Sermon 443. Sermon 443. The Two Draughts Of Fishes
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, APRIL 6, 1862, BY REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Now when He had left speaking, He said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught." Luke 5:4
"And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and you shall find some. They cast therefore and now theywere not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes."
THE whole life of Christ was a sermon. He was a Prophet mighty in word and deed. And by His deeds as well as His words Hetaught the people. It is perfectly true that the miracles of Christ attest His mission. To those who saw them they must havebeen evident proof that He was sent of God. But weought not to overlook that probably a higher reason for the miracles is to be found in the instruction which they convey.To the world without, at the present time, the miracles of Christ are more hard to believe than the doctrine which He taught.Skeptics turn them into stones ofstumbling and when they cannot object at the marvelous teaching of Jesus, they attack the miracles as monstrous and incredible.
I doubt not that even to minds seriously vexed with unbelief, the miracles, instead of being helps to belief, have been trialsof faith. Few, indeed, are there in whom faith is worked by signs and wonders. Nor, indeed is this the Gospel way of bringingconviction to the soul-the secret forceof the Living Word is the chosen instrumentality of Christ-and wonders are left to be the resort of that Anti-Christ bywhom the nations shall be deceived. We, who by Divine Grace have believed, view the miracles of Christ as noble attestationsto His mission and Divinity. Butwe confess that we value them even more as instructive homilies than as attesting witnesses.
It is our conviction that we should lose much of the benefit which they were meant to convey to us, if we were merely to viewthem as seals to the roll, for they are a part of the writing of the roll itself. The marvels worked by our blessed Lord areacted sermons fraught with holy doctrine, setforth to us more vividly than it could have been in words. We start with the assumption upon which our sermon will be groundedthis morning-that Christ's miracles are sermons preached in deeds-visible allegories, truths embodied, principles incarnatedand set in motion.They are, in fact, the pictures in the great book of Christ's teaching-the illustrations by which He flashed light intodim eyes.
We have heard of some ministers who could say that they had often preached from the same text but they had never deliveredthe same discourse. The like may be said of Christ. He often preached upon the same Truth of God but it was never preciselyin the same manner. We have read in your hearingthis morning, the narrative of two miracles (Luke 5, and John 21), which seem to the casual observer to be precisely alike. But he who shall read diligently and study carefully, will findthat though the text is the same in both, the discourse is full of variations.
In both the miraculous draughts of fishes, the text is the mission of the saints to preach the Gospel-the work of man-catching-theministry by which souls are caught in the net of the Gospel and brought out of the element of sin to their eternal salvation.The preacher is compared to afisherman. The fisherman's vocation is a toilsome one. Woe be to that minister who finds his calling to be otherwise. Thefisherman must go forth in rough weathers and at all hazards. If he should only fish in a calm sea he may often starve. Sothe Christian minister, whether menwill receive the Word with pleasure, or reject it with anger and wrath, must be ready to imperil reputation and risk comfort.
Yes, he must hate his own life, also, or he is not worthy of the heavenly calling. The fisherman's is a rough occupation-nodainty fingers may come in contact with his nets. It is not a trade for gentlemen, but for rough, strong, fearless men, whocan heave a rope, handle a tar-brush, orscour a deck. The ministry is not meant for your dainty souls who would go delicately through this world without a trial,an offense, an insult, or a sneer. Such work is meant for men who know how to do business on great waters and can go abroadupon the sea, not fearing the sprayor the waves. The fisher- man's calling, too, must be carried on perseveringly. It is not by one grand haul that a man makeshis fortune. He must constantly cast forth his net.
One sermon makes not a preacher. He who shall but now and then deliver himself of some carefully prepared oration, is no trueminister of God. He must be instant in season and out of season. He must cast his net in all waters. He must in the morningbe at his work and in the evening he must notwithhold his hand. To be a fisherman, a man must expect disappointments. He must often cast in the net and bring up nothingbut weeds. The minister of Christ must reckon upon being disappointed-and he must not be weary in well-doing for all his disappointments-butmustin faith continue in prayer and labor, expecting that at the end he shall receive his reward. It needs no great labor foryou to work out at leisure the comparison between fishermen and the Gospel ministry, the simile is so aptly chosen.
