Sermon 1906. How To Become Fishers of Men
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"And Jesus saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."-Matthew 4:19.
WHEN CHRIST CALLS US by his grace we ought not only to remember what we are, but we ought also to think of what he can make us. It is, "Follow me, and I will make you." We should repent of what we have been, but rejoice in what we may be. It is not "Follow me, because of what you are already."It is not "Follow me, because you may make something of yourselves;" but, "Follow me, because of what I will make you." Verily,I might say of each one of us as soon aswe are converted, "It doth not yet appear what we shall be." It did not seem a likely thing that lowly fishermen woulddevelop into apostles; that men so handy with the net would be quite as much at home in preaching sermons and in instructingconverts. One would have said, "How can these things be? You cannot make founders of churches out of peasants of Galilee."That is exactly what Christ did; and when we are brought low in the sight of God by a sense of our own unworthiness, we mayfeelencouraged to follow Jesus because of what he can make us. What said the woman of a sorrowful spirit when she lifted upher song? "He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes."We cannot tell what God may make of us in the new creation, since it would have been quite impossible to have foretold whathe made of chaos in the old creation. Who could have imagined all the beautiful things that came forth from darkness and disorderby that one fiat, "Let there be light?" And who can tell what lovely displays of everything that is divinely fair I layyet appear in a man's formerly dark life, when God's grace has said to him, "Let there be light?" O you who see in yourselvesat present nothing that is desirable, come you and follow Christ for the sake of what he can make out of you. Do you not hearhis sweet voice calling to you, and saying, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men?"
Note, next, that we are not made all that we shall be, nor all that we ought to desire to be, when we are ourselves fished for and caught. This is what the grace of God does forus at first; but it is not all. We are like the fishes, making sin to be our element; and the good Lord comes, and with thegospel net he takes us, and he delivers us from the life and love of sin. But he has not wrought for us all that he can do,nor all that we should wish him to do, whenhe has done this; for it is another and a higher miracle to make us who were fish to become fishers-to make the savedones saviours-to make the convert into a converter-the receiver of the gospel into an imparter of that same gospel to otherpeople. I think I may say to every person whom I am addressing-If you are saved yourself, the work is but half done untilyou are employed to bring others to Christ. You are as yet but half formed in the image of your Lord. You have not attainedtothe full development of the Christ-life in you unless you have commenced in some feeble way to tell to others of the graceof God: and I trust that you will find no rest to the sole of your foot till you have been the means of leading many to thatblessed Savior who is your confidence and your hope. His word is-Follow me, not merely that you may be saved, nor even thatyou may be sanctified; but, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Be following Christ with that intent and aim;and fear that you are not perfectly following him unless in some degree he is making use of you to be fishers of men.The fact is, that every one of us must take to the business of a mancatcher. If Christ has caught us, we must catch others.If we have been apprehended of him, we must be his constables, to apprehend rebels for him. Let us ask him to give us graceto go a-fishing, and so to cast our nets that we may take a great multitude of fishes. Oh that the Holy Ghost may raise upfrom amongus some master-fishers, who shall sail their boats in many a sea, and surround great shoals of fish!
My teaching at this time will be very simple, but I hope it will be eminently practical; for my longing is that not one ofyou that love the Lord may be backward in his service. What says the Song of Solomon concerning certain sheep that come upfrom the washing? It says, "Every one beareth twins, and none is barren among them." May that be so with all the members ofthis church, and all the Christian people that hear or read this sermon! The fact is, the day is very dark.The heavens are lowering with heavy thunder-clouds. Men little dream of what tempests may soon shake this city, and thewhole social fabric of this land, even to a general breaking up of society. So dark may the night become that the stars mayseem to fall like blighted fruit from the tree. The times are evil. Now, if never before, every glow-worm must show its spark.You with the tiniest farthing candle must take it from under the bushel, and set it on a candlestick. There is need of youall.Lot was a poor creature. He was a very, very wretched kind of believer; but still, he might have been a great blessingto Sodom had he but pleaded for it as he should have done. And poor, poor Christians, as I fear many are, one begins to valueevery truly converted soul in these evil days, and to pray that each one may glorify the Lord. I pray that every righteousman, vexed as he is with the conversation of the wicked, may be more importunate in prayer than he has ever been, and returnuntohis God, and get more spiritual life, that he may be a blessing to the perishing people around him. I address you, therefore,at this time first of all upon this thought. Oh that the Spirit of God may make each one of you feel his personal responsibility!
