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FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY.
THE TIRED FISHERMEN.
St. LUKE V. 5.
And Simon answering said unto Him, Master we have toiled all the night
and taken nothing : nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
The miracle in this day's Gospel is rich in matter for our instruction ; and may well be made the subject of our morning's meditation. For first of all, it bears its witness to the Divinity of our Lord. It shows Him to be very God of very God, Lord and Governor of His creatures—able to guide even the dumb unreasoning fishes as He wills. As we read of His wondrous working on this occasion, we are reminded of David's words in the 8th Psalm. We see that what he there says of the power which God had given to man, has only its true and perfect fulfilment in the person of Jesus Christ—Thou makest Him to have dominion of the works of Thy hands, and Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet : All sheep and oxen ; yea, and the beasts of the field : the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea ; and whatsoever walketh through the paths of the sea !
This, indeed, may be said of all our Lord's miraclesthey all bear witness to Him that He came out from God, and was God. But they have all some especial teaching besides. They have all, in their circumstances, or in the subject matter, some plain counsel suited for our comfort, and instruction, suited to advance us forward in our course, to establish us in holiness before God.
Let us look for this counsel in the miracle that comes before us to-day-and to this end, let us read it again together, as it stands in our Prayer Book, for the Gospel of this Fifth Sunday after Trinity.
It came to pass that as the people pressed upon Him to hear the Word of God, He stood by the lake of Gennesaret, and saw two ships standing by the lake ; but the fishermen were gone out of them and were washing their nets.
The first thing that must strike us on reading this, is the eagerness of the people to hear our Lord. They pressed upon Him to hear the Word of God.—And so we are told it was on another occasion-at Capernaum when it was noised that He was in the house, such a crowd was immediately gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door. Nor is this thronging of the poor Galileans to see and hear Jesus, hard to account for. Never man spake as He did. Never from any human mouth came such words of comfort and of power. Never did any one so speak home to the hearts of his hearers; so that even the dull and the indifferent were compelled to be attentive. But then, why is it that the Lord's words have not more effect upon us now ? Why is it that we so often sit
as if wholly unconcerned, at the reading and preaching of Christ's Gospel ? Are not we so far like the men of Galilee, that we need the comfort, and the counsel, and the healing of the Gospel? Can we afford to let drop to the ground any single word of the Lord's teaching, though that word be no longer spoken to us by Himself, but by His minister ? Surely we cannot-surely a man who rightly values the privilege which is ours in this country, of having God's word brought very nigh to us, will ever be swift to hear—and not only to hear, but to receive with meekness what is delivered to him out of that word, seeing it is not a mere human message, seeing it is the engrafted word which is able to save his soul !
Butto go on-Pressed by the crowd our Lord had entered into one of the ships which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land—just far enough to hinder the people following Him into the vessel, but not so far as to be out of reach of their hearing—And He sat down and taught the people out of the ship. Now when He had left speaking, He said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto Him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and taken nothing ; nevertheless at Thy word I will let down the net.
Now see in these words the evidence of a great faith in Simon Peter and his companions—they had toiled all the night, and taken nothing. They were tired with their fruitless labour, and had given it up for awhile. But at the word of Christ, tired as they were, they are
ready to renew their toil—at His word they will let down the net.
And their faith did not go unrewarded—When they had done this—when they had let down the net—they enclosed a great multitude of fishes, so that their net overstrained began to give way, whereupon they beckoned unto their partners which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
And surely there is a lesson in all this for ourselves. Let us try to lay hold on it, and apply it.
How often it happens, that in our work brethren, whatever that work may be, we seem to resemble Simon Peter and his fellow-fishermen-We have toiled all the night and taken nothing !
Take for example, the ministerial work. What years a man may spend in doing the work of a Clergyman; going among his people as Christ's Ambassador-preaching, exhorting, praying_pleading with them, and pleading in vain, to care about their souls-warning them in sermons and in private talk with them, not to neglect Christ's great salvation—urging them to come to church -to partake of the Lord's Supper—to be followers of Christ, not in name only, but in deed and in truth!
And apparently to little purpose! There are numbers in his parish, whom he cannot reach at all, who studiously keep out of his way. There are others to whom he is able to deliver his message--but with whom he gets no further,—they hear his words but do them not. Only a few-a very few out of a whole parish are there, who
both hear and do—who receive the word of life gladly, in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.
In such a state of things—and surely it is no fancied picture that I am drawing ; surely, it is but too often realized—there creeps over the minister's heart, a feeling of despondency. He begins to think that his labour is lost labour ; that he has spent his strength, and best days in vain-were it not wiser to cease to care for those, who seem to care so little for themselves ? why continue to cast the net, when he has so often drawn it up empty ?
That, I say, is a very natural feeling—and one which all who have had to do for any long time with the minister's or teacher's task, must have experienced.
That it is not a feeling to be indulged, but rather to be conquered and kept under, the Gospel of to-day would suffice to shew. And the way to conquer it is, to remember that success in the ministerial work, as in any other, is not of man, but of God. Paul may plant, Apollos may water, but God alone giveth the increase !
We, indeed, must not be slack or weary; we must not cease, after St. Paul's example, to warn every one night and day with tears. We must not forbear to speak our Lord's message, or to issue His invitation--no-though the one be coldly received, and the other altogether declined. Christ has His own time, and when He wills, He can turn the hearts of the indifferent—He can give such force to the words of His servants, when spoken in