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who was content to leave spiritual processes to advance as do natural ; who could bide his time, and did not expect the full corn in the ear on the same day that He had cast the seed into the furrow. On that former occasion He sowed the seed of his word in the hearts of Andrew and Peter; which having done, He left it to germinate; till now returning He found it ready to bear the ripe fruits of faith. Not that we need therefore presume such gradual processes in all.
But as some statues are cast in a mould and at an instant, others only little by little hewn and shaped and polished, as their material, metal or stone, demands the one process or the other, so are there, to use a memorable expression of Donne's, fusile Apostles' like St. Paul, whom one and the same lightning flash from heaven at once melts and moulds ; and others who by a more patient process, here a little and there a little, are shaped and polished into that perfect image, which the Lord, the great master-sculptor, will have them finally to assume.
• And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon Him to hear the word of God, He stood by the lake of Gennesaret;' by that lake whose shores had been long ago designated by the prophet Isaiah as a chief scene of the beneficent activity of Messiah (Isai. ix, 1, 2); and, standing there, He saw two ships standing by the lake : but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And He entered into one of the ships, which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And He sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when He had left speaking, He said
1 It is not unprofitably remarked by a mystic writer of the Middle Ages, that this their washing and repairing (Matt. iv. 21) of their nets, after they had used them, ought ever to be imitated by all • fishers of men,' after they have cast in their nets for a draught; meaning by this that they should seek carefully to purify and cleanse themselves from aught which in that very act they may have gathered of sin, impurities of vanity, of self-elation, or of any other kind; and that this they must do, if they would use their nets effectually for a future draught.
unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your netol for a draught. This He says, designing Himself, the meanwhile, to take the fisherman in his net. For He, who by the foolish things of the world would confound the wise, and by the weak things of the world would confound the strong, who meant to draw emperors to Himself by fishermen, and not fishermen by emperors, lest his Church should even seem to stand in the wisdom and
of men rather than of God-He saw in these simple fishermen of the Galilæan lake the fittest instruments for his work.3 · And Simon answering said unto Him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing;' but, with the beginnings of no weak faith already working within him, he adds, nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net--for these are not the words of one despairing of the issue ; who, himself expecting nothing, would yet, to satisfy the Master, and to prove to Him the fruitlessness of further efforts, comply with his desire. They are spoken rather in the spirit of the Psalmist : 'Except the Lord build the house,
1 Here diktvov, from the old duktiv (which re-appears in diokos, a quoit), to throw; but at Matt. iv. 18 ; Mark i. 16, specialized as appißAnot pov ( = dupududii), a casting net, as its derivation from dutoßádiw plainly shows; in Latin, funda or jaculum. Its circular bell-like shape adapted it to the office of a mosquito net, to which Herodotus (ii. 95) tells us the Egyptian fishermen turned it; but see Blakesley, Herodotus (in loc.); and my Synonyms of the New Testament, $ 64.
Compare the call of the prophet Amos: ‘I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son, but I was a herdman and a gatherer of sycomore
and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel' (xii. 14, 15; cf. 1 Kin. xix. 19).
* See Augustine, Serm. ccclxxxi. 4 See Lampe (Comm. in Joh. vol. iii. p. 727) for passages in proof; and add this from Pliny (H. N. ix. 23): Vagantur gregatim fere cujusque generis squamosi. Capiuntur ante solis ortum : tum maxime piscium fallitur visus. Noctibus, quies : et illustribus æque, quam die, cernunt. Aiunt et si teratur gurges, interesse capturæ : itaque plures secundo tractu capi, quam primo.
• Maldonatus : Non desperatione felicioris jactâs hoc dicit Petrus, aut quod Christo vel non credat, vel obedire nolit : sed potius ut majorem in Christo fidem declaret; quod cum totâ nocte laborantes nihil prehendisset, tamen ejus confidens verbis, iterum retia laxaret.
they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain ' (Ps. cxxvii. 1);
one who would say, “We have accomplished nothing during all the night, and had quite lost hope of accomplishing anything; but now, when Thou biddest, we are sure our labour will not any longer be in vain.' And bis act of faith is abundantly rewarded ; ' And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes,' so many indeed, that their net brake,' and they beckoned to their partners in the other ship, that they should come and help them.'
