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Thirdly—The fishing-net sinks into the water. And does not the Gospel reach down to the lowest depths of our fallen nature? Is there any one so far gone, so low, so utterly degraded, that he is beyond the reach of the Gospel? Does it not announce salvation to the very uttermost? Ah, there are some who were once plunged into the depths of sin; but the Gospel came to them with power, rescued them, and brought them to Christ. Thank God, the very lowest are sometimes reached, and then are lifted up to the very shore of heaven.
Fourthly—The net is let down at a venture, sometimes on one side of the boat, and sometimes on the other sometimes almost in vain, and sometimes with much success.
Such is the work of those who labour for souls. They cast the net in faith, not knowing what the effect will be. Yes, and sometimes, when they least expect it, their success is greatest.
Once when our Lord came to His disciples .as they were on the sea, He commanded them, saying, “ Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” This seemed like a hard command; for they had been work. ing for some hours, and all to no purpose. But they dared not distrust Him. “Master, we have toiled all the night and have taken nothing ; nevertheless at thy word we will let down the net.” They did let it down; and immediately inclosed a great multitude of fishes.
Just so it is with Christ's ministers now. It is their duty to labour; but they know not when or where their labour may be blest.
Fifthly—The place where the net is cast is the wide sea—not some narrow river, but the wide sea. This reminds us that the Gospel is for the world. Wherever there are lost souls, it is to be sounded—not in a narrow corner of our land, for instance; but through the length and breadth of it—not in one country merely, but in all the world. This is the will of our heavenly Master. This is His gracious pur. pose, that the Gospel should be preached “to every creature.” Our duty clearly is to spread the knowledge of Christ throughout the earth.
Salvation ! O salvation !
The joyful sound proclaim,
Has learnt Messiah's name.
Waft, waft, ye winds, His story,
And you, ye waters, roll,
It spreads from pole to pole.
Sixthly–A troubled sea--a storm-often brings in large shoals of fish. They cannot be taken perhaps during the actual raging of the tempest, but afterwards the time is often specially favourable.
And when do we win the most souls ? Is it not often when God brings trouble among us—in the hour of trial — in the day of adversity? When all goes well with us, we are very apt to harden our hearts, and close our ears. God sees this, and is pleased in mercy to send affliction. Then men are aroused from their state of slumber, and begin to listen. Yes, it is at such times that the Gospel comes with a living force, and draws souls within the Saviour's Church.
Seventhly—The Net takes the fish out of
their natural element, where they live, and love to be. So the Gospel takes sinners out of that element, where they have long lived and loved to live. It brings them out of their sins, their evil practices, their worldly ways. It changes the very heart, and makes men “new creatures.”
Once more—The Net takes fish of every kind, some great, some small-some good, and some worthless. And so does the Gospel Net. It gathers of every sort-some rich, some poor; some great ones, some little ones who are despised in the eyes of the world. There is a saying that “they are not all fish that come to the net.” So those are not all true Believers, who are gathered into Christ's Church. Some prove to be “foolish virgins," mere professors, having the name of godliness, without the power.
Thus we see how admirably this comparison of the Net shows us what the Gospel does in bringing men into Christ's kingdom.
But there are two or three points of difference which may well be noticed, between the fisherman's work, and the work of Christ's ministers.
1. The fish are always taken against their will. They swim blindly into the snare. But no man was ever compelled to come to Christ. Grace draws us: it never forces us. God makes His people willing. He overcomes their unbelief; and they yield themselves to Him heartily, readily, cheerfully. .
2. Again, the fish are caught to be destroyed, or devoured. But men are laid hold of by the Gospel, that they may be saved.
3. Again, the fisher's net may break. Some of its meshes may be weak, and worn out. But “ the word of the Lord endureth for ever.” It needs no mending. It cannot be broken. “ The law of the Lord is perfect,” says David, “converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.”
There is yet one more thing, which I wish you to bear in mind. There is another Net, and other Fishers, besides the Gospel of Christ and His ministers. Satan is ever fishing for men. He casts his net in all directions. He