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ful fishers of the mute creatures of the sea, he could make them, if only they would be obedient to his word: whereupon linking, as was so often his custom, the higher to the lower, and setting forth that higher in the forms of the lower, he bade them exchange their present for a loftier calling; he still contemplating that under the same aspect, as a fishing, though now of men, which at his bidding, and under his direction, they should no less successfully accom
But when we compare John i. 40-42, would it not appear as though of these four, Andrew and Peter at least, and perhaps John himself, (ver. 35,) had been already called? No doubt they had been then, on the banks of Jordan, brought into a transient fellowship with their future Lord; but, as would appear, after that meeting with him mentioned by St. John, had returned to their ordinary occupations, and only at this later period attached themselves finally and fully to him, following him whithersoever he went* ; this miracle most likely being, as indeed seems intimated, (ver. 8,) that which stirred the very depths of their hearts, which gave them such new insights into the glory of Christ's person, as prepared them to yield themselves without reserve unto him. Consistently with this view, the whole transaction bears the stamp of being between those who have not met now for the first time. So far from their betraying no previous familiarity, as some have said, Peter calls Jesus “Master,” and his saying “ Nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net,” implies a previous acquaintance with the Lord, from which he had already received impressions of his power and of the weight of his words. Moreover, that there should thus have been the two callings seems quite in the manner of a divine teacher; who would hasten nothing, who was content
• It is often said that the other was Vocatio ad notitiam et familiaritatem, or, ad fidem; this, ad apostolatum. See the remarks of Scultetus, Crit. Sac., ¥. 6, p. 1950.
to leave spiritual processes to advance as do the natural; who could bide his time, and did not expect the full corn in the ear the day after he had sown the seed in the ground. On that former occasion the Lord cast his word in the hearts of Andrew and Peter, and then left it to take root downward and spring upward : and not in vain, for he now returned and found it ready to bear the ripe fruits of faith. Yet it is not that we need therefore presume so gradual a process in all. But as some statues are cast at once, others only little by little hewn and polished, according as the material, metal or stone, suits the one or the other process, so are there, to use an expression of Donne's “ fusile apostles” like St. Paul, whom one and the same word from heaven, as a lightning flash, at once melts and moulds; and others by more gradual degrees shaped and polished into the perfect image of what the Lord, the great master-sculptor, would have them to be.
But to enter something more into the miracle itself, our Lord, who had found his future apostles engaged in washing their nets *, had been enabled, through Peter's ready compliance with his request, to teach the people, unhindered by the pressure of their multitudes. And having now left speaking, he bade him to put out his boat a little further into the deeper, and therefore the likelier, waters, and to let down his netst for a draught, designing himself,
* It has been ingeniously and usefully 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 selfelation, or of any other kind; and that this they must do, if they would use their nets effectually for a future draught.
+ Here it is more generally ĉiktvor, probably from oikeiv, to throw; but at Matt. iv. 18; Mark i. 16, it is specialized as the audißinot pov (= dumıßolví,) the casting net, as its derivation from cupißuxw plainly shews; in Latin, funda or jaculum. It would naturally be circular, and were there any doubt about its shape, the account in llerodotus (1. 2, c. 95,) of the manner in which
the meanwhile, to take the fisherman in his net. For he whose purpose it was by the weak things of the world to 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 power of men, rather than in the wisdom and power of God he saw in these unlearned fishermen of the Galilæan lake the fittest instruments for his work f. To this exhortation of his future Lord, Simon Peter replied, that during all the night, in other words, during all the period opportunest for the capture of fish †, they had been labouring, and their labour had been utterly without success; but, with the beginnings of no weak faith already working in him, adds, “ Nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net.” For these may not be interpreted as the words of one half despairing of the issue : as though he for himself expected nothing, but to satisfy the Master, and to prove to him the fruitlessness of further efforts, would comply with his desire.
the Egyptian fishermen protected themselves at night from the mosquitoes, namely, by suspending their net (ejepiß110 Tpov) in the form of a tent over the place where they slept, would be decisive. (See the Dict. of Gr. and Rom. Antt., s. v. Rete, p. 822.)
