St. Luke, v. 10, 11.
"And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from
henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had
brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and fol
lowed Him."
THE miracles recorded in the Gospel are gene
rally considered as so many acts of Divine
Power which the Lord vouchsafed to exhibit
to His followers for proofs of His Godhead.
These they are, no doubt, and were intended
as such; they are interruptions to the course
of nature such as no one but the Author of
that course could have produced. But they
are something more besides this, they are
acted parables; each one of them conveys
typically its own lesson or its own doctrine.
The act itself is open to all ; all who see it
can understand the plain historical fact that
the blind received their sight, that the lame
walked, that the lepers were cleansed, that
the dead were raised, that a Human Being did
walk upon the sea, that five thousand men
were fed with five loaves and two fishes. The
faithful only can see beneath the surface, and
he who has ears to hear alone can comprehend
that, from that time forth the eyes of the soul
would be opened to see the way of salvation,
and the feet of the helpless would be strength
ened to walk in it; that the leprosy of sin
would be washed away in the Spiritual Jordan,
and the dead in sin would walk in newness of
life ; that he, whose innocency had come again
like unto the flesh of a little child, would, by
Divine grace, pass safely over the waves of
this troublesome world, and, nourished with
angels food, would go on till he reached the
Promised Land, the Mount of God.
Of this nature is the miracle recorded in
the Gospel of the present Sunday. As far as
the simple history of it goes, it was a mani
festation of Divine Power peculiarly suited
to the comprehension of those whom the Lord
was then addressing, the fishermen of the lake
of Galilee, but which, at the time when it was
vouchsafed, was in all probability understood
by them no farther than its outward and
evident meaning. That meaning produced on
them the immediate effect it was intended to
produce, the future Apostles were convinced
that He who could perform such miracles,
must perform them in the Power and Spirit of
God; they believed, they forsook all, and
followed Him. But in all probability it was
not till after the Ascension, not till the Holy
Ghost had taught them, and "brought all
things to their remembrance" whatsoever their
Lord had told them, that they understood the
full import of the Prophecy and the Revela
tion which at that time had been delivered to
their keeping.
The Lord had been teaching the people at
large out of the ship of the sons of Zebedee,
and having done so, He called upon them to
launch out into the deep, and to let down their
nets for a draught. They had toiled all night,
and had caught nothing, but were willing, at
the word of their Teacher, to let down their
nets. They forthwith inclosed a multitude
of fishes far greater than their nets were cal
culated to bear. These were broken; they
then sought assistance from their partners in
the other ship, and, notwithstanding their
broken net, they secured more than the two
ships together would hold, and they began to
" When Simon Peter saw this, he fell down
at Jesus knees, saying, Depart from me, for
I am a sinful man, O Lord." So far the ob
ject of the miracle is revealed to him that he
sees the Divinity of Him who wrought it ; for,
" calling back to his consciousness the sins he
had committed, he is alarmed and troubled at
being unclean, and believes it impossible that
he, being such, can receive Him who is clean,
for he has learnt from the Law to distinguish
between that which is defiled, and that which
is holy." (Cyril.)
You will observe that the Lord reveals to
him nothing farther; He simply reassures
him; " He tells him not to fear;" He promises,
indeed, that henceforth he shall " catch men,"
but how, and by what means, a sinful man,
weighed down by the consciousness of his own
sins, and fearful for himself, shall be a means
of salvation to others, He does not reveal.
The mind of the Apostle is not yet prepared
to receive this. Like Abraham, he was called,
and like Abraham, he left his country, not
knowing whither he went; but he acted up to
the light which had been given him. He who
has performed so great a miracle tells him not
to fear, and he casts his fear aside; He who
has thus manifested forth His Glory, calls
upon him to become, like Himself, a fisher of
men, and he forsakes all, and follows Him.
Such is the obedience which Christ demands
of us, immediate, implicit, up to the revela
tion already afforded us, and not seeking to be
wise above that which is written.
A farther revelation of God s will is the re
ward of this implicit obedience ; and a farther
comprehension of the parable, as the Church
received it in the times of fuller revelation,
will carry us one step farther in the lessons of
the Christian Year.
