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rage of Satan, and put him to a shameful Aight, and made him for the time weary of his trade.
The way to be rid of the troublesome solicitations of that Wicked One, is continued resistance. He, that forcibly drove the Tempter from himself, takes him off from us, and will not abide his assaults perpetual. It is our exercise and trial, that he intends; not our confusion.
Matthew iv. Mark i. Luke iv.
SIMON CALLED. As the sun, in his first rising, draws all eyes to it; so did this Sun of Righteousness, when he first shone forth into the world. His miraculous cures drew patients; his divine doctrine drew auditors : both together drew the admiring multitude, by troops, after him. And why do we not still follow thee, O Saviour, through deserts and mountains, over land and scas, that we may be both healed and taught? It was thy word, that, when thou wert lift up, thou wouldst draw all men unto thee: behold, thou art lift up long since, both to the tree of shame, and to the throne of heavenly glory ; Draw us, and we shall run after thee. Thy word is still the same, though proclaimed by men ; thy virtue is still the same, though exercised upon the spirits of men. Oh give us to hunger after both, that by both our souls may be satisfied.
I see the people, not only following Christ, but pressing upon him: even very unmannerliness finds here, both excuse and acceptation. They did not keep their distances, in an awe to the Majesty of the Speaker, while they were ravished with the power of the speech ; yet did not our Saviour check their unreverent thronging, but rather encourages their forwardness. We cannot offend thee, O God, with the importunity of our desires. It likes thee well, that the Kingdom of Heaven should suffer violence. Our slackness doth ever displease thee; never, our vehemency:
The throng of auditors forced Christ to leave the shore, and to make Peter's ship his pulpit. Never were there such nets cast out of that fisher-boat before. While he was upon the land, he healed the sick bodies by his touch; now that he was upon the sea, he cured the sick souls by his doctrine ; and is purposely severed from the multitude, that he may unite them to him. He, that inade both sea and land, causeth both of them to conspire to the opportunities of doing good.
Simon was busy washing his nets. Even those nets, that caught nothing, must be washed, no less than if they had sped well. The night's toil doth not excuse his day's work. Little did Simon think of leaving those nets, which he so carefully washed; and now Christ interrupts him, with the favour and blessing of his gracious presence. Labour in our calling, how homely soever, makes us capable of divine benediction.
The honest fisherman, when he saw the people flock after Christ, and heard him speak with such power, could not but con
ceive a general and confused apprehension of some excellent worth in such a teacher; and therefore is glad to honour his ship with such a guest ; and is first Christ's host by sea, ere he is his disciple by land. An humble and serviceable entertainment of a Prophet of God, was a good foundation of his future honour. He, that would so easily lend Christ his hand and his ship, was likely soon after to bestow bimself upon his Saviour.
Simon hath no sooner done this service to Christ, than Christ is preparing for his reward. When the sermon is ended, the shiproom shall be paid for abundantly; neither shall the host expect any other paymaster than himself; Launch forth into the deep, and let down your nets to make a draught. That ship, which lent Christ an opportunity of catching men upon the shore, shall be requited with a plentiful draught of fish in the deep.
It had been as easy for our Saviour, to have brought the fish to Peter's ship, close to the shore; yet, as chusing rather to have the ship carried to the shoal of fish, he bids Launch forth into the deep. In his miracles, he loves ever to meet nature in her bounds; and when she hath done her best, to supply the rest by his overruling power. The same power therefore, that could have caused the fishes to leap upon dry land, or to leave themselves forsaken of the waters upon the sands of the lake, will rather find them in a place natural to their abiding; Launch out into the deep.
Rather in a desire to gratify and obey his guest, than to pleasure himself, will Simon bestow one cast of his net. Had Christ enjoined him a harder task, he had not refused; yet not without an allegation of the unlikelihood of success, Master, we have travailed all night, and caught nothing ; yet at thy word, I will let down the net. The night was the fittest time, for the hopes of their trade.
Not unjustly, might Simon misdoubt his speed by day, when he had worn out the night in unprofitable labour. Sometimes, God crosseth the fairest of our expectations; and gives a blessing to those times and means, whereof we despair. That pains cannot be cast away, which we resolve to lose for Christ.