Here is for believers in Christ, in order to their usefulness, something for them to do. "Follow me." But, secondly, here is something to be done by their great Lord and Master: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." You will not grow into fishers of yourselves, but this is what Jesus willdo for you if you will but follow him. And then, lastly, here is a good illustration, used according to our great Master's wont; for scarcely without aparable did he speak unto the people. He presents us with an illustration of what Christian men should be-fishers of men. We may get some useful hints out of it, and I pray the Holy Spirit to bless them to us.
I. First, then, I will take it for granted that every believer here wants to be useful. If he does not, I take leave to questionwhether he can be a true believer in Christ. Well, then, if you want to be really useful, here is SOMETHING FOR YOU TO DOTO THAT END: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
What is the way to become an efficient preacher? "Young man," says one, "go to college." "Young man," says Christ, "follow me, and I will make you a fisher of men." How is a person to be useful? "Attend a training-class," says one. Quite right; butthere is a surer answer than that-Follow Jesus, and he will make you fishers of men. The great training-school for Christianworkers has Christ at its head; and he is at its head, not only as a tutor, but as a leader:we are not only to learn of him in study, but to follow him in action. "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." The direction is very distinct and plain, and I believe that it is exclusive, so thatno man can become a fisherman by any other process. This process may appear to be very simple; but assuredly it is most efficient.The Lord Jesus Christ, who knew all about fishing for men, was himself the Dictator of the rule, "Follow me, if you want tobe fishers of men. If you wouldbe useful, keep in my track."
I understand this, first, in this sense: be separate unto Christ. These men were to leave their pursuits; they were to leave their companions; they were, in fact, to quit the world, thattheir one business might be, in their Master's name, to be fishers of men. We are not all called to leave our daily business, or to quit our families. That might be rather running away from the fisherythan working at it in God's name. But we are called most distinctly tocome out from among the ungodly, and to be separate, and not to touch the unclean thing. We cannot be fishers of men ifwe remain among men in the same element with them. Fish will not be fishers. The sinner will not convert the sinner. The ungodlyman will not convert the ungodly man; and, what is more to the point, the worldly Christian will not convert the world. Ifyou are of the world, no doubt the world will love its own; but you cannot save the world. If you are dark, and belong tothekingdom of darkness, you cannot remove the darkness. If you march with the armies of the wicked one, you cannot defeatthem. I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world is becausethe world has so much influence over the church. Nowadays we hear Nonconformists pleading that they may do this and they maydo that-things which their Puritan forefathers would rather have died at the stake than have tolerated. They plead that theymay live like worldlings, and my sad answer to them, when they crave for this liberty, is, "Do it if you dare. It maynot do you much hurt, for you are so bad already. Your cravings show how rotten your hearts are. If you have a hungering aftersuch dog's meat, go, dogs, and eat the garbage. Worldly amusements are fit food for mere pretenders and hypocrites. If youwere God's children you would loathe the very thought of the world's evil joys, and your question would not be, 'How far maywe belike the world?' but your one cry would be, 'How far can we get away from the world? How much can we come out from it?'"Your temptation would be rather to become sternly severe, and ultra-Puritanical in your separation from sin, in such a timeas this, than to ask, "How can I make myself like other men, and act as they do?" Brethren, the use of the church in the worldis that it should be like salt in the midst of putrefaction; but if the salt has lost its savor, what is the good of it? Ifitwere possible for salt itself to putrefy, it could but be an increase and a heightening of the general putridity. Theworst day the world ever saw was when the sons of God were joined with the daughters of men. Then came the flood; for theonly barrier against a flood of vengeance on this world is the separation of the saint from the sinner. Your duty as a Christianis to stand fast in your own place and stand out for God, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh, resolving like oneof oldthat, let others do as they will, as for you and your house, you will serve the Lord.
Come, ye children of God, you must stand out with your Lord outside the camp. Jesus calls to you to-day, and says, "Followme." Was Jesus found at the theater? Did he frequent the sports of the racecourse? Was Jesus seen, think you, in any of theamusements of the Herodian court? Not he. He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners." In one sense no onemixed with sinners so completely as he did when, like a physician, he went among them healing hispatients; but in another sense there was a gulf fixed between the men of the world and the Savior which he never essayedto cross, and which they could not cross to defile him. The first lesson which the church has to learn is this: Follow Jesusinto the separated state, and he will make you fishers of men. Unless you take up your cross and protest against an ungodlyworld, you cannot hope that the holy Jesus will make you fishers of men.
