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4. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
5. 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.
6. And when they had done this, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes, and their net brake.
7. And they beckoned unto their partners which were in the other ship, that they sbould come and help them. And they came and filled both the sips, so that they began to sink.
8. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus, knees, saying, Depart from me, for I am a finful man, O Lord.
9. For he was astonisbed, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken :
10. And so was also James and John the fons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon, And Hesus said unto Simon, Fear not ; from benceforth thou malt catch men.
11. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all and followed him.
The MORAL REFLECTION.
HE apostles had laboured the whole night
without success : Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing. How many upon their death-beds will have reason, with St. Peter, to cry out, we have taken nothing? We have laid a thousand designs; undertaken as many enterprizes ; we have raised our fortunes ; procured honourable posts ; made noble alliances ; we have compass'd all we aimed at, and aimed at all that flattered our ambition, or pampered
sense : and yet, O God, we have taken nothing, nor done any thing to the purpose ; because we have spent all our thoughts and time upon the concerns of this life, without any regard to the other.
Where are those pleasures you pursued with such eagerness, and enjoyed with such transport? They are flown away with time, vanish'd in smoak, funk into nothing. You laboured for riches, without cessation, without intermission : you bought farms, purchased lordships, but where are they? They are made over to an heir, who perchance will not drop one tear upon your coffin, nor let fall one God be merciful to his soul. Nothing now remains for
you, but despair in your soul, and a grave for your body.
Oh! how true it is, that those, who enslave themselves to the world, find nothing in their hands : they have grasp'd a shadow, and mistook illusion for truth : Open my eyes, O Lord, that I may distinguish substance from appearance ; real evils from seeming happiness ; and shut my heart against all those specious vanities, that charm my senses to ensnare my soul. They are only colour without, nothing within. All, in short, in this world, besides virtue, is nothing. In the light of God, a cup of cold water, given in his name, is of more value, than the whole universe, purchased by ambition, and posfefs'd with vanity:
Although the labour of the night had proved so unsuccessful ; yet, at our Saviour's command, the apostles cast once more their nets: At thy word, I will let down the net. And what was 'the event, but a plentiful draught? They inclosed a great multitude of fishes. No enterprize fucceeds, O God, without thy aslistance, tho' never so
holy : none miscarries when undertaken by thy command, and guided by thy grace : human prudence is too short-sighted to promise success, and man too weak to perfect any pious work without the help of grace. Except the Lord build the house, their labour is but lof that build it, Psal. cxxvii. I. In all your undertakings choose the best measures prudence can suggest ; but then rely upon God's assistance, and invoke it,
you had done nothing. Without this, you will find yourselves in the apostle's condition : we have toiled all night, and have taken nothing. God takes a pleasure to disappoint thosc, who rely upon their own strength, and to help those, who put all their confidence in his assistance: I will undertake nothing, my Saviour, but in thy name, and for thy honour. I will carry it on with care and circumspection; but the event I leave to thy providence. Thou dost only command my endeavours: thou art satisfied with my desire, when the action is not in my power ; and doft reward the intention, without blaming the disappointment.
Now, thy conduct is different from that of the world : thy service more easy ; thy rewards more juft. How often are care, diligence, and prudence blamed? How often negligence and temerity applauded? Infidelity with success receives a recompence, and fidelity without it punishment. But thou, O Lord, doft only regard my heart ; and if I mean well, I shall receive a reward.
The miracle, done in his favour, so astonish'd St. Peter ; that, beside himself, with amazement, he fell down at our Saviour's feet, and desired him to remove farther from so sinful a creature : Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, 0 Lord. The acknowledgment of his unworthinefs
raised the value of the favour, and the goodness of our Saviour ; both together cast him into such a fit of humility, and love, that he esteemed himself unworthy of the favour, and even of our Saviour's presence ; and therefore he broke out into this expression. Depart from me, for I am a finful man, O Lord. But, o dear faint, if
you are a sinner, why do you desire his absence, who taketh away the fins of the world ? Ask him rather to enter, than bid him depart : beseech him rather to approach, not to retire. But, Oh! This depart, that came from an humble and contrite heart, drew our Saviour nigher ; and he, who before only stood before St. Peter's eyes, now entered into his soul. So true it is, what St. Augustin said long ago, that God retires from the proud, and stoops to the humble. Who is like unto the Lord our God, wbo dwelleth on bigb, and yet bumbleth himself to behold the things that are in heaven and earth, Pfal. cxiii. 5. There is no surer way to obtain the greatest favours of God, than to esteem ourselves unworthy of the least: to preserve our innocence, than humbly to confess ourselves sinners: I am a finful man, O Lord.
The reward of this humility was the choosing them for his disciples. And having brought their hips to land, they for fook all, and followed bim. The obedience of the apostles followed immediately the command of our Saviour: they never ballanced upon the execution, but obeyed his call, as soon as they heard it. They not only abandoned their little All, but themselves also to his conduct. They for fook all, and followed him. Oh! that we could persuade ourselves, of what importance it is to obey God's call, as soon as we hear his voice. How many would have lived saints, who died in their imperfections ?
How many would have obtained pardon for their offences, who now despair of mercy? The young man in the gospel desired to follow our Saviour ; but he asked leave first to bury his father : the demand seemed reasonable ; but however he loft by it the happiness of our Saviour's company, and the dignity of an apostle. The scripture, fathers, reason, and experience, cry out against delay : we acknowledge, and are convinced of the danger; and yet, good God! we act, either as if we resolved never to repent, or had an assurance of repentance. We, who will not trust chance with our most trifling concerns, entrust it with the most important of all, even those on which depends a happy eternity.
o what folly! what madness! No: if I am called to day, I will not put off the execution till to-morrow. Now grace is offered, and time; perchance afterwards both may be denied. Why therefore shall I seep upon an uncertainty, when I may put my salvation in security? The apostles left their nets, to obey thy call, O God! I am tied to the world by nets: transitory pleafures, ensnare me; ill habits entangle me: break these threads, or rather cables, that I may fly to thee, obey thy voice, and fulfil thy commands.
But, like these disciples, at Christ's call, must we abandon all to follow him? We must withdraw our hearts from an unlawful love of the world, and even from our poffefiions also, when we cannot keep them without a crime. For it is to renounce God himself, not to abandon what he commands : and does he not command us to renounce father and mother, nay, and our lives, if they cannot be preserved without a crime ? All things, even the most dear, must be abandoned, if they draw us into fin. Pleafure and interest must yield to his friendship;