Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man- Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green…” –Psalm 92: 12-14
Growth and motion is an evidence of life…
I move forward towards heaven, my affections are going out after Christ, and endeavoring to make progress in a Christian walk. I think I discern a growth of these graces in me.
1. Of knowledge and acquaintance with Christ, 2 Peter 3:18. I am more acquainted with Christ and his ways than before. Though I have not such up takings of Christ as I ought to have, yet I have more than I have had in this respect sometimes before.
2. A growth of love. If my heart deceive me not, I have found love to Christ within this month more lively and vigorous than before, my soul more affected with his absence from ordinances than ever.
3. A growth of faith. I can, I think, trust God more now than before. I have had more experience of his goodness and knowledge of his name; and therefore think I can cast my burden on the Lord better than before. But it is easy swimming when the head is held up. Lord, increase my faith. I believe, Lord, help mine unbelief.
4. A growth of watchfulness. I have felt the sad effects of unwatchfulness over my heart in times past. I feel the good of watchfulness now; my soul is habitually more watchful than before; neither dare I give such liberty to my heart as sometimes I gave. Yet for all this the Lord may well complain of me, that he is broken with my wanton heart. But, Lord, you knows it is also breaking to myself that it is so. The Lord seal these things to me.
5. A growth of contempt of the world, which, blessed, be God, is on the increase with me.
Following Christ implies a knowledge of the way that Christ took.
No man can follow the example of another as such, unless he know what way he lived. So neither can any man follow Christ with respect to the catching of men in particular, unless he know Christ’s way of catching souls, that is, so far as it may be followed by us. Acquaint then thyself, O my soul, with the history of the gospel wherein this appears, and take special notice of these things, that you may follow Christ. What a sad case must they be in that are not acquainted with this!
Following Christ supposes sense of weakness, and the need of a guide.
A man that knows a way, and can do well enough without a guide, needs not follow another. And surely the want of this is the reason why many run before Christ, and go farther than his example ever called them; and others take a way altogether different from Christ’s way, which is the product of their own conceited hearts and airy heads. But you, O my soul, acknowledge thyself as a child in these matters that cannot go unless it be led; as a stranger in a desert place that cannot keep the right way without a guide.
Acknowledge and be affected with thine own weakness and emptiness, which you may well be persuaded of. And for this end reflect seriously,
1. On the word, 2 Corinthians 2:16. Who is sufficient for these things? No man is of himself sufficient; even the greatest of men come short of sufficiency. This may make thee then to be affected with insufficiency, who are so far below these men, as shrubs are below the tall cedars; and yet they cannot teach it of themselves.
2. Consider the weight of the work, even of preaching, which is all that you hast to do now. It is the concern of souls. By the foolishness of preaching it pleases the Lord to save them that believe, and as you thought yesterday [Jan. 22, 1699], before you went to the pulpit, it may seal the salvation of some, and the damnation of others. To preach in the Spirit, in the power and demonstration thereof, is no easy matter. Thy pitiful gifts will not fit thee for this.
3. Reflect on what you are when God is pleased to desert you; how then you tug and row, but it will not do, either in studying or delivering sermons. I think you hast had as much of this as may teach thee to beware of taking thy burden on thy own soul, but to cast it on the Lord.
4. Consider what a small portion you know of God, when you are at your best, and when you are in thy meridian, yet how low are you? And how far short you are of what you should be at. Lastly, consider that though you had gifts like an angel, yet you canst not convert a soul unless Christ be with thee to do the work. Therefore acknowledge thyself a weak creature, insufficient for the work ; and go not out in thy own strength, but in the name of the Lord; and so although you be but as a stripling, you may be helped to cast down the great Goliaths that defy the armies of the living God.
Following Christ implies a renouncing of our own wisdom.
Our own wisdom must not be the guide that we must follow, Matthew 16: 24. Paul would not preach with wisdom of words, 1 Corinthians 1:17; he did not follow the rules of carnal wisdom. Therefore, O my soul, renounce thine own wisdom. Seek the wisdom that is from above; seek to preach the words of the living God, and not thine own.
Since you was most set to renounce your wisdom, and prayed most that you might not preach that which might be the product of you own wisdom and natural reason, but that which might be given thee of the Holy Ghost, you have found that God hath signally countenanced thee. Take not the way of natural wisdom, follow not the rules of carnal wisdom. Its language will always be, ‘Master, spare thyself; have a care of thy credit and reputation among men.’ If you speak freely, they will call thee a railer, and thy preaching reflections; every parish will scare at thee as a monster of men, and one that would preach them all to hell; and so you shalt not be settled. For great and important men, that have a great influence in a parish, will never like thee. They will say that that way of preaching is not the way to gain people; that startles them at the very first. You may bring them on by little and little, by being somewhat smooth, at least at the first: for this generation is not able to abide such doctrine as that you preach.
But hear you and follow the rules of the wisdom that is from above: for the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God; that which is in high esteem among men, is nothing in the sight of God. The wisdom that is from above will tell thee, that you must be denied to thy credit and reputation, etc., Matthew 16: 24; Luke 14:26. It will tell thee, Let them call thee what they will, that you must cry aloud, and spare not; lift up thy voice like a trumpet, etc., Isaiah 43: 1. It will tell thee, that God has appointed the bounds of men’s habitation, Acts 17: 26. It will tell thee, that not many wise, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, etc., 1 Corinthians 1:29. Whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear, you shalt speak God’s words unto them, Ezekiel 2: 7. It will shew thee rules quite contrary to those of carnal wisdom.