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miseries of humanity, and if we do our endeavour now,
after the manner of men ; the faith of Jesus Christ, that is, conformity to his laws, and submission to his doctrine, entitles us to the grace he hath purchased for us, that is, our sins for his sake shall be pardoned. So that the law and the Gospel are not opposed barely upon the title of faith and works, but as the covenant of faith” and the " covenant of works.” In the faith of a Christian, works are the great ingredient and the chief of the constitution, but the Gospel is not“ a covenant of works,” that is, it is not an agreement upon the stock of innocence without allowances of repentance, requiring obedience in rigour and strictest estimate.' But the Gospel requires the holiness of a Christian, and yet after the manner of a man; for, always provided that we do not allow to ourselves a liberty, but endeavour with all our strength, and love with all our soul, that which, if it were upon our allowance, would be required at our hands, now that it is against our will, and highly contested against, is put upon the stock of Christ, and allowed to us by God in the accounts of pardon by the merits of Jesus, by the covenant of the Gospel. And this is the repentance and remission of sins which John first preached upon the approximation of the kingdom, and Christ at the first manifestation of it, and the apostles afterward in the name of Jesus.
4. Jesus now having begun his preaching, began also to gather his family, and first called Simon and Andrew, then James and John, at whose vocation he wrought a miracle, which was a signification of their office, and the success of it; a draught of fishes so great and prodigious, that it convinced them that he was a person very extraordinary, whose voice the fishes heard, and came at his call: and since he designed them to become “fishers of men,” although themselves were as unlikely instruments to persuade men, as the voice of the Son of Man to command fishes, yet they should prevail in so great numbers, that the whole world should run after them, and, upon their summons, come into the net of the Gospel, becoming disciples of the glorious Nazarene. St. Peter, the first time that he threw his net, at the descent of the Holy Ghost in Pentecost, caught three thousand men, and at one sermon, sometimes the princes of a nation have been converted, and the whole land presently
baptized; and the multitudes so great, that the apostles were forced to design some men to the ministration of baptism by way of peculiar office; and it grew to be work enough, the easiness of the ministry being made busy and full of employment where a whole nation became disciples. And indeed the doctrine is so holy, the principle so Divine, the instruments so supernatural, the promises so glorious, the revelations so admirable, the rites so mysterious, the whole fabric of the discipline so full of wisdom, persuasion, and energy, that the infinite number of the first conversions were not so great a wonder, as that there are so few now: every man calling himself Christian, but few having that “ power of godliness” which distinguishes Christian from a word and an empty name. And the word is now the same, and the arguments greater, (for some have been growing ever since, as the prophecies have been fulfilled,) and the sermons more, and “ the Spirit the same;" and yet such“ diversity of operations,” that we hear and read the sermons and dictates evangelical as we do a romance, but that it is with less passion, but altogether as much unconcerned as with a story of Salmanasar or Ibrahim Bassa: for we do not leave ,one vice, or reject one lust, or deny one impetuous temptation the more, for the four Gospels' sake, and all St. Paul's epistles mingled in the argument. And yet all think themselves fishes within Christ's net, and the prey of the Gospel : and it is true they are so; for “ the kingdom is like unto a net, which enclosed fishes good and bad ;" but this shall be of small advantage when the net shall be drawn to the shore, and the separation made.
5. When Jesus called those disciples, they had been “ fishing all night, and caught nothing;" but when Christ bade them “ let down the net,” they took multitudes : to show to us, that the success of our endeavours is not in proportion to our labours, but the Divine assistance and benediction. It is not the excellence of the instrument, but the capacity of the subject, nor yet this alone, but the aptness of the application, nor that without an influence from Heaven, can produce the fruits of a holy persuasion and conversion. “ Paul may plant, and Apollos may water; but God gives the increase.” Indeed, when we let down the nets at the Divine appointment, the success is the more probable ; and certainly God will bring benefit to the place, or honour to himself, or salvation to them that will obey, or conviction to them that will not : but whatever the fruit be in respect of others, the reward shall be great to themselves. And therefore St. Paul did not say he had profited, but, he had laboured more than they all," as knowing the Divine acceptance would take its account in proportion to our endeavours and intendments ; not by commensuration to the effect, which being without us, depending upon God's blessing, and the co-operation of the recipients, can be no ingredients into our account. But this also may help to support the weariness of our hopes, and the protraction and deferring of our expectation, if a laborious prelate and an assiduous preacher have but few returns to his many cares and greater labours. A whole night a man may labour, (the longest life is no other,) and yet catch nothing, and then the Lord may visit us with his special presence, and more forward assistances, and the harvest may grow up with the swiftness of a gourd, and the fruitfulness of olives, and the plaisance of the vine, and the strength of wheat; and whole troops of penitents may arise from the darkness of their graves at the call of one sermon, even when he pleases: and till then we must be content that we do our duty, and lay the consideration of the effect at the feet of Jesus.