The two narratives before us have a degree of uniformity. That shall be our first point. But they have a greater degree ofdissimilarity. We will bring that out in the second place. And, then, thirdly, we will suggest some great lessons which theyboth combine to teach us.
I. First, then, IN THESE TWO MIRACLES THERE ARE MANY POINTS OF UNIFORMITY. They are both intended to set forth the way inwhich Christ's kingdom shall increase.
1. First you will perceive that in both miracles we are taught that the means must be used. In the first case, the fish didnot leap into Simon's boat to be taken. Nor, in the second case, did they swarm from the sea and lay themselves down uponthe blazing coals that they might be prepared for thefisherman's feast. No, the fishermen must go out in their boat. They must cast the net. And after having cast the net, theymust either drag it ashore, or fill both boats with its contents. Everything is done here by human agency.
It is a miracle, certainly, but yet neither the fisherman, nor his boat, nor his fishing tackle are ignored. They are allused and all employed. Let us learn that in the saving of souls God works by means. So long as the present economy of Graceshall stand, God will be pleased by the foolishnessof preaching to save them that believe. Every now and then there creeps up in the Church a sort of striving against God'sordained instrumentality. I marked it with sorrow dating the Irish Revival.
We constantly saw, in some excellent papers, remarks which I thought exceedingly injurious-wherein it was made a subject ofcongratulation that no man was concerned in the work. No eminent preacher, no fervent Evangelist. The whole was boasted tobe conducted without human instrumentality.That was the weakness of the Revival, not its strength. You say it gave God more glory. Not so. God gets the most glorythrough the use of instruments. When God works without instruments, doubtless He is glorified. But He knows Himself in whichway He gets the most honor and He hasHimself selected the plan of instrumentality as being that by which He is most magnified in the earth.
We have this treasure. How? Alone? Without any earthly accompaniments? No. But in earthen vessels. What for? That God mayhave less glory? No. But in the earthen vessels on purpose, "that the excellency of the treasure may be of God," and not ofus. God makes the infirmity of the creature to be thefoil to the strength of the Creator. He takes men who are nothing in themselves, and works by them His splendid victories.Perhaps we would not admire Samson so much if he had dashed the Philistines in pieces with his fists, as we do when we findthat with such a weapon, sounadapted to the work, as the jawbone of an ass, he laid on heaps the thousands of his foes.
The Lord takes ill weapons, that with them He may work great deeds. When He said, "Let there be light and there was light"without any instrument, He showed His glory. But when instead, thereof, He takes the Apostles and says again, "Let there belight," and sends them forth who were darkness inthemselves and makes them the medium of lighting up a dark world, I say there is a greater glory. And if the morning starssang together when they first saw light upon the newly made earth, surely the angels in Heaven rejoiced even more when theysaw light thus streaming upon thedark earth through men, who, in and of themselves, would only have increased the blackness and made the gloom more dense.
God works by means of men whom He especially calls to His work and not as a rule without them. The hypocrite strives to getrid of the pastorate but he never can, for the Lord will ever continue to give pastors after His own heart to feed His peopleand all attempts made by the flock to dispensewith these pastors will lead to leanness and poverty of soul. The outcry against the "one man ministry" comes not of God,but of proud self-conceit-of men who are not content to learn although they have no power to teach.
It is the tendency of human nature to exalt itself which has raised up these disturbers of the peace of God's Israel, forthey will not endure to submit themselves to the authorities which God has Himself appointed. They abhor the teachings ofthe Apostle, where he says, by the Spirit of God, "Obeythem that have rule over you and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, thatthey may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable to you."
