Taken and adapted from, A Soliloquy on The Art of Man-Fishing
Written by Thomas Boston, 1699
Edited for thought and sense.
Wherein is Christ to be followed…
…what are those things in him that I must imitate him in? What was the copy that he did cast, which I must write after, in order to my being a fisher of men? What he did by divine power is inimitable ; I am not called to follow him, in converting sinners by my own power ; to work miracles for the confirmation of the doctrine that I preach, etc. But there are some things wherein he is imitable, and must be followed by preachers, if they would expect to be made fishers of men.
First. Christ took not on him the work of preaching the gospel without a call, Is. 61: 1, “For (says he) the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek, he hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” In this he must be followed by those that would be catchers of men.
He was sent by the Father to preach the gospel; he went not to the work without his Father’s commission. Men must have a call to this work, Heb. 5: 4. They that run unsent, that take on the work without a call from God, cannot expect to do good to a people, Rom. 10:14, Jer. 23. I sent them not, therefore they shall not profit this people. Tell me then, O my soul, whether thou hast thus followed Christ or not? Have you a call from God to this work of the preaching of the gospel? Or have thou run unsent?
In answer to this, I must consider that there is a twofold call, an extraordinary and an ordinary call. The first of these I was not to seek, nor may I pretend to it. The question then is, whether I had an ordinary call from God or not to preach the gospel?
There are these four things in an ordinary call which do make it up.
1. Knowledge of the doctrine of the Christian religion above that of ordinary professors, 2 Tim. 3:16, 17. This I endeavored to get by study, and prayer unto the Lord; and did attain to it in some measure, though far below the pitch that I would be at. My knowledge was lawfully tried by the church, and they were satisfied.
2. Aptness to teach, some dexterity of communicating unto others that knowledge, 1 Tim. 3:2; 2 Tim. 2:2. This was also tried by the church, and they were satisfied. This hath been acknowledged by others whom I have taught; and God has given me some measure of it, however small.
3. A will some way ready to take on the work of preaching the gospel, 1 Peter 5:2. This I had, for anything I know, since ever the Lord dealt with my soul, unless it was in a time of distress.
4. The call of the church, which I had without any motion from myself, not only to enter on trials, but, being approved, to preach the gospel as a probationer for the ministry; which does say, that what I have done in this work, I have not done without a call from God in an ordinary way, and that I have not run unsent.
Secondly, Christ designed his Father’s glory in the work. It was not honor, applause, and credit from men that he sought, but purely the Father’s glory. Men that design not this, cannot be useful to the church, if it be not per accidens. This all actions are to level at; it is that which in all things should be designed as the ultimate end.
Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. Thou see then that thou, O my soul, must follow Christ in this, if thou wouldst be a fisher of men. Lift up thy heart to this noble end, and in all, especially in thy preaching of the gospel, keep this before thine eyes. Beware of seeking thy own glory by reaching. Look not after popular applause; if thou do, thou hast thy reward (Matthew 6:2), look for no more. O my soul, invert not the order, Song of Solomon 6:12, “Thou, O Solomon, must have a thousand, and those that keep the fruit thereof two hundred.” Have a care of taking a thousand to thyself, and giving God only two hundred. Let his honor be before thine eyes; trample on thy own credit and reputation, and sacrifice it, if need be, to God’s honor. And to help thee to this, consider,
1. That all thou hast is given thee of God. What hast thou that thou hast not received? What an unreasonable thing is it then not to use for his glory what he gives thee; yea, what ingratitude is it? and do thou not hate the character of an ungrateful person? Ingratum si dixeris, omnia dixeris.
2. Consider that what thou hast is a talent given thee by thy great Master to improve till he comes again. If thou improve it for him, then thou shalt get thy reward. If thou wilt make thy own gain thereby, and what thou should improve for him, thou improve for thyself, what canst thou look for then but that God shall take thy talent from thee, and command to cast thee as an unprofitable and unfaithful servant into utter darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth? God has given some great talents; if they improve them for vain-glory to themselves to gain the popular applause, or the Hosannas of the learned, and so sacrifice all to their own net; what a sad meeting will such have at the great day with Christ?
What master would endure that servant, to whom he has given money where with to buy a suit of good clothes to his master, if he should take that money, and buy therewith a suit to himself, which his master should have had? How can it be thought that God will suffer to go unpunished such a preacher as he has given a talent of gifts to, if he shall use these merely to gain a stipend or applause to himself therewith, not respecting the glory of his Master? Woe to thee, O my soul, if thou take this path wherein destroyers of men’s souls and of their own go.
3. Consider that the applause of the world is nothing worth. It is hard to be gotten; for readily the applause of the unlearned is given to him whom the learned despise, and the learned applaud him whom the common people care not for. And when it is received, what have you? A vain empty puff of wind. They think much of thee, thou think much of yourself, and in the meantime God thinks nothing of thee. Remember, O my soul, what Christ said to the Pharisees, Luke 16:15, “Ye are they which justify yourselves before men, but God know your hearts. For that which is highly esteemed among men, is an abomination in the sight of God.” Let this scare thee from seeking thyself.
4. Consider, that seeking thy own glory is a dreadful and abominable thing.
(1.) In that thou then put thyself in God’s room. His glory should be that which thou should aim at, but then thy base self must be sacrificed too. O tremble at this, O my soul, and split not on this rock, otherwise thou shalt be dashed in pieces.
(2.) In that it is the most gross dissembling with God that can be. Thou pretend to preach Christ to a people; but seeking thy own glory, thou preach yourself, and not him. Thou pretend to be commending Christ and the ways of God to souls, and yet in the meantime thou commend thyself. Will Christ sit with such a mocking of him? O my soul, beware of it; look not for it, but for his glory. Who would not take it for a base affront, to send a servant or a friend to court a woman for him, if he should court her for himself? And will not Christ be avenged on self-preaching ministers much more ?
(3.) In that it is base treachery and cruelty to the souls of hearers, when a man seeks to please their fancy more than to gain their souls, to get people to approve him more than to get them to approve themselves to God. This is a soul-murdering way, and it is dear-bought applause that is won by the blood of souls. O my soul, beware of this. Let them call thee what they will ; but seek thou God’s glory and their good.