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his nets, and where our Lord stood when the multitude, attracted by him to the spot, pressed upon him and caused him to enter the boat from which he could more conveniently address them. What a subject for a painter! On those still waters sat the Lord of life, beholding before him the vast assembled concourse, gathered from the cities and villages of the plain. They had followed him to the retirement of this cove; they crowded it; they lined the shore, and some stood even on the hills and heights that they might catch a sight of the great Teacher if too far off to hear his voice.
We are told that they pressed, or rushed upon him; and no wonder they were so eager to hear the doctrine which he taught it was not the doctrine of the scribes and Pharisees, or like their teaching, for he taught as one having authority. The doctrine, moreover, was new; the voice and manner attractive, for he spake as never man spake, and all wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth. No doubt, in that vast assembly, there were many broken hearts, many awakened consciences, many who were in trouble and affliction, and many eager for instruction. To these belonged the blessing afterwards pronounced, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled." How is it we see so little of this hungering now? How is it that so little of intense desire for the teaching of the word is manifested in Christian congregations? True, the preacher is not Christ, and only an earthen vessel; but the doctrine is the same, and the words as gracious, for they are his own message of reconciliation. The reason why there is no pressing to hear this message, is the coldness of hearts; mankind do not feel their need of Jesus, and do not love his person. His words are not sweeter than honey to the taste, nor are they the only food on which they desire to live. Let this multitude by the sea of Tiberias reprove us. Jesus, there, was pressed upon, and seeing two ships standing by the lake, he entered into one which was Simon's, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. We are not to suppose that these ships were more than common boats, used by fishermen or for crossing the lake. Simon and his partners were washing their nets. They were making preparation for future work, and whatever we have to do, its success will greatly depend on the measure and carefulness of preparation. We should particularly remember this when about to enter the house of God, that we may pray earnestly for a blessing upon the ordinance of worship. Observe, how
readily Peter lends his boat to the Lord, and when the Lord prays him to thrust out a little from the land, he does so. Jesus might have commanded, but he beseeches, and it is better that we should always do so, for it will be found more effectual. We should be ever ready to lend what we have to the Lord and for his service; but there are many persons who will give their money for the cause of Christ, who will not make the slightest personal exertion that it may be forwarded; many who gladly lend what they have if it involves no trouble to themselves, but who will not move so much as one of their fingers. It was not so with Peter. He thrust his boat from the shore, and Jesus taught the people out of it.
Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, "Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught." Either he called it the deep, comparatively, or in order to increase the miracle he told him to go farther into the lake where the fish were less likely to be found, as we know it is kindly ordered for our good and convenience, that fish abound most near the shore. And Simon answering, said unto him, "Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing; nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net." How true it is of the Lord's people, and particularly of the Lord's ministers, that they often toil all night and take nothing! They are tried with disappointed hope, useless labour, sore temptations, weariness, and vexation of spirit. Yet all this, perhaps, is to humble them that they may bear to receive a blessing at last. The night of toil being over, joy comes in the morning. The Lord's time arrives for blessing, and his time is the best time. Peter might have thought it useless to make further attempts, but Jesus spake the word, his hope revived, his faith kindled, and he obeyed. Oh, how glad he must have felt that the nets were prepared; that they were washed and mended! had he not been diligent, even after his night of toil and disappointment, he would have missed the blessing. Let us remember never to relax our diligence, or be weary in well doing; for in due time we shall reap, if we faint not. Peter was ready, and Peter obeyed. There was no hesitation, and whatever the Lord bids us do, we must not question it, but do it. However improbable the results may appear, these belong unto God: to obey, is our part. How strange was the command received by Philip to go into the desert!—an evangelist to be sent into a solitary place!-yet there he met the Ethiopian eunuch, whom it was God's pleasure to convert.
Having let down the net at the word of Jesus, it enclosed a great multitude of fishes, and Peter seemed to be about to realize his hopes; but the net brake, or rather, parted asunder: it was about to break. Thus the power of Jesus was as needful to preserve to him the blessing as to procure it. How often this happens to us all! Just when the thing we desire seems to be in our grasp, it is ready to melt away. How true with regard to riches! After a life of laborious exertion, at length the fortune is made, and the man thinks he shall now sit down at his ease to enjoy it; but, perhaps, the message comes, "Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee;" or, the riches make to themselves wings and flee away, Oh! trust not in "uncertain" riches: the net will break: but rather lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven, which will never fail you nor forsake you.