Brethren, I warn you, there is a spirit abroad which would pull down the men whom God Himself has raised up, that would silencethose into whose mouths God has put the tongue of fire, that foolish men might prate according to their own will to the profitof no one and to their own shame. As for us,we shall, I trust, never cease to recognize that agency by which the Lord works mightily among us. We would check no ministryin the Church of God. We would but be too glad to see it more abundantly exercised. Would God that all the Lord's servantswere Prophets!
But we enter our solemn protest against that spirit which, under presence of liberty to all, sets aside the instrumentalityby which the Lord especially works. He will have you still keep the fishermen to their nets and to their boats. And your newways of catching fish without nets and savingsouls without ministers, will never answer, for they are not of God. They have been tried and what has been the result ofthe trial? I know not a Church in existence that has despised instrumentality but it has come to an end within a few yearseither by schism or decay.
Where upon the face of the earth is there a single Church that has existed fifty years where God's chosen instrumentalityof ministry has been despised and rejected? "Ichabod!" is written upon their walls. God rejects them because they reject God'schosen way of working. Their attempts are flashesin the pan, meteoric lights, will-o'-the-wisps, swellings of proud flesh, bubbles of foam, here today and gone forever onthe morrow.
2. Again, in both our texts there is another Truth of God equally conspicuous, namely, that means of themselves are utterlyunavailing. In the first case you hear the confession, "Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing." In thelast case you hear them answer to the question,"Children, have you no meat?" "No"-a sorrowful No. What was the reason of this? Were they not fishermen plying their specialcalling? Verily, they were no raw hands. They understood the work. Had they gone about the toil unskillfully? No. Had theylacked industry? No, they hadtoiled. Had they lacked perseverance? No, they had toiled all night.
Was there a deficiency of fish in the sea? Certainly not, for as soon as the Master comes, there they are in large number.What, then, is the reason? Is it not because there is no power in the means of themselves apart from the presence of Christ?The Great Worker who does not discard the meanswould still have His people know that He uses instrumentality, not to glorify the instrument, but for the sake of glorifyingHimself. He takes weakness into His hands and makes it strong, not that weakness may be worshipped, but that the strengthmay be adored which even makesweakness subservient to its might.
Brethren, let us as a Church always keep this in mind, that without Christ we can do nothing. "Not by might, nor by powerbut by My Spirit, says the Lord." Put no dependence upon societies, upon committees, upon ministries, upon anything that wecan do. Let us work as if it all depended upon us.But let us come to God depending upon Him, knowing for sure that it does not rest with us, but with Him alone. Let us sendforth the missionaries to the heathen. Let us send forth our men into the dark streets and lanes of London. Let us scattertracts. Let us distribute the Word ofGod. Let us send forth preachers by scores from our "School of the Prophets." But when this is done, let us not sit stilland say, "Now it is all accomplished, good must come of it." No, Lord, unless Your blessing descend from on High, as wellmight we have done nothing, for noeternal results can follow.
How often this drives me to my knees! The surprising work which God is doing in connection with this place lifts up my heartwith joy. But then the fear lest it all should come to nothing for lack of His blessing casts my spirit to the very earth.You will remember, I dare say, that one Brother wasmoved, some time ago, to distribute a volume of the sermons preached here to every student in Oxford and Cambridge. Afterthat had been done and some two hundred thousand sermons had been distributed, he then gave them to every member of Parliament,to every peer of the realm and toprinces, kings and emperors of Europe. Having accomplished that work, he has another in hand of great magnitude.
Dear Friends, as I think of these books traveling everywhere among high and low, the rich and poor, in all places of the land,my heart is glad. But then, if God withholds the blessing, as well had they never been born in the press and cir- culatedby human hand. What good can they do? Let the netbe ever so broad, ever so strong, and let it be ever so industriously cast into the sea, yet we shall toil all the nightand take nothing unless the Master comes to bless the work.
Let us, then, be always in prayer for the blessing. Let us remember that we have done nothing until we have prayed over whatwe have done. Let us consider that all the seed we have put into the ground is put there for worms to eat, unless we havedropped into the soil the preserving grain of prayerto keep that other grain alive. We shall have harvests if we wait on God for them, but after all our sowing, if we lookto the soil, the seed, or the sower, we shall see nothing for our pains.