O God, how many do I see casting out their nets in the great Jake of the world, which, in the whole night of their life, bare caught nothing. They conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity. They hatch cockatrice' eggs, and weave the spider's web: he, that eateth of their eggs dieth; and that, which is trodden upon, breaketh out into a serpent. Their webs shall be no garments; neither shall they cover themselves with their labours. O ye sons of men, how long will ye love vanity, and follow after lies?
Yet if we have thus vainly mis-spent the time of our darkness, let us, at the command of Christ, cast out our new-washen nets : our humble and penitent obedience shall come home laden with blessings. And when they had so done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes, so that their net brake.
What a difference there is, betwixt our own voluntary acts and those that are done upon command ; not more in the grounds of them, than in the issue ! those are ofttimes fruitless; these, ever successful. Never man threw out his net at the word of his Saviour, and drew it back empty. Who would not obey thee, O Christ, since thou dost so bountifully requite our weakest services?
It was not mere retribution, that was intended in this event, but instruction also. This act was not without a mystery. He, that should be made a fisher of men, shall in this draught foresee his success. The kingdom of heaven is like a draw-net cast into the sea, which, when it is full, men draw to land. The very first draught, that Peter made, after the complement of his apostleship, enclosed no less thanthree thousand souls. O powerful Gospel, that can fetch sinful men from out of the depths of natural corruption ! 0 happy souls, that, from the blind and muddy cells of our wicked nature, are drawn forth to the glorious liberty of the sons of God!
Simon's net breaks with the store. Abundance is sometimes no less troublesome than want. The net should have held, if Christ had not meant to overcharge Simon, both with blessing and admiration. How happily is that net broken, whose rupture draws the fisher to Christ!
Though the net brake, yet the fish escaped not. He, that brought them thither to be taken, held them there till they were taken.
They beckoned to their partners in the other ship, that they should come and help them. There are other ships in partnership with Peter: he doth not fish all the lake alone. There cannot be a better improvement of society, than to help us gain; to relieve us in our profitable labours; to draw up the spiritual draught into the vessel of Christ and his Church. Wherefore hath God given us partners, but that we should beckon to them for their aid in our necessary occasions ?
Neither doth Simon slacken his hand, because he had assistants. What shall we say to those lazy fishers, who can set others to the drag, while themselves look on at ease; caring only to feed themselves with the fish, not willing to wet their hands with the net ?
What shall we say to this excess of gain? The nets break, the ships sink with their burden. Oh happy complaint of too large a capture! ( Saviour, if those apostolical vessels of thy first rigging were thus overlaid, ours float and totter with a ballasted lightness. Thou, who art no less present in these bottoms of ours, lade them with an equal fraught of converted souls, and let us praise thee for thus sinking,
Simon was a skilful fisher, and knew well the depth of his trade; and now perceiving more than art or nature in this draught, he falls down at the knees of Jesus, saying, Lord, go from me, for I am a sinful man. Himself is caught in this net. He doth not greedily fall upon so unexpected and profitable a booty, but he turns his eyes from the draught to himself, from the act to the Author, acknowledging vileness in the one, in the other Majesty : Go from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.
It had been pity the honest fisherman should have been taken at
his word. O Simon, thy Saviour is come into thine own ship to call thee, to call others by thee unto blessedness; and dost thou say, Lord, go fron me? As if the patient should say to the physician,
Depart from me, for I am sick.” It was the voice of astonishment, not of dislike; the voice of humility, not of discontentment: yea, because thou art a sinful man, therefore hath thy Saviour need to come to thee, to stay with thee ; and because thou art humble in the acknowledgment of thy sinfulness, therefore Christ delights to abide with thee, and will call thee to abide with him. No man ever fared the worse, for abasing himself to his God. Christ hath left many a soul for froward and unkind usage; never any, for the disparagement of itself, and entreaties of humility: Şimon could not devise how to hold Christ faster, than by thus suing to him to be gone, than by thus pleading his unworthiness.