A second meaning of our text is very obviously this: abide with Christ, and then you will be made fishers of men. These disciples whom Christ called were to come and live with him. They were everyday to be associated with him. They were to hear him teach publicly the everlasting gospel, and in addition they were to receivechoice explanations in private of the word which he had spoken. They were to be his body-servants and his familiar friends.They were to see hismiracles and hear his prayers; and, better still, they were to be with himself, and become one with him in his holy labor.It was given to them to sit at the table with him, and even to have their feet washed by him. Many of them fulfilled thatword, "Where thou dwellest I will dwell:" they were with him in his afflictions and persecutions. They witnessed his secretagonies; they saw his many tears; they marked the passion and the compassion of his soul, and thus, after their measure, theycaught his spirit, and so they learned to be fishers of men.
At Jesus' feet we must learn the art and mystery of soul-winning to live with Christ is the best education for usefulness.It is a great boon to any man to be associated with a Christian minister whose heart is on fire. The best training for a youngman is that which the Vaudois pastors were wont to give, when each old man had a young man with him who walked with him wheneverhe went up the mountainside to preach, and lived in the house with him, and marked his prayers andsaw his daily piety. This was a fine instruction. Was it not? But it will not compare with that of the apostles who livedwith Jesus himself, and were his daily companions. Matchless was the training of the twelve. No wonder that they became whatthey were with such a heavenly tutor to saturate them with his own spirit! And now to-day his bodily presence is not amongus; but his spiritual power is perhaps more fully known to us than it was to those apostles in those two or three years oftheLord's corporeal presence. There be some of us to whom he is intimately near. We know more about him than we do aboutour dearest earthly friend. We have never been able quite to read our friend's heart in all its twistings and windings, butwe know the heart of the Well Beloved. We have leaned our head upon his bosom, and have enjoyed fellowship with him such aswe could not have with any of our own kith and kin. This is the surest method of learning how to do good. Live with Jesus,followJesus, and he will make you fishers of men. See how he does the work, and so learn how to do it yourself. A Christianman should be bound apprentice to Jesus to learn the trade of a Savior. We can never save men by offering a redemption, forwe have none to present; but we can learn how to save men by warning them to flee from the wrath to come, and setting beforethem the one great effectual remedy. See how Jesus saves, and you will learn how the thing is done: there is no learning itanyhowelse. Live in fellowship with Christ, and there shall be about you an air and a manner as of one who has been made inheart and mind apt to teach, and wise to win souls.
A third meaning, however, must be given to this "Follow me," and it is this: "Obey me, and then you shall know what to do to save men." We must not talk about our fellowship with Christ, or our being separatedfrom the world unto him, unless we make him our Master and Lord in everything. Some public teachers are not true at all pointsto their convictions, and how can they look for a blessing? A Christian man anxious to be useful, ought to be very particularas toevery point of obedience to his Master. I have no doubt whatever that God blesses our churches even when they are veryfaulty, for his mercy endureth for ever. When there is a measure of error in the teaching, and a measure of mistake in thepractice, he may still vouchsafe to use the ministry, for he is very gracious. But a large measure of blessing must necessarilybe withheld from all teaching which is knowingly or glaringly faulty. God can set his seal upon the truth that is in it, buthecannot set his seal upon the error that is in it. Out of mistakes about Christian ordinances and other things, especiallyerrors in heart and spirit, there may come evils which we never looked for. Such evils may even now be telling upon the presentage, and may work worse mischief upon future generations. If we desire as fishers of men to be largely used of God we mustcopy our Lord Jesus in everything, and obey him in every point. Failure in obedience may lead to failure in success. Eachoneof us, if he would wish to see his child saved, or his Sunday-school class blessed, or his congregation converted, musttake care that, bearing the vessels of the Lord, he is himself clean. Anything we do that grieves the Spirit of God must takeaway from us some part of our power for good. The Lord is very gracious and pitiful; but yet he is a jealous God. He is sometimessternly jealous towards his people who are living in neglects of known duty, or in associations which are not clean in hissight. He will wither their work, weaken their strength, and humble them until at last they say, "My Lord, I will takethy way after all. I will do what thou biddest me to do, for else thou wilt not accept me." The Lord said to his disciples,"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature: he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;" andhe promised them that signs should follow, and so they did follow them, and so they will. But we must get back to apostolicpracticeand to apostolic teaching: we must lay aside the commandments of men and the whimseys of our own brains, and we must dowhat Christ tells us, as Christ tells us, and because Christ tells us. Definitely and distinctly, we must take the place ofservants; and if we will not do that, we cannot expect our Lord to work with us and by us. Let us be determined that, as trueas the needle is to the pole, so true will we be, as far as our light goes, to the command of our Lord and Master. Jesussays-"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." By this teaching he seems to say-"Go beyond me, or fall back behindme, and you may cast the net; but it shall be night with you, and that night you shall take nothing. When you shall do asI bid you, you shall cast your net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find."