3. Thirdly, there is clearly taught in both these miracles the fact that it is Christ's Presence that confers success. Christsat in Peter's boat. It was His will that by a mysterious influence drew the fish to the net, as though He had a hook, a secrethook in each of their jaws. As though Hecould stop them in their sportive leaps and hurry them all to one common spot. It was His Presence on the dry land, whenHe spoke from off the shore to His toiling disciples out yonder and said, "Cast the net on the right side of the ship"-itwas His Presence that drew thefish to the place where they were taken.
Oh, Brethren, we must learn this-that it is Christ's Presence in the midst of the Church that is the Church's power-the shoutof a King in the midst of her. It is the Presence of Christ's great representative, the Holy Spirit, that is to give the Churchforce. "I, if I am lifted up,will draw all men unto Me." There is the attraction. The Spirit gives the power and we must tarry until we get it. But whenwe have it, then we cannot preach in vain, for we become "a savor of life unto life" to those who hear. Christians, Christ'sPresence with you must be yourpower. Be much in fellowship with Him. Catch much of His Spirit. Meditate much upon His sufferings. Keep close to His Person.And then, wherever you go, there shall be a power about you which even your adversaries shall be compelled to acknowledge.
Oh that we had more of Christ's Presence in us as a Church! Lift up your hearts for it. If Christ is here at all, let us notgrieve Him. "I charge you, O you daughters of Jerusalem, that you stir not up nor awake my love till He pleases." And if Heis not here, let us rise from the bed of our slothand go forth and seek Him, crying, "Oh You whom my soul loves, tell me where You feed, where You make Your flock to restat noon!" And if you find Him, I charge you hold Him and let Him not go till you bring Him into your mother's house, intothe chamber of her that bare you, eventhe Church of Christ. There will we hold Him, there will we embrace Him-and He shall show to us His love.
4. In both instances the success which attended the instrumentality through Christ's Presence developed human weakness. Wedo not see human weakness more in non-success than in success. In the first instance, in the success you see the weaknessof man, for the net breaks and the ships begin to sinkand Simon Peter falls down with-"Depart from me for I am a sinful man, O Lord." He did not know so much about that tillhis boat was filled. But the very abundance of God's mercy made him feel his own nothingness.
In the last case, they were scarcely able to draw the net because of the multitude of fishes. Brethren, if you or I wouldknow to the fullest extent what utter nothings we are, if the Lord shall give us success in winning souls we shall soon findit out. As we see first one, and then another, andthen scores and then hundreds, brought to the Lord Jesus, we shall say, "Who has begotten me these? How can such wondersbe worked by me?" And we shall fall prostrate before the footstool of Sovereign Grace and confess that we are unworthy ofsuch amazing favors.
Let the Church spread, let her conquests be many, let her overrun whole provinces with her heavenly arms and instead of manbecoming more famous, man shall sink lower and lower and it shall be more and more fully perceived that it is the Lord. Littleworks, such as have been common in our Churchesfor years, where twos and threes are added, are quite consistent with great self-congratulation, and so is utter barrenness.Mark the pompous carriage of many a fruitless preacher and see if it is not so.
Let the Lord make bare His arm and the man humbles himself in the dust, for when hundreds are ingathered, this cannot be theminister, this is the finger of God. The man is forgotten, then, in the very abundance of his success and the Lord, alone,is magnified in that day. Oh that God would do inthe Churches of England some great and stupendous works by all His ministers! Then would they discover their own weaknessand then would the name of God be glorified!
You frequently meet with the observation, if a man is successful in winning souls, "I am afraid he will grow proud: how weought to pray that he may be kept humble!" Brethren, that is a very necessary prayer for anybody. But it is no more necessaryfor the man who is successful than for theunsuccessful one. In fact, it is an assumption of pride on any person's part to think that he has less need to pray againstpride than any other man. Think not that when the Church prospers, it becomes necessarily proud. No, the very fullness ofthe boat makes it sink, and the veryabundance of the miracle makes us cry out the more, "It is the Lord," for we feel that it could not have been of man, forit is out of man's reach to have accomplished such wonders.