Peter beckons to his partners in the other ship, who came to his assistance, and the difficulty seems to be overcome. The fish are taken from the failing net and transferred to the boats; but no sooner was this accomplished than the boats began to sink. Jesus must save, or they perish; Jesus alone can enable them to sustain the benefit he had conferred upon them. Thus it is, we are unable to bear too much prosperity; it is not good for us: if the vessel is too full it will sink. It lately happened, that a person coming to his inheritance, was so overwhelmed by a sense of his increased responsibility and the weight of increased fortune, that in a fortnight after he put an end to his existence. May the Holy Spirit teach us to be moderate in all things. May he detach our hearts from earth, and so fix them on heavenly things, that all the glory with which we are now dazzled may appear to us as nothing, by reason of the glory that excelleth! M. B.
Turn over a New Leaf.
THE wise man says, "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven," Eccl. iii. 1. If, then, there is a time, and a time more suitable than another, in which to turn over a new leaf, it must be on the arrival of a new year. A new year and a new leaf will do very well together.
If throughout the past year you have conducted yourselves and your affairs in so excellent a manner, that there is no possibility of improvement, hardly can you do better than
continue your old plan; but as this is not a very likely case, I will rather suppose that, like myself, you have committed errors were I to say not a few, I might be near the truth; but of this I leave you to judge.
When a schoolboy, I once blurred the figures of my cipher book, and sadly blotted the page. This was a sore trouble to me, my master being very severe; but when he came to examine my book, instead of inflicting the punishment I expected, he merely said to me, Perhaps this will not occur again; let us turn over a new leaf." His mild reproof did me good. If then you have fallen into error, if in any degree you have blurred and blotted the fair page of a consistent course, without hesitation turn over a new leaf. You cannot do so at a better time. Again I say, a new year and a new leaf will do very well together.
We are all sadly too much given, in matters of personal improvement, to let things go on as usual, with the hope that something will happen to help us. There can be no doubt that a hopeful disposition is a good thing, but then it must be aided by action. When a man by negligence or accident overturns a cartload of coals, if he pulls off his coat and sets to work heartily with the hope that he shall soon repair his misfortune, his hopeful disposition gives him courage and strength, and very soon he attains his object; but if, instead of this, he is satisfied in sitting down with his cheeks on his hands and his elbows on his knees, hoping that something will happen to help him, he is not very likely to get the coals into his cart again. You must not rest content with desiring that a new leaf may be turned over, but you must turn it over yourself, and that heartily.
No doubt you would think it not overwise in a thirsty man to seat himself by the side of a well, with the hope that some one would let down the bucket and draw up water for him; or to recline at full length under an apple-tree, hoping that some one would climb the tree for him and bring him the fruit: but not less unwise will it be for you to expect an amendment to take place in any error or bad habit you may have fallen into, unless you set about it yourselves. When the clown in the heathen fable called out to Jupiter to get his cart out of the slough for him, Jupiter told him first to set his shoulder to the wheel, and whip his horses, for that it was not his pleasure to help those who did nothing to help themselves. Surely this is a lesson for those called Christians.
A skilful doctor finds out the complaint under which his
patient labours, before he attempts a cure. Imitate his example. Do as he does. Examine yourselves that your faults may be known and your deficiencies understood, so will you be able, with more certainty and less trouble, to correct the one and supply the other. This will be doing what you should do; this will be doing yourselves a kindness; this will be turning over a new leaf in the best manner.
If with a humble yet ardent heart, if with godly sincerity and truth you try yourselves by God's holy word and will, you will find that you have many sins to repent of, many errors to amend, much knowledge to gain, and many virtues and Christian graces to practise. You have not a minute to lose; the new year is begun, and the whole world cannot arrest the flight of time. Time does not creep and crawl and loiter; he does not walk, but he flies!
Though swift the lightning flash may be,
Therefore up and be doing. A good beginning, looking for Almighty aid, will make a good ending. Pause not, delay not, hesitate not; but at once, humbly, ardently, and resolutely turn over a new leaf.
Things that are hard become easy by practice, and what seems impossible is done by a little at a time without difficulty. The most important step is the first we take. Only begin, and then you will be likely to go on. Let one unaccustomed to save, once put a pound into the savings' bank, and that pound will be soon followed by another. Let him whose garden is overrun with weeds, once clear a single bed, and he will never rest till he has weeded the whole. There is no advantage in leaving a duty undone, but every advantage in discharging it. See, then, what encouragement you have in turning over a new leaf.
Have you neglected your worldly affairs? see then that you become more diligent in business. Have you been neg. ligent in the things of eternity? make up your minds to be more fervent in spirit. If you have lifted up your heads proudly among men, instead of bending your knees humbly before God; if you have trusted for salvation in your own deeds, instead of looking alone to the Lamb that was slain as a sacrifice for sin; if you have erred, renounce your error. If you have done amiss, do so no more. Set out afresh. Adopt another plan. Turn over a new leaf.
It is not, however, the resolving to do what is right, nor