The Jewish Church had toiled during the
dark night that preceded the Advent of the
Lord, and had taken nothing, for the Lord
was not in the ship. He comes, He teaches
the people as one of themselves ; a prophet
the Lord God raises up from among their
brethren, like unto Him who foretold this, and
Him they follow. He calls to those whom
He had thus secretly chosen to launch out
into the deep for a draught. " The Lord gave
the word, great was the company of the
preachers ;" they let down the net, and inclosed
a multitude of fishes. That net typified the
Christian Church, and the fishes the multi
tudes, good and bad, which that Church con
tains. The Word is first preached in Judea
and in Jerusalem, and there the Lord added to
the Church daily such as should be saved;
but the Jewish Church is incapable of con-
taining the multitudes, and the net breaks.
Then they beckon to their partners in the
other ship, St. Paul and St. Barnabas are
separated by them to the Holy Ghost for the
work whereunto he had called them, the
Gentile Church is added to that of Israel, and
the two are filled. " When He finds not in
Judea as many as are destined to eternal life,"
says Bede, " He seeks, as it were, another ship
to receive His fishes, and fills the hearts of the
Gentiles with the grace of faith."
At last both ships begin to sink, for in pro
portion as the world becomes Christian, the
Church becomes worldly. " There will be,"
says Augustine, " so great a multitude of
carnal men, that unity will be broken up, and
the Church will be split into heresies and
schisms." This Augustine foresaw, and this
we see to be the case. The net is broken, no
doubt, and how much more so now than in
the days of St. Augustine ; but the fish escape
not, for the Lord preserves His own amid the
violence of persecutors. And they brought
both ships to land the Lord knows who are
His, and the number of His elect is sure.
ow, let us apply this to our own case, and
the work which the Lord has given us to do
in our days.
We may easily imagine that the honest,
sincere Christian, who has endeavoured to act
up to the lessons of duty which he has learnt
during the last four Sundays, must feel upon
the whole a certain amount of discourage
ment. Let, then, us imagine that, notwith
standing the ingratitude which he has been
warned to expect, he has determined by God s
grace to persevere, to follow the example of
the Great Shepherd, so far as has been per
mitted him, and to do his duty in his own
house, his own state of life, by searching dili
gently for his Lord s lost piece of money.
Discouragement from without he has been
prepared for, but on the following Sunday he
is warned of discouragement from within.
On hearing of the " beam in his own eye,"
which hinders him from doing that which he
sees to be his duty, and reflecting on the truth
of this when recalled to him by the conscious
ness of his own numerous sins and infirmities,
he is tempted to say with St. Peter in the
Gospel, " depart from me, for I am a sinful
man, O Lord." I am not fit for this work; I
see how right it is that it should be done ; I
am sensible of the honour conferred upon me
by my Saviour, who has chosen me to be His
fellow- worker ; but it is an honour of which I
am not worthy, a task which, from my own
sinfulness, I am not capable of performing.
To such as these the lesson of this day is
intended as an encouragement. They have
listened to their Lord s teaching, they have
obeyed His call, and at His bidding have left
all and followed Him; or, as we should say,
have " renounced the devil and all his works,
the pomps and vanity of this wicked world,
and all the sinful lusts of the flesh." They
are then bidden by the Lord, who has called
them to become " fishers of men," to draw
others to Him ; they try, but are unsuccessful ;
the remembrance of their past sins weighs with
them, and they fear it is their own unworthi-
ness that is the cause of it. To this the Lord
says, " Fear not." You have toiled all night
and taken nothing of yourselves, now let down
your net at your Lord s words. Your net is
broken, fear not; you are not alone in the
world, the Lord has other servants who are
your partners in this work, beckon to them;
as you have been willing to help others, so
the Lord will stir up them to help you ; fear
not, though they whom you have rescued
from the waves of this world, weigh down
with their carnal divisions the ship into which
you have gathered them, so that it appears to
you to be beginning to sink, the Lord is with
you always, even to the end of the world ; you
shall bring your ships to land, with their
mixed freight, where the good shall be
gathered into the Lord s baskets, and the bad
shall be cast away. This is your work, do it
in faith, and while you are doing it in faith,
never be so cast down with the sense of your
own sins and your own unworthiness as to
give up your work, the work that the Lord
has set you to do, and thus call upon the
Lord God to depart from you. Once you
might have hid yourselves from that presence
under a sense of your sins, as your first father
did, but the Lord God hath taken that nature
upon Himself, sinful and unworthy as you
have made it, and in so doing hath sanctified
it, that His eyes might still look upon it. It is
not original sin that need keep you from this,
this the Lord hath washed from you. It is not
your own past and repented sins, these we
have a sure hope that the Lord will put away.