So far, then, there is a likeness running through the whole. Means must be used-means alone, unavailing-Christ's Presencegives the success. That success develops human weakness and leads to the exclamation-"It is the Lord."
II. Having, then, shown the likeness, you will be still more interested in REMARKING THE DISSIMILARITY.
Allow us to say in the commencement, that we think the first picture represents the Church of God as we see it. The secondrepresents it as it really is. The first pictures to us, the visible, the second the invisible. Luke tells us what the crowdsee. John tells us what Christ showed to Hisdisciples, alone. The first is common truth which the multitude may receive, the next is special mystery revealed only tospiritual minds. Observe, then, carefully, the points of divergence.
1. First, there is a difference in the orders given. In the first, it is, "Launch out into the deep and let down your netsfor a draught." In the second it is, "Cast the net on the right side of the ship." The first is Christ's order to every minister.The second is the secret work of His Spirit inthe Word. The first shows us that the ministry is to fish anywhere and everywhere. All the orders that the Christian has,as to his preaching, is, "Launch out into the deep and let down your net." He is not to single out any particular character.
He is to preach to everybody, sensible sinners and insensible sinners. He is to preach to the dead dry bones of the valleyas well as to the living souls. He is not to look where the fish are, but just to throw the net in, doing as his Master tellshim, "Go you into all the world and preach theGospel to every creature." Those ministers who preach only to the elect should remember this. Our business is to includeall sorts of fish and not to be particular about where we are, but just splash the net in. What if we are in town, or city,or village? What if we are among therich or poor, learned or illiterate? What if we are among the debauched or immoral? We have nothing to do with that-ourduty is the same, to "launch out into the deep, and let down the net"-that is all.
Christ will find the fish-it is no business of ours. The secret truth is that when we are doing this, the Lord knows how toguide us, so that we, "cast the net on the right side of the ship." That is the secret and invisible work of the Spirit, wherebyHe so adapts our ministry, which is initself general, that He makes it particular and special. We speak to all, and He speaks to some. We blow the trumpet, butonly the bankrupt debtors hear it-only those who are truly of the Spirit of God know the joyful sound and rejoice therein.We cannot single them out, butGod can. We thrust in the blessed loadstone of the Gospel, and that heavenly magnet has an affinity to some hearts whichGod has quickened, so that as many as were ordained unto eternal life believe.
The Apostles preached to the crowd but the Lord God, the Holy Spirit, who had decreed the salvation of His chosen, sent theWord home with power to the chosen and separated ones. What a joy it is to think that we always have a picked congregationhere, for the Lord has picked them! Though they arecrowded together promiscuously-here the good, and there the bad, all sorts mingled and mixed together-yet God brings themin according to His eternal purpose and all the while there is a core of chosen souls inside the mass of the congregationto whom God is applying theWord. We cast the net, after all, on the right side of the ship and we do find it full.
2. In the first instance you will clearly see that there is a distinct plurality. The fishermen have nets-in the plural. Theyhave boats-in the plural. There is plurality of agency employed. Each man seems to come out distinctly. In the next case,it is one. There are many men but theyare all in one boat. They unitedly drag the net and it is but one net- there is no division, it is all one. Now, this isthe visible and the invisible. To us, the means that God makes use of to bring sinners to Himself are various.
Sometimes we are in one boat trying to catch all the fish we can. There is another boat over yonder and they are trying todo the same. We ought to consider them as being partners and whenever our boat gets too full, we should beckon to our partnersin the other ship to come and help us. We oughtnot to look upon those Brethren who differ from us as though they were emptying the sea and competing against us. The morethe merrier. The more men to do good, the more will the Lord's name be praised. I think, in many of our towns where some ofour whining Brethren say that allgood people should go to one Chapel, that it is far better to have three or four.
