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return to it; for Christ, after his resurrection, found them fishing e7.
They did not therefore abandon and leave all care, and all government of their own estate, and dispose themselves to live after upon the sweat of others; but transported with a holy alacrity, in this pleasant and cheerful following of Christ, in respect of that then, they neglected their nets, and all things else. Perfecta obedientia est sua imperfecta relinqueres, not to be too diligent towards the world, is the diligence that God requires. St. Augustine does not say, sua relinquere, but sua imperfecta relinquere, that God requires we should leave the world, but that we should leave it to second considerations; that thou do not forbear, nor defer thy conversion to God, and thy restitution to man, till thou have purchased such a state, bought such an office, married and provided such and such children, but imperfecta relinquere, to leave these worldly things unperfected, till thy repentance have restored thee to God, and established thy reconciliation in him, and then the world lies open to thy honest endeavours. Others take up all with their net, and they sacrifice to their nets, because by them their portion is fat, and their meat plenteous 29. They are confident in their own learning, their own wisdom, their own practice, and (which is a strange idolatry) they sacrifice to themselves, they attribute all to their own industry. These men in our text were far from that; they left their nets.
But still consider, that they did but leave their nets, they did not burn them. And consider too, that they left but nets; those things, which might entangle them, and retard them in their following of Christ. And such nets, (some such things as might hinder them in the service of God) even these men, so well disposed to follow Christ, had about them. And therefore let no man say, Imitari vellem, sed quod relinquam, non habeo so, I would gladly do as the apostles did, leave all to follow Christ, but I have nothing to leave; alas, all things have left me, and I have nothing to leave. Even that murmuring at poverty, is a net;
leave that. Leave thy superfluous desire of having the riches of this world ; though thou mayest flatter thyself, that thou desirest to have only that thou mightest leave it, that thou mightest employ it charitably, yet it might prove a net, and stick too close about thee to part with it. Multa relinquitis, si desideriis renunciatis, You leave your nets, if you leave your over-earnest greediness of catching; for, when you do so, you do not only fish with a net, (that is, lay hold upon all you can compass) but, (which is strange) you fish for a net, even that which you get proves a net to you, and hinders you in the following of Christ, and you are less disposed to follow him, when you have got your ends, than before. He that hath least, hath enough to weigh him down from heaven, by an inordinate love of that little which he hath, or in an inordinate and murmuring desire of more. And he that hath most, hath not too much to give for heaven; Tantum valet regnum Dei, quantum tu cales, Heaven is always so much worth, as thou art worth. A poor man may have heaven for a penny, that hath no greater store; and, God looks, that he to whom he hath given thousands, should lay out thousands upon the purchase of heaven. The market changes, as the plenty of money changes ; heaven costs a rich man more than a poor, because he hath more to give. But in this, rich and poor are both equal, that both must leave themselves without nets, that is, without those things, which, in their own consciences they know, retard the following of Christ. Whatsoever hinders my present following, that I cannot follow to-day, whatsoever may hinder my constant following, that I cannot follow to-morrow, and all my life, is a net, and I am bound to leave that.
And these are the pieces that constitute our first part, the circumstances that invest these persons, Peter, and Andrew, in their former condition, before, and when Christ called them.