Again, I think that there is a great lesson in my text to those who preach their own thoughts instead of preaching the thoughtsof Christ. These disciples were to follow Christ that they might listen to him, hear what he had to say, drink in his teaching,and then go and teach what he had taught them. Their Lord says, "What I tell you in darkness, speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops."If they will be faithful reportersof Christ's message, he will make them "fishers of men." But you know the boastful method nowadays is this: "I am notgoing to preach this old, old gospel, this musty Puritan doctrine. I will sit down in my study, and burn the midnight oil,and invent a new theory; then I will come out with my brand-new thought, and blaze away with it." Many are not following Christ,but following themselves, and of them the Lord may well say, "Thou shalt see whose word shall stand, mine or theirs." Othersarewickedly prudent, and judge that certain truths which are evidently God's word had better be kept back. You must not berough, but must prophesy smooth things. To talk about the punishment of sin, to speak of eternal punishment, why, these areunfashionable doctrines. It may be that they are taught in the Word of God, but they do not suit the genius of the age. Wemust pare them down. Brothers in Christ, I will have no share in this. Will you? O my soul, come not thou into their secret!Certainthings not taught in the Bible our enlightened age has discovered. Evolution may be clean contrary to the teaching ofGenesis, but that does not matter. We are not going to be believers of Scripture, but original thinkers. This is the vain-gloriousambition of the period. Mark you, in proportion as the modern theology is preached the vice of this generation increases.To a great degree I attribute the looseness of the age to the laxity of the doctrine preached by its teachers. From the pulpitthey have taught the people that sin is a trifle. From the pulpit these traitors to God and to his Christ have taughtthe people that there is no hell to be feared. A little, little hell, perhaps, there may be; but just punishment for sin ismade nothing of. The precious atoning sacrifice of Christ has been derided and misrepresented by those who were pledged topreach it. They have given the people the name of the gospel, but the gospel itself has evaporated in their hands. From hundredsofpulpits the gospel is as clean gone as the dodo from its old haunts; and still the preachers take the position and nameof Christ's ministers. Well, and what comes of it? Why, their congregations grow thinner and thinner; and so it must be. Jesussays, "Follow me, I will make you fishers of men;" but if you go in your own way, with your own net, you will make nothing of it, and the Lordpromises you no help in it. The Lord's directions make himself our leader and example. It is, "Followme, follow me. Preach my gospel. Preach what I preached. Teach what I taught, and keep to that." With that blessed servility which becomes one whoseambition it is to be a copyist, and never to be an original, copy Christ even in jots and tittles. Do this, and he will makeyou fishers of men; but if you do not do this, you shall fish in vain.
I close this head of discourse by saying that we shall not be fishers of men unless we follow Christ in one other respect;and that is, by endeavoring, in all points, to imitate his holiness. Holiness is the most real power that can be possessed by men or women. We may preach orthodoxy, but we must also live orthodoxy.God forbid that we should preach anything else; but it will be all in vain, unless there is a life at the back of the testimony.An unholy preachermay even render truth contemptible. In proportion as any of us draw back from a living and zealous sanctification we shalldraw back from the place of power. Our power lies in this word, "Follow me." Be Jesus-like. In all things endeavor to think,and speak, and act as Jesus did, and he will make you fishers of men. This will require self-denial. We must daily take upthe cross. This may require willingness to give up our reputation-readiness to be thought fools, idiots, and the like, asmenare apt to call those who are keeping close to their Master. There must be the cheerful resigning of everything that lookslike honor and personal glory, in order that we may be wholly Christ's, and glorify his name. We must live his life and beready to die his death, if need be. O brothers, sisters, if we do this and follow Jesus, putting our feet into the footprintsof his pierced feet, he will make us fishers of men. If it should so please him that we should even die without having gatheredmany souls to the cross, we shall speak from our graves. In some way or other the Lord will make a holy life to be aninfluential life. It is not possible that a life which can be described as a following of Christ should be an unsuccessfulone in the sight of the Most High. "Follow me," and there is an "I will" such as God can never draw back from: "Follow me,and I will make you fishers of men."