I question whether the plurality of agency involved in denominations is not a great benefit and blessing. Instead of, in theslightest degree, standing out against my Brethren for carrying out their convictions, I praise them and look upon them aspartners in another ship. Our denominationaldistinctions help to keep us awake-thus we stir one another up and do far more good in the world than would be the caseif there were only a nominal Church. God would have the agency diverse. There must be several nets and there must be severalfishermen and these fishermen indifferent boats.
So far as we are able to see, there will always be a Paul and a Barnabas, who cannot get on together. There will always beoutward divisions in the ministry. And I avow myself the advocate and lover of these things. As I said last Sunday, the thingcalled Sectarianism I do not disown but maintain.
But let us look to the inward. In John they are all in one boat, all fishing together, all dragging one net. Ah, Brethren,this is what is really the fact. We do not see it, but all God's ministers are dragging one net and all God's Church is inone ship. Oh, I bless God for that sweet doctrine! Itis no use striving after outward uniformity. We shall never see it. Neither the texture of the human mind nor the will ofGod require it. It is of no use to contend against the diversities which exist in the great visible Church. I do not knowthat these differences are evils.
They are the natural results of man's finite character and must and will exist to the end of the chapter. It is the unityof the Spirit. It is unity in Christ Jesus. It is unity in love to one another that God would have us regard. Let us learnthis unity from the fact, that after all, though wemay look as if we differed, yet if we are God's ministers, there is only one ministry. If we are God's Church, there isonly one Church in the world. There is only one spouse of the Lord Jesus. There is only one fold and one Shepherd. Thoughto our eyes it will always be so, twoboats, or twenty boats-two nets, yes, fifty nets-yet to Him who sees all things better than we do, there is only one boatand one net. And they shall all, who are taken in that one net, be safely brought to shore.
3. Thirdly, there is another difference. In the first case, how many fish were caught? The text says, "a great multitude."In the second case, a great multitude are taken, too, but they are all counted and numbered. "An hundred and fifty and three."Luke does not tell us how many were caught thefirst time, for there were some of them not worth the counting. But the second time, you will perceive the exact numberis recorded, "an hundred and fifty and three."
What was Peter's reason for counting them? We cannot tell. But I think I know why the Lord made him do it. It was to showus that though in the outward instrumentality of gathering the people into the Church, the number of the saved is to us amatter of which we know nothing definitely, yetsecretly and invisibly the Lord has counted them even to the odd one. He knows well how many the Gospel net shall bringin. See where the Word is preached what a great multitude are brought in! Thousands, tens of thousands are added to the differentChurches of Christ and make aprofession of their faith.
It were impossible to reckon all over Christendom how many have been taken in the outward net of the visible Church of Christ.But, Brethren, it is quite possible for it to be known of God how many shall be brought at last and how many now are in theinvisible Church. He has counted them,foreordained their number, fixed them, settled them. The number, "an hundred and fifty and three" seems to me to representa large definite number. They shall be in Heaven a number that no man can number, for God's elect are not few. But they shallbe a number whom God can number,for "the Lord knows them that are His."
They shall be a number certain and fixed, which shall neither be diminished nor increased but shall abide the same accordingto His purpose and will. Now, I, as a preacher, have nothing to do with counting fish. My business is with the great multitude.Splash goes the net again! Oh Master! You whohave taught us to throw the net and bring in a multitude, guide into it the hundred and fifty and three!
4. Yet again, notice another difference. The fish that were taken the first time appear to have been of all sorts. The netwas broken and therefore, doubtless some of them got out again. There were some so little that they were not worth eatingand doubtless were thrown away. "They shall gather thegood into vessels and throw the bad away." In the second case, the net was full of great fishes. They were all great fishes,all good for eating, all the one hundred and fifty and three were worth keeping. There was not one little fellow to be thrownback into the deep again.