MATTHEW iv, 18, 19, 20. And Jesus walking by the sea of Galilee saw two brethren, Simon called Peter,
and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, (for they were fishers.) And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men ;
and they straightway left their nets and followed him. We are now in our order proposed at first, come to our second part, from the consideration of these persons, Peter and Andrew, in their former state and condition, before, and at their calling, to their future estate in promise, but an infallible promise, Christ's promise, if they followed him, (Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.) In which part we shall best come to our end, (which is your edification) by these steps. First, that there is an humility enjoined them, in the sequere, follow, come after. That though they be brought to a high calling, that do not make them proud, nor tyrannous over men's consciences; and then, even this humility is limited, sequere me, follow me; for there may be a pride even in humility, and a man may follow a dangerous guide; our guide here is Christ, sequere me, follow me. And then we shall see the promise itself, the employment, the function, the preferment; in which there is no new state promised them, no innovation, (they were fishers, and they shall be fishers still) but there is an improvement, a bettering, a reformation, (they were fishermen before, and now they shall be fishers of men;) to which purpose, we shall find the world to be the sea, and the Gospel their net. And lastly, all this is presented to them, not as it was expressed in the former part, with a for, (it is not, Follow me, for I will prefer you) he will not have that the reason of their following; but yet it is, Follow me, and I will prefer you; it is a subsequent addition of his own goodness, but so infallible a one, as we may rely upon; whosoever doth follow Christ, speeds well. And into these considerations will fall all that belongs to this last part, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
First then, here is an impression of humility, in following, in coming after, sequere, follow, press not to come before; and it had need be first, if we consider how early, how primary a sin pride is, and how soon it possesses us. Scarce any man, but if he look back seriously into himself, and into his former life, and revolve his own history, but that the first act which he can remember in himself, or can be remembered of by others, will be some act of pride. Before ambition, or covetousness, or licentiousness is awake in us, pride is working; though but a childish pride, yet pride; and this parents rejoice at in their children, and call it spirit, and so it is, but not the best. We enlarge not therefore the consideration of this word sequere, follow, come after, so far, as to put our meditations upon the whole body, and the several members of this sin of pride; nor upon the extent and diffusiveness of this sin, as it spreads itself over every other sin; (for every sin is complicated with pride, so as every sin is a rebellious opposing of the law and will of God) nor to consider the weighty heinousness of pride, how it aggravates every other sin, how it makes a musket a cannon bullet, and a pebble a millstone; but after we have stopped a little upon that useful consideration, that there is not so direct, and diametral a contrariety between the nature of any sin and God, as between him and pride, we shall pass to that which is our principal observation in this branch, how early and primary a sin pride is, occasioned by this, that the commandment of humility is first given, first enjoined in our first word, sequere, follow.
But first, we exalt that consideration, that nothing is so contrary to God, as pride, with this observation, that God in the Scriptures is often by the Holy Ghost invested, and represented in the qualities and affections of man; and to constitute a commerce and familiarity between God and man, God is not only said to have bodily lineaments, eyes and ears, and hands, and feet, and to have some of the natural affections of man, as joy, in
joy, in particular, The Lord will rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers'; and so, pity too, The Lord was with Joseph, and extended kindness unto him'; but some of those inordinate and irregular passions and perturbations, excesses and defects of man, are imputed to God, by the Holy Ghost in the Scriptures. For so, laziness, drowsiness is imputed to God; Awake Lord, why sleepest thou®? So corruptibleness, and deterioration, and growing worse by ill company, is imputed to God; Cum perverso percerteris“, God is said to grow froward with the froward, and that he learns to go crookedly with them that go crookedly; and prodigality and wastefulness is imputed to God; Thou sellest thy people for nought, and doest not increase thy wealth by their prices; so sudden and hasty choler; Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish In ira breri, though his wrath be kindled but a little® : and then illimited, and boundless anger, a vindicative irreconcilableness is imputed to God; I was but a little displeased, (but it is otherwise now) I am very sore displeased?; so there is ira decorans; Wrath that consumes like stubble'; so there is, ira multiplicata, Plagues renewed and indignation increased': so God himself expresses it, I will fight against you in anger and in furyle: and so for his inexorableness, his irreconcilableness, O Lord God of hosts, Quousque, how long wilt thou be angry against the prayer of thy people "1? God's own people, God's own people praying to their own God, and yet their God irreconcilable to them. Scorn and contempt is imputed to God; which is one of the most enormous, and disproportioned weaknesses in man; that a worm that crawls in the dust, that a grain of dust, that is hurried with every blast of wind, should find anything so much inferior to itself as to scorn it, to deride it, to contemn it; yet scorn, and derison, and contempt is imputed to God, He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh, the Lord shall have them in derision "; and again, I will laugh at your calamity, I will mock you when your fear cometh". Nay beloved, even inebriation, excess in that kind, drunkenness, is a metaphor which the Holy Ghost hath mingled in the expressing of God's proceedings with man; for God does not only threaten to make his enemies drunk, (and to make others drunk is a circumstance of drunkenness) so Jerusalem being in his displeasure complains, inebriavit absynthio, He hath made me drunk with wormwood"; and again, They shall be drunk with their own blood, as with new wine 15; nor only to express his plentiful mercies to his friends and servants, does God
· Deut. xxx. 9.
2 Gen. xxxix. 21.