stand. But here is the encouragement of faith,--he can do what you would have him, irresistibly; and break through all impediments, as the light passes through the clear air, without the least stop or stay.
4. Advantageously: without any loss or prejudice to himself; nay, with advantage, as to his own glory. The sun loses nothing by shining forth; nay, the more it shines, the more does it display its beauty and glory. The Lord loses nothing by employing his power for his people; nay, the more he puts it forth, the more glorious he appears. When the sun goes forth in its full strength, it goes
forth in the brightness of its glory: so, when the Lord puts forth the greatness of his power for his people, he shines forth in the brightness of his glory. If the Lord suffered any loss, or prejudice, or disadvantage, by doing for you what you stand in need of, you might doubt that it would not be done ; but this is faith's encouragement—the Lord gains glory by employing his power for you: the more he doth, the more his glory shines forth. His appearing for you from between the cherubims is a shining forth.
THE LITTLE RED BOOK. GRANT THORBURN relates the following circumstance as occurring during a journey in the United States : Among our passengers was
seventeen, who, having spent the winter in and about New York, was returning to her friends in the west. Most of this day's journey there sat on her right hand a respectable farmer from Ohio; a man of sound principles, and who, by his observations, must have seen much of men and their manners. He appeared to be about fifty. On her left sat a young man about twenty-two, in the vigour of life and health, and whiskered to the mouth and eyes. Our farmer, in answer to a question by a passenger, when speaking of the inhabitants of the new settlements, observed, wherever there was a church and a stated minister, the people, for five or six miles around, were more orderly, circumspect, and sober than were those who did not enjoy this privilege. This observation drew forth the tongue, the learning, and the eloquence of our young hero of the whiskers : he had been to college, and was studying some learned profession : he spoke long and loud about witchcraft and priestcraft ; said the laws of Lycurgus were better than the laws of Moses, and the bible of Mohammed was better than the Acts of the apostles. He said the stories about hell and the devil were only invented to scare the ignorant, and that death, at the most, was only a leap in the dark. But ah! this leap in the dark : we little thought we were so near the precipice, and that in a few minutes our courage would be put to the test. It had rained for the last twenty-four hours, the road was bad, the snow and ice was melting, the horses were sinking to the knees, and the driver swore he would take to the river. We thought that he was in jest ; but finding him turn in that direction, the passengers, one and all, remonstrated, but to no effect. At every stopping-place, while the horses drank water he had drunk rum.
He was now at that point that he declared he feared neither death nor the devil.
“ This scene took place between Newburgh and Catskill. We knew the ice had been strong enough to bear a hundred sleighs; but the rain had run from the frozen hills on each side, and the ice was now covered to the depth of at least two feet of water; the wind was fresh, and the waves rolled as if no ice was under. Our apprehensions arose from our danger of getting into air-holes which could not be seen, as all appeared but one sheet of water. At this juncture the rain ceased, and snow began to fall in broad flakes, so thick and so fast that the driver could hardly