The first gives us the outward and visible effect of the ministry. We gather into Christ's Church a great number. And therewill always be in that number some that are not good, that are not really called of God. Sometimes we have Church meetingsin which we have to throw the bad away. We have manyblissful meetings where it is gathering in the fish-and what big hauls of fish has God given to us! Glory be to His name!But at other times we have to sit down and look our fish over, and there are some who must be thrown away-neither God norman can endure them.
Thus is it in the outward and visible Church. Let no man be surprised if the tares grow up with the wheat-it is the orderof things, it must be so. Let none of us wonder if there are wolves in sheep's clothing-it always will be so. There was aJudas among the Twelve. There will bedeceivers among us to the end of the chapter. Not so the invisible Church- the Church within the Church-the holy of holieswithin the temple. In that there is none to throw away. No. The Lord who brought them into the net, brought the right sortin. He did not bring onehypocrite or apostate. And having brought them in to the exact number of one hundred and fifty and three, they cannot oneof them get out again-but they are kept in that net, for that net does not break.
They are in the secret invisible Church of Christ and they cannot get out of it, let them do what they may. They may evengive up their nominal profession, and thus get out of the visible Church but they cannot give up their secret possession.They cannot escape from the secret and invisible Churchand they shall all be kept there till the net is dragged to land and the whole hundred and fifty and three saved.
6. Yet again, you notice in the first case the net broke and in the second case it did not. Now, in the first case, in thevisible Church, the net breaks. My Brethren are always calling out "the net is broken!" No doubt it is a bad thing for netsto break. But you need not wonder at it. We cannotjust now, when the net is full, stop to mend it. It will break. It is the necessary consequence of our being what we arethat the net will break.
What do I mean by this? Why, that instead of having some one denomination, we have twenty or thirty? The net is broken. Ido not at all grieve over it. I believe it is what must be as long as we are flesh and blood. For until you get a set of perfectmen, you never will have anything but thesedivisions. The net must break and will break. But glory be to God, the net does not break after all in reality, for thoughthe visible Church may seem to be rent and torn to pieces, the invisible Church is one. God's chosen, God's called, God'squickened, God'sblood-bought-they are one in heart and one in soul and one in spirit. Though they may wear different names among men, yetthey still wear before God their Father's name written on their foreheads. And they are, and always must be one.
You perceive, Brethren, that I do not advise you to strive for a nominal unity. The more you strive after that, the more divisionsthere will be. Certain Brethren left many of our denominations and formed, they said, a Church that should not be a sect.All they did was to make a sect the mostsectarian of sects-the most narrow and most bitter of cliques, though containing some of the best men, some of the bestChristians and the ablest writers of the times. You cannot make a visible uniformity, it is beyond your power-the net is broken.
There now! Take care of the fish and leave the net alone, but still maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of per-fectness.Take care that you are not a schismatic in your heart, that you hold no heresy in your soul, that you are one with all themthat love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity.And in this you will soon see that the net is not broken but that the saints are one. Ah, I bless God that when once weget with God's people-it does not matter what they are-we soon find the net is not broken. There are many a godly clergymanof the Church of Englandwith whom I commune with the greatest joy and I have found the net was not broken.
And in conversing with Brethren of all denominations, some who from doctrine, some who from sentiment stand wide as the polesasunder, I have still found and known that there was such a real and perfect harmony of heart that the net was not broken.I do not believe that charity would ever have hadsuch perfect work in Christ's Church if it had not been for our being divided into tribes, like the twelve tribes of old.It is no charity for me to love a Brother who thinks as I think-I cannot very well help it. But for me to love a dear Brotherwho differs from me in somepoints-why there is exercise and room for my charity!
And as God has left trials and troubles to exercise faith, I believe He has left us in many doctrinal difficulties on purpose-toexercise our love till the day shall come when we shall all grow to the stature of perfect men in Christ Jesus. The net isnot broken, Brethren. Do not believe it,and when you read about this denomination, and that, do not be grieved at these names and tribes, but rather, thank Godfor them. Remember, that is the visible Church and the net is broken. But there is an invisible Church where the net is notbroken-where we are one in Christand must be one forever.