6. In the days of the patriarchs, the governors of the Lord's people were called shepherds ; so was Moses, and so was David. In the days of the Gospel they are shepherds still, but with the addition of a new appellative, for now they are called fishers. Both the callings were honest, humble, and laborious, watchful and full of trouble; but now that both the titles are conjunct, we may observe the symbol of an implicit and folded duty. There is much simplicity and care in the shepherd's trade; there is much craft and labour in the fisher's : and a prelate is to be both full of piety to his flock, careful of their welfare ; and, because in the political and spiritual sense too, feeding and governing are the same duty, it concerns them that have cure of souls to be discreet and wary, observant of advantages, laying such baits for the people as may entice them into the nets of Jesus's discipline. “But being crafty I caught you,” saith St. Paul; for he was a fisher too. And so must spiritual persons be fishers to all
spiritual senses of watchfulness, and care, and prudence ! only they must not fish for preferment and ambitious purposes, but must say with the king of Sodom,“ Date nobis animas, cætera vobis tollite;" which St. Paul renders,“ We seek not yours, but you.” And in order to such acquist, the purchase of souls, let them have the diligence and the craft of fishers, the watchfulness and care of shepherds, the prudence of politics, the tenderness of parents, the spirit of government, the warinėss of observation, great knowledge of the dispositions of their people, and experience of such advantages by means of which they may serve the ends of God, and of salvation upon their souls.
7. When Peter had received the fruits of a rich miracle, in the prodigious and prosperous draught of fishes, he instantly “ falls down at the feet of Jesus," and confesses himself “ a sinner,” and unworthy of the presence of Christ. In which confession I not only consider the conviction of his understanding by the testimony of the miracle, but the modesty of his spirit, who, in his exaltation, and the joy of a sudden and happy success, retired into humility and consideration of his own unworthiness, lest, as it happens in sudden joys, the lavishness of his spirit should transport him to intemperance, to looser affections, to vanity, and garishness, less becoming the severity and government of a disciple of so great a Master. For in such great and sudden accidents, men usually are dissolved and melted into joy and inconsideration, and let fly all their severe principles and discipline of manners, till, as Peter here did, though to another purpose, they say to Christ, “ Depart from me, O Lord;" as if such excellences of joys, like the lesser stars, did disappear at the presence of him, who is the fountain of all joys regular and just. When the spirits of the body have been bound up by the cold winter air, the warmth of the spring makes so great an aperture of the passages, and, by consequence, such dissolution of spirits, in the presence of the sun, that it becomes the occasion of fevers and violent diseases. Just such a thing is a sudden joy, in which the spirits leap out from their cells of austerity and sobriety, and are warmed into fevers and wildnesses, and forfeiture of all judgment and vigorous understanding. In these accidents, the best advice is to temper and allay our joys with some instant .consideration of the vilest of our sins, the shamefulness of our disgraces, the most dolorous accidents of our lives, the worst of our fears, with meditation of death, or the terrors of doomsday, or the unimaginable miseries of damned and accursed spirits b. For such considerations as these are good instruments of sobriety, and are cofrectives to the malignity of excessive joys or temporal prosperities, which, like minerals, unless allayed by art, prey upon the spirits, and become the union of a contradiction, being turned into mortal medicines.
8. At this time “ Jesus preached to the people from the ship,” which, in the fancies and tropical discoursings of the old doctors, signifies the church, and declares, that the homilies of order and authority must be delivered from the oracle; they that preach must be sent, and God hath appointed tutors and instructors of our consciences by special designation and peculiar appointment: if they that preach do not make their sermons from the ship, their discourses either are the false murmurs of heretics and false shepherds, or else of thieves and invaders of authority, or corrupters of discipline and order. For God, that loves to hear us in special places, will also be heard himself by special persons ; and since he sent his angels ministers to convey his purposes of old, then when“ the law was ordained by angels, as by the hands of a mediator,"now also he will send his servants, the sons of men, since the new law was ordained by the Son of Man, who is the Mediator between God and man in the new.covenant. And, therefore, in the ship Jesus preached, but he had first caused it " to put off from land;" to represent to us, that the ship in which we preach must be put off from the vulgar communities of men, separate from the people, by the designation of special appointment and of special holiness; that is, they neither must be common men, nor of common lives, but consecrated by order, and hallowed by holy living, lest the person want authority in destitution of a divine character, and his doctrine lose its energy and
b Simul et quod gaudes et quod times contrahe. Seneca. c Gal. iii. 19.
Χωρεϊν γαρ το όμοιον προς όμοιον, όθεν και μόνος ιερεύς ο σοφός, λέγεται, μόνος θεοφιλής, μόνος ειδώς έυξασθαι» μόνος γαρ οίδε τιμών, και την αξίαν μη συγχέων των τιμωμένων, και ο προηγουμένως ιερεύον εαυτόν προσάγών, - Hierocl. in Pythag.