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“AS AN EAGLE STIRRETH UP HER NEST, FLUTTERETH OVER HER YOUNG, SPREADETH
ABROAD HER WINGS, TAKETH THEM, BEARETH THEM ON HER WINGS : SO THE LORD ALONE DID LEAD HIM, AND THERE WAS NO STRANGE GOD WITH HIM. Deuteronomy xxxii. 11-12.
MY DEAR CHILDREN, I HAVE often remarked to you, when reading the New Testament, that our blessed Lord almost invariably instructed his disciples, and the multitude at large, from the circumstances of every day life. It was not in difficult words, and abstract reasoning; but in the very plainest language, that he spoke to them; the heart and the conscience, as well as the understanding, was what he ever appealed to. He never answered curious inquiries, though he replied to the inquirers; but this was to direct their eye to one thing alone—THEIR OWN
All bore on this, for both by word, as well as by the sacrifice of the cross, he continually set forth the all-important truth, that he came to seek and to save that which was lost. Thus, when the disciples came to him with the inquiry, “ Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” he took a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and whilst their eyes, doubtless, were fixed upon
it, he said, “ Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” (Matt. xviii. 3.) And again, when one came to him with the word, “Lord, are there few that be saved?” how full of mercy the reply, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open to us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know not whence ye are.” (Luke xiii. 24, 25, So, in like manner, when some one told the Lord of a cruel act that had just taken place; and that Pilate, while the Galileans had been sacrificing, had slain some of them, and mingled their blood with the blood of the sacrifice; how striking was his reply: “Think ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans? I tell you nay; but except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish,” (Luke xiii. 3.) And so when the Pharisees came to him and said, “When shall the kingdom of God come?” his reply was not at all intended to meet the question, but taking advantage of the subject, he said, “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall men say, Lo here, or Lo there; for behold the kingdom of God is within you,” (Luke xvii. 20,) even that kingdom which is righteousness, joy, and peace in the Holy Ghost, (Rom xiv. 17.) What was it for them even to know the time of the kingdom, if they had no part in it? and assuredly the soul that has not the kingdom of God within
him now, will never be a subject of that glorious kingdom of Christ THEN; he that has not the first-fruits of the Spirit in this world, will never have the fruition in the resurrection unto life in the world
But now, my beloved children, we will, before we pass on to the subject immediately before us, contemplate another class of inquirers that came to the Lord. And O how direct and explicit was his answers to them! I beseech you to mark the difference. “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” said some Jews to the Lord. Our Lord instantly replied, “ This is THE WORK of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.” (John vi. 28, 29.) So again the leper, “ Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean!”
- I will,” said the Lord, “ be thou clean.” (Matt. viii. 1-3.) “Lord,” said St. Peter, “save me;" and immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt. xiv. 30, 31.)
And how gracious the reply to Mary, who addressed him supposing him to be the gardener, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary!” (John xx. 15, 16.) Thus, you observe by these gracious examples, that though the curious inquiry met in each case a merciful reply, yet the honest inquiry met at once the ready and immediate answer.
I have been led into these introductory remarks, by considering the
opening of the fifth chapter of St. Luke; for there our blessed Lord did, in the most striking manner, apply the passing events to the illustration of divine truth. The scene is the Lake of Gennesaret, otherwise called the Sea of Tiberias, which is the Sea of Galilee, where our Lord manifested himself to his disciples after his resurrection. The multitude had so pressed on the Lord, that he was constrained to enter into a ship (a fishing vessel) near at hand, and to request the owner of it to thrust out a little from the land; and he sat down and taught the people from the ship: and when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, the owner of the vessel, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering, said unto the Lord, We have toiled all the night, and taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word, I will let down the net: and when they had done this, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes, and the net brake. And 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. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus's 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 : and so was also James and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus saith unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt CATCH MEN. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” (Luke v. 4–11.)
Something similar is the account in St. Matthew, (chap. iv. ver. 19;) “henceforth,” saith the Lord, “I will make you FISHERS OF MEN." And truly this is a faithful picture of the gospel ministry: night after night does the fisherman toil and labour, and sometimes with but little success: he does not, however, give up his calling, but perseveres through many a storm and tempest; and come when you will, he is either mending his nets, or casting them; and times there are when he returns home richly laden with spoil. So in the Christian ministry —the net is cast by all waters; and in due season the labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Cor. xv. 58.) Here or there an effectual door is opened. (1 Cor. xvi. 9.) “ Launch out into the deep,” is the word. The net is cast in faith, and encloses a great multitude of fishes. But while on this subject, suppose you turn to the prophecy of Ezekiel, chap. xlvii., and read from the first verse to the eleventh. That these healing waters, flowing out from the temple of God—the great multitude of fishes—and the fisherman sitting on Engedi and Eneglaim—all had a spiritual application, none will deny; and in all probability our blessed Lord alluded to this scripture, when he called the Apostles “fishers of men;" for though the prophecy, doubtless, refers to Israel in the last days, who shall, indeed, be sent forth in the power
of the Holy Ghost, and be the Lord's instruments in carrying out the good tidings to those who have not heard his name, nor seen his glory, (Isa. Ixvi. 19,) and thus, in the fullest sense, be “fishers of men,” whose spoil shall be " as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many;