It was not merely that Christ by his omniscience knew that now there were fishes in that spot. We
may not thus extenuate the miracle. · We behold Him rather as the Lord of nature, able, by the secret yet mighty magic of his will, to guide and draw the unconscious creatures, and make them minister to the higher interests of his kingdom ; as the ideal man, the second Adam, in whom are fulfilled the words of the Psalmist : • Thou madest Him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet,
.. the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea' (Ps. viii. 6, 8). Of all this dominion bestowed on man at the first, no part perhaps has so entirely escaped him as that over the fishes in the sea; but He who was with the wild beasts' in the wilderness (Mark i. 13), who gave to his disciples power to "take up serpents' (Mark xvi. 18), declared here that the fishes of the sea no less than the beasts of the earth were obedient to his will. Yet since the power by which He drew them then is the same that guides evermore their periodic migrations, which, marvellous as it is, we yet cannot call miraculous, there is plainly something that differences this miracle, with another of like kind (John xxi. 6), and that of
1 On the nets breaking now, and not braking, as it is expressly said they did not, on occasion of the second miraculous draught of fishes (John xxi. 11), and the mystical meaning which has been found in this, I would refer the reader to what there will be said.
the stater in the fish's mouth (Matt. xvii. 27), from Christ's other miracles ;-in that these three are not comings in of a new and hitherto unwonted power into the region of nature; but coincidences, divinely brought about, between words of Christ and facts in that world of nature. An immense haul of fishes, a piece of money in the mouth of one, are in themselves no miracles;' but the miracle lies in the falling in of these with a word of Christ's, which has pledged itself to this coincidence beforehand. The natural is lifted up into the region of the miraculous by the manner in which it is timed, and the ends which it is made to serve.?
. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. It was a moment of fear, not indeed because their ships were thus overloaded and sinking; but rather that now through this sign there was revealed to them something in the Lord, which before they had not apprehended, and which filled them with astonishment and awe. Peter is the spokesman for all. He, while drawing the multitude of fishes into his net, has himself fallen into the net of Christ ;4 taking a prey, he has himself also been
1 Thus Yarrell (Hist. of British Fishes, vol. i. p. 125): 'At Brighton in June 1808, the shoal of mackerel was so great, that one of the boats had the meshes of her nets so completely occupied by them that it was impossible to drag them in. The fish and nets therefore in the end sunk together.'
See page 13.
3 Bubileotan. The word occurs once besides in the New Testament, and then in a tropical sense (1 Tim. vi. 9).
4 The author of a striking sermon, numbered ccv. in the Benedictine Appendix to St. Augustine: Dum insidiatur Petrus gregibus æquoris, ipse in retia incidit Salvatoris. Fit de prædone præda, de piscatore piscatio, de piratâ captivitas.-Admire,' exclaims Chrysostom, the dispensation of the Lord, how lle draws each by the art which is most familiar and natural to him—as the Magians by a star, so the tishermen by fish'—a thought which Donne in a sermon on this text enlarges thus : “The Holy Ghost speaks in such forms and such phrases as may most upon
them to whom He speaks. Of David, that was a shepherd before, God says, lle took him to feed his people. To those Magi of the East, who were given to the study of the stars, God gave a star to be their guide to Christ at Bethlehem. To those who followed Him to Capernaum for meat, Christ took occasion by that to preach to them of
taken a prey; and now the same man as ever after, yielding as freely to the impulse of the moment, with the beginnings of the same quick spiritual insight out of which he was the first to recognize in his Lord the eternal Son of God, and to confess to Him as such (Matt. xvi. 16), can no longer, in the deep feeling of his own unholiness, endure a Holy One so near. He fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken. At moments like these all that is merely conventional is swept away, and the deep heart utters itself, and the deepest things that are there come forth to the light. And the deepest thing in man's heart under the law is this sense of God's holiness as something bringing death and destruction to the unholy creature. “Let not God speak with us, lest we die;' this was the voice of the people to Moses, as they removed and stood afar off' (Exod. xx. 18, 19). "We shall surely die, because we have seen God' (Judg. xiii. 22 ; cf. vi. 22, 23; Dan. X. 17; Isai. vi. 5; i Chron. xxi. 20). Below this is the utterly profane state, in which there is no contradiction felt between the holy and the unholy, between God and the sinner. Above it is the state of grace; in which all the contradiction is felt, God is still a consuming fire, yet not any more for the sinner, but only for the sin. It is still felt, felt more strongly than ever, how profound a gulf separates between sinful man and a holy God; but felt at the same time that this gulf has been bridged over, that the two can meet, that in One who shares with both they have already met. For his presence is the presence of God, but of God with his glory veiled; whose nearness therefore even sinful men may endure, and in that the spiritual food of their souls. To the Samaritan woman whom He found at the well, He preached of the water of life. To these men in our text, accustomed to a joy and gladness when they took great or great store of fish, He presents his comforts agreeably to their taste, they should be fishers still. Christ makes heaven all things to all men, that He might gain all.'