Thus much on the first point. There is something for us to do: we are graciously called to follow Jesus. Holy Spirit, leadus to do it.
II. But secondly, and briefly, there is SOMETHING FOR THE LORD TO DO. When his dear servants are following him, he says, "Iwill make you fishers of men;" and be it never forgotten that it is he that makes us follow him; so that if the following of him be the step to being made a fisher of men, yet this he gives us. 'Tis all of his Spirit.I have talked about catching his spirit, and abiding in him, and obeying him, and hearkening to him, and copying him; butnoneof these things are we capable of apart from his working them all in us. "From me is thy fruit found," is a text whichwe must not for a moment forget. So, then, if we do follow him, it is he that makes us follow him; and so he makes us fishersof men.
But, further, if we follow Christ he will make us fishers of men by all our experience. I am sure that the man who is really consecrated to bless others will be helped in this by all that he feels, especiallyby his afflictions. I often feel very grateful to God that I have undergone fearful depression of spirits. I know the bordersof despair, and the horrible brink of that gulf of darkness into which my feet have almost gone; but hundreds of times I havebeen ableto give a helpful grip to brethren and sisters who have come into that same condition, which grip I could never have givenif I had not known their deep despondency. So I believe that the darkest and most dreadful experience of a child of God willhelp him to be a fisher of men if he will but follow Christ. Keep close to your Lord and he will make every step a blessingto you. If God in providence should make you rich, he will fit you to speak to those ignorant and wicked rich who so muchabound in this city, and so often are the cause of its worst sin. And if the Lord is pleased to let you be very poor youcan go down and talk to those wicked and ignorant poor people who so often are the cause of sin in this city, and so greatlyneed the gospel. The winds of providence will waft you where you can fish for men. The wheels of providence are full of eyes,and all those eyes will look this way to help us to be winners of souls. You will often be surprised to find how God has beenin a house that you visit: before you get there, his hand has been at work in its chambers. When you wish to speak tosome particular individual, God's providence has been dealing with that individual to make him ready for just that word whichyou could say, but which nobody else but you could say. Oh, be you following Christ, and you will find that he will, by everyexperience through which you are passing, make you fishers of men.
Further than that, if you will follow him he will make you fishers of men by distinct monitions in your own heart. There are many monitions from God's Spirit which are not noticed by Christians when they are in a callous condition; butwhen the heart is right with God and living in communion with God, we feel a sacred sensitiveness, so that we do not needthe Lord to shout, but his faintest whisper is heard. Nay, he need not even whisper. "Thou shalt guide me withthine eye." Oh, how many mulish Christians there are who must be held in with kit and bridle, and receive a cut of thewhip every now and then! But the Christian who follows his Lord shall be tenderly guided. I do not say that the Spirit ofGod will say to you, "Go and join yourself unto this chariot," or that you will hear a word in your ear; but yet in your soul,as distinctly as the Spirit said to Philip, "Go and join yourself to this chariot," you shall hear the Lord's will. As soonas yousee an individual, the thought shall cross your mind, "Go and speak to that person." Every opportunity of usefulness shallbe a call to you. If you are ready, the door shall open before you, and you shall hear a voice behind you saying, "This isthe way; walk ye in it." If you have the grace to run in the right way you shall never be long without an intimation as towhat the right way is. That right way shall lead you to river or sea, where you can cast your net, and be a fisher of men.
Then, too, I believe that the Lord meant by this that he would give his followers the Holy Ghost. They were to follow him, and then, when they had seen him ascend into the holy place of the Most High, they were to tarryat Jerusalem for a little while, and the Spirit would come upon them and clothe them with a mysterious power. This word wasspoken to Peter and Andrew; and you know how it was fulfilled to Peter. What a host of fish he brought to land the first timehe cast the net in the power of the Holy Ghost! "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."