O my soul, be not weary of complaining of thine own wretchedness. Disgrace thyself to him, that knows thy vileness. Be astonished at those mercies, which have shamed thine ill deservings. Thy Saviour hath no power to go away from a prostrate heart. He, that resists the proud, heartens the lowly: Fear not, for I will make thee henceforth a fisher of men. Lo, this humility is rewarded with an apostleship. What had the earth ever more glorious, than a legacy from heaven? He, that bade Christ go from him, shall have the honour to go first on this happy errand. This was a trade, that Simon had no skill of: it could not but be enough to him, that Christ said, I will make thee; the miracle shewed him able to make good his word. He, that hath power to command the fishes to be taken, can easily enable the hands to take them.
What is this divine trade of ours then, but a spiritual piscation? The world is a sea. Souls, like fishes, swim at liberty in this deep. The nets of wholesome doctrine draw up some to the shore of grace and glory. How much skill, and toil, and patience, is requisite in this art! Who is sufficient for these things? This sea, these nets, the fishers, the fish, the vessels are all thine, O God. . Do what thou wilt, in us and by us.
Give us ability and grace to take; give men will and grace to be taken ; and take thou glory by that, which thou hast given.
THE MARRIAGE IN CANA. Was this then thy first miracle, ( Saviour, that thou wroughtest in Cana of Galilee? And could there be a greater miracle than this ; that, having been thirty years upon earth, thou didst no miracle till now? that thy Divinity did hide itself thus long in flesh ? that so long thou wouldst lie obscure in a corner of Galilee; unknown to that world, thou camest to redeem ? that so long thou wouldst strain the patient expectation of those, who, ever since thy Star, waited upon the revelation of a Messiah? We silly wretches, if we have but, a dram of virtue, are ready to set it out to the best shew; thou, who receivedst not the Spirit by measure,
wouldst content thyself with a willing obscurity; and concealedst that power, that made the world, in the roof of a human breast, in a cottage of Nazareth. O Saviour, none of thy miracles is more worthy of astonishment, than thy not doing of miracles.
What thou didst in private, thy wisdom thought fit for secresy; but if thy Blessed Mother had not been acquainted with some domestical wonders, she had not now expected a miracle abroad. The stars are not seen by day; the sun itself is not seen by night. As it is no small art, to hide art; so is it no small glory, to conceal glory.
Thy first public miracle graceth a Marriage. It is an ancient and laudable institution, that the rites of matrimony should not want a solemn celebration. When are feasts in season, if not at the recovery of our lost rib; if not at this main change of our estate, wherein the joy of obtaining meets with the hope of further comforts ? The Son of the Virgin, and the Mother of that Son, are both at a wedding. It was in all likelihood some of their kindred, to whose nuptial feast they were invited so far; yet was it more the honour of the act, than of the person, that Christ in. tended. He, that made the first marriage in Paradise, bestows his first miracle upon a Galilean marriage. He, that was the Author of matrimony and sanctified it, doth, by his holy presence, honour the resemblance of his eternal union with his Church. How boldly may we spit in the faces of all the impure adversaries of wedlock, when the Son of God pleases to honour it!
The glorious Bridegroom of the Church knew well, how ready men would be to place shame, even in the most lawful conjunctions; and therefore his first work shall be, to countenance his own ordinance. Happy is that wedding, where Christ is a guest. O Saviour, those, that marry in thee, cannot marry without thee, There is no holy marriage, whereat thou art not (however invisible, yet) truly present by thy Spirit, by thy gracious benediction, Thou makest marriages in heaven; thou blessest them from heaven. Othou, that hast betrothed us to thyself in truth and righteousness, do thou consummate that happy marriage of ours in the highest heavens.
It was no rich or sumptuous bridal, to which Christ, with his mother and disciples, vouchsafed to come, from the further parts of Galilee. I find him not at the magnificent feasts or triumphs of the great. The proud pomp of the world did not agree with the state of a servant.
This poor needy Bridegroom wants drink for his guests. The Blessed Virgin, though a stranger to the house, out of a charitable compassion and a friendly desire to maintain the decency of a hospitable entertainment, inquires into the wants of her host; pities them; bemoans them, where there was power of redress : IVhen the wine failed, the mother of Jesus said unto him, They have no wine. How well doth it beseem the eyes of piety and Christian love, to look into the necessities of others! She, that conceived the God of Mercies both in her heart and in her womb, doth not