Remember the past, then, not as a discourage
ment for the present, but as a warning for the
future ; the Lord in calling you has made you
partakers, not of His work only, but of His
ature; you can do all things through Christ
which strengthened! you. Only hold fast that
thou hast, and let no man take thy crown;
only keep what the Lord has given you, and
defile not that which He has made clean; the
past is past, and for the future, learn from the
Epistle of the day how you may continue
worthy of the vocation whereunto you have
been called. " Be of one mind," says the
Epistle, " one towards another," for you are
all in communion with Him who is the Head
of all. " Love as brethren," says the Epistle,
" for you all are brethren ; that is, you are all
adopted sons of one Father." " Be pitiful, be
courteous," for the Lord is full of mercy and
loving-kindness, " render not evil for evil, or
railing for railing, but, contrariwise, blessing,"
that ye may be the sons of your Father which
is in Heaven, for " He maketh His sun to rise
on the evil and on the good, and sendeth His
rain on the just and on the unjust." Do this,
knowing that ye are thereunto called, that this
is your very profession as Christians, do it as
you would yourselves inherit a blessing.
" You wish," says the Epistle " for [Eter
nal] Life, and would fain see the good days"
[of the Heavenly Jerusalem.] Then "refrain
your tongue from evil, andi your lips that
they speak no guile," as becomes those that
belong to Him when He was Himself reviled,
reviled not again. Seek peace, seek it
earnestly, pursue it, you that follow the Prince
of Peace. But do not mistake His Word.
The Prince of Peace Himself brought a sword
into the world. He, the bond of unity, pro-
duced divisions upon earth, so that in one
house there would be " three against two, and
two against three." And what your Lord
did, that His follower may be called upon to
do likewise; but still fear not. It is the
peace-makers, not the peaceable, whom the
Lord has pronounced blessed ; not those who
are quiet in the land, but those who spread
true peace, the peace of God, around them,
and that is warfare against sin. This, we
have seen already, will be received with
hatred and jealousy by those who love dark
ness rather than light. But for all that fear
not ; " be a peace-maker even by warfare,"
says St. Augustine, " that those whom you
conquer, you may, by conquering, bring to
the appreciation of true peace ; for blessed are
the peace-makers, saith the Lord."
You may suffer for this in the present
world. " And if ye suffer for righteousness
sake," says the Epistle, "happy are ye; for
your Lord, He whom you follow, has Himself
said, Blessed are ye when men shall revile
you and persecute you, and say all manner of
evil against you falsely for My sake ; rejoice
and be exceeding glad, for great is your
reward in Heaven." Do not forget that " His
Eyes are over the righteous," meaning there
by those to whom He has given of His own
holiness, that He sees their faithful service,
that He knows the hindrances that their great
enemy and His has set in their path, that He
is ever at hanjl to succour them, and that
" His ears are open to their prayers." " Who,
then, can harm you as long as ye are followers
of that which is good?" Who can harm you
while the Lord your God is watching over
you? Be not afraid of their terror, neither
be troubled, if only you sanctify the Lord
God in your hearts.
This, therefore, is the lesson of the Sunday.
Many are the discouragements that we shall
meet with in following out our duty towards
our neighbour discouragements from within
as well as discouragements from without, from
our own unworthiness, from our own weak
ness, from the breaking down of our earthly
means of success, as well as from the per-
verseness and unreasonableness of those whom
we would love and save. But through it all
we may look forward with hope and confi
dence if only we are ourselves faithful. The
Lord is in the ship when He commands us to
let down the net that is to fill it; and, there
fore, though the net may be of human work
manship and all too weak for the strain,
though the ship may not be able to retain the
multitude, the Lord is with us still, and we
shall bring it to land, and all that He has
given us; for He will hear our prayer, and,
as the Collect says, will "grant that the
course of this world may t^e so peaceably
ordered by His governance, that His Church
may serve Him joyfully, and with godly

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