Brethren, we have no conception of what God could do by this company of believers gathered in the Tabernacle to-night. Ifnow we were to be filled with the Holy Ghost there are enough of us to evangelize London. There are enough here to be themeans of the salvation of the world. God saveth not by many nor by few. Let us seek a benediction; and if we seek it let ushear this directing voice, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." You men and women that sit beforeme, you are by the shore of a great sea of human life swarming with the souls of men. You live in the midst of millions;but if you will follow Jesus, and be faithful to him, and true to him, and do what he bids you, he will make you fishers ofmen. Do not say, "Who shall save this city?" The weakest shall be strong enough. Gideon's barley cake shall smite the tent,and make it lay along. Samson, with the jawbone, taken up from the earth where it was lying bleaching in the sun, shall smitethePhilistines. Fear not, neither be dismayed. Let your responsibilities drive you closer to your Master. Let horror of prevailingsin make you look into his dear face who long ago wept over Jerusalem, and now weeps over London. Clasp him, and never letgo your hold. By the strong and mighty impulses of the divine life within you, quickened and brought to maturity by the Spiritof God, learn this lesson from your Lord's own mouth: "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." You are not fitfor it, but he will make you fit. You cannot do it of yourselves, but he will make you do it. You do not know how to spreadnets and draw shoals of fish to shore, but he will teach you. Only follow him, and he will make you fishers of men.
I wish that I could somehow say this as with a voice of thunder, that the whole church of God might hear it. I wish I couldwrite it in stars athwart the sky, "Jesus saith, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." If you forget the precept,the promise shall never be yours. If you follow some other track, or imitate some other leader, you shall fish in vain. Godgrant us to believe fully that Jesus can do great things in us, and then do great things by us for thegood of our fellows!
III. The last point you might work out in full for yourselves in your private meditations with much profit. We have here AFIGURE FULL OF INSTRUCTION. I will give you but two or three thoughts which you can use. "I will make you fishers of men." You have been fishers of fish: if you follow me, I will make you fishers of men.
A fisher is a person who is very dependent, and needs to be trustful. He cannot see the fish. One who fishes in the sea must go and cast in the net, as it were, at a peradventure. Fishing isan act of faith. I have often seen in the Mediterranean men go with their boats and enclose acres of sea with vast nets; andyet, when they have drawn the net to shore, they have not had as much result as I could put in my hand. A few wretched silverynothings have made up thewhole take. Yet they have gone again and cast the great net several times a day, hopefully expecting something to comeof it. Nobody is so dependent upon God as the minister of God. Oh, this fishing from the Tabernacle pulpit! What a work offaith! I cannot tell that a soul will be brought to God by it. I cannot judge whether my sermon will be suitable to the personswho are here, except that I do believe that God will guide me in the casting of the net. I expect him to work salvation, andIdepend upon him for it. I love this complete dependence, and if I could be offered a certain amount of preaching power,by which I could save sinners, which should be entirely at my own disposal, I would beg the Lord not to let me have it, forit is far more delightful to be entirely dependent upon him at all times. It is good to be a fool when Christ is made untoyou wisdom. It is a blessed thing to be weak if Christ becomes more fully your strength. Go to work, you who would be fishersofmen, and yet feel your insufficiency. You that have no strength, attempt this divine work. Your Master's strength willbe seen when your own has all gone. A fisherman is a dependent person, he must look up for success every time he puts thenet down; but still he is a trustful person, and therefore he casts in the net joyfully.
A fisherman who gets his living by it is a diligent and persevering man. The fishers are up at dawn. At day-break our fishermen off the Doggerbank are fishing, and they continue fishing till latein the afternoon. As long as hands can work men will fish. May the Lord Jesus make us hard-working, persevering, unweariedfishers of men! "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand; for thou knowest not whether shallprosper, either this orthat."