"With the history of this calling, more especially as it appears in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark, the call of Amos, as he himself records it, will supply an interesting parallel : “I was no prophet, neither was I a prophet's son, but I was an herdman and a gatherer of sycomore fruit, and the Lord took me as I followed the flock, and the Lord said unto me, Go, prophesy unto my people Israel.” (Amos vii. 14, 15. Cf. i Kin. xix. 19.) op See AUGUSTINE, Serm. 381.
See LAMPE (Comm. in Joh., v. 3, p. 727,) for passages in proof of this, which indeed is familiar to us all. This passage from Pliny (H. N., 1. 9, c. 23,) may be added to his quotations: Vagantur gregatim ferè cujusque generis squamosi. Capiuntur ante solis ortum: tum inaximè piscium fallitur visus. Noctibus, quies : et illustribus æquè, quàm die, cernunt. Aiunt et si teratur gurges, interesse capturæ : itaque plures secundo tractu capi, quàm primo.
♡ Maldonatus : Non desperatione felicioris jactûs hoc dicit Petrus, aut quod Christo vel non credat, vel obedire nolit: sed potius ut majorem in
On the contrary, they are spoken more in the spirit of the Psalmist, when he exclaimed, “ Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” (Ps. cxxvii. 1.) It is as though he would say, “We have done nothing during all the night, and had quite lost hope of doing any thing; yet at thy word and bidding we will readily renew our efforts, which we are sure will be no longer in vain.” And his act of faith was abundantly rewarded; “They enclosed a great multitude of fishes,” so many indeed, that “ their net brake."
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 ; but rather we are to contemplate him as the Lord of nature, who by the secret, yet mighty magic of his will, was able to wield and guide even the unconscious creatures to his aims. Yet since the power that drew the fish to that spot is the same that at all times guides their periodic migrations, which wondrous as it is, we yet cannot call miraculous, there is plainly something that differences this miracle and the other of like kind, (John xxi. 6,) with that no less of 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 they are coincidences, dicinely brought about, between words of Christ and facts in that world of naturc. An immense haul of fishes, or a piece of money in the mouth of one, are themselves no miracles *; but the miracle lies in the falling in of these with a word of Christ's, which has beforehand pledged itself that it shall be so. The
Christo fidem declaret ; quod cùm totâ nocte laborantes nihil prehendisset, tamen ejus confidens verbis, iterum retia laxaret.
• Thus Yarrell (Hist. of British Fishes, v. 1, p. 125): At Brighton in June 180s 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.
natural is lifted up into the miraculous by the manner in which it is timed, by the ends which it is made to serve *. Christ here appears as the ideal man, the second Adam of the 8th Psalm, “ 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.” (ver. 6, 8.)
When by the assistance of their partners in the other ship, whom they beckoned to their assistance, the fishes were at length hauled in t, they were so many as to threaten to sink | the ship. And now Peter, while taking others, is himself taken ; while drawing the multitudes of fishes into his net, he has himself fallen into the net of Christ; one of the first to discover that to be taken in that net is to be taken for life 8. “Admire,” exclaims Chrysostom, “the dispensation of the Lord, how he draws each by the art which is most familiar and natural to him—as the Magians by a star, so the fishermen 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 work upon them to whom he speaks. Of David, that was a shepherd before, God says, he took him to feed his people. To those Magi of the East, who were given to the study of the
. * See page 13.
7 On the nets breaking now, and not breaking, 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.
I Bubijeoda. The word occurs once besides, but then in a tropical sense. (1 Timn. vi. 9.)
♡ The author of a striking sermon, numbered 205, 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.
| Solere Christum capere suâ quemque arte, magos stellà, piscatores piscibus.