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“It is not that the wild gazelle
Comes down to drink thy tide ;
Oft wandered by thy side.
Thou calm reposing sea ;
Of Jesus walked o'er thee."
Then our author thinks of how, on its shores, in the villages and towns round about, our Saviour preached the Gospel, did His wonderful works, spake His words of grace, and uttered His awful threatenings : “ Thou, Capernaum, exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell;" and again, “ Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida!" Surely every faithful minister will share McCheyne's feelings :
“ Tell me, ye mouldering fragments, tell,
Was the Saviour's city here ?
With none to shed a tear ?
“Ah ! would my flock from thee might learn
How days of grace will flee;
Shall mourn at last, like thee.
“Oh! give me, Lord, by this sacred wave,
* Threefold,' Thy love divine,
Thy flock—both Thine and mine." Well, such is the scenery, and such the associated thoughts that surround our subject this morning. Doesn't it touch our hearts, our imagination, and help to bring the Lord and this old time near to us? But let us come to our subject. “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” You remember what our Lord had been doing. He had been teaching the people out of that boat, and, after His sermon was ended (it is not recorded), He seems at once to have remembered the forlorn state of His followers, the depression they were in. As Simon Peter afterwards told Him, they had toiled all night for nothing. It was scarcely worth while; He knew already. True, He likes us to bring to Him our requests—"In every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God". —but we can never tell Him news; He always knows already. He needeth not that any should tell Him, for He knows what is in man, and He knows what man is in. So, thinking of His followers and their forlorn condition, He asked Peter to “Launch out into the deep, and let down the nets for a draught.”
Here is a new command. It was so to them; it is so to us. It required them to stretch themselves, and to find new faith and new obedience in this new-found Lord and Saviour. So may it do to us to-day. Let it be our motto for the first Sabbath of the new year : “ Launch out into the deep.” It could easily have been objected to. Simon was an experienced fisherman, and might have said, “But, Lord, we have toiled through the night, and the night is the orthodox, customary, traditional, proper time to catch fish. The other fishermen will laugh at us if they see us fishing through the day.” But the Lord knows better even about catching fish than we do, and we must let Him “domineer" everywhere, and at all times and seasons.
Our own wisdom, and our own past experience, whether of a joyful or sorrowful kind, has sometimes to be well-nigh forgotten, if we are to stand to attention, ready for orders.
“ As the eyes of a handmaid are towards her mistress, so do our souls wait upon thee, O Lord.” All the newness, all the freshness, all hope of revival is there. It is not in us, or in any new plans we can excogitate and try. Get Him aboard the boat, watch the look of His eye, listen to the sound of His voice, be guided by Him, and we will always be having revivals, and renewings, and refreshings. In the midst of work as common as catching fish there will be surprises. Behold," He says
to us, as He steps on board our boat" Behold, I make all things new."
“ Launch out into the deep." Be done with your inshore fishing, and your little faith, and your walking by sight, and let down your nets for a draught. Oh, if there is anything the Church of God still needs, it is what the disciples got that morning by the lake-shore. What had they made of it? “Master, we have toiled all night, and have caught nothing.”. A grand combination—night and nothing. That is where we are come to. It is a familiar road with us-night and nothing; a dismal pair. Nothing and nothing make nothing; but when Christ puts Himself at the head of these two nothings, as the integer, there is 100; there is cent. per cent. of profit for our toil. Night and nothing-morning and the Master, morning and the miracle, morning and the overflowing fulness. O Jesus, Master, whose we are, come to all these poor fishing-boats, fishing over these waters of London by the hundred and the thousand, toiling and moiling and getting cold and wet and weary and disappointed ; a very, very small take, if any at all. Come, blessed Lord, step aboard, take charge, order us to the right and left, make the biggest of us mere deckhands. Let the Great Master's voice ring from stem to stern on every ship, “Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught." No masters, no lieutenants, no officers, no “orders of clergy," everybody just a deck
hand to pull ropes and shoot nets when He comes.
When the Lord's away, oh we play fine games! We divide the boat into the officers' quarters and the forecastle, and we walk majestically upon the poop, some of us, and spend a great deal of time discussing the different places and positions, and the rules and regulations ;-how far my command is to go, and where it is to stop, and on what chalk line your command begins. But when Christ comes, when the Lord causes His glorious voice to be heard, then-silence! the Master is come.
Shortly after I came on duty,” one raw, bitter morning, at a ticket collecting station, a heavy special train came in. The engine - driver jerked his thumb mysteriously over his shoulder as he drifted past, and the front guard, jumping off, said, “Now, lads, look alive, the superintendent's aboard /” Ah! what an electric shock that gave us all. For to us at that distant station he was only a name, And now our work must be done under his very eye! For there he was, "the great unknown,” actually out on our platform.
Would to God our text might give us that stimulus, that thrilling sense of the Lord's Commanding Presence in our
very midst !
“ Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.” Into the deep. I have indicated already that, for the most part, this fishing was done during the night, and most likely in-shore. This command was a tax on “common sense,” as well as a tax on their faith and obedience. Peter might well have spoken. He did at times take the Lord fearfully in hand-speak back to Him and speak down to Him. I wonder that here he did not go wrong in the same way. It was a great strain on a fisherman to go in broad daylight and revolutionize the whole business, or rather revolutionize and expand it. Isn't He saying to us to-day, “Launch out into the deep"? You have been keeping too close in shore, so that if rough weather came, you could save you lives and hastily scurry back to dry land. Isn't it so very much with the Church of God ? We do not like to launch out; when the waters get deep and dark and the shore distant, ah! then we get nervous and timid. Now, the Lord wants us away from the shore, to get us into the deep, where we must either go by faith or quit the business. We need to give up our thoughts and past experiences, and look to Him and trust Him implicitly. It is grand when the Church of Christ, when the individual believer, gets in this sense into deep waters and out of shallows. “ Those that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters, they see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep;” but those of us who are always paddling by little creeks and bays do not see the wonders. Why, I thought I had seen and known a little about the sea; but a friend who has travelled all over the world and back again, who has dwelt on the mighty waters, told me things the other day in my own house that made me fairly " turn" inwardly with envy. I felt myself to be a mere landlubber or “ longshoreman,” who doesn't know anything, who is a pretender, in fact, as he told me about great seas, tempests, and icebergs, and astonishing effects of sea, and cloud, and sky.
What an education it is when Christ takes us out into the deep water where we are “off soundings," and must, like little children, trust Him altogether.
Have you got into the depths of the promise, my friend ? Have you got into the depths of the meanings of God's Word ? Have you got into the unexplored depths that lie