There are several other points of difference but I think we have hardly time to enlarge upon them. I will only hint at them.In the first case, which is the visible Church, you see the human weakness becomes the strongest point. There is the boatready to sink, there is the net broken, there arethe men all out of heart, frightened, amazed and begging the Master to go away. In the other case it is not so at all. Thereis human weakness but still they are made strong enough. They have no strength to spare, as you perceive, but still they arestrong enough, the net does notbreak, the ship goes slowly to land dragging the fish.
And then, lastly, Simon Peter pulls the fish to shore. Strong he must have been. They were just strong enough to get theirfish to shore. So in the visible Church of Christ you will often have to mourn over human weakness-but in the invisible Church,God will make His servants just strongenough-just strong enough to drag their fish to shore. The agencies, means, instrumentalities-shall have just sufficientforce to land every elect soul in Heaven-that God may be glorified.
Then, notice, in the visible Church, they launched out into the deep. In the second case, it says they were not far from theshore, but a little way. So today our preaching seems to us to be going out into the great stormy deep after fish. We appearto have a long way to reach before we shall bringthese precious souls to land. But in the sight of God we are not far from shore. And when a soul is saved, it is not farfrom Heaven. To us there are years of temptation and trial and conflict. But to God, the Most High, it is finished-"it isdone." They are saved-theyare not far from shore.
In the first case, the disciples had to forsake all and follow Christ. In the second, they sat down to feast with Him at thedainty banquet which He had spread. So in the visible Church today we have to bear trial and self-denial for Christ, but glorybe to God, the eye of faith perceives that weshall soon drag our net to land and then the Master will say, "come and dine." And we shall sit down and feast in His Presence,with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the kingdom of God.
III. The time is gone and I close by NOTICING ONE AMONG MANY LESSONS WHICH THE TWO NARRATIVES IN COMMON SEEM TO TEACH. Inthe first case, Christ was in the ship. Oh, blessed be God, Christ is in His
Church, though she launch out into the deep! In the second case, Christ was on the shore. Blessed be God, Christ is in Heaven.He is not here, but He has risen. He has gone up on High for us. But whether He is in the Church, or whether He is on theshore in Heaven, all our night's toiling shall, byHis Presence, have a rich reward.
That is the lesson. Mother, will you learn it? You have been toiling long for your children. It has been night with you asyet. They give no evidence of Divine Grace. Rather they give many signs of sin and they grieve your spirit. Your night's toilingshall have an end. You shall at last cast thenet on the right side of the ship. Sunday school teacher, you have been diligently laboring long and with but little fruit.Be not discouraged, the Master will not let you work in vain. In due season you shall reap if you faint not. And as thesedisciples had a great sea harvest, soshall you have a harvest of souls.
Minister, you have been plowing some barren rock and as yet no joyful sheaves have made your heart glad. You shall, doubtless,"Come again, rejoicing, bringing your sheaves with you." And you, O Church of God, travailing for souls, meeting daily inprayer, pleading with men that they will come toChrist, what if they are not saved yet? The morning comes, the night is far spent, and the Master, Himself shall soon appear.And though He may not find faith on the earth, yet His advent shall bring to His Church the success for which she has waited-suchsuccess that as awoman remembers no more her travail because a man is born into the world-so shall the Church remember no more her toils,her efforts and her prayers, because Christ's kingdom has come and His will is done on earth even as it is in Heaven.
Work, dear Friends! If there are any of you that are not working, begin now. If there are any of you not saved as yet, theLord grant that when the Word is preached, you may be caught in it as in a net. We do throw it out once this morning. We hopeto throw it again this evening. "Believe in theLord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved," for "he that believes and is baptized shall be saved and he that believes notshall be damned."
Flee to Christ! Escape from the wrath to come! May the Spirit apply that Word to you, and lead you to the place where highon Calvary with bleeding hands and feet the Savior dies! One look at Him and you are saved. Look, Sinner, and live! God saveyou, for Christ's sake! Amen.