The fisherman in his own craft is intelligent and watchful. It looks very easy, I dare say, to be a fisherman, but you would find that it was no child's play if you were to take a realpart in it. There is an art in it, from the mending of the net right on to the pulling it to shore. How diligent the fishermanis to prevent the fish leaping out of the net! I heard a great noise one night in the sea, as if some huge drum were beingbeaten by a giant; and I lookedout, and I saw that the fishermen of Mentone were beating the water to drive the fish into the net, or to keep them fromleaping out when they had once encompassed them with it. Ah, yes! and you and I will often have to be watching the cornersof the gospel net lest sinners who are almost caught should make their escape. They are very crafty, these fish, and theyuse this craftiness in endeavoring to avoid salvation. We shall have to be always at our business, and to exercise all ourwits, andmore than our own wits, if we are to be successful fishers of men.
The fisherman is a very laborious person. It is not at all an easy calling. He does not sit in an armchair and catch fish. He has to go out in rough weathers. If hethat regardeth the clouds will not sow, I am sure that he that regardeth the clouds will never fish. If we never do any workfor Christ except when we feel up to the mark, we shall not do much. If we feel that we will not pray because we cannot pray,we shall never pray, and if we say, "I will not preachto-day because I do not feel that I could preach," we shall never preach any preaching that is worth the preaching. Wemust be always at it, until we wear ourselves out, throwing our whole soul into the work in all weathers, for Christ's sake.
The fisherman is a daring man. He tempts the boisterous sea. A little brine in his face does not hurt him; he has been wet through a thousand times, itis nothing to him. He never expected when he became a deep-sea fisherman that he was going to sleep in the lap of ease. Sothe true minister of Christ who fishes for souls will never mind a little risk. He will be bound to do or say many a thingthat is very unpopular; and some Christian people may even judge hisutterances to be too severe. He must do and say that which is for the good of souls. It is not his to entertain a questionas to what others will think of his doctrine, or of him; but in the name of the Almighty God he must feel, "If the sea roarand the fullness thereof, still at my Master's command I will let down the net."
Now, in the last place, the man whom Christ makes a fisher of men is successful. "But," says one, "I have always heard that Christ's ministers are to be faithful, but that they cannot be sure of being successful."Yes, I have heard that saying, and one way I know it is true, but another way I have my doubts about it. He that is faithfulis, in God's way and in God's judgment, successful, more or less. For instance, here is a brother who says that he is faithful.Ofcourse, I must believe him, yet I never heard of a sinner being saved under him. Indeed, I should think that the safestplace for a person to be in if he did not want to be saved would be under this gentleman's ministry, because he does not preachanything that is likely to arouse, impress, or convince anybody. This brother is "faithful:" so he says. Well, if any personin the world said to you, "I am a fisherman, but I have never caught anything," you would wonder how he could be called afisherman. A farmer who never grew any wheat, or any other crop-is he a farmer? When Jesus Christ says, "Follow me, andI will make you fishers of men," he means that you shall really catch men-that you really shall save some; for he that neverdid get any fish is not a fisherman. He that never saved a sinner after years of work is not a minister of Christ. If theresult of his life-work is nil, he made a mistake when he undertook it. Go thou with the fire of God in thy hand andfling it among the stubble, and the stubble will burn. Be thou sure of that. Go thou and scatter the good seed: it maynot all fall in fruitful places, but some of it will. Be thou sure of that. Do but shine, and some eye or other will be lightenedthereby. Thou must, thou shalt succeed. But remember this is the Lord's word-"Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."Keep close to Jesus, and do as Jesus did, in his spirit, and he will make you fishers of men.
Perhaps I speak to an attentive hearer who is not converted at all. Friend, I have the same thing to say to you. You alsomay follow Christ, and then he can use you, even you. I do not know but that he has brought you to this place that you maybe saved, and that in after years he may make you speak for his name and glory. Remember how he called Saul of Tarsus, andmade him the apostle of the Gentiles. Reclaimed poachers make the best gamekeepers; and saved sinners makethe ablest preachers. Oh, that you would run away from your old master to-night, without giving him a minute's notice;for if you give him any notice, he will hold you. Hasten to Jesus, and say, "Here is a poor runaway slave! My Lord, I bearthe fetters still upon my wrists. Wilt thou set me free, and make me thine own?" Remember, it is written, "Him that comethto me I will in no wise cast out." Never runaway slave came to Christ in the middle of the night without his taking him in;and henever gave one up to his old master. If Jesus make you free you shall be free indeed. Flee away to Jesus, then, on a sudden.May his good Spirit help you, and he will by-and-by make you a winner of others to his praise! God bless you. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Matt. 4 verse 12, &c.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-45, 12, 262.
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