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of the kingdom of heaven, the certainty of victory, which they would need for the cheerful and courageous execution of their office.
There is hardly a single miracle of Jesus which can be considered in its character as quite simple, certainly not those which we have specially designated as symbolical; but all of these might be placed in another group; for though our Lord intended, by the healing of the sick of the palsy, chiefly to show symbolically the reality of the power manifested in Him to forgive sins, still the cure was at the same time an act of mercy to the man in bodily distress. The miracles, however, of our fourth group have in no respect this object in themselves; for only in one single case, which we shall consider later, can we allow it to be so, even in a most limited sense. In them, the twofold nature of their character is rather this, that the symbolical element forms the substratum on which the prophetic is raised; the one is more the form, the other the real substance. We divide these miracles of Jesus into two classes : The one was performed by our Lord on the Sea of Galilee (Strauss calls them anecdotes of the sea, legends of fishermen and sailors); the others have been accomplished over the powers of nature so far as it produces,--so far as it offers meat, fruit, and wine.
PETER'S DRAUGHT OF FISHES.- LUKE V. 1-11.
The evangelist Luke alone gives us information of an event which was repeated in like manner in the days of the resurrection of Jesus, but with many modifications. An account relating to this narrative is found in Matthew and Mark, but they have made no mention of the miracle. Without discussing more fully the harmonistic questions, we must at any rate enter our protest against the assertions of those who think they find here that the third evangelist is in contradiction to himself. They say that (in chap. iv. ver. 38) he has reported an event which supposes an acquaintance between Jesus and Peter, while here it is narrated as if a connection between them had been made first by means of this event.
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Strauss is of opinion, supported not merely by this circumstance, nor by a pretended difference between Luke's reports on the one hand and the representation of the first two evangelists on the other, but principally by his own known prepossessions (as he this time does not scorn to use the analogy of the call of Quinctius Cincinnatus), that we have before us a myth which has become a narrative of a miracle, and which brings to view the later prosperous activity of the apostles (in accordance with the words of Jesus, ‘I will make you fishers of men ') under the form of a rich draught of fishes. However, the apparent contradiction between the assertions of Luke in the 4th chapter and the present narrative, has sufficed for others to consider that the third evangelist had derived the latter from later traditions, and that he has confused the historical sequence. This false view rests partly on the false supposition, that only one act is conceivable by which our Lord required His disciples to follow Him (the calling of the first disciples, especially that of Peter, must have proceeded through several stages), and partly on a superficial view of the miraculous deed itself which is now before us.
We turn to it in laying stress on the fact, that our Lord, before He addressed Himself to Simon in the 4th verse, had taught the people out of the ship. By this we shall be shown, if not the source from which the blessing symbolized in the miracle flows, at least the medium through which it passes.
The real doc
trinal tendency is, however, to be found chiefly in the command of Jesus, 'Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught,' that is, for the purpose of catching something. There is no dispute about the general meaning. When our Lord had said earlier, ' Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,' we at once recognised the symbol of the fishing net, which will be applicable until the συντέλεια του αιώνος. So here also nothing else can be meant than the reception of men into the borders of the kingdom of heaven, in order that it may be peopled with souls. Peter, and those who were with him, had received this call already for a more or less length of time; they had already had their duty confided to them.
Now, however, further instruction is communicated to them on this object of their life ;—not instruction as to how they should begin-how they should behave, but information of quite a different kind. Peter advances the doubt as to whether the attempt might not be fruitless, for they had laboured the whole night in vain; but 'at Thy word I will let down the net.' It is important that we should emphasize the right point. All that has been said of the faith already possessed by the disciples,-of a faith which is shown in this obedience, even as Bengel observes, senserat Petrus virtutem verborum Jesu,'—is borne out by the text. It appears exclusively in the assertion of the future apostle, “I will do it at Thy bidding.' This is the point on which the effect of the incident hangs. If Peter is really made to acknowledge that he, if left to himself and his own will, would not cast out the net, that his own reflection would keep him back from doing so, he thus places himself in the position, that in case any result should occur, Jesus must be honoured as the wonderful dispenser. “If I do catch anything; this happens not in the natural order of things, or of
chance, but it comes from Thee.' But it is just this which is the intention of our Lord. It is to be manifested in the light, that He and He alone is the cause of the result, -He draws the souls, His ministers are only the organs. As Paul explained it later, “I have laboured more than they all; however, not I, but the grace of God which is in me; he who planteth is nothing, and he who watereth is nothing, but God who giveth the increase.' Does this activity of the fishers of men thus bear fruit? The real source of it is the blessing of the Lord.
The result becomes at once manifest: Then they enclosed a great multitude of fishes, so that their net brake; they beckoned to their partners who were in the other ship that they should come and help them; and both ships, under the pressure of their burden, threatened to sink.' It seemed as if the sea gave up all the fish which moved in its sphere. It is our right and our duty to deal with this detailed description in such a way as to give, or more correctly to leave, to each feature its prophetic or symbolical significance. There is certainly the danger of an arbitrary interpretation; but it was only meant in the sense of application when Augustine referred the tearing of the net to heresies. Again, only those who in advance take the whole narrative as a myth, can consider this incident as referring to a schism of the Church occasioned by the activity of Paul, and the two vessels to the rising of Gentile Christian Churches by the side of the Jewish Christian ones.
We must not allow ourselves to be driven by such aberrations to the insipid conclusion, that the rich blessing is only a general one, which all these details are symbolically to signify. We ought' and must, however, emphasize a threefold one: First, There are masses which the disciples of Jesus will gain, not here
and there single people; they are fishers, no mere anglers; they throw out the net for large draughts. Secondly, The ministers of Christ need mutual support; not one alone can do it, but their united strength is needed. Lastly, The gain is greater than they can compass;
the measure of the blessing is an overflowing one. The understanding of the symbolico-prophetical miracles is often simplified to us by our being in a position to follow them to the point of their fulfilment, -the view of this fulfilment often opening up to us the sense of the prophetic sign. In the case before us this key does not seem to fit. Indeed, Peter's fishing of men achieved very considerable success; but as to its results, these were still far from what had been promised by the symbol in our narrative. The thousands which entered into his net cast out on the first Feast of Pentecost are still in a disproportion to the symbolism of this draught of fish. But the question is, whether we should apply it to the person of the apostle. The various promises which our Lord made to Peter, either by word or by sign, all prepare, if we confine ourselves to this point, important difficulties. These doubts are not removed by making the faith of the disciple the ground of explanation. They are, however, solved by adopting the opinion that the office is the kal) Trapaðńæn of the promises. Here in the symbolical event it is quite indisputable; here, where the united labour of all the workmen called was needed to gather in the fulness of the blessing, under the weight of which the net brake and the ships threatened to sink, the persons disappear behind the work and the call.
Special attention is demanded to the way in which the disciple acted at the sight of the over-abundant blessing. Of himself, as well as of his companions John and James, it is said that the feeling of astonish